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Easy on the fannel-cocking!
August 10, 2013 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, Achewood, Chris Onstad's beloved webcomic, returned after a year-long absence, throwing off "its droperidol-impregnated ticking shroud" and picking up with the adventures of Ray, Roast Beef, Mr. Bear, Lyle, and the rest where they left off in the current storyline, "Ray in Rehab". (Previously)
posted by Doktor Zed (73 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
For absolutely everyone's sake, I hope it's true this time.
posted by vanar sena at 12:59 PM on August 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


For absolutely everyone's sake, I hope it's true this time.

Seconded.
posted by nevercalm at 1:06 PM on August 10, 2013


...and somewhere far away, Stan Chin weeps.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:06 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


According to the alt-text: I could say so much, but in time you will know that I mean it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:09 PM on August 10, 2013


Man, I am so so glad the strip was good.

Oh, and recently, Facebook did something that made communities show up on users' walls more easily. Since then, the Achewood page has been kickin', and it is a lot of fun. I know the old Achewood forums are dead or dying, so it's pretty cool that that there's a new facet to the community coalescing.
posted by griphus at 1:09 PM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


hope so
posted by es_de_bah at 1:22 PM on August 10, 2013


What's the best introduction for someone who wants to get into Achewood? More than a few people whose taste I respect love it, but I feel like any time I give it a try, the humor just feels incomprehensible.
posted by the jam at 1:26 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the best introduction for someone who wants to get into Achewood? More than a few people whose taste I respect love it, but I feel like any time I give it a try, the humor just feels incomprehensible.

Have you tried The Great Outdoor Fight?
posted by thecjm at 1:28 PM on August 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've been hurt before, but I know I'll let Chris hurt me again.

What's the status of the cartoon?
posted by SansPoint at 1:34 PM on August 10, 2013


the jam: "What's the best introduction for someone who wants to get into Achewood?"

It's all in the language, IMO. It took a while for Onstad to settle in to the characters and their voices, so the first lot of strips are not likely to be anyone's favourite, no matter how many times Phillipe stands on it. The Great Outdoor Fight is fantastic but the good stuff starts well before then.
posted by vanar sena at 1:36 PM on August 10, 2013


the jam, I kinda feel like you have to start at the beginning and just let the thing take shap in front of you. For me, part of the fun of the strip was watching a truly funny, weird writer develop a bunch of unique voices through trial and error. The writer tends to say that it really picked up when he introduced Pat, Ray and Roast Beef, but the strips before that were often a little more joke-oriented, so they can act as a good led-in.
posted by es_de_bah at 1:38 PM on August 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


More than a few people whose taste I respect love it, but I feel like any time I give it a try, the humor just feels incomprehensible.

You aren't alone in that. No matter how often I try, or whose recommendation I try, or where I start, I remain just as puzzled as ever as to why people like it so much.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:40 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ray's Startup #1 is as good a place to start as any.

The pre-Cat strips always feel a bit too 'training wheels' to me.
posted by griphus at 1:40 PM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm holdign off celebrating until he has done at least three updates. I wonder if this means his plans for the Animated Achewood Series* have gone away/sour/pear-shaped.

*self-link to a project I have myself abandoned
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:43 PM on August 10, 2013


Thorzdad: "I remain just as puzzled as ever as to why people like it so much."

This may be a bit a of a stretch, but it hits the same nerve as Wodehouse did when I was a kid. It's not necessarily the "jokes", it's most certainly not the plot, it's just the weird shit they say and do that somehow manages to make perfect sense in context.
posted by vanar sena at 1:50 PM on August 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


As a case in point, this is the strip from which I learnt the word "forcemeat".
posted by vanar sena at 1:57 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


stop playing with my heart onstead.
posted by The Whelk at 2:06 PM on August 10, 2013


Didn't we just have a post on fannel-cocking?
posted by anothermug at 2:34 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had the same experience with Achewood as several people in this thread, but then griphus got me started and now ain't no one can stop me reading it and such.

I mean, the different characters have rather whimsical ways of expressing themselves, because they are whimsical characters. There's old-timey whimsical, whimsical ruffian, robot Borat, whimsical rich dudebro, etc. A couple characters are whimsical poor people, like Roast Beef, who emerges as one of the main characters. But he is treated with such sympathy that I quickly decided that it's probably better to have whimsical poverty with rounded corners than not to have a character like that at all.
posted by Nomyte at 2:42 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Awhile back there was an Ask question about pieces of literature that captured what it was like to be a dude aged 20-40 (I'm paraphrasing) and Achewood came up repeatedly. Onstad is capable of channeling a certain expression of masculinity that hits it right on the head for me (probably not for everyone).

