I was re-reading the big collection of Eddie Campbell’s ALEC stories yesterday – I have a story idea/approach/undefinedthing itching away at the back of my head, and a train of thought ended with the little still grace notes that Eddie achieved in those stories. So I pulled out the book and spent a pleasant hour re-reading chunks of it.
What I always forget is how that book is a personal time machine for me. Much of it, you see, is set in my part of the world. Eddie lived here in the 70s and early 80s – I think he left just as I was entering my mid-teens. So, when I open an ALEC book, I see my town as it was when I was growing up. Which isn’t an unusual experience with art if you live in, say, New York City, or London, or some other vibrant and picturesque place where serious history happened. You don’t get it much if you lived in a village outside a minor seaside town.
But there’s the bus stop on Chichester Road, just as it was, with the number 20 bus to Hullbridge that my friend used to take home. There’s Crocs nightclub, which became the Pink Toothbrush, also sometimes known as the Bogbrush.
As much as I revel in the work – and Campbell was a revelation to me when I first discovered his work, back when he was still photocopying his comics! – the thing that makes me sit down and think, in the moments I get to spend with his book, is that rare experience of seeing your own history as art.
THE YEARS HAVE PANTS, Eddie Campbell
(written July 2016)