Review: Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On
by Dakota McFadzean
Published by Conundrum Press
Currently in-stock at the Beguiling
Review by Andrew T
Man, if Dakota McFadzean’s comics in Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On are any indication, it must suck being a kid. And it must also suck being old. In-between seems…mm, dicey at best.
For example, my favourite story in this collection is “The Best Donald.” It’s a tale of two boys who are told by their grandpop that he can draw the best Donald Duck. This amazing talent is only a boast until years later, when their gramps is and old man. Turns out, he draws the grossest Donald Duck I’ve ever seen.
As a straight retelling, seems like a funny story, right? And it is! I mean, it is until you see the looks on their faces upon seeing the Donald. It’s the look of disappointment that comes from realizing your grandfather is a coot. (I mean, I imagine that’s what that look means. I never really had a grandfather…) Originally having appeared in Lies Grown-Ups Told Me, “The Best Donald” is probably about realizing the fibs and mistruths that your family tells you when you’re a kid. But read in this collection, alongside stories of dead-beat dads, eccentric protesters, and, uh, terrified gnomes, there’s more of a sense that the grandfather truly believes he can still draw the best Donald. There’s a really strong sense that these two boys, now young men, are seeing their pappy’s delusions. Which is worse, living a lie or living a false truth?
McFadzean’s world is one of magic and supernatural as well. There are faeries, gnomes, ghosts, and way too many crows in these stories. The tension in each tale isn’t found so much in figuring out what is real and what is fantasy, but more in learning that any magic that exists in the world is not necessarily going to help you. It was halfway through this collection that I realized all of these scenes and characters had gotten inside me. The old people are covered in wrinkles and liver spots. The kids have these big bright eyes that slowly dim as their hopes are dashed. These drawings and these people and Saskatchewan all feel so real. There is a sad truth underneath all of the mysterious masks and missing faces.
Over 13 stories, all bound under a stunning cover, Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On offers glimpses of the confusion of being a kid, the disillusionment of growing up, and the quiet sadness of being old. It’s a really great book, especially if you want to know what it’s like to feel alone at any time in your life.