Cover of Strangehaven #1 By Gary Spencer Millidge.
|Number of issues||18|
|Main character(s)||Alex Hunter and others|
|Writer(s)||Gary Spencer Millidge|
|Artist(s)||Gary Spencer Millidge|
|Creator(s)||Gary Spencer Millidge|
Alex Hunter almost runs over a woman while driving through the British countryside, swerving and crashing his car into a tree. He wakes to find himself in the picturesque village of Strangehaven, where a young woman named Janey Jones convinces him to stay. He finds a spacious cottage to rent and a job as a teacher at the local school, but it soon becomes clear that something is awry in Strangehaven. A secretive cult calling themselves The Knights of the Golden Light have taken over all positions of authority, a pagan coven is plotting something out in the woodlands, the woman Alex saw in the road seems to be haunting his dreams, and no matter how far he drives, the village itself will not seem to let him leave.
While Strangehaven appears to be nothing more than another small Devonshire village, it is clear from the earliest issues that something is not quite right about the village. A number of characters have unusual quirks or gifts, such as the mechanic, Alberto, who is able to restore any car to pristine condition, no matter how badly it is damaged; also Adam, who claims to be an alien with x-ray vision, and Elsie, an old woman who is depicted as being able to communicate with animals. There are a disproportionately high number of twins in the village, including the village doctor and his alcoholic brother, and Janey and Jeremy Jones, who were born on either side of midnight.
The village is home to a secret sect called The Knights of the Golden Light, whose members include all high-ranking villagers, including the doctor, the policeman, the headteacher and the solicitor. The group's motives are unclear. However, it is not until issue four that something explicitly supernatural happens, when Megaron, a half-Amazonian shaman, teaches Jeremy Jones to see through a bird's eyes. Supernatural elements are hinted at in earlier issues, most notably in the way that Alex is unable to leave the village without the road seemingly curving back into Strangehaven, and in the visions Alex has of The Woman on the Road, whose physical form also seems to be kept in a fishtank in the house of an unseen villager.
Although Alex is unable to leave Strangehaven, it is implied that this is unusual, and few of the villagers have expressed any knowledge of this phenomenon. Suzie Tang leaves the village in one issue to return to Hong Kong, and Billy Bates also flees Strangehaven, so one can assume that some are able to travel outside it. Communication with the outside world is also possible, as Alex is able to press for divorce with his estranged wife through the village solicitor. In issue seven, Alex meets "Surfer Steve", who claims that Strangehaven is conscious and only allows people to leave if "she" wants them to.
In issue 17, Alex is informed by a coven of witches, including Megaron, that Strangehaven is the point to which all of the ley lines and other religious and magically-significant monuments point, and is in effect a template for the entire planet. It emerges that the Knights are plotting to take control of Strangehaven's soul, and thus control the planet itself. The truth of these claims, however, has not yet been explored by the books.
Millidge cites the television series The Prisoner and Twin Peaks as inspirations for Strangehaven, and the similarities are obvious. Like the titular Prisoner, Alex Hunter is trapped in a picturesque, apparently British village from which there is no escape. In Strangehaven's case he is not pursued by any kind of security device; rather, any attempt by him to leave results in the geography of the outlying area warping to deposit him back in the village, as if he had somehow driven in a circle. In one issue, a man in the local post office also uses the phrase "be seeing you", which was a catchphrase of that show.
The influences of Twin Peaks are also evident; it, too, was about a stranger entering a small community plagued by supernatural strangeness, and interacting with a number of quirky and sometimes supernatural locals. Like those living in Twin Peaks, a number of the village's residents are members of opposing lodges - in this case the Knights and the Coven - and like Twin Peaks, its protagonist is extremely enthusiastic about the small community, despite its unusual aspects. One scene in which Elsie claims that her dogs told her who buried some bloody clothing mirrors a scene in Twin Peaks in which the Log Lady claims that her log witnessed some strange goings-on. The series also follows a soap-operatic style much like Twin Peaks, in which the supernatural is offset by more mundane story elements such as infidelity, young love and murder.
Millidge also took inspiration from The Darling Buds of May, a series about peaceful countryside life, and The Avengers, a 60s spy show that often featured quaint English villages run by diabolical masterminds.
Millidge's art is primarily photo-referenced and extremely realistic. It is also entirely in black and white, with the exception of the painted covers. For the first half of the run, the majority of the art was done in basic inks, and the progression can be seen of Millidge's art from simple linework in issue one to the more complex crosshatching and computer-aided shading in later issues. From issue 13 onwards, Millidge's art changed completely to resemble an entirely painted look, with thicker black outlines around characters and more subtle shading.
The art in Strangehaven is not always consistent from cover to cover; from the very first issue, Mllidge inserted photographs, pencil drawings and painted art into the story, typically to illustrate stories being told by the characters, such as Megaron's tales of Amazonian mythology, or Mrs McCready's recollections of World War II.
Issue #19 was planned to be a "new format" issue, although the details of this new format, and whether it will involve further changes in the comic's art, were not announced.
As both the art and writing duties on Strangehaven are taken up by its creator, Gary Spencer Millidge, and since the comic book is not his only source of income, the book has always had an irregular production schedule. For the first four years of its life Millidge managed to produce one issue every six or seven months, but after 1999 the book moved to a yearly production schedule while Millidge dealt with personal issues, and in 2005, with the publication of issue 18, it went on indefinite hiatus. Since then, Millidge has concentrated on paid, non-Strangehaven work.
However, Millidge considers the book to still be active and is planning "some kind of closure" by issue 24, which would also mark the end of the fourth trade paperback. In September 2007, he said on his blog that a publication date for issue 19 would only be announced when he was certain that he could meet it.
So far three Strangehaven trade paperbacks have been released. All three feature an introduction by a famous comic book creator and a biography of Gary Spencer Millidge. The first and second include bibliographies detailing all of the books that Millidge has used as references for the series. The first also includes a glossary of terms used in the Devonshire dialect.
- Arcadia (collects #1-6, foreword by Dave Sim, 2001 ISBN 0-946790-04-3)
- Brotherhood (collects #7-12, foreword by Bryan Talbot, 2001 ISBN 0-946790-05-1)
- Conspiracies (collects #13-18, foreword by Dave Gibbons, 2005 ISBN 0-946790-07-8)
|1997||Won||National Comics Awards||Best Self-Published/Independent Comic|
|1997||Nominated||Ignatz Awards||Outstanding Series|
|1997||Nominated||Eisner Awards||Best Continuing Series|
|1997||Nominated||Eisner Awards||Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition (Gary Spencer Millidge)|
|1999||Nominated||Eagle Awards||Favourite UK Non-Newsstand Title|
|1999||Nominated||National Comics Awards||Best New Comic (British)|
|2002||Nominated||National Comics Awards||Best Self-Published/Independent|
|2003||Nominated||Ignatz Awards||Outstanding Series|
|2004||Nominated||Eagle Awards||Favourite British Small Press Title|
- 'Strangehaven' at the Comic Book DB