Interview with Tom Gauld about his forthcoming graphic novel Goliath: Serif as Sacred Font

Tom Spurgeon has an interview with Tom Gauld which includes a discussion of his forthcoming graphic novel Goliath (“CR Sunday Interview: Tom Gauld”, The Comics Reporter, 22 January 2012), discussed earlier by Remnant of Giants.

Have a read of the entire interview here.

Goliath by Tom Gauld: Serif font for quotation from the Bible
Goliath by Tom Gauld: Serif font for quotation from the Bible

Interestingly, Tom Gauld chose to use a serif font only where he quotes fom the biblical text; the parts of the story which Gauld has “added” are in sans-serif.

Goliath by Tom Gauld: Sans-serif font for non-biblical parts of the story
Goliath by Tom Gauld: Sans-serif font for non-biblical parts of the story

Gauld claims that this distinction in fonts indicates his “more natural” characterisation of Goliath. The reversion to the biblical passages with its serif font provides “an ominous reminder of where [Goliath is] inevitably headed”, with the inference that Goliath’s destiny is imposed upon him – by the traditional and authoritative version of the story, and ultimately by God. By contrast, the parts of Gauld’s Goliath which are in sans-serif font free up Goliath to tell his own story.

In the history of the transmission of the Bible and biblical books, there are some notable examples in which different fonts have been employed. The King James Bible (1611), for example, used a Gothic font wherever its English translation included a word which was not in the original Hebrew or Greek, but which was required to make a sensible English sentence (the rest of the words were in Roman font). Modern King James Versions continue this tradition, but use italics instead of the original Gothic font. Even earlier still, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls rendered the name of the Israelite god (“Yahweh”) in a paleo-Hebrew script: the tetragrammaton was written with the Phoenician letters which were first used to write Hebrew, rather than the later Aramaic letters adopted in the Persian Period.

The reason for the switch in fonts or alphabet, in both cases, is probably to signal a distinction between comparatively sacred parts of a text. Tom Gauld’s distinction in fonts makes a not dissimilar distinction: with the serif font he indicates a formal, authoritative, sacred text which cannot ultimately be overturned, and with the sans-serif he indicates his own narrative. But for Gauld the sacred text is called into question, by what he terms his own more realistic, natural depiction of Goliath. The profane text undermines the sacred text, without quite being able to dispense with it altogether.

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