Dude. Dark stuff, glad I checked tonight. Nice ending though, that stuff is pure.. Whatever my vague use of adjectives means, know that it’s at least a half-hearted attempt to be complimentary towards your skill.
I’ve never posted here before, but I’ve read all your stuff and followed this webcomic for a long time. It’s the only one I read. This particular one let me cry for the first time in almost ten years. Thank you.
Not only do you make great comics with great message, you can capture the feelings of the time to within a week. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s having a really shitty week. My friend’s step dad’s brother killed himself today, and despite the distant connection, it shook me. This sort of thing is just what I needed. Thank you.
i can never decide if your stuff is more optimist or pessimist. i guess we could go with realist, but it’s so heavily weighted both ways…extreme realist? kinda puts me in mind of someone writing a comic about complete banalities tho. like eating a bowl of cereal or something.
anyway, at the risk of sounding very creepy- whatever it is that you’re doing, don’t stop.
I used to think that was Death yelling all that crap in my ear all the time until one day I snapped I think and when there was some dude with a janitor’s cart and a mop tapping me on the shoulder and he asked if I was finished with that. It turns out I was pulling flesh off the bones of my former tormentor with my teeth. I was a little tired at that point, maybe a little depressed so I dropped the bone into the garbage bag on the front of the cart while the guy finished mopping up. Guy sits down beside me and offers a handkerchief. I accept, and say, “You’re Death, right?”
He grins and said, “What gave me away?”
I said, “The mop.” And gave myself a face wipe with the kerchief. Death gestures to the trash bag, so I toss it in there when I’m done. I ask, “And that other guy?”
Death shrugs and says, “Fear. He’s an arse but he does his job right.”
“Teaches courage, right?” I ask.
Rhetorical question. Death recognises that but nods anyway. He gets up and hangs the mop back on the cart. He grins, “Best get to it, we both got work tah do, yanno?”
I get up too, slowly, still tired. Death looks around, shrugs again and offers a handshake. Nah, none of that, I give Death a hug and say, “Take care, man. See ya again when the time’s right.” I think I made his day.
HAH! YOU THINK THAT’S GOING TO AMOUNT TO ANYTHING, SHE’S A CARTOON CHARACTER, AND EVEN THEN, REAL WOMEN WOULD SHOOT YOU RIGHT DOWN BECAUSE THEY PREFER THE 2 DIMENSIONAL, SHALLOW TYPE, JUST TRY, THERE YA GO, DOWN LIKE GREASE THROUGH A GOOSE!
This is exactly what I think! The whole idea about rationalizing a lack of beauty by trying to convince myself that because beauty is subjective, it’s ok not to have it. PLEASE, PLEASE make this a poster. PLEASE. I *need* to stick it up on my wall so that I can see it every day.
Hey WR, been reading this comic for a couple of years but this is the first time I’ve left a comment here. I just wanted to say that I think the “Only you can see the reasons to hate yourself!” line was probably the most powerful one I’ve ever read on this site.
Such a simple message too.
I’d say you should make it into a t-shirt but that would probably just make it trite.
This is quite true. A large proportion of people are fairly self-centred, to an extent that caring about what other people look like doesn’t matter that much. I know I am, at least. If I see someone ‘oddly-dressed’ (and I wouldn’t call a parka odd) then I would probably give them the benefit of the doubt.
I watch both as well… and I think your question is extremely interesting! I mean no offense to Lev but the more I contemplate such a conversation, the more I think W. Rowntree has a bit more gritty, multifaceted grasp on things.
No doubt, they could commiserate on the personal insecurities and oddities individuals seem prone to, especially in relationships, but Lev has never provided the insight into societal and cultural affairs that in the same way Rowntree has for me. I find both very poignant, and again no slight against Lev, but I think Subnormality is the sharper work.
Man, that one hit close to home. I got one of those beasts shouting in my mind all the time. I wish he was that easy to shake off.
Gotta love Lady of the Night though; she’s my favourite character after PHG.
Optional art question for WR: personally I would have made the girl’s speech bubble different from the monster’s to illustrate the final break, but since this Subnormality there’s probably a reason as to why it was kept in the same colors/design?
Man I love yelling at incorporeal embodiments of my own subconscious on the street!
NO WONDER PEOPLE THINK YOURE A FREAK, YOU YELL AT NOTHING LIKE A CRAZY UGLY HOBO, YOU EVEN DRESS LIKE ONE.
I’ve always been curious about people who aren’t so analytical of their emotions and generally happier. Do they have like a little voice in their head soothingly telling them how great they are all the time? Like, even happy people have insecurities, but is there like a balance of voices in their heads…? (ya that didn’t come out right)
Or is it just ignorance is bliss and if you refuse to recognize it you can’t feel bad about it?
