A kind of comic book life: Gary Spencer Millidge on the return of Strangehaven


Way back in December last year I posted a snippet of news that one of my all-time favourite comics, Strangehaven, was due to make a comeback in May 2014 in the pages of ‘Meanwhile…’ a comics anthology published by Soaring Penguin Press.

Although that original date slipped; the official date for its appearance in comic book shops (for the U.K and the rest of mainland Europe) is 17th October.

I’m delighted that Gary Spencer Millidge generously agreed to return to Imagination is spicy to answer a few questions I put to him on this long-awaited continuation of the series.

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A kind of comic book life: Interview with Kirsty Mordaunt

Kirsty Mordaunt - Manga Studio portrait

Kirsty Mordaunt – Manga Studio portrait

In November 2013 I featured a favourite web comic ‘164 Days’, created by the talented Kirsty Mordaunt. I’m delighted to post an interview with Kirsty, which she kindly agreed to do via email, answering some questions regarding her work as a comic writer and artist and details behind the origins of the charming, intriguing, story featuring the Andersen family and Ysendra the Weatherwitch.

164 Days has been running online since August 2011. Have you found that the way you approach the story has changed over time? Do you keep an outline or written notes on the story line and character development for the future?

I can’t believe I’ve been doing it for that long! I’ve found over time I learned to be a lot more ruthless with what I cut out of the original plans – it was written as a prose story rather than in script form. I love to write dialogue but I had to learn to remove pieces that were unneeded and did not push the plot forward.

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A kind of comic book life: Berlin

Berlin by Jason Lutes

Berlin by Jason Lutes

Berlin, an ongoing series by American creator Jason Lutes, was one I first heard about it in 1996 when it was originally published by Black Eye Press (it is now published by Drawn & Quarterly).

Berlin is a historically set comic; the first chapter in the collected volume City of Stones opens in 1928. It follows one of the main characters, Marthe Müller, a young woman from Köln, travelling on a train to Berlin to begin studying at art school. What follows is a grand, elaborate and complex view of what will become the final days of democracy in the Weimar Republic as the fascist NSDAP (the National Socialist Party) becomes the leading political and cultural force in the country.

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A kind of comic book life: 164 Days

164 Days C1 by Kirsty Mordaunt

164 Days by Kirsty Mordaunt

164 Days is the second webcomic to be featured in this series and is written and created by talented illustrator Kirsty Mordaunt.

This is another example of a comic that I only came across earlier this year and which has become a favourite weekly read. The setting of 164 Days is in the creator’s words:

“… loosely based on a Steampunk/Late Victorian innovation period, where science and invention are highly prized, and airships are still a primary mode of travel (mostly because of Weather Witches). Trains exist but cars are not widely used.”

The main story opens with Wil Andersen, an eighteen year old boy, who is anxious about his older brother, Jakob. Jakob having left the family home suddenly, in the middle of the night, now seems to have vanished without trace.

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A kind of comic book life: The Arrival

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival by Shaun Tan, an Australian illustrator, is the second standalone book to be featured in A kind of comic book life series, but, in all other ways it is a very different kind of story telling.

What makes this work particularly unusual is that it contains no depiction of spoken language from the characters; everything is told through the visuals alone. Many reviewers have compared it to a silent film, not every cell is there to tell an immediate story but adds to the feeling of watching something unfold, such as a sky changing whilst at sea to denote the passage of time or a plant passing through each stage of its growth depending on season.

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A kind of comic book life: Gunnerkrigg Court

Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell

Gunnerkrigg Court is the first comic to be featured in this series which is web-based. Created by Tom Siddell, a U.K artist, the comic first appeared online in 2005 as a part-time project and has since developed into a full-time career.

I only heard of Gunnerkrigg Court in 2012, via Twitter, and from reading the first page the story grabbed and carried me along, so much so that I caught up on seven years of the comic in one day.

In a vast setting that is a melding of industrial buildings and Gothic atmosphere, Antimony Carver, a new residential student at Gunnerkrigg Court, soon encounters strange creatures; a shadow that’s alive, a ghost who needs some help and a demon called Renardine who can possess host bodies.

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A kind of comic book life: Interview with Gary Spencer Millidge

Following on from my previous overview of the comic book series Strangehaven; I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to ask a few questions of the creator – Gary Spencer Millidge.

GSM - Profile
With Strangehaven on a fairly long hiatus; do you feel surprised and/or pleased that fans, new and old, ask when the story will be carried on?

“When’s the next issue of Strangehaven out?” became somewhat of a running joke at all my convention appearances, even if it was the launch day of a new issue. I had always struggled with a regular schedule, due to meticulous and particular method combined with frequently unstable personal circumstances, but somehow always managed to meet announced deadlines, by hook or by crook.

A kind of comic book life: Strangehaven

SH - Brotherhood cover artWhat has made Strangehaven, a series created and self-published by Gary Spencer Millidge, one of my long-standing favourites amongst a wealth of comics and graphic novels?

The first time I discovered Strangehaven I’d never read a mature comic that managed to combine realism of the familiar world with a group of characters, and a landscape, that contained the odd, eccentric and mysterious. I was instantly drawn to the art and storytelling and it’s a series I’ve re-read many times as a result of those things.

To quote from the first issue:

Have you ever been looking for something and stumbled upon something even better, something wonderful, purely by accident?

Well, have you?

Alex Hunter has.

Welcome to Strangehaven.

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