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TV, Comic Books
No sooner will a stage adaptation of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo close in London than another play based on another comic will open in Bristol.
On Jan. 7, the Bristol Old Vic Young Company will debut its production of The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, Stephen Collins‘ acclaimed 2013 graphic novel about a man with a boring job who suddenly begins to grow a beard quickly becomes so massive and uncontrollable that it upends the staid order of the island.
Stephen Collins’ debut graphic novel The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year Award, pitting him against such established authors as Kate Atkinson and Julian Barnes.
Published in June by Jonathan Cape, the graphic novel is an off-beat fairy tale about a man with a boring office job who quite suddenly begins to grow a beard — but not just any beard. It quickly becomes, as the title suggests, massive and uncontrollable, attracting the attention of tourists and law enforcement alike, and upending the staid order on the island of Here.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is in competition with five other books: Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson; Levels of Life, by Julian Barnes; Maps, by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński; Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life, by Nina Stibbe; and Stoner, by John Williams.
Nominees for the Waterstones Book of the Year Award are selected by the British retailer’s booksellers from across the country, who were asked “to choose a book that stood out in its field, and that would speak to the company’s core customers – those people who love reading and that love books.” The winner will be announced Dec. 3.
Awards | Stephen Collins’ The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil won the inaugural 9th Art Award, announced Sunday during the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Presented by Graphic Scotland, the prize recognizes the year’s best English-language graphic novel. The other finalists were: Building Stories, by Chris Ware; Days of the Bagnold Summer, by Joff Winterhart; Naming Monsters, by Hannah Eaton; and The Nao of Brown, by Glyn Dillon. [9th Art Award]
Manga | Raina Telgemeier’s comic about Barefoot Gen has attracted attention in Japan, where one city recently removed the manga from elementary-school classrooms, claiming it’s too violent for children (the manga depicts the bombing of Hiroshima). “I was lucky to have adults in my life who were willing to discuss the violent subject matter with me, and help me put the story in historical context, and clarify things I might not yet understand,” Telgemeier told The Asahi Shimbun. “After I finished volume 1 of Barefoot Gen, I was deeply upset. (But) as a child, I believed that if people simply saw what war was all about, they would take care that it wouldn’t happen anymore.” [The Asahi Shimbun]
Retailing | Following a price war during which it lost $11,000 a day, Overstock.com has vowed to match Amazon’s price on books, including graphic novels, going forward. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne thinks he can get better prices from publishers who want to boost competition for Amazon. However, as ICv2 points out, Overstock’s graphic novel selection is smaller than Amazon’s, and prices overall have risen since their recent price war. [ICv2]
Creators | Todd McFarlane recently claimed no work that was “trying to get across a message” has succeeded as a comic, but Laura Sneddon finds proof to the contrary at the Stripped festival in Edinburgh, where she talked to Joe Sacco, Paul Cornell, Stephen Collins and Grant Morrison about the ideas that drive their comics. [New Statesman]
Graphic Scotland has announced the shortlist for the inaugural 9th Art Award, which recognizes the year’s best English-language graphic novel:
“The shortlist for the first 9th Art Award shows the strength and diversity of graphic literature,” 9th Art Director Gordon Robertson wrote. “A list made up of five books that will each go on to become classics in their own right; any one would be a worthy winner of the prize.”
The winner will be presented during a ceremony held Sunday at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
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.
It’s been a big couple of weeks for U.K. comics publishing, and a lot of that might have to do with this weekend’s Comica Festival (a.k.a. “the 10th London International Comics Festival”). There has been a rush of titles from British graphic novel publishers of late, no doubt timed for a big push at this most art-centric of U.K. comics conventions (it’s hosted this year at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, and I dare anyone of a certain vintage to think of that place and not start humming this).
There’s a lot of great stuff out there at the minute that’s maybe not getting enough coverage internationally, so let’s do a round-up, shall we? There’s a myth that the American comics audience is insular, so let’s disprove it: These books are even already available in English, although their spelling is a bit suspect at times. Yeah, you heard me, buy a dictionary, limeys!
• The Man Who Laughs, the oddest of Victor Hugo’s novels, adapted by David Hine and Mark Stafford, published by SelfMadeHero: Hine has posted a host of panels from the book at his blog. I was previously ignorant of Stafford’s work, but these are some handsome-looking samples; they reminded me a little of the great Dave Cooper. Hine is always good value, and has a track record of making some genuinely unsettling comics (Strange Embrace, The Bulletproof Coffin), so this sounds like the perfect alignment of talent to source material.
I’m not sure who turned me on to Stephen Collins, but I just spent a half-hour enjoying his short comics when I should have been working. Collins is British, and he has that wry sense of humor that blends incongruity and wit to make you look at something ordinary in a new way. The comics collected on his website Colillo span a number of topics, from sentient hand dryers to Martian invaders who are Tom Cruise fans to Thomas Pynchon’s dark secret. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be possible to link to individual comics, but just head to that left navbar and start clicking — there isn’t a clunker in the bunch.