Wapsi Square: in the shadow of doubt by Paul Taylor
When Paul Taylor asked me to write the foreword for his 4th Wapsi Square collection, my initial reaction was absolute thrill. For a few glorious hours I reveled, and thought: How cool is this? Too amazing!
Then the questions and self-reflection kicked into gear. Who was I? Not some seasoned comic expert by any means. I’d gone years without picking up a slender Archie or Superman from the carousel shelves in my local market, and had only recently stumbled back into the nearly forgotten worlds of keenly rendered shoot ’em ups and slash ’em ups and “Just a bunch of dorky high schoolers hanging out and bumbling into slapstick undertakings.”
Who was I? A switch flicked. Memories surfaced: Myself as a child in the early ’60s, rapt as my dad described the harrowing adventures of his childhood hero, Buck Rogers. Me: four, five, six years old, perched on the edge of a crazed excitement as my father read me the Sunday Funnies. Or later, that small girl struggling with the decision: Did I want to be a comic book artist, or a writer when I grew up?
Flashes. Long forgotten scenarios. I hunkered down on the wooden floor, eleven, twelve years old, studied a cherished copy of Swamp Thing, sketching his hulking form in my Big Chief writing tablet. Or I drew panels of my own invention – Marvin’s Adventures Down the Bathtub Drain – to entertain my kid brother. I left off with the drawing soon after, and embarked on my quest to become a writer.
But in high school, I was the weird girl with a rolled issue of Creepy in my back pocket.
Years passed. Early loves slipped to the wayside. Webcomics beckoned, and I fell back in, wholly enamored.
I met Paul online, on the social network Twitter, of all places, where – under the pseudonym Suze Underground – I had inadvertently fallen in with a talented handful of comic artists and writers. I found them to be the most generous and welcoming crew (much to my surprise and delight!), and old urges led me to check out Wapsi Square.
Monica Villarreal and her friends struck a deep, resonant chord with me, as they do with an avalanche of fiercely loyal, worldwide fans. Wapsi Square‘s earliest beginnings, from the very first web panels posted on September 9, 2001, started off – we might say – in an innocuous vein, with Monica experiencing a bit of angst over being “naive and a pushover.” The early storylines seemed to suggest a fun, fresh little comic along the lines of something we’d see in the daily news. A sort of modern Cathy meets Betty & Veronica.
And then. Well, as you loyal fans already know, something mystical happened. Monica, who sometimes jokes about her Indiana Jones connection (and initially scoffs at the idea), became much more than an insecure young museum anthropologist. Far more than an everywoman with personal issues. She and her friends began the journey of morphing into darker, more complex characters.
Aztec gods. Mayan mysteries. Supernatural abilities (*poit*). Demons. And not just the psychological kind, but the scary-real types who insinuate themselves into these characters’ lives. It doesn’t take long for you to realize they’re not a figment of anyone’s imagination in the world of Wapsi Square. They may start out as a whisper, a nagging, negative voice that won’t go away. But then – a black, misty fog appears, a figure crawls along the shadowed hallway and into the light. And grows more real. More insistent.
Monica has her own demons, and then some. Tina is a collection of them who’ve commandeered a deceased girl’s body. Shelly’s demon is – let’s just say that those of you with disturbing pasts may recognize some of these demons, and indeed harbor a few of your own. Before long it’s clear. The demons are as real as any of us.
As I informed readers in a blog review, when I first ran into Paul’s webcomic, my plan was to read a few panels, then go make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. Instead, the characters and situations endeared themselves to me quickly. Taylor’s obvious understanding of human nature hit me, drew me in, and kept me reading. Compelled, I read on well into the afternoon and evening. Months later, I’m still reading. It’s my daily fix, as necessary as that morning cup of java.
Quoting Paul on my Wapsi Square conversion: “She never did make that grilled cheese sandwich.”
Wapsi Square cover art and foreword © 2010 Paul Taylor All Rights Reserved
*Note: All Wapsi Square material is the property of Paul Taylor and does not fall under my blog’s Creative Commons License. No part of this post may be used without his express permission. Thank you!*