You can click on the image (below) to open it up bigger in a new window.
1) This is the rough sketch I drew in my little sketchbook so I had a plan of what I wanted. It's a secondary establishing shot, looking down on the characters in the train carriage of a 1920s Northwest Frontier train.
2, 3) Here the panel has been started on the actual page. I started with the figure of Lily first, lightly, then drew in the structure of the environment (three-point perspective on this view), then sketched in the other figures to fit. You can see I changed Lily's pose to cross her legs in (3).
4) As I started some of the environment detail I realised my two figures at the bottom of the panel were not quite placed correctly for the seats. I liked their fairly natural poses, so lightboxed them into my sketchbook, erased them and continued detailing the surroundings.
5) Here you can see I've lightboxed the figures back from the sketchbook and into the scene again, this time placed correctly.
6) Most of the surroundings are in now and there's another slight change to Lily's pose as I give her a water bottle to hold - those carriages get hot! One component missing is the Punjab infantryman's rifle as I needed to get reference for a Mark III Lee Enfield.
7) Here are the finished pencils scanned in, complete with correct rifle.
8) And here is the panel inked.
9) The completed and coloured panel. There's a bit of cheating going on with this scene because the reader's view has to be outside the carriage in order to fit the whole thing in, but you can do that kind of thing with comics!
The thing I really liked about the MCM was the diversity of the attendees and getting The Rainbow Orchid in front of a totally new crowd of people (for instance, I had my first Roman Centurion reader!). Most were probably manga/anime hard-liners and walked by with just a glance, but quite a number stopped to investigate more, wondering about this comic that reminded them of Tintin. Telling them I had the same UK publisher as Tintin seemed to legitimise me, in their eyes, and then I was able to tell them a little more about the whole Franco-Belgian scene where there are even more comics like this. Hopefully a few will go on to read the story, which is not quite so Tintin influenced.
It was a great weekend, and I was really pleased to be able to meet up with several friends and quite a few new people too (I was especially delighted to get my copy of Helen McCarthy's Osamu Tezuka book signed). I must say a big thank you to Dave West and Colin Mathieson (Accent UK) who brought me tea and lunch on Sunday when I was manning the table on my own.
I also thought I'd ask Elyssa if she'd like to write up her day at the MCM from her point of view - so here it is...
Elyssa's MCM report
Forget drugs and knife crime, today's teens are more interested in dressing up as cute cartoon characters and handing out free hugs, if last weekend's MCM (Movie, Comics, Media) Expo is anything to go by. A reported 20,000 young people [40,000 say some!-G] - and a few bemused parents - bought excitement and colour to East London's normally drab and soulless Excel Centre for two days of manga, anime and the latest film and computer game releases.
Garen and I were there to sell copies of The Rainbow Orchid (well Garen was there to sell RO, and I tagged along because attending comics events is the only way I get to spend time with my chained-to-the-drawing-board husband these days). After taking a wrong turn down Computer Games Alley, where kids were giving it their all on the latest addition to the Rock Band franchise - Lego Rock Band! - we found our table in the Comics Village. Alongside us was Philip Spence of Ninja Bunny fame, and opposite the ridiculously talented and utterly lovely Sarah McIntyre and Gary Northfield, selling copies of Morris the Mankiest Monster and Derek the Sheep respectively.
While most comics conventions I've been to in the past have been populated predominantly by white males, MCM brought steady sales from a hearteningly diverse range of customers - guys and gals of all hues, and a disproportionately high number of the aforementioned bemused parents. And when the novelty of selling stuff wore off, as it invariably does after a couple of hours, there was plenty to keep us entertained.
First up on the nearby stage was a couple performing Japanese karaoke. Next came a British guy who performed a cheesy dance routine (think the Macarena or Whigfield's Saturday Night) to a Japanese pop song, badly [it was para para -G]. Then he invited loads of punters on to the stage and taught them the dance, badly, and then they all performed it together, very badly. (This happened twice more during the day.) Rather more talented was the troupe of Taiko drummers, who drew a large crowd to comics corner.
Most entertaining of all, however, was the endless parade of weird and wonderful cosplay costumes that passed by our table. Among my personal favourites were the smiley fat Jedi with flashing teeth, the not very muscular Lion-O, and the cardboard-clad and streakily painted Lego man. Our most spectacularly dressed customer was a Roman gladiator, attending the Expo with his teenage daughter.
Mid-afternoon, I went for a wonder through the crowds, feeling like a foreign tourist amid the buzz and bustle of an alien culture. Back at our stall, Garen had been joined by John Wigmans, all the way from Holland. Garen and John have been corresponding for a couple of months, but had never met in person before. Now, at last, G had the opportunity to thank the Dutchman in person for his generous gifts of ligne claire comics from the Low Countries.
At the end of the day we migrated to the pub with John, Sarah, Gary, his sister, his young nephew in zombie make-up [wasn't it the Joker? -G], and several other comics friends, including Tozo creator David O'Connell, Beano illustrator Laura Howell, and Colin Mathieson and Dave West of Accent UK. After lots of fine conversation and greasy pub grub we headed home for a well-earned cup of tea and morsel of chocolate. Then I enjoyed a big, long lie-in while Garen got up early to do it all again the next day...
