A man-behind-the-curtain look at a seminal graphic novel.
When Moore and Campbell teamed up on the grim, nuanced From Hell in the 1990s, they created an epochal work that remains a highlight even within the legendary Moore’s unparalleled oeuvre. Far from the playground of Technicolor superheroes, the book’s unflinching black-and-white portrayal of Jack the Ripper’s London set the standard for “mature” graphic novels. From Moore’s exhaustive research to Campbell’s incredible attention to detail, the book remains worthy of close reading, making Campbell’s behind-the-scenes commentary an indispensable reference. Campbell offers access to some of Moore’s infamously detailed scripts, providing an entree into the inner workings of his twisted, genius mind—and the daunting task his artist partners face in having to translate those scripts into pictures. The interplay between Moore and the dryly humorous Campbell leads to a series of amusing exchanges that provide insight into their working relationship. For example, when the script calls for two of the main characters to traverse, in a carriage, a bridge that the enterprising Campbell discovered, through photo references, was not yet finished at the time of the story, he sent Moore a photocopy of the partial bridge with a drawing of the carriage plummeting off it, suggesting that perhaps they send the characters “round the long way.” Campbell also includes his daughter’s somewhat disturbing but highly entertaining “Ripper File,” complete with a drawing of a “rotton kidney.” Beyond the story notes, Campbell’s commentary provides insight into the artistic process, including his research methodology and his working relationship with assistants who helped with backgrounds, building layouts and other details.
Aimed at a very narrow audience, but a treasure trove for would-be comic scribes and artists and independent comic aficionados.