Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Four-Color Fairy Tales: Rapunzel's Revenge.



I had said before that I wanted to tackle reviewing more comics that were created for the book market than the comics market.  Despite that, I’ve been sitting on this one particular graphic novel for a while, not knowing in particular how to tackle it.  So, I’m just going to wing it here.

This is Rapunzel’s Revenge.

Rapunzel’s Revenge is a children’s graphic novel from 2008 written by award-winning novelist Shannon Hale and her husband Dean Hale, drawn by the talented and altogether unrelated artist Nathan Hale and published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books.

The story is set in a mythical version of the Old West (read “mythical” as “kind of weird and fantastical”).  A young girl named Rapunzel lives in a grand villa with Mother Gothel, the woman she believes is her mother.  Her “mother” is quite known for having magic that makes things grow.  The only problem with living in the villa is that there is a very high wall around it and Rapunzel wants to see what’s on the other side.  So, one day she uses a rope trick learned from one of the guards to swing to the top of the wall.  What she sees on the other side is disturbing.  The world beyond the wall is nothing like the world inside it.  Whereas the villa’s gardens are lush and green, the world outside is barren and bleak.  In the outside world, people toil as slaves.  Yet another shock for Rapunzel, one of those slaves turns out to be her real mother.  Faced with this grand reveal, Rapunzel faces Mother Gothel and ends up imprisoned in one singularly towering tree.  Rapunzel though, ends up using her hair that has grown incredibly long from all the growth magic surrounding her to escape.  She then ends up teaming with a roguish young man named Jack to make her way back to Gothel’s villa to free her mother and get revenge against Gothel, all the while using her hair as whips or lassos as needed.

There’s not much to complain about here.  The writing is solid.  The art tells the story well.  The setting is unique if a little weird (there are jackalopes.  Sometimes people ride bison.  You just go with it).  The characters are charming and likable.  There are a couple places where the story seems to meander, but I can forgive that.  It’s Rapunzel’s first time outside, so she’s owed some meandering.  Also, the folksy dialogue can sometimes seem a bit phony.  Though, I find I can forgive some of the negatives knowing that it’s a graphic novel for kids.  Not everything necessarily needs to hold up to adult scrutiny.  I know that not everything I loved as a child does (ever seen an old late ‘80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon now?  Yeesh).  I’m really most impressed by how well the Hales know their fairy tales and incorporate bits of Rapunzel that people don’t always remember into the narrative.  Sure, the story goes off the rails that the old tale set once Rapunzel escapes, but it’s supposed to.  They also skip the whole “let me climb your hair” bit because if Gothel has magic, why wouldn’t she be able to get up there herself.  No, what impressed me is how Rapunzel isn’t put in the tree/tower until she’s 12 years of age, just like it says in the Grimm tale.  No, really.  Go give it another read.  Before giving it a serious read, I always assumed that Rapunzel was always in that tower, since the moment Mother Gothel got a hold of her.  But the tale says she was placed in the tower at age 12, and that’s the approach the Hales take.  Granted, they sidestep all that adult subtext about the witch essentially locking Rapunzel away the minute she hit puberty, essentially trying to keep her from growing up and forestalling her sexual awakening.  But like I said, it’s a kids’ book.  It should come as no surprise that Shannon Hale and company know their tales seeing as Shannon Hale is the same woman who turned the obscure tale “The Goose Girl” into her first and often most fondly remembered novels.

