The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

Strolling through my Barnes and Noble, I stumbled across a graphic novel called “The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.” How could I resist? Not only was it a beard. But it was an evil beard to boot.

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The graphic novel, but Stephen Collins, is a tranquil journey through a surreal word. I want to liken it to  Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton, but the experience isn’t that overt or obvious. The book’s tag line perhaps says it best — The job of skin is to keep it all in. Here, the skin means the skin of the world. Normalcy. The job of normalcy is to keep all the weird and frightening stuff in, so you don’t have to experience it. In this sense, the book take on a bit of the Cthulhu mythology. Only instead of a tentacled cephalopod, we get a massive black beard (which is evil, don’t forget).

Collins does a wonderful job of setting up the back story. Our protagonist, Dave, is totally bald and hairless, except for a single hair. This makes his eventual bearddom even more of a 180. This would be wonderful foreshadowing if the book title and image didn’t already let you know that the beard is, in fact, coming.

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Even so, I like how the Collins explains his world and gives its limitations, letting the reader know what’s at stake. For example, everyone in this graphic novel lives in a place called Here. It’s very similar to where you live, in fact. Only Here is an island surrounded by There. There is the unknown. The chaotic. The untidy.

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The image of Here versus There brings to mind the Greek idea of the beginning of the world.

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Tidiness seems to be a prevalent theme in the book. many pages and images are devoted to the tidying of the streets and the people. Gradually, as the evil beard makes its presence known, untidiness happens.

Dave’s only source of joy is sitting by his window and sketching the passersby (all while listening to the Bangles “Eternal Flame” on repeat). After he grows his beard, he notices how similar all the people are, and by contrast, how different he’s become.

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But this difference was there all along. Hidden beneath the skin of his dreams. He’s always heard the voices of There, hissing into his brain, bringing untidy thoughts.

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Of course, along with the brilliant story, we have Collins’s astounding artwork. His visuals aptly capture the serene creepiness of chaos leaking into the world.

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I highly recommend this book. Buy it and give it a good read through. You won’t regret it. Even if you are clean shaven.

Tim Kane

My Unexpected Comic Con Journey

Every year, I’ve been lucky enough to garner a professional badge to the San Diego Comic Con. Every year except this one. I was too slow on the draw to contact the Comic Con folks and when I did, they were out of badges. I didn’t like the situation, but what could I do? (This was after the sale of tickets.) So I spent my July hanging out with my family doing touristy vacation stuff (like SeaWorld and the La Brea Tar Pits). Then a good friend asked if I could use some comps (this would be Wednesday night, before the Con started). Of course I said yes.

The Ice King before the Mushroom War as Simon Petrikov

The Ice King before the Mushroom War as Simon Petrikov

With no planning, I embarked on my trek through the largest and most populated convention Saturday morning. I must say, no amount of Googling would predict the length of the badge line. (Up till this point, I’d gone through the professional entrance, which is very quick.) I arrived at 8:30, right when the website said badge pickup opens. There was a long line, so I pulled out my phone to busy myself. Then the lined moved and it never stopped moving. I was up in the Sails Pavillion, badge in hand, in under five minutes. Wow! Now, by the time 9:30 rolled around the place was packed, so I imagine the badge line was longer and moving slower. TIP: arrive at the start time to get your badge quickly.

A lounge singing Boba Fett? Not quite sure who these people are.

A lounge singing Boba Fett? Not quite sure who these people are.

I was waylaid at the Mattel booth for far too long. Their line up system was horrific. I wanted to snag an Ever After High doll for my daughter. Wanted is the key word. I’m willing to accept long lines and product vanishing. That’s a given at the Con. But the line was “capped” so that meant no one else could enter. Then the weirdness happened. The line moved forward (cutting the number of people in half along the wall) but the security guards wouldn’t let anyone else in. They were very aggressive and rude (apparently manhandling many patrons). I heard one guard tell a guest that he would confiscate his bag and kick him out if he didn’t keep moving.

Mojo Jo Jo and Him from the PowerPuff Girls.

Mojo Jo Jo and Him from the PowerPuff Girls.

The only way to get into the line, as far as we could tell, was to be lucky. Because people did get in. I stood on the sidelines, waiting for the capped sign to go down and let more people in, yet the line gradually grew back to its former length. I guess what you were supposed to do was circle the convention floor, like a shark in chummed water, and hope (that’s the best word) that they let you in. Ridiculous.

Needless to say, I never got into the line.

There were plenty of Game of Thrones cosplay going on.

There were plenty of Game of Thrones cosplay going on: Daenerys Targaryen and Dothraki Khal Drogo.

On the plus side, I was able to waltz into the Regular Show panel over at the Hilton. No line. No wait. This panel was amazing. They played the Thanksgiving song and we were gifted with an upcoming episode (The Bachelor Party). The cast was just entertaining as their characters. The panel featured J.G. Quintel (creator, Mordecai), William Salyers (Rigby), Sean Szeles (supervising director), Roger Craig Smith (Thomas), Minty Lewis (storyboard artist, Eileen), and Matt Price (story editor, Quips).

JG Quintel

JG Quintel

I snagged grub at great new restaurant called the Werewolf Pub (yes, that’s its name, no gimmick). The food was astounding. I will certainly visit again.

