Friday, 19 January 2007

FROM HELL: 4/23

As I wrote two days ago, having launched into a 36 page (which in the process of working it through became 38 pages) chapter consisting entirely of one conversation, or more correctly an occasionally interrupted lecture, without any breaks or diversions apart from the passing scenery, Alan started to worry that it he might have bitten off more than we could chew. Remember of course that I received the whole thing in one finished lump so at the time of writing this page, From Hell chapter four existed only in Alan Moore's head. By the time I got to this page I had worked out a number of strategies for constructing such a long range converstional piece. One, as you may recall, was to vary the density of detail for contrast, depending on whether the coach was moving or stationary. We're moving here, so the backgrounds are very impressionistic.

This page also has my favorite all time line of Alan Moore script (end of panel three's description), which I have quoted many times. In another writer's script you will read that 'it is raining', but In Alan Moore's you may read that the precipitation falls 'like morse code for some huge, depressing Russian novel'.



Chapter 4
PAGE 23.
PANEL 1.
THERE ARE SEVEN PANELS OF THIS PAGE, WITH THREE EACH ON THE TOP AND BOTTOM TIERS AND THEN ONE BIG WIDE PANEL IN THE MIDDLE. THESE FIRST THREE PANELS ARE BASICALLY THE SAME SHOT, IN THAT WE ARE SITTING BESIDE GULL AND LOOKING PAST HIM TOWARDS NETLEY. THUS, IN THE FOREGROUND TO THE LEFT WE CAN SEE A LITTLE OF GULL, AS HE SITS ROUGHLY IN PROFILE AND FACING RIGHT. AS BEFORE, MAYBE WE SET UP THE PANEL SO THAT WE ONLY SEE HIS FACE FROM THE NOSE DOWN, SO THAT WE CAN JUST SEE HIS MOUTH AND CHIN UP TOWARDS THE TOP LEFT CORNER OF THE PANEL. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT WE SEE THE BAG OF GRAPES THAT STILL REST IN HIS LAP. AS WE SEE HIM HERE HE HAS TAKEN A GRAPE FROM THE BAG AND IS JUST LIFTING IT TOWARDS HIS LIPS, ABOUT TO PLACE IT IN HIS WAITING MOUTH. LOOKING PAST HIM WE SEE JOHN NETLEY, SITTING HUNCHED OVER HIS REINS AND LOOKING COMPLETELY WRETCHED. HE STARES AHEAD OF HIM INTO THE FALLING RAIN WITH A VAGUELY SICK LOOK. HE IS REALLY STARTING TO WISH THAT HE HADN’T COME.
GULL: Madness is a Dionysian fruit… like grapes.
GULL: Forgive me for not offering you one. Your hands are filthy, and I fear disease.

PANEL 2.
SAME SHOT, ONLY HERE, UP TO THE LEFT OF THE FOREGROUND, GULL HAS PLACED THE GRAPE IN HIS MOUTH AND IS NOW CHEWING IT WITH EVIDENT SATISFACTION, HIS EMPTY HAND LOWERING ITSELF BACK FROM HIS MOUTH TOWARDS HIS LAP AS HE DOES SO. LOOKING BEYOND HIM WE SEE THAT NETLEY HAS TURNED HIS HEAD TO LOOK AT SIR WILLIAM AS HE SPEAKS. WITH HIM FACING US IN THIS MANNER WE CAN SEE HOW ILL AND WRETCHED HE IS STARTING TO LOOK. HE LOOKS THOROUGHLY MISERABLE AND BLEARY EYED. THE RAIN CONTINUES TO FALL AROUND THEM, OBSCURING THE STREETS THAT THEY PASS THROUGH WITH A VEIL OF COLD LIQUID GREY.
NETLEY: I’m not that ‘ungry, sir. I’ve got bad cuts, and feels peculiar, like.
NETLEY: It must ‘ave been that pie we ‘ad, them kidneys…

PANEL 3.
SAME SHOT. HERE, GULL SITS IN THE FOREGROUND WITH BOTH HANDS RESTING CALMLY ABOUT THE HALF EMPTY BAG OF GRAPES. LOOKING BEYOND HIM WE SEE NETLEY, WHO HAS TURNED HIS FACE AWAY FROM GULL SINCE LAST PANEL SO THAT HE IS NOW VISIBLE TO US IN PROFILE ONCE MORE, FACING RIGHT. HIS EYES, HOWEVER (OR AT LEAST THE ONE THAT WE CAN SEE) HAVE SWIVELLED TO HIS RIGHT, SO THAT HE REGARDS GULL ANXIOUSLY OUT OF THE CORNER OF HIS EYE AS HE RIDES. THE RAIN CONTINUES TO FALL LIKE MORSE CODE FOR SOME HUGE, DEPRESSING RUSSIAN NOVEL.
GULL: Possibly… or have these stones and symbols’ morbid airs afflicted you?
GULL: Their language speaks direct to our unconscious mind; provokes unease, as
well the Dionysiacs knew.

