Lily Reads Comics – The StoryTeller: Giants

I’m never one to miss a Jim Henson comic, but it sure can take me a while to get around to reviewing them. In a prior installment of Lily Reads Comics, I shared The StoryTeller: Dragons, and now that the newest series, The StoryTeller: Fairies is reigniting interest in the stories, I’m excited to share them with you!

Tale One: The Peach’s Son

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale One features story and art by Conor Nolan with letters by Warren Montgomery.

This first issue in the series is based on the Japanese folktale of Momotarō, which translates to “Peach Boy” or “The Peach’s Son.” In folklore and in the comic, a giant peach is discovered by an old childless woman while she is washing clothes in the river. When she and her husband cut into it to eat, they discover a baby boy inside.

I think it’s clever how the comic imagines the boy from the giant peach growing up to be a giant himself. The old couple loves and supports him as their own son, but the villagers mistrust someone who looks so different. When displaced people arrive with stories of ogres, the giant boy offers to help them reclaim their homes, hoping that it might also vindicate him in the eyes of his neighbors.

On his journey, the boy befriends a wolf, a monkey, and a crane. I love a good camaraderie story, and I was looking forward to each of the animals using their unique talents to help the boy. The only disappointment I felt was because the story wasn’t longer, because by the time our fellowship meets the ogres, the comic was already past the halfway point, so there wasn’t much time to indulge in elaborate teamwork-heavy battle strategies. That’s a personal preference, though; I don’t think the story is really lacking and it ends happily, as The StoryTeller series often does.

I loved the artwork in this issue, especially how it portrayed the StoryTeller. Conor Nolan really nailed it with the facial expressions, and whether they were on humans, animals, or ogres, they were compelling and emotive. It’s always a good sign when I find myself staring at pages long after I’ve read all the words, and I did just that!

My only lingering questions originate from a panel on the second page. When the old peasant woman is doing her washing in the river, there are six giant peaches and she manages to bring one of them home. Could there have been giant children inside the other peaches? What are their stories?

Tale Two – The Tailor’s Daughter

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Two features story and art by Brandon Dayton with coloring assistance by Spencer Holt.

This second issue draws on stories from Russia, Norway, and France, and from the start, it had me wondering how it would surprise me. The StoryTeller series has a penchant for opposing our expectations when it comes to a character’s intentions. Like some issues from The StoryTeller: Witches and The StoryTeller: Dragons before it, the giant of our first tale was a hero, and I thought that some twist might reveal a kind heart inside the grotesque giant of this story.

Also like our first hero, the protagonist comes across three animal friends on her journey, but instead of joining her to fight, they offer her gifts. After receiving the best needle and pincushion from her father, the tailor’s daughter rescues a goose, a hare, and a mare from the giant’s snares. When they learn she is travelling to the castle to marry the giant and fulfill her father’s promise, they give her a magic collar, magic boots, and a magic comb, respectively, saying that she will need them more than they will.

She arrives at the castle to find her betrothed has monstrous table manners, but he does give her full access to everything the castle has to offer — the gardens, the libraries, the halls — except for the cellar. But as the Storyteller says, “You can’t tell a story with a shut door anymore than you can with a shut mouth,” so you know she’s going to open it. I won’t tell you what she finds, but you can bet that she will put all of her gifts to good use!

The art style here was very different from its predecessor, but I loved it just as much. The castle afforded many opportunities for dense bookshelves and laden tables, and I wanted to soak in every detail. That led me to discover one tiny continuity error, though. The magical comb doesn’t appear in her hair until the panel when she opens the cellar door. I suppose it is magical, after all.

Tale Three – Pru and the Fomorian Giants

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by Jared Cullum with letters by Warren Montgomery.

Before this comic, I had no idea about the Fomorian giants of Irish mythology (or The Forgotten Realms, for that matter). They are the foes of this tale, and based on their size in comparison to humans, I’d say they might also be the largest giants of the series.

The Fomoire are the catalyst, but they take a back seat to the story of the bond between siblings. The arrival of these giants separates Pru and her little brother from their parents, and after three years of living on their own in the wild, Pru is adept at protecting Spoon (we have reason to believe this is not the name his parents Mathghamhain and Fedlimid gave him) with her slingshot and her father’s drum. When she can’t defend herself, a mysterious spirit named Púka comes to her aid. Spoon takes to Púka immediately. But Pru is tired of always having to look after her brother, and in her frustration, she blames him for their parents’ fate. By the time she can take back her words, it’s too late. Spoon wanders off alone to prove himself and is quickly captured by a Femoire!

