The Comic That is Impossible to Finish
In Praise of Shadows’ YouTube video analysis of Strangehaven and the trials and tribulations of self-publishing.
The first inkling I got was receiving a modest but surprising number of new orders for my Strangehaven graphic novel bundle special offer over the course of an evening at the end of April 2022. I had also picked up a handful of new Twitter followers, so I guessed that someone, somewhere must have said something nice about Strangehaven.
By the next day, the trickle became a flood, and after a couple of customers mentioned something called In Praise of Shadows, I managed to deduce that the source of all the excitement was a video on YouTube called The Comic That is Impossible to Finish…
…which turned out to be a two-hour video essay about Strangehaven, or rather, my struggles and stubborn persistence in continuing to self-publish it. I was extremely flattered and surprised that someone would dedicate so much time and energy to produce such a professional long form video essay about my work.
Orders poured in from all over Europe, including Latvia, Slovakia, Austria, Cyprus, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, France and Ireland; and over the oceans from Canada, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand; although the majority went to the US and UK.
Frantic picking, signing and packing books ensued, my studio looking more like a distribution warehouse rather than a creative haven. I had to keep reordering packaging supplies, parcel tape, address labels, printer ink, arranging shipping collections and counting and recounting my stock levels.
Soon my entire inventory of graphic novels were sold out – and I could have sold a great many more. Even most of my other books and much of my stock of individual issues were also gone.
It was an exhausting and surreal time. In the past, this volume of sales would have been taken care of by my distributors and retailers, as the Abiogenesis studio was only set up to handle the occasional website order.
The Comic That is Impossible to Finish, has now had over 90,000 views and counting.
Zane Whitener, the filmmaker behind In Praise of Shadows YouTube channel, appears to have spent an inordinate amount of time, not only reading, researching and writing his script, but also creating spectacular visuals to accompany it.
He relates the troubled creation of Strangehaven chronologically, mercilessly plundering my editorials and blog posts from June 1995 to April 2022, filtered through his own perceptive and analytical commentary. The passing months are cleverly represented with stills from pop culture happenings of that time, coupled with cotemporal song snippets (“I Believe I Can Fly,” was a laugh-out-loud moment for me).
Zane chronicles my struggles with delays, deadlines, health, professional and personal issues while writing, drawing and publishing the comic and juggling side hustles to try to earn enough money to pay the bills. He also tracks my progress as I strive to improve my craft.
I won’t lie, it was an excruciatingly uncomfortable watch for me; over twenty-five years’ worth of excuses and inaccurate predictions compressed into a two-hour video make it obvious how self-deluded you have to be to attempt something like this. But I’m comforted by the conclusion of the filmmaker, in that, it has all been somehow worth it.
“Reading this, you just know that this is what Millidge was made to do.”
I appreciate the very honest appraisal of my work and its flaws, but I don’t agree with everything Zane says, of course. I think my words are sometimes misinterpreted and he’s even got one or two things a little bit wrong. But that’s to be expected in such a massive project like this film, and the inherent ambiguity in my own work.
Overall though, it’s a huge compliment. He describes my artwork on the chapters published in Meanwhile… as
“…reaching a visual level [that] comics don’t aspire to. The medium was never meant for something like this. There isn’t anything that looks like this. Every single panel is a masterpiece.”
The film ends with some insightful commentary on a creator’s commitment to their artistic vision, and a perfectly apt and prophetically meta quote from Strangehaven: Brotherhood, which now sounds to me like someone else wrote it. I encourage you to check it out.
The irony is, of course, that the impact that Zane’s film has had has effectively delayed the production of Strangehaven even further. I’m not complaining though. The resultant orders generated critical funds for me in this post-lockdown period – the lockdown that had decimated my freelance design work.
My heartfelt thanks go out to Zane for this wonderful tribute, to those that left such heartwarming comments on his YouTube page, and to all those that purchased my work on his recommendation. For all of you, I will do my very best to contradict the title of his video and ensure that the impossible ending *is* finally achieved.
Zane has a Patreon page for his In Praise of Shadows channel here. And here’s his film in full: