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Some 200 years after German librarians Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected and published local folklore that defined storytime for generations around the world, writer/artist Gina Biggs is resurrecting lesser known fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm by faithfully adapting them into comics form.
Erstwhile debuted as a short-lived comic book in 2007, but last year it was reborn as a webcomic that has attracted an enthusiastic following. Next month, the stories return to print as a prestige hardcover graphic novel Erstwhile: Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Gina Briggs adapts the stories, which are drawn by a rotating stable of artists from their shared Strawberry Comics banner, Biggs herself, Louisa Roy (Velharthis) and Elle Skinner (Missing Monday). This gives the comic a variety of styles and approaches suitable for the different fairy tales they tackle. The three also bring some diversity and modern sensibilities to the fairy tales without sacrificing authenticity to the source material. In other words, it’s slightly more faithful than Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales.
While most of us will have to wait until next month for it to become available on the Erstwhile website, some are already receiving copies of the book. That’s because they are part of the more than 650 backers who helped finance the publication through Erstwhile‘s Kickstarter campaign. They raised more than 300 percent of their goal. (And it has one of the best “this is where you come in” videos I’ve seen on Kickstarter).
The book includes the first seven installments of the webcomic, which is in the middle of its ninth story. The next scheduled fairy tale is Snow White and Rose Red, which is about the other Snow White from the Grimms (and whose co-star should ring a bell for readers of Fables). With the completion of that tenth story, the Erstwhile team will have worked through their backlog from Erstwhile‘s comic book days. There are more than fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, so good luck correctly guessing what gets adapted next. One person knows, though: the backer who pledged $500 or more to choose the next Grimm fairy tale to get the Erstwhile treatment. As if that didn’t already make it a great Kickstarter perk, the lucky person also gets to be the first person to read the finished story.
I don’t know who to blame for the current revival of popular interest in fairy tales and fables. It’s probably Shrek that got popular audiences thinking about those stories again, but for me and a lot of other comics fans, it will always be Bill Willingham’s fault. Maybe “fault” isn’t the right word, because though there’s a lot of fairy tale crap coming out (looking at you, Mirror Mirror), discerning audiences can pick through the bad stuff and sample some great adaptations of stories that are the very definition of “timeless.” I’m all for that.
One promising new book is Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales, an anthology by several webcomics creators. Edited by Kel McDonald (Sorcery 101), the 200-page book features stories by McDonald, Kory Bing (Skin Deep), Jose Pimenta (From Scratch), Mary Cagle (Kiwi Blitz), KC Green (Gun Show), Kate Ashwin (Widdershins), Katie and Shaggy Shanahan (Silly Kingdom), and Lin Visel (The Chipperwhale). The stories include familiar favorites like “Puss in Boots” and “Rapunzel” as well as less-known tales like “The Singing Bone” and “Tatterhood.” It was some sample pages by the Shanahans that sold me on it (see a snippet below) and now I’m looking forward to checking out the rest.
Do you enjoy all the recent fairy tale adaptations or are you tired of them? If you’re picking and choosing, which are worthwhile and which need to be hidden beneath a troll-infested bridge?
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Grave Doug Freshley – A lot of publishers are doing Weird Western comics lately and that’s just fine with me.
Spera, Volume 1 – I like the sound of this fairy tale in which a couple of princesses combine efforts to save their kingdoms. It’s not that I’m anti-prince, but that’s a cool, new way to do that story.
Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island – Warren Ellis doing Steampunk sounds thrilling, but really all they had to say was “pirates.” I bet this is still really good though, even if you’re pickier than I am.
Roger Langridge’s Snarked #1 – After a well-loved zero-issue, Langridge’s version of Wonderland gets its real, official start.
Alexander Danner sent a note yesterday to say that he has finished Gingerbread Houses, his retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story, and it is now complete online. He has also been releasing the story in a series of mini-comics, and the last one should be ready in a couple of weeks.
Written by Danner and illustrated by Edward J. Grug III, Gingerbread Houses presents the Hansel and Gretel story as if it had really happened and explores the dyanamics of a family in which the stepmother tried to kill the children, their father didn’t stop her, one child was force-fed in anticipation of being eaten, and the other had to rescue them all. Some of the most powerful passages are the ones in which Danner juxtaposes the words of the traditional story with images that show a different aspect; in the opening scene, for instance, the words tell of Hansel and Gretel being left in the forest while the images show their father and stepmother at home after leaving them. Grug’s cartoony, expressive art keeps it at just the right emotional pitch, and at just 97 pages, this is an amazingly moving story.