There are many reasons. For one, accidentally catching an Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special on UK Gold in September while channel surfing. Or hearing the interminable drudgery of “Last Christmas” ringing out from the supermarket speakers even before the Halloween products have been removed from the shelves. That patent insincerity of a seasonal TV show or festive record that was conceived and recorded in mid-summer is so hard to stomach.
Then there’s those people that gleefully ask me sometime in mid-October,
“How’s your Christmas shopping going, Gary? I’ve got all mine wrapped”.
Or receiving Christmas cards from those smug early-senders at the end of November before I’ve had the chance to even think about designing mine.
The over-thought and/or over-elaborate festive adverts on TV. Unintentionally passive-aggressive invites to Christmas lunches and parties. And don’t get me started on Black Friday. The sale that’s ‘traditionally’ the day after Thanksgiving, a holiday that only the US observes, yet inexplicably is a sale that now extends worldwide.
All the constant reminders that another year has passed and I haven’t achieved a fraction of what I intended to, every year storming by at increasing speed in a blizzard of fake snow.
The first week of December finally starts to focus my mind; lists and labels are retrieved from the hard drive, an image (much like the one that adorns the top of this newsletter) is scooped from the sides of my creative barrel, files are sent to the printer, the cards are written, work schedules are squeezed and stretched out of shape to accommodate the hours of surfing the delights of online stores, revisiting my once-a-year only secret shopping haunts, and undertaking the task of retrieving several boxes of shiny and glittery objects from the dusty attic.
A pilgrimage to the big supermarket is made and an ever-unprecedented amount of food is purchased, taxing freezer and fridge-packing skills to the limit.
An avoidance of frantic gift wrapping up to the last minute on Christmas Eve is always the aim; can I achieve it this year? Somehow it never seems to work out that way. Last year it all turned into so much of a panic that I spent almost all of Christmas day in bed with a migraine and Christmas dinner was postponed until Boxing Day.
The root of the hate of course is the crass commercialisation of Christmas by our corporate overlords, leveraging our guilt to squeeze even more cash out of our overdrafts so that they can bathe in baby tears and wallpaper their third homes in gold. That’s not what Christmas is – or should be – about. But we all fall for it, to a degree.
You can point to its religious, pagan or cultural significance; but there’s something about a holiday period that focuses on getting together with family; one that’s about giving, and the spirit of goodwill, however much that’s used against us.
For the lucky ones – it’s about being able to take time out to spend with the people you love, without the pressure of work. Enjoying that strange limbo between Christmas and New Year when no one is quite sure what day of the week it is; when there is nothing more to do other than relax, read, hang out, eat all the weird things you wouldn’t dream of eating any other time of the year, and watching the obscure new movies you got for Christmas on Blu-ray looking a those new books, and trying on those funky new shirts.
Maybe trying out that exotic new instrument, or learning the rules of that new game or even just wrapping up and taking a long leisurely walk with the people you love and finding somewhere to enjoy a coffee together.
That’s when my Christmas happens. That’s the Christmas I love.
Up the Workers
Not everyone’s so lucky of course. My thoughts go out to the lonely, the homeless, the less fortunate and the people that are working over Christmas to look after them; Key workers like nurses and carers in particular, but also all those involved in health and social care, education, food production, communications and transport that kept the world turning during the worst days of the pandemic. Workers who deserve respect, decent pay and conditions, not just applause.
Well, That Was 2022
The biggest event of the year for me professionally was the posting of In Praise of Shadows’ “The Comic That Is Impossible To Finish” YouTube video in April which my regular newsletter subscribers will already know about.
It’s now had well over 100,000 views and caused me to sell out of my (admittedly modest) remaining stocks of Strangehaven graphic novels in just a couple of weeks. You can read about it if you haven’t already, here, and you watch the two-hour epic film here.
But with the remainder of the Strangehaven saga nearing completion, it has left me in a bit of a publishing conundrum – as reprinting three thick graphic novels is not cheap. There are various options each with their own pros and cons, as I discuss in some detail here.
Unfortunately I don’t have any hard news on that front just yet, but I am working hard on a solution.
Here Comes 2023
My main focus is to continue to work away on the remaining pages of Strangehaven: Destiny, the last book in the series. And it feels, well…strange to be finally drawing some of the climactic scenes that I’ve had in my head since the very beginning, over twenty-five years ago. It’ll be interesting to see what everyone’s reactions are when they finally get to read them.
Episode 11 will be included in Soaring Penguin Press’ Meanwhile…#12 for which, I understand, there will be a crowdfunding campaign launched in January for publication in the first half of 2023.
Almost any image from the episode is a spoiler, but here’s a tiny piece of preview art which doesn’t give too much away:
Talk Is Cheap
Other than that this year, I did a bunch of interviews which appeared in various places including a website column, a YouTube channel and a podcast (links here), as well as in print for the newly published book about local counterculture by Graham Burnett, Southend On Zine. And as well as talking about myself, I also wrote a foreword for an art book Pix for my good friend Simo, the incredible artist also known as Martin Simpson, which you can read about here.
The Year of the Cat
I’ll be spending my fourth Christmas with my favourite person, GeenGeenie. As I said earlier, there really is nothing like relaxing over the festive period with the one you love.
This year is slightly different though, in that we are fostering – and in all likelihood permanently rehoming – a three year old cat called Bogey, who we’ve had since mid-August. Long time followers will know I’m more of a dog person – this is my first pet cat – but Geenie is a long-time cat lover.
Bogey has gradually settled in over time and seems very much at home now, quiet, well-mannered and gentle in the house, but judging by the headless torsos of small rodents and birds we’ve discovered, is also a
savage killer skilled hunter in the garden.
There was a huge amount of optimism permeating Thought Bubble this year (which I’ll shortly be posting a longish blog post about). Not just about the comics community, but about society in general I think. The world is slowly emerging from the pandemic and in the UK trying to make sense of leaving the EU and despite the prospects of the hard winter ahead, there are some brighter signs in the longer term.
Ukraine still stands strong as I write. The toxic right wing in the UK and the US both appear to have weakened this year. I know not all my readers share my political views, but personally it had felt like that the pendulum had swung too freely towards extremism in recent years; now it feels like there’s a ray of hope.
Or is that warm glow just from the Bailey’s I just downed?
Peace, Love, Health and Happiness to all of you. I hope you get the Christmas you love.
–Gary Spencer Millidge.
P.S. Yeah, I think it was the Bailey’s.