Saturday 3 November 2007

borrowed by a bunch of boobs

Tim Hodler at Comics Comics made me laugh. He quotes from this short review by Elizabeth Ward in tomorrow's Washington Post- nov 4-
Don't mistake this astonishing work by Australia's Shaun Tan for a picture book, even though it consists of nothing but pictures. At 128 pages, it's what could be called a pictorial novel, since the usual label -- graphic novel -- suggests more of a manga- or comic-style book, bristling with text...
Then he writes: Where's Eddie Campbell?
'Eddie Campbell, semantic troubleshooter,' it says on my business card. In truth, I have unfortunately obtained for myself the reputation of a nitpicker who doesn't like the phrase 'graphic novel'. Nothing could be further from the truth. My dislike has always been for most of the boobs who use the phrase, most memorably the boob I saw recently in a store who referred to two copies of the same book as 'these two graphic novels.' My 'terminological madness' as Neil Gaiman called it is largely due to the fact that half of the people reading this are thinking 'and what's wrong with that?' I have for a long time maintained that most of the confusion we get from the mainstream media is not the result of them being 'clueless critics' as Tim labelled his post, but the result of us feeding them confusion by the bucketload. I recall and still have in my files a mainstream review that begins "Jimmy Corrigan may not be sequential art, but it sure is comics," and another review that begins "The Fate of the Artist is not a graphic novel per se." Then there is the line from the intro to Graphic Witness which I quoted here recently: "Although neither (A Contract With God and Maus) is a comic book - and the themes of both are closer to tragedy than comedy - Eisner and Spiegelman are considered by some to be comic book artists." But for every one of those I could name two from the comic book community, such as the review of The Arrival that began "THE ARRIVAL is in a format maybe more reminiscent of a children's book than a graphic novel or comic... but if Eddie Campbell says it's a graphic novel then that's good enough for me."

This goes way above and beyond semantic nitpicking. Any term is only useful so long as it communicates meaning, and I have no hesitation about ditching one as soon as it loses that value. A phrase can flourish while holding more than one meaning, indeed it's almost obligatory in a living and thriving language. However, in the kind of examples I quote above we're seeing missed and bungled opportunities and considering our medium's ongoing difficulties in interfacing with the general bookstore and the mainstream media, there is much at stake. The 'idea' of the 'graphic novel' as an independent art came off badly in the above review. Elizabeth Ward is quite right in thinking that 'graphic novel' is not the phrase she needed to describe The Arrival. BUT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN. It was coined to perform that very task. Then it got borrowed by a bunch of boobs and it came back busted.


Friday 2 November 2007

Ladies, have you met:


Thursday 1 November 2007

I'm working on the final presentation of The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard. I'm way past the stage where by innumerable successive revisions the work ceases to have all meaning and becomes a kind mandelbrot set, in which I zoom closer and closer in the hope of finding surprising and unexpected configurations. Today I've blown up some of the little faces in the audience at the moment the monstrous ti-lion suddenly gets loose and runs amuck:

P.s. the original painted pages of my book from earlier this year, The Black Diamond Detective Agency are for sale at The Beguiling.
In the town where I was born:
A Scottish woman has avoided a prison sentence after she admitted putting dog excrement in her husband's curry. Jill Martin, 47, took drastic action after her marriage broke down and burst out laughing when her husband Donald started eating the dish at their home in Newton Mearns, Glasgow, Paisley Sheriff Court in central Scotland heard.


