I must also apologise for the fact that The Rainbow Orchid vol 3 is still not up on my online shop. I have the stock sitting here, but I'm so busy with work right now (even more so since I've had a couple of days off ill) that I can't find the time to update the web-page, and I'd also find it quite difficult to fulfil the orders at the moment, anyway. Hopefully it won't be too long, but probably not this week.
My third apology goes to everyone who is awaiting an email response from me. I'm way behind on my emails and can currently only deal with urgent work-related ones.
I'll catch up at some point - I promise!
The Rainbow Orchid volume 3 is getting there. As I write I have six pages left to draw (pencils and inks) and 13 to colour. I'm hesitant to say the end's in sight, but I will say I'm about to turn the corner from which the end will be in sight. The big thing still to do is the cover, which requires some working out.
All work and no play means I don't get much time to read (though audiobooks entertain me while drawing) but I don't stop obtaining books and comics so have rather a large pile of reading material to catch up with at some point. There are some wonderful comics being made available these days! I got back from a meeting in London on Wednesday to find Jason and Vehlmann's Isle of 100,000 Graves, Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley, and Tillieux's Murder By High Tide had arrived. Waiting in the wings is Moore and O'Neill's Century: 1969 (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Hubert and Kerascoet's Miss Don't Touch Me vol 2, Tardi's The Arctic Marauder, and, oh, quite a few more (including a small sub-pile of Cinebooks, not to mention all the non-comics stuff).
Film watching has also taken a back seat, except for the ones I have to fit in for the Adventure Films Podcast, of course. In recent weeks Murray and I have recorded episodes five and six - David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia and Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits.
If you've ever wandered over to the events page and thought it looked rather sparse recently, you'd be right. Up until a couple of weeks ago I had no events planned for this year (due to work, publication dates and new baby), and that's still largely the case except for, now, one little appearance that will be in Maidstone on 6 November - Demoncon 2. It's a bit different for me in that it's organised by a comic shop and The Rainbow Orchid isn't a very comic-shop comic (at least that's what comic shops in general seem to indicate), so I'm really chuffed to have been invited and am looking forward to reaching a few new readers if possible.
Lastly, but not leastly, pop over to the readers' art page where you can see a lovely new addition in the shape of Evelyn Crow from illustrator Chris Askham.
I'd already heard rumours of a student protest taking place - targeting Professor Dawkins because of his assocation with A C Garyling's New College of the Humanities, so I wasn't surprised to see a police presence outside the building where the old UK Comic Art Conventions (UKCAC) used to take place, as well as a slowly growing crowd of protestors (their Facebook group had just over 100 names saying they'd attend).
After getting inside and standing in a queue for a bit, we were allowed into the hall and I found a seat and watched my fellow humanists, rationalists and assorted others arrive. I think the last time I sat in this hall was to see an interview with French comic legend Moebius. Suddenly there was a commotion at the doors and I looked over to see the security guards trying, in vain, to keep a mob of slogan-shouting students at bay. They inevitably failed and a crowd of about 15 protestors (with more just outside) rushed in and took to the stage. Because their slogans weren't really that clear, I think most people assumed they were a religious group of some kind, but word soon got around as to their true cause.
Their occupation lasted about half an hour, delaying the talk by 15 minutes. They were monitored by two or three policemen and throughout the 'siege', they were engaged in discussion with various audience members, many who went down to see what they were about or to implore them to leave. A couple of audience members were disappointingly short-fused to the point of rage with them, but mostly it was lively and shouty, but peaceful. At one point a member of the audience started shouting out lines from The Life of Brian - "You're all individuals!", which got an immediate answer from a good 50% of the crowd "Yes! We're all individuals!". Then several people took off one of their shoes (none of us had gourds) - very funny. At one point, as a general reaction to the confrontational manner of the invading students, practically the entire auditorium stood up and turned their backs to the protestors' shouts and taunts. Another highlight was a chap getting up on stage, complete with backpack, asking the protestors to leave as he had travelled all the way from Romania to see this talk, to much applause from the hall. Soon enough police reinforcements arrived and the protestors were taken out, without too much kerfuffle, it has to be said. So, an exciting start to the evening!
I didn't go to university and can, rather annoyingly, see points on both sides of the argument concerning Grayling's New College. I don't think all the facts are in yet, and there's been a lot of Daily Mail-style ranting about it from people who tend to have a visceral reaction before knowing a lot about it. Politically, I do lean heavily towards a world of public services and social equality, and have some uncomfortable feelings about an institution that plans to charge £18,000 a year in fees, despite the greater number of full-fund scholarships this will allow. I think the root of the problem is the government's stance on education and privatisation of services, and picking on one example, high profile as it is, is not quite aiming at the right target. I wasn't annoyed by the protest, though their accusations that the paying audience were implicitly supporting a two-tier educational system was completely misplaced and rather offensive.
