A classic novel originally published in 1980, Gentleman Jim is the story of Jim Bloggs, an imaginative toilet cleaner who, dissatisfied with his station in life, devotes his time to envisioning a world beyond it. His walls are lined with books like Out in the Silver West, The Boys’ Book of Pirates, and Executive Opportunities, which provide fodder for his ruminations on career change. Encouraged by his wife, who is also eager to incorporate more adventure into her life, Jim sets out to bring these dreams to fruition by accumulating various accoutrements, only to discover that the life of an executive, an artist, or a cowboy is more complicated and costly than it appears.Jim’s childlike understanding of the world that surrounds him is enhanced by Raymond Briggs’s subtle and inventive illustrations. Fantasies are portrayed as organic clouds that move between and overlap outlined panels of his reality, and myopic Jim is drawn smaller and softer than the policemen and bureaucrats interested in impeding his search for adventure. As he begins to infringe more seriously on the law, the city workers and their speech boxes become increasingly angular, much like the rigid rules and regulations restricting his sincere quest. With this playful style, Briggs expertly transforms common feelings of inadequacy into an endearing and enjoyable experience that speaks across generations, concluding with an optimistic implication that even a misfortunate outcome can be better than no change at all.
“This slim volume, a reissue of a 1980 work, has seminal significance in the development of the graphic novel. British cartoonist Briggs's renown rests mainly with his work for children. This graphic novel is plainly aimed at adults in its illustrated tale of a toilet cleaner, Jim Bloggs, whose innocence and imagination land him in trouble, as he tries to conjure a richer future for himself and his wife. ‘Something a bit more exciting . . . more adventurous . . . something with more of a challenge,’ he daydreams as he scrubs and mops. ‘There's not much opportunity for self-advancement in toilets.’ So he begins daydreaming about being a war hero, or a famous painter, or an executive (whatever that is), before returning home to his wife, Hilda, who matches his innocence and hardly serves as a check on his imagination. She's ready to follow him to Texas, where he can be a cowboy and she'll find work as a bar floozy (‘Ooh, that would be nice,’ says the middle-aged housewife. ‘I hope I'm not too old.’), though neither of them seem to realize just how much it might cost to costume themselves properly, let alone afford the fare overseas to the American Southwest. Jim then decides to become a modern day Robin Hood, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, yet all he can afford are a toy sword, rubber boots and a donkey instead of a horse. Through a series of hilarious mishaps and misunderstandings, his life changes irrevocably, but not in the way that he'd planned. A short, sweet and meaningful volume.”—Kirkus Reviews
Raymond Briggs is an international bestselling cartoonist/illustrator who has been writing and drawing children’s books and graphic novels for more than forty years, including his best-loved books Father Christmas and The Snowman. An early pioneer of literary graphic novels with his brilliant satire on nuclear war, When the Wind Blows (1982), he is also well known in North America for his poignant depiction of the lives of his parents in Ethel & Ernest.