Archives in Comics: Peritale
As another hellish year of the plague comes to an end, it's important to acknowledge the stories that never finish, the tales told that find no resolution because, for one reason or another, the time or the energy isn't there. People who create works of art in whatever format they so choose often do it on the side while hustling to make real money in an unforgiving job market compounded by the exhaustion of just existing as a person in the world.
So, if you haven't finished that thing you told yourself you were going to finish; if you're pulling your hair out because nothing's going right and you feel like you owe an explanation; if you're panicking over another year of stress and anxiety, just know that you're not alone. You're allowed to breathe and take a break. You're allowed to break down. And you're allowed to come back on a timeline that works for you.
Trust me, I'm speaking from experience.
That's all a preamble to tell you that I found a webcomic in my research, and binged the crap out of it, only to find it on semi-permanent hiatus after I became INVESTED in its magical world or fairies and magic and messy characters and I'M NOT OKAY!
Peritale, created, written, and drawn by Mari Costa, is a webcomic that follows Periwinkle, a fairy born without magic and only two wings, who manages, against all odds, to become a Fairy Godmother - the most prestigious job in the Fairy Realm. The majority of the comic focuses on Peri's first assignment in the human world, fulfilling the destiny of a reclusive witch, Vallery, to fall in love with the Prince, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, things become a bit of a mess along the way as Peri deals with issues of internal and external prejudice, magical in-fighting, and her growing feelings for Vallery.
There's so much more to this comic, especially the side stories involving Vallery and her magical rival, Dagmar; the mystery behind Peri's older sister's, Hydrangea's, disappearance from the Fairy Realm; and the relationships between Peri and her other siblings. There are plenty of characters to get attached to and at least three mysteries in need of solving, but as I preambled, the comic is unfortunately on hiatus. The last update to the site was in August of 2020, with Mari Costa indicating that their work schedule couldn't allow for more updates. It's anyone's guess as to whether or not Peritale will ever finish, but what's there is definitely worth your time.
Thankfully, for my purposes, the comic provides a few instances of archives and archivists existing in the Fairy Realm. The Prologue of Peritale actually begins with a seven-year-old Peri and her class visiting the Archives, the central hub of Fairy Godmother activity. The teacher shows her students the Archives as a means of indicating that being a Fairy Godmother isn't the only profession available to them, that even working in a supporting role is important to how their society functions. Without the Archives, and those working within its hallowed halls, there would be no Fairytales for the Godmothers to fulfill.
This might be the first time someone has bothered to explain that the support function of an archives is actually important, that there are hard-working people (in this case fairies) doing the grunt work that makes the big, shiny job look amazing and desirable.
Jumping ahead to an older, even more determined Peri finally passing the test to become a Fairy Godmother, we get what might be my favorite panel of all time ever put into a comic featuring an archives.
It's so cute and her eyes are so big and she's genuinely excited to GO TO THE ARCHIVES because that's where she's going to get her first Fairytale assignment.
So, let's talk about the Fairy Realm Archives and the Head Archivist we meet almost immediately after this panel. First of all, I love that the Archives is basically a castle! No need to worry about the archives being relegated to the basement when it's literally filling a magical castle and is revered by the entire Fairy population. Or so we think. There's some family backstory with Peri's older brother, Cedric, being cast out of the archives - possibly due to dark magic - but that's yet to be resolved or fleshed out, so it's anybody's guess as to the varied perceptions of the Archives.
And then there's the Archivist, Minty, who doesn't hold any positive feelings towards Peri as she questions her ability to be an effective Fairy Godmother without magic. Still in need of an assignment, Minty takes Peri to the heart of the archives and finds a Fairytale with the least amount of magic required, claiming a human could accomplish the task. It's as backhanded a statement as they come, but not all archivists are rays of sunshine are they? Excited to prove her worth as a Fairy Godmother, Peri dives head first into the human realm to complete her Fairytale. Minty, like many of the fairies dealing with Peri, is just glad to be rid of her.
So, yes, not the most positive take on an archivist, but no one's perfect and I'm sure Minty might be a pleasant individual outside of her interactions with Periwinkle. If you'd like to see whether or not Minty is a pleasant individual outside of her interactions with Periwinkle, then I'd advise you to read Life of Melody, the Patreon spin-off comic published on the Peritale website. Minty makes an appearance and, yeah, she's about the same, just younger.
It's worth noting, though, that the Archives is depicted more like a giant library, so that's a bit of a bummer. There's also the unfortunate conflation of a large collection of things as an archives. As has been pointed out before, the difference between a library, archives, or museum boils down to curation. Does this mean I want to see the Fairy Realm Archives' collecting policy? Yes. Yes, I do.
Still, I'm willing to let the negative stuff slide because I'm just happy to see this type of archival depiction in any form of media. The archives aren't dour and dusty. It's bright and there are people happy to work there and their work is important! You don't get that kind of acknowledgment in other properties. If you're a long time reader of this website, then you know it's a very rare instance.
So let's accentuate the positive as the new year comes along. Hopefully Peritale will eventually return from hiatus, but until then it's still a fun read and a gorgeous world to gaze upon. Thank you for putting this comic into the world, Mari Costa!
Happy New Year, Readers! Thanks for coming here and continuing to read these weird little articles.