Saturday 16 June 2007

covers: DeeVee #1,2

D ee Vee was published by a trio consisting of Mick Evans, a freelance graphic designer who was already doing the necessary on Bacchus (the ad for the first DeeVee is on the back of Bacchus #21), Daren White, a chartered accountant who moonlights as a comic book writer and Minty Moore, who was working as a comicbook store clerk back then, all of whom have popped up on this blog from time to time. They launched in Feb 1997 and managed to get Pete Mullins to make a gorgeous knockout cover for their first issue. I attempted to keep up my end on the second issue, but I'm wilting in the shade. The series was an anthology that ran for fourteen issues, with one special during that time titled Life is Cheap by Moore and Single. The Book appeared quarterly and even bi-monthly for the duration of six issues. I drew a serial that appeared in all those issues and was later collected as Alec: How to Be an Artist, considered by some to be my best book. What it really needed, we can see with the advantage of hindsight, is for the character on that cover to have appeared in an eight page story every issue, and to always look as good as she does on there. I think the guys managed to get Pete to illustrate a couple of one-pagers along those lines, but more might have made the enterprise a more resounding success. But who can say? Everything in the business was following the trajectory of Newton's apple in those days. The thing I most like about 'those days' is the complicated ways we got things done. One thing was that I was doing my stuff for DeeVee in exchange for design work and story ideas, but once over a few beers Whitey got onto explaining to me the myriad equations and deals and exchanges by which money hardly ever changed hands but everybody involved felt they came out even, and furthermore, in all those fourteen issues, thanks to Whitey's acuity in such matters, Deevee never lost a cent.
Another thing I enjoyed about that period is that there was a sense of a lively scene here in Brisbane Australia. Pete Mullins had a full colour page in a national magazine, which he must have found time to draw in between all this other stuff. DeeVee were using my mail box at the suburban Paddington Post Office, but just a couple of boxes to the right of mine there was the one rented by the Platinum Grit folks, Trudy Cooper and Danny Murphy. PG was a popular indie comic book here but not known much outside of Australia.
"Platinum Grit began as a self-published printed comic from back in 1994 and was released up to issue 10 in 1998." It's still around nowadays, but in an online* capacity. You can read a whole episode at the site. It has a great quality of Australia about it, in its sense of character and space.
Update: They show it online then collect it in print, a publishing model that is becoming more prevalent of late. Corrected by Drjon. thanks.
After the DeeVee series ended they put out three special editions. Tom Spurgeon has just reviewed one of those.
Finally, a new issue is at the printer! I've drawn thirteen pages in it and I wrote about it on April 16.

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Friday 15 June 2007

covers- BACCHUS #57/59

T wo covers from near the end of the six year run. I was trying for an icky insecty feeling on these Snooter covers. The first is finished in pastels on grey paper, the only time I ever employed that medium in a published work. It's not intentional, but the effect reminds me of old 1950s paperback covers. The second looks like I painted over a photocopy of the same drawing. I finally let Mick Evans throw out my old logo and design a new one for the last four issues. I was turning the book into more of a 'magazine', introducing typeset articles instead of comic book stories. I figured it was less time consuming to write than draw, given that I was doing a lot of travelling at this time (connected to the release of the From Hell movie). This would lead to the two issues of my actual magazine, Egomania. Mick was also contributing his own running series, and Bacchus #57 had the best page he ever drew. His character has just got a negative result on his HIV test:

This piece from the New york Sun has got stuck in my head, being a review of Austin Grossman's "Soon I Will Be Invincible" (Pantheon)
Cannabalizing the Comic Book (sic) By BENJAMIN LYTAL- June 13,
Mr. Grossman clearly belongs to a new generation. His novel almost takes superhero comics at face value. Good opposes evil: On both sides, cybernetics, genetics and offworld intervention have variously combined to produce individuals with bulletproof skin and retractable rocket launchers. At first, Mr. Grossman seems to have caught a sincere tone of glory. Precisely 1,686 superpowered persons inhabit the earth:
"Of these, one hundred and twenty six are civilians leading normal lives. Thirty-eight are kept in research facilities funded by the Department of Defense, or foreign equivalents[. . . .] Twenty-nine are strictly localized—powerful trees and genii loci, the Great Sphinx and the Pyramid of Giza. Twentyfive are microscopic (including the Infinitesimal Seven)."