I really hope he can make the return stick this time.
posted by dismas at 2:53 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a case in point, this is the strip from which I learnt the word "forcemeat".

Also, Glen of Imaal Terrier.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:55 PM on August 10, 2013


You smell like farted in vinegar.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:28 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you tried The Great Outdoor Fight?

If the answer is "yes", you came along a few years too late. The only—only!—good extended Achewood arc was Roast Beef goes to the moon/Duelling Subways.
posted by kenko at 3:51 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


This was easily a high point of the first few years of Achewood, IMO. I recall reading an interview with Onstad, post-GOF, in which he said that he'd never write a strip like that anymore. Victim of his own success.
posted by kenko at 3:53 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a large amount of sympathy for Onstad. Writing well is not easy. Writing well consistently and on a regular basis adds several somersaults and a half twist to the degree of difficulty. Writing so well and consistently that people are like DAAAAAAAAAMN! LOOK AT THIS MAN! [points to you] and quoting your scripts years later... that's a minor miracle.

Couple that with the capriciousness of inspiration. Sometimes someone can keep the idea train rolling long-term. Most often, they can't. Even some of the absolute greats in comicdom have had prolonged downturns and years that people disdain -- and one of the reasons Bill Watterson is held in such esteem is that he quit before he could reach that point.

Onstad finding his groove again, kicking depression way down the rabbit hole and returning to even a weekly schedule with more hits than misses would impress me greatly.

That said, PLACE YOUR BETS!

* One strip or more per week over the next month: 3-1

* One strip or more per week over the next three months: 15-1

* A home-run strip in the next month, a true "you still got it" moment, and not just treading water on the abandoned storyline: 10-1

* Onstad vanishes again within six months: even

* Achewood Cookbook II ships: 2.714E+16 - 1
posted by delfin at 4:04 PM on August 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Food chain! Get used to it! made me giggle for days.
posted by mrbill at 4:40 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


dismas: "Awhile back there was an Ask question about pieces of literature that captured what it was like to be a dude aged 20-40 (I'm paraphrasing) and Achewood came up repeatedly. Onstad is capable of channeling a certain expression of masculinity that hits it right on the head for me (probably not for everyone)."

In my opinion, this is Onstad's strongest suit. As a 20-something dude, I feel an empathy with some of his characters that I've only ever felt with other human beings, and perhaps Charlie Brown in the Christmas special when he tries to put an ornament on the little tree and it keels over and Charlie cries, "EVERYTHING I TOUCH GETS RUINED."

Onstad generates that same pathos when, after the death of Michael Jackson, Bear finds Teodor and Beef in a funk and says, "He was your Elvis, and when your Elvis dies, so does the private lie that someday you will be young once again," or when Philippe's papa muses, "Home, she a funny theeng. Bleenk an' she gone, you know? They change the paint an' tro' away all you draweeng." It's like hearing Stoppard's Guildenstern remind the actors that "no one gets up after death-- there is no applause-- there is only silence and some second-hand clothes."

And then there's the comedy, which sometimes comes from an even darker place than the emotional stuff-- Showbiz getting into debt with Rockford Fosgate, or Beef liking thinking low-brow onesies were acceptable baby attire because he comes from circumstances, for instance. And then there's the stuff that's just pure genius.

A momentary diversion on the road to the grave, for sure.
posted by The White Hat at 5:06 PM on August 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


vanar sena: it's just the weird shit they say and do that somehow manages to make perfect sense in context.

My favorite strip along those lines is the one about the bloatee. SO much rich, brilliantly descriptive language and phrasing in that one.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:25 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


But will it be funny?
posted by jeremias at 5:27 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Continuity.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:47 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to look but I just can't bring myself to for some reason.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 5:48 PM on August 10, 2013


And it still makes no fucking sense whatsoever to me.
posted by Decani at 6:19 PM on August 10, 2013


This is my "introduction to Achewood" strip

For other people I mean
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:28 PM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The above-linked 2002 Achewood FPP shows very clearly that, sometimes, a lot of people can be very sure and very wrong at the same time.
posted by Nomyte at 6:31 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I roll to disbelieve. Next thing you'll tell me is that Strongbad is active again.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:22 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


here I go once again with the E-mail, every week I hope it comes from a FE-male
posted by Kwine at 7:33 PM on August 10, 2013


oh man dogg speaking as a dude who sucks (i.e., I got the depression) I have yet to find any fictional cat to sum that whole thing up as well as Cassandra “Roast Beef” Kazenzakis ever did
posted by nicepersonality at 7:33 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a strange fondness for the strips where Little Nephew is trying to get a rap career going and writes a bunch of songs about algebra.

Also, was anyone else surprised that Ray and co. were cats? They look so much like some boxers I walked many eons ago.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:51 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as introductory story arcs go, I'm actually going to take a radical position and suggest that a later arc, The Badass Games, is a good place to start.

