"Will there EVER be another Julius Chancer graphic novel? We have been waiting for more than five years. I hope that you realize that it won't be long before your readers turn their attention elsewhere. Tintin has stopped the production of new stories, but there are 24 of them. Blake and Mortimer, ever since the title was revived, have come up with a new story every six months to a year. The Rainbow Orchid is too good to let die. Surely, the fertile brain that concocted that story has not run dry."
My stock answer to questions about an Orchid follow-up has been to say that the next story is plotted, partially scripted, and I've started the drawing - all true, but it doesn't really tell you much. So, I'll answer the points in the email above and, hopefully, shed some light.
Will there ever be another Julius Chancer comic? The real answer to that is that I have no idea. I always intended to do another and, as mentioned, I have started one. Since publication of the collected edition I have run hot and cold with the idea - sometimes feeling enthusiastic about it, and at other times thinking I should move on to something different. In the past year I increasingly felt I should abandon Julius Chancer and do something entirely new. The Rainbow Orchid was a big effort, wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be, and the rewards have been mixed (though I hugely enjoyed the experience and I'm very grateful for all the appreciation it still gets).
To compound my recent feelings, last year I became very disillusioned with illustration and came to the brink of giving up on it. I'd thought about it before, when work was scarce (sometimes), or badly paid (nearly always), or if I was stuck in a particularly bad project (quite rare) - but it never felt serious and I didn't like the idea. But last year I felt absolutely fine about the possibility of leaving the profession and finding something new.
Even though I'm almost 50, it didn't feel like a mid-life crisis, I don't think I'm that sort of person. It felt calm and right. I went on holiday with my family and took all my Tardi albums to read (bliss!). I started getting new ideas about a different kind of work and perhaps some sort of comics hobby I could do that would free me from the pressure of perfection that ligne claire brings with it - it can be kind of exhausting.
After the holiday I left it at that and waited to see what might turn up. Soon enough a few bits of work came my way - I needed the money so said yes to them. Then more work came and my schedule was suddenly overloaded - and I enjoyed it. Illustration pulled me back in, and it felt fine.
In the past few months I looked again at what I'd done for the new Julius Chancer adventure and felt pretty positive about it. The story is good - more original than Orchid (which was very much an homage to books such as Allan Quatermain) - and my art has improved a lot, I think, since the last story.
The current position is this: I want to continue it, but I can't devote a lot of time to it as it doesn't earn me any money and I do need to make a living. So I'll do it as and when I can. It's likely to take a number of years to complete (though I will start putting it online at some point before that), and there's always the possibility it will not get finished at all (but I hope that's not the case - I like the ending).
As the email above says - do I realise my readers will turn their attention elsewhere? Oh, yes, I'm very aware of that, and there's no doubt that has already happened. I'm very grateful to have had any readers at all, but I don't owe them anything more, and they don't me any allegiance. I have no publishing contract, no deadline, and no pressure.
What about Tintin and Blake and Mortimer? Well, Tintin earned its creator a lot of money and he had a full-time studio working with him on his books. As for Blake and Mortimer, they are a star property in Europe selling well over 400,000 copies in France alone and the characters' new creators are handsomely paid for such a high profile project. I'm in a very different situation. I took a drop in paying work while doing The Rainbow Orchid for Egmont, and even with the foreign editions it wasn't enough to make a living. It took me quite a while to rebuild my illustration business afterwards - it's not something I can easily decide to do again, especially with two young children who have since come along.
While I'm here, the following is an example of another email I get fairly regularly ...
"My children are really enjoying the first two volumes of The Rainbow Orchid. They have read and re-read them countless times. The artwork is beautiful and the plot is engaging. They now want to find out how the story ends! Unfortunately we can not find the third volume for sale anywhere except at prohibitively expensive prices. We were wondering if there was a reprinting planned sometime in the future?"
From what I remember, and I might not be totally right on this, volumes one and two sold out their first print run and were reprinted not long before the collected edition was released - which may not have been the best timing. Volume three was released around the same time, so it didn't really get much traction. Whether it eventually sold out, or just stopped selling and was pulped or is hiding in a warehouse somewhere, I don't know. Resellers on Amazon sometimes seem to have copies available, and I think it appears on ebay every now and then. It won't be reprinted in book form and the digital editions were discontinued (that's another story!).
So, short version - Julius isn't dead, but don't worry about him for now and he'll make his reappearance when the time comes - whenever that may be.
