In Edgar Wright’s foreword to Great Showdowns: The Return, he says prints by cartoonist Scott C. for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World hang in his office. No doubt, given time, a print of Wright’s The World’s End will make its way onto the director’s wall as well. The comic artist, his full name Scott Campbell, has selected a variety of cinematic cult-classics and popular titles to showcase in his artwork. If you have an oddball or cultish favorite, chances are Scott C. will get to it if he hasn’t already.
Campbell released one volume of his popular Great Showdowns series last year through Titan Books, each page showcasing one of his original watercolors. His ongoing series continues on the page in The Return, a cinematic title if there ever was one, and a very basic art book about simple, pop-culture laden pleasures. Each of Campbell’s pieces depicts a famous cinematic conflict, such as the Alien Queen vs. Ripley in a Power Loader from Aliens, or Neo vs. Agent Smith from The Matrix. As Scott C. writes on his official Great Showdowns website (www.greatshowdowns.com), “This is a chronicling of some of the greatest confrontations in FILM HISTORY. The greatest moments of melee. These are the GREAT SHOWDOWNS.”
But it’s not a straightforward representation. Campbell’s figures look almost like a child’s drawings (I’ve noted before how he writes his name “Scott C.” as if there’s another Scott in his elementary school). His characters are usually illustrated standing up straight, facing their enemy, waving to the reader with a happy smile implanted on their faces. This approach becomes hilarious and ironic when you see two disparate characters standing across from one another, cheerily waving instead of doing battle. When Jack and Wendy from The Shining are shown together, Wendy with her baseball bat in defense pose, they don’t look like enemies; rather, they look like old friends getting together for a portrait. That’s the charm of Campbell’s unique, continuing project.
Regardless of his cartoony style, Campbell’s approach shows an extraordinary attention to significant details. The off-center cut of Cillian Murphy’s hair from the opening scenes of 28 Days Later, The Little Tramp and his soon-to-be-dinner shoe from Gold Rush, or the junior Prawn from District 9. If you’ve seen the movie in the chosen representation, chances are you’ll recognize it. If you haven’t, well, you’ll just need to watch more movies. The book offers no index of titles to identify images you might be unfamiliar with. You’d have better luck visiting Campbell’s official website, where you can find a catalogue of all his completed entries, occasionally listed with a movie quote (but rarely a title) to assist in its identification.
Suffice it to say, Great Showdowns and its newest volume Great Showdowns: The Return require a true cinéphile to appreciate every work. Then again, paging through becomes a fun little experiment to see who in the room can identify which pieces. Movie buffs will soak up every wry and silly portrait as they recognize their favorite films. Scott C’s artwork is humble in its simplicity, yet wildly enjoyable. And the cheap retail price (around $15) of these nice, hardcover editions makes them an easy addition to your coffee table or to your holiday shopping list.
Thanks to Titan Books for sending a review copy of the book. You can order it from Titan’s website.