Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Spaniard in the Works (part 4)

If I'd known Santiago García at the time of the release of his La novela grafica I would have said "Now you've gone and done it. They won't let you get away with this. They will find you."
Who will?
I don't really know. There are otherwise quiet people, sitting at home, who have an unmeasurable capacity to argue about the words 'graphic novel'. You have woken them up. Yes, even in Spain. Fate will throw a Spaniard in the works.

(and since it was my manifesto in part that got you into this, I feel that I have to throw in with your side, though of course I was only describing what I saw to be true, and you saw the same thing)

It all started that night...

Jose Torralba (The Spaniard of my title) on May 31st 2010 wrote his review of the book at Zona Negativa (the aptly named Negative Zone) and declared war upon it. The comments piled up to a count of 27,000 words. A week later The Watcher, in a post titled "One more time: A vueltas con la novela gráfica," having also reviewed the book and been excited by it, took back his earlier judgement and said "like it or not, in the last few years there has developed a different kind of comic from the ones we are accustomed to." He got no comments to his first statement; this time he got 60. And at the end of it, everybody shuffled over to Pepo Perez' blog for another 88. Pepo blogged like a man possessed. He posted seventy times that month, usually on the subject of la novela gráfica, and if he wasn't posting himself, he was arguing with Torralba in somebody else's blog comments. It was like an old fashioned pamphlet war.

You might wonder how I could be bothered ploughing through it all. Well, my name keeps popping up, and if you know me, you would say yes, that explains it. Both sides in fact quote the Campbell manifesto as though that could resolve the argument. And also, Google translation keeps throwing up Dadaist gems like this one:
"Sandman enchants me. Much. But in that aspect I am in agreement with you Pepo, is a tebeo for adolescents. Which does not mean to say that is worse than Maus, nor bad. It is a good tebeo, with excellent episodes. But his target is the one that is, I create. Just as it happens, for example, with the Hair nets of Morrison."

So it is to be understood that my version of events probably exists only in a parallel Spain, where things look only slightly similar to the real one. let's call it Googlespain

On August 5th 2010 Santiago García was interviewed at (I nearly said 'in') the Negative Zone by Toni Boix. The comments led with 2,500 words from Torralba, who is pathologically incapable of letting anything stand. Just over a month before, my own El Destino del Artista was released by Astiberri, with translation by Santiago García, so I was already in this bunfight at least a year before I knew anything about it. Entrecomics lifted the huge Comics Journal interview with me that had just gone online, translated it and on Oct 14 put it in a beautiful display that scrolls down for the length of a football pitch. Alberto placed 70 colour illustrations in it. Tcj never gave that much attention to anything. Naturally all the combatants had an opinion. The Watcher posted again with a title that translates as "And again with the graphic novel". In comments, and at great length,Torralba gave the manifesto a thorough wash and rinse, Barrero applauded and somebody else said "these are not comments, they're literary essays." When I arrived in Spain in April 2011 I had no idea that they had been using me for a football for a whole year before that. In fact, speaking of football, one of the things I like about Spanish blog comments is that everybody stops fighting when the football results come in. It's like those First World War stories about Christmas day when the combatants would stop and kick a ball around together, and then the next day go back to shooting each other.

The whole shebang came to a crescendo on Dec 29 when Tebeobien posted "LA NOVELA GRÁFICA: UN MANIFIESTO POST-CAMPBELL" which is handily given in both Spanish and English. I think he decided there was too much humour in mine and a more serious one was needed. At la Carcel de Papel, the blog of Alvaro Pons, another voice in all of this, though I think Alvaro prefers to avoid controversy, this new manifesto was dissected in 450 comments amounting to 51,000 words, which is almost the size of an average prose novel. Torralba wrote an Anti-Campbell manifesto in which he satirized all ten points of my foolish document. It is actually quite funny: "... that the terminological debate is not the important thing and that its not-movement could have been called the one of "Huevos rancheros", in which 'huevos is not "eggs" and "rancheros" has nothing to do with ranches."

The page as it now stands does not appear to be complete, but as far as I can piece it together, Pepo and Torralba have shamefully lost their tempers, and are knee-deep in contrition of a biblical proportion. From Pepo's comment quoting a previous, and remember this is happening in Googlespain (the parties involved, intelligent men all, will scold me): "I have made an act of contrition for previous commentaries, not to give pábulo to this Sálvame that you have mounted, and in that I, done violence to, have also fallen for my shame" (J Torralba) I suppose that I have forced you to do it end of pistol, just as I have forced you to ask that they erase something that I had written... My excuses by the way to all the presents, especially to Crocus, that already I have seen that one occurred more directly alluded. There are no excuses, so I reiterate my excuses..."
The translating program has failed to completely strangle his closing words: "I believe she gathers much of that spirit who floats now in the atmosphere, of those "great hopes" in the future, in spite of the crisis and to the present difficulties. And nothing else, my better desires again for this year that now begins." There was a lot of sentiment in the air.

