OVERRIDE

The Fate of the Artist

Eddie Campbell, illustrated by the author

First Second

In this pseudo-autobiography, the subject of the memoir has vanished without a trace. Through six separate threads, each one typographically and stylistically distinct, a private investigator tries to discover the artists' fate through false trails, family and daily life reenactments, and even an imaginary Sunday comic strip. As the narrative threads intersect and collide in surprising ways, the reader is carried along on a fantastic journey through the life of the artist.

A master comics artist, here Eddie Campbell offers a complex, caustic, and surprising meditation on balancing the lonely life of the artist with the demands of everyday life.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Fate of the Artist

Starred review, boxed review, March 1, 2006 issue of Booklist

Campbell has been chronicling his life in comics stories since his days as a pub-crawling young reprobate 25 years ago. Recent installments of his ongoing autobiography have drolly depicted the difficulty of creating art, particularly in a field as culturally and financially marginal as comics. Here he purports to address the fate of the artist in the form on an investigation into his own sudden disappearance. The probe is depicted through a multimedia mélange that encompasses a hard-boiled detective story, a fumetti (photo-comics story) in which Campbell's daughter reminisces about her missing father, and yellowed old faux newspaper comic strips depicting the domestic travails of Campbell and his long-suffering wife. All a means for the artist to air his midlife crisis, perhaps, but the spine of the book is Campbell's lovely, deceptively casual, color wash drawings. Not to give anything away, but the corpus delicti is found in the State reference Library under 741.5, 'the number recently assigned to graphic novels by the Dewey decimal system' to keep them away from the 'works of true literary merit in the 800s.' Playful and wise, Campbell's latest report from the art front continues to demonstrate his mastery of the comics medium.

Starred review in 3/13/06 Publisher's Weekly

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.)

Review in 5/9/06 The Miami Herald

If you've read any of Campbell's autobiographical Alec stories, which span several decades and publishers, you'll come to this new book with preconceptions. But if you're only familiar with him from his penwork on From Hell, the Jack the Ripper graphic novel written by Alan Moore, you know that Campbell is a versatile and masterful artist. You'll be confused if you expected a linear narrative. There's nary a trace of Alec in this autobiographical deconstruction, and the artist's daughter, son and wife are prominently featured, but more questions are raised than answered. Has there been a nervous breakdown, a divorce or other physical, emotional or spiritual estrangement? Who knows? But the variety of styles and media employed by Campbell adds up to a dazzling, albeit ambiguously artful experience.

Review in June 2006 issue of VOYA

4Q/2P. Campbell¹s latest book follows the investigation into the disappearance of Eddie Campbell. Interweaving segments reveal glimpses of his life, relationships, and philosophy in a variety of formats. In prose, an unnamed detective conducts conversations with Campbell¹s family members. Newspaper-style comic strips present a series of interactions between a husband and wife. More familiar comic book-style passages tell stories of art history, including figures such as Mozart and Leni Riefenstahl, as well as passages from Campbell¹s life as portrayed by an actor. Daughter Hayley appears in fummeti (photos with text) and in her own comic strip. Each piece is like a breadcrumb leading the reader to a mysterious end.

With a large body of fictional and semiautobiographical work to his credit, this book is Campbell¹s most artistically ambitious work to date. Reader who have followed his Alec series will find continuity here. In this thoughtful and funny meditation on art and its affect on the artist, or vice versa, he nimbly switches stylistic gears from detective noir to humor, often featuring his perpetually swearing daughter. Graphically the book embraces ink, paint, and photographs, sometimes all on the same page. Weaving through all of these elements is a warm and well-grounded sense of humanity. In this work of art about art, assemble the pieces of the puzzle to see the beleaguered and beautiful life of the artist. Furthermore librarians will appreciate where the body is finally found, the location itself a commentary on the state of the graphic novel.

