WELLS & CLARK Location: 31 Oriole Cresc. Grimsby, Ontario (circa 1994 – 1997) Founder/Owners: T.S. Wells & Rob Clark. Contributors: T.S. Wells & Rob Clark. Creation: Arcana.
“Arcana is about the lives of those living in a world that is slowly beginning to change after decades of rigid custom and conformity. The story is centred upon three characters, Flagg, Foxglove and Clorinda. It is through their actions that we come to understand the society around them. Like life it’s about struggle, morality, power, love and is not without humour and not without seriousness.” T.S. Wells. Arcana, 1, April 1996: Inside front cover.
Why anthropomorphic characters? T.S. explains: “ … Rob and I have a list of reasons why we chose that route. But we won’t bore you with them. Suffice to say; a) they serve as a device to draw the audience into the story without scaring them with its real-life quality, and b) we like ‘em.”
Arcana opens in issue 1, April 1994.with two parallel story lines. One, a rather light hearted account, involves to con artists “Flagg” and “Foxglove” who are involved in a scam which goes wrong when one of “Flagg’s former victims stumbles upon them. They flee the scene. The second line both darker and covering a longer time span, gives a short biography of “Clorinda” who, it is suggested, is of mixed races. She is protected by her mother, who apparently came from a mysterious land, from the hostile community they live in and a father who belongs to that community and has become hostile. Her mother dies and apparently she kills her father by supernatural means. She flees. At the end of issue 1, the two story lines join as “Flagg” and “Foxglove” encounter “Clorinda” in an abandoned house. The two story lines are visually contracted as Clark emphases white in one and black in the other.
There was supposed to be an issue 2 in June, but it appears that instead Wells & Clark reissued 1 also in 1994 and expanded it into two parts. Part 1, is composed of the story in the original issue 1, while part 2 records the interactions between the three protagonists and their decisions to join forces although “Flagg” and “Foxglove” and “Clorinda” reveal to each other nothing of their two separate stories.
In issue 2, we are introduced to “Flaggs” quest to find a set of mysterious, lost islands, that his dead father knew about. His first task is go to “Lorne”, a community of dubious reputation, in order to locate an “Em Korts” who was his father’s friend and was familiar with his father’s investigations. Both men belonged to the “Requisition Squads”. The father’s role is further explained when in issue 7 “Flagg” tells “Clorinda” why they are going to “Lorne”. When the father was with the “Requisition Squads” which collected ancient banned documents and destroyed them, he began studying them and taking notes before he destroyed them. He revealed the information to his son but it was incomplete. Apparently “Flagg’s” mother was like “Clorinda’s” father, was an accepting member of the dominate beliefs of their society and discouraged “Flagg” from pursuing this quest, but he persisted. Already there is a hint that “Clorinda’s” mysterious past and the society of the mysterious islands are going to come together.
At the same time, we are learning more about “Clorinda’s” extraordinary powers. In issue 3, she changes a rock into an edible apple. In issue 8, she saves her companions from an attack of werewolf type creatures by inducing everyone to sleep, then waking her companions. The reader knows about these powers but “Flagg” and “Foxglove” do not, although “Floxglove” is becoming increasingly uneasy about “Clorinda”.
The three companions meet “Anthony” in issues 3 & 4 when during a storm they accidently stumble upon his mother’s country house, and stay there. In issue 8, “Anthony” reappears as part of a sinister group whose boss it appears wants to stop “Flagg” in his quest.
In issue 8, Rob states that with this issue part 1 of the Arcana story concludes and that part 2 will begin with issue 9 and focus on the adventures of Flagg, Foxglove and Clorinda in the town of Lorne. However, Arcana ceased publication with issue 11. The planned collection of the first eight issues into a single volume also apparently never occurred.
Wells & Clark began printing Arcana with Preney Printing but with issue 2 they switched to Quebecor Printing Inc. to get better quality paper. However after issue 3 their production costs jumped 30%. This happened at a time when their orders had slumped a bit due to an acknowledged situation in the direct market business. In issue 5, Rob described it thus: after the first issue a self publisher’s orders declined till about issue six after which they begin to climb again. Wells & Clark’s business plan had secured their finances till issue 8 but the cost increase had them scrambling for additional financing. In issue 8, Rob reported that although sales were increasing, they still had not reached the break even point and that they were again having financial difficulties. The publication made it to issue 11.
With the end of Arcana, Wells and Clark disappeared from the graphic fiction scene, and nothing can be found about their later careers. It is too bad because although we see in this story the weaknesses that occur with anyone just beginning to learn their skills, their concept held the reader’s interest enough to make one curious about what they would have accomplished as their skills improved.
|Arcana, …. Writ., T.S. Wells. Illus., Rob Clark. Cover & Contents: Black & White.|
|1, Apr. 1994, Signed, 250 copies
1, 1994, Signed, 2900 copies
2, March 1995.
|3, May, 1995.
4, July 1995.
5, September 1995.
|7, April 1996.
8, July 1996.
Arcana, 1, April 1996: “Comments” Inside front cover.
Arcana, 5, September 1995: “Comments” Back page.
Arcana, 8, July 1996: “Comments”
“Flagg”. Arcana, 7, April 1996: From front cover.
“Foxglove”. Arcana, 2, March 1995: From front cover.
“Clorinda”. Arcana, 8, July 1996: From front cover.
Arcana, 8, July 1996: 8.