I won't say anything about the concluding part as I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I'm enormously pleased to have Julius Chancer in The Phoenix - an idea I first offered to Ben Sharpe back in August 2011 to his immediate and generous enthusiasm. Since then, both Tim Jones at Egmont and Will Fickling at The Phoenix have been enormously supportive of the idea, and with my agent Oli Munson untangling the contracts, I'm very grateful to all for helping to make it happen.
Don't forget that you can still enter The Phoenix's exclusive Rainbow Orchid competition to win an amazing bundle of comicy prizes - the deadline for entries is 6.00pm on Sat 29 June.
In other news, tickets are now on sale for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, including all their amazing 'Stripped' comic events. You can see my events here - hope you can come along!
If you haven't had a chance to see any of the story yet then you can read the first three pages online - right here. If you like that, then you can buy back issues of The Phoenix to get the whole adventure - issues 75-78 for the complete thing.
I have also put up a character page for The Secret of the Samurai. With The Rainbow Orchid I think I only had one character who was also a real-life person (Mr Banerji), but in Samurai there are four or five.
Albert Koop was the Keeper of Metalwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a department that included Japanese armour (he was also editor of the Japan Society's Journal). I don't know what he looked like, so his appearance is from my own imagination.
Another real person was Major Lockett - Vivian Noverre Lockett, to be exact. As well as a Major (later Colonel) in the 17th Lancers he was a gold medal winner for the British polo team at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. Incidentally, although he doesn't appear, Charles Edward Hay was a real person as well, killed in France in 1918.
A minor character, but one I really like, is Mrs Whitley. To find out who she was, watch this short instructional video.
And lastly, Tanegashima Daizen was a real samurai general. He was the commander of the left vanguard of the Satsuma army during the Shimazu invasion of Okinawa in 1609. I couldn't find much about him, so plenty of artistic license used beyond that!
In the meantime, don't forget this fabulous competition in which you can win a copy of The Rainbow Orchid plus loads of excellent Phoenix goodies.
The plot concerns an ingenious method for accumulating gold from the sea, and an even more ingenious method for encoding that secret. Needless to say, nefarious forces want to get their hands on it, and Daisy, and her little brother, Co, get entangled into proceedings, determined to make sure that things turn out right.
The story was written by Trevor, an architect and founder of the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. Eileen is a children's illustrator; she pencilled the artwork and then Trevor would make a clear-line tracing - an interesting collaboration!
The artwork is very much in the school of Hergé and has a lovely kinetic quality to it - the detail is absorbing from first page to last. And the story keeps you going, with equal measures of humour (whether puns or physical comedy - plenty of both) and drama, excitement and suspense.
I returned here to a location that appeared in The Rainbow Orchid, the breakfast room of Sir Alfred's home and headquarters.
Back then, in the early days of the story, I hadn't really mapped out the room which is something I now quite often do, so this time I sketched up a plan on a page of the script. Even if I have a good idea of how a room looks in my head, it still helps with consistency when you're changing the direction of view, so I find putting it down on paper enormously useful.
You can see a related post on planning interior locations here.
A couple of other links for you - here's an interview with me at The Beat about the new Julius Chancer adventure. And if you want to get hold of the first episode of Samurai, then it is now available as a back issue from The Phoenix online shop.
By the way, following on from last week's Tintin tribute - do you recognise which comic this little fellow, who sits on the sideboard in the breakfast room scene above, appears in?
It also features a wonderful spread of other brilliant comics - Bunny vs Monkey, Simon Swift, Gary's Garden, Troy Trailblazer, Von Doogan, and a fabulous Corpse Talk featuring yet more samurai - and ninja (plus a rather amazing board game!).
Here's a little spot for you - a teeny-weeny tribute to Tintin ...
There's also a terrific competition in which you can win a copy of The Complete Rainbow Orchid, as well as a fantastic bundle of Phoenix comic goodies.
How can I read The Secret of the Samurai?
You can take out a subscription to The Phoenix here. Alternatively, if you have an iPad, you can get the digital version with The Phoenix app. You can also wait for the individual issues to become available in the back-issues section of the online shop and buy them there (The Secret of the Samurai will appear in issues 75 - 78). The Phoenix is available across the UK in various book and comic shops, as well as many branches of Waitrose - find a stockist here (there's even one in Dublin). If you're in the US then you can contact Big Planet Comics who will order The Phoenix in.
Update: There is now a Samurai bundle available at the online shop.
Will The Secret of the Samurai be available as a book?
That is my intention, but as Samurai is just a 20-page story I have a 'stand-alone sequel' in mind to join it in order to make a complete album. This means a book will be some time off yet. Samurai will not be the next book - that is already planned and I will be starting it soon.
Will The Secret of the Samurai be available as a webcomic?
I'm hoping to make the first couple of pages available as an online preview, but I doubt it'll be much more than that. Its main home is The Phoenix and I do urge you to try and read it there - you'll discover a whole host of great British comics alongside Julius. Don't worry though, there are plans afoot for new Julius Chancer online.
Update: A preview is now available online.
Does The Secret of the Samurai have all the old characters again, Lily, Nathaniel, Evelyn Crow etc?
No - this story takes place a couple of years before the The Rainbow Orchid. The only characters you'll recognise are Julius Chancer, Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey, and Charlotte, the housekeeper.
What is The Secret of the Samurai about?
I don't want to give too much away, but I will say it has a bit of a detective story feel to it, a dash of mystery, and - of course - some good old historic artefact adventure! Locations include the Victoria and Albert Museum, an old library, some cavalry barracks, a women's ju-jutsu class, and a misty forest. All in twenty pages!