The Bojeffries Saga – Comic Review

We’re all familiar with Charles Addams’ Family and The Munsters living the high life in their imposing Gothic piles, but you may not be aware that Alan Moore gave us our own equivalent in the 1980’s. They’ve been quietly living out their bizarre lives on a council estate in the Midlands ever since. However, the ‘curiosity dampers’ round their house have started to fail, so we are finally able to knock on the door and meet the Bojeffries. It’s about bloomin’ time! First up, there’s Jobremus, the head of the household, wearily struggling to keep his family in check. Uncles Raowl and Festus are (respectively) a cheerfully dumb werewolf and a bitter old vampire. Grandpa is at the final stages of organic matter, so it’s best to tread carefully around him. Young Ginda is Jobremus’ moody daughter, and quite possibly the most powerful creature on the planet (though the baby puts off enough radioactive energy to power nations!) Finally there is Reth, son of Jobremus. He’s eternally trapped in the body of an 11 year old boy and nobody could possibly understand him. All his dreams are of escaping this madhouse. Leave your preconceptions at the door, wipe your feet, and step inside.

The Bojeffries Saga is one of those culty comics that you either love to bits or have never heard of.  I was in the latter camp until this little gem popped through my door for review. It all began in the pages of Warrior, birthplace of V For Vendetta and Moore’s take on Marvelman. British humour was being transformed by the alternative comedy scene and, whilst tonally very different from the brash onscreen antics of The Young Ones, The Bojeffries Saga followed a similar path in deconstructing the classic British sitcom. Of course the critical question is ‘is it any good?’ The answer is a resounding, ‘yes!’ I fell in love with these characters from the very first page, and the whimsically dark sense of humour tickled me the whole way through the volume. The last time I saw straight up comedy in a British comic, outside of the little newspaper strips, was probably in my Beano and Dandy days (with a crafty side order of Viz), so it was quite refreshing to read a book that was completely unshackled from lengthy back-stories or complicated plots; something that could just be read and enjoyed for what it was.

The artwork by Steve Parkhouse is smashing stuff, though the style varies massively from story to story – presumably due in part to the extended period of time over which it was produced. In each section though, he manages to give his Midlands suburbia a Gothic feel; with bats, dramatic silhouettes of council houses, and solid shadows giving depth to the night. His hatching makes things dirty looking and bleak, and there’s something kind of scrappy about his paneling, but all of this adds to the low rate charm. His gallery of grotesques are not restricted to the house, which is another pleasing feature. So many comics these days try to make everyone and his mother aesthetically pleasing when the fact of the matter is that most people are kind of weird looking. You could (almost) say the Bojeffries Saga has a kitchen sink reality to it, painting people (and behaviours) as they really are rather than prettying them up. In this way even Parkhouse’s most extreme freaks of nature feel familiar and comfortable. There’s no getting away from it: in the end we are the Bojeffries, and the Bojeffries are us.

There is no main character but everyone gets their chance to shine in a personal story. Obvious favourites will be the uncles with their crazy eastern European ways and their innocence in the face of modern society. Ginda is a surprisingly funny person to watch in action, though you would never actually want to meet her. Reth and Jobremus are Everymen, so have little personal impact, but their reactions can be priceless to behold. What stands out above the characters though, is the quintessential Britishness of the strip: everything from our pass-times and traditions to the foibles of working class life, our attitudes to sex, and that mightiest of drinks, Bovril. It even comes out in the formats used: One story ‘Our Factory Fortnight’ is produced as wordless illustrations combined with short passages of text below, just like you’d find in the old annuals of the 1950’s; while ‘Song Of The Terraces’ is done as a light opera à la Gilbert and Sullivan.  My favourite story is a brand new one, written to round off this definitive collection. In it, Moore brings the Bojeffries bang up to date (well, to 2009 at any rate) to show us what life has been like for them since they were famous. With them he brings our modern obsession with celebrity and a supposedly broken Britain. The characters are boiled down to their essential qualities by contrasting their onscreen personas with their abrasive family life. Watching them trapped in the bell jar of the Big Brother house is like watching ourselves. Funny and tragic at the same time.

The Bojeffries may be ridiculous, but they are also true. Recommended reading.

GS Rating: 4/5

GS Reviewer: Dion Winton-Polak

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