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This graphic autobiography helped me understand much of the recent history of graphic novels. The names, which I had come across before, were slightly familiar to me; but I had no idea really who these writers and artists were, or what they looked like. For example, Alan Moore. I did not, for one thing, know he was British, and I had no idea he was, like "big, hairy Alan Moore," as Campbell, and his alter ego, Alec, tell us.
But I am by no means an aficionado of either comics or graphic novels. For example, I found Moore's "The Watchmen" very boring.
I do think that Campbell's exploration of "how to be an artist," is applicable across many other fields, even as a metaphor for certain kinds of life today. It's the whole process of trying to achieve fame through what you hope are your special talents. It could apply to wannabes in any area, acting, music, art, academic scholarship, athletics, inventors, scientists, and on and on.
But this metaphor, of striving to achieve fame and hopefully fortune, is not all there is to life. It is the life of the small self, the self that requires affirmation from outside. Unfortunately, as Alec discovers, and as Alan Moore discovers, and as Billy the Sink shows through his behavior, having achieved fame and/or fortune does not lead to happiness inside, and can often make things more difficult.
Thus, Alec's story is really, truly a morality tale. His life, finally, boils down to his wife and child, and he sees this, but of course he must go on pursuing his goal of fame and fortune. I mean, he has to make a living to feed himself and his family and he's bored with just routine work, in a government office or sheet metal factory.
Alec's route through all this, through youthful ambition to fatherhood and family responsibilities, are emblematic of the lives of many, as noted, not only artists, but of anyone who believes they he has an undiscovered talent, which will one day make him a fortune or at least bring fame. Sometimes, people will even settle for notoriety, that's how much they want to be noticed by others.
Pitiful, yes, but Alec faces the pity, the ups and downs, and Campbell really makes a unique book here. He ties his story with the interactions, the growth and decline, of the particular field he is in, comics or graphic novels. It's really a fascinating read. But much of the typeface is just too small, that's the one problem.