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Moore, Alan & Campbell, Eddie – From Hell


From Hell

From Hell. Christ, talk about a nostalgia overload. I first saw From Hell in any form when I picked up a copy of Taboo #4, which I believe had the third chapter of the story. This was probably in 1993, so this along with the suggestions of Dave Sim led me to hunt down everything I could find from Eddie Campbell (I already knew all about Alan Moore, as Watchmen was one of the books that got me started down this independent comics path). Eventually  I picked up a few more issues of Taboo before that publishing company went under, then over the years I successfully managed to get all of the individual issues when they came out for Tundra and Kitchen Sink Press, two more companies that are no longer active. The point of this extended introductory ramble, outside of letting you all in on what this book means to me, is to point that this is the first time I’ve read the book in its collected form. Sure, I read through the comics all in a row once, but that includes all of the letters pages and asides that come with individual issues. Reading this all in a chunk is a revelation. I remembered loving the book, obviously, but it’s only when you have it in a chunk that you can really see all of the tricks that Moore was trying to pull. For those of you who have never heard of small press comics but have somehow hit this review, From Hell is Moore & Campbell’s version of what happened with the Jack the Ripper murders. I say “Moore & Cambpell” because even though Moore is obviously the writer, this book would have been something else entirely under the hands of a different artist. Eddie’s depictions of the steady rains, foreboding shadows and the brutally graphic murder scenes is what I think of even today when somebody mentions Jack the Ripper. If you’re a history buff and think you have a good theory on who committed the murders, might I suggest reading the lengthy appendix with Moore’s notes? These things are meticulous and list his thoughts practically page to page, and they answered every question I had about why he went in certain directions. Most people are content to call it a day after 400+ pages, but Moore instead offers a peek into his writing process that feels like a necessary epilogue instead of a tacked-on filler piece. As for the execution of the story, again the word I would use is “flawless.” The idea that nobody in authority was able to figure out these murders was always a little hard to swallow, so Moore has come up with a more plausible explanation. He’s the first to admit every step of the way that this is all fiction, but he also clearly took the time to learn all of the fine points of the murders and the investigation. If you’re reading along and have noticed that I’m not going into any kind of chapter by chapter analysis, that’s for a reason: this is in my personal top 10 (probably top 5) and I’m thrilled that Top Shelf was nice enough to send along a review copy. Picking it apart piece by piece would take weeks and kill some of my enjoyment of the book, so why bother?  It’s an entirely different experience from reading it issue to issue, and it’s also clear that they fixed up a few panels here and there. Oh, and just in case this giant book with a lengthy appendix isn’t enough content, they also included the rare “Dance of the Gull Catchers” story. If you’re a fan of this medium and don’t already have this book on your shelf, the only excuses I can think of are excessive poverty or ignorance. One is more easily rectified than the other, granted, but there are always local libraries that tend to have this on the shelf if all else fails. $35

Campbell, Eddie

Interview (from 1994)

From Hell

I know, he was only the artist on this book and Alan Moore was the writer, but he deserves almost as much credit as Mr. Moore. The book would have felt totally different with somebody else drawing it. It probably wouldn’t have disturbed me nearly as much.

Alec: The King Canute Crowd

This collects a lot of the old Alec stuff. Alec, for the uninitiated, is part autobiography and part fiction. My second-favorite long running character of all time, right behind Cerebus. Not that you can really compare the two, as Alec deals with entirely different things than Cerebus does, but there you have it.

Alec: How to be an Artist

That being said, I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would. The title struck me right away as being pretentious as hell, but he kind of dealt with that early on and dismissed it. He set a pretty high bar up for himself with Graffiti Kitchen and The Dance of Lifey Death (which are going to be released soon, along with another story, in one volume, and that should be the best thing ever) and, frankly, he didn’t reach it with this book.

Alec: Three Piece Suit

His three best works to date, and that’s saying something: Graffiti Kitchen, Little Italy and The Dance of Lifey Death. Everyone who reads comics should read these, and now they’re all together in one book.

Bacchus Book One: Immortality Isn’t Forever

The story of the God of Spirits Bacchus in the modern day. It’s a shame that the comic series Bacchus no longer features this character because they were always entertaining, if too cartoony sometimes (notably when Eddie wasn’t drawing them).

Bacchus Book 2: The Gods of Business

Bacchus Book 3: Doing the Islands with Bacchus

Bacchus Book 4 The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show

Bacchus Book 5: Earth, Water, Air and Fire

My favorite of the Bacchus books, probably because it comes so close to the feel of his Alec work. Bacchus and his companions are trapped on an island and reflect on all sorts of things. Not much happens in terms of a story, which is probably what makes it the best of these books.