Just as notable as any of that is Rapunzel’s relationship with Jack.  However, that’s something with wider and somewhat more frustrating connotations.  Basically, it says a whole lot about how and when people are receptive to “twists” on fairy tales.  Essentially, the crux of the idea is this: the idealistic and sheltered Rapunzel pairs up with a somewhat foolish, world-weary rogue.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  Yes, that’s right.  It’s much the same dynamic as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider in Disney’s Tangled and Cress and Carswell Thorne in The Lunar Chronicles novels.  It seems like such a no-brainer now, to pair such character types together.  They seem like the absolute best personalities to play off of each other.  There’s even a precedent for it when you consider how the prince in the original tale was essentially a glorified burglar.  He preys on Rapunzel’s naivete which allows him to essentially break into her home.  The difference is that he doesn’t really want to steal anything but Rapunzel, which he never even manages to do.  Rapunzel’s Revenge doesn’t have that bit.  She meets Jack when she’s on the road after having escaped her prison (I’m hesitant to use the phrase “rescued herself” despite its popularity in fairy tale feminism circles.  The reason being that if someone else does it, it’s a “rescue” but if the captured person does it it’s an “escape”.  I get why people say it, but semantically it’s a really odd phrase).  The thing is that near as I can tell, this is the first time such a pairing has happened.  I seem to even recall reading a snippet of something in which Hale says she felt a bit robbed when Disney’s Tangled came out (I don’t have the link, so don’t quote me).  Yet, I’m not sure how many people acknowledge this.  It really reminds me of just how much stock people put in movies and television in our culture.  The same issue can be observed with ABC’s show Once Upon a Time.  I’ve encountered any number of fans online who praise the show for its “twists”, while my reaction has usually been “What twists?  You mean that old thing they did again?”  The thing is that about 90% of the supposed twists on old fairy tales presented in that show have been done before in literature, comics or even Jay Ward Fractured Fairy Tale cartoons.  However, since the general populace hasn’t encountered them before they’re not viewed as cliché but novel.  This seems to be the case with most examples.  Most twists, changes and revisions have been done a number of times before in quieter media before someone stumbled on the idea and put them in a movie or on TV.  It’s a fact that most fairy tale fans are likely just going to have to grin and bear.  Now, which rogue do I like best?  Well, Flynn Rider makes me laugh and I really like Carswell Thorne’s character arc, however Jack receives major points for being the same Jack as the one from “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  What, did I forget to mention that part?

Overall, Rapunzel’s Revenge is a fun little graphic novel and probably a good way of introducing kids to the medium.  The heroes have a fun dynamic and the setting is unique.  While maybe not a “go out and read this now” book, I do recommend giving it a shot.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Post for Papa Polendina.

This post is coming about a week late.  Things have just been getting in the way.  However, I liked the sentiment enough to do it anyway.

This post is for Father's Day, and the various fathers out there.  It's not easy to find good fathers (or mothers) in fairy tales.  Usually, they're kind of awful.  In children's literature, they tend to be absent.  The parents take a back seat as the children go on some kind of adventure.  But there is one exception.

That's right, this one is all about Geppetto!
I've said before that the story of Pinocchio is one of the few children's stories that reflects the complicated nature of family, and I stand by that.

First of all, Geppetto is far from a perfect human being.  He's known as being quite a hothead and actually has a reputation for not liking children (generally because he gets angry when they make fun of him for his yellow wig, for which they call him Polendina).

However, even in this world in which puppets are alive and could easily be considered the children of their makers, he still sets out to carve one that can dance, fence, turn somersaults and earn him money.  Now, it seems a bit mercenary in 2016, but in 19th century Tuscany it hardly seems like a big deal that a child would serve as some kind of support for their aging parent.

But then, he has his hands full because he has to take care of Pinocchio.

Pinocchio runs away, and because Geppetto's reputation proceeds him, Geppetto ends up being sent to jail as a suspected abuser.

He brings pears for Pinocchio's breakfast and Pinocchio refuses to eat them unless they're peeled.  And despite this ungrateful turn, he still peels them.

He sells his winter coat to get Pinocchio a school primer, and Pinocchio sells it for tickets to see a puppet show.

Pinocchio disappears for long periods of time and Geppetto puts his all into finding him, even sailing off in a little boat and getting swallowed by a giant dogfish.

