Despite that, and the biting cold of the last few days, today the sun is out, and the air is chilly but refreshingly crisp, so the windows are open and I'm getting some life back into me. I'm currently working in super-time on the continued re-mastering of The Rainbow Orchid, the example below now including the correct uniforms for soldiers of the 60th Foot in the Afghan campaign of 1880.
Just time for one quick link at the moment, pointing you in the direction of Paul H. Birch's Speech Balloons column for the Birmingham Mail. Last week he posted my most recent Christmas card, a little strip for the Twelve Days of Christmas.
We were in a number of stage productions together, but this one was Noises Off by Michael Frayn in 1995. Good memories as they always involved us laughing our heads off - particularly during one musical scene to Jailhouse Rock, where all the arrows fell off my costume as we danced, landing in various humorous places on us both. I must say I enjoyed all those plays I was in, but you wouldn't get me on the stage for anything today!
I did a picture of Julius (randomly picked by Ellen), and I got Sarah's delightfully surreal BLT (that's Burmese, Lettuce and Tomato!). Afterwards we decamped to the Ritzy cinema café for tea. Sarah has photos.
I received a lovely little package of comics from Peter Beare earlier this week containing four issues of Dangnabbit that feature various strips in the form of brief tales, sketches, vignettes and gags. Peter has a lovely relaxed style with drawings that ooze life and great observation, so I definitely recommend taking a look through his fabulous online archive (I love this one featuring a cat and a packet of Jaffa Cakes).
If it hasn't been enough that Neill Cameron's Mo-bots have been blowing you away every week in The DFC (what about that spidery-bot in the school canteen!), then you can get more Neill goodness over at his blog where he's giving you a Santa a day until Christmas. Today's, and my favourite so far, is Kung-Fu Santa.
Talking of The DFC, if you're a subscriber you'll be getting the special Christmas issue this Friday, which is really rather exciting - I believe it's a double issue, and there's all kinds of DFC favourites lined up. If you're not a subscriber, don't forget you can try a single issue (see here) or you can even get a mini four-issue subscription through Amazon. The DFC is doing great things for British comics, and even greater things for anyone who enjoys a decent comic strip or three. Coming soon are Frontier and Mirabilis. Yum!
Turning to a completely different area of things, two books came out recently on different aspects of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, of which I had some small involvement. The March to Kandahar concentrates on Lord Roberts' role in the campaign, and includes three images from my own private collection (including the front and back cover). And History Press have published a new book on Maiwand that focuses specifically on the 66th Foot. As well as chipping in on the research and doing some fact checking, I illustrated all the maps and plans, and (uncredited) wrote the introduction - which you can read online here.
Lastly, a couple of weeks ago I had a small drawing in a secret art sale run by architects Levitt Bernstein in aid of the charity Shelter. Can you spot my contribution? Laika author Nick Abadzis had one in there too.
Last Wednesday I went up to London and met up with fellow comic creators David O'Connell (Tozo) and Sarah McIntyre (Vern and Lettuce) at a nice little place called Teapod by Tower Bridge. We had a good two hours of talking comics and stuff, and I came away with signed comics and goodies. When I got home, I found a big bit of cake stuck to the cover of my DFC issue 1, which I got Sarah to autograph (the comic, not the cake). Later, Sarah drew the picture below of the three of us at Teapod - wonderful. And David drew me a sumptuous Evelyn Crow, which I'm afraid I rather gushed over - but it deserved it! I'll put that at the bottom of this entry, and on the readers' art page.
Thanks to a few delays on the Circle line (it's always the Circle line) I was half an hour late for my meeting at Egmont (note to self: must say my name more slowly to receptionists - I'm often put down as 'Gary Newman'), but it was great to meet up with the team who'll be helping to get Rainbow Orchid in to book form. I think there's a basic plan of action taking shape now, and there's stuff to be getting on with. I'll keep you updated as much as I can - but you're going to have to remain patient for a little while yet. Good things come to those who wait :-)
And the day wasn't over yet... next it was off to Sloane Square where I met up with Colin Mathieson (Accent UK), and after a nice cup of tea (third of the day), we went off to the National Army Museum to see Ian Knight give a talk on various aspects of the Zulu War (1879). Colin did a comic strip set in that campaign a few years ago, and was able to re-stock the NAM shop with copies. We also managed to get in a bit of local exploring, coming across the impressive Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park (across the river) and all the blue plaques down Tite Street - I was especially impressed that Oscar Wilde had lived there.
