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.
Would you like a bed-time story read to you by the author? Viviane Schwarz has filmed herself reading her excellent and highly original There Are Cats In This Book. I guarantee you will watch and enjoy it with a big grin across your face, and then probably watch it again. (And then you could go and buy yourself a copy too).
What else? So much else! Neill Cameron has bravely started Neill's A-Z of Awesomeness, inspired (he generously says) by my own A-Z of Comic Strip Characters. Go and join the Facebook group and join in the fun!
So much more I wanted to waffle on about, but I must rustle up some dinner. So I'll just end off by checking - have you visited the Super Comics Adventure Squad recently? Always some lovely stuff going on there.
Sarah launched the competition last week and it's been great fun (if slightly bizarre) to see all the great entries. You can see the full hairy display here, here, here and here, and the choosing ceremony here. Thanks Sarah!
On Monday Elyssa and I took the chance to go off to the Cotswolds for three days. Our first stop was a very windy Blenheim Palace where they also happened to be filming a new version of Gulliver's Travels. We watched as Emily Blunt filmed a scene while the other star of the film, Jack Black, looked on from the sidelines. Elyssa took this photo of the Lilliputian Guard waiting around for their next appearance.
The best part of Blenheim was a very informative guided tour through a few of the rooms, which contrasted starkly with a section of animatronics, video and 'interactivity'. I just can't get excited about these attempts to try and make history 'more exciting', when I think marvelling at the actual objects and stories behind them is a far more rewarding experience (as I've said before).
We stayed in the village of Broadway, and on Tuesday morning had a lovely 5 mile walk up to Broadway Tower and back (by a different route). The tower has strong connections with William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, so was very interesting for that, but also we were lucky to have a fairly clear day, and from the top of the tower you're supposed to be able to see thirteen counties - it was certainly quite a view.
We went to Cheltenham in the afternoon and saw Coraline in 3D in the evening. The animation was gorgeous and not at all showy-offy, it served the story very nicely. I did think a few parts of the plot were resolved due to some rather convenient events, but that's a minor criticism of a very enjoyable film. And the trailer for Up looked fabulous.
So - batteries somewhat recharged, brain reset, it's now back to work on The Rainbow Orchid with plenty to do for volume two to get it into shape for publication. I'm working on the cover right now. And I also heard that a copy of the printed volume one has being doing the rounds at the Egmont office - so I'll hopefully get to see that soon.
"In some greek newspaper, I've read an article about Tintin, that had a few illustrations - one of which is very unfamiliar, and, strangely, makes me think of a fake. It's a front image of Haddock looking very angry, eyes closed, losing his pipe and waving his fist, while his cap hops out of irritation. The drawing style is very very close to Hergé (or de Moor, or Jacobs), but strikes me as odd for some subtle reasons - a bit too detailed and too realistic. In fact, it reminds me much more of Jacques Martin than Hergé."
The description immediately made me think of the Captain Haddock I drew for the A-Z of Comic Characters I completed last year. But it couldn't be could it? I suggested it, to which the reply came...
"I've just dropped an eye on your website, and I'm not sure if it could match your style: the lines are 'thinner' than yours, making it look more Jacobs/Martin than your vaguely more Floc'h/Riviere style."
I'm quoting that bit only because it delighted me to be compared to Floc'h! The forum poster kindly sent me a scan of the page in question, and sure enough - it is indeed my Haddock. Did the paper think it was by Hergé? Was it just a convenient image? Rather naughty of the paper in question, but not something I'd ever chase up due to it just being a blog sketch of someone else's character, plus it's a rather flattering mix-up.
For more Greek, you may be interested in the updated and now linguistically correct Notebook of Theophrastus page, complete with a new sound recording from Latin scholar, Quintus.
I did a short phone interview with Caroline Horn of The Bookseller earlier this week, mainly on the back of the Super Comics Adventure Squad press release, but she also kindly gave The Rainbow Orchid a plug in the resulting piece (though she called it 'Orchard', something I have seen elsewhere too).
And finally... I love this Yahoo Question. Mrs Cullen asks:
"Where has the rainbow orchid originated? NOT the comic. The flower. Where did it come from? NOT the comic***!!"
