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10 Best Spider-Man Comics You Should Check Out

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The countdown to the best Spider-Man comic stories continues with some classics from his co-creators Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, as well as some modern storylines.

5. “If This Be My Destiny” from Amazing Spider-Man #31-33 (1966-1967)

One thing in the 1960s that set Marvel Comics apart from its Distinguished Competition was that they did multi-part, serialized storylines decades before the “graphic novel” was ever thought of. One of these classic storylines was “If This Be My Destiny,” from artist/plotter Steve Ditko and scripter Stan Lee. Spider-Man is looking for the Master-Planner, who has been stealing various radiation-type devices, while Peter Parker is beginning college, dealing with some relationship issues, and worst of all, the poor health of his Aunt May. The comic’s most iconic moment happens in Amazing Spider-Man #33, where an exhausted Spider-Man is stuck in slowly rising water beneath the wreckage of the Master Planner’s base, and must will himself to dig his way out and get the serum to cure Aunt May, who has radiation in her blood because of a transfusion she got from Peter in an earlier storyline. It’s an image of individual strength and willpower

“If This Be My Destiny” is an excellent story because Steve Ditko skillfully ties together the most pressing issue in Peter Parker’s life (Aunt May’s sickness) with a thrilling tale of supervillains and subterfuge. Ditko puts Spider-Man through the wringer in this comic in an epic “snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory” moment when the Master Planner’s men steal the special ingredient that Spider-Man and Dr. Curt Connors (formerly the Lizard) were going to use to make the cure for Aunt May. This incident causes Ditko to foresee Frank Miller’s Daredevil with a montage of brutal beatdowns, as Spider-Man shakes down every criminal in the city before happening on the Master Planner’s base almost by accident. Ditko’s depiction of a deadly-serious Spider-Man is a little frightening, as he sidelines the clever web tricks for pure strength.

Even though Lee and Ditko have Peter Parker behave dickishly around fellow Empire State University students Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, and Flash Thompson because he is so consumed by his concern for both his studies and his sick Aunt May, Amazing Spider-Man #31-33 presents Spider-Man at his most admirable. Spidey pushes through physical pain and utter exhaustion to grab the serum and save his aunt, and Ditko puts his bruises on display when Peter Parker visits May and gets some money from J. Jonah Jameson for getting exclusive pictures of the Master Planner’s real identity as Dr. Octopus. Because he doesn’t want the people he loves to meet a similar fate as Uncle Ben, Spider-Man pushes through pain, ridicule, and makes any sacrifice possible to save them. “If This Be My Destiny” is a shining example of this characteristic in him, and Steve Ditko and Stan Lee weave together Spider-Man’s life in and out of costume to tell a compelling story with real human stakes in the midst of bright costumes and villain lairs.

4. “Kraven’s Last Hunt” from Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132 (1987)

Some long-time Spider-fans are definitely going to say that “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is too low on this list. In this six-part crossover from writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck, Kraven, a leopard skin wearing joke of a jungle-themed supervillain, is re-cast as one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes. He defeats Spider-Man in combat, takes his costume, and buries him alive, then becomes a “superior” Spider-Man, using more brutal methods to keep the streets of New York safe and singlehandedly capturing the cannibal serial killer, Vermin. However, Kraven doesn’t realize that the “man” part is more important than the “spider” part of Spider-Man.

“Kraven’s Last Hunt” is like a poem in comic book form, with recurring images, symbols, and words, as well as repeated allusions to William Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger.” It’s one of the most visually beautiful and terrifying Spider-Man stories, with some gruesome sequences, like when Kraven buries himself and eats spiders so that he can defeat Spider-Man in combat. The comic also shows the limits of dark superheroes, because at the time Spider-Man was wearing his black costume – not the classic reds and blues. Without his relationship with Mary-Jane Watson, the Daily Bugle staff, and his kindness even towards disgusting creatures like Vermin, he would just be a dark vigilante with a spider motif – like Kraven in this series. The power of these relationships to give Spider-Man strength and motivation is captured by Mike Zeck in a splash page where Spider-Man claws out of his grave with the caption “I love you,” as his love for Mary Jane helps him overcome death.

