Sunday, 21 December 2014

I Know When You’re Awake

This year’s traditional Christmas message from me is different this year in that a new episode of Strangehaven has been released into the wild during the year, for the first time since 2006. And yes, I’ve been feeling the love from readers both old and new, and I’m grateful to you all for that.

It’s not been an entirely smooth transition from years of freelance writing and design to full-time comics creator, but I am finally getting back into the old groove. 2015 looks like being one of the most prolific in my sporadic career; Strangehaven: Destiny episode 2 will be published in Meanwhile…#2 in mid-January in both print and digital forms, with Meanwhile…#1 finally making its way to US stores in February.

I am working away on episode 3 already, with announcements about new merchandise, a new website and a digital incarnation for existing Strangehaven stories in the pipeline.

If you want to help spread the word, you can place your standing order for Meanwhile…with your local comics retailer, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, let interested parties know about my e-newsletter and my blog or of course partake of the usual ritual sacrifice by burning and then burying any single issue of Before Watchmen at precisely 23:23 by the light of a waxing moon on any Tuesday while repeating the chant ‘Cerebus, Hepcats, Indie comics forever’.

And on that seasonal note, I’ll wish you and those close to you a very merry festive season and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Peace and love,


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Meanwhile…in Previews this December

For my friends and readers in the US and the rest of the world, Meanwhile…#1 is at last available to order from your local comics retailer or mail order dealer. It’s listed in the current issue of Diamond Comics’ monthly catalogue Previews (December 2014) under Soaring Penguin Press.

If you want to support the Meanwhile…anthology and Strangehaven’s serialisation within, then please place an advance order (or standing order) with your comic shop. The direct comics market is largely dependent on the advance order system, and many retailers base their total order on the number of advance orders they receive.

So, to be sure of receiving issue 1, make sure you place a firm order with your comic shop by December 23 or as early as possible. Meanwhile…is listed on page 366 of Previews (Diamond Item Code: DEC141662 / Price £4.99 $7.95).

It’s also listed on Diamond’s Previews website here.

The Bleeding Cool website kindly offered up this piece of wisdom, and I thank them for their opinion: If You Only Order One Comic For February

You can also purchase the digital edition for iPad via the Sequential app here.

The comics community have really been positive about the new anthology, and early reviews have been great, so here are some links in case you’re still sitting on the fence:

Page 45
FA The Comiczine
Forbidden Planet Blog
Shelf Abuse
Bleeding Cool

I’ve also been doing a handful of interviews to promote the return of Strangehaven, and here are the best of them:

FA The Comiczine
The Sardinian Connection
Imagination is Spicy

In other news, Meanwhile…#2 will be going off to the printers shortly and we’re hoping subscriber issues will be going out shortly after the Christmas holidays.

Sunday, 23 November 2014


Well, this is interesting and unusual. Evidently I have been proposed as one of the possible topics for presentation at a one-day symposium at the University of Cambridge in March 2015, called The Alchemical Landscape. Other proposed topics include Alan Moore, Derek Jarman, Arthur Machen, Alan Garner, Children of the Stones and Quatermass and the Pit.

It’s certainly very nice to be included in a list like that however extensive it might be, and however unlikely it is that someone would want to stand up in front of a room full of academics and talk about me for twenty minutes.

I suspect the connection is that I was interviewed for a BBC radio show presented by Stewart Lee about the TV series Children of the Stones a couple of years ago (despite me not actually having ever seen it).

I did see the partly-animated adaptation of Allan Ginsberg’s Howl on TV recently however, and the poem is in some way (that I can’t quite fathom) connected to Stonehenge, folk horror, counterculture and, presumably, Strangehaven.

So I couldn’t resist sharing the link to the article about the symposium here because it makes me sound very important and worthy of academic study, which obviously, I am. Possibly.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

On the Floor Once More

So, I shall be at the fantastic Thought Bubble festival this time next week (14-15th November), and signing copies of Meanwhile...#1 (as well as my evergreen Strangehaven trade paperbacks and possibly some other bits and pieces) on the Soaring Penguin table throughout the weekend.

