Thursday, 4 January 2007

FROM HELL: 9/20

An occasional look at a favourite page from the FROM HELL scripts by Alan Moore.

I have always suspected that on this page, chapter 9 page 20, Alan was having a dig at my occasional skimping on the details. For instance, in an early chapter he asked me to draw, among various sights in a sordid street view, an alligator crawling in the stinking gutter. Feeling that I couldn't pull this off with a note of authenticity, I just omitted it, confident that it wasn't relevant to the proceedings. Alan managed to get his alligator in by another route, in chapter 6 page 22, when he has Abberline say: "I've seen it all, lad... alligators waddling through the shit in the gutters, albinos being led about on chains..." Since it was in the dialogue this time, I couldn't leave it out.
He got a dig in on another occasion, after one of the several bannings of the book (an example, but not this actual one) (more likely this one: CENSORS CAUGHT BETWEEN ROCKETS AND A HARD PLOT: "In the light of the Directorate's response to the first four, it is equally likely to ban "From Hell", written by Alan Moore, regarded as poet laureate of ...") Called upon to comment on the matter Alan said in an interview (I don't have it to hand, this is from memory), I don't see what the fuss is about. So we showed an erect penis, but it's not like it was a real one. It was an Eddie Campbell penis. It was just a squiggle.
Having written the above, I've just noticed that I shied away from showing the erect penis on this page... not even a squiggle this time... can't remember why I left that detail out. I think the thing with 'all that penis and vagina stuff' (as wee Cal would say) is that in chapter 1 Alan was presenting it as hard evidence--exhibit a, your honour, the penis; exhibit b, the vagina-- even though we were pretty much in the realm of hypothesis, which as I said on dec 20 of this here blog, was the essence of the style I had to fashion: the graphics of theory and guesswork. 'Please tell the court what you saw'. 'A squiggle, m'lord.'



FROM HELL Chapter 9- page 20
PANEL 1.
SEVEN PANELS AGAIN, BUT THIS TIME WITH THE BIG WIDE ONE AS THE BOTTOM PANEL AND THREE SMALLER PANELS ON EACH OF THE TWO TIERS ABOVE. IN THIS FIRST PANEL, THE SHOT IS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME AS IN PANEL FOUR ON THE PREVIOUS PAGE: WE SEE EDDY AND STEPHEN FULL FIGURE, BOTH FACING US SIDE BY SIDE WITH STEPHEN SEATED ON THE RIGHT WITH THE TABLE JUST VISIBLE ON HIS LEFT (OUR RIGHT), AND PRINCE EDDY STANDING ON THE LEFT OF THE PANEL. EDDY’S HANDS ARE SPREAD HERE IN AN EXPLANATORY GESTURE AS HE TRIES TO CONVEY TO STEPHEN THE MISERY THAT HE IS FEELING. HE DOESN’T LOOK AT STAPHEN BUT GAZES HOPELESSLY INTO SPACE AS HE SPEAKS, HIS GIRLISH EYES TORMENTED. STEPHEN, WEARING A CALM EXPRESSION OF NO-NONSENSE RESOLUTION, TURNS BRIEFLY AWAY FROM EDDY AND PLACES THE BOOK OF POETRY FACE DOWNON THE TABLE, PUTTING IT ASIDE.
EDDY: I’d hoped I could shake off this beastly fit by visiting you, but I can’t.
EDDY: I-I return to London in a month. Perhaps I can do something then…

PANEL 2.
SAME SHOT AS LAST PANEL. EDDY IS STILL STANDING, IN THE FLOW OF DISCOURSE, BUT HE STOPS AND LOOKS DOWN AT JEM STEPHEN HERE WITH A LOOK OF SURPRISE. STEPHEN, HIS BOOK PUT ASIDE, IS STILL SEATED. HE TURNS BACK TOWARDS EDDY HERE AND TILTS HIS HEAD BACK TO LOOK UP AT THE PRINCE WITH A LEVEL EYED AND OPEN EXPRESSION. AS HE DOES SO, HE REACHES OUT WITH HIS LEFT HAND AND GENTLY PLACES THE PALM FLAT AGAINST EDDY’S CROTCH, THUS OCCASIONING THE PRINCE’S EXPRESSION OF DULL SURPRISE HERE.
EDDY: … although what can I do? Nobody tells me anything; they won’t let me have a say, and…
EDDY: Jem?

