Saturday 30 June 2007

covers- DHP no. 94

A Dark Horse Presents cover from the period when they dispensed with the sidebar (starting #91) and the covers were open and spacious, well except I've crowded in a bunch of skulls where the sidebar used to be. The signature is dated the month after the ones I showed yesterday. The cover goes with the first part of a serial of six ten-page chapters that ran monthly in DHP, Feb-July 1995, immediately following the miniseries I showed yesterday (Dec-Feb) and overlapping the The Bacchus color special (Apr) and launch of my own imprint (May). My entry into self publishing, or Campbell's world takeover as it was referred to around our house, was nothing if not impeccably planned. Hellblazer was in there too, Jan-Apr, and volumes seven and eight of From Hell in Nov and April. There were a couple of other things too, so that roughly speaking we had three outings per month over a seven month period, from four different publishers. It's no wonder I thought I needed help. Nevertheless, the main figures on this one look like my own pencilling and inking. I must have run out of patience and asked Pete Mullins to finish off the skull headed villains. I could never take that kind of thing seriously, even if this outing was more mock than heroic, though always played straight-faced.
I'd forgotten there was a pencil rough for this one until yesterday. There must have been a colour guide too, though I can find no record of it, as the Eyeball Kid is wearing the hat worn by my son age 2, and they wouldn't have otherwise known it was supposed to be white.
hayley campbell linked me to CBS News: Dangerous Bomb Deactivated.
As for Londoners, the chances of something like this sending London into a panic are about zero. In 2005, Slate's David Plotz happened to be in London on 7/7 and noted, within a couple of hours of the attacks, "When I walked by the Queen's Larder Pub, not half a mile from the Tavistock Square wreckage, at 11 a.m., a half-dozen men were sitting together at a sidewalk table, hoisting their morning pints of ale. Civilization must go on, after all."
Hearty bunch, those Brits.

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Friday 29 June 2007

(3-part miniseries)

L ooking at these two covers (inked 1,2) (colour roughs 3,4) I noticed they both have the same date, 13 July 1994, and I recalled the industrious enthusiasm with which I and Pete would throw ourselves into the thing away back when I started 'Campbell Industries' (as Pete called it) in 1994. Whoever did the computer colouring at Dark Horse (April Johnson, who is listed as designer?) did a very nice job of interpreting our intentions (5,6), I like the way a potential tonal muddle has been avoided in the lower left corner of the second cover, enabling the foreshortening to thrust forward. Also, there is a sensible scaling up and redrawing of the logo from the small one Pete designed for the chapter box headings.

It's tricky now to say who did what on these, but relevant to recent debates around this blog, I decided to try for some Colletta lines on that first one, though they look like Pete's execution, on the Hermes at least. That's his more fluid line all over the second cover
Not only did we do the two covers in one day, but for the third I included in the package this cover I drew for Dark Horse Presents when the serial originally appeared there but which had not been used at the time.

I sent some extra spirograph patterns which I'd blown up from that product's demonstration booklet when I found that making them by hand was turning out to be much too difficult (another of wee hayley campbell's toys commandeered for professional usage), and invited the colorist to have fun.

All in a day's work.
Here's a recent review of the first issue.
And if this has made you curious about the story, It's all collected in here.

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Thursday 28 June 2007

oh, those seamless segues.

S omebody mentioned this painting in comments a while back and I promised to dig it out of the files. I've scanned from a neat pre-press proof that DC sent with my returned artwork. It's from a Sandman Gallery one-off special, 1994 I think. It got a second view in the Vertigo calendar the following year, printed large and glossy. I was writing Hellblazer around that time, in a four parter with art by the excellent Sean Phillips that has never been collected for the bookshelf except in Italy in a very nice edition. I've never been entirely comfortable with the idea of Horror, by which I mean I don't understand why anybody would want to be horrified for the sake of entertainment, though the mighty Steve Bissette has patiently tried to explain it to me many times. I just remembered I drew From Hell for ten years. It occurs to me that the unusual tension in that book probably has something to do with me trying to take all the horror out of it.

Anyway, the king of dreams is shown here for my wee pal Stephanie Paule, aspiring artist who has been enjoying the Sandman books, though whether she enjoys seafood I cannot guess. After my two posts about the Ashgrove groper she felt inspired to send me a verse narrative on the subject of 'the nifty fingered cad', as she characterized him.
"You give a wink and like to think,
you break their darling hearts,
(But really all you do, my boy,
is grab their private parts)"
At the time when my likeness to the villain was pointed out with much hilarity, I wanted to go to the police station and give them my details for their database so that they could 'eliminate me from their enquiries', but the wife of my bosom put her foot down and forbade it. I was left wondering whether those around me are entirely convinced that I'm NOT the groper.

