Nightmares & Fairy Tales originally ran from 2002 until it’s 23rd issue in 2008. The series focused on a ‘strange little doll’ called Annabelle who has been around for an unknown number of years, possibly centuries, and has gone from owner to owner many times over. The stories are told, mainly, from Annabelle’s perspective and chronicle the lives and losses of her owners.
It’s written by Serena Valentino, who also created the series Gloom Cookie, and beautifully drawn by Foo Swee Chin who signs her art as FSc.
In volume one of the series we are first introduced to Morgan, a sweet girl, and her girlfriend Dominique, a dark girl who has a secret.
Morgan’s story begins nice enough: good life, good friends and she’s in love with Dominique. During a date one night Dominique asks if Morgan has given any though to what was said earlier…Dominique claims to be a vampire and wants Morgan to be with her forever. When Morgan says she needs more time to think about the situation the story takes a decidedly darker turn.
Dominique begins calling Morgan and threatens her. Scared, and fearing Dominique’s anger, Morgan spends the night with a friend, Ian. The following morning the Ian is found dead and his girlfriend Tammy accuses Morgan of the murder. Returning home, her roommate Lylith wants to know whats going on. Things get worse. Morgan gets a call from Ian’s house…it’s Dominique and she wants an answer.
A few minutes later the police call, Tammy is dead as well. There is no sign of Dominique.
The question quickly becomes could Morgan have actually killed these people? Wanting answers and wanting the nightmare to stop, Morgan goes to Dominique’s home and is told by her mother than Dominique is dead and has been for some time.
More death and carnage follow Morgan as she tries to find some answers in the graveyard.
Does she get her answers? Well, she finds a tombstone with Dominique’s name on it before she’s arrested and committed to a mental asylum…where one of the nurses looks a lot like…Dominique.
The second tale focuses on Dominique, before she became whatever it is she became. She was a young pregnant girl in a mysterious place and is cared for by nuns. She has her child and it’s quickly taken away to meet it’s new parents.
Shortly after, another girl named Violet tells Dominique the nun took the newborn upstairs to the attic instead of downstairs to be adopted.
What we learn is the nuns are holding what appear to be vampires in a locked room. They feed then newborns to keep them under control. Unfortunately for Dominique this information comes at quite a cost and changes her life -forever.
The next tale Annabelle tells is of the young girl Snow White. Snow’s wicked step-mother plots against her and, in this tale, succeeds in having the girl killed. She gets Snow’s heart and replaces hers with it. After putting her old heart in a box and putting Snow’s in it’s place, she becomes young and beautiful.
This is one of my favorite stories of the series and without wanting to give to much away about this, Snow comes back for her heart and the step-mother has to contend with her guilt over having Snow killed as well as the Magic Mirror wanting payment for its help.
We’re then introduced to Gwen, a young girl who just moved with her parents into a new house. Thing is, there are monsters in the house and young Gwen is very frightened of the place. Her parents are no help as they scream at her and smack her when she pleads her case about the monsters. If it wasn’t for Beatrice, who likes to be called Aunt Bea, who also gives her Annabelle she would be all alone. The interesting thing about this story is the question about who the monsters really are. Are they the things in the closet or the parents? The expressions FSc drew for Gwen are priceless in this story.
The final story is told to Gwen by Annabelle. It’s the story of Cinderella and her wicked step-sisters and mother. The step-mother has made a pact with a demon to ensure the success of her daughters, meaning one of them will marry the Prince. The deal doesn’t go as well as she expects and things get real Ugly towards the end.
This last one, along with the Snow White story, are two of my favorites. Cinderella I’m purposely being vague on because it’s just such a well written story that I don’t want to give to many details out.
So, the first volume of this series is something I do recommend for anyone. The writing of Valentino goes from light and sweet to dark and horrifying with the flick of a switch. She’s able to get you to really care about these characters, in the first story it’s easy to be concerned for Morgan as she’s terrorized by Dominique while Gwen is probably the only child in a comic that I started to care for and was very happy to see her, and Aunt Bea, come back in later stories, such as the current Annabelle’s Story. Beyond her characterization, Serena’s pacing is perfect. I find myself reading both slow and fast depending on the level of tension in the given scene. Truely, she is a writer who deserves more attention that she seems to get.
Then there is the art. Actually, I would say Then there is The Art. FSc manages to mix a subtle manga style with a dark, gothic style and does it very well. Although some pages give you a time trying to figure which order you should go in, once you get used to how the pages are formatted (and it doesn’t take long!) you have to try to push through the story because you end up being pulled into the art. I know I’ve sat for over an hour just flipping back and forth through pages looking at the art when I was getting them in their original format. This is a book that is in black and white and it’s my opinion that to have it in color would have taken way to much from the art.
Overall, this is a great mixture of whimsy and darkness. There is a little bit for nearly anyone in this book and one would be hard pressed to read it and honestly say they totally disliked it. For myself, I’ve read the issues as they were released and I’ve read this trade at least 3 times and it’s been just as entertaining to read the third time as it was the first time. Issues should be fairly easy to come by but if your local comic shop doesn’t have any you can order them from the Slave Labor Graphics website!
Nightmares & Fairytales: Once Upon A Time gets a thumbs up for being a great book but more for having great re-read value!
**The current Nightmares & Fairytales: Annabelle’s Story was originally to be released as a traditional comic book in four issues. But, according to Serena’s online journal, artist extraordinaire FSc recently suffered a hand injury delaying the series. So, instead of trying to keep on a regular schedule the decision has been made to release the whole series as a graphic novel instead.**