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.
3. OLIVIA OLSEN
The first two entrants on this list have been featured in internatioally-acclaimed Image Comics titles, but this character is not so widely known. Olivia Olsen is the main character of NeverEnding, an excellent Scottish indy comic that launched at the Scotland MCM Expo this year. The first issue is skillfully plotted by writer Stephen Sutherland, with debuting artist Gary Kelly providing some impressive layouts, but it’s the characterisation – particularly of Olivia – that truly makes the comic such a resounding success. I very quickly fell for this cool, relatable central figure, and her likeability is the anchor holding the rest of the narrative in place.
But to give you the basic premise, NeverEnding is the story of Olivia Olsen, a teenage girl who never sleeps. Never getting tired, and with full 24-hour days at her disposal, Olivia has had the time and energy to learn a massive range of skills, including various combat disciplines, which as much through boredom as anything else she has employed towards fighting local crime in her native city of Glasgow. We’re with Olivia through just about every frame of the first issue, leaving her to shoulder much of the plot’s forward motion. Thankfully, she immediately marks herself out as an immensely likeable protagonist, and good company for the duration. In a recent review I wrote for MonkeyBrain comic Bandette, I talked about how writer Paul Tobin crafted in his title character a convincing portrayal of a teenager you’d want to be friends with, and you get the same feeling about Olivia. She’s cool, exuberant, idealistic (perhaps to the point of being naive), and the banter between her and her girlfriend Sarah is suitably endearing. But what I like best is the aforementioned internal monologue, as it allows us to see that she isn’t just instantly this badass superhero because she decides to fight some drug-dealers. She’s still a teenage girl who doubts herself, who panics, and who worries she may be in over her head.
I’ve had the chance to read the scripts for later issues in the series, and the plot goes off in increasingly wild and heady directions, progressively morphing from slice-of-life drama with a twist to adrenaline-pumping thriller to vast, elaborate conspiracy/spy saga, equal parts The Bourne Identity and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by way of Run Lola Run. And Olivia just keeps on getting more and more nuanced and compelling. Stephen Sutherland has really created a quite remarkable character to here, and Gary Kelly has brought her to life admirably. I can’t wait to see this team continue to tell Olivia’s story.