Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Eddie Campbell and the From Hell scripts

A reminder for comic lovers about Eddie Campbell’s superb blog The Fate of the Artist. It’s a real treasure-trove for fans of From Hell (though there's plenty else too) - Eddie has been putting up pages from that book along with the panel-by-panel scripts sent to him by Alan Moore. (Some examples here, here, here and here - well worth looking at even if you know nothing about From Hell.) Read some of Moore’s visualisations for each page, you’ll be astonished at the intensity and vividness of the descriptions (remember that this wasn’t written for publication, it was a personal exchange between a writer and a cartoonist. And the finished book ran to nearly 600 pages).
I also liked this post where Eddie discusses “the problem of the cinematic principle” when it comes to creating graphic novels – namely “the idea that we’re always looking through a camera. In a comic book script it shows itself in ways that we have long stopped being conscious of. For instance, we will tend to automatically describe a view as being in long-shot or close-up. We have forgotten that these are movie terms…My idea was to take ‘cutting’ away and replace it with a keen observation of body language.

For a demonstration, see this page – read Alan Moore’s descriptions of how each panel should look and then see how Eddie does the drawings his own way, showing the same view of the two figures throughout (instead of cross-cutting between them) but subtly altering their body language and their relationship to each other as the conversation progresses.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Crap, embedded links don't work well do they. Here is a flatter version of my earlier comment:

    Jai, excellent site. Thanks for passing it on! A few observations.

    Moore's style of dictating POV is not unlike what you see in film scripts. Its essential to a tightly written story but only if the writer has excellent understanding of that medium.

    Campbell seems to do the lettering with the pencils and inks, unlike someone like say Sean Phillips (http://surebeatsworking.blogspot.com). I believe there are subtle differences in the end product this way.

    Does Moore use caption bubbles in From Hell? I can't seem to remember. I think he consciouly eschewed them in V.

    Finally, take a look at Marvel Zombies when you get a chance. (A review here: http://nikamma.blogspot.com/2007/02/marvel-zombies.html). You might have some fun with it.

  3. Not particularly related to this post ... maybe just that the mention of Alan Moore caught the eye.

    Have got most of his work(s). But for some reason, you end up avoiding reading any of it - it may be just that he is a bit too fantastical for one's taste, and, possibly, a bit overwrought too(?).

    Would wonder how you might like to review his work as compared to say, Tezukas' Bipolar, Gaiman's Signal To Noise, Sandman, Vertigo, McKean's Cages, Sim's Cerebus and, last but not the least, Lapham's Stray Bullets. Also Bendis' Jinx / Goldfish...

  4. Would also strongly recommend a perusal of Morrison's The Filth ... just that you need a certain flexibility in the mindset to be able to appreciate it.

  5. Aspi: there are speech balloons in From Hell but the overall effect is still quite austere (that's ensured by the nature of the drawings and the subject matter anyway).

    thanks for the links. will check

    KK: Curious. If you "end up avoiding reading any of Moore's work", how do you know he's fantastical and overwrought?

    Won't argue much with the specific point though. He IS often overwrought, but in a way I really like - so all's good.

  6. :D

    I guess one has gone through his stuff, but started finding it difficult to take it seriously thereafter. Promethea/V for Vendetta / Watchmen are cases in point( apart from his work for the Comics majors ). Judgement is as yet reserved on From Hell ( as one finishes with Bendis' Torso ). In the meanwhile one managed to find a lot more of others. Some of those were the references provided earlier.

    Your blog has had mentions of Alan Moore and Spiegelman. Find it a bit strange that these have escaped your notice.

  7. @Jai, I was referring to captions akcheloi. I wish I had better ways to describe this but captions are the ones that the writer uses to set up a sequence of panels such as "Later that nite..." or "Batman speeds to the scene of the crime". In the liner notes for V, Moore mentions that he consciously avoided those throughout the novel.

    @KK, I am curious about Bendis' work outside the Ultimates. He is a genius, of that I am sure. But is he a mass market genius or is he a genuine genre-crossing master? Let me know what you find.

  8. @Aspi:

    It has only been emerged as a recent fascination - comics / graphic novels. So far, one has managed to steer clear of the work done by these chaps, in the "incredibles / ultimates / avoidables(?)..." genres.
    Have been more or less focussed on their independent work. Torso is excellent.

    As far as work of "genius" ( which I would NOT know about ) might be concerned, I would point you to David Lapham's Stray Bullets. WE are all waiting for #41.

  9. Hanukas' Bipolar, I meant, earlier on.