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DF Interview: Peter Milligan brings back the popular Bad Company … and its First Casualties
By Byron Brewer
Bad Company was a 2000AD comic strip by Alan Grant and John Wagner, but that was recreated from the ground up by Peter Milligan, Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy when it launched in 1986 with 2000AD #500.
A science fiction war comic, it sees the survivors of a platoon banding together, made up of all manner of strange individuals. The last time they appeared was in 2002 … but now it’s apparently time for a revival. Toward that end, Dynamic Forces sat down with writer Peter Milligan to talk Bad Company, past and present.
Dynamic Forces: Peter, when Bad Company was transformed from comic strip to comic book with the coming of 2000AD #500 in 1986, you and Brett Ewins recreated the Alan Grant/John Wagner strip from the ground up. What was that process like?
Peter Milligan: It wasn't exactly a transformation from strip to book. I'd done a number of shorter things for 2000AD and they wanted me to work on a series. They also had some -- I think pretty early -- outlines for a new series by those comic book greats, Alan and John. It was a long time ago but, as I remember it, they had a basic set up, some characters. I was given carte blanche to run with it the way I wanted: I think I made it less of a classic 2000AD war fest and something more character-based and weird. In the same way, Brett took some earlier sketches by Carlos Esquera and ran with these, made them weirder and more modern. A bit more of that more of what you might call post-punk sensibility.
DF: The last time we saw Bad Company was, I believe, around 2002 or thereabouts. What precipitated this revival?
Peter Milligan: A number of things. For a start at signings I did, particularly in the UK, I was struck by how many people wanted Bad Company books signed, and how much the book clearly still meant to them. I'd had lunch with 2000AD editor Matt Smith and he floated the idea of me writing another series (though not necessarily Bad Company) for 2000AD. By this time, I'd gotten friendly with Rufus Dayglo, who was a massive war comic and Bad Company fan. He was also friendly with Brett. In fact, if Brett had lived, we -- or Rufus -- would have found a way for Brett to have had some limited input in the book, so his name could be on it: by this stage, Brett was unable to draw properly. But though important, none of it would have impelled me to write a new Bad Company story if I didn't have a new story to tell. The first Bad Company stories had taken their influence from the world wars and, to a large extent, Vietnam. I saw room for a story that in some way reflected our new reality. Wars that are less clear cut, where the very causes are questioned. That's the genesis of Bad Company: First Casualties.
DF: Was it rather emotional doing this without Brett? I could image you seeing this revival as a tribute to Brett.
Peter Milligan: Emotional, yes, but not in a wholly negative way. Though it did feel strange when the first episode came out: I remembered back to the days when Jim McCarthy, Brett and I were a team. Though it didn't start out this way, the story did become a kind of tribute to Brett.
DF: Tell us about Bad Company: who they were, and who they are.
Peter Milligan: Clearly, to get the full nuanced answer you need to buy The Complete Bad Company. The short answer is, Bad Company is a band of mutated, re-constructed and probably insane misfits who are fighting on planet Ararat, where humankind is waging a war against the vicious Krool. They're led by a tough and pretty inscrutable character called Kano, who has had surgery so that half his brain is now a Krool brain. We experience these near-monsters from the point of view of our hero, Danny Franks. Danny is a raw recruit and keeps a diary about his life on Ararat. He's forced to join Bad Company. For him, and us, Bad Company probably represents the dehumanizing nature of war. How Danny interacts with and is slowly changed by these characters takes up a large part of the original story.
DF: Will Danny Franks still be one of the key characters? What changes have happened to him?
Peter Milligan: Danny is central to our story again. But ten years have gone on. What's left of Bad Company lives in a vets' compound, heavily medicated so they don't have nightmares about what happened in the war. Then one of them stops taking his meds, and they begin to wonder if they're given the meds because there's something they're not supposed to remember ...
DF: Are the Krool still around? Are they the major big-bads here?
Peter Milligan: There are fewer Krool around, but there still are some of them, and Bad Company comes face to face with the again. The outcome is somewhat surprising ...
DF: What was it like re-teaming with Jim McCarthy, who worked with you and Brett on the book? And now Rufus Dayglo is on art chores as well, correct?
Peter Milligan: Yes, Rufus is doing the pencils/drawing. It was important to have Jim on board, to help with that connective tissue with the previous series. Working with Jim is serene and beautiful as ever ...
DF: What else is cooking on the Milligan keyboard?
Peter Milligan: A number of things at different stages of development, but I suppose the main thing is a new series for DC Vertigo. It's called New Romancer and it's drawn by a truly amazing young artist called Brett Parson. I'm really excited about this, it's a kind of supernatural rom-com set in the world of dating websites in Silicon Valley. It also stars Lord Byron, someone I've been wanting to write about for years.
DF: “Lord Byron,” eh? Love that name!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Peter Milligan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The next installment of Bad Company: First Casualties runs in 2000AD #1953, in stores now!
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