I'd like to welcome Maria Rainier as a guest poster on A Trillian Books. Maria is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online programs and blogging about student life issues. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
Peter & Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham
For those of us who remember the fairy tales of our youth with affection, and the more inquisitive and skeptical among us who wondered whatever happened to tongue-twister characters like Peter Piper and if Pinocchio ever resented his dad for making him grow up forever in a child’s body, Bill Willingham’s Peter & Max can quench our curiosity.
Background on Fables
I began reading and spending too much money on Fables when a friend saw the book Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire on my bookshelf and recommended Willingham’s Fables to me.
The franchise began as a DC Comics series by the title of Fables in 2002. Written by Willingham and penciled by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leihaloa among numerous others, the story follows the contemporary adventures of fabled characters such as Snow White, Bigby Wolf (whom you know as Red Riding Hood’s big-eyed, sharp-toothed, long-eared adversary), Beauty and the Beast, Alice, Pinocchio, and countless others by whom readers are continuously, delightfully surprised. They have escaped their fairy tale world after its conquest by the one they know as The Adversary, and currently seek shelter in upstate (and rural) New York.
Don’t race to your local comic book store expecting the Disney version of these well-known fables, however; the series is decidedly on the darker, more mature side. Characters curse, have sex, and often kill one another in very un-Disney-like ways. Enough humor and good goings-on abound, though, to make the series satisfying and even addictive. As of 2008, 12 Eisner Awards and myriad other recognitions prove it.
Branching Out to Peter & Max
Although still committed to Fables, in 2009 Willingham published Peter & Max: A Fables Novel, which tells the tale of Peter Piper and his lesser known brother and rival, Max. Like Fables, the novel’s story often takes sinister, very Brothers Grimm-appropriate turns, but Willingham’s combined abilities to make the reader take fairy tale characters and their misadventures seriously as well as laugh at him- or herself for doing so makes it a very tongue-in-cheek and charming read. Moreover, Willingham’s writing stands marvelously by itself without the help of dialogue bubbles and colorful art, very much like Neil Gaiman’s (another accomplished graphic novelist and author).
I’ve never been much of a comic book reader, but I let the idea Prince Charming having three divorces, Belle and Beast attending marital counseling, and the Frog Prince being a janitor with a penchant for eating flies carry me away into an escape I’ve never regretted. Peter & Max may be a good one-time fling with Willingham’s charmed writing and the beloved characters of our childhood, or it may serve as an introduction into the greater world of Fables.