Millidge, Gary Spencer 1961-

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MILLIDGE, Gary Spencer 1961-

PERSONAL: Born 1961, in London, England. Education: Attended Southend Art School, London, England.


ADDRESSES: Home—Southchurch, England. Offıce— Abiogenesis Press, P.O. Box 2065, Leigh-on-Sea SS9 2WH, England. Agent—c/o Chris Staros, Top Shelf Productions, P.O. Box 1282, Marietta, GA 30061. E-mail—[email protected]


CAREER: Former musician, comic-book store owner, and shoe salesman; Abiogenesis Press, Leigh-on-Sea, England, founder and publisher.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Comic Award for Best Self-Published Comic, 1997, for Strangehaven.


WRITINGS:

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Strangehaven: Arcadia, Abiogenesis (Leigh-on-Sea, England), 1998.

Strangehaven: Brotherhood, introduction by Brian Talbot, Abiogenesis (Leigh-on-Sea, England), 2000.


OTHER

(Editor) Alan Moore: Portrait of an ExtraordinaryGentleman, Abiogenesis (Leigh-on-Sea, England), 2003.


SIDELIGHTS: Writer and artist Gary Spencer Millidge is best known as the creator of the comic book series Strangehaven, set in an English village populated with eccentric characters whose relationships form an ongoing saga. Nick Brownlow in the Village Voice described the Strangehaven series as "a quiet, meandering mystery-cum-soap opera with supernatural overtones."


Millidge became interested in comic books at a young age. He credits his parents with keeping him supplied with the monthly issues he read as a child, and encouraging him in his attempts to copy both the art and the stories, as well as for passing on an entrepreneurial spirit. In an interview with Brownlow for the Village Voice, Milledge stated that "it always seemed to me that the combination of words and pictures in comics were an equal, if not superior form of entertainment/communication than art, literature, or film. It saddens me that most 'adults' appear to have an unshakeable prejudice against comics." After completing his primary education, Millidge attended Southend Art School, at the Southend College of Technology, where he studied art. While he was encouraged to attempt new forms and techniques, comic-book art was not part of his education, and a few of his lecturers even attempted to dissuade him from following his interests.


Millidge continued to pursue his passion for comics outside of his formal education. He banded together with several art school friends and started a comic-strip fanzine that led to his first venture in self-publishing. The first production, "Amon*Spek" was issued as photocopies, followed by lithograph copies for the second issue. Millidge spent five years on the venture before he became discouraged with the amount of time he was spending on administrative duties versus drawing.


Millidge divided his time after he left college between comics and the music industry, running a comic-book store by day and playing bass guitar by night. His next publications were "Comics News Monthly-" and the benefit comic "Food for Thought," which included the work of Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Bryan Talbot, and Warren Ellis and was meant to be a comic-book equivalent of the Band-Aid song recorded to aid the famine victims in Ethiopia. However, Millidge's divided career eventually landed him in debt, and he was forced to close his comic-book business. He briefly focused on his music career, setting up his own record company in order to maintain control of his royalties. That experience eventually led him back to comics, with an eye toward self-publishing his own long-term project.


Strangehaven grew out of a comic book that Millidge created while still concentrating on his music career. The idea was to center an open-ended series around a common place, so that each arc is linked through the setting, but not necessarily in any other way. Millidge believed this would enable him to work on the project indefinitely without getting bored. As the concept evolved, the setting itself took on its own identity, becoming a character unto itself. Milledge told Brownlow: "I wanted a vehicle that would enable me to tell all kinds of stories without relying on a single plot-driven narrative. I was getting more interested in personal relationships and the way in which people perceive reality in different ways." He founded Abiogenesis Press in order to produce the comic books and has continued to self-publish the entire series, despite offers from other presses to take over the production.


While Strangehaven was originally published as a series of traditional comic books, Millidge has also released them as anthologies, with the first six issues collected in Strangehaven: Arcadia, and the next six issues in Strangehaven: Brotherhood. The village itself is outwardly reminiscent of any small village in England, complete with pub, grocery, tea shop, and church, but the inhabitants tend to be a bit more unusual than one would expect from such a setting. The comics follow the lives of such individuals as Adam, who wears X-ray glasses and claims that he is from another planet; Alberto, an Italian mechanic whose ability to fix damaged cars borders on the superhuman; and a secret order of Masonic Knights of the Golden Light who hold nocturnal meetings that involve chanting in white robes and hats. Alex Hunter, newly arrived from London, has an accident on the outskirts of the village and wakes to find himself involved in a series of strange adventures, while also recognizing his mysterious inability to leave town.

Mike Musgrove, in a review for the Washington Post Book World, remarked of the first collection that "the overall effect is creepy, but creepy lite; there isn't enough here to keep things interesting. This comic shows influences from television shows such as 'The Prisoner' and 'Twin Peaks,' but Strangehaven seems to have been created merely so that the author could stash a number of unrelated deep thoughts in it. This comic's most interesting aspect is its art." A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that, while "too many question-raising images appear," the volume "offers a serious jolt of unsettling elements that give readers an unswerving and looming sense of uneasiness." Barry Lyga, reviewing for the Diamond Comics Web site, remarked of the fictional village that "you feel as though you're in the town itself. Millidge's artwork is crisp and realistic . . . his dialogue rings true, with characters speaking in their own voices. . . . You don't read Strangehaven; you move there."


In addition to his own comics, Millidge's Abiogenesis Press has produced Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, a collection of work from 145 film and comic-book-industry writers and artists, including Terry Gilliam, Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, and Bill Sienkiewicz. The volume was presented to Moore as a fiftieth birthday gift.


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Big Planet Orbit, November, 1997, Joel Pollack, "Strangehaven's Magical Realism."

Comics International, April, 1999, review of Strangehaven Eleven; December, 1999, review of Strangehaven Twelve.

Evening Echo, January 15, 1997, Nicola Taylor, "Comic Book Gary's Award Hope."

Heckler, March, 1999, Ben Graham, "Self Publishing: A Haven for the Strange?"

Illuminations, July-August, 1997, Steve Pay, review of Strangehaven; December, 1997, Marin Averre, review of Strangehaven Seven.

Independent, November 7, 1996, Paul Slade, "Flying Solo" (interview).

In the Village, autumn, 1998, Chris Goodrich, "Tome Raider" review of Strangehaven.

Publishers Weekly, August 11, 2003, review of Strangehaven: Arcadia, p. 259.

Strands, January, 1997, Ceri Jordan, "Lost in Devon" review of Strangehaven.

Tripwire, October-November, 1997, Joel Meadows, review of Strangehaven: Arcadia.

Village Voice, July 15, 2002, Nick Brownlow, interview with Millidge."

Washington Post Book World, February 14, 1999, Mike Musgrove, review of Strangehaven: Arcadia, p. X10.

Wizard, July, 1997, "A Strange Story of Secrets."

Yellow Advertiser, March 7, 1997, Matt Adams, "Comic and Weird with a Touch of Essex" (interview); April 3, 1998, Matt Adams, "Strange Fiction;" September 11, 1998, Matt Adams, "Gary's Comic Success."


ONLINE

Diamond Comics Web site,http://www.diamondcomics.com/ (February 9, 2005), "Gary Spencer Millidge."

Gary Spencer Millidge Home Page,http://www.millidge.com (February 9, 2005).

Lambiek.net,http://www.lambiek.net/ (February 9, 2005), "Gary Spencer Millidge."

NinthArt.com,http://www.ninthart.com/ (February 9, 2005), "Gary Spencer Millidge."

Underground Online,http://www.ugo.com/ (February 9, 2005), "Gary Spencer Millidge."*