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The Greatest Peter Milligan Stories Ever Told!

Every day in May we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest Peter Milligan Stories Ever Told!

Enjoy!

15. Human Target #1-6 “Strike Zones”

In these issues, the opening of the ongoing Human Target series by Milligan and Javier Pulido, we’re treated to a number of small stories starring Christopher Chance, a man who impersonates people to protect them, but after how many impersonations can your original personality remain intact? Milligan touches on this idea as Chance impersonates a film producer, an accountant who faked his death on 9/11 and a baseball superstar.

14. The Extremist

The Extremist (a name that Brendan McCarthy came up with) shows a woman driven to insanity and murder by the death of her husband. As she slowly descends into becoming the Extremist, she discovers that all is not what it seems, but is it too late – has solving her husband’s murder turned her into exactly what the murderer wants? Ted McKeever drew this dark mini-series.

13. Animal Man #27-32

Few situations are more unsung that following up a legendary run on a comic book title, and that’s what Milligan had to deal with with his six-issue run on Animal Man following up Grant Morrison. And yet, in his issues, Milligan managed to continue in the same spirit of Morrison while providing unique offbeat stories himself. Chas Truog drew the issues.

12. Batman #452-454 “Dark Knight, Dark City”

Speaking of Morrison, the current “Return of Bruce Wayne” storyline in Batman involves the demon Barbathos, who made his debut in this acclaimed three-part story by Milligan and artist Kieron Dwyer that involves Batman versus a possessed-by-a-demon Riddler.

11. Skin

This graphic novel, done with artist Brendan McCarthy, was deemed too controversial to print by Fleetway, so after it went unpublished for a bit, Tundra stepped up and published it. It’s an extremely raw and strangely compelling look at a young deformed skinhead in England during the 1970s. The “lead” of the book, Martin, is repulsive and not because of his deformity (he has seal-like stubs with hands on them rather than arms and hands) but because of his twisted ideology – and yet Milligan and McCarthy make it worth following his misadventures.

10. Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #5-6 “Flowers for Rhino”

Milligan and Duncan Fegredo combined for this two-part story where they basically just put Rhino through a riff on “Flowers for Algernon.” It works really quite well.

9. X-Force #121-129 “Final Chapter”

Working with a variety of artists (although Mike Allred as the “main” artist), Milligan further satirized the very fundamentals of superhero-dom with this final series of stories featuring the members of X-Force before the book relaunched as X-Statix. There’s an especially compelling multi-part story where the three “main” members of the team, the Orphan, the Anarchist and U-Go-Girl, deal with the fact that one of them is “destined” to die. This series of stories also features a brilliant spotlight issue on U-Go-Girl drawn by Darwyn Cooke. Also, where else but in a Peter Milligan comic would the stars of a comic book series get sued by the team that they replaced in the title over the usage of the name “X-Force”? Classic.

8. 2000 AD #500-519 “Bad Company”

Bad Company debuted in the 500th issue of 2000 AD, so it was given a nice spotlight and it worked out nicely, as readers quickly took a liking to the series, which was written by Milligan and drawn by Brett Ewins. It told the story of a company of soldiers fighting a war with an alien race called the Krool on the faraway alien planet, Ararat. We follow young soldier Danny Franks as his own platoon is wiped out so he joins up with Bad Company, a bizarre group of soldiers led by Kano, a Frankenstein’s monster-esque fellow. As the series’ popularity grew, so too did Milligan’s inventiveness with the stories. This is the series that really put Milligan on the map.

7. Shade the Changing Man #45-50 “A Season in Hell”

Chris Bachalo says goodbye to Shade the Changing Man after a long run as artist (although not every issue, of course, heck, he doesn’t even draw every issue this arc) with this sad, odd, tragic, bizarre and enthralling epic that revolves around Shade getting Kathy pregnant, which is problematic for some folks who want the baby dead before it is ever born. Meanwhile, Lenny does not react well to Kathy’s impending motherhood, and things get even ODDER when Lenny’s DAUGHTER shows up! The whole thing wraps up in a devastatingly sad and poignant finale. If Shade had ended here, this would have been one hell of an ending. Milligan is brilliant here.

6. Rogan Gosh

Milligan and Brendan McCarthy spin a wild tale of twisted realities and identities in this one-shot (that originally appeared in Revolver as a serial) that is named after an Indian dish (Rogan Josh), which ties into the general plot of the series, which DOES involve an Indian restaurant, but so much more – including Rudyard Kipling, the Indian death goddess Kali, a futuristic India and lots of sex magic! It’s a wild ride that Milligan and McCarthy take us on, while making us appreciate the very medium of comic books, as this story likely could not be done in any other media.

