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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 
Fairy Tales of a More Modern Sort
In my efforts to explore hobbies that had fallen by the wayside during the grad school years, several of my friends have undertaken to addict me to comic books/graphic novels. They've done an excellent job, darn them.

Before I went to Taiwan, Daniel sent me the completed all-in-one volume edition of Bone, which our friend Will had addicted everyone in our crew to in high school. It was one of the few things that kept me sane in Taiwan, so now I have even fonder feelings for Fone Bone, Thorn, and the rat creatures. Everyone needs to go laugh at the rat creatures. A very well-told (and complete!) story arc here, with excellent art, so I recommend it to everyone, though the tome size of the full version may intimidate some.

However, I already knew I liked Bone. My more recent voracious addiction is courtesy of Andrew, who was evil and introduced me to the Fables series. For anyone who loved fairy tales as a child, or who grew up watching Disney movies, this is a fantastic, often hilarious, sometimes dark, completely new take on all those old stories. The premise is that all the characters we know from fairy tales actually lived in other realms, and were driven by a great adversary into our world several hundred years ago. Now known as Fables, they're immortal and living in hiding in New York. Bill Willingham has a great, though sometimes unexpected, grasp of how all the characters from such diverse tales would interact with each other, and the society of the Fables is fascinating to explore. The portrayal of Prince Charming (and all his ex-wives) is delicious vindication for all the little feminist girls out there. So far, there are six collected volumes, and the war with the Adversary is beginning to heat up. Not to give any spoilers, but I'm also looking forward to continuing to follow the subplot between Snow White and Bigby (Big Bad) Wolf, who were mayor and sheriff of Fabletown, respectively. Unfortunately, I just recently finished Book 6, and now I'm very impatient for the next one!

The other interesting thing that this series provoked in me was a desire to look up many of the original stories and find out more about characters I didn't recognize. It's frequently been surprising to me just how sparse the original stories were, considering all the complexity their characters have developed over time, through various revisions and retellings. In any case, I keep all my Fables volumes on the shelf right next to my complete volume of Grimm Fairy Tales.

I still think there's a class to be done on comparing Disney versions of fairy tales to their originals. I've even got the original version of the Mulan story. Too bad I don't teach ESL anymore...

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