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August 7, 2009 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Just Another Post-Apocalypse Story is a short, sweet, profound webcomic by Edward Grug III, of "Love Puppets" fame, from the always-excellent Top Shelf 2.0 repository.
posted by jbickers (38 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
(I particularly love the stray "Why?" on page 3. Why indeed.)
posted by jbickers at 12:39 PM on August 7, 2009


This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a - oh shit dinosaurs!
posted by ND¢ at 12:50 PM on August 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Endtown is my current favorite post apocalyptic webcomic. It's got giant mutants and anti-mutant nazi-like bad guys instead of dinosaurs.
posted by DanielDManiel at 12:54 PM on August 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Short and sweet, yes. 'Profound' might be over the top here.
posted by HumanComplex at 12:54 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Profound' might be over the top here.

Oh, I dunno. "The world is coming to an end, but it's my birthday and I still need it to be special" pretty much gets to the heart of childhood, IMO.
posted by jbickers at 12:57 PM on August 7, 2009


These sorts of stories always seem to work best when the apocalyptic event is just hinted at. It really gives the reader's immagination room to breathe. This one is particularly tantalizing.
posted by martens at 1:09 PM on August 7, 2009


These sorts of stories always seem to work best when the apocalyptic event is just hinted at. It really gives the reader's immagination room to breathe. This one is particularly tantalizing.

I've only ever really heard this as a defense of The Road, of which I found the ambiguity the laziest and most maddening element. It works well here because the story is so brief, but if it was novel-length I'd really, really want the presence of FREAKING AWESOME DINOSAURS to be explained.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:52 PM on August 7, 2009


This was a 23 frame story...there was no good point for a core dump.

"Hey look! It's one of those dinosaurs which, as you know, was created through the cloning of DNA lodged in mosquitos which became trapped in sap that fossilized to form amber. How unfortunate it was when they ran amok eating many people and destroying interstate commerce leaving everyone else victim to famines and fighting over supplies and, ultimately, easy prey to cholera and/or flu. "
posted by codswallop at 2:11 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tom Cruise stars in the eventual movie.
posted by Mblue at 2:13 PM on August 7, 2009


Yeah, don't go out on the pier when dinosaurs are around.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:23 PM on August 7, 2009


In my post-apocalyptic world I run It's the End Of the World As We Know it: Bar and Library.
posted by The Whelk at 2:38 PM on August 7, 2009


Hell, this comic really cheered me up today.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 2:41 PM on August 7, 2009


I've only ever really heard this as a defense of The Road, of which I found the ambiguity the laziest and most maddening element.

I found it rather intriguing myself, but at any rate I believe it's been more or less established that it was an asteroid.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:49 PM on August 7, 2009


I found it rather intriguing myself, but at any rate I believe it's been more or less established that it was an asteroid.

Googling that seems pretty inconclusive. I found it underwhelming, but then, I've consumed a lot of post-apoc literature over the past few years and tend to appreciate rich world building and just finished Octavia Butler's totally amazing and rich and believable Parable of the Talents yesterday, so I might be feeling particularly prickly about post apocalyptic lit set in a sparser universe.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:57 PM on August 7, 2009


Well, what caused the situation in The Road wasn't the point. It didn't matter how it happened, just that it did.

This comic though...short and sweet, sure, but unless it's going to be something more than a 24-hour work, doesn't have much weight to me. And I love dinosaurs! The pacing threw me -- lot of large panels with not much information in them -- and coupled with a story that is basically, "In a post-dinosaur-apocalypse world, one small child learns to say 'Hell'," the whole thing felt extremely flat.
posted by m0nm0n at 3:45 PM on August 7, 2009


I found it rather intriguing myself, but at any rate I believe it's been more or less established that it was an asteroid.

Googling that seems pretty inconclusive.


