As I’ve edited Caitlin Kiernan’s upcoming return to comics, Alabaster: Wolves, I’ve consistently struggled to find analogies by means of which to introduce the series—and its protagonist, the very young and very dangerous Dancy Flammarion.
If you like Buffy Summers, you’ll probably like Dancy. She’s a girl in her late teens, and she’s got that same gritted-teeth determination. But Dancy’s not pretty, or bubbly. She’s got no superpowers—just a knife and a harsh celestial master. She’s got the start of a sly sense of humor, but no glib Whedonesque quips.
If you like Hellboy, you’ll probably like Dancy. She fights monsters, and fights to keep herself from becoming one. She can hold her own in a roomful of werewolves. But Dancy’s not a demon, and she doesn’t have a team or government funding, and if she’s got an apocalyptic destiny, well, it’s keeping itself scarce for now.
If you like Arya from Game of Thrones, you’ll probably like Dancy. She’s ruthless and desperate, and she takes shit from no one. But Dancy is older, and wearier; she has no castle and little childhood to miss.
If you like River Tam from Joss Whedon’s Firefly, you’ll probably like Dancy. She’s a kind of crazy, or she might be, or she’s afraid she might be, and her hair is always in her eyes, and she’s always a step ahead. But Dancy isn’t a supergenius. She doesn’t need a trigger word to fight, and no big brother will ever swoop in to comfort her. Dancy can’t kill you with her brain: that’s why she carries that great big knife.
The truth is, there’s no one quite like Dancy. As Dancy’s creator, Caitlín R. Kiernan, put it, “She’s the only her in comics”—which is, I guess, something Dancy does have in common with Buffy and Hellboy and all the truly great icons: she’s one of a kind.
Dancy’s not pretty. She’s not sweet. She’s wary and weary, determined and damaged; and she’s spent long enough fighting her way through darkness and weirdness that they’ve begun to cling around her like a lingering stench. She stares out from Greg Ruth’s covers, equal parts haunting and haunted. She’s not a clean-lines-and-shiny-colors kind of comic-book hero: under the hands of artist Steve Lieber and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg, she’s scratchy ink and mottled watercolor, all rough edges and half-dried blood.
The Dancy Flammarion you’ll see in the pages Alabaster is rooted in traditions; she carries echoes of other stories and characters and archetypes, and of her previous incarnations in Caitlín R. Kiernan’s prose. But at the same time, she’s something genuinely new: ready to rise and cut a new path through rehashes and wan copies.
And who needs super-strength when you’ve got that kind of power?
Rachel Edidin is an editor for Dark Horse Comics.