The Complicated, Slightly Better Manhood of Achewood
October 4, 2019 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Between October 1, 2001, and December 25, 2016, cartoonist Chris Onstad gifted the world with Achewood. Loved by some, hated by others, it was unbelievably inventive with language but out of touch with its inclusivity. In two recent entries for the MNT, Keith Pille (a.k.a. Mefi's own COBRA!) raises the questions of Achewood's vision of modern manhood, as well as whether it has a misogyny problem.
posted by Navelgazer (77 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great analyses of Achewood, and food for thought as a long-time fan. One should never be afraid to interrogate the art they appreciate and acknowledge its flaws. Doesn't mean you can't still enjoy it.
posted by SansPoint at 8:24 AM on October 4 [14 favorites]


One should never be afraid to interrogate the art they appreciate and acknowledge its flaws.

One of the hosts of my favorite wrestling podcast said just this morning, "You can keep it, but keep it in context", and that was so brilliant I nearly ran off the road.
posted by Etrigan at 8:27 AM on October 4 [42 favorites]


Achewood is absolutely my problematic fave. Our home wifi network is "The Cornelius Solution"; in our last apartment, it was SO MANY WHALES. I try not to use it exclusively because I'm willing to see Onstad's ads, but this strip viewer is currently my favorite way to read the comic.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 8:27 AM on October 4 [3 favorites]


WHAT ARE YOU RUNNING FROM? THE DISEASE IS INSIDE OF YOU!
posted by loquacious at 8:32 AM on October 4 [15 favorites]


Achewood is an oughties Bloom County: depressed / anxious dude, alpha dude, douchebag dude, naive dude with doting mommy, and a coked-out id monster live in a house together and have adventures that are both erudite and childlike. And yeah sometimes there are women but not really.

Opus = Phillipe
Milo = Ray
Binkley = Roast Beef
Steve (brain transreversed version) = Pat
Bill = Todd

I can't have been the first person to notice this.

Love 'em both to the core of my being but yeah they've got some blind spots for sure.
posted by Sauce Trough at 8:48 AM on October 4 [11 favorites]


WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:54 AM on October 4 [6 favorites]


Achewood predicted twitter and Game Of Thrones.

While this may be the most iconic Achewood related thing, the one I come back to repeatedly in my daily life is s this excellent shallow fried chicken recipe as written by a southern gothic serial killer.
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on October 4 [18 favorites]


Is there a word similar to "misogyny" that's not about disgust or contempt for women but more about neglect and forgetting that they exist (unless they're needed for a specific reason)? The misogyny article makes me think of the Smurfs, Tintin, and early Pixar movies: stories and settings where the characters are all male or nearly all male, except when a woman is required for the plot (like a mom or love interest).

"Misogyny" feels active to me, whereas "The story has nothing but men, even the little side characters like cashiers and bus drivers, because a man wrote it and he didn't think beyond his own default" still sucks but feels more benign. Benign misogyny?
posted by cadge at 9:31 AM on October 4 [23 favorites]


Omitsogyny?
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:40 AM on October 4 [30 favorites]


Misogyny by omission?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:49 AM on October 4 [6 favorites]


But in that last article, I described Achewood as a strip “by, for, and of dudes pursuing dude concerns” and I think the strip’s extreme focus on the world of men, largely to the exclusion of anything else, is something we have to acknowledge and look at. Ray, Beef, and Teodor at one point become extra-manly by dangling heavy objects off of the front of their underwear and then fantasize about going off to a place without women (except for brief visits for sex), for god’s sake.

For me, it’s enough just to remember that while Ray Smuckles has a lot of good qualities, he’s nobody’s role model.

I think, this is fine? I am surprised to hear people concerned about it. A comic strip is already absurdly simplistic. Some things in the story have been simplified & flattened for artistic effect: they are line drawings, they are short stories, there are only a few characters, they are stuffed animals(??) and they are all dudes. All of that is OK to do artistically as long as it feels authentic and truthful inside the flattening, which is what we like about Achewood. But taking Ray Smuckles as a role model? Who was doing that and why??

I just don't see at as "hating women" - it's not like a movie or tv show where it's like women actors getting paid less, bad cultural lessons being ingrained in millions of people, hundreds of people focused on producing it, business decisions being made based on it.

