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Bacchus by Eddie Campbell

Bunch of grapesAlthoughlthough Eddie Campbell's Deadface saga has been published in a bewildering array of venues over the years, the new reader is finally able to pick up (more or less) the entire series in an attractive selection of trade paperbacks.

The history goes much further back than the current self-published book series, though. In 1986, Eddie Campbell began the series as Deadface, a monthly from UK black-&-white-boom indie publisher Harrier Comics. Telling the tale of the few surviving Greek gods in the modern world, Bacchus was the focus for the first four issues, attempting to gather a new set of followers about himself, but getting unwillingly caught up in the affairs of Theseus - now head of an organised crime empire. He extricated himself by the fifth issue, sailing off in a fishing boat towards his own title. The Deadface book carried on for another four issues, following the conflicts of the now Joe Theseus and the Eyeball Kid (grandson of Argus of the Thousand Eyes) with the Telchines - the gods of gold, silver and bronze recast as Campbell's Gods of Capitalism. Ed Hillyer came on board to ink these issues, while Eddie remained solo on the abortive Bacchus comic, intended to make up for the low sales of Deadface by enabling him to double his output. Two issues later, it too foundered in the black & white glut of the mid-late '80s... but Bacchus' vines kept growing, searching for arable land.

BacchusContinuing the story begun in the Bacchus series, Campbell began drifting from publisher to publisher as if in emulation of Bacchus' own island hopping. One month in A1, the next in both Dark Horse Presents and Trident, Campbell essayed to tell a continuing story by placing short stories with every anthology that would take them - and to keep the publishers from catching on that they were getting small parts of a whole. The big picture became clearer later when Dark Horse Comics collected all the material as the Doing The Islands With Bacchus miniseries.

Dark Horse, and especially editor Diana Schutz, became the Deadface series' spiritual home for most of the early nineties. Having serialised an Eyeball Kid story by Campbell and Hillyer (with 'Ilya' on full art this time) in their 'non-American' anthology Cheval Noir, they had the pair extend the work for another miniseries - Campbell patching the two halves together with an unpublished short from a planned anthology title of his own. Apparently satisified with these two series of half-collection, half-unpublished work, they next let Eddie loose on all-new comics - the four-part Earth, Water, Air, & Fire miniseries marking the first full-length Deadface stories in five years, and the first solid, beginning-to-end Bacchus tale ever.

Big Ginny and Joe TheseusIt was back to short chapters after that, though, with the next two books - Hermes vs the Eyeball Kid, an all-out, grudge-match, long-form fight scene manipulated by Chryson of the Telchines, and The Picture Of Doreen Grey, featuring a combination of Joe Theseus wrapping up his worldly affairs with a parody of the Image storytelling style - being serialised in Dark Horse Presents. The former was again collected into a miniseries, and Dark Horse also published a collection of the 1001 Nights Of Bacchus strips to date - which followed Earth, Water, Air, & Fire chronologically, but had been published earlier.

Only the fact that it was years in the making enabled the last Dark Horse Deadface comic - The Ghost In The Glass - to be such a timely handover of the publishing mantle to the artist himself. Fully painted by Teddy Kristiansen on breaks from the allure of more lucrative projects (such as Sandman Midnight Theatre), this introduction to the Deadface version of Thor and to Big Ginny, Queen of the Amazons - a major protagonist of the by-now already-published Doreen Grey - actually came out in the same month as the first self-published issue of Eddie Campbell's Bacchus.

The Eyeball KidDave Sim, of course, had converted Campbell to the path of self-determination that being his own publisher allowed (though of all the artists that Sim influenced to self-publish in the mid-'90s, Eddie is probably the only one that he flew halfway around the world to spend a week convincing). Appropriately enough, the first publication of Eddie Campbell Comics opened with the collaborative strip they'd done in that week together, filling the rest of the book with a retouched version of the first issue of Deadface. This reprinting program continued through the series, with the back of the monthly comic containing the whole of the canonical run in order, with Eddie touching up the art and more or less redrawing Bacchus' face throughout all the early stories.

Meanwhile, the front of the book confusingly ran new serials, beginning with King Bacchus - ostensibly a tale of the old god reigning over a pub that had seceded from the United Kingdom, it also doubled as a satire on the American comics business of the mid-nineties, featuring cameos or extended appearances from Sim, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, the great Bunny Wilson, Jeff Smith, Steve Bissette, then-minicomics maven Marcus Moore and Rob Liefeld (who, seven years later, has finally stopped insisting that "The world will be a better place if I can just get ten issues of my comic out a year"). Having apparently gained a taste for ruling, Bacchus found himself ascending to power in prison in the sequel which followed, Banged Up, and then finally just ascending, in an ending left somewhat nebulous, so as not to actually give the game away that just a couple of years into the Bacchus title, the Bacchus story had actually reached its conclusion.

He admitted it eventually, of course, and even created more Bacchus material in the form of new 1001 Nights stories before the reprint series ran out of material. But Eddie Campbell's Bacchus Magazine continued for several years without any Bacchus material whatsoever, before quietly being laid to rest in favour of the impending Eddie Campbell's Egomania, a new magazine of similar anthology format. But the bets option for you to acquaint yourself with the Deadface world is now, at last, the easiest - to pick up one of the Eddie Campbell's Bacchus trade paperback collections from Eddie Campbell Comics...

 

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Immortality Isn't Forever collects the revised version of the first four Harrier issues, introducing Bacchus and other significant characters like Bacchus' faithful follower Simpson, Joe Theseus and the Eyeball Kid. Hijinks and adventure.

The Gods Of Business shows Theseus trying to cope with the twin threats of the Eyeball Kid as an ally and the Telchines as an enemy. This volume introduces the Stygian Leech, a creature by use of which the Telchines aim to steal the Kid's powers (originally stolen from Zeus).

