Monday 27 July 2009

i was shown the 2-volume cover designs for the upcoming Japanese edition of From Hell last week. They were hoping I still had the originals of some incidental drawings they wanted to use within the designs. I don't, and I'm not sure how that will affect the overall plan. Not too much I hope as the designs were striking and definitely the most daring version of the From Hell covers so far. Hopefully the problem will be solved and I can show them here soon. meanwhile it got me thinking back over the assortment of covers adorning the big book since it was launched in Dec 1999 on the eve of the new millennium, just short of ten years ago. The earlier eleven painted covers of the Kitchen Sink Press parts are visible on one page here (1991-98.) My original cover was an update, but darker and with a new ominous feeling, of the first KSP cover, a still life in oils depicting a velvet covered top hat with grapes, which had come to be emblematic of the whole story.

The foreign editions of the book sported this cover design, with technical variations, for instance the French edition had matt varnish and 'French flaps,' and elsewhere I've told the story of Mick Evans and the bantam cock on the spine of the Australian Random House edition (which was printed in India from the second set of negatives which we had made specially for the limited signed Graphitti Designs edition... none of this was straightforward). The exception was our Spanish publisher, Planeta, who made the first of the foreign editions and boldly went its own way, using the old Todd Klein logo from the KSP run and combing it with a photo of the actual William Gull superimposed on the infamous From Hell letter. I've always liked to imagine that our William Gull is a fiction who just happens to share a name with a real one who existed once, so this discomforts me a little, attractive though it is as a cover. It certainly serves the same purpose as the still-life in making the book look very unlike a comic. (On a side note, I'd be interested in hearing Todd's observations on designing that From Hell logo because he was brought in after the first book was already out and it was impossible to put the new logo on the reprints of it. The story involves Tundra and could only include accounts of hair-pulling exasperation.)

To coincide with the release of the movie it was necessary, as demanded by the bookstore chains, that we tie the cover design to the movie poster. This was what was available, an interestingly simple motif which was subsequently compounded with photos of Depp and Graham closer to the release of the movie. Half of our third print-run had this cover.

If we'd had the full version (above, of which my son Callum has a huge six-foot version, on that shiny plastic canvas material, obtained from a cinema by hayley campbell and inherited by him along with the bedroom wall on which it is hanging after she shifted to London), I'm sure it would only have confused many readers who tried to match the characters on the cover to any of the characters inside. We were glad when the movie came and went and we could get back to our regular cover. But once that sparkling red streak was in our system, by which I mean on our 'core resources' disc, it turned up on some of the later foreign editions to come on board, such as the Danish one. Or at least, I think it's Danish, as this image I found on the net is my first sight of it.

Here you see it combined with our own logo (Incidentally, I wrote about the logo here):

After five printings I handed the whole business over to Top Shelf and gave them a new cover with which to get started. Curiously they were very wary of it at first, and reused the old cover with this as a black and white endpaper on their first printing (sixth in total). Something to do with the blood and the bookstore chains. Anyway, it's been on the front where it belongs from the seventh printing and the book is up to it's ninth or tenth. I stopped counting after a while.

Top Shelf used the same image on their hardcover, but without the logo, which appears only on the spine. Knockabout in England took advantage of the new digitalized files (relevant post, November 2006) to organize their own printing (theirs was previously ganged up with the US edition printed in Canada) and redesigned the look of the hardcover. The splash motif, in red, comes from the title page, where it has always been printed in black.

The above cover is a variation on that of a very odd edition I published myself back in 2002. It consisted of nineteen copies bound in plush kangaroo leather. As a publisher it was my only adventure in extravagance. photo by Chris Mclaren of his copy.

Last Monday I linked to an old article I wrote titled 'The Technical history of From Hell', which I guess is what suggested today's post, which goes some way toward updating the essay, though I would probably need around 5,000 words to do it properly.



Blogger David C said...

Thanks for that.

I am still the proud owner of two bits of From Hell original art. Is such information likely to be of any use to you?

27 July 2009 at 00:57:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I don't think so. what was needed were the inside cover illustrations from the old KSP editions. Not something I ever thought would be needed again. They may be able to scan them from the books but there's a big slab of red in the way as I recall. I'm sure they'll come up with an alternative idea.

27 July 2009 at 01:04:00 GMT-5  
Blogger David C said...

One of the ones I have is the monk walking cane, which I believe was from an inside cover. Would have to check the details.

Also the original issue 5 cover, which remains entirely striking.

27 July 2009 at 01:10:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Sean Michael Wilson said...

Who is the publisher of the Japanese editions?

I live in Japan, so could pick up a copy directly. Useful for showing to various people that I've been trying to win over to non-japanese comics, including in a talk I will give soon.

Most Japanese manga fans have very little interest in 'western' comics Ive been told by several people, and it appears to be true. Though some publishers are having a bash at it anyway... hopefully this edition of yours will help.

ta, Sean

27 July 2009 at 04:20:00 GMT-5  
Blogger David C said...

Just to confirm, it is indeed the inside cover of volume 6.

27 July 2009 at 05:30:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Unknown said...

As an aside, The Onion's A.V. Club lists From Hell as one of its Recommended First Comics,30814/

27 July 2009 at 10:51:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Ram said...

Hi, I am searching for a copy of From hell and happened to read your old article regarding how digitization has ruined the art. I was about to get a top shelf copy but after reading the article, I wanted to know your opinion on top shelf edition and your third edition,as I found the latter in a local bookshop. Thank you.

10 July 2012 at 18:53:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Can't remember where i wrote that, but in fact it's the other way around. The Top Shelf edition is superior to the one I published myself. On Nov 26 2006 on this blog i wrote:

It was supposed to be out in the middle of last year but our printer went into bankruptcy. Buying printing is one of those publishing things I was never very good at. The Top Shelf guys do that much better than I ever did... Somehow Chris Staros had gotten the printer to sneak our From Hell negatives out of the factory when the receiver wasn't looking, and store them in his garage. Chris then paid him to hire a truck and drive the whole lot to Ronalds Quebecor which is where the majority of comic books seem to be printed these days. The negs were given to a good prepress op. who proved that they knew their stuff by making excellent scans from them. It appears that the Preney negs (the one thing they were good at, remember) were better than their own print job, which means that the same materials on a better printing press have quite remarkably given us the best version of the work thus far. To seal the deal Top Shelf have put it on a better quality paper this time around.

18 July 2012 at 00:06:00 GMT-5  

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