Re/Read is an occasional column by Fantagraphics Bookstore curator Larry Reid that examines backlist titles you may have missed or are worthy of another read. This week we’ll focus on Big Baby by Seattle native Charles Burns.
Big Baby collects four stories created by Burns between 1983 and 1992 from works published in RAW comix anthology and his syndicated “Big Baby” comic strip. Much like the Hernandez Brothers‘ Love & Rockets stories of this period, science fiction plays an important role, though Burns’ EC horror comics influences are more evident. His primary protagonist is a peculiar little boy with an intense imagination. Burns confesses in the book’s epilogue that his character “is in many ways an abstracted reflection of my own childhood growing up in middle class suburban America.” These seminal themes of alienation and supernatural phenomenon would become central to the work of Burns throughout his illustrious career.
Of the stories here, “Teen Plague” is perhaps the most important. In it, Burns explores a contagious adolescent mutation, which later became the theme of his graphic novel masterwork, Black Hole, serialized in comic book form by Fantagraphics Books. It’s worth noting the source of this alien scourge bears a striking resemblance to the character Mike Wazowski in Pixar’s wildly popular feature film Monsters, Inc.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 8 as Burns returns to Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery to discuss Black Hole and other early works as part of Fantagraphics’ 40th anniversary festivities. See you all then.