Anyways, I’m a big fan, been reading Subnormality from the start, keep making them this good and I’ll keep readin, maybe I’ll even buy a poster.
It may have to do with the support network. Many unhappy people have few or no friends, or a limited social life. So when the monster talks to them, they have no one to snap them out of it. He talks longer and you end up relying to the voice in your mind lmore than outside ones.
And it becomes self-feeding prophecies quickly. The less outside feedback you have, the more alone you feel, and the more the inner dark feels like your only ‘friend’, the only feedback loop that ‘gets’ you. Since he’s always ‘there’ for you, he must be right, eh? He’s the only faithful entity you have around because no one else can stand you.
(Girl’s voice) Well, maybe people could stand you more if you stopped taking advice from a brooding dark cloud of negativity! (Girl’s voice)
This isn’t mere unhappiness nor lack of social life. It’s severe clinical depression. The Inner Dark monster is itself a creation of a brain wracked by a simple neurochemical imbalance, usually pretty easily treatable with meds. The imbalance causes the horrible emotional state- and it’s a constant state- and the thoughts come up from that.
It doesn’t actually help to have someone remind you to “snap out of it.” Because you can’t. No more than a diabetic can adjust their blood sugar by an act of will. In my experience, well-meaning friends actually kind of made it worse saying, “come on, just snap out of it.” See, that implies one has control over it and therefore the suffering is one’s own fault. It also reveals that even the people closest to you don’t really get what’s happening, which feeds the sense of isolation.
Depression is no joke. This strip today was absolutely spot on, the closest description of the experience I’ve seen.
I disagree with Cotton, not ALL of the people who has an ugly monster on its back is clinically depressed and needing meds to make it right.
Cognitive dissonance product of the ambience you are involved in (family history, social surroundings, etc) may have the same effect, and the only way of effectively get through that is with lots of work in therapy.
This is an amazing piece as always, but I really have to stop coming here when I am depressed. The fact that there are so many people who feel like this just makes makes me feel even worse… at least she doesn’t have the red guy as well.
I am going to have to look in your shop again to see if you have a book yet.
I was reading way too many things I think to myself in the early panels of this, and starting to feel worse and worse… and then that ending came and for the first time in a while I felt really, really relieved. It’s nice to realize that only we get to hear our own inner dark – and, judging from the comments and the comic, that everyone else has one too. I even look a little like that girl.
Thank you so much, Winston. A lot of your comics have spoken to me, but this one actually helped me wake up a little.
(Now if I can actually get the courage to ask the guy I like out now is a different question…)
That was almost too much, Winston. I’m glad to see people feel the way I do but, man. That just got me worked up. Either way, for me, a classic of yours. Read almost all your comics, this is my first comment.
I can’t say it was really resolved to be honest, sure these voices are a figment of your imagination but that doesn’t make them any less real (and she obv knows its in her head from the start). I would have ended it with the monster actually being visible to her friends and they deal with it.
also, it was a little hard to read at some points in the larger texts as the style can get cluttered (maybe its just my eyes going!)
My bitching aside I enjoy your comics and thanks for going into that little voice we all have in our heads
Often the biggest resolutions in our life are internal to us and cannot be done by anyone else. Our friends can give us moral support, but they cannot resolve our problem unless we resolve it within ourselves.
As a friend found going through rehab, it’s a useless waste unless you decide you must change for yourself, not your kids, your buddies, your family, wife, etc. but to save yourself.
Hey man, are you okay? You’re a very talented artist and I’ve enjoyed your art for over a year now, even if at times it’s too socialist for my liking, but every now and then you post one of these type of articles, which makes me wonder if you are okay. Often times you here people so desperate they say “I just got to do me now”, not understanding our fates are all intertwined. There are a lot of dharmic minded non-Buddhist non-Hindi running around out here, even though we appear very diluted in the mainstream waters. We exist. I for one like to count myself among their numbers and I do want to know, are you alright?
Me? I’m alright. A lot of comix i do to make myself feel better about something, and this was definitely one of them. And thanks so much for the support– for sticking with the strip for over a year despite any philosophical differences. That’s definitely alright, so cheers.
First time commenting. I actually sent you a picture of me in a t-shirt and you never posted it up. I know you’re busy. Just like to let you know that this comic really hit home for me. I set the last panel as my desktop background. It’s a good thing to remember.
Really glad you liked it. And i apologize for not posting your picture. You weren’t alone in that, it was just one of those things i wasn’t able to get to unfortunately, like a lot of stuff i’ve meant to do over the past few years. I guess it’s overall good to be busy, but for what it’s worth i do regret the unfulfilled intentions. Thanks again for sending it though, and for the support!
