Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch

Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean
Year of Publication: 2006
Number of Pages: 96 pages
Genre: Graphic novel, horror, fantasy, mystery

Summary: A man remembers when, as a young boy, he stayed with his grandparents in an English seaside town. His grandfather, who would later go mad, and his hunchback great-uncle own an unsuccessful amusements. While he is there he meets a mysterious Punch and Judy Show operator (or "professor") and begins to uncover the secrets of the "oldest and wisest play", as well as the dark secrets at the heart of his personal and family history.

Opinions: Acclaimed author Neil Gaiman is probably best known in the comics world for his ground-breaking series The Sandman (1989-1996) but he has done many limited series and one-off gaphic novels. This book is a disquieting and compex meditation on memory and childhood. Told almost entirely through the fragmented memories of the unnamed narrator the story deals with a child confronting the bizarre and often disturbing world of adults intermixed with the fantasy of the Punch and Judy shows, which were bizarre and frequently quite violent puppet shows for children which at one time were hugely popular. The story hints at a lot, but very little is actually revealed. Gaiman's text is superbly complemented by McKean's artwork, which blends detailed paintings, with text, photography, models and other objects. Reading this is a genuinely disturbing and powerful experience.

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