by Svetlana Chmakova, Emma Vieceli, Joanna Zhou, Irina Richards, Rebecca Burgess, Marubelle Sinclaire, Sonia Leong, Faye Yong, Fehed Said, Nana Li.
Sweatdrop is the UK Manga publishing collective whose work I covered quite a while ago. And whilst I still have a fear of manga (too much of it, my knowledge too poor, the sheer amount of it actually scares me etc etc), I applaud what Sweatdrop does, the obvious passion and skill they bring to their work and enjoy a lot of what they send for me to look at and potentially review.
And so it is with Telling Tales; a collection of 8 stories adapted from traditional fairy tales into a Manga style by various Sweatdrop artists. Every one of the eight is well done, and best of all, every one seems to be sticking quite tightly to the original fairy tales – which, as we know, were full of a great deal of nastiness, death, betrayal and cunning on all sides. These are not Disneyfications of classic tales, these are the original tales, in all their macabre, slightly unsettling glory, written and drawn sympathetically for a new audience.
Each one of the eight tales in Telling Tales is a strong example of good artists working in a fine style, but highlights include;
(Emma Vieceli – The Three Sisters and their Glass Hearts)
Emma Vieceli’s Russian tale of “The Three Sisters and their Glass Hearts” is a very typical fairy story – taking something quite ridiculous with the very idea of three sisters all sharing glass hearts and having to be very careful lest their hearts might break and creating a lovely tale of true love conquering all. But like all good fairy tales theirs tragedy before the happy ending – one sister dies and the other suffers a crack to her heart before their father the king decrees that any future suitor must be not only royal but a glazier to boot. Makes a certain amount of twisted fairy tale sense doesn’t it?
So when the third sister catches the eye of a lowly page boy, he decides his time would be best spent learning a glazing trade. Four years later he returns, wondering how he’s going to become royal (how does one get a kingdom nowadays?) in order to win her fragile heart.
It’s beautifully done – a good, old fashioned fairy tale, just as bizarre as they should be and Vieceli’s artwork is simply lovely, my favourite here.
(Rebecca Burgess – The Prince And The Pauper)
My second pick is Rebecca Burgess’ adaptation of Mark Twain’s “The Prince And The Pauper“. And fittingly for the one non-traditional European folk/fairy tale, Burgess’ art is the least pure Manga style here, mixing in a sketchiness to it’s Manga stylings that creates something of a halfway house of Euro-Manga. It sounds ridiculous, but hopefully that page above should convince you.
And as for the story – you must know that one? Prince meets strangely identical pauper – switches identities to experience the other half living their lives, returns and kingdom benefits. Great story, well adapted by Burgess.
(Said, Yong and Li – The Three Feathers)
And finally, we have “The Three Feathers” by Fahed Said and Faye Yong (with tones from Nana Li). One of the longer pieces in Telling Tales but it really benefits from the extra page count to create a genuinely funny tale, where Said’s writing builds and builds on the ridiculousness of the basic story of three Princes competing for their father’s crown.
It’s a classic Grimm’s tale spinning off Cinderella – except instead of the ugly sisters we have the two preening and arrogant Princes and instead of Cinders we have the third brother, whom the other two simply call the simpleton.
But the king’s chosen ploy of setting tasks for the three to inherit his kingdom – find a fine carpet, a beautiful ring, the prettiest maiden – by launching three feathers leads the simpleton to an underground kingdom of Frogs and it’s helpful Frog Queen. Needless to say, the simpleton wins out in the end, triumphing over the machinations and devious nature of the two perfect princes, albeit wth a healthy dose of assistance from the Frog Queen.
Yong and Li create some genuinely lovely artwork in The Three Feathers, cleverly dropping their realistic Manga into Gibli style when the comedy moments need it. It’s a funny, and sweet tale.
All of Telling Tales is a great sampler for the world of British Manga in general, and the work of Sweatdrop Studios in particular. They do great things – go check them out.