I loved seeing Hagrid's Monster Compendium on the shelf.

I loved seeing Hagrid’s Monster Compendium on the shelf.

The other panel I visited was the Marvel S.T.A.T.I.O.N. sponsored by former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. The whole panel consisted of real scientists who played along with the S.H.I.E.L.D. premise (we were all promoted to level 4 S.H.I.E.L.D. agents). The panel discussed the scientific underpinnings of the four Avengers (Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and Iron Man) and how their powers worked. I enjoyed the debate over Thor’s hammer. Does it hold a liquid neutron star or does it use weak and strong nuclear forces to change it’s weight?

A full cosplay cast of SpaceBalls was also in attendance.

A full cosplay cast of SpaceBalls was also in attendance.

Of course I shopped and snapped pictures of any interesting costumed cosplayer I could find. That’s the best part about the Con, the folks you see. Everyone (minus the Mattel guards) were courteous and polite. Even when we were crammed into an aisle like tribbles in a ventilation shaft, everyone persevered and kept their smiles up.

Tim Kane

A Comic Strip for your Deepest Fears

I keep my fears to myself. But not Fran Krause. She creates comic strips of her (plus anyone who submitted their fears). The results, truly disturbing. And personally, I love disturbing. Here’s a sample…

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I’ve never had this fear. But I do now. Except, this fear doesn’t factor in ceilings.

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Okay, this is one that I had all the time growing up. No, I still have this one. When it’s dark, everything starts to take shape. And it freaks me out.

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This one seriously freaks me out. Mostly because I believe in ghosts, and I could see a ghost taking up space in my bed.

Check out more of these bizarre comics at Deep-Dark-Fears.

Tim Kane

Monsters and Aliens, Oh My

Tom Gauld creates stunning prints of monsters and aliens. Check out his hairy monster below. I took the liberty of animating it so you could see all 3 prints.

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Animated gif of a monster’s internal organs. Click to see him animate.

He also has a “Noisy Alphabet” where aliens create all the sounds.

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He also has multiple comic strips. Here’s my fav, having read Ulysses myself.

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Check this artist out. You won’t be disappointed.

Tim Kane

Creepy Webcomic with Pale White Corpses

I stumbled across the webcomic Out of Skin and was taken by the stark language and stunning, almost greytone, graphics.

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The prose also delivers: “The moon shone clean and white as a skull.”

The story is a period piece, perhaps late nineteenth century. It centers around a woman, who lives alone in the woods, discovering a grave of pale corpses uncovered by the rain. The mystery of what happens drags her down some creepy paths. Namely a tree with flesh for bark and hands for leaves.

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Truly a work of fiction that delves into some deep places of horror. Read and enjoy.

Tim Kane

Costumes at the San Diego Comic Con

Part of the fun of Comic Con is all the folks dressed up. I snapped plenty of pictures, but not all of them came out in focus. Here are the non-blurry photos.

On my way to baggage check, I ran into Batgirl.

Always great costumes around the Marvel booth. Here we have Nick Fury and Black Widow.

Man. That’s some paint job. But the effect is cosmic. Great Silver Surfer.

This guy had a fantastic Iron Man suit. He even cut his chin hairs to match Robert Downey Jr.

Tremendous steampunk maiden.

Everyone loves a werewolf. They do. It’s scientific fact.

At least it’s air conditioned in the convention center.

Tim Kane

San Diego Comic Con Shopping Spree

Even though I live in the same city as the San Diego Comic Con, I still treat it as a vacation. Thus, vacation spending. I give myself a budget and then spend every penny of it. Here are some stand out items (and where to find them) on the Exhibition Floor.

The first booth I plopped cash down was “Fuzzy Balls Apparel”. Yes, clever name. They were responsible for the hand sewn apple and the “eye” flower (which is actually a hair clip). You can find them at booth 4839. Another of my favorite booths is Conduct Happiness (booth 4832), home of the Pea, as in “pea in the pool” or the “pea pea dance.” I picked up another hair clip for my daughter here. The stuffed Frankenstein was from The Bijou Collectibles (booth C-01). I can’t recall where I picked up the stuffed kitty.

I’m always a sucker for steampunk and no one does it better than Weta (booth 3513B). I picked up yet another fabulous book from Dr. Grordbort. This year, it was Triumph, Unnecessarily Violent Tales of Science Adventure for the Simple and Unfortunate – written and illustrated by Greg Broadmore. I grabbed the last Berry Ninja apron (for kids). I can’t recall the booth, but I do know it was right next to Fuzzy Balls Apparel. Finally, the small book you see is “Wonderland Alphabet” giving each letter an Alice in Wonderland twist. This was from Archaia Entertainment (booth 2635). I just read this book to my daughter. It really goes deep into both Alice Books (Wonderland and Looking Glass).

I’m love T-shirts, but I detest the standard black or white fair. Snap T-shirts (I can’t locate the booth number, but it was near artist’s alley). This guy hand screens the shirts himself. Hard to see in this picture, but the shirt is a burgundy color. The book is called “So Good for Little Bunny” by Brandi Milne. This was from a combo booth with Griz Grimley and other artists (this might be booth 501). Finally the Frankenstein is a “Kooky Kans” from Mixo (booth 4633).

Enjoy the comic con and remember, there are ATMs in the lobby.

Tim Kane