Written by Benjamin Read, illustrated by Chris Wildgoose, coloured by André May, and lettered by Jim Campbell
Publisher: Improper Books
Out: Limited, indie release on 27th February, and will be available from Page 45, Travelling Man, Gosh! and Orbital Comics stores in the UK.
The Book: Porcelain A Gothic Fairy Tale is set within a world that’s a darkly magical echo of our own. It follows the story of a street urchin, known as Child, who leaves the cold streets of a snowy city behind when she climbs the high wall into the Porcelain Maker’s secret garden in a bid to steal whatever she can.
The Porcelain Maker discovers Child trespassing but, amused by her audacity, he offers her the chance to stay. He’s a lonely man, kept company only by his alchemically-powered automata, and he and Child form an unlikely friendship.
Shut off from the world beyond the wall, Child wants or needs for nothing as the Porcelain Maker heaps affection and luxury upon her, indulging her like daughter. In return, she can do as she pleases, except for one command: one rule that must never be broken, she must not look behind the workshop door…
The Review: To say I’ve been wanting to read this graphic novel for months is an understatement. Ever since I first saw and blogged about this project, I’ve been eager to see the completed tale, and I’m pleased – no, delighted – the final production lives up to expectation.
While it’s the truly stunning art of Chris Wildgoose that first draws you to the tale – very loosely based on Beauty and the Beast – some of the best comic art I’ve seen of late has to be matched by a strong story and, for me, Benjamin Read delivers. From the moment the gruff but ultimately kindly Porcelain Maker – a man troubled by numerous demons – rescues Child from his artificial guard dogs, Gog and Magog, through to a grim finale, Porcelain should capture even the hardest of hearts with its exquisite characterisation and carefully developed plot, laid out with the precision of a Victorian watchmaker but told with enormous emotion.
As Child is drawn into the Porcelain Maker’s world, constantly pushing the boundaries and rules he tries to impose on the girl he hopes may make up for the loss of his daughter, we’re treated to some incredible art throughout.
For example, the Maker spares no effort in making Child feel welcome to his sheltered world, creating a ‘Secret Garden’ for her to enjoy. He builds porcelain pets as playmates to keep her occupied. But despite so many conjured wonders, his own busy schedule and the secrets he tries to keep from Child ultimately bring conflict, never more so than after he creates more human-looking companions for her to enjoy, in an effort to prevent her from leaving his estate and losing her newly-found company.
The scenes featuring these scary living mannequins are truly haunting, and lead to Child breaking the Maker’s rules in such a way as to end in disaster.
With this release, Improper Books don’t just deliver a beautiful, tragic, gothic fairy tale: they set high standards in terms of production and content, on a par with the best of French bande dessinees and the work of ground-breaking British artists such as Bryan Talbot. The quality of this title cannot, in my opinion, be understated, on so many levels.
Needless to say, I would urge you to track down a copy on release and I sincerely hope you enjoy the story as much as I have.
• A free digital promo of the first 12 pages of Porcelain is now available to view and download via: http://www.improperbooks.com/projects/porcelain
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.