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April 28, 2008


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Nate A.

Great reading… this is one of my favorite books by Campbell and it seems to me you capture its concerns quite well. I would like to add something about the art, specifically the way Campbell uses light to almost painterly effect despite the work being in black and white. For example, he captures beautifully the difference between the dark we encounter when we leave the house at night (punctuated as it is by streetlamps and the artificial light from windows) and the darkness of a room with its drapes pulled shut in the morning. I often thumb through the book for the art alone.


Craig, great post, and thanks for taking a solo today.

I love the way this post speaks to your own experiences while casting light on Campbell's work. Sure, all criticism is implicitly autobiographical, but this post really benefits from making the implicit explicit! Besides, it's nice to know something more about your dissolute youth. :)

Regarding the treatment of "adolescent rebellion" in literature, of course it's not confined to the usual suspects in the Young Adult genre. The "adolescent idea," as Patricia Meyer Spacks puts it, is a guiding idea in everything from Fielding's TOM JONES to Goethe's WERTHER to Joyce's PORTRAIT. Spacks' book, THE ADOLESCENT IDEA: MYTHS OF YOUTH AND THE ADULT IMAGINATION (1981), is revealing and useful on this subject, the more so because it does not confine its attention to Young Adult literature so labeled. It's a study of how adolescence has been variously depicted in literature, with particular emphasis on the novel from the 18th century forward. Spacks argues that depictions of adolescence often reveal more about the needs of the adults who are doing the depicting (which is a central point in my Literature for Adolescents course).

Regarding resemblances between Miller and Campbell, or Kerouac and Campbell, I dunno. I appreciate Eddie's lightness of touch and ironic self-awareness, which I think set him apart. As an aside, I've never cared for Kerouac, whose narrowness of outlook bugs me (perhaps I didn't read him at a properly susceptible age?). Eddie's work feels different to me. It seems to me that Eddie takes a distinctly unRomantic view of the libertine goings-on in CANUTE, and I appreciate that. Perhaps it's the fact that the COMIC is never far from Eddie's comics; his comic sense suffuses everything, even the grimmest, most troubling episodes, with a grace and air of civility.

BTW, Warren Ellis has good words to say about Campbell, but I'd say he doesn't understand some of the other autobio work that he disses in passing. He's using the usual cheap shots against the genre. As if Chet Brown's work in this vein could be reduced to "beating off." Bah. (This is a pet peeve of mine.)

Nate, I like your comment about the painterly qualities of Campbell's art. Eddie addresses this in a series of blog posts (from last September) regarding his use of zipatone:


Campbell does wonderful, gestural things with zipatone, ignoring the way the technique is usually trapped within solid contours and instead letting it spill all over the place. It sprays, it clumps, it scatters in shards all over; it's a beautiful mess. Check out, for instance, the tones in Craig's "Doggie in the Window" example: I love that panel in which Alec is shown drowning. Or dig the way tone patterns are used to define Penny's shape, in Craig's last example.

On his blog, Eddie talks about wanting to define forms in a painterly way (to avoid the deadness of straightforward line drawing), and, Nate, you've nailed that. I like your remark about distinguishing between different kinds of darkness. I agree: the art alone (sorely underrated) is a pleasure to the thinking eye.

Craig, I hope to follow you in high style with ALEC: HOW TO BE AN ARTIST!

Nate A.

Campbell also talks about his preoccupation with shades of light and dark in his most recent Comics Journal Interview, and my observations owe much to his open discussion of his process. I'll be interested to see how you folks handle his transition into color and fumetti for "Fate."

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