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The From Hell Companion s/c

The From Hell Companion s/c back

Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell


Page 45 Review by Stephen

This’ll make your eyes water.

It will make you laugh out loud – for Eddie is one of comics’ finest raconteurs and there is much of mirth to unearth in the creation of FROM HELL – plus almost any other comic artist being presented with scripts like these would have burst into tears and run away long before the end of the prologue.

Presented here (almost all excerpts for the first time) are Alan Moore’s scripts and pre-ambles sent to the artist in preparation for each chapter, arranged by Eddie Campbell into an accessible new narrative of their own, complete with conversational Campbell commentary which is an entertainment in and of itself.

THE FROM HELL COMPANION is, in every way, a biography of the book: FROM HELL’s conception, reception and publishing history; its influences, development and artistic progress including disagreements, regrets and revisions – both at the time and as printed in subsequent editions.

Along the journey Eddie explains his approach to each segment, mostly faithful but requiring no small thought towards interpretation, yet sometimes of necessity piloted off the strict course originally plotted by its navigator. Throughout Alan acknowledges that there is room for manoeuvre and encourages his collaborator if he believes a different approach would serve the same purpose.

Eddie Campbell is a thinker and I believe you’ll find that thinking infectious. Throughout he expounds on his wider theories about comics’ construction from individual pages’ layout to what is required and what should be avoided in any work’s climax and conclusion. There aren’t that many comicbook creators who have given the medium this much minute, phorensic examination; although Alan Moore is most emphatically one of the others as evidenced by these infamously extravagant but gloriously evocative and eloquent extracts which are even more impressive when you consider that they were never intended to see the light of day. All of this beauty – for Eddie’s eyes only!

And you wait until you see Alan expend whole pages justifying his artistic decisions:

“(You see how nervous I get when I’m working with a respected comic book theorist like yourself? All that writing and wriggline just to assure you I’m not getting flashy.)”

Contained both within the scripts and Campbell’s commentary is the thought they also gave to local research, historical verisimilitude and other treatments of similar subject matter. I’m resisting the urge to prove each of my points here by reproducing any of the 1,000-word essays Alan often assigns to a single panel. That’s what Eddie Campbell’s done: you might as well just pick up the book.

There are copious illustrations: each of the original cover paintings, reference photographs accompanied by their use in relevant panels and personal photographs of the creators in question. You may find it better to have a copy either of FROM HELL or the FROM HELL H/C to hand, but each of the pages in question have been reproduced and if you can’t quite read all the dialogue, well, it follows in Alan’s scripts. There are multiple other paintings, Christmas cards, and a fabulous Tarot-like portrait of Alan as the ultimate Gull-Catcher.

Which brings me neatly to the ‘Dance Of The Gull-Catchers’ appendix with all the Ripperologists dancing round in circles vainly trying to snag their prey in butterfly nets. I was unaware until now that a “gull” – in addition to being the name of the hideous protagonist of FROM HELL itself – is “old slang for a fool, or a hoax, to cheat or mislead”.

Oh, the things you will learn…