Captain Estar Goes to Heaven

November 22, 2007


Okay, the “graphic novel” I keep mentioning is finally ready for prime-time, so click here or on the image above to go and read it. I should mention it contains everything except graphic nudity and sex, so don’t be accusin’ me of not warnin’ yer. Also, I’ve gone over everything to make sure there’s no mistakes with regard to pages linking to one another and pages being in sequence and so on and so forth and etc and yadda yadda  but there’s about 48,000 individual things that can go wrong when you throw up a couple hundred web pages in a short amount of time so please report any massive, fatal errors to me via the comments feature here. Other than that, my chipper, down-to-earth attitude belies the fact that a whole lot of thought and toil and emotion went into this comic and I really don’t care if everyone thinks it’s the Worst Thing Ever because it means something to me. Hence I offer it to you for free, instead of cooking up some elaborate money-making scheme involving paper and staples and pricetags. Besides, the art’s too dodgy for the mainstream. Okay, fuck, whatever, it’s late–I’ll catch you later.


279 Responses to “Captain Estar Goes to Heaven”

  1. Mass Says:

    thanks very much for a delicious read. the artwork is amazing, the story interesting from beginning to end, combining both the physical (extreme) and the metaphysical; an action story for ‘the thinking person’. on a technical note, all the pages are in order, with nothing missing. great job, and once again, thanks!

  2. Winston Rowntree Says:

    Thanks, dude.

  3. Evan Says:

    That’s fantastic that you’ve put this all up online. This is such a fantastic space epic, I’m hoping the web posting brings more people to it.

  4. Winston Rowntree Says:

    Thanks! And yes, the more who read it the merrier.

  5. James Says:

    Okay, well, since you’re so selfconscious about it: in all objectivity, your art has room for improvement (hands, guns, explosions?). But seriously, who cares? The art WORKS, the details are amazing, careful, and painstaking, and more importantly, the writing, dialogue, and story really shine. REALLY shine. Thanks very much for sharing your hard work!

  6. Winston Rowntree Says:

    Thank YOU for saying so!

  7. Trex Leonidas Says:

    This graphic novel is brilliant. The details, through artwork and dialogue, is unbelievable. You can sit there looking at one panel for several minutes after reading all the text… Can’t wait until the next one! WHOO!

  8. Winston Rowntree Says:

    Thanks! Detail is something I feel strongly about. Now then, I’d better get working on the next project…

  9. Toaster_pimp Says:

    Really cool stuff. I was just curious, was that number on her forehead a random number, or is there any meaning in it?

  10. The number (her prisoner number, for anyone who didn’t pick up on that) was in fact random, although there may be a hidden significance to it when you obscure everything except the first and last digits, as is done somewhere in Part 5…

  11. Shane Says:

    (heapings of praise repeating the good comments of previous posters)

    So many good touches. Reading your story made me *reflect*, in a darkly positive way, and I love stories that do that. I wondered if Shirley died in that very first scene. I wondered if it wasn’t the first time. If there isn’t a hell, we can certainly make one out of our own beliefs.

    Oh, and I also wonder if you’d ever played Elite. 🙂


  12. Really pleased that the story was cause for reflection! Now I’M kinda wondering if she died in that first scene… Thanks for the kind words.

    Never played Elite, but it does sound like a totally interesting game. I think I read about it first in Retro Gamer magazine, where it was voted the best game of all time or something.

  13. TheOne5 Says:

    Good comic. It felt realistic and not sugarcoated. Keep up the good work.

  14. TheOne5 Says:

    I was just thinking about Estar’s last comments about eternal suffering. People live in ghettos, people live in slums, there are people in prison, but however the condition, they seem to get used to it. People are good at adapting, and if we can adapt to anything, then how can we suffer eternally? Or better yet, what can cause so much pain, agony, toil and strife, that a person can suffer forever without going through the motions and becoming complacent to his or her grief? Please let me know anyone.

    • eitheror Says:

      Philosophically-wise:three famous writers rise in my head from this question. Ill name em chronologically: Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard held authenticity to be the core of identity. That wanting to be different from how you are will practically make you a different person. He gives an example of a man who wants to be an emperor, even if said man would’ve somehow fulfilled his will and achieved his aim he would have effectively abandoned his old self. In both desire and accomplishments. Despair is overwhelming when a man wants to shun himself- when he “does not possess himself;he is not himself.” The solution Kierkegaard offered to this absurd was finding the courage to be the true self, rather than someone else. Like Estar said, those were her decisions. she became who she was because of her actions, not only because of an accident that sent her spiraling. She cant take the easy way out because she cant forget her suffering and the suffering caused by her. even if it was all undone, she takes absolute responsibility on her authentic self. Or her last authentic self after the accident? the new Estar maybe.

      Friedrich Nietzsche: Nietzsche offered the idea of eternal recurrence, of imagining that your entire life will repeat itself same to same, millisecond to millisecond, as it was from when you were born until you died. and as a mental exercise he offered a thought experiment trying to think of one’s worst moment as eternally reoccurring. The moment of your greatest suffering. Over and over again, and said that should you be able to withstand the idea, you are what nietzsche called an ubermensch. A superman;One who isn’t defeated by suffering and continues to act by one’s will. Again, having her own conviction and considering that the horrors she have went through shall return Estar still chooses what will she do and become, with all the suffering that comes with it. Since it is what she deems right for her. Horrible or not.

      Albert Camus: Camus saw the Greek myth of Sisyphus as a metaphor for human lives (since the core of his philosophy relies on life having no inherent meaning or purpose) Sisyphus was punished by the gods to roll a huge rock to the top of a hill just to watch it fall back down every day. he saw life as an endless struggle to perform tasks that are essentially meaningless. Camus chose to focus on why Sisyphus kept coming back to that rock. That by being able to understand his fate, and to frame it in the way one chooses is how to overcome it. That’s how Camus thinks we can overcome the absurdity of existence and the circumstances we all fall into.

      I was about to add a psychological interpertation, but this comment is already silly long and i am not as fluent in psychology as i am in philosophy, and as is understood by my writing even in philosophy i know quite little. I hope this at least partly answered your query, or at the very least interested you.

      This comic is extremely powerful and keeps showing your so authentically human form of writing Rowntree. thank you so much for sharing with the world so many of your thoughts and ideas they never cease to move me.

  15. Emma Says:

    That was great. I especially liked this page:

    Also, I want to know what Estar’s prisoner number means, too.

  16. Mike Says:

    I enjoyed this a lot. The characters feel very much alive. Great ending.

    Thanks for posting this.

  17. Gillian Says:

    Loved your comic. Read it in one sitting. Loved the detail in the backgrounds.

    LOLed at “These things double as handle bars, dontcha know!”

  18. misty Says:

    I like the part about how the character always stayed up and watched movies with her father. I used to do that. My father had two daughters, no sons. We watched every old movie, war or otherwise together. Even still, I never thought of it in quite those terms, close but not exactly. The idea that we humans can endure anything, what a powerfully motivating message at the end.


    Thank you,


  19. Alex Says:

    Jesus Christ that was fucking amazing.

  20. osvaldo Says:


  21. mnov Says:

    That was an absolutely fantastic read.
    I loved your attention to details, and I’m really sorry I didn’t read that earlier.
    You should mention this in your Subnormality posts every once in a while, it’s a shame that people would miss out on this, it really is a fantastic comic.

    And thanks for putting it online for free colon capital dee

  22. bachterman Says:

    dear winston! just how old are you? i think you’re more mature than the average person of your age.

  23. Great reading, couldn’t do anything else until I finished reading, so now I blame you for me being late now! (just kidding).

    Thanks a lot for putting this up for free, it is a great graphic novel.

  24. bachterman: The Winston Rowntree was first spotted some time in 1980.

    Thanks to all for the kind remarks!

  25. Dre Says:

    Very badass. Props.

  26. MC Dalsgaard Says:

    Hi… just wanted to say thanks for a great read.

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

  27. michael Says:

    I found your website by accident but I like it, the graphic novel is great, it´s like an oldschool science-fiction story… thumbs up, i want to see more of that.

    jetzt hast du einen neuen begeisterten Leser in Deutschland

  28. saldozo Says:

    Fantastic. Had I some million dollars, this thing would be a movie. Keep churning them out as long as you can, because good, is what they are.

  29. Gina Says:

    I don’t know what to say. I feel so non-eloquent. I want to heap praise on you but I don’t know quite how to say it without screwing something up. I just want to say that you need to get something published in dead tree form. Like, now.

    I’ve spent, literally, the past ten or so hours reading all your comics. I really admire you, as weird as that sounds.

    Oh, and: thank you.

    That’s all.

  30. John Baptist Says:


    Your site is the best thing I’ve found on the net in recent memory.

  31. pram Says:

    I am not me for a few seconds after reading your comics. Now i have to catch up to two days of work. Crap (in a good way).

  32. Oniönhead Says:

    Awesome – and then some!

    Just read the entire thing in one sitting. It was simply too enthralling for me to let go of. Can’t remember the last time I’ve been able to connect with sci-fi/action this way – if ever. And the twist really did make me think.

    Seriously, you could be making a living from this. – Or at least you should be able to as far as I’m concerned. I think putting brilliant stuff like this available for free is casting your pearls to swine. – But thank you so much for doing so!

    Much respect and admiration from Copenhagen, Denmark.

  33. Caleb Says:

    This was an excellent read.

    Thank you for creating such a great story.

    The ending was not what I wished it would be. I had hoped that the main character would have found some sort of peace and not go back to the lifestyle that would eventually just lead to more pain and grief for everyone.

    I didn’t see that ending coming at all. I literally said “no” out loud when I saw the panel with her choosing to sign up again.

    She isn’t just letting herself down to prove her point that she was a “bad person” who somehow “deserved” her hellish life. She is bringing pain to her father and her friend and even to her new cat.

    To struggle through her new existence which she thinks she doesn’t belong/deserve to help make the world a better place for her close ones would be the real sacrifice.

    To make the decision to go back to hell is purely selfish.

    But it’s a realistic decision that people make every day as they destroy themselves.

    This story really made me think.

    Excellent work. I can’t wait for additional projects.

  34. Nicholas Says:

    Brilliant story! I love all your work, and this is no exception. The stuff you’ve done with the space stations and body modification reminds me a lot of Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darrick Robertson.
    Anyway, thanks for a great read!

  35. J Says:

    I’m a bit late to the party, but that was great. It’s rare for a comic to be a genuine page-turner, but that managed it.

    Honestly, all I can say is I’m really impressed. Though I’m not sure what I think of the ending.

  36. Kronikarz Says:

    It was very good. Your stories are always very clear, the reader almost always knows what’s going on – and that’s rare in todays science fiction. Keep up the good work.

  37. Daniel Brooks Says:

    I’m very impressed with your work. You are definitely a storyteller of great potential and I love the fact that you’re not afraid to take your tales into very very dark territory. Big kudos!

  38. Rata Says:

    Brilliant! I’ve really enjoyed it, thanks for the great graphic novel.

  39. J Mac Says:

    Really enjoyed this. Keep it up; I expect great things from you.

  40. Santa Says:

    I read the story about 4 times and it still gives me thrills. I like the fact that you spend so much time on developing an athmospere in your comics. The actual “punchline” of the story is told on the last few pages, but no part of the story feels unnecessary.
    If I had to point out why the internet was a great invention, VirusComix would be a nice example. It’s just great that you publish your work directly and for free and here in Germany I can enjoy it without any problems. Speaking of the net, I have to add that your virtual comic presentation works very well, it doesn’t feel unnatural at all. Nonetheless you should try to publish a printed version of Captain Estar. It’s just stuff I’d really like to buy and hold in hands.

    Thanks for your inspiring site.

  41. Foible Says:

    I found this amazing story while I’ve been reading Mark Twain’s “Captain Stormfield’s visit to Heaven” and I’ve been comparing the themes of them both.

    Besides being slightly freaked over finding both of these works at the same time, I’m wondering if Twain was an influence for Mr. Rowntree. The idea that Heaven (or Hell) is what we make of it is an common one, I remember the Twilight Zone riffing on the theme, but I like that similar conclusions still ring true even though written a century or so apart.