The Great Outdoor Fight is excellent, and The 1978 Volvo 244GLE Of Despair and Beef Goes to Hell are both good sequences (not to mention Ray Buys Airwolf), but the Badass Games really gets into why Cornelius is the best.

Also, there is a school bus with a horn that plays Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:11 PM on August 10, 2013


I can kind of understand why not everyone likes Achewood right away. I remember reading a few strips years ago and thinking it was just a lot of overwrought pseudointellectual repartee that was too clever for its own good. But I kept on reading for long enough to get a feel for the strip's undercurrents of neurosis and now I think it's the Peanuts of the 21st Century.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:13 PM on August 10, 2013


Also, one-offs like The Saddest Thing, Little Nephew's Pants, and Gothic Dance, are what make Achewood great.


a-a-a-and anything with f-f-f-fr-frickin' Todd
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2013


a-a-a-and anything with f-f-f-fr-frickin' Todd

Three Todd strips I still think about regularly: 1 2 3

Apropos of nothing, I'll note here that I was an honorable mention in the Achewood photo contest.
posted by evisceratordeath at 8:38 PM on August 10, 2013


That Achewood Facebook really is a magical thing. It's how I found out about the new one in the first place. I hope Onstad can stick it out. Even if he can't, he's already given me so many chuckles already, rough chuckles included.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 8:42 PM on August 10, 2013



a-a-a-and anything with f-f-f-fr-frickin' Todd

DON'T YOU DO COCAINE AT ME.
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 PM on August 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ray goes to hell.
posted by ead at 9:21 PM on August 10, 2013


If you're trying to get into Achewood and hitting a wall, just read this and use that to frame the rest in your head.
posted by jferg at 9:32 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I identify with Ray, far too much at times, perhaps. Whether that is a statement in support of Ray, or a confession, I have no idea. I'd probably be more like him if I had Ray's income and resources, as it would undoubtedly lead to similar mischief - mostly unwise, but certainly entertaining.

As an aside, the best storyline Onstad has ever done in my opinion is Philippe and the Transfer Station every character is at their best in that one.
posted by chambers at 10:01 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be honest I think the thing has run its natural course. I'd rather see Onstad try something new.
posted by Segundus at 10:05 PM on August 10, 2013


I like how every time there's an Achewood thread, there's x amount of people who are all 'do not get' and that's perfectly natural, you don't and then you suddenly do, it's like falling off a log.

My one-shot suggestion this time (since I am randomly rereading the strip because of this thread) is this immortal: all punked up on jupiter oil. How are 3 different things from that NOT on best-selling t-shirts?
posted by hap_hazard at 10:10 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The 1978 Volvo 244GLE Of Despair

This storyline gave us the wonderful phrase "Talk about your lesser works of Christo!" which has yet to fail me or my fianceé whenever we've needed to use it. We read through the Achewood archives together last year and have developed something of an argot. (Also useful: "You can do whatever you want in life.")
posted by Spatch at 10:13 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man that old Achewood thread is so full of objectively wrong opinions.

This one is an old favorite.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:28 PM on August 10, 2013


There is Just Something about the transfer station/ebay arc that just hits me.

Especially "I have Airwolf. This is not code language. I am flying Airwolf because I own Airwolf. Nothing else I could say would make more sense given what I own and what I am doing at this moment".

It really doesn't even contain much Achewoodyness. It just.. I dunno, man. It's just a thing.

also his fried chicken recipe is great and I really wish I could find a copy of the cookbook
posted by flaterik at 12:32 AM on August 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Onstad is capable of channeling a certain expression of masculinity

So I've just been on an archive bender the last few hours.

Yes, that's the glory and downfall of Achewood -- adolescent male discomfort. Molly is a bit player at best, and after her there's Tina and Ray's mom. Almost all the other Achewood characters are deeply uncomfortable with their sexuality and that of others, or unable to sustain a relationship, or both. The sole exception is Cornelius, who is old and wise and the only real grown up.

