Wednesday, 28 February 2007

!!ULTIMATUM!!

The terrifying Gecko Emperor, with his invasion fleet lurking behind the lamp on our front porch, broadcast a message to a fearful humanity earlier this afternoon. The Gecko leader has demanded that the human race hand over the President of the United States of America, and has made it clear that if this demand is not met that he WILL use weapons of mass destruction. We will post updates throughout the day as this story develops. In the meantime we will be setting up a petition to get the Americans to hand over Bush, for the sake of us all and of the planet we live on, for God's sake and the sake of all the other gods, and all the gods we haven't made up yet, to the geckos on our front porch. Talk to your neighbours, to your local political representative. If our last ditch effort is to save our world, everybody reading this must act swiftly.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

TIME IN MY HANDS (rule #4)

We talk about timing in comics, but really there is no time except in a periodical sense. i.e. 'next issue'. All the pages of a comic book arrive simultaneously. If it happens that Magneto shows up surprisingly on the last page, I've never met a kid who didn't already know this before he got the book out of the store.
Here is a) the front cover of X-men 17 and b) here is page 20 of same. These two incidents are more or less synchronous, in more ways than one. There is a lapse of about 1.23 seconds while the kid gets the book open. (and another few seconds before he has disobeyed the imperative on the cover and told all the 'living souls' within earshot.) However, there is one whole month between image a and image c) issue 18, allowing for variation in promotional images getting out ahead of the book etc..

That's all that can be said for definite about timing. Unlike the movies, where good or bad timing is a measurable fact ( that's why they do test screenings), in comics everything else on this subject is fiction. And like all good fiction, it requires a suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. In fact it requires a little more than that. It requires complicity between the artist and his audience. This thing that we do, we are going to pretend that it is analogous to time. That is the unspoken agreement at the outset. And because it is unspoken, we cannot complain that a reader didn't know about it, especially in these days when we expend so much effort in attracting new readers. We need to offer them a contract with no hidden clauses. And beyond that, we have no control. In prose novels it takes an act of will to read the ending ahead of getting there, but in comics it can happen so easily by accident. And I'm not even talking about the unavoidability of taking in a whole page at first glance. Part of the humour, or drama, of comics should involve an allowance for that. As artists and writers we cannot prevent the reader's seeing ahead accidentally any more than we can stop some lug from giving away the score of the match whose replay we are going to watch fresh later tonight.

I find myself recalling a very clever piece of work that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (I know Dave's reading this) made circa 1983 titled Chroncops, where the whole short story was playing mischievously with the concept of time. The authors quite cleverly laid all the information before us in panel after panel but we didn't see it because we were looking for something else. At one point the cops arrive back at hq in an earlier time slot and have to avoid themselves in the lobby. Sure enough, when we flip back the pages, we see what we didn't see before because we weren't looking for it, the two characters half-hiding behind the potted plant (even after pulling the trick once they pulled it a second time in the same short story).
edit to include: The mighty Dave Gibbons has commented at some length on two of my previous posts in this series, here, and here. One day you'll say, "and they were giving away all this information for free!!"

For me the conventional three-panel gag can never work again because I know there's supposed to be a gag in the third one, and If I haven't guessed it then I've glimpsed it. the third panel is not distant enough in space and time for me to avoid reading it simultaneously with the first.

Thus, if your piece of work involves some intricate business about the order of reading, and timing, you need to synchronise watches at the start, and a 'spoiler warning' ain't going to cut it. You cannot depend upon conventions of the form. You need to work it into the fiction in some way.
CAMPBELL's RULE #4: In comics timing is a fiction. Deal with it like the rest of your fictions.

(if this post has been too 'zen' for you, don't fret, the Geckos will be back tomorrow.)

Another thing about timing; in comic books, if a book's due out in June, you need to get it finished at least by June. In the book market it's different. For The Black Diamond Detective Agency, due out in June I had to have it wrapped up by the previous July. I'm disoriented.

Sorry those samples are very old. I think that's the last time I got excited about a villain showing up again(substitute your own). (art on the 'page 20' by the hugely underappreciated Werner Roth. He drew X-men for a couple of years following this one.)

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Monday, 26 February 2007

Art

GECKO GANG-UP

The latest news on the geckos is that they are gathering behind the lamp on the front porch. They appear to be taking advantage of the moth traffic in the region, but intelligence informs us that they are mustering their forces for a more sinister purpose. A description of the ringleader has been issued by the police: "light is shining through him so that you can see his beating heart and pulsating squidgy insides." We are certain that they are up to no good and will keep you posted on this fast breaking story. News sources are saying it could be an international crisis on a scale comparable to the Martian invasion of 1938.

****
(Nathalie correctly noted that the label below is reminiscent of Gaiman. When I inaugurated the custom of labels here at Campbell blogspot, hayley campbell commented: "ah, brill. you should tag completely ridiculous things like neil does sometimes. his tags have become my favourite bit of his blog.". So I immediately decided, 'there's one idea I'll be plagiarising!.

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Sunday, 25 February 2007

The last word in Speech Balloons. (rule #3)

About these 'RULES' of mine. I originally collected and numbered them for a talk I gave, which I titled 'Towards a rhetoric of comics'. In other words, a bunch of principles codified for assisting a cartoonist to put his thoughts across in the clearest and most persuasive way.
Jessica Abel drew a two page comic strip explaining how a comic strip works, and I have a problem with it. I don't think it's Jessica's fault. She has tried to explain something which under closer scrutiny proves to be faulty, but she's too sweet to say so. Now, me, I'd say: "this system is shambolic, I'm proposing a new one whether you like it or not."
The problem lies in the placing of word balloons. Convention (or Jessica) says that comics are a 'nested system'. You read a panel from left to right and from top to bottom and, when you've read everything in that panel you move left-right and top-bottom and read everything in the next one until you've completed the page. However, in all of my watching and noting over many years, the reader, even the experienced one, after reading the contents of a balloon, will be inclined to read the next nearest balloon irrespective of whether the rest of the balloons in the current panel have already been taken in. If the next nearest balloon is in the next panel, or even the panel underneath, then the cartoonist risks losing control of his/her narration. Therefore the very first thing the artist must do upon a approaching a page is pin down the balloons. In fact I go so far as to do all of the lettering first, because in addition to the above, lettering will take much less reduction in size than a picture, therefore it is essential to give the lettering priority. When I am certain that the lettering follows reading-logic, only then do I start drawing. Each balloon should follow clearly from the one before it no matter where the panel borders are placed.

example a: a page from Bacchus vol 1, Immortality isn't Forever (right above). The first panel is the tall one at the left of the page. My system dictates that the lettering in this panel go at the very top and there only, even though it might function better nearer to the heads of the speakers, otherwise the reader would be required to break a basic reading rule and move up the page to the next panel and its balloons, instead of following the conventional law of top-bottom.

example b: page at pencil stage from my cockeyed version of the Minotaur's story in Bacchus vol 3, Doing the Islands with Bacchus. lest you think that my system is inevitably going to require that all the balloons float at the tops of the panels, here's a variation. In this case the position of the balloons in the second panel have determined that those in the last panel must be placed very low, in fact at the foot of the page. The course of the balloons follows a downward sinuous line. They can only be read one way. This sample is also useful in that you can see I have ink-lettered the balloons while the pictures are only sketched roughly. In fact if you have the book you'll know that these pictures were replaced by others at the inking stage. I wouldn't normally do this much sketching (any) before lettering except that this was an odd layout that required special attention.
To summarize:
CAMPBELL"S RULE #3: In spite of what you may read, comics are not a nested system; a reader will read a balloon and then read the next nearest balloon even if they haven't already read all the ones in the current panel.

Other relevant thoughts on the general subject of balloons: Eisner has stated that giving a character more than one balloon in a panel gives the lie to the panel being a moment in time, with characters frozen in a pose relevant to what they are saying (therefore they can only be saying a limited amount). We all have our rules to make our specific way of doing things into a coherent system, but I don't worry too much about that one (you take your pick). I distrust the idea of comics being tied to 'time'. it's too close to the movie model for my liking. And there are bigger lies to worry about, like who said they didn't steal the tarts, or said they didn't kill Cock Robin.

Alex Toth wrote something about lettering that stuck in my head. It may have been here but I can't find it again. That site has Toth doing commentaries on a bunch of his old short stories. The 50s romance stories are the ones most worth checking out. He said that he liked a lot of 'padding' in the balloons, in other words, a comfortable amount of white space around the block of text. I have taken that one on board completely.

At the top of this post is a brace of word balloons from a detail of a panel in The Black Diamond Detective Agency that express my present aesthetic ideal. The balloon should be a thoughtfully designed shape that relates to the things around it in its pictorial context. I absolutely DETEST and ABHOR those goddam elipses they use nowadays in the comic books. I LOATHE them and will NOT TOLERATE them. I also don't care for them. I've heard all the economic arguments, so don't send them to me. Within the balloon the block of lettering should also form a designed shape, which need not echo the shape of the balloon around it, but the two should be aware of the existence of each other. It need not be said that I also have no time for computer fonts. But thirdly and don't forget this one, the space between the block of lettering and the balloon is a yet another element that needs to be carefully considered and shaped, the 'padding ' that Toth speaks of. Half close your eyes and you'll see it as a white stream flowing around the block of text.
In my last couple of jobs I have taken to painting the balloons onto the page of art (before the picture, and then tidy them up later) in a pale yellow. I want the balloon to be a painted presence on the page instead of a hole through it to another dimension. I arrived at this by an evolutionary process after I started doing the painted books (in Batman: Order of Beasts I used a font, with irregular balloon shapes but with a holding line around them. The holding lines proved to be a technical pain in the ass, so in the 13 page Escapist story I did I tried losing those and lettered onto a tracing paper overlay by hand, which is very simple to align with the time honoured manner without extra computer work. This proved satisfactory so I carried the approach over to Diamond and I'm also using it on my new one, The Amazing Remarkable mr. Leotard.

My pal Dave Gibbons felt compelled to throw in his two cents on my last 'rule' . Since he does his own lettering and it is always faultless, I'll be very interested indeed to hear his thoughts on this one .

Finally, if you click the 'balloons' label below you'll find an earlier post on the subject.

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Saturday, 24 February 2007

Something to Say.

