Alex is a topical strip, satirizing banker's attitudes to most of the major financial, political and sporting stories of the day. It also targets the changes that have occurred in the business world in the last twenty years, such as the rise of political correctness, the increase in rules and regulations, and changes in technology. The cartoonists receive a lot of material from bankers themselves, and many of the situations they poke fun at in the comic are based on real occurrences.
It is a gag-a-day strip, and has no overarching meta-plot or story, but will occasionally have longer story arcs lasting for anything up to a month. The comic is set firmly within the real world (other than fictitious bank names), but does have some dream and fantasy sequences, such as when Alex and his colleague Clive are put in charge of buying out and floating Santa's North Pole operation.
The comic has been running in the pages of The Independent since 1987, then The Daily Telegraph from 1992, and the strip has been duplicated on the Web since 1999. It has always updated five days a week (Monday to Friday) without fail, matching the newspaper copy, although it takes a short break whenever the cartoonists have a holiday, as the strips are drawn the day before publication.
The archive is very badly designed, so the first strip on the Web can be found here. If you take a break during an Archive Binge, it is recommended you take note of the URL, and return later via the address bar, or use your browser history menu.
Has an Audio Adaptation on ClassicFM.
This comic contains examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Various, usually over Christmas. Alex and Clive had A Close Encounter in December 1990, they were in a Harry Potter setting in December 2001, and dreamt of being in The Golden Compass world in December 2007.
- Barred from the Afterlife: After being sent to Hell in the "It's a Wonderful Crisis" arc, Alex and Clive are kicked out of Hell for making a GFC-sized mess of Hell's Soul Market. The Devil and an archangel undo all of the events starting with Cyrus's suicide so that Alex and Clive never end up there in the first place.
- Broke Episode: Alex spent a large part of 2003 unemployed.
- Butt-Monkey: Alex's friend and colleague, Clive.
- Cardboard Box of Unemployment: Black bin liners [i.e. garbage bags] are the container of shame. Sacked bankers are required to pack their personal belongings in a bin liner and are then escorted from the building by security so they can't steal anything.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The early strips often featured a match-seller whom Alex would verbally joust with. He vanished without trace after a couple of years.
- Classical Movie Vampire: In December 1992, Clive had recurring nightmares about vampires - their various traits were made the subject of strip punchlines.
- Conspicuous Consumption: For Alex, merely being able to afford everything isn't enough - he must be seen to be able to.
- Creator Cameo: Peattie and Taylor themselves once met Alex and Clive at a strip's dinner party - and ended up humiliated.
- Dead All Along: Modern v Traditional.
- Deal with the Devil: In December 2000, Clive signed up for 21 years of working for a U S investment bank (although he completed this by the end of the month).
- Dream Sequence: Various characters' dreams occur during the strip.
- Dreaming of Times Gone By: In May 2006, Alex dozed off while watching Wall Street and dreamt of visiting its era and meeting the characters.
- Elseworld: A one-off strip made for the British Library's "Hold The Front Page" exhibition reimagined Alex for World War II. In this strip Alex has a bowler hat and moustache, and is talking about rationing and the Blitz.Butcher: So I'm afraid even you rich city types will have to go short.Alex: Naturally. I went short on insurance stock when the first bombs fell — made myself a fortune!
- Fanservice: Alex's wife Penny in her underwear.
- Girlfriend in Canada: While at university, Clive used to claim he had a 'girlfriend in London'.
- I Read It for the Articles: In one strip Clive his shocked when he flicks through his boss's collection of leatherbound Victorian pornography and discovers how explicit they are. Penny remarks that he shouldn't be, as they were that era's equivalent of Playboy and Penthouse. Clive responds that this is why he thought they would have the occasional article about Stephenson's Rocket or spinning jennys in them, so that a chap could claim to be reading them for that.
- It's a Wonderful Plot: Alex had "It's a Wonderful Crisis", where Alex's boss Cyrus commits suicide and Alex takes over his job as head of MegaBank. Cyrus then returns as an angel to show Alex how much better everyone else would have been if he had never been born. Ultimately, Cyrus is revealed as demon and the whole thing is a plot to send Alex and Clive to hell.
- Jury Duty: Happens to Clive.
- Kidnapped from Behind: Alex suffered this indignity in July 1992.
- Lame Pun: The strip makes use of dual meanings of similar-sounding words, with mixed results (e g the boss telling his staff to be discreet when talking about a fired department head - he says they are to use tact. So they tell everyone he's been "tacked", rhyming slang for "sacked").
- Luvvies: In one strip, Alex and Clive are in a bar discussing Quentin Tarantino's plan to make a William Shakespeare movie. Clive makes a joke "I can see it now: Quentin Tarantino's 'F*@# Macbeth'." One of the other patrons objects to Clive's language and he immediately apologises and corrects himself to 'F*@# The Scottish Play' as the final panel reveals the bar is full of luvvies.
- Mistaken for Servant: Alex and his American boss Cyrus are invited to a grouse shoot, for which Cyrus buys a brand new set of tweeds to wear (having never been to one), despite repeated warnings to get a used set instead. At the shoot, Cyrus gets tipped by another guest, who believed he was the gardener breaking in the new tweeds for the lord of the house.
- Must Have Nicotine: The Smokers Club
- Not My Driver: In the "It's a Wonderful Crisis" arc, Alex has a notices that his car isn't being driven by his usual driver. The driver turns out to be the Devil who has brought the car into the perfect place for Alex to be killed by Clive jumping off the roof of the bank.
- Oceanic Airlines: Alex and Clive were the only survivors of a crash while flying with this accident-prone airline.
- Oop North: Any strip involving Hardcastle.
- Put on a Bus: Clive's American girlfriend Ruth and their lovechild, who vanished from the comic in the late 90s and have not been seen since.
- Reassigned to Antarctica:
- Originally to Docklands, a new business centre in East London.
- Later to Megabank's European headquarters in Frankfurt.Alex: Frankfurt is a terrible dump.
- Sell-Out: Alex goes to the 50th birthday party of hedge fund manager Henry. Bryan Ferry is performing. Henry tells Alex that he always felt like a sellout because he went for the big money in the City instead of following his dream of being a musician, but at least he can hire Bryan Ferry and make him feel like a sellout too.
- Skewed Priorities: Their sense of value often means that they put trivial matters before more important ones (e g aliens giving Alex and Clive a translator which makes everyone understand them - but refusing it because it will make them sound unsophisticated).
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Alex's son, Christopher, has gone from birth to age 20 in roughly 14 years.
- Stable Time Loop: Alex tried to create one with his future self during "It's A Wonderful Crisis".
- Status Cell Phone: Alex always keeps up with the latest model, and makes sure everyone knows. He replied to a message tagged "Sent from my Blackberry Wireless Handheld" with one ending "sent from my iPhone".
- Strip Buffer: Averted. The strips are drawn the day before publication.
- Sub Text: Everyone pays more attention to what is implied rather than said, often realising that the outcome will be the opposite of what is apparent (e g a colleague assuming business is picking up because all of the conference rooms are engaged - but Alex and Clive are shocked because it means everyone is about to be summoned upstairs to be served redundancy notices).
- True Meaning of Christmas: Alex dozes off during his son's 1993 Nativity play and dreams of a more commercialised version.
- Unconfessed Unemployment: When Clive was laid off, he spent the best part of a year pretending to still be employed. His wife figured it out when she was able to spend a whole night without being woken by Clive's boss texting him.
- Work Off the Debt: Alex ends up washing dishes while unemployed.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: December 1989 brought Alex an impromptu visit to his past and future.