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By Pat Mills, Oct 5 2016 11:26AM

You may have read the advance review we received from Scottish publishers Angus, Angus & Angus, of my and Kevin's text novel (OUR FIRST REVIEW FOR READ EM AND WEEP 1: Serial Killer!) and their subsequent response to our publishing it (ANGUS ANGUS & ANGUS DEMAND AN APOLOGY).

Fearing that things could get out of hand, Kevin decided to handwrite a letter to Angus, Angus & Angus, believing his personal touch would head off their threat of taking legal action. We've just received their reply:

From: AngusAngus&

Subject: An insult to penmanship and the Scottish nation

Date: 5 October 2016 08:30:00 GMT+01:00

To: Kevin O’Neill

Dear Mr. O'Neill,

I cannot say we were pleased to receive your letter. We are a progressive firm, not subject to old-school blackmail written in BIRO: the devil's pen! Your rantings about shortbread and tartan do not amuse us; we leave such humour to our (former) staff. As a fellow Celt by association, we are duty bound to advise you to see a doctor. As an Englishman, we look on you with great pity – as a veterinarian might.

Our solicitors, Caber Caber & Toss, inform us that you and Mr Mills will escape prosecution only by the narrowest margin, and only by a loophole in your inferior English law. Take heed, Mr O'Neill, we have an Angus division in America who can make life rather difficult for you. Indeed, Mr Rory Angus has gone so far as to bring down the Black Ledger and enter your name in it. Entered not in pencil for a mild rebuke, Mr O'Neill, but in INK, as a permanent stain on your character, such as it is.

Mr Mills narrowly avoided this fate, owing to our grudging affection for the author of the once popular Haggis Twins, and the long-running Heather Did Not See The Penny. Your ravings about our national heritage all being “made up” by Sir Walter Scott we will not honour with a reply, and could not show to Mr Rory Angus, owing to his valve trouble putting him on a short fuse.

Think on, Mr O'Neill, perhaps a new profession, one more suited to your native skills. May we suggest ditch digging. Its fresh air and hardship would go some way to making US feel better.

May the Lord have mercy on your soul, for WE do not,

Albert Angus

Acting Angus (Snr.)

Want to keep up with the latest posts and news on all things Millsverse, including progress on our dark comedy murder thrilller, Read Em And Weep: Serial Killer? Step this way!

The Devil's Pen: a versatile affront to penmanship
The Devil's Pen: a versatile affront to penmanship

By Pat Mills, Sep 27 2016 02:03PM

Congratulations to us all on Prog 2000, due out tomorrow!

All these celebrations remind me of earlier – and less happy – anniversaries, such as my Thargshead Revisited, where I scripted and showcased the artists' complaints.

One of them, involving plagiarism, it would still be inappropriate to talk about today. Having produced my subversive ensemble, I was gleefully looking forward to sharing it with the readers in print. Unfortunately, the publisher, John Sanders, intercepted it just before going to press and telephoned me early one morning to castigate me.

"Patrick," he said in his nasal tones, "What is all this fuss?".

He told me to pass on the message to artists like Brian Bolland that "All these stories about Judge Dredd making lots of money are simply not true." I duly passed the message on to Brian and co., and we resigned ourselves to our penury.

Happier times now, of course, although I think none of us are close to digging our swimming pools. And the current, rather more benign regime is far too smart to ever allow me to do a Thargshead Revisited 2. I certainly wouldn't if I was in their shoes - no one is that rebellious!

That's why my forthcoming novel series, Read Em And Weep, with co-author Kevin O'Neill, lifts the lid on secrets that otherwise could not be revealed.

Read Em And Weep: Serial Killer, is out in February 2017.

Don't miss out on the latest blog posts, news on Read Em And Weep, and all things Millsverse!

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By Pat Mills, Sep 25 2016 05:46PM

In answer to the vexed question of running credits in 2000AD ... first things first: IPC In my younger days never employed me to remove artists' signatures. Indeed, had that been a job it would have taken less then 10 minutes to do over ten years or more.

