Friday 24 May 2024

Dark Star Crashes.... Remembering John G. Miller


On what would have been John Miller's 70th birthday, friend and fellow cartoonist Rob Miller expands on his earlier online 'obtributary' to this unique and singular creator and visionary....

The Herald, Saturday February 17, 2024

In addition contemporaries, collaborators, friends, fans and family have contributed their own memories of this outsider comics master....


I first met John Miller in early 2005 at one of Glasgow’s monthly SCCAM comic artist meets, held for a time in the hip Mono CafĂ© Bar in the Merchant City area - "The Mono" as John later referred to it. Adam Smith, my then cohort in our burgeoning small press comic venture Khaki Shorts, pointed out John sitting alone at a table writing one of his letters, all dark sunglasses, (enviable) mushroom haircut and exuding his best 'Velvet Underground' cool.


I was still pretty green to the scene at this point but Adam knew John from his striking standout contributions to the (just wrapped) dope-themed Northern Lightz comic anthology from the late Alan Grant and co. Emboldened by a few pints the pair of us finally decided to go over and say hello. For whatever reason or other I ended up giving John my address and within a few months of communicating back and forth he was contributing a strip, Jimmy Hendrix (SIC), and a cover to Khaki Shorts….


Then in 2007, after much planning I took myself off by train to Wester Hailes and the pair of us trudged over the hill to Cramond Island (AKA 'Crab Key' in John's 007 speak) for a “view to a swill” (essentially downing beers and munching crisps in a cold and damp abandoned WW2 bunker while it chucked it down with rain outside. Add some music and you'd have what John called a 'Jefferson Bash'). Walking back in the wet and dark I had missed my train and, rather than spend an hour to 45 minutes lingering at the nearby railway station I returned to John’s flat to wait it out....

The first door of perception....


The second door of perception

Nothing could have prepared me for the chaotic treasure trove-cum-art installation-cum-pop culture capsule that awaited, the place jammed floor to ceiling with books, newspapers, records, comics and all sorts of associated paraphernalia, the walls covered in posters, postcards, flyers, artwork, photocopies – there was a single well-trodden path through the piles and piles of stuff on the floor, from the 'drawing table' to the 'shunky' (bathroom) to the 'hooky microwave' in the kitchen to his seat in 'ze smoking room' facing an aged black and white dial television that rested in front of his cherished record player....

(a full account of this truly wonderful but astonishingly damp day can be found here>>)

"The Drawin' Table"


My drawings on John's wall. The highest accolade.

What was most striking, and something that became ever clearer over time, was that John's singular vision encompassed everything - he was both deeply immersed in and insulated by an artistic statement that could only be described as 'pure', that was shaped to his needs and his needs alone, leading a life that was (by necessity?) distilled down to its essential creative components. No phone. No internet. You took it or you left it. He was fuelled by his surroundings, constantly soaking up and processing information - obscure books, records and comics which had made "a lasting first impression" would then exert a "powerful influence" and would be assimilated and absorbed into his work, filtered through his unique mind and totally refreshed on the page.




And it's perhaps this that makes his passing so sad as John's imaginative fire, thanks to his weird and wonderful internal 'wiring', never dimmed, never strayed from the path, never bent to court success (or latterly accessibility), never wavered in the face of anything. Right until the very end he continued to astonish both visually and verbally even as his health failed him - the task of applying himself to inking seemingly beyond him - unlike many artists who tail off into thankless creative cul-de-sacs or facsimiles of former glories. Indeed, if any further proof were needed, after 10 or so years of intense comic work I haven't a single worthwhile idea left in my empty head....


The hallowed "rekkid player"


And so from that first visit on our dynamic changed somewhat and we seemed to adopt an ‘unspoken agreement’ of sorts between us that I would travel to his every few months to help him get his home life in order (as much as that was (im)possible) while in exchange he would allow me to collate, compile and publish the mountain of original artwork he had amassed there (his so-called "Archives of Doom") - my reward in a sense and, I’ve always surmised, his way of saying thank you*….

