Saturday, 18 July 2009

anais NIn in 1946, in an American suburb, longing for France; "Everybody was at home with bottles from which they hoped to extract a gaiety bottled elsewhere."
The line from her published diary (or letters?) stuck in my mind while I was working in a factory in 1979, working out what I was supposed to be doing with my life. That year I got arrested on a French beach while 'in my cups'* and was locked up for the afternoon. And with the wisdom of thirty years between then and now, I would arrest me too. Drawing the incident in The King Canute Crowd six years after, I recalled the line and dropped it into the text.

*And now I'm wondering where that one comes from. A quick google.:
IN HIS CUPS - "Drunk. Long ago the phrase meant both drunk and participating in a drunken bout. It appears in one of the Apocyrphal books of the Bible (I Esdras 3:22): 'And when they are in their cups, they forget their loue(love) both to friends and brethren.' The Romans had similar expressions, such as Cicero's 'in thy cups, in the midst of thy revels' (in ipsis tuis immanibus poculis), suggesting the great age of the association of 'cup' (poculum) and 'carousal.'" "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).
I'm not sure why some drunks have the power to amuse me, and I won't take the liberty of saying 'us', since I have met many who are impervious to their humorosity, indeed to the whole sphere of the absurd in general. And God knows there are some violent ones out there, or idiots who get behind a driving wheel, and I condemn them with all the vitriol I can round up. But leaving those out of it, I think what appeals to me indeed, is that the drunk, where he is harmless, reflects back at us the absurdity of our notions of order. Take this young loony, who thought it would be a great jape to get into a suitcase locker at the rail station at Ludwigshafen and close the door.

Author portrait from the second set of Bent Books bookmarks, 2005 (drew this one in pencil for variety)



Friday, 17 July 2009

in today's Guardian:
Stephen Frears drawn to Tamara Drewe film
Gemma Arterton reportedly cast as title character in movie adaptation of Posy Simmonds's comic strip about a beautiful columnist who ruffles feathers in a rural writers' retreat
The director of The Queen and The Grifters is reported to have cast former Bond girl and St Trinian's graduate Gemma Arterton as the title character, a newspaper columnist whose recent nose job transforms her into a seductive flirt, to the chagrin of the quiet village's womenfolk. Tamsin Greig and Roger Allam are also said to be attached to the project.

In Today's NY Times online:
This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.
As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table....
You want to know the best part? The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell.

first link thanks to Ben Smith, second to Bob Morales
i like to think that the growing tendency of the universe to lose its capacity to amuse me is due to the increased sophistication of my sense of the humorous. The wife of my bosom inevitably puts it down to me becoming a cranky old bastard. Even the banana skin no longer has within it the potential to crack a smile on my resolute visage.

That's the opening two panels of a four pager in The Years have Pants. It originally appeared in a small format anthology from Dark Horse titled Autobiographix. In a way, this little four pager amounted to an explanation for why I never finished my project titled The History of Humour, which is also included in the big book, or at least a substantial selection from it will be. And I like to think that the reader laughed then and will laugh again before they've finished the piece.

But there's a guy here, Marshall Blonsky, the author of "American Mythologies," at The Christian Science Monitor, who has taken upon himself the task of investigating the failed humour of a spate of recent tv ads, and he didn't make me laugh once:
TV's insipid commercials, decoded
A semiotics professor explores the strange new world of subcomedy, from Progressive Auto Insurance to Omnaris nasal spray.
"This supposed comedy has taken the shape of a celebration of the "blah," a passing off of the insipid in place of actual comedy. I watched scores of commercials. All of them were designed to make me laugh. None did.
I'm a professional semiotician, a reader of signs. Three commercials in particular deserve to be decoded."
Maybe he studied under the wrong gagmeisters.
"Baudrillard attributed the advent of this banality to the work of pop artist Andy Warhol, who was able to situate himself at the forefront of our postmodern condition. Warhol was shilling for a new world without passion, profundity, personality – but with just a touch of the aesthetic to lull people into feeling (until the great recession) that their suburbs, kids, cars were "so-o-o beautiful." Were he alive now, I think he would acknowledge our world, ads and subcomedy included, as his stillborn offspring. For that is banality: everything expressing nothing about desire, death, destiny."
This is the man he should have studied under, the great Professor Cuthbert Bean
There were five of these in the series. I'll show the others here when I take the notion. The words are actually a quotation, but I rather sinfully didn't say so, and I can no longer remember from where I stole them.

