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This interview, conducted in September 2010, originally appeared on Mondoagogo [old link] and is now archived here since the original site is no longer active. It also appears in The Rainbow Orchid Supplement. Special thanks to Anna Jay for the interview.


AJ: There's a very obvious ligne-claire influence on your work, which you've made no secret of, but I'm curious about any other influences on your drawing. From what I've seen of your adaptation of The Tempest (which I've not read in full) the line was much more detailed, and reminded me far more of artists like Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. Are there any other artistic influences besides the obvious ligne-claire stylings of Jacobs and Hergee who you would like to namecheck?

GE: Arthur Rackham and Heath Robinson are two of my favourite artists, and were my gateway into discovering Edmund Dulac, Kay Nieilsen, Harry Clarke and others of that era. That may seem a long way from Herge or Yves Chaland, but there's a sensibility that connects them all in Japanese print work, which I used to sit and copy for hours in my mid-teens. Those prints, by artists such as Kuniyoshi and Hiroshige are very ligne claire, and they also influenced the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. Another big influence on my comic work is Richard Corben, I'm aware of him within my work but I doubt it shows through the Herge that I suspect blinds the casual observer. I used to want to be like Brian Bolland, but I'm all right now (I still love his work). The artist I got compared to most in the early 90s was probably Bryan Talbot, which is fine by me!

AJ: Was it a conscious decision to move towards the ligne-claire style because of the style of the story you were telling, or was it more of an organic change?

GE: It was a conscious decision. I kind of decided to give up wanting to become a 'proper comic artist' - I realised I didn't want to be a pen for hire, I wanted to indulge myself, so it was a matter of deciding the kind of comics I loved most, and wanting to do my own. There are a lot of good reasons, I think, for doing this kind of adventure comic in ligne claire. Having said that, after the complexity of my style in The Tempest, I did clean up my art a bit - I did a little strip for Rol Hirst's 'The Jock' that is a sort of missing link between The Tempest and The Rainbow Orchid.

AJ: Speaking of influences, you mentioned on Twitter a while back that your narrative was quite influenced by playing the Broken Sword computer game. Are there any other writerly influences people might not guess at?

GE: I've mentioned the authors Rider Haggard, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle before - they really are the biggest story influences on The Rainbow Orchid. I like film directors who also wrote their own scripts, especially Akira Kurosawa and Charlie Chaplin. They solved story problems visually and through character. That is always a background to my writing, but I don't think I've had the time to really indulge in that area of things yet - I haven't given myself enough space. But I think there are probably one or two moments where I'm channeling that spirit, if you like. I want readers to get lost in the book, and that's what happened to me when I read King Solomon's Mines, or Asterix and Tintin, and when I played Broken Sword for the first time. 'From Hell' is another example - I forgot I was reading a comic, which is a lovely feeling.

AJ: It's interesting that almost all of the storytelling influences you mention are prose or cinema writers rather than comics writers, and From Hell is not exactly a typical comic -- or at least, it wasn't when it came out; being as literary as it was. Are there any comics writers you particularly admire?

GE: I don't think there are any comic writers, separate from artists, that have left any kind of an indelible mark on me, apart from Alan Moore to some degree. Most of the comics that have had any kind of impact are the product of a singular vision - Herge, Jacobs, Trondheim, Miyazaki, Tezuka and all that. One of my very favourite comics was, and is, Charley's War, but I'm not certain that I feel particularly influenced by Pat Mills - but I'm sure it must be there in the mix to some degree. What child that grew up in the 70s and went on to make their own comics doesn't have Pat Mills in there somewhere?!

AJ: You do a lot of research to get tiny details right. You must come across a lot of temptingly interesting tangents. What's been the most intriguing, which might make you want to abandon what you're doing and chase fragments of a new story?

GE: Looking into the Kalasha people of Chitral was fascinating, and I did a disproportionate amount of research seeing as they only appear in a few panels, but I would be tempted to follow them up, and the myth that they might be the descendants of some of the soldiers of Alexander the Great, which I'm not sure I believe is actually true. I think it would be too close to Kipling's 'The Man Who Would Be King' though!

