Posted by Don MacPherson on August 7th, 2007
“Glister and the Haunted Teapot”
“Rock Scissors Paper” (Skeleton Key story)
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Andi Watson
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $5.99 US
Andi Watson is a versatile creator who knows how to reach a wide array of readers with a diverse lineup of book. I’ve been particularly fond of his adult, slice-of-life comics, such as Breakfast After Noon and Slow News Day. Glister is a different kind of comic, though, and not just in terms of its smaller format. Watson tackles an old-fashioned approach to children’s storytelling here, and it’s thoroughly charming. Though it’s labelled as a book for “all ages,” it’s really more geared toward the younger set. I was amused, though, and I actually got a kick reading it aloud, adopting different voices for the various characters. I don’t have kids, but I was practising for a far-off, hypothetical time when I will. Sadly, my attempt to sound like a young British girl failed; instead, my attempt at Glister Butterworth sounded like an old woman, perhaps one of the three crones from Macbeth. In any case, I had fun reading the first story, mainly from imagining the reactions of a younger reader. The book also served as my introduction to Watson’s Skeleton Key characters. Though it wasn’t as accessible as I might have liked, I definitely see the appeal of the property. Overall, this was a cute book, and it should appeal to fans of kids’ fantasy literature and comics such as Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin.
Glister Butterworth is a polite girl who tries to live her life with her father in their rural home, but strange things have a way of happening around and seeking out little Glister. Take, for instance, the time she found a teapot, one that turned out to be haunted. The spirit dwelling within is a long-dead and ultimately unfulfilled writer, and Glister, being the helpful and polite young woman she is, agrees to help him complete his final opus. But the spectral scribe’s crowning achievement seems to go on without end, leaving Glister in quite the quandary. And in another story, Tamsin and Kitsune use their magical skeleton key to enter another world, and they discover the locals apparently under siege by a vampire. It doesn’t take long for them to discover the true culprits.
Watson boasts a minimalist style, but it’s not a static one. Just compare the art in the main story to the Skeleton Key backup piece, and one will find obviously differences. Watson employs a softer style in the main feature; he avoids sharper angles. The result is a visual cue to the atmosphere of innocence that permeates the story. There’s still a light tone at play in the backup story, but it’s just a little bit darker and edgier than the main story. Watson actually captures a nice degree of detail at times, such as with his presentation of the Butterworth homestead and the plate frame adorned with another character’s portrait later in the story.
The greytones keep the art from looking too flat, though I think some soft watercolors might really have given this a look and feel reminiscent of the old Golden Books kids books. The digest format for this shorter, 64-page comic is a bit unusual, but it suits the younger-readers feel of the storytelling. I was a bit surprised to see a kids’ comic such as this one from Image Comics. It really seems unlike the publisher’s other fare, and it’s even different from those comics it has deemed to be good for all ages. I wonder if some Andi Watson fans might miss this, as it’s the sort of fare one might expect to find from Oni Press or Slave Labor Graphics, publishers Watson has worked with before.
Some odd punctuation and capitalization in the script at the beginning of the Skeleton Key story make it a bit difficult to figure out who the characters are at first, but given the limited space allotted for the tale, the plot gallops along, whisking the reader along. It’s a fun bit of supernatural sleuthing, the kind of thing that might have arisen had the Japanese developed Scooby-Doo.
The story’s appeal stems from the fact that one can sympathize with all of the characters. Glister’s wish to put her life of dictation behind her is completely understandable, but the ghostly author’s circumstances come off as somewhat tragic, leaving the reader to hope he achieves his goal. And then there’s Mr. Wilkes, the oafish wrestler-turned-antiques salesman; he’s such a cute and unusual soul that one can’t help but feel for him as well. Despite the simpler tone of the storytelling, the characters are well realized, and there’s no outright antagonist. Each character has a legitimate agenda or goal that just happens to conflict with others. The morals of Watson’s story touch upon the virtue of patience, the bite of karma and the importance of remembering that one shouldn’t judge others by appearance. 8/10