    Thanks for a fun read, I’ll be sure to check out the rest on this site now.

    One last observation, the occasionally long lag as I waited for a page to load inadvertently added to the tension of the story. I couldn’t race ahead like I do with dead tree graphic novels.

  42. Santa: What you describe is exactly why the internet must be the future of comix! If i’d been working 20 years ago then barely anyone would have read my stuff. The net is freedom, long live it.

    Foible: I have shamefully read almost nothing by Twain, save that article of his they printed in a recent New Yorker which was in fact very influential indeed. And hooray, finally a good use for internet lag!

    Thanks to everyone for the comments and for reading my vicious little sci-fi story. It means a lot to me that it’s been enjoyed so much by you guys, so thanks x100 for letting me know your thoughts!

  43. Uh Any Name? Says:

    Even if you don’t see this (or it doesn’t even get posted) I’d like to say how glad I am that I followed that link to Subnormality and ended up finding this gem on a pile of gold.
    Kudos to you.

  44. Andrew D Says:

    Interesting ending. Didn’t expect it. Great story.

  45. Nathan Says:

    Holy shit that was fucking amazing! I just read the whole thing from start to finish. The story is compelling, well-written, the artwork is gorgeous, you’ve created an incredibly rich and detailed world, everything there is just pure win. Are you going to get this published or what?

  46. Joe Says:

    Thank you, that was beautiful

  47. The Munkey Says:

    Awesome. Simply awesome. Some major philosophy meeting sci-fi kick@ss. Very detailed as well.
    The ending was a bit disappointing, but also really deep. I especially liked the look of “heaven”.

  48. Karhe Says:

    Wow! This was truly amazing! I’ve been reading your comic for a while now, but I didn’t know about this story, RSS not showing it and all. I’m glad I had the idea of looking around in the site:)
    This is a great story, I hope you publish it.

  49. MrP Says:

    I liked it a lot!

  50. void() Says:

    Wow, amazing. Glad I accidentally stumbled upon this.
    I’m feeling kind of empty afterwards, though.

  51. pillota Says:

    duuuude….oh my god….

  52. Tomora Says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Rowntree. Wonderful sci-fi world based on the current, and amazing and fantastic storyline.

    …I just can’t believe I missed this when I have been following Subnormality for a while.

  53. topopardo Says:

    I’ve spending the last six hours reading all the comics, graphic novels and individual strips. The least I can do is to leave a comment and thank you for the amazing work.

    I don’t like sci-fi, but the background idea behind CEGtH is simply awesome.

  54. topopardo Says:

    I can’t edit the previous comment, but I left something off. Please don’t stop drawing comics that make people think.

  55. Doe3000 Says:

    Great story, I really enjoyed it.

  56. Initialdproject Says:

    Great great great, and great in a pot of great with a side of roasted great and a tall glass of strong great. No really it was great. Though about adapting couldn’t she just adapt to her new life, knowing what she was before might transform into a mental hell, but she’d get used to it, right? Eh, very interesting philosophical view, so when can be buy this? Maybe in full color, that would be great, haha, sorry had to say it again.

  57. Simply amazing… Congratulations.

  58. 3mdr Says:

    I didn’t like the ending. She should have been happy with her alternate life.

  59. Cthulhu Says:

    3mdr, that’s the point. She wasn’t happy with her new life because she’s a bad person who deserves to be unhappy. In her mind, at least, though I’m inclined to share the sentiment.

  60. GlitterBerri Says:

    Something so different would feel wrong to one who didn’t believe her fate should be happiness. Like she said, you can get used to anything. If you suddenly found yourself with a destiny completely opposite than the one you have now, it would feel like a bucket of cold water had been dumped on your head. Instead of taking things for granted you’d be asking “why?”

  61. Konner Says:

    Awesome, I’m glad i discovered your work.

  62. Blake Says:

    Ok, call me an idiot, but I wasn’t totally satisfied with the ending and may need some clarification. I loved it throughout the entire thing, awesome atmosphere, awesome main character. I especially loved the part when she went off on the “superior” bounty hunters. But the ending threw me off. Was this some sort of Karma afterlife where Shirley was reborn in a better life because the turning point in her previous life was an accident?
    Was the ending to be left for interpretation? In my humble opinion, I feel that the ending could have been more solid to follow up an awesome comic.

  63. Blake Says:

    P.S. I love your comic strips as well. Intelligent and witty in a way that’s perfect. Not too obnoxious, or pretentious.

    I believe you have great beliefs/theories about the world, and you are interested in interesting things!

    Thanks for your awesome work.


  64. Isen Says:

    Best comic ever.
    Man – Just the last five panels were the best comic ever!

    Dismiss the critics, the ending was perfect.

  65. Glynnis Says:

    Wow… I read that in less than an hour, and think I am going to read it again to get all the detail out of it. It was an enthralling story, and I loved the style of your artowork.


  66. Guy Says:

    you must get this a lot, but I am compelled to write a quick comment. I have been reading comics for a long time now (it is measured in decades now, not just plain old boring years :))

    and that was one by far and away one of the best I have ever read. Thanks for sharing


  67. Jenny Says:


    That was… wow.
    In the end, it’s us and only us that decide our own fate, isn’t it? Even though heaven itself reached down and gave her a second chance, she still returned to her life.
    Maybe I would have wanted her a happy ending, but I understand that that’s not how the story goes. And that it does, and that you followed it to the end, both impresses and scares me in equal measures.
    It makes me wonder though, if heaven simply is a life where we made all the right choices. And if it is, all those choices being made for us would make it somebody elses life.
    Which is, I suppose, why she in the end chose the way she did.

    In any case, I loved this. It made my stomach tighten and my mind open. It made my hairs stand on end and my legs fall asleep.

    Just wow. Can I buy this somehow? Is there a printed version?

    Gah! How do I stop posting?!

  68. jim Says:

    that was incredible. ive never read anything like it. i particularly liked the scribbled words as backgrounds, and when the drawing style changed it suited the story perfectly. i would love a printed copy. even if i have to print it out on my crappy inkjet.

    i read all of subnormality yesterday, and all of this today. amazing.

  69. morgan Says:

    this was amazing. I couldnt look away the entire time. And the twisted ending…It was the cherry on top of this morbidly entertaining piece of art. Thank you SO much

  70. phil Says:

    Damn you for crashing my work routine, now i have to work overtime since i couldn’t stop reading this. I’ll be watching you and your comics… in a good way mind you.

  71. AmethystSoul Says:

    Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow. You blew me away. That was by far the best thing I’ve read on the net so far. Kudos.

  72. Tom Swift Says:

    That was a TON of fun to read. Thank you for putting so much hard work into this graphic novel. You’ve made a wonderful story and I love the detail in the illustration.
    Seriously, this is brilliant and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

    Its funny, I’m already a fan from your Subnormality comics and glad to see you’re not a one-trick pony. Ponies aren’t usually as adept at fitting as many words in a comic frame as you are.

    Keep up the great work!

  73. erica Says:

    Wow, I just loved it.
    I’m not a heavy reader and I finished this in one sitting.
    It’s beautiful and depressing.
    I love how Shirley(with tattoos and hair dye) was drawn.

  74. That was wonderful! Thanks for making it available online 🙂

    Greetings from Athens, Greece!

  75. Ashley Says:

    That was amazing and extremely distressing. wow.

  76. vstiles Says:

    I’ve been quite fond of Subnormality for a while now, and as glad as I was to discover Abnormality, I’m even more thrilled to discover this story. As someone above said, I’d love to see this adapted into a full-length movie (provided it was completely true to the source material). Very well done, and please keep committing more of your wonderful ideas to comic form!

  77. Frank Says:

    This is an awesome comic. Read it in one sitting… There are many, many things I love about it.

  78. Ink Says:

    Wow. This is an awesome read. I read it in one sitting. If this was made into a comic, I would buy it, straight off the bat. [Provided I can get one in my country of course. XD]

    I have a feeling this will stay with me for a looong time.

    Awesome work, and I will defineatley read all of your creations. ♥


  79. Max Keele Says:

    This is brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

  80. Thandabantu Says:

    Damn you, I just stayed at work past 5pm because I was too glued to this comic to leave! I’d buy it, if they sold it here. I love it!

  81. Jamie Says:


    And yet the more I read of your stuff, the more I’m sure I wouldn’t like you. You’re the kind of person who thinks they’ve got everything figured out … but you only see one side to everything. Everything you write suggests you’re a monster of egotism and can only ever see things from your perspective. If you were in the middle of a garden, you’d be down on your knees, searching for dogshit, then holding it up saying “See? See? I told you everything was shit…”

    Something’s wrong with you.

  82. annatorious Says:

    eh, “Jamie” – you might be missing the point. One of my most favorite artists of all time was Bill Hicks, and he chose his public persona to be full of vitriol. When you dig a bit deeper, though, you figure out that his deeper message is one of redemption – that we humans have the capacity for it, but in general we’re too complacent. Keep it up, Mr. Rowntree – your message may not reach everyone, but I for one enjoy your works immensely. And for the record I don’t think you only see one side to everything – in fact, one of the things I enjoy about subnormality is how it often admonishes a “straight” character to step out of his/her assumptions.

    I especially enjoyed picking out the details in the background. You put a lot of effort into your words, your characters, your settings, and the unfolding of your plot. I notice details like that, and appreciate it. Hope to keep up with you for several years to come!

  83. NBTT Says:

    I’d like to leave a comment about how great this comic was, but I don’t want to ruin it. I loved the deeper message, and I just can’t describe how great it was (especially not in English). I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.

  84. NBTT Says:

    I reread it, still speechless… Great job.

  85. jon texas Says:

    Great Job SIR! Keep up the good work and keep putting it out there for people to find. I did eventually. I will put you on my site when its up as a link.

    Thanks for your work.

  86. Thaif Says:

    Huh, as expected from W. Rowntree. Sublime I’d say.

    While the whole story was quite brooding in it’s atmosphere, she was a contract killer(as per the self marthyring thing). That’s not a jolly fun and good profession, as the komik poingnantly(and brutally) demonstrates.

    While the ending really was a sad one(for me), the underlying message would not have been as clear without it. A happily-ever-after would have not made people ponder. They’d just go “It’ll all work out in the end, somehow…” and just like that they miss the whole idea.

    And the underlying message? In my mind it’s a fairly optimistic one, but is delivered in a truly gut wrenching way. Some people will not like that and will assume that the author is a depressive nihilist.

    But many more will see through the satire and ponder about the idea deposited. In our age where we still live in a “Work & Homogeneity” mentality, it’s refreshing and truly uplifting to know that there are those who feel at least vaguely the same way you ourself feel. “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better” as Albert Camus said.

    Thanks Winston, for keeping me from jumping off roofs.

  87. Dan Says:

    Absolutely fantastic. I’ve been reading subnormality for a few months now, and just recently took the time to read some older viruscomix. Truly wonderful – perhaps a sequel is in order?

  88. Mikel Says:

    Fucking incredible. Unflinching, compelling and absolutely brilliant.

    I think you just went from being one of my favorite cartoonists to being my favorite (for what that’s worth). Thank you for producing such amazing work.

    That said, I’d really like it if, one day, you published the end of that art-prostitute’s cabin-in-the-woods story. You know the one.

  89. Mudora Says:

    Remember my name. Because you will see it again in the form of a scrolling line of white forgettable shit. This ended wrong and I’m going to fix it by way of inspiration. It was great, it inspired me deeply and I will be making something out of it.

  90. Ramses Junior Says:

    Incredibly brilliant. That plot could’ve been an outline of a fucking novel by, I don’t know, Kurt Vonnegut with dark twists? Love your drawing style too.
    Anyway, thanks for putting your stuff online, I’ve been enjoying it immensely ever since I found your site through Abnormality, on Cracked.

  91. winky Says:

    That was amazing! wow………..just wow. i firts found subnormality because of cracked, and loved your comics. they were funny, yet the had meaning behind them. i just found your other comics today (dont know why it took me so long…….) and it just took me by surprise. this was one of the best things i have ever read. there should be a print version of this, id buy it.

