by Vince Brusio
Written by Eisner Award-nominated writer Simon Spurrier (The Spire, X-Men Legacy) and illustrated by breakout talent Jonas Goonface, Godshaper #1 (FEB171285) introduces a vast world where there's a god for every person and a person for every god ... though for Ennay, unfortunately exceptions may apply. Isn't that the way of the world? Those who need help the most are the first to fall between the cracks in the sidewalk? But people like Ennay are Godshapers: godless social pariahs with the ability to mold and shape the gods of others. Paired with Bud, an off-kilter but affectionate god without a human, the two travel from town to town looking for shelter, a hot meal, and the next paying rock 'n' roll gig.
Vince Brusio: A situation where everyone is special and yet no one is special. I’m thinking this is a good barometer on public sentiment, yes? Would that be a good litmus test for gauging what it’s like “being there” in Godshaper #1?
Simon Spurrier: Yeah, definitely. It’s the sort of book which is pretty conspicuously “About a Lot of Stuff,” y’know?
That said, it’s first and foremost a story about two rascally rejects having heroic, sexy, sinister adventures while travelling across a unique world. Nothing else gets in the way of that.
But, yes, background color: Godshaper takes place in a world where accumulating wealth is literally holy. Capitalism has become a visible, supernatural, all-consuming way of life. It’s a world where vanity and individualism are out of control, and where a servant underclass who can’t possess any wealth of their own are hated and decried, but constantly in demand.
It’s a world where everyone has a personal god of their own—part bank account, part superheroic pet, part status symbol—and that change has brought out the worst in the human race.
It’s the sort of world that tells us a lot about our own one, basically. The paradigm may have shifted utterly, but crime, corruption and war are still veeeeery much a part of life.
Vince Brusio: The main character for Godshaper is Ennay. At first glance he appears to have been shortchanged in life. Not exactly a poster boy for whiter teeth made possible by some name brand toothpaste. If everyone got a personal pocket God for Christmas, he appears to have missed Santa’s sleigh and ended up with a long dead Little Rascals ghost boy. So what’s the relationship between these two?
Simon Spurrier: They’re the perfect mismatched buddy-duo, really. Two broken-down outcasts who complete each other. Ennay’s a man without a god of his own, Bud’s a god without a believer. By hanging out together they can pass—more or less—for ordinary.
For Ennay that’s a big deal. All he really wants is to be accepted as a poet and a musician, but wherever he goes all people ever see is his godlessness. That makes him a "shaper," a sort of servant underclass. He’s unable to own any money—gods are bank accounts, remember?—but like all shapers he has the ability to remold and reconfigure rich people’s gods. To survive he has to trade that skill for food and clothing.
The upshot is that normal people constantly look down on Shapers—they’re seen as indecent, savage; little better than outlaws—but everyone secretly wants their help. That’s a pretty sh***y deal. All Ennay wants is to play his music, but wherever he goes he gets sucked into other people’s stories.
As I said, teaming up with Bud gives him a measure of anonymity. Travelling with the mischievous little god makes him look like a regular Joe.
As for Bud himself, he’s a mystery. Gods can’t exist without worshippers—Bud should’ve faded away a long time ago. But the little guy seems happy enough, and isn’t in any hurry to discover how or why he’s so different.
Unfortunately for him, the world is about to focus on that mystery very closely indeed.
Vince Brusio: Public morbidity and ennui appears to be the flavor of the month, judging by the bar scene we see pictured for this book on page 303 in the February PREVIEWS. What can you tell us about this interior picture? What are we seeing, and how is it a window into the soul of this book?
Simon Spurrier: What you’re looking at there is a typical “cantik” party.
The world of Godshaper diverged from our own in 1958, when the laws of physics stopped working and the gods arrived. Nobody really knows why—although our story, as you’d expect, will be asking questions about that. But one of the unexpected upshots of this new societal model—with its emphasis on preening personal wealth and status—is that popular culture has sort of stagnated. The world’s stuck in this endless, vanilla version of a 1950s aesthetic, with limp-wristed rockabilly trends and squeaky-clean stars using their gods to produce safe, middle-of-the-road pop.
There is, thank goodness, an underground scene. A countercultural movement called “cantic.” It’s raw, chaotic, omnisexual, and angry. Part punk, part poetry, part jazz, part something completely new and different. Gatherings usually happen in secret, on the outskirts of nothingsville towns in the midwest.
Ennay is a cantik performer—a damn good one. In fact, the main thrust of the series is his race to get to San Francisco to play in a big cantik festival. In this image Jonas has drawn him—having reshaped Bud into a convenient instrument—rocking out in the savage new scene.
Vince Brusio: Why write a book like this, Si? What’s the connection to the inner mechanics of your own mind? Are you getting to expel some personal demon through this work? What was the inspiration for Godshaper?
Simon Spurrier: A hopeless affection for the outcasts of the world, basically, coupled with a healthily cynical fascination with religion.
For me, when it comes to world-building, the key is often economics. Sounds dull, but bear with me here. It’s one thing to create a crazy new reality, it’s something else to make sure it’s functional. The Holy Grail for this stuff is a world which feels like it existed before the tale began and will persist after it’s finished. That way the story you want to tell and the characters who enliven it can take center stage, and the world just sort of introduces itself, bit by bit, from the background. That was the ambition with Godshaper, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s worked out. As ludicrously high-concept as it seems—a world based on metaphysics instead of physics!—it all hangs together really successfully. It feels solid and meaningful as well as totally novel.
Vince Brusio: So if the future is headed for a utopia where everyone’s savior is paraded around on a leash, what does that mean for Ennay’s state of mind? Is he content? Jealous? Suicidal? If God is everywhere for everyone, is the concept of getting to Heaven now a waste of time for people like Ennay?
Simon Spurrier: I don’t think it’s a utopia by any means, as you’ll see. If anything, the new world order has just underlined and exaggerated a lot of the deep injustices and hypocrisies which exist in our own world.
Ennay’s attitude toward the rest of the world is, unsurprisingly, a pretty big part of his character arc. He and his fellow Shapers are really just a new take on something which has been present in pretty much every human society which ever existed: a penniless underclass. They’re vital to the smooth running of the world—without them the whole house of cards comes crumbling down—but for capitalism to work successfully these pariah-slaves have to remain loathed and disempowered. Ennay, needless to say, gets a lot of headache in the normal course of his life, but the nature of his abilities means that he’s frequently in a position to either save or sabotage the lives of the normal people around him. He’ll rub shoulders with other Shapers from both schools of thought: those who think mercy and altruism are a basic human trait, and those who’re so embittered by society’s disdain that they’ll take any opportunity for payback.
As for wider existential problems, like the concept of an afterlife, we’ll be seeing how the world has adapted now that the core metaphysical question—is there a god?—has been not only answered, but commoditized. As we’ll see, organized religion—and all the self-serving instincts that go with it—is still a big part of life.
In spiritual matters, as with money and law, Shapers are very firmly on the outside looking in.