Saturday 11 August 2007


A promotional idea that was started by Marcus Gipps (sometime commenter in this parish and the accidental source of our catchphrase 'it's not a graphic novel, percy') of Blackwell's bookstore in London. I'm not sure how it's working out, or if he managed to get it off the ground, but I want to show my effort here while the thing is still timely. It's all about the penguin blank covers:
My Penguin -Books by the Greats, Covers by you
Design your own front cover... On 30 November (2006), we're publishing six of our favourite books with naked front covers; Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Emma by Jane Austen, Magic Tales by Brothers Grimm, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and The Waves by Virginia Woolf.
What’s on your cover? Buy the book, design a front cover and then send your masterpiece via email to We'll be showcasing a selection of your designs. Visit my Penguin to view the gallery so far!

Having checked those links just now, I see that they already have a second set of covers out. oh, well no matter. I picked the two most unlikely covers and decided to show Marcus Aurelius and Jane Austen's Emma having a conversation with each other. Finding matching quotes was something of a literary sleight of hand, but here's how it worked out. Click to zoom..

The complete text of each work is behind those two covers. I found the paper surface quite pleasing to work on. here's a close-up:


Friday 10 August 2007

happy birthday to ME

For I'm a felly good jollo (52). Seeing my call for a photo or two of me and wee Cal in San Diego last week, as we came home without any, Andy Runton of Owly fame emailed a couple. After my rictus grin on the front of PW Comics Week, which you may have missed as I didn't draw attention to it, I have resolved to smile no more for the birdy, any birdy.

In preparation for meeting him at the Brisbane Writers festival next month, I'm reading Guy Delisle's excellent Shenzhen; a travelogue from China , in which I have come across this interesting use of the forbidden technique of crossed balloon tails.

I say interesting because I myself have just been caught red-handed by the calligrapher supreme Todd Klein, in his review of The Black Diamond Detective Agency. While otherwise praising me, he writes: Occasionally the white brush-stroke tails cross, as in the panel (below), which is further confused by criss-crossing white bullet-trails. This violates so many things about good lettering that I hardly know where to start!

I really did think hard about whether the world would let me get away with that one. As I caught my two comedic characters in a chaotic crossfire, running around in my noodle was the famous snatch of dialogue from the Ghostbusters movie:

Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

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Thursday 9 August 2007

"For pieces of silver I dressed her sweet confidences in the frills of folly and made them dance in the marketplace."
(Fate 4)

H ere's a final look at the black and white version of Fate of the Artist. My adaptation of the O. Henry story, The Confessions of a Humorist (Ainslee's magazine, Oct 1903), that concludes the book was in place in the original submission.

The wife of my bosom likes to quote lines from that story. If she catches me listening intently to somebody telling me an anecdote she'll say: "Watch out, he's a literary Judas. He'll kiss you and betray you." The world remembers O.Henry for the twist endings to his short stories. It tends to forget how polished and memorable his prose was. I became particularly fond of the author during the early days of my Bacchus when I named a story "The Rubaiyat of a cheap plonk', a title far too close in form to Henry's 'The Rubaiyat of a scotch highball'. The similarity ended there, but I was smitten by the man's way of putting things:

This document is intended to strike somewhere between a temperance lecture and the 'Bartender's Guide." Relative to the latter, drink shall swell the theme and be set forth in abundance. Agreeably to the former, not an elbow shall be crooked.
Bob Babbit was "off the stuff." Which means- as you will discover by referring to the unabridged dictionary of Bohemia- that he had "cut out the booze," that he was "on the water wagon." The reason for Bob's sudden attitude of hostility toward the "demon rum"- as the white ribboners miscall whiskey (see the "Bartender's Guide") should be of interest to reformers and saloon keepers.
(NY World, Feb 25 1906)

Naturally I had to own a 'complete' O. Henry, with all the details about where each and every story was published. That's it up there sporting the well known John Sloan 1912 painting of McSorley's bar in NY, which if I remember correctly still looks a lot like the painting. (Chris Staros and Judith Hansen perhaps had their minds more on practical matters than I did that day) (or any day for that matter).

I awoke the smorning with the hint of a bad case of eyestrain building up, and then I read this telling me that we will never have time to read all the books we want to read:
Read the introduction to How To Read a Novel: A User's Guide by John Sutherland-August 07-Guardian.
I would wager that, for English Language readers, 2006-7 was also the richest-ever year for fiction. And, for a certainty, 2008 will be even richer. This is not merely a function of ever more new novels as the fact that - unlike other products - old novels do not disappear once consumed. Like old soldiers, they never fade away. The must-read archive gets bigger and bigger. Bestseller lists used to contain ten titles. Now it's up to a hundred. It's like a mountain which grows faster than any reader can climb. How to be well-read in the 21st century? Can one be well-read?
As the sad witness of lottery winners testifies, vast wealth seldom makes life easier. We are, as regards the range, quality, and sheer number of novels available to us in 2007, better off than all generations before us. "Embarrassment" is inadequate to describe the dilemmas this unprecedented richness poses. It is not (as it was in my youth) disposable cash which defines the dilemma as available time. We live longer than they did but even if we lasted as long as Swift's Struldbrugs the reader's eye would never catch up with the writer's hand.

