Billy & Buddy …. simple, but there’s a cleverness in that….
Billy’s got a good life with Mum and Dad. Plenty of play, a little homework, and a smart, loving dog. Of course there’s the occasional hitch: that nosy, bossy old maid of a neighbour—and her Siamese cat—or the cheeky beat cop Agent 22. But it’s never too serious, and even Dad’s occasional embarrassing blunders can’t spoil things for long. After all, as long as you have friends, everything will be all right in the end!
A little of what I said about it last time for Volume 2:
“Billy and Buddy is a simple tale, with simple, one dimensional characters. Billy’s just your normal little boy, with a tendency to get into a few scrapes, often with his best pal Buddy the dog. Buddy’s definitely the smart one in the comic – although maybe not as smart as he thinks. It’s simple, it’s gentle and there are moments – little facial expressions, bits of body language that promise so much – but all too often it’s too simple, the humour’s too gentle and the whole thing seems just a little flat to me.
Molly enjoyed it, not her favourite she said, but she liked the simplicity and the silliness throughout. So it’s really up to you – adults? Maybe it’s not for you. Children? Definitely worth a try.”
And you know what? After reading this volume, I wouldn’t change that in the slightest. It is slight, it is lightweight, it is rather too simple, and there’s just too many pages that didn’t really gel, where the gag sort of fizzled instead of really zinging.
But then again, I’m not 8. I’m not the target, and this simplicity, the anchoring of it all in the very simple day to day stuff of a child’s life, does work rather well once you actually think about it. It’s not cutting edge, it’s not knowing, it’s not radical. And it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen pupils in school read Billy & Buddy 2 and just smile as they flip the pages. Sometimes that does it. Sometimes that’s just enough. I imagine it will be the same for this volume.
And having said all that there were still a couple of pages in here I want to show you, a couple of pages that raised a laugh…
The laugh in that one is reserved for the very last panel. This one:
It’s all about getting the laugh with Buddy realising he’s been had, and the simple sight gag of a dog repeatedly bashing his head against the tree in frustration. Yet it works. The simplicity is deceptive, the cleverness of the gag disguised, but it’s clever none the less, and relies on the children reading it to recognise the behaviour, the frustration. Lovely stuff.
Whereas the next one is purely visual, relying on the children’s enjoyment of following the simple movement, playing on their visual literacy, a phrase I picked up from Jim Medway, but one that is perfect for this sort of thing. For a child to get this they have to decipher just what is happening in the moments between the panels, they have to understand why the man is shifting position, have to grasp why the dog is following the man, and in doing that, there’s a laugh to be had early on, only to be reinforced by the irony of seeing Buddy hoisted by his own petard in the final panel….
So yes, it may be simple, may even be overly simplistic at times, at least for my old eyes. But there is a cleverness in the simplicity, as there so often is in something that manages to make a child smile.