Prophecies of the Past and Future…

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Accidental Centaurs. Click on image to see it full-sized.

Crossovers are funny creatures in their own right. Done well, they can bring fans of two (or more) disparate comics together, showing each collective that they have much in common with each other, and reason to enjoy the works and stories of another cartoonist. Done poorly, and it’s just another hack-and-slash conflict where two groups of wannabe heroes try to prove which group is better. To be honest, most crossovers fall somewhere in-between these two.

Part of the problem lies with the roots of crossovers: the print comic industry. Initial crossovers exposed complete strangers to each other, often with each hero with no idea of who or what the other was. It was perhaps logical for Superman and Batman to fight (though how in the world Batman could hope to prevail against the Big Blue Boy Scout remains an issue fans argue about to this day). Likewise, Spiderman encountering the Punisher was another natural combat-over-conflict situation, with two diametrically-opposed philosophies clashing.

This frame-of-mind remained dominant as comics emerged onto the web. Oh, there were instances where the cast would find a means of conflict other than fisticuffs, but these were exceptions rather than the rule. Often it was spawned of the fact that the cast of Alice (for instance) was two pre-teen girls, and thus not exactly able to get into a fight. Still, often we’d see crossovers comprise of two comics meeting, clashing, and then combining together to face down a greater foe.

My first exposure to Accidental Centaurs was a result of one such crossover. Interestingly, rather than go with “tradition”, Anne Onymous and John Lotshaw didn’t have their cast get into a fight first thing. The genie Lenny initially didn’t want to work with Anne and her friends due to what they’d done to Lenny’s home dimension. Rather than having the cast of both comics fight, Anne and John (and Thom Khatt, who came up with the story idea and a general outline for the story) had them encounter a mutual foe who wanted the Wotch’s power for herself.

It was an ingenious means of creating a crossover, with elements of old-style crossovers without the excess baggage and clichÈs found in so many crossovers in both print and online. But even with this ingenious introduction to Accidental Centaurs, this crossover wasn’t what tempted me to start reading the comic. Instead, it was a second side-story that drew me inÖ with a genie named Lenny coming into the middle of a civil war between factions of genies, a civil war started at the end of a storyline in The Wotch.

With the crossover and genie sub-story, it would be easy to relegate AC to being a spin-off of Anne’s comic, especially as elements within the side-story explaining why humans can’t exist within the AC world. But truth be told, Accidental Centaurs predates The Wotch by almost a year. While both comics are epic stories, their stories are quite different. AC follows the travails of Sam and Alex, a pair of humans who’ve been transported to a universe where humans exist only in myth. As such, the laws of the universe actually changed them into something else that their own minds perceive as centaurs. As for their purpose, they are doing the bidding of entities called the W!rxen (why the name isn’t fully translated into a human-adapted syntax I have no idea, but it’s a common failing of scifi writers). Aiding them is the genie Lenny, who acts as guide, translator, Encyclopedia Britannia, and comic relief.

Accidental Centaurs builds upon multiple elements even as it travels through its epic storyline. First, there’s the relationship between Samantha and Alex. I’m unsure as to their relationship back on Earth; from what I have gathered, Sam and Alex were coworkers working on a teleportation device. Unfortunately, when they tried to teleport themselves the first time, a horsefly flew into the teleporter and they started a slow arduous process of turning into centaurs… (okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit. No flies were involved, though I could easily see John Lotshaw running with a parody of that). Instead, there was an accident and from what we heard a good portion of Cambridge, MA was vaporized along with their lab. Apparently they encountered a species known as the W!rxen at that point who conned them into fulfilling a prophecy we later learn was written by our wayward duo.

Being strangers in a strange land, they have no one but each other to turn to. Before the comic even begins, they’ve become lovers (and the physics behind that is something that I’m not going to delve into). This is perhaps a shame, because it would be interesting to see how their relationship grew from professional friendship to one of lovers so intense that Alex was willing to sacrifice his life for Sam.

Lenny’s relationship with Sam and Alex is slightly more adversarial, in that Lenny has a delight for puns and pop culture references, though Sam has started getting in on that game as well. He’s the outsider of this group, both as the third wheel in the relationship between Sam and Alex, and in that he was “assigned” to them by the W!rxen. What’s more, Lenny’s come between Alex and Sam in teaching Sam how to use magic (an interesting side-effect of the Accidental Centaur/The Wotch crossover.

This has altered the dynamics between Alex and Sam a tad. If you were to look at this as an epic fantasy story, then Sam would be the sorceress and Alex the warrior (to the point that he’s forged himself a suit of armor and weapons), and I suppose Lenny would be the “wise old man” with all the information they need.

Even as Sam and Alex’s relationship has changed, so too has Lenny’s with his two charges. He’s become a mentor to Sam (perhaps that may be why she’s subconsciously mimicking him with the cultural references?) and friends with both Sam and Alex. Their friendship has evolved with the multiple quests they’ve finished. While Lenny isn’t exactly friendly with his charges, I still believe them to be friends.

Finally, Sam and Alex’s motivations have changed as the comic has grown. Initially they were doing the bidding of the W!rxen in the hopes of getting back to Earth and being human once more. They were played for fools in that. Sam knows the truth, and has accepted it. She likes being a centaur. Indeed, early on it was shown she liked being a centaur. But I’m not sure if Alex knows the truth, or how he’ll react if he doesn’t.

As the characters have evolved, so too has the world itself. Initially we had little contact with the other centaurs. Indeed, I suspect we didn’t see the start of Alex and Sam’s journey because there were but three players. It is likely they started out wandering the wastes, looking for others, though I’m not entirely sure on that point. Once we ran across other centaurs, little things have cropped up showing that the centaurs aren’t just humans with equine lower torsos. They are herd creatures. What’s more, the species as a whole is bisexual, with a disparate number of males to females (thus the ladies tend to “flock together” when stallions aren’t around to satisfy them). Indeed, they see nothing wrong with multiple partners.

Similarly, what we’ve seen of the Satyrs and their society shows a society quite different from our own. The fact that some of their own were transformed into starfish-like entities that could mind-control others (sort of like in Heinlein’s novel The Puppet Masters) and that they still had that ability only helps to increase their inhumanity and transform them into something far more complex than the myths we have about satyrs.

Recent events have suggested where the comic is going. In some ways, this takes some of the tension out of the comic. While it’s rare that comics have the main characters die (and stay dead), we aren’t aware of the particulars of their path. Indeed, even as Sam and Alex ended up writing the prophecy, the readers are unaware of the particulars. For that matter, it is unlikely that Sam and Alex went into detail on what was going to happen for the mere fact that vagueness is required for the illusion of free choice. If everything is mapped out thoroughly, someone will try to change things, just to see if they can. It’s the nature of life to try and buck the system.

It’s been fascinating watching this world, and its cast, grow and evolve with the tale. With the epic nature of its story, it naturally will take a while for the story to become fleshed out. I’ve particularly enjoyed the glimpses of the relationship between Sam and Alex, as well as Lenny’s own story. The fact that Lenny has been further expanded upon in The Wotch just helps draw fans of both series to the other’s comic. And that is a good thing for both comics.

Robert A. Howard

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