Fairy Tale Comics: Fair or Foul Fare?

Fairy Tale ComicsI was browsing in the children’s section at my local library when a brightly-colored book caught my eye.  Pulling it off the shelf, I saw it was a collection of fairy tales retold as comics.  Curious, I flipped through several pages.  I noticed that a different artist had created each story, leading to a wide variety of artwork and writing styles.  A fan of fairy tales, I was intrigued by the concept and decided to give the book a try.

As with many collections of short stories by various authors, Fairy Tale Comics compiled by Chris Duffy is a mixed bag.  Portions of the comic book fall into the obvious pitfalls that face a work of this sort.  Some of the installments are simplistic in their artwork and narrative, explaining too much of the story with dialogue rather than showing the reader what is happening.  While I can’t know for sure what most young readers would think of these stories, I know I would have preferred regular fairy tales with beautiful illustrations and more poetic writing to oversimplified comic versions.  Additionally, in some of the stories already familiar to most audiences such as Snow White or Hansel and Gretel, the comic retellings lack innovation, causing the story to fall flat.  That said, the brevity of the stories does mean that the bland ones don’t last long, and I think the good tales outweigh the underwhelming ones.  The book includes multiple stories that are well-told and humorous.  These contain artwork that complements the story, interesting dialogue, and fun twists on old tales.  My favorites were stories that I had never heard of before, perhaps because I was not comparing the comic version to some other retelling I had read, but I think they were also genuinely good comic adaptations.  “Puss in Boots,” “The Prince and the Tortoise,” “The Boys Who Drew Cats,” and other stories are a lot of fun and make Fairy Tale Comics a worthwhile read.

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Rapunzel’s Revenge

Cover of Rapunzel's RevengeTwelve-year-old Rapunzel lives with her mother Gothel in a walled villa.  Life should be perfect for Rapunzel, for Gothel is a rich and powerful witch, rules the surrounding land, and provides Rapunzel with a carefree existence.  Yet Rapunzel has dreams that puzzle her, and she feels that if she could only look over the wall of the villa, everything would make sense.  The only drawback is that Gothel keeps Rapunzel from ever leaving the villa and guards it with vigilant sentries and high walls.  Despite being forbidden to leave, however, one day Rapunzel secretly scales the walls and enters the outside world – only to find the people starving and in rags under Gothel’s oppressive rule.  On top of this, Rapunzel discovers Gothel is not her mother when she encounters her real mother and finds the answer to her strange dreams of another life.  Events deteriorate from here for the young heroine, though, for the guards catch her outside the villa, and when Rapunzel confronts Gothel with the truth, Gothel banishes her to a distant forest.  After Gothel imprisons her in a tree-tower, Rapunzel is dead set on rescuing her true mother and wreaking revenge on Gothel.  And notwithstanding being stuck in a tall tree, Rapunzel lays her plans, preparing for her escape and revenge.

Though its premise may sound much like its namesake fairytale, in Rapunzel’s Revenge husband and wife Dean and Shannon Hale creatively twist a well-known fairytale into a lasso-twirling, Wild West, magical story.  Not to mention a graphic novel.

With the help of artist Nathan Hale (not a relation of the authors), the Hales craft a colorful and entertaining novel.  The characters are quirky and memorable, and the authors change (and Westernize) them enough to keep them from becoming cliché.

What really brings the characters and story to life, however, is the artwork.  The panels are generally well laid out and easy to follow.  The colors are vibrant, and the action so animated it almost pops off the page.  Best of all are the expressive faces of the characters which verify the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”RR Illustration

Although the nominal theme of the book is revenge, the authors spend very little time on the theme, and they primarily treat Rapunzel’s plan of vengeance light-heartedly.  In fact, other themes – like friendship and helping those in need – stand out more and receive a greater focus than revenge.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean, Shannon, and Nathan Hale is a comical graphic novel, and the authors’ execution of both its art and story is excellent.  Best of all, it’s filled to the brim with fun and good humor.

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