We met our fair share of dodgy fuckers in 2014′s comics, but I don’t think we’ve had anyone quite like this guy:

He’s the beard hunter. He hunts beards. His absence from our corporately mandated entertainment strikes me as being suspicious.

You got a problem with that?

Well, much as I like it when comic book characters combine name and description in one — and have I ever mentioned that Marc Singer’s book on Grant Morrison, comic books and metonomy is worth a read? — I don’t think you’d be mad to wonder if the noble art of beard hunting is enough to sustain a character.

The Beard Hunter certainly looks like a one issue wonder at this point in time.  In his single appearance in issue #45 of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol run he’s mostly just a parody of that guy – you know, the one whose pockets bulge with Frank Miller comics, Punisher War Journals and body-building magazines. A guy who really wants to be man’s man but doesn’t have the sheer man meat to carry it off without effort.  It’s easy to doubt that these characters exist until you trip over one of them on a stag weekend, lying in a ditch at a Scout camp with an air rifle, gleefully launching his little pellets into the soft buttocks of you and your friends.

All of this was originally perpetrated in the name a fairly crude parody of Frank Miller’s hard-boiled stylings – or was Morrison’s target more the thicket of bristly imitators that sprouted out of Millar’s chin like so much unwanted facial hair?  Either way, it’s hard to see the character escaping the confines of Doom Patrol #45  and breaking out into The World.

OR IS IT…?!

***

Born with a hormone deficiency that prevented him from growing a beard the young man known as Ernest Franklin grew resentful of beards and begun a one-man war against facial hair – hunting down and killing unfortunate individuals and taking their beards as trophies, he was still performing this gruesome and bizarre behaviour when he was thirty-six and living at home with his mother – when not committing murder he seemed obsessed with body-building magazines.

Dubbing himself the Beard Hunter poor Ernest was delusional enough to believe a movie would be made about his career as the crazed villain but this, of course, never occurred.

(Villains Wikia entry on The Beard Hunter)

***

But what if a movie had been made about poor Ernest?  What if someone read about his story in the paper and decided to make a tongue-in-cheek exploitation movie based on his exploits, sort of like Hobo With A Shotgun but with fewer hobos and more bulging bristles?  What if this movie became a cult classic that took beard hunting public?

Think back to the alternative past which will soon be yours, to the terrible day when you finally realised that Beard Hunting had went viral and that big, goonish, clean-shaven kids had started holding down their bearded fathers in the streets.   Did you ever think then that it would go further/deeper/wierder than that?

You see, the thing about beards is that once they start growing it’s hard to know where or when they’ll stop – just ask Alan Moore, a poor, innocent schoolboy who decided to grow a beard after being told he looked a bit girly by a Dutch customs official:

All Beard (sans beard)

“Well, what’s so bad about being Alan Moore?” you might ask, but – and remember to adjust your settings to our new hypothetical reality - most Beard Hunters would think that was a  pretty stupid question. Don’t you know that once you grow a beard it’s the beard that’s in control?  That whatever amount of free will “Alan Moore” still has is minimal?  He probably liked the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, wanted to be involved in the making of Watchmen and knew that he shouldn’t be a total fucking cock about Laura Sneddon on the internet.  He knew all of these things, but he looked into his beard to ask permission to act on this knowledge and the beard whispered “No!”

***

Sample of Subversive Literature recovered by S.H.A.D.E. Agent H.S. Mathers in the Beard Hunter creche, 04/05/2011.  Title: The Twits.

What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays.

When a man grows hair all over his face it is impossible to tell  what he really looks like. Perhaps that’s why he does it. He’d rather  you didn’t know.

Then there’s the problem of washing. When the very hairy ones  wash their faces, it must be as big a job as when you and I wash the  hair on our heads.

***

Beyond a fundamental distrust of facial fuzz, the post-movie Beard Hunter groups are as varied as the beards of your average Nu-Metal band circa 1998-2002.  You’ve got The Beard Hunters of America, an unpleasant group of well-groomed yahoos who think facial hair is “un-American” and who have an unsubtle anti-Islamic agenda that sometimes leads them to perpetrate acts of violence on the clean-shaven.  They also think that Abraham Lincoln was a “Muslamic spy” though so it’s often hard to find anyone who takes them seriously, either inside or outside of the world of Beard Hunting.

On the other extreme, you’ve got She-Beards United, a UK-based performance troupe whose charismatic leader Raina “The Razor” Sharkey has the ability to perform beard-swaps using little more than a few loaded curse words.  Some Beard Hunting purists have questioned whether this actually counts as Beard Hunting at all, but it has been noted that these concerns have seldom been put to the She-Beards in the flesh – rumours of Raina’s ability to transfer beards onto men, thus ruining their purity, ensure that the She-Beards continue to operate with practical impunity at home and abroad.