There were a couple more protests during the talk. Early on Richard Dawkins commented how both he and Myers were "interested in science" at which point someone shouted from the back "and in profit making!". The interloper was quickly taken out by police (who were now standing at every exit) as Dawkins made it clear that every penny he earns from his lectures he gives to charity (I did wonder if this was the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science rather than something like, say, Oxfam - not that the RDF isn't a very worthy cause!). Some way into the talk a young couple got up, hand in hand, from the front row and stood in front of the stage reading out their protest to Dawkins almost face to face. Dawkins told them rather firmly that he would take questions at the end, and they too were escorted out. Sure enough, at the end, despite the last question having been taken, a girl leapt up and took to the microphone and with much civility asked if Dawkins, as a humanist, would withdraw his support for the college. To his credit, the professor gave a fairly lengthy answer to this, with some good points, but also some not quite so good ones. He did strongly imply that he voted Lib-Dem at the last election because of their stance on student fees (a stance, sadly, since U-turned). It's a difficult issue, and no doubt one that will continue to attract attention and discussion - and protests - for some time to come.
The talk itself was absorbing and excellent. My favourite part was the first 20 minutes or so where the two biology greats discussed evolution, particularly how it might work in an extra-terrestrial environment (would it still be Darwinian?), and also the number of times certain traits (for instance, the eye, sonar, claws etc.) have evolved independently. Much of the rest of the talk concerned the question of religious belief and how the two of them are perceived in relation to their work in that area. They talked about what would constitute evidence for a supernatural claim, and how the natural world provides wonder enough without the need for faith-based belief as well as the indoctrination of children into the ideas of belief without evidence. There was about half an hour of questions at the end.
Overall, it was a memorable evening and highly enjoyable. I wish there had been more talk on evolution, even if in relation to its power in dismantling theism, but it was definitely worth the trip up. The main topic of conversation on the way out was the protest (as is the bulk of this post) so you have to admit it had an effect! Having said that, the BHA website report doesn't mention it, but that may not be so strange considering A C Grayling is the incoming Association President! (Edit: Not any more - he's resigned before taking office.)
For me, Darwin's bravery in the face of a theocratic establishment, his open-mindedness and realisation of new ideas, his brilliance at communicating those ideas and his genius in general make him the greatest contributor to the understanding of what it is to be human, or to be alive at all.
Below is a quick drawing of Mr Darwin taking Indohyus for a walk. Indohyus fits somewhere very early on in one of my favourite evolutionary tales - that of the whale, a mammal that went from the land back to the sea and of which the fossil record, including some stunning examples of the intermediate stages, tells a remarkable story. Look at a whale or dolphin skeleton today and you will see one of the many irrefutable proofs of evolution - vestigial organs, for sea mammals retain rudimentary bones that were once hind legs, though they don't do a lot now they have become fully aquatic.
Another fascinating clue to the whale's terrestrial origins is the manner in which it swims, not like a fish, waving its body side to side, but in the same way that a dog or a cat runs, with the spine undulating like a ripple.
Spines... that brings me to a completely different topic, but something I thought I'd share. That drawing of Darwin above is the first thing I've drawn in over two weeks, a rather miserable couple of weeks if I'm honest. Two weeks ago I leant down to pick up a leaflet that had come through the letterbox and did my back in. Big ouch. My back is susceptible for a couple of reasons and I'm used to having a bit of a stiff back every other month or so. But once in a while, maybe every two or three years, it really goes, and this has been one of those times. The piercing muscle spasms render me almost immoveable to begin with, and the trouble this time is that after I started to get some freedom of movement back, I became over-confident and it went again, this time worse, prolonging everything.
Another big ouch. But in time, as it always does, things got better - the remedy beginning with a bag of frozen peas and lots of rest and moving on to heat patches, a back support and light movement as soon as I could. Interestingly, as things improve, the pain moves around, from the middle left, to the lower right, to the left side and eventually up to my right shoulder (just to make sure I really couldn't draw even at the end!). Today is the first day I feel virtually pain free, though sitting too long at the desk still produces an ache or two - so I'm being careful. (Of course, sitting at the desk for too long was the cause in the first place, picking up the leaflet was just the accurately proverbial straw (it broke the camel's back, you see, and the camel, being an even-toed ungulate, is a paraphyletic cousin of the whale - just to keep things Darwinian). Anyway, a regime of daily walks is now on the schedule.)
This, unfortunately, has consequences for the Rainbow Orchid publication date, though I'm not sure yet to what extent. In addition, none of this has done much for my mental attitude, and where the intense work ethic required for graphic storytelling is concerned, that is a hurdle to overcome - which I will, as I get back into things (so don't worry).
I do have one other remaining symptom of my back going, and that is an irregular sharp pain in my right heel. It's slowly fading, but I often have such hurtiness in my foot arches and just yesterday I realised that this may well be related to the state my back's in at the time, so I'll keep an eye on that.
