Review: ‘The Return of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’
The Return of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Writers: Guido Martin and Romano Scarpa
Artists: Romano Scarpa, Luciano Gatto and Rodolfo Cimino
Walt Disney’s 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ended with the revived Snow White and her prince heading off to their castle in the clouds, while the words “and they all lived happily after” appeared on the screen. And while that might be all right for the characters involved, living happily ever after doesn’t exactly lend itself to sequels.
The four comics stories that appear in The Return of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs don’t alter the outcome of the original Disney film much—although the Evil Queen, here named Grimhilde, has survived her plummet and returned to try to steal Snow White’s beauty—but they do reinject the occasional conflict into the lives of the title characters. Each of these conflicts, whether new schemes by the old wicked witch or new schemes from a new witch, is overcome as well, of course, making for a more cyclical reading of “happily ever after.”
What binds the stories together is the artwork of Romano Scarpa, who draws half of them and writes and draws the other half. The late Scarpa is one of the best known and most loved of Europe’s Disney artists, mostly for his work on Mickey Mouse and duck comics in the spirit of Floyd Gottfredson and Carl Barks (two artists whose bodies of work Fantagraphics has been devoted to collecting and publishing). The Snow White comics are a bit of an outlier for Scarpa then; each of them originally appeared in an Italian Disney magazine—either Topolino or Alli D’oro—between 1953 and 1960.
Each retains the fairy tale milieu of the original film, and despite a pair of unlikely injections of outside characters into the proceedings, they look and feel rather consistent with the source material. Apparently after “happily ever after,” the dwarfs resumed their previous lives of mining, and Snow White remained a devoted friend, leaving her castle to visit them in their little cottage in the woods or turning to them when she needed help.
The first and longest of the stories is “Menace of the Witch’s Ruby,” written by Guido Martina and drawn by Scarpa. A more-or-less direct sequel to the film, it features Grimhilde, back in the shape of the evil queen, at a meeting of witches. On the outs with her fellow witches for her dismal failure against Snow White, Grimhilde is given one last chance to redeem herself by the Empress Witch: Within three days she must collect a tear of despair from Snow White in order to turn a red ruby green, or be turned into a broom.
The Seven Dwarfs are here somewhat randomly joined by a green talking parrot wearing a sombrero and spurs who calls himself Pepito Serape; innocent Dopey is a fan, grumpy Grumpy is not.
That’s followed by a second Martina/Scarpa collaboration, “Peril of the Witch of Potions,” in which a new witch tries to steal Snow White’s beauty, with the help of a shape-changing assistant. It is up to the Seven Dwarfs to free her and the prince from captivity before the spell can be cast.
Next up is “The Seven Dwarfs and the Throne of Diamonds” by Scarpa, with inks by Luciana Gatto. This somewhat strange comic has Jiminy Cricket confessing that he’s always had a thing for the evil queen. Sure, she’s evil, but she’s just so beautiful, and he thinks if she only had a conscience like him helping her out, she could be a beautiful person on the inside too. He presents himself to her—she didn’t stay a broom any longer than she stayed dead, apparently—as a freelance conscience. She’s not interested and it doesn’t work out as he had hoped, obviously, but it’s fun to see him interacting with the Snow White characters, and Scarpa presents a rather bravura sequence in which the dwarfs venture into the territory of the Gray Sorceress, encountering a gauntlet of imaginative fairy tale perils.
The final story is probably the most unexpected: “The Secret of The Eighth Dwarf.” Scarpa introduces the brother of the Seven Dwarfs, who left to find his fortune—what, a prosperous diamond mine wasn’t enough for him?—and is about to return home, a happy but poor wanderer. Overhearing how successful the others think he must be, he’s tricked into helping the evil queen in her latest plot, which involves driving the dwarfs mad with avarice.
As with each previous encounter with witchcraft, Snow White and her friends manage to survive and live happily ever after…and, perhaps, this time they really do, as there are no more stories left in the collection.
Unlike the Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and Mickey Mouse collections, this Fantagraphics book lacks the articles from scholars in the back and expansive foreword to help contextualize the work. That said, it is also a much more timeless work, set as it is in a fantasy world centuries removed, rather than in a “present” that is now decades out of date, and likely not in need of much in the way of contextualization.
Scarpa works in a Disney-inspired style that approximates the designs of the animated film, which are here presented in bright, simple colors, and manages to capture the life and sense of motion of the film as well as the medium allows. A rather handsome hardcover, the book is seemingly designed to stand alongside Fantagraphics’ other Disney books on a comics aficionado’s book shelf, but the contents are as all-ages as anything bearing the Disney brand.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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