Although he’s a relatively new face to the Valiant Universe, Peter Milligan has already established a solid body of work for the publisher. The veteran comics writer got his start on “Shadowman” in December 2013, has contributed to the “X-O Manowar” #25 anniversary issue, and has a story in the upcoming “Bloodshot” #25. However, his biggest Valiant U contributions have yet to arrive. In November, Milligan has two brand-new projects: “Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel” with Cary Nord, and “Punk Mambo” #0 with Robert Gill.
“Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel” is a three-issue miniseries that focuses on Gilad Anni-Padda in the past, exploring his connection with the Geomancer and the concepts of faith and doubt — all while the Eternal Warrior must protect a baby that could be the savior of his people. By contrast, “Punk Mambo” #0 is a one-shot that explores one of Milligan’s additions to the “Shadowman” mythos: Punk Mambo, a punk-infused Voodoo priestess who lives in the Louisiana bayou. Something’s calling her back to the UK in the issue, which is designed to expand her origin story while presenting a new adventure to spotlight the supporting character.
CBR News spoke with Milligan about both “Eternal Warrior” and “Punk Mambo,” delving into character motivations, the dichotomy of faith and doubt, his current and future work for Valiant and much, much more.
Peter, tell us a bit about your upcoming “Eternal Warrior” miniseries. Where does it pick up with the character in the Valiant timeline?
Peter Milligan: It’s a quite difficult story to imagine writing, because there’s so much of him. He’s been around for such a long time, and I’m not interested in doing just blood and guts war stories as my thing. Really, I just had to think about this character — Gilad Anni-Padda — and his relationship with the Geomancer. This story — in some way, the themes running through it are an exploration of faith. Gilad must have a lot of faith, I thought, in the Geomancer, a lot of faith in the truth of what the Geomancer says. The Geomancer is obviously there to restore balance and equilibrium in the world. That’s great — but so he says. I just started thinking, well, the Geomancer has been doing this for quite a long time. He might look around the world, and one could argue that it’s not particularly balanced. It’s a serious exploration of that little shard of doubt, which starts to creep into Gilad’s mind.
The classical or biblical model used when I was thinking about this story was the binding of Isaac, where as you know, God tells Abraham to kill Isaac, which some people say is a test of faith. That was my model to enter into this fabulous world of the Eternal Warrior. It’s a story about faith, it’s a story about doubt and it’s a story about — obviously — huge battles and huge fights. Not only does Gilad have to save an entire people and save an entire culture. In so doing, he’s testing his faith in the Geomancer. It’s a story that deals both with the big issues of these huge worldwide tapestries that Geomancer and the Eternal Warrior deal with, but also deals with internal stuff, which is very human. It’s a very human part of the Eternal Warrior, which is about doubt and faith and how can he keep on doing this, how can he keep on believing in the Geomancer when there’s not necessarily a lot of proof in what he’s doing.
This is the first time you’ve worked with the character, but not your first experience with the archetype of the lone warrior on a mission whose faith is tested. What sets the Eternal Warrior apart from some of the other characters within that archetype you’ve worked with in the past?
Well, to refer back to my earlier answer, one thing that does set the Eternal Warrior apart is that he’s following orders. Many of the things he does are coming from his relationship with this higher being, who is instructing him on how to run his life and how to run the world. Often, stories about the lone hero are about existentialist characters. Gilad is the opposite of an existentialist character. He has meaning, and the meaning is the Geomancer. The Geomancer offers this idea of meaning, which is about restoring balance to the world and restoring balance to the world. I think that’s what makes Gilad different from a lot of the other lone, existentialist warriors that wander the world getting into fights. Gilad’s relationship with the Geomancer and the tension therein is at the heart of “Eternal Warrior.” I think it’s what makes that book really interesting and a really interesting platform for telling a number of stories.
You’re exploring a lot of different dichotomies with this series — faith and doubt, as well as the actual physical dichotomy between the Eternal Warrior and a baby that he’s protecting set during the backdrop of a war. It seems like the concept is really rife for exploration.
Yeah, there are a number of themes. Even the very idea of a baby — I talked about the Biblical theme of Abraham and Isaac, but there’s another messianic theme running through the story of saving a baby who might save his people, his culture. That is a matter of faith — having a baby is perhaps the biggest article of faith you could possibly produce. The story is about faith, but also, it’s about this warrior who fights with his muscles and his swords and his bravery, and manages to change the world.
There’s also another little story running through this “Eternal Warrior.” What other things might just change the world? We often think of the battles that change the world as the generals and the Napoleons and the great fighters really play in the history of mankind and the history of the world, but what about the other things, the quieter things? Soft power, if you will. It’s a contrast, a counterpoint to the Eternal Warrior. There’s another force of power running through this story, and these elements do meet up towards the end of the storyline.
What was it about the setting that you thought really brought out the best potential in this story?
How I seem to work is I want to find out what I think the story’s about and I want to find the themes that I want to explore. Obviously, I then chose the setting, I choose the conflicts which are going to best enable me to pursue that line of inquiry. [The setting] is not fictional, it’s during the time when the Magyars, who are now known as Hungarians, were invading Europe. This is a long time before the country of Germany existed, but we can generally call this area of Europe the Franks. This kind of war and this kind of battle that’s an existential battle for survival did go on in real life. But it was far enough away and messy enough and undocumented enough to allow me to play around a little bit with history. What I didn’t want to do was set it in a time that was so well-documented and perhaps recent enough that I had to be continually worried about not transgressing some known historical moment. So there’s enough real history in there, some real people are mentioned and some real battles are mentioned. It plays around with some real history, but not so real that it gets in the way with this “Eternal Warrior” story.
