Sunday 8 December 2019

This artist created a mini comic that shines a spotlight on the brutal effects of MMA fighting

The Shadow Realm hints at the damage that can be done in the sporting arena.

A panel from Barry Keegan's mini comic, The Shadow Realm
A panel from Barry Keegan's mini comic, The Shadow Realm

By Max McLean, Press Association

Sports analysis usually occurs under the lights of the TV studio or in the pages of newspapers, but this time it’s a comic book tackling the issues.

Barry Keegan, 39, is an mixed martial arts fan and in his spare time, a comic book artist. His realisation of The Shadow Realm in mini-comic form focuses on the physical danger fighters put themselves in when they enter the sports arena, and hints at the long-term damage that can be done.

Barry’s short story follows a character discovering a realm visited by fighters who have been knocked out, but as the comic’s creator explains, the idea of The Shadow Realm is not one entirely of his own making, but instead is one he noticed online.

A panel from Barry Keegan's mini comic, The Shadow Realm

“I would regularly visit the MMA forum on Reddit and for years noticed a lot of users would reference knocked-out fighters being sent to The Shadow Realm,” said Barry.

“The concept formed in my mind over time and I eventually had to put it on paper and share it with the community. I guess to me The Shadow Realm was used in a kind of joking way, so I wanted to push back a little on the serious side of it.”

A panel from Barry Keegan's mini comic, The Shadow Realm

The project took Barry, a network engineer, three months to complete, working in the evenings on writing, drawing and completing the work.

“I guess I see it as a reminder to all watching how much is at stake,” he said of MMA.

“For me, the biggest sadness is a fighter who stays in the sport too long, so I was hoping this story would inspire the people around the fighters to help them when it’s time to hang up the gloves.”


The comic has been well received on social media, and while Barry has other projects on the go he said there could be more work like The Shadow Realm to come.

“The reaction has been amazing, a lot of people are connecting with the deeper message,” he said.

“The day I released it on Reddit I found it very difficult to keep track of all the messages, and it’s going strong on Twitter also.

“My graphic novel The Bog Road that is coming out this year is on a different theme, but I would say in the future there is definitely room for more on this idea.”


To read The Shadow Realm in its entirety, click here.

PA Media

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