garenewing (13 subscribers remain) dates from June 2004. I changed the RSS feed as I had to temporarily stop the blog and change location. The new one was...
webbledegook (8 subscribers remain) which dates from July 2006 and was the RSS feed for the newly located blog. But then I decided to centralise everything at the Rainbow Orchid site, and thus a third feed was born and syndicated onto LJ...
r_orchid_news (28 subscribers) which dates from November 2006.
To further confuse the issue, I have my own LiveJournal account, rainboworchid (71 subscribers), which does not feed from this blog, but I have started copying most (but not all) posts from here over there. That was originally set up so I could comment on other LJ accounts, and then I started running The Rainbow Orchid strip there too.
So what should you subscribe to if you're on LiveJournal? To get everything, subscribe to r_orchid_news. That is a bit of a soulless feed, and I only see comments there if I go and check it myself. If you want to friend me on LJ, then also add rainboworchid - and if you comment there I get notified.
If you're not on LiveJournal, there is another feed here, which is the one directly from this very blog, and is basically the same as r_orchid_news, but a different file. I add that just to confuse you as completely as possible.
Much of the content remains as it was, but in the run-up to the book launch, there will be many more changes and new stuff to come - particularly with the members' area (renamed The Adventurers' Society), which will become properly active towards the end of July.
Some areas have had quite an update, and I would point you to the characters section, and the behind the scenes section. There is also the return of a shop, which will become more Rainbow Orchid specific as we get nearer to publication.
I hope you like the redesign - do let me know if you come across any problems, bugs or glitches.
With no book out yet, I have limited my participation to the exhibition, but it will be great to have some of my work on show as part of that, and I'm really looking forward to being there on the day. Click the poster below to visit the festival website.
Paul Gravett, the Man At The Crossroads, has written a fabulous report on this year's Angouleme festival. I am definitely going next year. With a book coming out in a few months, I was particularly heartened to read this sentence:
"Others cry "Vive la crise!" and suggest that "BD" [Bande Dessinée] may weather the credit crunch better than most sectors because comics are often not some casual consumer purchase but a passion, an addiction, an escape that people are loathe to give up in tougher times."
"Certain genres seem to be weathering the storm. Many are predicting that escapism, particularly crime novels will be solid, less risk-averse bets. "As things get tougher I think we will look for some sort of nostalgia and some thrills or comfort or warmth," says Orion deputy publishing director Kate Mills."
I'm definitely keeping a positive outlook in the face of Robert Peston as far as The Rainbow Orchid is concerned. And the above should be good news too for a friend of Elyssa's (that's no lady, that's my wife), author Julie Corbin, who has her debut novel coming out from Hodder in April. I think you can expect fabulous things from Julie (I read an early draft of the first chapter and was hooked).
And finally... you might have noticed I've put a couple of event banners in the sidebar. The first is for the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival, organised by Mousehunter author, Alex Milway, and is still in its early days (so keep an eye on the blog for news). The second is for the Bristol Comics Expo, which I hope to attend, but am not yet committing to. They should both, of course, be fabulous.
I can't give away too much on his backstory, because parts of it are yet to emerge within The Rainbow Orchid. He works as an assistant to historical researcher, Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey, and we know that he saw service in the Dardanelles. In fact, here's an old photograph of him from those days.
As you might guess from his much younger looks, there's a distinct possibility he may have lied about his age to the recruiting officer. I can reveal that this photo led to Julius meeting with Sir Alfred for the first time, but that's a story for another day.
I have been asked whether I chose his name to fit in with an entire stream of fictional heroes who share the initials J.C. (Jerry Cornelius, Jesus Christ, John Carter, Jiminy Cricket etc.), or even quite a few famous real people too (Jarvis Cocker, Joe Cornish, Johnny Cash... oh, there's hundreds). The answer is no, it's not something I realised until a long time after I'd created him. In fact, if I'd have thought of it at the time, I may even have steered his name away from that area, because I wouldn't like anyone to read anything into the coincidence.
I did a lot of sketching until I settled on his look (he was blonde to begin with). His features aren't strong, it's mainly his streamlined (or Art Deco, as someone once joked) eyebrows and hairstyle that are definitive. His hairstyle was inspired by a photograph of silent film actor Neil Hamilton from D.W. Griffith's 1924 film, 'Isn't Life Wonderful?' I recently discovered that this is the same Neil Hamilton that played Commissioner Gordon in the 1960s TV series of 'Batman'. In The Rainbow Orchid, a small boy asks if he's the silent film director Rex Ingram, but I was originally going to have the boy say Neil Hamilton instead. Unfortunately that name is more famous in the UK for a somewhat disgraced and embarrassing politician-turned-"celebrity", so I avoided it.
