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Silvester Strips
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blog of the day 29.04.2004
Webbledelook
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Webbledegook: news and stuff
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Upcoming events
Tuesday 14 April 2015
Not many this year, but a couple of good events coming up on the horizon to tell you about.
The first is aimed at librarians and will take place at Crawley Library, West Sussex, on 18 May, where I'll be on a panel addressing the issue of reaching reluctant readers (something comics do very well!). My fellow panelists will be Helen Dennis, Mo O'Hara, and Lisa Williamson. You can book tickets here.

On the weekend of 6-7 June I'll be at Copenhagen Comics in Denmark for the launch of the Danish edition of The Rainbow Orchid vol.1 (Jagten Pa Regnbueorkideen, published by Tellerup). Long before a Danish edition was even a possibility I had wanted to visit this festival, largely thanks to the enthusiastic reports brought back by Colin and Dave of Accent UK, who will also be attending this year. I'm very grateful to the festival, Tellerup, and the Danish Arts Foundation for making this trip a reality.

posted 14.04.15 at 9:59 am in Julius Chancer | permalink | |


What's happening?
Friday 3 April 2015
To those still watching, you might be wondering what has happened to Julius Chancer since I boldly declared (last September) that I would be blogging the first three pages of his new adventure.
At the end of November I posted some finished art for the first page and suggested that the next two pages might be available to read in the new year, but since then ... nothing! The main reason has been work, work, work.

During the time I was drawing The Rainbow Orchid I experienced quite a downturn in my regular commercial work, and therefore my income. This was because in order to get the comic finished I had to turn away a fair bit of paying work, a difficult decision to make! Since the book has been completed I've had to build things up again, and the last couple of years have not been hugely fruitful.

This year, so far, has been better - things are looking up, at least for the next three months or so, and I've been saying yes to most of the projects that have come my way (and I'm very lucky to have some really nice assignments at the moment). The obvious result of this is that I'm very busy prioritising my paying clients, and that sadly leaves little to no time for my own stuff.

Ordinarily these two aspects of my work should run along nicely together but I have probably taken on a little too much work right now - possibly in reaction to last years' drought, but also because the urgency to earn money has increased, with my wife (a writer and editor) going freelance and with two small children to care for, and who knows if work will keep coming or dry up again for a bit.

I have been trying to think of solutions ... should I dive into the world of crowd funding (eg. KickStarter) or perhaps a system such as Patreon might be better? I'm not sure I'd be able to raise much this way - because of mainstream distribution with The Rainbow Orchid I'm not connected to the majority of my readers online, so I don't know if there's a good support base out there I can reach.

Either way, Julius Chancer is not dead - I'm too excited about this next story. It is better than The Rainbow Orchid, more original, more exciting, more mysterious, and my art and writing have improved a lot (I think). It will happen and I will try my best to get some new stuff to you as soon as I can.

Thanks, as ever, for staying with me!

posted 03.04.15 at 8:10 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | 4 |


Scrapbook: the original
Wednesday 4 February 2015
Despite looking at the scrapbook spreads for volumes one, two, three and The Complete Rainbow Orchid (see previous entries), I haven't quite finished with scrapbook posts!
In 2003 I self-published part one in black and white, and as part of the extras I included a page of sketches and a scrapbook, which is where the idea started - you can see it below.

If you'd like to look at some of the scrapbook items in more detail then you can have a look at the Julius Chancer Facebook page where there's an album dedicated to them. If you're not already joined up to it, please do! I often publish little bits and bobs there that don't appear anywhere else.

posted 04.02.15 at 10:50 am in Julius Chancer | permalink | |


Scrapbook in colour vol. 3
Tuesday 3 February 2015
Unlike the scrapbooks for volumes one and two of The Rainbow Orchid I didn't make any new drawings for black and white 'photos' in volume three - the drawings I did do were kept in colour. Here's the volume three scrapbook spread ...

Volumes two and three, however, did include a 'story so far ...' section at the front, and for these I did drawings for the monochrome photographs. Here are the full colour versions ...

Lily, Julius and Nathaniel about to embark for Portsmouth, but somebody else is on this train ...

Nathaniel, Lily and Julius meet the elephant at Cunningham House, Karachi ...

