A three-part comic anthology by Gene Luen Yang (creator of American Born Chinese
) and Derek Kirk Kim, each of the three stories in The Eternal Smile
deals with crossing the line between fantasy and reality.
In "Duncan's Kingdom", a young knight named Duncan tries to get revenge for the death of his king and win a princess's hand by slaying the evil Frog King. But Duncan is troubled by recurring dreams about a crying woman, and further troubled by a bizarre artifact found in the Frog King's lair: an empty soda bottle.
"Gran'pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile" is framed around the latest get-rich-quick scheme of cartoon amphibian Gran'pa Greenbax: inspired by a mysterious disembodied smile floating in the sky above a nearby desert, he sets up an evangelical "Church of the Eternal Smile" and tries to make a mint off donations. But his scheme falls apart with less-than-hilarious consequences, and Greenbax makes some unpleasant discoveries about his place in the world...
The third and final story, "Urgent Request", features a put-upon office worker named Janet falling for the infamous "Nigerian royalty" scam. But things take a turn for the weird when her correspondence with "Prince Henry" gives her a surprising boost of confidence... and it only gets weirder when she tracks down and confronts the scammer and demands... a date?
- Amusing Injuries: Deconstructed in "Gran'pa Greenbax", Greenbax is horrified when he ends up killing his long-suffering sidekick Filbert during a session of inflicting Amusing Injuries on him.
- Butt Monkey: Filbert in "Gran'pa Greenbax" ( it seems that Norbert, his "real life" inspiration, serves exactly the same purpose).
- The Cameo: Duncan is visible in a crowd briefly at the end of "Gran'pa Greenbax," with his mother. Also, [[Series/Heroes Hiro Nakamura]] puts in a surprise appearance too!
- Captain Ersatz: Gran'pa Greenbax is so obviously Scrooge McDuck it's painful, with Polly and Molly serving as the Huey, Dewey, & Louie expies and Filbert a combination of Donald Duck (constantly the focus of Gran'pa's bad temper) and Gyro Gearloose (the temperament, the build, the inventions).
- Gran'pa Greenbax ends up becoming a Deconstruction of Uncle Scrooge. His Quest is outright tragic; he says that he's searched high and low for meaning in his life, and the only thing he's ever found that even comes close to meaning is money — specifically, gold coins, specifically, enough gold coins that he can leap into a lake of them and never hit bottom. At the end, it's uncovered that this is really his yearning to return home — to a real lake, that shines like gold in the sunset, and is deep enough for a normal frog to live very happily. And that's where he returns.
- Creepy Twins: Gran'pa Greenbax's granddaughters become this when they get a little too into the Church of the Eternal Smile.
- Daydream Surprise: One several pages long in "Urgent Request".
- 419 Scam
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: It would seem that the princess in "Duncan's Kingdom" is sweet and adoring in addition to beautiful — even if she does laugh at Duncan's terrible poetry.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: As Duncan finds, it makes a terrific sword!
- Mind Screw: Most prominently in the first two stories, where nothing is ever as it seems.
- Mr. Alt Disney: Elias McFadden
- Muse Abuse
- Single-Minded Twins: Polly and Molly. They're basically only distinguishable by the fact that one wears red, and the other yellow.
- Truman Show Plot
- Twist Ending: One apiece, mostly relating to the world in which the reader finds themselves. Duncan is in a coma, and hallucinating a fantasy world where his life's failures are easily conquered. Gran'pa Greenbax is a humble pond-hopper that was modified into the star of a wildly popular TV show. And Janet is on to the Nigerian "prince's" scam from the first.