Comics and Fairy Tales -- Art Spiegelman's Little Lit.
    by John Cech

I can't think of a better combination of favorite things than folk tales and comics. Enlist some of our more intriguing cartoonists and illustrators like Walt Kelly, Bruce McCall, William Joyce, and Harry Bliss to adapt one of their favorite stories -- like Jack and the Beanstalk, The Sleeping Beauty, or The Baker's Daughter. Add some edgey, hip elements; roll the results together in a handsome, over-sized format, and you might -- if you're very, very lucky -- come up with something as down-right delicious as Little Lit, Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies. It's a new collection of mostly new versions of mostly old tales, edited by the husband and wife comic book artist team of Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly.

The book is full of wonderful surprises, like William Joyce's "Humpty Trouble" in which Myron and Ethel Orbly, two delightfully egg-shaped egg collectors set off in their egg-shaped dirigible, propelled by egg beaters, to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There's Joost Warte's retelling of a Dutch folktale about a poor man whose dream takes him far from home only to bring him back to find the fortune that's been waiting for him all along -- right in his ownback yard. And then there's Art Spiegelman's rollicking contribution to the volume, about a prince who believes himself to be a rooster. The story is based on a Hasidic tale, but Spiegelman gives it his own spin -- a dizzying and hilarious helix of mysticism and the Marx Brothers.

We've seen a lot of fractured fairy tales in recent years -- the most memorable of which was John Sczieska's and Lane Smith's The Stinky Cheese Man. Most of these relied on a kind of fifth-grade, Mad magazine style of humor: essentially the idea was to dismantle the original and leave it in a jumble on the floor. But a very different kind of purpose fills the pages of Little Lit, -- a true reverence for the originals, and for the spirit of the folk tale -- with its solid story lines that are nevertheless filled with endless possibilities. It has all the right ingredients for these quirky, clever imaginations.

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:23:30 EDT

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