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.
27. DR. SPENCER BROWNFIELD
Strange Attractors is a tricky book, as it seems to dance right on the knife-edge of science fiction. Are the masterful uber-equations employed by Dr. Spencer Brownfield to keep New York City running smoothly by means of the butterfly effect a superpower, or is it just the highest-level mathematics of a genius far beyond our own reckoning?
Even before the reveal of his gift, Dr. Brownfield is an engaging figure. When our protagonist Heller Wilson seeks him out for his aid in writing a college thesis, Brownfield seems a bit of an oddball. But gradually, it becomes apparent that his eccentric rantings may have some credence to them after all. Maybe he has secretly run New York City for the past 30 years?
The graphic novel is at its most exhilerating when Brownfield’s “equations” come together and influence the city in some apparently small way, their full effects at times only revealing themselves later in the narrative. Greg Scott succeeds in the unenviable task of making maths seem exciting and vibrant on the comic page, presenting Brownfield’s talents as incredibly cool. Soule, meanwhile, invests Spencer with real gravitas, the weight of both the heart-rending tragedy of the past and declining health casting a dark shadow over his future giving his actions a poignant focus.
Heller Wilson may be the ostensive main character of Strange Attractors, and he steps more centrally into focus in the story’s third act, but the character that’ll end up staying in your mind after you’ve put the book back on the shelf is crazy old Spencer Brownfield.