When you get to be 60, you are entitled to look back. How do you feel about that?
Im fine. Especially because I have inherited a serious vein from my mother, who had difficulty enjoying the present. She could however appreciate that the past had not turned out as bad as she had expected it to be. I have inherited that, I must admit.
So looking back you are rather satisfied?
Precisely, but more than that in fact. When you as a child get the urge to draw antropomorfic characters and later develop a thrill telling stories fitting that style and even later obtain a position where you can use these skills at full time and never have been resigned in the morning towards the job you are going to carry out on that particular day but look forward to it even, then you should be happy and thankful and so it is with me. Particularly because this is not selfevident! I guess I am like the bumblebee, who is not supposed to be able to fly, but noone has told the bumblebee, so it keeps on flying anyway.
Should you have done something different or better?
I feel I have done things as well as I could, even though I have never been particular. If there are matters to critisize I guess I have not been able to do it better or pull myself together to use more time than necessary to carry out things, because there were always more stories waiting to be told! I am probably a stooooryteller as Karen Blixen put it. I have been free to execute things most of the time, so I cannot put the blame on others, if things should have been different - but then again, different people, different priorities. However conditions were good most of the time. Today it would be more difficult.
Would you have continued in that field of expression, if it had been nowadays with many years of a career in front of you?
If I had been able to, yes. But I have not been doing my things for the sake of money. Yet, through my versatile activities I have made it possible for me to make ends meet - and in the 80es even more than that, especially when you have no car, no parties, no smoking, no drinking, no vacation and you use secondhand clothes. In my childhood the saying went: Never buy things you need, only things you cannot do without. But I have had a feeling of good quality time all through the years and I never felt I have been deprived of anything. I am a working horse like my dad, with whom I shared my birthday, and I recognize a lot from him in myself. Also the joy of life. So from my parents I have both the serious and the happy approach to life, which I guess is reflected in the best of the things I have accomplished.
You have been quite productive...
Exactly! That is precisely what people come up with, when they are asked to make a statement concerning me. That is no lie, of course, but it does not tell you anything about the quality of my work... on the contrary almost. Very few people have expressed appreciation on my stuff, particularly colleagues, but I c an do without that. In the part of Denmark where I grew up people never uttered any word of appraisal on anything, and I guess I have grown up being like that myself, sadly enough.
I guess that was even more appearant in the grey 50es where you spent your childhood?
Absolutely. A danish author, Axel Sandemose, made a whole set of 10 commandments ruling social life in the town in Jutland, where he came from, and the main paragraph was Never think, that YOU will amount to anything! This was a harsh satire, of course, but with a lot of truth in it. I even made a whole series of comic albums refering to that code of law, Janteloven, and they are satirical as well. This is a sturdy background to lean to, when you need to struggle forward in life with little appreciation on the way. Barks had it the same way. He got his pay but no more. Western withheld fanmail. They thought that if he got to feel too confident about his skills he might want an increase in salary. This is harsh policy. Personally I have a friend, who writes books, and if he does not experience constant approval and a good payment he does not want to continue writing. Im not like that. Maybe because I do not feel I could just as well use my time doing different things. My personality is best reflected making comics, and that has meant joy and satisfaction for me all through the years.
Did you make comics in your early teenage years before you decided to try for a regularly career doing that?
It was a gradual process. I started out making stories with illustrations and no bubbles. I remember one with a cat and a dog building that treetop cabin I never got myself. I also tried to use them in a proposed animated short shot in Super-8 with ambitious opening titles using letters in perspective and all! But it was tiresome. I ended up saying like Carl Barks, that there went far too much work into moving a character from one side of the scenery to the other. This could just as well be left to the public to imagine so that you could use your efforts doing something more better - like telling a more complex story. And that is still the most rewarding part since you never know if you will be able to cook up yet one more worthwhile story.
So you did not become an animator...
No, but in the 70es I was tempted to try for it. I came in contact with the internationel nestor of danish animators, Børge Ring, and spent a week or so with him in Blaricum in Holland, where he presented me to some basic principles while showing me a scene he was working on from Asterix with a tiny roman being cuddled between two roman vestal virgins. And also he had someone to tell his many funny stories to. But regardless of this supreme mentorship things did not gell for me and the local danish conditions were not good at the time. Things might have looked different if there had been a school of animation in my hometown Viborg, but that did not happen until decades later.
You might have become scriptwriter or storyboarder on animated films?
Maybe, but noone asked me and I felt no need to push myself into that field. I do think I could have made a difference, though. Quite often i have noticed the way ideas are handled and displayed to the public, both on TV and in feature animated films. It is as if everything must be executed in a frenzy without leaving any time over for contemplation. Especially in these times of computeranimation it seems as if they are nervous that their stories lack coherency and depth, so they try to distract public attention from that by covering up with lots of action and snappy dialogue. But fair is fair. There are also fine contributions. I have been genuinely thrilled by TVseries such as Moomin and Joducus Kwak and animated features such as Meet the Robinsons, Ratatouille and the danish Princess...
For many scripts you have cooperated with your brother Ingo...
Yes, when we were together we had a good game going with brainstorms finding new and better angles to the stories as they developed and he has meant a whole lot for me developing our interest in comics. When the weekly version of the belgian comics from the Tintin magazine hit danish market in 1966 and onwards we eagerly consumed the stories every week. We admired the brilliant technical rendering on comics such as Bernard Prince a whole lot! Just now Ingo inspired me to an improved climax in my current project Mumbo Jumbo, a funny animal version of the you-know-who crisis . But on other matters he has also helped me a lot over the years. Logos and shadings on my covers for instance, and later in digital times he was the one teaching me the use of computers with Photoshop and Quark.
