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I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young is a fantastic, sarcastic send-up of some of the fluffier tropes related to the Girls Underground story, especially the idea that fairyland is a fun, light-hearted place just waiting to welcome a young girl on an adventure.
Gertrude was 10 years old and wished to go to fairyland, and her wish was granted – she plummeted into the depths of a magic portal (going underground, it seems) and arrived beaten and bruised. She immediately set off on a quest to find the key to return home, accompanied by a guide given to her by the Queen of Fairyland. But 27 years later, she still hasn’t found it. And while her body has stayed young, her mind has aged normally, and she is not impressed with the frippery of this magical country and is really ready to get out of there.
SPOILERS While Gertrude battles every creature she encounters in a bloody path toward her key, the Queen is getting sick of this miscreant and trying to find a loophole to the rule that she cannot kill a guest of Fairyland – making her the adversary, but a somewhat understandable one. Eventually, Gertrude allies with a dark lord to acquire enough power to get the key, but at the last minute, just before opening the door, she decides it would be fun to kill the Queen on her way out. She easily defeats this adversary, but with a very unpleasant side effect – by law, she now cannot go home and must become the new Queen instead. And so, like a much, much grumpier version of Alice in Looking-glass Land, she puts on the crown.
(This is the first graphic novel in a series, and I do not yet know if the rest of them will continue the GU theme.)
Recently re-watched Tank Girl (not having seen it since the 90’s) and realized it is a Girls Underground story. [Note: this only applies to the movie; I have not read the comics.]
Rebecca lives in a post-apocalyptic wasteland as a rebel fighting the evil rule of the Water & Power company, who are seeking to dominate all the world’s resources. The adversary is Kesslee, the leader of W&P, and his minions are all his corporate underlings. Kesslee captures Rebecca and tries to bring her over to his side, working as his assassin (as many Adversaries try to corrupt the Girls Underground – see for instance Darkness in Legend). But she refuses, is enslaved, and then manages to steal a tank and escape, helped by another woman as her companion. When a young girl from the rebel camp is kidnapped by W&P, Rebecca sets out to rescue her, aided by her new companions the Rippers (genetically engineered mutants who live underground). In the end, she has a final showdown alone with Kesslee, saves the girl, and strikes a blow against the evil corporation.
Thanks to one of my readers for sending in these potential Girls Underground webcomics. I haven’t had a chance to go through all of them yet, so in the interim I’ll just post them here and encourage you all to go check them out yourselves!
Kill 6 Billion Demons – about a girl who is suddenly thrown into a world of demons, gods, and mystical portals
Gunnerkrigg Court – about a young girl who has just started attending a mysterious school, and the events that unfold around her as she becomes embroiled in political intrigues with the inhabitants of a forest outside the school
Namesake – a woman discovers she can visit other worlds – fantasy and fairy lands made famous through the spoken word, literature and cinema – and her power as a Namesake forces her to act as a protagonist in these familiar stories as she figures out how to get home
Vattu – the eponymous member of a tribe of nomad hunter-gatherers whose lives are disrupted by forces of change, Vattu is taken to a foreign society, and gradually accumulates other characters: a struggling artist, a member of a secret society, a young apprentice in an alchemical enclave, etc.
Digger – a wombat who finds herself stuck on the wrong end of a one-way tunnel in a strange land where nonsense seems to be the specialty – with the help of a talking statue of a god, an outcast hyena, a shadow-being of indeterminate origin, and an oracular slug she seeks to find out where she is and how to go about getting back to her Warren
“But I’m not interested in power! I just want to get my mom back and go home.”
Amulet is a multi-part graphic novel by Kabu Kizuishi. While it follows the adventures of two siblings, the sister is more prominent and qualifies, I think, as a Girl Underground.
In the first installment, The Stonekeeper, Emily and her brother Navin move with their mother to an old, inherited house in the middle of nowhere, after their father’s death. Emily finds a stone necklace in her great-grandfather’s study, and the stone warns her of a danger to her family. Soon after, her mother is taken by a terrifying creature in the basement, and the siblings go far underground to find her, but the way closes behind them. They then embark on a journey in another world, with the help of the amulet. Emily has been chosen to inherit its power.
They find their ailing great-grandfather in this other world, and he explains a little more before dying and leaving his mechanical assistants to help them. Emily must accept the power of the stone to activate the robots and save her family. They chase after the creature and free their mother (who has been poisoned). Emily confronts the shadowy man who has been chasing them, and it turns out that he wants her and the stone’s power to kill his father, the elf king. He tries to invade her mind but she pushes back against him, and simultaneously against the stone which wants her to kill him.
In the second book, they work to save their mom from the poison, Emily struggles with the dangerous power offered by the stone, and the true adversary is revealed: the elf king himself.
I have not read further than this, but it seems like it will continue in the same GU vein.
“‘You must believe that you are here by choice, and not by circumstance.’ ‘But what if that’s not true?’ ‘You must make it true.'”
“It’s hard to tell time underground.”
I’ve already profiled Holly Black’s Modern Faerie series here, which is excellent. Now Black has a graphic novel series for young adults which also fits the basic GU model: The Good Neighbors (#1 Kin #2 Kith #3 Kind), illustrated by Ted Naifeh.
Rue’s mother has mysteriously disappeared, her father is drowning in his own sorrows, and now she has a new problem: she sees strange creatures everywhere that no one else can see. Her father is arrested for murder, and then the grandfather she never met shows up and tries to control her. In the midst of all of this, she discovers the truth – she can see fairies, and her mother is one of them. Which makes her one of them. What’s more concerning is that her grandfather is planning to somehow take over the city and cut it off from the rest of the world, creating a haven for fairies.
Rue’s companions are her mortal friends and the human Tam who has long served the fairies. She goes underground into a fairy hill to visit her mother. Time is running out. While trying to thwart her grandfather’s plan, she must also save her boyfriend from perilous river fairies who are sucking the life out of him. But this strays from the usual GU plot in that there is never a final confrontation with the adversary, and in fact it is how Rue loses her battle that defines her character, and her future.
Sometimes I wonder about the female adversaries that exist in some Girls Underground stories – the wicked stepmothers, nasty witches, evil queens… were they once themselves the girl on the quest, only to stay too long down there in the dark and become something for other girls to fear?
We can actually see this process happen in the continuation of one of the bloodier GU stories, Hellraiser. The Comics Alliance blog reports that a new graphic novel series based on the original story and movie has provided the ultimate twist:
Last year BOOM! Studios launched a new Hellraiser series by Clive Barker that marked the influential horror writer’s return to his most famous creation after decades away. Co-written with Christopher Monfette and drawn by Leonardo Manco, the book’s first arc was a hit with fans of the storied franchise, concluding with original Hellraiser heroine Kristy Cotton replacing the iconic Pinhead character as the demonic Cenobites’ head of human soul-harvesting.
This makes sense to me, after years and years of reading these stories, and living my own strange version. The otherworld is not always a gentle place, and the Girl is always changed by her time there, after all.
I just discovered a clever, entertaining webcomic called Cheshire Crossing. It tells the story of Alice, Dorothy and Wendy meeting in what they think is yet another mental institution (they’ve all been diagnosed with dissociative disorders), getting to know each other and their powers (because the ability to visit places like Oz and Neverland isn’t just an accident, it’s a special gift). They end up crossing between their respective otherworlds several times, encountering each other’s adversaries and companions.
Unfortunately, it seems to be on hold for now, but there are four issues to read for free on the website.
(Interestingly, this isn’t the only comic-style meeting of these three characters, as they are the stars of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls graphic novel, although that is perhaps aimed at a more, ahem, mature audience.)