In other news, if you've recently ordered books from my online shop - a huge thank you! I have had quite a number of orders, which is lovely, but it does mean there will be a bit of a backlog to send off, so please be patient while I get through them all as best as I can.
A couple of other things of note ... Steve Holland's Bear Alley has recently published a great little article by Jeremy Briggs on the short-lived but influential Near Myths magazine. I'm really lucky to own some of Tony O'Donnell's Thiirania originals, as well as all five issues of the publication itself. Go and have a read.
And you may remember, some time back, that I plugged a super Playmobil comic by Nick Foulger called The Green Man. Nick wrote to tell me that it is now available to read for free as an online video/slide show. It's also available in French, German and Spanish, so do go and give it a look - I think it's really impressive.
Let me also point you to the website of an artist who I met at the Bristol Comic show, but who's work I've been aware of for a little longer than that. Sara Dunkerton is producing some absolutely wonderful stuff, and I've just seen a sneaky-peek of something she's working on with marvellous writer Matt Gibbs and it's really knocked my socks off. Do also go and check out Improper Books, where Matt is an editor. Some good stuff coming your way!
Finally - don't forget I'm at Waterstones in Deansgate, Manchester, this Sunday, where I'll be running a comic character creation workshop from 1-3pm. If you can't make that, and are nearer London, then i'd highly recommend you get yourself along to the Pop-up Festival Comics Big Top of Awesome on Saturday which, as it says on the tin, looks distinctly awesome!
Also supportive has been the East Grinstead Courier & Observer, and earlier in the week they ran a nice little feature on me to help support the signing. Then on Saturday morning I made my way to the Meridian FM studio to appear on the Krys O'Brien programme. I had a lovely hour with Krys who gave a really friendly and enjoyable interview.
When I got to The Bookshop I discovered that John had set up a table for me outside - it was a little blowy, but sunny enough (glad I brought my hat!) and I was busy for the full two hours, including signing books for a number of children who had been at my school workshop the previous Monday, and who wanted to complete their sets of books.
I must give mention to two fellow artists who I had the pleasure to meet - especially as a gust of wind blew the paper with their details on half way down the High Street at the end of my stint, and I chased it down and rescued it! Dave Novis is a fabulous animator and visual effects artist (love those Pip the Robot shorts), and Sarah Partington creates an original and chuckle-inducing cartoon called Fingerprint Len. Check them out!
As ever, a huge thanks to everyone who came along to see me on Saturday, and to all those who helped to make it happen. Next event - Waterstones in Deansgate, Manchester, this Sunday!
I couldn't be happier to see my book brought out by Netcom2 as they also publish albums by authors that rank among my own favourites - Jacques Martin (Alix, Lefranc) and Roger Leloup (Yoko Tsuno) to name just two.
César Espona contacted me quite a few months ago to ask about adding The Rainbow Orchid to his enviable list, and with the help of my agent, Oliver Munson at Blake Friedmann, and Iria Villahermosa at their Spanish partners, The Foreign Office in Barcelona, we were able to make this happen.
At the moment, publication is set for somewhere around Christmas 2012 in a hardback format - I will keep you up to date on details as they come. Spanish is one of those languages that I've had emails asking if RO will ever be translated into - and now, at last, I can say yes. Or rather ... sí!
On Saturday I went down to Lewes to give my adventure comics workshop at Bags of Books, an outstanding children's bookshop in a town that boasts a number of fine little bookshops. I think there were about 25 children and the imagination was in full flow as we created fabulous heroes, dastardly villains, and the shortest little epic adventure strips you'll ever see. A special thank you to Anna and Vikki for hosting me. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Lewes, do go and give their wonderful shop a visit.
On Monday I was invited by Forest Row Primary School to give four comic workshop sessions to four classes, all in one morning - it was hectic but great fun. This time we added a dash of the Olympics to the proceedings as I set the story of the Olympic flame being stolen. As for by whom, and who would save the day, that was up to the children to decide, and I must have seen over 200 unique, bizarre, and amazing Olympic heroes and villains that morning! Another sincere thanks for having me, this time to Denise for setting up the event, and to Siobhan and her colleagues for looking after me so well.
This Saturday I will be at The Bookshop in East Grinstead, available to sign copies of The Rainbow Orchid, and I'll also have some original art pages to show. I'll be at the shop from 11 until 1, and if you tune into 107 Meridian FM from 10am you should also find me on Krys O'Brien's morning show just beforehand. I look forward to chatting to anyone and everyone who comes about comics - making them and reading them!
If you've seen the current issue of TBK Magazine (Summer 2012) you'll see a lovely mention of The Rainbow Orchid, and also a page I wrote and designed that gets you going on your own comic strip, complete with some handy hints on how to write a gripping adventure story.
Which reminds me ... I have, at last, updated the online shop to include volume 3, either as part of the complete set, or as a signed and sketched-in edition on its own. From interest and enquiries so far I am expecting a bit of a glut of orders to begin with (I've had four in the half hour since I updated the page), so please bear with me if they take just a little longer to get out in the post than usual - thank you.
Finally, don't forget that this week sees part three of The Bald Boy and the Dervish, the penultimate chapter in Ben Haggarty's Silk Roads story, illustrated by me and appearing in The Phoenix. Here's a little sneaky-peek ...
For a flight that takes just an hour, you certainly have to spend a lot of hours at the airport waiting around - but it's all part of the 'fun' (if you fly as infrequently as I do). My daughter was very good and had a fellow one-year old in the seat behind us to chat to (well, they mostly just pointed at each other). We arrived at Schiphol just after 6pm where we were met by my publisher, Silvio Van Der Loo of Silvester Strips, and he drove us to Haarlem, and our very nice hotel - the Amrath Frans Hals.
