It was a valuable and interesting experience for me, and enjoyable too. Most of the questions from the writers early on were about getting an agent, and how you could get on to their books (and Oli was very enlightening on this subject). I got the impression (and I may be wrong) that most of them weren't too interested in the comics aspect, though when I got to explain a bit about how comic creation could work, with someone else as the artist if you yourself couldn't draw, and how the comics market was a very different creature from the generally perceived one of superheroes and children's funnies, there was a lot more interest in the subject, I think. I take the world of comics for granted sometimes, and forget it can be a completely alien world to the uninitiated. Having said that, quite a few of the writers who spoke did have some kind of experience of comics and 'graphic novels'.
Information I disseminated included that it is now quite acceptable for almost any kind of story to be told in comic form (referencing Alice in Sunderland as we were in the north-east), that there are numerous markets for writers to find a place for their scripts (adaptations for Classical Comics, stories for children in The DFC, 'comics-lit' for Jonathan Cape, small press opportunities for experimentation and testing the water), that manga is not all about sex, and that, yes, Persepolis was a story told in comic strip form before it was an animated film.
Afterwards there was a bit of mingling and Q-and-A-ing. One chap had brought along his comic for some advice. It had been drawn on computer with a mouse, with characters drawn once then copied and pasted at different magnifications for close-ups and full-length shots. It wasn't of a professional standard, but from just an endurance point of view I was impressed with the mouse-drawing! And to show how things have changed over the past few years, it's just the kind of thing that would probably get some kind of following as a web-comic - though maybe it was a little text-heavy for the screen (I know... look who's talking).
The train journey home had an interesting moment when a girl on her mobile phone gave away the plot-twist to the novel she had just finished reading, rendering the book (title clearly announced) unreadable to an entire carriage of south-bound travellers. I did try to get a bit of scripting done, but was starting to nod off a bit by then. I had been up that morning at six-thirty and got back home just after nine, with most of the day spent on trains. Huge thanks to Oli for the enjoyable company all day, and to Liv for inviting me to New Writing North.
From Newcastle University's Courier and Pulp... those darn 'goblin and cyclops' comics!
Last Wednesday I went up to London and met up with fellow comic creators David O'Connell (Tozo) and Sarah McIntyre (Vern and Lettuce) at a nice little place called Teapod by Tower Bridge. We had a good two hours of talking comics and stuff, and I came away with signed comics and goodies. When I got home, I found a big bit of cake stuck to the cover of my DFC issue 1, which I got Sarah to autograph (the comic, not the cake). Later, Sarah drew the picture below of the three of us at Teapod - wonderful. And David drew me a sumptuous Evelyn Crow, which I'm afraid I rather gushed over - but it deserved it! I'll put that at the bottom of this entry, and on the readers' art page.
Thanks to a few delays on the Circle line (it's always the Circle line) I was half an hour late for my meeting at Egmont (note to self: must say my name more slowly to receptionists - I'm often put down as 'Gary Newman'), but it was great to meet up with the team who'll be helping to get Rainbow Orchid in to book form. I think there's a basic plan of action taking shape now, and there's stuff to be getting on with. I'll keep you updated as much as I can - but you're going to have to remain patient for a little while yet. Good things come to those who wait :-)
And the day wasn't over yet... next it was off to Sloane Square where I met up with Colin Mathieson (Accent UK), and after a nice cup of tea (third of the day), we went off to the National Army Museum to see Ian Knight give a talk on various aspects of the Zulu War (1879). Colin did a comic strip set in that campaign a few years ago, and was able to re-stock the NAM shop with copies. We also managed to get in a bit of local exploring, coming across the impressive Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park (across the river) and all the blue plaques down Tite Street - I was especially impressed that Oscar Wilde had lived there.
Colin returned to East Grinstead with me, where I put him up in the spare room. The following day we inspected my comics, some of my original art pages, and my Afghan War (1878-80) collection - something I rarely get to show off, but Colin, being a Zulu aficionado, showed generous appreciation. Even my light historical tour of East Grinstead's High Street didn't seem to phase him too much, before we enjoyed a pub lunch at the Dorset Arms, and then a browse of the graphic novel section in Waterstones.
So, a very nice couple of days, and a nice break from the usual routine. And there's another break this Friday, when I'm up at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art as part of New Writing North's Autumn Roadshow.
Below, on the left, is a screenshot of the first Rainbow Orchid website from 1997 (click it to see a bigger version), when the actual strip was only 3 pages long. On the right you can see the 2003 Flash version (click to see it, though it's not fully functional).