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 - - Indie Spotlight -

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…

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