(accounts of these truly great days, including their play and watchlists, can be found here>>)


Patti Page - Tennessee Waltz


*This perhaps paints an unnecessarily grim picture, as we spent many happy times just sitting and swilling - I'd turn up laden with cans and 'grub supplies' to 'soak up the booze' - contentedly chuntering (talking), often getting the day's (comic drawin') 'business' out the way in time for 12 o'clock - as John went, past noon was a.ok fer drinking - before settling down to listen to 'rekkids' or watch the 'one-eyed-god', getting quietly 'stewed' as the volume got louder, seemingly existing out of time, the horrors of the real world so far, far away. Sure, at times 'The Cooncil' had to be 'firm but fair' when it came to their property, leading to a few close shaves - hard to deny that a middle-aged smoker with enough books, comics, magazines and newspapers to fill his own Forbidden Planet superstore twice over was not something of a considerable fire risk....


"Who is that masked man?"


We often headed in to Edinburgh and hung about the various graveyards - imagine my shock seeing 'RIP Hitler Hamilton' chalked by John in huge letters on an anonymous towering gravestone - with occasional visits to his home in Lanark ("Welcome to Hell!") and a good few 'Days In The Attic' at Hope Street Studios too, taking him even further back to those carefree childhood times....

Lost In Music! 'Sea Within A Sea', Lanark

The Horrors - Sea Within A Sea


Prior to meeting John I had a reasonable grasp of US psychedelic music, knowing The Elevators, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, LOVE, etc. but John was truly steeped in this stuff (and much more) and he helped expand my musical mind exponentially - I have him to thank for finally helping me 'crack' early Syd Barrett-era (The) Pink Floyd as well as truly appreciate the sprawling space rock route they took to get around to The Dark Side Of The Moon. Several of the songs we enjoyed together are embedded here (and there), "the grande finale" as they were known, one final spin before I (ahem, drunkenly) departed for home....


Pink Floyd - Astronomy Domine (Tienerklanken 1968)


Born in May 1954 John Miller grew up in and around Newarthill ("Newarthell"), moving to Lanark in 1963 where he attended firstly his final few years at Lanark Primary before going to Lanark Grammar School.


His only surviving comic work from this era (his first?) is from 1970, the juvenile schoolboy anthology 'Itch Comics' that is remarkable in that it features Captain Zappa tackling the 'Brain Police', already establishing two mainstays of his “career” (pop culture and mind control) over the following 40 years.


Frank Zappa - Who Are The Brain Police?


There are early surviving Ghostman, Human Torch and cowboy themed strips from around this period too. In 1974 he moved to Sheffield to undertake fine art painting studies, returning to Lanark some time around 1978 where he worked at the Post Office delivering letters.


Grateful Dead - (Walk Me Out In The) Morning Dew


Having resigned from the PO his earliest mature comic work commenced in the 1980's with his distinctive clearly defined abstract style now in place, the sharp linework, the stabs of black and the precise, stylised lettering applied initially to lengthy strips characterised by a serious science fiction approach shot through with his characteristic anti-authoritarian stance.


Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship - Have You Seen The Stars Tonight


In the 1990s his work loosened up considerably, adopting a shorter, more humorous and personal approach with a cavalcade of more whimsical characters such as Zooty (the Cat), The Girl With The Flowery Trousers, The Gaswork Girls, Captain Bumbee and Ghosty all making regular appearances - but still always questioning and fighting back, advising the reader to do the same, the search for personal freedom and the right to exist in peace ever-ongoing.


Anthony More - Judy Get Down


These strips would appear in numerous diverse underground comics and zines, such as Atomic, Fast Fiction, Hairy Hi-Fi, White Buffalo Gazette and Not My Small Diary - in an era, remember, where networking would be through Edinburgh's Science Fiction Bookshop, local groups or via mail and letters to overseas - with Captain Zappa making a triumphant return in the aforementioned Scottish Northern Lightz anthology (which happens to contain another of his finest strips, 'Murdok The Abolisher. 1975 A.D.') as well as its glossier high street successor, Alan Grant and co’s Wasted, his pictures always worth more than a thousand words...


B-Movie - Remembrance Day

'Ice Station Zebra', Wester Hailes (Commemorative Plaque pending?)

With a move from Inverleith Row to Wester Hailes (to 'Ice Station Zebra' as he coined it) at the turn of the century John's work took a deeper and darker turn, the art noticeably intensifies, tightening up and battling for space with the words as the decade wears on, a new secret agent and latterly superhero theme begin to dominate, the laughs thinning out over time, the content harder and more visibly confrontational.


Twin genius alert! Frank Quitely and John Miller!