'Watchmen' Cast's Watchwoman Revealed: Carla Gugino To Play Silk Spectre: Zack Snyder's adaptation of classic graphic novel begins filming in the fall for March release.-Aug 8
Gugino will play Sally during all her varying ages throughout the film, as Snyder has indicated in the past that he will be using "aging" and "de-aging" technology rather than casting different actors.
Interesting story for people who collect stuff
(thanks, dan)

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Wednesday 8 August 2007

big wimmen.

I n the way of the internet I was googling for an image for something (I have now completely forgotten what i was looking for) when I got distracted by the Amazon. She was painted by Franz von Stuck, the German symbolist painter, 1905.

gallery of his work.
It was only when I got to his wikipedia entry I remembered we'd used him in From Hell:
"The central figure in a 1889 painting by von Stuck titled Die wilde Jagd (trans: "The Wild Chase") is often said to bear a strong physical resemblance to Adolf Hitler. This myth has grown because the painting was completed in the year of Hitler’s birth (1889) and also by the fact that Von Stuck was acknowledged as one of Hitler’s favourite artists."

Anyway, the Wounded Amazon. I know we come by these particular attractions through the complex course of experience, but for me the big lass is hearbreakingly beautiful. If they reshoot 300 using her and her like, and get that other big lass, the wife of my bosom, a part too, that'll be me at the head of the queue. Actually, scratch that. I'll send the wee'uns to the movies, and then I'll talk Annie into dressing up like that in the bedroom and walloping me on the head a few times with the shield. Then we can do a wilde jagd around the bed for half an hour. Who needs hollywood when you can make your own entertainment!?

There's a bloke from the newspaper phoning to interview me about the graphic novel in an hour, so I better figure out what one is.
A quick news search:
Bend Weekly, Oregon.-Aug 03- The big battle - It's edge versus respectability as graphic novels go mainstream
"Look, on the horizon! Is that a bird ... a plane ... or perhaps the final comics crisis? Is this Armageddon for artists, Gotterdammerung for graphic novelists? In the 20th century, comic books endured congressional hearings and parental condemnation. The industry, like Plastic Man, always bounced back. The 21st century, though, has ushered in a relentless new foe: Respectability. High culture's battlements had been breached. The New Yorker signaled this defeat by printing a cartoon of a man asking, "Now I have to pretend to like graphic novels, too?"

LA Times-Aug 05- When graphic novelists turn to prose, the result is something wicked
"One might not have expected Comic-Con International, the extravaganza held in San Diego every July, to become a major promotional vehicle for mystery writers. But in recent years, increasing numbers of crime novelists have flocked to the graphic format and made it their own. Greg Rucka is better known for his "Whiteout" and "Queen & Country" comics than for the Atticus Kodiak thrillers that originally launched his writing career; Denise Mina, the author of gritty Glasgow-based novels, penned an entire run of "Hellblazer"; David Morrell (of "Rambo" fame) signed on for a stint scripting "Captain America"; and internationally bestselling novelist Karin Slaughter recently teamed up with Oni Press to launch a new line of graphic novels."
of the bunch reviewed, this one caught my eye: "A Killing in Comics" by max Allan Collins. The book is a loving tribute to the post-World War II heyday of comic strips, constructed primarily in prose but accompanied by illustrations that open each chapter.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)- aug 06 Novelist happy to see "Stardust" on big screen
"Writing a novel is a voyage of discovery," said Neil Gaiman, who has written piles of them (including "American Gods," "Anansi Boys," and "Neverwhere") and sold millions.
But turning a novel into a film is like "running a very sharp-edged maze leading through a minefield, with people shooting at you, in a freezing downpour, having no sense of where the exit might be, pursued by hounds, while blindfolded."

"The people in those offices are not inventive and creative minds. They didn't get their jobs by being original. Their role is to suggest ways in which something novel can be made more like something we've seen before," Gaiman said with a sigh. "New ideas frighten them."
in other news:
Croc falls out of Russian apartment block
Residents in the Russian nuclear research town of Sarov got a jaw-dropping surprise when a crocodile fell from the 12th-storey apartment of its owner. The one-metre caiman landed on a pavement after leaning too far out of the window of the apartment where it had lived for the last 15 years...
wait, there's the phone....

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Tuesday 7 August 2007

Fate 3

H ere is the entirety of the anecdote from The Fate of The Artist in which Campbell goes to the airport without his passport, (the first time around). As before, the monochrome scans are in colour so you can see the warm and cool greys. A great deal of the lettering is redone in the finished version. I fuss over lettering more than you would be inclined to assume. When the word came down that First second's books were all going to be printed at that very small size, I decided to counteract it by opening up the letter shapes a bit more. I had left enough airy space in the drawings to make that workable. In fact I quite like all the white page that's showing (make a mental note to do that on the secret thing I must start today). "Be brave, Monty" has since become a catch-phrase in our house, applied to all kinds of situations, but usually to campbellian schemes that are likely to not go right.

