Writer’s Commentary: Peter Milligan on ‘The Mummy’ #1
Titan is launching a whole line of comics based on the Hammer Studios horror films, starting today with The Mummy #1 by Peter Milligan and Ronilson Freire. Milligan is a fascinating choice of writer for this project, best known for classic books like Shade the Changing Man and Enigma at Vertigo, and X-Statix at Marvel. Milligan writes cerebral and often surreal comics that are unlike anything else out there.
Peter Milligan has provided ComicsAlliance with an exclusive commentary for The Mummy #1. This commentary contains spoilers, so if you haven't read the issue yet, pick it up online or in stores today, and come back here for the inside line.
Peter Milligan: So, the good people at Hammer invited me in to their London offices and asked if I could come up with a new angle on the legend or mythos of The Mummy. I watched all the old Hammer movies again. I paced around, I let my thoughts roam. I knew what I didn't want, I knew what I could not put into any new Mummy story, but it wasn't until I visited an Egyptian gallery in a small museum and saw a bunch of bored school kids around the spread-eagled corpse of a once proud, powerful woman that the idea for what a new Mummy story could be really came into focus. The comic that follows is the result of that thought process...
Page 1: One of the things I always wanted to see more of in Mummy stories was the complex Egyptian mythology, of which mummies are just one aspect. The Land of The Dead --- or the Duat --- has fascinated me for a long time, so I wanted to start our Mummy story here. On page one we meet one of our main players, Nebetah, reaching what she thinks will be the final stage of her journey through this frightening landscape, before she passes through to paradise.
We'll soon learn that for Nebetah, things are more complicated than this...
Page 2: In these two pages Ronilson's art really captures some of the sheer bloody terrifying weirdness of this place, as Nebetah meets Ammit and --- it seems --- Anubis.
Page 3: Here we move out of the land of the dead, or so it seems. With the sacrificial victim, and the weird mummy bleeding black blood, we might be something a little closer to normal Hammer Horror territory...
Page 4: I've always had a thing for these Egyptian gods, and it was a real thrill to see Ronilson bring them to life here. I think it's probably still unclear whether we're in the land of the dead or some other hall of the gods...
Page 5: And now everything changes. Hopefully, the rug has been pulled from under your feet. If it hasn't been, we've screwed up! It took a bit of time to get this page right, but this is now great. One of the problems is: what do you show on the horizon? I expect our readers to be eagle eyed, so you can't be next to the London Eye, say, at the same time as suggesting this house is in Kensington! Finally, with a bit of tweaking from script and art, we're really happy with this page. The reader thought they were in the world of Ancient gods. But now they realize they’re in an even scarier and weirder place... the world of men!
Page 6-7: This is a key scene. By moving the action forward 33 years, but showing that Lord Mather and the Duke of Clarence haven't aged a day, and by their conversation here, we're revealing an important aspect of this story: immortality, or at least extended life. I love Ronilson's dark and claustrophobic art here.
These people are searching for something... but what?
Page 8: Another change in mood as we introduce a vital theme of the story. Remember that Mummy I saw spreadeagled in the gallery? One of the thoughts I had was how it was being used. This got my mind thinking to how other bodies can be used. Which got me thinking about how other bodies are misused and abused, which led me to consider the terrible crime of sex trafficking.
Here, Ronilson does a great job of capturing the young women's fear.
Page 9: Finally, we meet our hero: Angel. Though here it's still unclear why she will be our hero...
Page 10: Finally, we see the Mark of Kharis. The thing that links this young Ukrainian sex-trafficked woman (Angel) to the would-be immortal Sect of Anubis... back thousands of years to an Ancient Egyptian woman called Nebetah.
Page 11: Kensington, where we first saw the Set of Anubis. I like the idea of weird ancient rites going on behind the expensive facades of this wealthy part of London. In fact, I am convinced that even now all kinds of strange rites are going on in the mews houses and mansions of London W8. You just have to walk down Kensington Palace Gardens to see it in the locals' faces.
Getting back to the Mummy, I really like the way that Angel is certainly no simpering victim. She fights back!
Page 12: Great scary stuff here from Ronilson. There is just something so strange about these old gods.
Page 13: Ouch. We move locations, to a slightly less "posh" part of town. When I was watching the Mummy movies and thinking about it, I was struck that though the sight of grown men running around in bandages might have lost its ability to shock or scare, there is one thing about mummies that still really gets to me --- and that is the process of mummification itself. That is horror. A kind of Cronenberg body-shock horror, if you will.
I was intent on getting this into my Mummy comic, and Ronilson does a great job here of really getting the horror of how it happened across. There has been some debate over whether the priests really shoved the spoon up the nostril and scooped the brain out that way. After extensive research, I've decided that this is just liberal squeamishness. The process was every bit as brutal as we reveal it to be here.
Page 14: Ronilson illustrates this liminal stage between nightmare and waking so well. A clammy dark sense of horribleness pervades.
Page 15: We keep with the disturbed Angel. This all stems back to me asking myself a question: how can a Mummy comic be scary? And what seemed to me the most scary is the personal: the idea of feeling yourself being slowly, inexorably... mummified.
Page 16: A nice introduction to another important character. Duncan. In my script I described Duncan as "a more bookish Tom Hiddleston," and I think Ronilson does a really good job of getting that here!
Page 17: I think this is an amazing shot. I wondered if the main drawing wasn't a bit too much. But no, I was right first time. An amazing panel here. The bandages wrapped tightly around her skin, she feels weirdly connected to a woman who lived and died thousands of years ago... a woman she will eventually meet (spoiler alert!)...
Page 18-19: One thing I wanted in this story --- as well as the new angle, etc. --- was to retain a kind of Hammer eccentricity. I wanted secret societies, secret hideaways behind apparently normal facades, weird rituals. There might be something just a little old fashioned about all this, but that seems to be on theme: in a story that's about people trying to stop the biological clock. A really nice kind of "classic" look to the art which adds to this sense of timelessness...
Page 20: Isis has flown. In this page I wanted to really get across the idea that Angel has nowhere to turn to. A stranger, an illegal, fresh from her hideous Mummy nightmares.
Page 21: The city becomes an extension of her nightmare...
Page 22: From the outset I loved the idea of the contrast or contradiction between these ancient gods and monsters being in modern day London. And they didn't get any more monstrous than Ammit, variously called "Eater of Hearts" or "Devourer of the Dead". You can see this creature on funeral texts, it's usually sitting beside the god Maat as she weighs the dead person's heart. We've made Ammit bigger and crazier-looking than you might see in the funeral papyrus.
The Mummy #1 is on sale now, published by Titan Comics. Check out a preview here.