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Ten, or fifteen, questions
Saturday 11 December 2010
Many thanks to everyone who sent in questions, either as comments on this blog, through Twitter or via email, I really appreciate it. It was supposed to be ten questions, but as I got just a smidgeon over (15), some connected to others, I thought I'd go in for a pound and tackle the whole lot. I hope my answers are of interest!
Whereas sometimes there are two questions from one person, we'll start off with one question from two people...

Jez Higgins: What's next for Julius?
Jim C: Any plans as yet where to go with it after number 3?

I do have another adventure planned in some detail. RO is a bit of an ensemble piece, I think, but the next story will focus more on Julius, and it will be something of a detective story. It starts with an auction, a theft, and a visit by a childhood friend. It features an ancient ruined house, a stage magician and an uncharted island, and I have an ending in very rough form - and I think that's all I'll reveal for now, apart from the fact that it could all change!

Jonathan King: I'd be interested to know if you pencil-ink-colour each page before moving on, or each stage in batches or... ?

With volume 2 I'd pencil a page, then ink it and then colour it before moving on to the next page. With volume 3 I'm pencilling and inking each page, then I'm going to colour them all together. This is so Egmont can see almost-finished artwork sooner. I can't draw pages out of sequence, I have to do them all in order - just in case I decide to change something, I guess.

bertyH: I've got two - 1) do you see The Rainbow Orchid as a children's book? I bought mine in the children's section of Borders. I'm not a kid myself and don't see it as a kids' book, it seems more sophisticated than Tintin.

While I didn't write The Rainbow Orchid to be specifically for children, I did want it to be accessible to children. In the late 90s, when I conceived the idea, there were very few (if any) adventure comics for kids (actually, there aren't that many now) - comics tended to include quite a lot of violence and sexual content with a 'for mature readers' label, and I wanted to do something that would be okay for kids to read. At the same time, I wrote the story entirely to please myself, I didn't write it with 8, 12 or 14-year olds in mind. I think if I did try and write it for my idea of a certain demographic, it would fail. I don't mind it being marketed as a children's book at all - in fact I'm proud it's a comic that has kids in its sights. I'm also proud that adults get just as much enjoyment out of it as well. As for bookshops, they have to put it somewhere, and are unlikely to be generous enough to put it in several categories on my behalf, unfortunately!

2) what is the language being spoken by Meru and Father Pinkleton in part two?

All I'll say is that it's called Urvatjan, and more will be revealed in volume 3.

Al Power: what inspired you to write The Rainbow Orchid, and did you have the whole story mapped out at the start?

There were a number of inspirations that led to me starting RO that all coalesced around the same time, including the idea of doing a comic that would be accessible to children, as mentioned above. I think the main catalyst for the story was my love of lost world novels, such as those by H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. I'd also come to the conclusion that I didn't want to be a work-for-hire comic artist - I didn't have the staying power to invest all that time in another person's vision (which is a failing, I'm sure). Having just done an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, I wanted a character, or family of characters, that would be my own, and who I could use in several stories. I wanted to work to a classic European model, purely because that is what I enjoyed most, and it was very important that I enjoyed working on this story because I knew it would be a time-consuming and long-term project. The other main element was my interest in the 1920s as a time period - post the immense trauma of the First World War, still within sight of the romantic Victorian era, and with the world just beginning to really open up, albeit with a dark cloud on the horizon.

I did have an ending in mind quite early on, before I started the drawing, and I'll expand on that as it segues nicely with the next question...

Linda Wada: 1) I remember you saying you knew the ending of the story from the start, and worked the story toward that ending. Now that you are actually working on the final part of the story, (and without giving anything away) has that ending changed some, in getting to the ending you first envisioned?

I did indeed have the ending worked out, but it's only through scripting that I discovered how I could actually get there. When you get down to the detail of scripting, panel by panel, it throws up new problems for you to solve, so things inevitably change. It's all very well knowing that you want something to happen, but it's more difficult to come up with convincing motivation for the characters to be manoeuvred into the situation you had planned. In some ways quite a lot has changed within RO since my initial outline, but the overall map, start to finish, has remained fairly well on plan.

2) I know you are still finishing Rainbow Orchid volume 3 at this time, but what are some of the most valuable things you have learned since your book has been published and released?

The newest experience for me has been the wider exposure, and especially exposure outside the comfort, if it can be called that, of the UK comics scene. I think probably the biggest thing I've learned, and am still learning, is to accept that one person hating your book doesn't mean it's rubbish, just as much as one person adoring your book doesn't make it a masterpiece. It's about learning to be comfortable with the work you have done, as it is, and it seeking out its audience, with hits and misses along the way. Related to that is learning to be comfortable with what you do, the way you do it, and not to compare or compete with others. We all have our own unique voice and it is that which people latch on to, not the fact that I'm not as technically masterful as Brian Bolland or as intellectual a storyteller as Alan Moore. This is a Garen Ewing book, and I'm the only person who can do it - for better or worse. Learning to control the usual fears and self-doubt fostered by what is a very personal creative endeavour becomes much harder with that wider exposure, but more important for your own sanity!

The other main thing I've learned is the value of complete rough layouts before I start drawing!

Sarah Neal: Will the Tayaut Twins play a significant role in any future stories? I love the Tayaut family! Is Lily Lawrence a permanent cast member? Thanks for the great books!

Thank you. The Tayauts are part of the family of characters, and are bound to pop up again in a minor capacity, I'm sure. I am playing with the idea of a key appearance by Eloise Tayaut in the next Julius Chancer adventure, but am not sure yet if it's quite right for the story. One thing I definitely want to do, at some point, is a mini adventure focussing purely on the Tayauts, which will probably be published as a web comic. As for Lily, I must admit she does not yet feature very strongly in my plans for the next adventure, mainly because I want to focus on Julius. She does appear, and I still have an idea to give her a bigger role - but as with Eloise, I've not yet solidified my thoughts on the matter.

