For many people, faeries, pixies, leprechauns, and other folkloric creatures evoke the image of a light and magical world that may be mischievous, but is ultimately filled with more good than bad.
But what would happen if these creatures were alive today, trying to survive in a world that’s forgotten them?
That’s what Simon Spurrier will explore in Avatar Press’ newest webcomic, Disenchanted. It’s a story of tradition, disillusionment, and what happens to traditional values (for better or worse) as they are subject to change in urban environments. It will follow the lives of characters forced to question their own values in Vermintown, a small city in an abandoned subway station beneath London.
“If we as people who are moving in cities and leading these really strange gregarious, socially evolving lives find it difficult to hang on to our folklore, then how do folkloric creatures hang on to themselves? That seemed like an interesting question to ask,” Spurrier said.
Folklore is a fertile topic that’s been explored from many angles in different media, but Spurrier’s take will specifically focus on how mythic creatures would try to survive when their traditional world has disappeared and given way to a life of violence, drugs, and interracial hatred.
“These are stories which have kind of had their moment in the sun and at one time were tantamount to religion. These are things people used to really believe and they’ve kind of faded from popularity since then, so I regard a lot of these little folkloric creatures as kind of the broken old rock stars of the story world and that appealed to me,” Spurrier told the Daily Dot.
Disenchanted has been in the works for about four years, and will follow the format of another one of Avatar Press’ webcomics, Warren Ellis’ FreakAngels, by releasing 12 pages every week online for free and gathering the pages together for a print issue every 6 months.
The comic was inspired not just by folklore, but by Spurrier’s love of monsters, urban stories, and ensemble pieces like Deadwood and The Wire— a format that allows the writer to tell multiple stories that interweave and interact.
The ensemble featured in Disenchanted centers on a family fairly new in town who are in the minority and struggling with one of the central tensions of the story—difference, and the hatred that often comes with it.
The central character is father-figure Stote, whose wife disappeared and left him to raise twin boys, who are spiraling out of control in different directions. Spurrier describes Stote as trying to be a good guy bringing his sons up by observing the old ways, but finds he’s good at violence and gets sucked into the dark organized crime element of the city. He’s also somewhat of a hypocrite—he says he believes ethnicities should not interbreed, while at the same time having his own kink for women of other ethnicities.
The other members of the family include Stote’s sister, Sal, and their elderly mother. Sal is a cop picking apart a mystery that has been seething in the background of the city for a long time, while her mother acts as a leader of the community, but has lost faith in the tradition she’s supposed to represent. Spurrier said readers will see these family members respond to their differences in very different ways.
“They’re all really interesting, fleshed-out characters in a world which we will be familiar with because it’s about things that are relevant to all of us but with this added twist dealing with tradition in a very manifest way, a very real and solid way,” he said.
Spurrier’s characters aren’t just members of different ethnicities—they’re members of completely different species. It’s not just about white and black, it’s about white and green and big and hairy. It all happens on a one-inch scale and Spurrier said there is some amazing detail and art from German Erramouspe as a result. That detail will also find its way from the comic to the website launching alongside it, which Spurrier called “mind-bogglingly absorbing.” The site will include a map of the city that was as big as the inside of a barn when it was originally laid out side by side. It has been shrunk down for the Web, and readers will be able to scroll across it like a Google Map.
“[Disenchanted] is extraordinarily compelling, it’s about important things that are relevant to all of our lives and it’s got incredible artwork. You can lose yourself in the detail of this thing,” Spurrier said.
While Spurrier calls himself first and foremost a print comic writer, he’s no stranger to the webcomic format. He’s the writer for one of Avatar Press’ other ongoing free weekly webcomics, Crossed: Wish You Were Here, which is coming to the end of its third story arc (with at least one more to come). Its success was one of the reasons Spurrier and Avatar chose a similar model for Disenchanted. Disenchanted, however, differs from Crossed in that there is no narration, only straight dialogue—which Spurrier said works best for such a weird exotic world.
“Having spent so long writing Crossed: Wish You Were Here taught me certain things about how to go into a story and how the Web format differs slightly from the print format,” he said.
Disenchanted debuted last weekend at New York Comic Con, where a print copy of the first 12 pages was made available at the Avatar Press booth. It will make its online debut Oct. 28.
“It’s a story of where magic goes to die and I think that’s quite an interesting thing that people will be sucked into and fall into...” Spurrier said. “I think it will make people come back all on its own.”
Illustrations via Avatar Press