I'm quite serious about the idea of rules. They have their uses. Here's one: never jump out of a plane without a parachute. The thing about rules is that they can become shortcuts to getting things done efficiently. If the parachute was invented once, we can use it over and over until we think of a better idea, like when we invent anti-gravity powders. I always liked to invent rules. Even at the beginning, because there's nobody likes teaching other people more than those who have just learned themselves. So I was something of a sloganeer right at the start. In June '83 in one of my multifarious hand lettered essays that appeared in various small press newsletters (blogging hadn't been thought of yet) I declared that 'It's not enough to just want to draw comics, you must have something to say'. the following month the Man at the Crossroads wrote in an Escape editorial, 'Cartoonists don't start by being able to draw, they start by having something to say.' Rephrased like that it suited Paul's post-punk philosophy of putting the art in the hands of the energetic novice. A month later again, the phrase turned up in a cartoon Hunt Emerson drew for the Radio Times (the BBC's official 'what's on' guide and one of the country's top selling weeklies. Well it was back then; I considered it high irony that the best selling magazines in Britain were the two television guides). Called upon to draw a cartoon announcing the show That's Life which this week boasted a talking dog among its assorted novelties, Hunt had a poodle being interviewed and saying: 'Most of us can talk, we just don't have anything to say.' (Scanned and shown above right, copyright Hunt Emerson) Hunt said he never read my piece or took much notice of Paul's either, so it's just a coincidence. But I've never been one to let the facts spoil an anecdote.

***********
Here we go again: Dirk at Journalista wrote: "Your lazy funnybook plagiarist for the week: Mike Choi, the artist behind this Witchblade: First Born cover, who shamelessly ripped off Annie Leibovitz’ cover to the August, 1991 issue of Vanity Fair magazine." I beg to differ. That's a good piece. If your purpose is to quote a the original but introduce an adjustment (like the assorted variations on American Gothic)), then you should quote it exactly, and this original was famous enough that it "spawned parodies and imitators.". Choi's quotation gets the Campbell thumbs up, and I refer Dirk to my own long quotation from RG Collingwood.

*********
We should all be following the Gordon Lee case. (via Neil Gaiman). Of tangential interest is another piece by the artist Nick Bertozzi, the extract from whose upcoming book The Salon started the row. he mentions it briefly in this interview, but not by name: "James Sturm and I were working on a proposal for a Hollywood producer; we did a 10-pager together, and it just wasn't going to work out schedule-wise for us to do the book, but we really had a good time working together..." He is in fact referring to an early attempt at making a graphic novel of the Black Diamond Detective Agency for 'Hollywood producer' Bill Horberg. Sturm and Bertozzi took an entirely different approach from the one I went with. I guess they produced the ten pages as a sample to use to sell he project with the intention of finishing it when a deal was made. By that time both had taken on other obligations, Sturm with his newly set up Center for Cartoon Studies, and Bertozzi with The Salon. It would interesting to talk to them about their version of Diamond and show a panel or two (since I guess it will only be seen in the context of interviews and such, as one of the interesting unfinished projects of our times). But I'm saving that for later after the book has found its place in the world and we have time for alternate world contemplations.

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Friday, 23 February 2007

Oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wee Cal is watching the recent special features DVD that comes with the first Batman movie out of the box set. It's got all these DC people and other experts taking comic books very seriously... there's big smug Harlan Ellison... I suddenly feel a nausea creeping over me at the thought that I have become one of these people. Quick! Change the subject! There's a gecko running across my window!

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Thursday, 22 February 2007

BIG HANDS & little geezers (rule #2)

When I handed out my 'rule #1' yesterday I heard a murmur of discontent go around. Hey, it was my gift to you. If you have no use for it, put it at the back of the cupboard. Just remember to serve the drinks out of it whenever I'm visiting.

The matter was briefly mentioned on the Comics Journal forum where one Ben Towie noted that all I meant was that your choices should not be arbitrary. The next guy felt that much was to be lost by making the reader an observer rather than a participant. Well, if you want your reader to identify with either a woman who is about to be murdered, or her murderer, then obviously you need to stick with the 'pictorial language of melodrama' and have nothing to do with my antidote*. The same writer also appears to think I'm arguing for comics as an autonomous artform (i.e. which therefore owes nothing to cinema). Where did you get that one? I don't have any use for the idea of comics as an art form let alone an autonomous one (I'll explain this statement further down the track). I was just arguing for good taste.

Now, today I'm talking about SCALE. That's right, scale. When I arrived in Manhattan in June 2003 for the MOCCA show, the building around the corner from the hotel in which I was staying had a huge poster for the Hulk movie on the side of it. I mean a colossal building-sized image of the Hulk, and an image that was perfectly idiomatic, though I don't know whom we should credit for it or whether it was made by anyone close to the comics biz. I went out the next day to get a photo but it was gone. Look at this other building and just try to conjure it in your head. It was a wonderful feeling looking up at it, because I have always thought of New York as belonging to Stan Lee, while at the same time knowing that's not quite right. Here I was in the big strange far away foreign city, and my childhood pal was on the side of a building welcoming me.
It's a perfect scaling up (I used this term wrongly a few days back... let's differentiate between scaling up and blowing up, as in enlarging) of a classic Kirby-model Hulk. By Kirby I mean the big-hand-reaching-toward-the-reader formula. The classic style of this kind of image requires that the hand, in extremely exaggerated forshortening, cross behind or even break the line of the frame. It's an expanding frame of infinite possibility. It's like a recurring fraction producing infinitesmal subdivisions. It didn't even surprise me to see fingerprints on his mighty hands.
I paid my own homage to the icon of the big hand in this full page from a 1990 Eyeball KId, (art by Ed Hillyer), reprinted recently in Italy. The guy on the ground is saying "Look out! IT's Hermes, and he's got the BIG GLOVE! (that's the plug by which I justify spending today's time here-see Italy in the sidebar, volume 4))

In contrast, Ivan Brunetti was interviewed by the Comics Journal last year and in there he said something to the effect that for his characters to continue being real to him, they must live out their existences on the same small scale, with little variation. I don't still have the issue, so this is from memory, and I'm spinning it off into my own words. It's as though they are actually living inside these tiny boxes that form the frames, never touching or reaching beyond the delimited rectangle, for to do so would be to break their fragile contract with the world.

To summarize:
CAMPBELL's RULE #2:
The frame ain't random either.

****

p.s. *speaking of antidotes, this is the spider that tried to eat my pal Best a few days ago. The poor bloke's still suffering.

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labels

I did some house cleaning and filing in the middle of the night on account of I got up to relieve a cramp in my foot and all the jumping up and down thoroughly woke me up. So should you wish to do some backtracking and find out, say, where the hell 'thanks for roning' comes from, here at Campbell blogspot we now have LABELS, including but not limited to these:

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Wednesday, 21 February 2007

In thrall to the cinematic principle. (rule #1)

A couple of days back I promised to explain my reasoning behind my reconfiguration of Alan Moore’s 'camera angles' in Chapter 5 page 26 of FROM HELL.
Back in ’84 I had my first in-print encounter with Alan Moore, in a ‘chat’ set up and taped by Escape magazine editor Paul Gravett (it's in issue 5). I confess I went in with the intention of sparking a printworthy argument by describing a ‘pictorial language of melodrama’, which was dominating the art of the comic book and maintaining it in a retrograde state. I then cheekily located Alan on one side of it and me on the other. Four years later Alan engaged me to work on From Hell, and there at the very top of the proposal was printed: ‘Being a melodrama in sixteen parts.’ I thought he was having a dig at my earlier theoretical position, but no, he’d forgotten all about that and this was to be the official subtitle of the book.

The essence of my thinking was, or is, since I haven’t reneged on it, that if we are seeking to use the comic strip form to tell a more sophisticated kind of story, the first thing we needed to do was to reassess the assortment of devices that we were inheriting. They may have been suited to the pictorialising of SUPERhuman drama, but were lacking when it came to examining the small but infinitely interesting business of everyday people. The first problem to be addressed was what I have usually called ‘the cinematic principle’, and if you can name it better, be my guest. It’s the idea that we’re always looking through a camera. In a comic book script it shows itself in ways that we have long stopped being conscious of. For instance, we will tend to automatically describe a view as being in long-shot or close-up. We have forgotten that these are movie terms. They have entered into everyday usage. But let’s look further. If we place a long shot beside a close up, we’ve introduced another cinematic technique, that of ‘cutting’.
And here’s another: ‘tracking’, (from Alan’s script, page 24): “SAME SHOT, WITH US TRACKING ALONG IN FRONT OF POLLY, KEEPING HER THE SAME DISTANCE AWAY FROM US EVEN THOUGH SHE IS STUMBLING FORWARD…”
And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, and most certainly not in the hands of a master such as our Mr Moore, but I have often looked at samples in aspiring artist portfolios where all the technical issues have not been understood.

My idea was to take ‘cutting’ away and replace it with a keen observation of body language. In order to see subtle interactions between two bodies, the leanings toward, the leanings away, the slight turnings, superior straightenings, lookings down, lookings away, while not necessarily leaning the same way, lookings inwards, subtle changes in the emotional temperature, but instinctively dealing with it and not categorizing it like this, etc, etc… then the two bodies need to be seen in each and all of the pictures. My thoughts along these lines developed further after reading an interview with Bernard Krigstein a long time ago (the one from Squa Tront*, probably reprinted elsewhere since then) where he complained that the fragmentation you get in comics goes against pictorial logic and usually works against the drama that the artist is supposed to be expressing. I formulated a rule from this:
CAMPBELL's RULE #1: The entire drama of a given situation must be contained within each panel of the sequence of that situation.
Thus, if you take Krigstein’s masterpiece, the short story Master Race, and look at the second last page (above), you will observe that in eleven panels ten of them show both the chaser and the chased. Add five at the foot of the previous page, and one at the top of the next one, and you get a run of seventeen panels showing both characters (with only one break). The subject of the drama is the relationship between them, and there isn’t a single panel where you could say that we lose sight of that simple essence.
So, given a situation such as the one in From Hell Chapter 5 page 26, I grabbed the opportunity to dwell on the subtleties that Alan wanted to focus upon in the scene, the strange undercurrents and suggestions of a different kind of relationship from the one that was being played out. Get all those cameramen and equipment, and the director and the sound engineer and the continuity girl and the boy with the clapperboard, out of that tight space and focus on the humanity.

*****

* interestingly, there's a Dave Sim interview where he says this same issue of that magazine is one of his most important possessions and quotes a long extract from the Krigstein interview.

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Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Best foot forward.

Joann Sfar will be interviewed by the man at the Crossroads at The Royal National Hotel, in London next Sun 25th. I wonder if he’ll bring his banjo? -“Two young and brilliant graphic artists discuss with Paul Gravett the importance of their Jewish roots. Funny, irreverent and bold, Joann Sfar pays homage to both his Ashkenazi mother and his Sephardi father, with Klezmer following the difficult life of musicians in Eastern Europe and The Rabbi’s Cat set in Algeria at a time when Jews and Arabs lived peacefully together. JT Waldman brought two dreams together: do a graphic novel and understand his religion better. Seven years later, having learnt Hebrew, studied the rabbinic texts and explored oriental art, he produced Megillat Esther, a stunning graphic novel with a twist, incorporating both Hebrew and English and engaging in a new form of Midrash.”

