The Disenchanted Primer

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Disenchanted is a weekly webcomic from Simon Spurrier and German Erramouspe which will be collected into print volumes twice per year, following the model of Freakangels and Crossed: Wish You Were Here.

Once they were the mainstay of folklore:

Goblins, leprechauns, pixies and fey. But now? Dispossessed, forgotten, doubting even their own traditions, they’ve trickled into Vermintown: a vast and vile city of a million inch-tall malcontents. Sprawling through an abandoned subway station deep beneath London, here myth has given way to sleaze, drugs, gangland violence and interracial hatred. Vermintown is where magic went to die.

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The Thing:

Disenchanted is about the place where magic goes to die.

Listen: I’m not going to lie to you. There are faeries in it. Actual one-inch-tall faeries with pretty wings, pale skin, a pathological obsession with knotting human hair, an addict’s approach to teeth and all the rest of that floaty pseudo-Victoriana pre-Cottingley arsewater. But don’t panic. What we’ve got here are non-glittery, non-wanky, non-wish-granting faeries. What we’ve got here are substance-abusing, bar-brawling, civil-rights-demanding, murder-committing faeries. The good kind. The old kind. What we’ve got here is a miniature city made of scavenged soda cans, cereal boxes, dirty syringes and condoms. A city hidden beneath the streets of London. What we’ve got here are pixies, brownies, kobolds, leprechauns, boggarts, goblins and all the rest of the twee “Little People” of yesteryear who, despite being forgotten by mankind, have been dragged along by time and trend into the unsentimental Urban Century.

Just like the rest of us.

Disenchanted’s the story of Vermintown: a metropolis built in an abandoned tube station. It’s a city of a million minuscule souls. A city of a dozen races, a dozen different glamours and magics and mentalities. A city of endless grudges, countless addictions, impenetrable inter-community hostilities, petty crimes, major crimes, gang wars, police brutalities, old traditions, new traditions. It’s a city where superstition and sleaze collide. With faeries.

The Wafflething:

Writers tend to be pathologically fascinated by folklore. I am. In its commonest modern usage that word’s cognate – “folkloric” – has come to describe a thing, an idea, a meme, which has left the realms of the believable and entered the historically hypothetical. It’s become synonymous with “mythical”, with “legendary”, and it’s often used with a similar burnish – albeit often with a hint of affectionate indulgence – of antiquarian dismissal.

It hasn’t always used this way, of course. In its truest sense – as The Lore Of The People – the word connotes a rich melange of intangible super-realities, each of which has at one time or another permeated, informed and shaped human lives, all by the agency of invisible supernatural beings.

Which, yes, sounds an awful lot like a modern conception of religion.

Hilariously, the one thing the word “folklore” is manifestly not analogous to, these days, is faith. Nobody with any true belief in some ineffable supernatural whatnottery would ever dare label their chosen deity “Folkloric”, no matter how fruity or batshit he/she/it/they may be. The term’s become weirdly pejorative in that respect. And yet a lot of folklore has its roots in the untidy joints between ancient schools of very mainstream religion, which have been syncretised in clumsy mashups of old and new. New God replaces old one; new ritual eclipses established ritual: these are the ragged edges which demote old divinities into mischievous sprites; which shift existential ceremonies into quaint and outmoded superstitions.

Frankly it’s a mess. A rather beautiful mess at times, but still. It’s a teetering house of cards which is endlessly collapsed then rebuilt; a meal endlessly regurgitated and re-eaten. In its latest (and worst) iteration it’s been sanitised: castrated by sprays of glitter and rainbows and twinkly fucking unicorns through the medium of supermarket colouring-books and godawful porcelain figures. Happily even the laziest inquirer will swiftly discover, by merely paying interest, that the house of cards rests on a base of blood, beauty, sex, mortality, immortality, violence and veneration.

That good, oldtime religion.

…all of which means, if you accept all faiths start their lives as stories, that “Folklore” refers to a story which has been born, which has transcended its own fiction, and which has then curled-up and perished. These are the stories who’ve had their metamorphic moment, their blaze of belief and power… which have then regressed back into a condition of risible make-believe.

Which is to say: folklore is the embittered alcoholic ex-rockstar of the story world.

Disenchanted deals with this slithering toiletbowl of belief and disbelief in the most literal way. It simply asks: what happens when nobody believes in you any more?

So, yeah. Disenchanted’s about faeries.  Faeries who’re slowly, achingly – violently – coming to terms with the fact that they don’t matter.

I don’t have to do the whole “which is something we can all relate to” bit, right?

The Cleverthing:

Disenchanted is free.

Really.

Every week. Every Monday. You come here and you get 12 new pages. No signing-in, no registration, no nothing. You sit and you read it. You can browse back through old episodes too, if you like. You can start from the beginning.

What happens is, every six months or so, we collect up all the free webisodes and we make a beautiful printed collection, and we put it in bookshops and comic stores, and we sell it. And, because people quite like to own things, and because people are loyal and supportive and excellent, a lot of them go and buy it. But they don’t have to.

It sounds weird. It sounds like there’s got to be a catch. The great thing is, there isn’t. We’ve done it like this before, and – honestly – we tend to make money out of it.

Which is nice.

Read The Webcomic From The Beginning