Spell Checkers

What if teen witches acted like real teens, mean and bitchy and selfish? That’s the appeal of this black-and-white graphic novel, out later this month from Oni Press.

Three girls cast a spell to give them power, vowing to be best friends forever. Now they’re in high school, and the way they rule the school is being questioned. Normally, they send duplicates to gym class and magically copy homework, but their spells aren’t working. Graffiti calls them names, they’re fighting over a guy, and in general, they’re cursed.

Spell Checkers cover
Spell Checkers
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I like this story for demonstrating understanding of high school girl psychology. It’s remarkably easy to convince the witches that one of them is responsible, because underlying their powerful facade is fear and jealousy, based in the knowledge that they don’t deserve what they have. They’re forced together, and they don’t really like each other all that much any more. The friends you have when you’re young aren’t necessarily the ones you want to keep your whole life, and people change a lot, especially during high school.

While there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in seeing spoiled brats get theirs, I was surprised at how I was rooting for Cynthea, Kimmie, and Jesse to win, even when it took lying and back-stabbing to do it. I attribute that to the writer’s skill at quickly and effectively creating realistic voices. Plus, Jamie Rich writes funny dialogue, like this favorite exchange:

Who do we know that hates me and is a bad speller?
The whole school. Have you seen our standardized test scores lately?

I was reminded of Killer Princesses, only younger. I get the impression that these girls would act the same way with or without magic; if they didn’t have spells, they’d just find other ways to cheat on tests and screw people over. (As confirmed in a flashback sequence; those are illustrated by Joelle Jones.) Visually, the artist makes the girls look cute and friendly, not the demonic self-obsessives they are. I enjoyed reading the cattiness; it’s exaggerated fun.

Greg McElhatton calls the book “gleefully mean-spirited” and says the bitchier you like your Mean Girls, the more you’ll like this. Jamie talked a bit about how the series got started when I interviewed him last year. A preview is available at the publisher’s website; they provided an electronic review copy.

6 Responses to “Spell Checkers”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Looks pretty darn cool! This looks to be the kind of series/GN that I’ve been bemoaning the lack of these days. Nice to see Oni do it, maybe its the beginning of them making a come back.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Comeback? Oni hasn’t gone anywhere. They’re still doing what they’ve always done — put out good graphic novels and occasional series.

  3. James Schee Says:

    I guess for me they just kind of disappeared. At one point I probably read 5 or 6 series/GNs a year from them, the last few years, outside of Scott Pilgrim, I haven’t read anything from them.

    It wasn’t even that the books were awful sounding, I actually don’t even remember what else they’ve put out. This is the first thing that’s made me go “Wow that sounds great!” (or heck gotten any thought from me) from them in a long while.

  4. Johanna Says:

    It’s true that they seem to be releasing proportionally fewer things I’m interested in (as compared to the days where it seemed like I read everything they put out), but I can’t blame them for increasing the diversity of their line to reach different audiences.

  5. June 2011 Previews: The End of the Summer » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] A second Spell Checkers book (Oni Press, JUN11 1201, Sep 21, $11.99)! Think mean girls as literal witches, and you’ll […]

  6. Jamie S. Rich Announces Novel Set in World of Indie Comics » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] together on You Have Killed Me, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and his most recent comic project, Spell Checkers. I have previously interviewed Jamie Rich for this site. […]




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