We’ve seen a lot of webcomics loosely inspired by fairy tales, but Megan Kearney does something a little different with her Beauty and the Beast. She goes back to the classic tellings of the story, and gives both leads richer and stranger backstories.
Kearney starts with a familiar story: Beauty’s family was once wealthy, but has fallen on hard times in recent years. One day, Beauty’s merchant father goes out on a trip and asks each of his daughters what gifts he might bring them. Beauty, as a joke, asks him to bring back a rose that grows in winter. And of course, when he finds such a rose, Beauty’s quiet life is suddenly disrupted.
But Kearney adds texture to this simple story by teasing out the relationship between Beauty and her family. We understand why she loves her family so, even if she chafes at her role as the family’s baby. And when Beauty is sent off to live with the Beast, she finds not a temperamental castle lord, but a mild-mannered steward, someone she could be friends with if she didn’t resent him being her jailer.
As Beauty and the Beast negotiate their tense relationship, Kearney gradually reveals the mystery sitting beneath their story. Beauty’s fate as a captive of the castle may have been put in motion years ago. And the Beast already experienced one tragic story before becoming horned and hairy, and the threads of his life only become more tangled once Beauty appears.
It’s fascinating to watch Kearney layer her own ideas on top of the classic structure of the story. And it only helps that both Beauty and the Beast are enjoyable characters to spend an afternoon with.