Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I was puttering around the studio, and who should appear but Peppy Peter Milligan (X-FORCE, HUMAN TARGET) to regale me with tales of comics writing in his exotic accent.

This is what he said:

How do you come up with characters? 

PM:  That really depends.  Sometimes the character embodies or represents a point of view, or has some specific plot function. Of course, you want them to be a bit more than this, to feel real too. In The Names I wanted the hero Katya to embody my own anger at the financial establishment that had created the world financial crash. But it had to be more personal than that, so i made it person. And made it particular.

How important is plot? 

PM:  Obviously, it's important, but how important depends on what kind of story you're writing.  And that all comes down to what it is you're trying to say or do.  You hope that everything, plot, character, is coming together.  Plot reveals character, the needs and problems of the character become plot.

What is your philosophy of writing comics?

PM:   Be true to the story.

What elements does every issue of a comic book need to deliver in order to satisfy the reader? 

PM:   I want it to say something. About character or the world of the creator.

What do you find most exciting about writing comics? 

PM:  That you can have an idea or be annoyed by something or be unable to get something out of your head and put this into a comic and in a RELATIVELY short time you can see in published, and read.

What can writers do to give their characters emotional complexity without making them too whiny or weak? 

PM:   Most people or characters have more than one beat, by that I mean that they often have contradictions.   You might be incredibly weak and whiny when it comes to a girl you love, but spend you Friday nights getting loudly drunk and picking fights with men twice your size.  

How do you write interesting character relationships? 

PM:  I think that question probably deserves an entire book.  It's useful to know what you're trying to achieve by the relationship.  If the characters hate aspects of each other there has to be a compelling reason why they're together. Love, job, money, sex. if they love each other there has to be a compelling reason why they're NOT together. Love, job, money, sex.

How long does it take you to write a regular 22-page issue? Please walk us through the process. 

PM:  There's no fixed time.  My first step is to do a bit of free writing, to get down on the pages the kind of things I want to be achieving or dealing with in this episode.  What I'm looking for is a theme to emerge. Theme often generates plot and character change.

What should newer writers do to strengthen their comic book writing skills?

PM:  Read things other than comic books.

How do you write great dialogue?

PM:  I suppose the first rule is that it has to sound like it belongs to a particular character.

How do you sell a script?

PM:  Ha ha. Hopefully it's already sold before you start writing it.  Otherwise maybe you should be selling the concept first.

How do you craft compelling protagonists? 

PM:    I think you need to know what you're trying to say.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

PM:   The adoration of young females.

Why do you like Rimbaud?

PM:   Because he was a fucked up genius who burned brightly then walked away from it all.  

How do you go about creating conflict?

PM:  Make characters want different things.

What is the most challenging thing for you to write when writing a comic book and how do you overcome the challenge? 

PM:  Often, it's the beginning. But I try to write anything, get it started--then you have something to change.

Who is Mr. Code?

PM:  I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.

What is your advice for writers who just can't sell a pitch even with great artists, high concepts and tight scripts?

PM:  Consider that maybe your high concepts aren't that high, and your scripts aren't all that tight.

What inspires you to write?

PM:  You have to make it so it's the thing you want to do.

Please take us through a normal day for you.

PM:  Okay, often my wife brings me tea in bed about 7AM.  I'm showered and at my desk by 730AM, by now I've moved on to coffee. Breakfast 9.  Lunch 1.  Morning most productive.  Afternoon my brain changes a bit, I might continue working on what i'vebeen working on or deal with other things, ideas, email, guitar, this thing I'm doing now.

How do you make characters stand out? 

PM:  Make them engaging and unpredictable.

What are the themes of your work? 

PM:  I'm interested in many themes, I suppose one theme that comes through quite a bit if the shifting nature of character.

What are a few specific back issue #s that readers should seek out to get a good taste of your writing? 

The Names One.  Rogan Gosh.

What mistakes do you notice most often in comic book writing? How can writers avoid these mistakes? 

PM:  Often it's less mistakes than writing about stuff that doesn't interest me.

What comics do you have coming up? (I can wait to post this until after SDCC if necessary. Just let me know!) 

PM   I have a new series with DC VERTIGO called New Romancer.  Doing a new bad company series with 2000AD. Have a number of other things in the pipeline, bit too soon to talk about them.

BAD COMPANY starts in 2000AD Prog 1950, out today! Go get it!

1 comment:

  1. RIP Scott. You will be greatly missed - Love, the Ant