Also in that opening scene we see some of the building's interior - a bit of the hallway, the library, the collection room, and Sir Alfred's office. Later we see the breakfast room, which also made an appearance in The Secret of the Samurai, where I mapped out the room more properly. This made a big difference to the way I drew it and the way it came across in the strip - it had a much better sense of both space and place. You can read a bit more about that in this blog post - The Secret of the Samurai - Part 2. Another post on designing the environment can be seen here - Map Room.
This is all part of my learning process and a desire to make the world that Julius Chancer inhabits more realistic, or at least more believable. With this in mind, and having to show yet more of Sir Alfred's house in the next adventure, I have ended up going the whole hog and mapping out the entire building, both exterior and interior. A bit crazy perhaps, but now the setting is real to me and makes sense. (Some of it was hard to make sense of as I'd already drawn various rooms with windows in various places - but it all joined up in the end!)
The main content of the Supplement consists of 15 pages of notes and annotations for the complete story, a bibliography, a cover sketchbook, a handful of interviews, some RO Christmas cards, character genealogy, and more. For this digital release I've added in a few extra-extras, namely some more Christmas designs, a previously unavailable (at least publicly) interview, and a little extra artwork. The original Supplement was 48 pages, this one stands at 54. None of this repeats the extras collected at the back of The Complete Rainbow Orchid.
Out of interest, the RO Supplement did see a French translation of a kind - if you purchase the three-volume set of L'Orchidée Arc-en-ciel from BD Must then you also get Le Dossier, a smaller (16-page) edition of the Supplement, featuring three truncated/edited interviews and some different artwork (largely in colour - my English edition is in black and white). There are two versions - a brown 'Collector's edition', and a blue 'Press edition' - both with the same content.
To download the free (English language) Supplement PDF, visit the shop, scroll down to The Rainbow Orchid Supplement and you'll see the link there. Enjoy!
These are not official Osprey Games cards - they're fan art, and you have to make them yourself. You can do this by downloading the three card PDFs: Here's Julius , here's Lily , and here's Sir Alfred .
Try not to let them die in the jungle too often - I'm not sure how many lives comic characters have, and I might still need them for an adventure or two! Have fun ...
I landed an hour late at Flughafen München where I was met by two festival representatives, who then drove me into Munich. I'm not usually able to see much of the city on these trips, and often my most touristy experience is the lift from the airport! On this occasion the autobahn took me past the infamous 1972 Olympic Stadium and the Allianz Arena (each a former and current home of FC Bayern Munich).
I had a bit of a comedy of errors introduction to the festival - pointed to the wrong hotel and then left at the Bier Oktoberfest Museum (dating from 1327) where the comic creators and guests were to dine that night, with no idea quite who I was supposed to be attached to or where they were. Luckily I was rescued - first by Spy vs. Spy artist Peter Kuper and his friend Tony - we enjoyed the beautiful Munich evening with a little stroll to Marienplatz and the town hall - and then by the Danish comics delegation, who very kindly invited me to sit at their table for the evening. I'd only just seen them in February in Copenhagen, and it was lovely to see them again. I was also able to say a quick hello to Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury, who I hadn't seen for a few years.
Towards the end of the evening I was discovered by Michael Gref from the Salleck crew, and was able to join them for an adventurous journey back to the hotel - involving getting lost at the central station and a number of visits to 'Platform 2'. But it's a good way to get to know your new fellow travellers!
The (right) hotel, Hotel Krone on the Theresienhöhe (opposite the famous Oktoberfest grounds of Theresienwiese), was eventually reached, bang on the stroke of midnight, and the impossibly fluffy pillows were very welcome. Perhaps less welcome was the early wake-up due to the huge windows having very thin curtains and the 5.30 am sunrise - but I'd had a decent sleep and felt ready for my first day at the festival (which had actually already been running for two days).
The Kongresshalle was just a 10-minute walk from the hotel and my first signing session was 10 'til 1. I was kept busy throughout and, once again, German comic readers proved themselves to be among the most friendly and welcoming of comic fans. This festival saw me drawing in more sketchbooks than books, I think, each with their own paper thickness, tooth and size. It wasn't too kind on my pens - which usually get used on the more glossy paper of my books - and they only just made it to the end of Sunday where the whole lot were starting to dry out.