With Northern Lightz wrapping in 2004, signing off with a typically sweary classic Captain Zappa on the back page, work turned to the burgeoning Khaki Shorts, Wasted and latterly his own Secret Agent, Super Tales and The Atomic Society of Justice one-shots, these appearing in line with his decade by decade collected works that began in 2011, before being gathered together themselves as The Collected Evil Wee Comics in 2015.




Not that Miller's secret agent fancy stopped at his comics. He produced a hundred or so S.H.I.E.L.D. - Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate – leaflets, A4 photocopies of (often doctored) newspaper or advertising clippings spliced with his (un)usual stunning illustrations and empowered pocket manifestos.

Rob, John and Gary. Dead-psyc-head-elic, man (photo, Gafin Austin)

Deadhead Comics, Candlemaker Row (photographer unknown)

X26 & X 211 (photographer unknown)

He'd then wander around and distribute these at 'strategic sites', shops, pubs and bus stops, operating out of his favoured Deadhead Comics “HQ”, overseen, as ever, by Agent X211, AKA Section Chief Austin. On some occasions he'd even be left alone to man the shop's till, enjoying his stints on "S.H.I.E.L.D. guard duty"....


The Lines - Nerve Pylon


He'd chalk 'Back S.H.I.E.L.D.' And Batsigns around shop doorways and bus stops, fly-stickering the same here and there, often alerting people to the dangers of electricity, radioactivity or hallucinogens. Awaydays to 'The Newhouse' hotel near Motherwell ("Murderwell") for lunch would be filtered through espionage terminology and written up as bizarre 'assignments'.


Agent of S.H.A.D.O.W.


Similarly, friends and acquaintances would be indoctrinated into his S.H.I.E.L.D. network (often after a single pint!) and find themselves suitably tagged – John himself was Agent X29 – and added to his lengthy 'mailing list', yet another creative outlet, being part diary, part recollections, part dreams, part vivid imaginings and, no doubt about it, part therapy.


His final years were spent contentedly in Slateford, a quiet leafy Edinburgh suburb, where he drew a little – his long-gestating John Stark: Secret Agent comic collaboration remains unfinished at present – while still enjoying 'Sounds of the 60's on the 'wireless' and television reruns of (childhood) favourites such as James Bond 007, (DirtyHarry Callaghan, Hammer Films, Star Trek, The Invaders, Doctor Who, The Avengers, The SaintThe Outer Limits, The Buccaneers and his beloved Fireball XL5, his vast collection of comics and books ordered and to hand, his often chaotic and troubled life, in a sense, having come full circle. I cannot help but think of him there still....


"Here's to the commandante's health.... Hail Odin!"


Agent X226

With special thanks to Kasia Miller, Bob Gibson, Adam Smith, Vincent Deighan and Debbie Miller.

Thanks to too Dougie Sutherland, Alan Buchanan, Stanislaw Kadulski and Rab Finlayson.

And finally, Empty Kitchens, Full HeartsLife-Pod and Purple Social Care.

(from) The Power by Frank M. Robinson




I'm not sure when I first met John Miller. I certainly knew his work long before we met in the flesh. It was very powerful work. We were both contributors to Garry Marshalls 'Atomic Comic' . Garry and I were the 'Comics guys' at Edinburgh College of Art . He had been self publishing Atomic for a few years at that point. We were all very young, enthusiastic and motivated. We were our own little Edinburgh indie comics scene. John Miller was the elder statesman, in his mid 30s. He seemed much older. John's work was like peering into a jangling, and jagged alternate Pop world. It was dynamic, it was Punk (though he would never have described himself as that). It was obvious from meeting him that he wasn't making it all up. This was the world he lived in. He was opening a door for us to see.


Over the next few years ( between 1991 & 1996-ish ) I'd see John at Garry's apartment, at various comics events and eventually he would come and visit me in my apartment in Morningside. He walked all the way from Inverleith, well over an hour on foot. We were friends. I know this because he lent me his collection of Jim Steranko Nick Fury comics, possibly his most precious possession. It would be easy to say that John had demons, they tormented him daily, sometimes from a distance, sometimes close by, you could see the pain in his face when he was having a bad day. They came at him from all sides, but mostly from his boyhood in Lanark in the 60s. He told his own history in his comics, obliquely. It was a history embroidered with spies and superheroes, aliens and alienation. Occasionally his pop culture constructs gave way to something darker. I may have skirted around the subject in our conversations sometimes, but to be honest I was scared to get too close. Whatever happened to him was his story and he was entitled to recount it, or obscure it in as fantastical a way as he wanted to.

