Entangled in Magic: Should You Be Reading ‘Witchy’?
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.
Ariel Ries's webcomic Witchy is set in a fantasy kingdom where magical strength is decided by hair length. Find yourself born with hair too short, and you're a drain of resources in an ostensibly meritocratic society. If your hair is long enough, you're conscripted into the Witch Guard, which acts as the police force during peace, and the army during war. Find yourself with hair too long, and you're burned to death as a possible threat to the kingdom.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Witchy is a comic about systems; both the ability of a widespread system to continue and the ability of the individual to survive within them. Nyneve, the protagonist of Witchy, is the product of a society that grinds up outliers. After her father was burned for his overly-abundant hair, she's hid her own lengthy locks out of fear of the same happening to her.
In school, where popularity is at least partly decided by hair length and magical ability, Nyneve is lonely, and constantly afraid of what could happen if her secret was discovered.
WHO'S IT BY?
Ariel Ries is an animation student at The Animation Workshop in Denmark, and Witchy appears to be her first major project.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Ries's art is wonderfully developed, stylistically combining the lush backgrounds of Hayao Miyazaki films with a scratchy, detailed sensibility reminiscent of Jake Wyatt's Necropolis.
Nyneve's struggles against a system that may hate and fear her, and her strong relationship with her mother, allows for a great contrast to rival-turned-friend Pril, a young witch who finds herself accepted into the society, while simultaneously ostracized by her own masculine-focused family. The consideration of multiple viewpoints within the world shows that Ries has spent a lot of time thinking about the world-building aspects without loading the comic down with exposition.
Most importantly, this is a woman-driven comic that is aware of diversity. The cast is composed of people of color, at least one trans character, and diversity in age and body types. Witchy takes place in a world that reflects reality, and doesn't retreat into the excuses sometimes offered for homogeneous fantastical stories. This is an incredible first project from a rising talent, and it looks set to get even better as it continues.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Fans of magical school hijinx along the lines of Harry Potter or Ursula K Le Guin's work, of beautiful art, and of the toast-carrying shenanigans of Sailor Moon, will get a kick out of Witchy.
Ries clearly has a sensibility borne from manga, evidenced in the pacing, the school-setting, and the delivery of the action, all without being derivative. Witchy is a comic that synthesizes dozens of different stories while still feeling like its own work.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Online for free at Witchycomic. You can support Ries at Patreon.