Originally founded in the late ’90s, Meanwhile... returns has a striking new look and new stories. Will Salmon speaks to editor John Anderson about the ambitious anthology title...
COMIC HEROES: Tell us a little about the history of Meanwhile…
John Anderson: Meanwhile… started in 1997 when I decided I wanted to put together an anthology title to promote and support all these terrific writers and artists I knew who were creating these lovely stories that weren’t long enough to be published independently but who were finding that decent anthology titles were few and far between. We did four issues, with support from an Arts Council Grant, the fourth issue being 96 pages long.
Several years later, I decided to return to the anthology idea as a means of enabling Gary Spencer Millidge to complete Strangehaven, and to have a Soaring Penguin Press title coming out regularly, in order to keep the name visible.
CH: You’ve just relaunched with a new format. How has Meanwhile... changed?
JA: We’re a bit smaller but with more pages. With the increase in pages, we can no longer have the book saddled-stitched but the binding is section-sewn. This allows the book to lie flatter than perfect binding and stand up to multiple readings. It still contains Gary Spencer Millidge’s
Strangehaven and David Hine and Mark Stafford’s The Bad Bad Place.
CH: Strangehaven is great! What do you think remains so appealing about this series?
JA: It’s intelligent, thoughtful, brilliantly written and wonderfully illustrated. And it has that ineluctable quality of strangeness that’s so rarely seen in any medium. Gary’s created
a story that anyone who delves into it is compelled to see how it ends.
CH: How about David Hine and Mark Stafford’s The Bad Bad Place?
JA: They’re a terrific team, those two. I loved their The Man Who
Laughs, and I’ve enjoyed David’s work since I first read Strange
Embrace. I knew I needed a second ongoing story to complement
Strangehaven and approached David to provide something. He agreed and suggested working again with Mark. The result is an unpleasant, visceral slide into the bowels of Hell. Great fun!
Every town has one: that derelict building, that overgrown lot, where you just know you shouldn’t go – The
Bad Bad Place. But places like that, they seem to have a fascination, an allure of their own. But you mustn’t listen to the siren call, the promise of dreams come true. Because that’s the bait, and the hook will pierce you to your very soul.
Yeah, I know I haven’t actually told you anything. But where would the fun be in that?
CH: There’s a new series by Sarah Gordon starting this issue, The Collector. What’s that about?
JA: It’s a gothic horror story about a man who invents a machine that can capture the voices of living things. Not record – capture! It steals the essence of the sound itself, turning mute the original owner: birds, small animals… people. Sarah’s work is just gorgeous. She keeps getting better and better.
CH: How much more complicated is producing an anthology than a single ongoing story?
JA: Well, trying to juggle any number of creators is always going to be harder than just dealing with one or two. That having been said, it’s been almost completely drama-free. I think – I hope – this will continue as
Meanwhile… goes on. I want the anthology to be a place where creators want to be seen. Yes, I try to provide some editorial guidance where I feel it’s needed and I expect that, as things progress, I’ll be putting writers and artists together which will require more overview than simply accepting completed stories. But so far, everyone’s been very, very accommodating.
CH: How do you choose the strips to feature in the title?
JA: I work my way through the submissions I have as well as trawl through various websites and foreign anthologies looking for stories that catch my eye. I’m bringing in some foreign language work too, which opens up the catchment for each issue. We had Yuko Rabbit for the first five issues who’s Japanese. In #6 we have stories that were originally in Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. I’m looking at stories from all over the world. Because, first and foremost, I want good story.
CH: How healthy do you think the UK indie scene is at the moment?
JA: Absolutely vibrant. There are so many astonishing creators going right now. It’s an exciting time to be a comics reader. There’s no limit to the variety of story being told, and I love the narratives being explored.
CH: What are your goals for Meanwhile… in the coming years?
JA: I’d like to get to the point where
Meanwhile… becomes an event. Not just that the issue comes out but that people want to get the next issue because they want to see what I’ve brought for them. A bit like a quarterly comic version of Granta. In the back of my mind though, is that Strangehaven ends in another seven issues. I’ll need something to replace it with. Do you think I could get Alan Moore to finish Big
Numbers in quarterly instalments?
“It’s a visceral slide into the bowels of Hell. Great fun!” John Anderson
Below: Issue 5 of Meanwhile… relaunches with a new size and look, and most importantly, more pages.
Above: Ongoing stories inclue Strangehaven, while Queen Rat’s Sarah Gordon begins new series The Collector.
Below: Hine and Stafford’s The Bad Bad Place, which explores the part of town you know you shouldn’t visit…