I left Edinburgh in the summer of 1996 and I never saw John again, though we passed greetings to each other via mutual friends over the years. Now and again when I was in Edinburgh I'd see one of his chalk marks on a wall and know that he'd been there.

I didn't really understand what I was learning from John when I knew him, but I can see it clearly now, from this long perspective of years.
Tell your truth.
Don't let the bastards grind you down!

I'm trying John. I'm trying.

Jersey City 2024


BOB GIBSON


I first became aware of John Miller's existence in late 1967 or early 1968. We attend the same school and found ourselves in the same chemistry class in the same semi-underground classroom. This room would flood on a semi-regular basis over the next year or so, and rumour had it that the flooding and John Miller we're not unconnected.

I remember quite clearly the moment I realised that John and I were on a similar wavelength, and – for want of the better phrase – a connection was made. At the rear of the classroom – just where John and the rest of the "back row boys" sat – lay a few old biology textbooks. These were spoken about among the rest of us in a mixture of fear and fascination, and eventually I got round to checking them out. On the first page I turned to, found an illustration of two insect heads side-by-side. To these have been ordered business suits, or perhaps school uniforms, and a speech balloon with the words "Bloody awful flying weather, ah?" Having been kicked out of Sunday school at an early age for the sin/crime of sticking an insect head on a picture of Jesus, I found this quite amusing and quietly said so. "Glad you like it" John replied, and it dawned on me he had real cartoon talent.


He and I got to know one another better over the next year or so, and John – who seemed to get a lot more pocket money than I did – introduced me to music I might otherwise never have come across, or at least north that's critical age. For a long time I was surprised and grateful that John found me worth talking to, and the fact that our families thought each of us a bad influence on the other made the friendship all more amusing. We had our ups and downs, of course. I once infuriated John by describing the Silver Surfer as "a bit far-fetched” without realising that this was the exact label his parents had applied to his childhood comic collection. I made many such faux pas over the years, but ill-feelings never lasted long.

It's still hard to believe John no longer with us, but on looking back over my collection of his comics and illustrations I am still most moved by the quirky ones based on childhood experiences and memories, such as "It Was The Day of The Lizard Man”. Pieces like this might only really be accessible to those who grew up in Scotland in the 1960s, but some John’s work is timeless. Many of the frames in his 1980s strip “Android Smasher"– based on another by Phillip K. Dick – I was good as anything I've ever seen. Move over, Jack Kirby, and make room for one more in Comic Art Valhalla.


LENNY HELSING


I’m sure the first time I met John Miller was after a few back and forths of us writing little cryptic psychedelic infused utterances in the dust of a window in the wall of an old, indeterminate establishment situated near the bus stop in the middle of Fountainbridge which we (that being myself and Bruce Lyall back in our earliest days of the Green Telescope) used to stand and wait at. Either John saw ours and responded first, or the other way round I can’t quite remember. Regardless, it went something like this: Candy And A Currant Bun … Vegetable Man where are you…… The Madcap Laughs… Donovan’s Brain… Roky is an alien… SF Sorrow Was Here… Forever Changes … The Pretty Things rule! And so on! These would mostly be accompanied by various little doodles of pyramids and spirals… We thought it hilarious that someone we didn’t even know was actually responding on our wavelength, as at that time in 1981-82 we didn’t know too many other people who dug those same kinds of sounds that we did.


Some months later or thereabouts, we then bump into this guy and it’s John. We soon have many years of flat visitations where we share lots of time smoking and drinking and listening to everything from the Banshees, Syd and the Pink Floyd, the Pretty Things, Tomorrow, Jefferson Airplane, Love, the Seeds, 13th Floor Elevators and all the many sixties garage punk and psychedelic groups that were collected across compilations like Pebbles, Flashbacks and Highs In the Mid Sixties etc. John told us he went to art school in Carlisle or somewhere in the 1970s and shows us some of what he spends a lot of his time on, drawing and wee stories. Later, he offers to create some logos and poster art for us, for some Green Telescope gigs, and for the Rubber Dolfinarium too, who I played drums for at the time and who he loved. That group, of course, were immortalised in one of John’s comic strips around 1985 called Atom Girl: Riot On Planet X. This was also revisited in his Alchemy writings much later. I rate this as one of the best things he ever did!