Speaking of aspiring young lady artists, this is from the world of animation, 1938:
Walt Disney co. rejection letter from June 7 1938
“Dear Miss Ford,
Your letter of recent date has been received in the Inking and Painting Department for reply.
Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men…”
(link via Dirk Deppey)

Continuing my seamless segue, from the world of animation yesterday:
The Rabbi’s Cat - movie directed by Joann Sfar
“During this initial creative phase, I was invited to Studio 4C in Tokyo while Amer Béton was being produced. I was welcomed by my friends at Pixar who showed me their methods of working, writing and assembling teams. I also had an eye on the work of Marjane Satrapi whom I believe produced the first real graphic artist's film. To me, Persepolis is not an animated cartoon. Each scene of her story is invented; the language she uses is the complete opposite of what the animated world is used to. For her story, she invented the language that would best serve her purpose. Meanwhile, Sin City had just been released as an adaptation of Frank Miller's novel - a real film, with real actors, in which each image bears the mark of the artist who created it. I thought that movies were through with using cartoons. I was pleased to discover that cartoons were finally using movies. I think we are on the path to new dimensions where a whole new graphic language is invented for each new feature-length film. I am finally seeing new images appear as though they had come directly from the artist's pencil. Consider Kurosawa's watercolors or Fellini's drawings - many of their movies could have been drawings. I now think we can make a movie about The Rabbi's Cat that will resemble no other animation and after which the viewer can say “I saw a good movie”. I don't believe in continuing to distinguish novels from animated cartoons; I am not for separating animation and live action from all the rest. Animation is capable of treating the same real universal themes; it therefore must be subject to the same treatment, with the same requirements and the same guidelines for critique. " (link via Nathalie)

And while we're on the subject of artists blathering on and on, my endless run of interviews continues.
Publishers Weeekly, Comics Week -June 26- Campbell Unearths a Black Diamond, Part 1
Rave magazine: Tint Robot Monkey Comics Extra: Eddie Campbell.
“I think the American comic book is trying too hard to be like a movie and the movies are trying too hard to be like comic books. I think they’re interchangeable now. It’s no surprise to me that they would do 300 exactly like the book. The movies and comic books have met at 300. You can no longer talk about the strengths of either medium, they are now identical.”
I've bored myself.
Which is what we say in our house when we've started to explain something and then can't be bothered finishing it.

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Wednesday 27 June 2007

covers- BATMAN: The Order of Beasts.

I gave up the self-publishing at the beginning of 2003 and spent the following year painting a 48 page Batman book. The cover was the last part to be done. I made a couple of sketches. My editor said no to the first (2), probably because the arrangement of characters in the foreground gave away too much about where the plot was headed. The picture on the right (3) is a scan of the finished cover without the logo (1). Daren White co-wrote and Mick Evans did all the production work including the lettering using a font designed by Woodrow Phoenix (Mick also came up with the title; he's always good at that sort of thing). I was pleased with the way it worked out and with the fact that we packaged the whole book ourselves leaving space for DC to add a logo and drop in the indicia and credits. I'm still not sure howcome they allowed me to do all of this. I'd never even done a whole issue of anything for DC before, never mind a 'prestige format' book with a shiny card cover.

Here's the story behind it, since I have gotten into the swing of laying out the business complexities over the last few posts, though that wasn't my original intention when I thought of showing some old cover sketches beside their related finished versions. I was already working on this when I drew a line under Eddie Campbell Comics at the beginning of 2003. It started with either my short Batman piece in Bizarro that Hunt Emerson illustrated, or my interview in Egomania #1 with old time Batman ghost artist Lew Sayre Schwartz (who has remained a very dear friend over the last five years), or perhaps both. I had let the world know that I was something of an enthusiast for the old Batman stories, particularly late '40s early '50s (Schwartz, Sprang etc. -Here's an article I wrote on the subject way back in 2001. I just reread it and I still like it.) I was invited to pitch a script idea for a proposed Batman to be drawn by Tony Millionaire. I wasn't interested in that and I don't know if it ever came about with another writer, but when I mentioned the whole thing to my pal White, he said he had been sitting on his own Batman idea for some time, and how dare I turn down the gig without asking him first. I mixed this up with half an idea of my own and pitched it to Joey Cavalieri at DC. Somehow we got in.

Then I made things complicated. I said that nothing would make me happier than to draw this myself. They said they didn't allow a situation where a creator would both write and draw the same book unless he was 'incorporated'. I mentioned this to Whitey, whom you may remember is a chartered accountant, so that's exactly his field. He said, "It's not as complicated as you think. A company's just a box of documents you can keep under your bed." And it doesn't cost too much either, well compared to the amounts I've been bandying about here of late. Now, companies are usually named and indexed by having two unassociated words hinged together (well, this is the campbellian explanation), so he finds a combination that he figures will embarrass me, runs the checks to confirm it's not already in use, and next thing you know I'm director of a company named 'Antelope Pineapple Pty. Ltd', just so I can get to draw Batman.

