Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your comic book series, Happy Hour! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the series’ premise?
Peter Milligan: In the America of Happy Hour, happiness isn’t just a right…it’s a legal obligation. It’s the LAW. Why fix the endemic problems of society when it’s SO much easier simply to fix it so people are happy WHATEVER happens.?
BD: What inspired you to tell this story alongside artist Michael Montenat, and how would you describe your shared creative process?
PM: There were a few inspirations. One was noticing a theme running through several books on psychology that I was reading; how many unhappy people wanted to be treated, as though unhappiness itself was some kind of illness…as opposed to sometimes being a sane and reasonable response to what’s happening in your life. This helped bring my idea into focus, but what kicked the whole thing off I think were the first times I started to visit America. One thing I noticed was just how much more optimistic and HAPPY people seemed. It was like a lot of them had taken some kind of pill. Coming from a country – the UK – where our default mode is a kind of low-level miserableness and pessimism, this was something of a revelation, especially seen in conjunction with the other things I saw in America. The homelessness – which seemed so much more visible in the USA than the UK back then, something I think has changed in recent years. There was the gun-crime, the sense that beneath the smiles and optimism lurked something violent and insane. This stayed with me. I’d been trying to figure out how to write a story about it, and when I read those psychology books, it kind of fell into place.
With Michael, we have a pretty straightforward working relationship. When he came on board, there were character sketches and some feedback, and Michael seemed happy – but not TOO happy!! – to respond. Michael’s art is perfect for this story. The sense of if you will verisimilitude is vital when the storyline is so absurd and insane.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Happy Hour’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
PM: Even though there’s a lot of pretty absurd and satirical stuff in Happy Hour, I hope that the reader connects on some human level. Beyond all the madness, I try to inject some real emotion in the story, as in the scenes between the protagonist Jerry and his dying grandmother, and between Jerry and Kim. We live in a troubled age when more than ever our emotions are manipulated for political purposes and, hopefully, in its own weird way, Happy Hour helps to illuminate that.
BD: What makes AHOY Comics the perfect home for this series?
PM: When Tom Peyer first spoke to me about the ethos of Ahoy, he said it would be “Vertigo with laughs.” I loved that. And I think that probably neatly describes Happy Hour. The weirdness and darkness of some of the ideas, its take on the way that society might be headed, that’s very Vertigo. But Happy Hour is also funny.
BD: As with all of AHOY Comics’ releases, there are sure to be lots of incredible “extras” included with the issue. Can you give us a preview of what readers can anticipate with the first issue’s release?
PM: I know we have three pieces of prose fiction by Matthew Sharpe, Martyn Pedler, and Vasil Duka with spot illustrations by Molly Stanard, Daniel Schoeneck, and Ameilee Sullivan. All stories share to a greater or lesser degree Happy Hour’s twisted sensibilities.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
PM: American Ronin is out now from AWA, and that’s really getting a great reaction. I’m working on something else with AWA that’ll blow your minds, but I’ve been told I can’t give details yet. I’m also doing some things for Warren Simons over at BAD IDEA that we’re excited about. I’ve recently started a relationship with the nice people at AfterShock. Not sure how much I can say here, but I have a darkly gothic horror but very personal one-off story with them, being drawn right now by Piotr Kowalski, plus what I think is an amazing mini series. Oh, and Mike Alred and I are continuing to work on a new series for Marvel, which is a spin off from the XStatix world but an entirely new title. Get ready for THE X-CELLENT... coming soon!!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Happy Hour?
PM: Simple answer: If you want to learn more, don’t listen to me, go out and buy it. Or read the reviews, then you’ll WANT to buy it.