Supervolcano. Duh.
posted by Keith Talent at 4:30 PM on August 7, 2009


The "ambiguous apocalypse" conceit is played quite nicely in season three of Mitchell & Webb on the BBC. One of its sketches features a game show on a post-apocalypse emergency broadcast. The nature of the apocalypse, which is referred to as The Event, is never made clear, and the clues given in the sketches are intruging but intentially unhelpful and sometimes contradictory. Viewers are continually reminded to remain indoors, and sometimes to stay away from the walls, almost all knowledge has been wiped out, the Event itself was mind-bendingly terrifying - it's effective because it's covincingly creepy while also being quite funny.

I enjoyed this comic.
posted by WPW at 4:40 PM on August 7, 2009


Googling that seems pretty inconclusive.

This Rolling Stone article is where I got the meteor bit from, by the way. It's in the section starting, "ONE DAY A FEW YEARS AGO". Seems like a good bet at this point.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:41 PM on August 7, 2009


The article is archived in David Kushner's site, but it opens in one of those annoying popups, so I just linked to it directly.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:42 PM on August 7, 2009


I liked this -- I think the funny and the profound point is that, from the child's point of view, being told that you can say "hell" now whenever you want is as awesome, maybe even more awesome, than the world being overrun by awesome dinosaurs. Because the dinosaurs aren't about you, but knowing you can say "hell" whenever you want and nobody is going to beat you with a strap and say you're a bad kid, that is a gift of personal power that will stay with you until the dinosaurs finally get you.
posted by localroger at 4:48 PM on August 7, 2009


I'm quite disappointed to hear that the apocalypse in The Road is the result of a meteor. The sudden, total collapse of the global ecosystem as the unexpected result of some human activity tied into my fears so much more effectively. I mean, all this time we're worried about global warming and bees and swine flu, and it turns out a new ingredient in floor wax causes a catastrophic cascading breakdown in plant enzymes that cannot be slowed or stopped, and it's all over in a week ...
posted by WPW at 4:54 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the cause of the Roadpocalypse is absolutely relevant. If it's a meteor, the book's about humanity cut off by an uncaring universe, doomed by its own poor prioritization (what, no warning system?) and tearing itself apart like an animal dying in a bear trap. If it's nuclear war, it's about the insanity of human politics, how it could end in the destruction of everything, and how even after having seen that happen the remaining humans can't stop killing each other for personal gain, human society ground away to nothing against its own remorseless inhumanity. For example. Not that the book can't be ambiguous about this, of course, but it still matters.
posted by No-sword at 6:11 PM on August 7, 2009


God, The Road. Best book I never want to think about again. I can't believe anyone could not be moved by that book. I didn't sleep for days, I cried in the middle of the afternoon. It's like there's a little divot in my heart where that boy lives. Why am I thinking about it aaaagh
posted by palliser at 9:05 PM on August 7, 2009


God, The Road. Best book I never want to think about again. I can't believe anyone could not be moved by that book.

Eh. Maybe I'm a robot. I read it only a few months after I read Riddley Walker, which was so immersive that I find myself thinking about the stage of my life when I read it as inextricably transformed by the reading of it--The Handmaid's Tale had a similar effect on me. I've heard The Road described as "tragedy porn"; I don't know if I'd go that far (though over time, I remember almost nothing about it except the sad, sad scene with coca cola), but I do think that one contentious review of it posted by a goodreads friend is apt, especially in light of the comic that's the subject of this post. He said: "I might suggest that McCarthy has achieved a feat in making a world so bleak and pointless that no matter how bad things get, it never feels like it actually gets any worse, but it also seems a complete betrayal of human nature [. . .] In the real world, people always find little hopes and joys, especially in difficult and harrowing conditions."

Which is to say: hell. Hell hell hell. It's my birthday tomorrow! Hell.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:39 AM on August 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The real world has never been smashed by a meteor, either.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:29 AM on August 8, 2009


The real world has never been smashed by a meteor, either.

??
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:06 AM on August 8, 2009


Ha ha, ok ok. However, you know that I was referring to the "real world" sketched by your friend, the one populated by modern human beings.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:23 AM on August 8, 2009


Well, yeah, but we do have some idea of how people react under extreme situations, thanks to events like Hiroshima and the Holocaust. I think it's a valid criticism, and other authors (like Octavia Butler) have created similar settings with more nuanced responses from their characters.

