Bigby Bear volume 3: The Explorer


By Philippe Coudray, translated by Miceal Beausang-O’Griafa (BiG-Humanoids/Simon Icke)
ISBN: 978-1-64337-935-7 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Astounding All-Ages Thoughtful Fun … 9/10

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 glorious 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 a graphic novel, these particular collected strips offer charming, visually challenging riffs on the theme of exploration and discovery, as seen through the eyes of an affably gentle bruin living wild, but mild, all the while honing his artistic skills and cognitive capacities.

Bigby and his animal entourage reside in a bucolic forest, coastal and mountain idyll, where they observe and 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 best 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 third translated volume the beguiling reaches of outer space and the compelling depths of the oceans are the new playgrounds and thought labs for the bemused cast, with Bigby and Co wandering other worlds, scanning the skies and voyaging to the bottom of the seas, keenly observing and making notes, scientific, artistic and even musical…

When not scaling heights and plumbing depths, our jolly questors have fun in museums, zoos and aquaria; encounter a far from abominable snowman and find time to pass their knowledge and discoveries on to his cub and a rapt younger generation…

Genteel fun, bemusing whimsy and enchanting illustration cloaking a sublimely 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, Book 3: The Explorer © 2020 Humanoids. Inc. All rights reserved. First published in France as L’Ours Barnabé © 2012-2019 La Boîte à Bulles and Philippe Coudray. All rights reserved.