The festival had a really nice atmosphere and was compact, though of a decent size. It never felt crowded, and the gorgeous weather with an outside beer garden, public square, and nearby park made for very pleasant 'time outs'. There was also a wonderful set of exhibition rooms - including a comic stamps display (the collection of Jason, one of my chauffeurs from the airport), and galleries of work by various artists - my favourites being Olivier Schwartz, Isabel Kreitz, Klaus Voorman and the work of the Danish creators, who were the festival's special international guests.
On Saturday night the Salleck posse walked to Pettenkoferstrasse for a lovely outside meal at Lenz, and then it was back to the hotel for a much-needed slightly earlier night. I had excellent company throughout - including the Salleck crew, most of whom I had met on previous trips, but it was also a treat to meet and spend time with Eckart's two Spanish guests, El Torres and Jesús Alonso Iglesias, who had produced the excellent Gaudi's Ghost together. It was also a treat to meet the incredible artist Herrmann Huppen, and the prolific Pica (Pierre Tranchand) and his wife Annie, who I had last seen in Erlangen.
With such a meeting of so many terrific European comic creators and publishers, it was perhaps inevitable the topic of Brexit would come up. The universal opinion seems to be that the Brits are crazy to leave the EU - that it's an act of monumental self-harm, something I can only sadly agree with and which the facts tends to support. Apart from that, it was lovely to escape the current toxic atmosphere of Brexit and the General Election, and enjoy the temporary hospitality of a far more enlightened and forward-looking country.
Sunday was another mix of a couple of signing sessions and wandering around the festival. Over breakfast, at the hotel, I had a nice conversation with Taiwanese comic artist Sean Chuang and his translator, and lunchtime saw my 'most German' meal, seven small Bavarian sausages on a bed of sauerkraut, accompanied by a huge pretzel. At last the end of the festival came, and it was time for me to make my way to the airport. I was seen off on the airport train by my friend, Wolfgang Klingel, who I've now had the pleasure to meet on three trips, and bided my time at the airport by reading (Dickens' Oliver Twist) and people-watching. The flight was delayed by half-an hour, and I got home at about half-past midnight, and my first cup of tea in three days.
A very big thank you to my generous publisher, Eckart Schott, and to Heiner Lünstedt and the festival for having me in Munich. As ever, I was so well looked after and I always enjoy meeting my fellow German comic readers, as well as comic creators from across Europe - it's an honour to be a small part of such a friendly and interesting community.
Since the early 1990s I've kept a fairly detailed diary, so it's interesting to read what was going on back then. I was living with my brother and a friend in a rented house while my girlfriend (now wife) was away at university. I worked weekends at a mushroom farm (and I was just about to start a second job as an early-morning cleaner at a local health club) and spent the weekdays attempting to get my illustration career off the ground - at the time I was doing little bits and pieces, including inking some of Tony O'Donnell's pencils for Football Picture Monthly. I was in a production of Twelfth Night, playing Sebastian, and also working with my brother on a new fanzine called Baleful Head.
I drew the first panel of The Rainbow Orchid on the 13th March 1997, and the following weekend I attended the UK Comic Art Convention (UKCAC 97). On the 24th March I went to the cinema to see the new release of the Star Wars Special Edition. I had no internet at the time (I'd get it later the same year), so went to the local library for all my research. A few weeks later Labour would get into power after 18 years of the Tories, and things were looking ... hopeful.
Many things have changed since then, and some haven't. If you happen to have visited Amazon UK recently to try and buy The Complete Rainbow Orchid, you may have noticed that Amazon no longer stock it and it's only available from resellers. The last of the stock was sold off after a rather nice mention by Tanita Tikaram on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London at the end of March.
The Rainbow Orchid really has lived its long life now (well, almost ...). Honestly, it's time I got on with something new, isn't it?
Volume one had come out in June 2015 (see my report here) and while there had been a few delays and problems with the follow-ups, it's thanks to the dedication and tenacity of my editor, Michael Larsen, that the set has now been completed.
The Friday had started off on a sombre note as I attended the funeral of a friend who died far too early in life - a sad but beautiful service. A taxi to the airport (my wife was away with the car and children for the weekend) to catch my afternoon flight, and by 7pm I was at Copenhagen airport and, after getting the train into the city, I was in my hotel room within an hour. Anticipating I'd be too tired to go out for a meal I'd brought sandwiches, so sat and munched and watched a bit of Danish TV before collapsing into bed. It's a glamorous life!