(link via Tom Spurgeon)
The following is related to my post of last saturday
Something has slipped into place in my noodle. I find myself more and more at odds with the common conception of the word 'comics'. For instance, the tenet that 'comics' and sequential art are interchangeable terms is of no use to me. The idea that all comics are the same medium I also exclude from my list of useful ideas. I have come to feel that comic books (which is a medium of American origin, and is quite different from similar popular media elsewhere e.g. France (Bande dessinee), Japan (manga), Britain (the comic paper), where the term 'comic book' is not traditionally used) are in fact a genre of popular ficton. If you click on 'genre fiction' in my sidebar you'll see that's where I've filed it, and if you check the Wikipedia entry on genre fiction, you'll find it's included there too. I'm sure that would be how Mr Grossman above was thinking when he wrote his book, and comic books can be translated into other media such as prose and film while still remaining essentially comic books. The comic strips in the newspapers are a type of cartoon native to their environment and have no relation whatsoever to comic books as they now exist. In fact, many newspaper comics are not 'sequential art'. Sequential art can be said to be one characteristic of the different species of 'comics', just as it is a characteristic that you will find in many other types of art and design. The McCloudian conception of 'comics' should also be filed under fiction, though it is not yet embraced by a genre. None of this should be misconstrued as a 'definition', though I have no doubt that within 24 hours it will be inserted into my wikipedia page as my 'defintion of comics' to replace whatever my previous 'definition' was even though I have said repeatedly I loathe definitions. By all means refer to it as my DESCRIPTION. It will change as the objects described change. This is my current map of the word 'comics' and I find it useful. If you don't like it, make your own.
And when you draw your own map, you may make some things closer neighbours than I have, but to your dismay you'll find that your map will not help you get there any quicker.
in other news: (actually two months old)
Mystery cat takes regular bus to the shops

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Thursday 14 June 2007


S ometimes you have to kick a cover idea around for weeks before it settles into place:

Other times it's all there from the first sketch:


Journey's Steve Perry held back permission to use "Don't Stop Believin' until Chase told him how the story would end. People mag has the best version.

McSweeney's can use a few orders following their distrubutor's bankruptcy. I'm starting with this one: The Riddle of the Traveling Skull by Harry Stephen Keeler: In dozens of dumbfounding novels, Harry Stephen Keeler ecstatically catapulted the mystery genre into an absurdity that has yet to be equaled. Now, the Collins Library is proud to usher his best-loved work back into print. The Riddle of the Traveling Skull begins with a cutting-edge handbag and grows to engulf a villainous Bible-spouter, experimental brain surgery, Legga the Human Spider, and the unlikely asylum state of San Do Mar.

London's flashing judge: The Daily Mail's coverage includes a courtroom sketch of him holding up the underpants.

A different judge in Washington "pressed a $54 million lawsuit against a dry cleaning shop which he said violated consumer-protection laws when it lost his pants.
The lawyer for the Korean immigrants who run the dry cleaner said Pearson was looking for a way to resolve his financial difficulties after a divorce."

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Wednesday 13 June 2007

The Sopraners

The night before.

hayley campbell: hope your sopranos party went well. tell me anything about the episode before i've waved the flag and i'll put my foot in your ass. i'm heading over to JP's place after work where we're going to watch sopranos, cry a bit, then hang ourselves because there's nothing left to live for. it's our sopranos suicide party. he's got a tv so we're watching it there rather than my place (where we'd have to sellotape our heads together to get the right angle on my mac screen) which means that there's no oven. ah well. jam and toast fer tea probably. i suggested we whack someone on the way home too, for authenticity's sake…

(s-p-o-i-l-e-r ---w-a-r-n-i-n-g)

The morning papers:

The Morning After: Did Tony Soprano whack Game 2 of the NBA Finals?-Cleveland Plain Dealer.

So this is how it ends: with a big, raised middle finger aimed straight at the TV audience," -Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times.

Fade to Black Has 'Sopranos' Fans Seeing Red-Washington Post.
A bunch, who were way mad at the way Chase had messed with them in the finale, started messing with his Wikipedia entry. Finally, the brain trust at Wikipedia locked the page from further "editing" until June 18, citing "vandalism."

hayley campbell: the scene went like this: it stops abruptly at the end at a point of high tension. the screen goes black. i say 'oh fuck your hard-drive just shat itself at THAT POINT!' and JP leaps off the sofa and starts hitting the thing, near tears. it's black for about 7 seconds and then the credits roll. 'no. no i don't believe it. not a word of it. i downloaded two in case one was fucked. let's check.' so we run to his computer and play the last scene. that's it, that's what happens. 'DAVID CHASE CAN EAT MY BALLS!' shouts campbell. i'm furious, called Chase all the the rude words i know, JP said he was off to hang himself. but then if they'd gone out with a bloodbath i would have hated them for the cliche.
jp's not in today. i sent him a text saying 'i can't believe you hanged yourself - it's only a bloody tv show!' turns out he's actually ill and has been scooted off to hospital. see? the manipulative aspects of the sopranos can bloody well
I bet you like the last episode. i bet someone a tea you'd like the last episode.