AJ: That's not necessarily a reason not to write about it, though -- if it was then pretty much most comics or movies would never get made!

GE: That's true, but I think Kipling (or John Huston for the excellent film version) said it all so well already, I don't think I'd bring anything new to it. Another thing might be the Breguet aircraft - I had a friend of mine make a balsa wood model of it, though the plane crashes in a ball of flame in volume two - so I'd like to get more use out of that and give the Tayaut family some little adventures of their own.

AJ: It would be great to see more of the Tayaut family. I love the twins; they seem like great role models for little girls: I think they probably would have been my favourite characters when I was a kid. They remind me of the character Fio in Miyazaki's Porco Rosso, which in some ways has a similar aesthetic (albeit from a slightly later era), which brings me to another question. Animation is another medium which combines words and images, almost a bridge between live action cinema and comics. So what sort of animation do you like?

GE: Miyazaki hits the spot for me. I just watched Whisper of the Heart (for which he wrote the script) - it was a four-blub film, so beautiful. Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky and My Neighbour Totoro are masterpieces, and I remember thinking Porco Rosso probably was about the same time setting as RO late twenties? I used to really love Disney, but since discovering Miyazaki I can only watch a few of them now. Pinnochio is the best, Snow White, and I quite like Mulan and Atlantis from the later period. When I was about 11 my mum wrote off to the Disney Studios on my behalf to enquire about working there, and I got a reply letting me know how much hard work it would be!

AJ: You're working on volume 3 of The Rainbow Orchid, before it all comes out in one collection next year. What do you want to work on after that (this may tie into the previous question)?

GE: Already plotted out is another Julius Chancer adventure. This one takes place mainly in Britain and leans more towards being a detective story, a murder mystery. It also focuses more on Julius Chancer as the central character, because The Rainbow Orchid is rather an ensemble piece, I think. I want to dive straight into that as soon as RO is done.

AJ: Oooh, exciting. I'm tempted to quiz you further on that, but I think I'd rather be surprised.

GE: I just hope The Rainbow Orchid does well enough to see a second story published. RO was conceived and plotted, including the ending, back in 1997. I'm dying to originate something new, with all I've learnt about comic storytelling in the past ten years.

AJ: The second Rainbow Orchid book has a couple of "origin" stories -- how Lily became a Hollywood actress, how Julius ended up working for Sir Alfred -- will the next book have some more of those?

GE: The only other story that gets told in The Rainbow Orchid will be Meru's story in volume 3. William Pickle's was told in 'The Girdle of Polly Hipple', which appeared in Accent UK's 'Twelve' anthology, and Lily's was a longer story that appeared in 'The Girly Comic' back in 2004. Julius's was plotted out for an anthology as well, but in the end was just summarised in RO volume 2. Sir Alfred would be the other big story to tell, but I think that will just be revealed in little snippets as we go along.

AJ: Is there any plan to collect them, or at least make them available to more people? And I'd love to know more about young George Scrubbs, Pickle's photographer. He seems like he might have some stories to tell.

GE: I haven't thought very seriously about collecting them - the Lily story just appeared in the Dutch comics magazine, Stripschrift. It was a twelve-page story that I crammed into six pages, and the Pickle story was an eight-pager that went down to four, so it would be nice to give them more space one day, though I doubt that will actually happen. George Scrubbs I haven't thought about, to be honest, but you're right, there's a story there somewhere

AJ: This probably ties into the question above, but how did Evelyn Crow get to be so nasty?

GE: She would be the other main origin story readers would want, certainly! But actually she's probably best kept as an enigma, which she is, even to me at the moment! Maybe she'll reveal herself one day...

AJ: It seems fitting that of all the characters, she's the one who remains most shrouded in mystery. I think in some ways that's a large part of her appeal, and learning the truth about her might seem... disappointing or anticlimactic.

GE: I think you're right. Evelyn is my most common sketch request at comic shows and signings, though she does have to survive volume three yet - Nathaniel did put a bullet in her at the end of volume two!

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