Bacchus Book Nine: King Bacchus

Egomania #2
I think there's been something lacking in Eddie Campbell's work for me for the last few years, and I've been unable to put my finger on exactly what that was until I read the first couple of issues of his new magazine, Egomania. It's just not fun for me to read his stuff anymore. What that can be based on is open to interpretation, but I just don't get the same feeling of joy and whimsy on every page that I used to. When I first found some of his books 11 years or so, they were all about fun. There were stories about real life that were used with more than a little artistic license. That was the first time I had seen the concept used in comics and it changed my idea of what they could be. This issue is mostly an interview between Eddie and Alan Moore. That's something that would have fascinated me a few years ago and should have held some interest for me today, but it seems like the only reason Alan is even still doing comics these days is to talk about his theories on magic. That's all well and good, but I'm here to have fun with the books! Maybe it's my fault for not really wanting to read a 32 page interview mostly about obscure theories on magic, but I was bored to tears. These two issues have also introduced Eddie's new epic on the history of humor. A lofty goal, sure, and one that shows some definite promise. If I can't get some joy out of a series dedicated to investigating humor, I'll know that Eddie has moved past my tastes and it's time to move on. That being said, I think I'm going to skip these magazines and get the collected version when it comes out. It's always more complete anyway and the filler bits in these two magazines (the in-depth history of a painting, the From Hell Hollywood premiere as described by his daughter, and in interview with an old comics hero of his) were just plain dull for me. If anyone throws a "PHILISTINE!" my way, that's fine, I feel like I should be appreciating this stuff more, it's just that it's all so incredibly dull these days. I mostly like quiet books, don't get me wrong. Maybe I should go back and read some of his older works so I can remind myself what I liked so much about the guy to begin with...

Moore, Alan

Alan Moore fansite


What can be said that hasn’t been said about this already? It, along with The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, changed mainstream comics forever. If you still haven’t read this because it has superheroes in it, open your mind a little bit and you’re in for a hell of a treat.

V For Vendetta

Made a little bit before Watchmen, this remains one of the great underrated comics in history. It didn’t get anywhere near the press but was just as good, if not better. This was before “Big Brother” type stories in comics weren’t totally cliche, so keep that in mind while reading this.

From Hell

The story (or at least a well-researched theory) or Jack the Ripper. This’ll be a movie I believe this fall with Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. It took ten years to make this and it’s something like 500 pages long. It’s won a bundle of awards, and deservedly so.

Saga of the Swamp Thing

His Swamp Thing run is kind of forgotten these days, but that’s what got him started here in the states. It completely changed the character and gave other writers material that they’re still using to keep what is now a miserable series going. This is the first volume and it shows what the Swamp Thing actually is: not a man who has been changed into a walking moss monster but a plant who thinks it is a man. Brilliant, groundbreaking stuff.

Swamp Thing: Love and Death

Continues the story with Swamp Thing going to hell to find the woman he loves.

Swamp Thing: The Curse

Will DC collect his entire run ever? Until they do, this is the last volume available. This probably collects up to around #42, and Alan wrote the series until #64, so there is plenty more out there to be gathered.

Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows

Just found this on Amazon (9/2) for Alan Moore while I was looking around for covers. It doesn’t say the exact run, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s probably directly after The Curse. This is one of the better series ever until it falls apart at the end, so if you have the first three books (or some of the older issues like me) you already know that this one is going to be required reading.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1898

I’m way behind on his new stuff. Once I knew he was doing anything at all again, he was already a few issues into every series and I figured I’d wait until the collected works came out. That plan hasn’t worked very well as I’m still broke and I still haven’t bought some of them, this one included. I don’t know, I’ve heard good things about it and it’s Alan Moore. How can it be bad?

Batman: The Killing Joke

I know, I know, it’s a Batman book. But it changed the Joker forever, and that’s no mean feat.

Tom Strong: Collected Edition

Tom Strong is Alan’s take on the Superman character, or maybe it’s reprising his take on his Miracleman character. I don’t know, I still haven’t read this one yet.

The Worm: The Largest Comic Strip in the World

I didn’t even know this existed until I saw it on the Amazon page, so don’t ask me to tell you anything about it. All I know for sure is that it’s written by Alan Moore and Garth Ennis, so it has to be the best thing in the world. Right?

Top Ten Book One

In a town where every person has super powers, how do the cops keep order? The first of these books that I actually read, it made me feel stupid for not at least trying to pick this series up in the middle. Much more entertaining than I thought it would be, and I don’t know why I had a bad feeling about it. Because I mistakenly thought he was working for DC again and lost a little bit of respect for him, perhaps?

