Comic Book / Demo

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A comic series by Brian Wood (writing) and Becky Cloonan (art).

Each issue is a stand-alone story that follows a single person, dealing with their lives, relationships and emotions. Originally the concept focused on the supernatural: the protagonists discovering powers or abilities, or dealing with ones they already had, and while this is still present in many issues, over time it was slowly de-emphasized.

Originally published by Ait / Planet Lar (Vol. 1). A total of 18 issues were published between November, 2003 to November, 2004. DC's Vertigo imprint published Volume 2 as a 6-issue mini-series. It run from April to September, 2010.

Provides examples of:

  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Kinda... Except, that's the point, so it's not really unexpected.
  • Animesque: "Damaged" is drawn in a manga style, complete with cat-smiles on occasions.
  • Art Shift: Each issue is drawn in a different style despite coming from the same artist. Compare "One Shot, Don't Miss" (High contrast, realistic proportions) to "Damaged" (sketchy artwork, character designs looking like something out of a conventional shoujo manga). "Midnight to Six" is probably the biggest one, as it feels like a Scott Pilgrim comic in tone and style.
  • Be Yourself: Arguably the aesop of "Volume One Love Story". Instead of treating her compulsion with notes as a problem, as per her therapist's insistence, Marlo accepts it as a part of who she is and something she enjoys, and the story closes on her about to enjoy a date with someone who finds her compulsion fascinating.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most frequently.
    • "NYC". Mike helps Marie during one of her meltdowns, signifying that the two trust and love each other fully, and the two reach NYC in the end. But the future is still uncertain, and even with her assurances, it's left ambiguous whether Marie will survive in the long term without her medication.
    • "Stand Strong". James finally realises what a toxic crowd his friends are, and after deliberately botching the heist, makes it clear he's done being their tool. However, the ending implies that he's still unsatisfied with the working class lifestyle he'll be living now, and that in forfeiting the heist, he's lost the one chance he had to get something better.
    • "What You Wish For". The protagonist reaffirms that he's now got a good life and is happily married, but he also acknowledges how he'll likely never overcome how he killed much of his neighbourhood in a fit of rage, and he'll have to live with that for the rest of his life.
    • "Mixtape". Jess is still dead, and it's unlikely that Nick will ever find out why she committed suicide. However, Jess encourages him to learn from his mistakes and move on with his life.
    • "Midnight to Six Jace, Jill and Brad go their separate ways, with Jill writing novels, and Brad heading to college, while Jace refuses to grow up and become more than a slacker. However, the story ends with Jace making friends out of his new co-workers, implying that while all three are separated, they'll all be doing what they love most.
  • Blessed with Suck: Many of the characters have powers that prove more trouble than they're worth.
    • Emmy's not only an outcast and a self-imposed mute because of her Compelling Voice, but she turned her mother into an Empty Shell during an argument that got out of hand. She ends up freaking out and killing a customer who was harassing her, and has to go on the run by the end of the issue.
    • James Mc Murray has Super Strength, but unfortunately, that's a power with very little application outside of manual labour, so he's stuck in a working class life with very few prospects outside that. On top of that, he comes to realise that his so-called friends and girlfriend value him purely because of the muscle he provides.
    • John Hatfield cannot miss a shot unless he wants to. Unfortunately, this means that his army superiors, and even his wife, fully expect him to be a stone-cold killer, despite his repeated explanations that that's not why he signed on for the job. He realises too late that he's not cut out for the work, and leaves, with even his own wife considering him "unmanly" for not wanting to be a murderer.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Discussed in "Bad Blood". Samantha comments on how attractive her half-brother is, and has to remind herself that she can't hit on him.
  • Central Theme: Each issue has one, and many have several.
    • Overall Demo says quite a lot about the human condition, often via the juxtaposition of the mundane and the mystical (or at least offbeat).
  • Compelling Voice: "Emmy". Her ability is on all the time, so people always do anything she tells them to. Horrifically, she has accidentally turned her mother into a vegetable, and she either can't hear or can't understand her daughter enough for the condition to be reversed. And then in a moment of fury that a real Jerk Ass provokes her into, Emmy tells him to "drop dead".
  • Complete Immortality: "Bad Blood"
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Fuck" and other expletives are dropped on occasion, but Samantha from "Bad Blood" seems pathologically incapable of not dropping a swear per sentence.
  • Decompressed Comic
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Many of the stories are largely metaphors for life in general, and have parallels to certain activities. "Pangs" is the most obvious, as it largely seems to be themed around addiction.
  • Downer Ending: Several of the tales end on fairly bleak notes.
    • "Emmy" is on the run after accidentally killing an Asshole Victim with her Compelling Voice. It's also implied that she may have performed a Mercy Kill to her unresponsive mother, having realised that she can no longer take care of her any more.
    • "Girl You Want". Kate finds out that her crush is a mother, and that she didn't know her any better than anyone else knew Kate.
    • "One Shot, Don't Miss" John is discharged from the army, having realised that he just doesn't want to be a killer, no matter how suited he is to the role and how other want him to be one. He returns home with his morals intact, and finds his newborn daughter, but his wife now hates him since they had sunk all the money they had earned and borrowed into the army position, and now have no stable source of income, and no suitable way to get him into college.
