This editorial, “Strange Maven’s Diary,” originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #18, September 2005.
Image above: Left: Gary in 1995 embarking on his new adventure. Right: Gary in 2005 after 10 years of self-publishing.
How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.
Just over ten years ago, the first issue of Strangehaven hit the comic shops. And somehow, I’m still here, still self-publishing, still writing and illustrating every episode. Damn, it’s still even the exact same price. Whatever happened to inflation?
And ten years, you know, is a long time.
When I embarked on this mammoth project in 1995, Princess Diana was still married to HRH Prince of Wales (just about) and a couple of years away from a fateful car journey; J. K. Rowling was still touting her manuscript Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone around the publishers. J. K. is now famously richer than the Queen. Dolly the sheep was yet to be cloned and Toy Story became the first fully computer generated movie to hit the cinema screens. James Cameron’s Titanic was still a couple of years off.
Amazon.com had just been launched on the fast growing new-fangled Internet thingy. Technology companies were still hammering out standards for DVDs, while iPods and Global Positional Systems were simply flights of fancy.
Blackburn Rovers had just won the fledgling Premiership, with Nottingham Forest in 3rd and Wimbledon in 9th. The Glen Hoddle-managed Chelsea finished mid-table in football’s top division 11th, with Arsenal trailing in 12th. Frank Lampard was just signing professional forms for West Ham United and John Terry joined Chelsea as a 14-year-old midfielder.
Cerebus was at the time shy of 200 issues, Acclaim and Tekno-Comics were still in business and there were still a number of comics distributors in addition to Diamond, including Heroes World, Capital City, Styx, Big Picture, Morning Star and others. Bumpy times lay ahead for the comic book business.
Britney Spears’ agent was still hawking round her demo tape after the cancellation of The Mickey Mouse Club. Pulp were living like “Common People” and Blur and Oasis were battling it out for top Britpop band, singing “Country House” and “Roll With It.”
Bill Clinton was, of course, U.S. President. In the UK, Tony Blair and his New Labour had been in power for almost exactly a year. It’s one of the few things that seems to been a constant throughout the production of Strangehaven.
When I drew the first issue, I pencilled and inked it on two-ply Bristol Board and lettered it by hand using an Ames guide. When it was finished, I parcelled it up and sent it to my printer on the other side of the Atlantic via Fed Ex (which cost a small fortune in itself). I communicated with them by barely audible and very expensive phone conversations, and via fax.
These days, the key word is digital. Art is digitally scanned, processed, lettered and uploaded via FTP servers almost instantaneously. Communication and proofing is all done via e-mail and PDF. The ever-increasing speed of computers and the sophistication of programs like Photoshop and PageMaker have made desktop publishing an affordable and practical solution for self-publishers like me.
I guess if you had told me ten years ago that I would still be working on Strangehaven, I would have been pleasantly surprised. If I had known that I would be on first name terms with many of my childhood heroes and had been round Alan Moore’s house for tea, I would have been amazed.
To imagine that I would have made several trips to the San Diego Comic Con, not to mention SPX Bethesda and Angoulême France, would have delighted me. To be able to visualise all the prestigious awards I’ve been nominated for I would have been thrilled.
And I would have found it hard to digest that I would have worked on a Simpsons comic, been featured in International Studio art magazine and interviewed in the official Chelsea FC monthly. And as for selling the rights for foreign editions to Italy, Spain, Portugal and Brazil, I would have been incredibly proud.
On the other hand, if I’d foreseen that I had only managed to publish 18 issues and that I’d still be struggling to make a living from my career after ten years, I would have been bitterly disappointed.
But would I have still done it? Hell, yes.
So what does the future hold? More Strangehaven, that’s for sure. How frequently depends on the fine balance between available time and financial return. The third trade paperback collection, Strangehaven: Conspiracies is scheduled for publication very shortly.
Beyond Strangehaven, there are one or two other comics projects that I’m keen to work on, but they will be put on the back burner until the fourth volume of Strangehaven is completed.
In the meantime, the best source of updated information and publication scheduling is the official website at www.millidge.com. You can also subscribe to my occasional e-newsletter by sending your e-mail address to [email protected]
Here’s to the next ten!