PANEL 4.
NOW WE HAVE A BIG WIDE PANEL TAKING UP THE WHOLE TIER, FOR WHICH I THINK A SIMPLE LONGSHOT OF THE COACH AS IT MOVES THROUGH THE LONDON RAIN WOULD GO NICELY. JUST SOMETHING SCRATCHY AND TENTATIVE. A GREY MIST OF HATCHING TO SUGGEST THE DIAGONAL FALL OF THE RAIN; A SLIGHTLY DARKER PATCH OF HATCHING IN THE CENTRE TO SUGGEST THE CONTOURS OF THE COACH AS IT CRAWLS ALONG OVER THE SLIPPERY COBBLES, SOMETHING LIKE THAT? I DUNNO… TO BE FRANK, ED, I’M HAVING A BIT OF A CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE ABOUT THESE PANEL DESCRIPTIONS AND I’M NOT SURE WHETHER I’M JUST WINGING IT OR WHAT. I DON’T KNOW IF THIS RELENTLESS AND LIMITED SERIES OF IMAGES (LONGSHOTS OF THE COACH, FRONT REAR AND PROFILE; CLOSE UP OF GULL AND NETLEY FRONT REAR AND PROFILE) IS ENOUGH TO HANG THE STRIP ON VISUALLY, AND I SUPPOSE I WON’T KNOW UNTIL YOU’VE HAD A CHANCE TO READ THE THING AND GET BACK TO ME. BASICALLY, IF THERE IS ANYTHING THAT YOU THINK MIGHT WORK VISUALLY, THEN TRY IT. IF YOU WANT TO USE INCREASINGLY STRANGE-LOOKING COLLAGES OF LONDON BUILDINGS FOR BACKGROUND THEN GO AHEAD. IF POINTILLISM LOOKS GOOD ON THE EARLY MORNING MIST SCENES THEN FEEL FREE TO TRY IT. IF SOME BIG, WIDE, TIER WIDTH PANELS WORK BETTER AS THREE SMALLER ONES, THEN DO THEM THAT WAY, AND THE SAME IF THREE SMALL PANELS COULD SAY AS MUCH IF THEY WERE COMBINED INTO ONE BIG PICTURE. JUST LET DESPERATION BE THE MOTHER OF INVENTION AND TRY TO LOOK ON IT AS A CHALLENGE (ALTHOUGH I HAVE A FEELING THAT IN THIS INSTANCE I MIGHT AS WELL SAY “TRY TO LOOK ON IT AS A CHALLENGE” TO SOMEONE I’VE JUST ASKED TO CATCH A BULLET BETWEEN THEIR TEETH). ANYWAY, JUST FEEL FREE TO TAKE AS MANY LIBERTIES AS POSSIBLE AND CALL ME IF THERE ARE REAL PROBLEMS. IN THE MEANTIME, I’LL CONTINUE TO PUT DOWN WHATEVER PANEL DESCRIPTIONS OCCUR TO ME, BUT YOU SHOULD FEEL FREE TO TAKE ALL OF THEM WITH A PINCH OF SALT, EVEN MORE SO THAN USUALLY. IN THIS PANEL, UNLESS YOU CAN THINK OF ANYTHING BETTER, THE COACH CRAWLS SLOWLY FORWARD THROUGH THE RAIN, HEADING TOWARDS CAMBERWELL AND HERNE HILL.
GULL: Think of it: “Dionysiac Architects”. What CONTRADICTION, with the God
of instinct and unreason thus evoked by Architects; most sober, Apollonian of
men.
GULL: Yet they knew the unconscious was the inspiration whence their towers of
reason sprang. This, HARNESSING its power, symbolically, was their
sublime accomplishment.
GULL: Their symbol was the dreaming moon enclosed by seven stars that represent
Arithmetic, Music, Astronomy, Rhetoric, Grammar, Logic and Geometry,
the pillars of Masonic thought.


PANEL 5.
NOW IN THESE LAST THREE PANELS, ON THE BOTTOM TIER, WE HAVE A LONG SHOT OF THE COACH COMING CLOSER TO US THROUGH THE RAIN, HEADING TOWARDS US DOWN ALONG THE COBBLED STREETS THAT LEAD TOWARDS DENMARK HILL AND THE DESCENT TOWARDS THE BOTTOM OF HERNE HILL. IN THIS FIRST PANEL WE HAVE A LONG SHOT OF THE COACH WITH GULL AND NETLEY SITTING SIDE BY SIDE ON TOP OF IT.
GULL: That symbol also signifies the female power within humanity, enfettered by
its ring of stars, that are but distant suns and therefore masculine.

