The Gigantic Robot
Tom Gauld, writer/artist
Buenaventura Press, June 2009
32 pages, hardcover/cardstock
At first blush there’s a disconnect between The Gigantic Robot‘s content and its price point. I’m pretty sure that when I bought it at MoCCA, I was charged $20–which, hey, it’s a big hardcover book by Tom Gauld, a bargain at any price! As it turns out, however, it’s more a short story than a book, and the emphasis is on “short.” You get a splash-page single image on the right-hand page of each spread, and a brief (no more than seven words at any point) explanatory caption on the left-hand page. Gauld’s three-pager in Kramers Ergot 7 was heftier.
But look, essentially you’re paying for this like you would for a piece of original art, or at least that’s how I look at it. You’re not going to have many opportunities to buy a board book from a Kramers alum, right? And everything that Gauld’s work usually has to recommend it is present here in spades. The beautiful, densely shaded, cold black-and-white linework suggests Edward Gorey as replaced by a robot, while the story is Gauld’s purest distillation yet of his “Ozymandias”-like juxtaposition of immense man-made structures with the fleeting futility of human ambition. As always it’s reinforced by his unique character design, all massive torso with spindly legs and microcephalic heads, emphasizing raw size over any kind of reliable utility. You may quibble with this little parable’s punchline–having just read Ian Kershaw’s 1,000-page biography of Hitler, the post-war activities of the scientists who worked on the Reich’s “wonder weapons” are fresh in my mind, so the notion that a war machine with the potential for serious megadeaths would be allowed to lie fallow rings false to me. But the moral of the story is sound, and the pleasure of once again watching Gauld’s tiny lines coalesce into these massive monuments to hubris is undeniable.