Where do the ideas come from?
Mostly contemporary things. Lately for instance there has been motives appearing due to the number fugitives from other countries and the problems relating to their culture. I have made more stories in my Which way Books around themes of that nature, and now ultimately the crash of cultures with different religious beliefs. But handled with antropomorfic characters it can be executed with grace.
You are laying out a whole lot of material on your homepage now. This must quite well display your contributions over the years?
Thats correct, and with this new update I present several hundred comic pages as my 60 years gift to the visitors. I have grown still more satisfied with this new opportunity created by the internet. I have so much in my archive that i would like to share with the public but it is not economically worthwhile publishing it today in print or reprint on paper. So a homepage is the ideal forum for such matters. Letting things gather dust is no use to anyone and here it can be presented even if there are just a few who likes to see it. Incidentally I found a horoscope on the internet recently and just for the fun of it I typed my birthday there. I was quite astonished with the status presented to me. It said that I was socially a somewhat reclusive person who preferred working from a hermitlike position with rather obscure things that was mostly appreciated by a small group of people. Almost a horrorscope. If this is indeed the case I might have followed my born preferences by sheer intuition.
Freddy Milton and Geoffrey Blum, the Barks expert
What are you choosing to present now and in the future?
Apart from the running update I guess I will show some episodes that are difficult to get hold of nowadays as well as some english language versions of stories that has only been available in Scandinavia so far. For instance the current Happy Water story that was planned to be presented in USA by Kim Thompson from Fantagraphics but it never came to be. I can add that Dwight Decker doing the translation tried to find out something about Woodys nephews and typed Knothead + Splinter on the Google searchengine. From USA he was guided to his own article in english here on my homepage. There is no end to my admiration concerning the capability of Google to find small matters in articles in far-off places.
Your own homepage comes out at top when googling Freddy Milton both with the danish and the english partition.
Correct. But that is not selfevident. It depends on the names you give to the initial files. Firms are willing to pay huge sums to raise their level of display on Google but of course in vain. It helps a lot with a shrewd naming of files though.
What to do, if one would fancy an original comics page signed Milton?
I have an agent taking care of that. You can enter www.comicoriginalart.com if you are interested in original artwork done by me.
There has been some interest for a reprint of Donald Duck comics you have worked on...
Thats right, and I am very happy that it will finally be a prestigeous project in Egmonts Hall of Fame series. One third of the material has never been published in Scandinavia earlier. It is especially gratifying for me to see, that it will be out in the month of April, where I turn 60. It mostly consists of 10 page episodes with Donald Duck I did together with Daan Jippes in the late 70es for the dutch Oberon editorials. Just recently my good friend Jussi Olsen, who had a comics shop in Copenhagen at the time, told me that they imported large numbers of these dutch weeklies back then and they were rapidly sold to eager donaldists.
You had a good cooperation going while it lasted?
Indeed. We inspiret eachother from the very beginning because we shared a mutual love for the melodramatic possibilities in the barksistic duckconcept balancing on the edge of comedy and tragedy. A very rewarding place to be when writing stories. Daan was already then in a position to carry the presentation to the end in an exquisite visual rendering and in our cooperation I learned so much, that I was able to continue on my own when he followed his own star of destiny to the animation studios in California. I could handle Woody Woodpecker and the Gnuffs very well, but in the start i had some difficulty with the visuals on the ducks, since everything got to be compared with the excellence presented by Barks and that is very tough.
Seen together your production is almost a compilation of diaster stories...
Absolutely. The heroic element is quite appearant. To make diary-writer Daisy Duck into a genuine heroine was a challenge not to mention the lazy Gus Goose. When it comes to Donald Duck it is inevitable since his very personality encompass a virtual catalogue of megalomania and prejudices. He is the all-encompassing character of comedy and tragedy combined. If you notice our story preferences there is no single appearance of Scrooge McDuck in that almost complete compilation. There will be a few panels with him in the finnish version though but that will be from a contribution made by me alone.
Any good advice to upcoming comics creators?
No, I will abstain from that. If you are genuinely taken by the urge to present strange stories with symbollike characters just time will show if that can develop into a c areer. Today the tempation maybe more would lie within the field of computergames which was no option in my youth. Honestly I fail to see what the fascination is running round hitting monsters all the time but my own son is quite taken by that. To me it looks dreary. Maybe I am just getting old. But I am quite fond of collecting films and I have several thousand titles with surround sound and Dolby Stereo for my huge flatscreen. Thats my main object of collecting these days. In my childhood we were happy with cards from coffee-additives telling features with traced feature-stills to be completed only after year-long patient collecting and in my youth we bought 4th generation Betamax-piratecopies and amputated Super-8 silent versions. But those were the days! I guess there is a profound truth in the statement that the things you miss in your childhood you are destined to try and compensate in your later years. I guess I have just been lucky, that I have been able to turn that compensating motive into a breadwinning career as well. And I am thankful for that.
How is health at 60?
Here again I feel lucky. I have acquired diabetes now, but that is quite common and it can be handled effectively with a healthier lifestyle as an outcome. And that healthier way of life can even add to your remaining span of life. All in all quite a good thing. So I am happy and thankfull these days.