PANEL 6.
SAME SHOT, BUT THE COACH HAS MOVED CLOSER TO US IN THE INTERIM, SO THAT NOW WE CAN REALLY ONLY SEE THE UPPER PART OF THE COACH WITH GULL AND NETLEY SITTING SIDE BY SIDE ON TOP OF IT. WE PROBABLY CAN’T SEE MUCH MORE OF THE HORSE THAN JUST THE TOP OF ITS HEAD OR SOMETHING. THE PANEL IS SET UP SO THAT THE MAIN FOCUS IS THE FIGURE OF GULL AS HE SITS THERE, PERHAPS TUCKING HIS MAP AND RULER INSIDE HIS CLOAK TO PROTECT THEM FROM THE RAIN AS WE SEE HIM HERE. NETLEY SITS BESIDE HIM LOOKING WET AND MISERABLE AND ILL, AND WISHING THAT HE WERE AT HOME IN BED, OR ANYWHERE IN BED FOR THAT MATTER. GULL, FOR HIS PART, SEEMS IMPERVIOUS TO THE RAIN, AND IT SEEMS TO DAUNT HIS SPIRITS OR AFFECT THE FLOW OF HIS DISCOURSE NOT EVEN SLIGHTLY. HE HAS AN INNER FIRE, FIERCE AND COLD, THAT SUSTAINS HIM THROUGH ALL WEATHERS. HIS CHEERFULNESS IN ITSELF IS THREATENING IN SOME OBSCURE WAY. I’M THINKING ABOUT THAT TYPE OF RUGGED OLD SCHOOL MASTER THAT YOU USED TO GET IN THE EARLY SIXTIES, WHERE THEY’D ALWAYS LAUGH DEEPLY AND ROBUSTLY, USUALLY AT SARCASTIC REMARKS OF THEIR OWN, AND THEY’S ALWAYS LAUGH LOUDEST JUST BEFORE THEY TWISTED YOUR EAR OF RUBBED THEIR NUCKLES PAINFULLY ON THE SHORT HAIR AT THE BACK OF YOUR NECK UNTIL IT BURNED. WHENEVER THEY STARTED LAUGHING, EVERYBODY WOULD GET REALLY NERVOUS, AND THAT’S THE EFFECT THAT I WANT GULL TO HAVE.
GULL: Symbols have POWER, Netley…
GULL: Power enough to turn even a stomach such as yours…

PANEL 7.
IN THIS FINAL PANEL, THE COACH HAS COME SO CLOSE TO US THAT ALL WE SEE HERE IS A CLOSE UP OF GULL, WITH PERHAPS A LITTLE OF ONE SIDE OF NETLEY VISIBLE OVER TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PANEL. GULL IS NOT LOOKING AT NETLEY, BUT IS STARING AHEAD, THROUGH THE RAIN, LOOKING ALMOST DIRECTLY AT US. HIS EYES ARE PALE AND BRIGHT AND UNBLINKING, AND HE SMILES WITH A JOVIALITY THAT IS NOT AT ALL APPROPRIATE TO THE CONTENT OF HIS SPEECH. THE RAIN DRIPS FORNLORNLY FROM THE BRIM OF HIS TOP HAT, BUT HE DOES NOT APPEAR TO NOTICE, GOVERNED ONLY BY THE STORM FRONTS AND THE PRESSURE DROPS OF HIS INTERNAL, MENTAL WEATHER.
GULL: … or to deliver half this planet’s population into slavery.
GULL: Down Denmark hill, towards Herne Hill, then stop.

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5 Comments:

Blogger spacedlaw said...

I was interested to read that Alan Moore writing you to "FEEL FREE TO TAKE ALL OF THEM WITH A PINCH OF SALT", because I had actually wondered about the discrepancies between his vision (as documented) and your interpretation (as a final product) and whether you two had had sometimes - or not -problems working over different interpretations.

19 January 2007 7:14:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger HemlockMan said...

It was this chapter of FROM HELL that made me, quite literally, nauseous. Not the murder scenes. Not the dead bodies. Not Gull at work. This monologue by Gull as he rides with Netley.

It's probably the single best bit of comics I've ever seen and read.

19 January 2007 4:55:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Nathalie,
not many disagreements at all. Only over factual stuff, and if a point could be supported by evidence, either of us would happily give way.

james.
You did say that once before but i wasn't sure it was a good thing. "hey, your comic makes me sick!"
"okay"

Eddie

20 January 2007 6:02:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger HemlockMan said...

Well, I was feeling nauseous before Netley puked. Hopefully, it doesn't mean I'm as stupid as Netley.

20 January 2007 5:03:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Richard said...

More great reading from the From Hell scripts Eddie, thanks very much for posting them.
Oh, if only we could actually buy them all in book form, but after the chaos of the first volume I doubt that's something either of us will be around to see.

Thanks as well for being such a gent in posting a comment on my blog correcting the rumour I put up there about the way the scripts were summarised for you. You could have been really snippy about it, but you're far too nice for that!

cheers.
Richard

21 January 2007 11:16:00 am GMT-5  

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