Saturday 29 September 2007

What Eddie Campbell said.

Icame across this recently: Posted by Evil Richard on September 12, 2007. 1. THE ARRIVAL by Shaun Tan -Published by Scholastic - and in a format maybe more reminiscent of a children's book than a graphic novel or comic, it might be easy to overlook this book and leave it off a list like this, but if Eddie Campbell says it's a graphic novel then that's good enough for me.

No, what Eddie Campbell said

is that he didn't think the rest of you would disagree among yourselves. In the vain hope of raising the argument above and beyond semantic nitpicking, Campbell wrote:
Comics fans being what they are, vocational filing clerks, it ends up being about where things get put in the store, which is not what we really should be concerned with. What we should be asking is whether we keep it in the esteem we reserve for the other monuments of Parnassus, our Mozart and our John Donne and our Cervantes, or do we keep it upended in the water closet of our cultural memory, as an accompaniment to our bowel movements?

My pal mr j alerted me to this today: The Rosemary Sorensen thing surfaced at last in the weekend Australian. I guess the original idea of the story quickly passed its use-by date and she salvaged what she could from her notes for her book-gossip column.
Those graphic novelists are an argumentative lot. They can't agree what their books should be called. According to Eddie Campbell, Brisbane-based co-author of From Hell, which was made into a movie with Johnny Depp, what he writes are extended comic strips. Bryan Talbot, credited with producing the first graphic novel in britain in 1978**, says he's happy with the term big comic, even if it doesn't explain this burgeoning genre. The need for defining labels, Campbell says with hauteur, is a sign of the conservative mind.

No, what Eddie Campbell said,

in the vain hope of diverting the issue away from an argument about the meanings of words, was: Just think about it as a very long cartoon strip and then tell the world whether you think it's a good cartoon strip or a lousy one, whether it is profound or vacant. And then he called YOU conservative*. And in the vain hope of tying it all into a bigger bookish picture of the literature of our times, particularly with regard to the increasing use of pictorial elements in the novel, since you seem to think books with pictures are for halfwits, he discussed Umberto Eco and Jonathan Safran Foer. And he went on at some length, while the 'hauteur' held out. But hey, to favour 'cartoon strip' over 'graphic novel' and still come off as haughty is no mean feat. I bet you folks at home couldn't pull that one off.

And if anybody remembers Campbell's 'manifesto' from 2004, well he came up with that also in a vain attempt to curtail the arguing about the meanings of words. Our conclusion at this pont in the proceedings is that the whole thing is screwed, and we refer you to our recent posts under the heading of 'cranky old bastard'.

*with ref to this: "conservatives demand rigid structures while "A higher tolerance of ambiguity and complexity is typical of people who are liberal...)"
** as credited by himself.


Friday 28 September 2007


T he above was part of a banner I drew for the old website. There were several pages, for instance 'Eddie Campbell's Corner' which had the title and then me over on the right standing in a corner like the class dunce or the guy from The Blair Witch Project, and there was 'Eddie Campbell's Shout' in which ye host recommended a beer or wine, a cd and a good book, with a piccy of him with his mouth open wide shouting. You may be able to still find that stuff by clicking 'wayback' in the sidebar. The above was a banner that was never used; it was just 'Press'. The web monkey, or Internet Simian as he called himself recently in comments, was going to drop in all our reviews and write-ups as they appeared, but it rankled with him to have to boost my ego on a regular basis. And the wee sketch to the right of the banner had me selling the news. Hold up, it's the phone...
ah, it's my young pal smee
"hey, 's me. What 's 'Extra' all about then."
Well, you know, that's from the heyday of printed news. If they had to update the front page halfway through the morning they called it an 'extra' edition. Some days in the big cities you'd get four or five changes on the front page... in fact I think I saw one happen not all that long ago... maybe the twin towers... it struck me as most unusual in these times.."
"'Why couldn't they just click the 'refresh' button?"
"Well, uh, ... maybe they ran out of buttons. Anyway, look I have work to do. Thanks for roning."'s the phone again..
""s me once more. hey what's 'roning'?"
That's when some boob phones you witha dumb question or information you didn't really need. Just click on that label underneath here for the whole history. And thanks again".
World's longest hangover: When a 37-year old man walked into a hospital emergency room in Glasgow, Scotland last October complaining of "wavy" vision and a non-stop headache that had lasted four weeks, doctors were at first stumped, the British journal The Lancet reported today.


Thursday 27 September 2007

In my neighbourhood.

I normally wouldn't take photographs in the middle of a church service, even a wedding, but I knew I wouldn't be able to recreate from memory this effect made by sunlight through stained glass windows onto stone wall.


Book Autopsies: Brian Dettmer carves into books revealing the artwork inside, creating complex layered three-dimensional sculptures.