Review in July 2006 issue of Library Journal

AUTOBIOG Cartoonist Campbell (From Hell), noted for his autobiographical comics (most recently After the Snooter, 2002), here explodes the genre, with a self-deprecating book in which the protagonist is absent. At the opening, Campbell has disappeared. A detective interviews his family and others for clues to his whereabouts, learning much about Campbell's various personality quirks, such as his unusual method of CD storage. The story is told in a variety of forms: illustrated text sections, a fumetti (sequence of photographs) featuring Campbell's daughter Hayley, several series of mock newspaper comic strips, and color sections presenting accounts of the Campbells' everyday lives in which Campbell himself is played by an actor, Mr. Siegrist. Along the way, historical vignettes presented by Campbell's "stock company of players" and dealing with such obscure figures as composer Johann Eckard (contemporary of Mozart) and playwright Thomas Kyd (contemporary of Shakespeare) reveal Campbell's dread that his own work may suffer the same end as theirs. Campbell appends an adaptation of O. Henry's short story "The Confessions of a Humorist," which describes the dangers of using your family and friends as fodder for your own pen. Recommended for all adult collections.

Review in October 2006 issue of School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up — Campbell has penned a postmodern volume about an investigation into his own mysterious disappearance. The gorgeously produced pages blend photographs, type, real and fake comic strips, autobiographical anecdotes, and musings about the nature of fiction and humor into a marvelous rumination on writerly inspiration and family dynamics. Portions of the story are told from the perspective of Campbell's family members, who-like the author-are also rendered as various semi-fictions, mostly in the form of the mock comic strips that stud the narrative. The technical production of this book and the risks the author has taken in expanding his visual vocabulary and storytelling techniques are great fun, but the investigation sequence ultimately disappoints. However, Campbell's continuing conversations about the nature and possibilities of sequential art are as enjoyable as they are effectively rendered. The volume ends with an interpretation of O. Henry's "The Confessions of a Humorist," with Campbell casting himself as the story's protagonist. This does an excellent job of summing up or echoing many of the concepts about fiction and funnies that Campbell explores in the previous pages. It is also an artful adaptation and a satisfying and coherent close to the scattered but well-intentioned series of musings that precede it. Charming and beautiful, the book might just be slightly too rarefied and abstract for average readers, but it is a superlative example of the scope and potential of the form.— Benjamin Russell, The Derryfield School, Manchester, NH

Starred review, boxed review, March 1, 2006 issue of Booklist

Campbell has been chronicling his life in comics stories since his days as a pub-crawling young reprobate 25 years ago. Recent installments of his ongoing autobiography have drolly depicted the difficulty of creating art, particularly in a field as culturally and financially marginal as comics. Here he purports to address the fate of the artist in the form on an investigation into his own sudden disappearance. The probe is depicted through a multimedia mélange that encompasses a hard-boiled detective story, a fumetti (photo-comics story) in which Campbell's daughter reminisces about her missing father, and yellowed old faux newspaper comic strips depicting the domestic travails of Campbell and his long-suffering wife. All a means for the artist to air his midlife crisis, perhaps, but the spine of the book is Campbell's lovely, deceptively casual, color wash drawings. Not to give anything away, but the corpus delicti is found in the State reference Library under 741.5, 'the number recently assigned to graphic novels by the Dewey decimal system' to keep them away from the 'works of true literary merit in the 800s.' Playful and wise, Campbell's latest report from the art front continues to demonstrate his mastery of the comics medium.

Starred review in 3/13/06 Publisher's Weekly

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.)

Review in 5/9/06 The Miami Herald

If you've read any of Campbell's autobiographical Alec stories, which span several decades and publishers, you'll come to this new book with preconceptions. But if you're only familiar with him from his penwork on From Hell, the Jack the Ripper graphic novel written by Alan Moore, you know that Campbell is a versatile and masterful artist. You'll be confused if you expected a linear narrative. There's nary a trace of Alec in this autobiographical deconstruction, and the artist's daughter, son and wife are prominently featured, but more questions are raised than answered. Has there been a nervous breakdown, a divorce or other physical, emotional or spiritual estrangement? Who knows? But the variety of styles and media employed by Campbell adds up to a dazzling, albeit ambiguously artful experience.