(the overlay in the third monochrome has slipped a little.)
Campbell interviewed by his old buddy john Anderson, who once nearly missed his flight out of SPX due to squeezing in one more beer with him.
And in other news:
Thai cops punished by Hello Kitty.
Police chiefs in the Thai capital, Bangkok, have come up with a new way of punishing officers who break the rules - an eye-catching Hello Kitty armband. From today, officers who are late, park in the wrong place or commit other minor transgressions will have to wear it for several days. The armband is designed to shame the wearer, police officials said.

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Monday 6 August 2007

Fate 2

T wo more pages from The Fate of the Artist, 'before and after'. In the first set I played around with the typesetting a great deal more in the finished version. I was aiming for the overall feeling that I recognize in my own lettering, and thinking of images as dropped-in typographical accents. In the second you can see a combination of warm and cool greys in the monochrome version. The text needed to be changed too; since Campbell was supposed to be missing he couldn't very well be supplying the drawings (my post of 6 april connects to this.).

I was wrestling with problems of authenticity at time of the second example. That is, when an illustrator draws a historical period, there's always a problem with an unavoidable feeling of him or her being hundreds of years removed from the subject. While comtemplating the fanciful notion that 18th century artist Karl Schutz (above) employed a rotating cast of characters in his topographical prints, it occurred to me that I could cast modern actors in these historical roles and thus get around the inauthenticity. That is, I'm not drawing the historical period, but instead, modern actors playing roles. Having gotten that far, it was just a short step to casting one of the same in the role of Campbell, since the author is supposed to be missing. ( Originally I intended to draw myself in flashback, or 'cartoon reconstruction'. ) Furthermore with several actors wandering about the 'set' and many extra pages to fill, they started to develop their own personalities and bits of business, adding a few extra layers to an already complicated work.
Fifty years ago Jack Kerouac's dazzling novel On the Road became the blueprint for the Beat generation and shaped America's youth culture for decades. It influenced scores of artists, musicians and film-makers, but how does it resonate with young people today?
-Sean O'Hagan-Sunday August 5- The Observer
Carolyn Cassady, the last surviving member of Kerouac's closeknit coterie of friends and fellow Beats, now 84 and exiled in deepest Berkshire, is even more scathing about Noughties youth. 'It's all about money and surface now, the clothes you wear, the things you buy, and no one is the slightest bit ashamed of being superficial. I often thank God that Jack and Neal did not live long enough to see what has become of their vision'.
(link via Mick Evans)
One of my roommates in San Diego was Christian Slade. Brett Warnock shows " a few beautiful watercolors... He made during his trip to San Diego. This one he did looking out the 7th floor window of the Embassy Suites, on Eddie Campbell's bed, looking out on the harbor". Click link for enlargement and more pages at Brett's always excellent Top Shelf blog.
How to be a successful comic artist. By George Storm, 1923. (link via drjon. thanks). Storm usually got stuck doing sentimental strips typical of his period, but this is very funny.
Obese Aussies are a dead serious problem
Pathologists are calling for new “heavy-duty” autopsy facilities to cope with obese corpses that are difficult to move and dangerously heavy for standard-size trolleys and lifting hoists. Specially designed mortuaries would soon be required if the nation failed to curb its fat epidemic, providing "larger storage and dissection rooms, and more robust equipment", said Professor Roger Byard, a pathologist at the University of Adelaide. In the past year, there have also been requests for larger crematorium furnaces, bigger grave plots as well as super-sized ambulances, wheelchairs and hospital beds.


Sunday 5 August 2007

Fate 1

T he Fate of the Artist was a book I was working on sporadically in my spare time before Mark Siegel of First Second called and asked if I had any ideas I wanted to pitch. I'd been interrupting it to do various paying jobs including Batman, Captain America and Escapist stories. Indeed I was starting to despair of ever getting the thing done. There were thirty pages in grey tones completed, which I scanned through their tracing paper overlays and emailed to New York. I originally envisioned it as a 48 page book in black and white which I would publish myself or through Top Shelf. First Second wanted a bigger book, and in color. I had no trouble whatsoever expanding it, and getting a proper advance of cash enabled me to get the thing wrapped up. It's interesting in retrospect to compare the monochrome versions with the way it was eventually published, though I think Mark was going far out on a limb in trusting me to know how the finished thing was going to make sense. There were bits from the beginning, the middle, and the last seven pages, the adaptation from O. Henry was complete, so at least it must have looked like there was a plan. He trusted me to do the entire Monsieur Leotard based on a one-page typed synopsis. My agent tells me this is extremely unusual.
So here are the title page and the first chapter page. the indicia came between these, with the recumbent figure of the poet Chatterton thrown on there at the very last minute. He was supposed to be exactly level with the recumbent Campbell below, in yet aanother of those multifarious cross-references that inhabit the work, but the addition of First Second's isignia upon the indicia page, unknown to me, threw things out of alignment. Apart from that and the covers, the whole package was assembled by Mick Evans and I submitted it on a disc.

Colour goache was touched in lightly over the grey gouache, the plan of having chapter headings was abandoned, and more was done in photoshop than I originally envisioned. The metal nut was scanned at 800%. The human nut is happy with the result.