Comics (124)
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total posts: 625
Book agent:
A. M. Heath
UK Publisher:
Dutch Publisher:
Silvester Strips
Spanish Publisher:
NetCom2 Editorial
French/Belgian Publisher:
BD Must Editions
German Publisher:
Salleck Publications
Guardian Unlimited:
blog of the day 29.04.2004

Webbledegook: news and stuff
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Jacob's Heirs
Thursday 20 November 2014
Yesterday the following image dropped into my mailbox from Jean-Michel Boxus at BD Must (my Belgian publisher), which he described as Les Héritiers de E.P. Jacobs.
It's for a leaflet that explains how Jacobs was an influence on the three creators featured - Patrick Dumas (Allan MacBride), me (Julius Chancer), and Eric Heuval (Le Mystère Du Temps) - all published, of course, by BD Must.

Jacobs really was the spark that set off The Rainbow Orchid, far more than Tintin. I bought a copy of La Marque Jaune at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels, sometime in the 1990s, and it opened up the horizon for me on the wider world of ligne claire and the possibility of more serious adventure in this format. (I just checked the dates - I went to Brussels in April 1996 and drew the first page of RO in March 1997.)

I certainly wouldn't claim to be an heir, but I'm very happy to be thought of in the same context!

posted 20.11.14 at 4:58 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 2 |

Comicmesse Köln - report
Monday 10 November 2014
I had a late flight on Friday, so the morning saw a family trip to Tunbridge Wells, a quick packing session after lunch, and then off to Gatwick to catch my 6pm flight to Köln-Bonn airport.
As ever I was met by my German publisher, Eckart Schott of Salleck Publishing, and we drove into Mülheim and to our hotel, Hotel Kaiser on Wiener Platz. After dropping our bags off we went out to a little pizzeria (Palazzo) where I had a very nice pizza that I'm sure was meant for four people, not one. Our walk back to the hotel was just short enough to stop my bones from getting too chilled - there was a definite bite in the night air.

While Eckart had an early start to set up his stand at the comics fair, I was able to have a bit of a lie-in (a rare luxury with two small children at home), and I made my way over to the Köln-Mülheim Stadthalle (town hall) at about 10 am, opening time for the show. It was a beautiful November day - sun, blue sky, and not too cold.

The queue to get into the hall was enormous, so I walked round to the side to see if I could find a tradesman's entrance. I did, but was stopped by a door-guard who kept telling me to join the queue at the front despite my attempts to explain that I was there to sign books for Salleck. Luckily, just as I was about to give-up, a chap came up who recognised me and let me through. He turned out to be Thomas Götze, the organiser of Comicmesse Köln, and he gave me safe passage to Salleck's stand. Thank you, Thomas!

I wasn't totally sure if I was there because volume 3 of Die Regenbogenorchidee was now published, but actually that is coming out next May (2015), so I was there just to sign and do sketches for volumes 1 and 2. But that morning Eckart realised he'd forgotten to bring any volume twos! "Ashes on my head!", he said, obviously feeling bad about it. But actually it was fine - a good number of volume one was sold and I was kept very busy sketching - the day flew by. I didn't even have time to look round the hall myself and I didn't manage to take a single photo at the show.

I did meet lots of lovely people though. I always find my German hosts and readers to be hugely polite and friendly and it has made my trips there (previously to Essen and Erlangen) very worthwhile and a complete pleasure. I must offer special thanks to Peter Nover (he wrote the article on me in Zack Magazine at the start of the year) who gave me a complete set of the Erlangen Panini stickers (I'm no. 68!), and the album, as well as a copy of a new magazine he's involved in, Camp (which includes a rare 4-page strip about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Edgar P. Jacbos, from 1964).

Eckart was also very generous - still feeling bad about the lack of volume two stock, he gave me a present of the two André Juillard Pêle-Mêle artbooks from Pythagore. I'd been drooling over one of these at a friend's house en route to the Lakes Comic Art Festival last year, so this was a wonderfully generous gift (and a rather heavy one, I just about got them into my little bag for the flight home!).

With the day over, I made my way back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep for an hour. At six I met Eckart in the lobby to go out to dinner. He had a very interesting guest with him - Dr. Johannes Wachten, the retired senior curator of the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt. He had helped Eckart with some specialist translation relating to the Israeli Air Force when Salleck published Yann and Juillard's graphic novel, Mezek.

