Hey, look what I found while I was cleaning!
What is it? Why, I’ll have you know this is Lullaby by Hector Sevilla, Mike S. Miller and Ben Avery! It’s just the first fairy tale mash-up comic I ever read!
I know for most people, the modern age of reinterpreted fairy tale comic books started with Bill Willingham’s Fables, but I didn’t read that until later. I wasn’t really into the whole Vertigo scene yet. At the time it all started I had not yet ventured into the world of comics that were written expressly for grown-ups and was still really into superhero comics and shonen manga (well, I still am into those but I’ve branched out since then).
For someone who was more interested in splashy, action-oriented comics, Lullaby was a better bet than the slower, more nuanced Fables.
Lullaby is the story of five characters who join together for a journey through a fantastical world. Their stated goal is to find their way to the land of Oz, but they all have different reasons for going. The cast consists of classic characters from fairy tale, legend and children’s literature, but they’re all different than the way you remember them. There’s Alice, who is the “Hand of the Queen of Hearts”, meaning she’s one of the Queen’s most trusted warriors. There’s the Pied Piper, who is apparently a second-generation Piper and may have been one of the many children taken by the original. There’s Little Red Riding Hood, who is now a little bit wolf and a little bit girl since her run-in with Big Bad. Pinocchio is in this too, as a creepy little wooden creature who’s had his humanity taken but finds himself connected to the great Tree of Life through the course of the story. Lastly, there’s Jim Hawkins, originally from Treasure Island. This version of Jim is a full-fledged pirate himself who carries a magic sword named Sharky that seems to feast on other magic.
Everyone has their own reasons for being on this journey. Alice is looking for a way back to the world she was originally from before she found herself in Wonderland. The Piper is trying to help Red Riding Hood, but he also has a mysterious past in that he might be from the same world (the regular, non-magical world, actually) that Alice is from. Red is searching for her grandmother who got abducted from her home. Pinocchio is initially trying to get his humanity back, but shows some misgivings when he ends up connected to a bigger, more metaphysical world. Jim is mainly trying to help Pinocchio, but he ultimately wants to get a ship and become a pirate captain in his own right.
The other thing that really sets this comic apart are the character designs. Simply stated, everyone looks like they were redesigned by a Japanese video game designer (technically, it was actually a Mexican comic book artist). I know these designs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I dig them. It gets even crazier with some of the side characters. For example, the Three Little Pigs show up in the second volume and the pigs themselves seem to be made of their respective building materials. In addition to the pigs, there are a number of folk and literary guest stars both famous and obscure. Among them are the Billy Goats Gruff, D’Artagnan and Milady from The Three Musketeers, the Tortoise and the Hare, Baba Yaga and Makoma. I had too look Makoma up, but apparently he comes from this Rhodesian folk tale.
Unfortunately, the book didn’t last long. Only two collected editions were made. However, if you do want to check it out, it looks like the publisher Abacus Comics posted a whole bunch of it for free on their website. You can check it out HERE.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for some young comic reader out there it may be a good starting point like it was for me.