A Year In A Bear’s Life – ‘Bigby Bear: For All Seasons’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Winnie the Pooh famously tried to take honey from a beehive using balloons and mud to pass as a raincloud. I wouldn’t put it past Bigby Bear to try the same. The star of Humanoids’ series, Bigby Bear, volume two organizes Philippe Coudray’s one-page stories by season to take us through a year in Bigby Bear’s life.

Starting with the season we’re in now, Fall, if you liked volume one, volume two is basically more of the same and that’s not a bad thing. What I mean is Bigby Bear’s a bear stuck in his ways. He’s not going to do much growing and while volume two is different for trying to impose some order on Coudray’s stories, it’s not a rigid system. Other than the comics sharing a time of year, they’re all standalone, which means no ongoing storylines, just similar colors and weather patterns (with fall bringing wind, winter snow, and summer tourists). However much “seasons” implies time it’s really a loose theme. It’s not even necessary to assume the comics are in sequential order.

That doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to enjoy in another round of Bigby and Coudray’s gift for visual gags continues to be second to none. Bigby himself is an artist (most often a painter) and we see him use his talents to pull off all sorts of clever tricks, like when his friend, Rabbit, gives him permission to use his apples for a still life, on the condition Bigby promise not to eat them. Bigby paints a picture of a goat instead, but is that really what happened? The goat (if there was one) is long gone when Rabbit shows up, so it’s possible Bigby painted the goat to let himself off the hook, but it’s also possible Bigby’s only crime is not interfering – that he used Rabbit’s apples as bait for a living model.

Bigby isn’t a series to hold itself to being logical, either, like when Bigby breaks up a rock to stack the pebbles into a tower. Never mind that such a tower would never stay standing. Bigby tries to climb it, and Coudray has him succeed. The same goes for Bigby turning on a TV for light to read by at night. In real life he’d never manage it (you can’t watch a TV without electricity), but the point isn’t to try and replicate these feats but to allow yourself to think abstractly, whether it’s spatially (a mouse climbing Bigby’s back in the same time Bigby climbs a mountain) or mentally, through exciting, new viewpoints.

Experience feeds understanding, and for Bigby (a bear who hibernates in the winter), that’s how he understands trees losing their leaves. What comes out from reading this book is Bigby’s role in their appearance – he’s been flipping them over. The branches are actually the tree’s roots which, visually, checks out.

Another example is when Bigby leaves to put some clothes on, something bears aren’t known to do. At first you think you’re meant to accept it (enough cartoons show bears in clothes) but bears not wearing clothes is actually the point. It takes seeing the world through a bear’s eyes to get it.

For those willing to give the perspective a try, it can be extremely profound, as Bigby Bear: For All Seasons arrived on sale September 10th from Humanoids.

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