Questing & Queer Identity: Should You Be Reading ‘Eth’s Skin’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it's hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there's so much to choose from that it's sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading... ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
Eth's Skin is a fantasy quest adventure by Sfé R. Monster, published online since 2014, about a genderqueer fisherperson named Eth, their mermaid best friend, and the troubles that begin when Eth encounters a long-lost mythical being.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? While fishing one day, Eth swears that they see a mysterious form on the beach, believed to be a selkie – a race of magical beings long thought vanished from the local shores. When Eth finally encounters the being, Eth accidentally steals her skin, and finds they're unable to let it go. Fearing the consequences of holding onto the skin for too long, Eth and the selkie must depart on a quest to free them both.
The selkie, Rel, is none too happy about this turn of events, as without even meaning to, Eth has reinforced the ages-old reason why selkies never journey to this part of the world. Eth is fearful of what lies North, and of what will come for them both once news spreads of Eth's misdeed – but the alternative may literally be unspeakable, and so, they must depart.
WHO'S IT BY? The artist's name is Sfé R. Monster, who hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Sfé is a genderqueer transperson, and hails originally from Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada. They have created several other comics, such as Kyle & Atticus, and edited the recent queer-friendly Beyond anthology.
Sfé has taken their life experience as genderqueer and as a resident of the coasts of Canada, and translated it into this fantasy comic that is very much about what happens where the land touches the sea.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL? The world of Eth's Skin is a casually queer universe, where it's not unusual in the slightest to meet someone who falls outside the gender binary, or who is involved with more than one partner.
The world itself is a place where magic is ancient and not well controlled, where bargains are made with the fae that involve intangibles such as the ability to operate a boat. That which is done with magic is not easily undone – magic here is dangerous, and treated as such. There is a sense of a hidden foundation to the world-building, with tiny details like the letter delta (Δ) standing in for instances of a capital "A."
The expressive line art combines with a well-developed sense of grey shading technique, leaving the art simple yet with a careful sense of background and place. The panels have a stillness to them that perfectly reflects the quietude of the solitary fisherperson.
And it has a mermaid who knits. I mean, come on.
WHO SHOULD READ IT? Fans of magic with a sense of weight and foreboding to it, fans of mythological creatures of the sea, and fans who are queer and appreciate a comic with people like them in it.