It just means that we need more work that focuses on women. I don't think going back in time and wagging our fingers at something that's already been done is actually helpful.
posted by bleep at 9:55 AM on October 4 [13 favorites]


Gynagnosia?
posted by armeowda at 9:56 AM on October 4 [9 favorites]


Is there a word similar to "misogyny" that's not about disgust or contempt for women but more about neglect and forgetting that they exist (unless they're needed for a specific reason)?

Psst, the word you're looking for is "misogyny".
posted by The Bellman at 9:58 AM on October 4 [38 favorites]


Just, you know, in general, if one is bad at writing women into one's fiction, focusing about men and male concerns probably isn't the worst path to take. I didn't read the Updike thread, but I'm nodding my head in the direction of the Updike thread.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:58 AM on October 4 [18 favorites]


Colin Space Twinks on Twitter has a lot of good tracks on Achewood, on how it’s homosocial to the point of being ...interesting and the critique of masculinity going just to the edge and then pulling back and the early stages of the strip at least being almost manically obeseed with ‘fun’ and good things keep fun going and bad things stop people from having fun and it’s so hyper focused on a west coast mid 00s Extremly Dude mindset I’m surprised anyone else can make heads or tails of it

I would say it predicted the obsession with Americana and first red scare era media and design nicely
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 AM on October 4 [10 favorites]


CST would say Achewood acknowledges and identifies the anxieties in straight white male dude culture and the underlying desire to escape them but not say, a way out of them that isn’t ...having more fun.
posted by The Whelk at 10:10 AM on October 4


Just, you know, in general, if one is bad at writing women into one's fiction, focusing about men and male concerns probably isn't the worst path to take. I didn't read the Updike thread, but I'm nodding my head in the direction of the Updike thread

The problem with that is that you tend to wind up writing about the sublime and/or impossible inscrutability of women, and their and often their mystical power over men, which is problematic even when voiced in a appreciative way (as its still othering or exoticizing, if perhaps not to the extent of Updike. More like Roth, with his confessional urges re: masculine anxieties?). Otherwise if you ignore the agency and interior lives of your female characters then there's a 40-something% shaped hole in your fictional world.

Avoiding giving offense is good, but that response still downgrades women within the text.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:10 AM on October 4 [11 favorites]


The problem with that is that you tend to wind up writing about the sublime and/or impossible inscrutability of women, and their and often their mystical power over men, which is problematic even when voiced in a appreciative way

I hate this shit too but did Achewood actually do this?
posted by bleep at 10:19 AM on October 4 [4 favorites]


Absolutely, it's just that the male fail state of depicting female agency and interiority is usually super gross. I believe that a writer can simultaneously have things of value to say and also not have a great handle on how to render a believable opposite-sex character, and I reserve the greater share of my writerly sympathies for those who avoid what they are bad at while developing their craft rather than dudes who lean into the sex robot/pedestaled goddess dichotomy.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:20 AM on October 4 [7 favorites]


17 years ago, when I introduced Achewood to the blue, all that happened was a holy war based on my opinion that it was funny.

I don't think I took another opinionated stance here for years, but I still luv y'all anyway!
posted by jeremias at 10:25 AM on October 4 [35 favorites]


I don't buy the excuse that women are somehow more difficult for men to write. Most poorly written woman characters I've encountered are poorly written because being a woman is the start and end of their characterization. Women, like men, have interests and desires that don't rest on their being a woman. If you have trouble writing a realistic woman, try starting with a motivation that isn't contingent on their gender, you know, the way you'd write a realistic male chatacter.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:33 AM on October 4 [16 favorites]


try starting with a motivation that isn't contingent on their gender, you know, the way you'd write a realistic male chatacter

This is precisely what Updike doesn't do with his male characters, if I'm reading the other thread right, and part of the argument of this essay is that Onstad doesn't do this either. He is exactly interested in motivations contingent upon gender.

And motivations contingent on gender are real, and part of what drives real people! Exploring those motivations and how they play out interests me, at least.
posted by golwengaud at 10:41 AM on October 4 [8 favorites]


Also cat and girl, the only webcomic in the world, dealt with this years ago
posted by The Whelk at 10:44 AM on October 4 [26 favorites]


The Whelk: I linked that comic in the post, actually. I love it so much.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:46 AM on October 4 [6 favorites]


Cadge, I'd push back against the idea that misogyny must necessarily be about actively setting out to cause harm in a sexist way. Sexism is the water we swim in, and almost all of it is not just unconsciously perpetrated but also facilitated - nay, coerced - by our environment and systems which we shaped using the same sexism.

