Saturday 16 December 2006


Big Thanks to Marcus Gipps for sending me the three little books by Barnaby Richards, whose work I mentioned here on Dec 6th, but only from second hand knowledge since I hadn’t actually handled one of his books at that date. The books are small, about the length and width of the palm of my hand (A6). Their titles are: 20 Enchanting Things, 20 Scary Things, and 20 Artistic Things. These are lovely little objects that take me back to the mini-comics of the early ‘80s. The essential aesthetic of mini-comics is the simplest possible expression of an idea. Here’s the cover (pleasingly matt) and a page from 20 Artistic things. I like the muse idly admiring herself. These are all marvellous little books in the same style, with a series of witty observations around a theme. There’s no address on them except an email:

They connect with a query in comments from Andrew on 14 dec.
“I just picked up Fate of the Artist and it provoked a debate: Are comics necessarily narrative? Something you mentioned about single panel comics still being comics brought this off.”
I would no longer wish to argue about what is and isn’t comics. That would be futile, but I have noticed a growing conservatism in that department over the years. The process has been reductive rather than expansive. In the ealy ‘80s, in the heyday of Raw, we would have been too busy enjoying it all to split hairs over, say, what medium Richards was working in when he made the little books above. The business about ‘who is to be allowed in’ probably starts with McCloud’s Understanding Comics. McCloud was the minicomics king and his every little booklet was as pleasingly odd as the those mentioned above ('Some words Albert Likes" was a favourite of mine). He was also the great inventor, with Five Card Nancy etc. But 'twas he, or so I'll pretend for the purpose of this rant, who invented the idea that it is worthwhile to argue about whether a thing is or isn't a comic. He excluded single panel comics and then fought for the inclusion of digital comics.
Personally I have never equated comics wholly and exclusively with sequential art, but it has become a foundation stone in what is turning out to be an 'academy' of the comics world. Thus you find The National Association of Comics Art Educators: ”Comics, An emerging medium: Sequential art is pictorial storytelling. Its most widely recognized form is comics…” If you listen you can hear an intimidating edifice of rules and terminological complexity being built.
The point of my Dec 6th essay was to say: I like the way ‘graphic novel’ is regarded as just another illustrated book (in the two situations examined), not an autonomous art-form, inviting us to take a mental sidestep around all the obfuscation that is swiftly becoming the order of the day (is The Complete Peanuts: study guide likely to render that strip, the simplest and most perfect of all strips, more lucid?). And I thought, what if I avoid using, as I did in my discussion of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, the official terminology of the comic-book academy, such as ‘panel’, when the much more commonplace and easily understandable ‘picture’ is more readily to hand (and never mind ‘closure’ or ‘aspect to aspect transition’). Just to be stubborn.

I'm sure somebody somewhere is already misinterpreting the above as an anti-intellectual rant, and ending with this ain't gonna persuade them otherwise (It's also from Andrew. he's been a busy bee tonight):

That's Moore and Campbell in the Simpsons comic book (slightly doctored, with a new word balloon). See yesterday's post, and go check out the tree-house of horrors if you haven't read their lampoon of From Hell.
* * * *
The Ripper Files, Part 4
(By hayley campbell, age 7, 1993, see previous posts for background)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

(So, are you allowing me to not really know what comics are before I enjoy them? Lord, I hope so.)

16 December 2006 at 11:33:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny Walker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 December 2006 at 15:02:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny Walker said...

While there's no denying Hayley's artist talents at such a young age, it is a little shocking to see what was going through such a young child's mind! :)

What was I think about at the age of seven?

16 December 2006 at 15:10:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Grace, Johnny, thanks for stopping by.

16 December 2006 at 20:47:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny Walker said...

Thanks, Eddie. I have to say that yours is the first blog I've ever read, and I'm really enjoying it!

I've not even read From Hell (despite being a huge Alan Moore fan), and have certainly never read any of your work either (I'm sorry!), but I'm enjoying your blog so much that I'm beginning to think that I'm missing out on something I'm likely to enjoy.

I think 'The Fate of the Artist' might be my next comics purchase!

16 December 2006 at 20:53:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Thanks, Johnny,
If you like my blog you're sure to like the book

16 December 2006 at 21:09:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Hawthorn said...

A lot of the terminology of comics has bothered me since learning it, as much of it seems borrowed from cinema. Zooming, panning, and "towards camera" are terms which make no sense in terms of illustration, but whichmake their way into comic scripts quite frequently.

Not that it's a bad thing, as long as the idea gets across. I'm torn between wanting comics to have its own language and wanting to avoid killing it with definitions.

16 December 2006 at 23:07:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

even such simple terms as 'close-up' , without which it is difficult to write a conventional comicbook script, keep the art in an endless apprenticeship to the cinema. Deciding to cleanse one's vocabulary of such terms is the first step towards mastery.

16 December 2006 at 23:47:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. I check your blog at least once a day. I feel like I'm learning, which I need and enjoy.

17 December 2006 at 01:33:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

you'll like the next one then

17 December 2006 at 01:45:00 GMT-5  
Blogger desembrey said...

Despite the seeming obsession with imitating cinema, my view would be that a lot of the artsy-fartsy cinema-like concepts that pervade the medium now, often in a second rate immitative manner, are counterproductive to the telling of a good story in an entertaining way. It was innovative when Eisner did it in The Spirit. A cool pop culture thing when Steranko did it in his work. Visually engaging when Miller reintroduced Eisners ideas in his early work. But is it necessary? Tintin has little of this mania of "closeup", "distance shot", "weird angle", etc and yet nobody would question the importance of Tintin to comics.

An odd question you may be able to answer Eddie, being the huge Dick Sprang fan you are. Sprang had brilliant layouts and uses of perspective. None of which would translate well to conventional cinema, nor description in cinema terms I would think. But have you ever seen a script by Bill Finger or whoever was the writer of the stories of the time? Were cinema terms used to describe panels? Were panels even described? Or was this left to the artist to create?

17 December 2006 at 07:47:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I've never seen a script that old, but I imagine they imitated the screenplay model, since the cinematic principle infiltrated every other aspect of the craft. Another thought along these lines in Monday's post, coming up.
Would you be the Grace Hayley Campbell has mentioned a few times?
nice to 'meet' you

17 December 2006 at 14:58:00 GMT-5  

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