The "castle" in Linda Medley's comics series Castle Waiting is the place where Sleeping Beauty lay unconscious for a century before she was kissed by a prince, woke up, and took off to get married, leaving behind a full staff with nothing to do. The "waiting" refers to those people who stuck around the castle after the princess' story ended, though it could just as easily refer to Medley's fans. The first Castle Waiting story was published in 1996, and over the next six years, Medley got out 14 full issues of the comic and a handful of short stories. That isn't bad for an indie, but since Medley went from self-publishing to publishing through Jeff Smith's Cartoon Books and then back to self-publishing, her work hasn't always been easy to find.
Fortunately, Medley's Castle Waiting storyline wasn't in any real hurry to get anywhere. After a scene-setting chapter that retells the Sleeping Beauty legend, Medley introduces Lady Jain, a pregnant woman who flees the manor of her abusive husband and travels to the fabled Castle Waiting, where she's met by Sleeping Beauty's former attendants and a host of refugees from other fairy tales: some famous, some obscure, and some from Medley's imagination. Outside of one long flashback—a nested, multi-part story about an order of bearded nuns—Castle Waiting doesn't deal out much drama. People eat, they swap stories, they help Jain with her newborn, and they maintain the stature of one of the prime pieces of fantasyland real estate.
Much of Castle Waiting's charm is its no-big-deal approach, coupled with Medley's blend of classical illustration styles and simple cartooning. Reading through Fantagraphics' hardcover collection of the series to date, it's striking how Medley makes nothingness curiously gripping, as she has her characters grapple with non-fantastic, readily solvable problems, primarily by helping each other. There's a clear salute to the power of sisterhood in Castle Waiting's stories of battered and exploited women banding together with kindly men to make a new world, but Medley's utopian idealism takes a back seat to her celebration of the ways people pass the time well, by reading and talking and cooking. The Castle Waiting castle draws people looking for a safe place to rest. The Castle Waiting book draws readers looking for much the same.