The concluding part of Luke’s history of “Finn”, where the off page action becomes more intriguing than the on.
A Potted History Part 2 of 2
So far so good. Finn has crawled from the wreckage of “Crisis”. The two Elston &Wicks illustrated runs established Finn as an anti establishment hero in the best Mills tradition. Eco freedom fighter, a feminist class warrior, he probably listens to Crass – but hopefully not the Levellers.
A ripped, taxi driving supernaturally empowered homicidal Swampy (for anyone under 30, ask your parents). The fantasy and science fiction elements of the character are firmly front and centre, whilst still retaining some of the politics from “Third World War”.
After a long gap Finn reappears in Prog’ 924 introduced by a lovely Sean Phillips recap page, illustrated by Liam Sharp in his gritted teeth and ‘roided muscles period. It’s oddly formatted, narrow pages, bordered with a B&W illios of two types of cake, cheese and beef. The page size implies that it may have been originally destined for “Crisis” before that publication bit the dust.
Reunited with Eve Collins, Paul/Finn is a up for a bit of ‘how’s your father’, the old smoothy attempts to seduce her by telling her his “origin”. As Paul he was working in an oil refinery cleaning tanks when he found the owner was pumping lead into a forest, poisoning wildlife and rendering the site unliveable.
Meeting Mandy the head of the local coven for the first time, she tells Paul he can be initiated by the seemingly simple expedient of killing his boss, the Harvey Weinstein of waste management.
Next up, Finn infiltrates a chicken battery farm, kidnapping workers doling out some natural justice by keeping them in the conditions the hens were found in.
It’s a useful recap and reminder of the character for those who came to him fresh and hadn’t read “Thrid World War” (and clearly, as “Crisis” was no more, there were quite a few). With what we knew from “Third World War” Paul /Finn seems to have packed a lot into his young life.
“Interventions” follows on directly from the short origin story. Paul has changed names, and the Newts are back, Liam Sharp exits stage right and in comes Paul Staples.
In the introduction to the strip, Finn’s real name is revealed as Paul Shawcross, not Paul Phillips, continuity gaffe? New ID? Do you care?
Finn’s on off paramour Eve Collins has become a reporter for a national television channel, the west country is a warzone. Eve is deeply embedded, reporting on the strife in Plymouth as it’s torn asunder by the Kernow Republican Separatists. Trish McTaggart, the straight laced “establishment” member and foil of Eve in Freeaid makes a reappearance as a high ranking officer in Safecorp, Britain’s privatised police force.
Finn is in his element, an unsophisticated alpha male he revels in the riots and the heavy handed response from Safecorp and occasionally biting off more than he can chew.
“Interventions” fleshes out on the war with the Newts. An alien race, the Newts were a male society in an endless war with the Originators, a matriarchal society, which moved to Earth. The interventions of the title refers to this being the second intervention, the first being the Newts first intervention on the planet where they used the humans to prosecute their war and successfully prevented the dragons, allies of the Originators, from breeding. Lord Michael Courtney is preparing the way for the arrival of the Newt on Earth, including dispatching Finn. The Shining Ones hold a grudge against our hero Finn for the death of Nosiron at the end of the first storyline. He’s got to go.
In a recurring theme Mandy betrays and sacrifices Finn to Gehobah the arch newt on the moon. Escaping, Finn re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and is intercepted by the resurrected “Crusadeer”. An ancient warrior, the epitome of masculinity, a “celestial skinhead” who fought for the Newts in the first intervention and is a match for Finn’s “superpowers”. It doesn’t go well for Finn.
The Newts arrive in their spaceships with the promise of a new life for a select few humans. Mandy say the ship needs to be destroyed, so off Finn goes sorts that out, but for the final battle he needs some reinforcements
Finn needs to wake the sleeping dragon living in Lizard Rock in St Michaels Mount right onto the way to stop her, Finn Has to woo the dragon in his bid to save the Earth. It all goes really well; he reunites with Eve and sets up for the next run
“Season of the Witch” the last story (so far anyway), starts a year later in Prog 991. Plot: modern society is unnatural, which naturally means Finn has to commit human sacrifice to the four elements to save the world.
After literally taking the head of a mining firm, the laws of cosmic balance kick in, and Finn is as good as dead. The Newts and Lord Courtney have the upper hand and they are coming for Finn.
Captured and tortured seemingly destined to die he escapes by leaving his physical body and possessing his would be assassin, turning the tables on his assailants, before completing his mission, and spoiler, he’s promoted to high priest.
