Minis Monday: Fail Wolves: Three Tales of Inept Lycanthropy

Posted by on September 27th, 2010 at 1:51 PM

Betsey Swardlick; B&W; 28 pp.; Self-published;

I was introduced to Betsey Swardlick’s Fail Wolves through the Werewolves!!, the anthology from Team Werewolf seen here last time out. Within that earlier review I tried to suggest that part of the success of Werewolves!! lay in the variety of approaches to its iconic subject. At the same time those approaches were somewhat aligned in that they regarded the mythic creature as a manifestation of liberated aspects of one’s own interior makeup, as a bit of individual wish fulfillment.

That would make Ellen and Hallie, the Fail Wolves, avatars of zany vitality. They appear as joyful embodiments of free-spirited gal pal sensibilities to whom unusual things happen as a matter of course, full moon or no. Their unconditional friendship serves as solid character foundation and from there they are written smart, having plenty of pithy, wry and dead-on observations to make about the society of which they are members, be they human or more-than. Any lunar metamorphosis only makes them more so: more animated, more ravenous, more physically exaggerated, able to pedal `way faster, etc. For them, being a werewolf is like a super-duper energy drink plus hair.

Thus the charm of these three stories is that of engaging, idiosyncratic, socially conscious characters under an accelerant. To take a most obvious example, the precipitating dilemma of the second story is Ellen and Hallie, as practicing vegans, negotiating with their new condition (E: “There are 3 KFCs in walking distance. I can smell them individually.” H: “What a disgusting density. What is wrong with this town?”). Hilarity ensues of a most wooly nature involving “incredibly mediocre Chinese food and amazing fake chicken,” a nefarious plot involving home delivery and a frantic chase when things, as is their wont, go awry.

The third story has the duo as old women, reminiscing in rocking chairs on a porch, reflecting on lives very different from our own although not, strangely enough, entirely unrecognizable: in the dead of night, all furry and fanged, they consider looking for help getting out of handcuffs in one of the places open at that hour: a coin operated laundromat, the Eat-A-Fajita drive thru, and a sex shop. As characters they can be trusted to make the right choice.

Swardlick’s renderings are appropriately loose and manic when called for and comfy and familiar when not. She can pull off swimming through a dumpster and huddling in front of the living room couch with equal conviction on facing pages. For more ambitious or potentially taxing scenes, she proves a pragmatic problem solver. The most prominent instance is the panorama of a high school and its parking lot where a stoners’ van, with stoners, sits. There’s only enough detail and attention to set the stage for the next flurry of crazy action. It’s landscape, but only as interlude and theatrical scrim; pay attention to the placement of the players in the foreground and what’s about to happen riiiiight aboooout now!

These Tales strike not so much as Inept adaptations but as representing the case where just one more wild thing is tossed into already full lives. Being a werewolf proper is just going to have to fit in like anything else. It’s more like being “lycanthropically challenged.”

As for that first story, Ellen alone is a werewolf. Her induction is related in the broadest of terms which means there’s plenty of room for more stories early, middle and late in the Wolves career should the creative spirit be willing. As such, the comic is the material embodiment of the entertainer’s maxim to leave `em wanting more.

image ©2010 Betsey Swardlick

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One Response to “Minis Monday: Fail Wolves: Three Tales of Inept Lycanthropy

  1. […] Take a gander at Rich Kreiner’s review of Failwolves over on The Comics Journal’s website! […]