Best Of British – The Fabulous Adventures Of Vern And Lettuce

by Richard Bruton

Welcome to Pickle Rye, where Lettuce, the rabbit, and Vern, the sheep, spend their days in this wonderful graphic album for children of all ages. Delightful and fabulous fun awaits in Sarah McIntyre‘s Vern and Lettuce

Sarah McIntyre is a comics artist and illustrator who very sadly does more of the latter and just not enough of the former anymore. Vern and Lettuce, originally from the DFC Comic and collected in 2010 by David Fickling Books, is finally back in print from Bog Eyed Books. And having it back in print is a great thing. For me, it means I don’t have to worry anymore about getting birthday or Christmas presents for any young people I know. And for you, it means you get to experience a top-class artist doing some truly enchanting and delightful comics.

However, don’t just take it from me, this is my daughter Molly’s verdict, back when she was 8…

“The characters are great. Fat sheep playing a Tuba and a bunny with lots of little bunnies following her around. Very funny. I love the colours of the artwork. And I love little things like the swirly dotty fleece on Vern and the patterns on Lettuce’s dress. It’s my favourite comic.”

And she’s right, Vern And Lettuce is a gloriously simple thing, these adorable characters having such delightful and gentle adventures, all based in the unusual setting of a tower block in a place called Pickle Rye.

It’s not overly complicated, but there is a wonderful depth to it. It’s deliberately filled with as big a range of animals as possible, reflecting the diversity of people McIntyre sees around her every day in London.
It’s also a comic that doesn’t try too hard to be uproariously funny either. Instead, McIntyre does something far more difficult, carefully crafting things to raise not belly laughter but warmth, contentment, and an enjoyable smile.

Some strips are single pagers, others longer, but they all share that same glorious lightness of touch McIntyre brings to both story and art.

Around halfway through the book, there’s an extended strip that runs to the end, ‘Lettuce and Vern’s Pop at Fame’. Lettuce has the idea that she and Vern should really be huge pop stars on top TV show, Barnyard Talent, presented by Ricky Renard.

There are a couple of problems, Vern points out, they don’t actually have any musical talent and there’s barely days before they need to head for the big city for the show. Off they head, Vern lugging a nearly acquired tuba and a troup of Lettuce’s brothers and sisters as stowaways. Chaos, as the saying goes, will ensue. The gang end up having a stinky adventure under the city’s streets and manage to become the most unlikely of heroes, in a fantastically fun-filled adventure.

If McIntyre’s characters are the very definition of lovely and her story is perfectly suited for both young and old alike, her art is equally wonderful. Every page is full of her rounded linework, each panel packed with details, and she combines an illustrator’s eye for an image with excellent comic storytelling ability to give us something that looks as good as it reads. And then there’s the colouring, with a slightly muted colour palette that just seems to add to the homely feel of the book.

Vern and Lettuce was my first encounter with Sarah McIntyre’s work, all the way back in 2008. It soon became a firm favourite, and Sarah’s continued success in illustration is a great thing. If ever you get the chance, make sure you see her in person, whether it’s at a comics show, literary festival, or school visit. If you’re working in a school, tell your literacy coordinator about her… she’ll be marvellous (and fabulously dressed for the occasion!)

Sadly, for comics, Sarah’s work as an illustrator for children’s books has taken her away from comics, which is a real loss. Enjoy Vern And Lettuce and be sure to pass it on to all the young people you know, then be sure to get all of her wonderful books, including; Morris The Mankiest Monster (with Giles Andreae), Pugs Of The Frozen North, Pug-A-Doodle-Do! and The Legend Of Kevin (with Philip Reeve), and the squidgy goodness of Jampires (with David O’Connell).

Finally, if you want more of Vern and Lettuce, you can read more in The New Neighbours, where she returns to Pickle Rye in a beautiful and thought-provoking illustrated book. And be sure to follow her exploits and adventures online.

I’m genuinely convinced that she’s one of the best cartoonists around, with a warmth and character flowing through her artwork that seems a genuine reflection of her personality and it’s perfectly on show in Vern and Lettuce.

Vern and Lettuce, by Sarah McIntyre, published by Bog Eyed Books.

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