Note: This comic touches upon some sensitive topics such as animal cruelty, mental health issues, and grief. Please put yourself and your wellbeing first, and consume this work at your own discretion.
Before you delve into the comic, here’s a short introduction by the author, Archita Mittra.
The idea for Whalefall first came to me with the image of two sisters discovering a dead whale washed up on the shore of their tiny fishing village. I didn’t know who these characters were yet, but I had a hunch that this event would be a pivotal moment in their lives. It fractured their relationship with each other, and later (as I learned more about them) with their whaling-driven ancestral past, and the climate-change-ravaged future we are inevitably hurtling towards.
My inner marine geek has always been fascinated by the phenomenon of whale falls — and how the death of one of the world’s largest mammals offers a rich source of life for countless marine organisms, sustaining entire ecosystems for decades or more. This, of course, cannot happen if whales die on land as a result of human activities. It got me thinking about how modern capitalist societies are so driven by greed and individualism, leading to isolation, emptiness and suffering that medicine cannot completely cure. Nature, on the other hand, seems to favour symbiosis, community, and interdependence, all of which engenders abundance and the continuity of life in myriad forms.
So, the tale of the two sisters shifted towards marine horror, a meditation upon loss and estrangement, and paradoxically, about finding home and community again in the unlikeliest places. The story is set in Scotland for two reasons. First, it was one of the many places where the grisly practice of whale hunting boomed during the industrial revolution (as opposed to subsistence whaling still practised by certain indigenous communities around the world). And second, unfortunately beached whales are more likely to appear in colder parts of the globe. Scotland is also a country steeped in history, myths, and folklore, making it a plausible location for this story which has supernatural elements. The comic also explores how ancestral traditions can sometimes result in great guilt, complicated by tenuous bonds of family and love.