Bagwell posed with a pair of sunnies for Duncan Fegredo as reference shots for Morrison’s Invisiblespoilerific reboot of Kid Eternity
Never knew that, Stevie! Similarly, much of this was news to me - most notably, the information that Ian Gibson was the original artist on Third World War
. I suppose Gibson's stock as artist of choice for mature reader stories centered on a female character was at a high, following Halo Jones
Interesting in a more tabloid way is the information that the then-married Mills based Eve on someone who was more than just a friend. Mills used real life avatars for all the characters, tapping them for dialogue and to live action role play character reactions to story ideas, which often changed the direction of the strip.
Mills's experience with Dice Man
must have informed these working methods and philosophy, and there's an interesting parallel to be drawn between that experiment in ceding control over story direction to the reader and the way Mills was increasingly allowing readers (and the stuff he was reading)
shape his work.
Readers interested in Mills's trajectory as a writer will detect a tension here between his instincts as a storyteller (or entertainer)
and his commitment to a theoretically informed practice, more concerned with fidelity to a particular ideology and (perceived)
authenticity than fiction:
The case was put to me by quite a few 2000AD readers that criticising the authorities or the state through science fiction is a kind of disguise, and why not tell it like it really is? That interested me – I was almost stung by readers saying, look, tell it how it is, don’t wrap it up in science fiction bullshit.
I would never have taken the risk to do a story like Third World War if the editor Steve McManus hadn’t rung me up and said, ‘I’d like you to do something on the politics of food’, so I started to look into it. At first I thought, God is this going to be too dull to do anything?
I kept some sci fi elements, and there was criticism from some readers because of that; they felt like I was getting close to telling it like it is, but they wanted me to go further. I was like, well how do I do that and still tell an entertaining story?
Then as I dug deeper I started to become deeply disturbed by what I was finding out. I was going to pretty radical sources. There was a publisher called Pluto Press, who were publishing writers in the tradition of Noam Chomsky. It was quite a responsibility for me, and I thought God I better get this right.
One of the things I did was I looked at all my characters and wondered how I was going to get it right. So, every one of the principle characters was based on a real person. There’s nothing new about that, but they were based on someone that I knew very well, and had access to. So I would go to the person concerned and ask them, what would you do in this situation?
I don’t think this is how writers usually operate. I think usually – and this often works very well – characters are shards of the writer's own personality. But this was very different. In the case of Eve, I went to a particular young woman of that age, who had the right personality for the story.
She was a friend of mine. Let’s put it that way. And I said, what would you do in this situation? And she said I wouldn’t be able to deal with it and I’d probably take an overdose. The original artist who drew 3WW was Ian Gibson – he objected and pulled out of the project. He thought, and it’s totally understandable, that to have a main character who had contemplated or attempted suicide was negative for young people to read. I disagree with him, but I respect his views.
Those kind of things were coming into the story so naturally because I’d just go down the road to one of my friends and say, OK, you’re in this situation, what do you do? And often their responses would be quite unusual, particularly in the case of the character of Fin. To start with there were two guys it was based on but over time it became just one, I guess he was more vocal and had a more dominant personality.
So I’d say, OK, you’ve seen all these dead bodies, how do you react? Now my reaction would be horror; that’s a normal reaction. His was very different, he said, ‘oh I’d be interested in seeing what the cause of death was’ he was almost like a pathologist in his response. So I was really using this to build the stories, I’m told this is what Mike Leigh did with his TV dramas, he’d get his actors to adlib.
In my case they often ran a little off the rails, they didn’t go where I was guiding them, and I had to be faithful to my sources, so sometimes some of the things they would say could be quite scandalous, quite shocking. Readers would write in saying, ‘I really disagree with what your character Fin is saying, it’s quite appalling.’ And I’d say, he’s a character in a story; we’re not suggesting any of them should be moral icons.
Even Ivan the punk character was very much based on a real person – the punk was a still a punk when I was interviewing him, and at the time I remember Grant Morrisson saying ‘why has Pat Mills got a punk in the story, punk is dead’, and I was thinking, well it’s not in Colchester mate! It’s still going strong just down the road from me hahaha….
We covered the Nestle baby food scandal, and the advertising manager of our publisher sent a letter to the editor saying, ‘are you aware that Nestle are a major advertiser for our group?’ I did the story of the Mau Mau, and just what the British imperialists did in Kenya. The printers threatened not to publish that issue. These older guys had lived through Britain’s imperial history, and they objected to my viewpoint of the way the Brits dealt with the Mau Mau insurrection.
As a child, I remember being told that the Mau Mau were the most evil people on earth, that they were savages, and I really wanted to reject that conditioning. If you’re told lies as a child about something, it probably sticks, you want to throw it out and say, this isn’t the truth, here is the truth. I guess I had my own personal agenda there as well.
The reaction to black issues from our readership – and it’s hard to pin this down, because no one’s going to come out and admit it – but there was a negative reaction from our ‘politically correct’ readership. They weren’t that comfortable with black issues being dealt with. They might argue that they didn’t like the way we dealt with them, I’d disagree
The editor Steve McManus’s view was that there was just a negative reaction to featuring black characters so heavily in the comic. I was quite naïve thinking all that stuff had disappeared at the end of the 60s. Right up to Crisis, readers were quite uncomfortable with the heavy emphasis on black characters, and I think it probably contributed to the decline of 3WW as a story in the comic.