5. X-Force #116-120 “New Beginnings”

This is the series of stories that introduced the brand-new X-Force, who exist as a parody of both superheroes and celebrity culture. This is your post-reality television superhero team – a group of fame whores and misfits whose deaths are followed the way you would follow a baseball team’s wins and losses. The first issue makes this very clear as the main hero does not exactly make his way through the first story. Mike Allred is brilliant on the art and Milligan makes these heroes compelling AND ridiculous at the same time, which is no easy feat!

4. Shade the Changing Man #1-6 “American Scream”

Sent to Earth to deal with a growing “madness” that threatens Earth and his own home, Rac Shade shows up on Earth by possessing the body of a serial killer who is about to be killed. Using his “Madness-Vest,” which he can use to warp reality, Shade goes on the road along with Kathy George, a young woman whose parents were murdered by the man whose body Shade now resides in. As you can quite imagine, the two are quite the odd couple, as Kathy is dark and death obsessed while Shade is a bit of a naive poet at heart. Together they explore the evil “American Scream” that is infecting the Earth with madness based on American culture. An early example of this is when we learn the OTHER history of the Kennedy assassination. Using the American Scream as a jumping on point, Milligan used the series as an exploration of cultural themes in America and artist Chris Bachalo (working off of designs by Brendan McCarthy) began to show the skills that would eventually make him a comic art superstar.

3. Skreemer

Working with his Bad Company collaborator, Brett Ewins, Milligan made his DC Comics debut with Skreemer, a tale about the rise and fall of a violent giant of a man named Veto Skreemer who we follow from his early days as an assassin until he is one of the most powerful gangsters in the world, which is especially notable in this post-apocalyptic world where gangsters basically rule the country like kings. However, the days of lawlessness are not going to be here forever, and we see the beginnings of a new society through the counter-story in the volume, the Finnegan family (we follow them through many years). This series was noted for its brutal violence during a time, the late 80s, when such things were not quite as common.

2. Human Target (mini-series)

Milligan almost completely re-imagines the character of Christopher Chance in this mini-series with artwork by the late, great Edvin Biukovic. Chance is doing his standard “impersonating someone who is being threatened” deal, but HE is also threatened, so we discover that his assistant, Tom McPherson, is filling in for Chance himself!! As you might imagine, lines get blurry and things like “one’s own identity” don’t seem as clear cut as they normally are. The artwork is simply amazing. This eventually led to a great ongoing series by Milligan.

1. Enigma

Enigma is another brilliant look at the shifting reality of identity, as a young man encounters a fictional superhero in real life, and the encounter begins a change in the man’s life – but IS it a change or is it just awakening something that was always there, hidden in the man’s personality? That is the type of tricky question Enigma deals with, and as the title of the book lets you know – the answer is not a simple one. Duncan Fegredo does a wonderful job on the artwork. Our own Greg Burgas wrote extensively about this series here – check it out!

That’s the list! I’m sure there is a lot of agreement and disagreement with the list out there! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

And please vote for the lists that are still up for grabs here!

41 Comments

Oh, damn! I missed this! I loved his 12 issue series, Egypt. Girls, too. Human Target doesn’t need to be here. It’s from his subpar era.

Say what? Human Target is sub par Milligan? No way!

Pretty sweet list. I would enjoy reading anything on that list a second time (and a few things for the first time).

one of the best things about his new take on x-force is the letter column. the whiny letters from fans of the original x-force book are hilarious. it’s funny to see these fans whine and complain about the new direction.

I reread the entire Shade series last year, and it was a pretty solid run throughout. I think the two storylines mentioned are probably the highlights of the series.

Great list! So happy to see all the “Enigma” love, as I feared it was among Millgan’s more forgotten works. “Skreemer” is also great, although personally I’d put “Shade” above it and “Human Target.” I highly recommend most, if not all, of “Shade,” and I’m glad it’s finally getting collected.

Hadn’t ever heard of the Rhino story; that looks like fun. Is Milligan’s Batman work collected?

Finally: I’m a mite surprised that his “Animal Man” didn’t crack the top 10. You nailed it with your description, Brian — following up a classic run, much less a legendary one like Morrison’s, is no enviable task, yet Milligan’s six-issue arc did the job perfectly. I can’t think of any other follow-up to such a heralded comic that managed to hold my interest and esteem with such effortlessness. It was a delightful surprise. It also helped that artist Chas Truog stayed on, continuity-wise. (The title really fell off after that. I eventually dropped it; it didn’t pick up again till Jamie Delano took the reins.) I suppose the lower ranking might be due to the fact that (I think) it’s never been collected.

