Following news of the sudden passing of writer Si Spencer, his friend and editor, writer Will Vigar, and publisher Phil Hall offer their personal tributes to the hugely talented creator…
I first met Si Spencer in 1983. We were both involved with the Sheffield Peace Centre, a squat at the Masonic Hall in the city centre; a protest against nuclear proliferation. We quickly established a rapport, bonding over an exhibition of ‘Barefoot Gen’ artwork and discovering that we both adored the X-Men, 2000AD, Fray Bentos pies and the Psychedelic Furs.
We both held aspirations of being writers and would share work for review. My work took an experimental path that led towards fine art; Si’s work was far more polished and well crafted. Undoubtedly a product of his encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of 1960s and 70s Drama and Comedy. It was clear from the outset that his talent was extraordinary.
When the British invasion of comic writers happened, we would have spirited conversations (i.e. massive arguments) about the Alan Moore effect on comics, and it became apparent that this is where he wanted his writing to take him.
In the meantime, I promoted his music on a local radio station that I worked for while he figured out his masterplan. The Nearly Band, so called because originally they were just a guitarist and bassist therefore ‘nearly a band’ can now be found on Youtube. I would kill to hear ‘Closer to the Sun’ again, but those tapes have long been lost.
We briefly shared a house on Nicholson Road in Sheffield, that became the template for the surreal events of his marvellous graphic novel Klaxon, beautifully realised by Grimly Dix. When events at the house became too weird, I moved out. I could cope with the discussions about conspiracy theories, Robert Anton Wilson, the Illuminati and the Crowleyian magick and being taught the finer points of Chinese cookery – but when the other residents went shopping for the fortnight’s food while on acid and came back with two weeks’ worth of jelly, I freaked out. Si took this in his stride, mulling these events over and storing them for later use.
Si’s game plan involved writing and producing a comic with Adrian Dungworth and Mary Green entitled Sideshow. Quite rightly, it got him noticed, and at that point, our paths diverged.
“We reconnected during his Deadline years. I managed a band that were beginning to make waves (briefly as it turned out) and Si interviewed them for the magazine. We hung out – a lot – at The Broadfield pub in Sheffield, a location that eventually made its way into Books of Magic: Life During Wartime and again, our paths diverged.
It was wonderful to see his name appear on TV credits, particularly The Bill and Grange Hill, more so when his name started appearing in comics. It wasn’t until the internet became ubiquitous that we managed to reconnect, a good decade after our last contact.
As with all good friends, the passage of time meant nothing. It was as if I’d seen him yesterday and the jokes and jibes and double-entendres flowed. Conversations about the minutiae of 70s TV and the often horrific content in the songs played on Ed Stewart’s Junior Choice followed to shrieks of laughter.
Knowing I was a huge fan of Doctor Who, he surreptitiously shared with me his script for the then-upcoming spin-off Torchwood. Gutted that it wasn’t produced, he published it under the name ‘Webley Wildfoot’ as Torch, Wood and Peasants. The conceit being that it was a script for a programme called Alien Sex Cops – and outlining the bizarre practices of the modern scriptwriting process.
The last time we worked together was for Borderline Press, where he contributed the story “Zeddlers” to Zombre, an anthology of Zombie stories that I edited. I felt particularly privileged that he contributed to this project as he was very busy producing award-winning comics like Slash & Burn, The Vinyl Underground and Bodies at the time.
Essentially a parody/satire of the far-right English Defence League, “Zeddlers” illustrated his stance on fascism beautifully. It was a stance that he full bloodedly engaged with, calling out fascism and injustice at every opportunity, often to the detriment and loss of his social media accounts.
But that was Si all over. He was never less than supportive, never less than caring. His prime concerns were justice and fairness and just making sure people were okay. It’s all too trite to throw out lines like “he was the nicest guy in comics”, but he really was, and the outpourings on DC and 2000AD fan sites confirm this. Those of us privileged to call him our friend know that he often appended emails or social media posts with “KYAL.” This simple abbreviation tells you much about his outlook and his personality. Know You Are Loved. And he is.
My thoughts are with Colleen, his wife, his family, his friends. There’s a huge Si shaped hole in our lives and I’m not sure anything else could adequately fill it.
When John Freeman asked me if I wanted to write a tribute to Si, my initial response was “there are many many more people better placed to do this” and didn’t really change that opinion. I was new to Si’s ‘Hivemind’; we became acquainted through Zombre, but soon discovered we had a lot more in common outside of comics. We’re the same age and therefore remember most of the same experiences growing up in the 1970s and especially the 80s.
He was a lovely, erudite and fascinating man, whose ability with words made me envious. He deserved the work he got and probably deserved far more accolades and plaudits than he won. Over the last few years, we shared an interest in hosting pub quizzes, unusual music and dealing with horrendous and crushing depression and his untimely death pretty much upset me more than people I’ve known longer and better.
As life moves on we’re going to lose more and more of the people we love and admire; it’s the hazardous bi-product of getting old, except Si was the same age as me and therefore deserved to see more of life than he did. Death’s a shit like that…
Do not rest in peace, tear the place up, make changes for the good and have an excellent party with as many Fray Bentos meat pies as you can possible indulge yourself with. I will miss you Si.
Our thanks to both Will and Phil for their memories of Si. Our sympathies to his family and friends at this time
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.