“More rabbit than Sainsburys”*…

Fluffy by Simone Lia

You might think that a comic about a little bunny rabbit who thinks a chap called Michael is his father is going to be a piece of fluff.   Well, you’d be wrong!

Simone Lia was going to be a children’s illustrator, but she met Tom Gauld (whose graphic novel Mooncop I reviewed here recently) at the RCA and they started drawing comics together too.  Then between 2003 and 2005, she created a comic called Fluffy, who is said rabbit. This 2007 book collects the comics together.

Lia’s premise is very simple. Fluffy, a little talking rabbit, believes that Michael is his daddy. Michael loves Fluffy but isn’t sure what to do with him as Fluffy can get in the way of him living a normal life. He’s a bunny, not a child – and finding a girlfriend is difficult with a talking bunny rabbit living with you.

Fluffy behaves like an older toddler boy – he’s not a savant like Family Guy‘s genius baby Stewie, Like all toddlers, he craves attention every moment he’s not busy when awake.  He is also obsessed by tractors – one of the running themes of the book.

As the comic begins, Michael has been on a date with a lady called Suzanna and it’s ended with her coming back to his flat, only to be surprised by Fluffy the next morning. A bigger surprise is that the talking bunny doesn’t scare her off (she’s actually Fluffy’s nursery school teacher) and she starts pestering Michael with emails and calls to see him again.

This pestering which soon borders on stalking scares Michael though, so he decides to take Fluffy to see his grandparents in Sicily. Michael is scared of flying, so they go the scenic route by train stopping off in Paris and Rome before arriving in Naples where they’ll take the ferry to Sicily.  Fluffy is a sociable bunny and makes friends along the way, always hoping to find people to talk tractors with. No-one seemed concerned that he is a talking bunny – but he does attract the attention of a German girl on holiday with her parents – she’d like a bunny. Will Michael’s stalker leave him alone?  Will Fluffy come to terms with being a rabbit?  I won’t say any more about their adventures.

The two panes above come from early in the book, before they set off for Sicily. I love the way Lia can illustrate the changing facial expressions, particularly of Michael with just a few pen strokes. Her drawing style is deceptively simple – yet the detail is all there (see the rabbit poo Fluffy leaves on the sofa!). Some of the backgrounds have a lot of detail, but Fluffy and Michael are drawn consistently throughout. The dialogue is also spot on, capturing Fluffy’s childlike innocence and Michael’s existential angst too, and the sound and movement effects that accompany everything add yet more detail: tick tick, tick tick, tick tick, goes the clock as Michael lies awake at night.

The only parts of this that didn’t work quite as well for me were the explanatory texts that accompanied the Fluffy and Michael panes. These were sometimes narrated by dust particles, dandruff flakes and nerve cells whose own personalities were a little intrusive in a childlike way in a story that is not for children. I’d have preferred more of the wry commentary in other parts – but this is a small niggle in an otherwise delightful book.

Super illustrations, understated humour and wry comment on modern life make Fluffy an excellent graphic novel. (9/10)

* Quote from Rabbit by Chas & Dave.

Source: Own copy

Simone Lia, Fluffy (Jonathan Cape, 2007)

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