The “Big Book” series of comic books is weird one. I’ve seen a few, but only ever read this one in full. The Big Book of Weirdos is about various historical figures and their antics, which range from quirky to insane (it’s mostly insane). In general, the book goes by type of person (actor, dictator, etc) and in chronological order, though not always.
The book starts with Caligula (basically), which is never a good choice if one wants a book to remain nice and/or sane. Continuing on from there is a whole host of personalities: Hitler, Tesla, Ford, Kafka, Dali, on and on. Most of these characters get around 6 pages of harsh black-and-white drawing. Many don’t shy away from being repulsive in various ways, and the many artists who took part in the work all have unique ways of looking at things. Some are quite minimalist and attractive, where others are hard to follow, and in many the people just look ugly. I know this is by design in many cases, but there are ways of making people look insane without disfiguring them and disturbing the reader.
Some of the stories are interesting, some a gross, some slow, some fast, some well-known, and some untrue. Syphilis is blamed for many things, and alcohol is a demon. Overall, the storytelling is nice, but too vague, and one is simply told things. The other things that are going on are not even allowed to the imagination, and as I said many things are untrue. Facts weren’t verified entirely for the book, which is fine. It doesn’t try to present itself as a reference, and it shouldn’t be. Its art indicates that it was an exercise, like many of the books in the series, to have many different artists contribute to a common theme. And the art does work well together. The stories and pictures are not jarring, nor badly crafted. They both show the utmost of technical skill, if not the grasp of facts.
But technical skill does not make for pleasant reading, and while the book is a great reference for different art styles, in many cases the art is unattractive. Even the best-rendered visual of people being torn apart isn’t fun to look at (that doesn’t explicitly happen).
The book is interesting, both to read and to look at, but I’m not sure I can recommend it. The various historical figures explored don’t have the time to be more than one-dimensional, insane puppets. There is very little to attach you to them, which may be a good thing in many cases. It’s a fun read at times, and a crazy read, and an interesting read. But I can’t say it’s a good book. Beyond being on a coffee table to start conversation, it isn’t that great. Or perhaps (the reason I keep my copy) it can be used as a reference for different art styles and ways to tell a story.