Widgey Q. Butterfluff (SLG Publishing)

Webcomicker Steph Cherrywell’s new Saturday morning send-up finds the middle ground between twee and icky..

128 pages, b&w, $9.99
(W / A: Steph Cherrywell)
Widgey Q. Butterfluff manages to be both twee and icky at the same time. I’m not going to pretend I’m not a little perplexed by how I’ve managed to come to that confusion since, usually, those two things occupy two very distinct places for me. I can usually put things in a place and come to terms with them but, in the weeks since I read this for the first time, I haven’t been able to decide what’s going to win. It’s been suggested to me, in my musings about what this review is going to say, that those are two sides of the same coin. And perhaps that’s true—maybe love and hate, twee and icky, are divided by a blade finer than the thinnest thread. I understand, of course, that the twee and the ick are designed to blend to the point where they’re nearly indistinguishable from each other, making Steph Cherrywell a mistress of her art. And while it’s hard to hate a creature that just wants to rid the world of toxic waste, it’s easy to dislike one that leads an invasion on a neighboring Sweetopia (populated by gingerbread men, not pixies) because the plants in Snugglepump Valley have been replaced with ones that produce, heaven forbid, fruits and vegetables instead of candy.
Well, maybe not. I mean, I like candy.
Either way, Widgey starts out as cute and sweet and crosses over to the other side and, really, the whole thing is kind of icky. I know that’s what Cherrywell’s point was, but it’s been a while since a book left me feeling so vaguely unsettled with such an innocuous premise. You see, Snugglepump Valley is a world where, according to the back of the book, it’s always Saturday morning. Great! I love Saturday morning, even though I seem to sleep through most of it these days. She’s got nerdy sidekicks (Professor Schoolbug, who is in charge of all that scary science stuff, and Buster, the resident bad boy and an assortment of motley ) and clear and present enemies that she manages to defeat every time. Super! I love happy endings and buddy comics. Except there’s something just a little off with these happy endings. Sure, Butterfluff and Co. win, but there’s something a little off.
Cherrywell harkens back to the cartoons that I grew up with in an incredibly blatant way. I hesitate to call them homages, but there are references to The Care Bears and Captain Planet that are so pointed that I’m surprised there wasn’t legal action. The episodes in the book make persuasive arguments that the side of right isn’t always the side of smart, though, which is probably why it sticks so oddly in my brain—I want to believe that the good guys always have the right idea and that the right idea is always executed well. I’m a naïve kinda girl like that. The word “subversive” keeps coming to mind and I keep wanting to dismiss it, but isn’t that the very goal of subversive literature—something that makes you think about something in a way that you wouldn’t normally? Widgey and her motley crew don’t always have the right idea and, if they do, the execution leaves something to be desired.
The art is the delicately penciled style that is synonymous with SLG in my mind, all black and white, all full of quirky details. No one is perfect in these books and, honestly, the prettiest girl? Totally a baddie. In fact, Widgey’s weight is almost a running joke through the book and she eventually decides that she looks just fine, which is kind of refreshing. I’d like to think that Cherrywell is tackling the Very Special Episode topic of “Your Body and You,” but I’m a little wary. It seems like she’s trying to say that maybe we’re okay the way we are, which is a refreshing change from the amusing cynicism that drives most of the book as it covers a host of young adult issues, from loving the environment to loving another person. (Yes, in that way. Only not the way that Widgey does it. That’s how you end up in a serial killer wiki and therein, I think, lies the ineffable charm of this book.)
I’d recommend this for anyone who got tired of seeing aisles full of My Little Pony toys that don’t look like the originals. Fans of Cherrywell’s online work (Gorgeous Princess Creamy Beamy, Muertitos and Intragalactic) will love this collection of skewered 80’s Saturday morning cliches. Me? I’m afraid I’m never going to look at that Care Bear floating around my old stuff the same ever again. | Erin Jameson

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