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Achewood Creator on NPR 104

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-listen-to dept.
On my drive in to the office today, I heard an interview with a comic creator. Since I started the car mid-interview, it took me just a few moments to figure out who it was: Chris Onstad from Achewood (NSFW some days. Possibly including today, depending on your W). He's plugging his book The Great Outdoor Fight. Since his comic is one of the favorites here, I thought you all might enjoy hearing the interview. Today's comic is especially amusing given that it will likely be read by a great number of those NPR types unfamiliar with the strip.
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Achewood Creator on NPR

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  • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Monday September 29, 2008 @09:21AM (#25192927)

    Do not RTFA, contains furries.

  • Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29, 2008 @09:24AM (#25192951)
    Shame it's not funny or entertaining.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
      You mean the Comic, or the Interview? The comic is hilarious, and (this being Slashdot) I haven't listened to TFA. Whoever modded this insightful, honestly, has no taste.
      • Taste is subjective, so you can't say someone has no taste.

        As for comics, what makes them funny, or exciting all depends. I've got a list of all sorts of comics [nystrom.nl].that I've been reading some time before.
        A dozen or so of them I still read, some are more for reference, and some I found funny once, but then it changed in a way that it lost its appeal.
        • by smurgy (1126401)

          "X has no taste" parses syntactically, ergo one can say it. Being right or wrong is another matter.

          The real issue is that the GP fell for an obvious troll.

          I'm like you. Things go on my comics list (mine's on my flock RSS browser), some have stayed on for years, some stay on for a while - my tastes change, or they change for the worse, or they don't change (ie they reveal themselves to be one-noters).

          FWIW my taste differs from yours from your list.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sskang (567081)
      You must be a forcemeat [achewood.com].
    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192) on Monday September 29, 2008 @10:26AM (#25193545) Journal

      Yeah, I don't get it either. Can someone explain to me how today's strip is supposed to be funny?

      When is NPR going to interview XKCD?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sskang (567081)
        Can you explain to me how today's XKCD is supposed to be funny?
        • by Stoutlimb (143245)

          Just below the Andromeda Galaxy, and a bit to the left of the Magellanic Clouds.

          Well it did it for me.

        • by cbreaker (561297)

          I never really found XKCD to be particularly good either. But, you can at least find SOME good stuff.

      • by Tyr_7BE (461429)

        Today's strip is a continuation of a story arc that goes back a week or two....which is a continuation of another theme that was developed three years back or so. Achewood is something you have to know how to read. If you just read a comic or two here or there, you're probably not going to get it. You have to follow it for a few weeks before it even begins to make a little bit of sense. After you get to know the characters a bit, it becomes much more enjoyable.

        XKCD is funny in a one-off, quick laugh kin

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192)

          Today's strip is a continuation of a story arc that goes back a week or two

          That's ok, but the strip should still stand on its own. Think of Calvin & Hobbes. There were story arcs in that strip that went on for weeks, but every single strip in those arcs was entertaining it its own right. And Watterson had just 4 panels to work with. This guy has an entire page to work with, and he can't even elicit a 'heh' without catching up on previous strips?

          Maybe this is an off day? Do you have a better example?

          • by Goaway (82658)

            That's ok, but the strip should still stand on its own.

            "Should"? Sure, it would be nice if it did, but who created this rule that this has to be the case?

            As it stands, Achewood's reliance on extremely character-driven humor and themes developed over long times allows it to do jokes that are a lot funnier and more clever than what a comic of self-contained strips can manage. The downside is that it is harsher on a new reader, but if you make the effort to pick it up, it is far more rewarding than most any comic out there.

          • by SendBot (29932)

            I've been reading achewood regularly for a few years now, and I think the radio interview did well in pointing out that the comic is about the characters and dialogue more than complex artwork or the "heh" factor. C.and.H compares better to Sinfest, and those are very different types of comic. For achewood, the dialogue is the real nut meat and it really needs that many panels to fill its proper space. As chris says in the interview, it's the "sunday comics format".

            During the interview (did you listen?), Ch

        • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

          by cbreaker (561297)

          Ohh, we "get it." Just because a story might be all character-driven and all that bullshit doesn't mean we have to like it.

          But come on.. "No WONDER there's so many hotels!!!" Ohh give me a break - it's not even a LITTLE BIT funny. It's predictable and stupid.

        • Not only is character-driven, but it relies on the subtleties of language. The dialogue is always thick with irony and metaphors that feel like they came from inside jokes between you and the other you that sees the world for how crazy it can be.

          In other words, comics like XKCD (which I love) have their good days, but some of us have a lower 'LOLORZ cory doctorow rulz' threshold than others.