Awesome finish there, a perspective that I haven’t seen or heard about before, and yet it’s the perfect way to view those self-doubts. I don’t listen to those voices myself, but this comic might just be the thing to link some friends to. Thanks for brightening my (and hopefully their^^) day 🙂
I feel confused about this strip. When I saw how it started, I thought there’d be something to help people who feel bad about themselves.
Finale? “If only I can hear you, maybe you don’t exist.” The problem is, I feel like I’m the only one who can hear myself crying out for help… so I don’t exist? Either my problems are completely unusual or I’m just not getting this comic (as I apparently didn’t get one or two before).
springboard for discussion maybe? But I feel ya. If only it’s that easy to talk yourself out of a very reinforced negative self image in full downward spiral. with one thought.
I’m a big fan of two flavors of “turning out the dark.”
One: Beat yourself at your own game. (Work within the system) Argue back with the innerdark. My favorite thing to wonder is if the innerdark/me are really as pathetic as it/me says. . . how can I rationalize it/me being so good at reading everyone’s minds so specifically? “people waiting for me to die” is a really specific thought to think. If I suck so bad, how can I get so specific about what the world at large thinks of me? And then project that “truth” in to the world and act as if it’s already “true.” If I’m so unsure of how I am, how can I be so sure that I suck like this? That’s some sophisticated shit for someone as pathetic as me/the inner dark to do. . . . And if I suck, chances are my mindreading skills are equally sucky. Which means these horribly specific interpretations of the world at large have some serious explaining to do. I think this is usually a good catalyst for making that walk back up the dark spiral one step at a time. Not super positive, but a favorite first step, because, I aint no psychic.
It’s a bad habit, that innerdark. Habits are formed with practice. The more I practice, the more automatic it gets. It goes from a seed, a thought in the “back” o’ my head, that I let “invade” i.e. I think it often, and doing anything often is the same as practice in this context. . . With practice this thought slowly gets hardwired (literally hardwired, habits of perception we practice fire those patterns of synapses faster! our brains like to think in well worn paths: WHERE WE WALK OFTEN WE WALK WITH EASE) Pragmatically, for some of us, getting to the origin of these bad habits is retracing a convoluted path. . . so. . . I like focusing on it as a habit. . . and understaning that changing habits is a painfully, painfully, horribly, ridiculously, gradual process that moves on a gradient from 0-100.
I dig this because it helps ease the pain of wanting unlimited willpower, and also eases the suffering coming from a culture that feels like it needs to account for every nook-and-cranny o’ yourself before you can change. Instead of asking “Where did this start and why” it’s more like asking “how does this work” and “how can I use the things I’m already doing to my advantage.”
Fuck arguing with it just think “I’m okay” and take the time to hard-wire myself to internalize these awesome thoughts with the same systematic fuck-a-thon-strategy that may have been a major factor in bringing me to my knees. . .
What’s good about knowing the process of habituation. . .Once that’s already done, I can start to apply the process and let the results take care of themselves. Slowly, gradually, sustainably. Once that “I’m Okay” thought starts to invade more and more perceptions, it can get more sophisticated, more automatic, more real-feelin’ in the same way “I suck” manifests in to “Everyone’s waiting for me to die” “I’m too different.”
Awesome. I used to have one of those riding me, and then I kicked it to the curb. It still comes whining around when there’s a chink in my armor, like maybe I’m late with the rent, but I just keep hitting the reset. And it does help to remember that most everyone has one of those.
Been reading your comic for only a few weeks but I’m going to claim I’ve been reading it for years and that this is my first comment because I was particularily moved when in fact it is because I only recently read through the whole archives and decided to comment on the newest one….
Is it just me or are you getting a lot of comments like this the past few strips? ;-P
@Kalontas: I don’t think this strip is about someone crying out for help; it’s about someone who feels worthless because of certain opinions that certain people may have about her — and who finally realizes that there are people who *don’t* have those opinions, and that *those* people are her friends. In other words, don’t obsess about the people who don’t like you; spend your time with the ones that do.
Amazing! I got some major respect for you now.
This comic struck some major (minor?) chords with me. I always felt that I should leave no thought unthought, I should prepare myself for the worst by inflicting it upon myself first, I should lower my self-expectations as low as they can go, and then be wonderfully surprised when anyone is even half nice.
Every panel of this comic rings true to me.
And the ending is amazing, although it by no means symbolizes the end of the battle, the struggle against the inner dark is lifelong.
I just wonder if two people with an inner dark like this would be perfect or horrible for each other.
Once again thanks!
The day I learned to do this was one of the most important in my life. Some of us have a pretty cruel voice in our head that we have to conquer before it destroys us. Distance yourself from it, recognize that it is a separate identity from your true identity. Then you can start breaking down it’s seeming authority and hold over you. The first time is a revelation, telling it to shut up can get easier from that point on.