We didn’t hear too much about psychic posties over in Lanark around this time; John, it transpires, was from there. Indeed, we weren’t really aware of many of the other, darker infiltrations that began filling his mind in later years. He was somewhat strange, as well as appearing quite paranoid but I think we just put that down to years of dope use and the relatively isolated life he led. He did used to come to the clubs where me and Angus (Rubber Dolfinarium) DJ’ed, like the Snake Pit and Karlem Bardo’s, then the Kaleidoscope; he actually did poster art for some of those too! Even when our physical paths started to cross less and less John would still write letters to me which I kept for many years, but alas about ten years or so ago I was having a big paper cull, and I’m afraid to say that most of the letters I got from John were part of the clear out. Truth be told I found some of them kinda disturbing, although they were always shot through with some humorous or provocative nuggets. I did keep some, as well of a few posters and one or two choice pieces of artwork that would often accompany the letters.

The third door of perception....

He would also still regularly pop up at our gigs (we changed our name from the Green Telescope to the Thanes in 1986) through the years even into the early 2000s. His presence thereafter would be a rare occurrence. Personally, I began to see him less frequently too, then I moved up north to in 1998. My brother Martin still had regular contact with him as they lived at the same house in Manor Place for a time in the late 80s and thereafter Martin and John had a flat together down in Kirk Street, Leith. I mostly remember the days where I’d go up to visit him in his flat just off Viewforth in the early days and he’d maybe have just drawn something like The Girl With The Flowery Trousers which, he told me, was inspired by someone we knew from one of the clubs like the Snake Pit when it was still at the Place, or the Onion Cellar, in the same building… but he never actually told me who it was based on.


MARTIN MONGOMERY

The fourth door of perception....

Memories of John Miller

Many’s a time when we both stayed at Manor Place John at the top of the hoose and me in the basement I would visit him and we would have long comic reading sessions while some cool sounds played in the background or if some old horror/sci-fi movie was on late we’d maybe get a couple of bottles of beer/cider and watch it on his wee black and white tv set then after it was finished I would creep down the stairs trying not to wake the landlord's wee scottie. Sometimes we would walk along the canal to the Aqueduct at Longstone and back or visit crab quay (crammond island) then go for a wee swally at the crammond brig then hit the chip shop for oor tea.

TV21 - Forever 22

Occasionally we would go to a gig I remember it was John who suggested we should go to the citrus club to see TV21 which we did and a good time was had by all much jollity ensued another time we went to Calton studios to see Exploited plus a couple of support bands another great night was had. Other times I would visit him he would be in an intensive period of comic creation and I would read some sci-fi quarterly or maybe a Baron book Happy Memories!




John was such a unique talent. I’m pretty sure anyone else being asked what their memories were of him will say something similar, if not the same.

The one memory that sticks in my head was the first time I met him, at one of the amazing Northern Lightz Wednesday “get togethers” in Glasgow’s Hope Street studios.

We got chatting, and shared mutual appreciation of ‘underground’ comix. He was drinking cheapo cider and smoking rollies. Midway through a sentence, he stopped me, and said, “excuse me a minute”. Then proceeded to get up and go lie down under Dave Alexander’s drawing table. Straight to sleep. I looked around to see if anyone else had seen this, and someone assured me, “He does that.”

Well impressed.

My main reason for talking to John in the first place was my admiration for his wonderful comix. Never seen anything like them. Rest in peace amigo.


Writer & Cartoonist


The Correspondence of John Miller

I dislike those kind of articles that start off with “I never met the fellow, but…” before launching into some fatuous self-serving tribute, but the plain fact is I never did meet John Miller, the unique Outsider comics artist who died in early 2024. But he did write me a large number of letters, and it’s through these letters I feel I did know him at some level. Each piece of correspondence was like greeting him and enjoying a conversation with the man. My friend and fellow cartoonist John Bagnall also received similar lengthy messages from John Miller, and he feels the same way.

Each Miller letter was like a page from a diary. John would describe in careful detail what he’d been doing that day – be it drawing, reading comics, reading books, listening to records, and eating. He would enthuse about his favourite comic titles, for instance Silver Age DC or Marvel comics, or Alan Class reprints – those cheap newsprint digests with glossy covers which (as I learned a bit later) were a hotch-potch of reprints from ACG titles like Forbidden Worlds or Adventures into the Unknown. John Miller didn’t just derive pleasure from reading comics; you could sense that the characters, and the stories, were real for him. Rather than skimming through an entertaining fiction, you could say John was entering into another world as he read.