  92. Chris M Says:

    I’ve followed your comics for a few months, I honestly don’t really remember when or where I first saw them…just happened to be bored and up late, clicked on this…now its 3 AM and I’m better for it. I’m a UCLA student who has always been told the same “you’re special and important” bullshit, and recently clicked the “agree” box on a life dedication to poverty and conservation assistance in the poorest and most war-torn locations on earth. The message here is that I want to say thank you for your work; know that somewhere in the jungle there will be a guy laying face down in the mud with a few saved lives and a gunshot wound under his belt- and should my death be anything like C.Estar’s – I will happily click again.

    Keep it up, everyone needs a little dark hope now and again. Maybe not hope for something better, but hope to choose.


  93. I hate it when I can’t find the right words, words are supposed to be my friends.

  94. scrape Says:

    Sometimes the best stories leave you wishing they had ended differently, but that’s what makes them great — if you didn’t care so deeply you wouldn’t care how the author ended it. I’ve got to say I thoroughly enjoyed it as-is, though I totally understand all the commenters who wanted a different, more upbeat ending.

    The vibe reminds me of the movie “Stranger Than Fiction”: To save the character you’d sacrifice the “art”. Is it always worth it? Was it worth it in this story? That’s the question that’s dividing the respondents here. Thank you for posing it, and for a great comic.

  95. meim Says:

    wow, totally badass dude. congrats.
    When I get some free time ill translate it to spanish. If LOST somehow ends like this story I wont feel disappointed at all.

  96. Aka Says:

    Wow. Just… wow. The ending was a real kick in the teeth, but considering the nature of that work… well.

    One thing, though – was her first “murder” an accident, after all? If yes, it makes her ultimate decision a lot less reasonable. As she said, everything just sort of flew to pieces… Good Life In A Bad World and all that – she might have deserved that second chance.

    Then again, her decision. You don’t wanna be happy? Well, go ahead, girl! 😛

  97. Jake Says:

    Words cannot describe just how much I loved this. I can say whole-heartedly that this is the best graphic novel I have ever read.

    Your writing style reminds me a little of one of the first serious books I ever read, Christopher Pike’s Magic Fire. You take a hugely complex character and have them flit between positions and genres because the point is an examination of humanity, and you plunder the character’s traits until we identify with them, to the point where we feel as though we know them.

    The ending almost brought me to tears with its poignancy. Well done, and I for one will read anything you publish in the future.

  98. Jamin Says:

    I usually don’t have the patience to read online graphic novels, but this just sucked me in. Beautifully complex and poignant. The ending was the one I did not want, but the one that the story needed. Masterfully done.

  99. shallot Says:

    You can stop killing people, you can go back, you can make up for everything you’ve done – but no, you’re going to stay, because you deserve it! God, you don’t know how much this story helped me – by helping me reach the opposite conclusion to the moral.

    We are not just our own, and we can’t always follow what we feel we deserve – the person we are has consequences beyond ourselves. She was an idiot, and so am I. Thanks, mate. 🙂

  100. yo Says:

    hooked from beginning to end. “fockin A”

  101. Kelso Y'Know (Pittsburgh) Says:

    Outstanding. Brings new appreciation of graphic novels to me; blows away watchmen, maus. Hard to believe only yo and I have commented in a month. I’ll recommend it to all my friends. I’ll pay $100 for a hardback copy. Ditto for Subnormality; I spent four hours last night reading that. Please e-mail me, and let me know where to send the money.

  102. Thanatos02 Says:


  103. jr244952 Says:

    I’ve never read a graphic novel till now.

    That was some freaky shit!!

  104. Dominic Cole Says:

    Two words: Fucking. Brilliant

  105. CNash Says:

    They offered her a fresh start and she turned it down, because she saw it for what it was: a Lotus Eater Machine where everything is good and her life worked out well, but really, she knows it didn’t, and being given a magical reprieve means nothing if it isn’t earned. She was willing to step back into hell because she felt she didn’t deserve heaven, and to me, that speaks volumes of the strength of her character. The ultimate testament to “you made your bed, now lie in it.”

    Not every story can have a happy end, and wishing it were otherwise will blind you to reality. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad, and there’s nothing you can do except try not to be the one causing, or being, the bad.

    Winston, I congratulate you; this is without a doubt the most poignant graphic novel I’ve ever read, surpassing even Watchmen. Your characters are real and believable, and your message – although harrowingly bleak – is truthful and should be remembered by everyone.

  106. Diego Says:

    Your work is amazing. Keep it up!
    If you ever consider transforming this into a animated series or whatever, look me up. I’ll write the score for free.

  107. Canissolis Says:

    Captain Estar is somehow hot and strangely compelling, to me anyway, loved this circumstances toughened, guilt ridden, self destructive character with the low self esteem.
    great original story, love its rawness, so much more exciting and closer/personal than the polished stuff of big comic houses.
    Thankyou very much.

  108. Canissolis Says:

    PS. I meant raw as in raw creativity and polished as in commercialized.
    The drawings and story are excellent.
    Thanks again

  109. Meghana K Says:

    I have been following subnormality, but I read this for the first time today. I started the first part, and I was hooked. Its a journey worth experiencing. It weird, after reading this, I realise that a friend of mine is going through something similar, and i wonder how its going to end for her…
    I sometimes wish I could read this as a book. sitting in my balconies on a rainy day with a nice hot cup of coffee… But i had to be content with a computer…
    I wish you would publish more such awesome work in the form of books… I’ll surely want to buy one…

  110. Becca Says:

    I’ve been reading Subnormality for a while but only today realised there were other comics on the site; I started reading Captain Estar Goes To Heaven and barely moved from my chair ’till the last page. It’s really amazingly good, and I wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to read it for free.

  111. Seth Says:

    Simply fantastic.

    Far better than most actual comic books that I have read. Great characters, artwork with passion and a grippingly intriguing plot.


    I actually feel guilty that I have gained such pleasure for free.

  112. Nathan Wilson Says:

    I enjoy reading everyones comments and seeing what they got from it. I was distressed by the ending at first, but after reading other peoples reactions, I can take solace in the fact that people WERE changed by it. So even though it didn’t have a happy ending, it doesn’t really matter.

    I’ve never believed in hell as a place of torment. Just a place that you have a small measure of comfort, but you always know that you could have done so much better for all eternity. So you’re cursed to your small measure of comfort, and you stay there because it’s all you would choose. If you were put in heaven, you wouldn’t be comfortable with it, and would go back to your small measure of comfort. That’s what I think the scriptures actually teach.

  113. John Says:


    It’s always easier to see the truth through other people, and maybe that’s a part of the value of literature — into which lofty category I gladly place this work. I think we all go through life rejecting love because we don’t feel like we deserve it — but who ever fucking deserves it? If we all got what we deserved, then we’d all constantly be in hell, and I mean hell as Shirley describes it: constantly getting worse, faster than we could adapt, because we’d all constantly be hurting each other via actions like the one Shirley chose at the end of this novel.

    God… I’d love to say that this was clarion and uplifting and inspiring, but right now the feeling is too heavy for any of that to be true. Alls I know is that I’m in the presence of a great insight into a dark and horrible part of human nature. My heart breaks for Shirley, and all we pitiful creatures who behave as she does. Think of her when you reject forgiveness.

  114. Soapy5 Says:

    Wow, what an amazing read. I’ve been a big fan of subnormality for a while now, but it wasn’t until today that i happened to click on the ‘other comix’ link. amazing art, amazing story– pretty much agree with all the previous positive reviews, and I defiantly loved the ending. If you ever decide to sell a hardcopy of this, i’d buy it without hesitation

  115. Alex Mironov Says:

    Well, I can go and boast one more time about your style and dialogue and other stuff that’s actually pretty amazing.
    But I’m more impressed with the amount of thought you put in this work. It’s so very rare to see a character actually living, suffering, making decisions for its own self and feeling of righteousness (my English sucks, I know), not for some abstract “good”. Thank you for this.
    P.S. A bit off topic, but whatever. The Sector 41 is an impressive work too, but it’s not viewed like this in Russia. Yeah, two-thirds of my family were slaughtered during the Civil War, and in the 1937, and in WWII too, and the rest were doomed to poverty for decades, and we were stripped of most possessions in 90-s, and our government sucks big time, and what I’m doing right now is desperately trying not to get into our fucked-up army, which cold result either in being humiliated in the barracks or being killed in Chechnya by some bearded Muslim prototype for “russian terrorist Andrei Kozlov” from B-rate Hollywood movie. But you know what?

    We, as a nation, really did it to ourselves. We have always supported those crazy maniacs in power, since we never got active enough to provide a more human-like alternative. And what’s more, our people really believe in what they support – sometimes even for a reason. Everybody knows USSR was a global evil empire and it citizens were brainwashed, but actually, in a state where everyone was raised to be a humanistic idealist, not a moneymaker, it doesn’t require much ideology to make people protect such state. I’m talking mainly about 60s-70s, of course. Too bad USSR ended up as a meaningless and tiresome bureaucratic nonsense and was destroyed by the same ideas it planted. But still.
    P.P.S. I got here from a Russian imageboard for social refugees, someone posted that “Weird?” pic.

    Keep up with the good work.

  116. Chandler Says:

    You’ve really struck a cord. When so much of what is lauded as literature today is expertly-crafted yet purposeless, you have given us something I haven’t seen in a book in a while: a practical view of our own self images. It’s incredibly refreshing to read a book that touches on something as omnipresent as personal identity from someone who hasn’t locked themselves in an ivory-tower, and in a style that is rough-around-the-edges, but loving and sincere. I would call it literature, but I think it’s better than that.


  117. Kaito Says:

    Wow. Can I just say that only? Wow?

  118. Nat Says:

    Two questions.

    When she re-applies for her bounty hunting job. Her computer does not have an encrypted connection. Will she get caught again?
    Will Cally and her father manage to re-connect with her?

  119. MH Says:

    What Nat said. It was literally the first thing I thought, and it’s been bothering me all day.

  120. Alex R. Says:

    I read the comic yesterday and didn’t read any comments because I didn’t want to give myself any ideas. I slept on it, and now I have some sort of semblance of what I want to say. You’ll probably never read this Winston, but I’m going to post it anyways, maybe for my own rambling thoughts.

    Brilliant. I can’t say it any more succinctly than that so if you want, you can stop reading now because the rest of my comment is just going to reiterate this point. Alan Moore would be proud I think. The art was rushed, the lettering was weird, and background detail (other than the funny advertisements) was all but missing, but I really don’t care. The meaning behind it all was amazing. A full day and a half to think, and I still can’t really put it all into words. I don’t think you should ever tell anyone what you meant with it. I don’t like to know how a magician does his tricks.

    I can see how some would see this as nihilist and that was my first thought, but now I think I get it. I saw it as actually existentialist. Shirley gets a new lease on life from Heaven itself, but she still makes her own meaning and decides that she doesn’t deserve this second chance. I think it’s actually an optimistic ending, it’s just given in such a dark way. I think it makes the point that everyone ultimately decides what they want to do in life. No outside forces can ever completely change who you are, not even Heaven, the absolute epitome of power. I wanted to see a happy ending and I hoped she would take her new life but ultimately, that would have been the wrong choice for the character, and I respect your difficult decision to end it as you did. If it had ended any other way, there would be no meaning.

    The comic also makes an interesting point about Heaven and Hell. Is she rejecting Heaven by choosing to go down the same path? Or is she ultimately rejecting Hell, because to stay in her new life would be torture for her, knowing what she does about her true life? She was supposed to forget that life even happened, but she refused, and that’s why I think the latter is true. She didn’t go on living in giddy ignorance. She chose the tough path again because that’s who she really was.

    I don’t know if any of that makes sense. It makes sense to me anyways, and I hope that more readers down the line find their own meaning.

  121. Alex R: I definitely do read all the comments posted, so no worries there. Absolutely loved what you had to say, by the way. I don’t intent to delineate what i intended with the story, as it’s up to the audience what it is or isn’t about, but i will say that i Really like your interpretation, and i’m very grateful that you took the time. And thanks for having the balls to criticize the art and the lettering; it definitely was rushed in a lot of places, plus i was a much worse artist overall back when i drew it, so i hope to one day have an opportunity to redraw the entire story, if i may be so candid.

