Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The sorry spectacle of Art screwing itself.

Mark Evanier wrote on his blog yesterday: "I've written a kind of rebuttal to Eddie but it's long and since so many who come to this blog will have zero interest in it, I've posted it over on this page."
Then followed the biggest influx of readers to campbell.blogspot since I installed a statcounter over a month back, so either Evanier has a hell of a lot of readers, or he underestimated their interest in the subject of Vinnie Colletta.

Let's not make a running argument out of the matter, but I do want to address a wider subject and raise pertinent questions (and please consider them rhetorical questions unless you have some profound piece of wisdom that you need to share with me). In my piece I sought to get the thing away from Colletta being 'on trial' and offer a description of my early aesthetic experiences with his work. The problem is: can an aesthetic experience be separated from moral indignation? The conventional philosophical conundrum could be trotted out here: If we look upon a certain work of art by Benvenuto Cellini and find it beautiful, should we then feel guilty when we learn that he mistreated the model, and force ourselves to condemn the work in question? All of Cellini's work? Or is it irrelevant?
Or to put it another way, if it is decided that Colletta behaved badly in his treatment of the work of various artists whom comic-book posterity has come to regard with affection, does this 'judgement' affect even those works where he appears to have behaved well?
While allowing me the right to enjoy whatever I please, Evanier did in a subtle way suggest that Colletta's misdeeds might be backdated (no statute of limitations on this stuff):
"Campbell also displays some samples of alleged Colletta romance art from 1954 to defend the guy. I say "alleged" because a lot of what Colletta signed during this period was ghost-pencilled by others — so much so that I'm not sure which examples, if any, actually reflect Vinnie the Artist, as opposed to Vinnie the Guy Who Had Plenty Of Assistants. But even if Campbell's selections are pure Colletta, what does that prove?"
(Campbell wasn't attempting to 'prove' anything. If you weren't picturing yourself judging in some nutty court of law, such a thought would never have occurred to you. Campbell was describing an aesthetic pleasure.)

The other question is why must we always have to navigate through a comic bookish manichean view of the moral universe? If I do not condemn Colletta then I must be exhonerating him and justifying all his acts.

"A turd is a turd," some rude fellow has just added in comments to my original post. Echoing those very words, one Patrick Dean says on the Comics Journal board about another artist:"Bob Kane was a piece of shit ... I mean, the motherfucker couldn't even paint his own clowns after "retiring" from comics. Fuck that guy."


I consider myself an amateur historian of the arts:
"The historian, whose art is a descriptive one, does not move in this world of moral ideas. His materials and his processes, and all his apparatus exist to enable him to show how a given event came to take place. Who is he to jump out of his true office and merely announce to us that it ought never to have happened at all?" (Herbert Butterfield)

Obviously there are fields in which moral indignation serves a purpose, in political philosohy for instance, where there is a hope to affect the world with a view to improvement, as in the writing of Marx: "Moral indignation against the infamies of capitalism is obvious in all chapters of Capital: it is an essential dimension of what gives such an impressive power to the book."

But what on earth can possibly be achieved by calling Colletta 'a turd' and Kane 'a piece of shit'. What lowbrow arena of artistic notions are we parading in? Who can possibly still have a vested interest? Kirby, Kane, Colletta have all done their life's work and passed on. We have no business taking sides in their affairs. The habit of casting heroes and villains in the story of ART is a habit of low minds, of schoolyard punks (in the original sense of the word) and thickheads.

I guess I don't mean you, Mark. You were in a position to change the course of events, and you brought it about. But to still be harping on about erased figures? It's broken. It can't be fixed. A lot worse crap than that has happened in the last thirty years since then. Everybody we thought was somebody eventually dropped their bundle in some way or other. Adams turned into a fathead (Now you've all got me doing it... but i'm just quoting somebody else), Steranko rested on his laurels... Buscema made himself some rubber stamps... Kirby was never as good again after those Fourth World books... a whole bunch of other guys got complacent... ad infinitum. I still love their best work.

It's the sorry spectacle of art continually screwing itself.

It's so funny it should be a comic book.


in other news.
two interviews with Campbell about the upcoming Black Diamond Detective Agency:
one at Newsarama.

The other is by Jody MacGregor, a local young writer. I do a bit of talking about my work in progress, The Amazing Remarkable Mr. Leotard, and we were in a pub with my pals White and mr j. Jody described the session on his blog a couple of weeks earlier, where in order to fox my supposed habit of googling my name, he referred to me as Eddie Motherfucking Campbell.

Forgive all the cusswords on this post.



Blogger Robert said...

Unfortunately for people in 'mainstream' comics:

Art is bigger than comics.

9 May 2007 at 01:54:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

I think I've made mention of this before, in another post on your blog. I believe it was something to the effect of, "All aesthetic decisions are moral ones" for what artists forsake (for art) is serving the greater good, in their minds. We may not like the work itself, but in the end what is the artist, if not a cast of shell, of work which will endure (we would like to think) for long after we are in the ground?

9 May 2007 at 01:57:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

"Art is bigger than comics."

I used to think so.
fact is, they're all pitiful

9 May 2007 at 02:00:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

Campbellian? I like that.

9 May 2007 at 02:11:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Robert said...

"fact is, they're all pitiful"

Nah, just the business end.

(Btw, Pam Noles emailed to ask where I found that "Double V" logo for Isaiah Bradley, and in thinking about it, it reminded me you did a lovely Cap sketch for Marvel which I'll dig up and email you.)

