Recently, in my search to consume more diverse media, I’ve been getting more into webcomics. Because webcomics are, as implied by the name, published online, they don’t have to go through gatekeeping hurdles where the author has to find an agent or a publisher who deems the work acceptable for the public. As such, if someone wants to create a comic with more diverse characters, it may just be easier to put the thing online. Today’s web crush, Witchy, combines diverse characters with an interesting magical premise and some great art.
Witchy is set in the kingdom of Hyalin, where one’s magical strength is determined by the length of one’s hair. This may require a little suspension of disbelief, because the webcomic hasn’t yet covered how hair growth works in this world, but all in all it’s a pretty fun way of showing magical ability in a visual medium. Those who are strong enough are conscripted by the Witch Guard, becoming Witch Knights, which are kind of like Hyalin’s police/war force. Those who are deemed too strong, on the other hand, are killed.
Our protagonist, Nyneve, is terrible at magic, despite having extremely long hair. Although her classmates are excited about their upcoming tests for for the Witch Guard, Nyneve charms her hair short and hopes to keep her head down long enough to escape the examiner’s notice and get a position somewhere as a magical academic. And she has another reason for not liking the Guard: her father was killed by them when she was a child.
Although Witchy is a work in progress, it’s got everything that we here at LGG&F typically recommend: people of color, people of all different body shapes, people of different gender identities, and more. Prill, Nyneve’s sometimes-friend, sometimes-enemy, is DMAB, and her parents refuse to let her transition because in their family, only males can inherit. The character designs—everything from physical features to clothing—are based on wildly differing cultures, as are the buildings and settings.
Probably my favorite thing about Witchy, though, is that almost all the characters, even the guys, have long hair. In a world where magical ability is determined by your hair length, why wouldn’t you take pride in having long hair? Similarly, people like Nyneve, who have (or at least appear to have) short hair, are bullied and discriminated against. Nyneve’s teacher even tells her that she’ll just have to accept her shortcomings. Don’t count short-haired folks out entirely, though—Nyneve’s mother has short hair and still managed to make it into the Witch Guard before becoming an apothecarist. It’s a fascinating power structure that isn’t completely analogous to anything we have in the real world, so it’ll be very interesting to see how this form of discrimination ties into the plot as the webcomic continues!
Witchy is written by animation student Ariel Ries, who balances the webcomic on top of her usual studies. If you like the comic, you can donate here at her Patreon, or check her out at her Tumblr and Twitter. The webcomic itself can be read here at her website.