Alec: The Years Have Pants

Writer(s): Eddie Campbell
Artist(s): Eddie Campbell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
ISBN: 978-1603090254
Price: $35.00
Page count: 640
Year Released: 2009
Status: in print
Original Source: The King Canute Crowd; Graffiti Kitchen; How to Be an Artist; Little Italy; The Dead Muse; The Dance of Lifey Death; After the Snooter (see the book's last page for a complete bibliography)
Other Collected Edition(s): hardcover (ISBN: 978-1603090476)
Genres: autobiography; foreign lit; history of comics; humor; romance/relationships; slice of life
Recommended for Fans Of:
Possibly Objectionable Material: nudity; sexual situations; coarse language; heavy drinking
If You Like This Book, Try:
Also in This Series: The Fate of the Artist

Plot Summary
Technically a roman à clef, Alec: The Years Have Pants follows thirty years in the life of Alec MacGarry (Campbell's alter ego). The book opens circa 1979, with young Alec, a burgeoning artist, taking a job as a sheet-metal cutter at a factory in London. There he meets a forklift operator named Danny Grey, and the two become good friends. What follows is 200 pages of heavy drinking, bouts of philosophy, and light hooliganism. Later, Alec gets married and moves to Australia, at which point the book really comes together. Over the years Alec matures (slightly), raises a family, and explores those aspects of life we all find so wonderful and confusing. As a central figure in the small-press comics boom of the late '80s, Campbell also provides a unique first-person perspective on the independent comic book artists and publishers of that exciting era.

My Own 2 Cents
This is the best one-volume, autobiographical comic book I've ever read. Weighing in at five(!) pounds, it earns every ounce of its heft. I must admit I got a little lost amongst the seemingly dozens of characters who were walking through the narrative in the second part, "Graffiti Kitchen" (and, in fact, I started to worry that the next 400 pages would be just as confusing). But the following section, titled "How to Be an Artist," is a masterpiece of the form. Told entirely in the second-person singular, it brought me deep into Campbell's story and I remained immersed till the very end.

The book's (sub)subtitle is "A Life-Sized Omnibus," and that's about right. In the span of these 640 pages I felt as if I'd read Campbell's life story. Of course, you can't fit every minute of thirty years into 640 pages, but it nonetheless feels comprehensive. Perhaps because, as Campbell wrote in the book's preface, his aim with these stories was "to not lose sight of the everyday details that we tend to otherwise forget when we have our eye focused on a goal." By stopping to smell the roses, so to speak, he's created an illuminating memoir of daily life.