Propaganda undertakes a little light reading in Miss Finch
Another in an ongoing project to adapt everything Neil Gaiman has ever written as short story prose into graphic novels. At some point I fully expect to see Dark Horse publish a beautiful looking hardcover entitled “The mysterious and enlightening visit to the Greengrocer for a bag of spuds and a pound of carrots”. The title really doesn’t matter, just so long as it’s got the Gaiman name on it somewhere.
But, despite that initial snarkyness, I have to say that, like previous Dark Horse adaptations, this one’s really beautifully packaged and fantastic value for money. At most you’ll be paying less than a tenner for a hardback graphic novel which is no more and no less than a simple Neil Gaiman short prose story (in this case taken from his very good Smoke and Mirrors short story collection – Joe) adapted for a graphic novella. With all that involves. The distinctive Gaiman voice is here. But the main difference with this story is that it’s featuring Gaiman himself as narrator and star.
(Don’t let the beard fool you, it’s Neil “Scary trousers” Gaiman under there. From Miss Finch book with the really long title. Art by Michael Zulli. Published Dark Horse.)
Miss Finch features a bearded Gaiman visiting Jonathan Ross and his wife Jane Goldman and taking in a trip to a strange performance art circus event. The Rosses bring along a friend to meet Gaiman, the mysterious Miss Finch, a very strange and slighty cold woman who doesn’t like circuses. As they wander through the rooms of this circus they are presented with increasingly bizarre and increasingly realistic tableaus until they reach one room where Miss Finch is snatched away only to reappear later as something else, something changed.
(Jonathan Ross and his wife, Jane Goldman. Jonathan’s looking strangely like Oscar Wilde don’t you think? From that long titled Miss Finch book.)
Like a lot of these adaptations of a short story there’s very little in the original prose story to start with. Not a criticism, merely an observation. And once the adaptation takes place the process is always a subtractive one. This explains why the whole package, although attractive and sturdy in form, feels slight and over too quickly with too liitle substance. The basic story is a conversation between Gaiman, Ross and Goldman remembering the events of a couple of years ago when the visited the circus and Miss Finch was taken. It turns out that she’s now changed, from cold frump to jungle dwelling magical she-tarzan thing. Like I said, not a lot of story.
But it’s still a Gaiman story and if you’re a fan it’s a nice addition to your Gaiman library. Like any Gaiman story, there’s enough good writing to make it at least interesting. And, like any Gaiman book there are some delightful Gaimanisms:
Jonathan went to use the toilets….while Jane went to get the drinks.
Which left me to make awkward conversation with Miss Finch.
“So I understand you’ve not been back in England long?”
“I’ve been in Komodo studying the dragons. Do you know why they grew so big?”
“They adapted to prey on the pygmy Elephants.”
“There were pygmy Elephants?”
“Oh yes, it’s basic island biogeology.”
But the big draw here wasn’t Gaiman for me, it was Michael Zulli’s artwork. I’ve loved his relaxed, sketchy hand since first seeing his work in The Puma Blues back in 1988 or thereabouts. His Puma Blues art was amazing, detailed, bizarre, beautiful:
(Yes, flying Manta Rays. It was the 80s. From The Puma Blues. Art by Michael Zulli.)
Over the years his artwork has become less detailed, looser and more flowing. But this brought with it greater emotion and movement and a greater sense of expression through the art. And Miss Finch has quite a bit of this gorgeous Michael Zulli art. But unfortunately it’s also got a fair bit of rushed, loose Michael Zulli artwork that is no way representative of what this great artist is capable of. Shame. (and ironic considering publication was delayed for many months – Joe)
The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a light read with a good little story, some good (but not great, a shame) art and a very good value for money packaging. The whole book is nice. Slight but still a good little read. A Graphic Novella if you will.
I’m Richard Bruton and I have an urge to get out my aging copies of Puma Blues now. Right after I finish crying when I realise that was 20 years ago. This makes me old.