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.
For evidence of the positive impact new characters can have on the comics landscape, one need look no further than the letters page of Sex Criminals #2. In the reactions to the first issue of writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky’s stellar new series, we read the same testimonial over and over: that the story of Suzie’s sexual awakening was a breath of fresh air for so many female readers, that it resonated with so many of their own experiences, that female teenage sexuality is so rarely explored in comics, or indeed any medium of entertainment.
In the first issue of Sex Criminals, we get the tale of Suzie, as told to us by Suzie herself. The whole idea of Suzie stepping out of the world of the comic to break the 4th wall and talk directly to us adds a sense of intimacy between reader and character, making her feel more fully-realised and helping her personality shine through all the more. Through Suzie’s account, we learn about her very unusual gift: the ability to stop time when she orgasms.
Of course, in the flashforward at the beginning (and in the title) we see that Suzie gets involved in a scheme to use this most strange of superpowers to rob a bank, but the book is about so much more than the high concept. Through that hook, we get insight into all the awkwardness and embarrassment Suzie feels in her formative years, unable to fully grasp the changes going on in her body and lacking any reliable source of information to turn to for guidance. In one particular high-point in this first issue, the most “sexually experienced” girl in her year at high school shares a series of increasingly ridiculous scribblings on a bathroom stall depicting the sexual positions she must master.
Suzie’s experiences are mostly hilarious, but at times they’re also touching and even a little heartbreaking. She feels like a very human character, and from the first issue we’re firmly invested in where the narrative will take her. Issue #2 would require a filling in of the secon half of the equation… but we’ll get to that tomorrow!