I think this may be one of the best comics I have read all year.
I have always been a fan of Eddie Campbell, and came across Bacchus first in an anthology, called Trident and then A1 comics, before Dark Horse published, them, when they were very interesting, and Sin City was a new thing. Campbell of course, came to a wider audience with his massive phone book sized collaboration with Alan Moore, From Hell.
This is two stories in one really, and is rather clever at that. We, the Western world, are in recession, the double dip, or coming out if it and it fills our newspapers and TV screens; in America, all we see is Romney and Obama fighting their corner and most people recognise that ‘its the economy stupid’, while those of us looking across, are aghast at how many lies one man could spout and wonder will a storm have an effect.
Meanwhile, Ireland slips gently back towards being Europe’s meekest 2nd world country and European ruffian it was in the eighties, as 1,000 people a week immigrate for lack of work. It’s timely to have a graphic novel all about money appear, although it is nice that it also shows the personal impact that money has on a regular individual.
It’s very autobiographical, in actual fact it’s raw in its honesty. The first part, and in many ways the end, are a look into the thinking and financial ongoings of Campbell himself. He is shrewd with his money, he is possibly neurotic about not having any, which is also something that money works on, and he likes to be in control of his finances.
He takes us through his life, and his dealings with accountants, setting up companies, loaning money and money with his family, allows the reader into some pretty dark places in his thinking, and of course some funny and remarkable stories.
There’s a moment when he is tying rope around his car, to deal with his daughter, who refuses to pay housekeeping, which is rather hilarious, it is so real, and so are the panels before that, which are insightful, and intimate it its genuine portrayal of family strife.
I think that Campbell must be very lucky in a way, although the ending of the graphic novels leaves a question in ones mind, the loyalty and support of his wife, must contribute greatly to his ability to function. As he describes himself as sensible she says ‘Miserly’.
Campbell’s gift for telling a story, meandering as it travels, makes it interesting and enlightening, giving us side bar stories as we progress, all about money. The story of the ancient indigenous art was brilliant, but just one of the not so much cynical but world weary insights into monetary aspects.
The second part of the graphic novel follows Campbell as he travels and stays on the Micronesian island of Yap, where they had a fantastic currency and understanding of what could be called value based on large carved stones.
This idea is not entirely difficult for me to understand, as humans we value things that look nice, for no good reason at all, be it gold, which is described as a ‘precious’ metal to any amount of pointless and useless items. And we mock people who collect may odd things, just because they are odd to us, but that is human beholden affection for the apple in our own eye.
I hope following this amazing work, that Campbell would perhaps consider doing a concurrent story of his time as a comics creator, the pitfalls, the errors, the problems, the trials and tribulations, from a comics creator’s perspective.
I frequently felt I really wanted to know more about Campbell’s monetary dealings, from the comics business perspective and wondered if a person could learn from his particular eye for monetary matters and how, he has obviously managed.
The comic really allows the reader very close. Rather like a drama, I had the urge to enquire whether it ‘worked out’ following the final panel. That is an incredible ability, to allow the reader into ones life that much, and then also in a way allow them the privilege of sharing hopes, and then hoping independently that all will be OK.
The artwork, is of course Campbell. A fine line art, he uses photos as the background in many panels, but this only amplifies the quality of his character artwork. The buildings and settings are beautifully done, intricate in detail, and the photos add a little, rather than detracting.
I loved the whole Time is Money, and how Mr Campbell sees it more as Money is time, and values not the amount, but how long his current funds can keep him afloat, and also the daydreaming element, where he essentially exits the room, and ceases to pay attention; graphically it is brilliantly portrayed, but also it allows another angle of perception of how a comic creator might work, or need to work.
I really enjoyed it – given that it could be a very dry subject, Campbell makes it somewhat compelling.