The greatest fear, I am told, that every writer faces is the blank page. The first letter. Douglas Adams talks about staring at a white sheet of paper until your forehead bleeds. In Britain, certainly in comics, that kind of thing has often been thought of as stuff and nonsense, it’s a trade like any other, you just get on with it, you don’t hear of someone getting plumber’s block do you? But there’s still the fear of being a writer, prone as it is to imposter syndrome when you feel like you are a fake and at any moment, someone will tap you on the shoulder, say that you don’t belong here, it was all a mistake and you have to go back to stacking shelves at Tesco.
Fearscape #1 by Ryan O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti published by Vault Comics is a comic that will be popular amongst other writers, because it revolves around someone with the opposite of imposter syndrome, the Dunning-Kruger effect where, dispute all the evidence, you think you are far better than you actually are. Most writers would like that feeling, so Fearscape is a power fantasy for them.
We have an author who translates books into English but is convinced his job is to improve then, who supported by a friend who is an actually successful author but whose work he derides – and now steals. And that act sees him mistaken for the real thing when the fantasy land comes calling looking for the land’s greatest storyteller. A role that he chooses to seize with both hands…
That’s the basis of the comic, but what will set it apart – whether to be loved or loathed – is the very self conscious way the story is told from a self-aware narrating writer, who puts his own insecurities into the mix, points out the structure of the comic as it is being told and breaks it down as it goes along, going back on himself, apologising for choice of language and basically being a right pain.
With the nine-panel grid and a reference to the ‘men who watch’ entertainingly released last week on the same day as the latest issue of Doomsday Clock.
But the cod-pretentiousness also leads to scenes like the above, with comic book tools like captions used to obscure the artwork to preserve the sense of mystery that comics often takes away. That’s a lovely little trick and the comic is full of things like this.
The snake eating its own tale, or going up its own arse, you will be the judge of that. But this is a comic about writing and you are going to found it entertaining or frustratingly dull. As a bit of a policy work, someone who likes to see how the sausage is made and is keen to spill the offal truth wherever possible, it works for me, It really works for me, I was most entertained and anticipate the upcoming issue.
I suspect however that not everyone will share my feelings. But as most comic book reviewers are frustrated writers themselves, it may well have found its audience with the critical fraternity…
FEARSCAPE #1 (MR)
(W) Ryan O’Sullivan (A) Andrea Mutti (CA) Ariela Kristantina
The Fearscape is a world beyond our own, populated by manifestations of our worst fears. Once per generation, The Muse travels to Earth, discovers our greatest Storyteller, and takes them with her to the Fearscape to battles these fear-creatures on our behalf. All has been well for eons, until The Muse encounters Henry Henry, a plagiarist with delusions of literary grandeur. Mistaking him for our greatest Storyteller, she ushers him into the Fearscape. Doom follows. In Shops: Sep 26, 2018 SRP: $3.99