Badger: Then and Now – the beautiful sadness continues….
Badger: Then and Now
by Howard Hardiman
This is Howard Hardiman’s second book featuring Badger. And I love Badger. I’ve said so many, many times before – so I think you all know what to expect here – my review of the first Badger book was full of this sort of language:
It’s an incredibly simple little tale. Yet it’s one of my favourite comics all year. This tale of a lonely little badger living all alone in his London flat is heartbreakingly, tearjerkingly sad. I sat there after reading it and was struggling to hold back the tears. It’s very easy to describe, but very difficult to get over the complete sense of sadness that saturates every page.
The art is simplistic, basic. At times it’s quite lovely, sweet and near beautiful. At times it’s slightly muddy and hard to work out what’s going on in the panel. But I’m a forgiving sort, especially with a comic that makes me feel this gloriously sad.
So basically, when I saw Badger back then I fell instantly in love with the tale of this sad, lonely little soul. And this second book of Badger stories is lovely and moving and sweet and delightful, just like that first book.
(Badger: Then and Now. On the left, the “then” with a lone Badger prowling in the dark – and the “now” on the right, years later, with Badger living his sad life with just a fish for a friend. From Badger: Then and Now by Howard Hardiman.)
But Badger: Then and Now is a very different book from Badger, primarily because of it’s format – telling two simultaneous tales of Badger; every left hand page tells the tale of Baby Badger and how he came into the world, every right hand page is Badger now, following on from the events of the first book.
We already know what poor Badger’s life will become, the loneliness, the isolation, the quiet despair, but here we get a chance to go right back to the very beginning, even before the beginning, to see mummy and daddy badger meet, baby badger being born and to enjoy the simple happiness of his life. And whilst we do that we also get to see Badger’s life immediately after the events of the first book – with all the loneliness and sadness we’ve come to love.
(Badger’s mummy and daddy meeting over lunch. And the result of that union, several years later, after another night’s lost sleep, lonely in his tiny flat. From Badger: Then and Now by Howard Hardiman.)
The tale of Badger in the now is the real draw for me here, even with all the cute, nature documentary style telling of the meeting between Badger’s parents and his eventual birth – definitely an aaaah moment.
Our lovely little Badger goes about his daily routine; sleep, can’t sleep (sitting up thinking back to his childhood possibly?), shower, out to shops with a loving glance at his only company; the fish on the windowsill. And in the bland mundanity of this everyday experience is where we get all of the sadness and emotion in this book. The Baby Badger bits might be cute and well done, but the real knife to the heart comes in comparing the then with the now and realising Badger will probably never be that happy again.
(Baby Badger. Oh so sweet, content and happy. Something Badger may never have again, as he sits, alone, on his park bench for another lunch. From Badger: Then and Now by Howard Hardiman.)
Badger: Then and Now is a massive step up from the original in nearly every way; the packaging is nicer, with the squarebound 6″x6″ book making a lovely little object in and of itself. Inside, each page has just one simple, wordless 5″x5″ panel, but even though the panels are bigger than the first book, Howard’s art is actually finer, more detailed. His line’s improved – it’s still very simple and basic but he’s obviously spent some time refining what he does, there’s still the occasional muddiness I mentioned with the first book, but overall it’s a much more confident and refined look.
And it’s a different reading experience as well, the pure emotion of the original is filtered and diluted somewhat with the telling of Baby Badger’s story, but that doesn’t mean that Howard hasn’t found time to twist the knife in our hearts with Badger this time – just look at this panel where Badger returns home to his only friend – that goldfish I mentioned;
(Oh dear. As Baby Badger sleeps a contented sleep, Badger comes back to his flat – are goldfish meant to swim that way up? From Badger: Then and Now by Howard Hardiman.)
Howard Hardiman really delights in his characters misery – and god help me, so do I. And so will you. It’s a lovely, wonderful, terribly, wonderfully sad book.