After a hearty breakfast (I'm never certain if I'll have any lunch, or a late one, at these events) I met Michael in the lobby of The Scandic and we made our way to the Øksnehallen and the Tellerup stand. The books seemed to sell well - the first book I had to sketch and sign in was for a friend of Michael's, and halfway through doing it I had my first customer. I didn't get to finish signing that first book until the very end of Sunday.
Saturday was particularly busy - I was drawing all day, with only a break for lunch and also an interview as part of the festival programme. Unfortunately this was rather poorly attended - just a handful of people. I don't know if that's because I was on at the same time as fellow UK artist, the brilliant Tom Gauld, or - more likely - I'm just not at all well-known! Honestly, I didn't mind - I was interviewed by Danish comics creator Frank Madsen, who asked some interesting questions, and I enjoyed the chat very much. A big thanks to those who did come along.
On Saturday evening Michael and I attended a dinner given by the festival for the international guests, and we were in some pretty fine company. I was able to meet Tom Gauld for the first time (I especially enjoyed his Angoulême/Rammstein story), and was also seated opposite French artist Sébastien Cosset and Swedish artist Kim Andersson. Seated just outside my own conversation zone was an artist I really admire, Boulet - perhaps good that I didn't get to speak to him in case I ended up as an anecdote ("the dull British artist") in one of his web comics!
Much to my shame and some embarrassment, I hadn't realised I was sitting directly opposite one of my very favourite comic creators: Sébastien, I discovered the following day, was one half of the creative team known as Kerascoët. I love Miss Don't Touch Me (especially volume 1) and I thought the more recent Beauty was stunning - one of the few creators whose work I seek out and buy when it's available. But again, perhaps it's best I didn't realise it was him behind the nom de plume so I didn't end up fawning over him all evening! All were good company and I had a lovely evening with some interesting food (I passed on the course that consisted of skewered duck hearts ...)
The Sunday was another busy day, though not quite as manic as Saturday. I had another interview scheduled, this time with a bigger audience as it was with Jakob Stegelmann, the host of the famous Danish TV programme Troldspejlet. This interview kept me on my toes - it's been a while since doing publicity for The Rainbow Orchid, but most of my facts and stories are still in there - Jakob asked me about eyebrows, languages, inspirations, and whether it matters that modern children won't get many of the historical references in my story (short version: no, I don't think it matters). You can watch the unedited footage here and the full episode here.
It was great to meet so many of the Danish comic creators that I'd met on my first trip here two years previously, and it was also nice to meet the British contingent (Colin, Scott and Dave of Accent UK), Canadian John Anderson of Soaring Penguin, and the Irish contingent, Cliodhna Lyons, with her table-mate and fellow animator/comic artist, Benedict Edward Bowen).
After Sunday, Michael and I, with the Accent UK chaps, retired to a nearby restaurant for food and drinks, before it was back to the hotel to pick up our bags, and then to the train station where we said our goodbyes before I went on to the airport. My return flight was very busy, and delayed by about half an hour, but it was a good (if windy) flight home, and I got in my front door at about half-past midnight.
Thank you, as ever, to everyone who came by the Tellerup stand and bought a book or two or three (or who gave me one, thank you Ingo Milton!). Denmark is particularly nice to visit, and I had a lovely time. This was also, in large part, thanks to my editor and translator, Michael Larsen, who was again excellent company and has been vital to the existence of Jagten på Regnbueorkidéen. I must also thank the book's designer, Rasmus Kronholm - Michael and he have made, I think, my favourite edition of the book.
I had a busy week of work when I got home, and on the following Thursday it was World Book Day, which saw me give four hour-long talks at my old school - Imberhorne. It's been about 35 years since I was a student there, though I do teach karate there twice a week, so it wasn't a total shock to walk its corridors once again! The staff and pupils were lovely, though, and I enjoyed the day very much. A special thanks to John Pye of The Bookshop on the High Street for his part in the organisation.
It will be my second visit to this wonderful city, and I'm looking forward to it. You can even come and see me interviewed by comics creator and illustrator Frank Madsen (on the Saturday at 1.30 pm), plus I'll be signing and sketching at the Tellerup stand.
This is very likely to be one of my last appearances at an event related to The Rainbow Orchid (I may have promised one more) as, though these are new translations, I have been promoting the book for over 8 years now and I've run out of steam on it. While I'm still proud of the book, it's old work to me - I haven't actually looked at it in a couple of years and I've still not been able to bring myself to read the story all the way through. It's time - way beyond time - for something new.