“Kraven’s Last Hunt” is evidence that even the most lightweight villains can be compelling and interesting, as J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck depict Kraven the Hunter as a man of honor and madness, someone who wants to defeat his greatest foe before he dies. He is such a classy fellow that he leaves a “confession” saying that he impersonated Spider-Man in lieu of a suicide note, and realizes that it’s Spider-Man’s humanity and empathy that makes him a great hero, not his powers.

3. Spider-Man Blue #1-6 (2002-2003)

You never forget your first love, and Spider-Man Blue is proof that Peter Parker never forgot his –namely, the blonde, hair tie-wearing Gwen Stacy, who was cruelly killed in “The Night That Gwen Stacy Died.” Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale of Batman: The Long Halloween and Superman For All Seasons fame craft a love letter to Silver Age Spider-Man and the stories of Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and John Romita Sr. in this timeless miniseries. The book uses a clever, emotional framing device of Spider-Man recording his thoughts about Gwen into an old tape recorder, which allows for honesty and perspective as the older Peter looks on his early days as a college student and crime fighter. Most of the book is dedicated to the supreme awkwardness of the love triangle between Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, and Mary-Jane Watson, who infuses the story with a real energy when she sashays into Spider-Man Blue #2 and immediately calls Peter “my guy.” There is also an overarching plot with a shadowy foe sending various bad guys to fight and test Spider-Man, all in an effort to deduce his secret identity in an homage to the serialized narratives that Lee and Ditko brought to Amazing Spider-Man even in its infancy.

Like all his work, Tim Sale provides some gorgeous full and double-page character-defining spreads, like Gwen and Peter riding a motorcycle together, Spider-Man shaking off a cold to fight two Vultures, and a solemn image of Spidey leaving a rose on the George Washington Bridge in honor of Gwen’s death. He’s an excellent storyteller too, and turns the joke villain – the Vulture – into a creature of the night, as he lurks in the shadows and defeats Spider-Man when he least expects it. Sale also expertly juggles the spindlier, more individualistic art style of Steve Ditko with the confident, romance comic-inspired work of John Romita Sr throughout Spider-Man Blue. His men and women are gorgeous, for the most part, but they are sometimes creepy, like when Harry Osborn starts mentioning his father or hints at his drug problems. Sale’s greatest achievement is creating amazing chemistry between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy through glances, touches, and eye flutters that culminate in a well-earned and damn sexy kiss on Valentine’s Day. This proves that Spider-Man stories work best as romantic comedies that just happen to feature some punching in the background.

However, for all its heroic flourishes, perfectly-timed Spidey quips from writer Jeph Loeb, and clever action scenes (like when Spider-Man uses a tip from Gwen in science class to take down the formidable Rhino), Spider-Man Blue is a melancholy read. Spider-Man Blue #6 is all about how Spider-Man wishes he spent less time fighting jerks like Kraven the Hunter, and more time talking to, laughing with, and smooching Gwen, especially in light of her untimely passing. The final issue of the series is framed against a house warming party for Peter and Harry Osborn’s apartment, and that is where Spider-Man wishes he was. It looks at the inner conflict between Peter Parker wanting to have a normal existence with a girlfriend/wife and social life, and fighting crime so that no one ends up like his Uncle Ben. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale definitely fall on the “should have spent more time with his loved ones” side, closing with a scene where Peter Parker and his wife Mary Jane realize how much they miss Gwen. I definitely felt blue after re-reading this great Spider-Man story, and maybe you will too (the caption where he talks about not expecting to bury Gwen before Aunt May is super painful).