    Thanks again for your feedback (and big Thanks to everyone else who’s left comments on Captain Estar as well!); a firm handshake to ye indeed.

  122. leo Says:

    its good

  123. Alex R. Says:

    Thanks Winston. I didn’t expect a response because my comment came so late compared to the other comments, so I am pleasantly surprised. I’m a devout follower of Subnormality, and your art has tremendously improved. I don’t know if you need to redraw it but I’ll leave that up to you. I would love a printable version in the future if that’s even possible. Keep up the great work with the site. It’s my favorite webcomic, and all for free.

  124. Huggles Says:

    I’m not exactly sure how I found my way here, but I’m glad I did. Great comic!

  125. Spike Gomes Says:

    Well, I have to say, Mr. Rowntree, as a person who disagrees with just about every single political and philosophical stance you take… you write a damn powerful story.

    I was expecting to be disappointed and instead was awed. Kudos.

  126. cake Says:

    This is wonderful; no matter how many times I read it, the impact never lessens.

    I’d love to have a hard copy of this. Winston, do you have any plans to publish?

  127. demopoly Says:


  128. BS Says:

    This is an amazing story. I would surely buy it on print were it available. Same goes for most of your other material 🙂

  129. Sad Person Says:


    Why did she choose that ending? Why didn’t she just get used to it like she said? Why did you have to make such a sad ending. Curse you and your writing talents, curse you!

  130. John Says:

    I linked this to a friend and couldn’t help but reread it while I had the first page up in front of me. Simply fantastic. Although I really should have gone to bed a while ago 😛

  131. Alec Says:

    About a month ago I started reading Subnormality. In the past month I’ve become a huge fan of yours. Your comics, with their broad-brush outlines and boldness, make me think of Mayan script. Fuck you for being such a genius. Keep up the good work.

  132. D Hue Says:

    This was fantastic.

  133. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    This is a little gem of a story. What a wonderful accidental find.

  134. Ryan Says:

    That comic, no i cant call it a comic, that mind fuck of a story just took my mind and blew it. You are an amazing writer on top of being gifted artist. I have to say, the story is what made me come back again and again. I have been reading Subnormality for a while now, just found your older stuff, and now im hooked. Honestly, this was the best graphic novel i have read in while. Im sure im just another comment on this page, but you do good work. Thanks

  135. Soe Says:

    Wicked sick! Enjoyed This comic very much.

    Greetings from Belgium

  136. The Beard Says:

    I love the web. Had this been in print it would have pretty much faded entirely from existence by now. But on the web you get pretty much a steady stream of comments for THREE YEARS! And I assure you there are at least 50 readers for every commenter.

    While I find some of your work a little too out there for me, I thoroughly enjoyed this and many of your Subnormality works. You can be sure I’m adding you to my list of weird shit I need to keep up with.

    Keep up the good work!

  137. Cyanin Says:

    Wow man, just wow, you’re an amazing artist and author, brilliant story, world construction, i can’t really fault you.
    Christ that was good..

  138. Dave Says:

    Fantastic. I got a first look at your comics in yesterday and your talent doesn’t cease to amaze me, dude. It’s quite refreshing to find some authentic substance and quality (in content and form) behind comics, or should I say any contemporary form of entertainment. I’m glad I found your stuff and I definitely will spread the word. I like what I read.

    And by the way, I was laughing my ass off with the dialogues of the “comedy troupe”.

    I hope you become famous (but not too much).

  139. Soapy5 Says:

    So I was snooping around your site and came up on the Eliminator comic. Is any of that stuff canon in relation to captain estar? Are you planning on reviving Eliminator anytime soon? Cause I was really hooked by the few pages that are up. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to have to comb through Estar and see if I can find any raccoon shenanigans…

  140. RydWolf Says:


    Absolutely incredible story.
    That’s going to be constantly popping back into my head over the next few days.

    I’ll be a bit mopey, since it’s not exactly an emotionally uplifting story but, hell, how’s that different from any other day?

  141. Stag Says:

    The line between mental illness and criminal intent starts to blur at as you watch people at 6 AM outside bail court.

    Everybody gets to go to hell in their own way. And they WILL go, regardless of the good intentions of those who love them. (Have I read the moral right?)

    Thanks for the rollicing good read Winston, and hope to see you on Artist’s Alley at SFX.

  142. Wade Says:

    Holy fucking fuck that was an awesome read! thanks so much for sharing your art, so much freaking detail in every panel, your work is amazing!

  143. Matt Says:

    Hey, despite my initial reluctance, I was pretty enthralled with this comic.

    you see, the art is pretty unpolished, and some of the themes and ideas are a little cliche. But in the end it came out to be more than the sum of its parts and thats awesome.

    Some of the things you did really well are putting in excrutiating ammounts of detail to the world you created. all the ads and posters and signage, and alien races, and specifics about l-rounds, and how the corporation worked and tshirts. The seaworld tshirt in that one panel after she gets beat up is amazing. it showed how absolutley mundane killing is for those people, and it was scary. you were able to fit this all in without forcing it too much and it made your world beleiveable. so kudos.

    also, The writing was pretty good. sometimes it was a little preachy and obvious, but the dialouge and writing were often unexpected as well. maybe the obviousness of some parts and the unexpectedness of others played off one another to make something that totally kept me engaged.

    But in truth, I like the redemption tales better than the ones where nothing changes. thats why I started my comment off in the way I did. in the same vein I think it would have been a better ending if she tried to live the life she was given for a while, and THEN decided to go back. not because she was fucking up her good life, just because she hated it. it would have been a better ending if she ended up living the bounty hunter life agian with all the knowlage she had gained AND living it happily instead of sullen and haphazardly because she activley chose it over a ‘better’ life. the way it ends now, its kind of seems like shes just running away from the possibilities she had been given. mostly out of fear, or inability to handle a ‘normal’ life.

    I dunno. I guess Im writing a book here. Ill be thinking about this for the next few weeks at least. Id give it a 7/10.

    Ironically enough, I found you through 4chan when somebody posted your ‘weird’ comic, about all the weird things people do and are.

  144. F. L. Says:

    Thank you for this comic… It was a really good read… Thank you.

  145. curlpop Says:

    Beautiful. You are so talented, sir!

  146. Chris Says:

    Thank you for turning a 5 minute break from writing a university report, to check your Subnormality! comic, to a fun-filled 50 minutes of intrigue. I’ll put out a contract on you when I fail my degree as a result, kay?

  147. Dan Says:

    I am way late to the party, but that was amazing.

  148. hellblade Says:

    This is so me(n)tal. I’d totally give money for this. If I had any…

  149. Alex Says:

    No doubt in my mind that I would buy this. Genius stuff ❤

  150. zin Says:

    Just wanted to say, there’s little in this world that can reach so deep into my heart… creatively, artistically, emotionally…

    Thank you for this tale. I really love it as well as your other works.

  151. Awesome! Says:

    I know the point was it’s free and online, and I know it’s been said a billion and three times, but would you consider a printed version? I’d be willing to buy one from you if you did. I’d love a physical copy, and supporting art I really love is something I love doing.

  152. Dheginsea Says:

    You know a work of art is successful if it generates thoughts, conversation, opinions, etc…
    I’ve been keeping up with Subnormality for about a year now, and a comment on a recent comic (regarding hell and petunias) led me to this comic. I am so glad I got the chance to read it.
    I don’t have anything different to say that you probably haven’t heard a million times by now. Your comics are genius, beautiful, blah blah blah… and I look forward to more of your work.

  153. msouth Says:

    Part 1:

    I’m deleting my original comment about the critics and just leaving this:

    If I could draw ten times better than this, I would still _wish_ I could draw this comic _exactly_ like this to evoke a sense of rawness and intensity. If Estar could draw, this is how she would draw.

    Part 2:

    From the Book of Mormon:

    “Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.”

    For someone who has probably never read that verse, you did an incredibly good job of turning it into a comic.

    Part 3:

    For those of you disappointed in the ending–keep in mind that Winston said it is up to the reader to interpret. Yes, you see her choosing to return to her old life. Doesn’t believe she deserves a second chance. Etc. Depressing. But she remembers the whole sequence. She knows the ‘end’ game. Can’t expect her to adjust to that in one shot–maybe she wasn’t meant to.

    There are all kinds of possibilities open at this point. The people who were living false, deliberately cruel lives were destroyed. Estar got another shot. Maybe the path she took was not unexpected by whatever guided her to the second chance. Keep in mind that they gave her a second chance despite the irreversibly bad things she had done. Why wouldn’t they interpret her second GCN signup the same way?

    She’s messed up, it’s not all of her own choosing. No way you can expect the brief experience she had here to undo being imprisoned for an accident that happened in military training she was forced to be in, the multiple rapes in prison, etc. Maybe the “powers” or whatever didn’t expect her to do anything different, just to put her a little further down the path of realizing her life doesn’t have to be that way.

    Goes back to being a contract killer, ok, not unexpected. But now there is a seed planted, hey, you know what, maybe it didn’t have to be this way. Maybe there is an out. (I know, this totally ruins the ending for everyone that likes it dark–but, seriously, I think the story leaves this open. The really, actually choosing-to-be-nasty people got obliterated, keep in mind. And Estar going back to the GCN is still Estar trying to live a “true” life, it’s just that she still doesn’t know that even that little bit of a redeeming quality she has held on to is worth something, and that it points to the deeper truth that she, herself, is worth saving.)

    Anything is possible (particularly in fiction). She could take contracts, capture them, cut off their hands, report them dead, and relocate them somewhere. Hey, saved your life, someone else was going to kill you. Then find out who was behind the contract, if the people really were bad she can always finish the job, else maybe take out the person that took out the contract (people that have people killed have to expect that kind of thing to happen on occasion).

    Also, doesn’t she know the coordinates where a GCN ship is sitting, powered down?

    If she keeps at it the way she was, doesn’t change anything, kills for money, etc, fine, she’s in the hell she chose. But things are different this time. She’s had a look at what could have been. If she chooses to stay a killer this time, she’ll have to realize that all the other stuff that other people did to her are kind of out of the equation because she got a shot to give it up. So this time she is choosing with full knowledge. But you can’t expect that kind of realization in a day. And then she’ll have to ask herself about all the killing she did since the rebirth thing. It’s not like it’s grossly tidy. But enough of a crack has been left open now that she could work her way out if she wanted to. And if she doesn’t choose it, which would be the real tragedy, well, that’s the thing about choices, you can’t make them for people.

    So, all I’m saying is that there is a hopeful interpretation to what follows. She isn’t the same person that signed up for GCN the first time, and she may realize she has a choice where before she felt forced into it.

    Obviously this could diverge wildly from the intent of the author, but authors who say “it’s up to the audience what it is or isn’t about,” also deserve what they get :).

  154. msouth: Reactions like yours are precisely why i insist that the interpretation is up to the audience. Any artist who decides otherwise is deciding not to learn. You mention things i might never have thought of, and i thank you for it.

  155. Jesse Says:

    msouth: That was amazing.

    Rowntree: This novel was amazing. Have you ever had it printed?

    @msouth again: It reminds me of the end of The Stranger/L’Étranger…the realization is freeing, and finally lets her make her own choices. We can’t know what she’ll do for GCN (maybe she will only get “AO” contracts? maybe she tries to destroy it from the inside?), but she finally gets to make a choice.

    Before that, she wasn’t able to choose to be a contract killer _or_ a fashion designer. Both those paths were chosen by first, an accident that spiraled her life out of control, and then by something unknowable.

    Fantastic damn graphic novel. Never have I had one artist make me think so damn much. Subnormality, this, everything else. God damn it, I love you Winston Rowntree. Let me know if you’re ever in NYC.

  156. Kayley Says:

    Wow. Just wow. It’s amazing. It’s so touching and it just stays with me. I can’t stop thinking about it. I loved that she didn’t just accept her new life but kept questioning it. She didn’t believe she deserved it and in that sense she’s never going to take her life for granted any more. A damned fine job there, Rowntree!

