Woodland Creatures is a Kickstarted comic book from the Edinburgh-based Cristina Roswell, Fali Ruiz-Davila and artist Tomas Aira. Let me tell you how it begins;
A wounded man pleads for his life, he just wants to go home, but a smirking woman taunts him.
He’s not a rich guy, not a manbro who had been causing problems, but he had been out at the local pub with his mates wondering if he would meet a woman. That’s how people used to hook up, by the way, before Tinder.
A sexy woman approaches him, makes it very clear she’s interested in more than just drinks and so the two drive off to the nearby woodland park to make out.
She turns on him, rakes his face open and so he runs. He runs for his life. There’s a brief moment of hope, he sees a fire up ahead and the camp of a homeless man on the edge of town. But it’s too late, somehow she’s been faster, raced in front and already murdered the second man.
Woodland Creatures isn’t a story about the hapless guy racing through the park after an ill-advised hookup in the pub. Woodland Creatures is about the woman, Callie, a 25-year-old murdering sociopath, her boyfriend Christopher and the two wolves the pair of lycanthropes are mind bonded with.
The chances are, you’re not even surprised. I didn’t know much about Woodland Creatures before I started to read it and yet I pretty quickly picked on the dynamic.
It’s not even the case that we accept anti-heroes; they have a broad appeal.
Curious, I reached out to Cristina Roswell with some questions. Very kindly, she agreed to answer.
How do you see Callie and Christopher? Heroes, villains or, as I suspect, anti-heroes of sorts?
Definitely anti-heroes. Something I always try to avoid is black and whites when it comes to characters. I like my stories realistic (despite the supernatural creatures involved) and I have yet to meet a perfect person.
It also goes with the theme of the book: the phrase that introduces the story, by Plautus, basically says that man is a wolf to man, and it is a constant throughout my book, not only kind of literally because of lycanthropes but also because all characters (humans included) can be brutal in order to reach their goals.
Callie is a killer, but she has reasons (of sort) to be the way she is. Christopher is closer to your “hero” definition, but he is far from perfect either.
What does that make the people who want to control them?
Very good question. What do you call someone who wants to control a killer or a soldier? I guess it depends on the reasoning behind it. Do they want to control them to do something good (i.e. protect others from them)? Or do they want to control them to make them do the dirty work? (i.e. kill potential targets)? Who’s worse? The mercenary that pulls the trigger or the man who hires him? The person that kills for fun or he who kills for a reason?
If you were a general in an army, which would be a more humane weapon: a controlled werewolf or a cluster bomb?
For the victim I’d say the werewolves would be a more humane weapon, as they’d kill faster, possibly with less suffering, and would be able to tell targets apart. However for the werewolves I think it would be better to use a cluster bomb as they wouldn’t have to kill themselves.
I’m personally against the use of animals in wars as I think they shouldn’t be put in a dangerous situation for the sake of humans, but I’m also against the use of cluster bombs or any other device that makes it all too easy for the person controlling it to kill and all too difficult to aim for one particular target.
I’d suck as a general in an army.
What’s the appeal of Callie? She’s a sociopath.
Callie is a mess but she’s got reasons to be the way she is. I think the appeal lies in the fact that you can understand why she acts like she does and sort of justify her at times. Callie does some stuff that we have all kind of fantasized about doing but we don’t because it would be… frowned upon (putting someone in a bin, for example).
Then yes, she has killed people, but she does have a past as well as the lycanthropy “problem”. This releases a wilder side of her that so far she has never felt the need or wish to control. She lacks empathy for humans because she believes nothing good can come from humans and that lycanthropes are above them.
Callie is a victim as much as she can be a criminal.
Both Christopher and Callie are quite sexy. How does that impact the story or the characters? Does it lend to their appeal?
I hadn’t really thought about them being sexy, but I suppose it is always easier to enjoy characters that are good looking or attractive, and this is especially important when it comes to graphic novels (it’s not so important in books, where the emphasis goes more towards the personalities).
Them being good looking is only really important in the case of Callie, as she benefits from that in order to lure some of her victims, but it’s not like I went to the artist and asked him to draw sexy characters. I had an idea in my mind of how they all looked from the moment I wrote the paperback novel and just described the looks and offered photos of people that reminded me of them.
I don’t want to risk any more spoilers, but the fact that Callie is a werewolf is revealed in that opening section. The poor guy she picked up from the bar never stood a chance.
