Miguel Angel Martin
James Kochalka
Luciana Giussani
Kyle Baker
Alan Moore
Eddie Campbell
JH Williams III
Brian Michael Bendis
Leo Ortolani
Davide Toffolo
Neil Gaiman
Omar Martini

An interview with EDDIE CAMPBELL

A life in comics

by Smoky Man


Eddie Campbell - a Glaswegian now living with his family in Brisbane, Australia - is one of the most influent and innovative artist in comics. Active in the medium since the '70, he is a paladin of the indie scene - but he has worked with majors as Dark Horse and DC, too - with works as Bacchus and From Hell (with writer Alan Moore).

From Hell - a masterpiece telling the story of Jack the Ripper's crimes - has been recently adapted for cinema and will be on the silver screens this Spring featuring the Hughes Brothers as directors and stars Johnny Depp e Heather Graham.

For more info and news about Eddie Campbell go to his home page http://www.eddiecampbellcomics.com

I know you has been in the comics market from more than 20 years and you have spent all this time in the "indie" field. Could you tell us your first exposure to comics and when did you start working as a pro?

I first came across American Marvel comics when I was in hospital as a kid. I told this story in a recent issue of Bacchus. In particular I noticed that the American comics gave the names of the artists. It had not occurred to me up until then that comics were created by human beings. I thought they were an act of god and from that moment on I decided that I wanted to be one of these amazing people.
Since then I have always believed myself to be an artist and have conducted my life around that principle but I did not make a living as one until I was in my 30s.

Which has been your influences both as a penciler and as a writer?

Sometime after discovering American comics I uncovered the entire history of the newspaper comics and this opened my eyes to the idea of comics as art. I'm thinking particularly of the work of George Herriman, Cliff Sterret, Clare Briggs and Milton Caniff.

Which is your considerations of indie publishing? Why do you choose to self publishing? Has it been a question of creativity freedom or a necessity?

The crux of the matter is not creative, it is simply that I can make more money this way.

In Italy we basically know you for your masterpiece From Hell written by Alan Moore. Could you tell us something about this experience? How is working on a story so dense and atypical?

Of course it was great to work with a genius like Alan Moore but I think that From Hell really is nothing compared to the other book that we did together called The Birth Caul which is to be published in Italy soon by Black Velvet.

How many researches have you done to choose a style adapted for the story and its atmosphere? Was it a natural choice or have you had to work hard on it?

Essentially I imagine myself working in the 1890s and used the style which I imagine would have come naturally to me at that time.

I know we'll see soon a movie based on From Hell and that they have started shooting it on Prague. Could you give us more info about this and are you - or Alan Moore - involved in some way in the making of this movie?

They have finished shooting the film and it should be out in America around may 2001 but this may be pushed back to July or later. Alan and I have no involvement with the movie.

An other story published here was "The Return of Mink Stole", that one you draw for Will Eisner's The Spirit New Adventures written by Neil Gaiman.

Neil has been a good friend of mine for a great many years and its certainly very enjoyable to illustrate one of his stories after all of this time. I also wrote and illustrated a Spirit story of my own which you may not have seen. It was called "The Pacifist". It was the autobiography of a sentient bullet with an aversion to violence.

My first exposure to your works was reading a paperback of your wonderful Bacchus. Could you present this peculiar character to the Italian audience? Why do you create an hero based on a mythological figure?

With the autobiographical stuff my intention had been to render the humdrum details of my life and the environment around me in a way that would show it to be exciting in the way that I find ordinary every day life exciting.

I still think of it as an adventure. The way you do when you're a child and you wake up in the morning excited with all the things that you're going to do and all the characters that you're going to be. I've always had a great love of the great adventure serials that I've followed whether its Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon or Star Trek on the television and I found myself longing to create something similar. An ongoing serial with larger than life characters and constantly changing exotic locations. I found that mythology provided a springboard to creating characters like the Eyeball Kid or the Gods of Business. I would have found it difficult to create those characters out of nothing. Mythology gives them an internal logic, a "raison d'etre" or a back story as they say nowadays.

Could you present us The Birth Caul which will be published in Italian soon. Has it been a strange experience working on it?

The Birth Caul is the best thing that Alan has ever written. He wrote it as a theatrical performance monologue which he performed in the old county court house in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on his 40th birthday. It was recorded and released as a CD and subsequently we adapted it into a comic. It is a dark and profound piece of poetry which made extraordinary demands upon me as an artist, particularly the chapters on childhood where he has re-created perfectly more than anything else I have ever read the feelings of growing up. I had to come up with many unusual solutions to the problems of matching images to such an elusive text. In one instance I smashed up an alarm clock and glued parts of it to the page. In another I stitched together a miniature pair of child's pajamas and glued thm to the page.

There is some truth in the voice you'll write stories for Tom Strong, the flagship title of Alan Moore's ABC line?

Alan asked me but because of my hectic publishing schedule I would not be able to give it the attention it deserves.

Some time ago The Comic's Journal have done a courageous list of the Top 100 (English language) Comics of the Century. And on the podium we find: 3rd Walt Kelly's Pogo, 2nd Charles Schulz's Peanuts, 1st George Herriman's Krazy Kat. Do you agree with this final result or there are some others you like more, maybe outside the English language comics? For info: you was at the 51st position with your autobiographical Alec Stories and at 41st one with From Hell.

I agree completely with the top three although I had a long running argument on the journal message board about some of their later choices. Two of my favorite cartoonists did not appear at all on the list: Clare Briggs and Tad Dorgan.

Could you give us your own definition of comics?

I disagree with Scott McCloud's definition in that I don't think that we should seek to define comics on a formal basis. I think that some of the best comics do not involve "sequential images" which is the basis of every formal definition of comics.

Thinking about Internet, do you see an online future for comics or do you think the pleasure of paper can't be replace?

I think that comics will change so that eventually we will have to just stop calling them comics because they will have become something else. I think the spirit of comics will just move on to another venue as it has always done in the past. I think comics like jazz music are simply a tradition.

Comic being a one tradition of cartooning and there are many and I think the need to see a distinctive art form is a bad sign that the tradition is close to moribund. Rather than seeking to define it the leading artists should be seeking (this is not to say that they aren't) to breathe new life into it which will probably mean breaking with past forms and definitions.






[28 December 2000]



Realizzazione grafica di Angelo Secci