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on 25 May 2017
Great book and a coffee table piece to impress visitors!
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I will openly admit that I have never seen the Punch and Judy story, and I haven't got the faintest idea how it goes.

So I was a little nervous going into "The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch," but it turns out that there was nothing to worry about. It's a vaguely nightmarish, jewel-toned story told like a series of serial photographs -- and rather than a retelling of the story of Punch, it's a boy's reflections on the world.

A boy and his grandfather go to the beach to fish. Eventually, the kid wanders away and finds a strange little tent neaby... only to have Punch and Judy puppets emerge and do their grisly little performance. This sets the child to thinking about the past, his ancestors and the way that young children are both intimidated by adults and filled with magical ideas.

Then his grandfather meets the puppeteer who was on the beach, an old friend who still sees the magic in the old "Punch and Judy" performances. The old man reintroduces the boy to a world of magic and wonder, and reconnects him to the past of his family.

"The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch" is a very striking story -- Gaiman weaves together stories within stories, interlocking and spiraling inward like a seashell's chambers. And though the story centers on a young, rather disillusioned boy who is watching the older generations fade, even as he looks on his own life.

And Gaiman's writing is quietly beautiful here -- he fills the story with wooden puppets, faux mermaids, pebbled beaches, and thoughts of childhood's scary magical qualities. There are little shreds of weirdness speckling the main story, like when the boy reflects that his aunt claimed she had a tail. Of course, he had to check.

And Dave McKean's art is... weird. A little weirder than the story merits, actually -- half the time the panels are normal, and the rest of the time they look like strange surreal photographs. We have wire boys, comedy masks, rich jewel tones, puppets that look like they were snapped with a camera, and written letters running under the rough-hewn sketches. It's like having your head shoved into a beautiful, surreal junk drawer.

"The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch" has a rather deceptive title, but Neil Gaiman's dark spiderweb of a tale is well worth the reading.
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on 2 February 2003
I have a vague recollection of watching a Punch and Judy show when I was very young. The only tangible memory is of Punch beating Judy - repeatedly. I don't remember the story or the other characters.
This book, "The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch" had the unnerving ability to bring trace memories back to vivid recollection. This, in itself, makes the book quite brilliant.
But, it is the art of Dave McKean with his juxtaposition of styles and elements that makes this book wonderfully macabre.
I switched on to McKean before Gaiman. His work on 'Arkham Asylum' transcended the constraints of the 'comic book' medium and, because of it, he has been accused of being inaccessible by some so-called 'comic book' purists.
Which isn't really surprising because McKean's influences owe much more to modern art and, in particular, the Dada movement of the early decades of the last century than to the Kirby school of thinking. But, this falls far short of defining McKean's art because his art is impossible to define.
And as a result his version of the Joker was, in my opinion, the best ever.
Dave McKean has given Mr Punch the same eerie sensibilities as he gave to the Joker. Just the right mixture of jest and malevolence to make a brutal story even more disturbing.
It's difficult to nail down precisely the intent of Mr Punch. It partly revolves around a young boy's growing awareness of evil in the world with Mr Punch as the catalyst but, as with McKean's art, it is impossible to define.
And because of this, it has to be read.
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on 30 July 1999
Neil Gaiman is my hero. I always have, and always will be intrigued by Punch & Judy. Therefore, Gaiman's Mr. Punch is one of the greatest works I've ever read. Though it is unfair to say "Gaiman's Mr. Punch", as it is equally Dave McKean's, for without him, I'm sure Mr. Punch would lose part of its eerie, strange, subtle power. Mr. Punch is an odd book. I read it in a single sitting, and afterwards, I was actually at a loss for words trying to describe what it is. This was a first; I can praise Neil Gaiman for hours on end, but I was stuck with Mr. Punch. I've seen it classified as Horror, Science Fiction, normal Fiction, and just as a Comic. But it is much more. It sent something through me - something that I am also at a loss of words about. This is a really great story, much like a dream (or nightmare, depending) it is surreal, yet uncommonly realistic; it is disturbing, but also soothing. It's more of an experience than a reading. McKean's artwork and Gaiman's words send you into something of a trance, where you enjoy yourself, get disturbed (actually, more troubled, as the young protangonist would say), and subtly reminded of your own childhood. A must read for any Gaiman or McKean fan, and also a must read for any Punch & Judy enthusiast, or anyone looking for a great read.
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on 13 December 1998
Mr. Punch is a difficult piece to review. It may be Neil Gaiman's finest work, but it is certainly his darkest. It is hard to describe the plot of Mr. Punch without giving anything away; suffice to say it is not the kind of work you would expect in a comic, and not what you would simply be able to put down and go on with your life once you have finished.
Dave McKean's always innovative artwork enhances the nightmarish quality of the piece, and Neil Gaiman's prose is captivating as always. Mr. Punch is at the very least worth a read, and will likely find itself on your bookshelf next to all the other books that quietly changed the way you look at things.
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on 21 May 1996
The artwork is in the mood of looking through an old attic closet in the neighborhood's junk dealers house after he dies.
It has the feeling of touching a piece of the past that you may
or may not have ever been in contact with. The story is as innocent as a child and as guilty as a scary clown. I liked it very much.
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on 17 April 2013
This is a part remembered, part imagined childhood memory. It beautifully illustrates the fog of youth created by the uncertainty of recollection and the mystery of adults. There is something important and possibly tragic going on in the world of grown-ups yet the small boy who witnesses it won't comprehend what he sees until he grows up.

The accompanying art does not seek to illustrate the tale faithfully but evoke the spirit of a childhood remembered long after the fact. There are photographs, collages, drawings, models and script all smeared into a fantastic reminiscence of the past.

This does a great job of portraying how memory works. How small details dominate events and become larger than life. And also how much of the real world is retained unconsciously as a child only to be deciphered in later years.

Thumbs Up!
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on 29 March 2001
A Romance is a misleading explanation of this book. It features the talents of both Neil Gaiman and the artistic skills of Dave McKean. The story focus' on a characters memories of childhood. Particularily his memories of the Punch and Judy shows which placed fear within his heart. The illustrations are fantastic and the comic style that the whole book enroles in is typical to many of their other colaborations. An excellent book, start a collection!
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on 15 December 2014
I've just recently started to delve more into the world of Graphic Novels, and so far I've read mostly Neil Gaiman's work. Did I enjoy this book? Yes, absolutely. But did I think it was amazing? Not really.

I was a little confused with the storyline, I was never sure where it was going or what was happening half the time. It did come off as very creepy and sinister, which is what it was supposed to be, so it gets points for that. However, the storyline overall seemed to lack something. I didn't feel satisfied with the ending, because I wasn't sure what happened or how it got there. I expected more. More creepiness, more violence, and perhaps more closure at the end.

It all seemed like a hazy dream/nightmare that you wake up from halfway through, not knowing what happened or why it happened, and when you try to go back to sleep to finish it off, it eludes you until it is completely gone and you're just left with the remnants of that vague dream you awoke from.

That's basically how I felt about this book. Might get around to reading it again sometime in the future, and maybe then I'll pick up on things I missed out on this time around.
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on 23 July 2003
The easiest thing to say about this book is that it looks simply fantastic, but this doesn't do it true justice. Drawing disturbing parallels with the Punch & Judy Show, the story of the narrators grandfather begins to emerge but is never fully explained, much like the chiropractor's in "Violent Cases".
In fact, this book is very much a companion piece to that earlier work, reflecting upon similar themes (how childhood & fiction combine) but taking you down a far more adult path.
Recommend? Certainly, but it won't be to everyone's taste...
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