Doing The Islands With Bacchus sees Bacchus and Simpson island-hopping around the Mediterranean, with Bacchus running into old acquaintances such as Hermes and the Book-keeper of Atlantis. Along the way he tells idiosyncratic versions of the histories of wine, fashion, Greek myth, and himself. The art has been revised and one story completely redrawn in this edition.

The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show is a return to the Bacchus/Theseus/Eyeball Kid continuity. Robbed of his (well, Zeus') powers, the Eyeball Kid finds himself destitute. Hermes shows up in the second half with a glove he nicked from Jack Kirby's offcuts drawer.

Earth, Water, Air, And Fire brings everyone back together again. Theseus meets his daughter and Simpson meets his maker. Gangsters, guns, and the Eye of Fate.

1001 Nights Of Bacchus finds Bacchus recovering from the events of the previous book by getting blotto in an English pub. The landlord allows a nightly lock-in for as long as the regulars can keep him awake by telling stories, which comprise the bulk of the book. Expanded by 80 pages from the Dark Horse edition, and here reworked to include a short story originally presented outside the continuity.

The Eyeball Kid: Double Bill collects both Hermes Versus The Eyeball Kid and The Picture Of Doreen Grey under one cover. In the former, Campbell & Mullins pay homage to Jack Kirby with an eighty-page fight scene, and the latter sees Theseus master the Patterns of Fate.

King Bacchus is a satire on the nature of governments and comics publishers alike. Introduces Queen Collage, the orange of Bacchus' eye. Published out of sequence to capitalise on its topicality.

Banged Up - Imprisoned after the events of the previous book, Bacchus becomes a detached version of Noel Coward in a chaotic version of The Italian Job.

 

 

Bacchus collections:

Immortality Isn't Forever

Book 1:
Immortality Isn't Forever

(96 pp, $10.95)
STAR15049

 

The Gods Of Business

Book 2:
The Gods of Business

with Ed Hillyer
(96 pp, $9.95)
STAR02096

 

Doing The Islands With Bacchus

Book 3:
Doing The Islands With Bacchus

with Wes Kublick, and cameos
from Steve Bissette, Alan Moore, Ilya
(176 pp, $17.95)
STAR07293

 

The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show

Book 4:
The Eyeball Kid:
One Man Show

with Ed Hillyer and Trev Phoenix
(80 pp, $8.50)
MAR981320

 

Earth, Water, Air and Fire

Book 5:
Earth, Water, Air & Fire

with Wes Kublick
(96 pp, $9.95)
ISBN 0958578303
AUG981266

 

1001 Nights of Bacchus

Book 6:
1001 Nights Of Bacchus

with Pete Mullins, Marcus Moore,
Daren White, et al.
(124 pp, $13.50)
ISBN 0957789610
STAR11416

 

 

Double Bill

Book 7 & 8:
The Eyeball Kid:
Double Bill

with Pete Mullins & April Post
(coming soon)

 

King Bacchus

Book 9:
King Bacchus

with Pete Mullins
(96 pp, $9.95)
STAR02976

 

Banged Up

NEW!
Book 10:
Banged Up

with Pete Mullins
& Marcus Moore
(128 pp, $13.95)
ISBN 0957789629

 

Also available:

Bacchus Color Special

The Bacchus Color Special
The Ghost In The Glass

with Teddy Kristiansen
published by Dark Horse,
now available
from Top Shelf

 

last issue
The final
Bacchus Magazine!

 

Bacchus, God of Revelry

Bacchus fans:
Check out
Guido Weisshahn's
complete
Eddie Campbell
Comicography

 

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"Eddie Campbell's Bacchus is a wild and hilarious mythological adventure imbued with unparalleled social-political insight. It's a story of a few Greek gods who have somehow managed to survive the last four millennia. And even though they're the "wisest" and most powerful beings on Earth, they can't seem to rise above the whirlwind of petty grudges and skirmishes that bind them. But what makes this series so special is that by some creative miracle, it possesses every possible quality one could hope for in a quality comic book: a unique and engaging art style; a brilliantly-crafted and intriguing story; completely believable and captivating characters; an undercurrent of humor, sarcasm, and irony; a thought-provoking subtext full of social and political realism; a well-researched examination of history; and yes -- I'll admit it! -- superheroes. In its own weird way, Bacchus could almost be described as a revisionist-superhero tale told in epic Greek proportions. Don't miss it!"
- Chris Staros, The Staros Report

 

 

Gilgamesh, one of the stories featured in the recently-released Bacchus collection 1001 Nights Of Bacchus, is now available for viewing online. Since the 1001 Nights collection reprints Gilgamesh in black & white, we've taken advantage of cutting-edge web technology to give it to you in full-colour as it was originally intended (err, well, the framing sequence is supposed to be black & white and so it remains)...

Gilgamesh

 

 

While Eddie Campbell's Bacchus Magazine is no longer being published, the last few years are well worth tracking down for their mixture of new autobiographical strips, excavation of Eddie's small press history and various editorial features. Here's what the final issue contained:

 

ON SALE NOW:
EDDIE CAMPBELL'S BACCHUS MAGAZINE #60

Eddie Campbell's Bacchus Magazine #60

This month:

  • 5 new strips by Eddie

  • Hale by Michael Evans

  • "Alan Moore's London" by Eddie Campbell

  • Jamie Delano's introduction to From Hell for La Semana Negra

  • Small Press Memoirs spotlights Trevs Phoenix

  • The Wrong Side of the Curtain by Daren White

Six years of self-publishing with this issue!

$2.95 US from better comic shops. Also available online from Top Shelf and other respectable retailers.

click for full-colour solicitation cover art

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