Terry Wiley – from Sleaze Castles to Verityfair, an unheralded star.
I’d really like to think everyone reading this will know who Terry Wiley is, but sadly I just don’t think that’s the case. He’s a longtime writer/artist of the Brit self publishing scene with a track record in magnificent, funny, perfect comic books.
If there was any justice in this world of comics Terry Wiley would be well known, with multiple best-selling titles to his name and I wouldn’t have to write this.
After a few years out of comics he recently got back in touch with us at the blog with his new comic Verityfair (yes, it should be Verityfair. Verity Fair is a Regency romance fan fiction thing). Being Terry, without doubt one of the worst self publicists in comics, he was a little reticent about his work. So it’s up to me to fill you in.
Or at least that was the plan. And then I find out that Rich Johnston is every bit the fan of the man’s work that I am. And Rich doesn’t have a full time job getting in the way of writing about it. So here’s Rich’s ode to Terry Wiley: “The Greatest Comic Creator You May Never Have Heard Of”.
(And there he is; Terry Wiley, a hard man to find a photo of. This is from Caption 2010, taken from Selina Lock’s Facebook album)
Just like Rich I think it’s one of those near criminal things that Terry Wiley isn’t more well known than he is. His work has an appeal to a huge audience, far more than so many of the comics published today – it’s yet another example of what Stephen Holland categorised as “The Real Mainstream” . And Terry Wiley’s work has a light, soap opera, sit-com, comedy drama style to it that makes it perfect for that real mainstream audience. Except they can’t find it because it’s so hard to get those real mainstreamy people into comic shops.
Now I first became aware of Terry’s work years back in the 90s when he and writer Dave McKinnon were doing something pretty radical at the time in the realms of UK self published comics – they decided to collect their work in a very polished and professional looking series of Director’s Cut volumes. This was Sleaze Castle, co-written by Terry and Dave and drawn by Terry.
I can’t remember how it found it’s way into Nostalgia & Comics, but it’s timing couldn’t have been better. This was a little golden era for UK comics and I was flogging the life out of such titles as Paul Grist’s Kane, Gary Spencer Millidge’s Strangehaven, Nabiel Kanan’s Exit and many more. Sleaze castle fit right in to my “New UK Comics” shelf perfectly.
And it sold. It sold lots. I was getting copies direct from Terry of all the books he had and every few months another order would go in, a few at first, but then more, and more, and more until we were regularly selling more Sleaze Castle books than a lot of the supposedly mainstream superpeople in tights comics of the day.
(Jocasta Dribble, perpetual student and one of the two main leads in the Sleaze Castle stories. From Tales From Sleaze Castle)
Sleaze Castle starts out looking like an everyday tale of studentland and then takes a sharp left into Douglas Adams style comedy sci-fi as we join Jocasta Dribble who’s about to discover that her foreign student friend at university happens to be Lady Panda Quartile, someone very big and powerful in another dimension.
And it’s that immediate cultural (and dimensional) mismatch that provides the many, many gags throughout Sleaze Castle, as the stories get all Back To The Future intertwined on us and things get mighty complicated very quickly. But that really doesn’t matter because McKinnon and Wiley ground the series firmly in the everyday and what it becomes is a simple everyday caper of two friends, living the average student life of work, parties, boyfriends and trans-dimensional poortals where another version of Panda is giving this Earth’s Panda instructions.
Okay, that last bit kind of veers off the everday part of the story, but that was kind of the appeal of Sleaze Castle in all it’s incarnations – mixing the soap opera with the complicated sci-fi ideas.
(And here’s the other lead character – Lady Panda Quartile. Extra-dimensional ruler on her own Earth, but here and now, just plain old Panda, student, stuck on our Earth. This is from Tales From Sleaze Castle with a tricky case of multiple Pandas going round.)
It was a magnificent series and it’s a real shame I’m not able to point you in the direction of somewhere to buy it. Three Volumes exist – Sleaze Castle Director’s Cut #0, containing issues 1-4 of Tales From Sleaze Castle, which confusingly actually were published after More Tales From Sleaze Castle, which is collected as Sleaze Castle Volumes 1 & 2.
Terry? Dave? Please, please, somehow, find a way to get it out into the world again if only because my copies of it got lost years back in a bizarre bad plumbing meets comics incident (the comics lost).
(Page from Surreal School Stories by Terry Wiley, borrowed shamelessly from the man’s website, where you can (and you should) read the whole story. And even this is a cheat as it’s a story from Girly Comics #1 rather than SSS proper.)
Following Sleaze Castle, Terry wrote and drew the spin-off Surreal School Stories; more illustrated stories than comics, but very, very funny. It mixed the Sleaze Castle vibe with an Enid Blyton-esque old fashioned girls’ school story, as a much younger Jocasta Dribble finds herself in a very strange, surreal school environment.
It was great, but sadly not as accessible for the audience we’d built up who were eager for more of those great Sleaze castle books. The format was different, the style was different, too different. Again, it would be lovely to be able to point you in the direction of somewhere to buy these, but you’re out of luck there as well. Again – Terry? Any chance?
And finally we had Petra Etcetera, a series where they dispensed with all of those sci-fi elements and just delivered an out and out comedy soap opera, this time with Terry Wiley and Dave McKinnon working with writer Adrian Kermode. Three issues were all they managed before the distributor pulled the plug, but they were a great three issues, full of the ups and downs of the life of Jocasta’s younger sister Petra.
(Petra’s life of party, party and more party; all the soap opera funnies, just none of the weird sci-fi of Sleaze castle. From Petra Etcetera by Wiley, McKinnon and Kermode.)
There’s bad news and good news about Petra Etcetera. The good news is that this is actually available for you to buy. The collection of all three issues of Petra Etcetera is available to buy from Lulu. Mine is winging it’s way to me right now – expect more when it arrives.
And the bad news is that sadly Adrian Kermode died last year, at the terribly young age of 45. (Obits and memories here, here from Down The Tubes and here from Matt Brooker with both Terry Wiley and Adrian’s partner Debra speaking in the comments).
(Terry with a copy of the collected Petra Etcetera, pic borrowed from Sid Smith’s blog)
And that was pretty much it. Odd things from Terry popped up here and there; an online strip for Borderline magazine, illustration work and more recently his strip Trip Into Space for Image’s This Is A Souvenir in 2009.
But now we have new work. His new comic Verityfair. Issue 1 is out now, issue 2 should be out in time for November’s Thought Bubble convention. It’s every bit the great work that I was expecting , every bit an example of comics as a real mainstream thing. Review in a couple of days.
Hopefully, this time round, there’s enough people on this Internet thing shouting to the heavens about how good Terry Wiley is that he wont be unknown for that much longer. Join us, together we will make Terry Wiley a star. He’ll hate us for it.