Tuesday, 9 January 2007

FROM HELL: 9/13-14

Another in an occasional series of Alan Moore's FROM HELL script pages. Previous posts here and here.
Today's selection is my favourite script sequence of all the whole book. In fact if you saw me doing any of my stand-up presentations a few years back, you may have heard me do this sequence, edited, as a 'reading.' I also boiled it down into a short article on the old Eddiecampbellcomics.com site. But this is the first time the whole sequence has been presented uncut. Why is it my favorite? Not because it inspired great drawing, but perhaps because so much of it is beyond illustration. There have been times, while I have been reading it aloud to an audience, when I have thought, I really wish I had put a lot more detail in there. We were only able to rustle up a couple of small photos on the day and I figured we could use an educated sense of the presence of Egyptian statuary to get by. Upon reflection though, I'm sure that more detail would have killed the progression of the story. To get a sense of the morbid majesty and mystery that Alan is hinting at would require a sountrack. this is a scene I'd love to see done properly on screen. I have tried to contain it all in the body language, and at the same time, not look like I was doing it.
Alan's crack about Gary Groth was in reference to a remark Groth had made in print, I think during his interview with Alan well before we worked on this chapter, about me using photocopies to repeat figure positions, at which I had taken umbrage. Of course I never did that, except for this sequence, just to be contrary.




FROM HELL Chapter 9. PAGE 13.
PANEL 1.
THIS IS A SEVEN PANEL PAGE, WITH THE FIRST PANEL BEING A BIG WIDE ONE AND THEN THREE PANELS ON EACH OF THE TIERS BELOW THAT IN THE FIRST BIG PANEL WE HAVE AN INTERIOR SHOT OF THE EGYPTIAN ROOMS AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM, FOR WHICH I’M STILL TRYING TO FIND REFERENCE. I IMAGINE IT AS QUITE BIG AND SPACIOUS AND ECHOING, ITS TILED FLOORS POLISHED TO A DEEP AND LUSTROUS REFLECTIVE SHEEN. IF IT SHOULD TURN OUT TO BE AT ALL POSSIBLE WITHOUT STRAYING TOO FAR FROM REALITY, I’D LIKE SOME BIG AND SIZEABLE EGYPTIAN STATUES ARRANGED IN THE BACKGROUND OF THIS SCENE FOR PREFERENCE. AS I SEE THE IMAGES HERE, WE ARE LOOKING AT ONE OF THE EXPANSIVE GALLERY WALLS OF THE EGYPTIAN ROOMS, ALONG WHICH THE TENTATIVE GIANT STATUES ARE ARRANGED, SEATED OR STANDING IN THEIR HIEROGLYPHIC POSES. WALKING ALONG THE GALLERY FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, QUITE SMALL IN COMPARISON TO THE HUGE STATUARY, WE SEE WILIAM GULL, HIS TOP HAT NOW IN ONE HAND AND A BAG OF GRAPES IN THE OTHER, HIS REFLECTION SHIMMERING IN THE TILED FLOOR AT HIS FEET. SOMEWHERE OVER TO THE RIGHT WE CAN PERHAPS SEE SOMEONE WITH THE UNIFORM OF A MUSEUM CUSTODIAN OR ATTENDANT. HE IS DEALING WITH SOME MENIAL DUTY AND PAYS NO ATTENTION TO GULL’S APPROACH.
No dialogue.

PANEL 2.
HERE WE HAVE CHANGED ANGLES BY ABOUT NINETY DEGREES SO THAT HERE WE ARE BEHIND GULL AS HE WALKS ALONG. WE SEE HIIM AS HE PAUSES, SOME DISTANCE AWAY FROM US ACROSS THE TILED AND GLEAMING FLOOR, TO SPEAK WITH THE MUSEUM ATTENDANT MENTIONED LAST PANEL. THE ATTENDANT INCLINES HIS HEAD TOWARDS SIR WILLIAM, LISTENING INTENTLY AND RESPECTFULLY TO WHAT GULL IS SAYING. THEY ARE TOO FAR AWAY FROM US TO HEAR AT THIS JUNCTURE. ALL AROUND THEM, THE EGYPTIAN EXHIBITS LOOM, STRANGE, ANCIENT AND SILENT.
No dialogue.

