Graphic Novel Classic Library: When The Wind Blows
When The Wind blows may not be everyone’s definition of huge sci-fi, but this tale of nuclear devastation, viewed from Briggs’ familiar everyman character’s perspective, is possibly the greatest modern example of speculative graphic fiction and is just as moving and frightening now as it was 28 years ago when first published.
(“It looks like there’s going to be a war, dear.” Poor doomed James and Hilda Bloggs. From Raymond Briggs’ When The Wind Blows.)
The huge emotional impact of the book is due to Briggs’ down to earth characters; the retired, ruddy faced James and Hilda Bloggs. Unprepared and confused, faced with immanent nuclear attack, naively relying on the government’s inadequate “Protect & Survive” leaflets; constructing shelters from doors, painting their windows white to shield from the blast, preparing water and food – all useless of course, but their stiff-upper-lip belief that doing as they’ve been told will keep them safe makes everything so intensely sad.
(Preparations are undertaken, and we can’t help but smile at this very English couple, cheerily making preparations to survive when we know they wont. Funny and so terrible sad work by Raymond Briggs’ When The Wind Blows)
When The Wind Blows is a more effective anti-war message than anything any government could make. From the moment the bomb explodes it’s obvious that James and Hilda are going to die a horrible, lingering death from radiation sickness, but it’s the heartbreaking deterioration you witness; sickness, hair loss, sores, all coupled with the futile determination to make the best of things that stays with you long after the book is finished.
(And now, even as the colour fades from cheeks and artwork, the determination to carry on is still there. From Raymond Briggs’ When The Wind Blows)
Briggs’ artwork juxtaposes perfectly controlled, miniature panels detailing the Bloggs’ home life with huge, bleak, dark double page spreads of missiles, aircraft and submarines preparing to unleash their deadly cargo to incredibly striking effect. And then there’s his tonal change; lush countryside palette gives way to sickly brown/green/yellow post detonation, as Briggs drains the life from his own artwork, as the radiation drains the life from his characters. Incredible artwork from a master storyteller.
When The Wind Blows manages to be sentimental, gently funny and horrifying in equal measure, proving yet again that Raymond Briggs may well be the greatest living British comic artist. To a modern generation the whole thing may seem far-fetched, but to those who grew up with nuclear clock inching to midnight, When The Wind Blows still sends a shiver down the spine and should be held up as a masterpiece of speculative science-fiction writing.