This editorial, “Strange Maven’s Diary,” originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #3, December 1995.
Late September, 1995; everything just went sort of mental, all of a sudden, just before Strangehaven #2 hit the stands.
First of all, there I was flicking through the latest issue of Cerebus (#198) at my local comics emporium to see what the subject of this month’s editorial was, when I noticed some familiar artwork in the Cerebus Preview feature at the back of the magazine. It was the opening chapter from the first issue of Strangehaven.
The staff kindly picked me up and sat me down with a strong, black, hot cup of tea. For those of you who are unaware, the prestigious Cerebus Preview is a very important, extremely useful and sought-after spot in the world’s longest running and most successful self-published comic book. Dave Sim donates part of his own comic to help promote other lesser-known creators whose work he likes. It’s an accolade I didn’t expect for a while yet, if ever. I am flattered and obviously this has raised my profile enormously.
By Friday, my specially couriered parcel of Strangehaven #2 arrives just in the nick of time for my first convention appearance at UKCAC’95 in London (photos on page 35).
The following weekend I’m in Nottingham for my first official signing at Page 45. I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of fans purchasing copies and even bringing previously bought copies for signing. Like the guys who remembered Amon*Spek and the father and son who remembered me from my shop Collectors’ Dream; the young Asian lad who described Strangehaven #1 as the best comic he had ever read, and the group of Chinese guys who bought two of everything and insisted on having their photo taken with me. This kind of experience is so different from the 95% of time spent slaving away at the drawing board in isolation. As I say, Overwhelming.
Since then, I’ve had a steady stream of letters, faxes and reorders. Reviews have appeared in Comics International, Wrapped In Plastic, Illuminations and Overstreet’s Fan, all of which have been positive. Half of me is waiting for a major disaster, and the other half is thinking, “wait `till they see the good stuff…”
There’s been the usual last minute delays and problems which I’ve come to expect; last time I wrote this editorial I was moaning about the heat, and now it’s snowing. At least you get variety here in southern England. Succumbing to a bout of flu at the most inopportune time is only to be expected, and I’ve learned to work through periods of poor health and writer’s cramp, but cutting my right hand thumb on some baked up macaroni cheese was a novel injury (the wound tends to break open when I’m erasing).
We even had a power cut which meant I had to ink a portion of this issue by candlelight in an unheated room. I nearly set light to my golden locks while crouched over the drawing board too close to the candle. I’ve got an electric cooker so I couldn’t even make myself a cup of tea either. Poor me.
If anyone can guess the panel which I inked by candlelight, or indeed the panel which I smeared blood onto while erasing, I’ll send them a special signed something.
With a name like mine, I get a lot of junk mail addressed to Mr Hillage or Mrs Millagen, all of which goes straight into the recycling bin. So I’ve always been extremely careful to spell other people’s names correctly. Now, I’m not making excuses (hey, you know me) but a combination of stress, lack of sleep and deadline panic can do strange things to the memory. Last issue I spelt Lea’s name wrong in two different places and insisted on referring to the lovely Mr Stephen L. Holland of Page 45 as “Steve” (there are two Steve Hollands in the comics world). In addition, I insisted on sending urgent faxes to my liaison at Brenner Printing and spelling her name wrong every time. So, a thousand apologies to Lea, Stephen L. and Kristin.
Finally, I’d like to say sorry to all my friends and family who now no longer recognise me. As regular readers will know, self-publishing has rather taken over my life at this point. Callers to the Millidge residence now have to make their own tea. Long standing arrangements have been shelved and friends I once saw weekly I now only bump into during my monthly Big Shopping at Sainsbury’s. Last time I visited my Mum I had to show her my passport before she let me in. Thankfully all of them understand that my life has changed over the last few months, and hopefully things will settle down a little in the coming year.
Also, I’d like to thank everyone for their letters of support and encouragement, but I’m afraid I simply haven’t got the time to give each of you a personal reply. However, from now on, I will be endeavouring to acknowledge every substantial letter of comment and every subscription.
Until next time, don’t let the bed bugs bite.