The Complete Rainbow Orchid also had scrapbooks, gathering all three volumes' material into two spreads ...

posted 03.02.15 at 3:50 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | |


Scrapbook in colour vol. 2
Sunday 1 February 2015
A couple of days ago I posted some of the original colour images that were then 'antiquated' to become items in the Rainbow Orchid volume one scrapbook.
Volume two had a much smaller single-page spread, and only one full drawing. It shows Nathaniel Crumpole in the Amman desert with his camel and the Breguet 280T and a refuelling truck in the background ...

Here is the vol.2 scrapbook page ...

posted 01.02.15 at 5:23 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | |


Scrapbook in colour vol. 1
Friday 30 January 2015
In each of the volumes of The Rainbow Orchid I put together a scrapbook spread of news clippings, photographs and ephemera. The photographs, being of a 1920s or earlier vintage, were in black and white, but I actually made full colour drawings of these to begin with, and I thought it would be nice to show you some of these.
Here are three from the volume 1 scrapbook: Julius and Chas in Gallipoli ...

Lord Lawrence winning the Fourth Wembley Botanical Competition, with Rudyard Kipling ...

... and Lily Lawrence on set with her friend, Edna Purviance.

This is the full vol. 1 scrapbook spread ...

posted 30.01.15 at 2:23 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | 5 |


Thirty years
Sunday 11 January 2015
2015 sees a number of significant anniversaries for me, some good, a couple not so good. One of the good ones is that 11th January marks thirty years since I started karate. I did have a couple of breaks in that time, so I have not been training fully for 30 years, but it is somewhere around 26 or 27 or so.
Karate has been a very important part of my life. My last two years of school were not great, and starting karate brought back some of my self-confidence. Also at school, I was terrible at sport, but karate was something I did away from school and I allowed myself a fresh start. I took to it really well. The only person I was in competition with was myself, and that can be a huge incentive to try and excel, week by week.

My first sensei was Brian Whitehouse at his Shotokan Karate Club of East Grinstead, but when I went to live in the US for a year I took six lessons a week at the headquarters of the International Karate Association under the famous Takayuki Kubota. I returned to the UK and became the first black belt at Brian's club. A few years ago I wrote up my karate experience, just to help me remember it all - you can read it here if you wish (it's not a particularly exciting or outstanding story, I admit!).

Karate seems to be slightly unfashionable these days, largely, I think, due to the glamour of the new kid on the block, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). But that discipline doesn't do it for me - it's too much about winning, about competition, and about who is strongest and best. It misses the budo aspects, the humility, the finesse. It misses the Art.

One aspect of Japanese martial arts that comes in for more criticism these days is the idea that practicing a fighting art can improve your character. For me, it really has. Karate has been my model for bettering myself in all walks of life and for not giving up on something I want to do. When I lose my way, I think of karate. The lessons I've learned while attempting to perfect a technique, or to keep going when my legs want to give out, find other applications. My comic strip, The Rainbow Orchid, would not exist without my karate training (not to mention the fact that it helps when I'm drawing fight scenes!). It's not a spiritual thing for me, it's a practical, real thing.

I love kata - the pre-arranged forms or patterns of karate, an imaginary fight in multiple directions, an encyclopaedia of self-preservation techniques. I feel I'm just beginning to understand how they work - a glimpse of a bigger picture. I'm constantly trying to perfect them, and am always very far away from doing so. But each time is a new challenge. I also love the fact that practicing kata connects me to the art's history, and with forms that masters have handed down through centuries, changing and evolving with each interpretation and generation. The history of karate generally is a big part of the attraction, too.

I'm still doing karate (my current club's website is here) and I still love it. I can't kick quite as high as I used to, the jumps aren't quite as athletic, and the legs tire a bit more quickly than they once did, but it's still an enormous challenge. And I think I'm starting to get the hang of it a little - at last.

