So, roughly six months before I got my rear in gear and Rick, Eric, and I got started on this project here, Matthew Clark, Neal Bailey, and I were hanging out drinking coffee and talking about comics. This is something we do once a week, and we’ve been doing it for several years now, meeting on Wednesdays at the local Peets Coffee. And these conversations range wildly and jump from topic to topic, but almost always there’s some discussion of comics themselves, of the making them, the writing and drawing. Sometimes we throw story questions at each other, sometimes we talk about what we’re liking and what we’re not, and often we digress into juvenile humor.
Matthew and I had been discussing trying a webcomic, and Neal was listening, elbow on the table and chin in hand, and I remember him looking at us very intently, and asking a couple of fairly pointed questions about how to actually get the thing done, a way to make it work, and neither Matthew nor I had any really good answers. It seemed to us, like in som many endeavors, that the first thing was to just do it, and to take it from there. As it happened, Matthew shortly thereafter landed his exclusive with Marvel, and that lead, in turn, to Rick and I bouncing ideas around for a different webcomic entirely – this one – but that was after the fact.
All this said, the following week Neal shows up, and he’s got the start of Cura Te Ipsum. He’s got the idea, and he’s already found Dexter Wee to draw it, and he’s prepping a site, and he’s hard at work, readying for a launch. He did this in the course of that intervening week. One week.
This isn’t meant to be entirely anecdotal. Most of the webcomics I’ve found are lighter fare, stories that run on flights of fancy with large dollops of humor, or even played directly for comedy. Most, not all, and I hasten to add that there’s nothing wrong with this – in fact, it’s rather delightful. Lady Sabre certainly falls into that category, at least at the moment, and the other comics I’ve spoken of in this series certainly do, as well.
Cura, while possessed of humor, is most certainly not being played for laughs. Cura, like its creator, is focused, and intense, and driven. It’s serious stuff, and ranges from the bleak to the absurd with relative ease. It is, to be brutally frank, a very dark story, and the humor – and there is humor to be found, rest assured – more often than not arises from the bleakness of the tale, and the dark wit to be found amongst its survivors. If I had to provide an analogue, the closest I could come would be to a zombie narrative, but that does Cura a disservice. Cura Te Ipsum is a very dark ride, as they say.
Here’s the concept in a nutshell: Charlie Everett, in a dead-end life and on the brink of suicide, is rescued by an alternate version of himself. This alternate Charlie leads him into a multiverse of possibilities, where infinite versions of his-selves exist, all of them being hunted to extinction by a nihilist Charlie, known as the Dark Everett, a man so filled with self loathing he has literally cut off his nose to spite his face.
Shorter version: Cura Te Ipsum is the story of a man trying to discover himself.
What Neal Bailey and Dexter Wee have done is to take a relatively simple concept – multiverse, multiple versions of one’s self – and thrown down with a much deeper, and far more complex, thematic concern. It’s in the title itself, cura te ipsum, latin for “heal thyself.” Deep waters, these, and ones in which it’s easy to get lost. That Neal and Dex have managed to navigate the deeper aspects of the story with the adventure engine they’ve attached speaks to their shared skill. Watching the series from its inception to where it is now – just in its second year – has been an education, as both writer and artist continue to evolve and hone their skills. There is a palpable energy and glee to the story, in watching both Charlie Prime as well as his creators discover their worlds, and their potentialities.
There’s another thing.
I’ve been writing all of my adult life. I know story, and I know it pretty darn well. I’m pretty good at seeing where, dramatically, a narrative has to go, and I’m pretty good at anticipating the twists and turns. Cura Te Ipsum remains utterly unpredictable to me, and all the more enjoyable for being so. Like Charlie, I’ve no idea where I’m going to end up next.
That’s a treat for any writer, any reader.