Anyway, this is an awesome list to recommend to newcomers to Milligan, who’s in the same league as Morrison, Moore and Gaiman.

I have only read a few things of his and didn’t like Shade (not that it’s not good, just not for me) but I have to say Flowers for Rhino while being a fairly straight up adaptation was also amazingly good. That pathos he injected into Rhino was topnotch and he really fleshed out the character.

I don’t think his Batman work has been collected. It was terrific!!!

“Dark Knight, Dark City” was very strong.

“The Hungry Grass” (Detective #629) also gets (and deserves) a lot of love.

But personally I’d fly a flag for the one-off “Identity Crisis” from Detective #633, which throws the reader in the deep end with Batman. So baffling, so puzzling, so much fun to read! “Alfred has forgotten that I’m Batman. And the Batcave has disappeared…”

Well, shoot. I forgot to vote.

Enigma would’ve been my # 1, though. (And one of my favorite comics ever.) So maybe it doesn’t matter.

I’m surprised that Egypt didn’t crack the top 15. That was a huge favorite of mine.

That’s some body of work. And yeah, I really disagree with Human Target being supbar. It lost a bit when it turned ongoing, but that first mini is just astonishing.

“one of the best things about his new take on x-force is the letter column. the whiny letters from fans of the original x-force book are hilarious. it’s funny to see these fans whine and complain about the new direction. ”

And this is funny why? Maybe they enjoyed the comic they had been buying and were unhappy it ended? I fail to understand this schadenfreude comic fans often exhibit towards anyone who has different tastes in comics.

Personally I enjoyed Milligan’s new X-Force a lot more than the old team, but that doesn’t mean I was pointing and laughing at the poor suckers who just had their favorite comic blown up in front of them.

“And this is funny why? Maybe they enjoyed the comic they had been buying and were unhappy it ended? I fail to understand this schadenfreude comic fans often exhibit towards anyone who has different tastes in comics”

it was funny becasue the people who were so angry were overlooking a great and original series that Milligan and Allred put together on their X-Force run

it was a great example of how people can allow their emotional reactions to completely blind them from seeing some outstanding comics

Huh… I remember loving “Dark Knight, Dark City” when it was first published, but I had no idea it was by Peter Milligan. Time to go digging through the childhood back issues and pull this one out for a re-read.

Excellent list, even though I am a little sad that Girl and the Eaters didn’t end up in the top 15.

I’m really glad Enigma takes the top spot – it may very well be my all-time favourite comic book.

However, I disagree with the Human Target miniseries at number two. It’s good, but I’d put nearly everything else on the list above it.

Rebis, none of Milligan’s Batman work is collected except for a Scarecrow story he did with Fegredo, which was long after his actual run. It’s on the “Scarecrow Tales” book.

it was a great example of how people can allow their emotional reactions to completely blind them from seeing some outstanding comics

But equally we are allowed to prefer the original series over the new version. See also Ellis Thunderbolts.

I forgot to vote, too. I would not have put Skreemer on my list– it’s good and all, but not my favorite Milligan. And I probably would have gone for a different Bat-story over Dark Knight, Dark City, though they’re all pretty great (and one was co-opted into an episode of the cartoon).

Human Target deserves the #2 spot, I think. The original mini is a solid choice, and the first trade of the series is good, too. Loved that series.

I still haven’t read Enigma, or 95% of Shade. Need to rectify this. (And what, The Eaters didn’t place? Aww.)

Davey Boy Smith

May 25, 2010 at 9:06 am

Where’s Face? Face, for me, deserves to be at the very top of the list. Milligan’s knowledge of the human anatomy, surgical procedures (and post-modern art) is awe-inspiring, even to a medical student such as myself (not wanting to brag here, it’s simply an amazing comic book). Fegredo’s art is a delight, as always.

I thought Girl to be an very entertaining look at adolescence and working class England, and consider it to be superior to Morrison’s Kill Your Boyfriend, which has been collected several times.

Milligan’s and Fegredo’s stories from Weird War Tales and Weid Western Tales are surely among the best short stories to appear in comic book form.

Seek these comics out, you won’t be disappointed. And a word of advice to DC/Vertigo: collect these books in one volume, perhaps along with the aforementioned Scarecrow tale. They certainly deserve it, and the trade paperback market will be all the richer for it.