We took the tram across the Rhein into Cologne, and then a walk to the Art'otel on Holzmarkt to meet one of Eckart's stand helpers for the day, Ernst, and his wife. En-route we had a very interesting historical commentary from Dr Wachten, especially in relation to the Roman origins of Cologne (Colonia, or Colony, more fully Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium - the Colony of Claudius and Altar of the Agrippinians!), which helped to keep my thoughts away from the fact that it was getting really quite cold. Also, there was a lovely yellow moon low in the sky across the Rhein as we walked along the redeveloped harbour on Im Zollhafen.

Things were kept interesting when, after a long walk, we reached our restaurant for the evening, Oxin (on Alteburger Strasse), and I had my introduction to Persian cuisine. Not being a very adventurous eater I found it very tasty, though I kept away from the octopus! Eckart said we should all have ice cream next so, despite feeling rather full, I did my best with some kind of mocha-extravaganza at the nearby Eiscafé Forum.

The cold was getting colder and my brain was thinking thoughts bedward, but we decided on a quick tram trip to see Cologne Cathederal late at night - a very impressive structure that survived the Allied bombing of the city in WWII, and Germany's most visited landmark. We then said our gute nachts and Eckart and I made one more tram journey back to the Hotel Kaiser.

Cologne Cathedral at night, Ludwiggalerie Schloss Oberhausen and Burg Vondern

My flight home on Sunday was not until after 4 pm, so Eckart drove us both to Oberhausen (not far from Essen) and to the Ludwiggalerie to see the Streich Auf Streich exhibition - 150 years of German-language comics since Max and Moritz. It was a fascinating display, with many originals and made all the more interesting with Eckart as my personal guide. We followed the visit up with a luxurious lunch in the Kaisergarten Count Westerholt Restaurant (complete with live piano player) and then - though I was getting a little anxious about the time - made a very brief visit to a local moated 15th/16th-century castle, Burg Vondern.

After a little confusion about which direction to take, we got going back on the Autobahn, the traffic was kind, and I was dropped off at Köln-Bonn airport with time to spare for my flight home.

A big thank you, once again, to Eckart Schott for his generous hospitality, and to Ernst for taking me to lunch on the Saturday (and for his and his wife's, and Dr. Wachten's excellent company in the evening). As always, a super-big thank you to everyone who came to get a sketch, buy a book, or even just to chat - danke schon!

posted 10.11.14 at 4:12 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 6 |

Comicmesse Köln
Monday 3 November 2014
Just a quick note to mention that I'll be in Cologne this Saturday (8th November) for the Comic Fair at the Stadthalle Köln-Mülheim on Jan-Wellem-Strasse, courtesy of my German publisher Salleck Publications.
I don't know much more about it - but I do know that Thomas Du Caju (Betty and Dodge) who I met at Angouléme will be there, and so will Diana Sasse, a comic author who I was in touch with in the early days of the web-version of The Rainbow Orchid (she draws amazing horses).

Also in attendance will be Alexis Martinez and Gunther Brodhecker, creators of a little book I picked up a couple of months back called Das Tagebuch des Richardo Castillo, set in the 'New France' of the 18th Century (North America), with beautiful cartooning somewhat resembling the work of Willy Vandersteen, I thought. They have a colour edition coming out in French from BD Must.

See you there?

posted 03.11.14 at 10:53 am in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | |

New Julius Chancer - A4 roughs
Thursday 18 September 2014
I said I'd be blogging the first three pages of the new Julius Chancer story quite closely, and here is the next stage - lettered A4 roughs.
I've measured out the panels on the final drawing paper (A3 landscape for half a page), scanned them in, reduced them to A4, printed them out, and have then very roughly sketched in the basics of each panel (based on the script and the thumbnails). These have then been scanned in again and lettered so I know how much space the balloons will take up before I commit to the finished artwork.

