GLISTER by Andi Watson
GLISTER by Andi Watson is full of fun oddities and quirks. While the story is fresh, sometimes the comic departs from its accessibility to children.
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A true magnet for the odd

The GLISTER trade paperback from Dark Horse Comics collects all four stories written and illustrated by Andi Watson. Geared towards children, this series chronicles the adventures of a young girl, Glister Butterworth, who tends to attract the strange and unusual. Along with her family, friends, and sentient shape-shifting house, Glister navigates the supernatural troubles of the English countryside. Unfortunately, while the overall story of GLISTER is charming and unique, sometimes it loses sight of its audience.

Delightfully Odd

Each of the individual stories in this comic is fun and unusual. The first story follows Glister as a haunted tea pot is left with her, and she becomes the secretary for the ghost of an author determined to finish their last novel. The story after that is about how Glister’s shape-shifting house — who is friendly, if not a little moody — gets up and goes on a tour of the world after a visitor hurts its feelings. Next, Glister travels to the faerie world in search of her mother. In the last story, Butterworth relatives fall from the family tree, displaced from their own times in history to visit.

Image from GLISTER, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

My favorite part of GLISTER is how free and creative the story world is. So many bizarre things happen, and people rarely question it. There are many small details that give these stories immeasurable charm. Under the Butterworth’s bridge, there lives a toll troll who Glister appeases with bottle caps. In the third story, beautiful houses grow from trees. There’s a battle hog that lives with Glister, which never gets a full explanation or crucial plot point, and that somehow makes it more endearing. Glister herself is an odd child, too smart and brave for her own good and inclined toward strange ideas that are always the perfect solution to the problems at hand. She uses both her cleverness and charm to overcome obstacles rather than fighting others.

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Tenuous Grasp on Tone

As fun as I find the clever stories of GLISTER to be, there are definitely moments in it that aren’t quite suitable to the children’s audience the comic aims for. I realize that there’s a necessity in children’s media to also appeal to adults. However, I feel that Watson takes it too far too frequently. There’s an overabundance of difficult vocabulary, such as in the first story when the ghostly author uses the word “amanuensis.” Typically, the comic goes on to explain or define the word, but in some instances, such as the tour of Glister’s home, it’s rapid fire exposure. Such a thing really disrupts the flow of the story, and even my attention started to drift.

Image from GLISTER, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Beyond the issue of language, there’s a point in the first story where the mood gets a little too dark. The ghost of the teapot author dictates their book to Glister. This fictional book is perhaps one of the most depressing and gruesome things I’ve ever read in a children’s piece outside of the Grimm stories. The book’s lead character, Albert Buckle, loses his parents and is sent to work as a weaver. There are innumerable deaths to fevers, and Albert loses several fingers. The misery just keeps piling on, and while I assume it’s supposed to be humorous, it’s really just disturbing.

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Charming Illustrations

The artwork manages to be both beautiful and adorable. The architecture and landscapes are drawn with fine detail and elegance. On the flip side, the characters are more cartoonish, with exaggerated features to highlight their personalities. My favorite part about the art is the absolute creativity that goes into the visuals. The world inside Watson’s head is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Image from GLISTER, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Final Thoughts on GLISTER

Despite struggling to remain kid-appropriate, GLISTER is a collection of very sweet stories. Glister is a fun, weird little girl with fresh and unique adventures. Unlike more mainstream creators, Watson puts an emphasis on wit and kindness rather than leaning into violent action. A comic such as this seems best suited to children who are too smart for their own good.

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