While little remarks about comic books have been starting to find their way into various posts here on The Travelling Geek Show, I’ve never actually made it official until now. I love comics!
As a kid, I read comics that my comic book collecting uncle would send to my brother and me, and I always enjoyed them. Eventually, I somehow got the idea that comics were only for kids, which then gave way to thinking that comics were only about superheroes. Even though I like superheroes, it was daunting to try to jump in and navigate complex story lines and multiple universes. I got to a point where I thought that most comics just weren’t for me.
One important event that helped nudge me back into the loving arms of comics was my trip to Meltdown Comics last year. I discovered the paperback editions of Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller and The StoryTeller: Witches, and I just fell in love. Archaia puts out the StoryTeller, and when I started looking at their titles, I discovered a lot of other books that I like!
In December 2015, the StoryTeller released the first in a new series called The StoryTeller: Dragons. I’d like to start writing more about comics, and this seemed a fitting series to begin with!
Issue #1: The Son of the Serpent
Synopsis: Dragons have taken many different shapes in cultures across the world, from serpents and “worms” to thunderbirds and the classic European firebreather. In this first issue, Fabian Rangel Jr. (Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard) and artist Daniel Bayliss (Translucid) bring us “Son of the Serpent,” inspired by Native American stories about the Horned Snake and the Thunderbird.
Even though this issue came out first, it somehow wasn’t on my radar, so it’s not actually the first of this series that I read. But when I did get around to reading it, I loved it!
The story starts with the storyteller and his dog, as the television series and other comics have. I actually had to keep flipping back to the beginning of the book and the occasional interruptions of the main story to look at a particular patch on the storyteller’s coat (but that’s all I’m going to say; you’ll have to read it yourself to learn what I’m talking about!). That being said, you wouldn’t have to have any familiarity with the show or past issues of The StoryTeller to enjoy it; each story can completely stand on its own.
They choose such great artists for the Jim Henson books, and Son of the Serpent was no exception. Every page by artist Daniel Bayliss is gorgeous! The writer, Fabian Rangel Jr., also wrote for Mouse Guard (deserving of a later Lily Reads Comics post), so it didn’t surprise me that the story was very touching. And since it’s a standalone issue, it has already been easy for me to pick it up and reread when the mood strikes.
Issue #2: The Worm of Lambton
Synopsis: Nathan Pride tells the tale of “The Worm of Lambton.” A young heir to a kingdom catches a horrid Worm while fishing on the banks of the River Wear and throws it into a well in disgust. When the Worm outgrows the well and begins to torment the nearby villagers, the heir will have to return to stop it.
So many of the StoryTeller stories, whether in comic book form on in the television show, are morality tales. They are often based on classic myths and oral traditions — even if only loosely and even if the storyteller or his dog tries to undermine some of the story’s points.
This story begins with a cocky upstart whose actions result in a town being terrorized by a dragon. There’s also a witch, a prophecy, a custom suit of armor, and beautiful and fitting art by artist and author Nathan Pride. What’s not to love?
Issue #3: Albina
Synopsis: Hannah Christenson (Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard) presents “Albina,” the gender-swapped retelling of the Russian folktale wherein a legendary warrior and her servant face the three-headed dragon Tugarin Zmey.
This issue was the first one I spotted at a local comic book shop — I mean, with art like that, how could I not! Even if I didn’t already know I loved The StoryTeller, I would’ve picked this book up because it’s so gosh darn pretty!
I wasn’t familiar with the original Russian folktale, so I decided to do a tiny amount of research. I learned that the story is based on the tale of Alyosha Popovich (Albina Popovich is the name our knight in The StoryTeller), and while the basic story is there, author (and artist) Hannah Christenson really emphasizes our protagonist’s strength and the camaraderie that forms between her and her servant, Mara Paranov. And I always love a good story about camaraderie!
Issue #4: Samurai’s Sacrifice
Synopsis: Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award-winner Jorge Corona (We Are Robin, Feathers) presents the tale “Samurai’s Sacrifice,” based on the Japanese folklore of the dragon Yofune Nushi and the young girl who faced him to protect her village.
Even though all of these stories are about dragons, it’s not the dragons that make it interesting — it’s the other characters! Tokoyo, our protagonist in Samurai’s Sacrifice, has a belief that the reader can guess is not quite true, but it takes her and us a while to discover all that her hate had blinded her to.
I should give credit where credit is due (I’m looking at you, Jorge Corona). I thought this dragon was the scariest of the four in this series. I love that the design of each dragon is so different, but they’re all beautiful and terrifying in their own way.
I’ve been told that this series falls into the “child friendly” category of comics, and for some people, that makes them less appealing. Not for me! I think there’s plenty of excitement to be had, and I think it’s great that there’s nothing barring anyone from reading them. These are definitely stories that I would’ve read over and over before bed as a kid…and maybe as an adult!
I’ve tried not to be too spoilery, so I hope I’ve convinced you to consider picking up these books if you see them at your local shop. If individual issues aren’t your style, the hardcover edition was just released on August 9! It’s definitely going on my wishlist.