To save her brother, Pru teams up with Púka whose shapeshifting abilities are sure to come in handy. And Mathghamhain’s words, “Family stays together,” may take on a whole new meaning.

Jared Cullum’s watercolors created something special in this issue. I was impressed by the way Cullum conveyed motion in an early panel with a giant’s shadow overtaking a horse, and it was a perfect medium for the ethereal movement of Púka. Setting Púka apart with speech bubbles that were a different color than those of the mere mortals was a nice addition. I loved that the first form we saw of the shapeshifter was a bear, since Mathghamhain means “bear” in Irish Gaelic.

And remember when I said that stories in the StoryTeller series tend to have happy endings? That isn’t always true. The world of Pru and Spoon was changed forever when the Fomoire arrived. Their tale cannot right all the wrongs, but it still manages to end on a hopeful scene.

Tale Four – The Fisherman and the Giant

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by FeiFei Ruan with spot illustration by Sonny Liew.

This is normally the part where I give a little bit of cultural context or begin a plot synopsis, but I have to start with the art style because it is so striking.  FeiFei Ruan creates a surreal atmosphere with delicate, fine lines that draws on traditional Eastern art styles, but creates an entirely new experience. The comic, like much of Ruan’s work, is done in only a few colors. Please take a moment to marvel at the first three pages in the gallery below.

You don’t even know what a treat you’re in for as the comic continues.

This tale is based on the story of the fisherman and the genie from The Arabian Nights. In this version, the genie has been replaced with a powerful giant that can even change into a large bird. It all starts with our fisherman taking pity on the fish in his net when he discovers they used to be humans. They were the former inhabitants of a beautiful island, but when the ruling giant’s heart was broken, he decided to make all the humans disappear. When the fisherman arrives on the island, he is greeted by a courtyard of stone soldiers. Three mice try to deter him, assuming he seeks to gain the giant’s magical powers like all the rest who were turned to stone, but he tells them that his only desire is to stop the giant. The mice spell out the secret to the giant’s destruction, but even they can only help the fisherman for so long before the giant turns them into a three-headed dog to pursue our hero.

The story is simple and straightforward, and with all of his tools and allies, the fisherman is sure to triumph. But I won’t spoil the ending for you!

 

Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Giants was released as a hardcover graphic novel in August 2017. If you love the look of these stories, why not head to your local comic book shop and order them all in one volume? While you’re there, you could pick up the first issue of Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Fairies that came out last month. I can’t wait to read the rest of the latest series.

I’m excited to share more comic books with you in my next installment of Lily Reads Comics. Until then, let me know your thoughts on the tales from The StoryTeller: Giants!

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5 Fandom Friday: Five Magical Potions to Always Have in the Cupboard

We already covered Fictional Foods That We Want To Try in an earlier post, but fantasy offers us even more interesting options when we look at potions. Let’s face it, if we had access to effects like these, we would keep them stocked at home for when we need them!

With that in mind, I’d like to share Five Magical Potions to Always Have in the Cupboard.

#1 – Lucy’s Cordial from Father Christmas

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Lucy’s Cordial from the Chronicles of Narnia requires only a few drops to restore health to someone on a battlefield, so even though it probably falls into the category of a standard health potion, it certainly lands on the powerful end of the scale. For me, the most important potion to have on hand is a healing potion, and I have always wanted this one after having The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe read to me as a child.

#2 – Felix Felicis

Harry Potter

Sometimes, you just need a little luck! Felix Felicis (aka Liquid Luck) can be toxic if used in high doses as it can cause extreme recklessness, but if you use it sparingly and only when needed, you are likely to be successful in all of your endeavors while under its influence.

Screen capture by @NWPlayer123

#3 – Energizing Elixir

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Imagine being in the middle of an exhausting task and suddenly regaining stamina as though you had just begun. The Energizing Elixir from Breath of the Wild comes in handy when you’re climbing a cliff or swimming, and having easy access to this potion in the real world could give you just what you need to finish what you started when fatigue sets in.

#4 – Draught of PEace

Harry Potter

The draught of peace can soothe anxiety and calm agitation. You could use it yourself when you feel stressed about public speaking or a frightening situation, or you could share it with your loved ones when they just need a moment of peace from their worries and cares.

