I have a raging girl crush on Canadian artist and writer Emily Carroll. She has single-handedly shown me that graphic novels and webcomics aren’t just for boys in love with guns. Sure, her comics are violent, but not in the POW! BANG! way of vintage superheroes and their incompetent nemeses. Carroll’s stories are violent in a slow, creeping way. They are dark and twisted, like the original Grimm’s fairytales (nothing like that sanitized Disney junk).
She writes fables and horror stories, fairytales and mysteries, and illustrates them beautifully. There is a layer of mistiness to each image, a sense of distance, a gray wash that only enhances the shock of crimson that comes later (sometimes it’s blood, but sometimes the horror is something else entirely).
I had my own little Christmas book flood this year (or in Icelandic, Jolabokaflod) and one of the books I received was Through The Woods, a print collection of Carroll’s webcomics and stories. Some of these are available to read online, including “His Face All Red,” a fantastic story of two brothers and a wolf, and “Out of Skin,” which is about a crone who finds herself suffocating in human skin. They’re spooky and wonderful—wholly original fairytales that pay tribute to the history the genre without being beholden to it.
Go read them on her site, or better yet, buy a copy of her book. It’s the kind of heavy book that keeps you coming back to it (I’ve read it twice already). Despite containing relatively few words, it is captivating in a literary sense and in a can’t-look-away-can’t-look-at-it sense. Also, I’ve realized that graphic novels are great because they make me slow way down and pay attention to exactly what I’m looking at. You can’t rush through them. You have to read the pictures, to pause and look at them, to suss out the clues buried within each pen stroke.
Edward Gorey once illustrated classic fairytales from The Brothers Grimm, retold in sparse but humorous language by author James Donnelly. How did I not know this?!? What a perfect combination. If I had a kid, I would buy this for them straightaway. In case you couldn’t tell, the top picture shows Little Red Riding Hood meeting that big, bad wolf in the forest before it runs off to do some mild cross-dressing. The second picture is Rumpelstiltskin, that little gnome-y scoundrel, dancing in the forest and celebrating the victory that will never be his.
Buy the book here.
Angela Carter is the fairy godmother of modern fairytales. Twisted and clever, Carter turns the classics upside down, subverting them in sensual, strange, provocative ways. I like it! Can you tell?
And if there is anything I’ve learned from working at a magazine, it’s that great stories need great visuals. Well, maybe they don’t need them (the oral tradition would beg to differ) but they definitely benefit from the right images. Knowing that, The Guardian issued a call for entries for Carter’s best work. The results are just fantastic. My favorite is this one: Sidsel Sørensen draws “The Company of Wolves.”
See them all here.
I have always been drawn to myths and legends above all other forms of storytelling. They’re the oldest answers to all of our questions. They speak to people across cultures and generations. They say something vital, strange, and deep about what it is to be human. They are in our blood, deep within our veins, moving like so many slow growing roots, connecting us to our most primal fears, most archaic yearnings.
Over and over, artists have tried to capture the otherworldly nature of these stories, and I never get sick of seeing them. But these images, by illustrator Jillian Tamaki, strike a powerful chord in me. Her style is both precise and free-flowing. Shadows of horses rush from a dark cloud, swans beat their wings into a frenzy of feathers. The style reminds me of woodblocks, but there is something wonderfully modern about each piece.
In addition to this series, which was created for a new printing of Irish Myths and Legends (available through The Folio Society), Tamaki has worked on several more mundane projects. But though they may be company commissioned, her talent elevates even ads.
See more here.
I love this poster so much. Narnia has had such a huge influence on my literary tastes (I know the entire series practically by heart), so when I saw these literary images on Pinterest, I gasped out loud. They’re really beautiful and witty.
Travel destinations for literary destinations from cedarMyna on Etsy.
When I was in elementary school, I went through a pretty intense Wiccan period. It started with the book Wise Child by Monica Furlong, which is, to this day still one of my all time favorite novels. I adored the description of the dorans, these people who lived in harmony with nature, gaining power and wisdom from the land. I wanted to be like Juniper, Wise Child’s mentor and guardian. She was kind and brave. She was very powerful, but most importantly, she was a complete aesthete. Rereading it recently, I still wish I was more like Juniper—even though she is a fictional character in a children’s book, she still has a lot to teach me.
As I’ve gotten older, my obsession with fantasy has changed. There’s still a Mists of Avalon-esque hippy factor, but now I’m also really fascinated by the darker side of magic, the occult and the eerie and the ghostly and the strange. In college, I wrote my thesis on ghosts in American literature and I’ve never stopped reading (or writing) about horror movies. And that’s why these amazing Zombie Tarot Cards are right up my (creepy, abandoned) alley.
They’re campy and hilarious and wonderful. Made by Headcase Design and Quirk Books, they would be a super Christmas present for that zombie fiend nephew of yours (or, you know, me).
1. I’ve expressed before my love for Roald Dahl. As a kid, I always loved his children’s books, but it wasn’t until I was older that I really started appreciating his amazing sense of humor. His stories for adults are darkly hilarious, and his memoirs walk the line easily between making light of minor horrors (like being caned at the hands of a sadistic school master) to expressing real excitement and sorrow at huge life changes (including the death of a family member and his very first—very exotic—job overseas). The guy lives a fascinating life.
Anyway, I’m loving these papercuts by artist Jayme McGowan. Featured on the Etsy Blog, they’re such a whimsical tribute to the author. My favorite? The misunderstood bookworm Matilda, of course.