Raising Pinocchio is close to being a thankless job, but Geppetto keeps trying.  And trying.  And trying.  And trying.  Though, through Pinocchio's own effort, it does eventually get better.
It's here we have to stop and think about just how human our parents actually are.  About how much raising children probably comes down to sheer effort.  They don't necessarily know all the answers (though we think they do growing up).  They probably often have to make things up as they go along.  The job can be thankless because children simply expect it of them.  It's probably much worse when having to raise a naughty boy like Pinocchio.  But when they get older, we do have to admire how much they put into it all.

So, here's to Pinocchio's dad!  And here's to my dad!  And here's to all the other dads out there just trying to make the whole parenting thing work.  And to all of you, a Happy (belated) Father's Day!


Friday, June 17, 2016

Fantasy Literature Rewind: The Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde.  The great Irish playwright, novelist, poet, journalist, raconteur and wit.  Author of The Picture of Dorian Gray and “The Importance of Being Earnest”.  One of the most notable minds in Victorian literature.
Oscar Wilde
And also, he wrote some fairy tales.

Really, it’s not uncommon.  Victorian Britain had a big “fairy stories” craze for a while as everyone seemed eager to put their stamp on literature for a new generation of children at the time.  Some writers did it well and some did it not so well.

But anyway, on to Wilde’s stories.  While his fairy stories are not the first works that people usually list in a bibliography of Oscar Wilde’s work, they are notable.  Wilde’s fairy stories are crafted in much the same style as those of Hans Christian Andersen.  They rely on objects and animals to stand in for humans as their trials and tribulations are depicted.  They could often be highly moralistic.  Wilde, also like Andersen, was not afraid of letting his tales end tragically.

There are nine stories in my copy of The Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde.  If there are any more besides these nine stories, I don’t know of them.  Their titles are as follows: “The Happy Prince”, “The Selfish Giant”, “The Devoted Friend”, “The Remarkable Rocket”, “The Nightingale and the Rose”, “The Young King”, “The Birthday of the Infanta”, “The Star-Child” and “The Fisherman and his Soul”.
"The Happy Prince"
Before I go on, I thought I’d offer a little disclaimer.  These types of fairy tales are not generally my thing.  Not to say they’re not good or well-written.  I just don’t particularly like them.  There’s a reason why I don’t usually write about Andersen stories.  These types of stories usually leave me feeling a little bummed out.  I also frequently feel preached to by these stories, which I’m not crazy about.  But still, though I don’t like it, that’s what these stories were kind of designed to do.  They were supposed to teach lessons to children in a way that made the messages unmistakable.  They were also supposed to show the tragic consequences of things and also maybe remind the reader that sometimes life just isn’t fair.

The messages of these various stories are pretty obvious and the outcomes are often a little disheartening.  Both “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant” have bittersweet endings on Earth but are rewarded for their good deeds in Heaven.  “The Remarkable Rocket” is boastful and proud but ultimately ends up as little more than garbage.  “The Young King” starts out decadent and selfish but changes his ways.  The Nightingale in “The Nightingale and the Rose” gives his all to help some young lovers but it ultimately amounts to nothing.  “The Birthday of the Infanta” is about a dwarf who sees great love in an action made toward him only for it to turn out to be nothing in the eyes of the person who made that action.

Honestly, add some fiddle and guitar and you could probably fuel an album of old fashioned country songs with the heartbreaks in this book.

Like I said though, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad.  All these stories are written well and none of the outcomes seem contrived so much as just depressing.  Some of them do have important messages in their time.  “The Young King” addresses the plights of miners, weavers and pearl-divers who provide finery for the very rich.  There are also rare bright moments, usually where Wilde’s famous wit shines through.  At one point toward the beginning of “The Star-Child”, a wolf comments on the cold weather and how the government should do something about it.

Though, one story I would like to talk about a bit more in terms of both story and subtext is “The Fisherman and his Soul”.
“The Fisherman and his Soul” is a story about a young man who falls in love with a mermaid.  This is notable as perhaps a companion piece or counterpoint to another story featuring love and mermaids: "The Little Mermaid" by the aforementioned Hans Christian Andersen.

Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” is about a mermaid who falls in love with a human, sacrifices her own voice to be with that human, finds she is too late, is offered a chance to go back to the way things are by killing her love, but ultimately refuses and dies (or gets turned into an airy spirit, depending on which version you read).  The general message given to the mermaid is that she can’t love her prince because she does not have an immortal soul.  In essence, the two are just too fundamentally different and aren’t meant to be.

Many people read a certain subtext into this.  Many scholars and readers believe that the story was written in response to Hans Christian Andersen’s own love for someone he just was not meant to have: another man.
Oscar Wilde’s story, though ultimately tragic, takes a different path.

The Fisherman falls in love with a mermaid but is told that he cannot love her because he possesses an immortal soul and the mermaid does not.  So, he does the one thing that seems logical to him: he seeks a way to cast off his soul.

After an encounter with a witch, he finds out about a knife that can sever a person from his shadow, which is the body of the soul.  He uses the knife and sends his soul off into the world.  However, the soul asks the man to give him his heart before he goes.  The man refuses as his heart now belongs to the mermaid.
The soul/shadow comes back and eventually leads the Fisherman away on an adventure, but the Fisherman soon finds that without a heart to guide it the Soul had become corrupted and learned to do a number of awful things.  Also, the Soul’s proposed adventure was an excuse to lead the Fisherman away from the mermaid who died while they were gone.  It’s also through the Fisherman’s love and his breaking heart that the Soul was able to enter into the Fisherman again.

It’s an interesting thing to think about.  The Fisherman’s love for the mermaid is not depicted as the ultimate wrong in this tale.  The Fisherman himself is unrepentant of it even though it was ultimately tragic.  It was also the way in which the Soul and the Fisherman were ultimately united.  Also, while the Soul is important it isn’t the ultimate good of the story.  The soul itself is easily corrupted.  However, it’s the heart that is most important.  The heart guides the soul and steers it between right and wrong.

Now, I don’t think I’m surprising anyone when I say that Oscar Wilde was gay.  If I am, then you probably slept through English Literature 101.

If the subtext of this story is in any way reflective of his feelings about his homosexual lifestyle, then it says some interesting things.  It says that he was unrepentant of loving who he loved.  It also says at which level he valued the power of love and his own heart.  The heart is the ultimate arbiter of good and the soul is something which is easily led astray and corrupted.  Also, while the soul is cast off, it’s ultimately a thing which finds its way back to you through love.  Ultimately, if this subtext says what I think it’s saying, “The Fisherman and his Soul” conveys the message to not be ashamed of who you love and that matters of the soul can be sorted through matters of the heart.  It’s an interesting idea, in comparison to Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” in which it’s all just doomed from the start.

Or maybe I’m wrong.  Such is often the case with subtext.

Overall though, Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales are tragic and moralistic with touches of wit and some progressive themes for their time.  They’re good stories if you like the type of stories they are.  And if you scratch the surface of some of them, you may find something to think about.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Four-Color Fairy Tales: X-Men Fairy Tales.


Okay, so I went to see X-Men: Apocalypse last week and despite it being a slightly flawed (though still enjoyable) movie,  I’ve been in a real X-Men kind of mood ever since.  So, I figured I could binge watch X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men: Evolution which are both very conveniently available on Hulu Plus while I ignore the need to post on my blog for another day.  Or I figured I could use this feeling to my advantage.  I will endeavor to do the latter.

Now, I’m a big X-Men fan going back to the early ‘90s when the X-Men cartoon series on Fox Kids caught my interest.  I’ve been a reader of the X-Men comic books on and off ever since.  This is meant as both an assurance that I know my stuff and as a warning that if I start writing about some of the more obscure elements I might lose you.  If I do lose you, then I’m sorry.