Soaring Penguin are exhibiting in the New Dock Hall area at table #120, convenient situated very close to the entrance. Here's a floor plan of the table layout.

This is the final of my three launch events for Meanwhile...#1, so I'll hope to see you there. I don't have any other appearances lined up as yet, so instead I prepare for hibernation and the release of Meanwhile...#2 next month.

Monday, 6 October 2014

It’s Happening Again

Yes! The day has finally arrived, my friends. David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks returns for a new series on Showtime in 2016. But until then, you'll have to amuse yourself with all-new episodes of Strangehaven which returns in the new British anthology Meanwhile...

According to my sources, Meanwhile…#1 has been printed and is even as I type finding its way through various distribution and shipping systems to earlybird subscribers, reviewers and, hopefully, contributors. To everyone but me apparently.
Strangehaven panel from Meanwhile...#1. Art by Gary Spencer Millidge
Official on-street publication date is 17th October 2014 which un-coincidentally falls during the Lakes International ComicFestival in Kendall which I will be attending, and at which I will be signing copies at my publisher’s table – Soaring Penguin Press, in the Comics Clock Tower.

For those of you who are unable to attend the festival, please enquire at your friendly local comic book shop, and point them towards my publisher. You could also order this momentous first issue directly from the publisher’s website yourself, or even take out a four-issue subscription.
10 Minutes by Yuko Rabbit
How about US distribution I hear you cry? Well, I hear ya, and the news is good – Diamond Distributors will be carrying the book stateside and it will be listed in the December cover dated Previews under the Soaring Penguin heading.

So here’s what you’ll get for your money –

Sixteen pages of Strangehaven in colour. I’ll repeat that; IN COLOUR. It’s the first part of the fourth volume which is due to be serialised over the next couple of years in the pages of Meanwhile…and it’s the first time you’ll have seen any Strangehaven stories in anything other than shades of grey.
The Bad Bad Place by David Hine and Mark Stafford.
This first issue also contains first episodes of two more continuing series: “The Bad Bad Place” by the dynamic duo of David Hine and Mark Stafford, neither of whom should be unfamiliar to the comics cognoscenti, and both of whom have been around for at least as long as I have, creating great comics. There’s also “10 Minutes” by Yuko Rabbit, an exquisitely drawn mangaesque fairytale.
Art from Melody Baker by Chris Geary.
An interesting late addition to the package are the three winners of this year’s British Library Comics Unmasked competition, each of them exciting new talents. There are also a wordless one-off strip by Sally Jane Thompson, “Heavy” and a sci-fi spy adventure starring, “Melody Baker” by Chris Geary. All fifty-six fantastic pages wrapped up in an all-new Millidge cover.

There are other Strangehaven-related developments to be announced in due course, but for now, see if you can pick yourself up a copy of Meanwhile…#1

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

On My Way to the Lakes

Fabulous festival poster art by Jonathan Edwards
Okay, so I can finally confirm that I will be attending the Lakes International Comic Art Festival next month (17-19th October). This will be my first comic event appearance in an official capacity in a couple of years or so, and I will be signing copies of Meanwhile...#1 at the Soaring Penguin table in the Comics Clock Tower at certain times over the weekend.

I expect there'll also be copies of the three Strangehaven trade paperbacks for sale. I may even have some original art with me, but Kendal is a long train ride from Leigh-on-Sea, so it might depend on how my shoulder's feeling the morning of travel.

I was invited by Bryan Talbot during its inaugural event last year, but it seemed like a waste with nothing to promote, but the timing couldn't be more perfect this year, with the launch of the new Meanwhile...and all of its Strangehaven goodness therein.

The Lakes has announced a really diverse and eclectic mix of guests including Jeff Smith, Scott McCloud and Joost Swarte, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how it matches up to its rapidly growing reputation.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Not Long Now...

