Faithful readers of the Castalia House blog are familiar with our Comic Revolution endeavor. Pursuant to that, I’ve been invited to talk about our own series, Dreamkeepers.
Typically I demur from making qualitative declarations about our work. Readers can decide for themselves whether it’s good or a pile of flaming neon trash. But our career is at the point where a fleet of readers have, quite evidently, decided.
Support has surged over the years to grant us full-time work and launch our own publishing imprint including a spin-off novel, merchandise, and a game adaptation.
Surprising to me is the proportion of our readership with a military background. A host of our graphic novels go out to APO and FPO addresses, and we’ve received letters from soldiers indicating that our webcomic was a welcome companion during their deployment.
But why is that the case?
Who’d predict that a colorful comic with cartoon animals would gather a following among hardened active-duty service members?
My focus is usually consumed by the next page, crafting improved art, writing snappier dialogue, and toppling monolithic distribution monopolies.
But this invitation blog is a good opportunity to step back, and speculate about why our work is resonating.
I think it’s more than just the surface hook:
Cute cartoon animals versus bloodthirsty nightmares from beyond the veil.
We’ve built an entire fantasy world around that premise–full of color, adventure, intrigue, and gory danger. Although the worldbuilding has received acclaim, well, there are loads of unique fantasy worlds out there in the fiction marketplace. Plenty of series have a cohesive history, geography, political structure, flora and fauna.
I believe the contours of our appeal begin to emerge a bit more in the elevator pitch.
“Every living person has a unique character in the Dreamworld, our defense against the rising Nightmare legions.
All dreamkeepers have a supernatural power. But in the city of Anduruna, powers have been outlawed.
Infractors face the regulatory force of the shock troopers. Because in a perfect city, there is no place for violence, and the nightmares of legend can be safely dismissed as ancient fiction.
Few things are as cringeworthy to me as failed preachers ineptly packaging their sermons as entertainment. I believe this is why so much social justice warrior fiction falls flat. Because they have no interest in providing a service, in entertaining, in the actual nuts and bolts of storytelling. They’re just hijacking a vehicle to drive their agenda until the wheels fall off, and then they jack the next ride.
That said, I do think that a storyteller seeking truth will inevitably unearth glimmers of a deeper worldview–and that such discoveries should be examined rather than buried.
There are thematic facets to Dreamkeepers that I don’t often see in the current landscape of politically-correct comics and socially-approved fiction.
Questions about power, freedom, authority, law, good and evil.
The main characters find themselves snared in a conspiracy that reaches to the pinnacle of Anduruna’s ruling elites. A plot to conceal the existence of the nightmares–and subjugate the population for their return.
An underground military force within the city, the Troika, prepare to repel the impending nightmare threat and counter their own corrupt government. But will the bloodshed from such an insurrection redeem the city, or cripple it?
The cast has grown up in an education system that condemned ‘powers abuse’ as the greatest possible sin. Now their survival is contingent upon not just breaking that social taboo–but doing so effectively.
Added to this mix are the Neon Knives, the anarchic street gangs that serve as extra-legal muscle for the nightmare conspiracy. The corrupt government turns a blind eye while using the Neons to take out enemies- and then points to the violence as public justification for authoritarian crackdowns.
Thematic flavors like these may survive in other pockets of fiction- but are exceptionally rare in the world of colorful cartoon-styled comics.
Far-left shallow screeds vilifying capitalism and jealously raging against “Cis-hetero” romance are far more common.
So maybe that’s why Dreamkeepers does well with veterans?
For the subset of soldiers harboring a taste for color and fantasy, perhaps it’s a welcome respite to read something that doesn’t actively antagonize their values, that doesn’t stop every ten pages to wag a finger at the toxicity of masculinity.
Something that can be colorful, fun, outrageous, strange, and maybe even (shock, horror) conservative?
Perhaps I’m way off base. It could simply be that there was a hunger for colorful gun-wielding furry cartoon characters in an original fantasy setting, and Dreamkeepers happened to fit the bill.
But regardless of the explanation, thank you–to past readers and future, for enjoying this strange series. It’s humbling to hold the knowledge that many of our readers put their lives on the line to protect our country, and the freedom to create dangerous cartoons within it.
We’ll continue creating, and push the Comic Revolution to help underground content like ours find its place in the free market.
For those who would like to give Dreamkeepers a look, you can read free here: http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/home.html
Check out the primary graphic novel series, the weekly webcomic aimed at a younger audience, the standalone spin-off novel, the upcoming tabletop card game, and more.
I haven’t run out of paper yet–so like it or not, there’s more to come.