Alex (comic strip)

Alex is a British cartoon strip by Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor. It first appeared in the short-lived "London Daily News" in 1987. It moved to "The Independent" later that year and then to the "Daily Telegraph" in 1992.

The strip with its storylines-with-a-twist proved so popular that, in the course of its transfer to the "Telegraph", it was preceded by a nationwide billboard campaign.

The strip occurs in 'real-time', ie time passes and characters age and develop as in real life. Alex and Penny married in the strip's early days and had a son called Christopher; they are now middle-aged and Christopher is a teenager taking exams.

In a 2008 interview with Phill Jupitus for BBC Radio 4, Peattie and Taylor said that they use Wikipedia to keep track of information about the characters in the strip.

The Jokes

The jokes in the strip revolve around Alex's yuppie values, right-wing politics, obsession with appearances, displays of wealth and schemes to stay one up in the world of international finance. Peattie and Taylor are reputed to work closely with a variety of London financial contacts to ensure that their strips accurately reflect the recent scandals and rumours which pass around the City. Much gossip has circulated as to the likely inspiration for some of the characters.

The most common kind of joke features a conversation between the characters, where in the final frame it becomes apparent that the context of the conversation was not what the reader had supposed, usually reflecting on the protagonists' unusual personalities. For instance, in a restaurant, an embarrassed Alex apologises to the maître d' after his dinner guest answers a call on his mobile, which has been frowned upon in the past. The maître d's claim that the restaurant's policy on phones is very relaxed these days does not alleviate Alex's embarrassment since it was due to the phone being an old-fashioned one and not the latest state of the art.

Another kind of strip which appears occasionally consists of only two large frames, showing two different characters, or the same character in two different situations, giving a monologue composed of almost exactly the same words, but which, in the different situations, have very different meanings.

The strip has sometimes taken on storylines which feature fantasy characters and situations. These storylines are usually published at Christmas time. In 2000, for example, Alex's colleague Clive made a pact with the Devil and found himself working in Investment Bank Hell. In 2006 he and Alex went to Lapland where they bought up Father Christmas' business, outsourcing the toy-making department away from the elves and over to Asia where Hindus and Buddhists would not be paid extra for working over the Christmas holidays. However it turns out that Alex had dreamed this whole scenario up after he had fallen asleep whilst watching England's disastrous handling of the 2006-07 Ashes cricket series.

The complexities of the jokes has meant that the strip has often had to take time off (i.e., not appear for two or more weeks) while the writers come up with new material. [ [ BBC News Magagazine article on comic strips] ]

List of characters

Alex Masterley is the protagonist of the comic strip. He is an experienced investment banker working in London's Docklands. Alex is totally obsessed with personal status, with his work coming second and his family a distant third. His commitment to status requires him to have all of the latest professional gadgets, including a BlackBerry and a 3G mobile phone. Alex usually works for Rupert Sterling at Megabank, but has, in the past, worked for Mr Hardcastle as his Head of Corporate Strategy. Alex was born on 24 February 1960. [Alex was shown his gravestone by the ghost of Christmas future in a strip from late 1989. His (possible) death date was given as 15 May 2058. He made a note of this in his electronic organiser. Unsure if it was morning or afternoon he decided that that day should be left clear of appointments.]

Penny Masterley is Alex's long-suffering wife. They married very early in the strip's history, and have one son, Christopher. Penny enjoys the affluent lifestyle that Alex provides, but has little patience for Alex's obsessions with status and his work. The two spend very little time together, and are not very close. Alex has cheated on Penny a number of times, including a protracted affair with his secretary, Wendy in 1991, and a one-night stand with a co-worker while travelling on business in 1998. Penny came very close to divorcing Alex after the affair with his secretary, and has considered leaving him on other occasions. In 2005 Alex started an affair with a client, Carolyn, which is currently continuing.

Christopher Masterley is Alex's teenage son. Christopher was born in 1989 and has grown normally over the years. Christopher is very much his father's son, and shares his concern for status and his nose for business. Alex mostly sees Christopher as a symbol of his success, and often makes him a victim of his quest for status. Though initially educated at a top Public School, Christopher was withdrawn during the city slump in 2001, when Alex was out of work, and faced the humiliation of leaving the school with a black plastic bag containing his things, a fate city stockbrokers often face, and which was set up by his own father.

Clive Reed is Alex's co-worker, and even once his boss. He is married to Bridget. Clive is Alex's inferior in every way. He is less socially skilled, and frequently commits embarrassing gaffes in public. He is less professionally skilled, and often makes bad financial investments or fails to manage his subordinates. Alex enjoys Clive's company because it provides many opportunities to show his superiority. Clive is also a dreadful wimp, and readily retreats from any situation of conflict or difficulty. In spite of this, Clive is something of a womaniser, and has enjoyed a moderate amount of success. In particular, Clive had a long and guilt-ridden affair with Ruth while he was engaged to Bridget. Clive also had a son to Ruth, but they were soon faded out of the strip. Clive also enjoys just enough professional success to maintain his career and his affluent lifestyle. In August 2008 Clive is made redundant, a fact Alex knew but used to win a bet [Daily Telegraph Issue no 47,647 dated 12th August, 2008] .