To most people, it might not seem like the words “X-Men” and “Fairy Tales” go all that well together.  However, to those in the know, it’s a different matter.  Those two concepts actually first came together back in 1982 in Uncanny X-Men # 153 by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum.  It’s an issue titled “Kitty’s Fairy Tale” in which young X-Man Kitty Pryde tells Collosus’s little sister Illyana a bedtime story of her own concoction.  Naturally, it’s filled with characters who resemble the characters in Kitty’s life including an elf-like character called a Bamf (Nightcrawler) and the Fiend-With-No-Name (Wolverine).  Even the X-Men’s jet gets recast as a dragon.  In truth, while a fantastical story, it really doesn’t adhere to any major fairy tale tropes or motifs.  If anything, the whole thing seems a little bit more like The Princess Bride only with more magic.  However, it is fondly remembered by fans.  The story also got paid homage in the fifth season of the animated series with an episode entitled “Jubilee’s Fairy Tale Theatre”.  If Kitty’s version was more like The Princess Bride, Jubilee’s felt more like The Legend of Zelda.

Now fast forward to the year 2006.  Inspired by the classic “Kitty’s Fairy Tale”, Marvel releases a four-issue miniseries by writer C.B. Cebulski entitled X-Men Fairy Tales.  Each issue is drawn by a different artist and each story or story type is filtered through an X-Men type lens with the stories altered to reflect famous stories from the comics and the characters reflecting various X-Men characters.  Was it any good?  Well, I’ve dug it up out of my short boxes to find out.  So, let’s start from the beginning . . .

Issue #1- “The Peach Boy”.  Art by Sana Takeda.  This issue is based on the story of “Momotaro”.  It  begins with an old man and woman finding an enormous peach floating down a river.  They bring it home and open it up only to find a baby inside, as per the classic story.  However, the difference in this tale is that the baby only seems to have one eye, the other one replaced by a peach pit.  When the old man removes the peach pit, the baby’s eye erupts with a powerful red beam that punches a hole in the ceiling.  That’s right, for the purpose of this story, the part of the Peach Boy will be played by Cyclops.  In this version, the character is named Hitome, which appears to be derived from “Hitomi” which means “The pupil of the eye”.  Well, points for a fitting name.  By and large the story plays out the way the story of Momotaro usually plays out with a few changes.  In this version, a monk who looks a great deal like Professor X recruits Hitome for the journey to rescue a red-haired princess (very clearly Jean Grey)  abducted by the oni.  There are also no millet dumplings.  Hitome befriends the animals in other ways.  The whole thing is a Japanese fairy tale riff on the original X-Men comics from the ‘60s.  Hitome’s animal friends include a blue monkey (Beast), a strong, high-flying pheasant (Angel) and a white dog that controls ice and snow (Iceman).  By the same token, the oni highly resemble original members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants Magneto, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and the Toad.  Though, they don’t keep this consistent.  They also include a cameo by bandits who look an awful lot like Mystique, Avalanche and Pyro who all premiered in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  They tried to draw out more character from the three animals with how Hitome befriends them, but the strange thing is that very little of it seems drawn from the characters they represent.  For example, the pheasant has stopped flying because he realizes the higher he flies the farther he could fall and has become afraid.  But the character of Angel is hardly ever known for his fears.  In fact, he’s known for being arrogant and a bit overconfident.  Still, taken with a grain of salt, it’s really not a bad little comic and I’ll say right here that it’s probably the best of the bunch. 

