US publisher Avatar Press has just launched Disenchanted, a new weekly webcomic by 2000AD and X-Men: Legacy writer Si Spurrier and Night of the Living Dead artist German Erramouspe that takes the fantasy genre in new directions.
Once upon a time, there was magic and the creatures of fairy were all that children could think about. But the world has moved on… no one really believes in or gives a damn about those old stories. Today everyone is more concerned with what new cell phone they want or which new apps will entertain for the next 24 hours. Fairy folk? That doesn’t even cross the mind of the people of now.
So what happened to all those little creatures of magic? They didn’t die out like the dinosaurs… no, they adapted to the world around them. They became… a reflection of the deviance that grips humanity. They became us… but smaller and kinda meaner. Now all those lives and magics live in a city made of discarded soda cans and used needles. Beneath the feet of the people who have forgotten them is a world of hate, murder, violence, and more that has taken the purest of the magical creatures and turned them into nasty reflections of what they once were.
In this new take on folklore, we’re introduced very quickly to Vermintown and the magical beings that live and die there, a vast and vile city hidden under London of a million inch-tall malcontents. Sprawling through an abandoned underground, here myth has given way to sleaze, drugs, gangland violence and interracial hatred – described by Avatar as “The Wire but with drug pushing pixies and trick turning sprites.”
“I’ve been describing it as The Borrowers meets Deadwood, which still doesn’t do it justice,” Si Spurrier tells Hollywood Reporter. “It’s urban fantasy handled in a very unique way.”
The series will see 12 pages published online every Monday for free, with a print edition released every six months, a similar publishing format to Warren Ellis’ Freakangels, also published online by Avatar. As well as the comic strip the web site also includes background material, maps and more which will expand, as the story grows.
“This isn’t just a webcomic,” says Si on his tumblr. “It was our intention from the outset to provide a fully immersive world-building experience. So you’re encouraged to explore the website.
“You’ll find, for instance, a wiki, already featuring several articles, which we’ll be regularly updating with information on the world, its cultures, its inhabitants and all the behind-the-scenesery of creating it all. And you’ll find the maps. Extraordinarily detailed and fully explorable renders of the entire melting-pot city where the story is set. We’ll be updating these too with added info and links to the wiki, but even in their present state they will blow your minds.”
In fact, the world-building has been an integral part of the project, as well as the strip writing, “Partly that’s because a bunch of other stuff came along; mostly it’s because of the sheer scale of what’s involved,” says Spurrier, who reveals it’s taken four years to get the project to the point of publication — but it’s all been worthwhile.
“‘Labour of love’ is a horribly overused expression, but Disenchanted is a labour of love.”
“I’m not going to lie to you,” says Si in the initial Primer for the strip. “There are faeries in it. Actual one-inch-tall faeries with pretty wings, pale skin, a pathological obsession with knotting human hair, an addict’s approach to teeth and all the rest of that floaty pseudo-Victoriana pre-Cottingley arsewater. But don’t panic. What we’ve got here are non-glittery, non-wanky, non-wish-granting faeries. What we’ve got here are substance-abusing, bar-brawling, civil-rights-demanding, murder-committing faeries. The good kind. The old kind.
“What we’ve got here is a miniature city made of scavenged soda cans, cereal boxes, dirty syringes and condoms. A city hidden beneath the streets of London. What we’ve got here are pixies, brownies, kobolds, leprechauns, boggarts, goblins and all the rest of the twee “Little People” of yesteryear who, despite being forgotten by mankind, have been dragged along by time and trend into the unsentimental Urban Century.
“Just like the rest of us.”
Spurrier admits his own conflicted feelings towards the fantasy genre as a whole, noting “Writers tend to be pathologically fascinated by folklore.” In Disenchanted he’s sleeking to avoid cliche by 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 promises. “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.”
Asked to come up with an elevator pitch for Disenchanted, Spurrier told Hollywood Reporter it’s “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 from Avatar Press
• German Erramouspe’s blog is here (http://altercomicserramouspe.blogspot.co.uk)