#5 – Morgause’s Tracking Potion

Merlin

Technically, the tracking potion was used by the bad guys (namely, Morgause and Morgana), but you could use it for good! I get uneasy when someone wants me to follow them instead of giving me directions to our intended destination, and this would make it as simple as following their trail. Assuming it worked on animals, you could give one to your pet to see just what they are getting their little paws into.

Honorable Mention: Egg Shen’s Potion

Big Trouble in Little China

“Drink this, you will see things no one else can see. Do things no one else can do!”

 

These are just six potions from a handful of properties, and we’re sure that there are plenty more excellent choices. In the comments below, please share what you would always keep in stock!

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!

Lily Reads Comics – The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1

In an effort to help me catch up on some fantasy films I had managed to miss out on, my friend Yusuf (@Morgul_blade) introduced me to The Dark Crystal. I really enjoyed it, and like so many of the others on my assigned viewing list (e.g. The Black Cauldron), I was a bit sad that I never saw them as a kid, because I knew I would have cherished them.

In my recap, I remember telling Yusuf that I could really see the film as a comic or graphic novel and that I’d be really excited to see what BOOM! Studios was doing with it in their series of comics. Well, being the great pal that he is, he sent me The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1!

The Power of the Dark Crystal is based on screenplays by Craig Pearce, Annette Duffy, and David Odell. The 12-part comic series is written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Kelly and Nichole Matthews, and lettered by Jim Campbell.

The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol. 1
Cover by Jae Lee and June Chung

Having had literally no idea what the book would be about, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t simply a rehash of the story from the film (though honestly, that would have been fine with me). This tale starts many years after the events from the movie; it has been a century since Jen and Kira healed the cracked Crystal and banished the terrifying Skeksis. The first pages show a shining Crystal Castle and a seemingly thriving land of Thra, but I was immediately put on edge when I saw piles of offerings around the Crystal.

Many of our favorite characters and creatures are back — Jen and Kira, Aughra, Fizzgig, Gelflings, Podlings, Landstriders, and more — but we are quickly introduced to someone so completely new that even the Gelflings don’t know of her kind’s existence. Thurma is a Fireling whose people live in a fiery realm near the core of Thra. She has traveled to the castle to ask for help from the Gelflings, but her entrance doesn’t exactly go smoothly. While she sneaks around evading guards in search of the Crystal, she sees the greedy and unsympathetic side of the Gelflings.

Kensho is an exception. When a Podling family is turned away from the healing light of the Crystal, Kensho offers them his birth stone as an offering. Seeing this, Thurma supposes, “Perhaps the Gelfling aren’t so bad after all…” Eventually, these two strike up a friendship, but it is immediately tested when Thurma asks permission from the newly awakened Jen and Kira to break the Crystal to save her people.

We learn throughout the book how it was that Kensho came to serve as an acolyte at the Crystal Palace. Unbeknownst to the kindly Jen and Kira, a blight has been despoiling the countryside for years. When Kensho’s village came to seek the healing powers of the Crystal with no offering, he selflessly offered his service, allowing his loved ones to be revived. When Thurma hears this story, she reminds him of his willingness to do anything for his people and how she took her mission for the same reason. This thread connects them but can also divide them.

I try to keep my posts as spoiler-free as possible, so even though The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol. 1 covers six comic issues and half of the story, I’m going to conclude my summary of the plot by saying that the world of Thra is rattled, and we can only surmise how the prophecy will be fulfilled:

“When feeble shines what once was bright
And secret spheres succumb to night —
If inward passes the slivered light
One world dies
Another made right”

(Talking with Yusuf made me realize that even though I think that I know what the prophecy alludes to, prophecies are always tricky things!)

The writing in this book was really enjoyable, and I felt that the dialogue struck a good balance between an homage to the film (in the form of Jen and Kira, especially) and fresh language that introduces a new era and characters.

The artwork was beautiful, and I can’t say enough good things about the thoughtful ways that Thurma’s fire was portrayed. It can be a reflection of her mood but also provide comedy as this misfit Fireling copes with being in a different physical surrounding. There were also some gorgeous panels that took advantage of motifs from the movie without being confusing or difficult to read.

The Power of the Dark Crystal #2
Variant cover by Sana Takeda

This novelized version included the single issue covers as well as variant covers and other art that hearkened back to the design aesthetics used in the films. I loved it all, but I’m sure that long-time fans would appreciate those pieces even more.