PANEL 3.
SAME SHOT. GULL IS STILL STANDING IN THE SAME PLACE, BUT THE ATTENDANT IS STARTING TO HURRY OFF PANEL TO THE RIGHT, PERHAPS LOOKING BACK AT GULL AS HE DEPARTS AND TIPPING HIS HAT RESPECTFULLY SO THAT WE RECEIVE THE IIMPRESSION THAT HE IS HURRYING OFF TO DO GULL’S BIDDING. GULL JUST STANDS THERE IMPASSIVELY AND WATCHES HIM GO, COLOSSAL SLEEPING KINGS AND JACKAL HEADED DEITIES KEEPING THEIR ETERNAL SILENT VIGIL ALL ABOUT HIM. HALF-HOUR OLD ECHOES STILL WHISPER AND CLATTER FAINTLY. A ZOMBIE SIBILANCE IN THE FAR CORNERS OF THE ROOM. MAYBE GULL EATS A GRAPE.
No dialogue.

PANEL 4.
SAME SHOT. HERE THE ATTENDANT IS GONE FROM SHOT, SOMEWHERE OFF THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE PANEL, AND GULL IS LEFT ON HIS OWN, STANDING THERE IN THE GIANT MUSEUM ROOM WITH ITS SOARING PILLARS. HE GAZES ABOUT AT THE VAULTED ARCHITECTURE AS HE WAITS, WHICH, ON BALANCE, IS PROBABLY MUCH BETTER FOR ONE THAN LISTENING TO A MUZAK RENDITION OF “UP, UP AND AWAY IN MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOON” FOR FIVE MINUTES.
No dialogue.

PANEL 5.
SAME SHOT, WITH GULL IN THE SAME PLACE, ONLY HERE HE HAS STOPPED LOOKING AT THE SURROUNDING ARCHITECTURE AND PLUNDERED ART TREASURES TO GAZE TOWARDS THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE PANEL WHERE WE SEE THE ATTENDANT RETURNING, USHERING A SMARTLY DRESSED, PLUMP AND BESPECTACLED GENTLEMAN IN A SUIT BEFORE HIM, THIS MAN EVIDENTLY BEING SOME SORT OF MUSEUM OFFICIAL THAT GULL HAS SENT THE ATTENDANT TO FIND FOR HIM. THE MAN IS BREATHLESS AND HURRYING, PERHAPS WRINGING HIS HANDS SOLICITOUSLY BEFORE HIM AS HE WALKS. IT IS EVIDENT FROM HIS POSTURE THAT HE CONSIDERS GULL A VERY IMPORTANT VISITOR AND IS ANXIOUS TO PLEASE HIM IN WHATEVER WAY HE CAN.
FAT OFFICICIAL: Sir William. We are honoured, sir, deeply honoured by your visit.
FAT OFFICIAL: I am at your disposal, sir. If there is anything I can assist with …

