A transformed girl about to murder her family in Man-Eaters.
Image: Kate Niemczk, Rachelle Rosenberg (Image Comics)

This week’s comics feature characters whose ideas about what kind of people they are directly contrasts with the way the world sees them. In their deepest hearts, they do know who their true selves are—but they all struggle all day, every day with being truly understood by others.

Faith being held hostage by a suspicious kanji dinosaur.
Image: MJ Kim, Jordie Bellaire (Valiant)

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Faith Dreamland

Stepping into her identity as a high-flying superhero was easy for Faith Herbert because of her intense love of genre fandoms and her innate sense of good. In time, though, the heroine of Valiant’s Faith Dreamland—from writer Jody Houser and artists MJ Kim and Jordie Bellaire—dealt with challenges that would make it impossible for heroes to really exist as their true selves in public.

After being framed for murder and becoming one of the most wanted people in the country, Faith’s forced to live incognito in her civilian guise, knowing all the while that there’s so much more good she could be doing. Exposing herself means ruining whatever scraps of a personal life she has left after working as a writer online (can you imagine?), but when an opportunity presents itself to get in on an otherworldly adventure, she can’t help but say yes—consequences be damned. (Jody Houser, MJ Kim, Jordie Bellaire, Valiant)

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Henry Henry, a liar, fakes his way through the mystical Fearscape with the Muse.
Image: Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov (Vault Comics)

Fearscape

Plagiarism is both someone’s expression of their belief that they are brilliant—clever enough to get away with intellectual theft—and indisputable proof that they are, in fact, devoid of brilliance or capable of intellectual creativity. When you try to pass off someone else’s words as your own, you’re effectively saying that, on some level, you know you don’t have the range and would rather steal instead of putting in the work.

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Henry Henry, the hero of Vault Comics’ Fearscape (from writer Ryan O’Sullivan and artists Andrea Mutti and Vladimir Popov), is a failed novelist who makes ends meet by translating audiobooks into languages he’s not actually all that fluent in. You see, Henry is a pathological liar and thief who’s convinced that he’d be destined for greatness if only the world would recognize his talents. After being effectively dumped by his literary agent, Henry realizes that he doesn’t really have much left to lose—so he steals the manuscript of a much more prominent writer. Before Henry has a chance to do anything with the manuscript, though, he’s approached by an otherworldly being known as the Muse who’s drawn to the powerful work of fiction in Henry’s possession.

Thinking the magical prose is his, the Muse invites Henry to become the latest in a long line of scribes who travel to a world of pure fear to defeat the manifestations of pure evil that plague the land of the living. And so, Henry does what every great plagiarist does: He takes on a job he’s not fit for. (Ryan O’Sullivan, Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov, Vault Comics)

A government official advocating for the suppression of menstruation amidst the Toxoplasmosis X epidemic.
Image: Kate Niemczk, Rachelle Rosenberg (Image Comics)

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Man-Eaters

If you’ve ever changed a litter box, let a kitty rub up against you, or even really been in the general vicinity of a cat, chances are more than likely that you’ve contracted toxoplasmosis—a cat-borne disease that can cause flu-like symptoms in babies, but it’s fairly harmless for adults.

In Image Comics’ Man-Eaters—from writer Chelsea Cain and artists Kate Niemczk and Rachelle Rosenberg—toxoplasmosis is just as common as it is here in the real world, but it’s also the source of a most curious phenomena. Toxoplasmosis X, a mutation of the disease, causes no problems for adults and most young children, but pubescent girls infected with it transform into huge feral cats the moment they begin to have their periods. In response to Toxoplasmosis X, young women are forced to consume drugs that suppress their menstruation cycles. Society becomes hyper-vigilant about and distrustful of girls, and while Man-Eaters’ plot is purposefully absurd (though grounded in a degree of real-world madness), it’s also a very pointed critique of all the ways our culture tends to vilify and fear women. (Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczk, Rachelle Rosenberg, Image Comics)

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