From a strip in the Daily Illini newspaper to this book of his comic series, Dan Dougherty’s Beardo is a sweet, funny, and sarcastic look at the life of an artist. Very relatable to those who also have art degrees and are trying to make it. This is a very honest depiction of real life, a breath of fresh air in the internet age where people tend to put forward the best image of themselves.
We see Beardo get a job with a large coffee chain and quickly move up the ranks thanks to his lack of passion, which is good for when shit hits the fan, according to his boss. The job and promotion ends up being a distraction to his art, as well as the band he starts with several co-workers. A common discussion among employees is their “real passion” and what creative endeavors they are pursuing outside the coffee shop. I think this book really gets into what it is like for many modern day creatives who need “real work” and can have trouble balancing their art, jobs, and personal relationships. His fiancée Red is often on him to get a real job because of financial pressures and bills. As the book goes on we see Red dragging her feet to set a date for the wedding, and after many fights Beardo is still blindsided when she declares she has not been happy for some time and is leaving him. We feel bad for the main character but then see his life turn around when he starts to get more illustration work, pick up part time hours again after quitting the coffee chain, buy his own condo, and start dating again. His outlook perks up a bit and everything is coming together even though life is still not quite “perfect”.
The customer service vignettes are funny and are often used to break up the main story lines. There is the typical customer who expects the customer to always be right, the person complaining about coffee prices, the one complaining about how long the lines takes and then proceeds to hold it up themselves; so on and so forth. Our main character Beardo is disillusioned and does come to find pleasure in making fun of these types of people after they leave the shop, sometimes even to their faces. There are a few recurring characters who provide some extra comedy such as an older man named Jim who is always complaining about corporate coffee shops yet still continues to go there often. He also gives Beardo plenty of crap about never making it as an artist.
Dougherty’s style of drawing in this book is clean lines and some fairly bright colors with simple shading. He does an excellent job at establishing scenes and environments with a good amount of detail but not too much as to distract the reader. The style and story combined make this a fun lighthearted read.
TL:DR- Dougherty portrays the customer service/retail life without it getting boring for the reader. I looked forward to his sarcastic view of the work and life situations we all experience. His take on personal relationships was also relatable and clever.
Reviewed by Katie Holland, who is a Chicago based artist, creative mind and bookworm.