Propaganda wants to share the sad tale of a lonely Badger
by Howard Hardiman
Badger is just 49 pages long with just 91 completely wordless panels. It’s an incredibly simple little tale. Yet it’s one of my favourite comics all year. It’s certainly the saddest.
This tale of a lonely little badger living all alone in his London flat is heartbreakingly, tearjerkingly sad. I could write a really lengthy review and completely over-analyse something that’s actually a very simple, near perfectly constructed tale. But I’d rather just write this quickly, heart still full of the sadness and loneliness of Badger’s world. I sat there after reading it and was struggling to hold back the tears. It’s very easy to describe, but very difficult to get over the complete sense of sadness that saturates every page.
(Badger sits in his flat and watches a phone that’s never going to ring. From Badger by Howard Hardiman)
Badger lives in London, all alone in his flat. His days are bleak, lonely things.
Badger sits in a darkened flat, staring at a phone that never rings, goes to bed, gets up, showers and goes out. Badger goes to the shops and eats a solitary lunch in the park. Back to a lonely flat, another night in. Even when exciting things happen to him, it never works out for him. Learning to roller skate and going to the funfair both go badly.
Day after day, Badger keeps going, desperately alone and lonely.
(A lonely lunch in the park again. From Badger by Howard Hardiman)
But while his existence is lonely, Badger’s dreams are not. And this is where Howard twists the knife in our hearts. Because in just a couple of panels Howard lets Badger dream and he dreams he’s happy; surrounded by other Badgers; enjoying themselves. But only in his dreams, only for a couple of panels and then it’s back to the crushing loneliness. All through this book, you’re wishing, wanting everything to go right, everything to work out for our lonely Badger. But it never does, not until Howard gives us the happy ending we want. And then he rips it away. If your heart doesn’t break when you see Badger’s dreams you’re pumping anti-freeze rather than warm blood around your veins.
(Dreams of a lonely Badger. From Badger by Howard Hardiman)
The art is simplistic, basic. One or two panels to a page. At times it’s quite lovely, sweet and near beautiful. At times it’s slightly muddy and hard to work out what’s going on in the panel. But Howard Hardiman’s not been doing this for very long and I’m a forgiving sort, especially with a comic that makes me feel this gloriously sad. This isn’t about how technically good the comic is or isn’t, this is all about how wonderfully emotional the comic makes you feel.
Also available from Howard is Cute But Sad Comics Volume 3. Produced for the Birmingham Comics Show it’s got a nasty, fun little story of Jack, the naughty squirrel, various gag cartoons from When Pigeons Weep. But the main reason for getting it for me was the inclusion of a Badger strip with just a moment of happiness for Badger to bring a smile to my face. And I’m not showing you that one, because I think you should buy both Badger and Cute But Sad Comics just to share in Badger’s loneliness, his misery and his fleeting moments of joy.
Badger is available from Howard Hardiman online or at shows. I really hope he does some more, because I think he’s got some more great stories to tell. There’s talk of a comic with the National History Museum. Howard says “It’s about a Pterodactyl who gets raised by Polar Bears. It’s very sad indeed.” Very sad indeed? I’m going to be in pieces over that one.
Richard Bruton is indulging his melancholia by listening to Joy Division while wearing a badger suit.