Javier Pulido

May 25, 2010 at 9:10 am

15. “Strike Zones” -Human Target #1-5. I drew that one.

I think Human Target deserves to be on the list, but not the original mini, as it was a bit too wordy (with something like six different narrators) and occasionally pretentious. I never much liked those Alan Moore style transitions between two scenes, where they are connected by some contrived bun or symbolism, and the HT mini uses those a lot. The Human Target graphic novel was where Milligan really found his voice for this book, and the ongoing series was even better than the GN – except for the finale, which was kinda predictable, though thematically fitting. So if you’ve only read the original HT mini, you shouldn’t judge the whole series based on that. As a whole it’s definitely one of Milligan’s finest works.

I was just gonna add that Javies Pulido’s art on the GN and the ongoing series was also amazing, so thank you for that, Mr. Pulido! I like Biukovic too, but in my opinion your “European” style ligne claire art was perfect fit for the series.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate and honor Edvin Biukovic, who died a decade ago, far too young. (I believe he was only 30, and he’d just gotten a big break with “Human Target.”) All the art we’ll never get to see … !

15. “Strike Zones” -Human Target #1-5. I drew that one.

Crap. My apologies for the screw-up, Javier. I thought you drew the second arc and Cliff drew the first one. Again, my apologies. You and Cliff both did a great job on that series.

I wish I had known of this list!
Rogan Gosh deserves to be higher, in my opinion, as it is one of the best comics ever published. This claim may seem ridiculous at first, but for me it is the absolute pinnacle of what a comic book can do. Still I forgot to vote, so can’t complain too much.Need to pick up Shade at some point – can anyone tell me who took over the art after Bachelo?

I’ve only read Flowers for Rhino and it was a great Flowers for Algernon parody.

Andrew Collins

May 25, 2010 at 11:49 am

Good call on “Season Of Hell” for everybody who voted for it. After a good first couple years, I felt like Shade had started to drift a little bit in the issues in its early to mid-30’s, right after the transition to Vertigo, but somewhere around issue #41, Milligan and his artists, including Bachalo and Glyn Dillon, really seemed to re-capture the early magic, culminating in this multi-parter.

I wished I had voted now, so I could have cast a vote for “Edge Of Vision” from issues #11-13 of Shade, my other personal favorite Shade story.

Man, do I need ot sit down and re-read Shade now, it’s been years since I did so…

I find that Milligan’s work tends to start strong but get progressively weaker, so I prefer his shorter stuff, like the Rhino story, or the early X-Force book stuff.

stealthwise: I agree with you, but interestingly, his Hellblazer work started weak and has gotten much stronger. I hear that Greek Street is that way too, but it was so weak that I dropped it.

Javier Pulido

May 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm

You’re very welcome, Tuomas, that book was very dear to me.
No prob, Brian. Cliff and I used a similar drawing style on that series, I’m sure you’re not the first one on that mistake.

Flowers for Rhino is so good. So is everything else I’ve read on this list – I especially am pleased that Milligan’s Animal Man run appears. It was my introduction to quantum physics as an eleven year old!

I think his run on Infinite Inc would have been a whole more better is DC had given him more freedom and a stable cast of artists. I could see amazing things coming from there.
And there would be more Milligan’s books I’d add (X-Static, Girl and Hellblazer), just to prove how good he is.

One story I voted for, though I’m not surprised it’s not here, was his very short story of Shade he did for Vertigo Jam, when the imprint was first introduced.

I think it was my first Milligan exposure (I wasn’t reading Shade) and I thought it was a beautiful story about the role of religion (it’s about four pages long: in it Shade and friends discover a priest dying on the side of the road, and he confesses to assorted sins). Its ending really resonated with me. Mike Allred did the art.

That Vertigo Jam comic was pretty neat. It also features Gaiman’s “Fear of Flying” Sandman story and some original Ennis/Dillon Hellblazer. Worth checking out.

Glad to see Bad Company make it so high on the list. I was worried it might be forgotten in favour of his more recent output. If anyone who hasn’t read it yet, I’d recommend the collection Goodbye Krool World. It collects the first two and best arcs in the series, and though there’s a part of me that always makes me want to describe it as “The Creature Commandoes go to Vietnam”, it really is Milligan doing a very incisive take on the sci-fi war stories that 2000AD traded in by filtering it thorough movies like Platoon and Apocalypse Now and he does a masterful job.

All in all though, a this is a GREAT list, that’s a testament to when Milligan’s good, he’s one of the best…ever.

