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Eddie Campbell Interview

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: Top Shelf are publishing Alec: The Years Have Pants, a collection of your autobiographical Alec McGarry stories, a lot of which has been out of print for years. Are you looking forward to having them all back in print?

Eddie Campbell: I certainly am. This 640-page compendium is undoubtedly my single most important publication to date. It collects the work that has always been the principal strain of my oeuvre, and it allows me the opportunity to add a new 'book' to the set. The thing I enjoyed in seeing it all together was a sense of sweeping through time, of characters ageing, without that being a conscious plan, since after all I drew it all over a course of nearly thirty years. Funny thing is that I didn't arrange this compendium chronologically at first, meaning in the sense of the order in which events took place, since that was at odds with the order in which I drew it. That came as an afterthought. So it goes: The King Canute Crowd, Graffiti Kitchen, How to be an Artist, Little Italy, The Dead Muse (just my own pages from that), The Dance of Lifey Death, After the Snooter and the new book, The Years have Pants. There are also a couple of sections of short things and fragmentary works, appearing in their proper sequence.

PÓM: What was the first one of those to be published, and by whom?

EC: The earliest work appeared as little hand-made photocopied booklets in 1981 and after, if that counts as publishing, and if it doesn't, then the first was when the earliest material appeared as the 32-page book from Escape in 1984, which was just titled 'Alec'. That in turn became the first part of the 140-page King Canute Crowd published in 1990 by Acme/Eclipse.

PÓM: Seeing as you've been revising all your old work, have you been tempted to simply leave out anything, or majorly re-write or re-draw any of it?

EC: Nothing big, but if I see an ear in the wrong part of the head it's very difficult to not get out the correction white and fix it. Other than that I only tend to tamper with things if I remember a miscommunication or a reader misinterpretation on the previous outing.

PÓM: What made you decide to do autobiographical strips, do you remember?

EC: I was reading the autobiographical novels of Henry Miller, but now I can't recall whether I was reading them because I wanted to go that route or whether they inspired it. Essentially I liked the idea of finding things to write and draw in the life I saw around me rather than just filling out the readymade narrative templates of thriller and fantasy and soap opera. There's new stuff everywhere if you take the trouble to look for it. I do know that I didn't see Spiegelman's or Pekar's work ‘til 1982.

PÓM: Was the Alec stuff your first published work?

EC: Good lord no. The first thing I put out was a forty page book in 1975, when I was nineteen, titled The Tale of Beem Gotelump. In retrospect I like the fact that it was complete, self-contained and presented as a one-off, not as an Issue #1. In other words, it was forward-looking to a time when that would not be an unusual thing. I printed 500 copies for 120 quid. I sold around sixty of them and then realised I had somewhat overestimated the demand. I decided I did not have what it takes to be a published artist and I did not appear in print for another six years. Later I realised that I failed because I hadn't made a bargain with Fate. So in How To Be an Artist, recounting when I set out to do things properly, I show myself doing that right there at the beginning.

Well here's a scan of the cover of that first book from 1975. It was A5 size, which for some time after I associated with amateurism. I guess because it's a ready-made photocopy size. Nowadays it’s A4 that I would avoid. I had to re-examine my thoughts on this when First Second decided to make their whole line almost exactly A5 size. Standardized formats bug me. I like Top Shelf's approach, where every book determines its own format. When I published my four Alec books in 2000/2002 I was careful to make each one a slightly different size, which I'm glad to say bugged a few people.

PÓM: How do your family feel about having their lives recorded in this way, alongside you own?

EC: I think they're all right with it, but none of them have ever really commented. They only started giving their opinions when a TV show became a possibility. While it was just a running comic strip they would all laugh and then forget. I don't recall any of them asking for a photocopy of a particular page to put on their wall or anything like that. But on the other hand they'll probably get upset at me saying nobody ever cared. We get through our lives not always realizing that we made advances because of somebody else's unobtrusive support. There are lots of people who I think might care and I've always taken pains to keep them from ever finding out about the books. I live a life of fear. Sometimes I think that's why I emigrated. Actually, I do remember Cal being hurt that I drew him sleep-walking and urinating in the kitchen rubbish bin. It was plastic and white which I guess to a somnambulist might look like a porcelain toilet. It was just a background thing while something else was going on; he looked hurt so I removed it.

