Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Garth Ennis' Children's Book

Yesterday I received my copy of the Kickstarter-funded children’s book, Erf by Garth Ennis and Rob Steen. This is the fifth project I’ve backed and only the second actual book I’ve got, and it was of a very high standard. Regulars to this blog will probably know who Ennis is, writer of such brutal and bloody comics like Preacher, The Punisher, The Boys, and numerous horror titles, like Crossed and Stitched. Steen is the more talented half of the team that put the successful Flanimals series of books together (the other half being Ricky Gervais).

Steen & Ennis have worked together before on a few projects, most notably Chronicles of Wormwood: The Last Enemy for Avatar, but this is a departure for Ennis. I suspect that many would expect the writer to have penned an ironic adult twist on kids’ book, with ulta-violence and sex scenes told in a picture book manner. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Set at the very beginning of life, we’re introduced to four friends, Figwillop, The Blooper, KWAAAH! and Erf, who live in the sea. All have various, obvious talents, apart from the rather small and ineffectual, Erf, and it’s easy for children to identify with the tiny pea-like creature. Steen is in familiar territory here, as the early proto-creatures are reminiscent of his Flanimal drawings.
                         
In many ways it’s a Darwinian parable, a suitable dig at Creationists as the primordial creatures develop lungs, leave the sea and explore a strange new island. But danger awaits in the form of The Colossux, who threatens to eat them all unless they make a very difficult choice. However, it's at this point the story veers from Darwinism and "survival of the fittest" to something far more noble.

You can see the dénouement coming eight pages away, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. It’s rare to see children’s books these days promoting old fashioned values like loyalty and self-sacrifice (two traits Ennis holds dear, as many of his comics espouse these same ideals) and Erf has more punch because of that. In fact it made me proud and honoured to call him a friend.

Interestingly, looking at the names of the backers at the end of the book, a few comics-related people leapt out at me including fellow writers Jason Aaron and Brian K. Vaughan, writer/editor StuartMoore, and Vertigo boss, Karen Berger.

Genuinely moving and heartfelt, it would be great to think that Erf might get a picked up by a publisher, or that the duo print additional copies, so that it could reach a wider audience beyond it’s original Kickstarter backers. It deserves it, and so do you.

UPDATE: I've just discovered that it's listed on Amazon.com but is currently sold out. Demand yours today!

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