I love Achewood to bits, Onstad has a genius for arresting phrases that you can't help quoting, but this is right at the core of it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:04 AM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"How would you like that? Very well-done, like Achewood, or rare, like a sympathetic female character in Achewood?"
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:39 AM on August 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Man I wish Onstad well. And I hope he can find it to keep putting these out.
I've been reading a lot of Krazy Kat lately and though they aren't really similar - there's something to them, when you read a bunch, you start to think you know the guy who wrote them and to appreciate all the little things in them that pop up, tangentially.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:28 AM on August 11, 2013


The Achewood Facebook thing is pretty great. I get an alert every 2 hours or so with a hilarious one-liner I'd forgotten all about. It's making writing this article a little more bearable.
posted by codacorolla at 6:46 PM on August 11, 2013


I've been re-reading the archives cause why not and I keep being impressed by Pat's characterization. He's not just a parody of a sour-faced scold who always has to be right, he's also a dead-on parody of a certain type of self-hating, fussy and frustrated gay man. It's spookily dead on.
posted by The Whelk at 11:40 AM on August 13, 2013


Have you read A Journey Into Reason (the blog Onstad kept for Pat when he was doing the concurrent blogging thing.) It is brilliant and could easily be a real and awful person.
posted by griphus at 12:19 PM on August 13, 2013


He came straight to bed, snored like an apneating didgeridoo, and reeked of cigarettes and grease. It was like sleeping next to a great big farting pile of college.

Oh my god, Onstad. Oh my god. I have read so many writers who are so much more successful whose prose is nothing next to Onstad.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:00 PM on August 13, 2013


just, almost as an aside that I'm sure has been linked to before - here's an interview Onstad did in the New Yorker in 2008.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:40 AM on August 15, 2013


I remember the day, a few months ago, when out of nowhere it crept up on me that soon it would be June 20th, and it would have been a full year since the last new strip. I was distressed both by the realization that the year had just flown by, and also by the fact that, again, a full year. More time had passed between strips than when he was actually on an official hiatus.

It wound up being approximately fourteen months, give or take, between the last update and this one, posted August 9th. As somebody else observed, that's sixteen strips in the last 415 days.

August 9th. Six days ago. Tomorrow it'll be a week.

I mean, Onstad doesn't owe anyone anything. Myself least of all. The lack of new content doesn't upset me because of fan entitlement, though I do love the strip (or I have, anyway). It upsets me (only a little) because there's such pathos in watching him start and stop and start again, and each time he starts once more, there's a little sentiment in the alt text indicating that he's back in some way, that this time is different from the other times he said he was back because this time he's actually back.

And it's upsetting because he was living a lot of people's dream: he made comics for a living. Maybe that wasn't the only thing he wanted to do, but there it was. And the only thing the engine needed, to keep running, was new content, and he just couldn't do it.

Tomorrow, a week. I'd love it if this time were different, but at this rate it isn't looking that way.

But here's to hope.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:49 AM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem with online comics is that your audience is it's like feeding the ducks.

The ducks get habituated, they come in more and more numbers, and you only have so much bread for the ducks, and they keep coming, and they're angry, and some of the complain about the shitty bread you've been bringing lately, and then they peck you to death.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:48 PM on August 15, 2013


(mangled syntax because someone was talking at me and then I had to stop and respond and then the edit window closed).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:54 PM on August 15, 2013


But here's to hope.

There's a new strip.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:41 AM on August 16, 2013


There's a new strip.

I kind of don't get it? Why's Beef pissed off?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:26 AM on August 16, 2013


Oh wow, and it's a really good one.

Beef is pissed off because, whatever their original intent in conducting an experiment in which Ray is listening to the Dead Kennedys by sticking an earbud up his ass, it immediately turned into Ray getting off on it. This is why he said to turn up the bass, and "Turn up the bass!" is the moment when Beef realized what was going on.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:32 AM on August 16, 2013


This is a total return to form. Here's hoping it's not a fluke.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:35 AM on August 16, 2013


Also, Young Beef has a generally hard time with anything remotely sexual.
posted by griphus at 11:55 AM on August 16, 2013


Achewood Cookbook II ships: 2.714E+16 - 1

I've spent the last week reading Achewood from the beginning - before I had just read the GOF book and dipped my toe in here and there - and I'm up to Molly & Roast Beef's wedding. I was really enjoying it until I read about the Cookbook II, and now the whole "paid pre-orders were taken, but it never shipped" thing's put me off the strip. Did Onstad eventually refund orders, or at least address the situation?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:35 PM on August 16, 2013


It's so hard reading the Molly and Beef wedding cause its great and cause apparently there was a vicious divorce between Onstead and his wife, whom Molly was based on, not soon there after.

So long story short, that's one of the reasons Molly doesn't really come up too much.
posted by The Whelk at 6:41 PM on August 16, 2013


There continues to be updates
posted by The Whelk at 9:59 AM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


With Philippe!
posted by mr_roboto at 3:21 PM on September 7, 2013


There continues to be updates

It looks like Onstad is keeping to a weekly schedule for the time being, posting a decent-sized strip around Thursday or Friday:

"I used to have a bedspread EXACTLY like panel two"

"Parking lot behind Pho Oregon, February 2011"

"Look. If you have Philippe around, some cute is gonna get on stuff."

Here's hoping for a Sparky Schulz-length run...
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:25 AM on September 10, 2013


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