Cary Nord is your artistic partner in crime for this particular miniseries. What was it about Cary’s work that really lent itself well to “Days of Steel?”
Apart from the fact that he’s fucking brilliant?
He really does do the big stuff brilliantly. You see the big battles, you see the double-page spreads, which I think are the meat and potatoes of “Eternal Warrior.” It’s about warriors and battles. It’s about those big moments that potentially shift the course of history. Cary does that up and he’s just amazing. But at the same time, as I’ve seen in this storyline, a lot of it is character-based with a few moments of comedy and tragic comedy. He can also really capture those comedic moments and those bits of character subtleties, which makes it a storyline that has got a bit of depth and humanity to it, and it’s not just blood and guts/blood and thunder kind of storyline. He covers all the bases, and he’s brilliant.
Transitioning to your other upcoming Valiant book, “Punk Mambo” is somewhat of a shift from “Eternal Warrior.” You created the character back during your “Shadowman” run — what was it like to have the opportunity to return to her?
I really liked her. Sometimes, when you create a so-called minor character for a book — often you see this in movies or novels — it’s sometimes the minor characters or the small bit players who you’re really interested in. Punk Mambo was one of those. I wanted the “Shadowman” storyline to feel like a Mambo priestess or Voodoo priestess that didn’t follow the usual cliches of that genre. I wanted someone who was a little different, and someone who had a connection with my own life. This girl is from London and obviously obsessed with punk rock, Sid Vicious — I’m not obsessed with Sid Vicious, but I’m from London also. I wanted to have all that Voodoo stuff, but to throw a really unusual element into the mix to make it something new and different so that she is a Mambo, she practices a form of Voodoo, but that’s only a part of her. That’s only a part of her life and personality. Really, she’s a character in her own right with a history that is unusual, I would suggest, for a Voodoo priestess.
Personally, there are some characters you see a picture of and you hear them talk and you know everything there is about that character. It can be a good thing, a positive thing, but there are some characters that you don’t know where they’re coming from, you kind of know what they’re thinking, you kind of know where they grew up — Punk Mambo is the opposite of that. You see this character, and it’s completely not the type of person you expect to see in the Louisiana swamps. Even her reactions to things don’t seem to be exactly what you would expect this kind of Mambo to be. If you like, she seems to have a lot of in-built contradictions. It makes me want to explore that, it makes me want to find out what it is that makes her tick. What makes her interesting is that what you see initially poses just as many questions as it answers. Hopefully, this one-off storyline will go some way toward exploring the mystery that is Punk Mambo.
Your zero issue has Punk Mambo journeying to the UK, embracing the Punk side of her identity. What’s in store for her once she arrives back in her home country?
She goes back geographically, but also back in time in her head. It’s a kind of origin story of the moment where she left London. She was at the high of the punk boom, and we discover a few secrets about Punk Mambo — not least of all is that she’s a bit older than she looks. We discover how she’s managed to maintain her youthful looks. We also learn what turned her into a Punk Mambo and what really drives her to stay in some remote, godforsaken place of the Louisiana bayous. Why is this young-looking woman staying largely alone out there? Mostly all the company she’s got are Sid Vicious effigies. You don’t do that for nothing. You’re not out there just for the weather. We explore a little bit of her character, which goes a long way to explain why she’s in the Louisiana swamps, what turned her into a Punk Mambo and what set a fire under her ass to take her from London all the way to Louisiana. She goes back to London and tries to sort things out.
The starting off point is that she’s in one of her sniffing glue vision states and she sees there’s going to be a tribute band for a fake Sex Pistols-like band appearing in Camden. That’s the trigger, if you like, which takes her back to London initial, but then, a lot of other stuff happens.
Robert Gill is no stranger to the Valiant Universe, having recently taken on “Armor Hunters: Harbinger.” What kind of potential do you think his style has to adapt to the story of “Punk Mambo?”
I don’t know — I’m interested, actually. I think it’s an interesting mix. I’ll say it’s not an obvious fit, but it’s so right for a story and character like Punk Mambo to have someone a little out of their comfort zone, someone who’s a little bit out of the kind of stuff they might normally do. I think it might make for some really interesting magic.
You’ve been working in the Valiant Universe for a little while, now. As the Universe has continued to develop, what’s been your favorite aspect of getting to help build some of these characters essentially from the ground up?
Well, I haven’t been in the Valiant Universe that long, and I’m still a bit of a dilettante when it comes to the Valiant world. I was brought in quite late — I’ve done a bit of “Shadowman” and I’ve done a one-off for “Bloodshot.” I think Bloodshot is one of the more interesting characters — very good concept, and a relevant concept for today. I think [Valiant] has a certain voice and quality to the characters, and what they want to achieve for the characters. It sets them apart from other character lines, and I think that can only be good. As I say, I’m the new kid on the block a bit when it comes to Valiant, but what I see is interesting. It seems like their own style and they seem to be doing things differently than some of the other companies.
“Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel” #1 and “Punk Mambo” #0 debut in November
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