Mann’s Best Friend (Gluepot Books)

This debut graphic novel from Gluepot Books is not the kind of book you might expect when you hear that it is about one man and his dog in rural Yorkshire. Mann’s Best Friend is the creation of sisterly duo Sophie and Scarlett Rickard and thanks to it’s charming story telling and relatable characters has the feel of a classic British graphic novel for the ages, rather than a twee man and his mutt adventure.

Publisher: Gluepot Books
Writer: Sophie Rickard
Artist: Scarlett Rickard
Price: £14.95 from Gluepot Books

Terry is struggling with life, especially his big dog Eric who is difficult to look after. Up to his eyeballs in debt and overshadowed by his sister who is getting married, Ted’s life takes a turn for the worst when he is accused of defrauding the company he works for and ends up being suspended. He takes his frustrations out on the dog in a truly heart-breaking central moment, but is ultimately helped by the sister of his former house mate to put his life back together.

This utterly charming book has a very British, very gentile feel to it as it lilts and ambles through the story. It evokes memories of classic British cartooninsts like Posy Simmonds or Raymond Briggs and feels a very accomplished and confident work for a debut. Set in a fictional Northern town (presumably Lancashire as that is where the Rickards are from?) it has that slightly Wallace and Gromit/Last Of The Summer Wine vibe to it, that is quintessentially British and very ‘northern’. But that makes it sound almost cartoonish, which it isn’t, as it still has a depth and an edge to it, but without it being gritty and too ‘kitchen sink’.

The characters feel very real and very unsensational, which makes them utterly believable and very relatable as a result. It has a slow and steady pace which suits the story, as it doesn’t need sensationalist beats and shocking moments. However, that doesn’t mean it is without incident, and those moments are handled brilliantly with subtlety and nuance than make them resonate perfectly and give the story a real depth and heart.

The story is written by Sophie and drawn by Scarlett and you can see the sisterly understanding manifesting itself with a synergy between them that you would expect from a duo who have been working together for years. Scarlett’s art is cartoony, but beautifully realised in a style that feels like the aforementioned Simmonds and Briggs, as the characters are expressive but without being full on caricatures. Meanwhile the subtle coloured pencil style colours work brilliantly to give it a very organic feel. It also benefits from using a strict grid which gives the book a really strong rigid structure that makes it feel quite old fashioned, and is something which really suits this type of story and again makes it feel very classic.

Although there are a few places where the colours look a bit digitally or the composition feels a bit ragged, as a whole this is a very accomplished and thoroughly charming debut. Although we read it digitally it feels like the kind of book that warrants being consumed in print so that you can truly feel the texture of the page and also take pride of place on your bookshelf, as this feels like one of those books you will come back to again and again.