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.
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 year's 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!
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.
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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).
Update: the sale ends at midnight tonight (5 Jan)!
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.