Top 10 Book Two

This is the last of the books I was able to buy with my “I still have a steady job, why not get this book?” money, and I don’t think I could have picked a better one. I didn’t follow this book as it was coming out, but there’s no way that it could have come out on a monthly basis. Every panel is packed with in-jokes and references to other comics and characters, from “Vacation on Infinite Earths” to a Hawkwoman feeding little baby hawks in a nest to Kang the Caterer. It’s been said before in other reviews, but this is pretty much Hill Street Blues with superheroes. There might have been three fight scenes in this whole book. It’s all about the characters and the human side of all these fantastic figures. After all, super powers kind of stops being a conversation topic when everybody in town has some. And always, always check out the backgrounds of these panels. There’s always superheroes flying around and doing something, more often than not you’ll probably recognize them. That brings me to my only problem with the book. If you haven’t grown up on comics, you’re going to miss a lot of stuff in here. I think the average person would still get a lot out of it, but this is for the comic book fans, plain and simple. It’s $14.95 and you don’t really have to read these two books in order, although I guess it might help for certain parts. It’s some of his best work in years, definitely the best of the “America’s Best Comics” line that I’ve seen.

A Small Killing

I read this book once about 7 years ago and remembered thinking that I’d better read it again when I was older because a lot of it flew right by me. Well, I’m older now and I don’t have a clue what happened to my copy of it. All I can tell you is that I saw layers and layers there that my teenage brain couldn’t penetrate at the time.

Promethea Book One

OK, I’ve been puttering around the house for the last half hour, trying to avoid writing a review for this. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but this wasn’t it. I can’t say that this was bad, because it wasn’t, but I can’t say that it was very good either. I was wrong in thinking that it was his take on the Wonder Woman character. It’s a female superhero type, but that’s where the similarities stop. The story is that Promethea is, well, a story, and has been around for hundreds of years in some form or other. She’s always brought back when people write about her, usually inhabiting the body of the closest female to the writing, or sometimes to the inspiration for the writing. A college girl is researching Promethea for a term paper and ends up becoming her. Throw in an annoying friend, a superhero team called The Five Swell Guys (that part goes nowhere in this book), and a Weeping Gorilla (which is, by far, the highlight of the book), and you’ve got Promethea. If you’re looking for a bunch of good superhero fight scenes, you’re probably going to go away disappointed. There were only a couple in this book as Mr. Moore was trying to set up a history for the character. He was apparently trying to define her for the rest of the series, but he might have lost me already.

What problems did I have with this? It’s well written, sure. That’s a given with this man, so he has to throw in something to maintain my interest besides that. The man has raised the bar pretty high; he pretty much has to redefine comics every time out or the work isn’t that great. By the end of the first book, there’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before. It’s done well, but some of the dialogue is godawful (think “I’m an average person in an extraordinary situation so I’ll say ‘gosh’ and ‘but that’s not possible’ a lot” and you’re getting pretty close). Look, superhero books aren’t my cup of tea, I’ll admit that freely. It’s rare that I like one, and this doesn’t happen to be one of them, at least not yet. I’ve heard that it really picked up steam in the second half, so if I have the cash I’ll buy it and see how it went. If I don’t have the money, however, I honestly can’t say that seeing how this series continues is a priority right now. The bottom line is that this book is just mediocre and, as such, is a serious disappointment.

The Birth Caul

I have to be honest with you here: I couldn’t finish reading this. I’ll read it again one of these days so I can post a proper review here, but all I can tell you now is that it bugged the hell out of me. It just seemed like wandering spoken word type gibberish that Eddie Campbell wanted to draw for some reason.

Supreme: The Return

You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been trying to get my hands on this story. I heard about it after it came out, as I paid no attention to Rob Liefeld’s comics at all, and by then it was out of print and uncollected. Sometimes I swear that these Checker people are reading my mind with the collections they’re putting out. This is the second collection of what I’m guessing to be at least three. I haven’t seen the first one, apparently it sold out quickly but they’re putting out another printing. Surprisingly, it really didn’t affect my understanding of the story. Sure, it might have helped here or there if I knew exactly what led up to certain things, but the main strength of this series was its vast history. As this character is at most ten years old, that probably needs a bit of explanation. This character is Alan’s take on Superman, pure and simple. I thought that was the point of Tom Strong and maybe it was; I still haven’t read it. There is a world for Supreme that houses the Revisions, which are all the failed versions of Supreme that were discontinued after a few months or a few years, going back decades. Read some of the OLD collections of Batman or Superman if you’re not aware of how many revisions they’ve had over the years. It’s a perfect story device for this because there’s an automatic history for the series, no matter what point you start reading it. Rick Veitch does some flawless work when flashbacks are needed for the sake of reminding readers of “old” characters, and he does a perfect tribute to Jack Kirby as well. Sure, at times it seems like a silly superhero comic, if you’re not reading between the lines, but that’s kind of the point. The actual story here (Supreme fighting villains who’ve escaped his prison, Radar (the Supreme dog) having thousands of puppies, Supreme revealing his secret identity) is good, but it’s secondary to the dissection of Superman that is on display and the incredible ability Moore has to make the silliest things believable and interesting. This is an amazing chunk of work for fans of Moore or just for fans of the medium in general. He’ll be known as the best comics writer ever when he’s gone (I know that he already is, but people don’t truly appreciate the greats while they’re still producing), and this, surprisingly for me at least, is some of his best work. It’s $24.95 but it’s huge, in case you were wondering…