An addendum for Snarlbear has been brewing in my skull ever since it finished. It’s a terrific comic, a classic in its own time, and I feel like it deserves some parting words. Obviously, inevitably, spoilers below.
Snarlbear remains one of the best comics about monstrosity that exist, doubly so because in the end it managed to surprise me. In my original review, I saw Daisy’s character trajectory landing her in monstrous territory: the Rainbow Dimension’s tendency to transform heroes into terrifying monsters was manifesting in her blood, her teeth, her temper. My prediction of her transfiguration was in no small part wishful thinking; I really wanted to see what form she would take.
But in the end, it wasn’t Daisy who was changed – it was Flint.
From the beginning, Snarlbear’s strength lay in the juxtaposition of the horrible and the adorable, with Daisy straddling the line between the two. That meant that the comic’s tone could shift subtly from one scene to the next, making it hard to be sure what the overall tone was supposed to be: was this a horror comic with adventure elements, or an adventure comic with horror elements? I decided it was the former, and I was wrong.
Daisy’s monstrous awakening was a scary thing, making her more angry, more violent, more dangerous. If she had succumbed to it in the end, Snarlbear would indeed have been a horror comic. But for Flint to be transformed instead cemented the tone of the comic as hopeful and positive, which is a weird sentence to write without elaboration.
It’s easy to describe Flint as greedy and selfish. It’s equally easy to point to that as the reason he became a dragon, and look no deeper. But it wasn’t Flint’s greed that changed him; it was his grief. Flint’s driving emotion isn’t greed, but fear – he looks out for himself because he believes no one else will. When he attached himself to Daisy at the beginning of the comic it was because he saw her as a source of the financial stability and physical protection he sorely needed. But as she changed, her attitude towards him became harsh, even cruel at times. Just as he was finally ready to make a friend, that friend began to turn on him. And when defeating Princess Cassiopeia didn’t break the spell imprisoning his home Monochrome in crystal, he broke instead. Having lost his last hope, he latched onto the only piece of security he could find – a giant pile of gold.
The climax of Snarlbear isn’t the duel between unicorn royalty, or even the reprise attack of the still-infected Cass, but the painful battle and quiet reconciliation between Daisy and Flint. The real treasure yadda yadda yadda.
The fact that Flint doesn’t return to normal, even after the Eye of Spectra is removed and thrown deep into the earth, is what I love most about Snarlbear’s ending. Monstrosity is scary, dangerous, even evil throughout much of the story, but that’s not an inherent fact – Flint living happily as a dragon among the unicorns proves that. This also casts a new light on the monsters Daisy fought before: were they just bad people? Or, like Flint, were they driven to violence by the same pain, fear, and anguish that transformed them in the first place?
Speaking of which, I’d be remiss not to mention the late revellation of Spectra’s Champion, a nameless woman from Earth who in death became the murderous crystal that came to possess Cassiopeia. In the few pages of her communicating with Daisy there’s little time for elaboration – she’s finally evaporating into nothingness – but it’s clear she had a romantic relationship with Spectra. Unfortunately, Spectra seems to have been a bad girlfriend, using her Champion as a tool of death to the point where she wanted to escape back to Earth. Trapped and tricked by the goddess, the Champion’s anguish transforms her, too. Empowered by the crystal that forms in her body, she strikes down her former love, only to be killed in return by Spectra’s, um, spectral form. But her pain lives on in the crystals, which keep growing even after her death, still trying to destroy the Rainbow Dimension that she could not escape.
That the entire plot of the story is driven indirectly by the lingering trauma of an abusive queer relationship was a startling reveal to me, but not an unwelcome one. Queer abuse is a real, awful thing, and the way it radiates out to affect people in queer communities feels, to me, very similar to the way Crystal Cass ravages the Rainbow Dimension. Spectra’s abusiveness is clearly an extension of her divine power, the same way that power imbalances enable abuse in real life, and the vision that Daisy has while holding the crystal sword serves to humanize the story’s antagonist – we’re obviously meant to sympathize with the victim.
All this is why Snarlbear speaks to me so deeply. Its core theme is how pain, rejection, and abuse turn people into monsters – just like how oppression and bigotry serve to dehumanize people in real life. But, like Flint, I believe it’s possible and even empowering to embrace that place of social monstrosity. If they want us to be worms, let’s become dragons instead.Read the original post.