This editorial, “Strange Maven’s Diary,” originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #9, June 1998.
Above : The author in his secret identity as the caped crusader (centre, in Batmobile), flanked by Earth-1 Robin and Earth-2 Robin.
It really has been an extraordinary few months. My exertions attempting to get the Christmas issue of Strangehaven published in time for Christmas itself met with only partial success – my ignorance of the fact that everywhere in the USA closed down over a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving meant that Strangehaven #8 missed the weekly pickup (from my printers) by a day, and although it sneaked into stores across North America on Christmas Eve, it didn’t arrive on British shores until after all the seasonal festivities. Hope it didn’t spoil your enjoyment of that particular story too much. A Christmas issue? What was I thinking?
The novelty of being a minor celebrity in a marginalised sector of a small and shrinking industry can soon wear off. Even the luxury of talking about yourself to (presumably) interested parties for the purpose of publication as an interview can wear thin in time. Hats off then, to Wayne Beamer who spent several hours chatting to me by telephone and many more hours transcribing and editing an interview for publication in a forthcoming issue of Jeff Mason’s excellent Indy Magazine. Merely the act of proof-reading and revising Wayne’s piece took me an eternity, so he must be heartily sick of my life story by now. I’ve also done another couple of interviews this year which I’ll bring to your attention when and if they see print.
The 1998 United Kingdom Comic Art Convention (usually referred to by its dubious acronym, UKCAC) came and went quietly in the northern climes of Manchester, which gave me the opportunity to play host to my estimable agent from the US, Chris Staros, on his first trip to the UK. I introduced him to the pleasures of Southend seafront, fish’n’chips, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, while Eddie Campbell himself gave Chris a whirlwind tour of Scotland and practical instruction on genuine Scotch malt whiskeys (and who wouldn’t buy tickets for that trip?).
Immediately after (and in fact, during) UKCAC, I managed to contract an interesting variety of viruses, microbes and ailments in serial succession, slowing down my work rate between 20% and 100% on any given day for several weeks. I eventually only recovered after a few days sealed away in a “holiday village” just north of Cambridge (the one in England) enjoying the country air, sports, games, steam room and saunas, it being my first genuine (i.e. non-comic industry-related) holiday since way way before I started this self-publishing lark. Hey, I even finally had the time to read Gaiman and McKean’s Mr Punch and the sublime Miguel Prado’s Streak Of Chalk which had been collecting dust on my bookshelf at home for months.
I’ve also been doing preparatory work for publishing my first “trade paperback” collection of Strangehaven, which will compress the first six issues into a neat, portable book-like package in an economical yet lavish format. I’ll be tweaking the artwork and lettering to give the interiors a smoother, more consistent overall appearance, there’ll be a new painted cover by me, and even an introduction by Dave Sim himself. The whole thing will run to 176 pages, and it should be available by July 1998. You should be able to order it from wherever you bought this issue – your local comic book emporium, direct from me or Chris, and in theory, from any bookshop in the UK.
Putting together a collected volume is probably more complicated and time consuming than you would think (well, it has been more complicated and time consuming than I thought) – especially the promotional and technical side of things. There’s tedious stuff to worry about like ISBN numbers, barcoding and cash flow. I’ve had to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to choose the right printer for the project (and that involves complicated issues like film negatives, binding and shipping). I’ve also redesigned the Strangehaven logo for the book, and decided to use it on single issues too; it makes its first official appearance on the cover to this very issue.
An interesting by-product of publishing the collected volume means that I now have all my published art archived away for future use as necessary. This also means that all my original artwork (including my covers) will be available for purchase by the discerning art collector. Now that I’ve nailed down initial prices for the artwork, pages will be made available at the San Diego Comic Con International (13-16 August 98) from the StarHouse/Top Shelf booth. But in the meantime, I’ll be accepting reservations for specific pages. If you’re interested, contact me by mail, fax or e-mail and I’ll give you more details including prices, etc.
I was also invited to make a very small contribution to an instructional book called How To Draw And Sell Comic Strips which I’ve overviewed later in this issue. Strangehaven completists will be delighted to learn that I’ve been talking to a British comics anthology about reprinting the four page “Chicken” strip I created for the Belgian Convention Stripgidsagen’s souvenir album Formaline. News on that next issue.
Somehow, during all the other hectic activity outlined above, I also contrived to produce a further twenty-four exhaustively researched, densely written and profusely illustrated pages of this very publication which you hold in your hands. Hope you think it’s been worth the wait: And I promise that the next one will be along a little sooner than this issue was.
Let’s just say, “Au revoir,”
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