Mike Dutton: As I do not believe that, while Urkaz Grope is a unique villain, he is a true adversary to Julius Chancer himself, and as such, do you think you'll ever have any major villains for Julius, much like Rastapopoulos in the Tintin stories, and if so, have you had any plans for such a character already?

Hmm, an interesting question. What makes a true adversary? Was Rastapopoulos really one for Tintin? Tintin always got the better of him, and I always felt Rastapopoulos was a bit of a bungler (I haven't actually read a Tintin book for quite a while, so would have to reacquaint myself with his exploits to be sure). Urkaz Grope's power, I think, lies in his authority. He's deluded, which is a weakness, but he has immense influence. However, he doesn't engage Julius directly, so maybe that is where your view of him originates? The rainbow orchid is a side issue for Grope, a nuisance in the way of his bigger plan, so he employs another character, who I think is far more of a problem for Julius and his friends, to do his dirty work for him. Connected to all this is the question of Julius's status as protagonist - he seems a bit indecisive to me at times. Is Julius a worthy hero?

AliBee: Hi Garen - do you use photo reference for figure drawing? Do you draw right onto the page or sketch drawings out first?

I have only used photo reference very rarely for figures, maybe about ten times or less. A good example would be the scene in volume 1 where Julius is taking off his coat before climbing up on the roof of Lord Lawrence's house as I needed to understand how the coat came away from the arms, and the natural position of the arms to carry out that task. I'm not a fan of heavily referenced artwork as it can often, ironically, appear quite dead in the pose. I like understatement in my characters, I'm not from the animation school of hyper-exaggeration, but I also think you need to be a little unrealistic in figure drawing, especially where action, fighting in particular, is concerned. This isn't a badge of honour, by the way, and I'm not at all against photo-ref - whatever it takes to get the job done is fine by me - and I will use it! I do see more and more of an over-reliance on computer manipulation though, and it's my personal preference to be as close to the brain-hand-paper connection as possible.

I rough out my pages before I draw them, and this gives me the opportunity to get down the figure without worrying about any kind of technical perfection, just the general shape. This means when I come to draw the actual panel, part of the thinking has already been done, and I can concentrate on a more polished rendition. Ocassionally I'll do extra sketches before I start on the actual panel, especially if the initial rough turns out to be anatomically impossible, or I need to change angle or pose. One thing I do sometimes struggle with is that there's often more life in my scribbly rough sketch, and trying to transfer that over to the more complete drawing is not an easy thing to do.

enBD_1974: 1) What's your favourite panel in the entire adventure?

Ooh - what a good, and very difficult, question! I can easily point out the multitude of panels that I'm not happy with, but I've never thought about a favourite before. Having just had a look through, I don't think I can confidently pick one, but for now I'll say the Karachi train station scene at the top of page 27 in volume 2 - I don't think there's too much wrong with that, and it gives the right atmosphere with the promise of adventure to come.

2) You do a lot of research to make things in RO as authentic as possible. What authentic details are you most proud of? Is there anything you've got wrong?

I'm very pleased with the Breguet, purely because it's such a relatively rare aircraft. Also the work I put into the Natural History Museum, accurately depicting how it existed in the late 20s. Probably my trump card for research is the use of the Kalasha language at the start of volume 3. This is a language that is only spoken today by about 4000 people, is listed as endangered, and only had a written form of it as late as 2004. Having it appear accurately in a book is a rare thing indeed. Of course I had the generous help of an expert to achieve this, and the same goes for the genuine Ancient Greek that appears in both volumes 1 and 3.

I'm sure there is lots I've got wrong! I ignorantly called Lord Lawrence both Lord Lawrence and the Earl of Baggall, whereas (it was pointed out to me in a rather direct email) he would not, in reality, have both these titles. As the informant was an expert I asked his advice on how my mistake could be made into a legitimate situation, and so now that has become part of Lawrence's back-story. After the publication of volume 2 I learned that snow leopards don't roar, but as my sound effects are more of a loud growl, I think I might get away with that one! One mistake I made on purpose is the presence of the statue of Charles Darwin at the head of the steps in the Natural History Museum. He was actually replaced in September 1927 by a statue of the museum's founder, Richard Owen. The Rainbow Orchid takes place in 1928 (though I don't mention dates in the story), but my ideological preference is for Darwin, so in my universe, he stayed. Of course, Darwin is back there today anyway, since just before his 200th birthday in 2009.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed questions.

posted 11.12.10 at 5:59 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink |


Linda, on Sunday 12 December 2010 at 3:22 am, says:

Your answers are more than interesting, but insightful to the creation of your work. I like your thoughts on being comfortable with what you do, and not getting into the 'compare and compete with others.' I have been learning not to do that, myself, because I can get too caught up in that feeling of what I can't do, instead of what I can do. All a person can do, is find that uniqueness in themselves, and keep improving upon it. Thinking about people not liking your work, I was thinking all afternoon, what is one thing all people can agree on, they love, and actually, I can't think of one thing, that people could all agree on, because someone will find something they don't like about anything. But that is good, because it means we can have all kinds of stories, and there is plenty in The Rainbow Orchid, for many different people to enjoy. I want to sincerely thank you, Garen, for taking the time to do this. Learning more about the creative thought behind the work, makes me appreciate your work, even more. It has been through your work, over the years, I learned a great appreciation for comics and graphic novel work, in general.

Garen, on Sunday 12 December 2010 at 10:02 am, says:

Cheers, Linda!

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