I learned about John’s daily food and drink intake from these letters too. Did I mention this was taking place in the 1980s and early 1990s – a time before it was considered chic to post pictures of a plate of your food on social media? (A fad which didn’t last long, admittedly). John would close a paragraph and open a new one in the letter, evidently resuming the train of thought some hours later – or even the next day. We would then be treated to the specifics of a delicious plate of plain home-made food, often involving staples like potatoes, bread, or cheese. And for some reason I would always envisage a large cup of strong tea nearby, hopefully served in a plain white porcelain mug. Comfort food, from which John evidently did indeed derive much comfort as well as sustenance. A somewhat less healthy part of his intake would include cigarettes too; I’m not sure if he mentioned smoking in his letters, but each page of the letter was steeped in the scent of stale tobacco.

I seem to be saying John’s letters were so vivid, they could affect a reader in many ways; the slice-of-life diaristic image would soon burn its way into my mind, and my senses would be stimulated by the tobacco smell of the letter – even before I opened the envelope, I knew it was from him. And of course there’s the visual impact of the hand-writing. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to read a page of a Miller comic, you’ll know that his comics lettering style – completely unique and personal to him – was as sturdy and indelible as letterpress printing, or a magic typewriter whose keys could punch a letter into solid steel. His handwritten letters had just the same quality, the same strength of personality. As you read the lines, you could almost hear his speaking voice, inviting you into the conversation.

One particular letter from John – I wish I could retrieve it so I could provide the exact details – shifted rather suddenly into a confidential tone, and I could hear the man lowering his voice as he imparted this information, which to him was evidently quite important. It may have involved messages from alien beings, or messages from some other dimension, but the gist of it was “they were talking about you, Ed”, along with advice to me to be prudent and watch out for any potential serpents in my pathway. It’s very likely that John Miller was neurodivergent, but he wasn’t wrong in his perceptions in this instance; at the time, when I was running the Fast Fiction mail order service, there were indeed a number of opponents and critics ranged against me, and perhaps it’s not too fanciful to suppose that Miller had the sympathy, and the psychic powers, to tune directly into those forces. And I wish I had taken note of his gentle words of advice, but I was often rash and heedless in those days.

At a time when the gentle art of letter-writing is all but forgotten, and we have all sacrificed our personal modes of expression – including handwriting – to the contemporary Gods of social media and email, John Miller’s correspondence with me is something I treasure very highly, and will continue to do so.

April 2024

You can read Ed's review of two of John's collected comic books here>>


CURT SIBLING


How do you describe an underground comics giant?

I first was exposed to the unique and striking work of John Miller in the pages of indie zines like Khaki Shorts and Northern Lightz. His lightning-bolt, stark linework immediately grabbed my eye, the bold, primal feel appealed to me right away. It was, however, John's rebellious and profane dialog that made me a fan. Reading stories like Captain Zappa, The Lizard Man and many others introduced me to a comics-crafter who I felt was speaking to freaks like myself. The worlds and perspectives seen in his work were part tribute to a bygone great age of comics and media, and on the other hand, a colossal middle-digit at the stodgy "No Fun" goons who want comics burned in municipal bonfires. In short, this guy rocked. I was on board.


Reading the various underground zines of the early 2000 era, I spotted examples of John's comics popping up, where there was always nice little text factoids and extras among the panels of chaos. This was a not just a cartoonist, but a man who had a jaw-dropping knowledge of comics, movies and TV from decades past. John's comic would leave you with a better knowledge of counter-culture! That, and his outrageous swearing characters, outright sedition against intolerant "short back and sides" society had me cackling away while Captain Zappa defeated fascists, then strode off for "smokies" and a pint. John's heroes made kicking evil in the shins look so easy! By far, this was a blueprint for the underground comic antics I wanted to create myself.