If an office building does not have any nursing rooms, is that not misogyny? It's a passive "whelp we just didn't think of women's needs" but it surely kept women out of said offices and cut off women's opportunities and rights to be confined to home for the duration that they breastfed. That is misogyny.

It doesn't stop at passive. Misogyny is when someone's actions or attitudes or behavior fail to provide equal opportunities and rights to women.
posted by MiraK at 10:49 AM on October 4 [27 favorites]


I still love Achewood (with some grains of salt). Let me say that right at the top. Several years ago, I was casually seeing a dude and we were doing the thing where we share our favorite stuff with each other, so I shared Achewood with him and he got real into it, and I was pleased. A couple years after we parted ways, his misogynist PUA Redpill blog came to light and it turns out he was taking Nice Pete as an actual role model. Unironically quoting Nice Pete. Can you imagine.

So, just a data point, not condemning Achewood per se, but apparently it does have some cache among MRA types. And when I think about it, I have to admit that I can understand how it appeals to them.
posted by witchen at 10:52 AM on October 4 [13 favorites]


But taking Ray Smuckles as a role model? Who was doing that and why??

*half-raises hand, then lowers it again in embarrassment*

As someone who's AFAB, not exactly a woman all the time, and considers Achewood to have been a HUGE formative influence on my personality and sense of humor, this is such a thorny question for me. I was not super self-aware during its run and didn't really have the language to talk or think about many of the gender questions that I needed to be talking and thinking about at the time, but was definitely cognizant that I had a personal concept of my own masculinity that was important for me to understand and articulate to myself, and Achewood was helping me work through it, and sometimes complicating it a lot. I felt Achewood presented a bigger-tent view than I was seeing in other media at the time of different concepts of masculinity, and explored many of their pathologies in a way that helped me get my head around what manliness meant to me and how I related to it.

I think having a healthy and robust cast of female characters would have made it even more complicated for me as a text, so I don't think I personally mind that there wasn't one. But I get why I should :)
posted by potrzebie at 10:55 AM on October 4 [14 favorites]


I can't have been the first person to notice this [similarity to Bloom County].

Not completely sure about that mapping of characters but no, you are not.
posted by atoxyl at 10:57 AM on October 4


I agree that it can all live under the umbrella of misogyny; I'd just like a finer grain of vocab so I can clearly discuss "Dude had his blinders on and forgot to consider women" separately from "Dude definitely considered women and treated them all as nagging harpies and conniving seducers."
posted by cadge at 11:01 AM on October 4 [5 favorites]


It's frustrating that the most interesting female character in Achewood, namechecked during "The Badass Games," arrives already fridged.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:02 AM on October 4 [11 favorites]


One of my favorite things to look for as proof of a thorough level of non-sexism in writers (regardless of gender) is they don't write with the assumption that male-coded virtues and behaviors are superior to female-coded ones in their female characters.

Is your female character awesome because she wields a sword and sneakily wears pants in a story where no worthwhile male character is raising babies and sneakily wearing dresses? Then your story fails my test.
posted by MiraK at 11:03 AM on October 4 [20 favorites]


I'd just like a finer grain of vocab so I can clearly discuss "Dude had his blinders on and forgot to consider women" separately from "Dude definitely considered women and treated them all as nagging harpies and conniving seducers."

