web stats

CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting Volume II

Castle Waiting Volume II.  Linda Medley (writer/artist). Fantagraphics. Black & White. Hardcover.  375 pages. $29.99

The true star of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting, and it should be obvious from the title, is the Castle.  It’s as large if not a larger a presence than any of the other wonderful characters in Medley’s ensemble piece, and it’s really the heart and soul that draws them all together.  In fact, the characters really have nothing binding them together except the castle and the community that it creates.  And so it’s fitting that Castle Waiting Volume II continues to and I would say expands upon the Castle as one of the primary characters, exploring it not just figuratively and metaphorically, but quite literally.  In Volume II, in addition most of the same wonderful characters from Volume I we also get two new characters – Dayne and Tolly – who are Hammerlings (dwarves) and brothers of Henry/Loki.  Additionally in this volume we get a much awaited peek into Jain’s past – though don’t expect everything to be revealed as Medley continues to play much of Jain’s story close to the vest.

Henry/Loki, Dayne, and Tolly’s world is explored in an interesting way in that it is never really outright explained, but just alluded to – which further expands Medley’s world in a fascinating way – very matter of factly, as if we will never fully explore all the corners of her world – hinting at just how much is out there still that will never even make it to the page.  Of course given the mystery and minor controversy surrounding this collection of her Castle Waiting from Fantagraphics (i.e. that her name has been removed from the volume, apparently by choice) one has to wonder how much more of that world we WILL actually get to see.  Medley is hard to find – well, if you’re as crappy and free time deficient a detective as I am – i.e. I couldn’t find a working email address for her, and all websites I found relating to her were defunct or under construction and articles were slim as well.  But if history is any indication (she also seems to have had a professional falling out at some point with Cartoon Books) regardless of fallouts and hiatuses Medley will rise up phoenix-like and eventually return to Castle Waiting, which will be good news for everyone.  I know for me personally, Castle Waiting has been one of the most joyous comics discoveries for me of the last couple years.

As an outsider (and ignoring rumors of romantic entanglements) the only guess I can hazard at deterioration between Medley and Fantagraphics (because this volume is just as beautiful and deserving of a spot on your bookshelf as volume 1) is that the story here does end rather abruptly…it doesn’t even necessarily feel like the end of an issue, let alone a hardcover volume.  I don’t understand why they would do that…too many pages for a reasonable sized volume?  Costs rising too much to bundle together?  Delays in getting out a more “satisfying” ending?  Medley wasn’t finished and they had a hard publication date?  Could be anything.  I just hope it’s something that doesn’t mean the end of Castle Waiting for Medley (or more selfishly for me).

I hesitated in writing about Castle Waiting (as I did when I included Medley on my 20 Favorite Female Comics Creators of 2010) because I don’t want to promote the work if Medley isn’t on board in some way, but reading it, except for the ending I can’t imagine what she could be displeased with as it is utterly delightful, and I felt I just had to talk about it for those that still might not know what they’re missing.

And if you’re not reading it, you’re missing a lot.

For example, despite this volume clocking in at 375 pages I read the whole thing in one sitting…and enjoyed every freaking second of it.  I laughed repeatedly and more often than not was caught just smiling like an idiot as I read about these beautifully crafted characters and their completely boring but somehow also completely fascinating lives.  It doesn’t hurt that Medley is truly an incredible illustrator.  She’s somehow wildly consistent while at the same time getting better and better with every issue…which I don’t quite understand but it’s obvious in looking at her work.  It looks cohesive and incredibly tight, yet I love it more with every page turn.

Story continues below

Medley’s work, as I discussed in my review of Castle Waiting Volume I last year, is incredibly female friendly in that it portrays a wide variety of both male and female characters, with a wide variety of body types, personalities, and in especially nice fashion for a fairy tale, plenty of characters that aren’t even human.  I feel Medley’s work from a general point of view is naturally interesting for women in that it has a fairy tale quality that is not off-putting the way things like superheroes can be…men and women are both raised on fairy tales fairly equally as children I think, and so it naturally feels inclusive.  For me, eventually fairy tales became frustrating with their happy endings and princesses marrying princes and not doing much else and so I turned to a variety of other things, including superheroes, where sometimes girls and women got to do awesome stuff (and sometimes not) but I think maybe in general girls stay with fairy tales longer (what else do we have as backup for the massive Disney Princess franchise?) while boys move on to a lot of other things – oft times superheroes.  None of this should imply that men won’t love Castle Waiting as much as women – I think there’s something there for everyone regardless of gender, but I think it’s particularly interesting for women – those who do or don’t read comics regularly – as a nice grown up and less restricting way to continue loving fairy tales.  Medley is not hemmed in by any of the restrictions of the fairy tales I read growing up that eventually bored me so much.  She is unrestrained in her exploration of fairy tales and character and her stories have a decidedly feminist bent if only in the fact that everyone is equal and that nobody has to be married off, unless that happens to suit them.

It’s all quite revolutionary really.  How I wish this had been around when I was a teenager…how it might have opened my mind to all the storytelling opportunities that are out there…and how it could have helped reinforce that everything I wanted to be and do, was not so strange after all – because it was right there on the page in Medley’s characters – doing and being whatever they wanted.

