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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Saga de Xam revisited

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Back in December I was thrilled to discover that Nicolas Devil’s large-format psychedelic/erotic comic book, Saga de Xam, had been scanned and uploaded to Scribd. The book was published by Éric Losfeld in 1967 in an edition of 5000 which quickly sold out, and has remained out of print ever since. Losfeld died in 1979 but it was always his intention that the book would remain scarce (although a second edition did appear after his death) with the result that copies today command high prices.

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Six of the seven chapters had been uploaded to Scribd in December but the seventh and final episode of the time-travelling Saga’s adventures was frustratingly absent. So I’m pleased to report that the final chapter is now available for reading or downloading, prompted in part by the interest my earlier post generated. The seventh chapter sees Saga arrive in the present day (ie: 1967) where she encounters more human conflict in the form of the US military and marauding Hells Angels. The chapter ends with several Exquisite Corpse pages which had Philippe Druillet among their contributors; it was the appearance of three of these pages in the Musée d’Orsay’s Art Nouveau Revival catalogue in 2010 that first brought the book to my attention. The very end of the book has a key to the alphabets used on some of the pages. I’d love to see Fantagraphics reprint this volume in a translated edition but those alphabets would create some difficulties. For the moment the PDFs at Scribd are the only place you can read this unique publication.

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Walter Crane’s Picture Books

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Beauty and the Beast.

British artist and designer Walter Crane never illustrated a Perrault collection but he did illustrate individual editions of Perrault’s more well-known tales. These illustrations are from collections published in 1911 of the small books of nursery rhymes, alphabets and stories for children that Crane produced in the 1870s. The clear-line drawings are unusual for their avoidance of the decor one usually sees with these stories; Crane admired the work of the Pre-Raphaelites but the settings are a lot less medieval than some of his other books, the architecture and costumes owing more to the Empire style.

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The Frog Prince.

Crane wrote several design books, including a very good one about the history of book design. His drawings for children may be simple but they’re all very precise and often contain significant details; many of the larger compositions draw the eye into the background with views through doors or windows, or into remote vistas. Crane also adapted each story into verse, and even manages to represent an act of metamorphosis in a single picture for the moment when the Frog Prince turns human. Elsewhere some of the pages are almost comic-like in their arrangement of multiple panels and text.

The samples here are taken from three different collections:

Beauty and the Beast / The Frog Prince / The Hind in the Wood
Cinderella / Puss in Boots / Valentine and Orson
The Sleeping Beauty / The Baby’s Own Alphabet / Bluebeard

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The Hind in the Wood.

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Gustave Doré’s Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

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La Belle au bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood).

More illustrated Perrault. Gustave Doré’s intention to produce definitive illustrations for his editions certainly paid off when he turned his attention to the French fairy tales. Doré’s work may lack the light touch required for some of these stories but a couple of the engravings—Red Riding Hood in bed with the wolf, Puss-in-Boots—are reproduced endlessly whenever picture editors need a suitable illustration. Doré’s characters can be rather wooden at times but the expressions on the face of the wolf and the girl are perfect.

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Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood).

Elsewhere Doré contributes some original details: the court in Sleeping Beauty is usually shown besieged by thorns or bracken but Doré has giant fungi growing all over the floor; in Little Tom Thumb the children are described as knocking on the door of the ogre’s house then being let inside but Doré shows the ogre’s wife greeting them with a shaft of lamplight. These illustrations were published in several editions throughout the 1860s which makes that lamplight beam a very advanced pictorial effect. Incidentally, for those who read the Amon Düül II cover art post a couple of days ago, the figure of Tom Thumb stealing the ogre’s seven-league boots may be glimpsed outside the spacecraft window in the centrespread of Dance of the Lemmings.

Wikimedia Commons has more of the Doré illustrations; there’s also a set at Gallica although the quality of their scans isn’t always so good.

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La Barbe bleue (Blue Beard).