PANEL 6.
CHANGE ANGLE NOW SO THAT IN THE RIGHT OF THE FOREGROUND, HEAD AND SHOULDERS AND FACING AWAY FROM US AT A SLIGHT ANGLE TOWARDS THE LEFT OF THE NEAR BACKGROUND, WE SEE THE FAT MUSEUM OFFICIAL, OR AT LEAST A PART OF HIM. OUR MAIN FOCUS, HOWEVER, IS ON GULL, WHOM THE OFFICIAL IS STARING AT HERE. GULL STANDS IN THE LEFT NEAR BACKGROUND, FACING THE OFFICIAL ROUGHLY HALF FIGURE AND US, THE OPEN BAG OF GRAPES STILL HELD IN HIS HAND ALONG WITH THE TOP HAT. HERE, PERHAPS, AS HE SPEAKS TO THE OFFICIAL, HE PICKS ANOTHER GRAPE FROM THE BUNCH IN THE BAG. HE FIXES HIS UNBLINKING AND UNNERVING STARE UPON THE CLEARLY DISCOMFITED AND NERVOUS OFFICIAL AND SMILES. THE SMILE MIGHT BE MISTAKEN FOR A FRIENDLY ONE WERE IT NOT FOR THE COLD, SARDONIC AND UNWAVERING SUPERIORITY ALWAYS EVIDENT IN GULL’S EYES. TO HIM, EVERYONE ELSE IS A PARTICULARLY AMUSING STRAIN OF PARAMECIUM.
GULL : Let us hope so.
GULL : There is in England a mummy-case from Thebes, currently in private hands. Does the British Museum intend to purchase it?

PANEL 7.
CHANGE ANGLE TO ALMOST A REVERSE OF OUR LAST SHOT, SO THAT NOW GULL IS FACING SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM US, LESS THAN HEAD AND SHOULDERS IN THE RIGHT OF THE FOREGROUND. WE CAN ONLY SEE HIIM FROM THE BRIDGE OF HIS NOSE DOWN TO HIS CHEST HERE, WITH HIS EYES OFF PANEL ABOVE. VERY SLOWLY AND DELIBERATELY, HE POPS A GRAPE INTO HIS MOUTH HERE AS HE LISTENS TO THE REPLY OF THE NERVOUS MUSEUM OFFICIAL, WHOM WE SEE OVER ON THE LEFT OF THE NEAR BACKGROUND, ROUGHLY HALF FIGURE AS HE FACES TOWARDS GULL, HIS HANDS SPREAD IN NERVOUS AND APOLOGETIC EXPLANATION. ALTHOUGH THE MAN LOOKS OBSCURELY AGITATED AS HE SPEAKS, WHAT WE CAN SEE OF GULL’S FACE REMAINS IMPASSIVE AND EXPRESSIONLESS AS HE THOUGHTFULLY MASTICATES THE GRAPE.
OFFICIAL : Ah yes. Yes, I have heard of the, ah, of the item. Excellent piece. First class.
OFFICIAL : Of course, there IS the matter of its, ah, reputation, so to speak …

PAGE 14.
PANEL 1.
NINE PANELS ON THIS PAGE, AND I WANT THE FIRST THREE TO BE ALL FROM THE SAME SHOT : WE SEE BOTH GULL AND THE FAT OFFICIAL FULL FIGURE HERE AS THEY STAND FACING EACH OTHER, WITH GULL ON THE LEFT. (THE ATTENDANT WE SAW EARLIER, NO LONGER NEEDED, HAS MELTED INTO THE BACKGROUND SOMEWHERE OVER THE LAST TWO OR THREE PANELS AND CONTINUES WITH HIS CHORES.) GULL, ON THE LEFT, STANDS IN PROFILE FACING THE OFFICIAL, WHO IS IN PROFILE ON THE RIGHT AND FACING LEFT, TOWARDS GULL. GULL STANDS IN A STOCKY AND SOILID LOOKING MANNER, HIS LOW CENTRE OF GRAVITY IN PERFECT BALANCE, GIVING HIS BODY LANGUAGE A SUBTEXT OF IMMOVEABILITY THAT HE WILL RETAIN THROUGHOUT THIS NEXT THREE PANELS (USE A XEROX IF YOU LIKE, JUST TO EXCITE GARY GROTH.) THE MUSEUM OFFICIAL, ON THE OTHER HAND, DOES CHANGE HIS POSTURE OVER THIS THREE PANEL SEQUENCE, EVEN IF HE DOESN’T ACTUALLY MOVE ABOUT VERY MUCH. BY KEEPING GULL’S BODY POSTURE STATIC, I WANT TO FOCUS ATTENTION ON THAT POSTURE OF THE OFFICIAL THAT HE IS TALKING TO, SO THAT OVER THIS THREE PANEL SEQUENCE WE CAN WATCH THE MAN’S WILL SLOWLY CRUMBLING BEFORE GULL’S SUPERIOR RESOLUTION, AS REFLECTED IN HIS POSTURE. AS I SEE IT, THE OFFICIAL IS PERHAPS STILL STANDING UP FAIRLY STRAIGHT IN THIS FIRST PANEL, WITH HIS POSTURE GRADUALLY SLUMPING INTO COMPLETE SUBJUGATION OVER THE NEXT TWO FRAMES. AS THE TWO MEN STAND TALKING TO EACH OTHER, THEIR REFLECTIONS WAVER INDISTINCTLY IN THE POLISHED TILES AT THEIR FEET, THEIR VOICES RINGING AND ECHOING IN THE STONE EARS OF THE DEAD PHARAOHS.
GULL : For shame! Do we approach the twentieth century beset yet by such chimaera, that pagan curses daunt this noble institution?
OFFICIAL : It-it’s not that, sir, it’s …

