CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 6. . . .November 7, 2008
Raymond Briggs' Gentleman Jim was first published in 1980. The new Drawn & Quarterly edition features an introduction by Canadian cartoonist, Seth, in which he presents the case for Gentleman Jim to be considered one of the first-ever graphic novels. With the current surge in interest in graphic novels, it would not be surprising to see Drawn & Quarterly seek to cash in on the burgeoning children's and young adult graphic novel market. Seth rightly notes, however, that Gentleman Jim is "unmistakably a work aimed at an adult audience."
While some mature high school readers will enjoy Gentleman Jim, I suspect this book has limited appeal for anyone who was not already a teenager when the book first appeared in the 1980s. Certainly, Gentleman Jim bears some unmistakable marks of the 80s. Issues of education, officialdom and bureaucracy pervade the book. Furthermore, at the heart of the story is an under-employed toilet cleaner entirely discontented with his job, dreaming of alternate career options. Such a notion, of course, is not confined only to the rising unemployment and high inflation days of the 1980s. Child and early teen readers, however, can little understand such woes. As far as future careers go, everything is before them, and the options seem either irrelevant or limitless. Having said these things, Drawn & Quarterly publishes comics and graphic novels, but they do not specifically publish for children. Given Seth's introduction, Drawn & Quarterly do not seem to be specifically targeting Gentleman Jim to a young audience.
Recommended with reservations.
Gregory Bryan teaches children's literature at the University of Manitoba.
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