Villordsutch talks to Pat Mills about his role in bringing Dan Dare to 2000AD…
Pat Mills could safely wear a well-earned badge upon his chest that reads, “You’re Welcome!”. He has been called in the past, “The Grandfather of British Comics”, known for creating 2000AD, having a hand in the genesis of Judge Dredd, along with the ABC Warriors and Nemesis the Warlock. He brought us Marshall Law, Accident Man and Charley’s War, and he continues today to write Sláine, Greysuit, and Requiem Vampire Knight. We managed to take a few minutes out of his day to discuss his role in bringing Dan Dare to 2000AD, which has recently been released as a collected works called Dan Dare – The 2000AD Years – Vol.1 and you can check out our review here.
Villordsutch: When you set out to bring Dan Dare to 2000AD – back in 1977 – was this down to a labour of love on your part for the British-Born space hero, or was this a savvy business move as the first Editor of 2000AD?
Pat Mills: It was both. I knew it would be very tough doing an sci-fi comic on bog paper, so I needed every opportunity I could find to boost sales.
V: Where you setting the bait for past Eagle readers within the pages of this new shiny comic?
PM: Alas not shiny. Past Eagle readers weren’t my target audience. Just ordinary kids. I was concerned with possible fan reaction and so I talked to my publisher John Sanders about it and he came out with words of wisdom which I have always followed and which should be carved on a tablet of stone. Not all fans will like them but if you look at various commercial successes and failures in films and comics you will see they are 90 per cent right.
He told me, “Go for the mainstream reader first and the fans will follow”. By implication he was saying do NOT put fans first. This is advice that today some fans would challenge, but the box office would prove them wrong.
Going for mainstream does not mean a loss of quality. On the contrary…
V: You went through numerous changes – in both story and art – for Dan Dare until you settled initially upon the late Massimo Belardinelli for the opening artist. I really like Belardinelli’s work as a whole, but I have to admit I found his Dare didn’t stand out in amongst the other characters, I personally much prefer Dave Gibbons Dan Dare. You mentioned that around two weeks before press date you discussed something similar with Kevin O’Neill, your then Art Editor. What was it like for you having the seeds of doubt planted in your head at the 11thhour, given that Dan Dare was an iconic figure in British comic books and you planned on using him within launch of 2000AD?
PM: I did a straw poll amongst people in the IPC offices. It was favourable so I was reassured. And this was proved by Dan being popular. It’s quite possible that Bellardinelli’s Dare was actually more popular than Dave’s because I don’t think the scripts Dave had did him justice.
Bellardinelli’s monsters made up for his weak central character.
Fan orientated likes and dislikes can and did distort the preferences of the mainstream readers who were the majority. It’s fair to say that ultimately the minority ruled the majority and the fandom tail wagged the 2000AD dog. This was unfair to mainstream readers and it’s taken Rebellion editions to reverse this situation.
V: After you sent Dan out in to the big wide galaxy how did the Great British public receive this new, slightly less chiselled, more rugged and certainly easier to anger Gentleman in space? Was Frank Hampson’s hero sudden evolution welcomed or were you receiving hate-mail from numerous angry hobbyists up-and-down the country?
PM: If I had received hate mail it would have been from middle class Eagle readers, so I’d have enjoyed it. I think there is a class war in the UK and my comics are very strongly on the side of the working class. In fact there was a little negative feedback but nothing to worry about.
BBCs Tomorrow’s World programme were interested in featuring 2000AD until they saw it then they ran a mile. Patrick Moore described it as a “wretched little comic”. Such reactions from the middle classes keep me warm at night.
V: During you current projects do you think you’d ever pick-up the pen again for Dan Dare or has that eagle flown away for good now?
PM: I don’t think anyone would ask me to do DD now so I don’t know how I’d feel. Funnily enough I’m just discussing writing a revival of an old (original) Eagle strip with an agency. Don’t worry – its not the life of Winston Churchill or St Paul! Ah! How I’d love to write the truth about both of them – but I’d be publicly pilloried!
V: Speaking of other project,s those that read 2000AD, Judge Dredd Megazine and listen to the 2000AD Thrill Cast will be up to speed on what you’re currently writing, but for anyone that has just stepped out of hibernation is there anything you’re currently writing that we should be more should be keeping our eyes open for? If this is to be a graphic novel or a serial do you know at this time who will be handling the art?
PM: Requiem Vampire Knight has just been taken over by Glenat – a large French publisher, so I’ll be writing more volumes next year. Existing volumes are available on Comixology here. The art is truly amazing! Olivier Ledroit has an incredible imagination
Flickering Myth would like to thank Pat Mills for giving up his time for this interview.
Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.