Saturday 25 August 2007

I'm such a fool.

If you read my beef a couple of days back about the Article on Douglas Wolk's book ("Did Ingmar Bergman have to justify Star Wars every time he sat down for an interview?"), and picked up Tom Spurgeon's commentary on it, (not to mention those of Ben Schwartz, and James Vance) you will respond to the following with an accumulation of unkind mirth or of righteous dismay. This is not a qualitative beef. Bergman is great, Star Wars is fun. Neither needs to know about or explain the other. My beef: everywhere I go, why must I always have to represent the whole customary f*****g stereotype of comic books? It is tied to my ankles like clattering tin cans.

I thought that by appearing at a couple of 'writers' festivals' I would have a chance to establish my name as an author with his own world view and humorous thoughts about life. Yesterday on me blog i was so happy, if a little intimidated, to think about my appearance next week in Melbourne in the company of a couple of significant literary figures. Look, I'm not asking much. I don't mind if I come off as a literary jester, for that really is the role of the cartoonist-author (my real fear is that i'll come off as a fuckwit). BUT, today I see the program for the 'graphic novel' part of the Brisbane Writers Festival (12-16 sept), and Astro Boy is all over it... ?

A large number of questions are automatically asked:
If Campbell is to be a fuckwit, can't he be left to do it on his own account? Is Astro Boy connected to the concept of 'graphic novel'? With Eddie Campbell on hand to answer questions, how was such a mistake made? Is the author of that character going to be present? Will there be any authors from Japan? How about authors from other nations who are working in the 'manga' idiom? Surely it's not meant to stand in for the whole medium (whatever that medium might be)? Does it in any way relate to the festival's guests: Campbell? Talbot? Greenberg? Delisle? Tan? Rigozzi? White? And anyway, even if we can't all agree that it is not relevant why is the figure of Astro boy so clumsily traced from here?????

Where have I gone wrong? Sure, I looked away for a minute while my attention was diverted by wrapping up my new book, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, but where have I seriously misjudged the situation? I had a meeting and several phone conversations and explained the whole thing. A certain disgruntlement on my part has been interpreted, I think, as a dislike of the idea of the 'graphic novel,' (really a feeling that the term is useless, and the real irony in all of this is that I don't use the term any more , except when quoting another, which is why I always spell it with the quote marks) which they have taken to mean a dislike of 'comics,' because all the terms seem to mean the same thing, and since they have determined to spotlight the medium (loosely therefore understood as all of 'comics' I suppose), it is necessary to humorously disregard my 'literary pose' of being disgruntled, because that is the sort of affectation that authors like to sport.

"Eddie, Sorry 'the graphic novel' as a whole program is not quite to your taste/opinion." (from an email yesterday. Note that the quote marks were remembered.) Having early in the process sought the opinion of a supposed expert, it is now politely dismissed. Hey, I've got nothing against Star Wars OR Astro Boy. I like them all. Early in the planning they were talking about getting some DC and Marvel people in. I said (phone converation, no record of it), fine, but just call it 'comic books' and lose that pretentious 'graphic novel' tag.

Returning to the 'beef', a chap at Newsarama takes me to task for being critical of Wolk's book without having read it. When I said the book is doing 'more damage than good', I didn't need to go further than the title: Reading Comics; How graphic novels work and what they mean. Analyse it. 'Comics'= 'graphic novel', 'graphic novel'='comics', names for the same thing. Wolk is telling the world that they are one and the same. When Eisner first used the term he used it because he wanted it to mean something other than, or at least more than, comic book (as did the person before him who coined the term). I don't want to get into a semantic argument. If that original intention is now lost, I accept it. I believe Eisner felt that it was lost too. In his last years he was pleased to get his line of books out of the comic book market and into the hands of a mainstream book publisher (Norton). Anyway, that's why I don't use either of these terms any more (I'm going with the old fashioned 'strip cartoon' from here on, or at least till that gets screwed (just noticed I put it in quote marks too... wonder if I should leave them?) and note that I have no objection to 'comic book', which I see as a genre of popular fiction). From Hell is a 600 page strip cartoon.) And as for Douglas, he is an agreeable guy who is probably perplexed to learn that his enthusiastic celebration of his innocent pleasures could possibly be an obstacle to my megalomaniacal world conquest.

