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Eddie Campbell

From Academic Kids

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Alec.jpg
Alec: The King Canute Crowd by Eddie Campbell

Eddie Campbell is a Scottish-born comics artist and cartoonist who now lives in Australia. Probably best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), Campbell is also the creator of the semi-autobiographical Alec stories, and Bacchus (aka Deadface), a wry adventure series about the few Greek gods who have survived to the present day.

His scratchy pen-and-ink style is influenced by the impressionists, illustrators of the age of "liberated penmanship" such as Phil May, Charles Dana Gibson, John Leech and George Du Maurier, and cartoonists Milton Caniff and Frank Frazetta (particularly his Johnny Comet strip). His writing has been compared to Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller.

Contents

Alec

Campbell made his earliest attempts at autobiographical comics in the late 1970s with In the Days of the Ace Rock and Roll Club. This evolved into Alec, with the character of Alec MacGarry standing in for the author. Campbell self-published these early comics as short-run photocopied pamphets in London in the early 1980s, selling them at conventions and comic marts and via Paul Gravett's "Fast Fiction" market stall. When Gravett founded Escape magazine, Campbell was one of the artists featured. In 1984 Escape published Alec, a slim collection of his semi-autobiographical stories. This was followed by two further collections, Love and Beerglasses (1985) and Doggie in the Window (1986). In 1990 all three were collected, together with some unpublished material, as The Complete Alec (republished as The King Canute Crowd in 2000).

Two further slim volumes, The Dead Muse (1990) and Little Italy (1991) appeared through Fantagraphics Books. Grafitti Kitchen, which Campbell considers the highpoint of the series, was published by Tundra in 1993, and The Dance of Lifey Death followed in 1994 from Dark Horse Comics.

Campbell then followed up these works by self publishing two larger works. Alec: How To Be An Artist (2000), a study of the art form and of Campbell's own artistic journey, and After The Snooter (2002), in which Campbell appears to have laid Alec McGarry to rest. Both works were originally serialised within his Bacchus magazine, but were reworked upon collection.

Campbell did start to serialise another work, The History Of Humour, within the pages of his magazine Eddie Campbell's Egomania, but given the demise of the magazine in December 2002 it is questionable if this work will ever be finished.

He is currently reported to be working on a new novel, The Fate of the Artist, and given previous serialisation of his work, a portion may already have been published within the pages of Autobiographix (2003), an anthology from Dark Horse Comics, titled I Have Lost My Sense Of Humour.

Bacchus

The success of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles led to a short-lived explosion of black and white independent comics in the mid-1980s. Campbell joined in, creating the series Deadface for small British publisher Harrier Comics, telling the story of Bacchus, god of wine and revelry, and the few other Greek mythological figures who have survived to the present day. When the Harrier series ended after eight issues, Campbell began publishing short Bacchus stories in a variety of anthologies, before Dark Horse Comics reprinted the Harrier series as Immortality isn't Forever in 1990 and the short stories as Doing the Islands With Bacchus in 1991. Campbell continued the story with Dark Horse until 1995 as a series of miniseries.

From Hell

Beginning in 1989 Campbell illustrated Alan Moore's ambitious Jack the Ripper graphic novel From Hell, serialised initially in Steve Bissette's horror anthology Taboo. Moore and Bissette chose Campbell as illustrator for his down-to-earth approach which gave the story a convincing realism and did not sensationalise the violence of the murders. After Taboo folded From Hell was published in installments by Tundra and then Kitchen Sink Press, until the epilogue Dance of the Gull-catchers saw print in 1998.

Self-publishing

Campbell founded Eddie Campbell Comics and began self-publishing in 1995, after the film rights to From Hell were optioned. The monthly series Bacchus reprinted and completed the story begun in Deadface, as well as carrying new and reprinted Alec stories. He went on to collect both Alec and Bacchus as a series of graphic novels. He also published the collected edition of From Hell, and comics adaptations of two of Alan Moore's performance art pieces, The Birth Caul and Snakes and Ladders.

Facing an increasingly indifferent market for his work, and the collapse of his U.S. distributor, Campbell ended his publishing imprint in 2003 after releasing the second issue of Egomania.

Manifesto

In July of 2004, whilst debating the merits of the term Graphic Novel in a discussion on The Comics Journal's message board, Campbell formulated a manifesto which aimed to move the debate on via the creation of an artistic movement.

Eddie Campbell's (Revised) Graphic Novel Manifesto


There is so much disagreement (among ourselves) and misunderstanding (on the part of the public) around the subject of the graphic novel that it's high time a set of principles were laid down.

