“In most ways, Mirka liked her stepmother Fruma.” Okay, it’s not quite “And there came a day when Earth’s Mightiest Heroes found themselves united against a common threat,” but allmost one year ago, these words opened the story of Hereville, a weekly webcomic telling the story of an eleven-year-old Yiddish-speaking Orthodox girl who wants to become a dragon-slayer. Beautifully balancing the feel of a Yiddish folktale and a fantasy novel, the story has been unfolding on Wednesdays over the last year. Today, with the posting of page 57, the story draws to a close. In between, the story was published in hardcopy, sold to a major publisher for a forthcoming expanded edition (due in 2010), and endured an online debate over the comic’s portrayal of Shabbat.
Hereville is the work of Barry Deutsch, who also writes Ampersand, a political cartoon published in Dollars and Sense. Hereville is a complete story with a satisfying ending, but in the tradition of the best fantasy stories, it also is the first of what could be a great series of tales. Deutsch has expressed interest in continuing Mirka’s story in the future, and I hope he does.
Beyond the thrill of a well-told story that is steeped in Jewish culture without feeling forced or condescending, it’s a pleasure to read a story with an Orthodox heroine who’s both a feminist and feminine without being, well, a cartoon.