If a single word can be used to describe Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, that word must be “epic”. Ambitious in size, extravagant in scope, twisting in storyline, and published over nearly a decade as a serial from multiple publishers, From Hell is a brilliant and daunting read, fully worthy of its myriad awards and legions of devoted fans. Now, Top Shelf, the current publisher of the complete editions of From Hell, offers readers a remarkable behind-the-scene look at the process of producing a comic that evolved from a series of scripts sent by mail from Britain to Australia to a modern classic and cult favorite.
Though the publication information for the From Hell Companion lists both Moore and Campbell in the author information, the companion is Eddie Campbell’s exposition for the curious reader. Using pages from Moore’s original From Hell scripts, Campbell offers his own reflections on the creative process, namely his collaboration with Alan Moore to bring Jack the Ripper and his victims to life. Interspersed with script commentaries are interjections of various Ripperology theories, Moore’s comments on the process of creating From Hell taken from a variety of published interviews, and amusing anecdotes, such as the inclusion of the work of the-then child Hayley Campbell, who produced her own artwork inspired by her father’s work on the Ripper comic. Also included is a section of color photos and images, some reference photos for London locations that appear within the story, and yet others cover images and art inspired by From Hell scenes. A few screenshots from the From Hell film, those taken largely directly from page to screen, are also included and discussed. Finally, images of pages from Moore’s personal working notebooks, his rough sketches of scenes and layouts, are offered up here, often next to the finished panels they inspired.
The From Hell Companion is a gift to not only From Hell fans, but to Moore and/or Campbell fans, comics historians, curious readers interested in how comics are created by artists and writers, and even Ripper aficionados who wish to investigate this storied mystery. While Campbell assumes that his readers are familiar with the published comic, his approach is broad enough that even those less versed in the source text could likely understand the graphic novel. Each script is accompanied by its finished panel, though it is important to note these panels are very small in the Companion. While reading the e-book, it is possible to enlarge the images (depending upon reader device), but the reader does so with a loss of clarity and detail. To get the most out of the reading, I recommend reading the Companion with a copy of From Hell close at hand for comparison.
Like its source material, the From Hell Companion is an adult work. Included scripts and panels include not only extreme violence, but sex, nudity, and religious and occult themes which may disturb some readers. However, adult collections that contain the collected From Hell can only be strengthened by including the From Hell Companion. Insightful, fascinating, and accessible, the Companion offers a new look at this archetypal work that will intrigue fans and offer scholars a fresh understanding of a much-studied classic.
From Hell Companion
by Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell
Art by Eddie Campbell
Top Shelf, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: Adult