2. “Death of Spider-Man” from Ultimate Spider-Man #156-160 (2011)

If Tom Holland ever starts acting like a diva, the suits at Marvel can always wave these comics in his face. But, in all seriousness, “Death of Spider-Man” is the perfect ending to Peter Parker’s 11-year journey in Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, and some other artists’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man. The story begins when SHIELD is stupid and bureaucratic as usual, and the Green Goblin breaks himself and the Sinister Six out of containment. Dr. Octopus wants to retire and be a scientist, so the Goblin kills him. Over the course of “Death of Spider-Man,” Spider-Man fights the Sinister Six by himself, takes a bullet for Captain America, and gets left to bleed out. In the final battle, he fights and defeats the Green Goblin, who has stolen power from the Human Torch. It is an unrelenting series of battles, and inker Andy Lanning cleans up Bagley’s pencils, showing how much Peter means to his friends and family. He isn’t the only hero in this story, with Aunt May shooting Electro, and Mary-Jane running over the Green Goblin with a van she stole.

The Ultimate Universe (the alternate universe where these stories took place) was a bleak place, with a racist, jingoist Captain America, an Iron Man who was constantly drunk and recorded a sex tape with Black Widow, a Wolverine who liked 18-year-old girls, and much more. Spider-Man was much too good for it, and gets badly hurt when he accidentally ends up in the middle of a firefight between the Ultimates (this universe’s Avengers) and Nick Fury’s black ops team. Instead of taking him to a hospital or somewhere to patch him up, Captain America and company continue to fight a futile battle, and Spider-Man uses his webbing to keeps his organs in. This is especially ridiculous, as Cap told Spider-Man that he had doubts about him going into action right before he got the call to fight Fury’s team. Bagley’s battle scenes aren’t fluid and stylish, but full of pain and punishment as Spider-Man absorbs hit after hit without getting any kind of medical attention.

“The Death of Spider-Man” ties up Spider-Man’s arc neatly and tragically as he dies at the hands of the man who genetically engineered the spiders that give him his wonderful abilities. He also sacrifices himself so that Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, and his superhero roommates, Human Torch and Iceman, don’t suffer the same fate as Uncle Ben. Forgotten by the adult heroes who were supposed to train him, and pursued by raving psychopaths, Spider-Man becomes the ultimate superhero, never giving up even if that means his life. His sacrifice inspires the young African-American/Latino teenager Miles Morales to become a new Spider-Man, and Miles currently stars in the comic simply titled Spider-Man, which is still written by Brian Michael Bendis.

1. Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962)

In the final issue of a struggling anthology comic previously called Amazing Adult Fantasy, a pop culture icon was born thanks to Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. The original incarnation of Spider-Man was truly more spider than man, with pages of him leaping and crawling over rooftops while frightening passer-bys instead of his smooth swings through New York. The plot of this comic is known to anyone who has seen Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, or any of the various films. A nerd goes to a science exhibition, gets special abilities from a radioactive spider, finds fortune and fame on TV with his powers, lets a robber go one day, his uncle is murdered, and his killer is later revealed to be the same burglar. With great powers come great responsibility, and there’s an origin story for you.

Except for his depressing origin and loving relationship with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Spider-Man/Peter Parker isn’t a likable fellow. He’s always telling people about his scientific knowledge, and brags to himself when he creates his own web fluid to swing from walls. In one thought bubble, he even says that he doesn’t care for any humans other than Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and Peter wears that glasses-at-the-end-of-his-nose-perpetual-scowl-face that Steve Ditko would return to throughout his career.

However, Amazing Fantasy #15 is an innovative superhero origin story, as it is one of the first to feature a solo teen superhero, someone who wasn’t a sidekick of an adult hero (Human Torch was a member of the Fantastic Four at the time). It also has an arc to it, as Peter Parker must learn to be a hero after his uncle’s death, beginning as a selfish daredevil and ending with vowing to be more responsible with his great powers. Like most of us, Spider-Man doesn’t immediately stop purse snatchers after getting superpowers, and uses his superpowers for his own gain until a personal tragedy forces him to change his ways.