  157. Alec Battles Says:

    The Book of Mormon calls my ancestors, the Lakota, descendants of the ancient Hebrews. Please consider the cultural damage that comes from book-based religions like yours.

    For deleting my comment, I’m unsubscribing to Subnormality. Sorry, but you’ve lost a reader.

  158. Daniel Browne Says:

    That was amazing, I love the writing and the overall feel and detail of the artwork. All your work makes me think deeply and this was no exception. I’m not sure what to take away from the ending (which makes the whole book btw).

    I don’t think I have ever sunk low enough to understand what Estar chose, *if* she is actually choosing punishment / hell / some bad thing for herself. If we remove the bias in our heads that says that being a bounty hunter is completely morally bad in a black-and-white sense, then maybe she is choosing to use her second chance to enjoy being a good, competent bounty hunter. Maybe it’s a bit like the re-incarnation myth, where she has to work her way up and can’t just jump straight to her ideal life in one step. I like to think that if she got kidnapped again she would now have the resolve to beat the crap out of the bounty-hunter hunters. It was only motivation that she was missing, not opportunity. The female bounty hunter even says as much, “There’s no need to lock up dogs.”. And they didn’t even remove her armour.

    Related to the “re-incarnation” idea, I wonder what would happen if she chose to go back to “heaven” at a later time. It seems that in order not to be destroyed, you have to be “summoned” there in some way. Is she still “summoned”? Could she work her way towards her ideal life by living slightly improved lives each time she goes through “heaven”? Being a good bounty hunter seems like one small step up from being a bad one…

    Anyway I hope I have contributed something to what others can get out of this work of art. I think I said a few things that haven’t yet been said in these comments.

    Thank you Winston!

  159. Riki Says:

    All I can really think to say is thank you.

    Thank you for writing this masterpiece and thank you for putting it on the web so that we all could enjoy it.

    Also, damn you for making me jelous of your skill at evoking such thinking! With this and the comics. I’ve gone through and read the comments before this and some of what is said is truly astounding. And it is all because of the beautiful thing that you have written.

    So, in summary, thank you for writing this and I am jelous of your obvios skill.

  160. Simon Rothwell Says:

    Great comic/novel. Loving your stuff but that was great and on another level than the one-off comics – engaging, funny, dark, human. Please do more! What’s that? not enough hours in the day/days in the week/etc. Oh yeah . . .

    Lots of love from England

  161. andrew Says:

    I’ve been reading your stuff for less than a year. Thanks for linking back to this — not sure I would have taken the time to find it otherwise. I, like others have mentioned above, find it hard to take in large comic works online, but I couldn’t stop reading this. I loved it. Thank you for the art you create. Keep up the good work.

  162. Blee Says:

    I read this for the second time. Breathtaking.

  163. The Strelok Says:

    I really enjoyed this story.

  164. YcleptJames Says:

    Just read Cap. Estar for the 3rd or 4th time and I have to say, that this time around I really identified with Shirley Estar. Maybe I just want to see myself as helpless when it comes to the nature of my soul… In any case, thank you so much for both this comic and SubNorm. I can always find something different to appreciate about each one of your comics no matter how many times I’ve read them. It takes quite alot of moxy to be the bee’s knees in my eyes and you, good sir, are the cat’s pajamas.

  165. Sam Says:

    This is my favourite comic – will it ever be published in print? I would be more than happy to buy a copy.

  166. radwa Says:

    Got here by accident somehow but holy fuck I’m glad I did. Enjoyed the shit out of the dialogue, artwork, colours (and lack thereof) and especially Captain Estar.

    When I headed over to the store section however I didn’t see this anywhere in sight! I know self-publishing can be extremely expensive and a huge hassle so I understand. Just know that if one day you do decide it’s worth the effort to get it on to paper, I will pre-order that shit faster than a cheetah.

  167. Matt Says:

    So…when she wakes up with blonde hair is she in the past, or an alternate reality, or a dream, or heaven, or hell, or what? She confirms that she really did kill people, and that she really did have both her memories and her past altered, and then she returns to killing people. Is she so used to killing people that she’s uncomfortable in a normal life now? So her version of heaven is to continue suffering?

  168. Matt Says:

    I appreciate that you were ballsy enough to craft a tragedy. Or maybe it’s just that you didn’t have to turn a profit. Anywho, tragedies are few and far between because it’s hard to make them something more than angsty whining. But you did, and that’s cool.

    The feeling I got at the end of this was powerful, even if part of it was irritation at a deliberately ambiguous structure. It worked. Like what Stranger Than Fiction SHOULD have been, if the creators hadn’t chickened out and decided not to make it a tragedy at the last second.

  169. Joey Says:

    I don’t know what it is but there was something in that story that made me feel like i was reading something i needed to read. I don’t really know how to describe it. Maybe the whole matter of choice is something that i need to take on in my life and really start living it properly.

    You’re a great writer and a pretty good artist too. Thanks for the free read, I would be happy to pay for a copy if you get it printed.

  170. Josh V Says:

    Unbelievable. im in love with the whole plot and everything. art is incredible, plot (as depressing as it is) is fantastic. if there was a book id buy it haha. keep up the awe-inspiring work.
    ps – i personally think the subnormality A Christmas Eve in the Future would make a sick graphic novel as well

  171. Jamie Says:

    There is a clear reason for you giving a read again option. I read this back in January or February, but i had to do it again. It’s a brilliant story, and i’d say you’re superhuman at this but that implies you didn’t have to work at it.
    You’re above everyday jackasses who “beat up old people because they smell funny”, you get a message across, and if someone can’t understand that, they’ve still got a ridiculously entertaining story and world to explore.
    A usual complaint in that case’d be i wish it was longer. Except you managed to end it brilliantly, you tied everything up, we know what she’s doing, we don’t know what happens after, but that’s the beauty of it, it’s ambiguous or it’s pre-destined. But there isn’t the curiosity i’ve gotten on other stories, it has finished in my head. It’s difficult to describe, but fuck it man you’re talented.

    I needed to give a proper comment as opposed to the 3 lines a few months back as Cyanin.

    Without dragging this already drawn-out ego booster for yourself even further, i’ll wrap it up with attention to detail and the writing on the sides of boxes and texts on screens just WORKS.

    Thank you. If not for tolerating that then reading it. Either way, keep em coming.

  172. vess Says:

    its intresting how telling us a moral directly at the end hits you, i was just gonna read this quickly then do something else. but the dialouge was captivating, the detail in the drawing awesome, and the, well, moral a good one, one that really makes you reflect on yourself more than others.

  173. Sam Says:

    You are an incredibly good writer. This was one of the best stories I’ve read on the internet in a while. One of the things I like most about Subnormality is the world-building, and your skill at creating futuristic or alternative societies shines through here.
    I have only one complaint. You are really, REALLY good at characterization, and I understand what you were going for with the guys sent to kill Estar, but they were just so obnoxious to read about and grating to listen to that they negatively impacted my enjoyment of the story. But that’s just something minor that downgrades the story maybe from a 10 to a 9/10 in my eyes.

  174. Macros Says:

    I just wanted to tell you I really liked this. Inventive, complex, and very entertaining. Very imaginitive, also! Thanks again.

  175. Alex Says:

    As always, brilliant writing and artwork. Read it all in one go, so it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Not sure if I liked the ending, but who am I to judge. Might have to give it a second read!

  176. Ronan Says:

    I’m re-reading this at the moment and enjoying it immensely. I just wanted to say for the record that if a hard copy were ever to be released, I’d definitely buy a copy!

  177. Mack Says:

    Simply amazing.

    I was looking to kill a few minutes and here I am 4 hours later.

    I normally skip walls of text in comments, especially when paired with religious quotations, so I am indebted to you for thanking “msouth” for his comment, otherwise my understanding of my own reaction to the ending would be that much poorer.

    The ending was correct (which is why I hated it) but I knew it was right and couldn’t be any other way. I am indebted to msouth for pointing out that it was not an ending that ruled out ultimate redemption, because I tend to believe it when a caption says “the end”.

    I am at a point in my life where your work rings incredibly true for me. I ardently believe in free will and I find myself in the position where I get up every morning and make the choice to continue living in hell because it is the right thing to do. Realising that I “had” a choice, and that leaving it all behind was not just a possibility but completely feasible made me feel completely liberated, and allowed me to “choose” to continue shovelling shit, because it is -still- the right choice to make.

    Your stuff is truly wonderful, and I hope to read a great much more of it in the future.

  178. After All Says:

    Wow I don’t even know what to say about this. Ran into this via TV Tropes and knew it was going to be a tragedy, yet the ending still made me feel for Estar. She was such a relatable character even if she wasn’t really a likable one– I definitely know what it’s like to feel you’ve made bad choices and fucked up and gotten yourself into a bad situation, and yet at the same time you don’t want to feel responsible for it even though you know deep down it really is your fault. Maybe it’s a universal human experience. Maybe it’s just me. Whichever it was, this story really hit its mark.

    One thing, though- I don’t want to sound like a PC crusader or anything like that, but Estar’s attitude toward Jeremy was really transphobic and made me cringe like hell and almost stop reading. I’d like to think you wrote the way Estar acted intentionally as one of her flaws, and that her opinions aren’t intended to be yours or anything, cause yeah, that’s totally understandable, and in that case it’s okay, but I’m really opposed to transphobia and I’d hate to think that Estar’s comments were something the readers were supposed to agree with.

    (lawl, run-on sentence)

  179. After All: Hey, i’m really glad you enjoyed the comic. And as to your concern, no, shirley estar’s transphobic attitude was most certainly not something i was hoping readers would agree with, and is just the exact opposite of my own attitudes towards transgendered people. Gender was just kind of a theme i wanted to have in the background of the story, and my interpretation is that shirley’s angry about her own unaddressed gender issues (among other things) and lashes out at jeremy for various reasons. I do kind of regret that cheap-shot joke towards the end where she’s like “oh, it’s obvious you used to be a guy,” but again, it’s the character speaking and most definitely not me. I’m glad you asked, anyway, it’s something i hadn’t really taken into account, and if i ever redo the comic i might rework things a little in that regard.

  180. axw Says:

    GENIUS !!

  181. Envious Spire Says:

    Mind blowing!!! I read subnormality for fun and I just found this because I was bored. As soon as I started reading I couldn’t stop! The twist is prima dast ist eines shonest(German sorry, I don’t know what it would be called in English but basically I said it was great!). Personally I usually never leave comments but this I just had to! At the end I was about ready to go crazy and run around my dorm! Thank you for this, danke schön!

  182. Danielle Says:

    I’ve gotten into a habit of reading Subnormality comics in my spare time, but once I had read them all I decided to search your website. I found this…and I love it. It stimulates my mind but also my desire for good art. I re-read this any time I feel like I need to reflect on life, or just enjoy a beautiful comic. Don’t stop what you do, you’re an amazing storyteller and artist! 🙂

  183. Pete Says:

    i was originally spammed via facebook with the things people should tell you comic. I found this and though “why not”, i’m glad i read it, fully enjoyed it. brilliant work.

  184. Matt Says:

    I haven’t cared about comic books for at least 25 years, but I just read yours all the way through. I just got really interested in seeing how it would turn out. Some of it was looking for the little jokes in the details (Mario Bros. Plumbing? Edsel?) but I also wanted to see what the hell happened to Cpt. Estar.

    I read a few joke-a-day (or three-a-week) webcomics, but I haven’t read any long-form comic books or manga or similar, either on paper or in print, since I was in grade school.


  185. Logan Says:

    I really, really liked it. The ending was good, too. At first I couldn’t tell whether I thought it was good or not and then I realized that there was nothing wrong with it, I just wanted more, which I can’t fault the story for.

    Good read, thanks for letting people read it for free.

  186. Sophia Says:

    I think I’ve read everything you’ve ever written. I love how it makes you think and laugh.

  187. Mike Says:

    yo for serious dude this is one of the best sci-fi works i’ve ever seen. i make a point of reading the whole thing out loud to people who i think might enjoy it, with character-specific voices and everything. do consider the possibility of a print version! i’d be willing to fork out good money for a copy of this or sector 41, both of which spoke to me rather directly.

  188. Apep Says:

    I’ve read this a couple of times, but this is the first time I’ve commented.

