Billy & Buddy, Vol. 1: Remember This, Billy?
written by Jean Roba
Billy & Buddy is a French gag comic about an ordinary boy and his rather clever cocker spaniel. It’s pleasant enough but doesn’t really break any new ground. Billy, age 7, is red-headed and cute. He doesn’t try to outsmart the grownups or anything like that; he’s content to just hang out with his dog.
Buddy, on the other hand, is one of those cartoon dogs that is smarter than the humans around him. He can do calisthenics and play with a yoyo using his ears, he can communicate with other animals, and he hates cats and baths. Buddy seems to be the more energetic one as well, and he often seizes the moment to steal a bite to eat, play a practical joke, or escape from an impending bath.
Rounding out the regular cast is Billy’s father, who is your typical cartoon dad—that is to say, kind of a boob. He’s hardworking and affectionate but not too bright, and he is often the butt of the jokes, as when he tosses a bone into Buddy’s washtub, hoping to get the dog to jump in and take a bath, and Buddy outsmarts him by dumping out the tub.
The humor in Billy & Buddy is gentle to a fault. Each story takes up a single page, and some are more like situations than jokes, as when Billy and his dad find a treasure chest on the beach that proves to be a jack-in-the-box, or when Billy’s dad says German shepherds are better than cocker spaniels, moving Buddy to kick a German shepherd. It’s not really laugh-out-loud material. Other strips have more of a defined punch line. There are a few instances of unfortunate ethnic stereotypes: a Chinese dog with slanty eyes and buck teeth, an Italian vendor with a heavy accent.
Since this book is a British translation of a French comic, it contains a smattering of British usage and a few allusions (such as a reference to Lucky Luke) that may momentarily puzzle American readers. Most of it is clear from the context, though. The subject matter and content are kid-friendly, and this would be a good book for an adult to read aloud with a child, particularly if the adult is a good actor, as there is plenty of onomatopoeia and scope for silly voices.
Raba’s art is clean and energetic. The backgrounds have a slightly European feel but are generic enough to be anywhere. The characters are expressive without being overly exaggerated, and the storytelling is clean and easy to follow. There is something indefinably French about his style—maybe it’s the noses?
Cinebook always puts together a good-looking package, and Billy & Buddy is no exception. The cover and interior art are bright, sharp, and colorful. It’s a sturdy, attractive book that will last for a while, and the simple situations and humor will appeal to children, especially those who love dog stories.