Author: Van Jensen
Illustrator and Creator: Dusty Higgins
Published: SGL Publishing (2009)
Like so many, I was indoctrinated by Walt Disney's revisionist history towards fairy tales and children's stories. I watched Pinocchio as a child, so I know the score. I thought I did, anyway.
I watched a panel discussion by the nominees of the Charles Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction a few weeks ago (on TVO's The Agenda if you're interested), and one topic was immortality through writing. One of the authors asked the others who wrote Pinocchio. No one knew. I sure didn't. So if Carlo Collodi, the creator of one of the most famous characters in children's literature, can be lost to time and Disney-fied adaptations, anyone can.
Enter Dusty Higgins and Van Jensen. While at face value you might accuse these guys of perverting a classic, they have actually managed to stay truer to the original tale by Carlo Collodi than Walt Disney ever did. All Higgins and Jensen did was create a sequel ... with vampires.
The first few pages of the book take the time to explain where the story is starting from, and they even include a very amusing Coles Notes version of the Colloti original--I had no clue Pinocchio had killed the cricket. From there, the story is told through snappy dialogue and some very stylish black-and-white illustrations. Geppetto has been killed by a new sinister force that has descended upon Nasolungo. Vampires, though not explicitly labeled as such. With the help of the Blue Fairy, Cherry the carpenter, and the ghostly visage of the Cricket, Pinocchio sets out on a quest for revenge in order to save the town, avenge Geppetto, and maybe get a little bit of respect if there's time.
There is that distinct Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe going on in several scenes, which I wasn't expecting. I actually expected a much darker and less tongue-in-cheek graphic novel. It's part of Pinocchio's character, I guess, as he's very snarky and very angry at the world. His crush on village girl, Carlotta, seemed a bit tacked on and out of place too. I must admit to loving the idea of Pinocchio using his nose, which he breaks off every time he tells a lie, in order to stake the vamps. And for your information, he lies a lot in the course of a battle.
The book missed the mark of where I'd expected it to go, but the onus is me for coming in with such preconceptions. If you decide to check out this crazy tale of wooden boys and vampires, I recommend going in with an open mind and just let the story hit you. It's a rewarding experience, a bit too brief for my tastes, and manages to do justice to the source material despite the macabre subject matter.