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Alec: The Years Have Pants

(Alec #1-4)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  314 ratings  ·  52 reviews
For the first time ever, the pioneering autobiographical comics of master cartoonist Eddie Campbell (From Hell) are collected in a single volume Brilliantly observed and profoundly expressed, the ALEC stories present a version of Campbell's own life, filtered through the alter ego of "Alec MacGarry." Over many years, we witness Alec's (and Eddie's) progression "from beer t ...more
Paperback, 638 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Top Shelf Productions (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Dov Zeller
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphics-comics
This is a big book with a lot of great art and brilliant literary moments, but it's also super-self-absorbed-naval-gazing stuff. As a feminist and a queer, I just couldn't handle Campbell's attitude toward women, sexuality, queerness. So, I got half way and had had more than enough. Maybe the second half would have changed my reading of the book and its author? I was so very done with the book by the half-way mark and just had no interest in finding out. It was kind of like reading on the road. ...more
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Sometimes I will see an image and I will get a sudden, involuntary flash of a time I never actually experienced, but that (I think) I glimpsed in cartoon form as a child and internalized. It's definitely British (or maybe New Zealand-ish) and it's from the late 70s and that's all I can tell you, because this flash is lightning brief and then it disappears to the nether regions of my brain, only to stop by for brief and rare visits. It's frustrating because it's never long enough to hold on to, y ...more
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Alec: The Years Have Pants collects all of Eddie Campbell's autobiographical comics, excluding Fate of the Artist. As such, the individual stories within vary in quality, but the overall collection is an essential book for anyone interested in this area of Campbell's career. Here are my reviews of the individual books.

The King Canute Crowd: 3 stars. This is my least favorite of the stories collected in this volume. There's evidence of Eddi Campbell's skill as a storyteller, but the story of this
Jan 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
Eddie Campbell is a master of the delicate sketch which is weighted down by some secret foundation. Were I to do this over again, I'd find copies of his Alec books in their separate volumes and space my reading of them out.

I really liked the first 3 chapters (2 books and a collection of fragments.) I thought How to Become an Artist was interesting mostly to people who care about the comics business (and artists, obvs). The rest of it was good, but the tone was that of a man who does a lot of dit
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of this fine creator and well-crafted comics
Recommended to Brent by: Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
Here's a big beautiful collection of thirty or so years of great slice of life moments in great comics, told by a master in youth and then middle age. I'm a fan, and you will be, too. I first heard of these strips in an interview in Escape Magazine circa 1983, and, finally reading them, I recognized what great stuff Campbell keeps making. Thanks to Marietta Georgia publisher Top Shelf, now part of publisher IDW.
Highest recommendation.
Chris Drew
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really enjoy Eddie Campbell's work, but this one was a bit slow for me, and ultimately not engaging enough to really keep and hold my attention.
Campbell's art style is well on display and is still a joy to see, but the plot is rambling, often with no clear direction, and this didn't work as well for me as it does in Cambell's Bacchus books, which are also rambling but with a little more charm and spark to the characters and action.

If you have read and enjoyed his other books I'd say it is wo
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
I bought this with a book voucher I got on my birthday in 2010. I've slowly been reading through it since. Mostly when the mood struck. I'd never heard of it but then Neil Gaiman mentioned it in his blog and while browsing I found this and thought the weight and size of it made it a worthy purchase.