The next thing to do is to start the actual drawing!

posted 18.09.14 at 3:36 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 3 |

Thursday 4 September 2014
For various reasons it's taken a while to get going, but I am now working in earnest (when I can) on the next Julius Chancer book. It is fully plotted in great detail and I am into the scripting. Sketches are also happening.

posted 04.09.14 at 9:55 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 1 |

Julius Chancer at the London Film & Comic Con
Tuesday 15 July 2014
On Sunday I drove up to London for my adventure comics workshop at the UK's first YA Lit Con, YALC, hosted by the London Film and Comic Con.
I tried a couple of new things out at the workshop - lucky-dip treasure items and communal map-making, which I will definitely keep for future workshops. I have to say I'd prepared the event for a slightly younger audience than I got, and the venue was incredibly noisy - but everyone still seemed to enjoy it, despite a bemused expression or two at my opening 'Adventurer's Oath' (soon turning to chuckles, though). Huge thanks to everyone who participated, and also to Jenny Hayes, from Egmont, for looking after me so well.

This isn't the sort of comic show I would normally attend, but it was fascinating to see. I didn't stay too long after my book signing, but - if for nothing else - the whole trip was worth it just to see RO reader Matthew Stubbs turn up in a fantastic Julius Chancer cosplay. Thank you, Matthew - that really made my day.

One other thing to tag onto this blog entry: a lovely review for The Complete Rainbow Orchid from the fabulous Read It Daddy ...

Charlotte's best bit: Fab and exciting, and plenty of awesome female characters for her to identify with as well as a no-nonsense hero that uses his brains rather than his fists.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A shining example of a brilliant story that you can comfortably recommend to parents looking to introduce their kids to comics. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

Read more here!

posted 15.07.14 at 11:01 am in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | |

Friday 11 July 2014
This weekend sees the annual London Film and Comic Con at Earls Court in London and, slotted into it, the first Young Adult Literature Convention, curated by Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman.
I will be there on Sunday (13 July), giving a comics workshop at 11.30 ('Create your own amazing adventure comic'), with a book signing afterwards. I believe the workshop is free (once you've paid admission to the main convention), you just need to sign up at the YALC booth inside the Book Zone.

Hope to see you there!

posted 11.07.14 at 3:20 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | |

Googling me
Wednesday 9 July 2014
I used to have a Google search set up so that I'd get an alert if The Rainbow Orchid was mentioned online. About two years ago I stopped it, and have mostly been living in blissful ignorance of whatever reviewers think of my book. True, I miss a number of very nice reviews (though links to these sometimes end up tweeted to me or sent to my email inbox anyway) but I also miss the more negative reviews (of which, thankfully, there are not so many), and even more importantly, highly polarised forum conversations where my book is discussed.
Is it because I'm an over-sensitive, thin-skinned artist? Well, yes, partly - I don't mind admitting that a bad review can make me feel a little down for a short while, but actually the past 3 or 4 years have thickened up my skin quite a lot, and a fair negative review has little effect on me now, especially as time and distance have made me more objective about RO myself.

But the main reason I don't particularly want to read negative reviews is because they usually serve no useful purpose for me as an author. I've said before that I'm very aware of my own book's shortcomings, and some of these have indeed been picked up in reviews as well. But quite often an author will look to readers' opinions to gage whether they are doing the right things, and if you do that, the message can get confusing ...

"... excellent, fast-paced, and very well-cast period adventure story."

"... a bit slower than you feel it could be ..."

"... the storytelling's so well paced it never feels like Garen's trying to squeeze too much in ..."

"... the narrative suffers from a horribly slow sense of pace ..."

"... the story is exciting and fast-paced ..."

"... the story took a long while to get going ..."

"... an interesting and fast paced storyline ..."

"... It's a slow burner ..."

"... a fast paced adventure quest, a real tale of derring-do ..."

"... It's fast paced and exciting ..."

There are other examples besides the pace of my story-telling, for instance the colouring - some people really love it ("beautiful colouring", "artful use of colour") and some think it's not so great ("dull, unexciting colours", "I found the colouring crude in places"), and so on - characters, drawing ability, plot, backgrounds, etc.

So what am I to make of all these contradictory views? Is my pacing just right or terribly wrong? Is my colouring lovely or terrible? The thing is, these are all aspects that, to a certain degree, are subjective. Yes, there's some bad colouring in my work, and yes, the pacing is not always as good as I would like it to be. But the fact is - I personally like a slow-burning plot with lots of intricacy, and I'm not a fan of bright colours or computery-gradients, I like muted colours, evocative for an historical adventure. And some readers will agree with me and some won't.

