Saturday, January 24, 2009

Alec: The King Canute Crowd

Sometimes one just has odd thoughts. As I was reading through Eddie Campbell's Alec: The King Canute Crowd it struck me that this was a man with a ruler. But even as the thought was forming, I knew it was wrong. Most people have rulers, this is a man with a T-square. This is someone who sits down at his drafting table, set at the perfect angle, slaps down the T-square to line up his paper and then tacks it down with masking tape on each of the four corners just like you did for junior high school drafting*. Which means that when I saw a picture of the man in a "ready to work" pose sitting next to a drafting table with paper taped squarely in the middle, I was not at all surprised.

Of the book itself, the art generally has a traced quality to it, although it does still seem to "live" a bit more than photo comics seem to manage. The art is nothing that would catch my eye and get me to pick up the book. The layout of each page is usually meticulous using that T-square although when the atmosphere calls for it he'll throw in a few hand drawn panels too. The art also frees up as the story calls for it.

On the other hand, the story telling is top notch. If that was something you could tell at a glance, it would inspire me to pick up the book. It is well timed. As it is (mostly?) autobiographical, some stories can be told with just the middle since how the people got there and what they do after is entirely ordinary and can be covered well with hints. When this isn't so, or when the interesting events go on for many hours or days, he picks the segments of time that are shown very well such that the reader is not left confused by what was left out or bogged down by too much detail yet still feels like the whole story is told.

Later in the book, though, there is the sense that the stories are from further and further in the past. A glace at the dates confirms this. The stories become more encompassing and more and more is being told in each page. This has the unfortunate effect that the moments do not seem as well picked or even as much like moments. It becomes summary toward the end instead of the crisp story that is told in the middle.

* Too few people actually have drafting in junior high school or at any other time.

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