Well now, let’s see, it may have been quite some time since I've written a blog post, but in my defence, I suspect that most people reading this would rather I be doing something like drawing the next episode of Strangehaven, as opposed to blogging about the last film I saw or my problems with my air conditioning unit.

But it appears that my hand has been forced by the not totally unexpected, yet still surprising (to me at least) appearance of Meanwhile…#1 on the Soaring Penguin Press website yesterday. If this is what’s called being ‘in the loop,’ then I do hope I never fall out of it.

Just to recap, in case you haven’t been paying attention, Strangehaven is returning in all-new stories as part of a new (technically revived) ongoing British anthology book called Meanwhile… (complete with those three little dots at the end). It was originally announced for publication in May, but, for numerous reasons, almost all entirely my fault I'm sure, the first issue has been bumped to this autumn. It says October on the tiny little cover repro, and we’re supposed to be doing some fancy launch at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (17-19th October 2014) assuming it arrives back from the printer in Latveria in time.

So yes folks, it looks like it’s really happening. You can pre-order it on the aforementioned Soaring Penguin Press website, and I am confidently predicting that it will be available from all the very best British comic retailers in the subsequent period. I have no idea what form of distribution Meanwhile… will enjoy in the US or the rest of the world at this stage, so please direct all enquiries to the publisher.
It’s sort of odd not being in charge of that sort of thing, let alone not even knowing anything about it, but without Soaring Penguin’s support, Strangehaven would still be some way off any kind of publication. So, be grateful for small mercies.

Anyway, I don’t know exactly what I'm at liberty to say about it, other than what’s on the website, but it will be a 52-page ‘golden-age’ format comic book (i.e. a bit wider than your usual comic), containing a mixture of colour and black and white strips. There’s a sixteen page episode of Strangehaven which follows on from issue 18 of the regular series (or from the end of Conspiracies if you've followed the series in collected form), as well as a new continuing series from the excellent team who brought you The Man Who Laughs, David Hine and Mark Stafford. There are also contributions from Chris Geary, Yuko Rabbit and Sally Jane Thompson. As a bonus, there are all three winning single-page strips from the 2014 British Library and Arts Thread Comics Unmasked Competition.
Oh, and that’s a Millidge cover right there.

If I get the time and permission, I might try to post a few more previews of the book, but seriously, if you haven’t heard enough to want to order it by now…dude! I mean, come on!

One more thing while I remember, any former Strangehaven subscribers who haven’t responded to my letter or email about transferring or refunding their subscription balance, really need to contact me as soon as possible. You guys have probably moved house and/or email address since I last published and forgotten all about it, so get to it, guys!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Happy Holidays

To one and all, I wish you festive fun for the holiday season, however you celebrate and whatever you believe in, but most of all I sincerely wish you peace, love, health and happiness throughout the forthcoming year. 

And remember: Enjoy comics responsibly.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Long Awaited Return of...

Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an Imaginary story! 
Strangehaven will return in May 2014.

Those of you who have been patiently (and not-so-patiently) awaiting news of the next issue of Strangehaven since they read issue #18 many moons ago may want to read that again. I’ll wait.

Strangehaven will return in May 2014.

Yes, after an unanticipated and overlong hiatus, Strangehaven will indeed return in May 2014. New episodes, written and drawn by me will appear (starting in the first issue) in a newly revived comics anthology, Meanwhile… published by Soaring Penguin Press.

That is to say, as of this point, Strangehaven will no longer be self-published as a standalone comic, but instead will be one of the attractions included a new anthology comic from a fast-growing British independent publisher.

Serious Strangehaven collectors may be recall a previous version of Meanwhile… sporting a Millidge cover and including a four-page strip way back in 2001, and indeed this is the same title from the same publisher. As I understand it, the new Meanwhile… will feature a mixture of continuing and self-contained comics in a new format bimonthly.
I anticipate there will be 13-14 pages of Strangehaven per issue, which when complete will effectively comprise the fourth volume.

