Friday 27 March 2009

still beating the Big Numbers thing to death. The Al Columbia component has always been a mystery, but I just recalled this image I filed sometime last year, I think (i didn't date it). Rick Bradford of Poopsheet was selling this small original on Ebay. He wrote:
"I believe this single panel either would have appeared in issue #4 of Alan Moore's Big Numbers or it was abandoned/redrawn before the final artwork was completed. The second possibility is probably more likely. Either way, #4 was never published and the final artwork was destroyed so perhaps we'll never know for sure.
What I am certain of is that this panel was drawn by Columbia and intended for Big Numbers.
The dimensions are roughly 3¾ × 5". The media appears to be pencil, black ink and opaque white ink on bristol board."

Note that the image clearly has a British setting and is stylistically consistent with what we've already seen.
Bill Anderson in comments mentions that the multi-generational photocopies don't convey accurately the abrupt stylistic change between issues 2 and 3 of Big Numbers. And my fellow artist Sean Phillips correctly observed "In fact those scans look more like the halftoning you used to get on faxes of greyscale images." It got me to casting around the net for some shots of the originals. There is a nice gallery of several pages here. Whether these are original art or good photographs i don't know, but they make enough of a contrast with the photocopies to be revealing:



Blogger bob said...

In my suddenly much larger folder of Big Numbers stuff I have this image by Al Columbia, which I think was a promo poster Tundra released, and which I think appears in George Khoury's book about Moore.

I also have a copy of what appears to be the cover to #3, which I've posted on my site, if anyone wants a copy to slap on the front of the currently circulating scans. And yes, I know it's an awful, low-res, generations removed copy of the image. If anyone has a better one I'd love to see it.

I remember a few years back the topic of BN came up, and Al Columbia posted extensively somewhere about it, contradicting much of the conventional wisdom. Anyone remember where he was posting (I think it might have been the Comics Journal message board, which has probably been wiped out a few times since)?

27 March 2009 at 17:59:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

thanks, Bob
Al's commentary was indeed on the Journal site (and is no longer accessible anywhere as far as i know). I chipped in on the discussion, and went on to exchange lengthy emails with Al, because coincidentally i was at that point in the story in my How to be an Artist when it was serialized in DeeVee (1999?).
Anyway, between all of this and simultaneous accounts from both Steve Bissette and Paul Jenkins and Eastman himself when he was interviewed in The Journal, and my own interrogation of Alan, I was able to piece together the whole narrative as near and as even-handed as we're ever likely to have it. A hell of a story, any way you look at it.

27 March 2009 at 18:17:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Hawthorn said...

Here's my question in all this; why does Alan still have that huge roll of plot hanging around his house?

I mean reportedly he doesn't keep copies of his completed works around, so I assume it's the same with their respective scripts and components. If he's given up on the thing, why does he still have that roll? Or does he just keep telling folks he's got it in order to tease them.

He should just release that as a poster or tapestry. Someone should mention that if he doesn't do something with it, you know someone else will take a swing at it posthumously. Look at all the new editions of Edwin Drood. I'm not sure he's keen on other people pawing over his ideas for some reason.

27 March 2009 at 23:31:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one of those Al Colombia promo posters, quite nice. I think Alan should just update Big Numbers and give it to Eddie, one last hurrah

28 March 2009 at 08:30:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Eddie Campbell could do a better job on Big Numbers, he has a better understanding of visual story than Bill.

28 March 2009 at 08:38:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous John C said...

Andrew J: yes, the plot sheet still exists, Alan insisted on showing it to me one time when I was Chez Moore. Don't remember much about it other than it being exactly what you'd expect, a huge sheet of white paper divided into a grid with minuscule entries in each cell detailing the activities of the characters. He was rather proud of it.

I wasn't gauche enough to press him on the BN saga but do recall him mentioning discussions with a director about reworking the whole thing as a TV series. Forget the guy's name but he'd done some Irvine Welsh stuff (not Danny Boyle) which Alan liked. This was years ago so the idea has presumably gone the way of all vague schemes.

I can see why that was an attractive proposal but it tends to negate the purpose of the comic story. The comic was doing a lot of things which only work in comic-storytelling terms like the page of dialogue which flows around the kitchen table. In a TV adaptation that would just be another dialogue scene in a kitchen. You'd need a very smart director who could bring it to life for a different medium.

28 March 2009 at 14:12:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a copy of SubMedia #1 around somewhere, and will scan the pages from BN#3 in that, and post them up on Glycon, just for comparison, as the scans currently online are a bit crooked. Give me a couple of days...

28 March 2009 at 18:19:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I think Big Numbers was more suited to TV than comics. They tried to pull off tracking shots in the comic which are beter suited to film & tv, Bill didn't execute some of them very well which made it look messy and confusing. A lot of Big Numbers is more TV than comics unlike Watchmen which is the complete opposite.

29 March 2009 at 06:19:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous TonyM said...

There was a transcript on the 'net a few years back of a chat between Moore and the producers of the planned TV series in which Moore (in a rambling way) outlined the plot of Big Numbers right through to #12. Mostly it involved the characters various fates, as the plot itself was basically "the mall gets built", and it hardly covered everything, but it was a very interesting read.

No idea if it's still around anywhere, as I think it was taken down ages ago - I have a printout of it somewhere though.

29 March 2009 at 07:20:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like the photocopy version better, especially in the first example, which the seated children. much more ethereal and odd ... less of a literal tone. a step removed.

30 March 2009 at 13:55:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comic was supposed to end in issue 12 with the shop owner & his train set fallen into disrepair, a spider crawls out of the train tunnel towards the people on the platform.

30 March 2009 at 14:56:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous TonyM said...

Actually, from digging out the print out of that Moore transcript I mentioned, it seems as if the series was to end with Christine and the fractal maths kid having a computer-assisted drug trip into the Mandlebrot Set (I'm guessing this is where the colour art would have really kicked in), after which she realises that everything is connected and goes off to write her novel, freed of the writer's block that plagued her.

The page with the link to the transcript I used is here: But as I suspected, the transcript itself seems to have been taken down.

31 March 2009 at 05:31:00 GMT-5  
Blogger bob said...

Not sure if this is the same thing Tony was talking about, but Moore and Michael J. Basset discussing BIG NUMBERS.

31 March 2009 at 23:09:00 GMT-5  
Blogger bob said...

Make that "Bassett" for the last name, and he briefly mentioned BIG NUMBERS when posting about the Watchman flick recently.

31 March 2009 at 23:21:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Actually, from digging out the print out of that Moore transcript I mentioned, it seems as if the series was to end with Christine and the fractal maths kid having a computer-assisted drug trip into the Mandlebrot Set"

...that was to happen before the train set owners last scene.

1 April 2009 at 17:07:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous TonyM said...

That's the one! Thanks for finding it (again). Though from my reading it's only the transcript that ends with the spider scene - it was just a scene Moore had planned out to happen at some stage in the story. I don't think he mentions the actual final image (or at least, doesn't say "the last page was going to be..."), but as Big Numbers #12 is only going to exist in our minds (dammit!) I guess we can each have our own endings.

1 April 2009 at 20:41:00 GMT-5  
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12 April 2009 at 02:25:00 GMT-5  
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12 April 2009 at 02:49:00 GMT-5  

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