No, I haven’t gone on strike; I’ve just been extremely busy. Yesterday’s Reason is up now, however, and it’s on one of the greatest graphic novels ever made, so be sure to read it.
Let’s talk today about an often brilliant writer with a love of the weird, shall we? (Archivin’.)
310. Peter Milligan
Peter Milligan hails from the “British School of Comics Writing,” which is to say that he’s done some excellent, cerebral works, and he’s got a penchant for strangeness. It’s a stereotype, yes, but it’s one that lots of comics scholars seem to believe in. I say that there are some great comics out there that make you think and, yes, happen to be weird. Milligan’s written a lot of them.
His work began in the British comics scene, particularly in the pages of 2000AD with works like Bad Company and Hewligan’s Haircut, but also in anthologies like Strange Days and Revolver, where he teamed with Brendan McCarthy and spawned works like Rogan Gosh. He crossed over into the American market with Skreemer. Mostly, he worked for what would become DC’s Vertigo line, helping build the imprint’s unique voice. Such works here include Shade the Changing Man (perhaps his magnum opus), Enigma (a Comic You Should Own and also probably his masterpiece), Animal Man (another Comic You Should Own), the Extremist (yet another Comic You Should Own), Face, Girl, Egypt, The Minx, Human Target, and more, with artists like Chris Bachalo, Duncan Fegredo, Ted McKeever, and Sean Phillips. During the early 90s, he also had a short-lived but utterly fantastic run on Batman and Detective, with classic artists like Jim Aparo.
His big splash probably occurred in the early 00’s, though, with a little book called X-Force that ended up becoming a little book called X-Statix. It was one of the only two good mutant books ever (well, in my opinion): an excellent satire on American celebrity in the guise of a bunch of messed-up-in-the-head mutants with short life expectancies. It was a wonderful little book with some great art by Mike Allred. Its flame burned bright, but not long.
The overarching theme I’ve noticed throughout Milligan’s work is that of identity. He’s explored the concept in all its forms: gender, disguise, celebrity, sexuality, religion, society, and more. His characters are always headed towards actualization, but their journey to it is a hard one with a lot of twists. (As I’ve said before, he should totally write Martian Manhunter— it’s all about the nature and fluidity of identity.) His dialogue is always interesting– some might say it’s “a little off,” but then, so are his character’s minds. I dig its rhythms. And yeah, like I said, he’s not afraid of the bizarre. Case in point:
Many readers are of two minds on Peter Milligan, and for very good reason; there seem to be two Peter Milligans! One of them writes some of the greatest comics ever, but the other one occasionally goes slumming on more mainstream fare, like, Elektra or X-Men or whatnot. Now, I don’t begrudge Milligan anything. He can write whatever he likes, and I shall await new slices of genius from him from every new project. His name gets my head to turn and look in the direction of a book. I’m always more likely to check out a Peter Milligan production than that of quite a few other authors, and it’s because he’s written some of the weirdest, most fascinating comics of all time.