PANEL 2.
SAME SHOT, WITH GULL STILL IN EXACTLY THE SAME ROCK-LIKE POSTURE ON THE LEFT. THE OFFICIAL IS STARTING TO SAG HERE, HIS SHOULDERS SLUMPING AS HE STARTS TO GO UNDER BEFORE THE AVALANCHE FORCE OF GULL’S PERSONALITY. ABOUT THEM, THE DEAD LISTEN WITH VARIOUS ATTITUDES OF CELESTIAL INDIFFERENCE.
GULL : Think of it, man! What better place for such an artefact than here in this museum, next to Hawksmoor’s Bloomsbury church?
GULL : Shall superstition weigh against good policy?

PANEL 3.
SAME SHOT, WITH GULL STILL UNMOVED ON THE LEFT. THE MUSEUM OFFICIAL HANGS HIS HEAD ON THE RIGHT, COMPLETELY ABJECT AND COWED. TALKING TO THE POLISHED FLOOR RATHER THAN TO SIR WILLIAM AS HE SPEAKS.
GULL : Half London’s made for things Egyptian with the Royal household held alike in thrall.
GULL : It is, sir, an unconscionable oversight.
OFFICIAL : I’ll see to it, sir.

PANEL 4.
CHANGE ANGLE NOW AS GULL WALKS TOWARDS US OVER ON THE LEFT OF THE FOREGROUND, MAYBE HALF FIGURE HERE. HE SMILES IN SATISFACTION, HIS BACK TURNED TO THE DEFEATED OFFICIAL WHOM WE SEE STANDING TO THE RIGHT OF THE NEAR BACKGROUND, FULL FIGURE, TURNED TOWARDS US AS HE WATCHES SIR WILLIAM WALK AWAY FROM HIM, HIS SHOULDERS STILL SLUMPED AND DEFEATED. HE LOOKS AS IF HE IS ALMOST TREMBLING WITH NERVOUS EXHAUSTION FOLLOWING HIS CONVERSATIONAL WORKING-OVER.
GULL : Excellent. Then I shall not trouble you further. I take it that your Blake exhibits are still in the same location?
OFFICIAL : Yes, sir.
OFFICIAL : Th-thank you, sir.

