Delphine; Hilda and the Midnight Giant; The Eternal Smile

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So I kicked off Graphic Novels Month with a creepy dark read by Richard Sala.

A young man is in search of a lovely woman he met in university and lost touch with. He traces her to a odd little mountain village where everyone looks sinister and hunchbacked. And from a distance spots a tall woman leading what looks like a group of dwarfs up the hill. The townsfolk try to ‘help’ him, but he ends up in weird places like a cemetery, then an old shack in the woods. And freakish, horrible things happen.

This sepia-tinted, Snow White/fairytale-like story just creeped me out. Well, I suppose that is the point, as Richard Sala does say in this interview with Comic Book Resources that he wrote it as a “horror story”. It is a dark nightmarish read, perhaps the way the original fairytales (i.e. not Disney-fied) were meant to be.

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Hilda and the Midnight Giant was, on the other hand, a quirky, cute read. Hilda and her mother live in a cabin in the mountains, and they’re being threatened, by tiny little notes left outside their door. It turns out that they are elves who live right next to them – and they can’t actually be seen until some forms are signed. And what is that giant that Hilda keeps spotting at midnight?

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It’s full of little surprises, and is both charming and funny.

(Check out snapshots of his sketchbook in this interview)

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Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim have written three rather different stories in The Eternal Smile.

The first tells of Duncan and his swashbuckling days, chopping heads of the enemies of the kingdom and winning the hand of the princess. But there’s a deeper darker truth that lies behind all this, and it has to do with a bottle of …. cola?

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The second, done in a louder, brasher style, is the tale of Greenbax, a frog with a penchant for gold who builds a church to the ‘eternal smile’ – in order to make, yup, more money. It’s fun and silly and reminds me of Uncle Scrooge, complete with the diving into the pool of money thing.

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We meet Janet in the last story, a corporate drudge working a boring job with no prospects, who replies to one of those Nigerian prince letters, the kind that asks very kindly for your bank information. This was probably my favourite story, from the muted artwork to the strange Janet.

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As you can see, (apologies for the blurry pictures!) the illustrations are so different.

I liked how the three stories all hummed to the tune of fantasy vs reality. While Duncan’s heroic tales and Greenbax’s money-grubbing life are all brought into reality later on, Janet’s begins with that very real 9 to 5 cubicle life and then through these spam emails turns into a fantasy dreamland for her.

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