****


Roz Chast interview at nerve.com! “Humor is so subjective. I could watch the same episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office over and over rather than watch most sitcoms, which make me want to lie down and not get up again." (via Journalista). For my money Chast is the most original and funniest magazine cartoonist of the last thirty years. She devises the most unusual constructions for her pieces. Here's a favourite of mine, Your Family Tree from her 1988 collection from Harper & Row, The Four Elements.
(click to enlarge)

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My pal mr j draws my attention to the work of Ben Redlich, a local young children's book illustrator with an individual style, who has been picked up by the Australian publisher who gives us Shaun Tan, author of The Arrival, which I discussed here. This guy's work is first rate.

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In his post of 16 feb my good friend John Coulthart traces the evolution of a single pose in the work of French neoclassical painter Jean Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864) through six examples as it becomes a popular icon. Norman Hathaway responds to the post with a couple more, and John himself comes back with another on the 19th. I've always wondered what Paul Gulacy was referencing (duh!) on this old Miracleman cover (sorry to bring the tone down).

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In comments yesterday Mike linked me to the above photo. "I was reading through January and saw the photo you posted of your work as "low-brow art" - this links to a picture of From Hell in the main Freemason's library in Washington, DC, which incidentally is open to the public and a magnificent collection."

****

waitamiinit. telephone.
it's my pal Best... you want me to come in for lunch? sure.
you've been on your back all week... yes, I know... antibiotics, yeh.
a bad case of necrotic flesh in your foot? Wha?
On account of you put your shoe on while a lethal spider was living in it?
Jesus Christ!
What kind of spider?
"I don't bloody know, Campbell... I feel as useless as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest!"
uh, okay, Dan. See you in an hour...
And thanks for roning.

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Monday, 19 February 2007

FROM HELL: 5/26

I don't usually reveal FROM HELL pages and their scripts for three days running, but I've been in a stew trying to get my annual tax scraps together. It was all wrapped up this morning and I was off to see the accountant, the illustrious Mr Tucker, last seen in his sarong and bare feet, his normal working attire, in The Fate of the Artist. As usual I'm four thousand bucks over in one part, one thousand under in another part, and another part has disappeared altogether. My only excuse is that I was in Chicago in 1899 at the time, working on The Black Diamond Detective Agency.
The upshot of it all is that I don't have time to do much here. This one is the next in sequence as we move inexorably toward the first of the Whitechapel murders. You'll notice however that my pictures for it do not in any way whatsoever follow the framing instructions in Alan Moore's script. I will explain at length my reasons for this in an essay of some length and the product of some serious consideration over many years, hopefully to run in tomorrow's post, titled 'The cinematic principle'.

CHAPTER 5 PAGE 26 ( 1,130 WORDS)
PANEL 1
NOW WE HAVE A NINE PANEL GRID, THE BETTTER TO REPRODUCE THE SLIGHTLY CLAUSTROPHOBIC ATMOSPHERE WITHIN THE COACH. IN THIS FIRST PANEL WE ARE LOOKING THROUGH GULL’S EYES, SO THAT ALL WE CAN SEE OF HIM ARE HIS HANDS AS THEY HOLD OUT THE OPEN BAG OF GRAPES TOWARDS POLLY. LOOKING BEYOND GULL’S HANDS AND THE BAG OF GRAPES WE SEE POLLY AS SHE SITS ON THE SEAT BESIDE US, TURNING TOWARDS US AND REACHING OUT ONE HAND TO DIP INTO THE BAG AND TAKE A GRAPE. SHE SMILES WITH DELIGHT, ALMOST DISBELIEVINGLY.
POLLY: oh, sir, I loves ‘em. Never can afford ‘em, though.
POLLY: Oh, can I really ‘ave one?

PANEL 2
NOW WE REVERSE ANGLES SO THAT IN THE FOREGROUND WE CAN SEE POLLY, SITTING IN PROFILE TO US. SHE HAS HER HEAD TILTED BACK SLIGHTLY AND IS NOT LOOKING AT GULL AS SHE TIPS A COUPLE OF GRAPES INTO HER MOUTH FROM HER UPLIFTED HAND. SHE LOOKS TO BE IN A STATE OF BLISS AT BEING ALLOWED SUCH LUXURY. IMMEDIATELY BEYOND HER GULL SITS TURNED SO THAT HE FACES DIRECTLY AT POLLY AND US. (I SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED, INCIDENTALLY, THAT HE HAS TAKEN OFF HIS HAT ON ENTERING THE COACH.) HE SMILES QUIETLY AND WARMLY AT POLLY AS HE SPEAKS TO HER.
GULL: Dear Polly, have as many as you wish.
GULL: Now come, child. Tell me all about yourself. Where were you born?

PANEL 3
NOW A SHOT FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COACH, SO THAT WE ARE LOOKING FACE-ON AT POLLY AND GULL, BOTH FULL FIGURE, AS THEY SIT THERE SIDE BY SIDE ON THE SEAT OPPOSITE TO US. WIPING GRAPE JUICE FROM HER LIPS, POLLY LOOKS MOMENTARILY TAKEN ABACK, ALBEIT IN A PLEASANT WAY. SHE LOOKS AT GULL WITH A SURPRISED AND GRATEFUL SMILE THAT IS SOMEHOW POIGNANT. GULL RETURNS HER SMILE WITH A QUIET, GENUINELY WARM SMILE OF HIS OWN, GAZING INTO HER EYES. THE GLADSTONE BAG RESTS BY POLLY’S FEET.
POLLY: Well…nmg… excuse me…
POLLY: Well, sir, I hardly knows where I should start. It’s not often anybody shows an interest.
POLLY: I were born in Shoe lane.

PANEL 4
HERE WE CLOSE IN FROM OUR LAST PANEL. SO THAT WE CAN ONLY SEE POLLY SITTING CLOSE THERE WITH THE WINDOW BESIDE HER, THE DARKNESS OF WHITECHAPLE CRAWLING BY OUTSIDE. SHE IS LOOKING TOWARDS GULL, WHOSE HAND ENTERS THE PANEL FROM OFF TO ONE SIDE, HOLDING OUT THE BAG OF GRAPES. POLLY LOOKS INTO HIS OFF- PANEL EYES AS SHE REACHES OUT AND DIPS INTO THE BAG FOR ANOTHER GRAPE. AS SHE ROCKS UNSTEADILY FROM SIDE TO SIDE WITH THE MOTION OF THE COACH, HER BLACK BONNET HAS SLIPPED DOWN SLIGHTLY TO ONE SIDE, SO THAT IT RESTS AT A SLIGHTLY ODD ANGLE, BUT IT IS STILL FASTENED WITH A BOW BENEATH HER CHIN. AS SHE REACHES FOR A GRAPE, HER WEDDING RING GLEAMS DULLY UPON HER FINGER.
POLLY: That’s off Fleet Street. 1851 it was, ‘cause I remember bein’ took to see the exhibition.
POLLY: Another grape? Ooh, can I really, sir?

PANEL 5
NOW POLLY IS IN PROFILE IN THE FOREGROUND AS SHE PUTS THE GRAPES INTO HE STARVING MOUTH, NOT LOOKING AT GULL AS SHE DOES SO. POLLY IS ROUGHLY HEAD AND SHOULDERS TO HALF FIGURE AS WE SEE HER HERE. LOOKING BEYOND HER WE SEE GULL AS HE SITS BESIDE HER, TURNED ROUND SO AS TO GAZE AT BOTH POLLY AND US. HIS FACE LOOKS GENUINELY PAINED AND SYMPATHETIC AS HE GAZES AT HER, HIS GRAPES STILL HELD IN ONE HAND. AS SHE RECOUNTS HER TALE, POLLY’S FACE IS MORE OR LESS EXPRESSIONLESS. SHE DOES NOT SEEM TO SEE IT AS AN OCCASION FOR SELF PITY.
POLLY: Anyway… mmp… me dad, ’e were a blacksmith. ’ad me married off by ’64.
GULL: When you were… let me see… Good Lord! When you were but thirteen?

PANEL 6
NOW WE REVERSE ANGLES SO THAT WE ARE LOOKING AT POLLY THROUGH GULL’S EYES, AND ALL WE CAN SEE OF GULL HIMSELF ARE HIS HANDS, HOLDING THE BAG OF GRAPES. MOSTLY, WE ARE LOOKING JUST PAST THIS TO FOCUS ON POLLY AS SHE SITS THERE IN PROFILE TO US, NOT LOOKING AT US AS SHE SPEAKS. SHE STARES INTO SPACE, TOYING ABSENTMINDEDLY WITH HER WEDDING RING AS SHE DOES SO, SEEMINGLY UNAWARE OF THE GESTURE. IF WE CAN SEE THEM, HER PUPILS ARE VERY TINY, AND HER GENERAL MANNER IS ONE OF ENTRANCEMENT. THE LAUDANUNM IS STARTING TO TAKE EFFECT. POLLY SWAYS SLIGHTLY, A CHILDLIKE EXPRESSION SUFFUSING HER FACE AS SHE REMEMBERS THE SNOW FALLING SLOWLY DURING HER WEDDING AT THE PRINTERS’ CHAPEL. SHE SPEAKS SOFTLY, AS IF IN A DREAM.
POLLY: Aye. To a printer, Billy Nicholls. We was married in the printers’ church, St. Bride’s
POLLY: …an it were winter. Snowin’. Little flakes, caught in me ‘air.

PANEL 7
NOW WE HAVE A SIMILAR SHPOT TO THAT IN PANEL THREE, IN THAT WE ARE LOOKING ACROSS THE CARRIAGE AT GULL AND POLLY AS THEY SIT SIDE BY SIDE ON THE OPPOSITE SEAT, BOTH SEEN THREE QUARTER TO FULL FIGURE HERE. POLLY IS NOT LOOKING AT GULL, BUT JUST GAZING DAZEDLY INTO SPACE, LOOKING IN OUR GENERAL DIRECTION, BUT CLEARLY NOT FOCUSSED ON ANYTHING. BESIDE HER, GULL IS STILL SITTING HALF TURNED TO FACE TOWARDS HER. HE HOLDS OUT HIS BAG OF GRAPES TOWARDS HER WITH AN EXPRESSION OF DEEP AND HEARTFELT SYMPATHY THAT SEEMS TO BE SINCERE.
POLLY: we went to live in Stamford street. Two children. Second one, my Billy, ‘e runs off like, with the midwife.
POLLY: Just runs off.
GULL: Poor child. Do have another grape.

