Weak as I am: A Superhero Mini-Movie

Written and drawn by Nigel Auchterlounie, one of the current creatives working on The Dandy (British Institution! All stand to attention as we play the National Anthem!), Weak As I Am is a strange, involving webcomic which has quickly grown over the past few weeks from a series of interconnected sketches into a reinvention of sorts for the superhero genre. It’s fascinating stuff, drawn in absurdist style by Auchterlounie and can be found at http://spleenal.blogspot.co.uk/
The initial set-up is as-standard, and has been seen done in several different comics — recently, Jonathan Ross and Brian Hitch’s ‘America’s Got Powers’ series briefly handled it — and sees people all around the World, ordinary people, suddenly developing super powers. In some cases this happens and they immediately decide to use their powers to fight evil or, quite often, each other; some of the characters are rather more dense and don’t realise what’s happening even when it’s put in front of them. Auchterlounie seems especially fond of his dumb characters, which certainly helps with the abstract, crosscut format of his story.
Instead of coming across as a single narrative, Auchterlounie elects to have the story form as a series of quick vignettes, often building to a single punchline before jumping over to the other storyline and hammering a joke there, before over to another story, and so on. The format works really well as a webcomic, although each section of the story goes on for a ruddy long time. It’s wonderful to have so much content, but it can be a little overwhelming. Whereas this would make for a disorientating experience in any other structural format, the sharp cuts between parallel stories — which tend to build to crossovers, although not always — gives readers an option to dip in and out at will.
As the series goes on, things grow in confidence. The story begins to build into itself and Auchterlounie’s artwork improves in composition and layout. You can see an improvement in the use of perspective in particular, as the fight scenes become more carefully laid out and choreographed as the story continues. There’s more inking and colouring at work, and the violence also grows. Auchterlounie doesn’t seem afraid to kill off anyone in the series, and that – coupled with, gasp horror, the swears — makes the story that much tenser. The adult content of the series, which mostly comes across as organic, rather than filthy, makes the story feel looser, less predictable, more open for surprises.
And you’ll get them. Characters get their hearts ripped out at an accelerated pace, although there’s always a sense of humour crossing over everything. You can see a very simple sense of humour unfolding across the story — not in a bad sense. I mean that the humour here is rather universal, and hits on the sort of joke-telling which tends to show up in comics like The Beano, Dandy, or Archie. But Weak As I Am mixes it with bloody violence and petty superpowered people getting jealous at each other and going on reality TV or stabbing people with deus ex machine knives.
It’s a surprisingly fun story, which grows into a surprisingly involving story. There are plenty of webcomics available online, but you should hah, ‘make plans’ for Nigel!
Because of the XTC song is why I said that.
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