Even though I know these things can be down to personal preference and taste, I will still read a review that says someone doesn't like my colouring and I'll think, "people don't like my colouring", until, that is, I read another review that says the opposite, and then I'll think I'm doing okay. It's just the way our brains work.

Not Googling my book can have other consequences though. I recently did Google my book because the past week has seen a rather high number of Amazon sales (even selling out of stock two or three times), after a bit of a slump over the past few months, and I was curious to know the source - perhaps some widely-read nice review or something. I didn't get far into the search when I discovered, quite incidentally, a comics 'fan-site' publishing (terrible) scans of my entire book, for free, on its website. They were also providing several Cinebook titles (including Blake and Mortimer and Lucky Luke) and the full Asterix canon. I alerted Cinebook and we both sent messages to the site resulting in them taking our books down (and I never found the source of the recent sales, as the pirating task took up the next few hours of my day).

This time it was a fairly painless process - I've had to do this before, issuing DCMAs and taking full days out of my work to get a satisfactory result - not fun, and a bit like playing whack-a-mole, so not something I go looking for.

But let's end on a high note: I also came across these lovely tweets from BBC reporter Giles Dilnot:

"... Julius Chancer is pretty addictive ... enjoyed the Rainbow Orchid which I can now return ... felt v much like part one to wider adventures ..."

Thank you, Giles. And, with that, I'm now going back to my non-Googling lifestyle, and ignorant bliss.

Googling in the 1920s.
posted 09.07.14 at 12:09 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 2 |

Comic Salon - Erlangen, Germany
Wednesday 25 June 2014
For the publication of the second volume of The Rainbow Orchid in German (Die Regenbogen Orchidee: Auf Gefährlichen Pfaden), my publisher, Salleck, invited me to attend Comic Salon in Erlangen, Germany's biggest comic show. The event kicked off on Thursday (19th June), but I got an early morning flight from Stansted to Nuremberg on Saturday (I was up at 3.45 am!), and was at the show just a few hours later, staying until proceedings closed at the end of Sunday and flying home Monday morning.
As with all my recent European excursions, I had a fantastic time. German comic fans easily rival the Dutch for openness, friendliness and generosity (not to mention excellent English language skills), and I should also add patience to their list of virtues as I had quite a few more detailed drawing requests ... so much so that on the Sunday I was under strict instructions to only provide head-shots of my characters! Snow leopard cubs were requested quite a bit, too. Anyway - I am (and have been for a while now) a lot more comfortable with public sketching, and even though I haven't really done a lot of drawing this year, I enjoyed sitting and doodling away in people's books.

Comic Salon was a terrific show, a nice atmosphere, buzzing with comics of all kinds, and with a wide variety of readers. My French publisher, BD Must, was there, so I was able to say hello again to Jean-Michel Boxus after our Angouléme meeting, and I also got to meet Frank Madsen and Sussi Bech, two Danish comic creators I have long admired, along with their studio partners Tatiana Goldberg and Ingo Milton (and we had a lovely dinner together, along with my publisher Eckart Schott and Belgian artist Eric Maltaite, on Sunday evening). I also had a few good chats with Mike Perkins, who introduced me as his 'first inker' - back in the early 1990s I'd inked his pencils on a comic called Snowstorm, written by Paul H. Birch. I was also surprised to see Lizz Lunney at the show, and was able to say a quick hello.

At Angouléme I'd been disappointed that I hadn't been able to get into the Tardi exhibition, but I was delighted to see that it had made its way to Erlangen and I managed to get round it a couple of times, lost in the beauty of Tardi's art and the horror of its subject matter (mostly pages and sketches from Goddamn This War! (Putain de Guerre!). Also on the theme of the First World War, Joe Sacco's fold-out pages from his book, The Great War, had been enlarged onto canvas and displayed in the Schlossplatz in front of Markgräfliches Castle. It's a stunning book, and even more stunning at this size.

One of the special items made available to attendees at Comic Salon was a sticker book published by Panini with stickers of the guesting comic artists available from the various publishers around the show. When I was a lad of 7 or 8 I used to collect Panini football stickers, so to become a Panini sticker myself was a little thrill.

