Tuesday 26 December 2006

Alan Moore's London. part 5

Firstly, if you're reading my blog because I mentioned it at a party last night, you should scroll downstairs and find something that doesn't begin with 'Part 5'.
Continuing: the making of FROM HELL (the book) chapter 4.
The most fun with From hell chapter 4 was to be had not with the majestic churches but with the odd little details that are not remarked upon by Gull as he sweeps through the metropolis. I'm speaking of all the little incidental details along the way. Alan had a great eye for the striking visual notes that would make excellent backdrops to the running dialogue that linked the principal sites. As he toured London himself, he'd snap this or that view, knowing that when the time came I would not be able to thank him enough for making my part of the job so much easier. Like the corner of this building, which is memorable without our being able to say exactly why:

Those leafy out-of-the-way squares that are very typical of the city:

Another enjoyable fact about chapter 4 is the passing of the light of day from early morning to night, giving an added variety to the proceedings. That and the mid afternoon downpour of rain. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with the inky distortions it allowed me:

The final shot wasn't one of Alan's. I got this corner form an old book. Between this and the reflection of the horse above, I was pitching into near abstraction.

Now, has there ever been writer that supplied his artist with so much visual reference? When we'd finished chapter 4, I counted it all up and we had 64 individual photgraphs that had been used, most of them from Alan, subsidized by books of architecture (some supplied By Alan) and period detail.

ps. But this, from a later chapter, is perhaps my favorite street view in the whole book. It's actually a pasted-on photo which I scribbled over, but somehow it's come out looking quite demented.

pps. (strictly Ins-and-outs-of-a-chook's-bum department.) Some have asked about the details of my working relationship with assistants. The bottom line was always that either publishers were likely to go out of business or could fail to pay you for some other reason. For instance, just before starting to work with me in '93 ('94? get me to check if you're going to quote this anywhwere), Pete Mullins' publisher was murdered and Pete never got paid. (See my Comics Journal interview for that and other tales.) And I could get a better page rate and on-time payment from one publisher (eg Dark Horse) and always have to be pestering and getting mad at another (eg. Kitchen Sink Press). The solution was to avoid being totally dependent on one project. If I had a lot of things going on at the same time, then if one went bad it wouldn't be the whole fortress razed to the ground, maybe just a breach in the north wall, or one of the turrets collapsed, but the whole outpost would still be defendable. To keep several projects going simultaneously it was necessary to have an assistant. It would begin with doing backgrounds (and could develop from there to handling more than that), and b/gs is what Steve Stamatiadis did for me in From hell Chapter 4. In the above panels I would have lettered first. If Gull and the carriage took up a lot of space I'd do them in pencil and ink too, then hand it to Steve, otherwise I'd hand it to Steve lettered with a photo lightly taped at the side. The lettering tended to define the composition, which might otherwise be suggested by a few crosses and circles from me. Since there would be different permutations on the same page, the art boards would go back and forth until done. We'd usually have half a dozen circulating the room at the same time. Steve would have pencilled the scene from the photo, got a nod from me and then inked it with a fine rapidograph (.18 probably). I'd then add in the carriage and other traffic, go in strengthening lines, sometimes removing some ( it was easier to white them out later, if I didn't want them, than to look over Steve's shoulder through a whole drawing) and adding all the atmospheric stuff. Large areas of black would be marked with a red cross. Anne was invoved in the process too. She would do the filling in of blacks, the clean up and then wrapping for mailing with the invoicing and necessary fedex export paperwork etc. Anne would also rule up the pages in ink before starting, using my numerical markings on the script which I'd put on there as I read it for the first time ( ie '9 grid' or ' 1-3-3' etc.), and the templates one of my assistants had cut years earlier. The trick was to make sure everybody had a page in front of them all the time. Since I was paying hourly rates and getting fixed page rates from the various publishers, which varied, It was essential to produce a minimum number of pages per week, which isn't a consideration when i'm just working by myself. When I found that I was burning through the material at a hectic rate it then became useful to buy in story ideas from other people too.
I've survived a lot of changes in the game, so maybe I had the right idea. But for now I'm working with a publisher from the 'book trade', getting a decent advance and painting art pages solo. You do what you need to do, and try to keep an eye on the road ahead. It could all change again tomorrow.



