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Eddie Campbell and the ‘huge extravaganza of baloney’

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T.J. Kosinski, one of our talented interns this summer here at The Times, wandered around Comic-Con International a few weeks ago and interviewed some of his favorite comics creators. Here is the first of his guest posts.

‘The biggest collection of near-sighted people in the world.’ That’s how the quirky and enigmatic Eddie Campbell summed up the madness and mass of Comic-Con. The Scottish comics creator, best known for the horrific and scratchy art of writer Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell,’ was somewhat frustrated with his experience at crowded expo. He explained how the convention used to be a small gathering centered on celebrating the medium, but now it’s metastasized into “a huge extravaganza of baloney.”

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Why put up with it all? Campbell has the newly released ‘The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard,’ and he was at Comic-Con to promote it. He arrived, though, with plenty of cautious cynicism. ‘The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard’ is a “what-if” story that imagines a future where the nephew of Jules Leotard (the famed trapeze performer and creator of the leotard), secretly takes on his uncle’s identity. It’s an adventure that takes place throughout the 19th century and toys with many staple elements of the superhero genre.

Campbell said an inspiration for ‘Leotard’ was a Will Eisner quote about all modern comics finding their prototypes under the tents of circuses. Campbell in the story presents a sideshow act billed as Le Quartette Fantastique with members that parallel a certain well-known Marvel Comics team. With a winking expression, Campbell noted that the main character in ‘Leotard’ lives up to Eisner’s adage: He wears a fake mustache to conceal his true identity, dons a vibrant costume for action and, to the crowd, seems to possess the power of flight. Sounds super doesn’t it?

Around this time next year, an exhaustive omnibus of Campbell’s semi-autobiographical ‘Alec’ works will be released by Top Shelf Comix. In addition to out-of-print work from the highly regarded series of graphic novels, Campbell plans to add roughly 40 pages of new material.

Campbell, who is based in Australia, has seen his work yield a film (the 2001 ‘From Hell,’ directed by the Hughes brothers, adapted the 572-page book and starred Johnny Depp as the lawman on the trail of Jack the Ripper) and now there is a television project that is even more personal. Campbell is also in talks with Australian television producers to create a program that centers on his daily life, a sort of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ meets ‘American Splendor’ with an Aussie flavor. Although things are far from finalized, the series has been optioned and Campbell seems entertained by the prospect of “Alec” on television.

-- T.J. Kosinski

Artwork from the cover of ‘The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard,’ courtesy of First Second


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