Welcome to Fairyland. It’s a candy-coloured, bat-crackers world where all your dreams can come true …
And who’s that coming over the brow of the hill? Why, it’s Gertrude! She’s six-years-old, an adorable little dot with bright green hair and a pretty pink dress. Fairyland’s latest guest. And alongside her? Larrigon Wentsworth III, Gertrude’s trusty guide to Fairyland, possessor of the map and a hat more impressive than Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. Here they come now, let’s see if we can grab a word with th… ERK!
Skottie Young’s four-volume comic series I Hate Fairyland is one that has made me laugh out loud more times than I can count. There is something about an axe-wielding, bomb-toting, cute-as-a-button little girl doing unspeakable things to a wide variety of fluffy fairyland creatures that just creases me up. And she’s not only violent, but also a hard-drinking gambler and an irreverent potty-mouth*, which just makes everything twice as funny.
(*Fortunately, Fairyland has a censoring effect on bad language, so Gert’s oaths and insults get toned down – although her intent is still pretty clear. And they’re massively quotable: “fluff you!”, “muffin hugger!” and “hug off!” are our favourites at home).
The reason for her … unexpected … personality? Gert has been stuck in Fairyland for nearly thirty years. Stuck in her six-year-old body. Stuck with Larry. Stuck on a diet of sugary sweets and snacks. Stuck with the twisty, endless quests and counter-quests of Fairyland as she tries and fails again and again to get home. The innocence that she arrived with has evaporated, replaced with a steady-burning and bitter rage against the world she finds herself trapped inside and all its cheerful denizens. And after nearly thirty years of her attitude, the feeling is mutual.
In her time in Fairyland Gert hasn’t made many friends. She has, in fact, only one: the long-suffering Larry. Gert and Larry’s love-hate relationship over the course of the story produces some of its funniest moments and also some of its most heart-wrenching. Because yes, this actually does end up being an affecting tale for all its gags and pop-culture references and general cleverness. There is, at the heart of it, a kind of skewed moral about happiness and where it comes from, and about appreciating what you have. And just maybe a whiff of a hint of a suggestion that all roads eventually lead to the same place.
Other recurring characters are as much of a joy as the cynical Larry. Duncan Dragon is possibly the most adorable and every time he crosses paths with Gert I actually flinch on his behalf, poor unsuspecting cinnamon roll that he is. Horibella is fun, Cloudia more so, ‘Bill’ the most. Argh! I want (so much!) to share some of the funniest moments with you. But I also want you to discover all the funny for yourselves. So I’ll do my usual thing and list in random and opaque fashion, some of my favourite moments: the narrators; all the TV and movie jokes, none of which I can mention; what Larry does with his time while Gert’s unconscious; the Tower of Battle; the Catastrophon; Gert geeking out at Dungeon Festexpocon (and the bombs Carl and Jenny); Gert versus the Shiitake warriors (omg, I howled at this, and I’m giggling now remembering it); Loveth Lovelord, or heck, just Loveth Lovelord’s outfit; ‘Bill’ and the Fairyland Postal Service… *collapses into a sniggering heap on the floor*
At four volumes this series is complete, without ever trotting out the same joke twice or slackening its pace. The story is tightly told and pleasingly self-referential in places. The artwork is gloriously, vibrantly colourful, and every spread a visual delight. Fairyland’s riotous population of fairytale characters and creatures, animated flora and fauna, and other things born directly from Young’s imagination, pack the pages with life (and death, as Gert cuts a swathe through them all). I am out of words to tell you how awesome this comic is, so just, please, go read it with this last warning: While definitely a read for your inner child (there’s a little Gert in all of us, I think), this is absolutely not for actual kids.