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.
5. THE THREE HORSEMEN
Created by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
Okay, I don’t know if this entry is kinda cheating, since it’s three characters for the price of one. But really, these three come as a set – War is arguably the most prominent of the trio, but I can’t recall any scene with one where the other two don’t also show up – so I’m including them all as a single entry. In this week’s extended showcase of the excellent new characters introduced to the world in East of West, I began yesterday with Death, and so it feels natural to now pass on the spotlight to the remainder of the Four Horsemen: War, Conquest and Famine.
East of West #1 begins with them being reborn in the form of children, and we quickly learn that their return has dire implications for the world. It’s funny, after introducing us to an utterly adorable cast of kiddies in FF, Jonathan Hickman can turn around and give us the most utterly vile, horrific children seen since King Joffrey. In a world filled with moral murk and dangerous people, these little terrors – not even yet matured into their adult form and their full power – are already undoubtedly the Big Bads, casually massacring enough people to leave literal hills of corpses in their wake in issue #1, wiping out half the US Government in issue #2. Where they go, bad things happen, and their presence brings with it an involuntary sphincter-tightening of the reader bracing themselves for the worst. And their badness is hardly new, with flashbacks hinting at betrayal and maiming of our protagonists in times gone by while not yet going into the specifics: cryptic snippets of a terrible past reminiscent of Once Upon a Time in the West, with Hickman and Dragotta very much casting War, Conquest and Famine in the Henry Fonda role.
I also like how, despite how despicable and intimidating the Three Horsemen are, Hickman finds a way to make them blackly funny. I’ve probably laughed at least once in just about every appearance they’ve made. Or maybe that’s just because I’m a sick puppy.
Going forward, I’m keen to learn more about these villains individually. So far, we know that War is the apparent ringleader, that he relished being a woman for centuries until this recent rebirth has left him unwillingly gender-switched into a boy. We know that Famine is very visually striking, a skeletally gaunt woman with weapons that resemble a pair of whips. Conquest is the least distinct thus far, though I noted that he seems more visually striking in his briefly-glimpsed adult form from the flashbacks. But I see that there’s a spotlight issue on the Horsemen coming up, so hopefully that will give us a fuller portrait.