Colin returned to East Grinstead with me, where I put him up in the spare room. The following day we inspected my comics, some of my original art pages, and my Afghan War (1878-80) collection - something I rarely get to show off, but Colin, being a Zulu aficionado, showed generous appreciation. Even my light historical tour of East Grinstead's High Street didn't seem to phase him too much, before we enjoyed a pub lunch at the Dorset Arms, and then a browse of the graphic novel section in Waterstones.
So, a very nice couple of days, and a nice break from the usual routine. And there's another break this Friday, when I'm up at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art as part of New Writing North's Autumn Roadshow.
The night before my operation, escapism was courtesy the Movies into Manga festival at the Barbican, where I saw Tezuka's bizarre but entertaining 1984 TV special Bagi - the Monster of Mighty Nature, an early igniter of the 'furry' movement (though as curator Helen McCarthy said, it wasn't the originator as some have claimed). Anyway, it was very enjoyable, as was the small Tezuka display in the foyer. A shame there was no original artwork to examine, but the high quality colour prints were fantastic.
A couple of quick links... some great quotes and soundbites from the No to Age-banding campaign, and.. oh, that's it for now, I need a sit down and a cup of tea.
Neat and stylish would be a good description of the two books that Blank Slate have so far published - Mawil's 'We Can Still Be Friends' and Oliver East's 'Trains Are Mint' - both well worth picking up. They've also got some very exciting stuff on the horizon, including the one I'm most excited about - the publication of Nigel Auchterlounie's* Spleenal (read more here and here. Edit: and now here on the Blank Slate blog).
Jonathon Dalton has reached 'O' in his A-Z, and a new one has popped up in the form of 'Mitz's Inevitable A-Z of Comic and Cartoon Villains'. You can tell this is going to be interesting when 'A' turns out to be Armless Tiger Man. See where it all started here.
I've been asked to give Indie Review a mention, and I'm more than happy to do so after a browse around the newly redesigned site. The news section is very good and it's building up a nice bank of reviews (I'm sure I wrote a review for Leonie O'Moore's 'Some Forgotten Part' for them, but it seems to have disappeared) and creator biogs (where I'm described as "more of a mainstream artist compared to a lot of independent UK artists"!?). I would say the navigation can mean you have to click through a lot of pages to see what's in the archives, and a few more graphics, especially on the masthead, would brighten the place up a bit, but it's still a very worthwhile link.
* My gggg-grandmother was an Auchterlonie... her antecedents hailed from Crail in Fife, and included her cousin, Robert Auchterlonie, the "Grand Old Man of Scottish Congregationalism".
Last Thursday (3 July) Philip Pullman met with the Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, Simon Juden, (and others) to discuss the subject, and a couple of days later those of us who have signed the No to Age Banding petition received his report of that meeting. All I can say is I feel pretty glad we've got Philip Pullman as a spoke-person! Here are a couple of extracts from his report:
"Simon Juden opened by acknowledging in guarded and cautious terms that the presentation of this matter from their side had perhaps not been ideal, but that he and the publishers were very anxious to stress that their intention had never been to impose age-guidance (that is the term they prefer to use) on authors without full consultation, and that he thought it would be a good idea to take some of the emotion out of the discussion and simply deal with the facts.
I replied that I'd rather call it passion, and that I'd rather it stayed in, thank you very much, because the sheer volume and intensity of the anger caused by the proposal was entirely part of what we wanted to express. I went on to ask various questions about the research..."
|"The central issue became this: we wanted them to agree that no book should be age-banded without the author's consent. They refused to agree to this, but offered 'full consultation' instead. We pointed out that every author in the world knows what 'consultation' means: it means the publishers saying 'This is the cover of your new book' and our saying 'Well it's horrible' and their replying 'Well, tough.' 'Full' consultation, I suppose, would mean that plus lunch."|
The reasons against age banding are so logical and strong that I won't bother trying to represent them here - there are others that are far more eloquent on the subject than I could be (go and read Philip Pullman in The Guardian and Anthony Horowitz in The Bookseller). Last week J. K. Rowling added her support and signed the petition that is fast approaching 3,000 signatories.