There was a short introduction by Bryan's editor at Jonathan Cape (his publisher) and then a few words by one of Bryan's first publishers, Lee Harris, who produced Brainstorm Comix in the 1970s. Bryan then said a sentence (literally!) and we all got on with the mingling and book signing.
Besides being one of the UK's most important comic creators, Bryan is one of my long-time heroes, and when he offered to write a quote for the back of The Rainbow Orchid I was chuffed beyond belief. I'd been devoted to Bryan's portrayal of Nemesis the Warlock in 2000AD and was a subscriber to the Valkyrie Press Luther Arkwright series. And now we have Grandville, an utterly superb piece of work that looks as though it will spawn a series of albums featuring the main character - Detective-Inspector Lebrock of Scotland Yard (who happens to be a badger).
You can trace Bryan's career so far to see a kind of logical culmination in this book. He's always been a master of the intelligent action-adventure (Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire), and the animals come, perhaps, from his studies into Beatrix Potter for The Tale of One Bad Rat. Mix in some history that resonates with a veracity that only comes through genuine research (Alice in Sunderland) and wobble it somewhat with a dose of the fantastical (Nemesis, Luther etc.) and you have Grandville (and note the lovely little nods to Spirou (the hotel porter character) and Tintin (Snowy appears as a washed-up drug-addict) that add a cheeky wink to the story). This is a stunning book and Bryan's work just gets better and better.
Dave West has published a collection of his highly excellent Strange Times, which came out as a series of mini-comics and then began serialisation online over at the Accent UK website. But, and I emphasise this quite strongly, you really must own this marvellous hardback collection! It's a substantial package and an absorbing read, as well as being a beautiful object to have on your shelf (really nicely designed by Andy Bloor). I'll be sharing tablespace with Accent UK at BICS this weekend, so you can buy a copy directly from Dave himself if you're going - and you really really should.
I got interested in Francesca Cassavetti's work after it was highlighted by Richard Bruton on the Forbidden Planet International blog, and after meeting her at Caption this year I finally did what I'd been intending to do for some time and bought a handful of her totally delightful comics. I love her natural cartooning style, with a dash of Posy Simmonds and a pinch of bande dessinée thrown into the mix. I'll particularly single out The Most Natural Thing in the World which focuses on the trials and joys of new motherhood, but there isn't a single title out of the four I own that I didn't enjoy.
I tried to buy a copy of Self Made Hero's The Hound of the Baskervilles a little while ago and failed, but have at last added it to my ever-tightening shelves. I really enjoyed this adaptation (by Ian Edginton and I N J Culbard) and rewarded myself with chapters when I reached little targets on some recent Rainbow Orchid pencils. Adaptation is an art all of its own, and Edginton has done a seamless job here, more than ably assisted by the characterful illustrations of Mr Culbard - I particularly loved the depiction of Dr Mortimer (though am wondering where one of the train coaches disappeared to on the journey to Dartmoor!). A Study in Scarlet is next and I eagerly await it.
Congratulations, Thomas. As well as an original Julius Chancer drawing by myself, you'll get a complete set of the special promotional RO badges from Egmont and a Rainbow Orchid t-shirt. I also picked three runners-up who will each receive a set of the badges, so congratulations Fathi Tarada, Adam Wyartt and Raphael Moran.
To everyone else - thank you so much for buying the book from The Bookshop and entering the competition, I'm really grateful. Look out for a new competition in the not-too-distant future...