Conceived in 1988 at the height of the financial City boom, and written by Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor, Alex is an acutely observed satire on the financial community in general, and on stockbrokers in particular.
Alex Masterley is a yuppie. In fact, Alex is the yuppie. Selfish, greedy, rich and ruthless, he is a merchant banker in every sense of the phrase1. The foil for his repartee is his somewhat softer, bespectacled colleague Clive. Alex is married to the gorgeous Penny; Clive is living with Bridget who treats him as a doormat with a fat wallet. Clive invariably gets the worst of everything and usually misses the point by just that tiny fraction. Clive records the hobbies and interests of his key clients; Alex records the names of their secretaries' pets - because after all, you have to get past the secretary to talk to the boss.
For Alex no junket is too lavish, no client too appalling (provided they have the cash) and no expense account too fat to sustain just one more meal at Maxim's.
The universal appeal of Alex comes from the fact that we have all, at some time, been Clive to someone else's Alex. You know, the colleague at work who is sharper, richer, better dressed, more impressive and ultimately more successful than you. The great thing about the Alex cartoons is that it's OK to despise him, even though he is the head of school, captain of everything and winner of the Mrs Joyful prize for rafia work (or was that Grabber Ma2?)
Some Alex quotes:
Ideally, I'd like to be there at the conception.
- Alex's view on fatherhood.
Perhaps I should have waited until she was asleep first.
- Alex on Penny's less than delighted reaction to his having told a few people they had started sleeping together.
Going down, Rupert?
- Alex to his boss who is being escorted by two fraud squad detectives into the lift.
Fifteen-Forty? You're the only one who thinks it's good! I think it's a shocking price for a punnet of strawberries!
- Penny to Alex at Wimbledon.
One speciality of Alex cartoons is two pictures side by side with almost identical words, slightly spun for different points of view. But the hallmark of the strip is the twist-in-the-tail dialogue. For example this little dialogue on setting bonuses:
- Sadly, due to prevailing market conditions, we will be unable to pay the kind of bonuses we would like to.
- Extremely stingy ones?
- Yes, there have been no crashes anywhere in the world this year, so we would have to take the flak ourselves instead of blaming the emerging markets division like we did last year.
Alex started life in British paper The Independent and later moved to The Daily Telegraph, where the strip has become slightly less amusing for three reasons:
The '90s were not quite as excessive as the '80s.
The Telegraph is famously right of centre, so some of the more overtly political humour vanished.
Many Telegraph readers are stockbrokers, and so never could see the joke anyway.
You can see Alex at the Peattie & Taylor Website.