With lots of fuss over the film adaptation of the nineties Mills / Skinner creation “Accident Man” Luke fishes his copy of the Titan books collection from the dustier end of his bookshelf.
The Complete Accident Man
Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, Martin Emond, Duke Mighten
and John Erasmus
Review by Luke Williams
For those of us who care about such things, Pat Mills (along with John Wagner) is the UK’s equivalent of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He is a veritable goldmine of startling characters and creations.
Mills’s creativity, working in partnership with witch, martial artist (and judging from Pat’s interviews all round dodgy chap) Tony Skinner hit a new peak in the mid nineties. Alongside a bullpen of artists, the pair created loooooooooooooooooooooads of characters for Toxic, the creator owned weekly comic set up as a co-op between the “fathers” of 2000ad, Mills, Wagner, Grant, Wagner, McMahon, Kennedy and O’Neill. Amongst the debuts were”Roler Beast”, “MutoManiac”, “Psycho Killer”, “Sex Warrior” and “Accident Man”.
I picked up “Toxic” mainly on the promise of more “Marshal Law”, alongside the potential for Wagner, Grant,Mills and co’ goodness. But the stand out strip was “Accident Man” a strip about a hitman who made his kills look like, well, accidents.
To call Mike an anti hero would do him and real anti heroes a disservice. Label loving, shallow, materialistic and selfish, lacking the redeeming and empathic qualities you would expect from a lead. Think of a chavvier Zenith, without the powers, but with 100 different ways to turn your toes up without raising suspicion.
In issue 1 of “Toxic”, we’re introduced to Mike going about his homicidal business. Sadly, his profession impinges on his personal life when his drinking buddies from the hitman watering hole “The Oasis” off his ex girlfriend. Mike is out for revenge on the people who put the price on Jill’s head, there’s lots of property damage and grievous bodily harm on the way. Mike makes one mistake. It becomes personal.
Emond’s art is like Bisley through a Tex Avery filter. Anarchic, kinetic and dynamic.
Successfully offing they guys behind the assassination of this ex, Mike takes a 4 issue break. Emond, jumps ship, looking for something more violent, which turns out to be Gordon Rennie’s “White Trash”. Sadly Emond died in 2004.
Back in “Toxic” Mike returned with a very different look.
Duke Mighten debuts on book 2. Gone is the lithe, lycra clad wide boy, replaced by the Armani clad, slick backed coiffured, older, burly walking fashion victim. Less east end ninja and more extra legal James Bond. But more in keeping with Mills and Skinner’s original vision.
This time around, Mike is after a drug dealer who has a fondness for exotic creatures, which presents lots of options for Mike. On the side, Mike’s also looking to add to his taciturn termination techniques. Mike has found a kung fu master who can teach the legendary “death touch”, which saw off Bruce Lee.
In the first series Mike is more of a wide boy, but here he comes across more as a well connected society arsehole. Mills and Skinner ramp up the debauchery. At a party tramps are used as living ash trays, human sculptures dangling from the ceiling and incestuous villains. Mighten is an acquired taste, the rowdiness of Emond, is replaced with a more conservative, angular and occasionally abstract look, and on the way the art loses the immediacy and black humor of the first series.
Series 3 sees Mike develop a conscience (although fleetingly) and helps out his ex’s new bit of stuff, Hilary. “Bumping” into Hilary on a hit, Mike agrees to help out WARP (Women Against the Rape Of The Planet).
Hilary and her treehuggers want to discredit a government Minister, and where better than in the fleshpots of Amsterdam. This is a a new experience for Mike, a sting rather than just arranging an unexpected shove off this mortal coil.
Of course, things can’t be as simple as that and Mike crosses the American security services and causes chaos in the streets of Amsterdam.
New artist John Erasmus is a mix of Emond and Mighten.The softer lines suit the stories humour, Erasmus’s style reminds me of the art of those old bawdy seasides postcards, but as if drawn by an artist from “Viz”.
Then the strip took a bit of a break. “Toxic” bought the farm (a subject for another day, but a review of Toxic can be found here from the esteemed Chris McAuley) and some of the properties (Bogie Man, Sex Warrior, Brats Bizarre) found other, if only temporary, homes.
Mike’s bolt hole was with Dark Horse. A returning Duke Mighten draws a 3 issue black and white series, set in the US with wonderful covers by Howard Chaykin.
Mike is hired by a rogue arm of the American security services to off a corrupt US senator. Sadly, he turns out to be the director of the CIA. And you really don’t want to mess with them.
Realising he has been tricked Mike, “aborts” his “accident” and to make amends gets hired by the CIA to off a mafia don. Mike needs to ingratiate himself to the mafia by doing what he does best.
This goes pretty much as you would expect. And of course there is the little matter of revenge for the set up that brought Mike to America.
This series feels like a bit of a remix of the last Mighten strip.The sex and sleeze is ramped up with the freedom that comes with being published by a US indie. Although this is probably his most realised adventure it loses some of it’s sardonic appeal with it’s move to the more exotic environs of NY.
A reinvigorated Mills and Skinner were clearly having fun with this. Mill’s info’ dump occasionally rears it’s head, but the preachiness is all but absent. It crackles with black humour. It’s just fun.
Sadly it’s all gone a bit quiet since, no other work has been done on the series. The film might generate interest and inspire Mills and Skinner.
No idea what the film’s like though. But, who cares with comics as great as this?