Growing up an orphan in the slummier, dangerous parts of London takes its toll on even the street smartest kids in Britain. For Eddie, the problems that come with being an abandoned teenager get more complicated after his 18th birthday, when he meets his mother for the first time.
And sleeps with her.
And murders her.
Sound kind of familiar?
Launching in July from Vertigo, Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice's new ongoing series "Greek Street" mixes London crime drama with classical Greek tragedy and all the sex, violence and gore one would expect from the Vertigo line the writer helped create nearly 20 years ago. And while the series will dig deep into plays of deceit, betrayal and horrible fate like "Antigone" or "The Trojan Women," Milligan promises that nothing will remain quite as it seems.
"Eddie has echoes of the great king, Oedipus," Milligan told CBR. "He has issues with his parentage, and there is certainly a doomed quality to him. But our hero is very un-heroic, very modern. The trick is that he doesn't exist simply as a modern-day representation of Oedipus. I know kids who came from 'broken' homes, who had it very rough when they were young, and it's important that Eddie exists as a believable character in his own right, above and beyond the parallels between antiquity and contemporaneity. In other words, yes. He is a doomed young hero-but maybe no more doomed than a lot of young people in his situation, in an unforgiving city.
While "Greek Street" takes its cues from classic stories, the series will be anything but predictable. "The old stories are a starting off point, and a knowledge of them will in no way allow the ['Greek Street'] reader to predict what's going to happen," Milligan said. "The whole idea of this is to use those tragedies, not be shackled or ham-strung by them. For instance, Eddie might start off as a kind of low-class Oedipus - but end being the living embodiment of Orestes, bent on bloody revenge. This swapping of persona or 'masks' will recur throughout the story."
Kick-starting with an introductory $1.00 cover price for the 40-page first issue, "Greek Street" hopes to have long life as a series, especially because Milligan has been planning the book for quite some time. "I've been intrigued by the plays for a long time. It's all there. When I fixed on this concept for a series I of course re-read a lot of them," he said. "The idea has slowly evolved. And I think it's the fact that it all seems like an unusual and unexpected combination that makes it interesting for me. I wanted a way I could explore the tragedies in a modern setting, maybe to breath a different kind of life into them, and to have them breath life into contemporary situations. At first, I was interested in exploring just The Orestia, that incredible, difficult bloody tale of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Orestes et al. Then I opened up the camera, to include any damn Tragedy I wanted! It wasn't so much bringing these centuries old stories alive-because quite clearly they had never died. They seem strange, they are clearly the product of minds that saw the world differently from us -Â but at their heart they still speak to us."
What spoke most to Milligan in the stories of eye-gouging, mass suicide and gory double-crosses was how their messages of fate and consequence synched up so well with the rougher parts of London life, particularly in the "red light district" of SoHo. "London - specifically Soho - is a kind of character in its own right. It's in this febrile world of violence and sex that Eddie both seeks his salvation, and also encounters his very own furies, his striken conscience, and possibly his destruction," the writer explained.
Fans of Milligan's previous Vertigo work will see the same simmering supernatural twists that have become the imprint's trademark, yet set in a new light. "There are all kinds of twisted dark and violent things going on in Greek Street, and unlike with the ancient tragedies, a lot of the dark and violent stuff is happening 'on stage,'" he said. "There is also a lot of the supernatural - though I always feel that the supernatural works best when it's juxtaposed with the real. When there's a kind of tension between the two. The important thing is that it feels right or 'natural' for your book."
Meanwhile, Peter Milligan will focus on crafting a first issue that will meet expectations for being reader-friendly at $1.00. "I certainly didn't do anything conscious or didn't start out to try to get Vertigo to put such an attractive price on the book. All I know is that they're extremely excited about what Davide and I are producing, and have high hopes for the book," the writer said.
Beyond the attractive introductory price point, key to the success of "Greek Street" is its memorable protagonist. "Eddie is not a 'great man' as a tragic hero is classically meant to be," Milligan said. "And his 'tragic flaws' are really the flaws of the world he grows up in; the parents who abandoned him, the institutions who fail him. It's true that Eddie is dealt a rough hand by the gods, or fate, depending on how you view these things. And in our story he battles against what destiny seems to have in store for him. So in this you could say he walks in the footsteps of his more obviously 'great' tragic forebears. This is a democratic hero, an everyman tragic figure."
Although "Greek Street" takes place in the same imprint and same city of the Vertigo flagship title "Hellblazer" - which Milligan also writes -- the similarities between the books stop there. Milligan explained, "London is the only thing that 'Hellblazer' and 'Greek Street' have in common. As the name suggests, London is more integral to 'Greek Street' - for those who don't know, Greek Street runs through Soho. Here, London is our Temple of Dionysus, the stage on which Eddie and the other charcters' fates unwound. London also exists like some distant God, able to help or hinder Eddie as Eddie struggles with his fate. We feel that London could destroy Eddie whenever it wants. With John Constantine, it's a much more evenly matched. Constantine is probably as likely to destroy London."
"I'm really interested in Constantine as a person," Milligan continued. "Flawed. I want to see how he reacts when we really put him through the churner. Plus, I'd like to see him interact with a character I wrote a long time ago."
Milligan also wrote Vertigo's "The Human Target," which will soon be adapted as a television show on America's Fox network. "I was clearly attempting to achieve something quite different with the story. Good luck to them. And I think there's a good chance that Vertigo are going to put out a nice collection of 'HT.' Watch this space," Milligan said.
Given that "Hellblazer" will soon see new twists explored in the "Resurrection" arc and the world will see a new TV series based on "The Human Target," 2009 may prove the best possible launch date for Peter Milligan to launch new creator-owned work into the world.
"Greek Street" #1 goes on sale July 1 from Vertigo.