Issue #2- “The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle” with art by Kyle Baker.  The story of “The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle” is a largely African story that seems to have had many different versions.  You can find one HERE and HERE.  The version in this comic bases the story on the friendship between Professor X and Magneto.  Here, Magneto is the Eagle, a bird born to hardship and violence as his family was killed by other birds.  Professor X is the Tortoise, born and raised in a supportive environment but later ostracized for being different because of the strange X marking on his shell (I guess they’re going to skip over the part of the story in which the Tortoise has a psychotic bully for a step-brother who becomes the Juggernaut).  Now, it may seem strange to think of these animals representing these characters, but their markings betray them.  As I said, the Tortoise has a shell marked with an X and the Eagle has markings on his face reminiscent of Magneto’s helmet.  I’d say more about the way the story parallels the comics, but it’s really just these two characters.  Going back to the African tale, most versions hinge on the idea of the Tortoise finding a way into the Eagle’s nest and the angry Eagle throwing him out.  That’s still the case here, but while the Eagle in the traditional tale throws the Tortoise out because he tricked him into carrying him to the nest, Magneto-Eagle does it because his personal demons and tendency toward violence have overcome him and he turns on his own friend.  What this issue does, it does rather handily.  However, there’s just something kind of odd about seeing the back story of Magneto and Professor X transformed into a simple animal fable.

Issue #3- “To Die in Dreams” with art by Bill Sienkiwicz (pronounced “Sink-a-vitch”).  This is the miniseries’ attempt to riff on the Brothers Grimm.  The story follows a blind Tailor (Cyclops again) who is guided by a talking crystal ball . . . for some reason (I think there’s a reference I’m missing there).  This Tailor manages to stumble upon a crystal casket with a beautiful red-haired princess (Jean Grey) inside.  The Tailor quickly falls for the sleeping beauty and kisses her back to consciousness.  He takes her back to his shop.  The red-haired amnesiac slowly starts to regain her memory, but they’re soon confronted by the Butcher (Wolverine) who lets it be known that the woman is actually a princess who is possessed by a terrible witch.  And . . . okay, I’m just going to say it for any of the comic book fans who may be reading this.  It’s “The Dark Phoenix Saga”.  It’s “The Dark Phoenix Saga” as filtered through the movie version (the much-maligned X-Men: The Last Stand was released the same year) and then filtered through fairy tales.  Anyway, as can be expected, the Tailor and the Butcher go on a quest to stop the Phoenix-witch and, well, the Phoenix-witch-princess character does not survive the finale.  It’s really quite a somber ending.  Though, seeing as we kind of stumble upon the princess randomly and don’t know much about her, it kind of serves more to remind us of the Tailor’s loneliness than anything else.

Issue #4- “Restless Souls” with art by Kei Kobayashi.  This issue isn’t really a folk or fairy tale derived story as much as an attempt to riff on the idea of a Southern US ghost story set in New Orleans and as such kind of breaks the theme.  Don’t worry though, they try to make up for it by dropping in references to “Cinderella” and “Little Red Riding Hood” throughout the characters’ dialogue.  Basically, the story follows New Orleans detective Remy Lebeau (master thief Gambit in probably his most ironic role ever) as he tries to save the life of a mysterious girl (played by Rogue) he just met.  It turns out she’s a spirit medium who works with her mother (Mystique) and sister (Destiny).  Word of the girl’s unique gifts has reached the ears of a strange Voodoo cult (The Hellfire Club) who abducts the girl.  Lebeau, after some advice from his partner (Bishop) runs off to the rescue alongside the girl’s mother.  There’s spooky atmospherics and zombies all over the place.  It’s not a terrible comic.  In fact, it’s rather fun.  However, it would have made more sense as part of a Halloween special than as part of a fairy tale themed  miniseries.
Well there’s clearly one major problem with this miniseries.  The same major problem X-Men: Apocalypse had: not enough Jubilee!

I kid, I kid!  (Though, truth be told, I do think Jubilee is an awesome character in the comics.  In the cartoon series, not so much).

Actually, for what strengths the miniseries had, its greatest failing is that they just didn’t have enough fun with the concept.  The concept suggests something different from expected X-Men fare delivered most likely with a bit of a wink at the audience.  Instead, we get some of the X-Men’s heaviest stuff from the past (the tortured friendship between Magneto and Professor X and “The Dark Phoenix Saga”) overlaid with talking animals and magic and still delivered about as seriously as a heart attack.  The first issue had fun with it.  The last issue was a fun supernatural adventure, despite the fact that it didn’t fit the theme.  Otherwise, they just didn’t play around with it enough.