Thank you to everyone who bought my books and said hello, and a very special thanks to the Salleck Publishing stand-crew who were so friendly and looked after me so well. A special thank you to Wolfgang for his excellent company and chaperoning while I signed pre-orders, and, of course, to Eckart for inviting me and making it such a nice experience. I feel really honoured to be even a small part of the wonderful European comics scene.

posted 25.06.14 at 9:01 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 2 |

Spanish Integral and German Sword
Tuesday 13 May 2014
Today I received a couple of copies of the latest incarnation of The Rainbow Orchid - namely the complete story in one single hardback volume in Spanish - La Orquidea Arcoiris: Historia Completa. It's a big book, and a hefty one too, retailing at 29 Euros and available from NetCom2 Editorial.

And on Sat 21 - Sun 22 June I'll be in Erlangen for Comic Salon, Germany's most important comics festival (held once every two years). I'll be on the Salleck Publications table where I'll be signing and sketching in the German edition of volume 2 (Die Regenbogen Orchidee: Auf Gefährlichen Pfaden).

This edition has a little bonus in the form of the Lily Lawrence Story Sword of Truth that I originally wrote and drew for The Girly Comic back in 2004, only now it's in colour.

posted 13.05.14 at 10:20 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 2 |

Making a comics page
Monday 17 March 2014
I have published a new audio slideshow with me rambling on about my process of making a page of comics. You can view it in the behind the scenes section of the website here. There's also a YouTube version, but it's not quite as good quality.
If you've read my 'director's commentary' that appeared at the Forbidden Planet International blog a little while back, or have seen me talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, or the Hay Book Festival, or at the British Comic Awards last year, then you'll already be familiar with this material.

As a footnote to this post, there's a rather grumpy review of The Complete Rainbow Orchid up at Amazon.com (US) where the reviewer goes on at some length about the 'pathetic' 'self indulgence' of my making-of material at the back of the book. While I don't mind if someone doesn't like my book - that's fine (and I'm very aware of its imperfections myself) - I do feel that this criticism is a little unfair.

Perhaps things are different here in the UK where many comic creators are actively trying to revive the comics industry by getting young people engaged in the medium, especially at workshops where we help them to create their own comics. I get a lot of interest in how I work - from invitations to do workshops at schools and book festivals, to emails on the subject (often several a month) and queries at comic shows.

It's got nothing to do with thinking me or my creative process is particularly important. It's a different world now - most artists have blogs and show their working methods and many published comics have sketchbook and process sections at the back. Why? Because people are genuinely interested. I love seeing such things myself, from the smallest of small-pressers to the biggest names in the industry.

Now, that's enough self-indulgence!

posted 17.03.14 at 2:02 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | |

The Astonishing Adventures of Julius Chancer
Monday 3 March 2014
Late last week I had two emails letting me know that there was one of my early self-published Rainbow Orchids for sale on eBay (it ends on March 9th; thanks Linda and Jo). Jo hadn't heard of it and wanted some more information, so I thought I'd turn my answer into a blog post.

I'd always wanted The Rainbow Orchid to be a single book, but in order to give myself some deadlines it was initially published in episodes in BAM! (Bulldog Adventure Magazine), from April 2002 to November 2003. In October 2003, upon the completion of the fifth episode, I decided to collect them all together and self-publish them as 'part one' - something that eventually set the template for Egmont's decision to publish it in three separate volumes a few years later.

I launched the book at the London 'Winterfest' on 1 Nov 2003, at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, and sold almost 100 copies - it was really well received. The rest of the print run (250, I think) sold out fairly quickly afterwards, through the post and at the Bristol Comics Festival in May 2004. I sold the last copy on eBay, in December 2004, along with some sketches, where it eventually went for 79 (with 10 bids). I was amazed it went for so much, so threw in the original of the cover drawing as well. Someone else sold a copy on eBay, by itself, in June 2009 for 12, and I heard that another went on Amazon for nearly 100 (in the wake of an article on my work in Book Collector magazine).

The 2004 eBay lot.

Apart from the cover, the entire book is in black and white and the story is 34 pages long (two pages were added for Egmont's volume 1, as well as some individual panel changes). There are some 'extras' - a character page, not too dissimilar from the layout in the eventual Egmont edition, a single-page scrapbook (again, a precursor to the double-page spread at the end of the Egmont vol. 1), and a page of pencils and roughs - mainly character sketches. The back page featured a couple of early colour panel tests and some quotes from the BAM! letters pages. There are some minor printing errors on the inside-back and back pages due to the printer not flattening transparencies on the PDF.