So, why am I not self-publishing? It was certainly always my intention to continue and complete the series as a self-published title, but due to various professional, personal and financial reasons (the full account will have to wait for another time) it simply hasn’t been possible for me to do so.
But for the past year or so I have been actively preparing for its return and trying to find a way of delivering it to my readers. In a nutshell, I needed time to sit down and draw it (and in a freelancer’s world, time literally is money) and to do that I needed some sort of advance on royalties, and in the comics world this usually means surrendering at least some of the intellectual rights – which after already spending twelve years or so writing and drawing the series, I was not prepared to give up.

And the amount of time (i.e. money) required for me to finish the fourth volume is significant enough that any private funding (by way of private investor or Kickstarter) would be difficult to secure because of the length of time between funding and delivery.

Step forward John Anderson, Soaring Penguin publisher, with an offer that included things like advances on royalties and no claim to copyright. As John will testify, I still took a lot of convincing (temporarily at least) to abandon my self-publishing philosophy, and the contract details took a while to iron out. Ultimately, I had to choose between this opportunity to get the fourth volume of Strangehaven completed and out into my reader’s hands, or to let it remain in limbo while I continued to figure out a way of having my cake and eating it.

So, although this solution compromises my purest principles of independence, I figure that my readers would rather see new episodes however they were emerged, than to wait for some further unspecified period. And, so do I. It’s been far, far too long people.

I understand that Meanwhile… will be available in electronic format courtesy the SEQUENTIAL app, and the print version will be available in all of the finest UK and US comics stores (full distribution details still being ironed out) or direct from Soaring Penguin.

For those of you who are planning on ‘waiting for the trade’ – the intention is that the fourth volume will be serialised in the anthology in twelve parts over a period of approximately two years, and obviously, any subsequent collection won’t appear until some time after that. It’s too early to say any more at this stage.

After hearing John’s plans for this new project, Meanwhile… will rock, and I hope that you’ll support this ambitious endeavour. Please consider signing up to my email newsletter by entering your e-address into the box in the right-hand column, to be informed of developments. Or you can follow this blog, or keep in touch via Facebook or Twitter.

Strangehaven is on its way back, friends. Rejoice.

Note to current Strangehaven subscribers: I have been making efforts to contact each of you regarding the outstanding issues of your subscriptions via email, social media and for those of you who I don’t any other contact for, via regular mail. It’s likely some of these contacts are out of date, so please, if you believe you have a current subscription, please contact me via my usual email address.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

T-Bubs-13: A Busman’s Holiday

This year’s Thought Bubble festival was a little different for me in that I didn't have a table, or indeed any panel or signing duties, so in effect I was there as a regular punter, albeit on a bit of a busman’s holiday. And I have to admit that it was not only stress-free but more than just as much fun, if somewhat more tiring due to all the extra walking.

With a third hall added and so much to see, it took me most of the weekend to visit all the exhibitors once – and many of those I had only the time for a cursory look. The quality and diversity of items on show was astounding, from self-publishing minicomic authors to growing British publishers of graphic novels like Blank Slate and Self Made Hero. There was a smattering of comic dealers and merchandisers, but the main emphasis as usual was on independent and alternative creators and publishers, artists and craft people.

International guests this year read like a who’s who of independent comics and included the likes of Brandon Graham, Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Matt Fraction, Geof Darrow, David Aja, Fiona Staples and Sean Gordon Murphy plus the usual vast number of domestic creators, almost none of whom I saw, let alone spoke to. Although I did have a brief chat with my old pal JeffreyBrown on his triumphant return to these shores.

This year I opted to visit by train and therefore had the ideal excuse not to massively overspend as I did last year and so only collected a modest number of relatively lightweight pieces. For the many books I planned to buy at a later date I took a photo with my ageing-but-trusty 3GS as a handy reminder.

