The internet is a scary place. Anyone who’s been around it for more than five minutes has their share of horror stories attesting to that, and there are times when I have to wonder if it’s worth logging on, when every other click seems to lead to girls and cups and seeing goats.
And then I accidentally find my way to somewhere like this, and suddenly everything is totally worth it.
Hanna Is Not A Boy’s Name is a webcomic described by the artist as “sugarcoated horror”, and if you’re in the market for something new to read, I highly recommend it. Hell, I recommend it even if you’re not! It’s about a endearing young paranormal investigator named Hanna, who is as unrestrainedly enthusiastic as he is dubiously competent. Which you can probably tell almost instantly from looking at him, since shortish indie-looking guys with sideburns and massive glasses are pretty much genetically incapable of being badass, and redheads are pretty much genetically incapable of being mopey, unless I made that up. Anyway, Hanna is. In a really nice break from the whole bumbling-but-well-meaning mould, though, our protagonist actually seems to have his shit together. He might not be very good at it, always, but he’s got a nice little business set up, he’s got his contacts in place, and he actually has some reasonably nifty magic gadgets that make him a little bit awesome sometimes. He’s definitely not your average incompetent nerd hero, and his sidekick is anything but an average sidekick. This kickass zombie man has forgotten his name, but it’s not like we’re going to mix him up with anyone, so he doesn’t really need one. Where Hanna is excited about everything, the zombie’s emotions run the gamut from nonchalance to mild interest, with the occasional sidetrips through wit. He doesn’t seem to have any particular skill with investigation or combat, but he’s intelligent and a zombie, and the sheer fact of being a well-spoken revitalized corpse seems to be all the qualifications he’d need.
The rest of the cast include a dorky vampire who has a problem with the notion of bloodsucking, a sleazy chain-smoking med-school dropout who doesn’t like ghosts and has an odd obsession with coats with fur on them, a sassy blue-haired chick who may or may not be connected to a sassy blue-furred were-dog, and a black-and-white man who ticks. Everything in the world Tessa Stone is creating seems to be connected, though the ‘how’ is a bit ambiguous. Characters from early plot lines recur later and seem to have their own ideas about where the story ought to be going. What seems like it’s going to start off as a formulaic Investigator-gets-a-case strip quickly wanders away from that template, following random tangets that end up being interesting in their own right. It means the story is a bit hectic, but I found it a nice change, to have no idea what’s going to happen next in the supernatural investigation genre. The strip has only been in the works for a year or so, so it’s not the longest read and you get the feeling the main story has only just begun, but an almost-daily update schedule means that it’s fast-moving.
Last but not least, I have to applaud the art. First of all, the style remains remarkably consistent between the first page and the most recent. Secondly it’s compelling, with amazing use of colour and dynamic composition and posing. Normally, I go for pretty, polished styles, but Hanna uses rough exaggeration so well I forgot that I don’t normally like this style of thing. Tessa cites Mike Mignola and Mike Krahulik as some of her inspirations, so if you enjoy their work and the rest of my obsessive fangirling hasn’t been enough, you now have another reason to go check this out.