Review of “Once Upon A Time Machine” edited by Andrew Carl

Graphic novels aren’t really my thing, but I just had to see this one. I love retellings, and this book is an anthology of sci-fi/futuristic re-envisionings of fairy tales and other classic tales, with over ninety contributors from all over the globe. (There are not ninety stories, but individual entries often have multiple credits, including writers, illustrators, colorists, and letterers.)


Unfortunately for me personally, some of my very favorite stories only were re-imagined as only one-page or double-page visual images. But oh how beautiful they are, and what worlds of meaning they suggest, as you can see from the illustrations reproduced below. This category of visuals-only includes Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and The Beanstalk, Beauty and the Beast, and Pygmalian.

Humpty Dumpty illustrated by Ryan Ottley and colored by Derek Hunter

Humpty Dumpty illustrated by Ryan Ottley

The full (albeit short) stories are incredibly varied. One Thousand One Nights is adorable, and a perfect choice to begin the collection. Hansel and Gretel, the last story, amazed me with its inventiveness. And in between those anchors, there are all kinds of stories depicted in a wide variety of comic styles.

Pygmalion illustrated by Lance Erlick

Pygmalion illustrated by Lance Erlick

The editor did a great job with his arrangement. For example, Sweet Porridge was preceded by The Three Little Pigs, and followed by The Gingerbread Man – very apt choices!

Evaluation: For those who love graphic novels and comics generally, this is like a Las Vegas buffet with so many choices you wish you had remembered to pack your ziplock baggies. Well, with this book, you can sample one of everything, and keep it with you!

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t note that there is nothing in the compilation that even approaches the intellectual and visual graphic achievement of Jeremy Love in his gripping Bayou series with its interrogation of power and race relations in the American South.

Illustration from Bayou by Jeremy Love

Illustration from Bayou by Jeremy Love

Comics and graphic novels can be subversive and worldview-shattering, serving as remarkably effective exposés of injustice, inequality, and socially dominant myths that could use upending. Or, they can merely delight with the glimpse they provide at the possibilities of vivid imaginations. This collection falls into the latter category.

Rating: I’m not rating this, because I’m still not a graphic novel aficionado, preferring my retellings to be in the form of long, involved narratives. But I can appreciate all the skill and imagination that went into this book, and think it would make a fantastic gift for fans of the genre!

And if what follows isn’t the most amazing “preview” of a book you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is!!!

Published by Dark Horse Books, 2012


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12 Responses to Review of “Once Upon A Time Machine” edited by Andrew Carl

  1. Beth F says:

    I’ve just ordered this! Thanks soooooooooo much for bringing it to my attention.

  2. Jenny says:

    Oh my goodness, some of those pictures are intense!

  3. Ti says:

    I am still on the fence. Graphic novels are not my thing but I guess that would depend on the subject matter. Murakami’s books would be interesting as graphic novels.

  4. zibilee says:

    Oh, I want this one! I love it when fairy tales get new and inventive plot twists, and the fact that the art is so well done really has me excited! I have only read one graphic novel, and it was good, but a different sort of reading experience than reading a book. I will have this one someday!!

  5. I think I would love to look at this one!!!

  6. Bookworm1858 says:

    I’m a huge fan of fairy tale retellings so I loved diving in to this one. My regret is that I read it as an e-book, where some of the fonts were hard to read. Need to pick up a hardcopy as a post-Christmas gift to myself.

  7. Jenny says:

    Hm, neat! I bet I can get it at my home library over vacation — my home library is, I regret to say, miles better than the New York one when it comes to ordering graphic novels. I do love a good fairy tale!

  8. The art from this book looks so intricate. I’ll have to see if I can find this one at the library.

  9. Trish says:

    LOL! I do like Graphic Novels but I’m not sure how I’d feel about this graphically retold stories. Though I am interested in Bayou after Vasilly’s strong recommendation.

  10. Jenners says:

    This looks very very cool!! I love all the different styles of art and at least there is something familiar in the stories to hang your hat on

  11. aartichapati says:

    Thanks so much for sending this to me! I think I felt similarly to you. Some stories were quite good- I liked Pinnochio a lot. Some were odd, like the one about the three bears, and some were just very inventive. I also enjoyed the one page illustrations- kind of like the chronicles of Harris Burdick!

  12. bookingmama says:

    I think the illustrations look fantastic! Lots of interesting things to look at!

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