Monday 3 November 2008

bunny wilson

Every three or four years it seems I have to haul Watchmen out of my file room, this time at the request of wee Callum, his interest no doubt sparked by the upcoming movie. And every time I fetch it up here I always find myself rereading it from the start. It is indeed one of the great novels of our time.

But I want to digress. The appendix to the fifth part focuses on old time artist Joe Orlando, involving him in the story in an oblique but cheeky way with all that stuff about the pirate comic books. Joe even drew a special page for the piece. I was reminded, and I'll tell you why in a minute, of my fictional cartoonist Bunny Wilson. This person was an invention I tried to pass off as real between 1996 and 2001. I painted over an old photo of a British train robber and showed it with some badly reproduced photos of other cartoonists such as Alan Moore and myself and Dave Sim, and Pete Mullins, with the intention of convincing the reader of its veracity:

Another thing that I decided was necessary to make this hoax work was to find a well known image from the 1960s which no artist had signed or ever laid claim to. I fastened upon the sea monkeys ad, a picture that everybody must have seen in their lifetime:

I can no longer recall, but I believe I did state it in print at least once that Bunny Wilson was the artist behind this well known and widely reproduced image. My ingenious hoax fell apart on two fronts, though I can't remember the order of them. the first was that Seth came out and admitted the cartoonist Kalo, the subject of his novel It's a good life if you don't weaken was a hoax, and he'd gone to a lot of trouble creating the relevant cartoon artefacts and passing them off with sleight of hand. It completely took the wind out of my sails. The second was when at the funeral of Joe Orlando in 1998 (Bob Morales told me over the phone) somebody told the anecdote about how Joe drew those damn sea-monkeys. If it was known before that, the knowledge certainly wasn't common. Not to be outdone I decided that Bunny should have a funeral too. All my pals cheerily put on their best suits on a Sunday afternoon and we posed at the cemetery for a mock newspaper spread in a late issue of Bacchus:

And that was the end of that. Except it always bugged me that nobody ever cared or said anything on the subject. As Bunny always said (hey, he's as real to me as any other drawn character, like Rorschach, or Dan Dreiberg) 'Aw, What's the Use?"

So finally I put him in one of my more obviously autobiographical stories:

which bugged at least Craig Fischer in his lovely review of my work-"I remain fascinated--and, admittedly, a bit annoyed--that this gag leaked into Campbell's... more "serious" autobiographical work. He exaggerates, he lies, he contradicts himself, and he tries to fool us: should we trust any of his stories?"


Sunday 2 November 2008

i've been thinking of another Hallowe'en, nineteen years ago. I had been working on getting Dark Horse interested in collecting the Bacchus issues previously published by the now defunct Harrier comics. While we were talking it over they invited me to do a short Bacchus story for Dark Horse Presents, which appeared in issue #32 August 1989. I somewhat insecurely reckoned that to get them to take a second story I'd have to give an added incentive. I was due to be staying a few days with Steve Bissette in Vermont (his second issue of Taboo containing the prologue and first chapter of From Hell had been delayed due to the printer backing away from it fearfully (Bissette interview here tells the story)). So I proposed we work on a story together. My idea was to boil down Robert Burns' great narrative poem Tam o'Shanter to a manageable length and simply illustrate it as a Bacchus story. A poem is less linear than prose, so this gave us plenty of room to improvise. Here's the witch with the short skirt, who looks like Steve's work (the other witches are more obviously his of course)

I cast my old pal Mike Docherty as the titular character, and Steve cast Alan Moore as one of the numerous demons with which he populated the pages.

"I need not mention the universally known fact, that no diabolical power can pursue you beyond the middle of a running stream."

Five years later I was working with Dave Sim in a similar situation. This time I picked an old time song, 'The Face on the Barroom Floor' as our subject, and turned up with it all lettered on five art boards, awaiting our improvisations. Dave modelled the sentimental wailing artist on our dear pal Steve Bissette. I don't think Steve has ever commented on this. (I expect he'll be long in a minute.)