A week later they were back to shooting each other under the title "A format not so free?" (123 comments-16,300 words). Then Pons disabled the comments for good. Around the same time, Pepo swore off blogging. There were two or three more outbursts after that. You can come round and read them in my files some day.

What was the argument about? To what purpose were these thousands of words furiously typed? One side says 'it's a movement' and the other says 'you can't say that because it's a format.' Only in Googlespain could it be interesting.

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Anonymous José Torralba said...

Dear Mr. Campbell, first of all, I'm honored with you having titled an entire series of articles thinking of me. The coauthor of From Hell and the author of Bacchus, and Alec, and The Fate of the Artist! That's better than a commission! And when we ended the whole thing I'll print this, send it to you to sign an autograph on it and then probably frame it. And that's why I'll try to compose an only-four-paragraph comment (excluding this, of course) in response to your article: because the walls of my house aren't too high.

About your words... well, things just happened as you properly said. I've indeed an insistent (I wound't say "pathological", because I'm clearly not insane... mmm... no) incapability of letting anything stand, specially if I found another one of my kind like Pepo Pérez and, specifically, if his point always consists in a rather petulantly "who are you to talk?" or in fallacious arguments from authority. I tend to considerate "what says who", and not "who says what". And I have been capable of debate with others "pro-graphic novel as a movement" supporters like Octavio Beares or Gerardo Vilches without hostility. Anyway, that's all: two pathetic borderlines fighting and arguing to the end of times just like those in The Killing Joke.

Nevertheless, a few corrections, if I'm allowed: 1) about Pepo closing his blog... it's common, don't worry. It's not because of me. It happens when he doesn't feel love from his pals and colleagues or when a very especial friend advises to do so. He had already done it two or three times before our affair, even with a change of blog. 2) About Álvaro Pons disabling their comments... ey man! Álvaro is my friend. He disabled the comments not because of us. It was because of anonymous internet trolls and we –Pepo and me– are trolls that always sign with our own names (well, Pepo not always since he closed his blog). 3) That Dadaist quote about Neil Gaiman's The Sandman (by the way, as you can read on La novela gráfica, Santiago García –despite having written a book about it under the nom de plume Trajano Bermúdez– doesn't value this work so much) seems to be written by me (here) and I would swear that it isn't mine. 4) My comments are long, but because I also do very long articles (The Sandman, V for Vendetta 1 and 2, Swamp Thing and so). I suppose it must be a Freudian-type compensation or something. Will ask my girlfriend about complaints. And 5) I regretfully don't like football (but I'm thin and I don't specially like superheroes either, to avoid the stereotype).

(to be continued... this damn blogger thing says "4.096 characters maximun")

30 June 2011 at 03:08:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous José Torralba said...

And speaking of the Devil (3rd paragraph! never done it before! it's like Jack Bauer on 24!)... We must have had a misunderstanding, Santiago, Pepo and me. When Santiago published La novela gráfica, all our qualified countrymen said it was to promote a public debate, so I started to argue. If I had known that the goal was –as you, clearly clever than me, have understood (see Spaniard 3)– an universal cheer, a profuse thankfulness and a rain of flowers I guarantee you that I would had bought an entire truck of roses. But I didn't understand it. I'm silly. Shame on me!

By the way, wanna know my problem with Santiago and Pepo? That they are not as clear as you were when you launched the revised manifesto. They are your truly followers and supporters but they don't admit their embarrasment. They don't admit that the whole modern-graphic-novel thing is a "strategy" (in your own words) conceived because you thought that "comic" were equivalent to "superhero" in social consciousness and that we were too late in order to promote "comic" as a medium of diversity; too late in order to –as McCloud said– separate form and content. And finally, they don't admit as clearly as you that "Music [or Films, or Poetry, or Literature] is different because there isn't the cultural embarrassment". That's the point. You are clear, they aren't. And they don't follow a graphic-novel theory by Baetens, or Merino, or Smolderen or so. No. They follow you. But it seems that they don't know that a "Campbell's graphic-novel-paradigm" without embarrassment (a feeling and concept you took then from this article written by the neoconservative-proBush-proIraqWar columnist John Podhoretz, in best tradition of Wertham) is less than nothing. You're brave, they don't. That's all.

Best regards an truly yours. Hope the size was non-pathological. ;)

30 June 2011 at 03:09:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous José Torralba said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

30 June 2011 at 05:41:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

third comment above deleted at author's request. he was wondering what was wrong with the system here. access to commenting was down all day yesterday. It appears to have been a universal problem at Blooger that appears now to have been fixed. we can get back to carving each other up now.

30 June 2011 at 15:17:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Don MacDonald said...

The rivers of words gushing out like the blood from the Overlook Hotel's elevators are the reason the manifesto is still relevant.

30 June 2011 at 20:37:00 GMT-5  

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