In the meantime, I'm excited to see the story finally completed in Danish, all thanks to the efforts of my editor and advocate, Michael Erik Nøhr Larsen, without whom it would not exist. So, if you're in Copenhagen, come and say hello to us!
We decided to take the ferry from Portsmouth (a 2-hour drive), but it wasn't until I'd bought the tickets that I realised our littlest one didn't have a passport (our five-year old had hers for a previous comic festival trip to the Netherlands in 2012). This meant we had to do a rush application, including a visit to the passport office in London on the day of a train strike ... all rather hectic and expensive, but it worked out.
The quay at St. Malo - the white tents in the centre and the two long buildings and tent to their right is the main festival venue.
The ferry out to St. Malo was an 11-hour overnight crossing. Despite the calm seas, I didn't sleep well, and emerged into Brittany feeling a little dazed. But we had a lovely and well-timed welcome from my Belgian publisher, Jean-Michel Boxus, and his assistant, Francois Lienart, (both last seen at Angoulême in 2014) followed up by a fantastic French breakfast at Café de L'Ouest.
After that it was off to the festival, where we collected our passes and I got down to sketching and signing books while the rest of my family went off to enjoy the walled city and its beaches. It was great to meet (Dutch) Vano again, and later on (Belgian) Thomas Du Caju - both previously met at Angoulême. Other table fellows of the weekend included Spanish artist Jamie Calderón and French creator Julien Carette. I was also delighted to bump into my fellow Britannique, Ian Culbard.
At the BD Must stand.
My lack of sleep on the ferry started to manifest towards the end of the day as I began to feel rather light-headed, and at one point I'm sure the picture of Evelyn Crow I'd just drawn winked at me! It was time to get to our hotel, a couple of miles out from the old city, and we were grateful for the services of Francois who drove us to and from the hotel for the duration of our stay.
The hotel, La Rotonde on Boulevard Chateaubriand - a late booking - was good, basic, of 'unique' character, and did the job for four tired travellers. We had a take-away and watched a bit of French children's TV before lights out.
I was given Saturday morning off, so we took a walk round the city wall, taking in the wonderful coastline, sights, fresh air and history (St. Malo is home of the corsairs!), and a crêpe breakfast along the way. The only blot to the trip was the loss of our little girl's much loved soft toy cat, Fudge, mislaid somewhere in the festival venue. We asked several times at the Information booth, and a 'wanted' poster was made and posted up - but no joy, alas.
After a sandwich lunch in the open space of the Esplanade Saint-Vincent, it was back to an afternoon of sketching. I'd had a few moments to stretch my legs and look around the festival - it had a very nice atmosphere, much smaller than Angoulême, but better for it, I think, more manageable, and lovely BD albums wherever you looked. My children enjoyed it too, seeing a live 'time travel' show at the Palais du Grand Large (Collecteur Temporel) and taking advantage of some their drawing and colouring sheets.
Vano, Garen and Jamie signing and sketching.
We returned to the crêperie where we'd had breakfast, Couleur Safran on Grand Rue, for a Breton galette dinner, where the owner, it turned out, had a couple of sketchbooks filled by guests from past Quai Des Bulles, and I was requested to add one myself, resulting in a slightly dishevelled Julius Chancer being placed in the window for the evening.
After a much better night's sleep, it was time for the ferry again on Sunday morning, with a lift from the hotel to the port from Francois. The journey back was about 8 hours, but it was really rather pleasant. I was kept busy taking the children to a Halloween magic show, and then trying to solve the ship's treasure hunt. Plus I had a nice Blake & Mortimer to read and a little snooze to enjoy. Our daughter even won a prize in the drawing competition. It was gone 10 pm by the time we reached home, the children asleep, and big mugs of tea much needed by the parents.
Enormous thanks to Jean-Michel for inviting me to Quai des Bulles, and to the BD Must team, Francois and Patrick, for looking after us so generously. And an extra special thanks to everyone who came by and bought L'Orchidée Arc-en-ciel, I really appreciate it.
The ferry home.
I've had a busy start to the new year, especially with one particular project that I've just completed - hard work, enormous fun, and I'll blog about it more when it sees the light of day later this month.
Julius Chancer has never been far from my thoughts and I've managed to get back to a bit of work on the next book again. It's frustrating (for you and me!) that's it's so slow, but money-earning work has to take priority, and that's not the comics, I'm sorry to say.
For now, here's some costume colour guide roughs for characters from the opening scene of the new book.