Dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago, so it’s a little odd that so much science fiction, a genre usually concerned with the future, spends so much time obsessed with the ancient creatures. From “Jurassic Park” to “Baby” to “Terra Nova,” a seemingly unending number of projects deal with what would happen if humans were to suddenly co-exist with dinosaurs.
Science fiction wasn’t always so intrigued with dinosaurs, however, and “Marshall Law” and “ABC Warriors” creator Pat Mills spearheaded the trend when he created “Flesh” in 1977 for UK anthology “2000 AD.” “Flesh” featured a dizzingly high concept at the time: cowboys from the future go back in time to hunt dinosaurs for their flesh, so that the future masses may feed on it. Mills wrote the initial chapters of “Flesh” before taking a hiatus from the book for several years. He recently revived the concept with artist James McKay, and “Flesh” has once again become a staple in the pages of “2000 AD.” “Flesh: Badlanders,” the latest installment of Mills’ saga, debuts this spring.
Mills discussed “Badlanders” with Comic Book Resources, including why he thinks dinosaurs are such a sci-fi staple, which of his many dinosaur characters would win in a fight, his thoughts on the recent “Dredd” feature film and more.
CBR News: Pat, what does “Flesh: Badlanders” have in store for the Trans-Time crew?
Pat Mills: A bid by Vegas and the Midnight Cowboys to destroy Trans-Time. It involves Gorehead, a dinosaur rodeo and the Presidential Auditions — where the next President of the US is decided at a series of auditions. Like actors they come on stage and audition for the role. I’ve been wanting to write that sequence for years, because I think democracy in the States is a joke.
The cliffhanger at the end of “Flesh: Midnight Cowboys” brought back original “Flesh” cast members Earl Reagan and Claw Carver. Why bring them back now after all these years?
Because they were both very popular. Claw Carver in particular. Many readers weren’t happy with his supposed death in the original “Flesh” book two. Neither was I. That book — by another writer — wasn’t in the Western tradition of book one, so I like to put these things right
Why do you think the “Flesh” concept has managed to stay so popular for 35 years? It’s one of the only series still running from “2000 AD” prog 1.
“Savage” also continues to this day and originally appeared in prog 1. “Mach One” was the number one story and — in many ways — “Greysuit” (due to reappear next year) is a very similar character.
But, yes, “Flesh” was and is very popular. Dinosaurs are clearly part of it and the “Jaws” style ways people get eaten which I put a great deal of thought into. More importantly, though, it’s a “high concept” — a fully realized sci-fi world into which readers can be totally immersed.
Why the Western theme?
Hunting dinos automatically creates a kind of Western feel. Thus the Australian outback is similarly Western. James McKay, the artist, lived in the outback and has brought this to bear in our revival.
The world of the 23rd century the cowboys come from is more typically sci-fi, but it also raises interesting questions about the nature of famines. It’s because of alleged famines that Trans-Time wants to “feed the world” by farming dinos. This gives me a chance to write about the nature of famines, which are not always what the media claim they are. So there’s a sub-text to the story I’m looking forward to exploring.
Your three greatest dinosaur villains, Satanus, Gorehead and Old One Eye, get into a fight. Which dino walks away on top?
Gorehead, ’cause he’s got the edge being unstable in time. This was essential, otherwise the cowboys would have wiped him out with their high-tech.
What do you think of the “Flesh” stories by other writers that were reprinted in the Megazine recently?
Not thrilled by “Flesh” book two — the aquatic dinos, although it had some fun moments and I love the Captain Birdseye spoof ad! My “Legend of Shamana” was a bit weak in places, and relied heavily on great artwork. Unfortunately, the art was not good, Shamana was not sexy, so I’m not happy about that one either. It did have one great scene where an intelligent dino throws a gun up in the air in a scene like from the beginning of “2000 AD.” The other stupid dinosaurs, recognizing this smart bastard is different, eat him! Actually, I like it so much I must reprise in the current saga.
