The year I applied to graduate school, I was both an aspiring cartoonist and a wannabe scholar. My adviser, an English professor, liked that first part; it was that second part that made the dear man cringe. “I’ll write you a letter of recommendation,” he informed me, “but I’d rather help create one literate cartoonist than another academic desperately scrounging around for the next pot of grant money.” In the end, I opted for neither career, but I do sometimes wonder what that literate cartoonist might have looked like.
That’s why I was pleased to discover Alexis Fajardo. He’s the creative soul behind Kid Beowulf, an all-ages epic in which twin 12-year-old brothers Beowulf and Grendel romp across a Europe inspired by great works of classical and medieval literature. To Fajardo’s credit, he’s not just swiping names to gussy up unrelated characters; his comic adaptations are prompted by real affection for his sources. Last year, in fact, he made a surprising promise: “I want to be true to the material, the epic. As these guys travel, they will learn what it is to be a hero, what their destinies are. In the end, Beowulf will kill Grendel.”
The first volume of Kid Beowulf is already for sale; as you can see from his blog, Fajardo’s style is clearly inspired by Asterix, Pogo, Bone, and maybe even traces of Dragon-era Phil Foglio. As he fleshes out his 12-book series—which may include cameos by Sir Gawain, El Cid, Gilgamesh, and others—I’ll eagerly await one volume in particular, Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland. Pedants may argue that Beowulf, Charlemagne, and Joan of Arc shouldn’t all find themselves inhabiting the same story—but if a gold-painted Angelina Jolie can play Grendel’s mother, then what’s the harm in a teenage Grendel skulking ahistorically across the canon? This one, at least, your children can enjoy.