Forty years ago, when I was a very young boy, I read The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. It was a number of comic book titles that my grandmother, known as Gugga, kept for visiting children. Alongside the Father Christmas titles by Briggs, and plenty of Oor Wullie and The Broons annuals, this was my first, and probably more importantly back then, parental and grand-parental approved entrance to the storytelling possibilities and appeal of comic books.
Over forty years later, and partially thanks to the Channel 4 adaptation of The Snowman, turning it into a Christmas favourite, Raymond Briggs is a household name in the UK. He is one of the most famous comic book creators we have – to the extent that many don’t even consider his works to be comic books, they are a medium to themselves – a Raymond Briggs book.
Over ten years ago I had the pleasure of dealing with him when I was was given the chance to curate a comic book exhibition in London’s Harrods department store, a Best Of British exhibition that still astounds me with the chutzpah I must have had to get the quality and prominence of work I managed to get into that basement. Early Beano, later Viz, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell and Killing Joke, Jock‘s Judge Dredd and Frazer Irving‘s Judge Death, Jamie Hewlett‘s Tank Girl and Posy Simmonds’ Tamara Drewe, and Dudley D Watkins‘ Oor Wullie next to Frank Quitely‘s All-Star Superman, and yes, Raymond Briggs’ Gentlemen Jim.
Raymond was a pleasure to call (he was in the phonebook) and seemed as excited as I was with his work being shown off like that.
He’s still working. Coming up to 85, he is still writing and drawing new art and his bibliography is vast and wide, constantly being reprinted.
His most recent work Notes From The Sofa was published in 2015, a collection of his weekly columns in The Oldie Magazine.
The most recent screen adaptation of his work, Ethel And Ernest based on his parents’ lives was two years ago and there are more to come.
This Christmas, the BBC is putting on a documentary about his work, Snowmen, Bogeymen and Milkmen. Raymond’s father was a milkman and milkmen reoccur frequently in his work, possibly most famously in Father Christmas where their shifts are beginning when his end. Here’s the listing:
Forty years ago Raymond Briggs used a pot of coloured pencils to create The Snowman, a wordless book of illustrations which would inspire the film enjoyed by millions of British households every Christmas.
His timeless story of the friendship between a young boy and a Snowman continues to delight generation after generation with its effortless blend of warmth, humour and sadness.
After creating an instant classic with The Snowman, Briggs disturbed a generation with his anti-nuclear story When the Wind Blows, enthralled kids and adults alike with Fungus the Bogeyman and Father Christmas and in recent years, moved readers to tears with Ethel & Ernest, a touching account of his parents’ life story.
Raymond Briggs has been celebrating the ordinary and making it extraordinary for five decades. And the characters he’s created have been both popular and influential. As Nick Park says in the film, he couldn’t imagine Wallace and Gromit without the experience of reading Briggs’ books.
This playful, moving and often emotional portrait is told through interviews with Raymond, specially commissioned animation illustrated by Chris Riddell, and contributions from friends, colleagues and admirers, including Andy Serkis, Nick Park, Steve Bell, and Posy Simmons.
Raymond Briggs: Snowmen, Bogeymen & Milkmen is a BBC Studios production. The Executive Producer is Richard Bright. It was commissioned for the BBC by Mark Bell.
Schedule to come…