PANEL 8
NOW WE ARE LOOKING THROUGH GULL’S EYES AT THE DAZED –LOOKING POLLY AS SHE TURNS TOWARDS US AND TAKES ANOTHER DRUGGED GRAPE FORM THE BAG. HER EYELIDS ARE STARTING TO LOOK HEAVIER OVER HER PIN-PRICK PUPILS, AND HER EXPRESSION IS SORT OF SLACK AS SHE REACHES OUT AND TAKES ANOTHER GRAPE FROM THE BAG. ALL WE CAN SEE OF GULL IS ONE HAND, HOLDING OUT THE BAG TOWARDS POLLY. BEHIND HER, THROUGH THE WINDOW, THE WHITECHAPEL DARKNESS CRAWLS BY.
POLLY: Why… why., thank you, sIr. You’re…
POLLY: You’re very kind.
GULL: Think nothing of it, child. Come now, continue with your narrrative. Your husband left you…

PANEL 9
NOW A SHOT OF THE CLOSED GLADSTONE BAG AS IT RESTS THERE BETWEEN POLLY’S FEET AND THE CARRIAGE DOOR. BOTH POLLY AND GULL’S BALLOONS ISSUE FROM OFF PANEL IN THE APPROPRIATE DIRECTIONS. THE BLACK LEATHER BAG HAS A DULL GLEAM IN THE SICKLY LIGHT OF THE CARRIAGE.
POLLY: (OFF) : Yes,. Yes, ‘e did. I went to Lambeth Workhouse…
GULL (OFF): Lambeth, indeed? A famous poet lived there once, you know…

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Sunday, 18 February 2007

FROM HELL: 5/25

The tension mounts as we arrive at the first of the Whitechapel murders, as depicted in FROM HELL, this being from Alan Moore's scripts for the book. It wasn't the first incidence of serious crisis in the story, of course. Alan constructed the work so that each chapter climaxed with one. In Chapter One it was the the abduction in broad daylight of Annie Crook; in Two she was forced to undergo a lobotomy; in Three the blackmail letter to the royal family is delivered. In Four Gull's insane mission is launched and Netley vomits at the realzation of what it is probably going to entail. The narrative has been on a resolute march to Hell since page 1. Alan's script for the final panel on this page was possibly his shortest picture description in the entire book, but I knew what this low angle view of the carriage had to clearly say: this is where the horror begins.

CHAPTER 5. PAGE 25 ( 943 WORDS)
PANEL 1
ANOTHER SEVEN PANEL PAGE, AGAIN WITH THE BIG WIDE PANEL TAKING UP THE BOTTOM TIER AND THREE SMALLER PANELS ON EACH OF THE TIERS ABOVE THAT. IN THIS FIRST SMALL PANEL WE ARE CROUCHING BEHIND POLLY ON THE PAVEMENT, ABOUT WAIST HEIGHT, AND LOOKING UP PAST HER. ALL WE CAN SEE OF HER IS SOME OF HER MID-SECTION OVER TO THE RIGHT OF THE FOREGROUND, HER HANDS CLASPED NERVOUSLY IN FRONT OF HER AS SHE STANDS THERE LOOKING UP AT THE COACH. LOOKING UP PAST HER AT THE COACH, WE CAN SEE GULL AS HE TURNS TOWARDS US AND LOOKS DOWN WITH A FATHERLY SMILE AND A TWINKLE IN HIS EYES. HE TOUCHES THE BRIM OF HIS HAT IN GREETING. BEYOND HIM, NETLEY IS ONLY VISIBLE AS A DARK SHAPE, HUNCHED OVER THE REINS.
GULL: Good morning to you, my child.
GULL: Why, three o’clock’s no time for a young lady such as yourself to be out unescorted. Might I offer transport?

PANEL 2
NOW A SHOT LOOKING DOWN AT POLLY FROM GULL’S POINT OF VIEW AS SHE STANDS THERE IN THE STREET LOOKING UP AT US, A FORLORN AND ISOLATED FIGURE, LIT ONLY BY THE WEAK GLOW FROM THE CARRIAGE LAMP. IN THE FOREGROUND WE CAN PERHAPS SEE GULL’S HANDS, QUIETLY HOLDING HIS OPEN BAG OF GRAPES. POLLY LOOKS GRATEFUL AND RELIEVED AS SHE GAZES UP AT US, AND OFFERS US A WEAK SMILE BY WAY OF A THANK-YOU. SHE’S STILL WEARING HER BLACK BONNET, FASTENED UNDER HER CHIN IN A BOW, AND I SHOULD ALSO POINT OUT THAT DURING THIS ENTIRE EPISODE, WHENEVER WE SEE POLLY’S HANDS IN CLOSE UP, WE SHOULD MAKE SURE TO SHOW THE RING THAT WE FIRST SHOWED IN PANEL FOUR OF PAGE ELEVEN. JUST A SMALL CONTINUITY POINT WHICH YOU SHOULD APPLY WHERE APPROPRIATE, IF ANYWHERE. HERE, POLLY LOOKS UP AT US AND GIVES US A WAN SMILE. THE BREEZE RUSTLES THE PAPER BAG IN GULL’S LAP. THE GRAPES HAVE A PALE AND SICKLY GLEAM.
POLLY: Why… why, thank you, sir. You’re very kind.
POLLY: I’d surely feel safer with you than out ‘ere in the street. You ‘ear so many stories.

PANEL 3
NOW WE PULL BACK A LITTLE FROM THE COACH, SO THAT WE SEE THE FRONT END OF IT, INCLUDING THE HORSES, IN THE MID-BACKGROUND HERE. AS WE SEE HIM HERE, GULL IS JUST CLIMBING DOWN FROM THE COACH, HEFTING HIS GLADSTONE BAG WITH HIM AS HE DOES SO. HE IS ALSO PRESUMABLY STILL HOLDING THE GRAPES, ASSUMING THAT CAN BE DONE IN SUCH A WAY TO LEAVE HIM A FREE HAND TO HOLD THE COACH AS HE DESCENDS. PERHAPS HE’S STUFFED THEM INTO HIS POCKET OR SOMETHING. POLLY STANDS RESPECTFULLY BY AS SHE WAITS FOR HIM TO CLIMB DOWN. NETLEY JUST SITS AND PAYS NO ATTENTION TO THE PROCEEDINGS, STARING AWAY INTO THE DARK ACROSS HIS REINS. GULL IS SMILING AS HE CLIMBS DOWN, A JOVIAL AND BURLY UNCLE. POLLY STIULL WEARS A FAINT SMILE DESPITE HERSELF, CHARMED BY THIS GENIAL OLD TOFF.
GULL: Splendid! Then let me just climb down, that we may ride together, both inside.
GULL: Tell me, what is your name?

PANEL 4
GULL IS NOW STANDING IN THE STEREET LEVEL BESIDE POLLY. POLLY HAS TAKEN THE LIBERTY OF OPENING THE COACH DOOR, READY FOR THEM. BUT LIKE A WELL BROUGHT UP YOUNG WOMAN, SHE IS RESPECTFUL OF HER ELDERS AND BETTERS. AND REACHES OUT WITH HER FREE HAND TO RELIEVE GULL OF HIS HEAVY GLADSTONE BAG. HE GIVES HER A WARM SMILE OF GRATITUDE AS HE LETS HER TAKE IT FROM HIM. SHE GIVES HIM A DAUGHTERLY AND AFFECTIONATE SMILE IN RETURN.
POLLY: It’s Mary, though they calls me Polly.
POLLY: Oh, do let me ‘elp you with that bag. It looks so ‘eavy.
GULL: Ah. Thank you. Set it by the door.

PANEL 5
NOW WE ARE WITHIN THE COACH WITH POLLY, WHO HAS CLIMBED INSIDE AND IS IN THE ACT OF SETTING DOWN THE HEAVY GLADSTONE BAG BY THE OPPOSITE DOOR. LIT BY THE SICK YELLOW GLOW OF THE CARRIAGE LAMP, AN INSECT IN AMBER. LOOKING BEYOND HER AND THROUGH THE OPEN DOOR BEHIND HER WE SEE GULL, ALSO FACING US, AS HE STARTS TO CLAMBER ABOARD THE COACH, HOLDING THE BAG OF GRAPES IN ONE HAND. HE SMILES WARMLY AT HER TURNED BACK, WITH NO GLINT OF THE SARDONIC IN HIS EYES. GULL GENUINELY SEEMS TO BE SHOWING NOTHING BUT FATHERLY AFFECTION TOWARDS THIS YOUNG WOMAN.
POLLY: There, there, that’s better.
POLLY: Now, let’s be introduced all proper, like. I’m Polly, sir, and you, you’re…?

PANEL 6
NOW WE ARE LOOKING AT GULL THROUGH POLLY’S EYES AS HE TAKES HIS SEAT BESIDE HER IN THE CARRIAGE. WE CANNOT SEE HER. ALL WE SEE IS HER VIEW OF HIM AS HE SITS THERE, THREE QUARTER FIGURE, AND TURNS TOWARDS US. HE SMILES, A SMILE OF ALMOST BOYISH PLEASURE AND SATISFACTION. HE’S NOT SIR WILLIAM NOW, OR EVEN DOCTOR GULL. HE’S JUST THE LITTLE BARGE BOY ONCE AGAIN, WHO PLAYED AMONGST THE FLOWERS THERE AT THE RECTORY; WHO MOVED THROUGH TUNNELS SLOWLY INTO LIGHT.
GULL: William.
GULL: My name’s William.

PANEL 7
IN THIS FINAL WIDE PANEL WE ARE LOOKING AT THE COACH. THE DOORS ARE CLOSED, AND AS NETLEY SNAPS THE REINS, IT RESUMES MOTION, TRUNDLING SLOWLY OVER THE COBBLES FROM A DEAD START. A PALE HOSPITAL LIGHT SEEPS FROM THE WINDOWS OF THE COACH, DIFFUSING INTO DARK. GULL’S BALLOON ISSUES FROM THE NEAREST WINDOW AS THE COACH TRUNDLES AWAY.
GULL (OFF, FROM WINDOW): Now, tell me, child…
GULL (OFF, FROM WINDOW): Do you like grapes?

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Saturday, 17 February 2007

FROM HELL: 5/24

Continuing our build-up to the first murder in FROM HELL, from Alan Moore's scripts for the book. This is Chapter 5 page 24, in which the murderer and victim, having been been seen separately on the previous pages, now come together in the same scene. Alan has Polly Nicholls singing the well known and very old song, Green Grow the Rushes, o. In the endnotes to the book Alan offers explanations for some of the lyrics of the song. A summary can also be found at the Wikipedia entry. He wrote that he used it because it seemed exactly the kind of simple popular song that someone might be humming to herself while strolling drunkenly down the street and also because it contains a darker and more ancient resonance appropriate to the undertones he hoped to establish in the scene.

