The Fate of the Artist

Eddie Campbell, Author . First Second $15.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-59643-133-1

Campbell, best known for his work on From Hell and his autobiographical Alec comics, has come up with a marvelous sui generis oddity: a meta-memoir about his own disappearance that's a kind of intently controlled nervous breakdown on paper. It's a nonlinear, mixed-media collage of a book—there are typeset prose passages, painted comics about his family, old-fashioned newspaper strips, photos with typeset word balloons, a child's crayon scrawl representing God and, near the end, an illustrated adaptation of O. Henry's story "The Confessions of a Humorist," which concerns how habitually turning life into art can make life unbearable. Campbell's always been interested in the curious nooks of history, and there's a running thread about artistic also-rans like Johann Schobert and the Greek sculptor Phidias; there's also an ongoing gag about Campbell replacing himself with an imaginary actor named Richard Siegrist. The tone is whimsical and playful, but there's a deep despair beneath it—about drinking, burnout and what happens to an artist "when his imaginary friends [stop] calling"—that overwhelms and takes the place of the plot. What pulls the whole thing together is Campbell's stunningly protean visual technique: fierce blotches of watercolor, scraggly pen-and-ink work and whiplash stylistic shifts from impressionistic caricatures to exquisitely rendered painterly miniatures. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/13/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-5467-0
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-1-59643-171-3
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