Comic Writer about Great War: “It was the world’s first sci-fi war”

Comic writer Pat Mills who wrote Charley’s War, a WWI-centered comic strip which ran from the 1970s up to the late 1980s, believe that that the Great War was the world’s first ever sci-fi war.

Charley’s War which bore Pat Mills’ story and illustrations penned by the late comic artist Joe Colquhoun told the story of a young Londoner named Charley Bourne and his fight for survival in the Great War’s Western Front.

Before he did this WWI piece though that made him come up to the conclusion that WWI was indeed the world’s first sci-fi war, Pat Mills started his career in the comic industry with DC Thomson, a Dundee-based publisher. Shortly after, he created Battle with comic book writer colleague John Wagner. He also launched the British sci-fi/fantasy comic 2000 AD.

In an interview with BBC, Pat Mills shed light into what it was like writing the WWI comic Charley’s War and a further understanding into why he believe the Great War, with its machine guns, zeppelins and planes, was the world’s first sci-fi battle.

The Interview

Comic writer Pat Mills
Comic writer Pat Mills

On penning the WWII comic Battle and creating the WWI comic strip Charley’s War:

Pat Mills made it clear that it was never his and John Wagner’s intention to glorify war in the comic Battle and Charley’s War was intended as an anti-war comic strip. The thinking that the Great war was a mistake was very prevalent during the 1970s and 80s. It has only been recently, according to him, that revisionists have tried improving the image of WWI generals.

On the accuracy of Charley’s War:

Pat Mills checked out books about WWI as well as poetry, letters of WWI soldiers, archived photographs from the era along with a number of satirical postcards to make his comic strip Charley’s War faithful to the real deal. He also got some inspiration from the classic 1969 movie Oh! What a Lovely War. Correspondence between him and his mother, who was a munitions worker back home, also greatly influenced him and was even the plot of the first part of the comic strip.

Mills further stated that he learned a lot while writing the comic and the knowledge he had gotten from it made him a better writer.

On the late comic illustrator Joe Colquhoun:

The late comic artist, according to Pat Mills, served as a sailor during the Second World War. Before he became the illustrator for Charley’s War, he inked another comic for Battle — Johnny Red. It was also set during WWII with the hero being a British pilot fighting against the Russians.

Mills described Colquhoun as a great artist but a very modest man. He had a very creative imagination. For the Johnny Red comic, he was able to make out an amazing Stalingrad street scene.

Both men aimed to make Charley’s War as rooted to the Great War as much as possible. But their work was not without controversies. One was when Colquhoun showed a German sniper clad in armor. However, Mills commented that such armor really did exist during WWI as shown by several archived photos of the era.

The specific comic strip of Charley's War where the armor-clad German sniper was shown.
The specific comic strip of Charley’s War where the armor-clad German sniper was shown.

On why he believes the Greeat War was the first sci-fi war the world witnessed:

Pat Mills backs up his belief citing the many war technology and advancements first used during the First World War — the first use of the tanks, pioneering aircraft used in air warfare and more.

He even further stated that many believe the Armageddon as a coming war. However, for him, Armageddon has happened and that was World War I.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE