This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November. I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since. I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year. Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters. Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.
2. D. OSWALD HEIST
I wasn’t sure whether or not I should include this entry onto the list, as technically he was first mentioned in Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ excellent series Saga back in 2012, noted as the author of protagonist Alana’s favourite trashy romance book. But I think he’s still fair game for inclusion, as while he might have been mentioned way back, it wasn’t until this year when he finally showed up as an active character in the series. And back when he was first mentioned, I don’t think any of us could have anticipated that D. Oswald Heist become such a wonderfully-realised character within the world of Saga.
Heist first shows up in Saga #12, which in my opinion still stands as one of the very best single issues the series has produced. The chapter is built almost entirely around Prince Robot IV heading to Heist’s home-planet on a hunch that Alana and Marko might show up there, and to question Heist about why his book resonated so much with the young lovers. It’s a magnificently-structured issue, a conversation that slowly curdles into an increasingly tense interrogation in a manner akin to the famed opening scene of Inglourious Basterds. The power of the scene comes from the way the characters play off one another, and if Prince Robot IV slinks into the Hans Landa role, Heist is no bewildered, terrified farmer, needling and challenging the erstwhile monarch and more than holding his own in the battle of wits and wills.
After reading Saga #12, I thought it likely that D. Oswald Heist would prove to just be a single-service character, functional for the foil he played to Prince Robot IV before the story moved on and away from him. And if that was all he’d appeared for, even that appearance would likely have been noteworthy enough to merit consideration for inclusion on this list. But he’s gone on to maintain a strong presence throughout this third run of the series (following the last 3-month hiatus that came after #12), and has become a credible means with which to voice some of the key themes of the series, waxing lyrical about family, conflict and telling stories. He puts on a big front about being a jaded cynic, but you get a sense that beneath it all he has a powerful sentimental streak and a strong moral core.
And, given that he’s a writer, and given his outspoken fondness for what many might consider “trashy” mediums of entertainment, one cannot help but view D. Oswald Heist as a kind of surrogate for Brian K Vaughan. Look at how Fiona Staples draws him: bald, and with one eye – remember that for the first few months of Saga‘s publication Brian K Vaughan had that eye infection and had to wear an eye-patch. He even has a letter in his name! But, if Vaughan is donning one of Grant Morrison’s “fiction suits” and inserting himself into his own story in the form of Heist, then it must be said that he’s having a bit of fun at his own expense.