Click on the image below to download the PDF, then print it out.
The Rainbow Orchid volume 2 is out on Monday - 5th July 2010. Pre-order from Amazon here.
Click on the image below to download the PDF, then print it out.
They're the full-bleed cover illustrations for the first two volumes, A3, and on a nice shiny paper. These aren't the quality of the giclée prints (thus they'll be a much lower price), but they are very good indeed - I wouldn't put anything in the shop unless I'd want it myself!
Looking a little further ahead there are a number of excellent looking events on the horizon. The line-up at Caption this year (31 Jul - 1 Aug) looks like one of the best they've had for quite a while - Melinda Gebbie, Neil Cameron, P J Holden, Sarah McIntyre talking to Darryl Cunningham, and Paul Duffield - just for starters!
My next big event is at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. On Monday 23 August I'm doing an Adventure Comics Workshop at 5pm in the RBS Workshop Tent:
"Discover the tricks of the trade and design your own classic adventure with this hands-on comics workshop led by Garen Ewing, author and illustrator of The Rainbow Orchid series. His books are often compared with some classic adventures we all love, from Conan Doyle's books to old-school Belgian comics like Tintin - come along and discover your own style."
And on Tuesday 24 August at 1pm, also in the RBS Workshop Tent, I'm doing a schools-only event rather brazenly entitled Comics with Garen Ewing. I'm not entirely sure what this is about yet, but going by the description it looks like I've got a bit of work to do!
"Garen Ewing's The Rainbow Orchid series of comics combines the visual look of Tintin cartoons with the excitement of Indiana Jones-style adventures. Join him for a tour of the world of comics, looking at how writing, illustration and design has developed over the years."
For slightly younger readers, make sure you check out Sarah McIntyre's workshop events (Monsters and Aliens Let Loose!) on Tuesday 24th August. Moving into September, I will be appearing on a panel about comics at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature on Saturday 25 September. As they haven't published the programme yet I won't give any more details, but I am rather excited about the other creators with whom I'm sharing the table!
In case you're not aware, earlier this year SFX Magazine launched a new periodical all about comics called Comic Heroes, and the second issue has just come out. This edition includes a little supplement titled Sidekick, previewing a number of new comics including Bryan Talbot's new Grandville book, Ben Dickson and Warren Pleece's Not One Minute of Silence, Karen Rubins' Urban Beasts and the first five pages of The Rainbow Orchid volume 2, among others.
I should also mention (only because I'm drawing attention to the publication) that there is a rather so-so review of volume 2 in the main magazine (3/5 stars). The reviewer's criticism echoes that of the three or four other less-favourable reviews I've had, citing the slower pace and many plot strands. I'm totally fine with that because I happen to love such stories, but not everyone does, and we all have our own tastes. I'm actually pleasantly overwhelmed by the number of people who have cited these same elements as things that they also like, which gives me faith that not everything is going the way of stories told in a series of bite-sized hooks, an explosion every other page and nothing more complicated than a lumbering zombie or a man with a drink problem and a gun. Multi-stranded storytelling is fine, as long as it's told clearly, and I take great efforts to do that. Comics are a great medium for stories of that nature, they give the reader plenty of time to digest everything they need, and not all adventure comics have to be Tarzan rescuing Jane - the reader can cope! I must say, however, it was a thoughtful review, and I do take it all on board.
(To balance things out a bit, here's a lovely review by Kim Harte that appeared in Inis, the magazine of children's books in Ireland, and here's another nice mention by Neil Elkes over at Speech Balloons. And there are more reviews here.)
I do sometimes wonder if three volumes was the best way to go with The Rainbow Orchid as it's meant to be read as a single book with its story-flow steadily rising throughout. If I'd have planned it as three separate books the build-up and pace would certainly be different for each volume with a more rapid rise in each. But with the three separate volumes, at least it's available right now and with volume two imminent, time will fly by. Before you know it, volume three and the story's exciting conclusion will be upon us.
I'd better get on with it then!
I was football mad for a couple of years in the late 1970s, and it all started with the 1978 world cup (being half Scottish, I supported Scotland and have remained an interested supporter ever since). Here's a picture of me at the time in my Scotland football shirt (my brother has just banged his head on our dad's Mini, and is wearing a rather cool Star Wars shirt made from our mum's stock of iron-on transfers; the other two are my cousins who we were visiting in Southampton).
At the moment England have just got through to the second round after improving quite dramatically on their previous form, though still only able to score one goal. They play Germany next, old rivals, who also only scored one goal in their last game, but looked very good indeed. I'm also partial to the Netherlands, the team I supported in the 1978 world cup final (unfortunately they lost to Argentina then - they also lost to Scotland in the first round). Apart from that, I've just enjoyed the whole thing, watching a few games, and listening to most of them on Five Live while sitting at the drawing desk.
The UK has a great tradition of football comics - I worked on a handful of DC Thomson's Football Picture Story Monthlies myself. Like superhero comics, they give the artist the chance to draw the human figure in a variety of bendy action poses. Check out some of Rob Davis's marvellous football work here. And I did a drawing for The Observer Sport Monthly in the last world cup. Here's Julius Chancer in the 1920s England kit (no, he never played for England!). For another 1920s-related football post, see here!
The main character is Evelyn, whose over-active imagination is directed into the comics she draws - the adventures of Zirconium Man and his sidekick (and Evelyn's alter-ego), Scooter. It's also her imagination that conjures up German spies on every street corner, and a trail that eventually leads to a possible spy-ring right in the heart of New York itself.
