Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales
Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales is the umbrella title for a series of anthologies edited by Kel McDonald. (And isn’t that a great title? So fun to say!) Each volume — there have been three so far — is themed after a particular region, so together, they cover folklore from around the world.
What I like about them is the high quality of the content. The stories are substantial, which means they have plenty of space to develop (even if, sometimes, because they’re fairy tales, what happens is weird or dream-like), and well-crafted. They’re roughly faithful to the original tale (based on the ones I recognized — most I didn’t, and I appreciated the exposure to folklore from other cultures), but the creators aren’t afraid to modernize the jokes or dialogue. And the creator lineup is exceptional, including Blue Delliquanti, Meredith McClaren, Gene Luen Yang, Carla Speed McNeil, Lucy Bellwood, and Faith Erin Hicks. Sometimes, with anthologies, there are one or two stories where I wonder whose friend the artist is, because they don’t measure up to the rest of the book, but this series doesn’t have a clunker in it.
The Europe Edition, the first and smallest, will likely be most familiar to readers, since it includes “Jack and the Beanstalk” (by Mary Cagle with a particularly modern ending), “Rapunzel” (by Lin Visel), and “Puss in Boots” (by Kate Ashwin).
The Africa Edition is co-edited by Taneka Stotts while the Asia Edition is co-edited by Kate Ashwin. These were all new to me, and many were fascinating. Just a few of the ones that stood out were “The Disobedient Daughter Who Married a Skull” by Nicole Chartrand, “Snake and Frog Never Play Together” by Carla Speed McNeil, “Gratitude” by D. Shazzbaa Bennett, “The Lion’s Whisker” by Mary Cagle, “The Demon With the Matted Hair” by Kate Ashwin, “Frog Skin” by Nilah Magruder, and “The Ballad of Mulan” by Jonathan Dalton (ok, I knew this one).
The books can be ordered from the title’s website in print or PDF format or via ComiXology.
The latest volume, Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Oceania Edition, is on Kickstarter for another month. It’s co-edited by Sloane Leong and will feature “comics inspired by folklore from Hawaii, the Philippines, New Zealand, and more, by cartoonists hailing from all around Oceania!” The book is substantially on its way towards making goal, and reward levels include the ability to get copies of the previous volumes as well. All contributors are paid, and overfunding means more money for the artists.