Thursday, September 07, 2006

"This shit is better than Sopranos!"

I'm no expert on comic books (or graphic novels, as those who don't want to admit to a lifetime of geekery call them): the opposite in fact. I regularly cause looks of pained embarrassment on the faces of my comic book-loving friends when it emerges, halfway into a conversation about X-Men or some such, that my experience of this fine art never progressed far beyond the Beano. For whatever reason, I could never give a flying toss about superheroes saving humanity or vicious brawls on the streets of deserted metropolises, hundreds of years into the bleak, atomic future. What I cared about were silly jokes and likeable characters. (A psychoanalyst could probably tell you that there's more to it than that, but in much the same way that I'm not an expert on comic books, I'm not a psychoanalyst either.) As I grew older I also began to appreciate good writing - whether in books, films, music or the scripts for football punditry programmes.

Recently, I found the perfect combination of these factors in Achewood, an online comic strip telling the story of a group of anthropomorphic stuffed toys, robots and pets (God bless Wikipedia for dull facts you can't think of the phrasing for). Created by Chris Onstad, and published for free 3-4 times a week at, it is one of those brilliant, shining lights you come across every once in a blue moon which demonstrate that there's more to the Internet than just pornography and the burgeoning knock-off viagra and diamond market.

The adventures of Achewood's motley crew began almost 5 years ago, and in the intervening time, Onstad has - week-in, week-out - been building up a complete micro-universe where his characters live, breathe, cook, drink, have parties, overcome depression, go to Heaven and Hell for various reasons (somehow always returning), run for President, go on numerous other adventures and generally hang around and have fun.

The great thing about Achewood is that whether it's a one-off strip about an awkward phone call or a whole story arc detailing a trip into space, the characters are always so painstakingly, lovingly and realistically brought to life and voiced by Onstad's brilliant artistry and writing that it's impossible not to suspend your disbelief. And so it makes complete sense when we see what Philippe, the innocent 5-year old otter, gets up to after he reads The Anarchist's Cookbook:

Or when we see Ray get "drunk as a lord" in Hell with Robert Johnson:

When you've been reading the strip for a while, Ray, Roast Beef, Teodor and the rest of Achewood's population won't seem so much like a group of "anthropomorphic stuffed toys, robots and pets" as just some guys you know. If you have the time to spare (and the fact that you're reading this blog would suggest that you do), I'd recommend starting from the start and just ploughing through the archive. When I got a taste of it for starters, this is what I did, and I practically couldn't stop reading the thing for a whole week, until I was up to date. Mr. Onstad: You. Are. Rad.


Aidan, mostly said...

I wasn't aware of this strip at all, it's fannytastic. I've got to admit, I'm a bit of a comic geek (or enthusiast, if you will); both the X-men style and the Calvin and Hobbes style, but this is a welcome addition to my internet timewasting schedule.

Brian said...

wonderful sign of conor

Brian said...

I mean "sign off", conor

Tugboat said...

Thought you'd appreciate it Brian.

And Aidan, be prepared for serious addiction.