Only two apt experiences spring to mind from those early years. One was in the Buster offices and being told to white out cartoonist and comic historian Denis Gifford's signature from a page of his cartoons. That struck me as bizarre as the page had clearly been printed in the past with no problem. Now in this case some context is in order. When i began work at Fleeway in 1970, I was made aware that Denis Gifford had blotted his copy book with management. He had told a national paper that The Big One comic (1964-65) was not new but simply reprint. Denis had also complained that IPC/Fleetway were incinerating old Film Fun artwork as of no further use or value. Well, vandals have a long memory.

So off with his signature! I still asked why, and brought up Sporty, signed by Reg Wootton as an example, but was told he had been a special case and that was that. I told Denis about this years later and after a hearty laugh, he said it did not bother or surpise him!

The other experience was while working on Valiant with my mentor, Art Editor Jan Shepheard. She was talking me through the corrections, mostly lettering errors on a Steel Claw set. Jan laughed that as a game, artist Jesus Blasco liked to hide his signature on the page in hedges, brickwork or other background elements. Jan would look into his art with a forensic eye and remove any sign of his name. In response to my innocent query of "why?", Jan maintained that it was because kids would not believe scenes on a page were real if signatures were floating above them!

This brings us neatly to 2000AD. Jan was the original Art Editor of 2000AD, and designed the Judge Dredd logo and much else. I was her assistant again, and still grumbling about credits. For some reason Massimo Bellardinelli was allowed to sign his name, but again that was a special case, and no more was said.

Now my irritation was not about artists signatures alone. They after all were plainly in the gift of the Art Editor or Group Editor. No, it was having full credits, like Marvel introduced when i was a kid. As an example of differing attitudes in the 1960s, I sent a letter to Fleetway asking about the artist's name on The Spider strip in Lion. No reply. Not ever. (His name was Reg Bunn). Years later i was told by a freelancer for Lion that they simply laughed at letters like that and chucked them in the bin!

By contrast, at the same time i sent a drawing and letter to Marvel Comics Editor Stan Lee, saying I wanted to be a comic artist when i left school. Months go by, and then I had a reply from Flo Steinberg, saying the Marvel bullpen had enjoyed my drawing, and to stick with it, but next time to include backing board as the drawing got screwed up. That had both courtesy and charm, and they seemed to respect their readers like they did their contributors.

We wanted that atmosphere to permeate 2000AD as well, and i think it did, after a struggle. Many thanks to Mr. Pat Mills for bringing this up, and needless to say this is all grist for the mill(s) with our Read Em And Weep novel. Coming soon!

By Pat Mills, Sep 25 2016 08:36AM

A superb Nemesis The Warlock cover for 2000AD, by Kevi O'Neill
A superb Nemesis The Warlock cover for 2000AD, by Kevi O'Neill

Working on the black comedy novel Read Em And Weep with Kevin O’Neill, which deals, in a fictional way, with the origins of the Comics Revolution, including the creation of our version of 2000AD, I was suddenly struck by a somewhat uncomfortable thought. I hope I’m wrong in this, and – if so – perhaps some readers can put me right and I will be most happy to stand corrected.

At lectures, conventions, masterclasses and interviews, I endlessly make the point that after the creation of 2000AD and the creation of Judge Dredd, the third most important event, and in some ways the first, was Kevin O’Neill sneaking credits onto 2000AD. This changed the world of British comics overnight, which I’ve banged on about so much I’m not going to repeat myself here, other than just to underline it for people who don’t know about those dark days. If it wasn’t for Kevin, no one would know Grant Morrison wrote Zenith. No one would know John Wagner wrote Judge Dredd; that Carlos Ezquerra drew it, and so on. Nope. Yes, it might come out within the industry but not in any significant and important way. And creators would not be called to account if they were writing or drawing crap, or praised if they were brilliant.