PART ONE

By day, Logan is a data entry administrator in Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby. But when he has free time, he enjoys writing about his favorite comics, movies, and TV shows. He also interviewed a vampire once and cries about the future of the L.A. Lakers at least once a day. Logan will watch, read, or listen to anything by Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Wright, Damon Albarn,Donald Glover, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Gerard Way, Grant Morrison, Kieron Gillen, St Vincent, and Black Mask Studios so you should ask him about those things on his Twitter. (https://twitter.com/MidnighterBae)

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Comics Editor Allison O’Toole Talks Kickstarter for Wayward Kindred

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Wayward Kindred is raising funds with Kickstarter.

If you enjoyed the Wayward Sisters anthology from TO Comix Press, they have a Kickstarter for its spiritual successor, Wayward Kindred. After holding an open call for submissions earlier this year, Wayward Kindred is pressing forward with its goal to tell a wide range of stories about monsters and families. Previews of the anthology include a cursed skeleton uncle, half-vampire teens, siblings transformed into wolves by their aunt, and sentient insects teaching their language to a human child. It looks like a fascinating mix of different stories and art styles funneled through the captivating vision of monsters.

After editing the award-winning Wayward Sisters, Allison O’Toole is back to edit Wayward Kindred. A freelance comics editor, she’s worked on a growing list of comics, including Jason Loo’s The Pitiful Human-Lizard, Sam Beck’s Verse, and other TO Comix Press publications like volumes of The Toronto Comics Anthology. With a few days left to raise funds, O’Toole was able to speak with Goomba Stomp via email about the Kickstarter for Wayward Kindred and her work in editing comics.

GS: How would you describe your role as a comics editor? Is it a lot of project management and big picture development with some oversight over language?

Allison O’Toole: That does cover a lot of it! The editor has her hands on every stage of the comic, from the pitch all the way to the lettering, so you’re doing the expected editing tasks at each stage—requesting changes for clarity and storytelling, that sort of thing. But you’re also building schedules and chasing after people to get things in on time. Depending on the publisher, you may also be helping out with other administrative tasks and promotion.

Could you talk about your path to becoming a comics editor? What drew you to editing comics versus other career paths with them? (Like writing, drawing, lettering, etc.)

I started out in comics review, and moved into editing when I realized that it combined my creative impulses with my administrative experience. I love to collaborate with creators and to help them create the best comic they can, so editing seemed like the best fit for my interests and skillset!

How did you end up working with TO Comix Press?

When the publisher, Steven Andrews, was looking for assistant editors for Volume 3 of the Toronto Comics Anthology, I was actively looking for more work experience in editing! Part of the mandate at TO Comix Press is to support creators who are early in their careers, so I was able to come on and learn a lot from that experience, so after assistant editing two anthologies, Steven let me lead my own project: Wayward Sisters. It went well, so now we’re working on that project’s spiritual sequel. 

Did the idea for Wayward Kindred come directly from Wayward Sisters, like the name suggests? Or did it originate somewhere else, followed by the realization that it could fit with Wayward Sisters?

I love monsters, so it was inevitable that I’d want to do more anthologies about them. I definitely want to suggest a connection between the two books, but they’re very different! The concept for this one came specifically from reading Nagabe’s gorgeous manga, The Girl from the Other Side, which I was reading while working on Sisters, so I decided that it would make a good follow up, rather than doing a traditional sequel. 

Could you walk us through the process behind developing an anthology like Wayward Kindred?

Well, to keep it short, once you’ve got an idea, coming up with a budget is the next step—that dictates how many stories and creators you can take on. Then you make a timeline. Even for short comics, we try to allow 2-3 weeks for each stage of the process, so you can build back from your target launch date (for us, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May). You then can open up for submissions, decide on the line up that would make the strongest book, and get started! Some folks like to do crowdfunding at the beginning of the process, but we like to get that in once we have some gorgeous art to show off. Once the art is all in and edited, you send the proof to the printer, and then fulfill the Kickstarter!

