Widdershins is a lovely old English word which means to go anti-clockwise. Superstition had it that going around a church, or other significant object, widdershins was bad luck or could transport the walker to another world. I particularly remember a creepy children’s story where a young boy runs widdershins around a large, jagged rock on a beach seven times in defiance of a local legend concerning a malevolent sea witch. As he completes the seventh lap the sea witch comes into view from behind the rock where she’d been standing waiting for him…
Anyway, that’s got absolutely nothing to do with this comic, which isn’t creepy at all! In fact I believe the author has made a deliberate effort to keep it G rated so it’s family friendly fare (with a few mild swear words thrown-in), I’m reading it to my children and they’re loving it so far.
So I don’t really know what connection the word Widdershins has to the comic, other than the magical connotation; but sometimes we use a word just for the love of the sound of it!
The characters and comic concept
Set in Victorian era England, Widdershins is a classic action/adventure with a strong dash of mystery and humour thrown in. Of course it’s not “our” England; it’s an England with magic, spirits, bounty hunters and assorted craziness.
The stories are located in the fictional town of Widdershins, West Yorkshire. Due to reasons explained in the story magic is particularly potent in Widdershins making it both a lively location and home to a university of magical studies.
Each chapter, at least in the six so far published, is a self-contained story – really each is more like a short book in its own right. The main characters of each story vary, with three different sets of characters used so far.
However there is a common thread running through both the stories and the characters. Each story either features, either as a main or secondary character, one of the Barber sisters, the Barbers being a local Widdershins family. The reasons behind this is part of the plot that interlinks these stories so I’ll not spoil it any further.
As there are so many “main” characters I’ll not write them all down but they’re all developed to a level appropriate to the type of story, not super deep and subtly nuanced but likeable, relatable characters who are fun to read. There is a sort of “cuteness” (hope that doesn’t put anyone off) about the cast that is generally endearing but perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea.
The stories in Widdershins are tidy affairs, well-paced with plenty going on. And critically each story has a satisfying ending and enough body to it to feel like a complete piece of work in its own right.
It’s even more satisfyingthat the stories then link together, and now in chapter six we’re starting to find out the where’s and why’s of those connections.
The stories, as mentioned above, are out and out adventure stories. There is a dry humour, usually played off the back of conflicting personality types. There is, for the most part, quite a bit of affection shown between characters, which in a sense is unusual. But it works well and you can see why the characters are “together” in the various senses of that word.
The tone of the story falls into the non-serious, light hearted side of things. This is the Victorian England as imagined in popular children’s and YA literature, and family orientated TV shows. You have pipe smoking detectives, gruff butlers, the upper classes looking through their monocles and down their noses at the rough and dirty lower classes. Still the story is semi-serious in that actions have consequence, it maintains a continuity of events and if a character died it would be serious and sad. But it’s not, to compare, Alan Moore’s more reality based From Hell, with its disease ridden prostitutes dying in alleyways at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
The art of Widdershins is lovely, brightly coloured, quite cartoony in style. Backgrounds are nicely done, the author intersperses generic coloured backgrounds for character close-ups with more detailed wider angle shots that convey a good sense of location and space.
Author, publishing and timeline
The author of Widdershins is Kate Ashwin who now works full time on the comic. Kate’s first comic, Darken is good fun, though quite different to Widdershins. It’s a darker D&D based comic with a main cast of anti-hero’s – so check that out if it sounds like your sort of thing.
Widdershins is available in print via a shop link on the comics near page or go directly here. The author runs Kickstarter campaigns to fund the initial printing so those come up every now and again.
It’s a little hard to pick just how far we’re into the story arc given the short story like nature of the books/chapters to date. The author could fairly easily wrap it all up in another 1-2 chapters or could do considerably more. So, guessing even more wildly than usual, I’ll say it has at least another four years to go.