Wednesday 31 October 2007

Bottle green Betty

Seeing Craig Yoe's post last week about Nell Brinkley reminded me of Trina Robbins' 2001 book on the artist. We don't have enough monographs on the great cartoonists that we should allow one to slip from our attention. Apart from being a great little book, though the publisher allowed a smaller format than would be ideal, it is of special interest to me because it contains a handful of cartoons by one of my favourites, Tad Dorgan and also involves some courtroom sketching. During the first year of her career on the Hearst-owned New York Journal, Brinkley was assigned by editor Arthur Brisbane to cover the famous Thaw murder trial, for the womens' interest that it provoked. It was a crime of passion at the the center of which was the beautiful chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit. Brinkley accompanied her drawings with lavish sentimental prose in the style of the period. Where it gets really interesting is when Tad, in his regular spot in the sports pages, starts lampooning Brinkley's work. Tad was ten years older than Brinkley and by this time both an influential cartoonist and a friend of many famous sporting figures. Robbins showed and discussed four instances of this jollity and described a fifth which occured during the weeks after the trial. I wrote to Trina at the time in the hope that while obtaining images from the old microfilm she had acquired more than she needed for her book. This turned out to be the case and she was able to send me photocopies of the unseen cartoons that she had only described as well as large copies of the others in their newpaper settings. Unused by Trina, here is Brinkley, in the women's pages, in one of a series matching types of young lady (Betties), distinguished by colours, to young fellows (Billies), likewise. Thus she matches the 'Billy of opal and change' to the 'Betty of brown.'

(click these for very large versions)
In his usual manner of using dogs as stand-ins for people, Tad in the sports section matches the 'bottle green Betty' to the 'lavender Billy', and 'salmon pink Betty' to the 'heart-of lettuce-green Billy' etc.

There's an untypical boldness to the piece by Brinkley, who can often get lost in the frills, and the Tad is just deliciously uncouth. (both from 1908)

Following my post about beer yesterday, Mick Evans sends this link to Bestadsontv.dom:
George Patterson Y&R, Melbourne has created a new spot for Victoria Bitter, featuring members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria playing the VB tune with nothing but VB bottles. Says art director Ben Couzens: "At first we weren't even sure it was possible, but with renowned conductor/composer Cezary Skubiszewski's help and after a few early tests we knew we were onto something quite amazing. The result speaks for itself." (see the whole video.)


Tuesday 30 October 2007


I took this photo of the ads for Carlton Black beer in 2002 in Melbourne. Beer being somewhat regional I don't think the ads would have been seen much further afield. I can no longer remember if that broad brush effect is part of the design or the fault of the application of the gum holding the posters on the wall. Interesting to consider whom they're aimed at. References to Black Adder (I have a cunning plan) and Darth Vader (Luke I am your Father)? Not the usual target drinkard of Australian advertising. This was my favorite tap brew in Brisbane for a while, a dark lager, a style of beer which I always differentiate from dark ale by its slightly burnt flavour. Anyway, they removed it. When the barman told me how long it took to get through a barrel I figured it couldn't have had many partakers beyond myself. I hope that's just Brisbane. From a cartoon-technical point of view, note also the 'word ballon of attribution' which I discussed ealier.

Over there in Perth I doubt they're giving their booze as much thought as I do, and there were probably no Star Wars nerds present either, but that's just guessing:
PERTH, Australia (AFP) - An Australian barmaid who entertained patrons by crushing beer cans between her bare breasts and hanging spoons off her nipples has been fined, police said Wednesday. Luana De Faveri, 31, was fined 1,000 dollars (900 US dollars) in the Mandurah Magistrates Court in Western Australia after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Liquor Control Act...
The fines "send a clear message to all licensees in Peel that we will not tolerate this type of behaviour in our licensed premises," said Superintendent David Parkinson of the Peel Police District.

(link via wee hayley campbell)

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Monday 29 October 2007

Lat- been and gone.

Now here's a lovely story we almost missed because we were wrapped up in our own head:
Lat, The Kampung Boy, A Hit In Washington DC - BERNAMA- Maylaysian National News Agency.- Oct 24. - By Salmy Hashim

Lat, Malaysia's famous cartoonist, drew a crowd of Malaysian and American fans here Tuesday who could not get enough of his depiction of the simple life of a kampung boy in Kampung Lalang in Kota Baru, Perak. Datuk Mohammed Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, who is here to promote his Kampung Boy and Town Boy books published in English by the First Second, a publishing company in New York, talked about his simple childhood.
He talked about his "fierce" cane-wielding teacher at the "English Language" school, and how he thought that there were nine days of the week in English (including Yesterday and Everyday), his contributions on "Keluarga Si-Mamat" to Berita Minggu and his first cartoon book at age 13.
Lat earned as much as a clerk from his contributions to Berita Minggu, a huge amount then for a young boy, and did not forget to give his parents ten ringgit each every month. His father, who also loved to draw and play musical instruments, encouraged him to pursue his passion more than 40 years ago.
There's more at the link, but I particularly like the fact that "...his trip here was sponsored by Malaysia Airlines, Petronas and the Malaysian government.". I have always admired the way Lat is considered an important ambassador for his country and has often been enabled to travel widely. The first cartoons I ever saw of his were his reflections upon London and Paris. "I'm still drawing for (air)tickets," the cartoonist quipped.
He heads for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York from Wednesday before returning to Malaysia on October 29.
The image is the cover of his 1989 album which wee hayley campbell found in London and sent over.

