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Cinderella Punches Monsters

2011 August 9

Team BadRep were put on the spot again this month: in the wake of SDCC Batgirl igniting the gender-and-comics conversation loud ‘n’ proud, the team were asked to take a look at their favourite comic book titles and characters – some obvious choices, some less so… and here’s Rob.

“Everyone knows my story. I get dressed up. The clock strikes twelve. I lose a shoe. And it’s all downhill from there. My name is Cinderella, Cindy to my friends. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m a spy. One of the best, even if I’m being humble. And there are times I love my job.”

– Cinderella, From Fabletown with Love

Swapping the genders of characters around to put female characters in the roles usually filled by men and vice versa isn’t anything shockingly new. But that doesn’t make it any less cool when someone goes and does it well. Which, arguably, is exactly what Cinderella (in her spin-off miniseries from the Fables universe) does. (Note: this recommendation is based on the first volume of her tales, From Fabletown With Love. I haven’t read the second arc yet, Fables Are Forever.)

Cinderella, as far as most of her fellow Fables know, is an empty-headed fashionista, owner of the local shoe shop, and one of Prince Charming’s ex-wives. What most of them don’t know is that she’s also a master spy and sometimes assassin, their very own James Bond. Only better.

We open with Cinderella punching out a gun-toting mook, diving off Big Ben’s clock tower, and hang-gliding out over London. It’s one hell of an introduction and far from the most kickass moment she gets in the book. Along the way, she also finds time to kick the ever-loving crap out of some shapeshifting monsters, storm an oil rig, deal with armed assassins and overthrow an evil regime with a well-thrown clog.

So her badass credentials are certainly up to spec for the super-spy genre, but what else? Well, it wouldn’t be a spy story without a Bond girl. That role here is ably filled by Aladdin, Cinderella’s intelligence-gathering counterpart from the Baghdad Fable community. True to form he’s capable and effective but not quite up to Cinderella’s level and practically carries a glowing neon sign reading “capture and imprison me so I can be daringly rescued!”.

There are two particularly nice little points in the interaction between Cinderella and Aladdin. First up, the hook-up that’s pretty much inevitable with the genre. When it does happen, Cinderella is very definitely the active party in deciding when and initiating things. There was the risk that we’d see that whole scene take a more traditional approach, which would have entirely undermined the character, but fortunately she remains entirely herself and entirely in charge.

The other nice moment is the ideological exchange between them, shortly after they get done kicking monsters in the jaw for the first time. The conversation comes round to Islam and, honestly, it’s handled pretty fairly. It’s only one page worth of stuff, but writer Chris Roberson deals with it well. It’s certainly a nice change from the slightly cringe-inducing pro-Israel speech Bill Willingham included in the main Fables series.

The art is pretty solid too. At no point, as far as I can tell, does Cinderella adopt that terrible spine-breaker pose so commonly inflicted on comic book women. The outfits are sensible too, with the daring infiltration of an old oil platform taking place in appropriate combat gear and her regular wear never getting any more risqué than an evening dress. (Well, one of the covers does feature a wetsuit with an inexplicable cleavage window. Cleavage windows aside, Chrissie Zullo’s work on the covers is gorgeous.)

Cover of From Fabletown with Love issue 3, showing Cinderella, a petite white blonde woman, in a wetsuit emerging from the water. Art by Chrissie Zullo.

How does that wetsuit even work with a hole in it?

So that’s Cinderella, Fabletown’s very own badass super-spy. Hopefully she’s just as fantastic in her second story arc. Oh, and she comes from good company too, with others like Rose Red, Snow White, and Frau Totenkinder rocking along in the main series. Frau Totenkinder in particular is worthy of mention, since it’s nice to see a much older female character who’s still awesome.

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