I really hope you like it! Especially those who have been waiting the full 10 years to find out how it ends. I worry it's perhaps been hyped up a bit over the years, but despite that I am, after all, proud of it. I think it's a decent addition to the British comics scene, and maybe even quite a nice addition to the Dutch scene too (De Regenboog Orchidee 3 is out in May).
He was originally called William Buckle, but that only lasted as long as the first rough plot outline. As with Lily Lawrence, I wrote and drew an origin story for Pickle, this one seeing print in the Accent UK anthology, Twelve, in May 2005. For this I had to base a story on one of the twelve tasks of Heracles, and I was given the ninth task - the Girdle of Hippolyte. This became 'The Girdle of Polly Hipple', a story that saw Pickle accompany his mentor, Seth Surrey (whose name was taken from Eurystheus), on a job to get a photograph of the famous Eye of Horus, an Egyptian artefact to be used as the centre-piece of an exclusive fashion show. It was here that Pickle learned the power of nudging the news along if it didn't quite live up to expectations, a realisation that caused the corner of his mouth to take on an involuntary and permanent crooked scheming sneer.
Even so, Pickle isn't really bad. He's impatient for sensation but lives to be able to report a good story and write it up for his readers.
Incidentally, some of my favourite bits of writing in The Rainbow Orchid have featured William Pickle ... when Sir Alfred bamboozles him with botanical terms and his awkward fight with Newton, both in volume 1, and his attempted escape from the clutches of Urkaz Grope in volume 3.
Having changed the appearance of Sir Alfred's home I had to change every panel in which its exterior appeard. Here's one from a bit later in the story - the early version is pretty bad, and looks even more of a fake location than the early first panel. What an improvement a bit of architecture and street life can make! (Okay, plus a gap of 6 years and a slight improvement in my drawing ability).
I have been asked before if I use Google Sketch-Up for buildings - no, definitely not! (I think you can tell that, actually, otherwise they'd probably be a lot more ambitious!) A ruler, a pencil, two or three vanishing points and a bit of patience (maybe a little impatience every now and then, too), and though it may take longer, I like the feeling that it's all my own work - warts and all. The photograph below shows a page I was working on last year with three sheets of paper attached, each holding a vanishing point, and the finished panel.
I can also confirm I'll be at the Bristol Comic Expo on 12-13th May at the Brunel Passenger Shed, Bristol, and at Thought Bubble in Leeds with a table in Savile's Hall on 17-18 November. May will see publication of the Dutch edition, De Regenboog Orchidee, and to celebrate that I will be appearing at Stripdagen in Haarlem at the very start of June. I will confirm details of that closer to the time. And there will be more to come (including a number of school visits that I won't be publicising here).
I've been wanting to preview bits of The Rainbow Orchid volume 3 but too many extracts contain spoilers. Instead, here's a grid of bits of panels - enough, I hope, to intrigue, but without giving anything away!
He was a rare genius of the art of the comic strip with an incredible imagination and vision. He leaves a treasure trove of work - hopefully more of which will be translated into English.
Visit this wonderful tumblr blog of his work.
Lady Lilian Catherine Scott Lawrence (to give her full name and title, though she squirms at being called Lady - see volume 2) has her origins in a script I wrote a few months before I started The Rainbow Orchid, in 1996, in a story called 'Stage Fight'. In that she was called Lily Lowell, a cast member in a terrible melodramatic play that becomes a hit when the two male leads, both sweet on Lily, have their off-stage antagonism spill over into their performances. Another character in that script was one Evelyn Saxon, who would morph into Evelyn Crow for Orchid. I later adapted this story to fit in to the Julius Chancer universe and it appeared as a Lily Lawrence 'origin story' of sorts, called 'Sword of Fate', appearing in The Girly Comic issue 5 back in 2004. A shorter Lily origin (4 panels long) appears in The Rainbow Orchid volume 2
So, what do we know about Lily? She is the daughter of Lord Reginald Tybalt Stone Pritchard Lawrence and Ann Blyth McKay (deceased) and had a brother, Peter Stone Scott Lawrence, who was killed on the Western Front in 1916. She ran away from home to become a stage actress and then ran away from that, to America, where she eventually became a film star at United Players.
Visually Lily took a little while to come through. At first she was too tom-boyish, though I didn't want her to be too 'girly' either. The inspiration for clinching her look came when I saw a photograph of a young Coco Chanel, though she changed more from that point on. Lily has the most complicated hair style and I still sometimes struggle to get it right!
Below is an early watercoloured drawing of Lily, from 1997, and one of the scrapbook pieces I came up with for volume 1 in 2009, Lily on the cover of Picture Show magazine.