Here's a short video from the days when my limbs were a bit more elastic, even if my technique was a lot less formed - in the summer of 1985, as a 7th kyu orange belt in Brian's class at the Small Parish Hall (sadly just recently demolished).

posted 11.01.15 at 12:02 am in Webbledegook | permalink | 3 |


Sequential sale
Monday 5 January 2015
Digital comics publisher Sequential are currently having a massive winter sale, with 50-80% off a huge range of titles - including The Rainbow Orchid. Their Complete edition includes all my annotations from The Rainbow Orchid Supplement.
You can read more about the Sequential edition of RO here. There's a ton of other really good stuff in the sale too - I've nabbed a couple myself! Fire up those iPads!

Update: the sale ends at midnight tonight (5 Jan)!

posted 05.01.15 at 10:58 am in Julius Chancer | permalink | |


Still Walking
Thursday 1 January 2015
I don't watch many films these days - it's partially because I have young children, but largely because I always feel I should be doing something productive instead. Actually, watching films can often be inspiring, and feed productivity, but it's still difficult to justify the time. On New Year's Eve, however, I watched Hirokazu Koreeda's Still Walking (2008).
It was part of a Koreeda boxed set that I got for Christmas - I'd forgotten I'd put it down as a suggestion, based on reading something over a year ago that made me think I simply must watch this man's films, and since forgotten, so it was a nice surprise. The other films in the boxed set are After Life (1998), Nobody Knows (2004) and Air Doll (2009).

Still Walking is the story of a family that get together for a memorial to the eldest son who, we gradually learn, drowned fifteen years previously when he went into the sea to rescue a young boy. There are two grown-up children left, Hiroshi, who has married a young widow with a son, and Chinami, who has a husband and two children.

The family come home to their parents, the father a retired doctor who has lost both his heir and his purpose in life, and a probably fairly typical elderly Japanese mother, serving, fussing over her children, commenting on their lifestyle choices, and cooking, complaining and loving the rare gathering of her clan.

The film is peaceful and undramatic, but full of beautiful moments: the tension between the father and the younger, surviving son, who has failed to live up to expectations; the young widow's little boy, quietly trying to make sense of his own father's death; the uncomfortable annual visit of the boy (now man) whose life was saved by the dead son (and the mother's admission of why she continues to invite him); the yellow butterfly; the conversations; the gentle humour.

And the ending. I won't spoil it, but it brought an unexpected tear, though not a sad one. Well, maybe a bit - Hiroshi, it seems, could only be himself once his own parents had passed away, freed of his role as second son. Various aspects of this film will resonate with most people in different ways - something recognisable for everyone.

The whole film immediately brought to mind the great director Yasujiro Ozu, in setting, theme, style and mood, particularly Tokyo Story (see my review here). It even has a role, in the young widow (played by Yui Natsukawa), that would have fitted Setsuko Hara perfectly. I look forward to seeing the remaining Koreeda films, even if it might take a little while.

posted 01.01.15 at 11:02 pm in Film | permalink | 1 |


Happy Christmas 2014
Monday 22 December 2014
I'd like to wish each and every one of you a very happy Christmas and I hope lots of good things come your way in 2015. I'd especially like to say a big and sincere thank you for your support of my work and books over the past year - it's hugely appreciated!

Click image to see bigger
posted 22.12.14 at 12:57 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | 2 |


Jagten på Regnbueorkidéen
Wednesday 10 December 2014
Just when I thought The Rainbow Orchid had encountered all the excitement it possibly could in its unexpectedly long life (much more than I ever anticipated), a bit of news comes along to give the book yet another bounce, and a particularly pleasing one too.
I'm delighted to announce that a Danish edition of The Rainbow Orchid is to be published by Forlaget Tellerup. It will be issued in three separate volumes and will be launched perhaps midway in 2015 - I will confirm the date when it is settled. The Danish title is Jagten på Regnbueorkidéen, and it joins the English, Dutch, Spanish, French and German editions.

My sincere thanks go to Michael E. N. Larsen at Tellerup, Hélène Ferey and Oli Munson at A. M. Heath, Trine Licht at Licht and Burr, and I must also pass on a nod of recognition to the Danish comic artists (Frank Madsen, Sussi Bech, Ingo Milton, and Tatiana Goldberg) I had a very nice dinner with in Erlangen, Germany, earlier this year, as I suspect getting to know them a little better may well have had something to do with my coming to the attention of Tellerup - whether they were aware of it or not!

posted 10.12.14 at 12:33 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | 7 |


Garen Goodies
Wednesday 3 December 2014
Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier each year (as soon as Halloween is over, apparently) and while I try to let December get its motor going before I begin to think about it, I have been swept up in the tide, to some degree. Perhaps having children does that!
Anyway, if you're starting to think about your Christmas shopping then perhaps I can recommend a few nice little items here with my own stamp on them ...