Perhaps a bit harsh, but there is nothing new here.
For all the protestations about what a classic this strip was, there is an element of rose tinted retrospection. The early promise, the anarchism and “punk attitude” shown in the vibrant Elston and Wicks storyline is lost.
“Interventions” is a good story, spoiled by some crude and dark art (and not in a wiccan way). “Interventions” would be a better strip were it not for Paul Staples art and the print quality. Painted art around this period just looked like a brown light absorbing mess on the page. Staples is a good artist, but here his elongated figure work, distorted facial expressions don’t do him any favours.
“Season of the Witch” is essentially an edited remix of books 1 and 2. In music terms, think of a wiccan Jive Bunny. With guns
You’d suspect that Mills and Skinner had run out of ideas – or were just using them all for feeding the monster that was short lived “2000AD” rival Toxic, “Season of the Witch” in particular just feels just like a poor relation of a second rate “Toxic” strip.
Politically, we’re in familiar territory, sledgehammer exposition, rich guys are bastards, there is no such thing as good or evil, paganism and the matriarchy is the way to go. As with all of Mill’s work, the irreverence and black humour are his strengths, but the baddies here are one dimensional, flat. Themes and plots are familiar from “Slaine” and “ABC Warriors” strips from around this period, echoes of themes to this strip can be seen in the current run (bonkers and excellent) run of “Defoe”.
Interestingly, there was trouble off page. There were disagreements over the strip between Mills an editorial.“Thrillpower Overload” David Bishops history of the Prog’ reprints a Mills quote from an article in “Comic Collector”. Mills felt that he was salvaging something from “Crisis”, but that his protestations that the character had value initially fell on deaf ears..
“The fact that Finn has worked out as well as it has is a vindication for what we were aiming for on Third World War. It’s also a measure of how difficult it is to make something happen, in fact that story was written two and a half years ago”
David Bishop countered
“Finn was quite popular with a section of the readership but I felt the strip was in danger of duplicating the appeal of Slaine. I asked Pat to concentrate on the latter instead. Bringing Finn an end created room for the new series and characters other creators had in development”(Thrillpower Overload)
Bishop is unambiguous in his reasoning for calling time on Finn
“There seems to be only two ways of working with Pat – confrontation or caving in to him. When editorial teams angered Pat, they were liable to get an earful down the phone. He called it a pre-emptive strike, but in the office it was known as a Mills Bomb. I decided it would be easier to restrict him to a single strip in the comic and Slaine was by far the most popular of his creations”
Mills has a slightly different take. In “Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave” Mills explains that creators and editorial were already at loggerheads following a letter from the Nerve Centre to the droids setting out the problems that the prog’ had been suffering and blaming the writers for it. He goes on to say that despite the strips popularity Bishop didn’t want any more “Finn” stories, at least partly down to its similarities with “Slaine” and suggested that Bishop felt that “Finn” was too “pagan” and that editorial didn’t want the counter cultural attention.
The reluctance of Rebellion to reprint what has been built up to be a great work, seems to be shortsighted. But what could have been an irreverent, anarchic and blackly humorous spin off from the stodgy , overly preachy and humour free“Third World War”, loses steam. Perhaps the pressure from the conflict between creator and editorial sucked the enthusiasm from everyone. The regular comparisons with “Slaine” aren’t unwarranted, but “Finn” was more than a contemporary clone. Perhaps less conflict between creative team, editorial and a more suitable artist may have saved it and we may still be reading “Finn” today, instead of interminable and meandering “Slaine” storylines.
Chris McAuley’s “Talking Comics” Blog has a great article on “Finn” :
“Thrillpower Overload” : David Bishop :Rebellion Publishing
“Be Pure Be Vigilant, Behave : 2000AD and Judge Dredd : The Secret History” Pat Mills : Millsverse Books
Where to get it
There was talk of a volume collecting “Finn” sometime or other, but no scheduling announcement has been made. The only collections have been in:
Books 1 & 2 (Art by Elston & Wicks) :
Meg’ floppies 329 & 36, Classic 2000AD 13 & 14
The rest can be found in the Progs:
“The Origin” : Prog 924 – 927
“Interventions” – Progs 928-937, 940-949
“Season of the Witch” – Progs 991-999
Crisis (the strip focuses on the character in Book 3 – issue 40 on):
Issues 1-27, 29-38, 40&41, 43&44, 46-53
“Third World War” Book 1 (collection to be released January 2020 – beautiful Carlos Ezquerra art)