Even ignoring such extreme or outré factions, there are shady depths within even the most seemingly “normal” of Beard Hunter cells, some of them every bit as disturbing as the TRUE FACES obscured by beards…

***

S.H.A.D.E. Field Report: Agent H.S. Mathers: 03/17/2013

Three weeks deep into my trip with this gang of glossy, fresh faced freaks and already my finely honed sense of the weird is on the outs! Three weeks of “discipline”, of man-to-man combat and of paying far too much attention to the personal hygiene of others. I know I was a military man once but these mangeless dogs could do with taking up some hobbies, or maybe some hard recreational drugs, in order to lessen their interest in the grooming habits of their fellow men.

“A low beard’s not a no beard”, or so one of the Team Leaders told me the other day. A grown man, with muscles that could snap a butcher’s knife clean in half, and yet he talks like a child after his first encounter with their drunken uncle’s moonshine! They all do, all the Team Leaders, the “ascended” ones!

(Brief glances stolen in the communal showers indicate that some senior members of this organisation are ascended in more ways than one.)

The only positive side to this forsaken orgy of body oil and bad theology is that these kids know how to hold a gun party. This seems to be the only time that the knuckleheads are allowed to unclench, and trust me, you wouldn’t want to be a beer bottle, cactus, or passing trucker or coyote when the good times begin. As per my previous dispatch, you will already know that masturbation is strictly forbidden, though, of course, still copiously indulged in by the Beard Cutters. (It’s a “waste of holy shaving foam” according to the TLs, but if you spend a night in one of the Cutter bunks without hearing some poor bastard grinding his hairless wonder against the mattress then you know that your unit has moved on without telling you.)

***

A TALE OF TWO HIPPIES

“Modern life is rubbish, here’s an 8,000 page novel about my garden.”

“I’m writing trancendental abstractprop for the man!”

There are rumours of a secret mission.  An ultimate aim.  An assault on the hairy godhead.  A briefing that is only given to the most ascended of Beard Hunters, across their various subdivisions.  Drift too deep into the dark of the Beard Hunting internet and you’ll soon find yourself reading about a secret pledge to breach “O’Nolan Protocols” and to destroy the All-Beard.

What if… what if the first(/only? Try to remember) Beard Hunter comic was actually the first move in a very slow and complicated paramilitary operation?  What if Grant Morrison, Vince Giarrano and co were actually planting a subliminal suggestion in comics readers… a suggestion of an aggressive outsider lifestyle with an unusual agenda, a mission that would serve to end a magical duel that was due to go on for decades.  What if – as is rumoured in the “hypothetical” reality we’ve just conjured up - Doom Patrol #45 was simply the lighting of a long fuse, and The Beard Hunter movie – hailed as a satirical masterpiece by Mark Kermode and lambasted for its cowardice by Armond White – was just the initial shockwave of this bomb exploding?

What if you woke up tomorrow and discovered all of this to be true?  That Grant Morrison’s fancy talk about making the DCU sentient was just tall talk designed to disguise from the smaller, more manageable task of making Beard Hunting a reality, in order to ensure his eventual triumph over Alan Moore.  Pax Americana and the finally-published Miracleman short might have seemed like obvious moves against Moore and his legacy, but those were just shockwaves too.  This is something else, something more serious, something that touches at the very essence of what Alan Moore really is (remember: the beard, not the man, makes the decisions these days).  A seemingly narrow grudge comic that turned out to be part of a reality altering project with an unfathomably narrow final purpose: the final proof that Morrison could do something that Moore couldn’t.

Mark my words: 2015 will be the Year of the Beard Hunter. But why should this worry me, you ask?  Why you I spend my time writing about this on the turn of the year…

Well, shit – maybe I’ve just realised that this little breach in the continuum, this final triumph of Morrison’s project to bring the fantastical into OUR reality, might just have some negative consequences for yours truly.

Happy Hogmanay folks.  I hope this year is as kind to you as it promises to be cruel to me and my kind….

2 Responses to “Rogue’s Review: The Beard Hunter”

  1. Matthew Craig Says:

    First they came for the muttonchopped, and (ifeeltoobadtocontinue)

    I’m at full-Blesséd, my beard curling in on itself in a cuprous reticulation. The Beard-Hunter would be chewing on his strop.

    //\Oo/\\

  2. Thrills Says:

    You bearded bastards. My inability to grow coherent facial hair has vexed me my entire adult life, and you’re all just lording it about, “Oh, look at my beard, I’m so beardy”.

    This makes me a perfect candidate for some Beard Hunter recruitment drive, especially considering my love of a sturdy musculature, but I shall resist the clarion call of no-beard-on-all-beard violence.

    I AM BETTER THAN BATTERING A BEARDO

    Yes.

    PS I let out an audible sigh at the upcoming Miracleman new/new-old stuff, as much as I like most of the creators. Moribund.

    PPS I couldn’t stand Hobo With a Shotgun. I guess it did what it set out to do, in that it was a perfect take on Troma-style boresploitation, but ohhhh that is a pretty low bar to clear. Plus, it had the tortured piano whiner from ‘Everwood’, which put me off immediately.

    PPSSSS Happy new year

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