Welcome to another episode of Taff Sceams About Something She Really Loves. Today I’ll be screeching about a comic I recently caught up with; Drugs and Wires.
Let’s start with what it says on the tin:
The year is 1995.About Drugs and Wires
Grunge and alt-rock dominate the airwaves. Floppy disks are still the storage medium of choice. The mainstream media can’t shut up about this amazing new thing called the “Information Superhighway.” And in the shadows of glittering megacities, a loose alliance of cyber-anarchists, techno-pagans, and razorgirls is waging covert war against power-hungry corporations, sinister governments, and injustice and corruption in all of its forms.
This is not their story.
No, this is the story of Dan, pissy misanthrope and recovering VR junkie, now condemned to a dead-end job delivering sketchy packages in a post-Soviet urban hellhole.
This is the story of Lin, a cybernetics installer who treats concepts like “anesthesia” and “disinfectant” as annoying inconveniences, and likes to soundtrack life-altering surgeries with Cannibal Corpse.
And here’s what I got to say about it:
Drugs and Wires tackles difficult topics and sometimes it comes at you swinging hard. Hard enough to make me pause after I finished a page, two of which have taken up permanent residency in my head. They live there, rent free, and occasionally pop to the surface to give me a Oh Damn moment.
Now, anyone who knows me might now be going But, Taff. You like your fiction light-hearted, what’s up with that? And I’d go: Hold up, you reading my blog? Aw, shucks, thanks. You’re also not wrong. But Drugs and Wires handles these topics (addiction, transhumanism, corporate greed, etc..) with so much grace, I’m having a really hard time coming up with a comparison to it in mainstream media. Plus, the creators pack it full of humour – not only delivered by the story and its characters, but also in tiny details added to each panel. Smush those two together and its like you’re getting a perfectly balanced breakfast served.
A breakfast for the eyeballs and heart.
Speaking of eyeballs.
The art. The art is great. But the artist does this thing where you get animated panels thrown into the mix? They’re perfect?! If I’d worn socks when I came across the first one they’d have come off, but alas, I was reading in bed.
And the world building! You can clearly tell a lot of thought and care went into it and it provides a consistent (but continuously developing) backdrop for the characters. Oh yeah. The characters! Design? 10/10. Personalities? 10/10. Did Taff develop another crush? Yep. Two. One of them is Dan, who has charmed me with how he isn’t perfect, how he struggles, how he tries, and then falls, and then gets up again, and I just want to see him get better and grow and *incoherent flailing*.
So. Yeah. Thank you for coming to another episode of Taff screams.
You should totally read Drugs and Wires. Especially if you like any of the following: Cyberpunk. Floppy Disks. Dark humour. Cute luggage with something resembling an AI. Technology Nostalgia. Dogs (seriously, there’s dogs, I love ’em). Human misery washed down with great pacing to keep you from feeling emotionally exhausted. And great characters that aren’t great heroes.
I do want to note what D&W notes on Who probably shouldn’t read it. Just in case: This comic is not recommended to any reader likely to be offended by unapologetic drug use, body horror, questionable medical practices, existential angst, or unflattering portrayals of Slavic banana republics. In other words, proceed at your own risk.
I am horrible at reviewing work. I can’t do it. I can’t pick something apart and try and lay out its flaws, because honestly that is what apparently reviewing is supposed to be about. When I review something I want to do so because I loved that piece of media so much I want to climb a tall house and scream from the roof about how it watered my plants, groomed my dog, and healed my stubbed toe.
So, from now on, Taff Reviews is called Taff Screams and no one’s going to stop me.
‘Cause I am not here to analyse someone’s work while donning a thinking cap or some such thing. I just want to declare my appreciation for their dedication, creativity, and general brilliance.
Rarely I find something that snatches me up as quick as Radius did. I mean, honestly, how couldn’t it. Have you seen the art? That’s what got my attention anyway. Came for the gorgeous visual. Stayed for the world building, the layered characters, and the burning need to know how their story continues.
Tom Ravens, Tank, Surfer and Buster: The “Hellhounds” are an elite unit tasked with keeping Avon’s rebels in check. Their most recent mission does not go as planned…
Radius is a gritty cyberpunk/sci-fi story in an original setting focused on a (literally) split planet divided into two distinct halves and held together by a mysterious energy source. Each half is home to a distinct faction who do not see eye to eye. To spice it up some more, an artificial virus turns its survivors into dangerous cyborgs. Which is exactly the sort of spice this Taff wants and needs in her life if you know anything about her.
The art is delicious. The panels creatively put together. There’s an entire section in the second issue where one of the main protagonists, Tom Ravens, is having himself a shower and then a bit of a breakdown, and I swear to the dog currently licking my ankle that those pages are my absolute favourite of any comic I have read up to this point.
There’s so much emotion and motion conveyed in the art that I just got to praise it and recommend to anyone.
The characters got depth and are intriguing. The good guys and the bad guys. My fav used to be Tom but then I learned some stuff about Tank and I think I may be team Tank now because, EXCUSE ME SIR?! He made my printer overheat. c( ⁰ 〰 ⁰ )੭ Anyway.
I got little else to say that’d do this justice. You should experience it for yourself and you can totally do that (in English) over on Katrin’s Patreon. And if you’re in Germany or Austria, maybe even get yourself a physical copy? They look gorgeous on shelves.
What to expect: Cyberpunk aesthetics. Action. Two factions at odds (one sleek and clean, one gritty and rough). Beautiful visuals. Great panel composition. Gorgeous characters. Also handsome characters. And beautiful characters. They are really good to look at, okay?!
What Taff didn’t like: Uhm. Needs more Tank on a horse. Obviously. Duh.
The Building Blocks
I’ve put together a cheat sheet based on how I begin building my characters. There’s tons of those out there already of course and a lot that go into details 500+ questions deep. But we’re not looking for a laundry list of How many siblings do they have to How do they cross the street here. Rather, we’re trying to build a foundation from which the rest of the character can grow comfortably.
It covers things like their physical description, their voice, and (most importantly) their motivation. All things you need to get you started.
Who are they?
Begin by jotting down three words that represent them. Don’t overthink it. Boil them down to the essentials.
Description. Notable Features. How do others see them?
This may be a misleading section. While description and notable features are largely straight forward, How do others see them? is one of my favourite questions to ask. Do they easily intimidate others? Are they often underestimated? If so, why? What characterizes them to others and how does the world at large treat them?
Vocabulary. Speech Pattern. Thought Process. Ticks.
This is where the character’s voice comes from as you write them. Think about what words they use a lot. Or if they favour simple words or big words. Dig for ticks that may bleed into the narration. Do they think a lot? What do those thoughts look like? Do the ramble or keep things precise? Do they drive past a pasture and go Horse! no matter what? Those sorts of things.
Goals. Why? Overcome
What are their goals as the story begins and as it continues or concludes? Why are they doing what they are doing? And what do they need to overcome?
This, in particular, is the part that will change over time and show character development. Though, really, all of the above can (and might) change. Being consistent as you build them is important so that when the change happens it matters.