And this is why New England pagans don’t go skyclad

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Stupidity in Magic. Click on image to see it full-sized. Warning: the comic contains material that religious people without a sense of humor may find offensive. Then again, if you don’t have a sense of humor, why are you reading webcomics?)

I don’t remember when I started Stupidity in Magic. It’s been for a bit now, and I’ve felt it deserves a tangent. Unfortunately, SiM isn’t a story comic, per say. Instead, Taylor tends to draw whatever amuses her at the moment, poking fun at various little things she’s heard and whatever else comes to mind. Sometimes SiM goes into short story arcs (and sometimes longer ones). Occasionally she’ll descend into the hazy world of movie parody. But if you’re looking for an ongoing epic storyline, you’re not going to find it here.

Despite the fact SiM isn’t technically a story comic; there are story elements that keep creeping in. Taylor can’t help that; she’s created a cast of intelligent and vibrant characters, living characters with lives of their own. Thus little details like Olivia and Larry starting to date or the fact Olivia has two children from an ended marriage that she rarely sees (thanks to her ex being a domineering manipulative swine who used Olivia’s religion against her in court) have crept into being.

Likewise, the cast has grown. We’ve the humans: Willow (who has a rather interesting view of the world and who is only slightly based on the artist), Olivia (who is rather strong-willed and whose opinions often help get the cartoonist’s point across), Larry (who is not Harry Potter, damn it!), Tir and Loo (who are almost interchangeable and almost have an entire brain between them), and so forth. We’ve the deities: Chibi Cthulhu (I kid you not), Jesus Christ (who’s actually rather cool, if a bit of an agitator at times), Anubis (though he only possesses Willow’s hand), Athena (never summon a prudish goddess in the nude), and so forth. And we’ve got cats. Lots of cats. (The Kitten Collective told me to offer them an honorary membership to their Collective. From the looks of it they have their own collective goingĂ–)

As a writer, I’ve done research into the various religions. One thing I’ve noticed is that many pagans retain some of the fundamental roots of their original religion. Thus even though the pagan paths are often a matter of choice, people can become rather fundamental in their behaviors and beliefs about this path. I’ve witnessed pagan discussion groups turn on people when they learn that person is Christian, even if they were otherwise reasonable and intelligent. (Unfortunately, there are a lot of agitators out there on both sides; these trolls exist primarily to cause trouble. The side effect is that any Christian becomes suspect when joining a pagan discussion group.) Taylor has done a good job of creating characters who act like some people I’ve witnessed on-line. Despite the stereotypes, these minor characters also grow and become something greater than they started out being.

Amidst the silliness, one-shots, and general weirdness are occasional serious storyline. Sometimes it’s about when people do stupid thing with magic or abuse their abilities. Or it can be more mundane moments about people trying to take what’s not offered. SiM is about the moment, really. Each story builds from those coming before it. It’s an ongoing storyline, just not a continuous one.

SiM does have some flaws. The text in the story A Witch in King Arthur’s Court is sometimes covered up by the graphic images, and some of the text bubbles in earlier comics can be difficult to read in places. There are occasional typos in the comic as well. Other than one or two small instances, it doesn’t detract from the comic as a whole. And if I wish the comic focused on more stories about the Institute (which exists partly to deal with the mistakes barely-trained pagans inflict with their fumblings) among other things, well, Taylor has found something that works well for her.

There are plenty of things that can be brought up for one-shots. Indeed, Taylor could probably focus the entire comic on little non sequiturs without running out of material for years (if ever). But SiM truly starts to shine when focusing on an actual story.

I must admit that I’ve rather enjoyed the segments with Jesus in the comic. There’s something special and magical when I watch Willow comforting Jesus over the commercial nature of Christmas, or shielding Jesus from a rabid evangelist. While Jesus doesn’t appear in the comic all the time (none of the deities do), when he does, it works, even if he’s telling a bad joke about the crucifixion.

SiM works best when Taylor remembers the fundamental premise of the comic: that people make stupid mistakes sometimes, even if they’re pagan. While her movie parodies can be fun and the jokes are amusing, the best parts of the comic are the storyline comics about Olivia, Willow, and Larry, and the comics about spirituality and magic. Keeping it all a part of continuity helps bring the strip to life.

The best part of SiM, however, is that the characters (even most of the deities) are human. They have their foibles, their faults, their gifts. Perhaps that’s why there is stupidity in magic; people are stupid at times, no matter how hard they try. What’s important isn’t your mistakes, but what you learn from them.

Robert A. Howard

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