Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Fate of the Artist

Eddie Campbell is amazing. The Fate of the Artist, the semi-autobiographical book from :01 First Second Books is wildly imaginative and insightful. Campbell pushes the medium of comics, kicking and screaming, as he creates a masterpiece with his seemingly endless supply of creative juices. This book is comprised of comic strips (both weekday and Sundays), traditionally-paneled comics, photos with word balloons, and even narrative that incorporates pictures into the story, and pictures that replace letters. Then there are crayon drawings "taped" onto watercolor pictures, etc. etc. He wasn't holding back. So, amid all of this bubbling imagination, Eddie Campbell has gone missing, and there's an investigation to find out what has become of him. As the investigation takes place, people close to the artist describe him through his eccentricities and philosophies, often relying on the explanation "that's an artist for you." Stories of artists from the past are related when describing the artist's outlook, including that of musicians and playwrights, while really engrained throughout is the idea of an artist being a slave to his work. There's almost an animosity toward an audience that doesn't understand him, and, as illustrated by the closing adaptation of The Confessions of a Humorist, an artist can't really relax with expectation hanging over him. He's constantly scrutinizing life around him, searching for something new and brilliant to relate through his art, to the point where he's no longer the master of his art, but it's the master of him. He can only really be happy at that point when the art is put away. Eddie Campbell does a marvelous job of portraying the struggles of an artist, while being both witty and insightful, and doing it honestly through some of his own experiences.

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