Unsounded Appreciation Post

By | Tuesday, February 23, 2021 2 comments
One of the webcomics that I've really enjoyed for the past six-ish years (but I've fallen too far behind of late and I really need to catch up with again -- hence this post) is Ashley Cope's Unsounded. Cope describes it on her site like this...
Daughter of the Lord of Thieves, Sette Frummagem is on a mission, and she'll lie, cheat, and steal to make sure it's a success (she'll lie, cheat, and steal anyway). Condemned to aid her in her rotten endeavours is a rotten corpse who seems oddly talented with the supernatural, and oddly not laying motionless in the dirt.
The road is long and no one is what they seem. Never trust a thief, and never trust anyone who won't let you look into their eyes.
I like the story for several reasons. Not only is the basic art very good, but despite the basic look of "formatted as a graphic novel and presented on the web" she does make some interesting uses of the web format, with occassional animations as well as the "infinite canvas." The story is pretty interesting, as well, with a fairly straight-forward main plot yet with a number of interesting sub-plots. There are lots of solid characters, none of whom really seem to fall into 'standard cliche' range. Cope's also flesh a very solid world -- one that she's evidently been thinking about for decades before she started her comic.

But here's one thing I'd like to bring up today regarding her comic: race. She has characters of different races featured prominently throughout the story, and makes almost no mention of it. Characters interact with one another on as characters, without seemingly any regard for color skin the other has. I can only find one extra-narrative reference to this, in an interview from 2013 in which Cope says, "I wanted a setting that felt a little closer to our own; something seedier, more political, more ugly, with theoretical gods, unproven religion, people of all races, and characters who weren’t bogged down by frivolous… I can only call it design-yness. I don’t want my characters to feel designed, I want them to feel real."

But it's not as if Cope is ignoring bigotry. There's plenty of it in display in the story, but it's shown primarily in the form of class and/or nativity -- where someone is born. So people are still acting like people in that they continue to view others in often stark "us versus them" categories, often based on superficial qualities like birthplace, but pigmentation is irrelevant. What I find interesting about that is that she's able to address bigotry and racism pretty directly with her metaphors almost non-existent. But at the same time, she's showcasing a world in which literal racism -- stereotyping people based on their race at a societal level -- is absent.

And here's the thing: the race issue has zero impact on the story. Whether a character is colored brown or pink or almost white does nothing for the story. And since there are multiple characters with similar pigmentation, none of them represent that race as a whole. Characters are just characters. And some of them happen to be darker/lighter than others.

Man, I wish more creators would write like that.
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Matt K said...

This is one of the things I really enjoy about OGLAF.

I've taken note of that before, too. Plus it's got the added bonus of actively being anti-kink-shaming!