    First, the standards; willprint?, goodmoney etc.
    Second, there’s an interesting sense of humour in much of it; it highlights the attitudes of the character. A sense of humour is always highly personal (not private) and it’s well-done here.
    Third, the ending. There’s a sort of meta-commentary at work here; it was clearer in my head than in these words, so I’ll let you interpret this cipher.

    Eh, pseudo-ananlysis aside, it was good. Keep working; there is more to be made, and I am looking forward to it.

  189. drmagoo Says:

    I just keep finding more stuff here that amazes me. Thank you.

    In some ways, the ending resembles that of Roland in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. You might wish that there could be peace at the end of the journey, but for some people, the journey is who they are, and while they might have gone down the same path 10 or 20 or 100 times, it’s always a little different, and who knows? One of these times…

  190. Fernando Says:

    Usually I access your comics via RSS feeds, so I never ever go to the front page of viruscomix. I did today and saw “other comics” there.

    They are amazing.

    I’ve made my New Year’s resolution not to tell people what to do, but whatever. I think you should do a longer graphic novel.

    I don’t wanna sound condescending, and I don’t need to tell you this, but you have a lot of skill for drawing and writing, you can certainly put out really quality material.

  191. Bulwersator Says:

    The best thing on the site!

  192. basiamc Says:

    First time I’ve ever actually been really into a comic. Woo!

  193. Boris Says:

    Read this a year ago, loved it. Just read it again. Loved it.
    (also i like to think she’s signing up again so she can meet up with the heaven finder again. bam, happy ending)

  194. Spark Says:

    Wow I just read this story in one go. I started and I just had to finish. Well written and the art is really engaging even thought it isn’t polished.
    I’m really glad you let your readers interpret it on their own.

    [spoilers] Reading the last few pages I was saying NO no no to my computer screen. I just couldn’t believe she chose to punish herself even after she was forgiven. The dudes she killed were still alive so to my mind she was innocent and her carried over guilt from the first version of her life was no longer valid. That said I think she chose what she saw as the lesser of two evils.If she got all those benefits after the bad choices she had made her memories and shame would constantly torture her. By rejecting the second chance and actively choosing to kill and suffer the associated guilt I think she’s trying to atone for sins that no longer exist.
    Then again if the action no longer exists but the memory of the action does isn’t the end result the same? It’s like those people who do memory regression and end up with false memories of abuse. They still suffer trauma even though the event wasn’t real.
    The entire universe was reordered so that she made all the right choices and avoided the single defining accident. As far as everyone else is concerned the second chance is the truth but because she remembers she can’t accept it and she actively choses her own truth. I think she’s crazy for that but I can understand the decision. I wanted the happy ending for her but it wouldn’t have been as thought provoking and it would have been out of character. Her death wish throughout the story and her feelings of unworthiness at the end show character consistency.[spoilers]

    Anyway I’m rambling and I want to end off by saying this was a thoroughly interesting read.Thanks for all your hard work and providing it free.

  195. Stef Says:


    just wanted to tell you that I think that this is really great stuff.


  196. Mike Says:

    I have so many good things to say about this (and everything else on the site), but I think one of the most complimentary things I can say is that everything I read from you makes me want to go outside.

  197. Tuna Says:

    I’ve been reading Subnormality for a while, so I never looked at the older stuff until now. I have to say, this is one of the best things I’ve ever read. It touches on everything. I might say that I wish the ending wasn’t so spelled out, but even that anecdote was awesome.

    I find it interesting that she decided to punish herself. That is, that she decided she wouldn’t forget her old life as if she were forgiven. In my eyes that punishing herself. Not neciessarily as a consequence, but as a tribute to not forgeting. It’s like, the cosmos can appparently reorder anything, so it makes things that one does in life so insignificant. But Estar refuted that. She’s still insignificant, but she’s fighting, sort of fighting a losing battle. I dunno. I’ve had a sort of hazy perspective on these things, and I can’t honselty say you’ve shed a new light, but at least it’s a different color.

    Thank you for this gem. It’s not often one finds something this good.


  198. sinxtanx Says:

    Winston, if I ever meet you, I’m going to give you a fucking hug.
    I think your page is worthy of Internet Top Ten and this visual novel just seals the deal.
    One of the best anythings I’ve ever read.
    The fact that you dare to be intelligent on the Internet is just icing on the cake.

  199. Rodrigo Says:

    Wow. Just wow. I was already hooked to Subnormality, but I already liked this a whole lot. You are almost the only graphic artist I know that gets me hooked every time. You´ve got a fan in Spain. Keep it up!

  200. Mike Says:

    just wanted to say this was all will be one of the most amazing comics i have read in my life.keep up the good work and like others are saying if you do make a printed version of this i will so buy it, and spread the word of this Awesome piece of work you have done here.

  201. Luke Says:

    You amaze me, you made heaven look like hell and vice versa. Jeremy is an awesome character, I like that you can make a transex devil chick and be so nonchalant about it. And the touch of a philosophy at the end was perfect, thoughtprovoking, thanks!

  202. Jayce Says:

    God, I haven’t read something this amazing in ages…
    I’m sorry; I am entirely at a loss for words and more than a little inspired. I became deeply emotionally involved in Shirley’s story after only a few pages (I read the whole thing in one go), so I am currently floored, to say the least. I will definitely be thinking about this comic for a very long time.
    Thank you so much for creating this and putting it out there for the world to read.

  203. michael cahoon Says:

    I just finished reading this. It was great.

  204. Taylor Johnson Says:

    It’s now 5:30am and the only reason I’m not reading this anymore even though I’ve had miles of things to accomplish, I just wanted to say what a fan-fucking-tastic job whoever wrote this did.
    Definitely spreading the word on this.

  205. frozen free Says:

    The ending monologue is interesting. Maybe she “deserved everything she got,” but signing up for the contract network isn’t just about that. She’s signing up to kill more people. She seems to think that’s a bad thing… so I don’t really understand why she would choose it.
    In other words, she decides she deserves a bad life, but that doesn’t have to mean a life in which she is a bad person.

  206. Gordon Says:

    So like various others, I’d been reading SubNorm for a while (found it through DrunkDuck), happened upon this, stayed up half the night reading it. It’s funny, her style of narration got stuck in my own inner monologue all the next day. 😛 I loved the background details, reminded me of Watchmen or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
    Also, I’m glad someone else noticed the lack of encryption. 😉
    Now, to ramble:
    As for the ending, I was basically all ready to be disappointed UNTIL the final few pages. Kind of like Scott Pilgrim (the movie anyway), it was a matter of “your going to end it like that??”, before being glad about how it really turned out. I don’t see why everyone sees her decision as even the bad choice. As someone said, she’s going through it now with greater experience, e.g. she knows she’ll get killed if she’s too successful/unsuccessful ( I was half expecting her to be taking out hits on the other bounty hunters at the end). This person is who she is, and even if that person is plunked down in an entirely different situation, that’s not going to change.

    Also, the whole ‘heaven’ seems suspect to me. Partly it’s strange location, yes. Also the fact that it sends ‘IA IA’ chanting lovecraftian creatures to remove the bad apples, instead of just winking them from existence or something. The whole thing felt like it could be the product of some Artificial Intelligence (or something similarly, non-omnipotent). Gains knowledge of human theology, builds this heaven out on a moon. At the end, all we know is that it reached down to her head, followed by what looked like static. The entire ‘new life’ could be some simulation in her brain, her body still lying on the moon.
    Also, the location of heaven reminded me both of God’s Final Message to His Creatures from So Long and Thanks For All the Fish, and the ending of ‘Light’ by M John Harrison (hard to describe, maybe you’ve read it.)

    As the one bit of criticism I can think of right now, the other bounty hunters seem a little over the top.

    All in all, excellent show!

  207. Nic Says:

    Amazing, i’m sitting here at work all emotionally distruaght thanks to you. I don’t know how i feel about my job anymore either 😛
    thank you for such an amazing piece of work thats so thought provoking and challenging to mindsets.

  208. enactogenica Says:

    thanks winston . . . your honesty gives me strength . . .

  209. Curry Says:

    Creating amazing new worlds and thoughts from a few pages of artistic talent and provoking text. Thank you.

  210. Justpassingthrough Says:

    I read this on a whim, I’ve always been a fan of subnormality but I’m not a big “graphic novel” fan and it took some effort to get through parts of it.

    But, your point was elegantly put and goes deeper into the rabbit hole than most people even dare to look much less traverse.

    Its been a while but my kudos to you sir. Should I ever find the opportunity I will buy you a drink.

  211. Wizkid Says:

    This was just amazing. The artwork was awesome and the details were really what made it. Really got me thinking about the whole ‘getting used to punishment’ thing. I had the same question, and asked religious people what they thought about it. From what i gathered it was supposed to get better as time went on (if you were in heaven) and worse (if you were in hell). Thanks again for the free upload!

  212. Kittaw Says:

    Wow. Just wow. This was well done. I’m not sure if I can say anything else that hasn’t already been said, but I will highlight the attention to detail in your artwork (which I’m certainly has only gotten better – I also checked out your other non-Subnormality comics and was equally impressed, both with your artwork, storytelling and humour), and the ending. Shirley may seem weak-willed, but she chooses the course of action best suited to her frame of mind.

    I’m still somewhat impressed that people are still finding this comic five years after its release (myself included), whereas print copies may have been lost by now. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

  213. Neil Maedel Says:

    great story the main characters hot

  214. tosxychor Says:

    Even tho I suppose every praise I could sing about this piece of art has already been sung, I just wanted to check in and inform you that yet another reader has thoroughly enjoyed your novel ^^ Thanks a bunch for making it and sharing!

  215. Helena Says:

    Just finished my third reading. Thank you for making this exist.

  216. I Says:

    Read this maybe four or five times now – absolutely astounding. I wish I had an iota of your imagination, or your dark vision.Fantastic, deep and meaningful. Amazing.

  217. Luke Says:

    Reading this for the gazillionth time, and looking at how your art’s changed since this period in time, I can say that this would be an amazing project for you to rework if you ever wanted to promote a single cohesive work. Not to say it’s not great now, but it’s really got an appeal I think a lot of people would appreciate.

    Rest assured if I were an independently wealthy multimillionaire I would offer a substantial commission for a redrawn version of this and fund the mass printing. Why can’t independently wealthy multimillionaires every have ideas as good as mine?

    • As i’ve probably said before, there’s nothing i’d love more than to redo the entire comic, in a non-george lucas fashion (i promise i won’t change it so Greeley shoots first), but time won’t allow for such a project right now. One day though…

  218. Mrakoplaz Says:

    I am usually not the one that jumps on memes and bandwagons, but; ALL MY MONEY. TAKE IT.
    Now, as I’m a poor student that probably wouldn’t amount to much anyway, true, but I’d definitely pay good money for a printed version of this story.
    (agreeing with the comment above – we need to get an independent multimillionaire to look at this, stat)

    I know you probably see a million flaws with your own work when you look at it yourself, but you know what? None of them matter. The story might not be perfect, but nothing created by humans ever is. Meanwhile, this work definitely ranks way “up there” – along with the rest of Subnormality.
    The fact that this wasn’t a one-off occurrence, and that you CONSISTENTLY put out such great work is just stunning, and speaks volumes about your skills.

    In conclusion, you’re my hero. Cliché, but completely truthful ^_^

  219. Oomu Says:

    Someone told to read that comics so I read it

    Incredibly impressed by the comics and story even if sometime the art was crude it was very efficient.

    The end crushed me . It’s a wonderful life destroyed to make a point. Pur hubris? Deep down humanity or schizophrenia ? It’s so well written it’s seems so obvious and frightening.

    I need some time to ponder it. It’s very sad

    I’m a little disappointed you will not discuss the meaning or you of the story. I would need to know what you feeled of the main character’s choice. And the monsters! My god they were horrible and weird.

    By the way, I love your subnormality. For me it’s a mix of incredible lucidity and hope. And they are also funny. You seem to be young but in the same time a very old soul. Hope I will see your works for decades.

  220. Tessa Says:

    I’ve just finished rereading this, for the fourth time, and I want to thank you again for making it, and for making it available free.
    It really is quite amazingly good.