I think perhaps the title of my comic is frustrating her Google searches. My apologies, Mrs Cullen, allow me to offer some assistance. Wikipedia gives the rainbow orchid the term paphiopedilum wardii, and seems to suggest it originates in south-west Yunnan and Myanmar. One newspaper article, from March 2008, declares that the rainbow orchid, first discovered in the valleys of Putao and Nagmung in the late 1980s, has not been seen since November 2007, and is probably extinct in the locality. This, of course, is not my rainbow orchid, a name I didn't know existed when I started the story back in 1997.
We were joined by Rian Hughes, and it was a highly enjoyable morning. It was great to see some of the wonderful Soviet posters and designs that had inspired my Tayaut poster in the previous entry, and as Sarah had lived in Moscow for two years, her knowledge of the subject provided an enlightening insight into many of the works. Afterwards we had lunch at Leon's (not Trotsky) and Sarah took some photographs, including the one below of Rian and me in the shape of constructivist icons. I was home by 3 pm and back to work on Orchid edits.
Photo by Sarah
Bulldog was one of the longest-serving British 'small press' comic characters, and one incarnation of the title (BAM! - Bulldog Adventure Magazine) was the only logical home for the first few episodes of The Rainbow Orchid when it was first published in 2002 (you can read a bit about how BAM! and Orchid came together in my interview here, and see the checklist here).
I never got to draw a proper Bulldog tale (though it was discussed on more than one occasion), but I did do a cover for the comic in 1996 (see below centre, ignore awful perspective on Big Ben), and I did an offshoot story for Accent UK's Pirates with a story featuring an ancestor, Captain Endurance Bulldog (see far right). But for the best of Bulldog - go and order the collection! (Cover, below left, by Kieran MacDonald)
I listened to a great little interview with David Baillie while drawing over the weekend. It was recorded for Panel Borders, a radio show for Resonance FM and podcast hosted by Alex Fitch. This is one of my favourite comics podcasts, largely because Alex gives a great interview that keeps on track and asks intelligent questions (witness Raymond Briggs brightening up after being impressed that Alex had actually done his research - another fabulous interview), but also because it focuses on British comics, and especially some of the more interesting alternative and independent stuff. David Baillie has a new book out, Tongue of the Dead.
Also over the weekend, I actually took some time out and watched two excellent films with my wife (I also made a lovely fresh pasta dinner on Saturday, if I do say so myself!). The first was In Bruges (on DVD) - great characters, great situation, great location, and a great plot that resolves itself very satisfactorily. I have been to Bruges, in the early nineties, and now I want to go again. The other film was Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona (at the cinema). Allen, one of my four all-time favourite directors, has been a bit up and down recently, but this is definitely an up. He's so good at examining creativity and its entanglement with relationships. As with In Bruges, location added an extra layer of loveliness to this film, and the music was superb too.
One last thing... a great article in The Sunday Times by Richard Girling called Fireworks over Fireplaces, about English Heritage not being entirely moral in relation to its restoration advice. This kind of injustice, greed and attempt at cover-up just makes my blood boil, and Girling presents the case very nicely.
garenewing (13 subscribers remain) dates from June 2004. I changed the RSS feed as I had to temporarily stop the blog and change location. The new one was...
webbledegook (8 subscribers remain) which dates from July 2006 and was the RSS feed for the newly located blog. But then I decided to centralise everything at the Rainbow Orchid site, and thus a third feed was born and syndicated onto LJ...
r_orchid_news (28 subscribers) which dates from November 2006.
To further confuse the issue, I have my own LiveJournal account, rainboworchid (71 subscribers), which does not feed from this blog, but I have started copying most (but not all) posts from here over there. That was originally set up so I could comment on other LJ accounts, and then I started running The Rainbow Orchid strip there too.
So what should you subscribe to if you're on LiveJournal? To get everything, subscribe to r_orchid_news. That is a bit of a soulless feed, and I only see comments there if I go and check it myself. If you want to friend me on LJ, then also add rainboworchid - and if you comment there I get notified.
If you're not on LiveJournal, there is another feed here, which is the one directly from this very blog, and is basically the same as r_orchid_news, but a different file. I add that just to confuse you as completely as possible.