Things that I did pick up included an example of Dan Berry’s delicate wash tones in his latest comic Carry Me, I finally caved in and bought the first volume of Kate Ashwin’s Widdershins and I celebrated news of Chelsea’s 3-0 away win at West Ham by buying a copy of fellow Blues fan Sean Azzopardi’s Trees sketchbook mini. I was also unable to resist Dave West’s latest tome Robot Shorts, an overdue purchase of Kate Brown’s Fish + Chocolate, Giant Days#2 from John Allison (who promptly returned my purchase money for my Movember fund), the latest Curia Regis from the multi-talented Robin Hoelzemann, the first comic by a fresh young creator Jack Devereaux, Next Stop Space and grabbled the new Verity Fair from wily old Terry Wiley.
Dan Berry & the Suitcase
John Allison
Dave West and his Robot Shorts
While waiting in line to congratulate Cameron Stewart on his superb Sin Titulo hardcover which I coincidentally had read a few weeks ago, I witnessed a truly generous, beautiful thing that Cameron did for a young fan (which I won’t detail here because it’s the sort of knowledge that could lead to him being taken advantage of in the future). At a time when some comics professionals are coming in for a lot of brickbats, it was a heart-warming gesture by a true gentleman.

I must also say thanks to the immaculately groomed BrendenFletcher, co-writer of Assassin’s Creed : Brahman who kept me entertained while I waited for master brush wielder Becky Cloonan to return from a panel and sign my copy of her latest mini-comic Demeter.

In addition, namechecks are due to those I had long and short chats with, including an old self-publishing contemporary Marc Laming, the always elegant and charming Yishan Li, demure Daryl Cunningham, con circuit stalwart Martin Eden, psychedelic Sally Anne Hickman, the appropriately attired Sarah McIntyre, dapper Woodrow Phoenix and cartoonist extraordinaire Roger Langridge.

Such was the chaos, I barely acknowledged the ubiquitous Al Davison, Paul Rainey, Sean Phillips and Tim Perkins, had time only to punch Frazer Irving in the arm, and didn’t even get a chance to speak to David Lloyd at the Aces Weekly table. I also failed miserably to engage with Gary Northfield, Mark Buckingham, D’Israeli, Philippa Rice and sadly didn’t get to meet the extraordinary James E Snelling as intended.

A big highlight was discovering the wordless comic Butterfly Gate, the latest from the creators of Porcelain, Ben Read and Chris Wildgoose, a previously unknown self-publishing creative team who have apparently emerged into the industry fully formed. They’re both charming guys and not satisfied with those two fantastic projects, were already giving away stunning previews of their next, Briar.

My former how-to-draw-books collaborator James McKay was highly visible this year, giving away free copies of a book he conceived and edited with Ben Dickson, Dreams of a Low Carbon Future. A project created from the visions of hundreds of schoolchildren, PhD researchers and academics (from the University of Leeds and the Royal Academy of Engineering) and comics professionals and resulting in an amazingly coherent graphic novel. Impressive stuff.
Another University science project giveaway was the newspaper format Asteroid Belter, put together by students at Newcastle Uni and includes a two-pager by the wonderful Nigel Auchterlounie.

To my delight, awesome illustrator/cartoonist type Dean Beattie – from whom I bought a couple of prints from some while ago – has drawn and published his own comic Random Trials, which at first look seems to demonstrate that Dean has storytelling ability to go with his fantastic draughtsmanship.

I almost missed meeting up with eternal pessimist Dave Hitchcock, but bumped into him while he was killing time before his train and got to see some of his spectacular original artwork, including some marvellous unpublished material and well as hearing about his latest disaster stories.
Cinebook - bringing French to the English
It took some time to browse the impressive selection of translated French albums from Cinebook whose line keeps on growing year on year, and an affordably priced entry point into la bande dessinée for the English language reader, a publishing project that deserves to be fully supported by the entire alt/indy comics community.

Graphic novel specialists Blank Slate, Nobrow and Self MadeHero continue to make a huge impression at the event, with a continuous medley of creators like Frederick Peeters, Glyn Dillon, David Hine, Mark Stafford and the ever-lovin’ Ilya, all signing European festival style; so many lovely new books, reluctantly none of which I bought due to my self-imposed weight restrictions.

