Bigby Bear: For All Seasons

By Philippe Coudray, translated by Miceal Beausang-O’Griafa (BiG/Humanoids)
ISBN: 978-1-64337-990-6(HB)

Born in Bordeaux in March 1960, writer, photographer and illustrator Philippe Coudray specialises in cartoons and books for children. Working with brother Jean-Luc, they co-crafted the Drôles sequence of books and comics series Théocrite. However, Philippe conceived and executed his signature creation L’Ours Barnabé – the philosophically absurdist ruminations of an artistically-inclined bear and his woodland companions – all on his own…

When not crafting kids’ comics or surreal otherworldly gags (such as Loin de Tout) Philippe writes articles and such like for magazines such as Capsule Cosmique, Psikopat, Perlin and Fripounet as well as books such as Guide to Hidden Animals: Treatise on Cryptozoology. His works have been used by the French government to combat illiteracy and translated into many languages; none more so than L’Ours Barnabé which has appeared in Japan, China, Germany Sweden, and a couple of times in America. The first time was as Benjamin Bear (twice nominated for Eisner Awards and winning China’s 2012-2013 Panda Prize) and latterly here as the beguiling and frequently beguiled Bigby

Often employing puzzles and riddles and as much children’s storybook of episodic vignettes as graphic novel, these particular collected strips offer charming, visually challenging riffs on the impact of the year’s divisions, as seen through the eyes of an affably gentle bruin living wild and honing his artistic skills.

Bigby and his animal entourage reside in a bucolic forest, coastal and mountain idyll, where they observe tentatively interact with the wider world, pondering big questions in a surreal and often absurdist daze.

Visual tricks and double-takes abound as Bigby and his rabbit chum play with universal constants, carve, sculpt, paint, compose, garden and wander for the sheer joy of creativity. Almost in passing the gags subtly pose questions to make youngsters think – about art, science, psychology, mathematics, ecology and much more – but Coudray never misses an opportunity to share a solid laugh with his readers and reinforce his message that life is great if we all just mellow out and cooperate with each other.

He’s also more than happy to pepper the strips with the occasional telling moment of social commentary if the chance arises…

In this second translated volume exploring the wonders of the annual cycle, ‘Fall’ opens the fun with a wealth of cartoon ruminations on harvest, climate, travel and occupying spare time before ‘Winter’ centres on snow, chills and Christmas with the big guy eschewing hibernation for the joys of playing with his cub and chums.

A time of renewal and abundance is enjoyed in ‘Spring’ as the bear hunts early fruit and honey – as well as cold, hard cash – and languishes in paradisiacal field and stream before ambling into ‘Summer’ where fishing, swimming, visiting, hobbies and games fill every endless day

Genteel fun, bemusing whimsy and enchanting illustration cloaking a supremely inclusive philosophy of curiosity, enquiry and cohabitation, Bigby Bear is an excellent, irrepressible example of how to enjoy life and crucial reading for young and old alike. Get the digital edition immediately before backing it up with the wonderfully tactile, sturdy hardback your kids will want to paw and peer at over and over again…
Bigby Bear: For All Seasons © 2012-2018 La Boîte à Bulles and Philippe Coudray. All rights reserved.