Saturday 16 August 2008

this book tour was a complete round-the-world job, being the third time I've done that. The first I recorded in a ten page story, eighteen years ago, titled Around the World in Eighty Frames. That was the time the wife of my bosom took the liberty of moving us to another house in my absence. ('Well, at least she gave you the new address,' said my pal Frank Plowright with hilarity when I bewailed my circumstances.)

(these are both good examples of my early zip-a-tone impressionist style if you want to click for a closer look)

However, this time I didn't want to give Anne time to have ideas, so I crammed the tour into a short space of time. Eleven flights in two and a half weeks. The problem is that the flights came around so quickly I didn't sleep much in between for keeping one eye on the clock, and trying to remember to eat occasionally. So, after two days in Chicago it was two in New York and I did my piece again in McNally Robinson bookstore and then The Pourhouse, which was a difficult one, with the crowd standing at an open bar. I can compete with anything except alchohol.

Comic Book Legal Defence head honcho Charles Brownstein, a drinking conspirator from way back, introduces Campbell at the Village Pourhouse (source)


Friday 15 August 2008

an anonymous commenter wrote: "Re: performing comics in public, maybe it would work to project the pages on a big screen while you read the words."
NO, I say, a thousand times NO!

It should be done like this: (as described by Nicki Greenberg)
"Bernard and Bruce perform a huge cast of characters, as well as playing and singing the music (beautiful) and doing all the cleverly minimal props and the lighting and sound. And they do all this with a level of energy, perfectly pitched emotion, comic timing and expressive physicality that is really amazing.
One of the things that made me want to leap out of my seat and cheer was the frame props. In some of the rapid-fire "voice over" narrative sequences, the guys used a pair of flat, brightly coloured rectangular frames to - well, to frame characters' faces or bits of the action. They were living, moving (fast moving!) comic book frames!! Brilliant! That is adaptation working for its keep - using the idiom of one form and making it talk in another form, in a new and exciting way."

She is describing
Miracleman: the two man show
adapted and performed by Bruce Woolley and Bernard Caleo
from the comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Gary Leach and Alan Davis.
It played at The Croft Institute in Melbourne, Australia, during the first couple of weeks of July, so this is a retrospective glance alas.
On his own blog my old pal Bernard also describes it:
Two men, two wigs, a doll, a guitar... it can only mean one thing. That's right, the stage adaptation of the comic book 'Miracleman' is back in town. Bruce Woolley is fresh from Berlin, and Bernard Caleo is fresh from turning 40, and they're doing a re-vamped, amped-up version of their two man show with more amplitude than ever before!


chicago. It was fun to be in the city after spending a year drawing it for last year's Black Diamond Detective Agency. And like From Hell before it, I was better for working far away, less I should have been befuddled by the modernity of it.
Two 'readings' were organized for me in the windy city. But how do you read a cartoon strip aloud to an audience? The old time cartoonists used to perform what they termed a 'chalk talk' at a blackboard, but that has never appealed to me. I feel that a reading should be more like a jazz performance, an improvisation upon the text in which the author effects some new variations, and perhaps the events of the story even play out a little differently. With this in mind I had worked out a rough plan for a performance piece to be made with the book in hand. I put it over twice here, in Quimby's bookshop and in the upstairs bar of the Hopleaf under the auspices of Jessa Crispin and Bookslut and in tandem with local author David J Schwartz, who read excellent passages from his novel, Superheroes. My Bookslut moment was filmed, along with an interview. If It surfaces I'll let you know.
Eric Halverson says he bothered me in Chicago to write an intro for him or something. I can't remember anything about it though I'm sure I deftly excused myself as is my wont. However, his stuff does make me laugh. Check it out.


Thursday 14 August 2008

a final comment on the San Diego Comic Book Convention.
I've been having an uneasy relationship with the world of comics over the last few years. It's a world I had never intended to engage with. I had always wanted to be an artist of a serious sort, offering my observations and commentary on life as it is lived in our times, an author sought out for his wisdom and insight. How I came to get mixed up with this subculture of the fantastical I cannot now recall. The medium of the cartoon strip has been inexorably drawn into its vortex though I have protested the trend at every turn. I had lofty aspirations, even when I was I was the last in the bar in Dallas with Lou Ferrigno and the first Klingon, or in Brisbane when I phoned the wife of my bosom to get the okay to invite Darth Vader and his wife to dinner.
As a four day convention wears on, my capacity to embrace the incongruities weakens and I start to think of the convention and the whole world of comics as 'an exrtravaganza of baloney.' I actually said that in an interview, somewhat shamefully since I was a guest of the show. I had cut out as the event closed down to do a half hour interview by phone from my hotel room for Comic Book talk Radio. That one's fine and you can listen to it there I guess, though I haven't checked to see whether I'm an idiot in it. After completing the task, I couldn't find any of my pals in the hotel bars around the place and never said cheerio to them. We only meet once a year or two years or more. Tumbling into the bar at the Marriott I found myself accidentally doing yet another interview, caught out and about without my soundbites, and in a mood going sour.
Oh well.
7 a.m. flight. At least I got to avoid that state in which I often find myself on the Monday morning after a con, in a collapse of depression, partly chemically induced I admit, in which I kill time before my flight by watching the next wave of conventioneers arrive in town, all suits and business and orderliness, with their spiral bound programs and severely cheery welcome wagon. Gone are the rebel x-wing pilots who swarmed the breakfast bar the day before, beautifully imperfect in their gaudy orange suits, the zombies, the cartoonists who got in a punch-up (I DID give you the color guides!), and the spiderman doggie, gone back to their humdrum offices or to slouch under the old tree, or to put that autograph on ebay.
By the time I'm in Chicago a pressing sadness has fallen upon me.
I forgot to go down the far end of the hall to look at the owl ship.

