When The Rainbow Orchid creator Garen Ewing began writing and drawing his ligne clair style Adventures Of Julius Chancer in Jason Cobley’s small press BAM! black and white anthology in 2002, he would have hardly have expected that a decade later The Rainbow Orchid trilogy of books would be available to buy in colour in both British and Dutch editions with French and Spanish versions in the works.
With the three individual books now collected and released in the United Kingdom as The Complete Rainbow Orchid omnibus, Jeremy Briggs talked to Garen about his work and the future of his characters.
downthetubes: The artwork and story style of The Rainbow Orchid would suggest that you grew up on Tintin books. What comics did you read and enjoy as a child and which ones do you like now?
Garen Ewing: Yes, Asterix and Tintin were the mainstays, in fact the obsessions, of my childhood, and they still remain my favourite comics. I also read various humour weeklies, such as The Dandy and Whizzer & Chips, but I preferred adventure comics - The Victor, Tiger, Warlord, Battle, and later 2000AD. I was also a big Oor Wullie fan thanks to my Scottish grandmother. As my teens approached I moved onto Warrior, which I loved.
Currently I'm enjoying the greater availability of European comics in English, especially Blake & Mortimer and Yoko Tsuno - both of which I'd had the 1980s Comcat editions before - and Leo's Aldebaran series. As well as the Cinebook range, books from NBM (love the two Miss Don't Touch Me volumes) and Fantagraphics (especially the Tardi and Tillieux reprints). I'm really looking forward to Bryan Talbot's third Grandville album and also catching up with the more recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books.
DTT: Where did the original idea of The Rainbow Orchid come from?
Garen: As far as the story goes I think it originated in my research for what was initially going to be a Victorian vampire tale, and looking into that era's obsession with orchid collecting. That, amalgamated with my love of classic lost world adventure stories by such authors as Rider Haggard and Jules Verne. Add a dash of Franco-Belgian graphics and we're there!
DTT: How much has it changed over the years from your initial concept?
Garen: Hardly at all as far as the plot goes, I pretty much kept to my original plan. Quite a few details changed, as they must, and the character of Meru was a bit of a surprise to me - he just popped up, but plays a major part.
DTT: Now that The Complete Rainbow Orchid is available, how would you 'sell it' to someone who hasn't yet bought one of the individual books?
Garen: Probably the best shorthand, courtesy of a friend's description, is it's Tintin meets Indiana Jones only a bit more cerebral. I'd like to hope that it's the kind of story you can settle down with on a Sunday afternoon, a mug of tea at your side, and get totally lost in for an hour or two. It's 1398 panels of pure adventure, good for kids and adults alike.
DTT: You have recently had several strips in The Phoenix comic. Can you tell us a little about them and if they will continue?
Garen: I was the illustrator on two of Ben Haggarty's Silk Roads strips, The Legend of the Golden Feather (left) in issue 1, and a four-parter, The Bald Boy and the Dervish, a few months later, both Arabian Nights-type tales and great fun to do. I'm not sure if I'll be doing any more of those, but I will be doing something for The Phoenix again at some point, if plans work out.
DTT: What's next for Rainbow Orchid's Julius Chancer character?
Garen: I'm writing the next Julius Chancer adventure now. I don't want to give too much away this early on, but I can say it involves a stage magician, a ruined seventeenth-century house, an uncharted island and an ornate wooden box.
DTT: Thank-you for taking the time to talk to us.
There are more details of The Rainbow Orchid on Garen's Rainbow Orchid website which includes a shop with badges, t-shirts and signed and sketched copies of the books available.
There are more details of Garen's other work at his own website.
The downthetubes reviews of the three Rainbow Orchid books -
Book 1 review
Book 2 review
Book 3 review
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