Saturday, 24 March 2007

FROM HELL- 5/29

This is a page of FROM HELLwhere I can see my creative stamina flagging somewhat. That's bound to happen more than once in a 500 page outing. The top row is fine, marking the contrast of the big hands around the small face and the small hand in front of the huge head that Alan Moore asks for in the script (below). I just wish I'd invested more feeling in the lower two thirds, where I seem to have thought a lot of cross hatching might save the day. Just checking the new Top shelf edition (Nov 2006) I notice that in revision I blacked in all of the hatching in the bottom panel in an attempt to rationalize just how much light was getting into the coach from outside, and I've changed the shape of Gull's face too. I shouldn't have tampered with it. I can't remember if this was done way back in '99 for the first collected edition; this scan must be of an older photocopy from my files. Looking at it now I want to rip that panel out and do it again. Or throw the book away and get into some other line of work.
On the other hand, if this was the worst thing that happened to FROM HELL then we'd be laughing, so don't get on my case about it.
In the chapter after this one, six, I got Pete Mullins in to help from the start. He always finished better the I did, more cleanly and decisively, whereas I would start confidently, laying things in boldly before having a head crisis and covering them up with white paint and second thoughts. Having Pete in the room forced me to keep my eye on the ball, psychologically speaking (couldn't let the young guy see me screwing up.) Furthermore, I'm trying to recall what was going on externally, whether this was a time when payments had slowed down. That problem was resolved when I negotiated a situation where Tundra picked up the reprint. That would have been bad for Steve Bissette, who had first dibs on the chapters for his anthology Taboo, but the publishing complications were driving me nuts. Anyway, I would like to think that's why the art was getting a bit ropey around this time (temporarily), but I do remember that chapter six was the last one to appear in Taboo. (1992? 93?)

FROM HELL. CHAPTER 5. PAGE 29. (920 words)
PANEL 1.
NOW A SEVEN PANEL PAGE THAT IS MOSTLY SILENT. THERE ARE THREE PANELS ON EACH OF THE UPPER TWO TIERS AND THEN ONE BIG WIDE ONE ON THE BOTTOM TIER. IN THIS FIRST PANEL IS VERY SIMILAR TO PANEL SIX ON PAGE TWENTY EIGHT, SHOWING MERRICK AS HE REACHES TOWARDS THE ROSEBUSH. HERE, HOWEVER, WE HAVE MOVED IN CLOSER FOR A SHOT THAT'S ALMOST HEAD AND SHOULDERS. ALSO, MERRICK HAS ACTUALLY REACHED THE ROSE BUSH AND IS CUPPING ONE OF THE BLOSSOMS IN HIS GLOVED HAND, STARTING TO BEND IT TOWARDS HIS FACE SO THAT HE CAN SNIFF IT. THIS SHOULD BE A VERY DREAMLIKE IMAGE, POSSESSED OF A KIND OF MONSTROUS BEAUTY.
No dialogue.

PANEL 2.
NOW WE RETURN TO A VERY TOIGHT CLOSE-UP OF POLLY'S FACE AS IT FILLS THE ENTIRE PANEL. HER EYES HAVE OPENED WIDE IN SUDDEN SURPRISE, FILLED WITH A LOOK OF PUZZLED DISMAY, THE PUPILS CONTRACTED TO PIN-PRICKS. POLLY'S MOUTH IS A TINY "O" OF SURPRISE AS SHE STARES OUT OF THE PANEL AT US. WE CAN'T SEE GULL'S FINGERS AS THEY DIG IN LIKE IRON BARS UPON POLLY'S ARTERIES, BUT WE CAN SEE HIS THUMBS, WHICH ARE HERE PRESSING IN HARD UPON POLLY'S CHEEKS, SQUASHING THE FLESH UP IN SMALL FOLDS WITH THE PRESSURE. HER SMALL FACE IS HELD BRUTALLY IMMOBILE BETWEEN THE THUMBS WHILE THE FINGERS, FURTHER DOWN AND OFF PANEL HERE, CLOSE OFF THE BLOOD SUPPLY TO THE BRAIN. AS THE FACT OF DEATH OPENS IN HER MIND LIKE A WHITE FLOWER, POLLY CAN ONLY SUMMON AN EXPRESSION OF DISAPPOINTED INCOMPREHENSION WITH WHICH TO GREET ETERNITY.
No dialogue

PANEL 3.
NOW BACK TO OUR SHOT OF MERRICK AS SEEN THROUGH POLLY'S EYES. HERE, WE HAVE MOVED IN EVEN CLOSER SO THAT HIS MASSIVE HEAD FILLS THE ENTIRE PANEL, THE ONE RAGGED EYE HOLE CLEARLY VISIBLE. WITHOUT BREAKING THE STEM THAT HE HAS CAREFULLY BENT DOWN TOWARDS HIS FACE, MERRICK GENTLY CRUSHES THE ROSE AGAINST THE FOLDS OF HIS MASK, TRYING TO SMELL IT THROUGH THE CLOTH. THUS WE HAVE POLLY NICHOLLS' LAST SIGHT UPON THIS EARTH; THE FOLDS IN THE CLOTH, THE BLACK HOLE OF THE CYCLOPSEYE LIKE A CIGARETTE BURN, THE ROSE PRESSED UP AGAINST THE MASK.
No dialogue.

