Thursday, May 28, 2015

31 Days of Comics: Day 28 – A Comic That Changed The Way You Look At The World

ROB'S NOTE: May has become the go-to month of the Comic’s Industry (even though National Superhero Day is late April, but whatever… Congress… pshaw).  It is when Marvel drops their big movie of the year.  May also sees the annual Free Comic Book Day celebration take place on the first Saturday of the Month, so I hope you all got to check that out.  May also has 31 days of the month so what better way to celebrate the wonderful world of sequential art with the 31 Days of Comics?

Seth Hahne, who runs the blog GoodOkBad, has put together the 31 Days of Comics challenge.  A daily challenge in which you are given a category and you have to fill it with a comic that you think fits it the best.  You’re all on the internet, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.  For the rest of the month I will be taking this challenge.  It is my hope it encourages others to make and share their own lists either in the comments here or on their own websites.  The sharing not only might turn comic fans on to works they have yet to sample but maybe catch the eye of a few non-comic fans and highlight the diversity of the form. 

Our prompt for Day 28 is “A comic that changed the way you look at the world.”


Written by Scott Snyder
Pencils by Jock
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth

If you’re following along with the blog that these prompts originated from you might have noticed I shifted a day around.  I’m trying to line up an interview for one of the days so bear with me.

Anyway, if you go back through this list to Day 9 (which by my calculations was 4 years ago) the topic was a comic that totally blew my mind.  Up until last week I would have probably reused that answer of The Invisibles here.  Invisibles definitely made a lasting impact on how I see the world.  But last week saw the release of Wytches #6, which ended Scott Snyder and Jock’s first arc on the series, and it left me both frightened and secure that other people share my same fears.  And no, it isn’t witches that I am afraid of.

It goes way more personal than that.

Wytches tells the tale of the Rook family, and in particular the father Charlie and his daughter Sailor.  As the series opens we find that the family has just completed a move into a new neighborhood.  We find out the reason for the move is an incident that occurred in their previous hometown when a school bully, named Annie attacked Sailor.  Sailor was badly hurt, and Annie disappeared leading to persistent speculation that Sailor killed her.  Figuring the best way to flee the rumors was to leave town the Rook family migrates in order to get a fresh start.

However the new town hosts a supernatural presence that sets its sight on Sailor almost immediately.  There are creatures in the woods that surround the town.  These creatures, the wythces, can grant wishes for the townspeople, but only if they “pledge” another person to them. Once pledged they belong to the Wytches, and it becomes quite apparent that Sailor has been pledged by somebody.

One prompt that isn’t on the list that this comic definitely would have made was “A Comic that Scares the Living Shit out of you.”  This is a truly disturbing comic on perhaps every level.  Jock’s illustrations of the town and its surroundings alone set up a mood of absolute terror and anticipation of horror.  When it comes time to actually draw the Wytches themselves Jock makes them so natural yet twisted that I am not sure I ever want to go to the woods again, because I’m sure I’ll “see” them in the trees.

So besides changing my life by not making me ever want to camp again, how else did Wytches change my perspective?

I mentioned earlier about Kieron Gillen’s ability to craft a compelling narrative while at the same time examining a theme and how he always finds the perfect balance between them.  Snyder is able to pull the same act here by giving us a creepy horror story that would be a perfect Halloween flick to scare the living bejesus out of us while at the same time making a story that explores a theme that is extremely close to my heart; the fear of making a mistake as a parent.

Snyder talks in greater detail about that fear in the back matter of the book, and while I appreciate those essays greatly, it wasn’t needed for me to make the connection to the book.  Sailor might be the character that things are “happening to” the most but we experience most of it through her father Charlie’s eyes and reactions.  It’s Charlie’s fears; fear for his daughter’s safety, fear that he’s made the right decisions for his family, and the fear of not knowing what his daughter is going through; that make this book beyond surface level frightening for me. 

It’s that last fear, the fear that your child is going through something horrible and huge and damaging but not having any idea what it is, that resonates most with me.  My son is 8 and so far is pretty good at telling his mom and me what is going on at school and what he is thinking.  But I know he’s going to get to the age at some point where he will hesitate to tell us stuff.  Either he’s going to think he’s old enough to handle it on his own, or that it would get him in trouble, or he’s embarrassed, or (worst of all to me) that we won’t try to understand.  As a teacher who works closely with teenagers I can say without hesitation that some of these kids go through massive amounts of shit and that the adults in their lives often only know the surface level of that pile. 

Snyder was able to personify those fears through Wytches.  He gave it a face and he gave it a name.  And while I already had these fears, he did something very valuable for me.  He let it be known to the world that he has them.  By writing this story, and the back matter Snyder let me, and others know, that it is natural to have those fears. He reiterated the importance of trying to stay connected to your child, even when it is hard and difficult and they don’t think they want that connection.  Snyder let me know I was not alone.

And I will never be alone.  Especially in the woods.  Because Jock ruined camping for me too.


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