‘Spacewarp’ Creator and Writer Pat Mills: The Conskipper Interview

Pat Mills is used to thinking about the future. As the creator of seminal sci-fi comic anthology 2000AD, he blazed a path from the UK and Europe to the US, introducing readers around the world to characters like Judge Dredd, The ABC Warriors, Rogue Trooper, and Nemesis the Warlock.

Mills influenced a generation of writers and artists, and with his new sci-fi anthology Spacewarp. he continues the traditions that he established in 1977 by working with a number of talented artists and a wide range of genres.

Mills took some time to discuss the new creator-owned venture and what he has in store for fans galaxy-wide in this exclusive interview.

You have a long history with 2000AD, so how is Spacewarp similar to 2000AD and how does it go in a different direction as well in terms of content and/or format?

Pat Mills: There is a strong British tradition of the anthology comic. It’s something we do well and 2000AD is a prime example. Lots of stories, lots of value for money, and all the stories told at breath-taking speed. So Spacewarp as a science fiction anthology comic has that similarity.

When I started 2000AD, we talked about the reader living in a science fiction future world of tomorrow. That future has now arrived. Because we now live in a Science Fiction World. It’s no longer Tomorrow’s World. It’s no longer stuff you see in far-fetched and completely fantastic movies or read about  in futuristic novels.  Stuff you don’t really have to worry about because it’s hundreds of years in the future. Right?

So much of it has already happened.  Robots, drones, mass surveillance, video communication, quantum science, the post-Apocalypse-style realities of Lockdown.  Today’s riot cops look scarier than Judge Dredd.  Today’s ‘New Normal’ is as ‘far-fetched’ as some of the Earths in Spacewarp. So Spacewarp stories reflect the fact that the Future has arrived and how to deal with it.

The weekly format in British comics was always problematic. Stories could be too short. Artists often missed deadlines so other artists would ghost them. Ditto writers. Everything was done in a rush so corners were cut.

Spacewarp is a ‘season’ of stories that’s produced without a rushed deadline and therefore the quality can be much higher.

You mentioned that creator-owned work in British comics is a rare thing.  Was it difficult to get the project off the ground?

Mills: Not at all.  Lots of artists were keen to get involved and it was tough choosing the right ones.  This was partly because I have a background of producing successful comics so they knew it had every chance of success.

I used my French Requiem Vampire Knight as a role model. This is a series that both myself and the artist created for no advance in the belief that the royalties would justify our time investment.

This proved to be the case. We share equally in the profits. Currently there are eleven volumes out, it sells all over the world, and the royalties each year are about six times the annual royalties I receive from 2000AD for a lifetime of working for them.

So Spacewarp has the same basis. Creator-owned comics work.

You are working with some excellent art talent on these strips.  What does each bring to the six storylines?

Mills: Jurassic Punx:  Bruno Stahl has created a beautiful Goddess heroine in Dada Derda.  He’s brought Post-Apocalypse Liverpool to life.

Hellbreaker: Ian Ashcroft’s art is hot, which suits a story that starts in Hell. The main characters look very sexy.  There’s a touch of Love ‘n’ Rockets in there somewhere.

SF1:  Future war story. Ade Hughes has a feeling for future war that compares with Rogue Trooper and Bad Company.  I think most readers will agree he’s up there with those classics.

Xecutioners: There’s a black comedy in early 2000AD, notably early Judge Dredd and Gareth has brought a similar quality to this strip. Great characterization of everyone.  He’s a natural SF humor artist.

Fu-Tant:  Mike Donaldson has done the impossible in evoking those fantasy boarding school stories we all love, even before Harry Potter. And combining it with a solo secret agent saga.  A lot of feeling in his characters and he’s created our master villain – Drogeda, Spacwarp’s equivalent of Torquemada.

Slayer: James Newell has that space war quality down to a tee. I’m thinking of Games Workshop’s Warhammer, Nemesis, and films like Starship Troopers. As well as Star Wars, of course.  Not easy – but he’s a natural for it.

Why was it important to place all of these very unique stories in the same shared universe?

Mills: Marvel and DC thrive on shared universes and I had a very rough shared universe in 2000AD. But I didn’t have the time to develop it properly and neither did anyone else. But… when we did have shared universe stories, they were HUGELY popular. Satanus (Flesh) in Judge Dredd the Cursed Earth for instance. ABC Warriors and Nemesis etc.

So this time I decided it was time to do it properly and the story benefits show straight away.

As a writer of science fiction, how did the reality of the pandemic compare to instances of similar fictional outbreaks?

Mills: That eerie silence of the lock-in did remind me of endless Zombie and post-apocalypse movies. 

I wrote two stories involving lethal viruses long before Covid. These were Jurassic Punx – where the dinosaurs bring a virus with them. And SF1 where Bacteria are monster-size.  So I tweaked them a bit to take account of what really happens in a pandemic

As far as creator-owned comics, Marshall Law is one that indie comic fans remember well, especially since it was one of the first satires of super heroes.  Memories or the series?

Mills: Very fond memories. I think its subtext about the evil of Billionaires turned superheroes is more relevant today. There are no benign Billionaires in the real world, so why should we believe in them as superheroes?  It’s a subject I address further in Xecutioners where all the Billionaires are potential targets for summary execution by the cops – before they destroy the New Earth. Given how Billionaires are destroying today’s Earth it feels very relevant.

Can we expect to see more SpaceWarp in the future?

Mills: As Doc Zot says in Phase One of SW, he’s working day and night on Phase Two, but it could be six months or more.

Spacewarp is like a Season on TV. Usually there’s a gap of at least six months between each Season and we want to get feedback first as well.

Physical releases? 

Mills: In the Autumn. I think it’s good to get feedback on the digital SW, so we can fine-tune the paper version.

Also, we have to decide how much bleed to use. In early paper dummies many of the stories bled off the page and I didn’t like it.

It can make the art overwhelming, too ‘full on’ a full size format (similar to the original 2000AD) so that will need a little refining.

Spacewarp will be available digitally on July 28. Come back to Conskipper next week for a full review of Issue #1.

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