Saturday 23 June 2007

covers- BACCHUS no.46

I 'm not sure this solicitation image was for the Aug 1999 issue #46 of Bacchus, but since it doesn't relate compositionally to any other printed cover, it hardly matters. I can't deny that I spent as little time on it as I would on a con sketch. And the finished cover recycles a painting I made eight years earlier to go with my first Comics Journal interview. It looked much better in that original setting as the printing on Bacchus was sill making everything look murky. But I was always fond of that painting (i still like the texture of the bread) and between that and the piddling amount I made from it on its first outing, I didn't feel I was gypping anyone. This followed, as I said yesterday, a run of five issues where I didn't paint new covers but just coloured a panel from inside the book. They didn't look too bad and it sure saved time. When I posted yesterday's cover I started trying to recall why my mind wasn't entirely on the job at hand during these months. One reason is that I was spending most of my time at the drawing board on my 48 page illustration of Alan Moore's Birth Caul, which I published in June '99 very successfully with a print run of 18,000. But over and above that there was the problem that everything seemed to be falling apart around me and I was fearing for my future. The Direct Sales market was one thing. In my head I felt I was just merrily running the 'monthly' Bacchus book into the ground and at a future point not yet decided it would come to a finish. This didn't appear to be negotiable; sales dipped one or a couple hundered units on each issue and nothing could alter that. Anne went back to working as a legal secretary around this time, and what had been a busy studio operation was now just me on my own, hooking up with Mick Evans regularly to take care the design of the books. In fact, Mick also had six story pages in this issue, and White and Slattery ('Mr Duds' occasionally in this blog's comments box and more recently a bank manager, to the astonishment of all who know him) contributed a four-pager (in fact there were twenty pages of new art altogether, for anyone who thinks there was too much reprinting going on).

I'd been making a good living from comics since 1989, for ten years at this point, but things were getting tight. Everybody else I was working with was operating in the same market. Capital City, the second of the two big distributors, now went bust owing me ten thousand bucks. Kitchen Sink Press, who had rather strangely made an exclusive liaison with Capital, was caught in the middle of the release of the second Crow movie with all their merchandise tied up in Capital's closed down warehouse. They went bust too owing me and Alan over fifteen thousand bucks for From Hell royalties and that second Spirit story I produced in-house at Campbell industries (I paid everybody else involved at the time we made it, so to this day I'm still out of pocket on that one). The only thing I had that wasn't tied to the comic books distribution system was the upcoming From Hell movie; we'd been paid large for that in '98. But then, to top everything off, we lost the rights to From Hell to the conglomerate holding Kitchen Sink's assets. I was faced with a movie now officially going into production and no book coming out. I had to go through a few months of legal aggression to turn that around. By the time the above issue came out, my planet was back in its orbit. There's an ad on the back of it promising From Hell by November 1999, with the oil painting of the black hat, purple grapes and bloodied handkerchief. So at least the back cover was new.

And that's what went through my noodle when I looked at that cover after all this time, with wee Eddie Campbell drowning in a glass of wine in the foreground.

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Friday 22 June 2007

covers- BACCHUS no.40

C ampbell is all over the place today, so I'll just show this cover for no other reason than that the solicitation version (1) was quite diffrent form the finished print (2). The series was in a second phase in which I was cutting corners more drastically than before. The orders followed a straight downward slope right from the first issue, and nothing I did was able to divert it from that course. We started at 8,500 and ended and 1800. Thus I was able to plan ahead to the extent of saying 'by the time we reach a level of 3,500 somewhere between issues 30 and 33, certain cuts will need to be made. One of those was that Pete Mullins wasn't working with me on a weekly basis; the Bacchus story was wrapped up except for a few shorts to fill out volume six , The 1,001 Nights of Bacchus; From Hell was wrapped up; and I was concentrating on my autobiographical work, and also travelling a great deal. For the five issues following this one I didn't even draw new covers. I coloured a panel from inside and put that on the front. Interestingly, this made no difference to the sales curve either though I'm sure those who love me felt their patience being tried. And there was another much more serious problem screwing with my brain. More on that next time.
If you need absolutely need to hear more Campbellian jabberings today, You'll find me interviewed in print by Colleen Mondor.

And in sound at Inkstuds. My goodness, it's an hour and a half! And they've framed me with Charlie Parker's Bird of Paradise and Beirut. How sweet.