Then Dan Abnett did a “Flesh” story, which I’ve never read. I had said to editorial that I didn’t want anyone else doing Flesh because they’d screw it up but — somehow — they managed to slip Dan’s story under my vigilant radar. Perhaps I should have asked to write “Sinister Dexter,” I’m sure Dan would have been equally thrilled if my version of his “Sinister Dexter” suddenly appeared in “2000 AD.”
I believe all these versions stiffed at the box office, which is why I’m not keen on other writers doing my stories. Unless they’re a great writer like Alan Moore, they’re probably going to ruin it. And great writers have better things to do with their talents than write other people’s stories. Because of this history of second-rate revivals, I took extra care in bringing the character back. A further failure would have killed it stone-dead. It’s paid off and “Flesh” is now back where it belongs.
Where did the idea for the half-human half-dino reptoids in “Midnight Cowboys” come from and will we see any more in “Badlanders?”
Oh, yes — they’re back in force in the next book. I’ve always been fascinated by intelligent dinosaurs and the reptoid theories of David Icke. James McKay has done a superb job on them, taking them even further than I envisaged with multiple species. He loves them so I think they’ll be around for a while.
You personally discovered “Flesh: Badlanders” artist James McKay. How did that come about?
I wanted Ramon Sola to return to “Flesh.” But the one off story we did — about Claw Carver — didn’t work for the readers because they didn’t like his new art style. He hadn’t drawn comics for decades so they should really have given him another try. Sola is a genius and creatives often have “false starts.” You have to stay with them and guide and nurture them. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
So I looked around for a new artist. It took me several years because I knew if I got it wrong the serial would die. I was a judge on an awards competition to encourage new graphic novelists and James was one of the competitors. Much of his work involved dinosaurs and I knew he was the man. I put him through a steep learning curve for about six months, getting him to adapt his style to “2000 AD” and now he’s right up there with all the new generation of great “2000 AD” artists. I’m delighted!
Will we ever see a series of “Flesh” with your Repeat Offenders partner, artist Clint Langley? Any other artists you’d like to see illustrate a “Flesh” story in the future?
It’s unlikely Clint will do “Flesh,” but we have got “Dinosty” — a saga about intelligent dinosaurs — which we intend to work on when we get a moment. I think James has made “Flesh” his own, so I wouldn’t want to open it up to other artists. However, I still carry a torch for Ramon Sola and maybe he might be persuaded to do a cover or a pin-up some time. Check back on “Flesh” book one and those brilliant episodes he drew. Such a fabulous artist!
Dinosaurs have always been featured heavily in futuristic sci-fi stories, despite being from the ancient past. Why do you think this is? Do you think “Flesh” itself had any influence in the trend?
I think we’ve influenced recent dinosaur stories. It’s possible some of the guys who wrote “Primal” grew up on “Flesh.” Everyone loves dinosaurs because they look so cool and it was their planet for so much longer than us. That’s a humbling thought. I try to include all the latest info on dinosaurs in “Flesh” and the story is held in high regard by some paleontologists. James is a dinosaur expert, so his interpretation is very authentic which has added to “Flesh’s” status.
What other stories do you have coming up in “2000 AD?”
“Defoe” is the next adventure concludes the first story arc with Defoe facing victory or defeat at the hands of the Zombies and a question mark over his future.
In “Greysuit,” he returns and — once more brainwashed — is ordered to kill a cop. A hero who refuses to be corrupted by the system
After the current “ABC Warriors” story we will do another one covering another missing section in the Warriors’ history
“Savage” is the final battle for the Liberation of London and — for the first time — we see Volgans as human beings
Have you seen “Dredd” yet and, if so, what did you think?
Yes! Karl Urban is fantastic as Dredd. The movie is very, very close to how John Wagner sees Dredd. I go into this further on my blog patmills.wordpress.com.
Are there any other classic Pat Mills co-created thrills you’d like to resurrect?
Yes, “Visible Man.” He comes back at Christmas with a ten pager but there’s huge potential for a serial.
“Flesh: Badlanders” by Pat Mills and James McKay debuts in “2000 AD” this spring. “2000 AD” is available weekly in comic shops and digitally in the App Store.