Later he read The King Canute Crowd in which I did the same thing to Danny Grey. I'm a repeat offender. Danny, you may recall, once mistook Penny Moore's handbag for a urinal during his nocturnal perambulations. The bag wasn't white and shiny, so I have no explanation in this instance. As for my young 'uns, God knows what neuroses I’ve inflicted on them. Still, at least they can never say Dad wasn't around.

PÓM: What was the idea of the TV show you mentioned?

EC: I was first approached two years ago by an independent production company who were quite taken by my The Fate of The Artist. We signed papers and raised development funding soon after that, and it's been 'in development' since then. Of course, the world recession has also developed since then too, which makes things more difficult than they might otherwise have been. We’ve written up a detailed plan and even filmed a two-and-a-half minute teaser. 'Watch this space' is all I can say at present.

PÓM: Seeing as you mentioned it, when did you move to Australia, and why?

EC: It was at the end of 1986. My wife, who is Australian, wanted to go home. Being out of work at the time, I thought it would be unreasonable of me to object to the proposal. For a long time afterwards I thought I had done a stupid thing, careerwise, but in the end there's nobody in England I look at and think, 'That's what I wanted and I fucked it up'. Which is not to say I think it all worked out. I feel that I have worked hard only to wake up one morning and realize I'm a sidelight in an extravaganza of baloney.

PÓM: Do you think you're there for good, or do you harbour ideas of returning to Scotland at some stage?

EC: I'm here for good I suppose. I'm still a British national though, and everybody still thinks of me as a visitor even though I've been here for twenty three years.

PÓM: To go back to the autobiographical work, didn't you also do The Ace Rock'n'Roll Club? Why is that not included with the rest in the Alec book?

EC: I feel that the 'Ace Club' doesn't belong in the big Alec book because the tone is quite different; it precedes my finding of a 'voice'. It's true that I did stumble upon the idea of using autobiographical material in Ace, but that was more an accident than part of the plan. It's so long ago since most of it has been in print that there must be a few people reading this who have never seen it. The 1993 edition from Fantagraphics was the first and last time it was all collected together. "In The Days of The Ace Rock'n'Roll Club", to give it its full title, was a set of nine short stories I completed between March 1978 and March 1979. The pieces are intricately woven together through pattern and repetition and I was certainly thinking of them as a unit though I don't recall having a plan at the time to publish them, because as I said, in those years I had given up hope of publication. But paradoxically the work was all completed in zipatones and made print-ready as though I was being published in some other imaginary life I was living. it's worth mentioning too that Ace was not unlike Eisner's Contract with God, published in October 1978, in that his book was also a suite of short stories which instead of being united by titular protagonist, were constructed around a shared location, in his case Dropsie Avenue. I would have got the idea from the Broadway stories of Damon Runyan. I also think there are a couple of the stories in Ace that are as good as anything in The King Canute Crowd, so I didn't leave them out on grounds of inferiority.

PÓM: Do you think you've learned anything about yourself through your autobiographical work, or gained any insights that you might not otherwise have?

