Sunday, April 20, 2014

Four Color Fairy Tales: Erstwhile

As much as I love the traditional printed comic book, I must admit that some of the best comic talents can be found on the web.  I read a number of webcomics, but there is only one that is an absolute must for fairy tale fans.  That one would be Erstwhile:
Now, you all know how I love projects that promote the hidden gems of the fairy tale universe.  Erstwhile does just that.  Erstwhile is a collaborative effort between three successful and experienced webcomic artists, Gina Biggs, Louisa Roy and Elle Skinner who are members of Strawberry Comics, a studio dedicated to promoting women in comics.  Each of these three wonderful ladies takes the drawing duties in a rotation of less famous stories taken from the collection of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

That’s right.  It’s our old friends Jacob and Wilhelm again.  However, if you ask me, they could have no better illustrators than Gina, Louisa and Elle.  Each one brings a unique style to the tales depicted.  Even in their own styles, you’ll notice them experimenting with stylistic elements to bring different qualities to each story (for example, compare the grainy, sepia-toned backgrounds of Gina Biggs’s “Doctor Know-it-all” to the brighter colors of her “Snow White and Rose Red”).  On the whole, their adaptations are very faithful.  On occasion, the artists will add elements to expand on back story or motivation or at the very least give the characters names.  However, it is never anything that changes the story’s basic essence.  In fact, they often include elements that other adapters might take out.  For example, many fairy tale fans know how things happen in cycles of three in the old stories.  While movies, TV shows or comics might reduce them down to one to avoid repetition, I’ve found that the artists of Erstwhile often keep them.  That’s something that makes this little fairy tale geek smile.

            So far, they’ve adapted about fifteen tales are in the midst of a sixteenth one.  I don’t like picking favorites out of such a wonderful body of work but if I have to I’d have to say mine would be “Snow White and Rose Red”.  If you’re the type to prefer reading your comics on paper, you could also give one of their book compilations a try.

The artists of Erstwhile have held two Kickstarter campaigns to get their work printed in book form and both have been successful!  (I should note that I’ve contributed to both).  However, I would strongly advise you to follow Erstwhile in webcomic form.  Not only do you have the chance to get your fairy tale fix twice a week (I believe it updates every Monday and Thursday) but you’d miss out on the Erstwhile community as well.  The comments section on each comic is a lot of fun to read and full of fun conversation provided you follow the ground rules set down by the authors (right now comments are disabled because too many people were posting spoilers, but it’ll be back).

            Trust me, if you give Erstwhile a try you’ll be glad you did.  Already an Erstwhile fan, let us know and tell us which story was your favorite in the comments section below.


  1. Hey!
    Just discovered your blog today ad haven't gtte aroud to reading alot yet, but it's always awesome to find fellow folklore fans (alliteration intended) on the web :)
    Erstwhile is an amazing comic, which actually manages to add to the story, without changing it. Perfect for a purist like me^^ Even though I knew all the tales they adapted so far, I never got bored
    My favourite comic would probably be Maid Maleen, but their version of my favourite Grimm's tale The Farmer's Wise Daughter is amazing, too.

    Lookig forward to your next post,

  2. Adam, you've opened my eyes to a whole new world! And, it looks like, a giant one! Thanks!