Then I asked if I could paint it too. For a week it looked like this wasn't going to fly until I explained that all I meant by that was that they take the amounts they were going to parcel out to penciller, inker and colorist and give them all to me instead.

Somehow or other I got what i wanted and It all worked out well. That was my first full colour book, and I've been working in colour on all my books since then. It was the beginning of a new phase in my career, leaving the self publishing one far behind. However, that damn Antelope Pineapple Pty. Ltd lately became a millstone around my neck. I have a hard enough time remembering one set of tax dates and duties without being legally obliged to remember another and different lot. More than once I have been fined for missing a superannuation deadline or some other important pecuniary obligation. I decided to get rid of the thing.

So three months ago I went to see my regular accountant, and it cost me more to get out than it did to get in, what with things being in a muddle. But while on the way I passed a tea room and I pulled over on my bike. I was reminded of my Bruce Wayne having a cup of English tea at the beginning of The Order of Beasts. Outside they had a blackboard with an interesting quote chalked on it. which has stuck in my noodle: "Reputation is character minus what you've been caught doing" (by someone named Michael Lapoce). Anyway, the previous tax year had been bad for me, what with From Hell being out of print all that year, but me still paying large in taxes, and I got a huge rebate of $15,000 bucks. My accountant's young assistant accountant was handling it all for me. In a moment of bravado I told him why I had the damn company in the first place, and how it got its daft name, and Whitey's assistance in the matter, all just so I could draw a Batman comic book, and I think he thought it was very cool and interesting.

And as we were finalising the paperwork I said, "Now do I have to hand over that box of papers from under my bed?"
He looked at me for a minute as though to probe my noodle and find out if I was joking.
And then he said, "uh, no, you can keep that."

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Tuesday 26 June 2007

covers- BACCHUS no.32

T here are a couple more anecdotal cover things in the can, but I'm skimming the surface here today, so this is a lightweight post. The solicitation image was a hastily coloured job, but when I saw it in print i liked the accidental effect of mixed colour at top right, like those occasional chord changes in music that make you tingle, and tried not quite successfully to duplicate it by colouring another xerox of the same sketch (not having kept the first one.) For the design I was thinking of the Punch covers in the late 1970s when they would have a big one-line coloured cartoon on the front, with the caption typeset under it. Not sure whose idea it was to do the logo like Superman's. The way the story goes, they try to intervene on Superguy's drinking problem...
two from hayley campbell!
Great piece at the Onion:
James Gandolfini Shot By Closure-Seeking Fan- June 25
NEW YORK—Actor James Gandolfini, best known for his portrayal of mob kingpin Tony Soprano on the hit HBO show The Sopranos, was shot to death Tuesday in a Greenwich Village restaurant by a fan unable to accept the open-ended conclusion of the series finale that aired earlier this month.
According to police reports, 28-year-old marketing research assistant Louis Bowen walked into the small Italian restaurant Occhiuto's at approximately 7:40 p.m. and...

Woody Allen quote:
Woody Allen to Direct Opera- June 24
“I have no idea what I am doing,” the famously humble director said. “But incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.”

looking at Stuart immonen's life drawing outings over the last couple of weeks reminds me how one always meant to keep that up but forgot.

In other news: Gag writers wanted!
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Patrick Knight, 39, has been soliciting jokes on the Internet and plans to tell one of them before receiving a lethal injection, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said on Monday.
"Everybody who is there takes it very seriously and will not be participating in the joke," she said. "So knock-knock jokes are out."

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Monday 25 June 2007

Kids' stuff.

C omic books in their first great flourishing were a genre of popular fiction in which characters were illustrated wearing gaudy clothes, aimed at a class of people "not given leave to dress themselves. No doubt about it; they were kids' stuff." (last bit's from Chabon's Kavalier and Klay... apologies if I've misremembered it). In their current great flourishing we need scholars to explain them, even though they have not changed much. presents an excerpt from Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. to be published by Da Capo Press on July 2, 2007.
Comics fans, grow up!-June 23.
"With the rise of the graphic novel, comics have hit the big time. It's time for fans to quit whining and celebrate their favorite art... "
Where is he headed? An 'art' has 'fans'? (I'd like to buy an art please, said Dr Zoidberg when he came into some money).

"The blessing and curse of comics as a medium is that there is such a thing as "comics culture." The core audience of comics is really into them: we know that Wednesdays are the day when new issues appear in the stores, we populate endless Web sites and message boards..."
Looks like it will be a thorough history of the comic book genre, which does have 'fans', and I'm writhing in embarrassment at the thought that somebody might think i'm one of them.