Once in our room I had half an hour before I had to be at Silvio's newest shop on Kleine Houtstraat, just round the corner from the hotel, principally to sign 250 Rainbow Orchid prints that were being included as part of a special Stripdagen portfolio, priced at 50 Euros and produced by Stichting Beeldverhaal Nederland. The other prints included work by Peter Van Dongen (who illustrated this year's Stripdagen poster, above), Hermann, Romano Molenaar, Eric Heuvel, and Wil Raymakers. I also signed a few books for customers as the shop was still open.
After another short break at the hotel I ventured out again to meet up with Silvio and some of his Silvester Strips staff, as well as French comic artist Jacob Damien (Major Arcanum) and his wife, and Croatian comic artist Igor Kordey (Secret History, Empire) and his girlfriend, at a restaurant for a late-night dinner. It was a very enjoyable evening, and I did my best to keep up with the conversations flying around the table in French, Dutch and English. I felt pretty shattered by the time I got back to the hotel at about half-past midnight!
Saturday was the first day of Stripdagen, and as we set off to join the Silvester Strips crew for breakfast in a little café next to their shop, we saw the stalls in the market unloading what seemed to be hundreds of banana boxes - but there were no bananas contained therein, they were full of comics! Part of Stripdagen was a huge number of stalls in the Grote Markt, all selling more comic albums than I think I've ever seen in my life. And walking through the streets we saw that a number of the local shops had comic displays in their windows (you can see Erik de Graaf's here).
With breakfast consumed it was off to the Philharmonie where the hub of the comics festival was set up. To my surprise I didn't have to obtain a pass or a ticket to enter - the event was totally free. The Silvester Strips stand was right opposite the main entrance and within 15 minutes or so I was sat down at their long signing table and sketching and signing all three volumes of De Regenboog Orchidee. This is where I saw my first examples of the beautiful box ('cassette') my Dutch publisher had made to house all three hardback albums, as people brought them up to be signed. The Saturday saw me signing for 5 hours, not including a lunch break where it was a pleasure to catch up with friend of The Rainbow Orchid, John Wigmans.
At various times throughout the weekend my fellow book signers (the ones I met, anyway) included Dirk Verschure (who reduced me to tears of laughter at one point in his attempt to make my daughter smile, she staying stony-faced throughout), Igor Kordey, Damien, Simon Spruyt and Fritz van den Heuvel. I only managed to have time for one brief walk round the main festival, and no time to visit any of the many exhibitions that were taking place across town - I particularly wanted to see those featuring the work of Joost Swarte, Peter Van Dongen and Eric Heuvel. But this was a working visit, and there was more sketching and signing to be done.
After Stripdagen had closed for the day, we took a stroll around Haarlem in the early evening sun. It had been a beautiful sunny day, and even though the Grote Markt was packing up and most of the shops had closed, it was such a relaxing and blissful walk round the beautiful little city that I felt completely refreshed, if a little tired, after hours of sketching in books.
I didn't join up with the Silvester Strips group again for dinner that evening, it was Elyssa and my tenth wedding anniversary so, along with our little one, we headed to a little Italian restaurant and had a lovely meal just ourselves. Besides that, the Silvester Strips meal was rather later in the evening, way past my daughter's bedtime - and I really needed an early night too! Not just because of Stripdagen, but because working on the 'Bald Boy' strip for The Phoenix meant I hadn't been to bed before 2am in quite a while.
We awoke on Sunday to something of a torrential downpour, and after a little expedition out into the city, we decided to have breakfast in our hotel room. Sunday was more of the same at Stripdagen, signing and sketching in books, and - the best part - chatting to those who read and enjoyed my books. I'm made to feel very welcome in Holland, and the enthusiasm for my albums is very heartening. Comics in mainland Europe are treated with another level of respect entirely compared to the UK, though they're both equally marvellous in their ways.
I was only able to stay at the Silvester signing table for three hours on the Sunday as we had a plane to catch back home. After a quick lunch, a few goodbyes, a couple of last-minute signings, and picking up a handful of the wonderful Silvester Strips 20th anniversary Julius Chancer coins, Silvio's wife kindly drove the three of us back to Schiphol and our journey home began. The return flight was not as packed as our outbound one, so we had more room to stretch out on the plane (celebrity passenger spotted on flight home, Andrew Graham-Dixon). It's lovely to get out of the house, away from the drawing desk, and go to these events, but it's also very nice to come back home again!
I must say a huge thank you to Silvio and his Silvester Strips colleagues for, once again, being wonderful hosts and inviting me along to Stripdagen in Haarlem. It was a fabulous experience and I was delighted to have met so many lovely Dutch Regenboog Orchidee readers. I love Holland, and feel so lucky to have my book published there in Dutch, and in such a beautiful format. I can't wait until next time.
Look carefully and you might spot a character or two (or four, actually) from The Legend of the Golden Feather, that appeared in issue 1, hidden somewhere in the story!
If you're not yet reading this fantastic weekly comic, go and get a subscription, right now!
Books: The Rainbow Orchid by Garen Ewing - The main character in this set of graphic novels is an assistant to a historical researcher who ends up embroiled in an epic adventure to track down a rare flower. Beautifully illustrated with classic storytelling, in a similar style to Hergé's Tintin.
He also sent me a nice response on Twitter: "... I really love your Rainbow Orchid books. They fuel my hunger for classic adventure!"
How nice is that? I'm so chuffed to know he enjoys The Rainbow Orchid. Rhys starts his UK tour of This Way to the Spaceship on 1 July - see his tour dates here.
I had a superb time at Stripdagen in Haarlem this past weekend. Report and photos to follow soon.