So glad to see that Skreemer did well. It’s such a unique and complex and challenging comic, and is frequently overlooked. Must ask, though – no Hewligan’s Haircut? Can anyone let me know whether they don’t rate it as highly as his other work, or if it’s just that the voters are more US-based and maybe not as familiar with it? I’d be interested to hear.

I’d also agree that a collection of his Batman stories is needed. Rather annoyingly, he’s never quite reached that Moore/Brubaker/Morrison level where they just collect the various stories he’s done here and there.

Ryan: Well, speaking for myself, Hewligan’s Haircut just isn’t that great. It’s not bad, but not in his top ten. But I have to think that it came out so long ago and probably isn’t in print and probably wasn’t too available in the first place, so I’m sure not many people have read it, especially when you consider how much he’s written for DC and Marvel.

7 of my picks made it! Nice.
The three that didn’t make it:
Face
X-statix presents: dead girl
Shade 11-13 edge of vision
I would have voted for more of his 2000 ad output, but it’s hard to group them together.
I need to get my hands on Skin, it’s the only thing on this list I have not read.
All in all this was a fun best of vote, that seems about right in my book
I would personally rank the top three after 4-7 tho.
Hopefully some of you are inspired to check out more of his work, it’s amazing how many different styles he can pull off, and Milligan always keeps you guessing.. And if you guess at how things will play out… it’s usually way off mark,in a good way, I find. I love that.
I recommend X-force/X-Statix and Shade wholeheartedly.

Tuomas:

I think Human Target deserves to be on the list, but not the original mini, as it was a bit too wordy (with something like six different narrators) and occasionally pretentious.

I thought the first miniseries was absolutely fantastic and set a standard that neither the ogn nor the ongoing ever managed to match (at least not the stuff that’s made it into trade).

I’m very pleased by Bad Company and Skreemer’s placings – and a little surprised that Dark Knight Dark City didn’t crack the top 10.

My votes:

1 – Skreemer (3)
2 – The Enigma (1)
3 – Animal Man 27-32 (13)
4 – Human Target (miniseries) (2)
5 – The Hungry Grass (Detective #629)
6 – The Bomb (Detective #638)
7 – Dark Knight Dark City (12)
8 – Bad Company (8)
9 – Hewligan’s Haircut
10 – The Extremist (14)

I like this list as being representative.

I had a lot more Shade arcs and Human Target arcs that squeezed out the X-Force stuff on my list (though they were excellent too) .

The only thing not mentioned that I put on my list was the Sub-Mariner series from last year, which I thought was an excellent and creepy re-interpretation of Namor as modern myth.

That is an excellent list of comics. The top 5 seems like it’s perfectly right.

I’ve read a lot of Milligan, and yet there appears to be more I need to pick up, from Batman to his work with McCarthy. Well, and the rest of Shade and Human Target. But I voted for Egypt! Would have voted for Girl, had I remembered it.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2010 at 2:12 am

Where did Hewligan’s Haircut appear? Freakwave’s not part of that, is it? I dug what I’ve read of Freakwave.

I second dhole in recommending the Vertigo Jam special. Good stuff all around, even that weird Doom Patrol story.

To comment on the X-Force letters pages that got mentioned above: it was funny because X-Force had been such a generic X-team book (in general, I didn’t read every issue) and it became this out and out awesome freak out that was too much for some people. What also was funny is that, iirc, X-Force had been one of those comics that Warren Ellis was “creative consultant” or somesuch, and that, X-Factor, X-Man, and something else were rebooted, and STILL sold in the toilet. X-Man got cancelled, X-Factor changed to Mutant X (that was the book where Havok was in another reality, right?), and then X-Force got taken by Milligan/Allred and really took the notion that mutants would become celebrities to the hilt. It was awesome, and some people wanted it back as a generic X book. Bah! They wouldn’t have made the radical change if the sales were great, so people weren’t facing reality. However, I do think the attitude of the letters page editors was a bit too much “if you don’t like it, tough shit, buddy” and not enough “this is what we’re doing, we’re sorry you don’t like it”.

Oh, and Milligan’s written some great stuff, as the list and comments above show. I remember what I’m posting about, really.

Surprised Skin was not higher and surprised so many people remember Enigma.

Bad Company all the way!

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 20, 2011 at 4:06 am

Face not being in there shocks me, and I’m surprised there’s no Girl or Eaters.
But I guess it’s a testament to ow awesome Milligan is that he’s done so many good books.

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