Smart Guy-On-Guy Romance: Artifice

I can’t remember how exactly I discovered the webcomic Artifice, but I know it was definitely though a banner that read: “Smart Guy-On-Guy Romance”. I had been growing bored with typical Japanese yaoi and dime store gay romance novels*, so a webcomic that would advertise itself as ‘smart’ peeked my interest.

Artifice is a sci-fi webcomic created by Alex Woolfson and artist Winona Nelson. The story is centered around three central characters thus far: Deacon (an android), Jeff  (a human), and Maven (psychologist to the androids). The story begins with Maven interrogating Deacon about his mission to Da Vinci Four. Deacon, along with his fellow androids, had been sent to Da Vinci Four to eliminate the human colonists there. However one colonist survived, Jeff. At first Deacon needed Jeff to operate the computers so that he could recharge himself, but their attachment didn’t end there. The story is told in a flashback style for now, but I have a feeling the timelines will merge later on.

When I first began reading this comic, I was immediately absorbed by both the writing and the artwork. So absorbed I even signed up for the Yaoi-911 subscription service, which features two more comics by Alex Woolfson. Each Saturday I waited for the next page (‘camping’ as veteran webcomic readers call it). Both Deacon and Jeff are such interesting characters, and Maven… well, like many people who read Artifice I am not sure how I feel about Maven. Maven is what I would call a strong female character, but she is also a total bitch. Some people adore her, I personally wish the story would switch back to  Deacon and Jeff when I see her in the panel.

Part of what makes this comic so successful is the fact that it is a guy-on-guy romance written by a man. Crazy unconventional idea am I right? A man writing a guy-on-guy romance! Instead of read a woman’s fantasies of men, we get a story from the male perspective. Alex Woolfson has made it clear that Artifice is not just for a gay audience, but tries to write for everyone. That being said, his comic is not strictly about graphic images of sex either (that also being said it is still NSFW for erotic themes and images). In ‘Artifice’ we have the plot we have been so desperately missing in your Japanese erotic yaoi. Alex is also a major presence in the comments and welcomes everyone’s opinion:

“I will say one thing, though—I love that you all are having this debate. Yes, Artifice is meant to be an entertaining sci-fi story first. But one thing that has always impressed me with our readers is the thoughtful responses to this work you all have—both to what’s happening to the characters in my world and to the larger implications of my choices as a creator in the world we live in. Be it a discussion about whether homosexuality could be determined purely through genetics (and the ethical ramifications of that) or the role of women as antagonists in comics, I can always count on you to offer really enlightening thoughts on the matter. It’s one of the coolest things about putting this comic out there. And I thank you for it. :)” – Alex Woolfson page 60

He also diligently thanks everyone who contributes to Artifice– so if you want to give your money to someone, give it to ‘Artifice’ this holiday season (so poor moochers like me can have a bonus page)!

Winona Nelson is an amazing artist. She really knows how to depict the subtle emotions that all people unconsciously make when speaking and gazing. Her realistic style almost makes you believe that each panel is a manipulated photograph. While the artwork in Artifice is amazing, I strongly suggest you check out her website. I have noticed a trend, that even Marvel admitted to, about the female artists that get published in comics are webcomic artists as well. In addition to Artifice Winona also has illustrated for ‘Magic the Gathering’.

I hope that I have made it clear that Artifice is not just some fluff comic where two guys constantly bang each other, because it also deals with some pretty controversial issues. Most notably the fact that Jeff is homosexual because he has a C37 pair on his X chromosome. This admission has sparked an awful lot of controversy in the comments. Can homosexuality be linked to ONE abnormal chromosome? In this world it can. But Jeff also admitted that most people get an abortion when they discover their child is gay. In the present storyline we haven’t seen Jeff yet, but if his society believes he should have been aborted, I am sure he is a lot worse off than Deacon is in Maven’s iron claws.

Although there wasn’t much dissection in this blog as I normally try to achieve, the story isn’t through yet and I would hate to say something too soon (see: my Ghost Rider blog). Artifice is at the very top of my recommend list for guy-on-guy romances, for other recommendations check out the Links page at the top of the screen.

-BatCat

*I feel that I have to justify this remark. I do love me some gay romance. This is mainly because I cannot relate personally to female characters in your typical straight romance novel. I can usually identify more with a character from a guy-on-guy romance. Why is that?

Upcoming: ‘My Little Brony’ an interview with my little brother and his friends about coming out as a ‘brony’.

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5 thoughts on “Smart Guy-On-Guy Romance: Artifice

  1. Hello, Winona Nelson here, thanks for the kind words about Artifice and my other work! I’m really glad you like the webcomic so much, and biased as my opinion may be, Alex is such a phenomenal writer, he’s a real pleasure to work with! I have to make a small correction though: the Conan pages on my website were an assignment at a workshop, I have not worked on any Conan properties professionally.

  2. Well, I relate to men in gay comics as well, although I’m a lesbian. I sometimes wish that there were more lesbian comics (written by women) that were more than sex. I love Artifice, because it’s beautiful and the story is great. I’m a bit iffy on the character Maven, but I think that I will give the storyline more time to develop.

    • This is true. There is a lot more guy-on-guy action in comics and novels. I feel that there are a few quality webcomics that I have encountered that fit the bill, or at least comics that come close. Curvy and Red String are the only ones that I can recall at the moment, however. I am glad to see that there are other people like me who are still on the fence about Maven. From the comments on the site people either love her or hate her. Personally, I think she acts more like an android than Deacon.

  3. I have to admit, I tried to get into Artifice but it didn’t immediately grab me. Probably because I like female-oriented MxM which as you note is not quite the same as gay male-oriented MxM. I’ll have to give it another go. The art has certainly stuck in my mind. And since I graduated from all those fluffy boyslove romances I’ve been looking for some smarter yaoi fiction.

    I also struggle to relate to female characters, to the point I feel driven to yaoi. I’ve even written a big long blog post about it, which I’d like to summarise but it’s easier to just post the link:http://nijikon.net/?p=306.

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