PANEL 5.
REVERSE ANGLE ON THE LAST SHOT, SO THAT HERE WE HAVE THE OFFICIAL STANDING ROUGHLY HALF FIGURE ON THE RIGHT OF THE FOREGROUND AND FACING ROUGHLY AWAY FROM US TOWARDS THE LEFT OF THE BACKGROUND WHERE WE SEE SIR WILLIAM WALKING AWAY, HIS FACE TURNED AWAY FROM US, HIS DARK REFLECTION SHIMMERING, AN OMINOUS MIRAGE, IN THE TILES AT HIS FEET. IN THE FOREGROUND, THE OFFICIAL WATCHES SIR WILLIAM WALKING AWAY AND EXHALES MEANINGFULLY, PULLING A HANDKERCHIEF FROM HIS POCKET TO MOP AWAY THE SWEAT THAT HAS GATHERED ON HIS BROW, SPRUNG THERE IN THE SUDDEN EGYPTIAN HEAT OF SIR WILLIAM’S INTERROGATION.
No dialogue.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Jody Macgregor said...

If the unlikely happens and there's ever another collection of the From Hell scripts, I would love for it to be called MAYBE GULL EATS A GRAPE.

9 January 2007 1:27:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Leigh Walton said...

THE DEAD LISTEN WITH VARIOUS ATTITUDES OF CELESTIAL INDIFFERENCE: ALAN MOORE, EDDIE CAMPBELL, AND THE COMICS JOURNAL

9 January 2007 1:30:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous navan.ghee@gmail.com said...

I know I should be clipped upside the ear for suggesting this, but it really would be lovely to see you and Moore collaborate on finishing Big Numbers (if not re-create the bloody thing entirely).

9 January 2007 1:41:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Pam said...

I have a dumb question. Why are his scripts in all caps? Did that ever get on your nerves to have to deal with that much all-caps text? It's getting on my nerves. I don't know why, but it takes me forever to read something in all caps.

9 January 2007 1:52:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I once asked Alan to let me redo big numbers, but he wasn't having any.
Frankly, i think it would have been too difficult to do. THe 'mandelbrot set' that was the driving metaphor behind the whole thing was complete mystery to me then and now.

Re the caps. God knows. I guess what's needed is a bold differentiation betweem the description and the text that needs to be lettered onto the pages. When you're working fast, this is very useful, to be able to glance at a page of script and instantly know what the balance of picture to lettering is going to be. I have never ever thought about it until this week, but since the lettering was to be in regular case then I guess he reversed the normal comic book arrangement so the description is in caps instead of the text to be lettered. The reason I 've though about it now instead of earlier is that i notice the spell-check doesn't seem to completely work on a biig field of text in caps. When i drew this stuff years ago i never had a computer. Alan must have had one of the old fashioned 'word processors'. The paper is on and endless linked-together ream that would have had the sprocket holes down each side, which were on perforated strips which i removed immediately upon receipt.

9 January 2007 4:31:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew J said...

Cripes, the computer is in the shop a few days and you miss everything.

The first comic script I ever read was a Neil Gaiman script. Which is essentially an Alan Moore script (without the cosmic terror) as that's who Gaiman learned the format from. When I started writing comic scripts I did it all in caps and thought they looked nice and official until I couldn't figure out why I was doing it that way at all. Just to fit in, I guess.

From what I've read, all the stops and starts on Big Numbers were so painful Alan just kind of threw up his hands at the idea of doing anything more with it. Though someone mentioned it being made into a miniseries on TV...

Also, much looking forward to your next book, though where I'm from, Black Diamond is a brand of cheese.

9 January 2007 7:39:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Dave said...

I think Alan just used to put Caps Lock on to type the panel descriptions, which were essentially stream of consciousness in their nature, so he didn't have to worry about capitalization of names or sentences.

This left lower case available for lettering copy, with the option of CAPS for emphasis within it.

It was always interesting to see the physical deterioration of the typewriter keys as he bashed his way through a series of scripts...

10 January 2007 4:09:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny said...

Ah, Dave! That makes a lot of sense, thanks for that!

13 January 2007 5:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Dave?
Dave who?

there must be three or four 'Daves' who could have been witness to the state of Alan Moore's typewriter.

Would be pleased to hear from you again.

13 January 2007 6:15:00 pm GMT-5  

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