A sunburned Miffy appears in Verity Fair, albeit briefly. Miffy's first appearance was in 2001, however, according to Terry, Miffy's three-panel strips in Borderline take place after events in Verity Fair, completed nearly a decade and a half later... Terry knew what the score was, I didn't question him. A paradox was not a hurdle and he alluded to a future project that tied all of this weird time jiggery-pokery up. I can only ponder now...
Terry spent the last few weeks of his life in a hospice; as someone with a disease that will eventually kill me, the idea of a hospice is terrifying, yet is also supposed to be uplifting for those involved. He was visited by many of his friends and fellow comics people; he had a stream of people reminding him that he was important. He spent two great weeks with Cindi his fiancee and his final moments surrounded by his closest friends and family.
It seems that only now is the rest of comics waking up to the fact that one of their own is no longer with us... You see, I think that was down to the simple fact that Terry was going through seven kinds of hell, yet he and his friends didn't really want the attention. For some people, the end of life is sacred on all kinds of levels and wanting the dignity of slipping away peacefully is pretty much top of most of our lists. It's just a shame (in my head, I have no idea how Terry felt) that he knew for best part of the last 2 years that the new 'friend' he was carrying around in his head wasn't friendly and would kill him, probably sooner than later.
Let's make a few things clear: a lot of us knew he was ill for a long time, some of us knew how bad it was (not me), but we all respected his wishes to keep it quiet. This was typically Terry. No fuss, no frills, let's have a laugh, but look after the kittens after I'm gone.
It would have been so much easier had we had a fair crack at marketing, selling the book and making him some money, but most of all getting him the recognition outside of small press. I don't think Terry ever wanted to draw Deadpool and make a fortune, but I do think he was have liked some recognition, not just for him but also for Adrian Kermode (also no longer with us) and Dave McKinnon (hopefully with us for a long time). Recognition was something Terry didn't have a problem with, mainly because he liked talking to people and recognition made that more possible.
I'm not privy to Mr Wiley's personal bank account details, but I never heard from anyone that he needed financial assistance. I expect he got the most out of our free NHS, from MacMillan and his local council. I also expect he found it easier to get some form of government benefits because of his situation, even if I do concede that getting forms of DLA from our benevolent and humanitarian government is often more difficult than extracting the eggs from a cooked cake, so I'm heartened that Terry had no struggle to make ends meet in his final months, and what I've heard from friends money was never an issue. In fact, I have literally discovered in the last few minutes that friends of his considered starting a crowdfunder or some such, but quickly opted against it on the grounds that Terry really would not like his private predicament dragged into a public spotlight, especially the kind of web page he had problems with even on a purely creative level; without bringing one's personal life into proceedings. His friends and fans respected that wish, without even really having to ask him.
How did Borderline Press and Terry team-up? I launched the idea and groundwork for it at Caption in 2013, Terry, who I had known for 15 years, was there and I basically said, probably in a slightly gushing way, ‘Can I publish your book?’ Meaning Verity Fair. He agreed and I had my first ‘project’. That was it. He didn't ask me what he was going to get out of it; he wasn't interested schedules or printers or even a contract or anything else. He was concerned about one thing ... "Can it have dust flaps?" Of course he could and it did.
That was how I’ll always remember him, unreservedly easy-going, humorous and benevolent. While I was growing increasingly frustrated with the delays and the fact I might not have a company by the time Verity Fair arrived back from China, he had been tweaking CMYK stuff for the printer, talking with me, being patient and available when I needed him, despite flitting back and forth across the Atlantic to spend time with his fiancee in Illinois. He amazed me with the way he dealt with the stuff considering it was his.
In a world with very few consummate professionals, Terry was exactly that.
When the really rather splendid collected edition of Verity Fair arrived, Borderline Press was in the throes of becoming another failed publisher, but undaunted by what I could no longer do for him, he took all my stock to conventions and then helped man tables for my successor, to help promote, not just his, but all the range of books. I remember getting a text message from him in October 2015, from the Lakes International Comics Festival, telling me how he'd done and how much he'd spent on sustenance that day. When I saw how much, I texted him back: "Go and buy yourself some dinner and a beer!" He'd spent less than a fiver on a coffee and a doughnut.
Not enough is said about the kind of person someone was when we lose them; it’s usually about achievements or how others felt about him. Terry and I both shared a passion for social justice and a fairer society; it’s what drove our conversations – in person and on-line – and it’s ultimately why we became friends. Yet, I don’t want you to ever think that I published him because of some 'old mates' network; I published him because he was a unique story teller, married to modern independent comics but never forgetting the British comics he grew up with and loved.
Sadly, death, like life, comes at unexpected times and I am just one of a few people who would have wanted to be at Terry's funeral on September 25th but are unable to do so because of immutable circumstances. I’ll miss the big lovely man and I’ll treasure his legacy. I was proud to have published him and call him my friend, so I will find a nice quiet beach somewhere and spend a few minutes thinking about Mr Terry Wiley and maybe shed a tear or two.
Oh and while you are here...
The Borderline Press edition of Verity Fair is again on sale (subject to quantity) and every single penny of sales (excluding P&P) will be donated to a charity of Terry's choice. His long-term, long-distance fiancee Cindi Geeze will decide where all money goes to, but it is likely to go to either a brain cancer trust or a local Newcastle animal charity - maybe both if people clear us out of Terry's final book. I want my friend to look down from wherever he is and think we're doing okay by him.
If you want a copy then either contact me via the blogs email thing; look out for me on Facebook, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Ponent Mon publisher Stephen Robson (email@example.com) or via their website or Facebook page.
The stupid thing about it all is the only regret you'll have is not having bought it sooner.