  1. "Graphic novel" is a disagreeable term, but we will use it anyway on the understanding that graphic does not mean anything to do with graphics and that novel does not mean anything to do with novels. (In the same way that "Impressionism" is not really an applicable term; in fact it was first used as an insult and then adopted in a spirit of defiance.)
  2. Since we are not in any way referring to the traditional literary novel, we do not hold that the graphic novel should be of the supposed same dimensions or physical weight. Thus subsidiary terms such as "novella" and "novelette" are of no use here and will only serve to confuse onlookers as to our goal (see below), causing them to think we are creating an illustrated version of standard literature when in fact we have bigger fish to fry; that is, we are forging a whole new art which will not be bound by the arbitrary rules of an old one.
  3. "Graphic novel" signifies a movement rather than a form. Thus we may refer to "antecedents" of the graphic novel, such as Lynd Ward's woodcut novels but we are not interested in applying the name retroactively.
  4. While the graphic novelist regards his various antecedents as geniuses and prophets without whose work he could not have envisioned his own, he does not want to be obliged to stand in line behind William Hogarth's Rake's Progress every time he obtains a piece of publicity for himself or the art in general.
  5. Since the term signifies a movement, or an ongoing event, rather than a form, there is nothing to be gained by defining it or "measuring" it. It is approximately thirty years old, though the concept and name had been bandied about for at least ten years earlier. As it is still growing it will in all probability have changed its nature by this time next year.
  6. The goal of the graphic novelist is to take the form of the comic book, which has become an embarrassment, and raise it to a more ambitious and meaningful level. This normally involves expanding its size, but we should avoid getting into arguments about permissible size. If an artist offers a set of short stories as his new graphic novel, (as Eisner did with A Contract with God) we should not descend to quibbling. We should only ask whether his new graphic novel is a good or bad set of short stories. If he or she uses characters that appear in another place, such as Jimmy Corrigan's various appearances outside of the core book, or Gilbert Hernandez' etc. or even characters that we do not want to allow into our "secret society," we shall not dismiss them on this account. If his book no longer looks anything like comic books we should not quibble as to that either. We should only ask whether it increases the sum total of human wisdom.
  7. The term graphic novel shall not be taken to indicate a trade format (such as "trade paperback" or "hardcover" or "prestige format"). It can be in unpublished manuscript form, or serialized in parts. The important thing is the intent, even if the intent arrives after the original publication.
  8. The graphic novelists' subject is all of existence, including their own life. He or she disdains "genre fiction" and all its ugly clichés, though they try to keep an open mind. They are particularly resentful of the notion, still prevalent in many places, and not without reason, that the comic book is a sub-genre of science fiction or heroic fantasy.
  9. Graphic novelists would never think of using the term graphic novel when speaking among their fellows. They would normally just refer to their "latest book" or their "work in progress" or "that old potboiler" or even "comic" etc. The term is to be used as an emblem or an old flag that is brought out for the call to battle or when mumbling an enquiry as to the location of a certain section in an unfamiliar bookstore. Publishers may use the term over and over until it means even less than the nothing it means already.
    • Furthermore, graphic novelists are well aware that the next wave of cartoonists will choose to work in the smallest possible forms and will ridicule us all for our pomposity.
  10. The graphic novelist reserves the right to deny any or all of the above if it means a quick sale.

Bibliography

  • Alec: The King Canute Crowd (2000)
  • Alec: Three Piece Suit (2001) -- collecting Grafitti Kitchen, Little Italy, and The Dance of Lifey Death
  • Alec: How to be an Artist (2001)
  • Alec: After the Snooter (2002)
  • Bacchus Vol 1: Immortality Isn't Forever (1995)
  • Bacchus Vol 2: The Gods of Business (with Ed Hillyer, 1996)
  • Bacchus Vol 3: Doing the Islands with Bacchus (1997)
  • Bacchus Vol 4: The Eyeball Kid - One Man Show (with Ed Hillyer, 1998)
  • Bacchus Vol 5: Earth, Water, Air, Fire (with Wes Kublick, 1998)
  • Bacchus Vol 6: The 1001 Nights of Bacchus (2000)
  • Bacchus Vol 7/8: The Eyeball Kid Double Bill (with Wes Kublick, 2002)
  • Bacchus Vol 9: King Bacchus (with Pete Mullins, 1996)
  • Bacchus Vol 10: Banged Up (with Pete Mullins and Marcus Moore, 2001
  • From Hell (with Alan Moore, 2000)
  • The Birth Caul (adaptation of an Alan Moore performance art piece, 1999)
  • Snakes and Ladders (adaptation of an Alan Moore performance art piece, 2001)
  • Batman: The Order of Beasts (with Darren White, 2004)

References

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