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Suspicion: The Voice in the Night

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This isn’t the best quality at all but it’s worth noting for those of us intrigued by the very small number of film and television adaptations of William Hope Hodgson’s stories. The Voice in the Night (1907) is Hodgson’s most popular story with anthologists, a tale of fungal horror that features a number of the author’s familiar motifs: the derelict ship, the uncharted island, and the sea as a home of insidious menace. The story was filmed by Godzilla director Ishiro Honda in 1963 as Matango (aka Fungus of Terror, Curse of the Mushroom People and Attack of the Mushroom People) but I’ve never seen this so I can’t comment on it.

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Hodgson aficionados evidently prefer the 1958 television film directed by Arthur Hiller and shown as part of NBC’s Suspicion series. The title on this copy is Alfred Hitchcock’s Voice in the Night although Hitchcock seems to have had nothing to do with the production. Stirling Silliphant adapted the story, and he does a good job of fleshing out the narrative without spoiling things. James Donald and Barbara Rush are the doomed shipwreck survivors who find a fungus-covered derelict, and beyond this, an uncharted and similarly fungus-covered island. Patrick Macnee and James Coburn play the two sailors to whom Thomason (Donald) narrates his tale, although their scenes in this copy are so murky and indistinct it might as well be a radio play. Quality aside, this is a very effective adaptation even if it does evade some of the more terrible details in the closing pages of the story. It’s closer to the spirit of Hodgson than The Horse of the Invisible or Dennis Wheatley’s Hodgsonian The Lost Continent. The Suspicion series doesn’t seem to have been released on DVD so for now YouTube is the only place you can see this film. (Big thanks to Ross for the tip!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hodgsonian vibrations
The Horse of the Invisible
Tentacles #2: The Lost Continent
Tentacles #1: The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’
Hodgson versus Houdini
Weekend links: Hodgson edition
Druillet meets Hodgson

 


Falk-Ulrich Rogner album covers

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All The Years Round (7-inch single, 1972).

I mentioned earlier that Falk-Ulrich Rogner’s cover art for Amon Düül II was worthy of a post so here you are. Amon Düül II were slightly ahead of the pack in the German music scene of the 1970s, starting earlier and (arguably) finishing their prime period earlier. They were also closer in musical style and group ethos to the psychedelic/early prog groups in Britain and America, especially Hawkwind with whom they shared a record label and a bass player. Other German groups were often psychedelic to some degree but Amon Düül II went all-out for a German take on psych rock, with extended guitar-heavy jams played against oil-on-water projections.

Falk-Ulrich Rogner was one of the longer lasting members of the group’s shifting personnel, playing organ and electronics, writing lyrics and creating artwork that’s a perfect match for what I always think of as Amon Düül II’s Gothic Surrealism: a blend of lyrics and themes running through songs titled like Max Ernst paintings: Flesh-Coloured Anti-Aircraft Alarm, Archangel’s Thunderbird, Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight, Green Bubble Raincoated Man. The cover art is generally a collage of photographs, old paintings and other graphics, a familiar technique for psychedelic album covers. What gives Rogner’s work an edge is the way he blends multiple collages together by either photographic exposure or the photographing of projected transparencies. This has the effect of softening hard edges and transitions, and makes the resulting images all the more hallucinatory and dream-like. Effects like this are easy to achieve today with Photoshop but in the early 1970s they required a considerable effort.

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Phallus Dei (1969).

At first glance the cover of the gloriously titled debut album looks like a painting but it’s a photograph of a tree silhouette juxtaposed against some vague collage business. This doesn’t really communicate the lysergic intensity of the music within which may explain why the cover was changed to something more typically psychedelic for its UK release.

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The back cover inaugurates a pattern of placing the band on the back of the album, a reversal of the usual state of affairs even today.

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The first CD release of Phallus Dei on the Mantra label featured what may be another Rogner photomontage, one that I’ve not seen anywhere else.

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Penda's Fen by David Rudkin