CHAPTER 5. PAGE 24 (838 WORDS)
PANEL 1
THIS PAGE IS ALSO A SEVEN PANEL JOB, WITH THREE PANELS ON EACH OF THE TOP TWO TIERS AND THEN ONE BIG HORIZONTAL PANEL TAKING UP THE BOTTOM TIER. THIS IS THE PAGE UPON WHICH THE DIVERGENT PATHS OF GULL AND POLLY FINALLY DRAW TOGETHER. A HALF HOUR HAS PASSED SINCE WE LAST SAW POLLY, AND IT IS NOW THREE O’CLOCK. WITH HER DRUNKEN WEAVING AND HER FREQUENT STOPS FOR REST, POLLY HAS ONLY PROGRESSED A LITTLE WAY DOWN THE WHITECHAPEL ROAD SINCE WE LAST SAW HER. AS WE SEE HER HERE WE ARE LOOKING DOWN ON HER FROM SLIGHTLY ABOVE AS SHE WEAVES DOWN THE DARK STREET AWAY FROM US, SINGING DRUNKENLY TO HERSELF. THERE IS NOBODY ELSE ABOUT BUT HER.
POLLY: I’ll sing you nine songs, Green grow the rushes –o.
POLLY: What are your nine songs?

PANEL 2
NOW WE HAVE A SHOT LOOKING AT THE ROOFTOPS OF WHITECHAPEL ROAD, WHICH WE SEE DOWN TOWARDS THE BOTTOM OF THE PANEL. ABOVE THEM, FILLING UP THE REST OF THE PANEL, WE HAVE A VIEW OF THE CLEAR NIGHT SKY ABOVE THE EAST END. IMMEASURABLY DISTANT IN SPACE AND TIME, THEY CONTINUE TO WORK THROUGH THEIR ETERNAL PERFECT CLOCKWORK MOVEMENTS, REMOTE AND INDIFFERENT. WE CAN SEE ORION, THE HUNTER. NEAR TO HIM WE CAN SEE THE PLEIADES; THE SEVEN SISTERS. POLLY’S BALLOON ISSUES QUAVERINGLY UPWARDS FROM OFF PANEL BELOW AS SHE WALKKS THE NIGHT STREETS BENEATH THE STARS.
POLLY: Nine for the nine bright shiners…
POLLY: Eight for the April rainers…
POLLY: Seven for the seven stars in the sky…

PANLEL 3
NOW A SHOT THROUGH POLLYS’ EYES, LOOKING DOWN AT HER FEET AS THEY PLOD ACROSS THE UNEVEN COBBLES AND PAVING SLABS, AVOIDING THE FOUL LOOKING PUDDLES. ALTERNATIVELY, WE COULD SEE A PAVEMENT LEVEL VIEW OF POLLY’S FEET AS SHE TREADS THE DARK STREETS. IN EITHER EVENTUALITY, HER QUAVERLY SPEECH BALLOON ISSUES FROM OFF PANEL AVBOVE AS SHE CONTINUES HER SONG.
POLLY (OFF): …and six for the six proud walkers!
POLLY (OFF): Five for the symbols at your door, and four for the gospel makers!

PANEL 4
NOW WE SEE A FULL FIGURE SHOT OF POLLY AS SHE WEAVES SLOWLY AND DRUNKENLY TOWARDS US DOWN THE LENGTH OF THE WHITECHAPEL ROAD, WHICH WE SEE STRETCHING DARKLY AWAY FROM US INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE BACKGROUND BEHINFD HER. LEGLESSLY PISSED, POLLY CONTINUES TO SING HER SONG, ITS FAMILIAR AND YET ULTIMATELY STRANGE STANZAS DRIFTING ACROSS THE GREY COBBLES AND INTO THE NIGHT. BEHIND POLLY, WAY DOWN THE STREET, WE CAN SEE A SINGLE LIGHT BURNING DIMLY AND BALEFULLY IN THE DARKNESS.
POLLY: Three-ee three-ee, the ri-i-i-i-vals!
POLLY: Two, tow the lily-white boys, dressed up all in gree-een-oh!

PANEL 5
SAME SHOT, WITH US TRACKING ALONG IN FRONT OF POLLY, KEEPING HER THE SAME DISTANCE AWAY FROM US EVEN THOUGH SHE IS STUMBLING FORWARD ALL THE TIME AS SHE SLOWLY PROGRESSES DOWN THE STREET, STILL SINGING AND PERHAPS HOLDING HER BONNET ON STRAIGHT WITH ONE HAND. LOOKING PAST HER AND AWAY DOWN THE STREET WE CAN SEE THAT THE DIM LIGHT IS LARGER AND COMING CLOSER, COMING NEARER TO POLLY. SHE SEEMS COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF IT AND DOES NOT LOOK ROUND.
POLLY: One is one…
POLLY; …and all alone…

PANLE 6
SAME SHOT. WE CONTINUE TO TRACK ALONG WITH POLLY AS SHE LURCHES AND WEAVES TOWARDS US DOWN THE STREET, STILL OBLIVIOUS TOI WHAT IS APPROACHING HER FROM BEHIND. LOOKING PAST POLLY WE SEE THAT THE APPROACHING LIGHT IS IN FACT THAT FROM WITHIN NETLEY’S COACH, WHICH WE CAN NOW MAKE OUT AS A DISTINCT YET SHADOWY MASS AS IT APPROACHES POLLY FROM BEHIND. IT IS VERY CLOSE TO HER HERE, ABOUT TO DRAW LEVEL IN ANOTHER COUPLE OF SECONDS.
POLLY:…and ever more shall be so.

PANEL 7.
IN THIS LAST WIDE PANEL WE SEE A SHOT OF POLLY AS GULL AND NETLEY’S DARK COACH COMES UP LIKE TUNDER BESIDE HER, MUCH LIKE THE DAWN OVER MANDALAY AND OUT OF CHINA. I WANT THIS TO BE DRAMATIC, WITH THE COACH A LARGE AND DARK ENGINE OF THE APOCALYPSE AS IT RUMBLES TO A HALT BESIDE THE STARTLED POLLY. THE HORSES SNORT, AND WE SEE THE WHITENESS OF THEIR EYES, THE STEAM RISING FROM THEIR FLANKS. ATOP THE BOX, GULL AND NETLEY ARE TWO SHADOWY BUT RECOGNISABLE FIGURES. EVEN THOUGH THEIR FACES ARE HIDDEN BENEATH THEIR HAT BRIMS. GULL HAS HIS GLADSTONE BAG BESIDE HIM AS HE SITS. POLLY LOOKS STARTLED, BUT NOT MORTALLY FRIGHTENED. WHAT SHE IS FRIGHTENED OF, AFTER ALL, ARE THE SCABBY HORDES OF THE OLD NICHOL MOB, WHO SHE KNOWS DO NOT TRAVEL IN FINE CARRIAGES. THIS PANEL IS SILENT, BUT I WANT THE PICTURE ITSELF TO CONVEY THE SOUND OF THE HORSES WHINNYING AS NETLEY TUGS BACK VICIOUSLY UPON ITS REINS WITH HIS STRONG, THICK LITTLE ARMS, TWISTING THE HORSE’S HEAD BACK; THE SOUND OF THE LARGE COACH WHEELS CRUNCHING TO A HALT UPON THE COBBLES, THE CLATTER OF HOOVES STRIKING SPARKS FROM THE DARK ROAD.
No dialogue.

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Friday, 16 February 2007

BIG HEADS & fancy frocks

I've been showing a few pages from Chapter 5 of FROM HELL over the last three weeks (jan 25, 29, feb 2, 11, 12). As you've seen, this was a chapter where we thought hard about the differences between the well-off and the downtrodden. I pondered at some length over how different society must have looked then. It's a matter of historical record that Britain's officialdom didn't realize how far the relative health of the classes had drifted apart until they were drafting men in 1914 at the outbreak of World War 1. It was observed with some concern that the enlisted men were of a smaller stature than the officers. This gave rise to a more thorough health system in the years after the war, including free milk at schools etc.
It's interesting how since then, there is always some scientist with his eye on the height chart: "Americans used to stand tall as the people with the highest average height in the world. However, since the middle of this century, several Scandinavian countries have moved ahead and now have taller citizens on average than the United States."
"MEN FROM EARLY MIDDLE AGES WERE NEARLY AS TALL AS MODERN PEOPLE"
The guy in the above link is measuring old bones, but from my point of view as an artist, it's not necessary to go that far. The eyes will do it. As every artist must or ought to know (and there is evidence to suggest they might not) the head to body ratio in a figure will tell you what height the person is supposed to be. (I couldn't tell you how many heads or whatever, that's for people who depend on rulers rather than eyes). The body grows more and at a faster rate than the head, therefore the ratio of body to head will always be increasing during the period of growth until it halts at its final relationship depending on total height. As a kid in the mid sixties I was fascinated with Jack Kirby's concept of the figure; his heroes were big, bold and blocky. But as I came to look at a lot of classical art and even other comic book art, it struck me that Kirby's figures, especially in the early sixties and especially when he was galloping through a job, had their own particular proportions. The figure of Giant Man (above right) in Avengers#4 from 1964 has not been conceived as a gigantic being, but rather as one of small stature simply scaled up. If you take away everything else in the picture, the figure would be read as a fit and well built adult male of around five foot one inch. Kirby probably noticed this tendency in his work, because it submerges as the decade advances. Later I came to know that Jack was a wee fellow himself, and this undoubtedly figured in his concept of ideal proportions. And so it should.
It would be difficult to not show Jackie Estrada's famous photo of Jack Kirby and Alan Moore together at this juncture (and I do so with permission). Even allowing for a natural distortion of perspective, it's the sweetest way to make the point.
I'm not saying I thought about this a great deal while drawing From Hell, but it was certainly a constant in my thinking that the world of Victorian London would look and feel very strange to those, or most of us, living at the far end of the twentieth century. Another question was: just how filthy would it have been? By many contemporary accounts, sickeningly so. "Streets were fog-and smoke-cursed, and the humbler houses noisome... the park was impregnated with a sort of black stuff left by winter smoke, and St. Paul's Cathedral was so besooted that it seemed built of coal". I was quite happy with the first printing of the big From Hell in 1999 because, in addition to all my efforts to contrive an art style that was dirty and sooty, Preney's printing job had increased the effect; you couldn't handle the book much without moving some of that soot around in the margins
Talking about those coloured dresses the other day got me thinking back to my childhood in Glasgow, another big sooty city, even as late as the early 1960s. Everybody dressed in economical nondescript colours unless they were going to a party (or else to bed; pyjamas could be gaudy). But I have to interrogate myself to ascertain whether the absence of colour in my memory is due to the tv and newspapers of the time all being in black and white. Bright dresses are what they wore in films based on Broadway musicals that your auntie would love, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. (pictured) I was too busy watching Cagney and Bogart in noir, where everybody, including angels, had dirty faces. Even kids comics were in black and white in Britain. Discovering Marvel in the mid sixties was like opening the skylight of the universe.
I recall a line from Chabon's Kavalier and Clay, but I can't locate it again so this may be inexact. It's about the colorful costumes of the superheroes, created in a period when kids were dressed like small adults: "...created by people not given leave to dress themselves. No doubt about it, this was kids' stuff." The heroes don't dress like that so much now, or at least not in the movies, and kids now dress themselves, and the world is now run by kids, or at least the world now permits adults to remain being kids. It's just that their heads are out of proportion.