Blogger Robert Morales said...

Ah, Eddie, now THIS is a cheery stroll down memory lane - and long overdue, too. You've all the erudition of Gull with thrice the charm and none of the creepiness!

Anyhow, sent you and the clan an Xmas email that bounced back, so send me your new virtual address when you get around to it. Happy Holidays!


26 December 2006 at 09:16:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Kimota94 aka Matt aka AgileMan said...

Eddie, this is the sort of sentiment that is most likely a waste of time to type because you probably already know, but... These insights into how you work as a creator, and the artistic process you've developed, are amazingly insightful for those of us not at all involved in comics from the business side. I've held a deep love of the genre for nearly 40 years now, but getting to read about what actually goes into producing a graphic novel as exquisitely researched and detailed as From Hell is a pure treat!

Thanks for entering the blogosphere and sharing so much background with us! And please keep at it, sir!!

26 December 2006 at 10:50:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

thanks for saying so, matt

and Bob
I lost my whole address book in a computer collapse earlier this year followed by a switch to broad band and a new email address, effectively putting me beyond communication with everybody. Tried to leave a message on your own new blog but you haven't posted anything there yet.

Send a message via Chris Staros or something and then I'll have your email address... yes?

27 December 2006 at 05:55:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Robert Morales said...

Eddie, rest assured you'll never see me blog; it's not my forte, and I only signed up to post here. I'll send you a post via your Mr Staros. Happy New Year!

27 December 2006 at 21:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger desembrey said...

Somehow I've never gotten to reading your Comics Journal interview - no idea why that is. I suppose I gave up on the Journal sometime before I gave up on comic shops, so that now the only places I buy comic related items are Borders, Folio, Pulp Fiction, and the like. But this quote made me wonder ...

People argue about His Name Is... Savage or [Jim] Steranko's Chandler or McGregor's Sabre as the first graphic novel. I think it's kind of irrelevant because they belong so completely to the mentality of comic-book culture that it's a pointless argument.

I'm intrigued by this debate of what does qualify as a 'graphic novel'. It's a bit of an unfortunate term, but being Eisner's legacy I doubt we'll ever be rid of it.

Burne Hogarth did two volumes of Tarzan that are terribly overlooked and that predate all but Gil Kane's book. Hauling it out of the cupboard for the first time in a decade and looking at it with fresh eyes it obviously owes more than a nod to the legacy of Hal Foster. Which has me thinking, do serialised stories qualify as graphic novels when collected? Particularly where the parts combine to form a cohesive whole?

To me the answer must be a resounding yes. For the same reason that HG Wells' best known works were originally serialised stories but nobody would discount War of the Worlds or The Time Machine from being a novel. Nor would we discount Dickens' works despite their initial serialised nature. So why would Prince Valiant be normally excluded from consideration I wonder? Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon? Chester Gould's best period on Dick Tracy (and I do recall once reading collected volumes of complete stories of Tracy published in the 50's).

What's your thoughts on these earlier serialised works and their status under this all encompassing term "Graphic Novel"?

28 December 2006 at 02:16:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

one who argues about what is and isn't a 'graphic novel' is a fool, grasshopper.
Any theorising that i have done has all been toward the purpose of stopping people arguing about foolish things


28 December 2006 at 23:17:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Eddie,

It took me a while but I finally checked out your blog.
Very insightful! I will endeavour to visit again from time to time. However, I must confess that my enthusiasm and dedication to this will not mirror your own.

Take care and love to all the family. Sarah

29 December 2006 at 19:01:00 GMT-5  

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