(photo source)


Banned nude still scandalises
An oil painting of a nude woman went back on show yesterday more than 60 years after it was banned for being “too brazen” – only to receive complaints about it because she is smoking. The nude, titled D. D. after the initials of the model, was painted by Sir Gerald Kelly, who painted the Royal Family and became president of the Royal Academy.
(link thanks to drjon)
Chiefs admit Brum skyline mix-up-- UK: Birmingham City Council has admitted sending out leaflets which showed its US namesake's skyline instead. About 720,000 pamphlets praising Brummies for their recycling were sent around the city at a cost of £15,000. But instead of showing landmarks such as the Rotunda and the new Selfridges building, it showed downtown Birmingham, Alabama, instead. A spokesman said it had received only one complaint about the error and there were no plans to reprint the leaflet.
(thanks to Ben Smith)


Wednesday 13 August 2008

it has been mentioned to me that there is a video interview of me at the San Diego con, giving out my usual pretentious baloney and as I blather on the camera is momentarily distracted by a costumed person somewhere behind me. I am reminded that my favourite costumed character of the 2008 con was this four legged chap done up as Spiderman. He reminds me of our Monty.

Joe McCulloch reviews 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide. :

"And, on a more subjective level, I am hesitant around any book of this type that fills its Nonfiction section with the likes of Cancer Vixen and Drawing Comics is Easy (Except When It's Hard) while ignoring the works of Eddie Campbell, and insists that Batman: Hush is among the most vital-for-some-reason works of the superhero genre as available in a bookshelf-ready format. But hey - this is truly, completely not a book aimed at me anyway."
For the record, they did ask my permission to include images from my very first book and I said NO. Why they should choose that and ignore all that followed tended to raise my ire but I would have told them anyway, and I did, that anyone who thinks there are more than a few dozen so-called 'graphic novels' worth reading is an idiot.

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on the same night as the Comic Con panel I described in my previous post, my First Second stablemate Nick Abadzis took the Eisner Award for 'best publication for teens' as displayed on his personal blog (I don't recall this category from previous years, which tends to support the theory I was spouting yesterday). And well deserved it was too. A magnificent work, if you haven't already read it. I toasted him from the end of the long table at the First Second dinner on the following night, and he toasted me back, and we went for cleansing ales afterwards, except for Best who ran out in a panic while I was in the rest room, searching for me in vain in the streets of San Diego. If you bump into him , tell him to come home. Nick's research for the project included a trip to Russia. Here he is in Moscow, from a photo I nicked from his excellent guest blog spot at First Second's site, which is full of his spontaneous sketches and notations.

And here is Nick in a youtube cut from last year's SPX, an interview by Scott Rosenberg*, at the time of his book's release:

*The same chap interviewed me on the Monday after the con, by phone in my hotel room in Chicago, about the Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard for NY paper AM, and it was syndicated around the place, here in Newsday.

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the other panel I was on at the San Diego con, the "World of Graphic Novels," on the 25th July, moderated by Tom Spurgeon and "featuring Nick Abadzis, Eddie Campbell, Alex Robinson, Rutu Modan and Adrian Tomine," was audio-recorded and is available for downloading until the end of August at The Comics Journal, see top of page. It was here that I made the point that the librarians and to some extent the book trade have decided that the graphic novel is a young readers' genre. A librarian in the audience made the case that this is a good thing. But here is the sequence of events: circa 1980 it was decided that comics had grown up and the grown-up version would be called 'the graphic novel.' This has been forgotten and a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor (June 27) declares:
"Graphic novels, all grown up". In other words, we're right back where we started.
It's all well and sweet for the librarians to rejoice at getting the kids back reading actual books, but if you read my recent exercise in High Sarcasm, the Publisher's Weekly interview of June 17, which my pal White thought my funniest moment in print, you will have noticed I accidentally dropped my guard at the end and confessed I've been having great difficulty selling my latest book (a problem lately solved so do not weep for me). This work is described as "The Playwright, a book about about the sex life of a celibate middle-aged man." In the same period I've been pitching that around the place, two of the publishers who turned it down then said they'd still love to work with me and offered me the jobs of illustrating to the scripts of named 'young readers' authors.
It's also worth noting that Lynda Barry, to whom I was runner up in The Journal's best comics of 2002 list, has in the interim been experiencing the same difficulties. See Tom Spurgeon's interview with her