* * * *
And speaking of wee men with big heads, an email from Hayley Campbell, who types like archie the cockroach: 'oh by the way, it was revealed yesterday in a tabloid interview with robbie williams' ex-lover that he was 'obsessed with googling himself and wouldn't leave the house until he'd done it'.

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Thursday, 15 February 2007

Woman's World

One reason I started this blog is that I had amassed a considerable pile of books that seemed to be telling me that we are in the middle of an important artistic event in the life and history of the BOOK. We're too close to this cluster of phenomena and it's too early to suggest a schematic showing accumulated interrelationships and anyway I have come to distrust critical writing that casually connects more than two things in one move. And so the blog turns out to be the best way to put it all across, in single mouthfuls, with weeks in between. I've already written of the crisis in the field of illustration and the idea of 'authorial illustration', of picture books, who are they for?, and a playfulness with typographical novelties in the current novel here, here, and here.
Woman's World by Graham Rawle is one of the most extraordinary books I have come across in the last couple of years. Rawle has been plowing his own furrow in the world of popular amusements for a number of years, with his various cartoon/collage series including Lost Consonants and When Words Collide. He had a book out in '98 titled Diary of an Amateur Photographer: a mystery. If we had to relate it to something else in order to describe it, we'd call up thoughts of Nick Bantock with his Griffin and Sabine series of picture books. My pal Sean MacKinnon at Bent Books has mentioned that Bantock's works are very popular with the ladies, and I can imagine that would be so, with their bright and charming sentiments. They reside in a place of the mind where the habitual fans of the graphic novel would probably not trip over them. Rawle's work is quite different. Diary has its own kind of masculine neurosis, with a grubby protagonist who passes time on his daily bus rides playing a mental game where he must have sex with every tenth woman he sees. This starts to involve considerable circumnavigation and timed closing of eyes in order to provide a pleasing result. The entire book is 'pictorial', with photos and cuttings and everything glued in and photographed. Even the typed parts of the story are typed onto to old murky papers and glued in. There is a ponderous feeling to all of it which makes approaching it an act of will. And if you are like me you will find the effort worthwhile.
You can find an interview with Rawle in the British Association of Illustrators (AOI) Journal of September 2003. This is the 'authorial issue' which I mentioned in the first link above. Lethem also mentioned Diary in The Ecstacy of Influence, his Harper's essay on Plagiarism much celebrated in this blog last week. couple of reader reviews here

Rawle's second 'novel' takes us somehwere else entirely. It is wholly constructed from words, phrases and even paragraphs, all cut with scissors from 1960s women's magazines. The illustration at right, taken from Rawle's website, will give you the idea. The whole book is done like that, all 437 pages. It's reviewed here, by Tom Phillips, (himself an interesting figure-more on him another day), and in Eye magazine, by Rick Poynor, a key critical witer in the 'authorial illustration' movement mentioned above'. I won't talk about the plot here as it makes an interesting experience to start into it not knowing the premise let alone the plot. So if my recommendation isn't enough for you, check those reviews warily.

Woman's World is a touching and beautiful work with psychological depth, belying its unusual origin. I would have expected from the circumstances not much more than a facetious job. You could get rid of all the cut-outs, copy the words into regular type, and it would be an impressive piece of writing. The manner of the book's composition would cast its influence as a sub text of course, since the particular words and 'found phrases' are integrated into the very substance and meaning of the work. Rawle's accomplishment is that he has written a first rate modern novel, which at its end is quite deeply moving and unforgettable.

The hardcover has 2005 date, and on its dust jacket it is described as 'a novel'. The softcover which you can see at the top of my post, tries a new gambit: Woman's World: a graphic novel. A 'graphic novel' indeed, and it was reviewed as such alongside Burns' Black Hole, Clowes' Ice Haven and the latest Acme Novelty Library from Ware in the London Times of Dec 3 2005.

If you have been following this blog since I contemplated putting "It's not a graphic novel, Percy" on a t-shirt, you'll know i have no time for arguing about labels, but I wondered who had thought that putting 'graphic novel' on the cover was the correct strategy and suspected the publisher. I introduced myself by email and asked Graham Rawle himself, who replied:
"I have no idea what the term ‘graphic novel’ means. Then why is it on my book?
Well, when the hardback came out, I wanted it to be viewed as a novel, not a novel-ty. As you know, text and image (graphic novel?) combinations tend to be lumped together with those cheap crappy Christmas books and I rather grandly wanted mine to be taken seriously. Initially I even suggested we printed it as ordinary text. For me the story was more important than the method by which it was created, but I finally decided that the two, the story and the method, were inextricably linked. It would have been daft not to show the pages. My publishers agreed and suggested it should be a traditional novel format and that we should add ‘a novel’. Just to give a clue. The result was that it got reviewed as a novel, which was good, but that browsing customers didn’t look inside to see the rip-roaringly lovely visual delight of each page. It was (my) publisher’s idea to add ‘a graphic novel’ to the paperback. They recognised they had missed out on the ‘graphic novel’ market (whatever that is), or more accurately that art bookshops, museums etc. were less inclined to stock the hardback because of the ‘a novel’ tag. I think people expect graphic novels to be comic books these days. Mine will no doubt be a disappointment to this audience because there are no drawings.
I don’t think about these labels much. I don’t know why we put ‘a novel’ and not ‘a story’. I think I suggested ‘a collaged novel’, but the publishers advised me against it. I also suggested putting some of the text scraps on the front to give some indication of what was inside. They said that would make it look less like a novel. I don’t know. I just want people to read my book. There is talk now of a film of WW. Now is that a ‘romantic comedy’ or a ‘comedy drama’? The film people want to know."


I can see this property as a movie. It wouldn't be too hard to find televisual analogues for all the quoted advertising phrases. But I can also see it ending up in American hands and the chances are they'd misunderstand the delicate beauty of it. In which case all we could hope for would be that Rawle would pocket enough dosh to go to ground for another five years (the time it took to make Woman's World) and produce another gem.

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Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Assorted artists, glimpsed from the back of a galloping horse.

Thought for the day:"I don't think much of my face. I think it falls somewhere between Fu Manchu and Desperate Dan - but a Robert Redford lurks inside." Michael Gambon.


Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter has an interview with Paul Grist, reminding me of a series Paul drew to my script way back in 1990 titled LUCIFER. It was a three issue comic book mini-series which was then collected in soft cover, but it's never been seen since then. I got to work with Paul again in 2005 when first rate DC editor Joey Cavalieri assigned him my five page script for a cockeyed Flash story in the second Bizarro collection. It's a day in the Life of superhero the Flash, narrated by him in abbreviated shorthand. Yet another illegible Campbellian offering! (Joey was a helpful editor by observing that 'parallel world' made for a difficult abbreviation and suggested instead 'alternative universe') There's a Mirror Master story (in an alt unvrs), and a Grodd the Gorilla story; the second one provides the solution to the first one and the whole thing is bookended by Barry (Flash) Allen and his wife Iris in domestic contentment. It's a lot like a 1960's comic; you got plenty story for your ten cents in them days.
And my old pal Phil Elliott provided the colours (he drew the first of the three LUCIFERS). It was like 1986 British small press all over again.

* * * *

I mentioned the apparently magnificent Hogarth exhibition a few days ago (and I'm wishing I was in the neighbourhood). Ben Smith, in comments two days back, alerted me to the fact that cartoonist Steve Bell has written on the subject. While I think he is supreme at what he does in cartoons, abusing the establishment and other pomposities, he is clearly not a deep thinker (as we suspected after reading his Comics Journal interview some time recently.) But then, it's useful to have big noisy uncontrollable dog around to deter people from coming in and stealing your bike.

"He was the first to take the idea of telling a story in comic strip form, in multiple panels, and do it justice."
"I think he must have been quite pugnacious."
(that second sentence is from a different papragraph.)

No, give me Jenny Uglow, whom I spoke of here on 26 Jan, a writer who has written extensively and well on the eighteenth century. her piece on the exhibition appeared on Jan 13
"While Hogarth's Progresses are still theatrical - telling Moll's story, for example, through a sequence of "dramatic" moments, such as her seduction by the bawd, Mother Needham; the crash of the table when her sponsor discovers her infidelity; the tiptoeing of the magistrate through the door - their suggestive use of detail and complex creation of character also link them to the emerging novel. One reason for the enduring appeal of the Progresses is their ambivalence, their reservation of judgment. Hogarth shrewdly marketed his prints, tabloid style, as moral lessons rather than prurient stories, but - rather as Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones are unlikely "heroes" - he also created a heroine, Moll Hackabout, and a hero, Tom Rakewell, who rise above typecasting to complex individuality. Each is both victim and predator: their fate draws our sympathy, rather than acquiescence in rightful punishment. Yet Hogarth is less optimistic than Fielding: his ironic titles, echoing Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, suggest that hectic urban society is more conducive to madness and decline than to spiritual progression."

Here, instead of a reiteration of that crap about Hogarth and the comic strip we get a genuine insight into what he was about. I have for some time felt that a connection to 'the emerging novel' is one place to start a discussion of Hogarth. It is this mainly that differentiates him from all the cartoonists who followed him, except perhaps for George Du Maurier in the late 1800s, whose informal assortment of cartoons in Punch lampooning the aesthetic movement built a recurring cast of characters and provided the cartoonist with a trying ground for the novels he eventually did write, including Trilby, which gave the world the character of Svengali. There is a great deal to consider there, but the comics fraternity is hung up on the simplistic obsession with a single formal procedure ('multiple panels'), and their mindless blatherings, like that of Bell referenced above, give me no pleasure at all.
Uglow's final remarks are relevant to my theme of the Fate of the Artist, that growing suspicion that it will all add up to nothing.
"In his final print, The Bathos, the artist's palette lies broken. The main actor, old Time himself, lies prone, croaking: "Finis"; the backdrop is a gallows on a lonely plain, the scenery is collapsing in ruins. Yet even this bleak print shows Hogarth as a man of theatre. In 1766, two years after his death, his long, intricate, back-and-forth relationship with the stage, as well as his bluff nationalism, received due tribute in Garrick's prologue to The Clandestine Marriage, which drew on Marriage à la Mode... (etc)"

* * * *

Weeding my list of bookmarks, I find this Guardian review of Reading Pictures by Alberto Manguel, from march 11 2001. I had been googling the phrase 'The Fate of the Artist" in preparation for using it as the title for my book (in case somebody else had used it recently etc.)
"This leads Manguel into a discussion of the career of Edward Weston who, in his attempt to 'see' his subject with the least possible interference, refused to crop his final prints. But, as Manguel goes on to note, this commitment to the 'truth' can become addictive and lead to the abandonment of art - photography, even - altogether. This was the fate of the artist Tina Modotti who gave up photography because seeing and portraying the social reality of Mexico's poor was too mediated a form of witness. She had to get much closer than her camera would allow and so she retreated into artistic silence."

