Saturday 18 August 2007




my look at logos

over the past few days
you'll have heard me complain that I know very little about the subject. The ailment is contagious; many designers around the place think that Campbell's presence on the cover means that the usual rules are out the window. Here's one from last year:
The designer on this was Adam Grano, no relation to cum grano salis (as far as I know). I made the letters in the balloon out of wet watercolor so that the density of saturation varied with the unloading of the brush. He decided to replace the magazine's illustrious logo for this issue with these campbellian fumbles. He took my letters from inside the balloon, blew them up and constructed the logo from them. There was an earlier change that I sent in which meant he had all the letters except the 'j' which he made by lenghtening an 'i'. Now I personally would never have had the arrogance to send that in for a logo. I would have been sweating and weeping all night with a ruler and a t-square only to see my effort summarily rejected. These design guys, eh? What makes them think they can get away with it, that's what I want to know :)
(I don't think i've ever mentioned it before, but the gag on that cover was my pal Daren White's idea. In fact, that's him under the word balloon.)


Friday 17 August 2007

gloss enamel house paint. dripped from a stick.
I arrived at the solution after struggling to find an organic quality, something that looked like it had a life apart from any that the author might be allowing it.

Vines are sprouting up around Bacchus while he sleeps on a Greek Island. The paint dried very off-white. The pure white on top of it was added later when I cleaned up some dirty marks that had attached to the surface over time (The piece is from 1988).

Allan Holtz explains the history of Sunday newspaper comic strip formats. and very useful it is too. (thanks to john C. for the link)

Program shows CIA behind Wikipedia entries.
A new identification program on the site reveals that some of the most prolific contributors to Wikipedia are the CIA, the British Labour Party and the Vatican - and they are not just updating their own entries.

Couple tried to name baby "@". BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese couple tried to name their baby "@," claiming the character used in e-mail addresses echoed their love for the child...


Thursday 16 August 2007



was this jobby from

good lord, 19 years ago.

I got around my complete lack of confidence by cutting a couple of letters out of a magazine and sticking another incongrous one in between. The whole cover was quite simple and tasteful. Phill Elliott did the hand separated colours. I never attempted that, and thank goodness I probably won't ever have to now. Much later I tried the cut-out thing again and this time coupled it with the blobby technique (see yesterday) for the Bacchus logo. Actually, the original was a baroque horror, with a pictorial element and a Kleenex smear all thrown into the mix. By the time Evans hacked it down to size and spread it out a bit it was much sweeter. That single cut out letter gives the thing an unearned air of authority.


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Wednesday 15 August 2007


If you read the previous post early I added an anecdotal footnote around 4.04 pm. re the moment I proposed to Anne.

"We live for a moment and then, like the wind, are gone."

Like the character in a strip described on page 818 of this biography, I have just realised that the title Of Margaret Mitchell's (my mother's names both, coincidentally) famous book, 'Gone with the Wind' is a derived from no. 103 of the Psalms. The line stuck in my head after I finished reading the tome. It's one of those classic, grand biographies that give us the subject from cradle to grave, complete. I have vicariously lived Caniff's 81 years condensed into a short span of time, in this case a couple of weeks, starting on my flight back from San Diego where I picked it up. I had waited too long for this book to not start it right away. Shel Dorf mentions it here, way back in 1998: "I tape recorded many of those conversations with his knowledge and loaned the tapes to R. C. Harvey when he was writing Milt's biography; he's still looking for a publisher." Nine years later we have Bob's book in our mitts. Given that the publisher is Fantagraphics, I presume he got tired of sending it around to all the big houses and gave up hope of a monetary advance commensurate with both the labour and the cultural-historical value of the project. And finishing it yesterday morning, in tears inevitably, I had to write off the rest of the day and go and have lunchtime beers with those pals of mine, none of whom have read a single page of the cartoonist I often cite as the single most important influence on my career.

You may say, 'all right, but we can't see any of that in your work, Campbell.' Fair observation.

I first discovered Caniff in the early 1970s, one of that generation who had taken Marvel comic books very seriously and were then looking for something meatier to sink our teeth into. As Harvey shows in his book, this particular cosmic balance came into effect as Caniff's then current Steve Canyon (1947-1988) daily strip was seriously losing circulation. Compilations of his earlier Terry and the Pirates (1934-1946) were starting to appear in collector's editions, first from Nostalgia Press and then in a long serialisation in ... uh... was it the Menomenee falls Gazette (or one of the other imitations, 'Favourite Funnies' etc?... I confess i chopped them all up into loose sheets the better to transport the distilled essence in my travels, and even at that I no longer have them nearby). The late '80s and early '90s had the Flying Buttress reprints and now we are about to receive the IDW complete edition. I hope it does well and sees completion.