I’m reminded again of “Kitty’s Fairy Tale” and what made it work.  At the same time, I’m also reminded of what made the X-Men comic book series work as a whole.  It all comes back to unpredictability combined with balance.  “Kitty’s Fairy Tale” riffed on “The Dark Phoenix Saga” just like issue #2 of this series did.  It just did it with more of a wink at the audience and a sense of fun.  Yet, it wasn’t out of line for the comic book to handle it that way.  While the X-Men comics have gained a reputation of being “dark”, they’re actually not without their light moments.  Also, while they’ve also become known for using mutants as a metaphor for prejudice and discrimination, they have about as many space battles and run-ins with dark magic as any superhero team.  It’s through balancing these things that they managed to have one of the most celebrated comic book runs starring one of the greatest ensemble casts in the history of superhero comics.

Also, just as the X-Men may have gotten pigeon-holed, haven’t fairy tales also gotten simplified in people’s view of them.  Whether regarded as “dark and adult” or “light and childish”, aren’t fairy tales more than these labels can really convey?

Maybe, just maybe, fairy tales and superhero comics have more in common than some might think.  In fact, I hope they do.  After all Marvel followed up this series with Spider-Man Fairy Tales and Avengers Fairy Tales.  But both of those will have to wait for future posts.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The State of the Kingdom.

Ah, summer’s just about here.  The season of my birthday and the season in which I got my heart operated on.  It seems like a good time for some reflection.  I’ve got an extra week this month and I’ve been kind of mulling over what I’ve been doing on this blog.  So, I thought I’d write it out and if anyone had any reactions to it or suggestions, they could let me know in the comments.

First thing’s first: I have way too much reading and viewing material to spotlight on the blog, so I’m going to be focusing on that stuff rather than taking in a lot of new material.  That said, let me break down how things are going and what we may expect in the future:

Folk Tale Secret Stash: Secret Stash is the one I started this blog with and in some ways one of my favorites.  There is a slight problem, though.  I haven’t really read any of my folk tale books in a while.  I’m working my way back into rereading them, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.  So, the Secret Stash columns may be a bit few and far between for a while.  They’ll never go away completely, though.

Fantasy Literature Rewind: Rewind should go on as it usually does.  I have some stuff lined up.  I have My Own Fairy Book  by Andrew Lang, The Enchanted Castle and Five Children and It by E. Nesbit.  There’s also some stuff I need to reread in order to spotlight it like The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graeme and the fairy stories of both Oscar Wilde and Frank Stockton.  I’m also considering a couple of less orthodox posts.  I’ve been considering touching on some more 20th Century stuff that we probably know best from movies like Bambi by Felix Salten, One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming.  I’ve also been considering a look at the rare pieces of adult literature that sometimes work their way into people’s fairy tale canon like Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (and yes, I do already own most of these books I've mentioned).  I know this seems like a lot, but I got kind of fired up by getting to read The Jungle Book again.  So, it’s going to take a while to get to it all.  Some stuff may wait until I can tie it in with the inevitable movie remakes that will happen.

Also, some fairy tales fall in a space between these two like those of Giambatista Basile and Charles Perrault, so if I write about those they’ll probably just be stand alone posts rather than under one of the title cards.

Fairy Tale Media Fix: Media Fix is another one that likely isn’t going to change much.  There are a few fairy tale inspired movies that are coming out.  So, I’ll review those.  I’m going to try and keep it focused on stuff that’s based on actual folk-derived fairy tales, though.  You’ll notice that I opted not to review the new Jungle Book movie despite the fact that I loved it.  Instead, I decided to write a FLR about the book that inspired it.  This is largely just to keep me from being overwhelmed.  I also want to do more “Tales from the $5 DVD Bin” because there are just so many bad or cheap fairy tale movies and cartoons out there.  You may be seeing one of those sooner rather than later.

