Saturday 8 September 2007

5 : Another class of tone worth mentioning is what we might call pseudo-tone, such as when you get one of those blank adhesive-backed transparent sheets and photocopy your own one-off pattern onto it. I can't remember exactly but this one looks like I superimposed two square areas of wavy line tone, then enlarged them enormously and photocopied onto an adhesive transparency, laid it over the figures , carefully cut around their outlines and discarded the bits from within the figures (Though knowing me I probably saved those bits for use elsewhere) (Bacchus Vol 8):

That was Joe Theseus and Big Ginny, Queen of the Amazons, cast adrift in The patterns of Fate, drawn in 1994. On another occasion I saw this sheet of printed cellophane that came into the house wrapped around a bunch of flowers. I knew it was something I could find a use for and filed it away with my zipatones.

Sure enough, a page of From Hell script arrived that called for a zoom towards and into a bedroom window (chapter 5 page 1). The flower pattern was just right for representing a lace curtain, with the addition of a few verticals of white tone to suggest the undulations.

I discussed that page of art and script in an earlier post, though interestingly the effect hasn't come out well in the xerox I scanned for that. A quick check with the current Top Shelf edition of From Hell shows that it looks okay there.
there are two posts today; scroll down.


The word police.

Yesterday I said I'd give a talk on the 'graphic novel' without using the actual words. That's my strategy for avoiding some of those clots who inhabit the subculture of comic books and who are eager to argue about the meanings of words at the drop of a hat. Such was the nameless clot who arrived in my comments box two days ago and served me a 221 word defintion of the word 'graphic' in a confrontational way, and when he refused to sign a name to two subsequent comments became the first person to be ejected by the bouncers here at campbell.blogspot. The bar had to be closed down after that. Apologies to anyone who wanted to throw in their two cents, not leastof all hayley campbell who emailed me to say: "what a fucking twat." It's a good job I threw the sap out before h.c. started on him, that's all I can say.
I suppose other areas of human endeavour also have their nitpickers and self appointed civil servants who make sure that everything is kept in order, and that none of this is unique to my own chosen field. However In a perfect world I would walk down the street and people would say: 'there goes Eddie Campbell, a man with some interesting notions.' But what happens is that a bloke gets on his cell-phone and says, "I just saw Eddie Campbell, the graphic novelist."
"The what?"
"The graphic novelist."
"What's that?"
"Can't you just Wiki it?"
" uh,... okay... thanks for roning."

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Friday 7 September 2007

A s I mentioned yesterday, there's a television Arts program doing a piece on 'the graphic novel.' I've got to fly down to Melbourne on Monday for advance shooting, having been all the way down there only last week. While I abhor the idea of having to explain what I regard as a hijacked and demeaned concept, I figured the alternative is too much to contemplate, that some other boob would be asked to do it and I would be reduced to being embarrassed in front of the tv. My mission, and I've chosen to accept it, will be to create in the minds of the viewers the notion of an ideal art so attractive and appealing and shiny and brilliant that they will not notice, when they seek it in the bookstores, that it is buried under a pile of manure (see yesterday's post). Furthermore, I will attempt to do it without saying 'comics' or 'graphic novel', or inventing any new term for that matter. Let's see how far I get.
Nicki Greenberg will also be on the program, as will Shaun Tan. Nicki's Great Gatsby has just been launched into the world at Readings bookshop in Melbourne (see photos), with a spoken intro from Shaun, whose book The Arrival is released this week Stateside from Scholastic (correct me if I'm wrong on that)

4 : The white zipatone was the most sumptious of all. Screens of white dots to lay over a black drawing. I used to drop them in everywhere for painterly subtleties.

In at least one place in the following there are three layers of white (10%?) over a 50% grey:


Thursday 6 September 2007

Schools of thought, and schools of no thought.

E verybody wants a graphic novel. Nobody's sure what one is. And Campbell is to be called to explain it to the world, possibly on TV next week. Just waiting for it to be organized. I scan the news to check the current state of play, in case it's all changed in the last week...

Britain Embraces the Graphic Novel By TARA MULHOLLAND- September 5- NY TIMES

For Paul Gravett, the author of “Great British Comics” and one of the country’s foremost promoters of graphic novels, one of the primary reasons is simply the creation of the “graphic novel” category. “The word comics is laden with so many negative connotations, while the words ‘graphic novel’ give it a certain cachet,” he said.
Connect this to what I was saying on 27 Aug. regarding there being three schools of thought as to what a 'graphic novel' actually is, and also to this from The Guardian- nov 20- 2005- Strip lit is joining the literary elite:
"There are a lot of pure geniuses working in the form. But I don't believe it's going to become a truly mass phenomenon. A lot of people who would buy literary fiction find them impossible to read. And it's still difficult to get these books into the bookshops—they're still full of superheroes."—Dan Franklin. (editor at U.K. publisher Jonathan Cape, publisher of Dan Clowes commenting on the U.K. graphic novel market and on cartoonists Posy Simmons and Raymond Briggs being named fellows of the Royal Society of Literature.)
Obviously 'negative connotations' in the first quote is to be identified with 'superheroes' in the second. Strategically, the kind of books I like to make and read could make more headway in the bookworld if they were allowed to travel without being attached to the other kind by leg-irons. I'm reminded of Woody Allen's escaping chain gang in 'Take the Money and Run': "Why are you all standing together like that?" "We're a close family".

