Penny For Your Thoughts

Witch Doctor: Under the Knife, #1

Taking a break from DC for a while; they’re excellent comics, but I just need a breather. Instead, I want to talk about a character from a different company. Her name is Penny Dreadful from the comic Witch Doctor by Brandon Seifert, published by Image. She’s a character I’ll probably return to in the future, as I find her fascinating, but right now I just want to introduce her and what exactly is fascinating about her.

She is the anesthesiologist for Dr. Vincent Morrow, a kind of medical doctor to supernatural cases. Under his supervision, she has knocked out demons, beaten down monstrous fairies, and ridden through the guts of a gigantic Cthulhu parasite. She looks like a somewhat normal young woman.

Witch Doctor: Under the Knife, #1

Except she is actually possessed by an otherworldly monster that gives her the abilities to undertake the tasks Dr. Morrow needs her to perform. Hence the jeweled-like claw her hands become.

So, in literature (of all kinds), we as readers are very familiar with duality within a single individual. It’s not a new concept. The first, or best known example, would probably be The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Since then, the idea of two characters in one body is something we see a lot and has been done well, and has been done crappily. What we have with Penny is this concept, but gutted and spun around a bit.

Penny is possessed by something akin to an Elder God (ala H.P. Lovecraft). What this does, though, is not make her a normal person one minute, then a savage monster the next. It’s a lot worse and a little more like what some people think happens to coma patients: Penny, the woman, is trapped inside her own head and has no control over her body. In the following panels, we see what Penny and her monster are doing, while no one else (such as Dr. Morrow, also pictured) can:

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice, #1


Pushing that notion further, though, is the monster–the Elder God, thing–has control, and doesn’t feel pain. The panels below are from issue four of Witch Doctor: Mal Practice, when Penny’s body (therefore, the monster) is bound by a collar and a peculiar seal:

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice, #4

What we read is actually Penny, the person, talking. It’s not described or indicated if she can feel pain, but I believe the implication is that she is beyond caring at this point.Penny didn’t split herself in two, nor is she actually split.  She is forced into a passive position. Which is allegorical in several disturbing ways.

Okay, that’s actually me opening up a subject I’m not prepared to discuss right now. Someday, definitely. Especially if Mr. Seifert writes more issues of this title. What I really want to do is establish some ground to refer back to as I think more on these thoughts and give people time to find these comics and read them. Seriously, I can’t recommend them enough. But, you’ll note the potential of dissecting Penny (imagery conjured was not my initial intent) within the realm of feminism, representation, new literacy, etc. Hell, I may talk about the other characters, female or male. Or monster. They’re all cool.

Witch Doctor: Under the Knife, #4

I realize, though, that perhaps there are other avenues worth discussing. If anyone would like to point me in those directions, I’ll contemplate such study. I’m more interested in giving things a go before shrugging my shoulders uselessly. Or, if you have some questions, I’m more than happy to answer.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. loz says:

    Does this have anything to do with the Show Penny Dreadful, coming to our screens soon with Eva Bell? I really need to read these books. Would they be at the library?


    1. Holly says:

      They’re not, sorry. But, they’re still definitely worth reading! I don’t know if the library carries them, but I’m more than happy to loan you mine.


      1. loz says:

        I may have to borrow them as I don’t have the extra funds right now.


      2. Holly says:

        I’d be totally down for loaning them to you! Just let me know when/where you’d like to meet to pick them up. 🙂


  2. I’ve not had the funds to collect comics for about 4 years now and had never heard of this book. The analysis of Penny Dreadful was extremely intriguing, though. I’d love any kind of follow up on the series or other characters from it. For example, what’s Dr. Morrow’s back story and how had he managed to procure the assistance from an elder god?


    1. Holly says:

      I’m glad you liked it! I plan on returning to the series, but I’ve been stymied as to the approach I should take. You actually gave me an angle that didn’t consider. Thanks so much!


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