Eddie Campbell: I larfed. I wished I could end so well

hayley campbell: good. i'm owed a tea then. What did the mammy think of it?

Eddie Campbell: Well, it finished ten minutes ago and the mammy is still in front of the tv blue screen hoping something else will come up.
To put it musically: It modulated back into the tonic, gathered to a climax and then the cadence was witheld. But in strict musical terms that's just a formality. returning to the tonic key supplies the resolution.
p.s. not sure you read me right earlier. You said “thought i was going to die! and I said “maybe you did-- did the soundtrack suddenly stop?

hayley campbell: you're making a funny, aren't you. chris ware has broken my eyes and david chase took care of my mind. the theory that the soundtrack suddenly stopping was Tony getting whacked.

Eddie Campbell: i was asking if YOUR soundtrack suddenly stopped, which would be an indication that you had died, rather than the malfunctioning of your breathing, the ceasing of your heart or any other of the traditional indicators, including falling over with your head under the wheel of a car...

hayley campbell: haha. leapt off my chair when his head went splat. got wine on my jeans.

Eddie Campbell: well, we're all off to bed I think... the mammy is still waiting for that bit that comes after the credits, even though we pulled out the plug an hour ago. nitey nite, honeybee.

hayley campbell: night night par, i loves ya. X

Eddie Campbell: nitey nite, Phil Leotartdi; nitey nite, Silvio Dante; Christopher Moltesante; Bobby Baccala; nitey nite, Sopraners.

may you all Rest In Pizzas.

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Tuesday 12 June 2007

Ain't it the Truth!

I see that the great Tad Dorgan has just been inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame. (heads up via Tom Spurgeon). The reporting on it is minimal. There was a time when if you wanted to find examples of Tad's work you'd have to look in the Boxing histories, but he's not even in those any more. The comics historians don't give him a lot of space as Tad's main interest was sports and we know that sports are anathema to most comics collectors. And the arty crowd like Spiegelman would have no interest as Tad was never inclined to play around with formal trickery.

Tad is one of my favourite all time cartoonists. You may recall that he appears in my The Fate of the Artist, where I show one of my two Tad originals, which incidentally was given to me by my pal John Anderson when he saw how I was gushing over the other one. Above is the other one, which I picked up for somewhere over a couple hundred bucks at the end of a San Diego con. The seller wanted more and I would have too, but this was before Campbell made his bundle. It's a big half-page cartoon that appeared under Tad's "CITY LIFE" heading on may 20 1917 , a sunday I think, but I deduce it would not have been in colour, and in the sports section rather than the colour comics supplement of Hearst's New York Journal. The date is scribbled on blue on the back and an order sheet pasted thereon requests the printer to engrave it "12¾ deep". In fact I wish there was more of this order slip remaining. It tells so much about how things were done back then, like the pencilled instruction on the front at lower right which reads, 50% benday.
This original is huge, much too big for my scanner, so I've just used the camera. You can fit a cd in each of the 12 panels. I've put one at the front of the photo for scale. The scenario shows a guy minding his own business in a pool room and then he gets called in to decide a dispute.

He decides the wrong way and gets thumped. We see him next having dinner with a middle-aged married couple, where he is asked to "decide a little matter for us".

He gets it wrong again and on his way home a crowd of baseball-playing boys needs an impromptu umpire. Again he gets it wrong. Lying in a heap on the ground, he is asked by a passing cop if he needs help and he responds "I refuse to decide".
I only ever met one guy who likes Tad as much as I do and that's Bob Callahan. Bob was doing a book about Tad way back when. I don't know if it ever got published. However, on both of the occasions when I've gotten involved in Bob's anthologies (most recently the Smithsonian book of comic books), I never got paid, so I'm not going to send you looking.


