His collection of short stories, Of Time and Stars, was a perennial favourite from my teenage years onwards. Many times I put it in the box for the charity shop, but always fished it out again at the last minute.
I created The Rainbow Orchid because making comics is such hard work that I wanted to write and draw one that I could be absolutely certain at least one person would really like - that person being me. It is steeped in all the things I love. From the adventure stories of H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle I took the long build-up to a fantastic element, made all the more amazing because the characters are immersed in the 'real world' for so much of the story. From the comics medium I dipped my pen into the European tradition of Hergé, Edgar P. Jacobs, Yves Chaland and the descendents of their ligne claire legacy, along with the strong sense of environment - a believable world - from Asterix and Tintin. Yet I wanted characters and a setting that were very strongly British, without being patriotic. Mixed into all this is my fondness for an involving and compelling plot, and artistic influences absorbed from a wealth of comic artists and illustrators, from Kay Neilsen to Bryan Talbot, and a simple love of history and adventure. No zombies, no bikini-clad gun-toting nubiles, and no teeth-gritting... grittiness. Just a huge slice of pure adventure, made to go with a big mug of tea.
Ken sent me his brief and I drew it up (see below). Sadly, the 6th edition never happened, in fact, a 6th edition was skipped, though it did eventually go to a 7th edition. The cover, this time, has been painted by T&T's rightful artist - Liz Danforth (who I was delighted to meet in 1986 at Origins, even if I was a bit too shy to say a lot to her). You can see the cover to the first edition, by Rob Carver, here.
Anyway, I was 13 (this was late 1982), and a school-friend had recently returned from a holiday in Florida, clutching the red boxed set of Basic Dungeons and Dragons! Bitten most severely by the RPG bug, we soon joined a local role-playing club, where I was very quickly turned away from D&D, and on to T&T - Tunnels and Trolls - something of a small-time rival to Gygax's mainstream success.
Tunnels and Trolls (written in 1975 by Ken St. Andre), was simpler, less rule-bound, and therefore, I thought, smoother to play, allowing imagination to flow more freely. Furthermore, it only used six-sided dice, so you could just borrow them from Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly. I don't think I ever went back to D&D, but I did move around into other games - Traveller, Runequest, Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia, though T&T was the mainstay.
Looking back, the bit I enjoyed most was writing the adventures more than actually playing them (though those were not bereft of fun). Gaming got me into self-publishing (printing my first fanzine, 'Demon Issue' in March 1985), and similarly, I enjoyed the writing and illustrating more than the actual playing. After a few years I looked at my shelf with all the games I'd accumulated, and didn't play, and the hobby quickly faded out for me. In some ways, I kind of regret the amount of time I spent writing RPG adventures - it took up a lot of hours, and maybe (I sometimes ponder) I'd be a better artist today if I'd have spent those valuable 'developing years' drawing more, instead of filling in character sheets.
But hey-ho, there you go. I did have some fun, and it did kick off my drawing more a bit later, as I started illustrating for other fanzines too, a road that has definitely lead to me doing my own thing with The Rainbow Orchid thus far.
To end off, here's a letter I wrote to the local paper in 1993, though I'd stopped playing by then. It's slightly embarrassing when I read it now, but the sentiment still holds water.
And sorry my RSS feed is currently not working - it will be fixed next weekend, when I'm going to have a computery-updatey-day, including upgrading my MacPro to Leopard... thought you'd like to know.
I have received quite a few emails concerning The DFC project. I can't say anything about it! Don't make me! (I probably don't know the answer anyway). Keep an eye on the DFC website - sign up, even. To answer one question, yes, I'm pretty certain you can subscribe from overseas. All public domain information is available within the current press release, or you could send a few questions to John Freeman, who will soon be interviewing The DFC's editor, Ben Sharpe.