Saturday, 6 November 2010

Objects of Desire; Alec The Years Have Pants


When I first encountered Eddie Campbell’s Alec strips in Escape Magazine, it was a revelation to me. Campbell told tales inspired by his real life portraying himself as an artist that worked, by day, as a sheet metal worker and by night as a comic creator… and drinker. He was an inspiration to me and as soon as I left school I got a shit job and went out with my mates down the pub every night. Unfortunately, I didn’t go on to have any work I managed to produce appear in any highly regarded art comic magazines like Escape, published by Dark Horse or to work with Alan Moore on one of the best graphic novels ever. Instead I worked for the same organisation for nearly two decades and developed a drink problem.

Originally, I picked up the three slim Alec collections when they were published by Escape during the eighties. Later, Eclipse Books published The Complete Alec which featured the three books I already had and the previously unpublished fourth. I bought this and sold my Escape books. Later still, this turned out not to be the ‘complete’ Alec after all as new stories started to appear published mainly by Fantagraphics. Later still, Top Shelf published a collection called Alec The King Canute Crowd which featured all the stories up until then and made my copy of the so called ‘Complete Alec’ look stupid. When this was published, Campbell attended the Bristol Comics Convention to promote it and I approached him to explain how disappointed I was that there was now a more affordable version that supersedes the book I own from a few years before. Campbell laughed but I’ve never been sure if he laughed because he thought I was joking or a sincere but crazy person who might cause a scene if not placated.

Last year, Top Shelf published Alec “The Years Have Pants”, an Omnibus collection of everything Alec up to that point including stories like After The Snooter and How To Be An Artist that have appeared since The King Canute Crowd. It’s a mighty looking book that I must own, even though I probably have most of the stories contained within in other forms somewhere. The very thought that there might be a story, strip or drawing in there that I don’t own already makes me pine for it. In fact, I nearly owned a copy as I was bought the soft cover edition for my birthday during the summer. It was a surprisingly astute buy, however, I want the hardback edition and, besides, the copy I was bought was heavily shop-thumbed. (It was heavily shop-thumbed, incidentally, because every time I went into town I would pop into the Waterstones my present was bought from and look through it.) So I returned my copy and used the credit to buy another Object of Desire (more about that in a later entry) instead.

Alec “The Years Have Pants” hard back edition retails for £37.99 but copies are available elsewhere for less including
Amazon (£32.29), the Book Depository (£30.06), Forbidden Planet UK (£25.45) and lots of other places. I would say that the book is well worth paying the full retail for, though.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting how art can sometimes steer us in the wrong direction. As a teenager, I was inspired by the song 'Wham Rap' to leave school and go straight on the dole, and as yet I am not a multi-millionaire pop star and nor have I ever driven into a tree under the influnece of drugs and spent a very short amount of time in prison. Damn you, George Michael!!!

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