EC: I always say, when I'm addressing students, though I fear my words may be falling on deaf ears, that any kind of art, even the modest sort, should be about communicating wisdom, even if only on the level of 'If evil really exists, would it look like Doctor Doom?' I stopped reading comic books a long time ago because they weren't telling me anything that I didn't already know. At the same time, when we reread stuff that we read a long time ago, what we feel we are experiencing is a recall of the sense of discovery we once experienced from that same work. Getting the same thing a second time from a work acts as a reaffirmation. We need to do a mental stock-take from time to time. However, when I read fiction or study art nowadays I’m usually more interested in the story of how the work came to be than in the story the work contains, or in how it all fits into some bigger philosophical idea. Sometimes when I reread my own work after a year or two I'm surprised to find observations or ideas in it that I don't remember putting there. Sometimes I read a review of one of my books that pinpoints something that completely takes me by surprise. Occasionally I learned stuff about myself from reading a review of my Fate of the Artist. And often it would be a point that I couldn't argue against, and I’d wish I could say it was deliberate because it made me sound quite clever. I think when an artist is working quickly and turning out a lot of work and is in tune with what's going on around him and in the world, and has trained his subconscious to be working for him non-stop, he can be a conduit for a higher kind of wisdom than the sort I mentioned before. You can even read your own work and learn something you never knew before, or never thought you knew. In fact, in art that is functioning fully, it's obligatory.

PÓM: I'm going to take that as a yes!

The other major solo work you did was Bacchus. Do you want to give a brief rundown on what that's all about?

EC: My big mythological adventure. Since I was going to be travelling abroad (in 1986) I set out to draw something in tune with my movements, a big sprawling exotic adventure in which the characters are always moving geographically, finding themselves in a new story everywhere they go. So the first order of the day was the hijack of a jumbo jet by an implausible character, the Eyeball Kid, named after his ten sets of eyes, that goes wrong and comes down in a tropical jungle. I also wanted to play with flashback in a big way, as though a colossal backstory was always trying to catch up to the present, always being told from different angles until it contradicts itself inside out. Thus I had, to give an example, a journey under the sea with Joe Theseus and the Anchovy, coming out in Sicily while the flashbacks had fancifully connected the mafia to obscure latter-day developments in Greek myth. All done with a sense of fun and mischief. I recall being somewhat mystified when my pal and fellow cartoonist Glenn Dakin would automatically skip all the 'flashback' stuff out of a previously acquired habit, saying that kind of thing always turns out to be something you've already seen in a previous issue. So it's like arriving in the middle of a soap opera in all its complicatedness, and having somebody witty sitting on the sofa beside you explaining it as you go along: "That's Joe Theseus' 34th wife, and the alimony is late because the wicked Telchines have grabbed Joe by the assets." And instead of dreary ordinary people, the characters are mythical, or at least they used to be. As one character says of another, while gloating over his demise, "You used to be mythical, but now you're history!"

PÓM: Is Bacchus going to be collected into a single volume any time soon?

EC: It's too big to be in one volume. It's twice as big as From Hell; there are around 1200 pages, so it will be two volumes. Top Shelf will collect it all together in 2010.

PÓM: What sort of time period was involved with the Alec and Bacchus material?

EC: I drew Bacchus for just over twelve years, 1986-1999. Alec is me, so anything autobiographical is still part of Alec. Twenty-nine years and still going, 1980 to the present. As I said, that's quite a big sweep of time in the new book. The peculiar thing when I revise work for these big collections is that it's never the oldest stuff that looks the most uneven or primitive, or just badly drawn. It's always some phase in the middle where I've gotten out of the habit of looking properly at the world and picked up some bad tics. One day I might look hard at the thing I’ve just done and wonder how ears have wandered so far down the sides of heads, or how noses have become so implausibly small, or what made me think I could get away with drawing so heavy-handedly, or when did this paper I've been using for so many years slip in quality, or is it the ink? Then a shake-up is called for.

A thing I've noticed about all of these different series, when I have to go back over them for a new edition, is that the dodgy artwork usually happened at the same time right across the board. If I'm perusing From Hell and I'm suddenly embarrassed about a lapse, it usually corresponds to a lapse at a similar time elsewhere. I've had good and bad vintages. 1988 was a year in which I seem to have been having difficulties. And when I think about it, that was a year I was having troubles in my everyday life too. In contrast, 1986 was a good year. I work better when I'm not beset by money problems and I'm getting along with everyone in my life.

PÓM: Another question I probably should have asked earlier on is, did you have any formal art training at any stage?

