British illustrator and comic book artist Raymond Briggs passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88. Born in 1934 in Wimbledon, Surrey, from a very young age he felt a strong inclination towards art, which led him to study at Wimbledon School of Art and, later, at University College London. He published his first works for children’s readers in the late 1950s, but his first successes came in the following decade: Mother Goose Treasury (1966) or The Christmas Book (1968).
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One of his best-known children’s books was made in 1973: Father Christmas —with a sequel, two years later, Father Christmas Goes on Holiday—; In it, all the style traits that have made Briggs connect with universal and timeless audiences are already present: his luminous drawing, with delicate pastel colors, the candor of his characters and the subtle sense of humor of the stories. In 1978, she published another of his best-remembered works: The Snowman (La Galera), made into a film by Dianne Jackson in 1982 as an animated short.
In the 1980s, a mature Briggs, in his forties, immerses himself in comics. Contemporary with the first works for the American market by Alan Moore or the publication of Maus of Art Spiegelman, Briggs deserves, like them, recognition as a pioneer of adult comics and the graphic novel, with works such as the interesting GentlemanJim (1980) and, above all, the overwhelming when the wind blows (1982), a story set in a nuclear apocalypse, starring an endearing and naive old couple, first appeared in his previous comic, who succumbs to radioactive poisoning. The work, translated into several languages and made into a feature film in 1986 by director Jimmy Murakami, has become a classic of environmentalism and pacifism, whose warning message is unfortunately still valid.
Already a prestigious illustrator, Briggs continued to publish books such as The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman (1984), a political satire, or The Man (1992), a new foray into the universe of children’s stories. In 1998 he published another of his most important and celebrated comics: Ethel and Ernest. In it, he narrated the story of his parents’ forty years of marriage, with an extraordinary mastery of the language of comics, which allowed him to tell this story with disarming intimacy, while at the same time using it to reflect on the history of the century. XX and its social and political changes, from a leftist position that he maintained throughout his life.
The new millennium was, for Briggs, one of intense work, despite his age. Retired in a country house, the last few years have been those of his greatest recognition in the form of awards, although these have accompanied him throughout his career: in 2012, he was included in the British Comic Awards Hall of Fame, and in 2014 his book Bear won the prestigious Phoenix Picture Book Award.
In his latest comics, Notes from the Sofa (2015) and Time for the Lights Out (2019) explore their own memories and reflections, with a marked twilight tone, underlined by the black and white drawing, simpler and more intimate than their usual color palette.
After a lifetime of work in the field of children’s books and comics, Raymond Briggs has earned a place of honor in the popular culture of our time in his own right.