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.
Much of the content remains as it was, but in the run-up to the book launch, there will be many more changes and new stuff to come - particularly with the members' area (renamed The Adventurers' Society), which will become properly active towards the end of July.
Some areas have had quite an update, and I would point you to the characters section, and the behind the scenes section. There is also the return of a shop, which will become more Rainbow Orchid specific as we get nearer to publication.
I hope you like the redesign - do let me know if you come across any problems, bugs or glitches.
Paul Gravett, the Man At The Crossroads, has written a fabulous report on this year's Angouleme festival. I am definitely going next year. With a book coming out in a few months, I was particularly heartened to read this sentence:
"Others cry "Vive la crise!" and suggest that "BD" [Bande Dessinée] may weather the credit crunch better than most sectors because comics are often not some casual consumer purchase but a passion, an addiction, an escape that people are loathe to give up in tougher times."
"Certain genres seem to be weathering the storm. Many are predicting that escapism, particularly crime novels will be solid, less risk-averse bets. "As things get tougher I think we will look for some sort of nostalgia and some thrills or comfort or warmth," says Orion deputy publishing director Kate Mills."
I'm definitely keeping a positive outlook in the face of Robert Peston as far as The Rainbow Orchid is concerned. And the above should be good news too for a friend of Elyssa's (that's no lady, that's my wife), author Julie Corbin, who has her debut novel coming out from Hodder in April. I think you can expect fabulous things from Julie (I read an early draft of the first chapter and was hooked).
And finally... you might have noticed I've put a couple of event banners in the sidebar. The first is for the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival, organised by Mousehunter author, Alex Milway, and is still in its early days (so keep an eye on the blog for news). The second is for the Bristol Comics Expo, which I hope to attend, but am not yet committing to. They should both, of course, be fabulous.
"I have had to make the very difficult decision to step away from my Anglo-Afghan War project for a while - at least a year. This year (2009) sees the publication of the first volume of my book (The Rainbow Orchid) and I have found I must turn my full attention to supporting this aspect of my life in order to ensure its continuing success.
Dealing with Afghan War related requests and research is a hugely enjoyable hobby for me, and I find helping people with their family mysteries and historical queries enormously rewarding, but I end up having to spend too long on them - often many hours for a single request. Also, having to switch my brain from author/illustrator mode to history/researcher mode at the flick of a switch, and then back again, is not easy. Once I'm in Afghan War mode I stay enthusiastic about it, and find it an effort to turn back to the main work of my books (which I also greatly enjoy).
So, I need to prioritise, and - at least temporarily - stop the flow of Afghan War related correspondence that I deal with (I will clear the current backlog). This site will remain online, but the database project is on hold. I will still accumulate data for the project, but with the longer term in mind.
If you have an Afghan War related query, please consider posting it over at the excellent Victorian Wars Forum, which has a dedicated section for the Afghan Wars. I will almost certainly be popping over there myself every now and then, when I can, and will contribute as time allows.
I've invested far too much time (and money) into this project to give up on it, and it is a period of history I still find totally absorbing (the Afghan War makes an appearance in both of my currently published comic strips) - so 'normal service' will resume, when the time is right. As I said, this has been a truly difficult decision to make."
I said in a recent interview that I slightly regretted not being more focussed on my 'comics career' when I was younger. I had (and have) so many interests, and when one grabs hold of me I tend to dive into it 110%. One year I decided I wanted to set up a small theatre company and direct a play, so first I got as much experience as possible on the stage and took part in seven different plays in that one year alone. Not a lot of time for making comics that year (though neither would I go back and change a thing!)
I mentioned that the Afghan War makes an appearance in my comics, and you'll have seen it as part of the 'sword story' in The Rainbow Orchid. Below is a small extract from my DFC comic strip, Charlie Jefferson and the Tomb of Nazaleod.