EC: I did a one year 'Foundation Course' at Central School of Art in London. I don't know how it works nowadays, but that didn't count for anything, because that was just a preamble to a diploma course in a specialist area which I was trying for, graphic design, which is designing for print (I explain as the word 'graphic' has been somewhat waylaid in the intervening period, at least in our pinched and limited field, which would be alright except that it keeps vomiting up into the world at large). I failed to get into a diploma course, and not for want of trying. And not for want of being good enough either. Perhaps my arrogance caused my failure. It's a bloody shame really, since I ended up as a small publisher there for a while and had to bring in help on all my design matters. I mean, I was correct in my projection that graphic design was a skill that would have been of use to me. College might also have crushed my spirit if I’d seen it through, but isn't that what we go to college for? One thing that year was good for was that it introduced me to Brian Bolland, who was doing a one-year post-grad course upstairs and I got to know him and meet him socially, and in turn met the folk that he met, including Dave Gibbons, etc, etc. In the final event, I came out of college and lost my way. I worked in a social security office for two years and then completed my descent down the ladder of opportunity by working in a factory for the next five years and then being made redundant and being completely washed up and unemployed. At this point, 1982, aged twenty six, I took hold of the situation and started being positive about what I intended to do with my life. No, that's not precise. In my own head I was always an artist, not just an artistic practitioner, but an artist of some import, and now I decided to commit to leaving my mark on the world. I didn't think of it in terms of 'now I must make a living out of this', because I think a small ambition is asking to fail, and being an artist and making a living are tricky concepts to reconcile. One must insanely hope to shift the world off its axis, and 'making a living' will just have to look after itself. It was another eight years before I was actually earning enough to say I was 'making a living.' The upshot of all this is that anyone who thinks of asking me for career advice has well and truly lost their marbles.

PÓM: At some point during all of this you started work on From Hell with Alan Moore. How did that all come about?

EC: Though I knew Alan and we had stayed at each other's houses and drank ales on numerous occasions, I had previously only illustrated one short prose piece by Alan, for a Knockabout album in 1985. I guess we had always kicked around the notion of doing a bigger story together one day. Suddenly I got a phone call, late in 1988 and 'the game was afoot.' When Alan conceives a project, he very quickly starts to think of it in pictorial terms, usually based, I suppose, on whatever pictorial approaches are already out there. He begins to see it in a certain artist's style, in other words. So he was already using my hands in his head before I ever laid a hand on the first script. Since I had never drawn anything remotely in the horror or crime idioms, or anything set in a historical era, he was sticking his neck out somewhat. Actually, I tell a lie, the thing that put my name in the hat was a little 1984 autobiographical 4-pager titled The Pyjama Girl, in which I contemplated a notorious Australian murder from the 1920s. That story is in the big Alec compendium, incidentally. And by December 1988 I had a script and we were off and running. Well, hobbling, or stumbling or crawling on all fours. Little did I know this thing would take ten years and see three publishers fall by the wayside, not to mention numerous distributors and a printer. You need your wits about you to survive in this game. All this talk about time reminds me of a teenager who asked me a couple of years ago how long From Hell took to draw. When I said ten years she looked at me in horror. How could anybody spend ten years of their life on the one thing? When I was a teenager I would certainly have thought likewise.

PÓM: Was From Hell the first time you drew from someone else's scripts, rather than your own?

EC: No, I had done that before, and I had also written scripts for other artists, though nothing I feel like drawing attention to right at this minute. In fact, Alan had chucked me a couple of sets of his script carbons for Time Twisters back in 1985 and I drew them just to get a hang of things. Now there's something that nobody has ever seen. Nor should they want to. We have to do our time and suffer a few embarrassments before we're ready for the big one.

PÓM: As I've mentioned scripts, when you're doing your own work, do you write a script first, then draw from that, or do you do both parts simultaneously, or what?