I haven't always liked it but it's so compelling you can't really leave it for too long (though it clearly took me a while to complete the thing). The more I enjoyed reading the slower I got as I didn
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, gn-memoir
Huge tome of just about everything autobiographical, including all the Alec stuff, from Eddie Campbell, who worked with Alan Moore on From Hell. Has useful things like How to be an Artist and if you know From Hell you get a few things on Moore, but not much, really... His quick sketch style (like ANTI-glossy) is appealing, especially for its subject: Eddie himself, in some ways like a daily journal.. He digs up everything he could find in every closet, so much of it is like curiosities, throwawa ...more
Feb 15, 2010 added it
Shelves: on-hold
Kind of stalled in the middle of this. Actually, not even the middle. That's the problem, really - it's not that this stuff isn't good, it's just that one giant 600+ page dose of it is enough to choke you. I'll come back to it and finish, but it's impossible to keep enough momentum going to plow straight through. ...more
I love, love his ongoing stories about Alec. At first it seems like the stories depicted don't steer towards a ending and aren't really going anywhere. But I learned to appreciate these incidents and the overall work mimics real life, not with the classic structure of a story with beginning, middle and end. ...more
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm still figuring out how I feel about this. The Graffiti Kitchen section is amazing. ...more
Nov 24, 2010 rated it liked it
I got bored and gave up on this one. I know it's supposed to be a classic of slice-of-life cartooning, but it was just too slow and meandering for me. ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This collection of (most of) Eddie Campbell's autobiographical, semi-autobiographical, and pseudo-autobiographical comics may not be the best introduction to his work, but it sure is a great way to trace the evolution of his style (especially in the final, eponymous, section, in which he to some extent deliberately returns to earlier stylistic devices such as the use of zip-a-tone, but with a couple more decades of experiencing behind his drafting, pacing, and layout skills). Even from the begin ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic
I can see why the autobiographical comics collected here are lauded as influential, and the sophistication and quality of the craft improves over time. His pastiches of other cartoonists’ styles show real skill. But I couldn't get all the way through it - it just maunders on and on, and for much of the first half, anecdotes that I think are supposed to be funny - or at least, to leave a reader thinking, wasn’t that a wild and crazy time - all sort of run down or play out inconclusively, and the ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nearly 650 pages, collecting nearly all of Campbell's thinly-veiled autobiographical Alec comics (except Fate of the Artist, from First Second) under one cover and adding a new story, The Years Have Pants is excellent. Campbell's philosophical tangents and wry humor set him far above most autobiographical cartoonists. He relates behind-the-scenes tales of the comics industry in the late 80s (when Sim, Eastman, et. al. were pushing creators' rights) easily alongside stories of his children or his ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Basically 30 years of slice of life comics. It's incredible to see how much evolution and growth takes place with the artist. Yet, it's also sometime mind fumblingly nazel-gazing.

Eddie Campbell is an artist's artist. He's quite possibly told THE autobiographical comic (other than perhaps Matt Wagner's Mage). It's great--but it's also very akin to the White Men and Their Ennui that has flourished for the past few decades, and is perhaps finally course correcting.

It's sincere and feels authentic
Salah Hassanpour
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The King Canute Crowd part of this omnibus anthology (a huge chunk of the first 100 pages or so) was the only part I disliked. Campbell's découpage style of making comics is masterful. I liked the passages that demonstrate the development of From Hell into a multi-media property from Campbell's perspective. But the best were some of the smaller, one-page series of wry life observations or Australian biology studies that appear between the longer pieces/series. ...more
Neil Carey
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish I'd known most anyone chronicled in The King Canute Crowd; I like that-- in addition to Campbell chronicling his own life and offering his general thoughts on "the adventure of art"-- How To Be An Artist is a history of the rise of the comics medium as a cultural force without just once again blubbering/bloviating about comics 'lost innocence'; it makes me glad I've never run afoul of a snooter.

But mostly, I'm just glad I took a chance on this; shy of an all-expenses-paid vacation, I can'
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Half a life in pictures. Gets better with the passing decades (either that or I empathise with the middle aged Eddie Campbell). The art work is fine and instils the speed at which life passes. It's not philosophy, rather a life well read. A blog, from before such things existed. ...more
Bill Coffin
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was ok
There are undoubtedly plenty of folks for whom this book is the perfect read. But despite its flashes of brilliance, it is an epic autobiography of the most self-absorbed sort that feels less like an effort to share one's story than it is an extended cry for attention. ...more
Mar 13, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comics
Both cryptic and mundane: take a diary written by someone with the usual amount of self-obsession but no time to explain. Alec is pretentious - the character not the book, except that the author is the character.

I find the 70s dreary for some reason, not just the visual style and relative poverty, but something deep about information poverty and conformist anti-conformity.

