Review: The Gigantic Beard that was Evil


Since we are talking about Beards what better time than now to introduce this awesome new book:

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, by Stephen Collins

Cartoonist Collins' debut graphic novel is filled with black-and-white sketches, which are funny, whimsical, bittersweet, and darkly visually.

Collins's fable-like graphic novel details what happens when borders collapse and stories have no tidy endings.”  this graphic novel is the perfect Archetypal parable that appreciates the value of eccentricity in a world of overwhelming uniformity and the thought of what could happen with just the appearance of one unruly facial hair.”

This Off-beat ambitious writing style of Stephen Collins novel has put this work in a class worthy of the names Roald Dahl and Tim Burton – being a darkly funny meditation on life, death, and what it means to be different.  And oh did I mention a timeless ode to the art of beard maintenance.  Now add to that the pages of crosshatched art panels, rich with nuances of black-and-white interiors put's the artwork in this book in a class with Aubrey Beardsley.

If Collins stylistic fable is no more than what Collin calls – “Stories are necessary lies.” -  Then I hope this awesome juiced up writer/artist has got a lot more lies to tell us.

February 29, 2016 - Leap Year

Hey guys, just think about this (especially if you are single): Imagine a day where you could get cards, flowers, condoms, or be asked out for your favorite meal or drink, and even maybe get a whole lot more. Where do I sign up, you ask? Well it’s on the books, 29th of February is the Day, and if you are one of the lucky chosen ones you just might want to be ready. So dress up, smell nice, and wear that big smile. It could be your lucky day.

Hey, you say, February 29 does not come around that often; why that day?  Well, it might be by design. When I was going to Middle and High School this event was sometimes moved to November; the reason will be clear in a moment. February 29 - I remember my parents laughing about the implications of that day, calling it the Jump the Broom Day or It’s Going To Be A Shotgun Proposal Day. In my Junior and Senior High years we celebrated it as part of Sadie Hawkins week, culminating in the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance to celebrate the end of the event. Yet the roots of Leap Year are steeped in history and lore, and its significance has morphed and changed over the decades. The Leap Year event seem veiled in legend and myth. The tales that surround this event are purported to come from 5th Century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait a long time before a man would propose. St. Patrick allegedly said the females could propose on this one day in February during the Leap year. Now this murky story is completely contradicted by the equally murky story of Queen Margaret of Scotland instituting a law fining men who said no to a woman who proposed to them on Leap Day. The substitute month of November, if there is no February 29, is an American adaptation.

The first real documentation of a Leap Year marriage practice dates back to 1288, when Scotland supposedly passed a law that allowed women to propose marriage to the man of their choice in that year. I find it interesting that the tradition didn’t catch on as a practice until the 18th century and really didn’t do much until early 20th century in America.

Which brings me back to the 20th century. We find the American version of this folk event originating off the pages of a comic strip, out of the mind of Al Capp, in the Li'l Abner hillbilly comic strip that ran from 1934–1978. To think I can find a small portion of my life originating from a comic strip! My real-world High School Sadie Hawkins Day and week, when girls sent boys notes and finally asked the boys out to the dance, was all due to Capp's comic strip catching the imagination of high school and college kids across the nation. But what is more telling of changes in American culture is not the Sadie Hawkins dance as much as the story itself.

In the story of Li'l Abner, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of one of Dogpatch's earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. The "homeliest gal in all them hills," she grew frantic waiting for suitors to come a-courtin'. When she reached the age of 35, still a spinster, her father was even more frantic - about Sadie living at home for the rest of her life. In desperation, he called together all the unmarried men of Dogpatch and declared it "Sadie Hawkins Day." A foot race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town's eligible bachelors. She specifically had her eye on a boy who was already in a courtship with a farmer's cute daughter, Theresa. She was the daughter of the area's largest potato farmer, Bill Richmand and, unlike Sadie, had a lot of courtship offers. Stud-muffin Adam Olis was her target, and because the engagement of Miss Theresa and Adam wasn't official he was included in the race. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the foot race, the men of the town were running for their freedom. Turned out Adam Olis was in 4th place out of 10th, leaving John Jonston Sadie's catch of the day. The town spinsters decided that this was such a good idea they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch bachelors. In the satirical spirit that drove the strip, many sequences revolved around the dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day race. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown by law he had to marry her.

By the early 1940s, the comic strip had swept the nation and acquired a life of its own. Outside the pages of the comic strip, the real implications of Sadie Hawkins Day were being explored: issues of equality or, at least, the grappling to understand the feelings and pressures of the other gender through role-reversal. Girls had to take the bold initiative of inviting the boy of their choice out on a date and the boys could only wait and hope to be picked by the girl of his dreams - something almost unheard of before 1937.

In the early 20th century it was common knowledge that women could propose marriage to men during Leap years. Postcards from the 1920s reveal some and negative attitudes about women who proposed to men and of the men who were proposed to.

Dr. Katherine Parkin, a historian at Monmouth University, in her research that entails Twentieth-Century Leap Year Marriage Proposals (published in the Journal of Family History), had found a quantity of cartoonish postcards depicting proposing women as ugly harridans, as fat, unattractive, and domineering - sometimes even violent - and the men they proposed to as scrawny, weak, and emasculated. For example, one of the postcards shows a tiny man squeaking “I surrender” as two gargantuan women, brandishing a total of four deadly weapons, pin him against the wall.

The postcard craze faded by late 1910s, but the misconception of a woman who could propose to man during Leap year lasted until the late 1960s. Fast forward to today and we find that those once strict gender roles have softened and sexual mores loosened; the notion of a proposing woman began to seem less patently ridiculous. And today in America we find ourselves in an era when the likes of both Britney Spears and Halle Berry have proposed marriage to men, showing a marked movement away from the past stereotype that proposing women look like ogres and that their men are weak and spineless.

So, on February 29 be available; be ready for the race, to run that gauntlet, knowing when to hold out, or speed up, or slow down until your version of Britney Spears or Halle Berry beats out all the others and you let her catch you. In America, the egalitarian nature of society now moving towards gender equality brings the knowledge that there are American women of today, women who are bright, attractive and who know who they are and what they want, who will no longer wait up for that ostensibly romantic ritual of the male proposal. As men we need to know that the partner that we want is there and that we won’t have to guess at what we can do to provide for her. Since many a couple does discuss marriage in advance, the progressive women may not wait for her boyfriend to get down on one knee and, in turn, many progressive men feel their right to negotiate a claim for a lasting union before the I dos.

We as a society may be past the point of assuming that man accepts a marriage proposal only at gunpoint, as one postcard from 1908 would have suggested. We’ve seen that Leap Year has been the traditional time that women could express their love passion and drive to be yoked to a man. We will see as we move forward towards equality of the sexes that if a woman chooses to propose to her male lover, she will have an option of not one day in an odd set of years but any of the 365 days of a year to do so, and society will not bat an eye.

Men, until that day drum up some ways to have February 29,2016 - this Leap Year - be a day of unimagined possibilities.