EC: There's never anything you could call a 'script'. I always write just enough to work out the page count and a rough idea of what's on each one. A lot of scribbling on a couple of beermats and old envelopes would be enough to get me to the layout stage. Once I'm on the art boards I scribble the dialogue in the margins, but working it out fully as I go as space limitations will apply in the next step. I'll only note the action if there's a silent sequence, just to assign each panel its specific task. Then I set about moving all the words from the margins roughly into place at the tops of the panels, writing everything out properly as I go, usually because I can't read my scribbles. I'll put in some stick figures, but only if there's something happening that I think I might forget about. At this stage I'm conscious about making sure the first speaker is on the left side of the panels and if he isn't I have to carefully place the balloons so that he can be. Then I letter all the words in ink; you have to do the lettering first because it's easier to adjust the size of a figure to fit than it is acceptable to alter the size of the lettering. And only then do I start properly organizing pictures. I always start inking before I've finished pencilling, which I would never recommend to a student or anybody else for that matter. I even end up with correction white all over the place before I've finished pencilling. It's an odd fact about this pencilling/inking rigmarole that you never notice you've given a head two noses until after you've started inking it. Sometimes it's a muddy mess and I flip the page over and start again on the back. Years later I always find peculiar things on the backs of at least a quarter of my pages.

PÓM: How do you go about drawing from someone else’s script?

EC: It's actually much easier to work from the never-ending narrative that's going through my head, because that already comes with images. With somebody else's script I have to struggle to invent the pictures. For years, through the nineties, I used to regard From Hell as the least profitable thing I was working on, absurdly, because not only did I have to figure out images that weren't happening naturally in my head, but I also had to read and digest Alan's script, which, enjoyable as it was, demanded a necessary investment of time. Of course, nowadays the royalties from From Hell are the largest part of my income. And another thing, when that book was first solicited I only got orders for 6,000 copies. That's why I printed it on cheap newsprint. It looked like being a risky undertaking. I printed much more than that, but the first wave of income just covered the six thousand. I got out of publishing in the end because it was all just too much of a mystery to me. Chris Staros at Top Shelf is a genius with all that stuff. Me, I fret over the minutiae and lose sight of the big picture.

Talking about being a publisher, it occurs to me that, at some time or other, I must have dabbled in all of the assorted disciplines that make up comic books. I was even once employed to letter a book. That was the Daniel Torres Opium that Knockabout published in translation from the Spanish in the mid-'80s. That was one of my first strictly 'for hire' jobs. It felt good to be useful. I don't know who did the translation, but I even fixed up the script a little as I went along.

PÓM: I know Alan is famous for his long scripts, and I imagine that the script for From Hell must have been particularly detailed. Did you follow it all to the letter, or did you take a few artistic decisions along the way, do you remember?

EC: I only deviated if there was something that had been overlooked. When I sat down to diagram all the comings and goings of the abduction in Cleveland Street in Chapter 1, I realized the evidence only made sense if Sickert and Mary Kelly entered the street from the end opposite to the one Alan used in the script (the script is in print in a book that came out in the early 1990s if anyone fancies checking it). But you had to sit down and actually draw it to see that. There were a few such incidents, but not many at all.

PÓM: I was intrigued to read recently where you were saying that you weren’t happy at the time that Bill Sienkiewicz got to do Big Numbers, certainly a big glamorous project at the time, while you were stuck cranking out From Hell a chapter at a time in Taboo. I presume you’ve changed your mind on this since?

EC: No, I meant that. Bill was drawing the innovative modern day real life book, which I thought of as my specialty, while I was stuck doing a Victorian horror story that had already been done every which way in novels and films. I still think Big Numbers would have been a landmark book. The two issues that came out sold sixty-five thousand copies and then forty-five thousand approximately. At the time it I think Bill regarded that as too small potatoes. But we were heading into a different kind of market. The book would have sold squillions in due course. Still, in the end I guess at the same time we did have a new angle on the Whitechapel murders, and Big Numbers, as imagined by Alan, was technically beyond my abilities in 1989. I'm referring to the photoreal soap-opera look that was used as a jumping-off point. Bill was a world-class illustrator. He's one of the last entries in Walt Reed's monumental 'The Illustrator in America', a book that I have on my shelf here. My talent lay elsewhere.