"Over the last half century, comics culture has developed as an insular, self-feeding, self-loathing, self-defeating fly-trap. A lot of the people who hit their local comics store every Wednesday think of comics readers as some kind of secret, embattled fellowship..."
'Secret embattled fellowship' expresses it better than my 'loose-knit society of fellow travellers' of june 9. Wolk's phrase, with its hint of more desperation, would have suited my enquiry better, and supported my conception of it as a 'genre allegiance', a modern mindset that we recognize but would need a psychiatrist or sociologist to explain to us. Commentary on the genre has taken a sad turn of late. Paul Gravett's books have been giving me the same disquiteing feeling. In fact, hasn't wee Paul already covered all this, him and everybody else who has made a semantic mud puddle and then cheerfully stepped in it (like my commenter (hi, Steve) of June 15 who wound up arguing about the definition of the word 'definition' and who will probably be back for another serve at the end of this):
"But the "novel" part of "graphic novel" blots out the idea of short fiction and nonfiction -- it's odd to call, say, books of reportage in cartoon form by Joe Sacco ..."Graphic narrative" sounds like a euphemism twice removed from its source, and still has the unfortunate resonance of "graphic" with the way it tends to be paired with "sexuality" or "violence." And "sequential art" sounds utterly arid."

I've always thought that to describe comicbook culture beginning with its 'fan' roots would be the honest thing to do, as opposed to the other approach, in which aspects of ancient art (eg. the Bayeux tapestry) are cunningly and dishonestly 'colonized'. However I would have drawn the line at offering it to the world at large for fear of looking foolish, and not only because of our tedious arguing about the naming of things. The triumph of this geeky subculture in the big world can only presage the downfall of good taste. Oh, what am I blathering about; that got fucked a long time ago.

If you're still with me, here's another cover:
My best ever party trick was making issue 50 coincide with the new millenium; I gave Mick Evans the painted figure and the little sketch and he made a lovely design of it even though he still argues to this day that the millenium wasn't until the following year. Here's my four pager about millenium night, from After the Snooter

in other news: (the catholic boy in me couldn't less this one go by)
The Vatican issued a document listing its rules of the road, including one warning against using cars "as a means for outshining other people and arousing a feeling of envy."
"Unless having fun has become a sin, I don't believe it (to be wrong)," Amedeo Felisa told Reuters this week at an event celebrating Ferrari's 60th anniversary in its hometown southeast of Milan.

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Sunday 24 June 2007

covers- EGOMANIA no.1

T he first drawing (1) is Picasso's well known portrait of Igor Stravinski. I was trying to evoke thoughts of that in my pencil drawing (2) for the cover of the first issue of Egomania. I made several different versions of it, tracing on a light box (ok, a window) over and over. The three above are all different drawings. Mick Evans worked out the design (3) for the solicitation. By the time of the finished version he was wearying of me redoing things over and over and he stuck the logo over my face in an act of flagrant effrontery (4). I liked the joke, a self-effacing egomania so to speak, and said let's keep that.

Egomania ran for two issues, July and December 2002, and was the last thing from Eddie Campbell Comics, publisher. I figured if I dropped Bacchus and started a new mag that was forty eight pages of all new material, not a single hint or whisper of reprint, and all mine too, including articles and interviews with other people, then I'd be starting afresh with a decent level of orders. But alas the orders came in as though it were just the next issue of Bacchus. The only logical conclusion was that I had worn out my welcome. Maybe it was too esoteric. It was designed to be an actual magazine, with well thought out typesetting and design, and my new comic strip work in it was all in gray half tones (the unfinished History of Humour). In fact there was so much 'design' that I think Mick Evans may have made more out of the project than I did.

The publishing model I had picked up from Dave Sim served me well for a few years, but the situation had changed radically since '95. There were eight or nine distributors then and now there was one. I was placing a lot of hope on the bookstore side of things as an altenative route, but that is fraught with difficulty. Top Shelf had been making inroads there for a few years and it was working well for us when suddenly our bookstore distributor, LPC, went out of business owing us around eighty thousand bucks, 50 of which was my business, mostly for the very successful From Hell. Indeed From Hell had been so good for me that I was able to roll with the punch. But I was getting tired of dealing with all this bankruptcy going on around me. A couple of years later it would be Preney, our printer through all this self-publishing, that would go kablooie (owing twenty thousand bucks), but by that time I had handed From Hell over to Top Shelf. The book shown above was the last thing I had printed there. Once again it was a murky thing. I had put up with all that when it was just 'comic books', but now that I was trying to do an art magazine, I needed better. I tried the second issue with Quebecor with more success. That was a much cleaner and crisper looking mag, but by now I wanted to go to sleep somewhere, or at least just draw pictures, and not have to worry about the calamitous business side of things (note that between yesterday's post and this one I've described four separate bankruptcies). More on that next time.

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