The single issues are still being published (Issue #9 was released last Wednesday), and Volume 2 comes out in hardcover on April 28, 2018. I hope you’ll check it out for yourself because I think it is a worthy sequel and legitimately wonderful on its own.

 

I’m excited to keep reading and keep sharing comics with you in my ongoing series Lily Reads Comics. I’d love your feedback on any particular books that I’ve reviewed and how I could provide more value with my reviews (a rating system? book by book synopses?). And of course, I’d love to know your thoughts on The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1!

5 Fandom Friday: Five Fictional Songs That We’ll Never Hear

As part of their world-building, many fiction authors, especially writers of fantasy and science fiction, pen songs that are sung by their characters. These can proclaim the great feats of heroes or simply be pub songs filled with nonsense. Fortunately, the lyrics to these pieces are written down for many a fan to set to music and create their own renditions.

But what about songs that have no lyrics? Some songs are so beyond words that the author might describe them for the reader, but because the moment is so bizarre or sublime, they could never be truly recreated.

We’d like to dedicate this Five Fandom Friday to Five Fictional Songs That We’ll Never Hear.

#5 – The Song of the Quarkbeast

The Last Dragonslayer Series by Jasper Fforde

Lily: Jennifer Strange is the main character in The Last Dragonslayer books, and she has an unusual pet, even for this universe. Well, “pet” might not be the correct term, because she couldn’t get rid of her Quarkbeast even if she wanted to. A Quarkbeast is a quantum type of being often described as: “One-tenth Labrador, six-tenths Velociraptor, and three-tenths kitchen food blender.” When two opposite Quarkbeasts meet, they start to sing their mating song. Oh, and when they touch, there is an explosion of enormous force.

If you were to hear the song of the Quarkbeast, it would likely be the last thing you ever heard:

“Others who have heard it are now little more than dust. But if I was about to die, then I was glad to have heard the song. It was lonely — one of lament, of unknown knowledge. A song of resignation, of poetry given and received. The small movements that the Quarkbeasts made as they padded around each other altered the hum so subtly that it sounded like an alto bassoon, but with one single note, infinitely variable.

“But it wasn’t a song of peace, love, or happiness. It was a requiem — for all of us.” (Chapter 24: Risk of Confluence, The Song of the Quarkbeast)

#4 – The Songs from the Alien Planet Rakhat

The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell

Maria: In Russell’s novel, the SETI program at Arecibo Observatory discovers radio broadcasts of music from an alien planet in a distant galaxy in 2019. This mesmerizing music then triggers events that lead to a group of humans travel to the planet Rakhat and the first human-alien contact.

Earlier this year, I finished this novel and it may or may not have entered my top 10 novels of all time. I’m not sure if I reeeally want to hear the music of the alien race Jana’ata knowing the full story (hooo boy hoo boy), but the very idea of hearing music from an alien race is too tempting. Maybe, during my lifetime this might come true… who knows.

#3 – Song of the Dragons

Dragon Age

Lily: When the darkspawn find an Old God and corrupt it, transforming it into an Archdemon, it leads them in an attack on the surface world. The darkspawn mostly dwell underground when they are not raiding Thedas, always searching for other Old Gods. They are drawn to their location by the song of the dragons.

Unlike the rest of our list, you would think that a video game would provide an opportunity for a player to hear this song, but at best, we only catch distorted fragments. These can be heard in the form of nightmares that grow more frequent as a Warden is tainted by the darkspawn blood they consumed at The Joining, their initiation ritual.

The Grey Wardens are not be envied, because when the song reaches its crescendo, they must participate in a ritual known as The Calling in which they descend underground to kill as many darkspawn as possible before being slain in battle. If not, they are ultimately doomed to join the ranks of the foes they fought so long and so hard against.

There was a stir within his blood
And the dreams lay thick upon him.
A call did beat within his heart.
One road was left before him.

(Codex entry: Shred of Blue)

#2 – The Song of Earth from the Campaign to Save the Humans

So Long, and THanks for All The Fish by douglas Adams

Lily: In the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the dolphins of earth sing “So Long and Thanks for All The Fish” before they bid the humans farewell prior to Earth’s demolition. The book So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish, however, describes a gift-wrapped fishbowl that turns up at Arthur Dent’s house with those famous words engraved on its beautiful silver-gray glass. When he is finally clued in by Wonko the Sane to hold it up to his ear, he hears a beautiful song of the Earth’s destruction and its ultimate restoration. And it goes a little something like this:

“The deep roar of the ocean.

