There’s a couple of my interests that can be traced back to one year or another at summer camp. Harry Potter, Young Justice and this week’s topic: ‘Roommates.’
‘Roommates’ can be described and categorized a couple different ways; web comic, goofy, clever, meta, absurd, fanfiction.
When a friend at camp discovered that I liked comics, musicals and fantasy novels she excitedly asked if I had ever heard of ‘Roommates’ and when I admitted that I had not she began to animatedly describe it in the way only someone who really enjoys something can. She explained that it was a fancomic by AsheRhyder published on the website DeviantArt taking characters mainly from musicals and movies and throwing them into an apartment building together. I was curious to say the least.
The main premise is that the entire comic exists in some pocket dimension following the characters’ stories where they’re aware their stories have ended and yet they continue to exist and now lead semi-normal lives. They teach or go to a university, have building wide barbecues and road trips. As well as epic fantasy battles, murder mysteries and zombie apocalypses. Not to mention a Dead in Canon support group since so many of them are, well, dead.
There’s a pretty decent chance that your favorite character, from Steve Rogers to Angel from RENT to Legolas and the Doctor, are going to make an appearance. What really makes the the comic interesting, beyond the goofy antics and fourth wall breaks and visual gags, is the analytical commentary the artist makes on the nature of stories, antagonists, redemption arcs and fandom.
The four main characters are all the “bad guys” in their respective stories although they are objectively not bad guys. As the antagonist Javert (Les Misérables), Erik the Phantom (Phantom of the Opera), Jareth the Goblin King (Labyrinth) and Commodore James Norrington (Pirates of the Caribbean) are all portrayed as the villain of the story; the ones who pursue the law breaking heroes, the ones who have been scorned their whole lives and try to find love by kidnapping the young heroines.
They are thrown into an apartment together and attempt to learn from their pasts and help each other to become better. The different story arcs interwoven with comedy set them as heroes and force them to confront their pasts and try to make a better choice. With liberal teasing from Christine, Sarah, Éponine and Elizabeth of course.
Roommates looks at the nature of characters and stories in other ways too, beyond just showing the humanity within an antagonist. It looks at how adaptations can waterdown a character, using a fantasy arc to show how Glinda the Good possesses very little power since each new adaption removes her further and further from her original and waters her down each time and it is this new, lesser version which then sticks in the public consciousness.
It looks at myths and magic in stories. How the family trees of gods and legends work. The fears a myth or a legend or a character might have. If you’re already dead or immortal what is there to fear? What is magic’s fear? Disbelief.
A story that began by pulling characters out of their stories and giving them lives of their own ends with an examination of if that is even a possibility. With the concept of Story being anthropomorphized and turned on the characters, are they able to fight it? When they can only exist in the confines of a story? And can it be a new story or are they doomed to fall back into the roles they were given?
These are questions posed within the story. Interwoven with scenes featuring the characters literally breaking the fourth wall and gags featuring Javert’s blood pressure being pushed to its limits with run-ins with Gavroche and the Artful Dodger or Enjolras rallying the Sharks and Jets on campus. Or Jareth and Loki having a trickster off. Or the magic department led by Gandalf doing battle against the robotics department run by Tony Stark, again.
In all it’s a bit weird and at first a bit niche as the artist focuses on her favored stories which can vary wildly from Repo! The Genetic Opera to House or even DC Comics but it’s more than likely a character you know and love is thrown in there somewhere. If not, it’s a good place to look for suggestions as I’ve read some great books and watched some awesome movies over the years after characters have shown up.
I’ll admit, I was leery at first when my friend suggested it to me way back in 2012. I hadn’t read fanfiction before and while I loved Phantom and Les Mis wouldn’t call myself an expert or even a fan of the four characters who make up the main cast of the comic. Since then, my appreciation for the stories they’re from and the characters themselves have grown immensely. I’ve come to view stories more critically and search out complex characters. It’s been fun to look at the gray when we are so trained to only see the black and white, ‘Roommates’ taught me that gray makes it all the more interesting.
‘Roommates’ by AsheRhyder was started in 2005 and finally had the final page posted earlier this year. With over 600 pages, diving in can seem a bit daunting but the concept and commentary is worth the time. A sister comic was also created called ‘Girls Next Door’ by Pika-la-Cynique and follows the adventures of Sarah and Christine and adds in characters like Luna Lovegood and Edmund Pevensie. Both can be found on DeviantArt.