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Thursday 21 June 2007

covers- BACCHUS no.20

A nother cover from our run of good ones around 1997, this one being for Bacchus # 20, Dec 1996. I was tickled by the situation with the tobacco industry, being legally obliged to spend one third of its product surface and advertising space telling people not to buy the product recommended in the other two thirds, and the way the industry gamely presses on under those and other constrictions. For a moment I thought we were MAD magazine, with Bacchus standing in for Alfred E. Newman. For the first sketch I stretched out an actual cigarette packet and glued a drawing of Bacchus plus a logo onto it. I always used to put a thick line around the sketch with a caligraphy marker when I used it as the solicitation image (1), to make it stand out in the crowded Diamond catalogue. For the finished cover I was thinking of the typographical arrangement of the slick magazine ads for cigarettes. I gave it to Pete Mullins to turn into a painting (2) and Mick Evans did the finished cover design (3), taking a notion to dull the image and put it slightly out of focus for an effect of queasiness. The cover was odd enough to stand out quite nicely on the shelf.
Our regular commenter Ben Smith noticed this because they used the photo of the gigantic condoms again, last linked to here when it tickled wee hayley campbell: India rattled by vibrating condom -By Jyotsna Singh -BBC News, Delhi-20 June
A vibrating condom has sparked a fierce debate in India, over whether it is a sex toy - which are banned - or a means of birth control. Hindu hardliners have held protests asking the government to ban its sale, though most people on the streets of the state refused to be drawn on the matter.
meanwhile the lass herself is off to see Grinderman. Honeybee, we'll have to make do with youtube.

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Wednesday 20 June 2007

The great George Herriman

Bill Blackbeard, the world's preeminent comic strip historian, made a good point in his article, 'The lost years of George Herriman', in Nemo #1 (1984), that the artist's hard work on the fledgling Los Angeles Examiner, launched in Dec '03, should go some considerable way toward explaining newspaper magnate Hearst's loyalty to the artist in later years. Apparently he personally instructed that Krazy Kat be kept on the King Features rostrum even though it was selling to a minimal number of newspaper clients.
Allan Holtz has gained access to a microfilm record of Herriman's work for the paper beginning in August '06, and Allan's blog is now my first habitual blogosphere port of call every saturday. Last week he showed Herriman's before-and-after coverage of the big fight between Joe Gans and Bat Nelson ( it was a big deal at the time and there was a centenary reenactment last year). I was reminded that I have in my files a cartoon by Tad Dorgan, from Hearst's NY Journal, covering the same event:

Like Tad, Herriman used a big close up image, which is so out of character for him that we could posit that he was following Tad's lead. Herriman and Tad often referred to each other in their work, for instance the Herriman section in Walker's The Comics Before 1945 has a caricature of Herriman by Tad at the top of the first column.
According to The Comic Art of George Herriman (McDonnell, Oconnell and Dehavenon) the sports editor of the NY Journal summoned him back east in 1910, apparently to fill Tad's spot while Dorgan went to San Francisco to cover the colossal Johnson-Jeffries fight. Here Herriman played further with some of the comic strip ideas he had been developing in LA and started the Dingbat Family, (or the Family Upstairs as it was first titled.) I have a clipping of the strip from Nov 28 1912, which features an 'Argentinian guacho' (sic) named Tomas Dorgano:

You can enlarge the above, but below there's an extra zoom on that first panel, including an early view of Krazy Kat at the bottom. She had begun appearing there ony a couple of years before, and would in due course become the raison d'etre of Herriman's oeuvre. I see Fantagraphics have already got three volumes in print of the full color sundays;"And now, starting with the sixth volume in Fantagraphics’ acclaimed Krazy Kat reprint series, finally it’s time for... color! After a brief hiatus in the mid-1930s, the heretofore black-and-white Sunday Krazy Kat returned in full spectacular color in June 1935". I shall be bringing myself up to date at San Diego next month.

The gorgeous object above was a gift from Antonio DiDio, physician of Sydney, who pulled it rolled up out of his bag as though it was that day's daily paper, with bits falling off around the edges. I couldn't decide whether to embrace him or thump him. I scanned it recently at a very high resolution. One should never presume that some other person is preserving these things.
The bogus Latin American in his big sombrero leads me to another precious Herriman object, the brochure of a 1997 exhibition of the artist's work in Angouleme. In the inside front cover is this wonderful photo of Herriman, which I have never as far as I can recall seen reproduced anywhere else:

Patrick McDonnell is one of the co-authors of the superb Herriman monograph quoted above. Read his Speech to the 2007 Graduating Class at Center For Cartoon Studies at Tom Spurgeon's blog. Tom also looks at a week of McDonnell's Mutts strip, with thoughtful analysis.
I would say that McDonnell would be the inheritor of the mantel of some of those grand old cartoonists, except I don't think it works that way. I don't think Tad or Herriman would like the modern crowd very much. Tad certainly wouldn't. The only old time cartoonist I know complained to me recently that the young 'uns nowadays just want to sit in front of their computers all day.

my 'classic strips' label below will take you to posts on: Tad Dorgan, Frank King, Walt Kelly, Leonard Starr and Stan Drake. I hope to add many more as the opportunities present themselves.


