Sunday, 17 December 2006

"I have seen the dark universe yawning..."


I stumbled upon John Coulthart's blog last night and was reminded that the Italian edition of Snakes and Ladders came out in August this year from Black Velvet of Bologna, using, as you can see, the smart cover designs Michael Evans made for my own edition. I remember he saw my daughter Erin wearing a t-shirt with a snake design on it, had her change out of it so he could scan it and play around with it in photoshop, changing the colours and everything. That's the book, you will recall, in which Alan Moore conjoined the Victorian painter Edward Burne-Jones, and the co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule Francis Crick, in what appeared to be a rather far-fetched alliance. And while moving design components around I found that the Victorian Artist's The Golden Stairs made a perfect superimposition on the double helix of the DNA, though once again it's thanks to Evans for making the idea work on the page. (English version is in A Disease of Language from Knockabout in the Uk, via Top Shelf in the USA who still have copies of the old 48 pager with the snake cover if that has taken your fancy (it's not in Disease))(click for larger) But all my smartarse superimposition was chaff when the the cd was released some time later with the beautiful fold-out art by John Coulthart:

The Italian Serpenti has a translation of the long interview I made with Alan and includes a handful of photos taken of the original performance of the work in 1999 (or one of Moore's other performances; it's not clear) which were not in my own edition and which I presume must be Coulthart's, since parts of them are sampled into the cd insert designs. I didn't have them in my edition because I was too much in awe of this guy's technical ability to introduce myself and ask. He's probably got nice crisp colour shots of these, but I'm still awestruck so I've just scanned them from the book.



Coulthart has a new book of his own out. The Haunter of the Dark: And Other Grotesque Visions (Paperback)Paperback: 136 pages Publisher: Creation Oneiros (November 2006). This is the two part cover shown at the artist's own site:

From the Publisher's description: "Two modern graphic arts vision arias interpret Lovecraft’s stories as graphic novels -- and a Kaballah! Includes: * illustrations for The Haunter of the Dark and The Call of Cthulhu * thirty pages of previously unseen drawings and paintings * selections from the controversial Lord Horror series Hard Core Horror and Reverbstorm, which have been evolving Lovecraftian imagery in bold new directions * Material specially created for this volume includes illustrations for The Great Old Ones, * Also new, a kabbalah of Lovecraft’s gods with accompanying evocations by Alan Moore."
From Moore's intro to the book: "John Coulthart is the man that Beardsley or Rossetti would have been had they grown up somewhere like Salford and had access to a VCR. Had his heart set on a career as poet maudit but then failed the medical. He’d got the look, he’d got the attitude, the only thing that let him down was the consumption. You can’t be a decadent unless you’re coughing poppies, handkerchief like Flanders with a monogram. It was unfair. He’d come so close. The cathode tan. The skin so sensitive it acted as a film emulsion. Out on midnight walks, standing in one spot for too long, ends up with constellations printed on his cheeks and forehead. Pallor, though, is not enough. He needed some externalized display of illness, some tuberculotic flourish. Finally, he siphons off the inner toxins using a Rapidograph as catheter, blots up the nightmare seepage onto Bristol board, septic chromatograms that are at first inchoate, without form. Lovecraft provides an alphabet, a hideous vocabulary within which the artist can contain these gorgeous, sinister transmissions. Later, other conduits are discovered, these including David Britton’s fascist operatic lead, Lord Horror; Sweeney Todd at high tea with the Mitfords. Coulthart re- imagines Auschwitz out of Lovecraft’s R’lyeh, as a horrible lost temple sunk beneath the murk of Europe’s dreamtime. Banished from political reality, the Old Ones lurk there at the threshold and anticipate their terrible return. Blast patterns from a Brick Lane nailbomb explicate the Yellow Sign. Azathoth manifests in Deansgate, a mosaic of fire and flying splinterglass. Coulthart soaks up the cultural heavy metals, will metabolise them, pass them on in a depleted form as hatched miasmas, masonries collapsed in stipple. Wet black viper lines, escaped and slithering, hissing from the nib..." (amazon page),

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7 Comments:

Anonymous tita said...

Awesome! I've been enjoying the visuals of Disease over and over again, but am still digesting the verbals (therefore my review on it is yet to be finished). The insights from your journal entries somehow help me understand more. Thanks!

17 December 2006 2:56:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger drjon said...

It's funny you should mention The Golden Stairs, as one of the on-again off-again projects I'm on is a Macromedia Flash-powered animated thingy for a friend, who's using that picture to demonstrate some principles not far separated from the ones Moore's working on, for an online resource site of a book she's working on...

17 December 2006 3:00:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

I didn't realise that "Snakes and Ladders" had been translated in Italian. Thanks for pointing it out: I must go hunt for it.
Mind you, the book shops here dedicate only pathetically small area of their shelves to fumetti, instead on full dedicated bookshops such as we have in France...

17 December 2006 6:20:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous John Coulthart said...

Hi Eddie, thanks for the appreciation! And damn, you should have asked earlier about using some artwork, I would have been happy to help. I love the way you've expanded Alan's texts in these works, it's a lot easier doing a couple of illustrations for a CD package than a whole comic. The Burne-Jones Golden Stair/DNA conjunction was one connection that eluded me when putting together the S&L CD. But I remember being struck (again) by the way Alan had managed to seize on a very simple image that sparked associations in so many different directions. I mentioned this to him when we were mulling over ideas for the artwork (the board game layout was his idea btw); the DNA spiral is like a snake in its spiral form but the molecule structure resembles a ladder when flattened out. Golden Stair.... Angel Passage has a section entitled Golden Square (William Blake's London birthplace) and I incorporated the Golden Spiral into the S&L design, since the Fibonacci series makes probably the most abstract spiral + steps representation you can get. Never ends, does it?

The performance pictures are from video stills of The Highbury Working, a rather low-grade, single-camera affair made by an associate of the KLF named Gimpo. And speaking of video (well...film, actually), I've just finished putting together the DVD of The Mindscape of Alan Moore for director Dez Vylenz which includes some of your From Hell work. Don't know if you've seen this yet but it's a great documentary, probably the best thing done about Alan in the medium to date. DVD is a double-disc set that should be ready for release in January 2007. The first 360 will be a limited set in special packaging, I'll make sure he sends you one.

17 December 2006 10:07:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny said...

Ooh! I'm looking forward to that DVD! Glad to hear it's still on its way!

17 December 2006 1:25:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger smoky man said...

Hi Eddie, John.
It was a real honour for me to translate your long chat with Alan even if it wasn't an easy task at all ;). But it was worth the hard work and I know it has been really appreciated by the Italian readers for all the infos and revelations about Moore and his magic approach.
Also, Snake and Ladders in itself was a very complex work to be translated and I know that Omar Martini (BV's publisher) risked his own sanity on it ;)
anyway, we are pretty proud of the final package. And of course thank to John for the nice pics and support ;)

a big ciao
from Italy
smoky man

18 December 2006 6:26:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an interview I did with John about the new edition of this book:

http://www.geocities.com/eroomnala/haunter2006.html

and an even better interview I did a few yeard ago mostly about work he's done with Alan Moore

http://eroomnala.0catch.com/Coulthart.html

Eroom Nala

18 December 2006 4:40:00 pm GMT-5  

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