WCBE

No Pink, But Plenty Of Red, In Hack-N-Slash 'Fairyland'

May 2, 2016

Editor's note: This piece originally identified Jean-Francois Beaulieu as the illustrator; in fact, he's the colorist and Skottie Young both wrote and penciled.

You don't have to know about Princess Syndrome to get a huge, howling kick out of I Hate Fairyland, Skottie Young's new comic. But then, you probably do know about Princess Syndrome. Ever since 2006, when New York Times writer Peggy Orenstein described her preschooler's bewitchment with tulle skirts and tiaras, people with similarly inclined daughters have been having a bit of a rosy-hued meltdown. If the little girls of America had planned it (and who's to say they didn't?) they couldn't have come up with a better way to make their overworked, two-career parents lose their minds.

Want evidence? Try a couple of web searches. "Daughter obsessed princess" is a good one: It yields links to Parenting magazine, The New York Times and this very site, among others. These outlets' tones range from frustrated to furious to grimly determined. "Turn Your Princess-Obsessed Toddler Into a Feminist in Eight Easy Steps," promises the Times' Devorah Blachor.

Even a more neutral set of keywords, "girls pink princesses," spits out texts from CNN and Slate amid the effluvia of ads for wish-granting costume shops. "Let your daughter be a 'pink princess'?" CNN hazards timidly. Slate's answer is a militant "yes." "Pink and princesses: Why does 'girly' equal 'lame'?" it demands.

Not that the concerns of anti-princess parents aren't understandable. Too much pink has an eye-searing quality, as this picture proves, and a non-parent can only imagine what it's like to constantly encounter AriJasmiBelle's saucer-eyed visage around the house.

Now both Princess Syndrome parents and skeptics can find common ground. I Hate Fairyland makes it so much fun to rag on all things fluffy and lovely, it doesn't matter whether you're concerned about your daughter's development or afraid for your friends' and neighbors' sanity. Simply, it's about a girl (green-ringleted Gert) who's transported to a wonderful, magical, candy-coated world where she brutally murders most of its occupants.

Gert does have some justification. Magically pulled into Fairyland, she's been questing for the key to take her home ever since — and it's been 27 years. She's still trapped in a little girl's body and she's had it up to here with Ice Cream Island, Peppermint Pike and the Land of the Polkacorns. Now she drinks, gets high on mushrooms and swears a blue streak (though Fairyland's swear words are tamer than ours; the characters say things like, "Go fluff yourself!").

Gert's weapons of choice include a Gatling gun that shoots talking bullets and a double-headed axe that's three times as big as she is. Physics must be different in Fairyland, because she effortlessly slices her way through Giggle Giants, Zombie Fauns and an eight-foot-tall huntsman (sicced on her by Cloudia, the fed-up queen of Fairyland) whose head she turns into a puppet. When Gert is (temporarily) defeated, it's by another Fairyland visitor: Happy, originally from Joyville, Wisc., who shoots lethal rainbows.

All this carnage is ridiculous, rather than gross, thanks to Young's well-thought-out artwork. Fairyland is pure cartoon, with no whiff of realism to alienate the squeamish. Young's loopy, stretchy lines — reminiscent of the Ren & Stimpy Show — can't be taken seriously even when they're sketching decapitated heads and shattered femurs. Young uses barely any shading, slapping the eye with planes of flat color (and a minimum of pink). His packed compositions boil with mad energy.

Young's clever storytelling underlies Fairyland's success. The tough part of this kind of project is avoiding a one-note, one-gag scenario. Young gives the reader good reasons to keep going past the first couple of chapters, finding different targets for satire and crafting a fairly unpredictable plot. He makes all the main characters female, and it's fun to watch them whale on each other. Gert's nonstop spree does get repetitive, but Young works hard to keep the reader in the mood, more-or-less succeeding.

I Hate Fairyland is a great palate cleanser for anyone who's recoiled from pink-princess politics. Maybe the little girls of America won't abandon their tiaras anytime soon, but at least they're wielding magic wands, not Gatling guns.

Etelka Lehoczky has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com. She tweets at @EtelkaL.

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