Both are equally harmful, though? I mean, to some extent I see your point, you want to make a distinction between those who are oblivious and those who are malicious, but making a moral distinction based on the misogynist's intentions is a dangerous slippery slope that provides cover to misogynists. I'd much rather not give even the slightest impression of a pass to the oblivious ones because it's important to keep the focus on misogynistic outcomes rather than on deciding whether a misogynist is good or bad.
posted by MiraK at 11:05 AM on October 4 [5 favorites]


I never understood the appeal of Achewood. I was big into webcomics, and I tried picking it up a couple of times, but it seemed so flat and all the characters were just different flavors of asshole. Ryan North does so much more with so much less; Jon Allison writes complex characters (including women) doing things that are just as crazy without everything being a metaphor for futility. The Charles Schultz comparison is apt, though. No comic was ever bleaker than Peanuts.
posted by rikschell at 11:06 AM on October 4 [13 favorites]


Other Achewood crimes: subconsciously infecting half of web users including myself with Roast Beef's dialogue so you have to consciously work against typing everything with no commas or ending punctuation like a runaway train that gently crashes into some soft pillows
posted by jason_steakums at 11:11 AM on October 4 [21 favorites]


That link that jeremias posted above is something of a revelation, as it reminds me of how many webcomics there used to be, and how many I used to follow; a surprising number of them are still up, or their sites are, but some of them haven't improved or have actually gone downhill. There are few media that are more mercilessly likely to show someone's artistic limitations than webcomics, I think; it has a pretty low price of entry, but that just lets more people who don't really know how to tell a story or develop characters in, and lots of people run out of juice early and either abandon the project mid-story or rely on gimmicks to keep them going.

Onstad seems to have done a bit of both; the comic has sputtered along for some time, updating sporadically, and I stopped checking regularly at a point where there seemed to be some interminable and rather ugly plotline involving Nice Pete in which even Onstad didn't seem that interested in it but also couldn't let go of it. It seems to have ended, I guess, and one that's a few ones previous seems to concern itself with the topic of this post, in an oddly bitter way.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:17 AM on October 4 [4 favorites]


Synchronicity - not to derail, but... My Dad just died recently, and he owned a shoe-store whose motto was:

Loved by Many - Hated by Others, Worn by Everyone
posted by symbioid at 11:20 AM on October 4 [10 favorites]


Other Achewood crimes: subconsciously infecting half of web users including myself with Roast Beef's dialogue so you have to consciously work against typing everything with no commas or ending punctuation like a runaway train that gently crashes into some soft pillows

all mumbling in small type with your mouth somehow even though it has a stale Dorito hanging out of it such as might be found in the backseat of a white 1991 Chevy Corsica that was impounded after its owner was found dead inside in a Family Dollar parking lot on a Friday night
posted by invitapriore at 11:21 AM on October 4 [24 favorites]


Oh no I got the punctuation crimes from homestuck
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 11:40 AM on October 4 [7 favorites]


Molly and Beef strips definitely tended to expose Onstad's limitations as a writer. I have a memory that they also became reflective of his own relationship issues and his increasing burnout with the strip but to be honest I've never felt compelled to re-read much from after 2009 or so.
posted by atoxyl at 11:43 AM on October 4 [4 favorites]


That link that jeremias posted above is something of a revelation, as it reminds me of how many webcomics there used to be, and how many I used to follow;

This is entirely my own fault for giving up at the first sign of inconvenience, but: Google Reader's demise killed my webcomic consumption dead. I'm sure that happened to a lot of people and I'm curious what impact it had on webcomics traffic.

one that's a few ones previous seems to concern itself with the topic of this post, in an oddly bitter way.

Suddenly I'm not really regretting losing touch with Achewood, though. That's some grade-A "get off my lawn" boring lazy crap. I looooved Achewood back in the day but haven't really thought about it since I've started assessing my media consumption in better ways and, welp, we'll always have the oughts, Achewood, but we've grown apart.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:43 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]


It's frustrating that the most interesting female character in Achewood, namechecked during "The Badass Games," arrives already fridged.

Ok I love the little perspective lesson that just gave me, I hadn't thought about that strip in forever but at the time it came out I was very much hyped for its hype for nontraditional models of masculinity, subverting expectations with the baking challenge... and I totally didn't even think about the Iris Gambol character's use for even a second back then. Makes me wonder what I'm overlooking these days.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:49 AM on October 4 [4 favorites]


Suddenly I'm not really regretting losing touch with Achewood, though.

Man I didn't even know he was writing comics in 2016. Ahem:

I've never felt compelled to re-read much from after 2009 or so.

You know how all the best-remembered newspaper comics are the ones whose authors voluntarily retired them (except maybe Peanuts but people my age would probably have a better understanding of why people used to like Peanuts if he had)?

