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Comic Book / Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman

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Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman originally appeared in short stories in comics created by Terry LaBan (artist of the newspaper comic, Edge City), and then received a longer treatment in a limited-run comic book , published by Vertigo Comics in 1998. Some years after the print comic's run ended due to weak sales, LaBan published another Muktuk story (actually a prequel to the earlier comic), Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman: The Spirit of Boo, as a Webcomic. This has since disappeared from the Web, but the Webcomic material and the earliest strips have been collected into a book which is still available in print and PDF forms. So Muktuk Wolfsbreath is best treated as a set of comic books that were once a Webcomic for a while.

These comics are notable for recycling Film Noir tropes in the context of Siberian tribal life. As LaBan put it, "the realization that shamans were kind of like detectives, in that they brought about change by discovering the source of problems, clicked with that classic hard-boiled voice, and, suddenly, there was an idea for a character." The title character and provider of the monologue is a jaded but very capable shaman who takes on supernatural cases, solving them successfully but taking a battering in the process.


The comics contain examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Muktuk is a cynical, pragmatic character who generally works for payment, but he does what’s needed to keep the world turning.
  • Arch-Enemy: Birdbutt, who killed Muktuk's wife and child, and is happy to make life bad for Muktuk yet again.
  • Art Evolution: LaBan freely acknowledges that "Even the casual reader will no doubt note the difference in drawing styles between older and newer pieces. The fact is, when I drew the original stories, particularly the first two, I was still working out my drawing style."
  • Astral Projection: As a skilled shaman, Muktuk can enter the astral realm more or less at will — and does.
  • Bad Dreams: Muktuk has recurring nightmares about his wife and son having their souls eaten by a demon.
  • Based on a True Story: Well, actually, based on a whole lot of anthropological accounts of shamanic practices.
  • Femme Fatale: A necessary feature of this sort of neo-Noir, even in a context of duelling spirit-magics. They tend to be sexy, very dangerous, and also dangerously overconfident.
  • Functional Magic: For those who know how to use it, magic here is quite functional indeed. Muktuk even has an enchanted cat skull that works like a GPS in the spirit world.
  • Grim Up North: The story uses the Siberian taiga as a setting much in the way that Film Noir uses rain-soaked, gritty cities.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Reimagined as a Hardboiled Shaman.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Muktuk knocks back the occasional hallucinogenic mushroom in the course of his work — though for essential practical reasons, rather than for abstract insight.
  • Jerkass God: Deities in this setting aren't really friendly to mortals. Both Bai Ulgan and Sedna are specific examples — although as Muktuk explains, Sedna has reasons for her hatred of humanity.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: The taiga is a tough place, and a lot of people behave badly, as Muktuk is fully aware — but he still does the right thing.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The demons from the spirit world are intentionally drawn as vague, hastily scribbled shapes.
  • Private Detective: Shamans are the setting equivalent — just with a focus on spirit problems rather than crime.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Muktuk narrates his own stories in best noir style.
  • Recycled In Space: Well, Film Noir recycled in tribal Siberia.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: As a shaman, Muktuk is able to communicate verbally with animals.
  • Spirit Advisor: In rather grittier form than usual — Muktuk treats spirits the way a PI treats street contacts.
  • Vision Quest: As a shaman, Muktuk can enter the dream realm to move the plot along. The trope is played with in that he knows that realm well, and treats it as a place of work rather than a place of mystery.

Alternative Title(s): Muktuk Wolfsbreath Hard Boiled Shaman


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