The Complete Rainbow Orchid - if you haven't got it, then this is the version to get. The entire story in one volume with 17 pages of extras and behind-the-scenes sketches. Buy it from me (signed and sketched in), or from your local bookseller, or online at vendors such as Amazon or Book Depository.

The Rainbow Orchid Supplement - includes author's annotations for the entire story, plus notes, interviews and sketches. For the true fan, but brimful of Julius Chancer goodness. You can get your copy here.

The Rainbow Orchid volumes 1, 2 and 3 bundle - I have a limited number of these sets available in my online shop (signed with a sketch), when they're gone they're gone! This special offer includes The Rainbow Orchid Supplement. Individual volumes can also be bought through your local bookseller, or various places online including Amazon and Book Depository.

The Scarifyers - I've drawn nine covers for Bafflegab's excellent dark-comedy-supernatural-mystery series, featuring the acting talents of people such as David Warner, Terry Molloy, Nicholas Courtney, Nigel Havers, Leslie Phillips and Brian Blessed, to name just a few. These really are excellent audio adventures - if I didn't get a contributor's copy I'd buy my own! The latest is very festive, The King of Winter, and all are available from the Bafflegab website on CD or download.

The Book of the Dead and Unearthed - these two 'mummy anthologies' came out last year from Jurassic London, The Book of the Dead featuring new tales of the Egyptian (un)dead, and Unearthed featuring classic tales, including Arthur Conan Doyle's excellent Lot 249. I created several illustrations for The Book of the Dead and recently designed brand new covers for both volumes. Buy them from Amazon: The Book of the Dead link, Unearthed link.

posted 03.12.14 at 11:06 pm in Webbledegook | permalink | 1 |


New Julius Chancer - finished art
Sunday 30 November 2014
Back in September I showed the thumbnails and the A4 roughs for the first three pages of the new Julius Chancer adventure. I said I'd be blogging the creation of the these first pages more closely, and now, at last, I can move on to the finished drawing stage.
I should apologise for the delay - it was partly due to other work, but I must admit it was also partly due to the big step of actually starting, coupled with the fact that the first panel was a bit of a challenge, having to tackle an establishing shot with a fairly intricate building (and van) in perspective.

One of the things that helped me get started was doing a private commission for a Julius Chancer illustration which acted as a great warm-up. It was a Thirty-Nine Steps-style scenario, with Julius being chased down on the Yorkshire Moors ...

Here, again, are the the thumbnails and A4 roughs for the first half of the first page ...

And here are the panels at the pencil stage ...

Finally, here are the drawings fully inked and coloured ...

This has been my first experience drawing at the new size - A2 (half a page is A3). The building did take longer due to the greater area to cover, but it was much nicer to draw something that required that level of detail with more space available. The following two panels probably took just as long as they would have had I been drawing at A3, as I did with The Rainbow Orchid.

One advantage I hadn't anticipated is that drawing the page in A3 halves provides me with smaller targets to complete - half a page is done and can be put aside, instead of a whole page having to be completed before I can tick it as 'done'. That might seem a false equivalence, but it's a psychological trick that actually helps! Giving yourself little targets to complete is great way to keep moving forward with a big project.

I plan to have the first three pages up for you to read at the start of the new year (fingers crossed!).

posted 30.11.14 at 12:33 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | 15 |


Jacob's Heirs
Thursday 20 November 2014
Yesterday the following image dropped into my mailbox from Jean-Michel Boxus at BD Must (my Belgian publisher), which he described as Les Héritiers de E.P. Jacobs.
It's for a leaflet that explains how Jacobs was an influence on the three creators featured - Patrick Dumas (Allan MacBride), me (Julius Chancer), and Eric Heuval (Le Mystère Du Temps) - all published, of course, by BD Must.