That's about all there is to know about it, really. I was glad of the opportunity to draw a more dynamic version of the cover for Egmont, and also to lengthen a couple of scenes - especially the last scene with the aircraft taking off, which I finished rather hurriedly originally in order to get the book to the printer before I went off on holiday to Paris. A 'part two' was never published because I decided to serialise the continuing story on my website.

Since then the book has had its three complete volumes published in English, Dutch, Spanish, French and German, collected editions in English and Spanish, an iPad version, it's taken me to the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Cheltenham and Bath Festivals, as well as doing signings in Holland, Germany and, most recently, at Angoulême in France. Who'd have thought? (Not me!)

posted 03.03.14 at 9:56 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | |

Zack Magazine
Tuesday 25 February 2014
The new issue of German comics magazine Zack (no.177, Mar 2014) is out and features a three-page article on The Rainbow Orchid / Die Regenbogen Orchidee by Peter Nover.
I can't read it, but it looks very nice, so huge thanks to Peter for putting in the work and writing and researching it. It's still to be finally confirmed, but I should be returning to Germany this year for the launch of Salleck's publication of volume 2 - more details nearer the time.

posted 25.02.14 at 1:19 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | |

Angoulême 41 - Festival International de la Bande Dessinée
Thursday 6 February 2014
At the beginning of December I had a call from Jean-Michel Boxus, my publisher at BD Must in Brussels, inviting me to Angoulême - the biggest and most important European comics festival, and the second largest in the world (after Tokyo's Comiket). I had long wanted to go to Angoulême, but the practicalities and price of arranging transport and accommodation so close to Christmas, and for so soon in the new year, always put me off. This time I decided I would brave the journey - five trains there and five trains back (including the Métro across Paris).
It was an early start on the Thursday - the first day of the festival, but one I would spend travelling - up at 5.45 for a train to East Croydon, then on to St. Pancras for the Eurostar to Paris. I was slightly anxious about the short time I'd have to get from Gare du Nord to Montparnasse for my train to Angoulême, but here's a top tip - I discovered you can buy Métro tickets from the buffet car on the Eurostar, so I got two (one for the return journey) and I was all set to get off the train and scoot right on to the Métro - plenty of time.

I finally reached Angoulême just after 16.30 and made my way up the big hill and into the town centre to find Espace Para-BD, where the BD Must stand was and from where I could collect my pass. I introduced myself to Jean-Michel and his BD Must crew, as well as the artists already signing - Eric Heuvel and Vano from the Netherlands (I had met Eric before), and Patrick Dumas and Nicolas Siner from France. I was also delighted to meet, for the first time, my Spanish publisher, César Espona of Netcom2 Editorial. Half an hour later I was sat down and sketching and signing in books as well.

The festival closed for the day at 7pm, and after wrapping up the stand we drove to a restaurant a few miles outside of Angoulême, where I had the first of three (Thur, Fri and Sat) of the best meals I've had in a long time. And the company was excellent too - Eric and Vano were my fellow non-French speaking, English-speaking travellers, while the French and Belgians had a mix of a little English to very good English. I had a tiny bit of French, which got me by when I needed it, but otherwise I had to rely on, and was very grateful for, the fact that mainland Europeans are so much better at languages than the British.

After that it was back in the car and off to our accommodation. This was at Chateau de la Tranchade, a 14th century castle (with some 16th, 17th and 19th century updates) some miles to the southeast of Angoulême. We weren't in the chateau itself, but a very nice converted farm house in the grounds, each with our own room, en suite, and a communal room with a real fireplace. I had a pretty good night's sleep!

The next day, after breakfast (pain au chocolat, toast, croissant and tea - I am in France, after all), we drove back to town for the start of the show at 10. I was signing from 10 until 1, and when not signing for actual customers, I was sketching in and signing stock for future shows (BD Must do about twenty a year). It was good to meet Thomas Du Caju, Belgian author of Betty and Dodge and Francis Carin, another Belgian author with his latest book, Ennemis de Sang - but I knew him better from his Victor Sackville series (written by François Rivière), and we discussed the Sackville name a little as my home town is connected very strongly with the actual family.