LYNDA BARRY: Well, in my situation, until Drawn & Quarterly came along, I couldn't find a publisher who was interested in my work at all. There was no one. I'd been working with a small publisher in Seattle called Sasquatch, but after One Hundred Demons, they didn't want any other books from me. I'd always planned to do a sister book to One Hundred Demons that was about the writing process, and always intended to do it with them. When I pitched it to them, they said no, and no to any other books of comics. The End. That was it.
I never understood why, exactly, because I think One Hundred Demons did OK for them, sales-wise, and I believe my other books have done fine too. So it made me feel pretty bad. The same thing happened with Cruddy. After it was printed, Simon & Schuster wasn't interested in another novel from me. But in that situation my original editor left and I didn't know anyone else there, and it was a little bit more understandable. So really, there was a long period where no one wanted to print my work at all.
I can't recall how exactly it played out on the day, and I can't bear the sound of my own voice enough to listen to it (I've just discovered I have a Scottish accent... why didn't somebody tell me?), I but I recall Nick Abadzis throwing in his two cents on the subject. In fact, I remember the panel being an engagement of the better sort, in which the participants got a decent conversation going. Too often these things just involve each party in turn telling the audience what new stuff they have for sale.
(update) Curiosity got the better of me and I checked the first couple of minutes. I had completely forgotten that I poured Spurge a glass of water to my right, then after pouring another couple to my left returned to give him a second cup, putting it on top of the first and spilling it all over the table, with electrical wires floating in it and all. It was halfway through the set before one of the officials noticed Spurge was virtually paddling in it.
speaking of grumbly artists (in the 'children and teenagers' part of the Guardian's book section, appropriately):
"Raymond Briggs lives in deepest Sussex, in a small, white house that has more draughts and rickety bookcases than your local underfunded library. I can't understand it. This is the age of JK Rowling. Shouldn't he be living in ... 'What?' he says. 'A mansion?' Yes. Surely all those Snowman tea towels must have had some effect on his bank balance. 'Oh, I don't know where that money goes. It's a grey area. Someone buys the rights to do these things and then, after everyone else has taken their share, tuppence ha-penny comes out at the end for me"
Giant dog turd wreaks havoc at Swiss museum

A giant inflatable dog turd created by the American artist Paul McCarthy was blown from its moorings at a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a window before landing in the grounds of a children's home. The exhibit, entitled Complex Shit, is the size of a house. It has a safety system that is supposed to deflate it in bad weather, but it did not work on this occasion. (via wee hayley campbell, who thought it the best headline ever).


Tuesday 12 August 2008

honey, I'm Ho-ome!.
It's three weeks since I last posted here, and I am back from my world tour promoting The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard. The San Diego Con was splendidly organized as always. I fear however that i am getting more and more at odds with the comic book world as time advances. Watching the Iron Man movie on the plane coming home, I was charmed into recalling how I marvelled at the character when i was wee, in the marvellous scene where he's flying between the two jet planes. But then it descends into that boneheaded formula in which the hero must do battle with the evil version of himself. The shiny red and gold Iron Man fights the grey Iron Man, The Banner Hulk fights the Tim Roth Hulk, Spiderman fights the living Spiderman costume with another bloke inside it. Anything that was special and unique about the character is somewhat diluted when he's got a duplicate walking about. Even as a kid I recognized this late variation on the supervillain as a sign that invention was seriously flagging. Seems odd to me that it is now de rigeur in all of these movies. But then, I find myself even more at odds with the world of movies these days.
I'm amazed at how just about everything in the world gets photographed. I no longer carry a camera with me as i just need to google it all when I get home. It started here, as posted to Youtube by SuenteusPo. My first panel at San Diego on July 24th. I'm introducing Dan Best, but it doesn't go long enough to hear him speaking.

and he's got another bit of it here, with a good punchline from a member of the audience:


"One of the fundamental tools of comics is the wordless re-creation of the rhythms of human gesture, most easily accomplished by maintaining a fixed scale of character from one panel to the next, so that the only changes the eye registers are in the variations of posture between the repeating figures (a style more commonly seen before comics began imitating the camerawork of movies)."- Chris Ware