Gunnerkrigg Court is the first comic to be featured in this series which is web-based. Created by Tom Siddell, a U.K artist, the comic first appeared online in 2005 as a part-time project and has since developed into a full-time career.
I only heard of Gunnerkrigg Court in 2012, via Twitter, and from reading the first page the story grabbed and carried me along, so much so that I caught up on seven years of the comic in one day.
In a vast setting that is a melding of industrial buildings and Gothic atmosphere, Antimony Carver, a new residential student at Gunnerkrigg Court, soon encounters strange creatures; a shadow that’s alive, a ghost who needs some help and a demon called Renardine who can possess host bodies.
Antimony also makes a new friend, Kat, a young girl who is a scientific genius and who helps Antimony to learn more about life at the school.
What Gunnerkrigg Court blends so effortlessly are the classic elements of growing from childhood to adulthood and a fantastical place where mythical and legendary beings live and interact with humans. Where Gunnerkrigg Court is located, and what it is exactly, has never been directly alluded to in the narrative so far. It gives the sense of time and place that is our world and yet different enough to be unfamiliar and full of explorations to be made.
Against the backdrop of the mysteries in the school’s existence; it is Antimony (Kat shortens her name to Annie), Kat, their friends, fellow students and families which make this a delight of storytelling. Antimony’s early life and experiences have led to her being a self-possessed girl and one unused to interacting with other children. The friendship with Kat is, apparently, the first time a close bond has been made with someone her own age.
The wider cast of characters have dramatic and sometimes murky stories which thread through their lives. The way the story unfolds brings sadness, betrayal and anger for the characters but equally there is much humour with parodies of sci-fi tales, the awkward and touching development of romantic attachments and outright chaos when it comes to the introduction of fairies at the school.
The artwork has wonderful detail in the colouring with shifting tones and colour palettes for the school and its opposing force, an expanse of wild but inhabited forest known as Gillitie Wood. This is especially beautiful with the appearance of the legendary trickster figure Coyote as the artwork can transform into the abstract and symbolic, as well as being a link back to the earliest forms of pictorial storytelling.
Tom Siddell has created characters that are strong, funny, intelligent, bizarre and capable but they’re not all infallible or above daily life because of their abilities. It’s the moments such as Antimony crying at missing her mother, Kat having her first crush, the whole class rebelling at a dire camping trip that makes the world of robots and mystical animal spirits, magic and science become real for the reader.
The comic is an ongoing series with one page story updates appearing three times a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
All the chapters of the story are available to read online for free, although readers can support the comic through Paypal donations.
The first three collected volumes of Gunnerkrigg Court – Orientation, Research and Reason are available through Amazon and also via the creator’s webshop on Topatoco.