Frank Miller on a beach in Cannes last May tells a couple of European interviewers that a graphic novel is a big comic book (identified by me as the second school of thought on the matter and the one that I am sure will win out), which is fine for him as he's a big comic book artist. I don't think he considers the extent to which 'comic book' is probably viewed as a fairly constricted American 'genre' of popular fiction in Europe, nor if he did consider it would he be bothered much, since he operates entirely in the iconic field of the comic book.

My aug 27 piece was linked in a couple of places describing it as 'Eddie Campbell's definition', though how an essay that presents three separate and mutually exclusive views on the matter can be described as DEFinite I do not know. Sounds somewhat INdefinite to me. Stephen Weiner, reviewing Gilbert Hernandez' Human Diastrophism (Boston Globe, Aug 28), tries to be definite:
In the 1980s, the comics industry was stretching. The concept of the "graphic novel" was born a few years earlier, a story hoping to achieve the same literary import as a prose novel and completed between the front and back cover of a book. Cartoonists were experimenting with both the types of stories told in comics format and the ways these stories were presented.
That sits in the first school of thought, recognizing as it does that the idea of the graphic novel started with an ambition toward literary weight, and it carefully sidesteps the problem area mentioned above. Weiner proceeds from there to a proper review of the work in hand, without even referring to the book's drawings until the fifth and final paragraph, and without using the term 'comic book', though the thought that such efforts come out of a comics 'industry' discomforts me a little (would we say the 'literature industry'?).

Observe: (NY SUN- Sept 5) Ronald Reagan, a Graphic Biography, to be published next week by Hill and Wang, and note that the descriptive term puts the publisher in my third category, in which the word 'graphic' gets divorced and remarried. The first school of thought doesn't do this because it always accepted that the term 'novel' is a misnomer and the second doesn't do it because it's so wrapped up in comic books it's not really aware of the existence of other modes. I'm not sure why the third school doesn't realize the word 'graphic' is pretty much a misnomer too ('written, drawn, or engraved'), or at least is so vague in this context as to ask more questions than it answers. The reviewer, whom I will not give a name, obviously thinks its an 'industry', because throughout 21 paragraphs he neglects to mention the name of an author (and otherwise sits in my second category, having no sense of a comic strip earlier than Superman, and note that he credits DC comics with authoring that one):
To portray the story of Reagan's road to and life in the White House as a comic strip may seem a trivial means of imparting a grand political message, but the effort turns out to be both ingenious and fair minded, showing with admirable impartiality how a poor boy from Tampico, Ill., became president...
Comic strips have come a long way since DC Comics gave birth to Superman and the other pulp fiction superheroes. From the moment Roy Lichtenstein elevated the form to the highest art, comic books in the guise of "graphic novels" have attempted to be taken seriously both as art and as literature, with mixed results.
The Reagan graphic biography lifts the ambition of the form to a new plane, and if the likeness of Reagan is sometimes woefully approximate and the drawing of other familiar characters, such as John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Mikhail Gorbachev, suggest only a vague acquaintance with reality, it is hard to fault the seriousness of the enterprise.
To ensure accuracy, the book is at times too wordy and strains to encapsulate the long career of the oldest politician ever to enter the White House in a limited number of frames, but never mind.
Ears that have long been bashed by Campbell will recall that I suggested (In my Comics Journal interview last year) that the idea of the 'graphic novel' (whatever it ended up being, for the idea and the term preceded the object) was a consequent of a shift in our way of thinking about 'comics', and that one of the hallmarks of this new era is a respect for the authorial voice. Good or bad, a strip cartoon is today never considered anonymous or the product of an 'industry'. And I expect that's the only part we all agree on.

Plagiarism is a subject we like to revisit occasionally here at Campbell blogspot:
Corrupt official plagiarizes trial apology-Wed Sep 5,-. BEIJING (Reuters) - Zhang Shaocang, former Communist Party chief of state-owned power company Anhui Province Energy Group Co Ltd, wept as he read a four-page "letter of apology" during his corruption trial at a court in Fuyang, Anhui, according to a Procuratorial Daily report reproduced in Wednesday's Beijing News. But Zhang's sentiments were later found to be strikingly similar to those of Zhu Fuzhong...

