Freakangels is an oddity in the current comics publishing industry. Written and created like an original comic, by an A-List writer, it is given away free by its publisher, weekly, then collected in volumes. It is, by definition, a New Model Comic that bypasses the comics store, leaves money on the table and does fine business as a series of original graphic novels.
Fun fact: outside of Marvel, DC, manga and licensed titles, it is the most illegally downloaded comic, even though it’s free to download from the Freakangels site. Hell, the pirates even add their signature on the end, as they do the books they scan. Which adds to the argument that illegally downloading comics is often about convenience, people willing to wait a week to read the six page section and download it along with everything else published the previous week, rather than go out of their way to another website to read it, earlier.
As Avatar’s new Foreign Rights Manager (no, seriously), it’s also one of the most in-demand titles at Avatar, and I helped conduct a bidding war over the French rights last week, the winner committing to the first five volumes, even though only the first two have been published (the third any day now). This week, Italy. So what’s all the fuss about?
Freakangels is basically a John Wyndham novel ripped out of the forties and fifties, somewhere round Midwich Cuckoos, Chocky and The Chrysalids and given new punk sensibility. Warren throws everything in here, building a society, crowd management, a crime novel, the Great Family Saga, reapplied morality and guilt as a motivating force, as a group of telepaths responsible for the end of the world start to do their best to put it back together again.
Warren has used the format to decompress his storytelling here, not bound by people demanding specific action on a regular basis because, hey, it’s free, he’s taken the liberty of writing in a more Japanese fashion, stretching moments, sometime across weeks, safe in the knowledge that it will work even better when read as a run.
Duffield’s art exhibits a kind of democracy of line, all objects equal to each other, little shading, the colour taking the weight of portraying, well, weight, and a sense of scale not normally suited to more intimate webcomic work. So the characters and the architecture become as one, and there are a lot of buildings and constructs to draw. Whitechapel as much a character as any of the Freakangels who guard it.
And there’s the symbology, the logo, used literally as a brand, both on the location, the people,the comic and it seems in some cases, the readers.
The comic has its own social group on the Whitechapel boards, which has bolstered a sense of belonging that has resulted in people getting Freakangels tattoos. Warren and Paul are committed to this, but then so are the readers.