* * * *

Drjon links me to a piece about the lately rereleased Walt Kelly's 'Songs of the Pogo' album. Walt Kelly! Now there's a voice I miss in the world.

"Break out the cigars, this life is for squirrels
We're off to the drug store to whistle at girls."

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Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Judging a book by another book's cover.

I have three pieces of Shakespeare that have accumulated in a file on my desktop. They are not by the bard himself, but humorous cover versions if you like, as written by the slangmeisters of 80/90 years ago. I'm not making any connection between them or placing them in a larger context. They are simply here. First is a rendition of Romeo and Juliet in an excerpt from The Sentimental Bloke by C J Dennis, the Australian versifier. The 1916 publication of The Sentimental Bloke sold 65,000 copies in its first year, and by 1917 Dennis was 'the most prosperous poet in Australian history'. Prosperous poet!!? That was another age altogether, what? Long narrative ballad poems were once the rage, in the days when Casey first struck out. In this sequence the Bloke is describing a performance of Romeo nad Juliet to his girl friend, Doreen. The copy I have has a 1950s style cover that is not unattractive, but this needs a period feel, so I'm illustrating this with a cover from a different book, Edward Dyson's Fact'ry 'Ands from 1920, which is much more in tune with the proceedings, with a cover by his brother the great cartoonist Will Dyson.

"Then Romeo, ‘e dunno wot to do,
The cops gits busy, like they alwiz do,
An’ nose around until ‘e gets blue funk
An’ does a bunk.
They want ‘is tart to wed some other guy.
Ah, strike! She sez. ‘I wish that I could die!’

Now, this ‘ere gorspil bloke’s a fair shrewd ‘ead.
Sez ‘e ‘I’ll dope yeh, so they’ll think yer dead.
(I tips ‘e was a cunnin’ sort, wot knoo
A thing or two.)
She takes ‘is knock-out drops, up in ‘er room:
They think she’s snuffed, an’ plant ‘er in ‘er tomb.

Then things gits mixed a treat an’ starts to whirl
‘Ere’s Romeo comes back an’ find ‘is girl
Tucked in ‘er little coffing, cold an’ stiff.
An’ in a jiff.
‘E swallows lysol, throws a fancy fit,
‘Ead over turkey, an’ ‘is soul ‘as flit.

Then Juli-et wakes up an’ sees ‘im there,
Turns on the water-works an’ tears ‘er ‘air,
‘Dear love,’ she sez, “I cannot live alone!’
An wiv a moan. She grabs ‘is pockit knife. An ends ‘er cares…
’Peanuts or lollies!’ sez a boy upstairs."

* * * *
"archy and mehitabel," By Don Marquis, first appeared 1916 in the New York Evening Sun. pete the parrot and shakespeare, whence comes my excerpt, is a later entry in the series, I believe from 1927. I have a Faber edition from 1967 with no illustrations or picture on the cover, so I'm scanning this other edition's cover with illo by the great George Herriman from the booklet of a Herriman exhibition in Angouleme in 1997 (very nice if you can find a copy). archie, as you know, is a cockroach who jumps around on the typewriter but can't get to the shift key. bill is Wm Shakespeare

"well says frankie beaumont
why don t you cut it bill
i can t says bill
i need the money i ve got
a family to support down in
the country well says frankie
anyhow you write pretty good
plays bill any mutt can write
plays for this london public
says bill if he puts enough
murder in them what they want
is kings talking like kings
never had sense enough to talk
and stabbings and stranglings
and fat men making love
and clowns basting each
other with clubs and cheap puns
and off color allusions to all
the smut of the day oh i know
what the low brows want
and i give it to them"

* * * *
Finally, an excerpt from Julius Ceasar according to Milt Gross. His schtick, when he wasn't drawing sunday funnies, 'was to retell familiar stories in the Yiddish-influenced dialect of first- and second-generation urban Jews'. I don't know from where this comes, as I found it here thanks to David Kathman, so I'm illustrating it with the cover of another of Milt's books, Dunt Esk!!, from 1927, which I am very pleasd to own thanks to my pal mr j.

How It Got Bomped Huff Julius Sizzer
Pot Two
-------
Sootsayer: "Bewerr from de Hides from Motch, Sizzer!!"

Sizzer: "Why I should bewerr from de Hides from Motch??"

Sootsayer: "It stends in de Crystal Ball signs you should bewerr from de Hides from Motch!"

Sizzer: "Noo, it stends ulso in de sobway signs I should dreenk Cula-Cola!! Is dees a criterion?? Hm -- geeve a look a whole mob -- Hey wot you teenk diss is, boyiss? De Kenel Stritt sobway station? Should I know why it lays a cheeken haggs?? Boyiss -- put away de deggers -- Deedn't I told you guys -- neex on de mommbly-pag beezness -- Whoooooy -- Hay -- I tink wot dey trying to essessinate me!!"

Kraut: "Hm -- You ketch right hon, dunt you?" Wot dey gafe heem witt de deggers so -- wot it looked gradually de gomment like it came beck jost from a wat-wash lundry.

So dees was de cocklusion from Julius Sizzer.

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Monday, 12 February 2007

FROM HELL: 5/23

This page of FROM HELL script is the one following the page I showed yesterday as I want to give you the sequence leading up to the first murder. In itself there is nothing significant or special about this page, but note Alan's observation about the appearance of the women's outdoor dress in panel 1, as I referred to this problem back on jan 29 while remarking on the treatment of costume in the movie. I've drafted an essay about the general difficulties of reconstructing a period authenticity, which will show up here sometime soon. There were a number of pages in From Hell which were simply detailing actual evidence and we used them to mark blocks of time. Again the wide silent panel at he bottom is part of that, a sequence of pages ending in large silent panels chiming the next hour in turn, as described yesterday. Alan used the same effect leading up to the Mary Kelly murder at the end of chapter 9, with the measured pacing creating an oppressive feeling of foreboding, with everything locked into an unalterable pattern.

CHAPTER 5 PAGE 23 (886 words)
PANEL. 1
NOW A SEVEN PANEL PAGE IN WHICH WE SHOW WHAT’S GOING ON WITH POLLY. THERE ARE THREE PANELS ON EACH OF THE TOP TWO TIERS AND THEN ONE BIG PANEL TAKING UP THE BOTTOM TIER, AS ON OUR LAST PAGE. IN THIS FIRST PANEL, WE ARE IN THE WHITECHAPEL ROAD, LOOKING ACROSS IT TOWARDS THE CORNER OF OSBORNE STREET. (WHERE, INCIDENTALLY, ANOTEHR PROSTITUTE NAMED “FAIRY FAY” HAD BEEN FOUND STABBED TO DEATH DURING THE CHRISTMAS WEEK OF 1887.) IN THE FOREGROUND, VISIBLE ROUGHLY HALF FIGURE AND FACING SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM US TOWARDS THE CORNER OF OSBORNE STREET IS A WOMAN THAT WE HAVE NOT SEEN BEFORE, ALTHOUGH SHE WEARS THE TRADITIONAL DARK CLOTHING AND BONNET, AMLOST A UNIFORM FOR THE WOMEN OF WHITECHAPEL IT WOULD SEEM. SHE IS HOLDING UP ONE HAND IN GREETING AS SHE CALLS OUT TO THE FIGURE STANDING ON THE CORNER OF OSBORNE STREET, SMILING AS SHE DOES SO. THIS WOMAN IN THE FOREGROUND IS NAMED EMILY HOLLAND, WHILE THE FIGURE ACROSS THE STREET IS POLLY NICHOLS, WHO HAS BEEN HEADING DOWN THE WHITECHAPEL ROAD. SHE PAUSES OUTSIDE THE GROCER’S SHOP ON THE CORNER OF OSBORNE STREET (JUST OPPOSITE THE WHITECHAPEL CHURCH ACCORDING TO PAUL BEGG IN JACK THE RIPPER: THE UNCENSORED FACTS)) AND LOOKS BACK OVER HER SHOULDER TOWARDS US IN SURPRISE AS SHE HEARS THE WOMAN’S VOICE. NEARBY, THE CLOCK SET INTO THE TOWER OF CHRISTCHURCH SPITALFIELDS RINGS THE CHIMES FOR HALF-PAST-TWO.
EMILY: Polly?
EMILY: Wherever are ye goin’, woman? It’s half past two!

PANEL 2.
CHANGE ANGLE SO THAT NOW POLLY IS IN THE FOREGROUND, FACING SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM US TOWARDS EMILY HOLLAND AS THE OTHER WOMAN COMES ACROSS THE WHITECHPAEL ROAD TOWARDS HER. POLLY, OBVIOUSLY STILL SOMEWHAT THE WORSE FOR DRINK, SMILES CHEERFULLY AT HER IN GREETING AS SHE SPEAKS.
POLLY: Oh, ‘ello, Emily.
POLLY: I’m off to earn me doss money. Won’t take me long. I’ve made it three times today already, and spent it!

PANEL 3.
CHANGE ANGLES SO THAT EMILY HOLLAND IS NOW HALF FIGURE TO HEAD AND SHOULDERS IN THE FOREGROUND. SHE FACES SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM US TOWARDS POLLY AS SHE SPEAKS, PERHAPS INDICATING BEHIND HER WITH HER THUMB IN THE DIRECTION OF RATCLIFFE DOCKS. LOOKING BEYOND HER WE SEE POLLY. POLLY’S EYES WIDEN AS SHE LISTENS TO WHAT EMILY IS SAYING, AND A LOOK OF STARTLED SURPRISE SURFACES THROUGH THE DRUNKEN FOG OF HER FEATURES. EVERYTHING AROUND THE TWO WOMEN IS DARK.
EMILY: Well, good luck.
EMILY: Meself, I just been watching that fire dwon by George’s-In-The-East…
POLLY: What?

