Actually, the first official publication from Factor Fiction was Walking in Eternity. Having done the Perfect Timing books with co-editors, when I decided to go solo for the next book, I felt I needed an imprint, and Factor Fiction was it. I’d successfully managed to mesh two fandoms together, by bringing on board comics artists both professional and gifted amateur in much the same way I’d done with writers for the fanthologies. The thing that I found sorely lacking in fanzines was decent artists. I think that particularly from Perfect Timing 2 onwards, we managed to significantly improve the overall quality of art in the fanthologies, where previously, they seemed to be treated as little more than an afterthought.
When we were done with Walking in Eternity, my partner in crime, Selina and I cast about for a new project. I had decided that three (and a half) charity Doctor Who fanthologies in as many years was enough. I was content to let WinE be my final word on the subject. Selina decided that she wanted to produce a comic for all the comics widows, dragged by their boyfriends to comic conventions, with very little in the way of comics they wanted to read. Primarily written by female creators, it would also be a home for Selina’s own writing.
It soon turned out that when The Girly Comic launched, we knew only a small handful of women comics creators, and submissions were almost all from men. This would all change over the years, as we made contact with some of the older creators who were still on the scene, and more women were popping up all the time.
Running in parallel with Girly was Violent! – An homage to the legendary British comic of the 1970s, Action. Edited by Mike Sivier, it was published once or twice a year, and I gradually infiltrated it like a virus – In issue 3, I had one strip, in #4, there were two, in #5, I had three strips. Around this time, Mike was finding it more difficult to devote time to publishing Violent!, and after some negotiations, it was decided that Factor Fiction should take over that role, to allow Mike to spend what time he had writing strips for it, instead of running the whole show. While it meant switching format to A5, rather than A4, it did at least allow the introduction of colour covers and increased frequency of issues up to three or four per year.
Selina remained as editor of The Girly Comic, and I, under the nom-de-plume “General Mayhem” edited Violent! Submission guidelines were pretty much as with our other projects. We drew heavily on friends and contacts, and those we encountered at comic conventions, who were looking to break in. The kindness of professional friends led us to some celebrity covers and comic strips, despite not being a paying market.
There’s a lot of crossover between Doctor Who fandom and comics fandom, so if I knew a Who writer who was eager to work in comics, I’d extend the invitation, much as what happened with Dale Smith and the comic strip Cut. Without referring to ancient emails, I couldn’t say for certain, but I don’t think I was aware that Dale’s collaborator on Cut was unaware that it was happening. I had it in mind that Kissthewitch was Dale’s girlfriend/wife, so this is all new to me. If I had known the background, I’d probably have suggested letting her know first. As it is, no harm done, and a nice birthday surprise preserved.
Part of the editing process is having a roster of writers and artists and matching appropriate people to a project. I can’t now recall how I put Dale together with Jim Mortimore on Cut, though it was probably because I thought they’d work well together, and that Jim’s experimental art style would complement the script.
It was working with Jim on one of the previous fanthologies, where he and friend/fellow artist Tim Keable collaborated on a Land of Fiction illustrated story which hugely impressed me, and Tim was to become a regular artist for both Girly and Violent! until he was spirited away by writer Andrew Cheverton to work on West – a supernatural cowboy comic. Jim’s art, like his writing, are very design led, with the structure as important as anything else. With the cut up text Dale built his story out of, it was a prime example of the way that the best comics are greater than the sum of their parts.
On the subject of Dale’s lost script, I am still disappointed that I never managed to find the right artist to do it justice. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Often, we would have a glut of scripts and a dearth of artists. Sometimes it would be the other way around. As Dale said, after a gap, I tried again, but times were changing, and more artists who got in touch wanted to do their own projects, rather than somebody else’s. If Violent! was still being published (I put a stake through its heart in 2014 after limping along for a couple of years having lost artists on ongoing series again and again), with the right artist, I would schedule Dale’s script in a heartbeat. I’d still love to see it finished, if nothing else.
While Dale is right that Cut is a more striking piece, I think he undersells the other strip, which would have made a fine addition to our pages.