Behold! The rap battle that discerning readers of webular comics have clamored for since 2009!
(Yes, Tavros is paraphrasing Jay-Z’s “Takeover”, which I guess is a little out of date now that MSPA’s been on hiatus for months and Achewood’s publishing weekly again. Actually, now that I think about it, Achewood is more like the Jay-Z of webcomics - opulent, literate, universally respected, critically acclaimed - while Homestuck is the Kanye West - innovative, incoherent, rambling, fitfully brilliant, mocked and praised in equal measure.)
achewood, masculinity, and the fear of ruined fun - part 1 of whatever
i’ve compared achewood to classical literature before. understand, this is not an inherently positive comparison. to me, when i look at achewood, i see a lot of the same patterns of so much of what are held up often as the “greats” of centuries old lit, in that, for as much as achewood might dive into matters of the soul, wanting for purpose, need, drive, wondering who we are, what we’re doing here, and the internal and external struggles of it all, when it comes to the matter of women, achewood looks to them, then looks back to you, and with a shrug, goes “fucked if i know, man”.
that is being generous, of course. also like a lot of classical lit, achewood can also veer off into “what’s the deal with women and ruining all fun and good” while also just as soon jumping into “women are the world’s greatest thing and i ache for them above all else”, while still yet retaining that main core throughout all of this of “fucked if i know, man”. on top of all this, achewood doesn’t seem to have any great yearning to figure this supposed mystery out, because the comic, in so many ways, and somany times,prioritizes and values masculinity - and with it, “having a good time” - above pretty much everything else.
there’s a lot of ground to cover here, even getting into achewood’s odd relationship with homosexuality, so i’m going to try and focus on them one by one. what i want to talk about first off is about what masculinity is in achewood, how it’s positioned, and how achewood values “being a ‘real’ guy” and “having fun” in an interconnected fashion that leads to some strange places.
The simplest answer is Achewood is a webcomic by Chris Onstad. Ostensibly it is a strip about various stuffed animals and housepets getting up to shenanigans, but at its best, like Pogo or Maus, it uses the animal characters as a lens through which to view the human condition. It is also incredibly funny, and, as a whole, probably the best written comic of the 21st century.
Although at the beginning of the strip, the main characters are various stuffed animals who live in the Onstad household–Teodor, a nerdy, neurotic teddy bear and author self-insert; Mr Bear, a classy older gentleman; Philippe, an otter, who is five; and Lyle, a hard-living tiger with the whiskey shits–the narrative is quickly taken over by two cats from the neighborhood: Ray Smuckles, a billionaire media mogul in a Speedo, and Roast Beef, his best friend, who comes from circumstances and has got depression. Other characters include Ray’s Little Nephew, Liebot, a robot who lies, Nice Pete, a serial killer, and Todd, a squirrel who lives in a squirrel-sized van.
Two things of note for people who are looking into reading the strip:
1) The comedy is very rarely punchline-based. It is very much about character interaction and the rhythm of the dialogue. Allow yourself time to get used to the tenor of the strip before deciding you don’t get it and giving up. But if you get it right away, awesome.
2) Don’t start at the beginning of the archives. The earliest strips are super experimental and don’t accurately reflect what the characters would grow into. There are some gems in there, however, so maybe go back and check them out after reading the rest of the archives (which you will probably want to do).
Here are some better places to start:
The Party is generally agreed upon as the first storyline where all the character’s voices have gelled.
Or you could jump into the greatest Achewood storyline of all, the Great Outdoor Fight, which, strangely, starts with a joke about Truck Nutz.