Just Your Average Demon
I ran across Zombillenium: 1. Gretchen (NBM 2013) not too long ago and the cover caught my eye. How could it not? It’s a red headed girls face, with what looks like a winged demon flying through the sky reflected in her mirror sunglasses. This is the first story based on a horror amusement park run by undead, written by Arthur De Pins.
On first glance the story is pretty straight forward. The undead are just trying to live their life the best they can while they are contractually obligated to work at the amusement park. This is the underlying story. The specific story though would be two fold. The first is the story of Aurelian Zahner.
In a nutshell he is a man intent to kill the man sleeping with his wife. It is his intention that is his undoing. In the process he runs into Gretchen and from there the rest of the story unfolds. Mind you the focus throughout tends to be mostly on his story but it is through this that the more subtle fragments come out and we actually learn about Gretchen (you know the stated focus of this story).
And it is the story of Gretchen that I find an interesting bit to dig through. See, the way she is drawn in the story, she appears fairly young (like maybe late teens). But as we dig deeper into her and her life we realize that she must be far older than that. This of course plays on several different legends (loosely). The first one that comes to mind is the idea that magic users (witches specifically) are born immortal. We see this idea play out often in pop culture.
You would think that this would be an issue when we consider the old hag witches. If they immortal why do they not stay young and hot forever. I mean who wants to live forever in an old person’s body (icky right)? Anyway, as we learn there is more to the idea of Gretchen than even that.
Which brought to mind something I read quite some time ago. Published back in 1985 by Signet was a book titled A Personal Demon. The idea within the book was a college professor summons a demon at a party as a joke. The story gets a bit more fantasy from there but there is a key element that bridges the gap between that and the story of Gretchen.
In A Personal Demon, the demon appears as a girl in her late teens. Mind you, she is also a red head (further thought that red heads are demons). Her appearance is one of the underlying plot elements of that story. Much like in this one it is something that can cause consternation as well as a bit of underestimation about the character herself. It is a fairly quick way to play on the different judgments that readers will bring to the table as they journey through the stories.
In A Personal Demon, she eventually decides to age herself to fit in better with the expectations of her professor’s peers. This wouldn’t be something to happen to Gretchen (mostly due to the intended audience for the stories). Zombillenium is being marketed as a young adult series. So of course, the age of the characters doesn’t really matter as long as they appear like the intended audience.
So our food for thought within this scope is how appearances and our judgments affect the things we see and read. It’s interesting how marketing departments can use these thoughts against us in order to make us react in the ways they want us to. But this may be a discussion for a different time and place…
In the end, I loved this story. I want to pick up the other books so I can see how the rest of it plays out. Granted the copy I picked up isn’t the ideal for my reading habits. It’s a hardcover just a bit bigger than a magazine but that makes it for a thin read. It isn’t very portable and I don’t spend a lot of time sitting in a single place to read. I prefer to have stuff portable most of the time. It is available on Amazon through Kindle and Comixology (I love the comixology app). No matter how you read it though, it is one that is worth some thought and enjoyment.
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