PANEL 3.
SAME SHOT. STEPHEN NOW CLIMBS DOWN FROM HIS ARMCHAIR AND ONTO HIS KNEES IN FRONT OF EDDY, STILL WITH THE SAME CALM AND SERENE EXPRESSION AS IF NOTHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY WERE HAPPENING. KNEELING, HE BEGINS TO UNDO THE FRONT OF THE PRINCE’S TROUSERS. EDDY LOOKS SHAKEN, UNCERTAIN ABOUT WHETHER TO OR HOW TO PROTEST. MAYBE HE CLUTCHES THE BACK OF THE CHAIR FOR SUPPORT, STILL GAZING DOWN AT STEPHEN INCREDULOUSLY, TRMBLING SLIGHTLY FROM THE SUDDEN EROTIC STRESS OF THE MOMENT
EDDY: J-Jem? Jem, what are you…?
STEPHEN: Shhh
STEPHEN: I want to gamauche you, Eddy. Do say I might.

PANEL 4.
NOW WE START TO CLOSE IN SO THAT WE ONLY SEE EDDY ABOUT THREE QUARTER FIGURE HERE, WITH STEPHEN ABOUT HALF FIGURE KNEELING THERE AT HIS FEET. THE TOP OF EDDY’S TROUSERS IS OPEN, AND STEPHEN HAS RELEASED THE PRINCE’S COCK, HALF AWAKE HERE; HALF ERECT. HOLDING THE SHAFT IN ONE HAND WHILE CUPPING EDDY’S BALLS WITH THE OTHERHE CLOSES HIS EYES, DREAMILY. AND STARTS TO SUCK ON THE TIP. EDDY REELS, HOLDING ON TO THE BACK OF THE CHAIR FOR SUPPORT. HE STARES INTO SPACE WITH A HAUNTED, ALMOST FRIGHTENED LOOK AS WE SEE THE WILLL POWER AND RESISTANCE SLOWLY LEAKING FROM HIM WITH EACH NEW WAVE OF PHYSICAL PLEASURE. PERHAPS HE PLACES HIS OTHER HAND GENTLY UPON STEPHEN’S HEAD AS IF TO PUSH IT AWAY. BUT THERE IS NO FORCE OR INTENTION BEHIND THE GESTURE. EDDY IS LOST.
EDDY: Jem, I… I don’t think we should. It’s not…
EEDDY: I mean, I … oh, God.

PANEL 5.
CONTINUE TO CLOSE IN SO THAT WE SEE EDDY ABOUT HALF FIGURE HERE, FACING US. ALL WE CAN SEE OF STEPHEN IS THE TOP OF HIS HEAD, DOWN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PANEL. EDDY’S HAND RESTS LOVINGLY IN HIS HAIR AS THE PRINCE GIVES UP ALL PRETENCE OF EXISTENCE AND GOES ALONG WITH THE ACT. HIS EYES ARE HALF-CLOSED AS HE GAZES OUT OF THE PANEL AT US HERE. AS THE STRESS MELTS FROM HIS FACE HE LOOKS LIKE A DRUGGED CHILD, EYSES HEAVY LIDDED AND MOUTH HANGING SLIGHTLY OPEN.
EDDY: Oh, god, Jem.
EDDY: Jem, I’m so weak. I-I’m not bad…

PANEL 6
CLOSE IN FOR A HEAD AND SHULDERS SHOT OF EDDYE NOW, WITH STEPHEN NO LONGER VISIBLE, OFF PANEL BELOW. EDDY TIPS HIS HEAD BACK SLIGHTLY AND CLOSES HIS EYES AS HE COMES, UTTERLY LOST IN A WARM AND INFANTILE PLEASURE THAT HE KNOWS WILL ALWAYS LEAD HIM, HOWEVER GRAVE THE CONSEQUENCES.
EDDY: Just weak.