Pound for pound I probably prefer Volume I to Volume II, in part due to the abrupt and frustrating ending, and in part due to just preferring some of the larger stories and mysteries of Volume I to those presented in Volume II, but for the most part I’d say they are very equal and consistent works – entertaining and beautiful and a really wonderful fresh take on fairy tales.

Castle Waiting is available in two gorgeous hardcover editions – Volume I, and Volume II from Fantagraphics.  You can find Castle Waiting in bookstores and comic stores, online, and directly through Fantagraphics.

**She Has No Head! is actively accepting review copies of “female friendly comics and graphic novels” for future columns on CSBG.  Please get in touch via email (using the CSBG “contact us” button above) to discuss.**


[…] new She Has No Head! – a look at Linda Medley’s excellent Castle Waiting Volume II is up on […]

Someone has pointed out (Rich Johnston, maybe) that Medley’s name does not appear on the book, except for the copyright info in fairly small print. Odd.

Oop… you covered that, too.. sorry.

I’ve gotten the impression from various people that Linda Medley is really just reclusive, although I’ve heard other things. She’s just struck me as someone who’s retreated into herself for whatever reason.

But I really don’t know. That’s just speculation on my part.

I do know I love Castle Waiting. I too was frustrated with the abrupt ending of Volume II (I kept flipping the pages back and forth to make sure I wasn’t missing anything) but some of that was just because I wanted it to keep going forever.

She has such a lovely voice when it comes to interpersonal interactions and eye for minor details. I love this comic. I hope we do get more.

I didn’t notice the lack of Medley’s name in the book at all, until I read this article. Odd, but hopefully it doesn’t mean the series won’t continue, as I certainly want to read more Castle Waiting,

I think it’s pretty remarkable that even though CW takes place in a fantasy world where fairy tale creatures are commonplace, it uses almost none of the storytelling tropes of the fantasy genre. There’s no swordfights, no magical battles, no epic quests, no extraordinary feats of heroism. (In fact the only fight we’ve seen so far was a short street brawl.) The heroism in CW is found on a very mundane level, and that’s what makes it such an unique comic book. Volume II doesn’t really have any story arcs at all, it’s just people talking and interacting with each other and the castle, but it still an engaging and fun and occasionally moving book to read. I guess the female-friendliness of the series comes from the fact that it doesn’t cater to typical masculine fantasies, rather than focusing on the everyday empathy and solidarity of the characters, but if you like both slice-of-life fiction and fantasy, you probably like this book regardless of your gender.

One thing I found a bit distracting is that at some point in the book Todd Klein’s lettering changes to standard typeset lettering (as seen in the above pics), which doesn’t fit the hand-made feel of the comic quite as well. At the same time Medley’s art also becomes “bigger”, with thicker lines and less panels per page. I guess at that point she started doing the art with this smaller-sized collection in my mind, rather than the larger floppies, but I still liked the more miniaturish look if Vol. I and the first third of Vol. II.

I can remember when Medley took over drawing Justice League during the General Glory storyline and my teenage mind rejected it. What an idiot I was. Her artwork is beautiful. The perfect amount of “cartoony”.

I also remember being underwhelmed by her Justice League work. Perhaps I should look it out. It always seemed that she put her heart and soul into Castle Waiting, and Justice League was a day job.

I’ve never heard of this, but these few pages really make me want to read more.

I love that title, ‘Weapons Of The Turks, and Why They Hurt’.

That horse seems more like an ass.

Does this collection end with issue #15 (Chapter 12) (August, ’09), the last published?

@ David Unlikely:

Based on this:


I would say that’s accurate. That up through #15 is collected and that #16 (or volume 3 as it were) doesn’t yet exist.

Hmm…the link isn’t working for some reason…but if you copy and paste to your browser it works.

Thank you.

I got really excited when I received the book in the mail from Amazon and was really shocked that her name was missing. I love these books (I bought the first volume when it came out as I’d always heard so many good things about it), and hope that someday it will continue. At the very least, I have gift ideas for a niece… :)

Kelly, have you read the Curse of Brambly Hedge, which is a prequel to Castle Waiting?

Oops, just double checked and it is in Vol.1 the first of the stories.

Hmm…the link isn’t working for some reason…but if you copy and paste to your browser it works.

It’s something really odd – you might notice that when you go to anyone’s twitter page (I don’t know how long this has been happening), suddenly #! pops up between twitter.com and the person’s name. That #! breaks up the link for re-posting. So you have to remove the #! to make the link work (which I just did for your link, so it works now). Totally nuts.

Thanks Brian you’re like some kind of crazy internet superhero full of knowledge and wisdom! ;)

Man, I loved that first volume. I gotta read this, although I do wonder what happened that she removed her name.

Was anyone else frustrated with the illustrious depth of the characters, and in 60$+ worth of books, the failure to deliver a detectable plot. While I admire both the rendering and storytelling so far I do feel the plot shares much with title castle and waiting.

There isn’t really supposed to be a plot. It’s a slice of life fantasy, not an epic. And there is slight plot, like Jains backstory etc, but it isn’t needed. It’s an amazing set of books.

But please God let there be more of them. Please. Please.

Dear people,

After 3 years of waiting and waiting: CW is back with some new stuff!!!!Better than ever!!!!

check this:


an ever so huge happy fan of Linda and CW’s world :-)

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives