Every Friday, Stately Beat Mansion invites round a comic creator or two for a cup of tea, complementary Kit Kat, and a chat about their work in The Phoenix. The Phoenix is a UK series which features a range of the best all-ages comics available, from all kinds of wonderful creators – all compiled into a single issue each week! The Phoenix have very kindly commissioned Little Nellie just for this feature, which flies across to The Mansion every week with a new creator onboard.

This week sees Garen Ewing whizz on over to tell us about The Secret of the Samurai, a series appearing in today’s newest issue. If you want to find out more, then try an issue of The Phoenix for yourself!


Steve: What is ‘The Secret of the Samurai’ about? Who does it star?

Garen: Julius Chancer is an historical researcher, an assistant to the famed antiquarian Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey. They have been hired by a rich Japanese woman to locate a set of ancestral samurai armour and the adventure begins when they receive information stating that the armour might be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The comic, which is set in 1920s England, has a detective story feel to it, a dash of mystery, and – my speciality – some good old historic artefact adventure!

Steve: What inspired the series?

Garen: This particular Julius Chancer adventure feeds off my interest in historical Japan and martial arts. I’ve been doing karate since I was 15 and in my teens I used to love copying out samurai prints by the likes of Kuniyoshi and Hiroshige. I’m also a huge fan of film directors such as Kurosawa and Ozu, so this is my little tribute to all that. Specifically I had a vision of Julius facing a samurai in full battle armour in a misty forest, and the story developed from that single image.

Steve: How is your process with the writing/art of the story? How do you take your ideas and develop them into awesome comics? 

Garen: First of all I rough out the plot in a notebook – lots of scribbling and arrows pointing all over the place. As I develop it I start to research and gather second-hand books and reference material on the subject. I break down the plot into episodes, and then again into pages.


Next I start writing the script. As I write I draw out little thumbnails of the pages as a basic visual guide. Then from there it’s onto the finished art – making up a lettering guide, pencilling, inking with a dip pen, and then scanning into the computer for colouring.

Steve: What’s your favourite part of this week’s story?

Garen: l quite like the opening scene, with Julius in the library. I wanted to get that feeling across where you’re trying to find some simple piece of information, starting out all optimistic, and then it ends up taking hours and hours, with nothing to show for it. It’s completely frustrating and demoralising! Needless to say, Julius ends the scene a little grumpy.


Steve: Where else can we find you? What else do you have coming up?

Garen: Julius Chancer also appears in ‘The Rainbow Orchid’, a full-length adventure comic which is available in three separate volumes or as a complete edition, published by Egmont in English (it’s also available in Dutch, Spanish and French). Actually, there’s a terrific competition in The Phoenix at this very moment where you could win a copy. As for what’s next, I’m working on the next Julius Chancer adventure – so look out for more!


Thanks so much to Garen for his time! Julian Chancer will be appearing this week in The Phoenix #76. And thanks to Liz Payton, who borrowed Little Nellie from MI6!


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