Top Shelf Goes Graphicly + Eddie Campbell on Alec: The Years Have Pants

We’re still celebrating the release of Top Shelf Productions comics on Graphicly, and today we’re talking to writer/artist Eddie Campbell. Perhaps best known as the artist on From Hell, the massive story of Jack the Ripper, written by Alan Moore, Campbell has produced many other notable works, including his Alec books, a series of semi-autobiographical stories, collected in one volume, Alec: The Years Have Pants (A Life-Sized Omnibus).

Brilliantly observed and profoundly expressed, the ALEC stories present a version of Eddie’s own life, filtered through the alter ego of “Alec MacGarry.” Over many years, we witness Alec’s (and Eddie’s) progression “from beer to wine” — wild nights at the pub, existential despair, the hunt for love, the quest for art, becoming a responsible breadwinner, feeling lost at his own movie premiere, and much more! Eddie’s outlandish fantasies and metafictional tricks convert life into art, while staying fully grounded in his own absurdity. At every point, the author’s uncanny eye for irony and wry self-awareness make even the smallest occasion into an opportunity for wit and wisdom. Quite simply, ALEC is a masterpiece of visual autobiography.

We grabbed Eddie for some quick questions about his work and digital comics.

iFanboy: How would you compare your self publishing efforts with the ability for creators to publish and distribute digitally now? Is it a different world entirely, or have the tools just changed?

Eddie Campbell: If I were starting out now there is no way I’d be using printing and paper. It is indeed a completely different world. I have no idea how you could make a living from it. If you don’t give your stuff away on the internet, somebody else gives it away FOR you. But then again, when I started out in the late 1970s there was no way to make a living then from drawing the kind of comics I wanted to draw. I had to figure it out. There’s no way, for instance, that in 1979 I could have pictured myself publishing my own books twenty years later, living in Australia and getting them printed in Canada. The ‘direct market’ wasn’t developed enough at that time. And ten years later, here we are and the very idea of printing books is swiftly going out of fashion. So, who knows how things will turn out. The solutions to the problems are not yet visible.

iF: Your style feels very organic and raw. Now that digital is a given for small publishers especially, have you thought about making any adjustments to how you build comic book pages?

EC: I certainly have, and you’ll see this in my next book, The Lovely Horrible Stuff. I avoided colouring on the computer for years because I couldn’t work out how to make it look spontaneous. I Guess that’s what you mean by ‘organic and raw’. I’m always trying to eliminate everything that is bogus, inauthentic. But anyhoo, I’ve overcome the problem and I’ve found a way of putting my own stamp on it. You’ll have to wait and see.

iF: To digital readers discovering the massive Alec: The Years Have Pants Omnibus for the first time, how would you describe it to them?

EC: Oh dear. It’s everything. I’d like to think that all of life is in it. well, not all, but all that there’s room for.

iF: That’s kind of the best answer ever. Thanks!




  1. excited to read this but unless its cheaper than the hard copy version i’d rather have something to put on my bookshelf

  2. I’ve read a few of the Alec volumes. They’re good.

    His style is just so “pencilly”, though, I think it kind of screams “Own this in paper form!” He’s like one of the artist whose style seems least suited to looking at it through a sleek computer screen. It just feels wrong. And all of the Alec books feel like physical art because of their design dimensions, if that makes sense. Hard to convey.

  3. Never read much of the Alec stories, but was a big fan of Campbell’s Bachus back in the 90s. One of these days, I’ll break down and buy this omnibus . . .

  4. This was a bargain on comixology months ago (sorry so got it there. It’s not particularly well-suited to digital, like From Hell. His line is thin (and therefore benefits from larger ‘pages’), and the lack of color offsets digital’s biggest asset. It’s a great book to chip away at slowly though, since it unfolds a few pages at a time. In that sense, it’s nice to have it portable so I can easily dip into it when I’m in the mood.