This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue issue #13, June 2001.
Now that the agonising wait for the new issue of Strangehaven is finally over, I thought I would catch up with its creator, Gary Spencer Millidge, writer and artist of the intriguing comic book series to see what he had been up to. I accepted his kind invitation to visit him at his beautiful home in sunny Leigh-on-Sea for a candid interview one Saturday afternoon.
Millidge: Well Gary, it’s been over a year since your last issue of Strangehaven, why has it taken so long?
Millidge: It’s been due to a number of unexpected once-in-a-lifetime events that have unfortunately occurred in quick succession. It’s been an incredibly frustrating time for me personally and professionally. I did foresee some probable delays on the horizon, and I hinted at this possible problem in my editorial in the last issue.
Millidge: So, can you give us some examples of these “once-in-a-lifetime events?”
Millidge: Well, my immediate difficulty was in trying to balance my work commitments outside comics with my work on Strangehaven. I had just started lecturing in art at the local college on a part-time basis and due to staff shortages, I found myself covering for vacant posts, eventually finding myself with no time for Strangehaven – or anything else for that matter.
Millidge: Why did you need to work there at all? Doesn’t Strangehaven make you enough money to live on?
Millidge: No, the problem is that you need a steady wage to pay the bills and put food on the table. Strangehaven is relatively successful for an independently produced comic book, but it’s not published often enough to bring in a reliable regular wage.
Millidge: So whose fault is that?
Millidge: Guilty as charged. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. I only started lecturing part-time, which would have given me enough money to survive and enough time to create on a reasonably frequent basis. Unfortunately, all the overtime I was… um, coaxed into doing… capsized the whole plan.
Millidge: So, are you still teaching?
Millidge: No, education appears to be all about “student management,” attendance and pass rates these days, rather than trying to teach anybody anything. Teaching would be great if not for the students. In addition, I found it very difficult being creative in both the classroom and in my studio. I still work at the college, but in one of the business support teams rather than in the front line.
Millidge: So, what else caused the delay?
Millidge: Um, well I damaged the thumb of my drawing hand playing football…
Millidge: Your thumb? Playing football?
Millidge: Yeah, soccer. No, really! My hand got hit by the ball and pushed my right thumb out. I chipped a bone and screwed up some tendons or ligaments. It swelled up like a… a football. It’s still swollen with scar tissue after a year. I may still need surgery, but I would rather avoid taking the risk.
Millidge: So that kept you out of action for a while?
Millidge: It was pretty useless for drawing to start with, so I concentrated on plotting and writing the series ahead, collecting plenty of reference materials and I also put together the second trade paperback collection, Strangehaven: Brotherhood in lieu of a new issue.
Millidge: That was published last summer, right?
Millidge: Yes. It collects issues 7 through 12 with new covers and an introduction by Bryan Talbot. That’s 176 packed pages for only $14.95 in the US and…
Millidge: Hey, no cheap plugs please! Cut that out!
Millidge: Excuse me? I thought I was doing this interview to help promote my work.
Millidge: I’m an investigative journalist, not a propaganda mouthpiece for Abiogenesis Press, thank you very much! So, you hurt your thumb and did a bit of teaching . . . anything else?
Millidge: I moved house. Lots of books, records, comics, computer equipment, studio equipment to pack up and unpack at the other end, besides all the usual furniture and clothes. It didn’t help that I was moving to a smaller house. It took me an age to get my studio up and running again, so that was another unfortunate hold up. And I’ve also been working on getting my website properly launched.
Millidge: How do you respond to your loyal readers who say you should be working on your next issue, rather than wasting time on a fancy website?
Millidge: Creating new Strangehaven work is my number one priority, but I have been developing the site as time allows – I think it’s important as a creator to have a presence on the ‘net. Some of the work I did while my thumb was injured. A lot of the dull repetitious stuff was done by a fine Canadian chap by the name of Stephen Gettis. I’m now getting help from a friend nearer home, Steve Bishop and it’s finally starting to take shape. Some parts of the site have been up and running for a while, for example the news and original art sections, and there’s a basic online shop with lots of retailer and distributor resources. I hope to add some actual online comics soon, as well as lots of other sections, but as I say, the comic comes first. The URL is www.millidge.com…
Millidge: Hey! I told you about that self-promoting already, matey! So what’s the news with the Strangehaven TV series? Is it gonna happen?
Millidge: Well, what has happened is that I’ve signed a contract that grants David Lancaster Productions the exclusive option to make a Strangehaven movie and/or TV series. A guy called Barry R. Nolan has worked up several treatments, series synopses, and also a couple of drafts of a full pilot episode script which they are shopping around Hollywood. It took a while to hammer out a contract, which I guess also cost me some time away from the drawing board, but hopefully that will pay off in the long run.
Millidge: I guess you got big bucks for that then.
Millidge: I get the big bucks when and if anything actually gets made. They’ve been working hard on it, but Hollywood’s Hollywood, y’know?
Millidge: Hmmm. So what about the new issue? It looks a little different.
Millidge: It’s the start of what will be the next book and I wanted to evolve my art a little. I’ve kept the three-tier format, but have dumped the rigid nine-panel grid. I’ve also loosened up the panels and speech bubbles. Most importantly, I’ve returned to doing full inks and creating greys with watercolour washes, instead of rendering my pencil art and creating grey tones on the computer as I have been doing on more recent issues.
Millidge: Well, that just sounds stupid. For someone that has scheduling problems to suddenly decide to paint every page instead of letting the computer do the work . . . surely it takes longer to ink and paint a page that way?
Millidge: I’m not sure it is taking me longer. I mean, computer-processing time rendering high-resolution images combined with the “undo” function means that you can spend hours nurdling away at getting the layers of shadows exactly right, but once you’re splashed some ink on board, that’s it, done. Personally, I prefer the more “organic” look of my art using this more traditional method, and it’s a lot more fun than staring at a monitor all day. I do enough of that in any case.
Millidge: It still sounds a backwards step to me. So, will it be another year and a half before we see another issue? At this rate it’ll be 2020 before the third trade paperback gets published!
Millidge: If you don’t mind me saying, I’d rather you concentrated on the positive aspects of what I’ve been doing rather than taking lame jibes.
Millidge: Typical creative types! As soon as they get a question they don’t like, they start getting all moody!
Millidge: I really don’t like your hostile attitude. I thought this was going to be a sensible interview, not a stage for you to boost your ego…
Millidge: Oh, you would rather I boosted yours, right? You arsehole!
Millidge: I’ve had enough of this (stands up). Can you please leave now?
Millidge: One more question, one more question; who cut your hair? Stevie Wonder?
(Millidge grabs Millidge by the collar and manhandles him out of the front door)
Millidge: That hurts you bastard! That’s ABH, that is!
Millidge: Piss off! And if I see you around here again I’ll knock your teeth down the back of your throat! (slams door)
Millidge: (shaking fist at door) You’ll be hearing from my solicitor!