  221. TheoX Says:

    Damn. I’ve been reading Subnormality for a couple years now, but I’d only today decided to look at some of your older stuff. I read the comic about the Holocaust and it made me sad, then I started Captain Estar and… holy shit. This story is amazing; it rivals some of the best professional comics I’ve read, in terms of content. Sure the illustrations leave a bit to be desired, though I love the detail… but that doesn’t matter because you made such interesting characters and backstory. I’ll continue to read your other comics and definitely come back to this one!

  222. Snake Says:

    I liked it. I can honestly say that Captain Estar was unlike anything I’ve ever read. It seems like you’re branching out from the style(s) seen in Subnormality and are trying for a more serious approach with this story. My only piece of advice would be to take more time to create a more contextually detailed background, so that the story feels more natural. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Kudos to you, and keep up the good work (Subnormality has quickly become a favorite of mine).

  223. Gripping, wrenching stuff.

    So about a week (month?) ago I called my own father. It’d be a while in the life of someone who mistakes weeks for months. Err, whatever.
    We’d parted on highly unpleasant terms. I’d hoped he’d have died in the mean time.
    We talked. It was simple. The re-feeling out of our relationship was awkward as expected. He had had a second heart attack so massive his surgeon got an XBLA Achievement for the number of stents performed.
    Apparently my timing was good.

    There is no Hell but that we make for ourselves. All the poor Captain has to do is turn around and walk the other way.

    To reconcile is hard, but at least it’s simple.

  224. Zac C. Says:

    Ruddy hell, sorry for the gibberish name.
    Oh, and a PS:
    I’m with Jeremy. Women are _far_ more interestingly designed as the aesthetics go. And horns would be most excellent an addition. =]

  225. Olimar Says:

    What I really love about this work is the expressive content. Too few works feel like an outpouring of personal feelings, thoughts, and philosophies, but it’s like you laid it all out here.
    I like the way you think, Mr. Rowntree.

  226. chasun Says:

    evean if it was a joke im glad that there is something close to what i belive.there is no way u will read this i think so this is a quite thank you even though what i think does not matter for the fact that i think that everyone is there own being others dont matter at all yet i sad that that means whenever a person dies a world does. i understood the comic and what i am saying is not completly what i meant. i think that what i am trying to say is that my dream has been to be left alone by myself i have not done this becaue i am trying to make something of myself even though i really do not care evean though i have a computor and a few nice things i wish i’ed give it away to be alone.i’ve gone and made it to long for any one to care to read it. i honestly hope no one reads it. that makes it seem like i am trying to brag about something to me.plese dont think i am if you read this.thank you for your website sorry for a wired comment goodbye.

  227. Pavel Says:

    Incredible work! Must say I love your work and bet you are awesome in real life too. Keep it up!

  228. Stef Be Says:

    Hi. I just read this again and once again I’ve felt incredibly impressed. This is by far my favourite comic of anyone, ever.

    Also, I just read in the comments that you’d like to redo it… I’m not sure you should. I guess I can feel why (I’m a musician who writes and records his own songs so I’ve redone old stuff once or twice, but none of that was as good as this), but I guess I just like this so much in everything it is that I don’t think it has to be redone.

    Well. Enough of my fanboy-praise. Take care.

  229. Alvaro Says:

    Hey! comic was fucking awesome man! i read your stuff all the time, thanks for putting it out on this magical thing we call the internet

  230. Noppis Says:

    Oh my god. That was the most awesome story ever. I loved it ! too bad it isn’t 5 gazillion pages ^^

  231. Doyle Says:

    hey, winston, I get that im just another drop of water in the sea of comments but I am compelled to drop in my two cents anyway. I realy enjoyed the story,and enjoyed estar’s personality. being a bit of a downer myself its always nice to find a kindred spirit (even if she is fictional). definatly makes you think. anyway im well on my way to having read everything you have submitted and I gotta say its all good that I have seen. thanks for making insomnia bearable.

  232. Jose Says:


  233. Rowan Says:

    Epic dude!

  234. Julia Says:

    Grymt! This is probably the best comic I’ve ever read.

  235. Jason Says:

    Great story. I’m very happy to have discovered your work. It’s consistently excellent.

  236. Brian Says:

    Simply amazing. Unexpected twist at the end, but it seemed to add more depth to shirley’s character. Keep drawing!

  237. Alex Daemon Says:

    Absolutely brilliant! One of the best written comics ive ever had the pleasure of reading.
    If i had hat it would be off in your honor.
    GG FTW Guys 🙂

  238. Fernan Says:

    Hola realmente me gusto la novela, no pude dejar de leerla, en serio! me sente y quede tan atrapado que no me levantarme asta que la termine.
    Me recordo al mundo de cowboy bebop.
    Muchas gracias por esto!
    Espero ver mas de tu trabajo.

    Pd: Yeah i can write in english but i express better in mi language.

  239. At the last (Panel?) I’m gonna admit, I was going “No estar! you got a second chance! don’t fuck it up!”

  240. masdies Says:

    When I got to the end I was thinking the same as you Justin, but then I thought it over and realized not only Shirley remembered things from her past, she also knew they were true. Everything had happened: it wasn’t just a dream, it was real memories. I think it was loyal (in a strange way) for her to have chosen that path.
    Maybe it was like saying she could have also chosen to be different before going to heaven, and she chose not to, so why would she afterwards just because the circumstances made it easier.
    Kind of like refusing to believe that we have no free will (if she had accepted her new life, she’d have agreed that we don’t, and that life is just a matter of luck).
    Anyway, it’s open to so many interpretations. It really puzzled me. And I loved that. I love the way it makes you feel. Not to mention the graphic part. Each page was so detailed and elaborate, I almost felt guilty to turn to the next page just for the sake of knowing how it ends.
    Oh, and I loved the “shirley, you can’t believe that” joke/(airplane! reference? :P). So funny to later learn it was her actual name.
    Great story. Awesome work. Congratulations!

  241. Devil Child Says:

    This may be the single most incorrect philosophical statement I’ve experienced this side of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

    After all the horrible things Estar did in her life, the moment she gets a second chance, she goes back to doing the same evil, horrible things she did before just because she personally doesn’t feel she can be redeemed. In Estar’s mind, the actual things she did aren’t what matter, it’s the thought of doing those things that makes them real.

    Even if the horrible things Estar did weren’t erased from reality, and even if she would die with no afterlife to benefit her at all; Estar only cares about the suffering of others because of how it makes her feel, and that can never be justified. If Estar had anything resembling a redeeming quality, she would stop hurting others just so she could prevent suffering, not resume killing because she can’t eliminate the memories of her actions. Ester is an irredeemable, solipsistic bitch, and if she’s still disgusted with herself after all her actions have been undone and she never has to kill for her own survival again, she should’ve had the decency to kill herself, and spare others from her existentialist bullshit.

    And the epilogue is flat out wrong. Out of all the horrible things I’ve experienced in my life, and seen others experience, there have only been two common threads I’ve noticed with them.

    1. No bad thing that’s ever happened to me, or anyone else I’ve ever met, was ever something myself or anyone I’ve ever known got used to. I know several people who were almost sent unjustly to life sentences in federal prisons for no reason at all, and none of them were any more even tempered when other horrible things came up in their lives, including the threat of losing their jobs, remaining in debt forever, never being able to leave their homes, putting up with mentally insane family members, or losing loved ones.

    2. The direct emotional or physical pain people, including myself, feel from past emotional or physical trauma is actually rather easy to forget. I have no memory of the direct pain I felt when I had rocks thrown at my head, sublexed my knee, fell off a horse, had 103 degree fevers, lost those close to me, or saw as they suffered while I was completely unable to help them. As much as I wish those things never happened to me, and as sad as I feel about them at times, the direct pain never sticks.

    You don’t have to work the way you do, Winston. You have all the abilities to create a masterpiece no matter how wrong your philosophies are if you ever listened to a single fucking piece of criticism. And if you put down some cheeky response about only doing three panel comics about cats eating lasagna, I will invent a device to give myself telekinesis just so I can hit you in the head with a rolled up newspaper a whole country away.

    • Doyle Says:

      You are quite a chowderhead aren’t you? I found this to be a brilliant work of art with a serious, philosophical ending.

    • I understand where Devil Child is coming from–I think it is an indisputable fact that Estar started out with a very, very raw deal. She was forced into military service against her will. She killed someone by accident and was forced then to prison unjustly and against her will. And while in prison she was raped repeatedly, also against her will. None of that is her fault. Nor is it her fault that the society she was in would not let her get honest work after all of that happened.

      The “correct” (in my mind, anyway) reaction to these facts, as a reader, is to start pulling for her, hoping for something good to finally come out of, or at least after, all of this horribleness.

      And with the whole “heaven” thing, where the people that were truly just choosing to be scum got eaten or whatever and Estar gets a second chance, you think you’re getting your happy ending. It’s awful when you see her “squander” this thing that you’ve been hoping she would somehow receive all along, and that she finally does receive.

      My reaction was to think of a good possible future from where she is–that even though she seems to be going straight back to where she was, she has had a glimpse, at least, of a possible different future. Her situation had seemed completely hopeless before, but she actually has a chance now. Maybe over time she’ll realize that she can walk away from the assassin gig. Or whatever–you can read it in the wall of text I wrote earlier. It’s quite a stretch of an interpretation, but the motivation from it comes from the same place, I think, that Devil Child’s did. It was hard to finally see that hopeful possibility, then see it all smashed seconds later.

      After reading Devil Child’s response, I read through the last part again (using url manipulation 🙂 ), and it was a little easier to read and then think about the way she explains her actions with some “distance” between my self/hopes and the story.

      It made me want to think through the whole concept again, which I am doing, but I remember my feeling on first exposure, and I think Devil Child’s reaction is as valid as any. It shows attention to the details of the claim Estar makes in the end and some real thought about it. I think it’s a valid contribution, even if it’s a little flame-y in its wording.

    • Rodrigo Says:

      I liked your comment, Devil Child, even when I actually enjoyed the story a lot (and found a lot more sense to it than I could find in Neo Genesis Evangelion).

      If there is one thing that can be said about Winston’s stories, is that they never leave you in indifference, wether for better or worse. They always shake your brain up a bit and make you think. Even when you can disagree at the message of some of them, you will still enjoy them and that is what makes them great. Cheers!

    • narikolives Says:

      So two things:
      1) As someone who’s been through Some Real Life Shit I will faithfully attest that traumatic pain never goes entirely silent.
      It is always there, it will always shape me, all I can do is live with it.

      It does however have the side effect of “turning down” of other stresses …but not all of them. Really it’s more like having a kind of psychological tectonic event underwater: the ground has shifted and is broken and treacherous, but there isn’t any knowing anything more exact ’til one steps into a puddle. Or sinkhole. Or abyssal canyon.

      2) Capt. Estar’s final choice is a despair-inducing one, but I can’t say that I don’t understand.
      She had been spectacularly wrenched by life, and almost none of it was her choice.
      a) She was conscripted.
      b) She accidentally killed another conscript.
      c) She was sent to prison.
      d) She was raped in prison.
      e) She was released only to face a life without hope as an ex-felon.

      The person who came out the far end of that had plenty of reason to feel like she had no personal agency.

      Even bounty killing is an exercise in non-deciding as, and I’ve heard this rationale IRL, “if I/she doesn’t do it, someone else will.”
      So even that she kills and leaves misery in her wake ends up being personally non-consequential to her fits rather nicely.
      She’s not causing misery and suffering, misery and suffering are things that happen without her to the same people.

      Which is indeed solipsistic horseshit, but given the mare in question it isn’t entirely senseless.

      And this story starts with her attempting suicide -it’s telling that the person who makes these trips and these kills can’t/won’t spend for a nice meal because it’s a “meaningless expense.”

      As opposed to more top-grade body armor and no helmet.

      Hell, maybe it’s “all a dream” and her trip is that of purgatory (life), hell (being captured and tormented), and then eventually heaven …which she promptly leaves because she believes her suffering doesn’t have value if she forgets it.

      And it doesn’t, of course. But that’s not how humans work.

