YouTube has the ability to bring fame to average Joes, but in Pascal Girard’s third graphic novel, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Bigfoot is the story of a teenaged boy named Jimmy, whose problems are fairly typical for his age: he lives in a boring small town, his friendship with the selfish Simon is one of convenience, and he has a huge, unrequited crush on a girl who probably thinks of him as just a friend.
But when a YouTube video of Jimmy dancing in his living room goes viral, his problems become much more interesting. Since he lives in such a small town, it doesn’t take long before everyone has seen the clip. Soon, Jimmy becomes a local celebrity (retailers even start selling “Disco Jimmy” T-shirts in their stores). But Jimmy’s the shy, dreaming type, and becoming a pop culture figure puts him in a spotlight that he is emotionally unprepared to handle. Fame is a fickle friend, Jimmy learns, especially when he cares more about getting the girl than getting the highest number of views online.
While Jimmy is busy attempting to avoid celebrity status, his uncle Pierre tries to thrust himself directly into the spotlight by posting a YouTube video of his supposed Bigfoot sighitng. But like Jimmy, he quickly discovers the pressures that come with fame are often too much.
A story about the perils of Internet stardom may seem to pander to today’s youth, but Bigfoot’s unrequited love story adds a timeless quality. Girard’s spare drawing style pairs well with his characters’ emotionally charged dialogue, making the book a worthy addition to the coming of age genre.
Girard retains his simple yet fluid style in Reunion, although this time he takes a semi-autobiographical turn. Reunion takes place in the summer of 2009, when Pascal receives an invitation to attend his 10-year high school reunion and begins a daily jogging regimen with the intention of losing 50 pounds in the three months leading up to the event. Pascal is positive this drastic weight loss will be the key to branding himself a winner in the eyes of his former classmates.
At base, Reunion is a story for anyone who’s ever felt like an underdog, and especially for anyone who has ever been labelled a loser. Pascal realizes that, although he’s now a fairly successful comics artist, he hasn’t succumbed to traditional post-high-school aspirations: he’s not rich, he doesn’t own a home or a car, and he’s not married with children. By shedding weight, Pascal thinks he will appear more successful and impress his high school crush, Lucie.
Although Pascal succeeds in reaching his goal on the eve of the reunion, everything else backfires: his conversations with former classmates are heartbreakingly disastrous, and Lucie doesn’t even show up. Ten years may have passed, but Pascal finds that the popular kids are still at the top, and the losers are still scraping by at the bottom.
Girard’s spare storytelling is honest and truthful. It’s upsetting to see Pascal try so hard, only to have his dreams crushed. But despite the novel’s somewhat downbeat message, Reunion isn’t without its share of laughs. The book’s funniest moments involve Pascal desperately trying to reach his goal weight. For example, he attends a dinner party where he is subject to awkward leg spasms due to his excessive running regime. Girard’s poignant humour is extremely self-deprecating, and often Pascal laughs at himself in the same way the reader is compelled to. It’s this seemingly effortless combination of humour and drama that makes the book’s emotional punch truly resonate.