Kampung Boy and Town Boy both available from First Second in their first US editions and highly recommended by Campbell.
Our own interview with Lat is still here. It's in three parts, bottom up.

There's a more recent one here, sept 30, from the Malaysian Star, with a good photo of the cartoonist:
We hear The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening is a fan.
When I was in LA working on The Kampung Boy, somebody told me that Matt Groening liked my cartoons. So I got in touch with him. He liked my work even before he did The Simpsons.
Lat is refering to an animated series of the Kampung Boy that was made in the States for distribution in Malaysia. Maybe someone will make it more widely available, though I cannot vouch for the quality of it.

And now that the chap is on his way home today, maybe I'll be able to get hold of our mutual editor, Mark Siegel, more readily.
Five Positive Stories About Comics - Tom Spurgeon shames us into being a bit more cheerful.

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Sunday 28 October 2007

LOOK! Trees.

Here's one of those trees that will keep Campbell out of trouble while his head is on the mend. He'd always photograph something like that, saying you could never rememember it or make it up. In fact, we're not sure how you'd go about drawing it either.
In his absence we should mention this event:
Posy Simmonds Signing at Page 45! Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Have Comicbook Royalty! That's Posy Simmonds MBE (for services to the newspaper industries), creator of GEMMA BOVERY, LITERARY LIFE and TAMARA DREWE (out early November), as serialised in The Guardian. Posy Simmonds does not sign at comic shops! She rarely even signs in posho shops like Waterstones! Do you remember during the Bryan Talbot interview, that I promised you news? Here is the news: Posy Simmonds is coming to sign and sketch with us for free! "How The...?!"
Bryan. Bryan Talbot. I don't have that sort of clout!
Bryan asked her as a favour for us, and she said yes.
This a very, very rare opportunity to come and chat with one of the most respected comicbook creators that Britain has ever known.
We suspect that Campbell would not approve of sullying the great cartoonist Posy Simmonds with the description of 'comicbook creator'*, in fact we're pretty sure of it but durst not mention the matter to him lest we aggravate his condition.
We're pretty sure Campbell would applaud Tom Tomorrow at the Huffington Post with his long summary of the Nate Fisher business in Conneticut. He's the teacher who gave Clowes' Ice Haven to a thirteen year old student and had to resign. Graphic Novels: Threat or Menace? - Posted October 25.
Falls somewhat short of the obvious: the teacher should be hired back, with an abject public apology and full back pay.
While in the vicinity of that post we came across this one by Jonathan Schwartz, explaining how Edmund Burke wrote in support of blogging in 1770.
(from long quote within long article) "No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens."
Questions You Should Never Ask a Writer- By DORIS LESSING- NY Times- October 13, 2007 (republished from June 1992)
WHILE we have seen the apparent death of Communism, ways of thinking that were either born under Communism or strengthened by Communism still govern our lives. Not all of them are as immediately evident as a legacy of Communism as political correctness.
The first point: language. It is not a new thought that Communism debased language and, with language, thought. There is a Communist jargon recognizable after a single sentence. .. Words confined to the left as corralled animals had passed into general use and, with them, ideas. One might read whole articles in the conservative and liberal press that were Marxist, but the writers did not know it. But there is an aspect of this heritage that is much harder to see... the heritage of dead and empty language these days is to be found in academia, and particularly in some areas of sociology and psychology.

*When he said he thought ‘comic book’ is still one of the useful terms he meant it’s useful because everybody knows what it means: American style comic books that are almost always about superheroes, so much so that you can use it to mean a genre of popular fiction; as you would say a ‘western movie’ or ‘a gangster movie’, so can you say ‘a comic book movie.’