I can remember when as a lad I was captivated by Tintin. In fact this seduction preceded even my long lasting love affair with U.S. comics. The catalyst for this captivation was somewhat unlikely, but in the sixties on U.K. TV there was an animated series of adaptations of Tintin. This wasn't the animations that we are now much more familiar with, no these were truly dreadful affairs which involved a lot of re-writing, so that they could be chopped up into five minute segments and televised on a daily basis.
But at the time I was hooked on animation and I obviously at least sub-consciously felt that perhaps, if I could up my game with my French studies I'd stand a better chance blagging a job with the Tele Hachette and Belvision Studios than I would with the studio in Southern California, located on Hyperion Avenue aka The Mouse Factory aka Walt Disney Studios.
But despite the terrible animation of the sixties Tintin, I was I'll admit more than a little impressed with the atmosphere that was injected into these episodes. Silhouettes and dark shadows added a nicely 'noire' atmosphere to the goings on of the rubbery troupe and the stentorian voice with it's "quaintly" Franklin Delano Roosevelt accent launching each episode with the memorable; "HUUUUURRRRRRRGAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY'S ADVENTURRRRRRRRRRRRRRSSSSSS
ensured that your attention didn't wander. Not that it had much time to wander, for before you knew where you were the stentorian voice of late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be blasting in your ears again;
IZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ THISSSSSSSSSS THE ENDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD FORRRRRRRRRRRR TINNNNNNNNNNNNNN TINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN??????????
FINDDDDDDDDDDDD OUTTTTTTTTTTTTT INNNNNNNN THE NEXTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT EPISODDDDDDDDDDDDDDE OVVVVVVVVV (pause for added drama) ...
I was intrigued to find the source of these stories and did dimly remember seeing some of the books from time to time in our local W.H. Smiths. So I eventually located and bought a couple of them and was instantly hooked to the extent that I even attempted to produce my own version based around a comic strip version of Sherlock Holmes, it barely staggered past the first page and looked truly awful in comparison with the real deal but I was nevertheless inspired.
Evidently a similar Damoscean conversion to the wonders of Herge and "La Ligne Claire", befell the young Garen Ewing but unlike my own artistic odyssey Garen stuck with the vision and managed to not only refine his work, so that he convincingly absorbed the "ligne claire" style without becoming a slave to it but also and this is equally impressive, managed to develop his writing skills so that he could write and draw his own adventures, which his recently published "Rainbow Orchid - The Adventures of Julius Chancer" so impressively demonstrates.
Along with the appearance of many of the strips from The DFC in album format Garen Ewing's "Rainbow Orchid" represents a rare moment in UK publishing when the much vaunted comics revolution is made a reality through the vision and determination of the creators involved.
"Rainbow Orchid" blog, which is a real internet delight, here you can get sneak previews from "RO" as well as snippets on the history of this remarkable project, interviews with Garen and even film of Garen' s working procedure. There really is nothing quite like it that I've yet uncovered out there in cyberville and the site itself is beautifully designed - it is the ultimate backup resource for "Rainbow Orchid" fans as well as being a fantastic ongoing promotional tool for the series.
In an era when we are told that "the graphic novel" has come of age, the evidence for this paraded through through the broadsheets being a succession of brilliant but inevitably angst ridden explorations of hitherto taboo subjects often involving harrowing journeys of self exploration, it is therefore really good to see that there are still comic creators out there who are determined to provide broadly based entertainment for as wide an audience as Herge's works have commanded for over half a century.
The Rainbow Orchid is in every respect just such a book, the premise is satisfyingly simple yet compelling, involving a race to secure a rare and beautiful orchid with the young research assistant Julius Chancer cast as the lynchpin of the proceedings. The books are much in the manner of Herge's Tintin and also Edgar P. Jacobs "Blake and Mortimer" adventures. Meticulously researched by Ewing, the cast of characters are beautifully delineated as is the time frame that they occupy which is the post war world of the nineteen twenties, where international travel was still the province of the very wealthy, but achievable within a sufficiently short time frame to allow The Rainbow Orchid Adventure to transpose itself across a variety of settings with dynamism and conviction, it's wonders to unfold.
Meanwhile Volume 1 of "The Rainbow Orchid" is available from Amazon OR from the artist direct (with an added bonus!), meanwhile the second volume in this remarkable series is due to be published on the 5th of July
Christmas Comics: SPARKY (1973)
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