Chris's Reviews > Once Upon a Time Machine

Once Upon a Time Machine by Andrew Carl
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it was amazing
bookshelves: comic-books-fairy-tales

Disclaimer: Copy recieved via Netgalley.

Once Upon a Time Machine is what all good retellings of beloved tales should be. The basic premise is a series of tales transported to Sci-Fi settings that, in part, ensure employment of a comics department in a large corporation. Perhaps a comment on today's publishing world? If so, it seems to be an accurate one.

And you can believe it.

The various stories used include American folklore such as John Henry, Aesop, Asian tales such as “The Peach Pit Boy”, European fairy tales such as “Billy Goats Gruff” and classic literature such as the works of Dumas. It works. It works brilliantly and is not a copy of Fables.
In short, the only thing setting this collection of retellings from those short stories collections edited by Datlow and Windling is the medium used.
Each story is retold using a different style, and between the stories is artwork depicting scenes from other tales. While the settings are in the future, they range from spaceships to bio-domes and a future Nigeria. If you are a parent or a librarian looking for something depicting more than just white men, this collection more than fulfills that demand.

The collection starts very strong with a retelling of the American legend of John Henry. John Henry is a folk hero who does not get the attention he deserves, at least currently, and it is a joy to see him in a beautiful and powerful retelling. The framing device used in the tale works perfectly, and this is one of those comic stories that transcend comics. The power and pathos of the John Henry story is more than equaled by tales such as “Pinocchio or the Stars are Not Wanted Now”, “The Five Chinese Brothers”, and “The Last Leaf”, a retelling of an O. Henry story . These stories show that too often comics move beyond the medium that is seen most often in the movies and racks. They are equal of anything by Eisner, who gets a nod in the beginning of the collection.

Not every story in the collection is serious and heart-breaking. “Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Silver-Hair and the Three Xairs” will delight any science fiction fan as well as lovers of Roald Dahl. Thought Mickey and the Brooms was a bit cute in Fantasia, try “Sweet Porridge”.
What is most interesting is how some of the tales are transformed. “The Billy Goats Gruff; or, The Crossing” keeps the testing of the original but becomes a quest for a girl undertakes to save her grandfather. “The Three Musketeers” have to help their king in a future Nigeria, where their enemies consist of robots that remind one of Star Wars droids. The changes or twisting of some of the stories is very imaginative and works – “The Tortoise and the Hare” as a soapbox derby for instance. The best twist, in my mind, is “The Billy Goats Gruff”. I would buy a series of stories about Billie. Where was she when I was growing up? “The Billy Goats Gruff” story will please fans of Robin Mckinley.

Even those stories such as “The Last Leaf” and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” that stick most closely to their sources keep the spirit of the source and hence work extremely. “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is a favorite story of mine, and I liked this retelling as much as I liked the original.

The artwork is varied, including artwork that is clearly inspired by anime and magna. There is super-hero artwork in “Peach Pit Boy”, which of all the stories is the closest to a tradition comic super-hero. In most of the cases, the artwork suits the style and tone of the story perfectly. The only art I didn’t particularly like was that with “The Three Musketeers”, I loved the story but at times I found the artwork a little hard to follow. Even there, however, in many panels you could see the connection between the story and the art.

I do have to say the only time I was disappointed was the fact that the “Three Little Pigs” picture that referenced both Power Rangers and Star Wars was just that. While the pig story was good, I wanted to see the story that went with that picture.

Ah well, hopefully there will be a volume two. This is an excellent book. If you love fairy tales, read it. If you have a daughter, get for her. Get if for your libraries. It really is a work of art on all levels.
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Reading Progress

July 6, 2012 – Started Reading
July 7, 2012 – Shelved
July 7, 2012 – Finished Reading
October 28, 2016 – Shelved as: comic-books-fairy-tales

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Tim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tim O'neill I enjoyed it too, but saying a common written and illustrated in large part by first-time comics creators (along with just a handful of seasoned pros like Jill Thompson) is the equal of "anything by Eisner," the grand master of the comics forms is a little hyperbolic, don't you think? like saying an anthology film by mostly newcomers is "the equal of anything by Kubrick/Scorsese" or a similar publication of skits, some of them playwrighting débuts, are "the equal of anything by Shakespeare"!


Chris I don't think the whole graphic collection is, just those four.


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