The Arabian Nights, and it simultaneously a commentary on religion, male-female relations, love, and social institutions, and it skewers them all but in the most subtle, yet comprehensive ways. The front matter of the book sets up a cosmic mythography, a religion based on the petty and omnipotent god Bird-Man and his progeny Kid and Kiddo. This introductory tale sets up and informs the rest of the book, and it is reminiscent of many other creation stories (Joseph Campbell would approve), but it also is a canny parody/rebuke of the sexism inherent in such belief systems.
At this point I should comment on a critique I have seen from some quarters calls this book out for male-bashing. Although Jerome and Manfred are terrible people, I feel this book is more a commentary of the general shabby treatment of women across history and cultures. It is also about the power of stories and the abilities and stamina of women to withstand and even triumph in the face of hegemony.
All of this is not to say this book is dry. I found it pretty funny and cheeky throughout, actually. Part of what I love about this book lies in its subtle naming and snark. The main characters' names clearly set them up as archetypes, and the side narratives that Hero tells all end up woven into a grand tapestry that encompasses the entire book. I looked up a bunch of the more obscure (to me, anyhow) names of people and places, and was rewarded to see that they were actually historical or mythical references that added layers of meaning to the events of the book.
Not to say all the humor is highfalutin. Probably my favorite part of the book is probably how Manfred gets drawn, like he thinks he is God's gift to women and saunters about wearing a cape and no shirt. This buffoonery is hilarious, in my opinion, though also pretty horrific. Toward the end of the book, when his ridiculous is revealed and he begins to unravel, the power he gets to exercise as a male still has dire consequences. Such nuance and execution are hallmarks of exemplary publications, and as a piece of satire and social commentary, I rank this book up there with the greats like Jonathan Swift and MAD Magazine.
This book is the second graphic novel by Isabel Greenberg. Her first, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, was nominated for two Eisner Awards and won the Best Book category at the British Comic Awards. She spoke about her work on TOHNOH in this interview.
All of the reviews I have read of this book have been very positive. Maya Gittelman gushed, "It’s just such a cool premise: queered revision fairytale. I love it!" Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, writing, "Greenberg combines elements from fairy tales, children’s books, and
folklore from around the world to create an original but teasingly
familiar mythos." Nivea Serrao wrote that "within no time readers will be captivated as Greenberg transitions
effortlessly from tale to tale, while still telling the story framing
The One Hundred Nights of Hero was published in the US by Little, Brown and Company, and they have info about it here.
I read this book because it was a student selection for a recent seminar in Graphic Novels and Multiliteracies. Thank you, Brooke, for choosing it. I wish I had known about it much sooner, and I am so glad to have read it.