Great Pages: MR. PUNCH

In 1994, Neil Gaiman was slowly wrapping up his work on Sandman with ‘The Kindly Ones’ storyline. While those issues were coming out, Vertigo also published an original hardcover graphic novel written by Gaiman titled The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. The book, down to the fonts, was designed, drawn, and photographed by Dave McKean. The pair had been collaborators for years. They had worked on past graphic novels together and McKean had done all the covers for Sandman.

Mr. Punch is a story told by a narrator who is looking back on his childhood. In his youth, the narrator had stumbled across a Punch and Judy show taking place on a beach at dawn. He was the only audience member. Although initially drawn to the performance by curiosity, the narrator was quickly unnerved by the act.

McKean’s mixture of sketching the narrator but photographing the puppets allow Punch and Judy to have an unearthly feel to them. They are somehow hyper-real and grotesque against the relatively simple normal world. Punch’s bulging eyes and wicked smile don’t help matters. To have such a figure single the narrator out for being the only audience member makes both the boy and the reader uneasy. It creates a mood that carries throughout the rest of the work.

From The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (1994)


  1. Other collaborations by these two are Signal To Noise, Violent Cases, The day I swapped my dad for two Goldfish, Coraline, Crazy Hair & obviously Black Orchid!

    Great team-up!

  2. Mr Punch is set where I live, Southsea 😀

  3. This is actually my favorite Gaiman/McKean collaboration. I was blown away by this when I read it in high school. Made me totally rethink what comics were capable of. I need to read this again…..

  4. Fantastic book! I received it as a gift a few years back. It was bought at a library book sale for, get this, 50 cents!!! And what do I find when I open it?…SIGNED BY BOTH GAIMEN AND MCKEAN!!! Pretty frickin AWESOME I must say 🙂 And it was in surprisingly good condition for a library book.

  5. Gaiman has said this is his favourite collaboration with McKean, & it’s not hard to see why. Beautiful, eerie & chilling. Dustcovers, the book collecting all of McKean’s Sandman covers, is also well worth checking out. Thanks for going outside the box on this one, Jeff.

  6. I love this book. Honestly, I love everything these two do together, including the children’s books. But this graphic novel, which I bought back in ’94 remains one of my favorites. This page is a perfect example of why.

  7. Love, love, love this book.

  8. This is an example why I feel he far surpasses Moore in excellence.

  9. One thing I wished I could have done before the Borders I worked at closed down was to read this. Cause we had a copy but never got around to reading it.

    We put it in the Children’s section….which was probably a mistake.