There is nothing more frustrating than thinking you’re failing. You want to be part of something - to succeed, but there’s just one missing piece. And that piece can’t be manufactured. It’s an organic process. But what if you could buy motivation right off store shelves. Or better yet what if you could get it delivered, I mean it is 2022 afterall. In Tyranny of the Muse, a young creative finds inspiration and hope for success all while following good hygiene. But can this product offer true creative freedom or another ruler just waiting to measure someone’s worth?
Created & Written by: Eddie Wright
Artist: Dave Chisholm
Tyranny of the Muse opens with an all too familiar scene for me personally. As we meet Frank he is in the midst of a desperate call. From his comments and tone you realize this isn’t just a casual call, Frank is jonesing. Writer Eddie Wright creates the image of Frank as an addict early. As the story unfolds this theme continues to show up. For example much of Frank’s life mimics the trajectory that often leads to addiction. That feeling there are parts of you missing or that life is incomplete. In his mind Frank is a dropout and a disappointment to his family. He just needs something to make him feel alive. Frank needs a hit.
While Tyranny of the Muse revolves around patching the hole in Frank, Bonnie is broken as well. Bonnie may be the “Muse” in the title but she could save herself a spin on the wheel and drop the “M”. Readers discover that before working with Frank that Bonnie helped another artist. Not only was she the inspiration for that artist but the actual image. It isn’t until the artist Matthew sells those images that Bonnie learns the limits of their “friendship”. No disrespect to Bill Withers,but both Bonnie and I don’t like that feeling. This arc serves to show the other painful side of the creative process. Next to overlooking ability I can think of no bigger insult to an individual than discrediting, even dismissing contributions. You notice how this affects Bonnie because her personality and appearance shift dramatically after this situation.
The “I” in Your Idea
Frank and Bonnie are bought together by the disturbingly creepy Vanessa. Vanessa plays the part of money and mind in this tale. Unfortunately, like most people who are in this role she seems to lack the morals. Her company, Inspicorp, looks harmless on paper since it produces health and beauty products. But so did the makers of Galaxy Glue. Vanessa sees her company as identifying “untapped” potential. But how and at what cost to the talent. And with their slogan, “Guaranteed to Inspire Even the Most Meandering Minds”, I can only imagine the lengths taken to “inspire”. Talk about working with a gun to your head.
If I was to say that the artistic style in Tyranny of the Muse was somewhat Cracked do you think Dave Chisholm would get MAD? The black and white images along with the lettering remind me of those two famous magazines. It also helps emphasize the dark, sarcastic and at times seemingly hopeless existence of its two main characters. As for the character design they remind me of something I see in recent issues of Ice Cream Man. Given how similar in terms of story Muse is to that comic I can’t help but wonder if Riccardus isn’t on the board of Ispicorp. Frank’s morning brushing routine is also a bit gruesome, making me wonder would color enhance or distract from the image.
Wright and Chisholm provide readers with a tale broken into 20 entries. I like this approach because each part felt like a single episode. This allows the story to move easily through each character’s lives in the present and through their backstory and memories. My only dismay came with less reveal about Vanessa and Inspicorp. The mysterious, almost perverse nature of this organization deserves some further exploration. But that would take away from both Frank and Bonnie’s story so I agree with Wright’s decision to leave it out.
This novel resonates so well possibly in no small part to its own story. The creators Eddie Wright and Dave Chisholm have pieced together this project, producing it over a multi-year span. This trade collects several of the small issue stories the duo has offered readers. Staying inspired they endeavored to bring their idea to audiences. In a world that wants something for nothing their novel itself is a testament that you are not nothing.
Ask any “Frank” and they will tell you all we need to work is air and opportunity. Unfortunately “heirs” like Vanessa see themselves as solutions and are not. The artist wants to fill a hole, they are thinking wholesale. Bonnie’s role is more complicated. You may believe people who can inspire the uninspired aren’t important but I can think of wilder ideas. But we can’t become dependent on our “Bonnies” either. It’s easy to become convinced the ability or solution isn’t already inside you. Leaving your crown susceptible to the Tyranny of the Muse and even worse emperors.