When Goliath met David
In Tom Gauld's new story, the Biblical tale of David and Goliath is retold from the giant's point of view, making for the comic book artist's most accomplished and moving work to date...
At nearly 100 pages, Goliath is Gauld's most extensive graphic narrative yet and his first for a major comics publisher. Self-publishing for the best part of a decade, his commercial illustration projects have seen him contributing regular strips to The New York Times and The Guardian, but in signing up with Drawn & Quarterly he is welcomed into an esteemed comic book stable.
Readers familiar with his drawing style will recognise the cross-hatched characters and landscapes in Goliath, and the existential theme that has framed much of his work from Guardians of the Kingdom in 2001, to the Hunter and Painter series of 2007.
In a Gauld comic, 'action' isn't necessarily high on the agenda; instead there is often a fair bit of waiting around, even some well-crafted silence – life, even life within a Bible story, always has a lot more mundanity to it than the superhero comics let us believe. And there's always a bit of admin to do, too, as in Goliath of Gath's case.
This version of the story is concerned with the foreground to Goliath's famous meeting with the slingshot-wielding David – and in the lead-up to that event there is plenty for Gauld to play with.
Goliath is depicted as a bit of a pacifist but he seems to acknowledge the irony of being in the army. While he doesn't like bear baiting ("It's not really my thing"), he can still appreciate the feel of a decent suit of armour ("It does feel rather good, actually"). Gauld is a great draughtsman, but what also marks his work stand out is his keen ear for dialogue and tone of voice, and how this is paced within the narrative.
One detail I particularly liked is the way that Goliath is occasionally drawn with his head just out of the panel: he's too tall and cumbersome to fit into the comic. Indeed, as in his earlier work, Gauld often infers things are happening beyond the confines of his frames – he isn't afraid of using white space or text-free passages, either, and employs both to powerful affect. On the left hand page, below, the boy's proud but silent fascination with his dagger in the second-to-last panel is one of many brilliantly observed moments.
And the progress of the approaching old man, shown below, draws a scene out agonisingly over two pages:
In Goliath, Gauld renders his obsessions with various aspects of daily life which we can all relate to: the middle management of the army captain serving his superior; the fantastically personal questions of the boy shield-bearer; and Goliath's put-upon reluctance to be part of the army's puffed up, gung-ho spiel.
As a character, Gauld's Goliath gets our sympathy from the outset and his story is beautifully brought to life by one of the UK's best. A win for the giant.
Goliath is published by Drawn & Quarterly; £14.99. Gauld is set to appear at a selection of bookshops in the UK where he will be signing copies of the book (see the events poster on his site, here). There is also a launch next Friday at Gosh! in London where Gauld has also created a Goliath window graphic for the shop and also designed a special limited edition bookplate for the book, which can be pre-ordered here.
Finally, Gosh! also has a good interview with Gauld who talks about how he made the new book and his move to D&Q. Talking of the David and Goliath story, Gauld says there are "big gaps" in the narrative so "my story could take place in those big gaps". The film was made by Tom Crowley.
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