Casting Her Spell
Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle takes a look at 1First Publishing’s Dogwitch: The Whole Shebang by Dan Schaffer, out now…
Dogwitch: The Whole Shebang
Writer/ Artist: Dan Schaffer
There are underground comics, really underground comics and really, really, way down deep, keep on digging until you reach the Gates of Hell underground comics. Dogwitch is, or rather was, firmly rooted in the latter group and would have been the book that you’d have found nailed to Satan’s front door if you ever decided to pay Lucifer a visit. Originally published from 2001 to 2004 and written and illustrated by Dan Schaffer, Dogwitch was a comic that I’m more than a little ashamed to say passed completely under my radar when it first appeared. It’s taken nearly two decades and 1First’s staggeringly large Omnibus edition for me to rectify that mistake and catch up with Violet Grimm, the eponymous Dogwitch and anti-hero of Schaffer’s incredibly dark, at times slightly disturbing, but always delightfully deviant and mischievous book.
Exiled to the Banewoods initially for an undisclosed crime, Violet ekes out a meagre living making films of her escapades and adventures in bizarre sexual practices and dark magic with her housemates and friends Ralph, a stuffed dog who also happens to be her cameraman, and living doll with a hidden agenda, Dolores. Drifting from day to day and from one gloriously perverse pleasure to another through a series of increasingly lurid videos, Violet’s life suddenly takes a turn for the strange when she discovers that, thanks to the demon Mr Kinky, there’s more to sex than whips, chips, chains and spells. It’s a revelation that opens the door to her haunted, traumatic and tragic past that slowly but surely starts catching up with her and catapults Violet down a path from which there’s no escape.
Her days as musician, the time spent with her sister, her inextricable link to a dangerous serial killer and her “downfall” provide the backbone to Violet’s story of redemption, empowerment and eventual escape for the world in which she’s trapped. Along the way, Violet runs into all manner of things from beyond the veil, encounters betrayal and deception, comes to terms with her place in the Universe and even manages to vanquish death. It also sees her prove that, even with the odds stacked against her, every Dogwitch eventually has her day.
Like Tank Girl laced with a liberal dose of the Fabulous Fury Freak Brothers’ favourite LSD, taken to the nth degree and pushed far beyond the boundaries of what the mainstream calls “good taste”, Dogwitch is the weird, wonderful comic that your mother warned you about. A middle finger salute to the constraining rules of the patriarchal status quo of the comic book and music industries that spits in the face of every ill-educated idea about witches, wicca, paganism and the occult, Dogwitch does what every great indie comic should do. It subverts and rejects the tired, banal and stale norm and carves its own unique and beautifully creative road that it dares it readers to travel down. Schaffer’s detailed, sublime monochrome art and concept infused prose that’s designed to both educate and entertain is bursting with raw, punk energy that nearly twenty years after it first appeared, is still lightyears ahead of its time. Abracadabra… Tim Cundle
Dogwitch: The Whole Shebang is available to order direct from the publisher or via Amazon