9 May 2007 at 02:12:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Jody Macgregor said...

Damn, I should've known that wouldn't work. I bet you've got a Google Alert set up for "Eddie Motherfucking Campbell" now.

9 May 2007 at 04:37:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

the wife uses 'campbellian' to describe most of the daft notions around these parts.

i didn't realize that was YOU. start signing your name, man. isn't the cap sketch the one I showed here a week or so back...? don't recall there being another... but hey , Where DID you get the double V logo???

the google alerts are limited here actually, now that the wife is hip to it. Nothing wears down female interest wiorse than egotism.

9 May 2007 at 05:06:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous duds said...

As I was inking my page for the new DEEVEE, plug intended.

Jack ( my 4 year old) set up next to me on his black board to draw spider man pictures, looked over to see me inking and said: "Are you tracing Daddy?"

Us inkers cannot even get respect from our own kids, so let Vinnie get some credit for getting pages in on time( which is unfortunately no longer a virtue in mainstream comics), and making Campbell happy, neither of which is a small feat.

9 May 2007 at 05:31:00 GMT-5  
Blogger drjon said...

"Only a fool judges the Art by the Artist" - some dude

9 May 2007 at 06:26:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous John C said...

Well said, "some dude".

This may be a new argument in what passes for criticism on comics forums but in the wider worlds of art and literature you'd be considered a base fool indeed to try and say that bad person automatically equates with bad artist.

So Vince Colletta may have erased some background work. Diddums. Caravaggio killed a man so are we now supposed to burn his paintings? There's numerous other examples like this, not least among Modernist writers where anti-semitism was rife. (TS Eliot's "The rat is underneath the piles / The Jew is underneath the lot".) Writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline was so psychotically anti-semitic he eventually accused Hitler of being a Jew; this doesn't stop Jewish critic George Steiner referring to him as a genius.

If we were only to praise and value art produced by good people (and who decides who is "good"?) while junking the rest, the book shops and galleries of the world would be pretty empty places, wouldn't they?

9 May 2007 at 08:04:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny Walker said...

QUOTE: "I think I've made mention of this before, in another post on your blog. I believe it was something to the effect of, "All aesthetic decisions are moral ones" for what artists forsake (for art) is serving the greater good, in their minds."

I'm not quite sure what your point is, CM? I'm sure Hitler felt he was serving the greater good, for example. You may as well replace "aesthetic decisions" with just "decisions". People make all their decisions according to their own moral compass, and so everything we do is based on "moral" grounding.

It's sad (in a way) that a personality can get in the way of people appreciating an artist's work, but we're human and I think it's understandable that we may be put off a piece of art when know something horrible about the "reality" of its creation. I'm very susceptible to this. I don't think I could happily dance to a piece of music by Gary Glitter, for example.

The quote from Cellini is absolutely horrible, and shows a person being brutally honest without fear of recourse, and clearly no conscience telling them they've done wrong. What's revealed is stomach churning portrait of a selfish human, and probably a great example of "real" evil (in contrast to the cartoony Bond villains that we see in the media) - which is kind of interesting in itself.

9 May 2007 at 08:43:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

Ah, but remember Johnny, I was very careful to put, "in their minds" as an addendum to that statement. As far as your Hitler statement, I'm afraid I'm going to have to relegate my thinking to the realm of art, only. Although he did have a stab at being an artist, Hitler's decisions were made more out of a crazed lust for power and paranoid insecurity.

9 May 2007 at 09:01:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny Walker said...

Sorry, CM. I did notice your disclaimer and I didn't think you were putting forward your own thoughts, I was just trying to point out that the same could be said for all of our decisions.

9 May 2007 at 09:26:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

Don't worry about it. You're right. They could.

9 May 2007 at 10:38:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Robert Morales said...


Evidently I had another blogger acc't I'd registered a zillion years ago and forgot it was stored on another computer ... sigh.

The "Double V" symbol I Googled some years back when Kyle and I were doing Truth for Marvel - I sharpened it a bit in Photoshop, increasing the contrast. Its history is as follows:

When I can, I'll be happy to share my memories of our very weird Captain America collaboration. Stay well!

9 May 2007 at 17:34:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Robert Morales said...

Um, that second link should end


9 May 2007 at 17:39:00 GMT-5  
Blogger HemlockMan said...

I haven't laughed this hard in weeks. You make cursing quite amusing.

9 May 2007 at 19:03:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Patrick said...

I don't care whether Vince Coletta was a "good" or "bad" person. And up to a few years ago, I didn't know he erased backgrounds. I just know I've hated his work because it looks awful.

Oh, yeah, he does beautiful doe's eyes on girls. Unfortunately, he seems unable to have both eyes on the same level. The faces he inks invariably end up lopsided, the eyes are wide open on one side and half closed on the other. The nice fluffy shadows are applied everywhere, giving the same texture to flesh and rock. And the line work is feeble, sometimes shaky, always haphazard. He couldn't even take the time to put a dab or Tipex on the hole he had punched thru the page while inking planets and sun, so that Kirby's spacescapes were filled with these circles with a black dot at their center.

All the artists he inked ended up with these woozy bleery-eyed characters, sloppy linework and empty backgrounds. He could have been a saint in everyday life, I'd still find his work very bad.

10 May 2007 at 14:46:00 GMT-5  
Blogger drjon said...

Eddie, this is marginally related. Thought you might like the link: Trial of the Bat-Witch!

15 May 2007 at 03:54:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vince Colletta was probably the best inker I ever saw when he took the time to do a proper job. Nothing comes close to his Thor drawings.

9 May 2009 at 15:58:00 GMT-5  

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