The Peter Milligan Interview
by Travis Hedge Coke
I don’t really know a lot about Peter Milligan. I am in love with his work. His was the first Batman I read in single issue form. Enigma has been a touchstone comic nearly my entire life. His Elektra and Shade helped me navigate my teens. New Romancer and The Minx helped me sort out the early pandemic weeks. He is one of my favorite writers of X-Men-related comics, to the point that I wept reading his first issue of X-Force, have written about his The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, his X-Men run, and namechecked, Bling, who he co-created with Salvador Larroca, as my favorite out queer mutant on a recent podcast.
While no stranger to having new work out, a prolific writer, his X-Men/X-Statix-adjacent comic, the upcoming, The X-Cellent, is surely anticipated by all right-thinking superhero fans, and Tomorrow is less than halfway through serialization.
But, how tall is he? What’s his hair like these days? Politics? Favored bands? What nations has he conquered and what fires have been tended? Not a clue.
I ask for interviews quite clumsily. “Would you ever be interested in…?” “You don’t know me, but I’m going to bother you now.” I was not expecting, when I asked Peter for an interview, that he would agree. Friends and my editor can attest to panicked messages that night and Peter Milligan can attest to how many awkward typos and fractured sentences I composed and sent him. Embarrassing.
Travis Hedge Coke: A lot of fans think of the x-books as the x-books. When you write something X-Men related, do you think of it in those terms?
Peter Milligan: When I wrote X-Statix, and now when I’m writing X-Cellent I don’t really think in those terms, in that I’m not worrying too much about continuity or what’s going on with the other X-Men; I think the stuff I write tends to exist in a little x-bubble, not contradicting the mainstream x-books, sometimes referencing some x characters, but not really interacting with them or that world.
Hedge Coke: A number of your stories involve people learning new things about themselves because they are wearing different clothes (or getting a new body). A good narrative technique, or true in life as well?
Milligan: Really? I wasn’t aware that that happened a lot with my characters. Are you sure you’re not getting me confused with Chris Claremont?!? It’s certainly not an intended conscious theme. I don’t know if it’s true that we find out new things about ourselves through wearing new clothes or costumes. We might REVEAL new or previously hidden things about ourselves this way.
Hedge Coke: What entertainment are you enjoying these days?
Milligan: My entertainment tends to be fairly old skool. Books. Music. Guitar. I’m learning German – still – and that keeps me pretty busy. Am at present meditating on Rilke’s poem Der Panther (The Panther). Short but powerful.
Hedge Coke: What is your favorite misinterpretation you have heard of your own work?
Milligan: Believe it or not, someone once suggested that a lot of my stories involve characters who learn new things about themselves because they are wearing new clothes or costumes!!!
Hedge Coke: What are you most proud of, or did you most enjoy, in your X-Men run?
Milligan: Easy. The X-Statix run.
Hedge Coke: If a comic has to be canceled, would you rather be cancelled in the middle of an arc or at the end?
Milligan: No question, the end. It means the story I dreamed up comes to its natural and correct conclusion.
Hedge Coke: One of the most moving things for me, with Enigma, was when the protagonist does not desire to be made straight again, though his homosexuality may be caused by outside forces, because he is what he is now. Was that a deliberate take on the born this way argument?
Milligan: I was hearing a lot of arguments about nature vs nurture, whether being gay came from your genes or something else you were born with or whether it was a product of your environment, of your experiences. I wanted to suggest that if we’re really saying that to be gay is as worthy of respect and is as valid a way to be as being straight then it really didn’t matter how you got there. So for Michael, it didn’t matter that Enigma might have used his powers to turn him or bring out his latent “gayness”, however he got here this feels right and true and he doesn’t want it to change.
Hedge Coke: Has our recent run of tragic situations changed your writing habits?
Milligan: It hasn’t really changed my writing habits at all. I still start pretty early in the day and finish up at about the same time. I don’t meet people for lunch in the way I used to and talk about stories but that’s about all that’s changed.
Hedge Coke: What makes comics worth it?
Milligan: Two things, it’s such a great medium to bring these stories and characters in my head to life. And I work with some great people.
Hedge Coke: What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self about work or comics?
Milligan: I don’t wish that. My younger self might be able to tell a thing or two.
Hedge Coke: What is something we can look forward to in The X-Cellent?
Milligan: The X-Cellent is a new title, with a mostly-new team. Though X-Statix are around it’s definitely X-Cellent’s book. It expands on the world of X-Statix, you might say, but the X-Cellent are a darker proposition. So as well as the usual hijinks you can expect some serious nasty stuff, some poignancy, some heartbreak, some Weltschmerz, some Sturm and definitely a little Dang.
The Peter Milligan Interview
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