“Goliath” and “Jinchalo” in Uptown Magazine

One giant’s terrible day at work British cartoonist Tom Gauld reimagines the Biblical story of David and Goliath

Uptown Magazine    |    QUENTIN MILLS-FENN    |    July 5, 2012

A famous figure is actually a reluctant villain in Goliath (Drawn & Quarterly), a sharp, sensitive and dryly funny graphic retelling of the Bible story by British cartoonist Tom Gauld.

The book opens with the Israelites and the Philistines at war, their armies marshalled on either side of a valley. No one seems to know what the fighting’s about, including Goliath, an enlisted man with the Philistines who’s not much of a fighter, though he’s big; instead, he’s happy doing administrative work.

Meanwhile, an ambitious captain concocts a plan to escalate the war between the two armies and needs a fierce-looking giant to carry it out. Before he knows what’s happening, Goliath is equipped with armour, spear and sword, as well as a nine-year-old shield-bearer. He’s not given much in the way of instruction, just to head to the valley and call out to the Israelites: "Choose a man. Let him come to me that we may fight. If he be able to kill me, then we shall be your servants. But if I kill him, then you shall be our servants."

The drawings have lots of wry touches, like Goliath’s stubbly face or the contrast between the giant and his wee shield-bearer. The artwork seems simple but conveys a lot, from Goliath’s permanent stoop to the empty valley over which the two armies are fighting.

It’s a sad story, too, of course. (Spoiler: The story doesn’t end well for Goliath.) Our hero is trapped by the perceptions of others. The guiltless are sometimes condemned by the powerful. And the powerful, whether an unscrupulous captain, an apathetic king or a vengeful god, can write the story to their wishes and history might be none the wiser.

• • •

Jinchalo (Drawn & Quarterly) is a witty, charming, enchanting fable by Montreal’s Matthew Forsythe.

Based on Korean comics and folk tales, it tells the story of a greedy little girl, Voguchi, who gleefully and thoughtlessly gobbles all the food in her family’s house. Sent to the village market to restock the pantry, she encounters Jinchalo, a shapeshifter who decides to have some fun.

Wonders occur as Voguchi starts a fabulous journey thanks to Jinchalo’s mischief. It’s a story full of surprising twists and transformations, and mysterious creatures: monsters, robots — and one cartoonist.

The book is largely wordless as Forsythe tells his story almost entirely through imagery. Voguchi’s facial expressions perfectly suggest her crankiness. The drawings are beautifully detailed and there’s one page — of Voguchi sitting on a flower surrounded by hummingbirds — that’s truly gorgeous.
This is a story about the unexpected places that being naughty can take you.

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