The Etherington Brothers bring their Baggage to the DFC Library
By Robin and Lorenzo Etherington
The DFC Library
Baggage is the first original graphic novel from the DFC library (everything else so far has been collected from the pages of the DFC Comic) and also the first DFC Library title to repeat a creative team, as the Etherington Brothers’ was published in September 2010. I enjoyed it, but had my reservations….
“…..even though it’s a good read, and funny, with a lot of great little asides, lots of slapstick and general silliness it does have one flaw….. essentially it’s a serialised gag adventure strip, and when presented as one volume the repeating cycle of threat, gag, resolution and move onto the next ridiculously silly threat does get a little wearing on this reader. 11 year old Molly however just plowed through it, smiling all the way, giggling at the daftness, pages turning as fast as she could read them. She didn’t seem overly bothered with the repetition, so maybe it’s just me being old.”
Since writing that I’ve been proved wrong again and again and again – as the copy of Monkey Nuts in the school graphic novel library is one of the most popular titles, and the children absolutely love it. And I imagine they’re going to love Baggage just as much.
Because Baggage and Monkey Nuts share many features – Lorenzo’s artwork is just as manically energetic, just as packed with intricate (and funny) detailing throughout, functioning both as extras for your enjoyment and a way to slow your reading slightly, to allow the reader to absorb the story. Similarly Robin’s story is every bit as manic and energetic as Monkey Nuts, just as fast and furious, just as laden with clever gags.
Notice the deliberate use of “manic” and “energetic” for both writer and artist – that should give you some idea of what Baggage is like.
Or maybe you could just look at a page…..
Oh yes, manic AND energetic. Ah, but you may need a little explanation…
In Baggage it’s all about…. well, baggage. Specifically the sort of baggage you get in the world’s worst lost property warehouse. And in that lost property warehouse is Randall, the very worst person to have in a lost property warehouse, someone quite unable to even grasp the concept of recovering lost property.
A blundering nightmare of a lost property officer, but a lovely person, who absolutely loves his job, even if he doesn’t really seem to understand it.
“You want me to FIND their owners? I thought I was just supposed to keep all the bags safe and warm at night!!”
Poor, poor Randall, he’s finally been called to task and has been set possibly the worst task he could be given….
How on Earth is someone so incapable meant to find the owner of “the oldest piece of baggage in our warehouse“?
Oh, how indeed? Perhaps by spending the next 48 pages in a madcap, accident prone, manic and energetic dash across a very strange city, meeting up with old friends, making new friends, running into lots of trouble and generally having one of those adventurous quest thingys so popular in children’s literature. Yep, that would be about right.
The find the oldest piece of baggage challenge is simply the thing to hang everything from here, the plot point to give a reason for all the silliness that follows. Baggage isn’t trying to be clever, it’s a silly quest meets chase story.
But it’s a hugely satisfying, very silly, very funny quest meets chase story, and when you’re that satisfying, that silly and that funny, all rolled into one, you manage clever by holding it all together so very well.
The whole adventure is perfectly constructed for younger readers as well, lots of build up to a set piece, then a huge climactic moment, and then on to the next piece, the next clue. A way of delivering a satisfying, episodic narrative within one continuous story, even when you’re not writing for serialisation.
There’s a European sensibility worthy of Asterix here, just look at that scene on the sports field of some utterly incomprehensible game. Now imagine the main characters as Asterix and Obelix and everyone charging them as Romans – it works for me, can you see what I’m getting at?
And just as with Asterix, the pages are loaded with visual trickery, silliness in the backgrounds, whilst some great gags are played out in the foreground.
There’s a real sense of something for all here. And I enjoyed it hugely, all the silliness was great, but the comedy happens all through, and often in simple, almost inconsequential moments…. just like this, my favourite gag in the book:
It’s all about that spin of Randall’s head in panel 4, and the nonchalance of the tram driver in response. That tickled me so much.
Like I said, Monkey Nuts was good, but didn’t quite get me. Baggage got me pretty much from the out. It’s going to be just as popular, maybe more-so, with the children in the graphic novel library. Thanks to the folks at the DFC Library and Random House we’ve got extra copies waiting to go on the library shelves at school, but not before our brilliant (and ever increasing) team of school reviewers get to read it first – I hope they’ll write about it to show you just how much fun the book is. In the meantime, you’ll have to take my (old) word for it.
Baggage is released today – 6th October. Enjoy!