One - MULP: Sceptre of the Sun. This is an adventure comic crossing the territory of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, Sherlock Holmes, Allan Quatermain ... all that lovely stuff, but with an extra unique feature - all the characters are mice! The story is intriguing and exciting, and the artwork is detailed and gorgeous. It's written by Matt Gibbs, with art by Sara Dunkerton and lettering by Jim Campbell. There's lots to love in it - 1920s cars and motorbikes, archaeological mysteries and clues from the ancient past, mice riding lizards, beetles as beasts of burden, wooden aeroplanes, a classy villainess, and lots more (including a background appearance by a certain Julius and Lily in mouse form). It's right up my street. The first issue (of five) will be released on 7th May 2014 and you can find out more at the Mulp website.
Two - Kurt Dunder. Perhaps you recall that I wrote a review of the only Kurt Dunder book to be published in English - Kurt Dunder in Tirol - back in 2009? Well, now Danish author Frank Madsen has made the very first volume available in English too, Kurt Dunder in Africa, in digital format from Comixology. This is terrific news, and as soon as I get my mitts on the family iPad I'm going to download it for myself!
Three - Unfinished City. This is a detective thriller set in the criminal underworld of Former Yugoslavia and it looks very nice. You can read the first 20 pages here. The art, by Robert Solanović, is wonderful and gave me a hint of Simon Gane, and a pinch of Paul Harrison-Davies - both favourites of mine, but it's all its own thing. And the story is enthralling and very readable, by a UK writer who I have long-admired as an excellent story maker, Ben Dickson, this time in collaboration with Sylvija Martinović. Please support the project's Kickstarter campaign - I want that book in my hands!
If you've read my 'director's commentary' that appeared at the Forbidden Planet International blog a little while back, or have seen me talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, or the Hay Book Festival, or at the British Comic Awards last year, then you'll already be familiar with this material.
As a footnote to this post, there's a rather grumpy review of The Complete Rainbow Orchid up at Amazon.com (US) where the reviewer goes on at some length about the 'pathetic' 'self indulgence' of my making-of material at the back of the book. While I don't mind if someone doesn't like my book - that's fine (and I'm very aware of its imperfections myself) - I do feel that this criticism is a little unfair.
Perhaps things are different here in the UK where many comic creators are actively trying to revive the comics industry by getting young people engaged in the medium, especially at workshops where we help them to create their own comics. I get a lot of interest in how I work - from invitations to do workshops at schools and book festivals, to emails on the subject (often several a month) and queries at comic shows.
It's got nothing to do with thinking me or my creative process is particularly important. It's a different world now - most artists have blogs and show their working methods and many published comics have sketchbook and process sections at the back. Why? Because people are genuinely interested. I love seeing such things myself, from the smallest of small-pressers to the biggest names in the industry.
Now, that's enough self-indulgence!
I'd always wanted The Rainbow Orchid to be a single book, but in order to give myself some deadlines it was initially published in episodes in BAM! (Bulldog Adventure Magazine), from April 2002 to November 2003. In October 2003, upon the completion of the fifth episode, I decided to collect them all together and self-publish them as 'part one' - something that eventually set the template for Egmont's decision to publish it in three separate volumes a few years later.
I launched the book at the London 'Winterfest' on 1 Nov 2003, at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, and sold almost 100 copies - it was really well received. The rest of the print run (250, I think) sold out fairly quickly afterwards, through the post and at the Bristol Comics Festival in May 2004. I sold the last copy on eBay, in December 2004, along with some sketches, where it eventually went for £79 (with 10 bids). I was amazed it went for so much, so threw in the original of the cover drawing as well. Someone else sold a copy on eBay, by itself, in June 2009 for £12, and I heard that another went on Amazon for nearly £100 (in the wake of an article on my work in Book Collector magazine).
The 2004 eBay lot.
Apart from the cover, the entire book is in black and white and the story is 34 pages long (two pages were added for Egmont's volume 1, as well as some individual panel changes). There are some 'extras' - a character page, not too dissimilar from the layout in the eventual Egmont edition, a single-page scrapbook (again, a precursor to the double-page spread at the end of the Egmont vol. 1), and a page of pencils and roughs - mainly character sketches. The back page featured a couple of early colour panel tests and some quotes from the BAM! letters pages. There are some minor printing errors on the inside-back and back pages due to the printer not flattening transparencies on the PDF.
That's about all there is to know about it, really. I was glad of the opportunity to draw a more dynamic version of the cover for Egmont, and also to lengthen a couple of scenes - especially the last scene with the aircraft taking off, which I finished rather hurriedly originally in order to get the book to the printer before I went off on holiday to Paris. A 'part two' was never published because I decided to serialise the continuing story on my website.
Since then the book has had its three complete volumes published in English, Dutch, Spanish, French and German, collected editions in English and Spanish, an iPad version, it's taken me to the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Cheltenham and Bath Festivals, as well as doing signings in Holland, Germany and, most recently, at Angoulême in France. Who'd have thought? (Not me!)