Anne Campbell works in the office of a big law firm. Today one of her colleagues came up and asked if that was her husband on the teevee on Sunday afternoon. Anne sighed and said, yes that was him.
"Tell me," said the other lady, "What's a 'graphic novel'?"
(bloodcurdling scream, exit).


Wednesday 26 September 2007

colour me purply black

Here's a detail from another one of my comic book outings. This is from a story Neil Gaiman wrote for DC titled The Flame is Green. I think it may have been the first thing he wrote for them but it was shelved for twelve years until 2000. I drew the three page prologue, pencil and ink, which had a haunting romantic quality about it. A character who is not identified but is obviously intended to be Blackhawk steps down into the wreckage of a bunker in Berlin. A serious battle took place here. Among the deathly remains we see a skeletal Sandman (the original with the fedora and gasmask) and battered wings that could only be the remains of a Hawkman who did not survive his golden age. Blackhawk is obviously a little tipsy, and wants to get back to his barstool. I'm not sure how Neil swung that, as I was once catogorically told that DC heroes never touch the stuff.

I forgot to check the colorist when I made the scan, but I believe it was Matt Hollingsworth, one of the few colorists I've encountered who knew exactly what he was doing. The lettering looks good too.

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Tuesday 25 September 2007

Last night we had one of those blistering conversations that longtime married folk occasionally have; one of those where you have to get one of the kids to help you find your glasses on the floor afterwards, and in a moment of reflective clarity in the eye of the storm I heard her say that the major contributing factor to the rapid disintegration of our marital bliss is 'the graphic novel.' She didn't say 'that goddam book!', or 'why you can't leave your work at the office!?', but 'the graphic novel', as a concept. It was, to say the least, epiphanous.


Monday 24 September 2007

still cranky

These strips from 1909 to 1913 are very funny and all that. At this time the title changed every day. The first one in 1907 was 'A MUTT STARTS IN TO PLAY THE RACES,' and four consecutive from 1908:
It's during that sequence, not in the current book, that A.Mutt meets the diminutive Jeff, an inmate of the booby hatch (no sensitivity toward the intellectually impaired in those days), who believes himself to be the world heavyweight champ, Jim Jeffries. Readers picking up the current book will probably be students of the history of humour to a greater or lesser extent. The most interesting thing the book could have told them is when Jeff's name started appearing in the ever changing daily titles of the strips, but some boob has gone to a lot of trouble to remove every single one of them. And the dates too.

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Sunday 23 September 2007

Cranky old bastards.

Having completed The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard I have been spending some time trying to clean up my studio. The archaeological dig has reached the 2006 level, where I find the Comics Journal of July last year. In it there is Groth's obituary of Alex Toth, with a short fragment of an unfinished interview in which Toth is at his curmudgeonly best. On Frank Miller: "I don't like to be associated with Miller in any way... I can't stand his work... I hate what he did to Batman. It's a loathsome, destructive, warped, black, dark take... The age of ugly came in."
On Frank Thorne: "He's got all the talent in the world, that guy, and he just turns out this shit... It's too warped. It's too ugly."
On Italian Franco Saudelli: "They can't do sex without violence over there. It all turns into lousy porn. And a lot of rape and torture and this and that and demeaning crap about women."

I find myself pulling a book off the shelf: The Tristan Chord; Wagner and Philosophy by Bryan Magee, and trying to find a passage that left its mark in my noodle. Magee observes a difference between the old bastard who is cranky (not Magee's actual words I hasten to add, as I cannot find the passage, having neglected to draw a lassoo around it as I normally would) because the world is no longer the way it was when he loved it (Toth), and the old bastard who is cranky because he lacked the power to make the world into what he wanted it to be:

"Paradise is permanently postponed not because of any special wickedness on anyone's part but because it was never available in the first place. To be disillusioned one needs first to have been illusioned."

Well, the teevee thing I told you about two weeks back came off well as far as Greenberg and Tan are concerned (I presume), but not so for Campbell. I can't watch these things and so listened from my studio while colouring, But I gather that the brave and imaginative attempt to explain the 'graphic novel' (from a guy who is quoted explaining it in the wikipedia entry on the subject no less) without referring to comic book culture (a strategy I have cunningly developed to avoid any references to the shit that always drags this thing down), was tossed out and they got another guy to do it sitting in Melbourne's Minotaur Comics, which I presume was the story they had worked out before I arrived and tried to divert it by doing it sitting in a pub. In fact if that very fellow, Bernard Caleo, bless him, had not mentioned the Fate of the Artist, it wouldn't have got mentioned at all, even though I did a spiel on it. So that left me on screen coming out with some tired old crap about From Hell that I got bored with eight years back. File it under noble failures, no actually let's start a label for 'cranky bastard'.

(Image from No love for me.)