Review: The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

by Beth C.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – Stephen Collins (Picador)

beard coverThe Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is about Dave, a man who is hairless except for his eyebrows and one single hair below his nose. He loves drawing and his desk job. His favorite song, forever on repeat, is “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles. Dave is a resident on the island of Here, where everything is neat and tidy: from people’s personal appearances, to how they groom their pets, all the way down to how the sidewalks and landscaping are meticulously maintained. There’s even an official Tidiness Patrol.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil tells the story of what happens — not just to Dave, but to the citizens and environment of Here — when Dave’s lone hair suddenly turns into a wild, uncontrollable beard:

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

The blurb on the back of book says that The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is “an off-beat fable worthy of Roald Dahl and Tim Burton.” Stephen Collins’s tale definitely lives up to the comparison. It is avant-garde, has a fairy-tale feel, and has fantastic over-the-top elements that come across as matter-of-fact. Collins’s work also has this je ne sais quo cinematic vibe. At times I felt like I was reading a movie.

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The storytelling and graphic design for The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is quite innovative and impressive. It transcends typical panel-by-panel narration. Signs and non-narrative text are incorporated into the story, determining how it is told.  Panels are sized in unique ways.  This kind of creativity adds more sophistication, meaning, and thrills to an already fantastic tale.

Some panels are split to compare and contrast:

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

Others are subdivided to show how a one event unfolds over a period of time:

The Gigantic Beard That was Evil_p91 - panel excerpt

Some have a small panel surrounded by bigger and bigger panels, much like how Russian dolls nest inside each other. Full-page illustrations become a wall of odd-shaped art pieces framed in white. A panel with an inset is followed by larger panels that magnify or call attention to a specific detail. Even the edges of the panel become a part of the characters’ environment:

beard - bus windows

Signage and pictograms are used in clever ways to help narrate the story:

beard - signs

The text isn’t confined to the interior of the panels. The white space between panels becomes a physical object.

Why no previews for all the examples? Because it will much more fun for you to turn the pages and be surprised when you see all the creative panels and text for the first time.

The British invasion has begun anew via The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, I highly recommend it. There is nothing to over-think or analyze; just let the story carry you away. You’ll quickly see why graphic novels are the perfect medium to tell such avant-garde stories. Make sure to pick up a copy of Beard when it goes on sale October 7.

This is Picador USA’s first graphic novel in 10 years. One can only hope that with the success of The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil that Picador will publish more works by Stephen Collins and others.

The New York Comic Con is October 9-12, and, according to Picador USA’s twitter feed, Stephen Collins will be there!

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Be sure to get your copy of Stephen Collins’s The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil:

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The Comics Alternative is a podcast and blog focused on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics.

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