I will say one final thing about Julius Chancer, which is that I know the date of his death! I will spotlight another Rainbow Orchid character soon.
An early drawing of Julius from 1997. You can see another one here.
Here is a drawing I made of the two adventurers, Hyakkimaru and Dororo, rustled up this morning.
On the way up to a talk in Middlesbrough last October, my agent mentioned how he liked my little tip of the hat to the Thom(p)sons (from Tintin) in the guise of the Tayaut twins. You may find this difficult to believe, but the comparison hadn't even crossed my mind. Because I am already dans l'ecole ligne claire, I have otherwise tried to ignore any further Hergéisms as much as possible. But now it's been mentioned, I actually quite like the idea.
You may be interested to know that Tayaut is a French term for the cry "tally ho!", having its origins in calling the hounds during a fox hunt. It could also mean "the game's afoot", or "let's go" and it was apparently used by some French pilots during World War II.
For those of you who have trouble telling them apart, Josette sports an orange jumper and a cap (she's also a little more happy-go-lucky than her sister), while Eloise has a blue jumper, and doesn't normally wear a hat (and is the more serious of the two). I say she normally doesn't wear a hat, because in the following beautiful image, by children's illustrator Sarah McIntyre, Eloise is in fact wearing a cap like Josette's. I was completely bowled over to receive this masterpiece, thanks so much Sarah! Click it for a bigger view (and see a translation note from Sarah here).
The initial image that jumped into my mind when I created Josette Tayaut (it was just her to begin with) was that of Jackie Coogan in The Kid, Charlie Chaplin's 1921 classic, though, of course, somewhat older and somewhat more female - but definitely in the category of tomboy. That leads me to another wonderful drawing, this time sent by Linda Wada, a Chaplin scholar and the world's foremost expert on his leading lady, Edna Purviance. Huge thanks, Linda!
And I'll just end off with a word or two of advice from Josette herself.
Recent issues have had a slightly stronger bias, I think, towards adventure strips, with 'John Blake' returning to the weekly comic's pages, as well as supernatural western 'Frontier', the stone age fables of 'Mezolith' and the Edwardian mysteries of 'Mirabilis'. All these are enjoyable strips, but the last two especially capture my interest with their rich imagination and depth of plot. I like adventure that unashamedly introduces some complexity into its structure, and find such tales highly rewarding. Indeed, it's the kind of thing I like to write myself, and gives me some confidence that my own strip, 'Nazaleod' will not be too far out of place in the pages of The DFC, something I had considered.
That's not to say anything less about any of the other strips, and the more comedic tales have been particularly good recently. The funniest, for me, is 'Super Animal Adventure Squad', and if a jade baboon with rubies for a bottom doesn't make you laugh, then the best joke involving a spoon I've read in ages (if I've ever actually read one before) definitely will. And 'Fish Head Steve' featured a boy milking his own head, which caused guffaws. 'Vern and Lettuce' continues with its high-quality artistry in both illustration and writing, and new-comer 'Bodkin and the Bear' is simple and entertaining. And I mustn't forget 'Good Dog Bad Dog', already a DFC classic with some top-tier cartooning, and 'Lazarus Lemming', the James Bond (or Woodrow Wilkins) of the animal kingdom.
Not every story in every issue's a winner, but from the above you get a taste of the diversity which is becoming The DFC's strength. Rather than spreading itself too thinly in many areas, the richness of the contents mean there's something of quality for everyone in every issue, and its constantly changing shape to surprise you in new ways.
What could be better, really, than a weekly package of such absorbing entertainment flopping through the letterbox every Friday? No adverts, no cheap plastic rubbish taped to the cover in the guise of a free gift. All story. You can see some previews here, and subscribe through the website here. I heartily recommend it!
(Edit: by request, you can now click the photo for a bigger version)
Throughout the programme, the Natural History Museum was heavily featured, and at the end they showed a statue of Charles Darwin being placed at the head of the steps inside the main hall in celebration of his 200th birthday. If you look at the Rainbow Orchid panel that features the hall, set in the late 1920s, you'll see the same statue (though quite small) already there. Are these my amazing predictive powers at work?
No, I'm afraid not. What David Attenborough didn't mention in the programme is that the very same Darwin statue was originally in that position from 1885 until it was replaced in 1927 by a statue of the museum's founder, Richard Owen. While Orchid may be set just a few months after this (though I purposefully don't give a precise date within the story), my own preference was for the Darwin statue to remain in pride of place.