But I think we'll just have to agree to disagree.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:28 AM on August 8, 2009


PhoBWanKenobi, good call to bring Riddley Walker into this discussion - what a seriously amazing book. When I bought it, I opened it randomly to a page about a third of the way in and was literally instantly hooked. I had to shake myself about 20 pages further on, then start again from the beginning. It amazes me that it isn't better known.
posted by WPW at 11:11 AM on August 8, 2009


Yeah, I guess this is turning into a real discussion. Hiroshima, the Holocaust and Butler's setting in particular are all fundamentally different from the events of The Road in that in The Road, it is Game Over. Civilization--and perhaps the human species itself--is done. Finito. I never get the sense that the disaster is something anyone thinks humanity will come back from. The world is depopulated, shit won't grow, and the only food anywhere is what is left over from the time before the event. There is the tiniest bit of hope at the end when the kid finds the compound and its shotgun wielding guardian, but I didn't even get the sense that it was a new beginning so much as a further staving off of the inevitable.

Besides, maybe some people would react the way you say, but the number of characters we are exposed to in The Road is extremely small. I don't find it unlikely that they would be essentially hopeless.

Besides, besides, they kept going. If they were really, honest-to-gods hopeless, they would have just offed themselves like the wife.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:12 AM on August 8, 2009


I think "hope" in The Road was distilled down to one tiny little element: commitment to human decency. No hope for a better future -- in fact, really, it's pretty much a certainty that nothing will get better, food will never be produced again and there are only so many cans. I think the purpose of removing all hope of better circumstances made the father's commitment to decency that much purer. It's right to try to be good -- why? well, because it's right to try to be good.

It's not really comparable to a novel, which would have rich characterizations and imagination of the world; it's more like an allegory.
posted by palliser at 11:28 AM on August 8, 2009


made = "was to make"
posted by palliser at 11:29 AM on August 8, 2009


I liked The Road a lot better when it was called The Genocides and had Thomas Disch's name on the cover.
posted by localroger at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2009


Yeah, I guess this is turning into a real discussion. Hiroshima, the Holocaust and Butler's setting in particular are all fundamentally different from the events of The Road in that in The Road, it is Game Over.

Well, we can look at Oryx and Crake as a book that more closely parallels it. And Snowman's reactions still seemed more nuanced to me. Maybe McCarthy wasn't going for nuance, just like, I suppose, he probably wasn't aiming for a detailed or well-explained setting; perhaps the man and the boy are meant to be archetypal. But I'm not sure what we're supposed to gather from their story, then. That the world is a miserable place, that you have to protect your own? Isn't that possible ending skewed by the kindness--offered by an outsider--at the end?

All of these character issues were problematic to me. More problematic were issues that wouldn't slide in much other post-apocalyptic lit. Humans survive but there are no fish, or ferns, or hardy little insects? Hmm.

I actually thought of The Road as I was reading Parable of the Talents; there's a line about kids wandering the highway, and I thought of how easily McCarthy's characters could have fir in to Butler's really well-developed universe--but they probably would have been the type of people that the narrator dismisses as hopeless. If you haven't read them, one of the major themes of the parables book is that man's perspective on his own situation is limited and short-sighted; change, change that we can't expect or anticipate, is constant. And also that man needs hope, big goals, even apparently irrational goals, to be able to soldier on.

I found it uplifting, and I'm not someone who usually is aiming to be uplifted by literature; I also found it both more believable (incredibly so) and more immersive. If you haven't read the series, I'd recommend them because of that, but also because it presents an interesting counterpoint to McCarthy's pretty bleak portrayal of humanity.

