There are many things in this world that make us feel safe, the smell of mumsies sunday roast, the sound of the A-Team theme or the rediscovery of talismanic Star Wars figure are just three examples of things that create a warm glow within us. But all things cast a shadow, and many of our most innocent pleasures have an unpleasant ethical dimension that we’d rather not consider, in fact there are so many things of this nature that many of us go around in a state of wilful blindness, afraid of suddenly discovering that the things we love are in fact evil.
Given this, it’s curious that Rice should feel it necessary to invent a bloody cottage industry, wherin that most cosy of commodities, the wooly jumper, is harvested from the skins of large slow and extremely cute creatures called Longboys.
The use of excellent, well paced dialogue soon adds a dimension of realism to something that could easily be dismissed as a silly premise. The characters discuss ethics whilst harvesting these creatures, which sit there as passively as the dodo or Huia, and the sight of these things being butchered, when it finally comes, even rendered in Rice’s wonderfully light drawing style, is somewhat shocking.Somehow more shocking indeed than some of the images I’ve seen lately of actual animal cruelty.
Which raises a disturbing question about me; am I so benumbed that it takes the invention of a fictional creature to make me think about animal ethics? If so could all moral issues be better represented by such analogies? Perhaps Jim Henson’s workshop should be commissioned to raise awareness of the latest natural disasters, or a certain pressing crisis could be better represented as a story about a group of Moshi Monsters, violently oppressed by a far more powerful neighbouring Pokemon state.
I’m not sure whether it’s Rice’s intention to excite such moral dystopian soul searching in her readers. In fact the whole thing might just be a merch opportunity (I seem to remember seeing some rather lovely looking knitted Longboys on her table when I bought this) but in any case Longboys is clever stuff and comes highly recommended.
Lots of people will know Rice from her excellent and very popular My Cardboard Life series. If you don’t know you should check it out very quickly. Although Longboys is a straight pen and ink piece, Rice is one of the most formally interesting comic artists around, using collage and more recently diorama to tell her stories.