And the uncomfortable thought struck me – does anyone else give Kevin this acknowledgement? I know you fans do, and I love you for it, but I’m talking about fellow creators. Because if they haven’t, it’s about time they did. Or am I the only one who gives a shit? If others just take it for granted, or believe it would happen anyway, please let me put you straight. It’s only now that the Beano are giving credits. FFS! In 2016!!

Kevin only mentions his achievement when he’s questioned and does not bang the drum for himself and I’m getting just a little tired of being a lone drummer, assuming that I am. I’m sure Rebellion must have banged the drum for him, but just in case they haven’t, I’ll send them a copy of this. It’s the kind of thing their publicity department needs to know about, if they don’t already.

Because all of us, no matter how high up the greasy pole we may or may not be today, owe him a massive debt and it seems appropriate with this 2000th issue to mention it again, in case no one else does.

I think what gets me out of my pram is the being taken for granted thing. Just as the second generation took for granted the rewards of the vicious fights the first generation of us had with publishers for a proper slice of the pie. Fights that got into serious shouting matches on occasion. I know I wasn’t the only one here and, like my equally aggressive colleagues, I don’t believe in middleclass niceties when I’m being ripped off. Thus, one publisher had the misfortune to be stuck in a car with me between London and the North, when I discussed royalties at length with him in my usual less than subtle way. By the time we got to Newcastle, he reluctantly agreed to give us creators a better percentage. It was a miracle we didn’t crash. Subsequent generations of creators are notably more acquiescent, as far as I can tell. I totally understand this, as the dark shadow of Thatcherism made everyone realise they had to go back to doffing their caps to the bosses once again. In my case, I’m beyond salvation.

Anyway, I’d love to know that other creators of my and the subsequent generation have acknowledged in some form or another what Kevin did for us all. Because he seriously put his arse on the line, guys. Technically it was a sackable offence and if the publisher had known what it would lead to, Kevin would have been in deep shit and probably punished by transference back to the dreaded humour department.

In our novel Read Em and Weep, the humour department is described as a kind of Colditz prison. If you don’t know why it’s like a prison, the explanation is in our book (out in February 2017). In the meantime, don’t mention the words ‘Whizzer and Chips’ in my presence. And definitely don’t say you liked Whizzer and Chips. That’s a private pleasure I’d be grateful you kept to yourself. Because you don’t want to hear me bang on about how badly-served artistic geniuses like Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale were treated in that terrible gulag of anti-humour known as the "FUN” factory. You wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about if you genuinely enjoyed Sid’s Snake. I will still remember you in my prayers. I did a year’s stretch on Whizzer and Chips, Shiver and Shake, Cor! and similar rags and, my stories were regarded as the most popular – yet I still cringe in shame when I recall many of them. And I still want that year of my life back!

So with that off my chest and my rant over, I raise a toast to Kevin O’Neill who changed the British comic industry forever! Cheers, Kev!

If you want to read more on the 2000AD back story, check out earlier posts:

YOU ARE 2000AD and YOU ARE 2000AD PART 2.

By Pat Mills, Sep 24 2016 04:43PM

Really looking forward to 2000AD's 40th Anniversary Festival next February at the Hammersmith Novotel in London. Hard to believe it's been 40 years since it all kicked off!

As well as enjoying the celebrations for the Galaxy's greatest comic, I'll be joined by Kevin O'Neill to launch our new text novel, Read Em And Weep: Serial Killer. It's a darkly humorous account of childhood revenge, murder, and the search for truth, set against the backdrop of British comics publishing in the 1970s. It isn't niche, or only for nerds. It has sex, violence, and a comic book editor who isn't just a serial writer: he's a serial killer!

Kevin and I will be doing a book signing on the day, and will also be 'in conversation', talking about the strong connection Read Em And Weep has with 2000AD, how it came about, and the enormous fun we had creating it. Knowing us, will be a lively affair, so be sure to come along!

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