“It’s liberating us all from some of the tyrannies of paper” 2000ad legend Pat Mills discusses the digital release of Nemesis the Warlock

Pat Mills portraitNot only are 2000AD releasing some of their best new material at the momentvia their iPad edition, they are also resurrecting their incredible back catalogue for a whole new generation to enjoy digitally for the first time. One  title getting the re-release treatment is the surreal and twisted Nemesis the Warlock from Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. This tale of an alien sorcerer/freedom fighter/warlock and his ongoing battle with the devillish Torquemada and the evil terminators is a fantastic example of the exciting and original comics that came out of the UK and the pages of 2000AD in the 1980s and a brilliant reminder of what the men behind Marshall Law made their names with. To find out more about this unique character and tell us all about this superb collection of his stories, we contacted Pat, hoping he wasn’t trapped in a travel tube somewhere or at the hands of Torquemada and the Terminators!

Nemesis the Warlock 1
The cover to the first collected edition of Nemesis the Warlock from Eagle Comics drawn and coloured by Kevin O/Neill

Your iconic series Nemesis is being re-released digitally as a complete collected edition, for those who might be new to the series can you tell us a bit about its creation and inspiration?

PM: It arose originally out of frustration with the way that Kevin’s art was not being appreciated in a travel tube version on Robusters.  Old fashioned managing editor didn’t understand science fiction and tried to block it.

Also, there was my frustration at old style serials.  2000AD was always influenced by the French and I felt then – and now – there was more we could draw on  (rather than American super hero comics).  The French stories in Metal Hurlant were so much more imaginative.  So I wanted to write stories in the wild tradition of artist Caza where every story was something new and fantastic.

Eventually Nemesis became more traditional and British in response in part to more conservative readers, but most probably conservative editorial as well.  But it was still very different to anything else.  Probably if I’d stuck to my Caza guns it would have even weirder still!

It feels very much of its time (for example the Kenny Everett inspired DJ in the opening chapter) but also deals with subjects that are still very relevant today (religious and social intolerance etc.) how do you think it stands up to the test of time?

PM: I’m not sure it is particularly of its time. Easy enough to change one DJ for a current one, but the essential tone is still relevant. In fact, I’d go further and say it’s probably still a bit ahead of its time for many.

After all, how many modern stories have humans as villains and aliens as heroes.

It’s also assuming there is some kind of progress in sf (and fiction in general). There I’d also disagree. I don’t think these are very progressive times. There is more conservatism and old fashioned thinking around today than back then.

Thus to get a story like Nemesis or many of my other stories (e.g. Charley’s War – an anti-war story ) would be far harder today.  We live in a bit of a grey age, the result of numerous factors but Thatcher and Blair have a lot to do with it.

The series starts out as quite straight sci-fi but evolves into this almost medieval saga mixed  with a generous dose of supernatural black magic and  a Dante-esque religious undertone, plus some giant robots at the end! Was that always the plan or did you just keep trying to push the envelope in terms of story and where you wanted to go?

PM: The Caza (and French)  principle was to have some wild and new each time. Not develop one idea into an entire serial. Like I say, eventually I had to bend the story to this more conservative approach, but it was done with some reluctance.

Do Google Caza French Artist and check out the images.  That’s where I wanted Nemesis and 2000AD to go.   We didn’t quite make it, but we did well considering the forces of conservatism that were around.

How much influence did Kevin O’Neill’s increasingly bizarre and abstract artwork have on the creation of the series? Were you the one pushing him or was he pushing you to be more outlandish?

PM: We were both influenced by the French just about equally

Nemesis page 01
The evil Torquemada leader of the Terminators and arch villain of the series

The real star of the book for me is Torquemada who is like a mix of Satan, Judge Death and a KKK grand wizard, was he always intended to be Nemesis’s arch nemesis and how did the character develop?

PM: Torquemada was always the arch villain; I wanted a classic villain like Moriarty or Fu Manchu who might die and come back more evil than ever.  I knew pretty much who he was right from the beginning – he was based on The Swinging Monk.  The full nature of his philosophy took a little time to develop but was always implicit.

There was never anything inconsistent or even cobbled together about his persona and clearly the readers would agree with me as they regularly voted him their favorite villain.

What do you think Nemesis’ legacy has been? How has it influenced your work and how do you think it has had an influence or other writers and artists and characters?

PM: I’m not sure he has left much of a comic legacy. I think there was an attempt to do something like him with reasonable but not overwhelming success, doubtless because a villain like that needs to be written from the heart – and I really hated Torquemada and found it very cathartic to write about him.

Indirectly, it’s an attack on the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and its pretty appalling track record which needs no further elaboration here. I like to think satirizing it would have left its mark on a generation who read him.

Can’t think of any other writer or artist who’s been influenced by Nemesis apart from that one serial.

Looking back at the series for this re-issue how do you feel about it? Are you happy with it overall or do you just see what might have been if you had been able to let loose creatively?

PM: This colour series was very special because it was coloured mainly by Kevin and had extra images added by him to ensure collection continuity. Plus there are all those great covers which I don’t think have been seen before, certainly not in full colour.  So I was very keen to see this collection in print.

I think everything you write at the time stands alone. It’s always possible to look back and think it might be possible to write that differently.  Although, in this case, I doubt I’d have made any real changes.  So it’s a very strong product.

Are you pleased that a new generation are getting a chance to experience Nemesis via the digital medium  and how do you feel in general about the growth of digital comics?

PW: I’m very pro-digital and am on a sharp learning curve myself into its mysteries. Part of that learning curve will be to study your site. I have a back catalogue of creator owned material which I’m hoping to launch digitally.  So first step was about three months ago when I uploaded Psychokiller (art: Dave Kendall) to ComiXology.  I think I was probably in the second wave of independent submissions and, as you doubtless know, they’ve got buried by the submissions!  Currently they’re saying it’s taking three months to process, but I think it’s longer.  I’ve searched forums for more info and haven’t found anything significant about what’s happening there.  I’m especially interested as I have other stories to follow. Possibly I’ll need to use a different platform as well.

I’ve looked at some of the pioneers – e.g. Warren Ellis –  and the new ways they’re doing things. So I’m fascinated and excited by the whole thing. I don’t have any resistance to it; it’s the future so the sooner I get used to it the better.  Of course paper will be king, at least for a while, but I can see them running side by side very easily.  It’s also potentially liberating us all from some of the tyrannies of paper, although there are new tyrannies emerging with digital, e.g. percentages, but that’s business.  it’s certainly helping new creators AND making comics available to people who don’t have access to or don’t choose to use comic shops.  I shall look forward to studying your site for further enlightenment.

Finally, any plans to go back and tell more Nemesis stories? Perhaps filling in the gaps between the end of the series and the Tomb of Torquemada which is included in the new collection?

PM: Alas, Kevin is unlikely to return to do Nemesis for 2000AD, so we kllled him off very thoroughly in the Millennium.  I’d love to do more – in fact I regularly think up new Torquemada rants and scenarios – but without Kevin it’s not possible.

 The ‘Deviant edition’ of Nemesis the Warlock is available from Amazon.co.uk  and the 2000 AD webshop now. For more info about Pat Mills visit his website and follow him on Twitter @patmillscomics