One of the highlights of every comics reading week for me is on a Saturday morning, when the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has a new strip in its magazine supplement by Stephen Collins (they’re all available to see on the website). Collins won their Observer/Cape graphic short story competition in 2010, which resulted in a book deal with Jonathan Cape, the fruits of which is the upcoming The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.
As you can tell from his weekly strips, Collins is something of a master at finding new angles to view the world from, as likely to see the absurd and the unsettling as the humorous. Liberated from the joke-of-the-week short form, Collins has produced a rich allegorical work with a certain Kafkaesque quality, with the story told in a rolling, rhyming blank verse (you can see examples on both his blog and this preview at It’s Nice That.
He’s also produced a great director’s commentary feature for Joe Gordon’s FPI blog that goes some way to show the scale of the hard work that goes into producing such a hefty end product. It’s telling that Cape have secured a quote from Raymond Briggs for the back cover. Like so much of Briggs’ own work, this book has a timeless, ageless quality, that could be as enjoyed as much as an entertainment by children or as a satire by adults.
To promote this thoughtful, instant-classic work, Cape have come up with a suitably jarringly daft gimmick with this Giant Beard competition:
“To celebrate the release in May of Stephen Collins’ brilliant hirsute graphic novel THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL the Cape Graphic Novels team have been busy knitting up their own beard. It’s already quite sizeable and is growing by the hour. We feel that the world needs more beards though, so we will be awarding an original artwork by Stephen to the person/team who produces the most extraordinary Gigantic Beard whether it be real, knitted or moulded. It can be evil or nice, that’s up to you. Runner-up will receive a signed print.
Please do update us with your growing beards on @CapeGN or Email email@example.com
This competition is open to UK residents only.”
It comes with a helpful gallery of entries so far:
I’ve a few thoughts on this, but primarily that just for the sake of a fair fight, Alan Moore must never be allowed to enter.