Vertigo glory boy Peter Milligan has had a charmed career. From his auspicious start at DC Comics with Shade The Changing Man which ran for a maddening 70 issues and acted a seminal founding member of the Vertigo imprint, followed by Enigma, Minx, The Face, Egypt and The Human Target (just to name a few) in an almost feverish fury. His scripts were always full of emotion and beauty, mad characters and unique situations (including a character discovering he’s gay after he falls in love with a comic book character come to life).
Back in the day, there was a certain something that the Vertigo line provided. It took ‘ever day people’ and placed them into absurd situations. This had been done before, but in those cases, the characters became super heroes in one way or the other. In the Vertigo series of Doom Patrol, Shade the Changing Man, Swamp Thing, and Hellblazer, the characters were facing demons, aliens, etc and yet still came across as ‘real’ in some way. They retained their ‘edge’ and unpredictability, unlike the super heroes that had become so stale on the shelves.
Imagine my surprise when Peter Milligan (and Ennis, Morrison, etc) popped up at Marvel Comics.
It’s been an even wilder ride after Milligan ‘went mainstream’ with X-Force/X-Statix with Mike Allred followed by his Punisher/Wolverine series drawn by Lee Weeks.
But now Peter Milligan has ‘come back home’ to the strange with the new series ‘The Programme’ with CP Smith. Don’t think he’s done with the mainstream yet, however. As The Programme hits the stands, Milligan‘s revision of the Junior JSA series ‘Infinity Inc.’ in addition to his new Ra’s al Ghul story in Batman Annual #26 will also be bearing his writing credit.
Like Rick Veitch (look here for my article on Army @ Love), Peter Milligan has been carefully watching the political arena, reading some Noam Chomsky and staying up very very late with his keyboard. The series examines the cold war from the angle of super hero creation dating all the way back to World War II, involving deep cover agents, mind-controlled super soldiers and sexual dysfunction.
This is, after all, a Milligan comic.
“The ‘hero’ is an American called Max,” Milligan explained. “On the surface he’s a kind of anti-heroic everyman — a likeable rogue who’s worried about his sexual performance and who owns a bar in the south west — two facts that might or might not be connected.”
“Something went wrong with Max’s programming in the ‘60s, thanks to a ‘turned on’ guy called Mike Hinks,” Milligan continued. “Other characters include a Soviet super creature with the less than zippy name of Spirit of Lenin, who’s incredibly powerful but prone to epileptic-like seizures. An African American named Senator Joe — after the commie-hating Senator — assumes a pivotal role in deciding whether or not America as we know it will survive… or indeed whether it should survive.”
The Programme promises to be a strange and unsettling series taking a long hard look at the corruption and slow-motion decline of the American Empire.
After The Programme, Milligan plans to return to Vertigo to begin work on a crime series called ‘The Bronx Kill.’ Followed by a Batman miniseries called ‘The Bat and the Bear.’
X-Force Volume 2: Final Chapter TPB (X-Force)
Enigma (DC Comics Vertigo)
Shade the Changing Man: The American Scream