Milligan on After Dark

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Peter Milligan’s resume is one of the most diverse in the comic biz. The British writer began, as many of his countrymen did, with a stint on long-running series 2000AD before helming the surreal Shade the Changing Man, an off-centre title that eventually became part of DC’s burgeoning Vertigo imprint. He also scribed Animal Man, Detective Comics and a Human Target mini-series before moving to Marvel with his unexpected approach on X-Force, followed by X-Statix which imprinted a new approach to superheroes in many readers’ minds.

More recently, Milligan has worked on X-Men with Salvador Larocca and wrote all 21 issues of Human Target, and is continuing his Vertigo association as current writer of Hellblazer and Greek Street.

His next series, with Radical Publishing is fittingly called After Dark and is a three issue sci-fi mini-series with artist Jeff Nentrup, focused on a drifter, and a mysterious woman who may hold the key to saving the damaged planet. It was originally conceived by director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) and actor Wesley Snipes (Blade).

BROKEN FRONTIER: Were Antoine Fuqua and Wesley Snipes hands on in regards to the story, or were you given free rein with their ideas?

PETER MILLIGAN: Antoine and I chatted about his general idea and thoughts. Then I wrote my treatment or outline of the story.  Everyone liked the title I came up with – After Dark.  For a while I toyed with a different title (this was after I’d seen a disco in Croatia called After Dark!) but Antoine and everyone else wanted to stick with what we had.  As soon as I’d forgotten the retro ‘80s interior I’d glimpsed in Croatia, I liked After Dark again, so everyone was happy. Antoine took quite a bit of interest in the character sketches.  After that, I really was left to write the story I wanted to write.  This was the only way I could be part of this project; to have the freedom for my characters to move through the story as I felt they should. 

BF: What separates After Dark from other dark, futuristic tales?

PM:   There have been a lot of dark and futuristic tales, of course.  I think what’s more important than what makes After Dark different is what makes it interesting. For me, it’s an incredibly timely story. It really grabs the zeitgeist by the balls. The world is a nightmare one, but it’s a nightmare we might all have had.  And the characters, though messed up by this world, are you and me. Or you and me as we might be.  There is a fear running through the book. A fear of the dark.  Some atavistic dread that our distant ancestors rightly had which is re-ignited by this new and terrible environment.  

BF: Is it a book with hope?

PM: After the reading the above you wouldn’t think so.  And I didn’t set out to write a story with hope.  In fact at the heart of this story is the story of misplaced hope. Of desperate hope.  Yet somehow some of the characters, even in the face of horror and tragedy, do offer us something that might, with a fair wind, be termed hope.

BF: Are you a fan of end of the world tales at all? They seem to have the potential to explore humanity’s best and worst traits.

PM:  I’ve never sought out this kind of story but I suppose there have been some good dystopia stories. J. G. Ballard did some fine work in this area.


BF: Do you find a lot of inspiration in other forms of storytelling such as novels and films?

PM:   Up to a point. More with novels than movies, I think. Movies have usually been regurgitated a few times, whereas novels can be purer. Sometimes it’s just a character or a concept. Something that starts you thinking in a certain area.  Though I think most of my inspiration, if you can call it that, comes from what’s around me. The newspapers. Conversations. Pubs. Places I might go to, things I might pick up when I’m traveling. I suppose what I’m saying is that you try to keep your receptors as wide open as possible, all the time. I’m sometimes asked – I’m sure all writers are asked – “where do you get your ideas from”. Well, I think I get ideas from the same place as everyone else gets ideas. Stuff that makes you think, or get angry, or depressed. The difference with someone in my position is that I usually see how I can make something out of the issues that are exercising my mind.

BF: The British Invasion back in the day still gets talked about. Are you happy to see the ever shrinking boundaries that exist now in comics, where technology evens the playing field to a certain extent?

PM: I think that the popularity of sequential art is a good thing. I want it to be more popular, and anything that makes it so gets my approval.

BF: You’ve worked in almost every genre imaginable from crime to superheroes to sci-fi. Is there any genre you’d like to take a stab at? Historical romance, perhaps?

PM:  I am working on an idea that might roughly be called historical at the moment. Most of my stories have a degree of romance in them.


BF: What’s it like returning to Hellblazer? Have you had all these stories in your mind since you last said goodbye to John Constantine?

PM: Of course, I only flirted with John Constantine, when he appeared in Shade, The Changing Man. So it’s great to really get into bed with the old reprobate.  It wasn’t that I had these stories but after writing him for a short period in Shade I felt I had his voice.  And I felt there was more I wanted to do with him. I always liked the idea of making him suffer, a kind of Hellblazer Book of Job. See if it wipes the smile off his face.

BF: Have you followed the Human Target TV series, or do you see adaptations as their own beasts?

PM: I haven’t followed it. It is definitely its own beast: all right for what it is but not really my kind of thing. In fact, the very things I was interested about in The Human Target are the things the TV show avoids. 

BF: What kinds of things were you interested in exploring?

PM:  I saw the Human Target as a book about identity. To what extent does Christopher Chance really become the person he’s impersonating? If he could be more like that person than the person himself, what does that say about who we are? It seems to me that the belief that we can change who we are, that we can become someone new, is a defining characteristic of our age. But what does it mean to become someone new? Who, then, were you before? These were the questions I was interesting in exploring.  I still think they’re fascinating and very relevant questions about an important aspect of modern life.

The $1 After Dark #0 issue is available on June 30, while the first issue (of three) will hit shelves on August 25.


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