Or, like I said, we might have to just agree to disagree. :)

WPW, I know, right? That it came from the same imagination as the Frances books amazes me. I don't know if I've ever read a book besides that one and felt quiet so at-one with its setting. I think part of that is the invented language--it's such a process to read that you can't help but get sucked in.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:56 PM on August 8, 2009


Yes, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree, because all of the books you bring up to "parallel" The Road do not, to my mind, parallel its situation at all. None of them, especially--as I said earlier--Butler's deal with a human universe so conclusively given the coda. I don't find the cry for nuance very convincing. By picking up the book, you have asked the author to transport you to the world he had in mind. By comparing it to some other author's dissimilar world and then complaining that the characters don't react "properly" (as compared to that other author's characters), you are doing both the author and yourself a disservice.

The Road is the literary equivalent of the Dead Flag Blues. The hopelessness is the point, I think.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:09 PM on August 8, 2009


the same imagination as the Frances books

Whoa. That Russell Hoban? I am floored.

I think I will call PhoBWanKenobi and tell her she left something on my bookshelf and I'd trade her Riddley Walker for it, but no backsies.
posted by palliser at 9:23 PM on August 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


By comparing it to some other author's dissimilar world and then complaining that the characters don't react "properly" (as compared to that other author's characters), you are doing both the author and yourself a disservice.

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying: these authors drew up similar worlds which were better defined and had characters that reacted more realistically within the confines of their worlds. McCarthy's world was substantially undefined, which bothered me--I wasn't transported to the world he had in mind; I found the lack of development and the (strangely simultaneously) emotionally simplistic and overwrought reaction of the characters to be distracting. They never seemed like real people to me, nor did their world seem cohesive or consistent. That was true for me even without comparing it to other dystopian novels, and because it's such an oversaturated and rich genre, the comparison is almost inevitable.

The other examples were raised because the initial comment by martens suggested that lack of development gives the reader's imagination "room to breathe." In these other post apocalyptic stories, the reader's imagination is given ample room to breathe; explanation of the setting doesn't impede that, as it shouldn't. Sci-fi world building is all about exercising the reader's imagination. When done well, the setting and background becomes indispensable to the plot and the characters--here, it wasn't. Though you might argue that it was an asteroid, it could have easily been anything--a nuclear explosion, for example. And I'm not a fan of particularly hard sci-fi, but refusal to provide backstory (the hallmark, I think, of a writer unfamiliar with the tropes of the genre, who just doesn't care, and figures his readers won't, either) is what struck me as particularly lazy.

So I'm not saying that McCarthy had to do exactly what, say, Butler or Hoban, did in their novels with their characters, and I'm not saying that further explanation of his setting would have resulted in the same message as Butler's books, but I'm saying that giving his characters more nuance and a deeper (and in some ways more confined) world to interact in would have been one way to increase depth of the novel, to give the reader a deeper message than the pathos of human misery. But the message here, like the world, seemed simplistic and at times contradictory (again, what good was the father's fight to keep the kid isolated in light of the ending?).

You can feel I'm doing myself a disservice, but I don't really see how giving a novel careful consideration--even if in the end, I don't love it--is anything but a service to a writer. I've thought really hard about what bothered me about The Road; as a reader, I'm someone who fundamentally looks to be absorbed by a work. Undeveloped backstory is always distracting to me. But tastes are always subjective. Different readers always have different reactions. You know, don't let my complaints with The Road get you down if you love it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:39 AM on August 9, 2009


The "ambiguous apocalypse" conceit is played quite nicely in season three of Mitchell & Webb on the BBC. One of its sketches features a game show on a post-apocalypse emergency broadcast. The nature of the apocalypse, which is referred to as The Event, is never made clear, and the clues given in the sketches are intruging but intentially unhelpful and sometimes contradictory. Viewers are continually reminded to remain indoors, and sometimes to stay away from the walls, almost all knowledge has been wiped out, the Event itself was mind-bendingly terrifying - it's effective because it's covincingly creepy while also being quite funny.


REMAIN INDOORS

Also, I love that a short and sweet webcomic post is turning into a broader discussion on post-apocalyptic fiction, which I'm about to read and contribute to. That's pure MeFi. I have a theory that the MeFi population is so broad that pretty much any post can spark off amazingly long and high quality nerd-outs.

Assuming those posts are limited to the topics of zombies, the Alien movies and comics.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:42 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


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