(Comic) Book Review: Erstwhile

Not too long ago I took part in a kick starter campaign for Erstwhile, which is a webcomic that illustrates lesser known fairy tales. These are the ones that haven’t been made into movies, and that you’ll end up reading different versions of in each fairy tale book you pick up. That’s something I’ve always been into, probably from the time I was five or six years old.

The irony here is that I haven’t read all of the stories online, and that I only kicked in because I’ve been following another webcomic, Red String,  by one of the authors/illustrators Gina Biggs, for at least 5 years. She promised extra updates if they surpassed their goal by a certain amount, I liked the little I did read of Erstwhile, and I knew some of the money had to help support her comics, so I chipped in $20 to get a hard copy of the book. $10 would have gotten me a pdf, but I figured if I was going to donate I might as well get myself a physical copy of what I was supporting. In the end they didn’t surpass their goal by the amount they wanted, but came close enough that we did get a some extra updates 😀

But anyway, my awesome package came in the other day so now we have this review!

I was not expecting the book to be hard cover, I was already pleasantly surprised by that. And I forgot about the bonus bookmark and post cards I was promised! They’re adorable!

Stories featured in this book that I have read *some* version of in the past are: 

Maid Maleen, The Farmer’s Clever Daughter (this story is amazing, if you have not read it, please do so, I LOVE THAT GIRL), All Fur, The Sweet Porridge and A Tale With a Riddle (I read a similar much longer version).

Stories I read for the first time in this book: 

The Bird, the Mouse & the Sausage, The Little Shroud and The Old Man & his Grandson

What I liked about this collection of stories is that more of them focused on heroines who were able to advance themselves, or rescue themselves, through their own wit coupled with some good fortune. I know of many more folk tales that have this theme, even of some where the princess has to “rescue” the prince, and they really should get more attention (and from what I’ve been led to believe, that was part of the reason Erstwhile was started.) They serve as much better role models for young girls and these are stories that make you think. I love how folk tales like they ones they’ve illustrated always feature clever solutions or cunning tricks, or even just weird things that make you think. You probably won’t get what I mean by that if you’ve never been exposed to any folk tales of the sort.

Why You Shouldn’t Like This: 

  • I get that they were trying to be multicultural with some of the stories by including people of different races and colors, but I’d prefer if they illustrated Native American, African, South American, Asian and other folk tales so that their cultures are really represented. Or, they could stick with European stories, but mix up the races instead of just going with one (only one story did this), kind of like the Cinderella movie with Whitney Houston and Brandy (which was amazing if you have yet to see it).
  • The retail price of the book is $20, which is pretty steep on a student’s budget. I could see more people going for a $10 soft cover version. But if you follow the comic and want to support it, $20 doesn’t feel like that much.
  • I wish it was longer!!

And that’s it, I really don’t have anything bad to say about this. I truly love the authors for giving these “lesser known” stories more attention, because they *need* more attention. Even if you don’t want to buy the book, I reeeeeeally recommend checking out the webcomics, which are available to read for free, online. I’m speaking more about Red String now when I say that it really is updated regularly, which is no small feat, I can’t tell you how many webcomics I’ve dropped over the years because updates became terribly sporadic or just stopped all together.

I only hope that I’ll be able to make it to Otakon one year (or that she can make it up to NYCC) so I can have Gina Biggs autograph my copy, and so I can tell her how much I love her comics (and regular updates!) in person.


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