Scotswomen inspired character in comic legends' novel

Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill Image copyright Pat Mills
Image caption Comic book creator and writer Pat Mills, left, and artist Kevin O'Neill

Women working in Scotland's publishing industry influenced the writing of a character in a new novel by two legends of British comic books.

Comic founder and writer Pat Mills and artist Kevin O'Neill have co-written Serial Killer, the first in a planned series of books.

Mills started his career with Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson in the 70s.

He said Scots he met during his time there and later while working in London inspired the novel's character, Joy.

While at DC Thomson, Mills worked on the publisher's girls' titles Romeo and Jackie.

Image copyright Pat Mills/Kevin O'neill
Image caption Mills and O'Neill have co-written the first in a planned series of novels

After he left the Dundee publisher, he created the girls' mystery comic Misty and co-created the war stories comic Battle and science-fiction/fantasy comic 2000AD, which is 40 years old this year.

With O'Neill, who illustrated 2000AD's Nemesis the Warlock stories and Alan Moore's famous graphic novel The Extraordinary League of Gentlemen, Mills has written Serial Killer, the first in a series of novels entitled Read Em and Weep.

Mills said: "The novels are set in the eccentric 'Life on Mars' world that was the 1970s and features classic 1970s comics, including fictional versions of Battle, Action and 2000AD.

"It's a story of revenge for a lost childhood, of flawed and eccentric characters, strange passions and arrested development."

Joy, a journalist, is one of the book's main characters.

Image copyright DC Thomson
Image caption Mills worked on DC Thomson's Jackie magazine

Mills said: "She's inspired by a number of female journalists I worked with at DC Thomson as well as Scottish women I know in London.

"One chapter in the novel comes to mind. It was inspired by a time when I worked on Romeo.

"The female journalists on Romeo and Jackie were quite outraged by the awful female hygiene products that were being aimed at teenage girls. This would have been in the early 70s.

"I'm pretty certain they won and the adverts were withdrawn which is admirable. The products quoted in the chapter of the novel, though fictional, are close to reality.

"What was difficult on teenage magazines was how to handle real teenage girl problems and I recall the editor of the Romeo problem page telling me that she wasn't allowed to deal with serious issues and she found that very frustrating. Once again, Joy mirrors this subject."

Image copyright PAt Mills
Image caption Mills is known for his work on British comic 2000AD

Mills also recalls how working at DC Thomson gave him a "love of popular culture which has stayed with me my entire life".

Describing Scotland as having a "supportive atmosphere" for comics, he said he found DC Thomson's comic strips "so much funnier" than other mainstream British comic publishers.

Among those who made the comics funny was the late Manchester-born artist Ken Reid, the inspiration for another character in Serial Killer.

Mills said: "DC Thomson's fun comics were so much funnier than others and Kevin and I tackle that subject with gusto in another chapter.

"We mention Ken Reid - referred to as Ken Royce - who was a protégé of DC Thomson and was behind comic characters Jonah and Rodger the Dodger.

"Both Kevin and I are huge admirers of his wonderfully subversive material which I do think has a Scottish satirical, almost dour, element."

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