The story is written by two new-comers to the art of comics, but you wouldn't know it as it's a clearly told tale, and not overburdened with narration as some comics by pure wordsmiths are prone to. There are a couple of rather unlikely moments (the secret code that relies on a published work of fiction and the floor plan to a piece of 14th century architecture is a great idea but would seem impossible to match in reality), but they are far outweighed by the many moments of fun and excitement that move the story along at a perfect pace.
The relationship between the bohemian aunt and the flat-footed policeman reminded me of the romantic comedies of the period, perhaps played by the likes of Cary Grant and Paulette Goddard or Katharine Hepburn.
The cartooning, by a graduate of the New York School of Visual Arts, is lively and clear in both line and storytelling, and has hints of the European school of Hergé, Floc'h and Yves Chaland, with the two children often reminding me of Hergé's Jo and Zette in character, though the setting and atmosphere is very definitely American (indeed Evelyn's own comic is rendered in a fitting 1940s pulp comic style). All in all, it's another great book from First Second.
We eventually reached our guest house in Hay at 7.30pm - just enough time for a quick shower and then out to meet Mike Richards, Egmont marketing chap, along with his wife, Anna, and the writer and illustrator team of the Stripy Horse books - Jim Helmore and Karen Wall, for dinner - all marvellous company for the evening. We had a remarkably quiet restaurant considering everywhere else was booked up due to the festival and, as it was my birthday, I finished my meal with a lovely ice cream.
Ellie and I had been to Hay-on-Wye about four years ago, as part of a few days away in the Brecon Beacons, but this was our first time at the festival. To describe it as a collection of tents in a field just outside the village wouldn't do it justice - it's like a little village in itself, with walkways, stores, play areas, lounging-about areas, cafes, flags rippling in the breeze, and the venues themselves, which are more like little theatres, function rooms or lecture halls than tents. The atmosphere was extremely laid back and pleasant.
My talk was in the Oxfam Studio. At first I balked at the size of it (my main worry was that no one would turn up) but as it turned out enough attended to fill the space more than not. Despite that, it probably wasn't quite the right venue for me - my talk relies on showing art and pictures on a slide show, and rather than a nice big projection screen (as at Cheltenham, and even Bristol) I had two television screens either side of me that got slightly lost in the light of the tent. But, if not ideal, it worked fine, and I was certainly able to do my talk as intended.
The other thing I was somewhat wary of, was the fact that this was me, on my own, talking for an hour - to (predominantly) kids. The majority of events at Hay were interviews, panels, or teams of creators. It's quite a tall order to stand there on your own and talk, and children are not generally thought to be the most patient of listeners (certainly not for that long). But again, it all went very well and the audience were fantastic - I didn't stay too long on each slide and I put the emphasis on how I make comics and therefore how you can make comics, and on making up characters, drawing animals, writing and sketching, and on researching things such as revolvers so I know how many 'bangs' a .32 Mauser can make before the bullets run out. This was the first time I'd made my slideshow this long, and somehow it lasted just the right amount of time for 15 minutes of questions at the end. I needn't have worried about that either as there were plenty of really interesting questions from both parents and children of all ages. All in all the talk went well, and I know which bits definitely worked, and which bits could do with bit of fine-tuning, so next time (the Edinburgh Literary Festival, I think) should be better still.
The next thing I knew I was being whisked off to the festival bookshop where I sat at a table and signed books for just over an hour. This was really enjoyable because I was able to talk face-to-face with those who came along and hear their enthusiasm for the talk, the book and for comics in general, which was lovely. It was also great to have such a variety of people, a few older readers, and a great mix of boys and girls (in fact, probably more girls this time, I'd say). I'm really grateful for everyone who came along - thanks very much! And Ellie and I were so well looked after at Hay, so a really big thanks to Mike Richards from Egmont, and also to Sophie Lording and Rhiannon from the festival - I couldn't have been made to feel more welcome or had a nicer time.
After a rather filling dinner in the artists' area of the restaurant, Ellie and I went to see Paul Gravett who was on a panel about the current Tate Britain exhibition, Rude Britannia, along with Gerald Scarfe, Brian Griffiths and Tate Etc. magazine editor, Simon Grant. While Griffiths made a case for his bits-and-pieces sculptures being an art-equivalent of The Office or a Carry-On film, yet also using that oft-used defence of modern art, 'it means what you want it to mean', it was Scarfe who stole the show, and who should have had a lot more time to talk about his work. Paul Gravett was rather under-utilised, and I think another hour of this interesting subject wouldn't have been amiss. Afterwards I had a nice chat with Paul in the artists' lounge - he's currently working on Comica Argentina which will be taking place in London throughout June.
We went to one more talk in the late evening - Alex Butterworth talking about his book The World That Never Was. I wanted to see this purely because the subject sounded intriguing, but I knew nothing about the book - and to be honest, by the end of the talk (which was a bit like part two of a lecture), I still knew very little about the book! Alex leapt right into the depths of his subject - he certainly knew his stuff - it was complicated but did hold my interest. I also felt for him as, like me, he had to talk on his own for the hour. Being given the five-minute signal from the back, he seemed to skip three pages, and then only had time for one brief question. A book I will certainly be having a closer look at.
We left the festival that evening (it had one more day to run) and drove to Hereford, spending a lazy Sunday morning in the town before heading for the comforts, and tea, of home. It's nice to go away and do these things, but it's lovely to be back home again.