When I was in elementary school, I distinctly remember how popular Jon Scieszka’s The Stinky Cheese Man: And Other Fairly Stupid Tales was. Managing to get a hold of it at the school library was pretty much impossible, because everyone wanted to read it. I can easily imagine Fairy Tale Comics being similarly popular with the intended audience. The stories are light-hearted and funny, though with just enough of the cruelty of the original tales to delight kids, because, let’s be honest, children do tend to like watching people get hurt.
Most of the stories featured in Fairy Tale Comics were familiar to me and will be to other adult readers as well, being the most popular of the Grimms’ tales. However, Duffy also included a handful of tales from other sources, ones I’ve never encountered myself. This blend of the familiar and the new will be enchanting for kids and parents alike. Younger readers enjoy familiarity, and it helps make reading a bit easier if you know the story already. In fact, Duffy clearly had this in mind when he put the anthology together, because the first five stories are all Grimms’ tales, allowing the reader to get comfortable before springing something that might be new.
In most anthologies, there tend to be a few real clunkers, but all of the stories in Fairy Tale Comics were really fun reads. Sure, I had my personal favorites, but none of them were horribly boring or with artwork so annoying I couldn’t deal. The stories I enjoyed the most were “The Prince and the Tortoise” by Ramona Fradon and Chris Duffy, “Rapunzel” by Raina Telgemeier, and “Give Me the Shudders” by David Mazzuchelli. Two of them were entirely new to me, and Rapunzel had a nice twist to the ending that I rather enjoyed.
As is the case in “Rapunzel,” several of the tales feature clever little changes. These obviously will not stand out to those who are not well-versed in the tales, but I picked up on a few and they were all great improvements. Obviously much of the gore has been cut, but there are intentional revisions, most of which increase the role of the female characters in the fairy tales. In “Puss in Boots,” the reader learns right at the end that Puss is in fact a female cat. Similarly, the lumberjack in “Little Red Riding Hood” is a woman, rather than a man. These are small changes, but they’re excellently done, adding agency and strength to female characters.
The Final Verdict:
Fairy Tale Comics will be enjoyed by both parents and children, or adults like me who do not get tired of clever retellings of fairy tales. Each tale is humorous and quick for younger readers, but with subtle jokes to delight maturer readers. A great readalike for Jon Scieszka’s fairy tale retellings or fractured fairy tales, like those included in Rocky & Bullwinkle.