Stupidity in Magic

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I’ll admit that I’m primarily drawn to story comics. If there’s a hint of an epic story in a comic, I’ll often read through it and enjoy myself immensely, despite the flaws inherent in epic storytelling in a graphic medium. Another favorite genre of mine though is the character-driven comic. While these comics often lack the meta-plot that binds everything together, often stories develop as a result of character growth and change. The stories often are episodic as a result (in that each story arc are often self-contained, though changes will carry on from story-arc to story-arc), which can provide readers with convenient starting places if they don’t want to read through a comic’s entire archive.

Stupidity in Magic is a good example of a character-driven comic. While it often focuses on the primary triad of characters (Willow, Octavia, and Larry), SiM had a diverse cast and frequently has taken time to tell the stories of the lesser-known cast. Of these secondary characters, one of my favorites (and the focus of the latest story) is Tir, a red-haired Irish pagan who is smarter than she acts, and whose roots include a Catholic faith that she left, despite her physical attraction to another regular of the comic, Jesus C.H. Nazereth. (Whether he truly is Jesus or just a man who is decent and cares for others is never stated; when you consider that Herne and chibi-Cthulhu have appeared in the comic, however, I’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.)

With this latest story, artist Willow Taylor has crafted a compelling story with Tir’s search for identity, and on the acceptance of others. This storyline echoes on a theme that Taylor has examined in SiM from time to time: religious tolerance. For Tir has been going to Wednesday Mass at the local Catholic Church. When she tells her best friend Loo… her friend doesn’t take it so well. She drags Tir off to talk to an older pagan lady (who I don’t remember from earlier comics), Brigid. And here is where I watched a very real and sad truth about the pagan community: its knee-jerk reaction toward Christianity.

As I watched Tir being talked over as if she were an object or maybe a small child not worthy of being listened to, I was reminded of something I witnessed years back on a pagan e-mail community I had joined while doing research for a pagan character for one of my stories. There was a vocal group in the e-community that was rather intolerant of Christianity and who spoke up whenever a troll claiming to be Christian would join and try to cause mischief. Don’t get me wrong; there were many tolerant and accepting pagans who were part of this e-community. But their voices would be drowned out with each panic-stricken flamewar started by the trolls.

Tir’s story also speaks of some interesting truths about paganism as a faith. For all that Tir loves Wicca and the Goddess, it is a religion inherently of personal responsibility. If you make a mistake, you can’t ask for forgiveness and have it granted, carte blanche. There is no Confession, no priest telling you to say a dozen Hail Mary’s and donate some money to keep the church solvent. And that sense of responsibility can be scary. Tir admits to Jesus that Wicca doesn’t give her the feeling of protection and support that the Church did.

While Stupidity in Magic may fluctuate between a character-driven comic and a humor comic, when Taylor takes the time to focus on her cast she can create some truly compelling characters. Even the shallowest of her characters often have hidden depths to them and reasons for their beliefs and choices. Nor are any of these characters perfect. These imperfections not only give Taylor points to build future stories from, but also help bring these characters to life.