Review in June 2006 issue of VOYA

4Q/2P. Campbell¹s latest book follows the investigation into the disappearance of Eddie Campbell. Interweaving segments reveal glimpses of his life, relationships, and philosophy in a variety of formats. In prose, an unnamed detective conducts conversations with Campbell¹s family members. Newspaper-style comic strips present a series of interactions between a husband and wife. More familiar comic book-style passages tell stories of art history, including figures such as Mozart and Leni Riefenstahl, as well as passages from Campbell¹s life as portrayed by an actor. Daughter Hayley appears in fummeti (photos with text) and in her own comic strip. Each piece is like a breadcrumb leading the reader to a mysterious end.

With a large body of fictional and semiautobiographical work to his credit, this book is Campbell¹s most artistically ambitious work to date. Reader who have followed his Alec series will find continuity here. In this thoughtful and funny meditation on art and its affect on the artist, or vice versa, he nimbly switches stylistic gears from detective noir to humor, often featuring his perpetually swearing daughter. Graphically the book embraces ink, paint, and photographs, sometimes all on the same page. Weaving through all of these elements is a warm and well-grounded sense of humanity. In this work of art about art, assemble the pieces of the puzzle to see the beleaguered and beautiful life of the artist. Furthermore librarians will appreciate where the body is finally found, the location itself a commentary on the state of the graphic novel.

Review in July 2006 issue of Library Journal

AUTOBIOG Cartoonist Campbell (From Hell), noted for his autobiographical comics (most recently After the Snooter, 2002), here explodes the genre, with a self-deprecating book in which the protagonist is absent. At the opening, Campbell has disappeared. A detective interviews his family and others for clues to his whereabouts, learning much about Campbell's various personality quirks, such as his unusual method of CD storage. The story is told in a variety of forms: illustrated text sections, a fumetti (sequence of photographs) featuring Campbell's daughter Hayley, several series of mock newspaper comic strips, and color sections presenting accounts of the Campbells' everyday lives in which Campbell himself is played by an actor, Mr. Siegrist. Along the way, historical vignettes presented by Campbell's "stock company of players" and dealing with such obscure figures as composer Johann Eckard (contemporary of Mozart) and playwright Thomas Kyd (contemporary of Shakespeare) reveal Campbell's dread that his own work may suffer the same end as theirs. Campbell appends an adaptation of O. Henry's short story "The Confessions of a Humorist," which describes the dangers of using your family and friends as fodder for your own pen. Recommended for all adult collections.

Review in October 2006 issue of School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up — Campbell has penned a postmodern volume about an investigation into his own mysterious disappearance. The gorgeously produced pages blend photographs, type, real and fake comic strips, autobiographical anecdotes, and musings about the nature of fiction and humor into a marvelous rumination on writerly inspiration and family dynamics. Portions of the story are told from the perspective of Campbell's family members, who-like the author-are also rendered as various semi-fictions, mostly in the form of the mock comic strips that stud the narrative. The technical production of this book and the risks the author has taken in expanding his visual vocabulary and storytelling techniques are great fun, but the investigation sequence ultimately disappoints. However, Campbell's continuing conversations about the nature and possibilities of sequential art are as enjoyable as they are effectively rendered. The volume ends with an interpretation of O. Henry's "The Confessions of a Humorist," with Campbell casting himself as the story's protagonist. This does an excellent job of summing up or echoing many of the concepts about fiction and funnies that Campbell explores in the previous pages. It is also an artful adaptation and a satisfying and coherent close to the scattered but well-intentioned series of musings that precede it. Charming and beautiful, the book might just be slightly too rarefied and abstract for average readers, but it is a superlative example of the scope and potential of the form.— Benjamin Russell, The Derryfield School, Manchester, NH

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Eddie Campbell, illustrated by the author

  • Eddie Campbell is the acclaimed artist behind From Hell, for which he won the Ignatz award for Outstanding Graphic Novel and the Eisner award for Best Graphic Album. In 2001, From Hell was made into a major motion picture starring Johnny Depp. Campbell is also the creator of the series Bacchus and Alec: The King Canute Crowd.

  • Eddie Campbell
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Available Formats and Book Details

The Fate of the Artist

Eddie Campbell, illustrated by the author

Library Journal Best Books of the Year, NYPL Books for the Teen Age, Publisher's Weekly Comics Week Best Comic of the Year
  • Trade Paperback

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

First Second

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