Spurrier Redefines Fantasy With New Webcomic 'Disenchanted'
"X-Men Legacy" and "2000AD" writer talks about his new webcomic project about an underground city where "magic, folklore and myth have come to die."
Launching today is Disenchanted, a new weekly webcomic by Si Spurrier and German Erramouspe that takes the fantasy genre in new directions. "I’ve been describing it as The Borrowers meets Deadwood, which still doesn’t do it justice," Spurrier told THR. "It’s urban fantasy handled in a very unique way."
Published by Avatar Press, which has previously serialized Warren Ellis' Freakangels in a similar fashion, the series will see 12 pages published online every Monday for free, with a print edition released every six months. If such a project sounds like a massive undertaking, British writer Spurrier -- perhaps best-known in the U.S. for his work on Marvel's X-Men Legacy, although he also has worked for 2000AD, Boom! Studios and Titan Comics under his belt -- readily admits that it has been.
Partly that’s because a bunch of other stuff came along; but mostly it’s because of the sheer scale of what’s involved, he said, pointing to not only the comic strip, but also the sizable amount of world-building material created to accompany it (some of which can be found here). In total, according to Spurrier, it's taken four years to get the project to the point of publication -- but it's all been worthwhile. "'Labor of love' is a horribly overused expression, but Disenchanted is a labor of love."
The series was born from Spurrier's conflicted feelings towards the fantasy genre as a whole. "I wish there were more shades of gray and a little less natural gravitation towards tonal extremes," he said. "90% of fantasy either takes itself completely too seriously, or is tacitly aware of its own ridiculousness and keeps stopping to wink and smirk at the reader."
That problem is avoided in Disenchanted by simply changing the point of view of the story. "This isn’t a human perspective on fantastical elements where characters stand around saying, 'Oh gosh, look, a purple unicorn, that’s amazing,'" Spurrier promised. "It’s a down-in-the-thick of it perspective on a world where these fantastical flourishes are normal, mundane, unreliable and, frankly, a bit embarrassing."
When it comes to the story itself, "the title really couldn’t be more apt if it tried," Spurrier explained. "We live in a world where magic has no place, after all." The series takes place in what the writer described as "a grim but miniature city hidden in a long-abandoned subway station under the streets of London built from soda cans, cereal boxes, milk cartons and used syringes, known to its residents as 'Vermintown.' It’s the place where magic, folklore and myth -- forgotten, disillusioned, disenfranchised -- have come to die."
More importantly for the purposes of Disenchanted, Spurrier continued that Vermintown is also where "all the cutesy 'little people' of European folklore -- leprechauns, brownies, kobolds, piskies, fairies, goblins and more -- have huddled together in bitterness and fear now that the human world no longer believes in them. [The series is] about what happens to all the pointless-but-rich frills of culture -- beliefs, traditions, old ways -- when the world no longer needs them nor takes them seriously. It’s about stories that were once considered truth, which are now condemned to a lifetime of sanitization and degradation."
When asked to come up with an elevator pitch for Disenchanted, Spurrier called it "the greatest HBO series never made -- a gloriously detailed ensemble about being a stranger in a strange place, with a sensitively handled set of controlling ideas about tradition, culture, and the death of wonder in an urban environment."
The first chapter of Disenchanted is available now.
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