On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar by five men who nearly beat him to death. After nine days in a coma and forty days in the hospital, Mark was discharged with brain damage that left him little memory of his previous life.
Unable to afford therapy, Mark creates his own by building a 1/6-scale World War II-era town in his yard and populating it with dolls representing himself, his friends, and even his attackers. He rehabilitates his physical wounds by manipulating the small dolls and props and his mental ones by having the figures act out various battles and stories.
When Mark begins documenting his miniature dramas with his camera, his photos are discovered and published by Esopus magazine and even shown in a New York art gallery. But having the label of "art" applied to his intensely personal work forces Mark to make a choice between the safety of his fictional town and the real world he's avoided since his attack.
- Cope by Creating: Mark deals with his trauma through the models and photographs.
- Ironic Echo: Once Mark had worked out the attack by letting his Author Avatar relive an equally traumatic event, he went on letting his avatar working out his trauma by also building a miniature town himself.
- Karma Houdini: Considering the viciousness of the attack and the permanent injuries Hogancamp suffered his attackers got off pretty lightly. Two got probation and two others only got five years, though the ringleader did go down for nine.
- Played Straight: One of the noted strength of his photographs is the total realism, whereas many other artist - when working with acting figures & dolls - do so with at least a little wink or sense of parody.
- Take That!: The SS officers representing his attackers get brutally slaughtered.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Mark, apparently the reason he was attacked.
- Lady Land: Marwencol starts out as one, until the Author arrives and opens a catfight bar.
- Put on a Bus to Hell: Colleen gets just erased from reality by the witch, after her real life counterpart (who is already married) said Mark couldn't marry off her Expy to his Expy.
- Those Wacky Nazis: SS Officers invade the town in search of booze and woman (representing his past alcohol problem), they then capture the author avatar and torture him.
- Weirdness Censor: The existence of a witch with a time machine doesn't seem to disturb the every day life in the 1940s Belgium town.