What appealed to me in Caniff was the humanity. take this sample which I found at Duckburg, two people talking about human stuff:

Caniff could have conversations go on for days, sparkling with lively patter. At other times, silent pictures speak eloquently, as in the oft reprinted final page of Terry, a variant of the romantic Bogart-Bergman parting at the end of Casablanca*. Caniff's page will always be a favourite of the comic strip aficionado for all that it evokes without the gloss of verbal description. It is the essence of all that we ever hoped to achieve with the form, when we started thinking of it as a 'form': a pictorial narrative language that is beyond cold theory, demonstrated long before we started looking for it.

It goes without saying of course that a biography of a guy who spent his entire life at his drawing board making some of the greatest comic strips ever including a series that lasted 41 years, written by a fellow enthusiast and obsessive compulsive like myself, would be intrinsically compelling to me. Harvey is good at pinning down once and for all the passage of assorted 'ghosts,' and art assistants through the life of the subject and his work (not as many as one would think in such a long span of time). For instance, one sequence reprinted in the old Steve Canyon mag from Kitchen Sink press, (edited by Dorf, mentioned above) that Caniff thought might have been ghosted by Fred Kida or Alex Kotsky is here given finally to William Overgard (of Mike Nomad fame). Such things are endlessly fascinating to me, but for those not of the same bent, the real interest is in the people of celebrity he knew and who knew him. A line from quite late in the book: Incongruously, one room of the jammed duplex became the resting place for the piano given to the Caniffs by Kurt Weill ; Bunny didn't want it at Vista Chino.

I thought of making a very short but comprehensive list of the serious biographies that we have of the great practitioners of our art, but this one stands on its own and I want to leave it standing like that for now. I'd like to say may Bob Harvey do more like this one, but the moment is too short. We're are lucky to have it at all.

(Update 4.04 pm. to add footnote.) * Not that they are so alike as they are going around in my head in a romantic swirl, much as they did twenty four years ago in the humid evening on the tarmac at Darwin airport (where Jane is headed, above) when I took the notion to propose to Anne, though we were in the terminal by the time I got the words out.


Tuesday 14 August 2007



Thing I drew with

The dropper measuring thingy that comes in some ink bottles:
I'm sure it has a name, like every other thingy in the world. You press the top and hold it, dip it in the ink, unpress it and let the ink get sucked in. Then draw with it, occasionally pressing to release blobs of black for emphasis. This technique was used for one of my favourite logos, The Dance of Lifey Death, a book of mine first publshed by Dark Horse in 1993 (full cover), and to finish the effect I wanted to cut little feet out of one of those old style ballroom dance manuals, but instead I borrowed a rubber stamp of a barefootprint from my daughter, hayley campbell, who had borrowed it from a classmate at school. When he got it back it never worked properly again because I'd soaked it in india ink and it went hard. Sometimes I just hate myself.

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Monday 13 August 2007



i ever drew with

is a rolled up kitchen tissue. I'd tear off the end and plunge it into the ink, like this:
I used it to do the panel borders in the flashbacks in a couple of Bacchus short stories, enjoying that big hairy multiplied line:

The technique even came in useful for a logo once:

That was with fantagrpahics in 1991. Their design person used it in bright red with a blue-grey drop-shadow, which you can see if you click to enlarge. A good logo should be able to withstand all kinds of variations.
But what would I know about logos? These are the experts:
Todd Klein gives a potted history of comic book logos
his hand drawn logos
made on the computer.
logos by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
The more modernist logos of Ryan Hughes

Funny thing is though, there seems to be an opinion rolling around out there that my own logos are well suited to my own books, so over the years I've had the chance to make a few. Not having a trained grasp of letterforms, I tend to make a feature of the unlikely daftness of an unusual technique, and then cross my fingers and hope i get away with it

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Sunday 12 August 2007

Bowler hats and gas masks.

My pal White was pleased with the dvd cover of the old 1960 League of Gentlemen movie. I searched around and found this landscape format version at Retro to Go: a guide to all things hip and retro, an excellent blog with all kinds of old goodies.

It reminds me that a few weeks back we were talking in comments about the sad state of current movie poster design.
Checking my stats I see that some poor sod got here with the search 'not adequate with my penis'. I wonder if he found the answer.
Short post. Deadline on an important job. Working all day Sunday. I'll talk about it later if it works out.

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