Jacobs really was the spark that set off The Rainbow Orchid, far more than Tintin. I bought a copy of La Marque Jaune at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels, sometime in the 1990s, and it opened up the horizon for me on the wider world of ligne claire and the possibility of more serious adventure in this format. (I just checked the dates - I went to Brussels in April 1996 and drew the first page of RO in March 1997.)

I certainly wouldn't claim to be an heir, but I'm very happy to be thought of in the same context!

posted 20.11.14 at 4:58 pm in Julius Chancer | permalink | 4 |


Remembrance Sunday IX
Tuesday 11 November 2014
My ninth Remembrance Sunday post is a couple of days late this year, but as I was in Germany on that particular day I hope you will forgive me. Today, however, is Armistice Day in the 100th anniversary year of the commencement of the First World War and I'm going to write a little bit about my great-great uncle, Alexander Rough Phillip, also known as Wee Eck.
He was Wee Eck because he was the youngest son (though two girls would come after him) of Andrew Phillip, a stone mason from Inverkeillor, and Betsy Rough, of Kettins. The family was mostly girls - seven in all, with just four boys (though one died of croupe at three years old). You can see little Alex standing on the right, holding his mother's arm, in this photograph of the Phillip family from about 1886, about the time they moved to Dundee.

Alexander had the misfortune to be born in a fateful era - the final two decades of Queen Victoria's reign, whose children were ushered into the brave new twentieth century, then raked into the First World War, only to be torn apart and buried in the mud of Flanders, the sands of the Middle East, and the weather-worn hills of Gallipoli.

Wee Eck followed his father into the masonry business, but when the war blew across Europe he enlisted with the City of Dundee Royal Engineers, soon being posted to the 446th Northumbrian Field Company. In July of 1917 he found himself in the Hindenburg support trenches, and on the first day of August he and another Sapper, Henry Cawley, were killed outright by a German shell as they worked in the Swift support trench, right on the front line near to Chérisy.

His commanding officer, Major C. E. Boost, wrote to his father the very next day, the day his colleages buried him at Heninal ...

"I am very sorry to have to tell you that your son, Sapper Phillips [sic] of this Coy., was killed yesterday by a shell in the front trench system. In your great sadness I feel that it would help to know that your son has done splendid work whilst with the company. His close attention to duty and willingness to do anything that was required of him has earned himself a reputation not only with the men of his section, but with his section officers ... I am enclosing his cap badge which I feel you would like ..."

A fellow engineer, Sapper Thomas Brown, wrote a couple of weeks later to Alex's younger sister, Jemima ...

"I hope you will excuse me for intruding upon your grief, but I thought you would like to hear from one that was not far from your brother when he was killed. Please take comfort in the fact that his death was instantaneous and that he died a steady and true soldier, in the cause of his King and country. I cannot speak too highly of your brother for he and I were the best of pals for the all too short time I knew him, and I always felt he was a man to be relied on. I think the way him and I got on so well together was because we were about the only Scots in this lot, so you know we are a little clannish. As long as we stay here I will see that his grave his kept green for it is a sacred spot to me ..."

Look at the family photo above once again. The eldest child, Betsy, just behind Wee Eck, lost two sons in the war - Henry, at Gallipoli in July 1915, and Andrew, who drowned in Ireland while convalescing from wounds received in action at Combles. The tall chap at the back is John, the eldest son. He lost his boy, Alexander, just a few months after his little brother was killed, in December 1917, and another son, William, was poisoned in a gas attack in April 1918 - and survived. The wider Phillip family also suffered. Andrew's brother, James Phillip, lost a grandson, William, at Meteran, with another of his four serving sons wounded.

Alex's mother, Betsy, whose arm he holds in the photograph, died in 1899, so she would never know the horror of the war and the fate of her son and three grandchildren. His father, Andrew, carried the grief of his family's loss until his death in 1931, at the age of 87. He outlived five of his 11 children.

See my WWI family war memorial here.


Sapper Alex Phillip, Wee Eck, in a family photo and from a news extract after his death.
posted 11.11.14 at 11:11 am in Family History | permalink | 4 |


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Julius Chancer, The Rainbow Orchid, story, artwork, characters and website © 1997 and 2015 Garen Ewing & inkytales