PÓM: And one more question about From Hell: What did you think of the film?

EC: It's a shame really, but to get the film made they had to mostly lose that new angle and do the story as a straightforward whodunnit, which is the way the Ripper story has always been done. In my own memory there was Murder by Decree in 1979, with Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes solving the mystery, and Jack the Ripper in 1988 with Michael Caine as Inspector Abberline. Both of those films used the Masonic cover-up theory. But I think films are a bogus medium from top to bottom. There's too much money involved. The investors have got to be satisfied. And that can only be done by appealing to the least discriminating taste so as to fill up enough seats. Alas, what can you do? Movie people only buy book rights in the first place because that part of the process, creating story, is the part which interests them the least. They are in the business of creating spectacle and the purchased story is just a vehicle. They are happy to change it in any way necessary to make a bigger spectacle.

PÓM: Was that your only brush with the movie business, then?

EC: I got to do the whole process back to front when I became involved in adapting The Black Diamond Detective Agency (2007) into a book. Hollywood producer Bill Horberg had the script and the idea of making it into a 'graphic novel', as part of the developmental process. The good thing is that he accepted that the different medium demanded a different approach and I was allowed a great deal of freedom in the adapting. So I had a movie project into which I had to inject narrative logic rather than the other way around, of working from a book and having to take it out.

PÓM: As you mentioned it, what did you publish during your time as a publisher?

EC: I published 88 things over a course of eight years between 1995 and 2002, meaning I made the object, organized the printing and paid the bill. That's close enough to something every month if you allow for a tapering off at the end. That includes sixty issues of Bacchus, which was monthly at the beginning and eight issues per year at the end, nine volumes of the collected Bacchus with two going into a second edition, Four of Alec with one going into a second edition, one-off 48-page jobs such as Graffiti Kitchen, The Dance of Lifey Death, The Birth Caul and Snakes and Ladders (these two from Alan Moore texts), six editions of the collected 600-page From Hell, two issues of a magazine titled Egomania, and a limited edition poster. During that time, as a studio we also packaged and freelanced a bunch of stuff.

PÓM: You mentioned The Birth Caul and Snakes and Ladders above, the adaptations that you did of two of Alan’s spoken word CDs. I know Melinda Gebbie is supposed to be doing Angel Passage at some stage, but is there any likelihood you’re going to do the other one, The Highbury Working, which is my favourite of the lot of them?

EC: I don't think that will happen. I illustrated The Birth Caul because when I listened to Alan's recorded monologue, my head filled to overflowing with images. I often say that From Hell isn't the best book I’ve drawn and it isn't even the best book that Alan and I made together. That would be The Birth Caul. I followed with Snakes and Ladders because I thought it would be a good idea if there was a companion book, and I did have a few driving ideas for it, such as superimposing Burne-Jones's Golden Staircase on the double helix, and the woman dancing with the stage-prop snake in a Victorian era music hall, but as I worked on it I felt it becoming harder to keep up the inspiration and it seemed certain to me that to attempt the other projects would turn into a case of diminishing returns. I'd say that we came out ahead with the two books as they stand in A Disease of Language, which Knockabout published in 2006.

PÓM: I know you've started doing work with First Second, who really do do lovely books. Is there anything you did in the meantime that I've missed, before we get to that?