Base camp for the weekend was the shared exhibitor space of amiable Al Nolan (and his range of ‘gentle murder mysteries for kids’) and embroidery artist Bridgeen Gillespie (and her greatly admired hoops) who also were my con buddies out-of-hours. Better company for evening meals and pub drinks would be hard to find.

It was terrific to just hang and chill with Pádraig ÓMéalóid and his lovely wife Deirdre Walsh in person, and to finally got to meet the charming Amber Moore after all these years - although I only had the briefest re-acquaintance with the Reppion-Moores, John and Leah. 
The place was positively awash with journalistic types - it was great to meet the man-mountain Gary Gray, the not-as-scary-as-you-might-think Laura Sneddon, Steve Morris of the Beat and the ever-youthful Matt Badham. I also bumped into Paul Gravett, complimented him on his new Comics Art book and asked him who Brian Moore was.

I think my favourite innovation of the festival was the Tea Bubs Bar. A pop-up coffee house where you could give your weary legs a rest, relax and enjoy your refreshments, keep an eye on all of the three venues at the same time. I received a mid-tea-queue bear hug from Oscar Zarate when he finally recognised me without all that long hair.

In fact I spent so long meeting people and perusing the exhibitors’ wares that I miserably failed to attend even a single panel or other daytime event, despite my earnest intention to do so this year. Note to organisers: there is simply too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Please create some sort of time-stasis field so we get a chance to enjoy everything properly.
I did however enjoy the delights of the legendary Thought Bubble mid-convention party, once again held at the spectacularly-domed and multi-levelled Corn Exchange. Even with a vast Christmas tree on the dance floor and a DJ with an unfathomable playlist, it didn’t stop many of the attendees getting’ their freak on, while others queued for drinks and ate sausages. I also got a long overdue hug from that Swedish girl.

A new hall for exhibitors had been added this year to satisfy the demand for tables after the initial number of slots sold out in two hours. In addition to the usual New Dock Hall (the big dark one) and Royal Armouries Hall (the smaller bright one), was the barely-ready-in-time Allied London Hall which housed the unlucky exhibitors who failed to make the initial cut. Haphazardly-placed fluorescent tubes and heaters, some sort of dust hanging in the air like a fine fog and a smell of aerosol paint (used to create some rather impressive comic-themed murals) created a slightly surreal, illicit atmosphere.
Footfall seemed to be lesser than the other two well-established halls, although both those appeared somewhat busier than last year, especially on Sunday.  In fact at peak times, parts of New Dock Hall were impassable, due to heavy interest in the big-name signings.

The popular view is that more exhibitors (assuming the same number of attendees) mean less money spent at each table, making it difficult for those exhibitors to make a profit (I don’t know the numbers of attendees for his year). There are always winners and losers of course, but even the relative losers that I spoke to just seemed happy to be part of it all such was the positive vibe of the event.
It’ll be interesting to see how Thought Bubble develops from here. I have no idea whether the new space is permanent, or whether the convention will revert to its original size next year. Certainly the overwhelming impression I got was yet another year of huge success and stellar achievement for Clark, Lisa and the army of redcoats, and you can put down the minor issues with Allied London Hall as a symptom of growing pains.

With the recent establishment of the London Super Comic Con and the new Lakes Comic Art Festival in Kendal, is Thought Bubble still the best comic-related event in the UK? I suppose it depends on what it is you’re looking for exactly, but if it’s wide-ranging diversity of products, excellent organisation, a cool friendly vibe and Roller Derby girls as security that you want, then it’s no contest.

From a punter’s viewpoint, it was pretty much the perfect comics event and I will find it hard to stay away in 2014. I suspect there will be a few thousand more feeling the same way. Book early.

You can see some of my purchases from this year's Thought Bubble Festival on my experimental Tumblr blog Comicapaloozarama.