For lunch on Friday I went off with Eric Heuvel and Vano and we grabbed some sandwiches and visited a few of the other tents - Le Monde Des Bulles, which housed the big mainstream publishers and was something akin to a shopping mall with stands like little bookshops, and Le Nouveau Monde, which seemed to house the independent and small press and was full of a huge variety of fascinating material. Here I found some fellow British citizens in the form of the Dessinators - Francesca Cassavetti and Oliver Lambden (Sean Azzopardi and Sally-Anne Hickman were away from the table). I'd also had a welcome visit from Clíodhna Lyons earlier when she stopped by the BD Must stand.

We ate our lunch at Espace Franquin, where the Dutch contingent (many arriving together in a single coach - their French-dwelling countryman, Willem, was the festival president this year) had set up shop - a print shop to be exact, with a number of artists making daily posters, screen printing them on-site, and then putting them up around the town. While eating our sandwiches here we had an amusing episode: the three of us were sat down when suddenly a piece of paper and a pencil was thrust under my nose. I looked up to see a schoolboy of about 7 or 8 - he didn't say a word but had evidently seen my 'auteur' badge and was hoping for a sketch. As I put pencil to paper, we were quickly and silently surrounded by about ten more children, all with paper and pens (there were a lot of school parties at the festival). We did a couple of sketches, but had to say no to more or we'd have been there all day - I felt bad but we'd already been sketching all morning and had limited time before we had to get back.

But with the little time left before we had to be at the BD Must stand again, we went for a wander and got a little lost, though nicely so, because we saw some of the quieter bits of Angoulême. At one point we came across the cathedral, which also had a comics exhibition in. Vano made me laugh, saying "in every toilet an exhibition!". Not far off ... Angoulême is a true city of comics, from the speech bubble street signs (some named after comic creators), to the statues of Hergé and Corto Maltese, and the numerous permanent comics murals adorning many of the town's buildings. Eric's quote of the day was "our audience grows old with us and dies with us!"

I was signing again from 3-5pm, and for a short while sat next to Henk Kuijpers, creator of the astonishingly good Dutch series, Franka (I've long wished these were in English). He showed me some of the panels in his book, explaining some of the research he'd done and his creative process. I also very briefly met Thim Montaigne, the French artist behind The Third Testament.

Finishing at 5, I had two hours to fill until we went to dinner, and suddenly realised I didn't really know what to do. I wasn't very prepared for what to see at the festival and at first just revisited the big tents for a more detailed look. I thought about seeing the Tardi exhibition, but by the time I found it it was getting late and I knew I wouldn't have enough time. So, though it was nice wandering around, it was a bit of a long (and slightly cold) two hours. Lesson for next time - get to know the festival a bit better beforehand and have plans for free time.

Dinner on the Friday night was in a brasserie in Angoulême, and was, again, delicious, and again, in excellent company. I was learning a lot about the European comics scene from my new continental friends, and was even starting to believe that I may be a legitimate part of it after all - especially after meeting some of the enthusiastic customers for my own book. True, seeing the huge signing queues and marketing forces at work in Le Monde des Bulles reinforced the notion that I was a very very tiny part of it - but then I already knew that!

On Saturday I wasn't required at the BD Must stand until 1pm, so had the morning free. Eric and I went down to the Musée de la BD and had a good look around the main exhibition there. It was a chronological look through comics, with plenty of originals, vintage publications and process videos. I did a double-take when I saw a familiar-looking aircraft appear on a screen as part of a display of Bécassine pages from 1930. I waited until it came round again and, yes, there it was - a Breguet 280T! Only about 21 of these were made, so to see the aircraft I used in The Rainbow Orchid also appear in a classic strip from 1930 was quite a surprise. I overcame my strong sense to not flout rules and took an iPhone photo of the screen.

After that Eric and I took the weight off our feet and enjoyed a hot chocolate in the foyer. Eric was especially kind throughout the weekend, showing me around and being an excellent companion. BD Must have just put together a beautiful six-album set of January Jones, drawn by Eric and written by his mentor (Eric's term), Martin Lodewijk. Eric is a masterful artist of the clear line - and although I own some Dutch softbacks of some of the January Jones albums, I was droollng over the BD Must set (especially the two new works which I hadn't seen).