In addition to being able to transform, Callie as a wolf that tags along with her. She has an amaroq. I thought that was an interesting riff on more typical werewolf stories.
Could you expand on the concept of amaroq? Where does it come from?
Callie doesn’t turn into a wolf, but instead is able to transmigrate into the body of her wolf/amaroq and control him that way. Meanwhile, her body just lies there, on the ground, as if she’s fainted.
The concept of the amaroq (or amarok) comes from the Inuit mythology, and refers to a gigantic wolf spirit. The stories behind it differ but in mine I linked it to the native American totem animals that humans are connected with and from whom they get some powers. In Woodland Creatures, each lycanthrope has an amaroq that finds them from a very young age and stays with them until they die (usually the amaroq dies after the lycanthrope unless something kills it first). The amaroqs can feel what their lycanthrope counterparts feel when it comes to powerful emotions and vice versa (if say the amaroq is in danger).
One thing is clear. No one can accuse Callie of being too domesticated. She doesn’t feel like someone wrestling against her werewolf nature in a valiant effort to retain her humanity or aspire to be more human.
Have too many authors tamed too many werewolves?
Werewolves are meant to be wild, savage in a way, brutal too, and I think in most stories you can see this, but at the end of the day it is still a man mixed with a wolf so it makes sense that there’s some humanity left in them (otherwise it would just be a man turning into a wolf, not into a werewolf).
There’s only so much you can do with a wild “untamed” werewolf that’s out there just to hunt, they can only be the “baddies” in those cases, hence why, imo, authors try to “tame” them or, at least, show the struggle between their human part and the wild one.
The difference with Callie and my werewolves is that in the Woodland Creatures world, being a lycanthrope is not a curse but more of a “superpower” of sorts. Callie enjoys it and totally uses it to her own benefit.
How tame are your werewolves?
I’d say in the case of my werewolves it mainly depends on the human counterpart, the lycanthrope, as to how tame they are.
My werewolves have trouble controlling their wild instincts around the full moon, especially when they are young, but they can learn to. Although they don’t turn into wolves, their wild/animal side takes over all the same and it is up to them whether they let go (either transmigrating inside their amaroqs’ mind and going out hunting or by grabbing a knife and killing as a human) or whether they control themselves.
You have all types in Woodland Creatures, Callie opts to let go, whereas Chris, her partner, can control it. And they are only two examples (there’s also much worse than Callie!).
It could be said there’s a gender stereotype reversal in Woodland Creatures. Christopher is the moderate who accepts compromise while Callie stubbornly refuses it in preference to the pursuit of physical delights. Is that right? If so; was it done on purpose?
Not really done on purpose, no. Callie actually came to existence as a sort of Mr. Hyde of myself. I thought of all the things that I’d love to do if I wasn’t as shy and if I wouldn’t get in trouble for it, and that’s pretty much how Callie started. Since little she’s been told she’s better than most because of being a lycanthrope, so she’s a very entitled young woman who thinks laws don’t apply to her and she can get whatever she wants.
Christopher, on the other hand, is older and comes straight out of the Army, so he is not only more mature age-wise, but he is used to discipline and following orders since a young age. He is in a lot of ways the opposite of Callie and works as sort of a metaphorical leash for her.
I wondered whether the combination of primal and rebel is what makes the anti-hero a popular one. Do we get tired of conforming, secretly or not, and in the safety of fiction seek out escapism in the form of protagonists who don’t need to submit?
I gave Roswell the last word.
What is the appeal of the anti-hero?
Yeah, I think your reasoning could be right, it is basically what I said about Callie being my Mr. Hyde, an alter-ego that doesn’t have to abide by laws and can speak their mind without watching for the consequences.
I guess you also get easily bored of the good guys with no flaws, as well as the baddies that want to rule over the world just for the sake of it. Personally I have always found anti-heroes more interesting, their flaws make them more human, more realistic, closer to us, and who wouldn’t want to feel like a hero? To see characters go through similar shit than you have to, makes it easier for you to empathise with them and can also help you deal with your everyday stuff. Heroes can easily turn into Mary-sues if you aren’t careful, and Mary-Sues can get very annoying.
Just like that spotlessly white dress that you cannot resist to dirty up. Callie knows what I mean…
You can order Woodland Creatures from their website, in English or Spanish.