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

from Radiant City to Mega City One, the Architects’ Journal selects the greatest illustrated urban spaces. Top 10 comic book cities: #3 is From Hell’s London. We're in there behind Mega City One and Chris Ware's Chicago.
"The East End of Jack the Ripper’s London was a filthy, blackened, riotous place and Eddie Campbell’s artwork in From Hell captures the mood perfectly. It is among the most startling black and white comic book artwork you’ll find in print.
From Hell is quite a bit more than a pulpy slasher comic. Alan Moore’s script uses the Ripper murders as a device to unpick wider narratives centred on the social structures and secret histories of a vast imperial city on the cusp of modernity.
Strongly influenced by the psycho geographic musings of Ian Sinclair, much of From Hell dwells upon the mental impact cities exert upon their inhabitants. In particular, one chapter takes the reader on a tour of Hawskmoor’s London, each of the architect’s buildings rendered in a scratchy black and white manner that terrifies and delights in equal measure - much like the buildings themselves."
I've always been pleased with this panel from Chapter 1, which is not an important site in the story, but has a successful spontaneity as a drawing. The smoke has an overwhelming presence, like it's trying to drag the whole thing away."


in America, the race goes to the loud, the solemn, the hustler. If you think you're a great writer, you must say that you are."- Gore Vidal

(He's doing that 'author' thing with the hand on the chin. )

from the third set of Bent Books bookmarks, 2006

Lawsuit may threaten Hobbit films
Peter Jackson's latest project The Hobbit may be under threat due to a royalties disagreement.
New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson may have more in common with JRR Tolkien's heirs than he thought - they are also complaining about big studio accounting methods.
Tolkien's family and a British charity they head, the Tolkien Trust, are seeking more than $US220 million ($A276.94 million) in compensation for the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy Jackson made in New Zealand.
The Tolkien heirs sold movie rights to the LOTR books 40 years ago for 7.5 per cent of future receipts, but say that three films and $US6 billion ($A7.55 billion) later, they have not seen a cent of the proceeds.

How did NASA end up looking like a bumbling husband taping over his wedding video with the Super Bowl?

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German who tried to fix his leaky air mattress blew up his apartment instead, the fire brigade in the western city of Duesseldorf said Wednesday

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

i quoted part of a passage by English writer Sacheverell Sitwell, in a panel in After the Snooter, and referenced an old photo for the drawing. Of course it's a statement to be cautious about, the kind that can be used to keep an underprivileged people in a state of underprivilegedness. But if we imagine all things equal, it interested me for what it said about the modern world in general:

That is, we are non-active observers of our culture. So it pleased me to to see today's desk diary quotation says the same thing but from the other side of the fence, so to speak. It's from a song by Ooodgeroo Noonuccal (1920-1993), poet , political activist and campaigner for Aboriginal rights:
No more corroboree,
Gay dance and din.
Now we got movies,
And pay to go in.
Finding the whole work online I see the wistfulness gives way to a taking-no-prisoners anger, though the melody jollies along (whether the words are best served by this 1960s folk club style singalong tune is another matter):
Lay down the stone axe take up the steel,
Work like a nigger for a white man's meal,
No more firestick that made whites scoff,
Now all electric and no better off.
and it ends where it all ends:
Lay down the woomera, lay down the waddy,
Now we got atom bomb. End everybody.