I think Onstad probably had reasons for not doing that with Achewood - like, it was a source of income and he didn't really have that much else going for him for a while - but oh boy did it painfully sputter to a halt over the course of years.
posted by atoxyl at 11:52 AM on October 4


CST would say Achewood acknowledges and identifies the anxieties in straight white male dude culture and the underlying desire to escape them but not say, a way out of them that isn’t ...having more fun.

I agree with Spacetwinks' takes about the whole "what the fuck is onstad's deal with gay people" thing - which really is weird and pretty different from the ambient homophobia in a lot of other prominent webcomics of the time - but I think this and the posted article both undervalue the pathos that comes with nearly any engagement with manhood in achewood.

Even those times when there is an attempt at escape from these anxieties, it still reeks of a sort of low-key shabbiness and sadness. The badass games. Everyone's attempts to half-assedly raise Philippe. Everyone's veneration of Cornelius, who is after all a failed author living in a shitty shared house. Ray's inability to deal with his health problems. That thing with the glasses of water on their underwear. Lyle's entire life. Roast Beef not really getting 'better'. The fun is always tinged with desperation and I think it's a fairly despairing comic overall. I feel this is part of Onstad's bigger obsession with the cheap and the trashy and the ephemeral, and also probably reflects a a lot of his own anxieties and personal relationship issues.

Anyway as formative as it was and as much as it's infected my speech patterns and as much as I think it's a masterpiece on the strength of the dialogue alone, it's definitely a problematic fave and "seriously shitty with its female characters" is not at all a reach. Cat and Girl, another webcomic from the same era, directly picks up on this in that one strip.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 11:54 AM on October 4 [8 favorites]


Both are equally harmful, though? I mean, to some extent I see your point, you want to make a distinction between those who are oblivious and those who are malicious, but making a moral distinction based on the misogynist's intentions is a dangerous slippery slope that provides cover to misogynists. I'd much rather not give even the slightest impression of a pass to the oblivious ones because it's important to keep the focus on misogynistic outcomes rather than on deciding whether a misogynist is good or bad.

Just wanted to do more than offer you a favorite, MiraK. I usually talk about this in the context of race rather than sex, but most prejudice that occurs in daily life is the passive kind - just forgetting to consider the needs, wants and even existence of some groups.

By focusing on motivation, we focus on the aggressors in those kinds of situations, and splitting hairs about how much we should react. Refocusing on consequences is better because it reminds us to work on fixing stuff instead of rationalizing or justifying the current system.

So... thanks for bringing that up, and good points.
posted by mordax at 11:54 AM on October 4 [14 favorites]


That link that jeremias posted above is something of a revelation, as it reminds me of how many webcomics there used to be

Their activities were so poorly portrayed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:57 AM on October 4 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure how one could come away from The Great Outdoor Fight and not see the work as an over-the-top satire about masculinity, taken to a ridiculous extreme, and then taken well past that point.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:18 PM on October 4 [9 favorites]


What's the problem isn't it? subtlety, satire, and new ones are for decadent the times of plenty. The watchword of the current time is that everything is real and literal and sincere.
posted by The Whelk at 12:23 PM on October 4 [6 favorites]


The Safeway receipt for the turkey and brandy is forever etched into the tissues of my mind. The glittering prize of ultimate manhood made real, as real as real can be.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:26 PM on October 4 [12 favorites]


It's basically the comic book version of Hemingway, done in the style of Verhoeven's Starship Troopers.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:29 PM on October 4 [12 favorites]


prize bull octorok: At my bachelor party weekend this last year, when we arrived, some of my friends brought me to my first surprise of the weekend: a container of Safeway turkey and a bottle of Christian Bros. Brandy. Despite Ramses' advice, I elected to share.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:29 PM on October 4 [11 favorites]


The watchword of the current time is that everything is real and literal and sincere.

We're in a time when consequences for misogyny/racism/homophobia/etc. are becoming more crystal clear. Women actors lose their careers because Weinstein holds their prospects in his hand. Brown-skinned families get put into border concentration camps. Gay men lose their jobs for playing on a gay softball team. Maybe works of satire are easier to process on their own terms, when the stakes aren't so high for people who are marginalized. But I still just can't see what Onstad is doing in such stark black and white terms, even if the current climate demands fewer shades of grey.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:34 PM on October 4


all that happened was a holy war based on my opinion that it was funny

Even in those days, there was that moment when the excitement of seeing MetaFilter discuss something you enjoy became the horror of seeing MetaFilter discuss something you enjoy.
posted by MrBadExample at 12:41 PM on October 4 [35 favorites]


I never understood the appeal of Achewood.

