This editorial, “Strange Maven’s Diary,” originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #12, October 1999.
Above: Exhibit A: The victim’s kitchen floor shortly after the forced entry to his home M’Lud. (Media: Cork tiles, insulation tape, window glass and human blood.)
Hi, I guess it’s been a while!
But just like last issue’s editorial implied, there really are a million and one things that materialise seemingly with the sole aim of distracting me from my true purpose in life, i.e. creating comics.
In the long-term, my priority is to produce Strangehaven on a regular and reliable basis, but short-term there are things which muscle their way in to take precedence. Like actually earning enough to pay the bills and put Tesco’s Quorn Red Thai Curry in the fridge. Unfortunately, over the past six months or so, that has meant earning money outside of comics.
It’s ironic that relatively menial tasks can earn you more money (on a regular basis at least) as something which requires such hard work, dedication and (if I may blow my own trumpet for the sake of making this point) skill as self-publishing your own comic book, but c’est la vie.
Sure, I get offers of work within comics – but mostly of the not-paying-very-much-if-anything-at-all variety. Fine for increasing one’s profile, but doing little for my productivity. However much I want to get involved, I have to turn these offers down. Occasionally I contribute to charity projects and give in to website sketch requests, but these are rare exceptions.
Over the past 18 months I have, in fact, been involved with a number of time consuming but prestigious projects, virtually none of which have yet seen the light of day. The list includes scripts for other existing (well-known) titles, a cover and strip for a UK anthology title, a “portfolio” feature for an arts magazine, designing and redesigning an imminent “official” website, designing merchandise and adapting Strangehaven for possible translation to other media. Hopefully, some of this stuff will happen soon, some of it remains “shelved”, but sadly some things will never see the light of day.
What’s even more frustrating is wasting precious time looking for part-time work, submitting myself for interviews and whiling away unproductive hours in a dead-end job, when I have so many better things to do (just like everyone else). It’s no surprise than even some of this industry’s most respected creators have worked in record or comic stores, warehouses and factories at some point; Eddie Campbell provided a great exposition of the reasoning in one of his classic Alec strips.
Time vs. Money. Very few of us have the luxury of both.
As “earning a living” eats into my production time, daily chores and some pretence of a social life must continue to be maintained, even at a minimal level. Eating, bathing and the laundry are favourites, but dusting, gardening and car maintenance are relatively rare pursuits. Additionally, the past few years publishing Strangehaven have coincided with probably the most eventful and disruptive times of my personal life. Births, deaths, marriage, divorce, illness, moving house, it’s all been happening here, and particularly so these past six months.
I don’t normally detail particular events, but one such instance can’t really pass without mention (and unlike last issue’s editorial, I swear that every word of this is true):
I returned to my home/studio one day this summer to find that it had been broken into; nothing had been stolen, but the intruder had cut their ankle or foot on glass while crawling through a window they had broken in order to gain entry. Because of my relatively good security (window locks, mortice locks) the intruder was initially unable to exit my property and left a life-threateningly large volume of blood over my floors in every room as they attempted to make their escape, breaking several more windows and doors in the process. A neighbour found the offender crawling along my driveway and requesting an ambulance about half an hour before I returned to find my home covered in blood and glass. It took a week to get the house habitable, and a couple more weeks to get everything back to normal.
What was on the drawing board? Why, page 25 of this very issue (and don’t skip to it until you read the rest of the story!) which will come as no surprise to those cartoonists who have experienced such coincidence and/or synchronicity in their own work. Life imitates art yet again.
My uninvited guest also knocked over a large jug of water in their panic, short-circuiting my answerphone in the process. Unfortunately this coincided with my fax machine playing silly buggers and a major problem with my e-mail service providers (the second such interruption in a few weeks; stand up and take a bow Force 9 Internet, without doubt the worst company I have ever had the misfortune to do business with in my entire life). Anyone attempting to e-mail me over that period will have received the unfortunate error message that I had a “permanent, fatal” error, and phoning or faxing me would have only confirmed that wildly inaccurate assumption. Those whom decided to resort to regular mail may have still had no response as my local post office have been mis-delivering an increasing number of letters (at least a dozen pieces of mail have gone astray so far this year to my knowledge). Reports of my death, blah, blah, blah . . .
As a result, I now have two different e-mail addresses for the foreseeable future, firstname.lastname@example.org and additionally email@example.com. Take your pick.
Not that excuses are any substitute for another issue of Strangehaven; I’m often criticised for being late, slow and infrequent, and I can only agree. However disappointed a reader or retailer may be, I am many times more disappointed than they are, believe me. I must also say that there are readers that support me by suggesting quality is worth the wait, but in all honesty I would rather see Strangehaven on the racks every six weeks than every six months, if there was any way in which I could enable that. One retailer even suggested that if I couldn’t keep to a regular schedule then maybe I should consider getting out of comics. But while there’s some kind of market out there for what I do, I will continue to publish, however long it may take.
So when’s the next issue out? I can’t in all honesty say. With any luck, at least in time for Comics 2000 in April, and hopefully prior to that, but the way my life has been going lately, I’d be foolish to predict for sure. Keep bugging your local retailer, or alternatively, send me your e-mail address, fax number or stamp (US readers send a stamp to Chris Staros) and I’ll let you know as soon as I know.
Don’t let the millennium bugs bite.