Tuesday, 14 July 2009

the Italian edition of The Black Diamond Detective Agency, published by Magic Press, who also did From Hell, just arrived in the mail. I open it to see how my favourite pages are looking, and i start to notice all my mistakes and oversights, the things inevitably missed when one is concentrating on the total effect. But at the same time I'd forgotten how hard I worked on this thing. This is another book, like From Hell, for which I used a large amount of photo-reference. the trick with that is to do it without being obvious. An image should not draw attention to itself as having been based on a photo because that tends to give the lie to all the stuff around it. Rather than being the text of the work, the detail becomes a reference to something existing outside the text, and the whole thing starts to unravel. And there just isn't time, if you're making a living out of it, to check every detail against a model. I lavished so much care on the big bottom that I didn't notice that the arm was implausible (I had no photo to get me anywhere close to what was needed for this one). I've fixed it digitally for showing here (click for an even bigger bottom):

(ignoring the digital tampering, the above is what the original art looks like, with the brown stretching tape still visible)

Crime writer Peter Doyle, author of City of Shadows, a stunning book of and about old police crime scene photos in Sydney Australia (circa 1920s) recognized some of his dead crims doing service as extras in The Black Diamond, even though I skewed them considerably, like this poor chap here, getting his just desserts no doubt.

Black Diamond Still available in English from First Second Books. Here's a recent review.

postscript. The wife of my bosom seriously wants it to be known that she did NOT pose for the big bottom.


Monday, 13 July 2009

How to get into the movie business

don Murphy, movie producer, told me about this a year and a half ago and I've been waiting for something to come of it. There used to be a character who posted regularly in my comments here, who uses the monicker 'Hemlockman'. You could describe him as brash. In one of his posts here took a pop at the From Hell movie. I can't remember his words exactly , but they were probably something witty along the lines of "it was a pile of shit." Right away he set off one of Don Murphy's Google alerts, and the movie producer turned up forthwith in my comments section. What ensued is by now a well rehearsed press release:
REUTERS: Web wrangle leads to movie deal for novelist Sun Jul 12, 2009
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Producers Don Murphy and John Wells have teamed up to option "The Flock," a novel by James Robert Smith. The book tells the story of a group of highly intelligent giant prehistoric birds discovered in the Florida Everglades who are intent on protecting their ancient home when faced with encroachment by theme park developers.
Murphy ("Transformers") discovered Smith and his book by chance. Murphy was on the blog of Eddie Campbell, the artist of "From Hell," an Alan Moore graphic novel whose big-screen translation was produced by Murphy.
Smith was posting comments critical of the film, putting Murphy on the defensive. Eager to find out more about the poster, Murphy discovered Smith had written a book. He quickly ordered it, expecting to hate it and ready to trash it. To his surprise, he fell for it...
So there you go. That's one way to sell your book to Hollywood. Hemlockman doesn't comment here any more, not since he repeated some mean hearsay about Will Eisner. I asked him to delete it and he didn't, so I deleted it myself. Shortly after, I noticed he was trying to get rid of all his Eddie Campbell books under the header "I'm stuck with them." He closed with a cover of Bacchus #1 and the words "Oh well, wine makes me puke anyway." May your movie do well, James.

Speaking of the comments and blog readers, I always preferred Blogger to Livejournal and the rest because I don't have time for this 'friends' business. If you bump into me in a bar, we'll buy each other a drink and solve all the world's problems and we can declare ourselves to be 'friends.' I have a similar dislike of the word 'fans.' A con organizer referred to my 'fans' and I said, "Eddie Campbell doesn't have 'fans,' he has 'readers.' " Well recently they introduced to blogger this business about 'followers'. I haven't looked into it and I don't wish to, and I resent now having to concern myself with how many 'followers' a guy in my position ought to have and whether I'm running behind in that department. However, when I logged in this morning I noticed that while I had 64 followers yesterday, today I'm down to 63. One of them has decided to cancel his or her followship and now I'm forced to spend time fretting about whether it was something i said.

If I were a much bigger man, I'd have 'disciples.' Oscar Wilde I think it was who wrote: "Every great man has his disciples. But why is it always Judas who writes the biography?"

latest update. Don Murphy takes revenge on vocal critic by buying his book (LA Times)
update: Everybody's getting in the act. Rich Johnson calls Scorsese an arse to see if that gets him anywhere

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Sunday, 12 July 2009

artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact. - William S. Burroughs

Another of the first set of the Bent Books bookmarks, 2004.


Drunk badger disrupts traffic
BERLIN (Reuters) – A badger in Germany got so drunk on over-ripe cherries it staggered into the middle of a road and refused to budge, police said on Wednesday. A motorist called police near the central town of Goslar to report a dead badger on a road -- only for officers to turn up and discover the animal alive and well, but drunk.