Next weekend, 24-25th October, is the MCM Expo (Movie-Comics-Media) at London's Excel Centre. You will find me in the Artists' Alley on table C14 - see the floor-plan here. This will be a new experience for me as the MCM appears to have its feet firmly planted in the worlds of manga, anime and television, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes for The Rainbow Orchid.
There have been some new and positive reviews for RO in the wake of BICS. First, let me point you to Shiny Shelf, and when you've had a read of that, you can click over to the Monkey On My Back blog, and listen to their podcast too, where they have more nice things to say. And talking of podcasts, the Geek Syndicate lads were also generous in their praise. I must also point out what's becoming something of a rather nice 'fan page' by Linda Wada, with a huge list of updates here - scroll down from the audio interview. Thank you to everyone for these, I really appreciate the support quite massively.
Work on volume two is going well and I am now about a month away from completion. I've got three pages left to pencil, fourteen to ink and colour, and then all the little extra bits that are required for the book. As much as I like volume one, the work in it is actually six years old (with the exception of the few re-drawn bits and two new pages) and I'm over-familiar with it. I'm much happier with the art in volume two (even though some of that is a few years old too) and the story goes up a notch, or maybe I should say goes in a notch, as the plot deepens and builds. Volume three is the big release (I hope).
Anyway, you'll be able to decide what you think of it for yourself in April 2010, when it's published. For now, here's a little pencil detail...
Even with the handy sat-nav, we were slightly defeated by the town's one-way system, but made it to the George Hotel with just one major breach of the Highway Code and plenty of time left to stroll into town, have some lunch, and then make our way to the Writers' Room at the Town Hall to meet Sarah McIntyre and her husband, Stuart. I tried not to stare too much at the celebs who were lounging around, waiting for their various events, but to give you an idea, Sarah had just given a copy of her new book, Morris the Mankiest Monster, to Cherie Blair, and Michael Morpurgo and Martin Bell were deeply ensconced in their newspapers (until Sarah went over to say hello to Mr Morpurgo, jolting him into waving at us all while he bemusedly tried to place this group of people all excitedly grinning at him).
We then trundled over to The Playhouse where our event, 'Graphic Novels', was to take place, and to meet up with our fellow 'performers' (as our wristbands designated us), John Dunning (whose new book, Salem Brownstone, is just out) and Kieren Phelps (our host, and senior lecturer in illustration at Gloucestershire University). The festival organisers and stage manager were all very well practised in what to do with us, and in a few minutes we were mic'd up and had our slideshow presentations beaming onto the screen.
The panel itself went very well, I think. Each of us three creators gave a ten-minute slide-show and presentation on our work and the art of creating comics, followed by a few searching questions from Kieren, and then opening up to questions from the audience (which was about 40-strong, a nice mix of kids and adults, male and female). My talk introduced The Rainbow Orchid, its influences in both story (Haggard, Verne, Doyle) and art (clear line from various Tintin Magazine contributors to some of the present day adherents), the creative process, research, and the fact that in the end it's all about the story - not the medium especially (though comics is a wonderful, unique and fascinating medium!). It's interesting that we all seemed to have a fairly similar outlook to our creative endeavours, and are also enjoying the cusp of a new wave, I think, of UK-published comic albums from mainstream publishers (still relatively scarce). Afterwards we went out to the lobby where a travelling Festival stall of Waterstones had our books for sale, and we were able to meet our audience and sign books for them, which was very enjoyable.
That evening Elyssa and I went to a very ornate Thai restaurant with Sarah and Stuart, and then for a late-evening stroll round Cheltenham, before tea in our very nice little hotel room (where Sarah signed a Mankiest Monster we'd brought for a friend). We got back on the road pretty soon after Sunday's breakfast and managed to get home by lunch time, making very good time. All in all, a very nice event, so a big thank you very much to the festival organisers, and a special thank you too to Gemma Shelley from Egmont, who overcame a bit of a troublesome journey from London to lend her support, and to Elyssa for (once again) her great photos.
Edit: See Sarah's great write-up here.
Elyssa and I left early on Saturday morning, hoping to reach Birmingham for 10 am, but that plan went pear-shaped after a body was found on the M40 and a section of the road was shut. Somehow we got lost along the diversion and ended up at Brum's Millennium Point at just before midday. Thank heavens for the sat-nav though!
I was on the end of Colin Mathieson and Dave West's Accent UK table (choc-full of their lovely comics), and with my two new display stands had quite a nice little set-up, with just enough space to sign and sketch in books. And sign and sketch in books is what I spent pretty much the entire weekend doing, which doesn't make for a very exciting report, I'm afraid.
As ever, it was really nice to catch up with so many comic friends, old and new. The biggest surprise of the weekend was meeting Alex Bardy from my old fanzine days. We probably hadn't been in touch since the late 80s or early 90s, and it was he who accepted my first fanzine art submission, a cover for Cerebretron (his science fiction fanzine), which encouraged me to become a fairly prolific illustrator for several other publications too.
Elyssa and I stayed at the Britannia Hotel, a place whose glory days are long-past. We were on the ninth floor in a room that looked as though it had been the site of a violent brawl (gouges out of the wall, heavily chipped furniture) and with no windows, so come the morning it was still pitch black. It was a comfortable bed for the night though.
Sunday was a bit slower (which was quite nice actually), but I still made sales throughout the day. I also had my brother's new publication, Alice at R'lyeh, selling all of them by the end of the show (you can buy a copy here).