Hm... and that brings me back to Darwin. An article in Science this week has shown how Australopithecus afarensis, an ancestor of modern humans who lived over 3 million years ago (the most famous example of which is Lucy), almost certainly had arched feet, evidence for bipedality - standing and walking upright. The thing about walking upright, wonderful as it is, is that we have not fully adapted to it - as with the entire evolutionary process, it's a matter of compromise after the fact. I became interested in evolutionary medicine after I saw Richard Dawkins interview Randolph Nesse, especially when he talked about how the spine is a mechanism that developed horizontally and is just about ideal for that kind of creature, but when it is moved into an upright position, a recent development, the internal organs that once hung perpendicularly now drape down, causing a few problems - for instance entangled intestines, a number of issues relating to pregnancy and, not related to the organs but to the new posture, good old back ache. Understanding evolution shines a very illuminating light onto all kinds of things - thanks, Mr Darwin!
Elyssa and I went to see Toy Story 3 on Tuesday evening. I absolutely loved it - the quality hasn't diminished once throughout this series.
A. F. Harrold very kindly sent me a copy of his new novel. I haven't had a chance to get reading it yet, but the back cover made me chuckle, so that's a good sign. It's called The Education of Epitome Quirkstandard.
And now, or as soon as I've cleared my current crop of book and t-shirt orders, I'm going to get as much work done as I possibly can before I hit the Edinburgh Festival!
I was football mad for a couple of years in the late 1970s, and it all started with the 1978 world cup (being half Scottish, I supported Scotland and have remained an interested supporter ever since). Here's a picture of me at the time in my Scotland football shirt (my brother has just banged his head on our dad's Mini, and is wearing a rather cool Star Wars shirt made from our mum's stock of iron-on transfers; the other two are my cousins who we were visiting in Southampton).
At the moment England have just got through to the second round after improving quite dramatically on their previous form, though still only able to score one goal. They play Germany next, old rivals, who also only scored one goal in their last game, but looked very good indeed. I'm also partial to the Netherlands, the team I supported in the 1978 world cup final (unfortunately they lost to Argentina then - they also lost to Scotland in the first round). Apart from that, I've just enjoyed the whole thing, watching a few games, and listening to most of them on Five Live while sitting at the drawing desk.
The UK has a great tradition of football comics - I worked on a handful of DC Thomson's Football Picture Story Monthlies myself. Like superhero comics, they give the artist the chance to draw the human figure in a variety of bendy action poses. Check out some of Rob Davis's marvellous football work here. And I did a drawing for The Observer Sport Monthly in the last world cup. Here's Julius Chancer in the 1920s England kit (no, he never played for England!). For another 1920s-related football post, see here!
I closed comments here in early 2007, so it's been a while since I looked at the code I wrote. I think I've got it all working though. Please feel free to give it a try (just click on the little speech bubble below). If you're reading this on one of the syndicates (eg. Livejournal, Facebook, Google Reader etc.), then click here to visit the real home of webbledegook!
I've no idea what the problem was except that any page with a .php extension (whether it had php code included or not) would not load in. Streamline, my web hosts, did not actually get round to fixing the problem, it seems to have 'fixed itself' by Sunday morning. As it stands, my email is currently not working, so I apologise if I take a while to respond while that gets (hopefully) sorted out. (Edit: email was out until Wednesday night, with all email sent to me Sun and Mon being completely lost).
I also wanted to point you to my brother's resurrected blog, Mewsings. Murray writes wonderfully thoughtful and well-reasoned articles and reviews on all kinds of things fantastical - well worth a read. Recent highlights have included a series on fantasy-themed albums and some thoughts on current vampire literature. Not to mention this terrific drawing of two well-known but unusually-paired adventurers!
My brother, Murray, has started blogging again - good writing and interesting views and reviews can all be found at the revamped Mewsings. I'd also recommend his excellent Violet Apple website for an example of how good a website about an author (in this case, David Lindsay) can be.
Accent UK are hoping to raise the profile of their new themed anthology, Western, in light of recent benchmark restrictions introduced by their distributor, Diamond. Year after year Dave and Colin have been producing some of the most interesting UK indie comics within these books (and they are books - Western runs to 192 pages) and if you have yet to try one, you really really should. Ask your local comic shop to get some in!
There's a new publisher on the block, though from someone who has been involved in comics for many years, bringing much experience and an enormous comics knowledge to the cause. Steve Holland (of the essential Bear Alley blog) has launched Bear Alley Books. The first two collections will be Cursitor Doom and The Phantom Patrol, available this August, and I can't wait.
Lastly, there's been some internet stuff about British comics artist Ron Smith recently (still alive in his eighties), and it reminded me how much his work meant to me as a child. I was a 2000AD reader on and off in the late seventies, but one of the first stories that really hooked me onto the comic was The Judge Child Quest, and though I was already a head-over-heels devotee of Brian Bolland's exquisite line, it was Ron Smith that really engaged me on this story. I would spend ages studying his pages, bursting as they were with crowds of unique characters. His work was alive, fleshy, and technically brilliant. He's sometimes a little forgotten, hidden amongst the giant shadows of Bolland, McMahon and Ezquerra, but along with Colin Wilson (another favourite thanks to his amazing futuristic vehicles and guns) he deserves his place among the greats.