Onstad is a tremendous stylist and jokesmith, and some of his turns of phrase pop up with regularity for those of us who followed the strip. ("No, I ain't got a fax machine! I also ain't got a Apple IIc, polio, or a falcon!") Although the strip was mostly very simply drawn, he also developed a gift for bizarre imagery that made me wonder briefly, years ago, if he was a pseudonym for Chris Ware, or vice versa. I am thinking here particularly of Cartilage Head.

I'm a woman, I've always been a feminist, and I've appreciated Achewood since I started reading it. (This is in part due to a thriving fan community I've come to love, one part of it women-only, all of them very aware of this kind of thing.) But this is because I have always given a bit of a pass to stories that avoid misogyny by simply not including women. I always got the sense that Onstad appreciated women as people but was a little afraid of them, which is a benevolent misogyny in the pedestal sense. Nice Pete embodies the reverse of this attitude.

In one interview, he mentioned in passing that Achewood "destroyed his marriage." He didn't elaborate, not that it's any of our business, but it gives a kind of context to the bittersweetness of Beef and Molly's wedding arc, which I quite liked. Still, IIRC, it was almost the last time Molly appeared, and the last time she appeared in a positive role.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:04 PM on October 4 [16 favorites]


Found that interview.

Weirdly, I think Achewood would have made a better podcast drama than an animated show. The art doesn't lend itself to animation, but the lines just trip off the tongue.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:07 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


One thing I will always treasure about Achewood was how funny and recognizable Roast Beef's depression was to me.

"I'm the guy who sucks / also I've got depression" is like a perfect t-shirt poem about how (my) depression was at once both completely fucking ridiculous and absolutely crippling.

also add me to the list of fake roast beef talkers but I am not very good at it
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:08 PM on October 4 [13 favorites]


oh god did anyone read the boy's adventure novels he wrote as supplements to the comic back when Achewood was cranking out hell of extruded product? I can't even remember the name, they were mentioned in the strip in passing, and then he wrote them the fuck out
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:12 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


Sounds like you're talking about Nate Small: One Tough Man.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:13 PM on October 4 [2 favorites]


I liked "Early 2000s popular media that people look back on fondly and uncritically, constantly quoting and referencing it despite it probably not holding up so well today" when it was called Homestar Runner.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:32 PM on October 4 [9 favorites]


hdu sir, Homestar Runner still holds up, and by "holds up" I mean "comforts me immensely when I am having a bad brain day and can only watch videos under the covers"

(seriously though, I can't think of a problematic moment it has had, and the Brothers Chaps are still putting stuff out)
posted by Countess Elena at 4:14 PM on October 4 [11 favorites]


From what I remember Homestar Runner was decent at being decent, but I wouldn't want to give any media a blanket pass without looking past my vague memories from a time I didn't care to notice much. Just off the top of my head, Marzipan as the only major female character and "the only adult in the room" while the boys be boys is not greeeaaat. But if HR's issues more or less stop there, that's pretty good in context of the 00's internet.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:32 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


Yeah Marzipan's characterization is the main thing that comes to mind. I was also thinking recently about Strong Sad as a punchline about depression and anxiety, or the King of Town as a punchline about, uh, problem eating? I'm sure if you went deep looking for stuff to be offended by you could find plenty, but very little holds up under that level of scrutiny.

Anyway I was mostly kidding, I agree Homestar Runner holds up pretty well as a product of 00s internet, better than Achewood in any case.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:43 PM on October 4


The fun thing about Homestar Runner for me is that it was all about making fun of boystuff.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:43 PM on October 4


Only tangentially related, but:

Recently I was playing "this little piggy" with my toddler. After the 'wee wee wee' bit I asked him what his favorite piggy was. He immediately pointed to his middle toe and shouted, "roast beef!"

Of course.

Roast Beef.

The middle cat.
posted by phooky at 4:59 PM on October 4 [11 favorites]


Roast Beef and his SAD light is my go-to thought when the rains of January and February roll in, and in some ways I think the Shrovis-Bishopthorpe Envaliant III is the epitome of computing. Just don't tell Mr. Teal that you do not enjoy honey.