    • "Damaged" Thomas dies in a car accident, having found out minutes prior that the woman who had been giving advice to him was a con artist who's seeming omniscience was due to having spied on him for a while beforehand. The lone bright spot is that the unnamed con artist, guilt-ridden, meets with Thomas' mother to give some comfort and the money she had gained in the scam.
    • "Pangs" The cannibal protagonist gives in to his urges again, with the implication that he'll either kill and eat his date, or introduce her to his new diet.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: On occasion, surprisingly.
    • "Bad Blood" Samantha finds out that her father's still alive, and that she, Sean, and her father are part of a family with Complete Immortality. Samantha and Sean share a smoke, as they set out to see they're father.
    • "The Waking Life of Angels" In fulfilling the contents of her dreams, and being saved from death by a security guard, Joan finally gets her long awaited sleep.
    • "Volume One Love Story" Marlo is not only at peace with her obsession for note taking, but the story ends with her having a date with someone who finds her habits just as soothing and enjoyable.
    • "Stranded" Elisabeth uses Time Travel to not only give her younger self some much needed advice, but put down her abusive father once and for all. In the present day, Elisabeth has not only Took a Level in Kindness, but has managed to find love with her Childhood Friend.
    • "Sad and Beautiful World" Despite their incredibly difficult and complicated relationship, Jack and Kris come to terms with each other, acknowledging that while they'll always fight, there's no one else they'd rather be with.
  • Empathic Shapeshifter: "Girl You Want".
  • Gayngst: "Stranded" plays with this. Elisabeth is actually fairly comfortable with her sexuality, but her home town ostracized her for it, and she was abused by her father for being an embarrassment. Her issues largely relate from the trauma growing up, and her inability to confess to and hold onto her Childhood Friend when she had the chance.
  • Growing Up Sucks / Not Growing Up Sucks: "Midnight to Six" in a nutshell. While unhappy with having to abandon their slacker lifestyles, both Jill and Brad acknowledge that if they don't, they'll be stuck doing jobs they hate for the rest of their lives. Jace, the single member of the trio who won't grow up, is left in the dust by the two, and the only way he can regain some happiness is in finding like-minded individuals amongst the new staff.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Deconstructed.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: "Girl You Want"
  • Irony: "Girl You Want"; Kate's powers mean that she physically changes to whatever people want to see whenever they look at her, and she spends the first part of the story lamenting that no one sees her for her. But when she meets someone who doesn't cause her to shapeshift, she immediately jumps to conclusions, projecting her own desires onto this person the same way that everyone else projects their desires onto her.
  • Lamarck Was Right: A common theme
  • Manchild / The Slacker: Jace, Jill and Brad from "Midnight to Six" are deconstructions, having stuck to a Slacker Pledge for ten years from the age of thirteen. By the present, all three are working at the same low pay menial labour job, with only Jace being happy about their situation. Brad is secretly trying to apply for a community college, and even Jill, who derogatorily refers to them as "retard colleges", is aiming to get more out of life by publishing some novels.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed in "Mixtape" and "Damaged".
    • From "Mixtape", Jess seemed to have been this to Nick, until her suicide in the opening. Thing is, as Nick realises, while Jess knew Nick extremely well, to the point that she could accurately record responses to Nick's actions and questions in advance, Nick knew very little of her, having assumed that she just liked the same things he did and went to. The fact that he still doesn't know why she committed suicide, and initially assumed that she did it to hurt him is the ultimate symbol that he never really knew the real Jess at all - just a facsimile that made him smile.
    • "Damaged" brings us the nameless girl, who meets Thomas by chance, and in subsequent meetings, reveals that through a "gift", she knows his lifestyle, his problems, and gives advice on how to deal with women and other issues, generally helping him get more out of life. Turns out, this is due to having spied on Thomas for what is implied to be over several years, meaning that much of her antics were largely an act to string him along. On top of that, its all but outright stated that Thomas was The Sociopath, implying that the sort of person who would need a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in their life would be less bored and brooding, and more screwed up mentally. In the end, whether the gifted girl was scamming him, or legitimately had his best interests at heart, her involvement with Thomas leads to tragedy for everyone, herself included.
  • Power Incontinence: Why YES.
  • Psychic Powers: Several
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Varies from issue to issue, but overall leans to the cynical.
  • Something for Everyone: "Girl You Want" again
  • The Sociopath: Arguably deconstructed with Thomas Martins from "Damaged", given what his mother described of his childhood, and his difficulties forming friendships and lasting relationships in the present. Instead of coming across as villainous, Thomas largely comes across as maladjusted and pitiful, as his sociopathy has meant that he's been unable to connect with anyone and has been left with a comfortable but ultimately empty lifestyle. It's a testament to how tragic his life actually is when the closest thing to a friend he finds is a con artist who's been spying on him for several years, and has been playing the role of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl for a while.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: An entire chapter is devoted to a young man playing a tape left by his girlfriend who just committed suicide, and it seems to know everything he's going to say or do, to the point where he imagines she's right with him.
  • Time Travel
  • Water Is Air
  • Writing Around Trademarks: A coffee place is referred to as Starbucks in "Girl You Want", but a text bubble is conveniently obscuring the store name when we get exterior shots of it.

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