PANEL 7.
THIS PANEL IS BASICALLY A CUT TO THE GOLDEN LANE MORTUARY WHERE THE INQUEST ON CATHERINE EDDOWES IS OPENING. I DUNNO HOW THIS WILL SOUND TO YOU, BUT WHAT IF WE CUT TO A TIGHT CLOSE-UP OF THE GOLDEN LANE STREET SIGN, BOLTED TO THE WALL, SO THAT THE WORDS ARE NOT COMPLETELY VISIBLE… PART OF THE G IN GOLDEN IS MISSING FOR EXAMPLE, AND THE L AND THE LOWER PART OF ‘ANE’ ARE MISSING IN THE SECOND WORD… WITH THIS EXTREME CLOSE UP OF THE STREET SIGN FILLING THE WHOLE OF THIS COMPARATIVELY LARGE PANEL? I THOUGHT WE COULD MAYBE TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW SOMETHING ORDINARY AND MUNDANE IN SUPER-REAL AND HYPER CLOSE-UP DETAIL, SO THAT WE SEE THE CRUMBLING MORTAR IN BETWEEN THE BRICKS THAT MAKE THE WALL ON WHICH THE SIGN IS BOLTED, AND THE SKIDMARK SMEAR OF RUST THAT’S CREEPING DOWN THE METAL SIGN FROM WHERE THAT BOLT THAT HOLDS IT TO THE WALL HAS OXIDIZED. PERHAPS A SMALL BUT PERFECT WALLFLOWER ISSUES TENTATIVELY FROM THE CRUMBLING MORTAR IN BETWEEN THE BRICKS, A FRAGILE THING AGAINST THE SOOT-STREAKED WALL. I FIGURED IF WE ESTABLIS SOMETHING IN INTENSE DETAIL, JUST ONCE, THEN IN A WAY IT IMPLIES TO THE READER THAT THE WHOLE OF THE WORLD THAT WE’RE SHOWING IS THAT COMPLEX AND DETAILED, EVEN IF WE DON’T SHOW THE DETAILS ALL THE TIME. DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL, OR HAVE THE MAGIC MUSHROOMS STARTED WORKING? ANYWAY, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT AND HAVE SOME OTHER IDEA THAT WILL CONVEY THE CHANGE OF SCENE AS ADEQUATELY, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO STICK IT IN (AS J. K. STEPHEN SAID TO THE DUKE OF CLARENCE AND AVONDALE).
No dialogue.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

Good Lord. Do you get notes if you forget to put some of this stuff in? Any openness to the artist's ideas, or an interpretation?Or am I not understanding the process?

4 January 2007 12:07:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Jack
Ha!
Remember that Bill Sinkiewicz and Al Columbia collapsed under it all on Big Numbers.
I have always said, and not facetiously either, that I can write a script of my own quicker than i can read one of Alan's. My Bacchus was always more time/cost effective in the short run.
Eddie

4 January 2007 4:55:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Jeremy Bear said...

Nearly all of Alan's script pages I've seen are densely detailed, sometimes wandering into his ruminations on related subjects. It's made me wonder if I've only seen the more impressive ones, or if this is how he is all the time (even down to the partially obscured 'G' in the last panel!).

Also (sorry if you've been asked this before), but did he ever thumbnail any pages for From Hell? I know he's done that for the benefit of other artists on other books in the past.

Thanks for posting this, Eddie. Really interesting to see the inner workings behind one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature.

4 January 2007 5:29:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Thanks for commenting
They were all as detailed. And as you say, often his descriptions make such good reading over and above any considerations of the purpose they were designed for.
He never drew thumbnails for From Hell. he only started doing that on his Image jobs because he realized those guys wouldn't be interested in reading a script.
Eddie

4 January 2007 5:38:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Kimota94 aka Matt said...

That's a great treat, Eddie, seeing the script and the finished page juxtaposed like that! I echo the appreciation of others!

Funny you should mention the whole penis&vagina aspect. I happen to own two of your pages (thanks again!), one of them from this very issue.. pg # 33. When it came time to frame some of the more premium original artwork in my possession a few years back, both of the From Hell pages were clear candidates to make the short list. However, when we looked at each in anticipation of this, my wife noticed that pg # 33 has a beauty of a vagina shot on it, making it somewhat inappropriate to go up in a living room that's often visited by small children (and their parents). So sadly we made the decision to only frame the other, less-offensive-to-the-overly-sensitive page.

Such is Life, eh?!

4 January 2007 8:44:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

It reads as if there's a crystal-clear image of the page in the writer's mind, and the artist is set to copy it from the description. Is this ever adjusted if something's not working?

I tried collaborating with a writer who turned out to have very little visual imagination. She asked for things like "in this panel he decides to go to the Middle East, but changes his mind, and doesn't."

So I do some kind of sequence, and have to dream up words to make this work, but she came down on me for distorting what she meant. It didn't get very far after that.

6 January 2007 12:58:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

matt

no, you can't be hanging From hell on your wall. that would put you off your dinner.

jack
see my december 4 post for the something-not -working scenario. I did have to improvise a sequence to get around a logistical problem ( going over a bridge that hadn't been built yet in the year 1888).

but the trick of writing a comic book is to describe a picture. having described it, describe the next one. That is the absolutely essential technique that the writer needs to learn. Some do thumbnails, which is a way of keeping the mind on the fact that a picture must be the end result of the writing.

6 January 2007 4:19:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous David Carroll said...

I have the Issue 5 cover on the wall (albeit not over the dinner table...)

9 January 2007 1:00:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger zailo said...

I think some writers nowadays write comics as if they were TV programs.
eg. PANEL1 "He enters the room and sits down at his desk and turns to picks up his stapler." That's at least two panels.
I love working with writers who can hit nothing but the high points of a scene while actually describing it and the action therein.

10 January 2007 2:56:00 pm GMT-5  

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