Review of The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

Synopsis

The job of the skin is to keep things in.

On the buttoned-down island of Here, all is well. By which we mean: orderly, neat, contained and, moreover, beardless.

Or at least it is until one famous day, when Dave, bald but for a single hair, finds himself assailed by a terrifying, unstoppable… monster*!

Where did it come from? How should the islanders deal with it? And what, most importantly, are they going to do with Dave?

The first book from a new leading light of UK comics, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is an off-beat fable worthy of Roald Dahl. It is about life, death and the meaning of beards.

(*We mean a gigantic beard, basically.) 



Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 240 pages
  • Published June 17th, 2013 by Jonathan Cape
  • Original Title The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
  • ISBN0224096281 (ISBN13: 9780224096287)
  • Edition Language English

Awards

  • Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Graphic Album-New, Best Writer/Artist (for Stephen Collins) (2015)
  •  Waterstones Book of the Year Nominee (2013)

My Thoughts

“Because” is a word used

by ordered, order-loving

beings about a world which

they like to think is ordered.

“Because” is for storybooks.

This is… Well, I know this is

difficult to understand,

but what we see here is

becauselessness itself.”


― Stephen Collins, 
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

It was lustrous, it was hedge-like, it was so, so very untidy. Where once a single, black and twitchy hair grew on the face of our protagonist, Dave now grows an avalanche of hirsute proportions. Stephen Collins first outre graphic novel features the weird and compelling often underappreciated affect a random occurrence such as a beard can have on a tidy community. Similarly, how the effect of a book about an unkempt beard can have on the graphic novel community.

Dave is about as average a person as someone could be in the town of Here. He is a bald fellow with a single stubborn hair on his chin that when shaved, grows right back. Dave works in a job that he doesn’t understand that it is boring. Everything is boring. Imagine a life tuned to Muzak elevator music. His only differ from the norm is his penchant for voyeuristically sketching street life outside his window and listening to The Bangles Eternal Flame on repeat. (side note – I have to admit that, that is an underappreciated song.) One day something bizarre and untidy happens. Dave’s feels “a roaring black fire” climb through his face. Suddenly and without provocation, Dave’s beard of epic and unruly proportions is born.

Dave attempts to shave, cut, burn, pare, peel crop and slash at his beard. He cannot work or eventually move because of the torrent of beard hair pouring from his face. The community and tourists began to watch him now. He becomes an attraction. Soon the government sends in barbers and stylists to help tame the mane. Scaffolding is erected around the beard as it begins to take over his block. Soon balloons are added to the mix, lifting sections of the hair off of the ground and suspending it midair.

The beard must come from the place of There. There being everywhere around the Island of Here. It comes from a place of the unruly and the untidy. What will happen to our quiet community is a beard like this is allowed to exist? We must stop it! We must protect ourselves from its influence! Soon the beards presence spreads out in slow ripples. First, a man who is never late to work comes in late to work. Next, a man who has typically very tidy hair could not make it the barber, and his hair became overlong. Small ripples turn into large ripples. Things evolve.

This is a fairy tale and allegory that everyone can appreciate. It is a story of tidiness and the power of non-conformity. How a single action can cause, ripple effects felt for years and years. But more so, it is about a vast much-belied beard that is called evil when in fact it might be this communities savior.


Procurement

I checked this out from the library


About the Author

Stephen Collins is a UK illustrator and cartoonist. His work has appeared in many publications worldwide, and he has a weekly comic in The Guardian Weekend magazine, as well as a monthly one in Prospect. In 2013 Jonathan Cape published his debut graphic novel The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book Of The Year award. A collection of his shorter comics titled Some Comics By Stephen Collins was published by Jonathan Cape in 2014.

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