While Eric had to return to the stand for his next signing slot, I joined the long queue for the Tardi exhibition (Saturday was noticeably busier than the previous days). The queue didn't really seem to be moving, and it was looking very crowded inside, so with time running short I decided to return to the Musée and have a look at Nocturnes - an exhibition of comics relating to dreams and nightmares. And I'm glad I did - starting with prints from the Illustrated London News and a selection of original Winsor McCay pages, it was a very absorbing display. In fact, by the time I got out, I just had time to nip to the loo and buy a quick pressie from the shop for my daughter, and then I had to belt up the hill to make it to my signing session which started at 1pm.

(A note on the Tardi queue - I was later told by a couple of people that I should wave my 'auteur' badge around a lot more - it's apparently a permit to bypass queues, enter through exits, and to make a general VIP of yourself ... it really doesn't come very naturally to an Englishman - if we see a queue we're liable to join it.)

For the Saturday afternoon I was scheduled to sign from 1 to 5, but I ended up sketching and signing all the way to the day's end at 8pm (the festival is an hour longer on the Saturday). Dinner that evening was at a very nice little créperie - again, truly delicious. (Most of the restaurants in Angoulême are so busy during the festival that they simplify their menus, often to just 4 or 5 choices or a set 'BD Spécial').

And so came my last day. After breakfast, and with half an hour before the chateau owner's son drove us into Angoulême, Eric, François and I had a little time to look around the castle grounds. It was a lovely misty morning, very atmospheric, and I managed to get a few photos (I never take enough photos at these things).

I was signing from 10 to 2, a lot quieter than the Saturday (Sunday is 'family day'), but when most of the other artists left for lunch at 1 and there was room on the signing table for a little L'Orchidée Arc-en-ciel display, a few more sales were added in my last hour.

After goodbyes and au revoirs, I left for my 3.30pm train and the journey home began ... Angoulême, Paris Montparnasse, the Métro to Gard du Nord, the Eurostar to St Pancras, the Underground to Victoria, and then the last Sunday train home, putting my key in the door just after 11.30 pm. The first thing I did was have giant mug of tea.

So I have at last experienced Angoulême ... 18 hours of travelling, over 17 hours of signing and sketching, a city where comics and their creators are truly celebrated - like nothing in the UK. The festival prizes are widely reported in the mainstream press, taken seriously, and the publishers make the most of those prizes to help sell books, both during the nomination and winning phases. I hope things move that way here too. It's very interesting that the Grand Prix went to Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson - the winner becomes the curator for the next year's festival, but as Watterson retired in 1995 and pretty much disappeared from public life ... well, we'll see what happens.

I wish I'd got to see the Tardi exhibit - he's one of my favourite creators. I wish I'd made better use of my free time on the Friday afternoon. Was I inspired? Yes, to some degree - though I was working quite a bit, I did feel a lot more integrated with the European scene, which was very good for me. The question is, how can you hold on to that inspiration, bring it home and make it last?

A huge thank you to Jean-Michel for inviting me, and to all the BD Must crew, Patrick, François and Philippe, for making me feel so welcome and for looking after me. Thank you to everyone who bought my books! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I'm sure - I hope - I'll be going back.

posted 06.02.14 at 10:43 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 8 |

Angouleme 2014
Monday 27 January 2014
Thanks to my French/Belgian publisher, BD Must, I am going to be at Angouleme this year. So many times I have intended to go to this, the most famous European comics festival, but I've never managed it. Partly it's been the expense, and partly it's been because it's quite a trek to get to. But this time, I'm going to brave the multiple train journeys and be there.
Most of the time I will be at the BD Must stand (Fri, Sat, Sun a.m., I'm travelling on the Thursday), which is no. H13 in the Espace Para BD (in the Place de Halles, bound by BD Pasteur and Rue de Chat on Place Guillon - see map).

Also at the stand will be Francis Carin (Ennemis de Sang), Thomas Du Caju (Betty and Dodge), Patrick Dumas (Allan MacBride), Eric Heuvel (January Jones), Nicolas Siner (Horacio d'Alba) and Vano (Rhonda).

If you're there too, please do come and say hello!

posted 27.01.14 at 10:44 pm in Rainbow Orchid | permalink | 1 |

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Julius Chancer, The Rainbow Orchid, story, artwork, characters and website © 1997 and 2014 Garen Ewing & inkytales