Soulmates and uncertainty in “Cupido”

Long-time readers may remember a time when I talked about a lot of webcomics, and occasionally made recommendations. While I haven’t searched for new webcomics lately, I still keep up with old webcomics for years on end, as long as they continue to engage me. In that category, I’d like to recommend Cupido.

Cupido’s premise is that the protagonist Alec can see “marks” on people, that apparently match when two people are soulmates. That is, many couples seem to share the same mark, and when Alec introduces people who have matching marks to each other, they tend to hit it off really well and pair up. Everybody seems to have a mark… that is, except Alec and his friend Victor.

I imagine many readers are hostile towards the idea of soulmates, so why am I recommending a comic about soulmates? While Cupido uses the trope of soulmate marks (common in a certain genre of fanfic), it also contains the ingredients to critically examine or subvert the trope.

For example, we don’t really know what the marks mean, or whether they really indicate soulmates.  We only see the patterns that Alec observes, and make guesses the same way Alec does. And if Alec didn’t introduce two soulmates to each other, would they never meet? Then in what sense would they be soulmates?

And what is Alec’s place in all this? What is he supposed to do with his unique ability? Is he doomed to forever live out the asexual cupid archetype–a trope that could have been in the Ace Trope series, but alas it was not–forever orchestrating others’ romantic success but having none of his own?

I originally found Cupido through an asexuality tag somewhere, but such tags are often unreliable. There is nothing in the text to clearly indicate that this is an Ace Webcomic (TM). Alec seems aro-ace, but this is never explicitly stated. In fact, it appears to be contradicted by the art extras (interspersed with the comic in the Tapas version), which depict Alec and Victor in romantic poses.

Is a romance the eventual direction of the webcomic? I just don’t know, and we may not know for literally years. Such is the nature of webcomics, which can run for so long that both the author and reader each come out an entirely different person. Uncertainty about endings is the eternal state of the webcomic fan, so it’s something I learn to live with.

Independent of future directions, the aro-ace reading is so strong. It’s like a direct metaphor for the arc of self-realization. First, there is the realization that others have something. Then there is the realization that you do not have that something–or at least you think you don’t. You’re not really sure because there is nobody around to explain these arbitrary fantasy rules. And then, and then, and then… you have to wait to find out what’s next, because webcomics only update so quickly life has a way of suspending you in indefinite uncertainty. But it helps to find friends who can understand you, and who can accept the aro/ace possibilities.

Cupido is ongoing, and I feel has recently hit its stride. If my description intrigues you, join along on Tapas or Webtoons. Or if you can’t take the uncertainty, I suppose you can bookmark it and read it years later.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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4 Responses to Soulmates and uncertainty in “Cupido”

  1. I tried to write a fanfic once about 5 years ago that was critical in my own ways of the soulmate AU trope where people can become each other’s soulmates over time and not everyone always really has the same number of soulmates or finds their soulmate before deciding who they might marry/have kids with etc, and soulmates can be platonic or romantic…

    The way you describe this webcomic’s way to treat the trope i like even better though! This sounds really right up my alley and like something I’m extremely intrigued to learn about existing as a webcomic 💜

    • Siggy says:

      I hadn’t really heard of the soulmate mark trope before I looked it up, although it felt vaguely familiar, like I’ve seen it in a forgotten webcomic or two. It’s interesting, because it’s not necessarily a “what if soulmates” hypothetical, but could be, “what if we could see soulmates, would we be surprised by what we found?”

      • It’s a very popular trope in fanfiction circles i frequent, VERY popular but rarely done super well. But wonderfully compelling whenever it is well written with care to the worldbuilding, whatever an author chooses to build based on the idea of soulmate marks.

        That’s part of what I think inspired the aro-soulmate-protect stuff on Tumblr:

        Which i think the Tumblr name is no longer that but still it’s relevant to this entire conversation 😉

        • Siggy says:

          Oh, thanks for making that connection. I think I’ve seen those before, but never really understood where they’re coming from, because I never hung out with people who took the idea of soulmates seriously. Honestly my first association is Tim Minchin’s “If I didn’t have you (I’d have somebody else)”.

          I’m not sure someone like techno would really be satisfied with Cupido, and I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who felt that way. It’s not a radical subversion (so far), it’s more understated.

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