Alec: Three Piece Suit
Alec: Three Piece Suit collects three short books previously published as Graffiti Kitchen, Little Italy, and The Dance of Lifey Death.
I very much appreciate the way Campbell includes a brief publishing history of his work on the indicia page. Knowing when he drew the stories and when and where they first appeared helps put his autobiographical work in the appropriate context of the times. These were all drawn between 1983-1993 and were originally published from four-six years after their creation.
The first section, Graffiti Kitchen, follows after Alec: The King Canute Crowd. It’s a love story that Campbell calls “the best of all my books, long or short.” It’s certainly the best sampler — if you don’t like this, you won’t appreciate his other books either.
Alec is obsessed with a woman named George he’s known since she was thirteen. The Lolita comparison is made early, but George is a woman now, and through a convoluted string of circumstances, Alec winds up sleeping with both her and her mother.
The art is rougher, scribbler, more immediate than in his other books, as is the lettering. This suits the sex-soaked subject matter, as few people can maintain their composure when reviewing their history of that sort, especially when it involves obsessions and what-might-have-beens. Alec spends a good deal of the time pleased with himself, until it all goes wrong, which helps explain why these relationships he terms “love” don’t work out.
Little Italy collects a set of pieces Campbell created while living in Australia. It’s a miscellanea of a true-crime short, random stories on living in a coastal area, and bits on family life as he and his wife stay with his in-laws, a lighter diversion from his other books.
The Dance of Lifey Death begins with a visit to the US for a comic convention and business trip that goes wrong in silly ways. Following is a meditation on objects and collecting that digresses into wine history, Campbell’s new obsession now that he’s settled down with a wife and kids. Those children provide motivation for additional incidents through cute things they say and do.
Finishing the section, one is left with thoughts about growing older and especially death, which comes to us all. Taken together, the three become the story of a man growing up, facing maturity and realizing that we all pass away eventually.