The Lovely Horrible Stuff

Eddie Campbell (How to Be an Artist, The Fate of the Artist) returns with a short exploration of a topic we’re all thinking more about these days: money. Specifically, various business ventures Campbell has been involved in over the past few years, such as when he had to incorporate in order to write and draw a Batman comic.

Some of the scenes — fighting with the kids over getting them out on their own, worries about a father-in-law’s retirement — are universal, while others are more oddly his own. Campbell begins with some thoughts on his own life as an artist, but he quickly wanders into the fanciful, discussing references to debt collecting with Shakespeare, making TV shows, and Australian animals shown on currency. Even the father-in-law becomes fantastic, with some stubbornly determined lawsuit involving a retirement home.

The second half of the book tells of a visit to the island of Yap, where great stone discs with holes in them served as traditional currency, although Campbell’s more interested in telling us of the lifestyle, history, and local tales than the economy.

In his own unique style, with small panels, some without borders, spaced amongst his hand-written narration, Campbell has added in a cut-and-paste element, using pieces of money within his illustrations and photos for backgrounds. After reading so much of Campbell’s autobiographical work in black and white for so many years, it was a bit of a shock to see the colors, especially with the broadly applied highlights. I kept thinking the characters had stumbled into or been splashed with light paint. It looks as though Campbell has discovered what the computer can do with comic art, but he hasn’t yet fully integrated that work into his traditional approach.

I’d find his creative meandering more entertaining if I wasn’t being so distracted by the glaring visual techniques. I may be too harsh on the book; it’s possible that, in print, it smoothes out and softens. (I read a digital review copy from the publisher.) Top Shelf has an online preview available. You can preorder The Lovely Horrible Stuff from your local comic store with the Previews code MAR12 1193.

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