I Hate Fairyland 1

Alternating Currents: I Hate Fairyland 1, Drew and RyanToday, Drew and Ryan M. are discussing I Hate Fairyland 1, originally released October 14th, 2015.

Drew: When I was in high school, I used to annoy a friend of mine by insisting that all ska music sounds the same. I suspect the vast majority of people might agree that ska has a pretty specific sound, but that’s true of virtually any artistic style, from country music to cubism — if you aren’t placing it in the appropriate context, you’ll only notice the most superficial elements, which necessarily define the genre. I’d argue that certain artists are so unique that they present a genre unto themselves, which is why sophomore efforts from those artists, say Spike Jonze’s Adaptation or Weezer’s Pinkerton, are chronically under-valued: we notice only the superficial similarities to their previous work, failing to appreciate what makes this one different. History tends to right those wrongs, but it can be hard to correct in the moment. So please, don’t hold it against me when I suggest that Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland presents a cuter, cruder take on his Rocket Raccoon.

That’s a terrible pull quote, but it should bring in the right crowd. There are obviously huge differences between Rocket and Gert, the ostensible hero of this series, but it’s hard to deny their similarities: an adorable exterior masks (or is compensated by) a vulgar, criminal, gun-loving streak. It’s easy to imagine Rocket in the same pose holding the same cannon-howitzer.

Cannon-Howitzer

I hate to begrudge Young such a clever Seussian weapon design (guys, the cannons still have fuses), but it feels incredibly familiar.

Less familiar is the graphic violence, which verges on puerile here. I do think it serves a purpose in goosing our expectations of the storybook setting, which is exactly what helps distinguish this series from Rocket Raccoon. The issue opens with Gert wishing to be whisked off to the very kind of fantasy world Fairyland represents, but her fall down the rabbit hole is decidedly more traumatic than Alice’s.

Gert's hurt

That Gert would be gravely injured by her tumble into Fairyland is a brilliant turn, and clashes directly with what we expect of her lollipop-guild welcome. Young maintains these injuries throughout the scene, and never fixes Gert’s teeth, even twenty-seven years later.

Oh, right: the central conceit. A child adventurer jaded by being stuck for decades in a fantasy land is brilliant. Imagine if there was no Ruby Slippers quick-fix for Dorothy, or if Wendy and her brothers were stuck in Neverland. Indeed, it has all of the trappings of this kind of fantasy, from the straightforward mission to get home to the magical companion, it just doesn’t end how it’s supposed to. More importantly, there’s no Wicked Witch of the West or Goblin King to antagonize Gert when she arrives, leaving Gert to become the malevolent force within Fairyland. Her open hostility to Fairyland makes her some powerful enemies, including Queen Cloudia, who enlists the help of Bruud the Brutal to get rid of Gert permanently. Again, Young is playing with our expectations of Wonderland — a bloodthirsty Queen is something we’ve seen before, but this level of intrigue is altogether different.

If I had to point to what distinguishes this series from Rocket Raccoon, I think it would be all about those expectations. Rocket presents himself as a salty space pirate, but his friends are always aware of his heart-of-gold. Gert, on the other hand, isn’t concerned with how she presents herself — our reactions to her are all tied up in what we expect of a little girl lost in a cute fantasy land. When she works against those expectations, she ends up being kind of a sociopath, giving this issue a heartless cynicism that doesn’t leave any character standing out as likable. I suspect that will change as the series wears on, but nobody here was particularly sympathetic.

But maybe discussing this series in terms of how it relates to Rocket Raccoon is problematic. The charm of Young’s character designs and tone would certainly have a bigger impact on someone who hasn’t been immersed in his style for years, and that might help balance Gert’s monstrous actions. Ryan, I’m not sure how familiar you are with any of Young’s prior work, but I’m curious to hear your reactions. What did you think of the premise? The characters? Oh, and do you suppose the moon’s brain is made of cheese?

Ryan M: I haven’t read any of Young’s previous work, so I’m having trouble placing the story in context. The joy with which Gert murders and cannibalizes the denziens of Fairyland is truly insane when considering any conventional ethics. It’s hard to gauge whether the story is about a land where cruelty is commonplace but the design is adorable or if Gert is the outlier and the chaos that she causes is disruptive to the otherwise cheerful place.

For me, Gert’s murderous adventures were a slog, especially given my excitement at the premise. I love the idea of a girl visiting a magical world and taking thirty years to complete her quest. In some ways, Gert’s bizarre behavior makes sense. She was pulled away from her Mom and Dad at a young age and has now gone feral in Fairyland. That feels fresh and allows for stories about failed dreams, frustration, entering middle-age trapped in a persona that you chose decades ago. In the first few pages of the story, I was also intrigued by the indifference and lack of empathy from the people of Fairyland. Gert literally has bones sticking out of her skin and they don’t care as they hand her a map and a send her on her way. Instead of a story about a relatable human dealing with a shitty fairyland, Gert grows up to outdo them. She is the worst.

It is amazing that Gert has survived this long in Fairyland. Based on her behavior, she should be dead or in the dung mines by now. Her only companion is Larry, who seems to be amoral at best. He has no recriminations for her shooting the narrator out of the sky, and subtly encourages her to get rid of the star witnesses.

bad guide larry
Drew, I wish the moon’s brain had been made of cheese. The level of gore in the comic was disturbing. Not (just) because I am a prude, but because it added another element of distraction. Fairyland is a land of flying ships, Ice Cream Island and psychedelic Mushroom Guards.  When we watch Gert rip apart the brains of the guards while they struggle, there is blood and brain matter everywhere. Maybe I hold too tight to childhood fantasy, but I sort of wish that they looked like mushrooms on the inside. It’s quite possible that you’re right and character shading will develop in future issues. For now, the little girl in me is just happy that from, the last panel, it looks like the narrator moon survived.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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4 comments on “I Hate Fairyland 1

  1. I would like to nominate the following quote for “RetCon Punch Quote of the Week (RCPQOTW for short):

    “The joy with which Gert murders and cannibalizes the denziens of Fairyland is truly insane when considering any conventional ethics. “

    • Kaif (and Ryan too): That just made me burst out laughing for a good two or three minutes. I am really glad nobody else is at work right now.

  2. Now, for the serious part.

    Comparing this to Rocket Raccoon (or even worse, Baby Avengers vs X-Men) will color this in a light that at times (many, may times) makes it difficult to digest. I wanted to laugh as she blew the moon’s brains out, but I was mildly revolted. It was so graphic and done with such glee (by not only Gert, but by Young) that it was really hard to contextualize. “Wait a minute, she just killed the fluffer-mucking moon?!!>!”

    Then I read the 3 page story of how this comic came to be in the back. I realized I only knew Skottie Young from cute MARVEL picture books. Shit, Skottie Young even has a cute name. But he didn’t read comics growing up. Well, not at first. He read Mad magazine. (and, if you didn’t read it he eventually got comics. Archie at first.)

    This is a loving and appropriate tribute to Mad. The familiarity with the artist and the Disney experience I’ve only had with him really made it hard to get through. I wasn’t ready. I’m going to go re-read a MAD funny book (I think I have the weird al issue) a couple of times and then try again.

    • That’s a great point. MAD might be a better reference point than any of his Marvel work. I can think of a few particularly violent (or just gross) MAD comics I read growing up, though I guess I tend to think of the violence there as more cartoony than gory.

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