The Horned God: Pat Mills Talks Slaine

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Twenty-one years ago a new chapter began in the saga of 2000AD’s Celtic barbarian Slaine when creator Pat Mills teamed up with Simon Bisley on the The Horned God story arc. Now that seminal storyline has been repackaged by publishers Rebellion in a lavish hardcover edition that showcases Mills’ epic storytelling, and Bisley’s stunning painted artwork, for the American market. Broken Frontier took a stroll down memory lane with Pat Mills to chat about why now is the right time for U.S. readers to embrace this British comics classic…

BROKEN FRONTIER: So, Slaine invades America in a brand new, gloriously produced hardcover of The Horned God. A long time in coming, admittedly, but a very welcome development. But why was this particular story chosen to spearhead the latest British invasion? It isn’t the beginning of Slaine’s saga, after all (though it is admittedly beautiful to behold) and Slaine is possibly rather less well known over there than certain of his 2000AD co-stars.

PAT MILLS: I think because it is the most accessible to a US audience – e.g. Bisley, full colour, a full length story. Bear in mind, this was the story that broke Slaine into the European market with other series following. Other 2000AD series have not had the same widespread success in Europe. The nettle needs grasping that European standards are very high and The Horned God reaches that standard.

BF: Is this a story you’re particularly proud of? I remember it as taking the character in rather a different direction from previous chapters of the saga. Simon Bisley’s art gave us something of a new vision of the character too, as I recall. How does it feel to see it given the hardcover treatment?

MILLS: Excellent. Although hard covers are not new on my books – notably Slaine and ABC Warriors in British and truly beautiful European editions. The story is not so much a different direction – more a further exploration of the elusive Celtic dream in its many different facets

BF: This isn’t actually the first time an attempt has been made to bring classic 2000AD material to the US market. It’s been tried before with varying degrees of success, both in collected editions and in a line of American format reprints back in the Eighties. Given the undoubted quality of a lot of the material, why do you think it’s proved to be such a hard sell in the past? And will Slaine be the one to crack it?

MILLS: I think you have to approach America on its terms, rather than expect the readers to approach 2000AD on our terms. This means asking some very tough questions and being able to answer them accurately. I’m not sure those questions were always asked. Slaine the Horned God has done well in the past in the USA, Bisley is well known there and there’s a demand for meaty graphic novels – a "good read". The book is up to European standard which means it’s US standard, too. The Americans like Conan so a character in the same genre should press the same buttons.


Examples of Simon Bisley's stunning interiors for The Horned God

BF: This latest wave of collected editions seems to be coinciding with a push to make 2000AD itself more readily available and hopefully better known in the US. Do you think the American market is ready for our kind of comics now? They’re more used to capes and tights over there these days, after all.

MILLS: I think there must come a point where the audience becomes aware of the superficial nature of so many super-heroes and looks for something else. And with increasing globalisation and digital comics it’s the perfect time

BF: Quite a bit of your work seems to be making an impact again, these days. The collected editions of Charley’s War [Pat's highly regarded story of a working class British soldier in World War I], in particular, have been highly praised. Are you pleased this stuff is being discovered by a new generation of readers? And is there more to come?

MILLS: Yes. Charley’s War, they tell me, tops the charts in Forbidden Planet with every new volume for between two to four weeks. When you consider the opposition, that’s a remarkable achievement which is not that well publicised because it’s rather embarrassing that an old reprint story in black and white about a sixteen year old kid , who is not very bright, and is fighting in a real and cruel war regularly beats all these deluxe coloured, costumed, posing ”””heroes””””, whether of the traditional variety or the introspective, “intellectual” adult kind. The significance and importance of this – namely that there is another less vocal audience that looks for something more than costumed fodder - is unlikely to be looked at. It’s far too uncomfortable for those in control. I think we’re up to 8 volumes of Charley’s War with two more volumes to complete the series, probably on the 100th anniversary of the Great War.


BF: The comics industry seems to be in a strange place at the moment. The two big American companies seem to be trying frantically to undercut each other and resorting to seemingly endless crossovers and much hyped events to keep readers on board, and Disney have slapped a ban on any non-US originated material featuring Marvel characters, which is bad news for some British creators. But Britain’s own long running war title, DC Thomson’s Commando, has apparently had a massive upswing in sales since they launched their digital comics service. Where do you see comics being in five years from now? Could digital comics really be the future?

MILLS: I think so. It could democratise comics by opening it to new creators. Also, I see in the Sony Play Station digital charts there are many non super-hero titles. That’s excellent news.

Slaine: The Horned God is available now, published by Rebellion priced $25.00.

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  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Jun 9, 2011 at 8:00am

    nice stuff!! Cool interview! And Slaine I believe is currently even available anew in Dutch as well :)

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