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DF Interview: Peter Milligan brings tale of sex, death, metamorphosis to comics with The Discipline
By Byron Brewer
Best-selling writer Peter Milligan and artist Leandro Fernandez team up for The Discipline, an all-new comic series from Image coming in March.
In the first issue, readers will meet Melissa, one woman who – between fighting her sister and hating her husband – still finds time to fall in lust with a stranger who may be more than he seems.
Dynamic Forces sat down with scribe Milligan to delve deeper into the somewhat dark and erotic mysteries of The Discipline.
Dynamic Forces: Peter, tell us about the origin of this most unique book, how it came about. Wasn’t it originally slated to be a Vertigo title?
Peter Milligan: DC exercised their contractual right not to go ahead and publish: I can't talk for them or explain their exact reasons but all I can say is it was their right, and that once they chose not to publish they treated Leandro and me very well. So I've no complains, this is all part of the business.
DF: So tell us about the storyline of the book, now coming from Image Comics. From the solicits, there must be an air of controversy about it?
PM: I don't want to give the storyline away so forgive me for being a little elliptical here: The Discipline is about a young woman called Melissa who from the outside seems to be living the dream. She lives in a ritzy apartment in Manhattan, her husband's a hedge-fund wizard and earning big money. But she's unhappy. Her mother is ill and she clashes with her blue-collar sister about how best to look after her. Her husband seems more into earning cash than having a good marriage. Melissa spends much of her time in an art gallery, staring at an erotically-charged painting of a satyr and nymph.
It's at this art gallery where she meets a man who will change her life and her very being. Usually the end game of seduction is sexual conquest but this strange and dark courtship reveals itself as the harbinger of something much very different and totally unexpected ...
DF: Ooooh. And who is Melissa as a character, from your perspective as a writer?
PM: Melissa is a clever working class young woman who's now living in a rich world of high end restaurants and expensive midtown apartments. I'm interested in those people who move from one social class to another, people who are able to change, to adapt. I'm interested in the idea of transformations and chameleons. Melissa has to undergo a kind of transformation and must be a kind of chameleon to pass between her old blue collar world and her new wealthy one. This facility with stand her in good stead when she has to deal with the shocking transformations that her life -- and her very self -- are soon to undergo.
DF: Tell us about Melissa’s sister and husband? Any other characters we should know about?
PM: These two stand at opposite poles of Melissa's life, though Melissa loves them both, when she isn't being mad at them. Krystal is a tough working class young woman who probably resents the kind of life her sister Melissa has. Melissa's husband Andrew is work-obsessed and doesn't see how dissatisfied his wife is. These characters are really important to the story: As well as representing the two sides of Melissa's life, their constant presence helps us see the changes that are happening to Melissa.
DF: We’ve been warned there was some “weirdness” in this erotic saga, not surprising in a Peter Milligan series. Care to elaborate?
PM: I don't know if "warned" is the right term: I think what I was trying to stress was that the darkness and edginess of this book comes from more than just the sex. There's quite a bit of sex in it, that's for sure, but the sex is not the object of the lesson. As we'll see, the sex, and the seduction, is just one element of something much bigger as to what appears to be the story of "bored little rich wife gets seduced" spins off into something stranger.
DF: Was there any particular inspiration for this book?
PM: Two things happened. I had lunch with then-Vertigo editor Will Denis and he was talking about the effect that The Extremist -- a comic I wrote that was drawn by Ted McKeever -- had on him back in the day. He loved the sense of darkness or sickness that book had. A few days later I was in London's Natural Gallery looking at a painting -- I think it was a nude by Botticelli -- and I heard and witnessed what I think was a guy picking up a woman who was also looking at the painting. I suppose The Extremist-like thoughts were still in my head and I began to imagine what might be happening and what might go on to happen to these two.
What if this wasn't about sex? What if the seduction and the sex were part of some process, some ritual, that led to something else, something more ...
With these scattered febrile thoughts I went home and began to think about that seduction, if indeed it was a seduction, and what strange horrible place it might lead to. Where it led to was The Discipline.
Coupled with this were some experiences I had some time back. I got involved in the periphery of a pretty strange crowd who were into some dark stuff. I felt myself being drawn towards the edge of some kind of precipice. I managed to pull back and away but the whole experienced left me with a fascination for secret dark societies and groups, which I draw on for this story.
DF: Wow! … And how has it been working with artist Leandro Fernandez? Why is he right for this book?
PM: I love working with Leandro. First off, he's a great artist, secondly he's very creative and always has interesting questions and suggestions. For this dark erotic thriller his moody drawings, his use of shadows, the sensual quality of his art, it's all just perfect!
DF: Peter, any projects current or future you’d like to mention?
PM: I have a few projects in the pipeline that I can't quite talk about yet. Besides The Discipline for Image I am writing the miniseries New Romancer for Vertigo. I've created a new character for Valiant and he's appearing in a miniseries tentatively called Britannia. I've also designed a new character for the British magazine 2000AD called The Counterfeit Girl. I'll be beginning to script that in the new year.
I also have a few projects outside of comics that I'm working on.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Peter Milligan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Discipline #1 hits stores March 2nd!
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