What can I say about Chris Onstad that hasn’t been said already in a thousand other places- this guy practically gets more press (relatively speaking, that is) than Paris Hilton, just for doing a lo-fi webcomic (to be honest, a guy who lives with his mother, and who only washes on Sunday and eats potted meat with a spork should get more press than Paris Hilton). I know I just said “lo-fi” and I hesitated to do it, because in the end there is nothing “lo-fi” about Achewood.
A comic strip that I have previously described as being about the secret lives of house cats and stuffed animals living cognac large- is largely that, and a hell of a lot more. Some have claimed that Mr. Onstad is writing the great american novel in comic form. Others exclaim that his work has no equal and that he is forging a whole new dynamic in literature and art without a comparable work in sight. Myself, I can’t get enough of it. Mostly outrageous, sometimes offensive- Onstad has a voice like no others and a penchant for non-sequiteurs. His humor may not be for all, but is grossly unlike anything else in existence. If you clicked on the image and followed the link you know what I’m talking about. Well, typographers and graphic designers will know, anyways. Then again, that particular strip is only representative of his ranging topicality. Rather than confining himself, or his strip, to any singular pursuit or line of humor, he has multiple voices and varied forms of humor (prank calls to other comic strip characters, philanthropy, drug addiction, and personal hygiene) all espoused by a multitude of analogical characters speaking from what could be interpreted as a very complicated, VERY fractured psyche. Except that it’s pure genius. Onstad is actually channeling the ten or better regular characters and giving them an existence outside of his head. He writes and maintains blogs for each character, and the scary part is that they each read as a separate, distinct and independant voice- they are neither Onstad, nor like one another- they are completely autonomous beings-except they only exist in web-comics, blog postings and, apparently, Chris Onstad’s skull.
The imagery is template based, produced in Illustrator and in spite of it’s “Deliberately Pathetic” Aesthetic it is surprisingly complex and rich in its renderings. For a comic Strip about house cats and stuffed animals, that is. For some reason, given the diverse subject matter being discussed, it fits perfectly. Then you see the merch; posters, stickers, cookbooks and t-shirts, and more, that are generated as companion work to the main body and that’s when the art truly shines. Yeah, he’s trying to make a living from this, wouldn’t you?
In the end, Achewood is an iconoclast amongst the conformists. A giant among men. A speedo and medallion wearing, sunglasses bearing, fat cat amongst the Garfields. This is everything that comics, web- or print-based, could and should aspire to be. Absurd, outrageous, obscure, intelligent and most importantly, unquantifiably hilarious.