Monday 11 June 2007



had just arrived in Kemi, Finland, and the first thing they were talking about was getting me into a steam bath. Absolutely the very last thing I want to do is get in a steam bath. I LIVE in one. I have this little character to remind me of one of my most pleasant trips abroad. This is Lempi; she's an award. She is 13 inches tall, is made of solid plaster and weighs around five pounds. She's a character from a successful daily strip, I think. She's an old lady, which you can deduce from the handbag, though why her head is not attached to her neck as yours and mine are, I cannot say. It's difficult to find English language information on the subject, and Google doesn't translate Finnish. But the author is one Jope, and here's a profile of him. And since it occurred to me at the time I lugged Lempi up to my hotel room that I may need to explain it all one day, I picked up a little collection of the strips and here is an example. I haven't a clue what's going on here, I'm afraid, though I daresay someone will explain it before the day is over.

The lovely folks who made the statue and awarded it to me may have already noticed that there are a few chunks knocked out of it. And herein lies my tale. In our house Lempi has come to be associated with amorous attentions, which is not entirely inappropriate as the name apparently means 'love' in Finnish.

The statue has always been kept on top of my bookshelf in our living room. Right in the middle of the top, except I would from time to time need to move it back from the far end. I always presumed that this was because our house must be on a slant, but it turned out that on those special occasions when I and the wife of my bosom would take ourselves off to the bedroom of an evening, with a bottle of Riccadonna and a cd of Billie Holiday, Lempi would become somewhat animated, rocking backwards and forwards and go on a march along the top of the cabinet. Our young 'uns would look up from their televisual entertainments, shake their heads in disapproval and turn up the volume.

Recently Lempi came a cropper alas. The wife of my bosom had purchased a huge big Settee, and the guys who brought it into the house must have learned their trade from 'Charlie and me'.
"Right," said Fred, " Have to take the wall down,
That there wall is gonna have to go."
Took the wall down, even with it all down
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea.

The nitwits rammed the sofa into the bookshelf and down came Lempi. I made light of it of course, but I was broken hearted to see the pieces lying around. I managed to put it mostly back together, but this object carries a lot of symbolism in our house. The sound of Lempi plunging around came to be regarded as a good thing. It meant plentiful crops and a prosperous year, or at the very least a few days less of parental aggravation.

And I think Lempi brought herself to mind because the wife of my bosom is hundreds of miles far away tonight, helping her father move house.

All about Finnish Comics, in English.

Helvetista from Finnish publisher LIKE was our first foreign edition of the mighty work, appearing in five volumes from 1994-'97. I presume that's what the award was for.

And a big hi! to Ilpo who brought me out for that show in Finland way back in 2001. I have a fond recollection of singing Fred Astaire songs with the mayor in the middle of the main street at two in the morning. It was just starting to get dark. Funny place, Finland.


Sunday 10 June 2007

covers-Eyeball kid: One man Show

When I made the simple black line drawing above (1) I wouldn't have intended to use it for the finished cover. It looks like the sort of character-sketch that artists do at conventions. But the reason I know it wasn't intended for the finished cover is that it's drawn 'same size'. I would always (at least up till this time) draw finished art at 'A3' size, which is the biggest size that will fit in regular photocopiers, and more importantly, in a regular Fedex box. Go bigger than that and you're making problems for yourself. Reduction from there to comic book size is about 63%. I recall my fellow cartoonist Glenn Dakin once explaining for the young 'uns on a letters page the arithmetical formulas for scaling artwork up and down, at the end of which he wrote "Or you can just be like us; get a comicbook and draw round it." So, never mind your specially blue-line printed art boards, for the solicitation and preview art I would always just grab the nearest comic book, usually last month's issue of Bacchus, and draw round it with a pencil. I coloured it with pantone markers, and then to fix some misjudgement I introduced gouache on top of that.
MIck Evans ran with that and made up a rudimentary cover that we used for promotion, but it wasn't quite coming together (2), with too much of a candy box look about it. At this stage I probably thought I was still going to have to get my head down and do a painting, as I'd done on the previous volumes. However Mick took it away and injected the kind of energy it needed (3).
linkety split:
I'm interviewed at Wizard. It's a phone chat where the interviewer, Kiel Phegley must have had his work cut out compiling my jostling monologues into regular sentences. At the end of it I reveal some new info about The Amazing Remarkable Mr Leotard.
Brian Talbot's Alice In Sunderland reviewed in the Guardian (link via ben Smith)
Allan Holtz shows two more 1906 Herriman political cartoons from the LA Examiner. he is doing us a great service here. I hope you appreciate it.

Canadian Prime Minister doesn't want to meet Bono.
HEILIGENDAMM, Germany (Reuters) "I've got to say that meeting celebrities isn't kind of my shtick, that was the shtick of the previous guy," said Harper in a dig at his Liberal predecessor Paul Martin, who met Bono regularly."

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