Onstad makes delicious sodas now. He and his son do Achewood art that's for sale from time to time on Instagram. It always gets snapped up very quickly whenever it's offered. Why there isn't a bound, collected set of the entire strip is a mystery to me, maybe the sales numbers on the first run were not what Dark Horse wanted. But it does feel a bit like leaving money on the table.

As for Homestar Runner, one of my favorite XOXO memories was seeing Strongbad live and in person when they came to talk about their work. (Including Hot Dip, which is NOT FOR MOMS!) That memory is tainted a bit by their later non-apology for one of the bits, that used a term that wasn't great. They could have handled it a lot better.

Both Achewood and Homestar remind me of when reading webcomics was an event. The only one I can think of now that I read is This Modern World, which gets delivered to my inbox a day ahead of everywhere else since I subscribed to Sparky's List.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:10 PM on October 4 [4 favorites]


I read one of those write-ups in the FPP after it was mentioned in a recent MeFi thread and it inspired me to make a final attempt at getting Achewood, from the start. Am currently up to the decision-making flowcharts ~5 years in, so fair to say it's clicked. I was a voracious webcomic consumer in the '00s, but bounced off Achewood pretty hard barring the odd standalone. Later attempts at reading it just failed to take, I think partly because I didn't realise it was as serialised as it is or that it depended so much on knowing the characters. Jumping around random comics or plotlines didn't work.

As stated, it is very much about "dudeliness" which I probably didn't appreciate on previous attempts because with greater or lesser levels of irony that seemed a fairly common factor in webcomics of the time too.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:18 PM on October 4 [2 favorites]


I was reading an article about the SpaceX Starship just the other day and realized it is basically Pat's Rocket.

I best Musk even has a Fuckin' sign for the kitchen
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:51 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


Roast Beef and his SAD light is my go-to thought

"Beef, are you too depressed to finish biting through that piece of toast?"
posted by Sauce Trough at 6:11 PM on October 4 [6 favorites]


Seriously, this strip is probably tied with Allie Brosh's "floor corn" as the most accurate take I've ever seen about depression. It manages to make it both absurd and also very, very real.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:26 PM on October 4 [14 favorites]


more about neglect and forgetting that they exist

missogyny
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 6:43 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


So I've just kind of been spectating the thread, since I didn't want to swoop in and warp the direction of it, but I just wanted to say that I'm really glad people got something out of the two Comics MNT pieces. Also! The jag of total Achewood immersion that led to me writing these two things also led me to create this large cutout that I'll be attaching to the grille of my amp for a show my band's playing tonight; Ray is no role model, but I'll borrow his power for an hour onstage
posted by COBRA! at 8:00 AM on October 5 [10 favorites]


I assume I'm not the only one who has a head-canon of exactly what "Ass In Your Pants" sounds like.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:13 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


God knows I do.
posted by COBRA! at 9:18 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Jumping on the Homestar runner derail:
I loved it when they draw dragons. “Trogdor!!!!!”
Mr Natasha and I still reference “burnanating”.
posted by natasha_k at 4:08 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Onstad told me my depression was a thing other people dealt with in the same way. But literally nothing can please everyone, and the opportunity to let everyone know is our one chief joy in this world.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:47 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Poe's law shows us you can't lampoon masculinity without toxically-male types identifying literally with your tropes. I've said this about Fight Club before, but if your satire isn't being recognised as such, perhaps you never wrote satire to begin with.

Achewood seems to be less widely misunderstood than some things, but who knows if we can "Keep it in context" over the next century.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:39 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


I just finished a re-read of Achewood yesterday morning, and I felt that mingled pleasure-and-dread that MrBadExample alludes to above. I really... didn't see problems w/ it, on a multiple re-read?

People (used to) say 'write what you know' and to my mind Onstead did exactly that. Good job!
posted by hap_hazard at 8:39 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Reading more slowly but I've passed Philippe's 5-again Birthday and hit the Six Feet Under ending-alike comic which to me reads as canonical confirmation that like Agent Scully he doesn't ever die. He really is a very special boy.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 3:08 PM on October 7 [4 favorites]


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