- Posted by Johanna on October 17, 2006 at 9:02 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Scott Mills
- PUBLISHER: Top Shelf Productions; $12.95 US
Big Clay Pot is set in 200 BCE on one of the (then fairly new) Japanese islands. A girl, outcast from her Korean village, seeks shelter with an old man. Her clumsiness and the way she’s easily distracted make her a less-than-ideal companion, but with patience, she can be taught.
Slapstick is difficult to do on paper, but Mills manages to accomplish it. While the girl’s accidents are funny, they’re also used to reveal more of her character and advance the story. Mills’ work is deceptively simplistic. His figures are lumpy and misshapen, but that doesn’t interfere with their action and expressions.
There’s a dreamy quality to the images — simple lines are given depth and texture through the use of lots of zip-a-tone, pre-printed adhesive sheets of dot patterns that are cut out and stuck down to fill in spaces. The layouts are basic, with rectangular panels; the number and spacing varies to control flow. They lead us straightforwardly through the tale, allowing us space to think about the content instead of the art.
The story is made up of several incidents between the two characters over an indefinite period. Like Cells, his Xeric-winning minicomic, Big Clay Pot emphasizes two people who are originally in opposition to each other learning to understand one another. The relationship here progresses from tension to familiarity brought on by the passage of time. It’s an unusual choice of subject matter, which is part of its charm. There’s a lot more here than is immediately obvious.
Although they’re left out of mainstream society, these two characters build their own type of family. As we read through their journey, there’s humor, mythology, pottery instruction, and dreams. At the end, we have an understanding of different kinds of love.