Gary’s back here with your annual Christmas Millidge news round-up and traditional festive card illustration. A little more sombre this one; it’s probably the last of the sequence of images using digitally manipulated photographs which I took during the heavy snowfall of 2018 in Leigh-on-Sea. I hope it’s not too dismal for you.
The big news was probably that 2023 was the year that the final episode of Strangehaven: Destiny was published in Meanwhile…#12. Of those that sent me comments, some thought it was the perfect ending, others expressed a degree of dissatisfaction. As I’ve mentioned before, Strangehaven may not be done *quite* yet, and there’ll be more news to come on that in the new year.
I’ve also provided the cover to smoky man’s new tribute book, Alan Moore: Portraits of an Extraordinary Gentleman – a follow-up to the mammoth 2003 book I was involved with. This second volume boasts152 pages of all-new articles, memories and illustrations celebrating Alan’s 70th year on the planet and all net profits will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières. It’s available only from Amazon as a print-on-demand book.
Followers of mine on social media will no doubt be aware that I am a huge Robyn Hitchcock fan and this year we saw him play live three times – we finally got to speak with the great man for a short while after his show at the Betsey Trotwood in London. After following Robyn and his music for almost forty years, it was certainly my personal highlight of the year. And I know Geenie will never forget him playing a live dedication for her at the Portland Arms Cambridge, after the loss of her sister.
Above: Starstruck youngster with master of folk psychedelic dismaila. Photograph ©2023 Geenie Gillespie
My old buddy Chris Staros (head honcho of Top Shelf Comics) finally returned to these shores for the first time in eleven years and we had a wonderful week, taking in Leigh, Thought Bubble, Harrogate and London. After spending around twelve consecutive years coming to the UK for the major Manchester, Bristol and Leeds events until 2012, it was just like old times albeit older and greyer.
Thought Bubble was as always, a blast. So many old friends to catch up with and so much comics talent on display. A phenomenal show that keeps getting better. Yes, of course I wrote a report. Lots of namechecks and photos here.
In September, my partner Geenie lost her sister Sinéad to terminal cancer caused by asbestos exposure (Mesothelioma). She was only 59, and passed soon after we visited her hospice bedside. A born entertainer, Sinéad was a writer, actor, singer, autism advocate and proud Derry girl. When Geenie was little, Sinéad did everything with her, so much so that baby Geenie was convinced that she was her mum. Below is my favourite photo of them together.
Above: Geenie and Sinéad in Derry City, circa November 2017. Photograph ©2023 Geenie Gillespie
We sadly missed Sinéad’s joyful Buddhist memorial in Somerset, as I ended up spending the night before doubled up in Accident and Emergency with a suspected ulcer. I’m OK now, but it meant that we couldn’t make the four-hour drive in time.
We did however make it to her service in Northern Ireland though, and there the show of family affection was uplifting, if even in such tragic circumstances. We scattered her ashes into the North Atlantic on a spectacularly fine October day.
More 2023 Lowlights
Not unlike the vast majority of folks, this year has been one of difficult financial circumstances for us – ludicrously high energy bills, food inflation, combined with a drastic drop off in my graphic design side-hustle since the pandemic. So, reluctantly, I made the decision to sell off some of my original Strangehaven artwork. It’s been many years since any pages were made available for sale, and in these hard times, every purchase has been greatly appreciated. If you have a piece, you’ll know that they’re vanishingly rare.
Further to my health, I’ve had another bumpy year trying to balance the effects of migraine prevention meds with my meds that keep my heart beating at a steady rate. Experiments with Amitriptyline and Topiramate did not go well.
Above: For the man who has everything this Christmas. Photograph ©2023 G S Millidge
So there’s been a somewhat inevitable end to the year with both Geenie and I in bed right now with Covid (having avoided it for the past four years). Despite being vaxxed to the hilt, I certainly haven’t suffered from a virus this badly in well over ten years, literally being bedbound through lack of energy. And poor Geenie is having it worse. I’ve recovered enough this afternoon to be able to draft this newsletter on my iPhone from my sickbed, which explains the lateness and slightly unvarnished nature of your annual missive. But I’m sure you understand.
The Bit at the End
Finally, please note I’m closing my PO Box address next year, due to dwindling use, poor service and unjustified price rises. An alternate physical mailing address will be on the website soon.
With half the world’s population voting in democratic(ish) elections next year – including the UK and US – let’s hope that the world hasn’t slid even further into the populist right wing quagmire by the time my next Christmas message arrives in your inbox. Fingers crossed, eh?
Whatever happens, (and here’s hoping things can only get better), I wish you and yours good health and happiness for the forthcoming year.
Have a beautiful Christmas, people.
–Gary Spencer Millidge.