The gothic fairy tale is published by small press publishers Improper Books, a company that specializes on fairy tales with focus on gothic and the macabre. Porcelain was created by two of said publishing company’s founders: writer Benjamin Read (True Grit and Super 8 comic adaptations, films Armistice and 500 miles North) and illustrator Chris Wildgoose (True Grit, Super 8). The book, which has been recommended for young adults and above, follows a poor child who is coaxed to climb over the wall guarding the porcelain maker’s garden to steal from the “wizard”. She meets the man, who lives alone after losing his wife, he invites her to be his ward after she makes him laugh and her life is forever changed.
Porcelain is more than worth a read. At first, it can remind the reader of Beauty and the Beast, without the romantic element, and it also has some similar elements to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Child is cheeky, intelligent, quick-thinking and a well-rounded character. Uncle, the porcelain maker and alchemist, is a giving, loving man who has been alone with his porcelain servants for too long. The dynamic between the two is charming, relatable and heart-breaking. Child and Uncle find something in each other that they have been missing, but the loss of his wife has a created a fear for the outside world that drives a wedge between the two and becomes one of the catalysts behind the book’s climax.
The story is beautifully written and a great example of modern Gothic fiction, but it would not have had the same effect without the beautiful artwork. Graphic novels have a number of layers of story-telling effects at their disposal, and in Porcelain they are all being used; details in the artwork help reveal character, such as Uncle’s design of his sculptures and Child’s porcelain dog interacting in the background of panels. With fairly large panels there is room for the artwork to tell the story and add details absent from the dialogue. If Brian M. Bendis is an example on a writer who overuses dialogue and underuses visual story-telling, Read is a writer who has, in collaboration with Wildgoose, found a perfect balance: the dialogue is concise, natural and always absent from the panel when it is not needed.
Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale is beautiful, intriguing and highly recommended. For £12.99 it can be ordered through Diamond Comics, or found in comic book shops with good selection outside of the superhero genre.