The break of waves on farther shores that thought can find.

The silent thunders of the deep.

And from among it, voices calling, and yet not voices, humming trillings, wordlings, and half-articulated songs of thought.

Greetings, waves of greetings, sliding back down into the inarticulate, words breaking together.

A crash of sorrow on the shores of Earth.

Waves of joy on–where? A world indescribably found, indescribably arrived at, indescribably wet, a song of water.

A fugue of voices now, clamoring explanations, of a disaster unavertable, a world to be destroyed, a surge of helplessness, a spasm of despair, a dying fall, again the break of words.

And then the fling of hope, the finding of a shadow Earth in the implications of enfolded time, submerged dimensions, the pull of parallels, the deep pull, the spin of will, the hurl and split of it, the fight. A new Earth pulled into replacement, the dolphins gone.

Then stunningly a single voice, quite clear.

‘This bowl was brought to you by the Campaign to Save the Humans. We bid you farewell.'” (Chapter 31, So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish)

 

#1 – The Music of the Ainur

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. TOlkien

Lily: The Ainur are the first beings created by Ilúvatar (aka Eru), and they originally sang for him in solos or small groups. Eventually, Ilúvatar brought them all together, gave them a theme, and compelled them to sing Great Music in harmony together to create the world.

“Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Ilúvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void.” (The Music of the Ainur, Ainulindalë, The Silmarillion)

Of course, Melkor just had to go off-key, creating discord and dissonance, bringing turbulence and violence and war. So, it might not exactly be your kind of jam.

 

Can you think of any other songs from fiction that would be impossible for us to actually listen to? Please share them in the comments below!

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!

5 Fandom Friday: Five Times the Hero Wore Black

“Evil wears black” is a trope seemingly as old as storytelling itself, and we’ve been conditioned since childhood to recognize it. Sometimes, it’s an easy way for a moviemaker to give the audience clues as to a person’s villainous intentions, but we think it’s far more interesting when a film flips this kind of preconceived notion and dresses the protagonist in black.

Our topic for this week’s Five Fandom Friday is Five Times the Hero Wore Black, and we’re happy to share some of our favorite good guys who just happened to ditch the shining armour.

#5 – Maleficent

Maleficent (2014)

Maleficent is one of those characters whose wardrobe helped define her as absolutely evil, and that’s what makes her inclusion on this list a necessary one. In the recent retelling of her story, we get to see her side of things, and it turns out that not all was as it appeared in the classic Disney animated film Sleeping Beauty,

#4 – Batman

Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

Batman’s role as a vigilante compels him to hide his identity, and there’s no better way to slink into the shadows than by dressing in black. In his case, it’s also a reflection of the tortured soul within. The actor Kevin Conroy explained at a panel I attended at Wizard World Austin how he performed the voice: “I was able to just use my imagination, and transport myself to this dark, broody, painful place, which is where I thought the character’s inner life resides, because of what happened to him as a child.”

#3 – Luke Skywalker

Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi (1983)

Luke’s costume in the first Star Wars film was largely white, but rather than being a young hero who defeats the evil character in black, he sees his mentor struck down. In The Empire Strikes Back, he fights the same villain and loses a hand. By the time of the third film, The Return of the Jedi, Luke has been through a lot, and the iconic lightsaber duel between him and Darth Vader sets the stage differently than your standard good versus evil showdown. Luke is tempted by the dark side of the Force, but he not only manages to defeat his foe, he redeems his father. And all while wearing black.

#2 – Harry Potter

Harry Potter films (2001-2011)

I guess when it comes to expecting black to be a portent for evil, we’re all just a bunch of muggles. At Hogwarts, and in the wider Wizarding World, black robes are standard (sometimes mandatory) fare, and it never kept Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, or any of the other wizards and witches from heroic feats. Watch out for anyone bearing the Dark Mark, though…

#1 – Westley

The Princess Bride (1987)

Westley is on the top of this list because I, Lily Milos, am making this list, and he was my absolute first movie crush and I shall always love him. But I can say with some certainty that when “The Man in Black” was first introduced in The Princess Bride, I thought he was yet another bad guy in a mask. He was eventually revealed to be our dashing hero, and it turns out that masks are just “terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.”

 

We originally had a hard time thinking of examples of films and heroes for this prompt of ours, but once we got going, we had to refine our list to only our top five! Now it’s your chance to weigh in: what black-clad heroes can you come up with?

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!