Now, lest you think this is all a bit abstract and not worth getting my nickers in a twist over (and as a professional humorist I must admit this is the sublime comedy of it all) I am the guy they have got in to stand up at the front and explain what a 'graphic novel' is, despite having promised myself I would never let it happen again.

From the online promtion:
CYA Later Alligator: The inaugural "CYA later, Alligator" Children's and Young Adult (CYA) Writers and Illustrators Conference will be held in Brisbane on 16 September 2006 in partnership with the Brisbane Writers Festival. This conference is aimed at new and established writers and illustrators of children's and young adult literature. Seminars and master classes will be conducted by well known Australian and International authors and illustrators.

From an email:
As discussed you are appearing at the CYA Later, Alligator Conference, on 15th September 2007, at the QUT Creative Industries Precinct in Kelvin Grove at 2.50 to 3.30.
Your topic is: The Graphic Novel Manifesto

(You may or may not recall that Campbell's so-called 'manifesto' was written as a jest, but has become his most reproduced work ever on the internet, even available on Wikipedia and long removed from its original context, and now comes home to haunt him. It was originally written in response to the mass of confusing information that the 'comics community' gives out. Wolk's title is the most recent example of same.) (there's a link in the sidebar if you're new around here)

wait a minute, it's the phone...

(it's my pal White..)
"hey Eddie, have you seen the program for the festival?"


"hey, nothing changes. it's 1984 all over again...FLASH!
Flash - Ah - Saviour of the universe
Flash - Ah - He'll save ev'ry one of us"
...ha! remember that radio show you were on...

yeh, fuck off.

"Flash - Ah - King of the impossible
He's for ev'ry one of us
Stand for ev'ry one of us
He'll save with a mighty hand
Ev'ry man ev'ry woman ev'ry child
Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body"

yeh, Daren, sob... thanks for roning.


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Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

I see you and the words "graphic novel" forever wrestling with each other, as you both fall down, down, down, a bottomless pit, forever and ever. Hey, if a pit has no bottom, how dose it poo?

25 August 2007 at 00:29:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember you and Sim interviewed seperately on a Radio National or 2BL program in 1996 or so, and the presenter trying to put across 'graphic novel' as the context - one of you said "if rock'n'roll has survived for fifty years with such a stupid name, I think we can put up with 'comic book'."

25 August 2007 at 01:27:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a genuinely ugly cover. In the age of the flatbed scanner, there is no excuse for such poor forgery. Mick.

25 August 2007 at 01:45:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

that would be gool old Dave Sim. Where is he when ya need a laff?

Mick pointed out to me that there is a spot on the program where somebody is doing a presentation on Tezuka, so I'll accept that wee Astro Boy is all right on the cover. Good job I didn't look properly beforhand or i might have been more temperate in my ranting. Wonder why the organisers didn't just point that out ...
It's them words 'graphic novel' that ought to go. I should have been onto that from the start. Oh well, let's look forward to seeing Talbot etc. here in sunny Brisbane. And anybody reading this. I'm not a curmudgeon all of the time

25 August 2007 at 02:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger thewalker said...


i love you.

not many people could write such a vicious rant so crisply and so eloquently.

you transcend.

25 August 2007 at 03:32:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That cover looks like it was done in 1973.

How about reverting to "comic cuts"?

25 August 2007 at 05:02:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is he when ya need a laff?

Still bringing the classic material:

Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.