      We aren’t “pure” on some ethereal level, we’re accretions. We’re built like tidal flats, like sandbars.

      We’re shaped by endless tides and inconsequential sands and if we’re unlucky a spectacular tectonic trauma (or 3) and the person who looks back on that weird mess in judgement is also the one for whom it is everything they are.

      Some people become walking monuments to the horrors of their experiences, and for some of them there is no happy ending or convenient Aesop to be wrenched from the open grave of their lives.

      And others are Jeremy.

      The End.

  242. StarryGordon Says:

    Given the protagonist’s Nietzschean worldview, the ending was absolutely necessary. That is, we are in the tragic predicament of being what we will, and only that. There is no redemption, but we can choose our fate and be true to it.

    As for redoing the comic, I kind of like the way the style of drawing changes and becomes more sophisticated as it proceeds. I have the feeling that I’m watching the artist as well as the story develop.

  243. MSL Says:

    I’ve never identified so much with a protagonist. Comments be damned.

  244. bastardjack Says:

    This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve read this story, and I still find it utterly captivating. First time I noticed the leave a comment button though.

  245. dchavez06 Says:

    ^^ Same here.

  246. Thanks once more you guys. I was fucking Nobody when i made this comic– i was mowing lawns for a living and i had two milk crates instead of a desk chair for the first couple chapters, didn’t even have a website, so it’s really just a pleasure to see people enjoying it and leaving comments here in 2012. Definitely didn’t anticipate that one. WARM FUZZIES. Super glad y’alls have enjoyed the story, so handshakes all around.

    And due to the ongoing comments and emails I’m kind of polishing up the comic (DIGITAL REMASTER!!) for a re-release or somesuch (haven’t decided on the format yet– book or ebook or just as a download), so stay tuned for that hopefully next year…

    high fives,


    • MSL Says:

      WOW! You are the MAN! Who says famous people don’t listen to their fans? Seriously looking forward to the reprint, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Take your time, and do it right!”

      (Fan since 2008)

    • BastardJack Says:

      High fives indeed! I just read it again (5th or 6th time?) and I still love it. I would totally purchase a hardcopy or ebook version of this if that was something you were still thinking about doing.

  247. Nathan J Says:

    I just read this again, and it’s still as amazing as ever. Thanks for creating one of my favorite stories.

  248. Never knew about this story (reader since 09) great work and I can not wait to see more novels from you WR.

  249. Sixty1secGuy Says:

    I´m a fan of subnormality for about 2 years now, but I never red Captain Estar until now.
    Its really great. In comparison to subnormality it has a rough style and this style really fits the story.
    The story is powerful. so much emotion, so much suffering. The story is great as it is, but at first I would have liked to see a happy end or estar just vanishing in the dark mass of this being instead of more suffering for her and her surrounding. After reading a lot of comments I have a new perspective. She made her own choice AND someday she could get out of the suffering. Another thing I asked myself was: If you can used to everything, why cant she get used to living a happy life. Maybe the shock was too big.

    I would love to buy it as a book to support you Winston. Because i want to see a lot more art and walls of text from you.

    PS: Could you help me find a comic of subnormality? Its the one were stick-figures go multiple way upwards on a flight of stairs as a symbolism for life and its multiple ways. I wanted to buy it as a print but i couldn’t find it in the archive.

    • Doyle Says:

      Hey, is it Transitional Species? I got you comment in an email and decided to try and be helpful today. Hope I got it right for ya!

  250. Doyle Says:

    Ugh, sorry, Transitional Species is what the bar up top says, but in the archives list its called Between Stops. sorry for the confusion.

    • Sixty1secGuy Says:

      Yeah that’s the one, thanks!
      Sadly its not available as a print. I have to keep looking for a print to buy ^^

  251. Seleukos Says:

    Hi, I’ve been reading Subnormality for some time now but I only recently noticed Captain Estar; so I just wanted you to know it’s awesome and it’s still being discovered and enjoyed by new readers (and I’m sure it will continue to be for many years to come)!

  252. Lothere Says:

    Wow. I just stumbled upon this via tumblr and… WOW. This has really given me a lot to think about. Thank you.
    I’m no artist, so I can’t say much about the art, but the STORY, Christ almighty. I’ve gotta go digest this. It’s brilliant. The ending really blew me away. I’ve never questioned the good things that come my way, and the idea of saying no to a second chance baffles me a bit. But there’s something really powerful about that. Shirley knows who she is, who she has created herself to be. Maybe not everyone is equipped for the light.

  253. Dan Says:

    I would absolutely love the opportunity to put Captain Estar Goes to Heaven on my bookshelf alongside my other favorites. Once a year or so, I come back to re-read and re-experience it, and every time I walk away with a different interpretation of it.

    This time, my interpretation is colored by the fact that I’m now a doctoral psychology student, and I’ve worked with people who seem to have gotten used to anything. People can be psychologically changed–fundamentally damaged–by trauma. They claim to be used to anything, or numb to it all, but the truth is that the louder they claim this, the less you should believe them. This year, I interpret Shirley’s resistance as that same pattern: it’s a self-defense mechanism, is what it is. It hurts so much to be traumatized, but then the real kicker of it is that one of the major symptoms of PTSD is unwilling re-experiencing of the trauma. For some people, that looks like flashbacks or hallucinations. For others, and I think for our Shirley Estar, that looks like intrusive thoughts and uncontrollable rumination on the memory. She has been so deeply traumatized by her past and her experiences, and she wants to escape, but the trauma runs so thoroughly through her that she believes she cannot escape. And then, the only next step that makes sense is the belief that she SHOULD not escape. She deserves this. She earned it. It’s the only thing that makes sense and the only life that she knows. This is the battle that I, when I finish my degree, will be fighting alongside the people I work with; helping them to believe (and sometimes believing for them) that wellness is not only something they CAN have, but something they SHOULD have. Something they deserve.

    I look forward to returning in another year or so and finding a new interpretation to mull over. It’s rare that I’m bettered by a comic, and rarer still that one helps me crystallize my own ideas, as this one has. Again, I wish there were some way I could pay for this. I would certainly buy an ebook or a digitally remastered download, but I would most like to be able to put this on my shelf alongside the handful of other comics that have influenced me as much as this one has. The day it becomes available is the day I buy it.

    • narikolives Says:

      What do you think of the thought that “those who are abused abuse in their turn”?

      And is it significant that Dave Estar was a war buff but not a vet? Did Jane grow into the reality of an occupation her father liked because of that taste of his?

  254. James Says:

    Wow. I was just directed here from… uh… your site, which I reached from the one comic about the house that left little fortune-cookie-esque notes with definitions.

    And this is -amazing-. I have no idea why or how I have never come across your work before.

    Thank you.

  255. Mashivan Says:

    This feels visceral and raw. It was one of the first of your comics I read (feels like forever ago), and I still enjoy it. I’ll have to read it in a year or two, just to experience it again, then a year or two after that. And again. It’s a story to be enjoyed forever really.

  256. stoney Williams Says:

    I stumbled upon this and loved it, good show ol boy! Bravo!

  257. JMD Says:

    I’ve finished reading all of your Subnormality comics and came upon this while looking for more of your material to read. Fantastic series! The whole story was well written and well paced. It really is a thinking-person’s comic. I agree with the commenter above that this would be great to have in book form. Thanks for sharing your talents with us.

  258. Drakedude Says:

    I’m not sure i should have read this, from a time perspective. I stuck around for the seeming openendedness of the start of the story (and it seems i wasn’t the only one, if I’m looking at how much attention people in the comments are paying to the worldbuilding in the right way), but from the fake bounty hunters onward it got less interesting. I’d like to ask where you did your research on peoples reactions to traumatic experiences, and Captain Estar wasn’t believably masochistic enough throughout for the ending, given she was in the mood for “why not?” fairly often. I don’t know about the relevance of masochism to the audience, key words i don’t know. There’s the “you have choices, use them and don’t be needlessly self-destructive” takeaway, without masochism coming into it, but I’m not sure if it’s what you were particularly going for. It is making me reflect on a arguably masochistic time of my life, but my conclusion is that it was much more complicated and not central. The alternative “refuse to lose my identity/memory” rationale for the ending is a whole different can of worms, and gutting your identity doesn’t seem particularly blissful or mesh with the story’s general theme.

    How important is it to you that your art proves useful to people? What do you think about the time it needs from readers? On the one hand, your comics scale is making me hesitate (after going through a significant bit of your backlog before, and with too much “free” time), and i notice it seems to revolve around people down on their luck, who i wouldn’t think have the time to spend reading this. On the other hand, anyone can get through a novel eventually, and if you can hook them and they can digest it why not make it long?

    Thank you, please reply.

    • Drakedude Says:

      Now that i think about it, the identity thing does have a argument for it, but it all seems to be part of the greater self-punishing whole. The time compressors (immediately after valuing undemanding time, unless she had to pilot?), unreliable narrating, and tattoo’s seem to distant herself from her past and reinforce her present, and if the end is seen as a revelation through which to accept her identity it still seems to be so she punish herself more thoroughly.

  259. Garik Says:

    Wow. Feels like I’ve taken a shot to the gut.
    Amazing work. Couldn’t stop reading, even when it was painful and I really wanted to.
    Beautiful character design, as always.
    And on a semi technical note- It think this was the first time I saw the protagonist being abused in a graphic novel, and it was obvious the artist was not taking pleasure in it. that’s what made it so hard to read. it wasn’t edgy or cool. it was just real.
    I can’t pin down what caused this effect in it’s technical form (is it the nonchalant framing? the broken stoicism of the character? I can’t tell!) but it was incredible.
    Anyway, thanks. it was great. would definitely buy a book.

    • Kalle Says:

      I think this is one of the main points why I’m coming back to it every now and then. It really punches you in the gut. Well said.

  260. Erin Says:

    Wow, okay. I read this a few years ago and didn’t really ‘get’ it – I was just generally upset about the ending but didn’t really realize why. I did a bit of thinking and research and this is what I think happened: (Copy+paste from my post on Quora)

    Estar was given a second chance by the angel thing, putting her in a life where she never killed the guy in the army, and none of the rest of it happened. She’s having a hard time putting together the memories from this new life – which I believe is an alternate universe, there are clues to this – and the memories from her old life. Then she sees her father (it’s mentioned near the beginning of chapter 6 in his phone message that they’re meeting at a cafe) and something happens, I guess it’s the shock of seeing him, realizing this place is for real, and, I guess, feeling she doesn’t deserve any of it. She runs up to her ship without talking to him and signs up to kill people again – putting her back in ‘hell’, which we’ve discovered, for her at least, doesn’t exist. The last paragraph explains her decision really well: “There is no hell, I was right about that. There’s just the places we end up. And that’s where I belong.”

    On the page before that it’s suggested that she didn’t have ZERO choice about killing people for a living. She went with it, I suppose, because it was decent money and because she already hated herself for what was, yes, an honest mistake. But she screwed up – by allowing herself to fall into that lifestyle – and she feels she doesn’t deserve a second chance.

    The only thing I’m wondering about now is why the angel gave her one? I think it’s because she was wrong. She DID deserve a second chance. And she threw that away too – maybe proving she didn’t? Awesome story.

    Anyway Rowntree I’m not completely certain you’re human at this point; I’ve never even heard of this level of excellence in so many areas. DON’T STOP DOING THINGS.

  261. Jorpho Says:

    Gah, I finally got around to reading this. You shouldn’t hide this away! It is, in my humble and uneducated estimation, fully worthy of people’s attention. Maybe a shiny printed remastered Kickstarter edition would be asking too much, but post a link in your next blog post! I’m sure there are many who haven’t read it yet (or who don’t even know it is here) who would love to do so.

    • MSL Says:

      Seconded 100%! It really is a magnificent work, capable of inciting years of conversation (just look!!). You may have a bona fide classic on your hands, Mr. Rowntree.

  262. Ravarock Says:

    Awesome work, really.

  263. Luis Rodovalho Says:

    Thanks, Winston.

  264. Seth Says:

    I’d kill for a deluxe printed version of this. One of my favorite comics ever.

  265. fireheadmx Says:

    Hadn’t read this is years…

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