EC: Have we mentioned my 48-page Batman book, The Order of Beasts? Daren White was my co-writer on that. DC slotted it into their 'Elseworlds' series, but it was actually meant to be a straight Batman yarn set in 1939. I had already started work on that when I packed in my self-publishing operation and I felt that I was launching a new phase of my career. So in 2004 that became the first in my sequence of full-colour painted-art books. I worked out all the problems in that one, and the three First Second jobs followed one a year, 2006-2008 with another that's still in the pipeline, titled The Playwright, scheduled for 2010 from Top Shelf. I'd done a couple of short colour jobs before but never a whole book. In fact I'd never drawn a full length comic book for one of the two big companies, DC or Marvel, before (though I wrote four issues of Hellblazer which Sean Phillips illustrated, way back in 1995, which has never been reprinted), just a number of little things here and there. The curious thing about the situation is that after the Batman book was wrapped up and scheduled for release, my pal Bob Morales, who was writing a run of Captain America, recommended me as fill-in artist for two issues after Chris Bachalo bowed out. So I handled the pencil and ink art on that (with a swiftly hired assistant) and the two-parter came out more or less at the same time as the Batman. Full sized projects from both DC and Marvel at the same time, and I've never considered myself a superhero artist. You have to laugh. Bachalo was a tough act to follow though. I was barely hanging on by my fingernails. In his Marvel work he developed some far out notions about anatomy. How do you follow on from that, knowing that it’s all going to be put in one collection (Capt. America: Homeland), all the time keeping the kind of crazy schedule necessary to turn two issues around in two months? The editor, Axel Alonzo, cunningly had the colourist mimic Bachalo's very specific palette to hold it all together. So all in all it was a serviceable job I thought, and I managed to project myself as a team player if only for a couple of months.

Then, after the painted Batman, I used the same techniques on a 13-page Escapist story (written by Dan Best) that appeared in the issue that had Will Eisner's final job. I also wrote a little story titled A Day in the Life of the Flash that Paul Grist illustrated for DC's second Bizarro book. It's written in a very fast unintelligible shorthand. I was pleased with it. So that was my 'summer of the superhero'. But all of these stories were somewhat 'retro'. I was going back in time to the way these characters used to be long ago. Even the Escapist had a nostalgic angle, being set in the 1939 World's Fair. After that, White and I wrote a more hard-bitten two-part Joker story that you can find in Batman: Going Sane, illustrated by Bart Sears, just to show I can do a more up to date version of this sort of thing if you hold my arm behind my back.

If it's not my drawing arm I mean.

PÓM: Aside from your misgivings about the uniformity of size that you mentioned above, are you happy with your work at First Second?

EC: Oh yes, more than happy.

PÓM: They’ve published three of your books so far: The Fate of the Artist, The Black Diamond Detective Agency, and Monsieur Leotard, and you said there’s a fourth one coming out next year, The Playwright. What’s that about?

EC: The Playwright will be from Top Shelf. I included it there because it's another colour book. In fact this one is brighter looking than all of the others put together. It's about the sex life of a celibate middle aged man. Well, he's not actually celibate, he's just hopeless. It's all very British in its humour, but it's also a very touching little story. About one quarter of it has already been serialised, and that only in black and white, so it will be grand to see this wrapped up at last. It's written by my occasional collaborator, Daren White, and the rest of it's all me. It's very much my kind of story, in fact Top Shelf thought I'd written it at first.

PÓM: I know that there’s the two volumes of Bacchus coming out in 2010. Is there anything else in the pipeline after that?

EC: There's a lot of consolidation going on in the Campbell universe, as you can see. But I can't see past the collected Bacchus at present. There is another thing that I'm pitching but I can't say anything about that for now.

PÓM: And at this point, I think I’ve run out of things to ask you! Eddie Campbell, thank you very much for your time, and your patience as we went through all this.

EC: And thank you too, Paddy. Can I call you Paddy? If not, I insist you start calling me Edwárd.

PÓM: I would have to translate your name as Éamonn Cámbéal, and I'm happy to see that, on further investigation, it seems that I'm not a million miles out with my translation of your surname. Cám is Irish for crooked, and Béal is Irish for mouth, so Cámbéal is, handily enough, Crooked Mouth, which more or less goes along with what I'm finding on the 'net.

EC: Okay. Ya got me.

(This interview originally appeared on the Forbidden Planet Blog in October 2006.)
Tags: 2009, eddie campbell, fpi blog, interviews

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