Pat Mills book ‘2000AD and Judge Dredd:The Secret History’ is so enjoyable I read it in a couple of days.
I never realised his contribution to early 2000AD and Judge Dredd, which I found to be my favourite part of the book. It goes into great detail of the creative process. This narrative compliments books produced by others such as Steve MacManus and David Bishop. There are several versions of history, depending on your perspective.
Censorship, unsung comic creators and creative rights are covered throughout the book. I remember reading about this for the first time in an AKA 2000AD Special fanzine in the 80’s, which was also quite candid. What struck me is the issue of contracts still hasn’t reached a suitable conclusion in the UK, which is a shame.
The book does make you think. With only a handful of successful UK characters (some ruined by changes to the original character or poor writing) and an uncertain publishing history, how a continuing comic like 2000AD is achieved over forty years while balancing creative input and rights to characters. Is there a character since Slaine that has been hugely successful?
As a reader of Mills work over many years I do have to admit most of his stories, such as Slaine and Nemesis, made him stand out among the rest, but there are some stories I’m not keen on. But with a body of work spanning so many years that is only to be expected. The same is true from my favourite pop stars, actors, film directors and writers. I remember being totally underwhelmed by Crisis, Revolver and Toxic and the development of characters from those titles. It’s a credit to Mills that he is still standing, while others have fallen by the wayside.
The Dredd movies are covered and interpretations of the character in Comics and on film. I have to admit I like aspects of both Dredd films. The only disappointment, as a fan, is I wanted to see a commercial Judge Death movie rather than expanding on themes which weren’t as iconic and epic in scale. The Cursed Earth, Apocalypse War, Judge Cal would all have been on my list before Dredd’s clone brother or Block Mania style storylines. Mills covers the precarious transition from strip to screen, balancing the fan viewpoint against commercial storytelling. At times he is spot on with his comments. Personally the time is right for a RoboHunter Movie (with the rise of automation and ‘thinking’ robots), a Slaine TV series and a Halo Jones musical (note this is probably why I’m not a Hollywood producer!)
Mills touches on his time on Dan Dare on the new Eagle which seems to have been a success story, lasting over ten years at a turbulent time for UK Comics. I believe Mills could expand on this and make a great book about how Dan Dare was treated from a historical, creative and publishing/Media point of view. He could highlight the way a creator and visionary like Frank Hampton was disgracefully treated and how things haven’t necessarily moved on in the UK since the 50’s.
He’s perhaps said all he’s going to say on the character but I really enjoyed his and Ian Kennedy’s version of Dan Dare and agree I’d love to see a sumptuous reprint!
Mills dislikes superheroes. I can understand his reasoning. Again it’s notable there are only a handful of truly great superhero stories which are constantly milked by publishers (Watchman, Dark Knight). If I’m honest I do prefer superhero comics with a supporting cast that brings a ‘soap’ element to it – Superman being a perfect example. I think comic fans do like ‘soap’ stories – Judge Dredd The Pit storyline, Roy of the Rovers at is height, Zenith possibly, Halo Jones even! I’m surprised Marshal Law isn’t covered more, but maybe that is for another time.
My advice is buy this book. It’s a fantastic read. I love Mills is confident enough to speak his mind and successful enough to give his view under his own self publishing banner (with a great contract, I assume!). I think he always has been not shy of speaking his mind but his talent and work ethic has got him to his ‘Godfather’ status.