25 August 2007 at 06:17:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That cover looks like it was done in 1973."

That'll partly be down to the Cooper Black headline, a very popular typeface in the Seventies for some reason, even though it was created in the 1920s. (Here endeth today's font lesson.)

Don't literary types like the term "graphic novel" because it has the word "novel" in it? Broadsheet reviews like those in The Guardian seem to use the term exclusively now. I recall being struck many years ago by the oddity of the word "novel" when applied to books; in that context it's a word whose actual meaning and origin one rarely considers, like (as mentioned above) rock'n'roll. Or jazz, or punk, etc, etc.

25 August 2007 at 08:01:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dee Dee Ramone was a genuine punk!

25 August 2007 at 10:26:00 GMT-5  
Blogger robsalk said...

Eddie -
I get your beef with the title, but you should really give Wolk's book a look. Among other things, he offers one of the more intelligent explanations for the continued popularity of "continuity porn" in the superhero genre, and a good analysis of the aesthetics of Gary Panter. He also made "Finder" sound interesting enough for me to pick up one of the GNs.

Wolk's book is very good at addressing the vast middle ground of criticism between Wizard and the Comics Journal. I find the highbrow critical approach is undone by its thin-skinned defensiveness - its need to apologize for Will Eisner's "sentimentality" or Jack Kirby's Fourth World dialogue (!!!)when explaining those geniuses to the wider art world. Wolk doesn't fall into that. He is one of the best at shining light on intelligent genre work that is well-done but lacks pretention. He's also spot-on, in my opinion, in pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of ambitious work that makes the art-crowd cringe, like Cerebus and The Invisibles.

Anyway, give it a look if you get a chance. Even if you hate it, it will be fodder for a month's worth of blog posts.

25 August 2007 at 15:51:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I'm not sure why my saying that I haven't read Douglas's book is being taken as a blind critique of it, or that I don't intend to read it or am saying that everybody else should not read it. SO far I've been talking about whether the image of comics that it presents to the world is helpful or unhelpful. i.e. helpful to the image that I or Eisner or , say SPiegelman have attempted to promote elsewhere. It has presented itseslf already in its title and in interviews with the author.

You observations are noted. They correspond to what I presumed was inside the book.

25 August 2007 at 16:58:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen the article in The Sunday Age yet Eddie? Some parts are are nice, but it seems to contain more than trace elements of rote comics article #1.

25 August 2007 at 19:01:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think that whatever term you coin, as soon as a single successful example exists under that 'name' some marketing team will hijack it for the latest superhero collection. Which is a shame because Trade Paperback Collection seems, if nothng else, factual.

I also still think there's a large number of fans who'd like to legitamise their faintly embarrasing hobby with a term that isn't connected with childhood.

25 August 2007 at 19:52:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Bulfinch's Aglaia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

25 August 2007 at 22:11:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Bulfinch's Aglaia said...

Don't worry, Mr. Campbell. You won't look like a fuckwit as long as we have Mr. Dave Sim around to show us what a fuckwit, not to mention a fucking asshole just for extras, truly looks like. You'll be fine!


25 August 2007 at 22:14:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea poor Eddie suffered so much for the medium of his art/literature! :(
Would it be better if I boycotted those Brisbane 'graphic novel' talks to help prove your point, or should I go to applaud madly when you start ranting like this to a surprised audience? Hehe.

So out of interest, how should I refer to your work now? Make up your own unique genre if you like. :)


Mr Sims:
Your words hurt my delicate female feelings.
Do you use lines like that to get you the ladies?

25 August 2007 at 22:50:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That'll partly be down to the Cooper Black headline, a very popular typeface in the Seventies for some reason..."

It also looks like a clumsy Letrasetting job.

26 August 2007 at 01:43:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That'll be done to the hand-drawn nature of the headline. As exquisite as the rest of it. Mick.

26 August 2007 at 02:45:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

I actually like Sim's rants.

There, I said it.

26 August 2007 at 07:33:00 GMT-5  

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