          Achewood manages to be highbrow while keeping nothing sacred. It doesn't beat you over the head. It isn't about vide
      • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816) on Monday September 29, 2008 @12:23PM (#25194823) Homepage Journal

        When is NPR going to interview XKCD?

        Not before XKCD develops such as huge following that Randall Munroe can quit his day job and publish a book of collected strips. Which is what prompted the Achewood interview.

        I too find Achewood unfunny. (When I pulled up the NPR story, I was surprised to discover that the link to achewood.com was gray, indicating I'd browsed it recently. Must not have made an impression.) But I can see where it would appeal to people with a certain kind of evil sense of humor. Let's avoid the Slashdotter Fallacy ("What I like/need/approve of is what the world revolves around"), shall we?

        • by slarabee (184347)

          I have no problem with that. Now can we convince any of the fanboys?

          For the record, I did take one for the team. I read today's strip. I read back several days to gather context for today's strip. No chuckles or smirks. The fans propose the theory that this webcomic, unlike all those others, is simply deep and requires more reading to appreciate. Context will bring great rewards they say. So I read back about two months. I use the limited navigation abilities on the site and a bit of deduction to re

      • by rubah (1197475)

        Sometimes mini story arcs are not as funny as they would be if you skipped back a week and read what came before. XKCD generally lacks any sort of overarcing story and is readily digestible in daily packets, whereas achewood story lines can stretch on for months.

  • Ye Gods. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29, 2008 @09:28AM (#25192985)

    I suppose I could write it off to being old and jaded, but I swear I've seen about a dozen strips on the internet with the same general theme and lack of humor.

    Just not for me, thanks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I suppose I could write it off to being old and jaded, but I swear I've seen about a dozen strips on the internet with the same general theme and lack of humor.

      Just not for me, thanks.

      I found a great one and ALL the papers and websites link to it.

      It's called Congress.

    • Re:Ye Gods. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slaker (53818) on Monday September 29, 2008 @10:15AM (#25193433)

      I'd say that you're very wrong. You're dismissing Achewood as a funny animal comic that features the odd bit of drinking and obscenity. That's only what it looks like if you're reading a few of the daily strips.

      If you start reading from the beginning, what you find is a very rewarding set of story arcs where the characters become more and more fully realized, particularly Roast Beef, who might very well be the comic strip archetype for a Slashdot reader.

      The humor in Achewood is found in small turns of phrase, in facial expressions and in knowing the backstory for the characters. If you just pick up and read one or two strips, you pretty much aren't going to be able to understand why it is so highly acclaimed by critics and beloved by its fans.

      • So what you're saying is that it's not a comic?

        • by cowscows (103644)

          Achewood uses "comics" as a medium more than the end goal. Where the author differs from more traditional comics is that he doesn't feel the need to have each separate comic have its own completeness, basically meaning that you can't take any individual comic and have it make much sense on its own. Achewood isn't the first comic to work that way, but it certainly has trended away from it very strongly at times, with story arcs that have lasted weeks.

          The bigger story arcs are sort of like a comic book, but t

      • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
        I tried reading it from the beginning waiting for something worthwhile to happen but I just got bored. You probably get a laugh after a hundred posts because you already know the characters or whatever. Still, it's not worth it to read them all IMO. XKCD, questionablecontent, ctrl-alt-del, LFGcomic and others are good (funny or with interesting stories) from the start.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Joe Snipe (224958)

        If you just pick up and read one or two strips, you pretty much aren't going to be able to understand why it is so highly acclaimed by critics and beloved by its fans

        I am sure I could find entertainment in soap operas if I started from the beginning and devoted myself to a season. In fact most tv shows recognize this, which is why the season premier usually tries to be a big blow out which also encapsulate the feel of the characters. It is not about alienating the viewer, which is what happened with today

        • by slaker (53818)


          Onstad knew about the interview long before it took place, it would have been a trivial task to set up a small arc to invite and welcome new guests to the world he created.

          Or, just as when NPR has interviewed other Webcomic creators (the example that stands out to me is Sluggy Freelance), Onstead decided to continue the story he had planned long before he was contacted by NPR and asked for an interview. Since NPR almost always directs listeners to its web site first, I'd say the burden of introducing the strip should rest with the person responsible for the write-up on the Morning Edition web page.

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by cbreaker (561297)

        He's very wrong that it's not for him?

        So you're telling him that this coming IS for him?

        I'd say that's just as dismissing as you accuse him to be. You are making assumptions that anyone that doesn't like this comic MUST have not read enough of them! That they MUST be humorless!

        You sound kinda like a Trekkie, I'm sorry to say.

