Art & Photography

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil: The Set-Up

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins – book jacketOver two days, celebrated comic artist and writer Stephen Collins takes us through the journey of creating his first long-form comic book about a giant, scary beard that was evil

…The Set-UpThe Set-Up

Comics are weird. They’re a control-freak medium, where you get to be writer, director, costume designer, set designer, lighting technician and all of the actors in your own little film. They also, as I discovered with my first long-form comic The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, take a hell of a long time to make.

My production period was pretty short: two years’ work to make a 45-minute read. I’ve heard of some people taking seven years to do graphic novels. Still, two years is an incredibly long time to be producing something, particularly if like me you’re accustomed to the short weekly deadline of a two-line Guardian comic. I had to take it on holiday, lightbox and all. Here I am working in our holiday cottage when I should be walking by the sea…

The workload felt pretty crushing at times, but it was all worth it in the end: two days ago, when the first copy arrived and I finally got to have my George McFly moment, pulling an actual published book out of the jiffy bag.

“Beards are weird – we all know this at some deep level”

The whole thing started early 2011. It was my wife’s idea to do a book about one man and his giant beard. I’d been scrabbling around with dead-end ideas for weeks, until she finally, in supportive exasperation, said “why don’t you just do a book about a man with a massive beard”. I liked the idea – it was catchy somehow, and oddly resonant of all the weird metaphorical baggage that we seem to put on facial hair. Untidiness, chaos, masculinity, interiority-vs-exteriority, stuff like that. Beards are weird – we all know this at some deep level. So I started writing my book.

…The Set-UpThe Premise

What I came up with was a combination of children’s yarn, and a sort of existential horror story about the great untidiness we’re all headed to. It concerns the fate of a guy called Dave, who lives on an obsessively tidy, prim, and beardless island simply named “Here”. His life trundles on in spotless dronery until one day, the Chaos of the Universe decides to erupt through his face in the form of a massive and uncontrollable Beard. How will the islanders deal with it? And what will they do with Dave?

Read the second part of our interview with Stephen. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is out now through Jonathan Cape