Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell – ‘Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.’

Back at the end of April the Guardian ran an experiment to see what would happen if real writers were involved with comics, and the results were pretty much what you’d expect, ranging as they did from the mediocre (Dave “David” Eggers’ ponderous buffalo comic) to the merely gorgeous (Frazer Irving’s whatever the hell it was that Frazer Irving drew) by way of the profoundly functional (Dave Gibbons and Gillian Flynn’s clockwork deconstruction of vigilantism).

As a showcase for a variety of semi-respectable comics art styles it was a success, but as a pop culture moment it lacked a sense of novelty or excitement.

The exception was Thursdays, Six to Eight pm, a modern romance comic with a faint hint of the gothic to it.  A man and woman are in love and they get married, but she can’t stop worrying about why he wants two hours to himself every Thursday night.  For his part, he keeps quiet about the details, so Ellen does what we all do unless we’re sinister enough to work for the NSA already: she calls in some spies.

The result of a long-distance collaboration between Audrey Niffinegger (The Time Traveller’s Wife) and Eddie Campbell (all the best comics), this strip stood out from the others by virtue of the fact that both of the involved parties contributed to the art. Well, according to the contents page Dave “Dave” Eggers was “collaborating with himself” but this does no damage to my argument: the lines on Eggers’ pages were the work of only one artist, while the Campbell/Niffenegger strip bears the mark of two “primary” artists.

According to Niffeneger’s write-up, she drew the Charles – the guy doing the proposal in the above panel – and the two spies his wife hires to investigate him, while Campbell drew Ellen, the suspicious wife and protagonist on the right hand side of the same frame.

Even though Campbell apparently modified Niffenegger’s line work to make it look of a piece with his own, my eyes mostly confirms that these characters are not made out of the same materials.  This plays into a classic romantic conceit, suggesting as it does that while these two characters may share their lives with each other they’ll always be fundamentally distant.  Charles’ thin, defiantly two-dimensional features provide an impermeable barrier between the contents of his mind and the blown out, fuzzy world he lives in with Ellen – being an Eddie Campbell character, she is made out of the same fuzz and clutter as everything else.

The fact that Campbell was also responsible for the lettering and page layouts will be immediately obvious to anyone who is familiar with his autobiographical comics.

This comment from Niffenegger struck me so forcefully that it left me with a mental scar I’d now swear I was born with:

Eddie always begins with the lettering, so there was an early stage of panels and lettering but no images, which I found intriguing. He letters by hand, and already the pages looked like a true Eddie Campbell comic.

More than any other comics artist I can think of, Campbell makes a casual mockery of the idea that the manner in which comics combine words and pictures needs to be policed to maintain the purity of the form.  While works such as Bacchus and From Hell shows that Campbell is perfectly comfortable telling a story visually, in a comic like Alec - how to be an artist the continuity of the narrative can be found in the prose, with the visuals reacting to and reiterating the words in exactly the way we’re told they shouldn’t.

More modern comics magic after the cut.

SILENCE! podcast #9

April 4th, 2012

AND I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT IF IT WASN’T FOR YOU MEDDLING KIDS!!!!

Lo, it was so. SILENCE! no.9 descended upon the earth like a particularly weighty turd from an overfed poodle’s arse!  The Beast brings the noise in a very real sense, with his hip hop meisterwork ‘COMIX (NOT 4 KIDZ). They then jaunt in a spritely fashion into the SILENCE! News wherein Lactus reveals what might be the BIGGEST news story of 2012 (let’s just say the word ‘Avengers’ is part of it – SPOILERZZZ!).

After that they proceed to lustily tango into last week’s releases, discussing Daredevil no.10 (and the practical ways to exit a monster), the eternal sunshine that is Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred no.3 (by Dave Hine serial comic abuser Shaky Kane) and briefly touch upon Spaceman no.5. Lactus is TOTALLY PSYCHED over the devastating psychological complexitiveness of Bloodstrike, and talks up Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Stories (including a devastating critique of Tesla’s working methods, no less!). Next up is The New Deadwardians (sweet Lord…) Secret Avengers (Shhhh…secretly Avenging) and a Bowfinger reference. Then there’s a double dose of You Should Have Known Better with the twin-horrors of AVX no.0 (buh?) and Comic Book Men (hurry Mayan prophecy, HURRY!) The Beasts Bargain Basement concerns Paul Duncan and Phil Elliot’s Second City (props to Michel Fiffe) and the brief glory that was Harrier Comics, and the pair froth merrily over Booster Gold and how fucking rad his origin is. Not to mention the adrenalin-soaked thrill ride that is The Coming Attractions. Put it all together and you have Another. Comics. Podcast!

All this and perhaps a little bit more, from the lovable odd couple that the internet is calling “the Tango & Cash of internet-based comics criticism”. Grab your earpipes and snuggle down you hobbits!

(And click below for the SILENCE! gallery…)


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