PANEL 4
NOW WE HAVE A SILENT SHOT OF THE COACH AS IT STANDS MOTIONLESS IN THE DARK STREET OPPOSITE THE HOSPITAL, WHICH WE NEED NOT SEE HERE. NETLEY SITS ATOP THE BOX, HIS WHIP RESTING ACROSS HIS LAP. HE IS PRETTY MUCH IN SHADOW. THE PALE AND SICKLY LIGHT IS STILL VISIBLE, BURNING THROUGH THE WINDOWS OF THE COACH, BUT IT ONLY TELLS US THAT THE COACH IS OCCUPIED, AND IT GIVES US NO HINT OF WHAT MIGHT BE GOING ON WITHIN THE STATIONARY VEHICLE. ALL ABOUT THE COACH IT IS DARK.
No dialogue

PANEL 5.
NOW WE CLOSE IN UPON NETLEY AS HE SITS ATOP THE BOX, VIEWING HIM IN WHAT'S PROBABLY A HALF FIGURE SHOT HERE. AS GULL'S VOICE FILTERS UP FROM THE COACH OFF PANEL BELOW, NETLEY TURNS HIS HEAD ROUND TOWARDS THE SOURCE OF THE VOICE AS HE REPLIES, HIS EXPRESSION ONE OF NERVOUS READINESS.
GULL: (OFF BELOW, FROM COACH. ): Netley?
NETLEY: Sir?

PANEL 6.
NOW A HEAD AND SHOULDERS CLOSE UP OF GULL AS HE SITS INSIDE THE COACH, FACING US. HIS EXPRESSION IS CALM AND WITHOUT VISIBLE EMOTION. HE IS HOLDING UP A HAND IN THE FOREGROUND, AND IT MAY TAKE US A MOMENT TO REALIZE THAT IT IS NOT HIS. HE IS HOLDING UP POLLY'S HAND, HIS FINGERS CLOSED AROUND THE WRIST AS HE LIFTS IT. THE HAND DANGLES LIMPLY AS GULL HOLDS IT UP BEFORE HIS FACE TO STUDY IT. WITH HIS FREE HAND, GULL IS REACHING INTO THE PICTURE AND IS STARTING TO TWIST THE WEDDING RING FREE FROM POLLY'S FINGER. HE STARES AT THE RING AS DOES THIS, BUT HIS FACE HAS THE CALM OF A JEWELLER AS HE REMOVES THE WEDDING RING. HE DOES NOT LOOK UP FROM HIS REMOVAL OF THE RING AS HE SPEAKS TO NETLEY, UP ON TOP OF THE COACH IN THE DARK. WE CANNOT SEE ANY MORE OF POLLY THAN HER HAND.
GULL: Could you come down here for a moment, please?

PANEL 7
NOW WE HAVE A BIG WIDE PANEL , WITH WHICH WE FINISH THE PAGE,. WE ARE SITTING OPPOSITE GULL AND POLLY , SO THAT THEIR CARRIAGE SEAT STRETCHES ACROSS THE WHOLE OF THE IMMEDIATE BACKGROUND HERE. GULL SITS MORE TOWARDS THE RIGHT OF THE SEAT. HE IS HOLDING UP THE WEDDING RING, WHICH HE HAS NOW COMPLETELY REMOVED, AND IS WATCHING IT WITH AN UNNATURAL DEGREE OF CALM ABSORPTION AS HE TURNS IT THIS WAY AND THAT, GETTING IT TO CATCH THE LIGHT AND GLITTER IN THE SOFT YELLOW RADIANCE FROM THE CARRIAGE LANTERN. POLLY IS SITTING FACING US, LEANING UP AGAINST ONE DOOR OF THE CARRIAGE, HER HAT TILTED AT AN EVEN MORE ABSURD ANGLE BUT STILL FIXED ATOP HER HEAD BY THE BOW BENEATH HER CHIN. HER HANDS AND FEET SEEM TO BE SLUNG LIMPLY ANYWHERE, LIKE THE LIMBS OF A RAG DOLL. SHE IS DEAD. HER EYES STARE BLANKLY AT US AND HER MOUTH HANGS OPEN STUPIDLY. STTING NEXT TO HER, GULL DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE EVEN SLIGHTLY INTERESTED. HE JUST HOLDS UP THE WEDDING RING THAT HE HAS TAKEN AS KEEPSAKE OF THEIR DARK AND METAPHYSICAL MARRIAGE, WATCHING WITH FASCINATION AS IT GLITTERS CRYPTICALLY IN THE LAMP LIGHT.
NO dialogue

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2 Comments:

Blogger HemlockMan said...

I was following FROM HELL when it was in TABOO, then I wasn't seeing it until it was being collected. (Wasn't it first collected in two volumes? That's my rusty memory, anyway.) Then I bought the phonebook thingy and was very happy.

Revisions can make you loopy. At some point you just have to stop it. Don't know what it's like for a graphics-oriented artist, but as a writer I'm forever mucking about with my fiction. Especially now that wordprocessors have made it so unbelievably easy to do so.

When my first novel came out I had the opportunity to do some revisions, and I was going to add some dialogue. But after having lived with those characters for so long, I just said "fuck it". At some point you have to let it go.

I've never found anything to complain about over (the book) FROM HELL.

24 March 2007 5:04:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Al Fingers said...

(Wasn't it first collected in two volumes? That's my rusty memory, anyway.)

Eleven, counting Dance Of The Gull Catchers. They started coming out before TABOO finished, though.

25 March 2007 1:46:00 am GMT-5  

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