SCREAM! & MISTY SPECIAL: Hannah Berry and Ben Willsher on The Sentinels
The team behind the revival of The Sentinels from Misty talk about bringing this socially-conscious historical mash-up bang up to date
10 months ago
It's Halloween and what better way to commune with worlds sinister and dark than picking up a copy of the Scream! & Misty Special - out now from all good newsagents and comic book stores!
Of the classic strips revived in this new comic is The Sentinels, which ran in Misty in 1978 from issue one until issue 12. Written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Mario Capaldi, it is set in two large blocks of council flats, which people nicknamed the Sentinels. While families happily live in one of the buildings, the other is left abandoned due to strange things happening like people disappearing or seeing ghosts.
The 2000 AD blog's Richard Bruton sat down for a quick chat with Hannah Berry and Ben Willsher, responsible for bringing back one of Misty's most memorable strips...
Can you tell us a little about The Sentinels, what you took from the original, what you added for this new version?
Hannah: We have all new characters and storyline, but kept the basic premise: Two tower blocks, one occupied and the other empty save for a portal into an alternate universe where the UK is run by a brutal fascist dictatorship. In the original version this was because Nazis won the war, but in our version we decided it would be far more relevant if this nationalist horror show was not due to an outside force but entirely home-grown; risen to power through years of dog-whistle politics and hysteria. It's pretty close to the bone. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to explore this, but how this situation came to be is something we'd very much like to explore if this story should *ahem* continue as a series.
Ben: It is uncertain what happened with Occupied Europe and the Axis powers in the first half of the early 20th Century in our version of the story, but Hannah has tapped into the real horror of the story that 'we', as a nation, went into this willingly; but like any good War epic (and real life), there are always pockets of resistance giving us hope. It has been a fantastic experience, working with a slightly different genre than I tend to work on, and it has been a pleasure to work with such a talented writer, and I'd jump at the chance to work with her again. Maybe even on a series of Sentinels. Ppsssst- Hannah, do you think we have dropped enough hints yet?
I Imagine there’s so much stuff there you could go into, all the background of the alt-history. But I also imagine you’re a little constrained by page count.
Hannah: The page count was a bit of a nightmare! Trying to write a standalone story in seven pages that leaves potential for a series, sets up the premise, gives room for characterisation, allows enough beats for building tension and leaves space for Ben to get his action game on. That was by far the hardest part for me. Fortunately comics are all about suggestion and we could use the visuals to do some of the heavy lifting on the world-building front.
Ben: That’s the dilemma, what to leave out, and what to keep in the story? There is so much we could have covered, but Hannah has cleverly left all these clues and nuggets for further tales should we get the chance to in the future.
Hannah, this is something a little different for you... and given that your last graphic novel (the brilliant Livestock) took a solid three years of hard graft to complete, I’d imagine something like this is a fun distraction?
Hannah: God, this felt like a proper holiday in comparison. I couldn't help but approach it as if it was a much bigger project though - it's hard to get out of that marathon-mindset once you're in it! Felt a bit weird to be finished so soon. This was also the first time I'd ever been given the opportunity to reboot a story and it was actually a lot of fun; like moving into someone else's house. I hope Malcolm Shaw would've like what I'd done with the place.
You can read Hannah and Ben’s scarily prescient take on The Sentinels in the Scream! & Misty Special, out now!