You can learn more about the TO Comix Press method for running anthologies in the articles at our website.

Did you end up pairing unattached writers and artists for Wayward Kindred, like the submissions page said would happen if you received pitches from incomplete creative teams? If so, how did you approach matching artists to writers?

We always accept unpaired pitches at TO Comix Press! It’s part of helping creators with fewer print credits find a place to get published. We go through all of the artist submissions and try to decide which portfolios would bring out the best in the pitched story. Often that means looking for similar stories in the artist’s portfolio, but this is a sense that comes from experience looking and reading many, many comics. Reading comics is the best way to get started in making them!

What have you enjoyed most about editing Wayward Kindred?

It’s always so exciting to see stories come together, especially after months of working with creators. We’re getting letters in now, and I can imagine how the readers are going to feel when they have the stories in front of them, and that’s always a thrill for me.

TO Comix Press has previously held Kickstarter campaigns for other publishing projects. How do you approach crowdfunding for a publication?

We’ve got an article about this on the TO Comix website as well! We’ve found that Twitter is always a major source of income for our Kickstarters, so we do everything we can to get folks talking about the campaign on Twitter. 

What draws you to monsters as characters and a source of storytelling?

I’m interested in monsters’ versatility as metaphor. They can stand in for any taboo you can think of, for any kind of outcast figure, for any kind of cultural anxiety—there are so many rich opportunities for storytelling! 

Wayward Kindred is a spiritual successor to Wayward Sisters.
“Forked” by Seungwoo Baek, Grayson Lee, Cam Lopez and Nikki Powers

Do you have any favorite monsters? Like werewolves, dragons, etc.?

Werewolves are my favourite, I just think they’re very cool. For more specific monster stories, I love Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, an early example of a sympathetic monster. I enjoy scary monsters, but I love a sad monster the most—that’s probably part of why I love werewolves, too. 

You’re also editing AFTERLIFT for comiXology. What is it like editing for a company like comiXology versus a publisher like TO Comix Press?

Editing a series has fewer moving parts than an anthology, so I like that. In an anthology, you’re editing many more pages, and wrangling many more creators, which can get a bit chaotic. A series is nice because you have a smaller team (on AFTERLIFT, it’s a team of only 4!), so it’s easier to keep track of. Then again, a series usually has a more rigid release schedule, which adds pressure, so they both have their pros and cons. 

Do you have advice for anyone interested in editing comics? 

If you want to edit, I’d say the same thing I say to any creators getting their start: networking is key! If you can’t meet people in person, then join Facebook groups, or forums online, find other folks who are hoping to learn as they go alongside you, and your careers can also grow together. 

If you’re looking to edit and you don’t have a portfolio with comics experience (or editorial experience in a different medium), publishing reviews on a blog is a great way to show folks that you know and understand comics. You can also show that you can keep things on a schedule if you publish reviews on a regular basis. I got my early editorial experience editing at pop culture websites, which wasn’t exactly the same as editing comics, but got me started on scheduling and keeping on top of writers. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say about Wayward Kindred?

I’m so excited about this anthology, and I hope that the readers love it as much as we do!

Thanks again for taking the time to chat. Good luck with Wayward Kindred and your other projects!

Wayward Kindred recently met its Kickstarter goal, but there are a few days left to raise more funds and pre-order a copy. The anthology is available to backers for a minimum of $15 as a digital download. Higher reward tiers include a physical copy and prints.

TO Comix Press advocates for transparency, and they have shared reports explaining how funds were used for a selection of their previous publications: Wayward Sisters, Shout Out, Yonge At Heart, and Toronto Comics: Volume 3.

Wayward Kindred is scheduled for release in May 2020.