PANEL 4.
REVERSE ANGLES AGAIN SO THAT POLLY IS HEAD AND SHOULDERS IN THE FOREGROUND, FACING SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM US TOWARDS EMILY, WHO IS LOOKING TOWARDS US FROM THE NEAR BACKGROUND. WE CAN STILL SEE POLLY’S EXPRESSION, HOWEVER, WHICH IS ONE OF UNEASY BEWILDERMENT AS SHE LISTENS TO WHAT EMILY IS SAYING. PERHAPS SHE EVEN RAISES HER FINGERS TO HER LIPS IN AN UNCONCSIOUS GESTURE, IF THAT DOESN’T LOOK TOO STAGEY. EMILY HOLLAND, FACING TOWARDS US FROM BEYOND, SEEMS OBLIVIOUS TO POLLY’S EVIDENT UNEASE, AND IS STILL SMILING ENCOURAGINGLY. SHE IS STARTING TO TURN AWAY FROM POLLY, AS IF ABOUT TO LEAVE. PERHAPS SHE INDICATES HER ROUTE WITH ONE THUMB AS SHE INVITES POLLY TO ACCOMPANY HER.

PANEL 4.
EMILY: Oh, a big fire broke out down Ratcliffe Highway, at the docks, about one o’clock. It’s still burnin’.
EMILY: Come on..let’s go back to the lodgin’-house together.

PANEL 5.
REVERSE ANGLE AGAIN. EMILY HOLLAND HAS TURNED AWAY FROM POLLY AND IS WALKING TOWARDS US, RESUMING HER STROLL DOWN THE WHITECHAPEL ROAD BACK IN THE DIRECTION OF THRAWL STREET. SHE IS STILL SMILING PLEASANTLY, BUT NOT LOOKING BACK AT POLLY AS SHE SPEAKS. RATHER, SHE IS GLANCING DOWN TOWARDS HER OFF PANEL FEET, AS IF TO MAKE SURE WHERE SHE IS PUTTING THEM AS SHE WALKS. LOOKING BEYOND HER WE SEE POLLY, MORE OR LESS FULL FIGURE AS SHE STANDS ALONE SOME FEW PACES AWAY. SHE GAZES AFTER EMILY AS THE OTHER WOMAN LEAVES, AND SHE WEARS THE SAME LOOK OF UNEASE AND UNCERTAINTY UPON HER FACE AS SHE SPEAKS TO EMILY’S RETREATING FORM.
POLLY: Uh..no. No, me doss money.
POLLY: I have to find it.
EMILY: Suit yerself. Me, I’m off. You take care, now, Polly.

PANEL 6.
NOW WE ARE STANDING JUST BEHIND POLLY AS SHE WATCHES EMILY WALK AWAY INTO THE DARKNESS, SO THAT WE SEE POLLY HALF FIGURE TO HEAD AND SHOULDERS FACING SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM US IN THE FOREGROUND HERE. SHE RAISES ONE HAND IN A FEEBLE LITTLE WAVE TOWARDS EMILY HOLLAND’S DEPARTING FORM IN THE BACKGROUND, BUT HER EXPRESSION IS STILL VAGUELY TROUBLED AND UNEASY. IN THE BACKGROUND WE SEE EMILY, NOW A SMALL FIGURE SOME DISTANCE AWAY AND ABOUT TO MERGE INTO THE DARKNESS. PAUSING ON THE VERY THRESHOLD OF VISIBILITY, SHE TURNS ONCE AND WAVES BACK TOWARDS POLLY AS SHE DEPARTS. SHE IS THE LAST PERSON, OTHER THAN THE MURDERERS, WHO WOULD SEE POLLY ALIVE.
No Dialogue

PANEL 7.
THIS LAST WIDE PANEL IS JUST A TIGHT CLOSE-UP OF A FIRE. WE ARE SO CLOSE IN THAT WE CANNOT EVEN SEE WHAT IS BURNING: ALL WE CAN SEE ARE FLAMES AND SMOKE, AN ALMOST ABSTRACT PICTURE OF CONFLAGRATION. THE FIRE IS HOT AND BRIGHT AND ROARING. WE MIGHT BE IN HELL.
No Dialogue

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Sunday, 11 February 2007

FROM HELL: 5/22

The eleventh in my series of pages of Alan Moore's FROM HELL scripts. I've always been fond of this scene, though there are two or three things going on in it, and since Alan wanted to emphasize the darkneess, it was by no means easy to draw. My fondness is due to Alan's casting of the murderer and his lackey in a pair of comedic roles, and to this end I took the liberty of stretching the dialogue over more panels than was requested in the script, in order to work the timing better. Thus the first and last panels, silent in the script, now have speeech. The final panel, which was supposed to take its place in a rhythmic march toward unavertible doom ( a sequence of five pages with wide silent finishing panels), now has dialogue measured out from the sequence above, which may endanger the overll balance of the pages. I never cleared it with Alan, and he has never mentioned the matter. Maybe when we're cranky old geezers we'll fall out over it.

CHAPTER 5 PAGE 22 (724 words)
PANEL1
NOW A SINGLE SEVEN PANEL PAGE IN WHICH WE RETURN TO GULL AND NETLEY, THE LAUREL AND HARDY OF SERIAL MURDER, AS THEY PROGRESS THROUGH THE EAST END. THE TOP TWO TIERS HAVE THREE PANELS EACH WHILE THE BOTTOM TIER HAS ONE WIDE PANEL. IN THIS FIRST SILENT PANEL WE HAVE A LONG SHOT OF THE DARK BULK OF THE COACH AS IT CREAKS AND RATTLES THROUGH THE MIASMAL BLACKNESS, ONLY JUST DISCERNABLE TO US AS A RECOGNIZABLE HORSE AND CARRIAGE. OTHERWISE, IT IS JUST A VAGUE AND THREATENING MASS TRUNDLING AWAY FROM US THROUGH THE NARROW STREETS. A SINGLE COACH LAMP BURNING DIMLY AND BALEFULLY INSIDE IT
No dialogue.

PANEL 2
NOW WE ARE UP ON THE BOX BESIDE GULL, WITH GULL ONLY PARTLY VISIBLE TO ONE SIDE OF THE FORGROUND.ALL WE CAN REALLY SEE OF HIM ARE HIS LAP AND HIS ARMS AS HE SITS THERE JUST OFF THE PANEL. HE HAS A BAG OF GRAPES IN HIS LAP, AND IN HIS HANDS HE HOLDS THE SMALL BOTTLE OF LAUDANUM, NOW OPENED, AND A SMALL PAINT-BRUSH. HE IS JUST DIPPING THE BRUSH INTO THE LAUDANUM HERE, HIS SPEECH BALLOON ISSUING FROM OFF-PANEL. LOOKING BEYOND GULL’S HANDS, THE GRAPES AND THE LAUDANUM WE CAN SEE A HALF-FIGURE SHOT OF JOHN NETLEY AS HE SITS THERE NEXT TO GULL ON THE BOX, HOLDiNG THE REINS IN ONE HAND AND HIS WHIP IN THE OTHER. HE IS GAZING AHEAD INTO THE DARKNESS AS HE RIDES, RATHER THAN LOOKING TOWARDS US OR GULL, AND HE WEARS A FAIRLY NEUTRAL EXPRESSION.
GULL: (OFF) : Hark, Netley! It is two o’clock, and still our bag is empty.
Gull (off): You DID locate the woman earlier, according to instructions?

PANEL 3.
SAME SHOT. IN THE FOREGROUND, GULL IS NOW APPLYING THE LAUDANUM-SOAKED PAINTBRUSH TO THE GRAPES, PAINTING THEM WITH THE STICKY TINCTURE. LOOKING BEYOND GULL’S HANDS WE CAN SEE NETLEY AS HE TURNS TO FACE US WITH AN ANXIOUS EXPRESSION, WORRIED THAT SIR WILLIAM MAY BE DISPLEASED WITH HIM, AND ANXIOUS TO GIVE A GOOD ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF. BEYOND NETLEY THERE IS ONLY DARKNESS AS THE CAB CONTIUES TO MOVE SLOWLY AND ALMOST SILENTLY THROUGH THE EAST END
NETLEY: Oh, yes, sir. Three of ‘em. Two I’ll know again. The third I singled out by givin’ ‘er a token, like you said.
GULL (OFF): Excellent! How shall we know her?

PANEL 4.
SAME SHOT. IN THE NEAR BACKGROUND, NETLEY TURNS HIS EYES BACK TO THE ROAD SO THAT HE IS ONCE MORE IN PROFILE AND NO LONGER FACING TOWARD US OR SIR WILLIAM. HE ALLOWS HIMSELF A SMUG, SELF SATISFIED SMIRK, PROUD OF HIS GREAT INITIATIVE AND CLEVERNESS. IN THE FOREGROUND, GULL’S HAND PAUSES HALFWAY BETWEEN THE GRAPES AND THE BOTTLE OF LAUDANUM, TOWARD WHICH IT WAS HEADING TO REFILL THE BRUSH.
NETLEY: I gave ‘er a bonnet, sir.
NETLEY: A black bonnet.

PANEL 5.
NOW A LONG SHOT OF THE COACH, SIMILAR TO PANEL ONE. IT IS MOVING AWAY FROM US INTO THE DARKNESS OF WHITECHAPEL. AN INDISTINCT BLACK SHAPE AGAINST THE EQUAL BLACKNESS BEYOND. IT IS NOT YET TOO FAR AWAY FROM US HERE, SO THAT WE CAN STILL JUST MAKE OUT THE HUDDLED FORMS OF GULL AND NETLEY AS THEY SIT ATOP THE COACH. OTHERWISE, THE PANEL IS ALMOST COMPLETELY BLACK. WHITECHAPEL IS BLACK. THE COACH IS BALCK. YOU CAN BARELY SEE YOUR HAND IN FRONT OF YOPIUR FACE.
GULL: A black bonnet. How very helpful.
GULL: Netley, do you know what your foremost distinguishing feature is?
NETLEY: Why, I… I can’t think, sir.

PANEL 6
SAME SHOT, ONLY NOW THE COACH IS FURTHER AWAY, MOVING FURTHER INTO THE IMPENETRABLE DARKNESS OF THE BACKGROUND, THE SHADOWS SMOTHERING THE IMAGE.
GULL: Precisely.
GULL: Head for Whiitechapel Road, and let us hope your eyes are equal to the task your ailing wits have set them.

PANEL 7.
NOW A BIG WIDE PANEL IN WHICH WE SEE A GENERAL VIEW OF THE EAST END AT NIGHT, DIFFERENT FROM THE SHOT WITH WHICH WE CLOSED PAGE TWENTY ONE, BUT EVOCATIVE OF THE SAME THINGS. THERE CAN BE PEOPLE ABOUT, OR NOT, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU FEEL. MAYBE WE’RE LOOKING ALONG THE DARK LENGTHS OF THE COMMERCIAL ROAD, FOR EXAMPLE, WHERE SMALL KNOTS OF MEN GATHER IN FOGGY CONVERSATION AROUND THE GLOW OF THEIR CLAY PIPES.
No dialogue.

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