Hello to all of my wonderful whimsy people out there! I don’t know about you, but I’m totally in the TGIF zone, and by TGIF I of course mean Thank Gorgon It’s February. (Close runner up: Thank Gremlins It’s February.) The last clinging strains of holiday music have finally made their way out of our earworm holes and the collective eyes of those who work in retail have finally stopped twitching.
So now it’s February, and it’s not like there are any stressful holidays this month! Certainly not one that would make people feel lonely or stressed if their lives don’t conform to some random, pre-packaged romcom ideal…
I’ve never been too into V-Day myself, so we renamed it Comic Book Day in our house and now I get comics every February 14th and that kind of makes it the best day EVER. (Make the world the way you want it, people!) Thus, today’s whimsy column is heavy with comic books and series to binge read so that you don’t have to have sad feelings foisted upon you, and I make no apologies. Rule one of Necessary Whimsy is: I do what I want.
All right, on to the whimsy!
Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes and Selina Espiritu
I’m excited to actually be able to feature something by Sam Sykes on here. I saw him at Comic Con last year and follow him on Twitter and though he is really funny, usually his books don’t fall into the whimsy category. Brave Chef Brianna, though, absolutely does. Brianna is the daughter of a famous chef, a chef ready to pass on his empire and the family name to his children…but only to one of them. Brianna is the lone girl and somewhat in the shadow of her more gregarious brothers. Everyone picks a town and the only one she can afford to start a restaurant in is Monster City. Espiritu’s art is vibrant and joyful—this was her debut comic, and I for one am going to keep an eye on her work. I love her style, and it goes well with the story. Also, seriously, the best friend/waitress character that is a harpy who doesn’t want to wear pants? SHE IS ME. Without getting into spoilers, I loved that the ending wasn’t your traditional wrap-up, but nonetheless was satisfying to me. I truly hope there are more comics in the works for this series. (So far it appears to be a short run, but I’m greedy and want more.)
The Short Con by Aleks Sennwald and Pete Toms
The Short Con is a tiny comic that will likely get lost on your shelf if you’re not careful. To misquote Shakespeare, and though it be little, it be fierce. If you like literary references, kid detectives, sarcasm, orphans, and weird creatures, then this comic is for you. Sennwald has some serious chops, having worked on Adventure Time, but also The New Yorker, Cricket, and The New York Times. Pete Toms is the creator of On Hiatus and the Linguists. Their forces combined have created a witty, weird, fun comic for all ages.
The Others series by Anne Bishop
Okay, so I know what you’re thinking—this series has an awfully high body count for something on the whimsy pile. You’re right, you’re so right. And yet, despite the violence, and the unflinching look at how incredibly monstrous humanity can be—even when filtered through a fantasy lens—there is a strand of humor and innocence that runs through these books. It’s most evident when the main character, Meg, a woman who has been abused terribly by humans, interacts with the creatures called the Others. Because of her horribly sheltered upbringing, there are a lot of gaps in Meg’s understanding of the world—so she doesn’t understand that the wide cast of creatures she’s taken refuge in are incredibly dangerous. Instead, she approaches them with a wide-open, innocent heart, which makes the creatures react in the same way.
(Mild spoilers for the series…)
For example, when the creatures realize it might upset her that they sell “special meat” (Human. It’s human meat.) in the butcher shop, they have a quick discussion and remove it when Meg asks to try it. Or when Meg wants to go on a walk with a child werewolf stuck in wolf form and is afraid they’ll get lost and so she ties a leash to them both as a buddy rope. The adults freak out, very reminiscent of adults arguing over whether or not it’s okay to put a leash on a human child, and it made me giggle. That is where the humor and the whimsy lies in this book—that moment when two very different cultures come up against each other and both sides are doing their best to be polite, but no one understands each other. This series is an insta-buy for me, I’m not going to lie.
The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
Since we’re already on the path of whimsy-with-a-high-body-count, why not keep going? This series is another insta-buy for me, though the first few books have some of the worst covers I’ve ever seen—and I grew up cutting my teeth on the hideous fantasy/horror/scifi covers of the 70’s and 80’s, so that’s saying something. (Don’t get me wrong, I love old pulp covers, but some of these were downright questionable.) The Kate Daniels series is full of vampires (not the sexy kind), necromancers, various werecreatures, witches, magic, and a whole lot of death and dismemberment. The premise of the novels is that humanity has pushed technology too far, and so the world is swinging back into magic, only it hasn’t settled so it comes and goes in waves. Sometimes your car works, sometimes you have to take the mule. No one can tell when the phone will work, since most people think phones are kind of magic anyway. The dialogue between the characters is sharp and funny, as is Kate’s internal dialogue. (Light spoiler…) When she meets the Beast Lord for the first time and realizes that he turns into a large and extinct subspecies of lion, she calls, “here, kitty, kitty, kitty.” If you find vampire heads in the fridge or the fact that the angel of death is named Teddy Jo funny, then this series is for you.
The Hero’s Guide trilogy by Christopher Healy
The premise: after the happy ever after, the various charming princes from Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel are kicked out of their respective castles because, well, they have been found lacking. They are not the perfect princes they were thought to be. So they go on madcap adventures against witches, dragons, bandits, and trolls. This series is a clever romp intended for the middle grade audience (roughly ages 8-12) but would be great to read aloud with the whole family. My son burned through all of these on audio, cracking up in the back of the car as we ran errands.
What’s your favorite funny read? Sound off in the comments so we can all binge. New to Necessary Whimsy? Go back and check out prior posts and read the recommendations in the comments there. If you put them all together you have a Mighty List of Whimsy!
Lish McBride currently resides in Seattle, spending most of her time at her day job at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. The rest of her time is divided between writing, reading, and Twitter, where she either discusses her desire for a nap or her love for kittens. (Occasionally ponies.) Her debut novel, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and was a finalist for the YALSA William C. Morris Award. Her other works include Necromancing the Stone, Firebug, and Pyromantic.