Four-Color Fairy Tales- Honestly, unless you count all of Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales series, fairy tale comics can be a little bit few and far between.  So, this is actually a column that I’m going to expand in scope to include stuff based on children’s literature.  There’s some stuff out there with interesting titles like Peter Panzerfaust and Pinocchio the Vampire Slayer.  I’m also probably going to shine the spotlight on some graphic novels that were created directly for the book market rather than for the comic book specialty market.  Also, there might be some retro reviews for stuff like X-Men Fairy Tales and Lullaby.

The Stuff of Legends- We are so close to the end of The Stuff of Legends.  The idea for it originally came from my desire to write about characters like King Arthur and the Pied Piper, but then I expanded it to twelve different legendary characters.  It was also designed as kind of a counter to Folk Tale Secret Stash because other than one or two characters, all the characters I wrote down were pretty famous.  I’ve written about ten of them so far and have two to go.  After that, I’m considering a revival but not right away.  If I do, there will also be a slight format change so that I can talk about different types of legend s (ghost stories, urban legends, tall tales, cryptid legends) as well as legendary characters.

The Top Seven- The Top Seven pretty much exists for those rare moments when I feel like being Buzzfeed.  So, the lists will come when the idea strikes me.  They take a lot of work to research and arrange.  So, that is a factor.

Once Upon a Pixel- This has been the title I’ve used pretty much every time I’ve focused on video games.  So, I’m probably going to start giving this one an actual title card.  I’ve been considering doing pieces on folklore references that show up in classic franchises like Super Mario Bros. and Pokemon.  I also do want to do something with Song of the Deep when it comes out, but it will depend on whether I can get access.  Otherwise, you probably won’t see this column too much.  There are time, money and hardware issues.

Fairy Tale Fandom Book Report- Now this is where the big changes are probably going to come into play.  I never really planned on focusing on contemporary fiction because there are so many blogs that already focus on that.  It originally came about just because I wanted to talk about the Sisters Grimm series of children’s books by Michael Buckley.  However, it’s also the one that gets people to contact me and ask to review their books.  The truth is that I’m not crazy about doing it.  I prefer digging up the retro stuff.  It might be a different matter if I made any money off this blog, but I don’t.  Also, my disinterest kind of harms the people asking for the reviews too.  Once I have the review copy on my kindle, I’ll end up leaving it to sit for months if I’m not excited about reading it.  By that time, the book is “cold” and my reviewing it does little to help their initial publicity.  So, I’ve decided that in the spirit of this particular blog I’m going to refocus on the weirder fairy tale adaptations for this column.  The ones that mash things up with other genres or do crazy twists to the concept that really catch my attention.  Basically, expect more stuff like The Lunar Chronicles and Time Lord Fairy Tales and less stuff like The Northlore Series or The Ugly Stepsister.  If someone does want to pitch me a book to review, they should definitely be on their A game and be prepared to catch my attention.  First rule of thumb: try to avoid a pitch that uses overused words like “dark”, “twisted” or “fractured”.

That’s about it.  I’m thinking about a few other things.  Once Stuff of Legends is done, I’m thinking about doing a limited run series in which I try to make recipes inspired by fairy tales (I even have a crock pot recipe called Cinderella Stew).  I want to do a post on fables the same way I did one on nursery rhymes.  This summer I also want to visit some of the local amusement parks that use fairy tale themes and take some pictures for a spotlight post.  I’ve also considered tackling some bigger issues like cultural appropriation in regards to fairy tales and storytelling, but that would take some big time research.  As usual, my posts will continue to be exploratory in nature.  I just get an idea, research it and post my thoughts.

If anyone has any ideas, thoughts, comments, concerns or you just want to get on my case for wasting a week doing a “housekeeping” post, let me know in the comments below.