This editorial, “Strange Maven’s Diary,” originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #6, May 1997.
One of the most unexpected problems that I’ve faced as a self-publisher is that the more successful I’ve become, the less time I’ve had to spend writing and drawing. This is a rather obvious thing to say in retrospect, but I had a woolly notion when I first started out on this adventure that my creation would reach a point where it would be financially supporting me long before I had to start doing TV, Radio and newspaper interviews, public speaking engagements and suchlike.
Of course, it’s all very gratifying and it’s some reward for the hours of loneliness scratching away at a piece of Bristol board with a worn-out Gillott 303.
But balancing the various duties of a lone self-publisher (dealing with printers, distributors, retailers, stationery suppliers, couriers) with promotional activities like conventions, doing the household chores and trying to remain in contact with friends (which at least gives some illusory sense of what could be laughingly described as a “social life”) while working outside comics part-time in order to earn the bare minimum to pay the bills to enable continued publication of my stories is a difficult thing to achieve. Especially when you take into account that it takes somewhere between a day and a half and two days to produce a page of Strangehaven in addition the other tasks mentioned above.
It’s also difficult to say “no” to someone who is offering you free publicity – at this stage of my career, I need every little bit of help I can get. I never harboured any desire to be a media star, but I realise that self-promotion is a necessary evil if you want to be successful. Being a self-publisher means that you have to learn how to blow your own trumpet.
The result is that I’ve spent more time doing interviews, posing for cameras and appearing at events than I really should have (or even wanted to). Most of it is great fun though, and a great boost to the ego. Since last issue, I’ve been featured in UK national newspaper The Independent and had film crew round for a whole day making a four-minute piece for Duncan McAlpine’s excellent Comicana TV show. Thanks to the UK’s first National Comics Week I’ve also been plastered all over the local newspapers, hogging the county’s radio airwaves and been networked across the whole south east of England on local TV news programmes. I even came face to face with myself on Meridian News while trying to tune in a new terrestrial TV channel – not something that happens every day.
I hope that goes some way to explaining my tardiness with this issue, the fact that some correspondence has gone unanswered and my acting like some kind of prima donna at recent conventions. All I can say is that I’m trying to get the balance right, and I’m hoping that if I ever get to the stage where I’m earning some kind of living at this, I’ll be able to spend more time creating and less time playing at being a celebrity.
Of course, you can never allow for unexpected events – in those crucial last few hours of preparing materials for Strangehaven #5 before the courier arrives you would never foresee getting a piece of dental floss caught between your teeth. Attempting to brush it out, using tweezers or more floss even makes matters worse. And when you get an emergency appointment at the dentist the morning following a sleepless night, you find that it’s caught in a small hole and the floss actually has to be drilled out. Thank you Mr. Crisp. Well, at least, that won’t ever happen again.
Except it did a few weeks ago, this time my wisdom tooth (which was pushing the teeth on my lower jaw together) being to blame. Still, I’m getting used to it now.
But just to show that I haven’t been entirely idle, keep a look out for the following – coming soon to a comic shop near you:
The Strangehaven Starter Pack – the first four issues with a bonus limited edition signed and numbered print (by me, of course), an ideal gift for a friend or loved one. You can even pinch the print first if you’re that kind of person.
Also available in June will be Chris Staros’ annual Staros Report 1997 – “the guide to the most intelligent and innovative comics in the industry” (it says here) but especially of note is that it contains an all-new four-page Strangehaven strip and a painted cover by yours truly. Eddie Campbell and Rob Walton also have exclusive strips in there, so don’t miss that one.
Out even sooner is an interview I did with Tom Palmer Jr. for Wizard, which I think is in the June issue, number #71. Finally, Strangehaven #7 should be out in late June, barring any further disasters and/or successes. Order it from your retailer now.
I will be at the San Diego Comic Con International again this year along with Chris Staros, Paul Grist and Eddie Campbell – yep, the Brits are coming! The convention runs between 17-20 July. Look out for our shared booth. We all should be there for the trade-only Expo too on July 15-16.
Oh, and you can now contact me directly and cheaply using this new-fangled electronic mail thingy. My address is: [redacted]. It’s nice and easy to remember with none of them forward slashes, so there’s no excuse for not sending me your comments and queries. But don’t hold your breath waiting for a reply.
Be Seeing You.