Some small towns have the best secrets—behind genial neighbors, well-tended lawns, and a noticeable lack of hustle and bustle hides magic, both good and sinister. That’s absolutely the case in this week’s installment of Webcomics Wednesday, Pascalle Lepas’ Wilde Life, which follows an errant Chicagoan as he tries to escape his big city problems in middle America. And boy, does he get more than he bargained for.
Oscar Wilde (not the author, but named after him) comes to Podunk, Oklahoma under mysterious circumstances. He’s ditched his life in Chicago and is screening calls from his family, and he’s cagey when it comes to explanations. For now, though, Podunk is perfect. Idyllic country, quaint town, friendly locals—it’s exactly what he needs to sort himself out. Well, there is one weird thing.
Actually, make that several. After renting a house from a woman named Barbara Yaga, who could only be a witch, he moves in to discover it’s already occupied—by a ghost, Sylvia, a mathematician who died in 1948. Luckily, she’s friendly, if a bit lonely, and they quickly become pals, playing card games and listening to audiobooks together.
Adding to the oddities, one night Oscar discovers a gigantic red dog sleeping on his porch. He takes it inside, makes a cozy nest for it in the tub, and goes to bed. In the morning, however, there’s no dog—only a surly teenage boy who’d love nothing more than to be left alone . . . don’t even mention being friends. Yes, there are werewolves in Podunk, and Oscar’s reluctant new friend, Clifford (get it?), might be the grouchiest.
With wry humor, witty banter, and subtle hints of deep feeling, Lepas gradually fills out the weird, magical world of Podunk, and each new episode introduces a new supernatural creature, all of which are pulled from mythologies originating in a variety of cultures, from angry ghosts to mystical bears, more witches and impish creatures made of electricity. It’s a rich world with plenty of mystery, and while the origin and secrets of the paranormal elements of Podunk are certainly intriguing, Oscar’s secrets, as mundane as they are, are no less compelling.
Lepas’ realistic style is in charming contrast to her decidedly fantastical subject matter, and her cinematic use of light and shadow brings the eerie corners of this Oklahoma town vividly to life. At five chapters in, she’s starting to highlight the real danger in Podunk, and the intricacies of the relationships among the supernatural creatures there are beginning to come to the fore. And, of course, there’s bound to be more magic. Wilde Life updates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.