Review by Luke Williams
Alec is Eddie Campbell’s a thinly veiled autobiographical strip, beginning with humble origins in his small press days, through a series of homes at a plethora of publishers, including an excursion into self publishing. There have been a string of compilations of sequences from the strip, such as The Dead Muse and Graffiti Kitchen. However, Alec: The Years Have Pants is a hefty and potentially small mammal-crushing volume published by Top Shelf compiles almost all of what has gone before, with the notable exception of The Fate of The Artist.
The Years Have Pants chronicles Alec / Eddie’s life from a young man. Starting with his time cutting sheet metal by day and managing his complicated love life by night, through to his burgeoning comic career; and meeting luminaries from the British scene, including Paul Gravett, Brian Bolland and creative partners Phil Elliot, Glenn Dakin and Alan Moore. Finally, he settles in Australia with a growing family and seemingly little job security, before he finds success and wider recognition with From Hell, re-released last year in a “Master Edition”.
Autobiographical comics can be melodramatic and heavy on the self psychoanalysis. There is a touch of that with Alec, but it is hand wringing free. Most strips are a page or two in length with only a few that stretch to a positively epic four-plus pages. Neuroses, business problems, creative troubles and family and friends relationships are laid bare, but it avoids becoming a whinge fest. This is a series of funny, candid and thoughtful strips as Alec / Eddie meditates on art and life supported by his occasionally eccentric friends and family and fuelled by a passion for expensive wine.
Campbell’s drawing style is distinctive, but it’s surprising how his style evolves over the span of this book. Whilst always scratchy and spare, his line work tightens and cleans up in phases, he is consistent in sometimes only giving hints of what he is illustrating, but never fails to convey character and emotion.
This is the print equivalent of a comfort blanket, life affirming and heart warming without being mawkish. Read from cover to cover, put it on your shelf and then dip in and out when you need a pick me up. Essential comics!
• Eddie Campbell’s Alec: The Years Have Pants is available from all good bookshops | ISBN: 978-1603090254 | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)