23rd May2017

Needle in a [Comic] Haystack #1: Caitlin R Kiernan

by Tara Marie

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Hi! Welcome to the first installment of Needle in a [Comic] Haystack where I tell you all about the incredibly awesome comics that you’re missing out on because, honestly, there’s just so many of them. For my first column, we’re taking a dive into the past to focus on one of the best comic creators – and my personal favorite writer – the dark fantasy (and a bunch of other stuff) writer Caitlin R Kiernan.

Caitlin R Kiernan is perhaps best known for her work in dark fiction, the writer of novels such as The Red Tree or The Drowning Girl. You might also know her from her dark erotica series Sirenia Digest or, heck, even her novel adaptation of the film adaptation of Beowulf. She’s pretty prolific is the point I’m getting at.

But the thing we’re going to talk about today is her comics, which you should read… right now. She has two very famous series: Alabaster and her work on The Dreaming.

The Dreaming was a small spin-off series from The Sandman exploring the inner workings of the titular character’s realm, focusing on smaller character from the series, and new dream creations. Her work on the series – while good – was very controversial at the time and earned her the title of most hated woman in Sandman history. Which is really quite unfair because the series is good, and rumor has it she was one of the main consultants for Sandman’s Wanda Mann, one of the coolest (and earliest) trans characters at DC Comics.

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While her The Dreaming work is cool, and you should read it, it pales in comparison to her Alabaster series. Alabaster is a series about Dancy Flammarion, a young Albino girl, chosen by God (or mental illness) to fight creatures – called Hounds, but which might be more recognizable to you under the name demons. Although “demons” is a bit of a stretch; they’re just otherworldly, werewolf-esque monsters who are nigh unstoppable and work for a being beyond ken that routinely kidnaps and enslaves children with psychic powers. But the cool thing is, you can still totally kill Hounds.

And Dancy does. A lot.

Alabaster follows her as she’s lead by her (horrifying) Holy Guardian Angel to different creatures she has to slay. She’s dirty, poor, not the brightest, and lives on the road most of the times. This isn’t an urban fantasy where someone is wearing a cool cap and has neat guns. She has a dull looking knife and a napsack. She steals food out of the garbage and can’t always tell what’s real and what’s she hallucinating.

Eventually she gets a dead bird as a sidekick and a dead girl Hound as a girlfriend. It’s pretty awesome.

If you’re even the slightest bit inclined to read cool comics, you’re gonna want to check out Alabaster. The series is published as Dark Horse Comic’s Alabster: Wolves, Alabaster: Grimmer Tales, and Alabaster: The Good, The Bad, and The Bird. Let’s pray that Dancy comes back someday. If that’s not enough you can check out the prose stories featuring in her, in Alabaster: Pale Horse or even read her debut in the novel Threshold (be warned: she’s not a main character there).

Thanks and see ya next time.

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