Peter Milligan Brings Back ‘Bad Company’ for ‘2000 AD’ [Interview]
As announced last month, Prog 1950 of 2000 AD in September will see the return of one of the long-running magazine's most fondly-remembered series, Bad Company. Created by writer Peter Milligan, artist Brett Ewins, and inker Jim McCarthy, the series follows a ragtag group of soldiers as they fight a dire guerrilla war against the alien threat of the Krool.
A gripping, paranoid look at modern warfare, the series was characterized by Milligan's biting scripts and Ewins' visceral artwork. Sadly, Brett Ewins passed away earlier this year, making the return of Bad Company a bittersweet experience, and re-framing the new work as a tribute to Ewins' memory.
As 2000 AD readies for the return of the troops, ComicsAlliance spoke to Milligan about his time working with Ewins, and what prompted him to bring back the Bad Company.
ComicsAlliance: The last time you wrote Bad Company was in 2002. What made you decide to return to 2000 AD this year, and why pick Bad Company as the strip to return with?
Peter Milligan: There were a few reasons that came together. I met with 2000 AD's editor Matt Smith a while ago and he brought up the subject of returning to 2000 AD, possibly with Bad Company. Nothing really happened with that straight away, but I'd been noticing at signings --- particularly in the UK --- how many people wanted Bad Company books signed, and how much Bad Company still seemed to mean something to so many people.
But the thing that really made me want to return to Bad Company is that I had a story I wanted to write. The first Bad Company was a kind of reaction to the Vietnam war --- or at least a reaction to how Vietnam had entered the cultural life through films and books. But times are different, we have been in very different kinds of wars since then, and I felt that Bad Company was an excellent platform from which to talk about this.
CA: So this new run will be directly commenting on modern warfare, and how it’s conducted?
PM: I’m very interested in reflecting our modern experience of war in this new Bad Company. Whether certain wars are worth fighting; how much we know about any reason for fighting them; what was really happening... these are the questions the new story examines.
CA: How did artist Rufus Dayglo come to get involved in this iteration of the series? What has his style brought to this new iteration?
PM: Rufus was one of the other reasons I decided to write this new story. We've become friends, and worked together for a one-off story for Vertigo, and while meeting for a drink one night we talked about Bad Company, and his affection for it, and I talked about some ideas I had. Brett --- God bless him --- was by this time in no condition to draw another story, and it was partly because Rufus had a very good relationship with Brett that I felt comfortable about going ahead without him
CA: Brett Ewins sadly passed away earlier this year. How important was your collaboration with Brett, and inker Jim McCarthy, to the early success of the series?
PM: I really felt that we were a team. My writing, Brett's designs of the planet, the Krool and the characters, and then Jim's atmospheric inks with its great use of black --- I felt it all came together. I think the closeness we had came through in the story and really helped make it a convincing and unusually told story.
CA: What was it about Brett's art that worked so well on the series?
PM: Brett's great strength was his intelligence. But he also had amazing scope. To be able to bring a half human monster like Kano to life --- but also render the green recruits like Danny so effectively --- is a real skill. And he had plenty of that.
CA: Jim will be returning for the new series. How have you found working with him again?
PM: I think it's great that Jim is working on this. It helps create the connective tissue between the look of the original Bad Company and this new story. Working with Jim is always a delight. He's so easy-going, and nothing is ever too much trouble.
CA: What's it like returning to the 2000 AD format? Was it easy to get back into Prog mode?
PM: I had to readjust to the different pages, but really, that was nothing. When all's said and done the story is made up of scenes. One thing we never did with Bad Company was "talk down" to our reader. And we certainly don't do that with the new story, Bad Company, First Casualties.
CA: What brings this new version of Bad Company together within the story? What are they up against?
PM: Some time has gone by since the last Bad Company story. In fact, on Earth it's approaching the tenth anniversary of "Victory on Ararat" day. Danny and a lot of the old Bad Company crew live out their lives in a vets' compound --- Flytrap does the gardening, Thrax organizes card games --- and they're all on medication to protect them from the terrible flashbacks they'd have of their time on Ararat.
But then something happens that turns Danny's world upside down. And he begins to wonder if the drugs they're given are for a different reason. Bad Company soon find themselves fighting not just the demons from their past... but those who have inherited Earth.
CA: Are there any characters you’ve particularly enjoyed creating for the new run?
PM: There are a few really important new characters that I've got a kick out of creating, but with a story like this, what's perhaps most interesting is seeing the new people that the old characters have become. And watching how they change. We learn a lot more about some of the key Bad Company characters. In fact, this story shines a light onto a lot of what we thought was going on in the original Bad Company series.
CA: Has your return to 2000 AD given you any interest in working with them more in future?
PM: Short answer: I've enjoyed this. So, yes. There are certain ideas I have which might feel more 2000 AD than Vertigo in style or substance. And I'm exploring this possibility.
Bad Company return in Prog 1950 of 2000AD, out this September.