To pick a comic by John that is my favourite? It's a hard choice, given the library of excellent work by this creator. To access his comics, we are lucky to have anthologies complied by another well-respected underground writer/artist, Mr Rob Miller (no relation). Looking through them, and some other Zines, John's finest hour for me (and it makes me smile even typing about it here) is "Murdok The Abolisher". It's a parody of Marvel comics, Sky media, and Oor Wullie. A tale of a cyborg cop brought back from death to crush the indie comic press, controlled by shadowy religious fanatics. For me, this was a triple-satire, and the "Exhibit A" of Miller's genius. The final panel, where "Yokels erect a statue to Murdok in George Square", still slays me. We can only skim over the vast archive of John's artistic contribution to the underground scene, he leaves us a lifetime of comic work, all of it undeniably with his trademark art and killer humour. Murdok is my over-all favourite, though. I recommend it, any underground comix fan will be chuckling with glee.


Summing up, John Miller is a force that simply cannot be re-created. A comics sage, a hilarious humorist, and an underground talent to the core. He leaves us with an cache of cartoons that have few peers in terms of geniune intent and offbeat humour. John's splendid work gave me the impetus to draw my own twisted ideas and print comics. I pay homage to him as an inspiration. Long live Captain Zappa!


DOCTOR SIMPO


"Herr Commandant Simpo, John Miller Special Agent of Shield reporting for duty."

Blues Brothers - it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses 


ZZ Top - Cheap Sunglasses


ADAM SMITH


John G Miller was a pure artist in the sense that he was compelled to create exactly what he created without any pretence of artifice and what he created was unbelievably and uniquely cool. I speak for myself (but also I suspect for several more you’ll grant) that as a very attempted comics writer/artist I was consciously or not chasing 1/1000th of what he just was. I honestly don’t think there’s anyone close to him in terms of owning that unique comics medium specific intersection of deep Golden/Silver age superhero lore, cheeky schoolboy parochial humour and mod/psyche mystique and pulling them into one intense stew entirely without conceit or guile. Something for everyone, truly.

The fifth door of perception....

What’s more in person he exuded none of the ‘elder guru’ affectations he could have and many would assume would be his earned rights, he was disarmingly humble yet entirely real in expressing, not even his vision, just his everyday experience to you when you talked. There really will never be another like him. To be honest it’s a million to one miracle there ever was ever one on this earth in the first place.

I didn’t hang out with him as much as Agent Rob but one memory of being over his place and imbibing from his formidable collection of original vinyl from the 50s/60s/70s/80s… to now was hearing the haunting 1967 disc ‘The Wedding Of Ramona Blair’ by psychepop group The Mirage for the first time, with it’s hypnotic and downright weirdly mysterious chorus of ‘It was nice, to see Ramona in prayer, give the occasional stare.. at the door’ seeming to repeat onto infinity thru a comfortably transcendent afternoon beer haze. It’s remained a favourite since, in no small part due to the aura of that first spin. Here we go to play us out...

The Mirage - The Wedding of Ramona Blair


GEORGE 'WINKER' WATSON

Credited to WINKER and J. MilleRRR

John was a great influence to me in my adolescence and taught me a lot. He opened my ears and mind to a whole new universe of music and his artwork was always incredible. I would say he probably moulded me into the person I became. We remained friends from afar and always tried to keep in touch. I miss him enormously!


DEBBIE MILLER


This tribute poem to my brother has not only been an expression of mourning and grief, it has also been a chance to celebrate his life and appreciate his kindness and sense of humour.

You are no longer here
by Debbie Miller


Although the ground no longer holds you John.
Do not weep over the stones of grieving.

Just sit on the grasses that are nestled amongst the trees that sway in the wind.
That stirs in your heart and breaks in your absence.

You are no longer here.

Go instead to the places that you lived where you chuckled like Mutley and with happiness and love.

Sit in the locations that you loved surrounded by your artwork and MARVEL and DC with those thousands of LPs and books.

Laugh about the amazing animals you had in your life, mainly cats but also dogs. Lucy and Rufus, Garry and Glen. Comic characters themselves.

Go to the places where your feet walked miles, were heavy laden but journeyed anyways.

Go to the coastline that heard your whispers of overcoming and listen to the waves that calmed your world.

Sit in the churchyard and by the altar that was built out of every raging fire and given to endure by grace alone.

Then make your peace there in the beauty that made your heart and lungs full.

In your memory we are brave and vibrant and we will forever remember your fun and your laughter and your talent.

Mutley would have loved that!

You will always be here.



The Animals - Sky Pilot




































Nancy Sinatra - You Only Live Twice