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Comic Book / The Witch Boy

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The Witch Boy is a graphic novel published in 2017, and written and drawn by Molly Ostertag.

Aster is one son of a magical family living in a hidden part of the woods. Traditionally, boys have been raised to become shapeshifters, who use their animal forms to defend their dwellings from demons. As for girls, they are trained in the arts of spells, becoming witches who maintain their homes and forest. Aster, however, has failed the shapeshifting ceremony several years in a row and has much more interest in studying spells and becoming a witch.

Due to an old catastrophe with Aster's great-uncle who broke the rules, his family does not dare teach him witchery like the girls. But that ancient evil turns out to be much closer than they believe, and Aster is eventually faced with confronting it when his cousins disappear.

It received a sequel in October 2018, titled The Hidden Witch, followed by The Midwinter Witch in November 2019. In January 2021, it was announced that an animated musical film adaptation will be produced for Netflix.

Not to be confused with Russell Moon's Witch Boy trilogy and DC Comics's Klarion the Witch Boy.

The Witch Boy provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Brown: Aster's father has brown skin and features which clearly are not Caucasian, but more than that isn't specified in the comic. His mother appears Caucasian with fair skin and red hair but his grandmother and great-uncle are apparently of Asian ancestry. The Netflix adaptation casting call asks for a half-black, half-Asian boy to portray Aster, if that helps determine anything.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Charlie is the only person who's openly cool with Aster being a witch, if only because as a Muggle, she has no frame of reference for what magical folk would consider "normal" or "proper". Furthermore, she has two fathers and chafes at the gender segregation of her school's sports, further compelling her to sympathize with Aster for being "different".
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Early in the story, Holly tries to warn Aster away from studying magic by telling the story of his great-uncle, who tried to learn witchery and became corrupted by it. The takeaway she gives is that by trying to go against the rules of magic, he became a monster and she's only correct From a Certain Point of View. In reality, his family's refusal to accept him for who and what he was psychologically damaged him, and his attempts to use witchery to turn himself into a shapeshifter backfired spectacularly. If the family had encouraged his non-standard magical expressions, he likely wouldn't have become such a mess in the first place.
  • Evil Counterpart: Mikasi and Aster are males who learned witchery against tradition. However, Mikasi only did so in hopes of finding another way to become a shapeshifter and became horribly damaged, magically and psychologically. Aster on the other hand, embraced his desire to study witchery and came out a healthier, saner person.
  • Eyes Are Mental: Sedge has heterochromia, which distinguishes him in his fox form and monster form.
  • Family Theme Naming: Aside from those who married into it, most of the Vanissen family are named after plants except a few cousins with constellation names: Aster, Juniper, Holly, Sedge, etc.
  • Foreshadowing: Aster's grandmother is the only family member who doesn't mind Aster attempting to learn witchery, remembering her twin brother became corrupted from being discouraged from it.
  • Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?: The story takes place in a magical society where men become shapeshifters and women become witches, but the protagonist Aster is a boy who cannot transform and secretly tries to study witchery. It is easily read as a metaphor for discrimination in gender roles, with men being pushed toward violent activities and women towards domestic ones. Though Aster never displays explicit discomfort specifically with being assigned male, it's shown his preference for magic isn't merely personality when Mikasi tastes his soul and discovers it is that of a witch. Inversely, his grandmother turns out to be a partial shapeshifter.
  • History Repeats: Aster's family worries about his desire to learn witchery because his great-uncle Mikasi went mad after attempting to use witchery. The connection goes further as Mikasi was also a man who was unable to shapeshift into an animal spirit. However, Aster breaks the cycle by being comfortable with his witchery in place of shapeshifting, while Mikasi tried to use witchery to shapeshift and so was mutated.
  • Loophole Abuse: After the mysterious creature attempts to strike a deal with Aster, it magically seals his throat so Aster cannot tell his family what just happened. However, the spell doesn't prevent him from telling Charlie since she lives outside of the magical community.
  • Magic Is Feminine: The main character Aster is part of a magical family in which boys are born to be shapeshifters and girls are born to become witches. Aster is a boy who wants to learn witchcraft but is forbidden by his family due to an incident in the past when his great-uncle learned witchcraft against tradition and caused chaos. It is ultimately revealed that Aster and his great-uncle are born with the ability to use witchcraft despite being male.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Aster is a sensitive boy who prefers quiet activities within the homes and gardens. Charlie, his confidant, is an energetic girl who enjoys sports and road biking.
  • The Masquerade: Downplayed. It's implied magic is a secret to the outside society since Charlie seems surprised by the mere existence of magic, but it also seems rather lightly enforced. Aster can leave his family's grounds with relative ease, and while his family chews him out for letting Charlie onto their grounds and talking to her about magic, they don't kill her or give her amnesia to cover it up.
  • Meaningful Name: "Aster" is a kind of flower, and is notable for being the only flower that's used as a masculine name, alluding to his non-conforming gender expression.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Charlie, a schoolgirl who lives in the suburbs outside the woods, becomes Aster's friend due to being the first person to admire his magic.
  • My Greatest Failure: Aster's grandmother's biggest regret is the day she turned away her brother Mikasi when he came to her begging for help after his attempt to shapeshift using witchery mutated him. Her refusal led him to run away to the woods, where he was left alone with his fear to grow into hate for his old family.
  • Our Mages Are Different: In Aster's community, women are spellcasters while men are shapeshifters. Magic folk seems sufficiently isolated from the non-magical society that Aster is genuinely confused when Charlie asks him if he'll learn how to fly a broom.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Aster doesn't seem to know what Charlie is talking about when she asks if he'll learn how to fly a broom.
  • Shout-Out: Garnet and Pearl are visible on the screen of Charlotte's laptop in the last scene.
  • Tomboyish Name: Charlie is an athletic tomboy who's mostly addressed with this nickname, and her full name Charlotte is rarely used.