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Book Review < Back

Big Baby

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Charles Burns
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books


Big Baby is the cruel nickname given to our hero, Tony: Just a regular boy living in an anonymous Levittown-type of suburbia, a regular dad, a regular mom, and regular friends. He just has a big weird head that makes him look like an infant grown large, climbing trees in short pants and Converse All-Stars. Using Tony as a gentle sort of metaphor for innocence and alienation, we follow him around on his typical boy adventures, all of which implicate a miasma of sex and violence just beneath all that Capra on the surface.

Tony's life is full of magic, innocence, and strangeness, the kind of thing that we all felt and lived through as kids only to have it fade away at the edges as we grew up. The Big Baby stories show the Adult World making its moves on Tony, leaving him always a little more grown up at the end, sadly.

Take, for instance, "Blood Club", the centerpiece of this volume. Tony, away at camp the first time, is forced to deal with that trauma in the midst of discovering the Urban Legend - well, it's camp, so a Rural Legend, I guess - of the Dead Boy, killed under strange and horrible circumstances. The difference between this any Rural Legend you've ever heard is that the Dead Boy starts talking to Tony...

In the hands of almost anyone else, these stories of awkward boyhood alienation and fear would reek of cynicism and derision for the characters. Burns, we almost feel, grows up alongside Tony and shares his repulsion, confusion, and acceptance with the fierce, strange world they find themselves in.

-- Matt Fraction

Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.


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