The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch is a moderately sized graphic novel aimed at adolescents or older readers. This book was originally published in 1994 by Gollancz, but is now published as a “Completely Remastered 20th Anniversary Edition” by Bloomsbury Publishing. The story has maintained its original author, Neil Gaiman, and is illustrated by Dave McKean.
The story follows the recollections and memories of the narrator. The book begins with a seven year old who is taken down to the beach for a fishing session by his Grandpa. It is now that the boy first witnesses the spectacle of Mr. Punch in a small room on the beachfront. The story that follows is told through dark and sinister memories tainted with madness, violence, and content so peculiar, one can only wonder, but read on nevertheless. The setting spans a series of locations
A truly remarkable aspect of this graphic novel is the assortment of illustrations and pictures. Cartoons, rough sketches, and extreme close-up photos feature as the main visual mode of storytelling. Mr. Punch is predominantly shown throughout the book as a series of photographs. These images are accompanied by blood red light, ominously shone upon his face, and a scattering of heavy distortion and filters. These all blend together to make Mr. Punch a truly terrifying character. The rest of the visuals are sketch like drawings by McKean. These portray most of the other characters well and distinguishably. The drawings have a very variable level of clarity, often connected to the particular themes of the book such as madness or the haziness of a memory. Like the rest of the book, all the pictures and images are deeply psychological and brooding.
In conclusion, Gaiman and McKean have created a deep, psychological thriller that touches on the themes of psychosis, death, unwanted pregnancy, and any other hidden themes I have missed through my series of read throughs. I recommend this book for older and more mature adolescent or young adult readers, as children will be frightened by the images and oblivious to the prime themes of this graphic novel.
All others willing to take this on, prepare yourself for “The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch”.
Review written by guest reviewer Ashley Mason.