Bridget Reed is Clive's wife. For many years, Bridget was Clive's live-in girlfriend and fiancée. The two married some time between 1993 and 1997. Although Bridget is in a similar situation to Penny, she has even less patience with her husband, and a much more sadistic temperament. She takes delight in any opportunity to expose Clive for the wimp and loser that he is. This, together with the affluent lifestyle that Clive somehow manages to provide, seems to be her main reasons for staying with him.

Rupert Sterling is Alex and Clive's boss, a senior director in a merchant bank. He and Alex are on the same wavelength as regards status and appearances. This has not stopped Rupert from sacking Alex on a number of occasions, though he had always returned. Rupert was once tried and jailed for financial fraud; this did not affect his life style too much: his wife would arrive on visiting day only to be told that her husband was in a meeting.

Greg Masterley is Alex' brother and a reporter. Unlike his sibling Greg tends to be rather stingy when it comes to money: Greg will use a foreign coin in order to jam a pavement parking meter and thus park his car for next to nothing, whereas Alex will probably fail to pay the meter in order to show that he can afford the fine.

Mr Hardcastle is the stereotypical Northern boss of a manufacturing company. Hardcastle employs Megabank for a lot of his financial work. Bluff and down-to-earth, it is surprising that he puts up with Alex's expensive and flash City ways. Alex worked for him during the City slump in around 2002, though he found every excuse from getting away from Hardcastle's northern-based offices to enjoy the pleasures of London and Ascot.

Christian is a European junior working his way through the ranks. Sophisticated, from a rich French family, he disdains the 'Anglo' culture and in return is often the butt of Alex's jokes.

Jane was Alex's head of department in 1996. A decisive and masterful figure she aroused an apparently genuine passion in Alex: "no wonder I worship her". They had a brief affair which was terminated when she had to resign for undisclosed reasons "after a full and frank discussion with the board". Her last act was to send a late night email to all her staff thanking them for showing her "kindness, warmth, respect, personal support, encouragement, loyalty, hospitality and friendship", concluding that all of this was now completely wasted since someone else would be determining their bonuses.

Ruth was Clive's American lover, not seen much lately. An expatriate investment banker & frequent character in early years, she would appear in strips in which she and her female colleagues would complain about the treatment of women in the City — such as when a man opens the door to Clio and suggests that she come round to her office; she expresses annoyance at him making passes and he expresses annoyance at her losing hers (i.e. security pass, which is why he opened the door in the first place).

Wendy Tanner was Alex' secretary and had an affair with him. When his wife Penny found out they almost divorced, but later made up. Alex decided that there was no future with Wendy and felt it unwise to continue any longer since her probationary period was due to end and it is hard to sack clerical staff once they become full time.

Cyrus is Alex' new god-fearing American head of department who arrived on the scene soon after the Megabank merger and the apparent promotion of Rupert to senior banker status. Cyrus is an unabashed workaholic who bows his head during Thanksgiving dinner grace in order to use his Blackberry for work, probably checking up on someone from the office.

Carolyn is Alex' client and mistress, who he has been involved with without Penny knowing.

Faberge is a lapdancer that Clive meets regularly outside work. Clive can't believe that's not her real name.

plus a cast of match sellers, policemen, and all the characters you would expect to find in a cosmopolitan world financial centre.


"Alex" cartoons are collected into annual volumes.

* "Alex" (1987)
* "The Unabashed Alex" (1988)
* "Alex II: Magnum Force" (1989)
* "Alex III: Son Of Alex" (1990)
* "Alex IV: The Man With The Golden Handshake" (1991)
* "Alex V: For The Love Of Alex" (1992)
* "Alex Calls The Shots" (1993)
* "Alex Plays The Game" (1994)
* "Alex Knows The Score" (1995)
* "Alex Sweeps The Board" (1996)
* "Alex Feels The Pinch" (1997)
* "The Full Alex Omnibus" (collects strips from 1987 to 1998)
* "The Best Of Alex 1998-2001"
* "The Best Of Alex 2002"
* "The Best Of Alex 2003"
* "The Best Of Alex 2004"
* "The Best Of Alex 2005"
* "The Best Of Alex 2006"
* "The Best of Alex 2007"

tage play

"Alex" was turned into a stage play by Peattie and Taylor and was performed at the Arts Theatre, London in October, 2007. Robert Bathurst portrayed the titular character in a one-man act assisted by animated cartoons of the other characters and the various locations. Bathurst will take "Alex" on an international tour, beginning in Melbourne, Australia in September 2008 and concluding in London in December. [cite news|author= Shenton, Mark|title= Alex, Live Stage Version of Newspaper Cartoon, to Tour Prior to London Season|url=|work= Playbill|date= 2008-08-30|accessdate= 2008-08-30]

Film adaptation

Bathurst will reprise the role of Alex in a film adaptation that is being developed by independent production company BreakThru Films. The film will mix animation with live-action. [cite news|author= Schreiber, Dominic|title= ITV makes BreakThru deal|url=|work= Variety|publisher= Reed Business Information|date= 2008-07-23|accessdate= 2008-07-23]


External links

* [ "Alex" cartoon website]
* [ Alex Comic Strip Books Gallery]
* [ Daily Telegraph business section]
* [ Wikipedia parodied in Alex]

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