I guess I’m a sucker for a nice bit of well-done Biblical revisionism. Not the usual “Jesus hates gays and whores and abortion” revisionism we tend to get in the U.S., but the fun revisionism we can get from fiction and comics.
So here’s British cartoonist Tom Gauld‘s story of Goliath, as in the big bad guy who shrimpy teen shepherd David killed with his sling. But here, Goliath isn’t a trained, terrifying warrior. He’s one of the worst swordsmen in the army, and he mainly works on administrative tasks, which is where his real talents lie. He has little interest in war, and would be perfectly happy to work on paperwork and ledgers for the rest of his military career.
But some scheming officer realizes that Goliath’s height is pretty intimidating, and cooks up a scheme to get him some special ceremonial armor, heavy weapons, and a young boy to serve as his shield carrier. Then he sends him out to the no-man’s-land between the armies of Gath and Israel and tells him to read a script that has been written for him, bragging on his might and militia skills, and promising to fight a single Israelite soldier to determine which of the two nations will become the slave of the other.
This is a stone drag for Goliath, who thinks the whole scheme is ridiculous. But he goes out every day, recites the script, then waits, completely bored, and makes small talk with his shield carrier.
But this scheme can’t last forever, can it? Eventually, some little schmuck comes out with a kid’s toy, and the story plays out more like we’ve become accustomed to.
Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great little combo of humor, tragedy, and, really, empathy, to imagine what a minor Biblical figure’s real life might’ve been like, to find the grand comedy of the legendary badass being a gentle giant, and then to carry the whole story on to the bitter end, especially after working so hard to turn Goliath into a deeply sympathetic character.
Gauld’s artwork is great — his style merges stick-figures with detailed cross-hatching, which comes across as incredibly appealing. The story has a lot of people sitting around talking, and it’s still not boring. He even has a few incredible moments of iconic action, with a small rock hovering in mid-air.
It’s a short book and a fast read. And it’s hardcover, which may scare some of y’all off. But it’s a beautiful book, and right now, Drawn & Quarterly has it on sale, so it’s a great time to go pick it up.