Tuesday 19 June 2007

covers- BACCHUS no.22

This has the same cover date, Feb '97, as the neat DeeVee cover by Pete Mullins I showed on Saturday. It was a year of good covers. It's one of those where I honestly can no longer tell who did what on it. I even think I see both Pete's and my own hand in the colouring. There is a slight change in the judge's facial expression, becoming a little more malevolent, between (1) and (2). I remmeber selling the original to a lady lawyer who was tickled by it and wanted to hang it in her private office. One thing I do recall is that I knew Pete was driving by the courthouse and asked him to do a quick reference sketch of the statue of Lady Justice in the fourcourt from his parked car. I subsequently received the following by fax, and like all faxes received from the inestimable Mr Mullins, I made a xerox for long term filing. He would usually find a humorous way of including himself.

The music of science
Horace Dorlan by Andrzej Klimowski is a weird, witty and oddly humane graphic novel- reviewed by Michael Moorcock-Guardian-Saturday June 16,
(link thanks to regular commenter Ben Smith)

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Monday 18 June 2007

The invisible Fred Abberline.

I 've been doing quite a number of interviews over the last few weeks in connection with the release of The Black Diamond Detective Agency. In one of them the interviewer brought up the old story about the invisible Fred Abberline in the epilogue of FROM HELL, and it occurred to me that most of my readers have probably never seen the mistake since it was fixed in later printings.
What happened is that because of the system here at campbell industries, heads would get inked at a different time from bodies, and the pencils would be erased by a different person (Anne) from the one who had done the drawing (me, Pete or both of us) and therefore when I missed inking Abberline's small head in one panel, it was cleaned up and erased and the ommission went unnoticed. Thus the famous invisible Fred Abberline. Such booboos are commonplace in the making of comic books; this error was very small as errors go, but what is curious is that whoever at Kitchen Sink Press prepared the ad for the book used that page as the basis of the layout, placing objects on top of it, and failed to notice the incomplete figure, over which he or she discreetly dropped a photo of the From hell t-shirt. Sim and Moore seized upon the fault in a chat that Dave was running on the back of Cerebus and mocked it mercilessly. This is Alan writing, mimicking exactly his style of presentation in the FROM HELL scripts:

From the back of Cerebus #217
On the matter of what has been viewed in some quarters as an untoward wordiness in my panel descriptions, might I draw your attention to the final volume of From Hell, specifically to page two, panel five of our epilogue, The Old Men On The Shore. In the script description for this panel I unfortunately allowed myself a moment of laxity and omitted the words "INSPECTOR ABBERLINE’S HEAD IS STILL ON HIS SHOULDERS DURING THIS PANEL. IT HAS NOT RETREATED TORTOISE-LIKE INTO HIS NECK, NOR HAS IT IN SOME FASHION MANAGED TO REFRACT LIGHT AROUND IT LIKE A KLINGON SPACESHIP SO THAT THE INSPECTOR RESEMBLES SOMETHING OUT OF MAGRITTE WITH HIS BOWLER FLOATING THERE SUSPENDED ABOVE THE EMPTY COLLAR OF HIS COAT." Last time I’ll make that mistake, obviously.

well, I never! My pal mr j in the uk SUN online with his On the Mat:
WE have a hilarious new wrestling cartoon each week - the latest features CM Punk
Longtime readers of me blog will remember that On the Mat evolved from Hayley Campbell Funnies, and the wee lass still appears in it.
and a link from my pal Bob Morales, which should be of interest to all us internet users:
U.S. Internet defamation suit tests online anonymitySat Jun 16, -BOSTON (Reuters)


Sunday 17 June 2007

covers- BACCHUS no.25/27

After that gorgeous cover Pete Mullins made for DeeVee #1 of feb '97 (see yesterday's post) I commissioned one for Bacchus in the same manner. So he put together the image of the Anchovy, a character in the storyline being reprinted in the second half of the book, in his own studio, and brought it in and it appeared on my #27 August 1997 issue. This was one of only two or three occasions when a Bacchus cover was coloured on the computer. That approach would never have been cost or time effective in the Campbellian set-up. It was much more expedient to just get out the markers and paints and work over a good quality xerox of the image. Pete could always get a good crisp result that way as in the cover of Bacchus #25 of May '97, the gathering of the Elvises, which is also all his work. In pulling out pictures to scan here I was again struck by how clean and bright the pre-press proofs in my files are (used here for both of the above) compared to the printed results.

p.s. Some time later we put together a whole 8-page Spirit story for Eisner and Kitchen Sink Press that we coloured in-house on computer. It had its own technical problems. I'll talk about that some other time.
hayley campbell sends this link: Doherty, the scruffy urchin with the million pound record contract and supermodel girlfriend, will join drinking pal Shane Macgowan and Meltdown festival curator Jarvis Cocker to pay tribute to classic Disney songs as part of the South Bank's annual music jamboree. Nick Cave, Baaba Maal, Ralph Steadman and Bryan Ferry will also perform. The event is June 17. you may have missed it already.
In other news:
China censors "Pirates" for "vilifying Chinese"

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