  • Read it from day 1 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by krog (25663) on Monday September 29, 2008 @09:42AM (#25193095) Homepage

    The only way to understand and really dig on Achewood is to read it from the beginning. Character development is a lot more important than gags here, and not every strip has a punch line, but it's generally rewarding in the end. Achewood is one of the few web comics I can stand. It's up there at the top with Space Moose [wikipedia.org] for me.

    • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
      I agree wholeheartedly. Achewood's most certainly not about the one-time gag. Despite its ridiculousness, the humor is often slyly sophisticated.

      And, in case there are those of you out there who just "don't get it", if you find Tim Buckley's works, especially his material the last year or so, to be funny, you won't get Achewood. Trust me on this one.
    • by OverlordQ (264228) on Monday September 29, 2008 @10:40AM (#25193657) Journal

      "The only way to understand and really dig on Achewood is to read it from the beginning."

      Then that's a bad comic strip in my opinion. If I have to read more then 2-3 strips back to figure out wtf is going on then the author really chose the wrong medium.

      • by slaker (53818)

        You're one of those people who think comic books can only be about Super Heroes and comic strips should only have bickering spouses or funny animals, aren't you?

      • by cowscows (103644)

        That's too bad, because you're missing out on some very entertaining stories because of an arbitrary value that you've put on the act of drawing inside little boxes.

        If you only think of comic strips as tiny segments that you read each day in a newspaper before you throw it away, then your opinion makes some sense. But you maybe have heard of this cool thing called the internet, which allows someone to easily store information and almost instantly distribute it on demand.

        You don't go to achewood.com to read

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by cbreaker (561297)

          Sounds like an extremely frustrating story to read.

          Again, it's not for me, and it's not for a lot of people. That doesn't make your beloved achewood any less meaningful to YOU, so don't bother trying to convince anyone that it's some amazing art that everyone should love.

          • by cowscows (103644)

            Fair enough, I'm not suggesting that everyone should love it, merely that they should try it. The post that I was responding to sounded like someone who was dismissing it without even giving it a shot, based purely on their preconceived idea about how a "comic" should work.

            It took significant pestering from me to get my wife to spend a little bit of time reading through the Achewood archives, and when she finally did, she wasn't as amused by it as I am. And that's fine, but I'm glad she gave it a shot.

      • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
        Start reading Watchmen from the middle and you'll soon realize how wrong you can be.
      • by krog (25663)

        Chris Onstad has been a real ground-breaker in terms of not only stretching the limits of the web comic medium (which itself stretches the limit of the daily comic medium), but also into coordinated work in many media. The Achewood characters have blogs. One had an advice column for a while. There are "non-fiction" writings about Achewood the town, about a century-old fighting event. There is a lengthy tribute to Hardy Boys classics, the Nate Small stories, themselves referenced in the comic. There is

      • by SamSim (630795)

        I fail to see how "a series of web pages, each with one page of the story on it in image form" is a poor choice of medium for a story consisting of a series of images.

      • by SendBot (29932)

        If I have to read more then 2-3 strips back to figure out wtf is going on then the author really chose the wrong medium.

        Yeah, why can't all comics be as good as beetle bailey?

      • by mblase (200735)

        "The only way to understand and really dig on Achewood is to read it from the beginning."

        Then that's a bad comic strip in my opinion. If I have to read more then 2-3 strips back to figure out wtf is going on then the author really chose the wrong medium.

        I would argue that that's the only way to read a normal comic strip; however, webcomics have the unique ability to keep a complete chronological archive of strips readily available to new and old readers alike.

        I stopped reading Achewood a while ago, myself -- it just wasn't as funny and offbeat as it used to be, for me. But if continuity is an issue for a comic writer, then webcomics may be exactly the place he/she needs to be.

    • by ooutland (146624)

      Agreed - I discovered this after Choire Sicha on Gawker announced its greatness. Since I was indeed totally not gettinig it just "dropping in" on that day's strip, I went back to the beginning and spent some wonderful days getting lost in a fully realized world. These days, any day Chris "fails" to post sucks for me.

      I've also bought two t-shirts - support artists where it counts - with your $$!

      O.

      "Good prose is like a window pane." - G. Orwell

    • by Dripdry (1062282)

      I can respect that the author was trying to build something with character. However, reading the initial strips indicates to me that he was going for a comic that was traditionally funny. Absurdist, yes, but one-off funny. It was ok, but not gut-bustingly funny (to me).

      I call this Rolling Stones syndrome. Make enough comics for long enough, and you will have hits eventually. Is there a possibility that people are just mapping humor onto something, much like people map profundity onto modern art? "Oh, you're

  • by slaker (53818) on Monday September 29, 2008 @09:51AM (#25193179)

    Here's the thing about Achewood: it has a very large cast of characters with very distinct voices. COMPLETELY distinct. These characters have been developed in ways that comic strips running for decades have not managed.