Massive amount of time in pubs with no particular narrative goal. Or: the main narrative goal here is to laud aimless friend
Scott Foshee
A Life, Honestly

I am a big fan of autobiographical graphic novels. I think they appeal to me because of the way they can personalize an experience with the truth of a diary or journal while still allowing the author to stylize the narrative to present multiple layers of meaning and impression. Excellent examples of this genera include works by Chester Brown, James Kochalka (the “American Elf” series), Derf (“Punk Rock and Trailer Parks” and “My Friend Dahmer”), Harvey Pekar (“American Splendor”)
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it

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 m
Russell Grant
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
There's not much new these days about autobiographical comics. Seems the shelves are full of them, with each author seeming to try to out do each other with misery and pathos.

Way back in the early 80's (which seems far to soon to be saying "way back", Eddie Campbell of Scotland started publishing the true life tales of the pub crowd he was a part of using the character of "Alec" as a substitute for himself. I stumbled on these when they were being published as a back up feature in his self publi
Paul Schulzetenberg
Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
A good book, and up my alley, but lacking a certain something to put it over the top. It's got some wry humor sprinkled throughout, and it's true to life. But I wanted a little something more. It was just missing the sparkle that separates really good graphic novels from the also-rans.

I think part of my difficulty with the book is due to a generational divide. I have the luxury of looking back at this collection with the benefit of hindsight. I know what comics are capable of becoming, and I kn
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
Probably best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on the extraordinary From Hell , Eddie Campbell, serving as both writer and artist, first gained acclaim for Alec, the thinly-veiled autobiographical adventures of a Scottish artist. Alec: The Years Have No Pants collects all of the very frank, often humorous previously published tales plus a new story. While all the stories showcase Campbell's distinctive art, the highlight of this impressive book derives from the evolution of the art ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
I don't like to review a book when I haven't read it, or even gotten halfway through at the very least, but this is a slog in the worst way possible.

Something was very off-putting about it from the very beginning, but as each tale meanders around and we experience this slice of life, it is never entertaining. I'm not saying Campbell didn't have an interesting life, because he's probably done a hell of a lot more than I, but it's not put across in a fascinating way that is engaging to the reader
Feb 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Loners, Bill Posters, graphic novelists
[Author: Eddie Campbell] is an amazing storyteller and a pioneer in his field. His autobiographical approach to the stories are as honest as [Author: Alison Bechdel]'s discomforting self-examinations in Fun Home, but without her goofy sense of humor. The eponymous Alec (Campbell's alter ego) is as insular and self-focused as Jersey Shore's The Situation, minus the six-pack abs and dinner-plate pectorals. And Campbell's postmodern interpretations of plot echoes the hyperrealism driving the 2004 c ...more
Dan Trudeau
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
It was difficult assigning stars to this book. I struggled with about the first third of it. While I'm a big fan of Campbell's illustrations, the details of his (or Alec's) early adult years weren't as engrossing to me as I wanted them to be.

The good news is my interest went up considerably as I moved into the rest of the book. I knew I'd enjoy his recollections from his years coming up as a comic book artist, but what I hadn't counted on was how much I enjoyed the little moments from his famil
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The greatest thing about this omnibus edition is seeing how great Campbell becomes from his earliest efforts - how well he controls his craft, gets inside the moments, captures the exact humorous beat, understands his own neuroses and internal workings. The early King Canute stories are the work of an ambitious amateur, occasionally charming but often not as fully realized or deep as a better cartoonist would've managed. Each successive installment grows deeper and stronger, though some of the s ...more
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Eddie Campbell has earned an international following. For over 25 years, he has blazed a trail in the world of graphic novels, and his work has earned nearly every honor in the field, including the Eisner, Ignatz, and Harvey awards.

With Alan Moore he created the towering opus From Hell, later adapted by Hollywood. Among the multitude of solo works he has produced, the epic series Bacchus brings th

Other books in the series

Alec (6 books)
  • Alec: The King Canute Crowd
  • Alec: Three Piece Suit
  • Alec: How to Be an Artist
  • Alec: After the Snooter
  • The Fate of the Artist
  • The Lovely Horrible Stuff

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