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Wednesday 5 September 2007

3: The zipatones always made for subtler possibilities in drawing. I was already trying to use the finest possible ink lines, but with tones you can cut for example, a line that is no more than the edge of a juxtaposition of white and 10% grey. There's nothing so white as a white shape without an outline.

I'd also draw with white on top of grey tones. Scraping the dots off the surface of the screen was an option too, though going all the way through to the paper underneath wasn't something I did often:


London underground's on strike again. here's a song for the occasion. link via hayley campbell, so it's obscene. keep the sound low if you're in the office.
Tom Spurgeon's obit. for the late Arnold Wagner led me to Arnold's blog, where I found a link to this spoof of Thomas Kinkaide
JONAS KASKADE, Painter of trite.
“Built in 1947, Loon Point Light was constructed to warn off incoming migratory birds. Prior to its installation, hundreds of geese, swans and loons smacked into the rocks as they approached the high mountain lake every year. After the light was activated, the deaths declined dramatically.
Standard Fine Art Print: $600
Deluxe Fine Art Print with little actual paint daubs added: $1500


(pictures above from Alec: The King Canute Crowd again though i confess to moving a couple of small unconfident marks off the white dress)


Tuesday 4 September 2007

As promised, the original pages from The Black Diamond Detective Agency are now on sale at The Beguiling. Note that all pages have been signed by me in pencil since those scans were made. I'll put a permanent link in the sidebar in case you take a notion later. Meanwhile...

2: More on zipatones. Here's Dave Sim making an in-joke on the cover of Cerebus #207 about the way I tended to use the stuff.

I wanted to create a painterly style, as opposed to a drawn one constructed with lines. Normal comicbook drawing has always looked dead on the page to my eyes. I needed a style that could suggest light and air. I'd dab in black ink marks, lay down tonal slabs not necessarily contained by lines, and then dab white paint on top of that. If you click to zoom you can see the textures.

The above is a window box of flowers in a foreground, if you're the sort of viewer to whom such things matter. Below is a panel I was always happy with. The only significant drawn line in it is made by the diagonal cut edge of tone in the left foreground.

The above are from images I scanned in enlargements from Alec: The King Canute Crowd (circa 1985-86) and offered to Ca et La to use as chapter headings and endpapers in their edition last year, but they preferred to go with a different approach.
In my last few books I've used actual paint in full colour and no longer need to find ways to simulate 'painterly' effects. I miss the old dots though... maybe time to get back to them for a spell.


Monday 3 September 2007

1: All about zipatones, in my continuing survey of the technical aspects of cartooning. My pal Patrick Alexander, last seen on this blog on 10 jan '07, recently sent me a few sheets of the stuff from Japan:

I'm talking about those screens of dot-pattern that used to be a staple of my black and white art. I guess they're well and truly out of fashion now, since it's easier to make a screen on the computer and besides patterns of dots in artwork are likely to cause scanning problems. The sheet has a sticky back, and comes on a slick sheet which is semi-transparent, just enough to see the art underneath so you can cut to fit with a scalpel. They come graded in percentage greys, from 10, 20 etc. up to 90, though 90% was likely to fill in black if there was to be any reduction in size. I always found that 70% was a comfortable high. They also come in line-per inch. I was using 50-lpi last I thought about it. Finer than that was asking for trouble if there was to be a 70% reduction in size. On a light print job 10% grey might just look like the merest gossamer smear on the page, but I was all for that kind of subtlety. I liked to hack the stuff up a great deal, so after some use my pages would look like this:

But I always could use the bits no matter how small they got.

Joe McCulloch writes 2,801 words on the history of Steve Bissette's TABOO anthology. I have never understood the attraction of horror, so I wasn't really paying attention at the time, Thus it has completely slipped my mind what a pain in the arse it was for Steve to get that second issue out, the one in which From Hell made its debut, and FH wasn't even the component that was giving offence:
A typesetting house refused the project, as did two copy shops. As did a color separation outfit. A different separation outfit, approached to handle the back and inside covers, had to be assured that certain symbols on display were not Satanic. Upon approaching a bindery, the book was refused because the people there believed incorrectly that John Totleben had drawn a vagina somewhere in his front cover art. Nine binderies refused the book in sum. Finally, the damned thing was released in the Autumn of 1989, all 10,000 copies. Some of which were then seized and destroyed in customs busts in Canada and the UK. At the end of 1989, Bissette was refused a business loan by his bank, which had handled the prior issue's money, for the purposes of reprinting the volume.That is infamy.
Competitors in the World Beard and Moustache Championships paraded through Brighton on Saturday morning.-BBC news- 1st Sept- ten photos.


Sunday 2 September 2007

Hey ma, can you see me on the radio?

That was the Sonata program on Melbourne's RRR station. Okay, now back to norbal. Some folk were asking about art sales recently. I hope to have some news on that front in a day or two, as I've lodged all the Black Diamond art with a responsible trader. Watch this spot.