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Artist Boya Sun Talks Teamwork in ‘5 Worlds’ and ‘Chasma Knights’

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Five Worlds

This year’s DesignerCon serves as another reminder of how much it’s grown. Originally called Vinyl Toy Network, it now includes a wide variety of art and design, with exhibiting booths for various kinds of 3D and 2D art like sculpture, plush toys, prints, clothing, and books. Among them was Boya Sun, one of the artists behind the 5 Worlds graphic novel series. Sun’s booth featured his work in the form of small sculptures, riso prints, enamel pins, stickers, zines, and copies of 5 Worlds, as well as a slim concept book for the graphic novel series.

While at his art-filled booth, Sun took the time to chat with Goomba Stomp about his work in comics and collaborating with others.

5-Way Collaboration in 5 Worlds

Starting 5 Worlds after graduation, Sun feels that working on the series has made him better at comics.

Described as a mix of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Star Wars, 5 Worlds follows a star athlete, a boy from the slums, and a clumsy Sand Dancer Academy student while their worlds are plunged into peril.

“They have three books out right now,” Sun says. He adds that the series will contain five books in total.

With five impending volumes in a series called 5 Worlds, it’s fitting that the main creative team behind it is a 5-person band: Sun, his fellow artists (and former classmates) Xanthe Bouma and Matt Rockefeller, and writers Alexis and Mark Siegel.

Excerpt from 5 Worlds Book 3: The Red Maze.

Sun shares that 5 Worlds started with the Siegel siblings, recounting how they were looking for illustrators. They ultimately found Bouma, Rockefeller, and Sun, and then sent them the story bible. 

Describing their working relationship as a “5-way collaboration” of artists and writers, Sun is grateful for the partnership.

“It takes the stress away,” Sun says. He explains that if he’s weaker in an area, his teammates can come and help.

Unifying the Art

Sun further explains the art process behind 5 Worlds. Since the series is rooted in fantasy and worldbuilding, he and the other artists start with a few months devoted to concept art and sketches that cover aspects like different planets and new costumes. 

When designs are finalized, the art team splits the script evenly, and each of them gets a section to pencil.

“Our styles work pretty well with each other,” Sun says.

Excerpt from 5 Worlds Concept Book 3, which features development art for Book 3: The Red Maze. It’s available for purchase on Boya Sun’s website.

Sun also praises Rockefeller for inking all the pencil drawings, making them look “seamless” and more unified. Bouma and Sun handle coloring together.

While the concept art for 5 Worlds is often a mix of traditional and digital work, Sun says it’s different for pencilling, inking, and coloring. 

“The final production’s all digital,” he says. Sun adds that making a 5 Worlds book can take about 9-10 months. The team tries to create one book per year.  

5 Worlds poster by Sun. 

Refining Ideas on Chasma Knights

Sun worked on another graphic novel with a smaller team: just him and writer Kate Reed Petty. Together they made Chasma Knights, a tale about living toys that can fuse with people and grant them new powers.

For Chasma Knights, it started with Sun. He had the original idea, and tried to develop it for a TV show or a book. But at the time, Sun was busy with other projects, and he felt less experienced with writing.

Mark Siegel, also founding editorial and creative director of First Second Books, helped Sun with early development on Chasma Knights. Sun says that since they already had a working relationship through their collaboration on 5 Worlds, Mark Siegel was interested in more of his projects. (Sun remarks that while working on 5 Worlds can be time-consuming, it isn’t a full-time assignment, and he can do other projects too.) Mark Siegel ended up connecting Sun with Petty for help on writing Chasma Knights, and later First Second published it. (5 Worlds is published by Penguin Random House.)

“She was very receptive of my ideas in the collaboration,” says Sun when recalling his partnership with Petty. He adds that Chasma Knights had topics that interested both of them.

Working with a writer like Petty had been enjoyable for Sun. He says that he presented his ideas to her, and she “took them, digested them.” When he had been on his own, he found it hard to narrow down ideas. In contrast, Sun found it helpful to talk things through with a writer.

Although they finalized the plot together, Sun says much of the world of Chasma Knights was invented after the scripting stage, when it was time for him to illustrate it.

Excerpt from Chasma Knights by Boya Sun and Kate Reed Petty.

