“A youth spent coaxing an already-outdated dial-up modem into letting you log on to your favorite MUD, following friends you’d never met from server to server.”
Internet Murder Revenge Fantasy is a raw, trippy memoir-cum-comic anthology from Canadian author, game developer (retired), and podcast host Merritt Kopas. Written by Kopas and illustrated by a dizzyingly talented slate of artists, the collection of short comics delves into shame, body horror, sexual awakening, online storytelling, and the road from being abused to fixating on power and martyrdom. It’s a shock to the system, work trading without apology in the stickiest thoughts of the adolescent mind without indulging in the self-deprecation of enlightened adulthood. Reading this book feels like going through an old stash of porn before burning it outside under the stars, or maybe like popping a huge and pustular blackhead. It’s ugly, difficult, and cathartic.
From Michael DeForge’s opener, an effortless depiction of the desperate simultaneity with which isolation and interconnection occur in certain types of online communities, to the dissociative alienation of Box Brown’s outro, IMRF‘s pages are worlds unto themselves. Brandon Graham, Rory Frances, Becca Tobin, and many others bring Kopas’s direct, confessional prose to unnerving life. The book leaps from neon-colored fursonas beleaguered by text bubbles explaining their half-devil, half-angel ancestry and cybernetic enhancements to bleak seascapes in which isolated figures wander. O Horvath’s header image for the anthology’s fifth story, ‘(Surprisingly Having Never Seen Ghost in the Shell Until I Was 21)’ is particularly searing, a woman rendered in sickly blues and greens against an anemic pink-red background, her body festooned with tubes either draining her dry or pumping her full of some mysterious fluid. Her untidy mane of hair obscures her face and pinkish ichor spills down her chin, an image as sexual as it is manifestly an icon of the internal feeling of uncleanness.
Reflections on shame and fear of the self fill IMRF, from Kopas recounting the anxiety of keeping her online role-playing habits a secret to her recounting the sublimation of enigmatic and ineffable sexual desire into alienation from her own body, and from bodies in general. The sense of engrossed and immersed participation in realms of the unreal is one the book captures and reproduces expertly. There is no trace of hackiness in Kopas’s exploration of her forum days, of her fantasies of martyred heroism and explicit, fine-tuned suffering. The many-splendored mess that is human sexuality is given a full and unflinching treatment, layered with joy and with the discovery of community and self-acceptance but also with the cold unwellness of swimming toward selfhood across a river of abuse. The transmutation of the self and the body into things internally understood as desirable is communicated with literally demonic energy, a horrific entity holding court in the flesh-colored firmament behind Kopas’s wrathful words. It reads like a vengeful prayer to some fearsome patron saint of trans women, a withering condemnation of the boys who chafe themselves raw over futa and then sneer at trans women on the street and a bloody affirmation of those same women, mistresses of cloistered worlds, feral lionesses on the prowl.
Internet Murder Revenge Fantasy is something rare, a chance to connect with a vision of life and coming-of-age at once ferocious, squalid, thrilling, painful, and inimitably immediate. It is not to be missed.