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the Complete Review
the complete review - comics


The Gigantic Beard
That Was Evil

Stephen Collins

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To purchase The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

Title: The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
Author: Stephen Collins
Genre: Comics
Written: 2013
Length: 240 pages
Availability: The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil - US
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil - UK
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil - Canada
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil - India
La gigantesque barbe du mal - France
Der gigantische Bart, der böse war - Deutschland
La gigantesca barba malvagia - Italia
La gigantesca barba que era el mal - España

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Our Assessment:

B+ : striking; impressive presentation

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 10/5/2013 James Smart
New Statesman . 5/5/2013 Alex Hern
The Observer A+ 13/5/2013 Rachel Cooke
The Times . 20/4/2013 Tom Gatti
Die Zeit . 17/2/2015 Hartmut el Kurdi

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Collins' wonderful debut unfolds with slow and simple elegance through black-and-white panels (.....) The result is an imaginative and funny fable that can be enjoyed on its own terms and as a nicely judged satire on ignorance, routine and the deadening influence of corporate and celebrity culture." - James Smart, The Guardian

  • "The book is rendered in soft pencil, black and white throughout, but printed to a huge size (almost bookshelf-busting, so be warned there), which gives Collins a chance to express tremendous versatility. (...) Taken overall, it reminds me of nothing so much as a Roald Dahl novel: a surreal premise, presented as matter-of-factly as possible, which, if you buy into it -- as children do naturally, and adults who know whats-what do too -- presents the opportunity for a piece of strong character work." - Alex Hern, New Statesman

  • "A fairytale for adults that children will also adore, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is surely destined to become a classic (Raymond Briggs has already called it "an amazing book"). Collins works in soft pencil, and you would not believe the life in his shades of grey. But in this instance, his draughtsmanship is particularly intoxicating." - Rachel Cooke, The Observer

  • "Die Geschichte wechselt zwischen Absurdität, Tragik und Komik, mal ist sie Schauergeschichte, mal Satire, mal Science-Fiction und mal eine philosophisch-psychologische Metapher. (...) Auch die grafische Umsetzung ist vielschichtig." - Hartmut el Kurdi, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is a four-part graphic novel, set on the island of 'Here'. 'Here' is comfortable if anodyne, and life is agreeable -- if also simple, predictable, and rather bland. The main character is Dave, who works for A & C Industries -- without really knowing what it does (no one seems to), But work keeps him -- and his mind -- occupied; it's a place of reassuring comfort and safety. Not that the rest of 'Here' isn't just as safe, but left to his own devices Dave tends to feel a bit more anxious. And there is that sea surrounding 'Here', which everyone prefers to turn away from and avoid -- and, even more terrifyingly, the great unknown of 'There' somewhere out there .....
       Dave is almost entirely hairless. Except for his eyebrows, and a single hair under his nose -- that can't be shaved, cut, or plucked away -- he has no hair whatsoever (and he wears a wig). But, as Collins ominously suggests right at the start: "Beneath the skin of everything is something nobody can know".
       Dave's hair erupts: it becomes a beard -- and not just any beard, but one that grows unstoppably. It can barely be trimmed or hacked back -- or, eventually, coiffed or styled --, and instead prodigiously, voluminously pours forth, a super-abundance of beard that grows into the wild -- deep into 'Here'. And, unsurprisingly, upsets the long-established local order, and forces changes.
       The beard is transformative, but also destabilizing -- the growth won't stop, and so drastic action must eventually be taken. But even after the beard-crisis is over, after effects linger.
       The illustrations in The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil are all black and white, and gray, fairly simple pencil drawings. The panels are far from comic-strip uniform, with Collins' showing considerable creativity with the layout: Some panels bifurcate images -- two side by side, each showing one of the two sides of a face, for example -- while he readily shifts from small-panel-filled sequences to page-filling larger one. Film-still-like sequences contrast with varied larger individual images. Visually, the presentation is excellent, with The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil a great example of the potential of graphic narrative, utilizing the medium on behalf of the story.
       The off-beat allegorical story is quite charming too, with parts downright haunting. There are also amusing quirky touches, such as Dave's obsessive listening to The Bangles (specifically, the song 'Eternal Flame'). The writing is even more spare than the drawing -- there's relatively little text and conversation throughout, and what running commentary there is is succinct. The visual dominates -- and Collins has a surer hand with the drawings than the words, which have an occasionally stilted, awkward feel (intentionally, in part -- it's part of the atmosphere he's going for -- but not exactly in the right way, often enough).
       The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is an enjoyable odd fantasy, with a nice bit of depth to it -- certainly superior graphic fiction.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 December 2017

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The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil: Reviews: Stephen Collins: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British cartoonist Stephen Collins was born in 1980.

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© 2017 the complete review

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