Author: Eddie Campbell
Most will probably be familiar with Mr.Campbell through his acclaimed ‘From Hell’ and ‘Alec’. His latest work is a quirky, playful romp through the world of money. Part memoir, part travelogue investigation, Campbell leads us on a merry dance combining photo collage, newspaper clippings and even bubblegum cards to explore his personal and wider views on money in trademark Campbell style. Coming in at close to a hundred pages, the book is split into roughly two equal halves.
The first half is the strongest and funniest in my opinion, dealing with his personal experiences with money and on a wider theme, the juxtaposition of art and money. There were many laugh out loud moments for me as we follow our hero through various escapades such as trying to convince his teenage daughter to pay housekeeping and his father-in-law managing to spend most of the royalties saved from ‘From Hell’ on his own legal fees! The candour is refreshing and really gives oomph to the narrative, which it has to be said, does meander a bit from one scenario to the next. Despite this, there is still a flow and the superbly well-crafted comedy and personal insights really carry it. My favourite part is a skit in a pub where Campbell and Shakespeare are discussing the problems involved in getting paid for their creative endeavours. Shakespeare comes up with some fantastic jokey quotes (‘thrice you have promised me the said monies will arrive..tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow!’) and later, while discussing the problems Campbell has in being asked to ‘dumb down’ his material for TV and film execs, ‘Bill’ is asked to headbutt a guy in the pub to make the scene look more realistic for TV. The illustration is priceless! I also really enjoyed the part following his adventures in trying to get around tax codings by creating ‘Antelope Pineapple Pty Ltd.’, a company that lives in a box under his bed ,on the advice of a friend just so that he can write AND draw the new batman comic! All the characters he meets along the way are well drawn (pun heartily intended here) and really believable. His meeting with his accountant in particular had me in stiches and it is obvious that this is very much his wry, sardonic look at his own life told with bundles of wit and the eye for a good story.
The second half focusing on the Island of Yap, where they use ginormous stone discs for money, is fascinating for its historical exploration of this ancient fiscal system and details of Campbell’s actual visit there. Knowing nothing about the islanders or indeed, their money, I found it really interesting and I think it was explained and illustrated very well. I particularly enjoyed the section on the real shipwrecked Captain O’Keefe, whose story was made into a debatably inaccurate movie, and his use of the complex rules concerning the discs to his own advantage. Whilst this is all very enjoyable and the photo collage illustrations are magnificent, this second part felt so removed from the first despite its common theme, that I think it could have been left off completely, or published separately as a part two volume in its own right to follow the natural distinctions. I feel the first half perhaps expanded a little would make a much better, more fulfilling book. It outshines its other half so spectacularly that the other can only look dim in comparison. That said, I would still recommend this sharp, insightful and very very funny little offering from one of the true greats.