Monday, 12 March 2012

Recommended: Eddie Campbell's Bacchus

Happy Birthday Bacchus (backcover, Bacchus #5, September 1995)
Art by Bloody Dave Sim

(from A Cerebus Preview of Eddie Campbell's self-published Bacchus, Cerebus #193, April 1995)
We all have those comic books which are near and dear to us. For some reason, it requires the patience of Job to remain faithful, they come out so infrequently. The stories are read and the artwork admired with the greatest restraint - 'careful now, not too fast, Dave, you mightn't see another one for... shit. It's over.' It's hard to say if Eddie Campbell's Bacchus is in that category. There are so many pages of Bacchus stories in existence (well over seven hundred) and I know I've read every one of them. Still, the doubt lingers. Could I have missed one along the way? When was the last one that I read published? Yeah? Am I sure about that? It's so hard to tell anything beyond the fact that Gods Walk the Earth.

Did Bacchus just take Eddie's fancy one day? Or did Bacchus take a fancy to Eddie? It stands to reason. All this talk of comic-book icons, new mythological figures, super-heroes as twentieth-century manifestations of the infinite human capacity for heroic fiction. If gods so exist and they were to cast a critical eye at us wee-words-'n'-pictures folks, it's hard to imagine anything catching their attention or flattering their sensibilities at, say, the San Diego Con. One might just as well scrutinise a wall full of crayon renderings by first-graders looking for a good likeness of a mum or dad. But Bacchus - Eddie's Bacchus - is a different fella altogether. Look, he might've said in the general vicinity of the hoity-toities of Olympus, the jig is up. We're getting long in the tooth. We can't cut the mustard anymore. Instead. Instead of always making out that we're better than everyone, let's just face the music. He probably lost his train of thought, which was all right; no one was listening anyway.

Show 'em, he might have said to Eddie. That's really all he had to say. He showed it to Eddie and Eddie showed it to us. He showed it to Eddie and filled Eddie so full that it would take five life-times to put it all down on paper even if every page were covered with little Alan Moore panels.

A harmless distraction, comic-books. Go wherever the comic-book people do and one thing is certain: you can always get a seat at the hotel bar. Bacchus probably has a weakness for hotel bars for those cold, impersonal moods when you just want to watch the parade go by.

A lot of us took to old Bacchus. A handful at first (even today, most comic-book conventions look like Christian Temperance Union meetings), but always someone (usually Diana - I'm sure the irony isn't lost on the God of Wine) was in a key spot to make sure the next tale appeared somewhere. And Bacchus would sit in a concealed corner of a hotel bar and listen to the comic-book fans talking about the New Gods and the penciller Gods and the inker Gods and (the ones dressed in black) about universal icons and Eternal Heroic Myths as they hurried past. Bacchus would just sip his drink, and even if you were sitting in his lap you wouldn't see his expression change: He'd be a good lad in a poker game, old Bacchus.

How many of us are there? I wonder. Tom Fassbender at Capital is one. We cackled gleefully over the phone at one another when Eddie's solicitation came in for the first issue, All the old stories are going to see the light of day again. New one's too. How do you feel about that, eh, Bacchus? Do you care? Are you excited? Are you disgusted because bar-room tales should be left in peace? What about self-publishing? Isn't it great that Eddie's self-publishing the stories - keeping them in print? All those wrinkles don't even twitch. Deadface they call 'im.

I did a sketch of Bacchus once. Someone in a bar at a con after I'd had a few (well, alright, more than a few) asked if I'd do him a Bacchus 'some day' - he collected 'em, see? Pictures of old Bacchus by other artists. I told him (I didn't ask him, I TOLD him) to get me a piece of art paper, a pencil, an eraser, a thin black pen and a thick black pen, and a picture for reference. Most fun I've had in a bar at a con ever - and that's saying something. It wasn't until I did that sketch that I realised how inspired, how magical, how hypnotising and exhilarating a creation - ahem, a 'creation' - he is.

Of course , if it's the other way 'round, and Eddie Campbell is Bacchus' creation, you only have to look at Eddie's body of work to realise that the same holds true - inspired, magical, hypnotising and exhilarating.

Cheers, mate... and - uh - cheers, Mate.

Publisher Top Shelf Productions have announced plans to reprint the entire, long out-of-print, 1,000 page Bacchas saga in a two volume omnibus.

1 comment:

Kathleen Pileggi said...

Agree, the best comic books don't come around frequent enough!