While Petty hinted on her website that she has a new project with First Second, Sun shares that he’s developing a pitch for a graphic novel that he intends to write and illustrate by himself. Of course, this is going on while he continues to work on 5 Worlds. Sun says that the fourth book of the series will launch in May 2020

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A Lost Comic?: Remembering Emily Carroll’s ‘Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter’

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Emily Carroll’s Anu-Anulan and Yir's Daughter

The internet has the potential to be an archive for a phenomenal amount of information and creativity from countless people who share their work. But it’s not an automatically foolproof archive. Take for instance the poignant short webcomic Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter by Eisner-winning author-illustrator Emily Carroll, now missing from her website without comment. 

(Image source: The Comics Journal)

It’s unfortunate, and raises questions. One possibility is that it no longer fit the tone of Carroll’s growing portfolio. She has always been renowned for her horror comics. Her chillingly imaginative His Face All Red put her on the digital map in 2010, grabbing the internet’s attention. She entered traditional publishing with her horror anthology Through the Woods and When I Arrived at the Castle. In contrast, Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter doesn’t terrify; it doesn’t even creep you out a little. It sticks out of Carroll’s horror portfolio as an innocuous anomaly. Without it, her body of work becomes more apparent in its bloodcurdling intent. 

But part of the unique appeal of Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter stemmed from the fact that it was so different from the rest of Carroll’s work. It was fascinating to see her art in a softer context. Her line work soothed instead of horrified. This short webcomic was ultimately a charming love story with fairy tale overtones. 

It starts with the goddess Anu-Anulan in love with the silver hair of a mortal woman, Yir’s daughter. Anu-Anulan shapeshifts into three different disguises — a crow, a child, and a warrior — to trick Yir’s daughter into giving up each braid of her hair. But when the goddess has them all, she realizes it wasn’t the hair she loved. Without a disguise and finally as herself, Anu-Anulan meets Yir’s daughter, whose name is Yorenn. The goddess shows Yorenn that she has made the moon out of her silver hair. In the end, the mortal woman reciprocates Anu-Anulan’s love, and they live a full life together. 

(Image source: WordPress blog)

Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter had the rhythm, philosophy, logic, and language of a fairy tale. It even had repeating lines that were thematically reversed toward the end. But it was also a fairy tale that told a new story with nuance and deeper characterization. How the goddess realized her true feelings for Yorenn was approached with thoughtful and subtle execution, deftly moving from playful whimsy to a dawning self-awareness of a more down-to-earth love. There was a tender montage of the couple living a normal life, celebrating the small moments that build and maintain a relationship.

 “I wanted to show that they ended up in love, but that love needed to include moments that were both mundane as well as passionate—and simply showing a panel of them old together at the end wasn’t enough,” Carroll told The Comics Journal in a 2011 interview when discussing Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter. “And I also wanted to show that it’s not just a single sweeping romantic gesture that makes a love story, it’s also the everyday moments (like having a meal, or taking a walk, or just having a laugh together) that can mean just as much.” 

Besides Carroll’s interesting discussion of Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter in The Comics Journal, other snippets of it fortunately still exist. There are screenshots of some scenes on old blog posts that recommend it. It’s part of a TV Tropes page about Carroll, and it’s included in a scholarly article from the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics. There’s even a YouTube video that almost preserves the comic in its entirety, only lacking the very last part. These traces are also a sign of the impact that Carroll’s fairy tale romance left behind, ranging from suggestions for a good story to academic study. 

Although Carroll is a master at crafting horror in comics, she also produced one of the best love stories with Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter. She packed so much meaningful storytelling and heartfelt emotion in a succinct and elegantly drawn tale. The whole thing felt like a snapshot of fairy tale logic meeting raw emotion, which then forged a new balance between each other. This short comic held the mythic quality of a goddess and a mortal falling in love, and then contrasted it with the domestic flow of their relationship in practice. Whether or not it will ever resurface in its original form, Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter persists as a fond memory.

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