|Cover by Mike Allred|
And Bill Morrison brings his usual cartoony style over from the Simpsons comics and does a really fun and expressive sequence where a kid named Junior sings the old ditty, "On Top of Spaghetti."
In this version, Rumpelstiltskin is an obnoxious little imp, while the princess who has to guess his name is an idiot. TenNapel's art conveys this perfectly, and made at least this reader laugh his socks off.
Though all of these examples are funny from the get-go, not all the stories follow the same comedic pattern. "The Real Princess," for example, is a takeoff of "Princess and the Pea," "Jack and the Beanstalk," and a few other fairy tales, and is about a princess searching for her true love. Instead of the more modern manner of speaking peppered throughout the book, writer Alexander Grecian tells the story in the same type of language as a regular fairy tale, and Christian Ward lavishly paints the entire story so it doesn't look like it's a comedy at all.
And the truth is, it's not. The story is played completely and totally straight, as per the conventions of the wacky world of fairy tales. Anything funny or comedic in it is more a circumstance of what actually goes on in the story than it is the story actually attempting to be funny. On that note, I think it's excellently done, and is one of the highlights of an already excellent book.
Another highlight is "The Little Mermaid," written by the one and only Peter David and drawn by Juan Ferreyra. More a riff of Disney's version than the old Hans Christian Andersen tale, David plays the story completely straight in the first half and then just runs with a repeating joke for the second. It's a clever setup, thigh-slappingly funny, and aptly drawn by Ferreyra. Even if just for this story alone, I'd recommend the book.
By far, my favorite of the funny stories is Derek McCulloch and Anthony Peruzzo's take on the Rapunzel fairy tale. I'll just post a page here to show you.
I'd probably be a bad Filipino if I didn't mention that one story here ("The Fox and the Cat") was written by the Filipina Nikki Dy-Liacco and drawn by May Ann Licudine. The story is funny and contemporary, and beautifully drawn, giving a fully painted look that is charming and compelling to kids and art lovers all over. I'd also definitely be both a bad Filipino and a bad reviewer if I didn't mention Marie Cruz and Whilce Portacio's (yes, that Whilce Portacio) "The Secret Princess Society," which isn't a comic at all, but a prose piece with accompanying illustrations by Portacio. Because it's prose, there's enough time to develop a full (if short) story, and so this is the one story in the entire book that doesn't try to be charming or funny at all. "Secret Princess Society" is heavily rooted in Filipino mythology, with anting-antings (special medallions for protection) and duwendes (like dwarves, but different), and it's just great, more than seeing Filipinos in the anthology, to see Filipino mythology getting international exposure. I also didn't think Portacio's art - usually sketchy and gritty - could be used for this purpose, and this was a nice surprise.
So yes, while this anthology is mostly funny, some stories are not, nor are they meant to be. Some stories are experimental and works of art; "The Secret Princess Society" is serious; and the funny stories all have great variety in their humor sensibilities that you never get burned out laughing.
The presentation of the book is also top-notch, with the binding and the coloring making it a true pleasure to read.