A savage murder in ancient Britain brings on the vengeance of the Hecateae, Goddess of Witches, She who is Maiden, Mother and Crone. From the Middle Ages to the Victorian Era to the 1990’s, the wheel of death and rebirth brings the victim and her killer ever closer to a final confrontation.
This 3-part miniseries (published April–June 1994) is one of the first titles I read when I started exploring Vertigo. I loved it right away, because it spoke directly to my politics and spirituality. As a queer, I was (and still am) aware of the connections between homophobia and misogyny, and have identified as feminist from the beginning. And, at the time, I was flirting with Neo-Paganism and Wicca, and the image of the Triple Goddess was a powerful one I was already familiar with. WitchCraft is about women first and foremost; it is intended as a tribute to women’s spirits in the face of oppression, and a grim reminder that being a woman isn’t necessarily easy, no matter what century you live in. In every era the killer is an arrogant bastard who despises and tries to dominate women. In every era but one the victim is a woman who was terribly wronged by the killer in some way, but triumphs over her adversities with some help from the Goddess. The only thing that slightly bothered me was that such a female-centered story was written by a man (name of James Robinson). That didn’t seem appropriate, somehow.
So how does WitchCraft hold up after a decade? Surprisingly well. The message still speaks to me though, yes, I do find the moralizing somewhat heavy-handed and tiresome. When the comic first came out I remember some people complained it was “male-bashing,” and I see how it could look like that. There aren’t many grey areas here: Women = good/wise/oppressed. Men = evil/reckless/rapists. On the other hand, though a lot of the characters are stereotypes, they’re sadly not that far-fetched; there are men even today who are as bad as the story’s villain in all his reincarnations. I’ve known at least one guy like Martyn (the 1990’s killer), calmly spouting the most revolting misogynistic crap, that women are evil and have too much freedom as it is… So the message (if not the mysticism) is still something I can relate to. I’m not sure if I’d buy the comic today, but I still give it high marks.