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#19 [Oct. 31st, 2010|02:10 pm]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#19 ETHEL & ERNEST – Raymond Briggs

“Hot water in the summertime! Modern!”

Ethel & Ernest tells the true story of Raymond Briggs’ parents, from their chance meeting in 1928 until their deaths in 1971. Over 40 years of their lives and a decent chunk of the 20th century is condensed into its 100 pages. The story is told almost entirely through their day-to-day chatter, with scene-setting provided by the radio once it works its way into their home. Along with the radio comes a parade of other modernities, like the electric stove, refrigerator and television, each one going from outlandish to commonplace as they adapt to it. Their reactions to these changes are priceless, especially their surprise at television being broadcast for a whole hour and a half - every single night!

While his milkman dad and lady’s maid mum have comically working-class and stiffly British reactions to the advance of technology and culture, mainly seen through Raymond growing his hair and heading off to art school to their horror (“He could have been a foreman!”), they also survive the blitz with the same outlook. Bombers flying overhead are, like the new-fangled gadgets filling their house, just something else they have to deal with. There’s genuine pathos in their ordinary reactions to living through extraordinary times. By the time their story ends the only way it can end, you feel like you’ve got to know them far too well to say goodbye.