    It's not uncommon for me to read a whole archive of webcomics in a single sitting. I read all of "MacHall" on Saturday. By the time I went through all four years of strips, there were only two characters I could identify as having distinct personalities. Everyone else spoke with the same voice.

    That's how most comics are. Someone says something stupid or controversial. Drinking or violence ensues.

    Achewood is the opposite; the characters are so fully realized that they BLOG in their distinct voices. The interview touches on this with the two main characters, but it extends to literally all the characters in the strip.

    Achewood's humor is wry and absurdist. It's not the humor of a newspaper comic strip and it's not the humor of a typical webcomic. It's off in a space of its own. It's a bit like watching the best bits of Seinfeld after a 24 hour marathon of Golden Girls. Some people say that Achewood isn't funny, but all I can say to them is that there's a 1982 Subaru Brat waiting for them when they get to hell [assetbar.com].

    • by eagee (1308589)
      So, what I think you're saying is that people who found arrested development and wes anderson movies funny would get this? B/C if so, I'm going to go give it a second chance - I like jokes I have to think to get.
      • It's not really that you have to think to understand the jokes, mainly you have to know the characters well.
      • by Tyr_7BE (461429)

        Follow it for a month or two. That's about how long it took me to sort of understand what was going on (I was bored in a mostly do-nothing job :) ). Or go down to my other post in this article and check out some of my recommended arcs. For the first few weeks I had no idea what was going on, but the more you read the more it grows on you. I've come to see Ray and Beef (two main characters) as sort of old friends. As someone who likes Arrested Development and Wes Anderson movies, I highly recommend Ache

        • by eagee (1308589)
          That's the kind of recommendation that I was looking for! (I used to have a do-nothing job, too - I hated it, but I also kind of miss the down time:) Anyway I'm definitely going to check it out, thanks for the heads up!
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "It's a bit like watching the best bits of Seinfeld after a 24 hour marathon of Golden Girls. "

      Quite an accomplishment!

      I'd be too fapped out after that much Bea Arthur.

  • NSFW (Score:1, Informative)

    by Thrakamazog (794533)

    (NSFW Somedays. Possibly including today depending on your W).

    Yeah, NSFW today mmmmkay.

  • Pretty good. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday September 29, 2008 @10:22AM (#25193491)

    I've been following the strip off an on for quite a few years now. I guess it's amusing enough that I generally remain interested. I agree that the characters are generally well-defined but I wouldn't necessarily say they have much depth. It isn't like there's much character development going on. But then, it is just a comic strip.

    In general I find the humor a bit dry, but every so often there's a genuinely funny strip. One thing I sometimes find it difficult to get past is the odd dialog. I'm not quite sure what Onstad is going for. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be slang or an attempt at play on words. But for me it comes off as awkward at times.

    Still, I have to give credit where it's due. I think Achewood is a step above the majority of other strips. There are too many poor comics out there with lame writing and crappy illustration. Chris Onstad has been at this for years and his writing is interesting enough that it more than makes up for the art. Actually, even the art has it's own character.

    • by slaker (53818)

      I think the odd dialogue is coming from some particular Californian mid to late-80s subculture. Beef and Ray grew up together and they're the guys with the generally odd sentence structure.

      I know there was a particular way that kids in the neighborhood I moved to when I was about 14 spoke, that I never really grasped. It's just how they grew up speaking to each other.

  • If you're like me, and want to show why this comic is so fantastic, post your fav arcs / one-offs here:

    Great Arcs:
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=05182006 [achewood.com]
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=04052006 [achewood.com]
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=03212007 [achewood.com]

    One-offs:
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=07192006 [achewood.com]
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=02112008 [achewood.com]
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=02072008 [achewood.com]
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=07032006 [achewood.com]
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=08252006 [achewood.com]
    http://achewood.com/index.php?date=09192006 [achewood.com]

  • I thought "Achewood" was slang for "priapism"...

    [duck/cover]

  • I don't have anything against the guy, and I surmise that his comic is probably fairly representative of the genre, I'll probably check it out now. But as usual, this is another one off report from NPR trying to show they can be hip. What about Phil and Kaja Foglio and Girl Genius for example? And Penny Arcade, which you can hate all you want, but they are their own community and an example of a blockbuster in this medium. This piece sounded like they called up a few people to hash out a rough idea "Ooh.. w

  • I thought it was interesting that the interviewer made a comparison to Bill Watterson and Gary Larson and then asked if he was going to quit anytime soon like they did. Doesn't he need to gain widespread recognition first? Kind of like comparing Michelle Wie to Annika Sorenstam (no, maybe more like Jack Nicklaus) and then asking if she's going to retire soon.

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