Excellent work mate, this site should be required viewing for all the ignorant fuckwits who refuse to acknowledge the very existence of anything other then their own perception of happiness. If everyone had that monster behind them for a while maybe something would get done about depression. For now the three monkeys with their ears, eyes and mouth covered are in charge.
One suggestion: perhaps a Black Dog. Have the Sphinx eat it.
This was so perfect of a reflection of myself, that I almost cried when I read it. It is always strange to suddenly realize that everyone has these little things about them, especially after living your whole life thinking that you are alone in having little issues with yourself
At first, I wanted to give her a hug, because I thought that nobody should have to put up with this. Then I realized, I knew that because it’s what I have gone through again and again until I did pretty much what she had done. And finally, it hit me: this happened to -everyone-… this is you, hugging US.
hey winston. longtime reader, occasional commenter, dedicated admirer. i’ve been struggling with depression for over five years — three of which i spent pretending it was all better and putting on a facade for the sake of my family’s peace of mind. it’s been getting worse again, though; i finally broke down and admitted i was still depressed, and now i’ve been on medication for a couple months. it didn’t work for a while, and my doctor had me try a few different types. just last week it seemed to be working for a little while – and it was fucking wonderful, feeling balanced and functional and just normal for the first time in years – but things have spiralled back down into the same bullshit the past few days. there isn’t a single day that goes by without me thinking about suicide. i don’t have the fucking ovaries for it anyway – the closest i’ve ever come is taking a bottle of painkillers to bed with me and then only taking three before i chickened out (and painkillers as a suicide method have a pretty high failure rate to begin with) – but i hate living like this.
i can’t say this comic made it magically all better or anything (that’d be holding webcomics up to kinda a high standard), but… it helps. it’s like slowing down and taking a deep breath after holding it for a long time. it’s just nice to recognize a bit of what you’re going through in somebody else, hearing them put words to how you feel. i’m not alone, and i’ve heard that thousands of times before, so i knew it — but it’s hard to really believe it, to have it be more than just words. thanks for this, winston.
You’ll get to that point where you can look back at how you were, then realise how far you’ve come.
Regardless, the past is gone and done, the future is unknowable. The only thing that really matters is the present and everyone has the power to change that. Even you, even in those darkest of times where you _believe_ otherwise.
Depression sucks. I forged myself a set of mental handcuffs I’d put on when those thoughts of self harm came. Lived with it almost a decade. Medication helps. What I ended up doing that helped the most was a major change of diet with various amino acid supplements and avoiding gluten containing foods due to an inherited failure that allows it to corrode the insides out of our small intestines.
One doesn’t snap out of it, brighten up, look on the brighter side of life or all the other cliches. Rather it’s a slow awakening where you realize one day you can function better and have actually been for a while. Telling the inner negativity to STFU is a piece of armor you forge over time as well.
This strip is amazing. I want to print it out and frame it and look at it everyday. Most days I’m able put that inner dark in its place, but on those days when it’s hard, this would be good to see. I agree with the person who said this should be a poster. i would buy it.
If I could marry a comic strip, I think Subnormality would be the one that got away, that I never told my wife about, made sure to never carry a picture of, or mentioned at all.
The one I thought about while boinking the wife.
The one that made me cry silently sometimes when sitting in the basement with the bottle of whiskey in the toolbox.
See, the trick is to take negative feelings, translate them into to words, and then scrutinize the words. Most of the time you’ll realize that your worries are nonsense. That’s one of the benefits of talking about your problems, even if you talk to dullards. You know that sitcom cliche where someone will franticly ask for help on an urgent problem and halfway through their rant the speaker will come up with their own solution and thank the listener for their help even though the listener didn’t actually say anything? I’ve done that.
Also, accolades must be given on the depiction of the monster and the way he takes up space on the couch and the back seat of the car.
It’s a pretty brilliant message but halfway through there I started to think maybe it did relate to me. I’ve become pretty happy with myself (in no small part thanks to your comics) but around panel 5 I thought “hang on, does that ring a bell?”. Ending wasnt quite uplifting enough I guess but dont get me wrong, its still a fantastic piece
It has some degree of truth in it, the inner dark, it does exist, it bears some truth. We shouldn’t be naive. I think it can actually be healthy, it’s like a free-radical and we should every so once in a while take antioxidants to level it. it’s real, live with it, conquer it.
I’ve only recently delved in to certain aspects of spirituality… but I’ve got to say, after doing so and seeing this comic again, it is almost an exact interpretation of the ego’s affect on our daily life, ending with a realization that it really is just our thoughts and not who we really are.
To be honest, almost all of your comics have taken in a whole different kind of deeper meaning for me (well, deeper than they already are).
I’m not sure what I exactly expect in writing this comment, but it was something I felt I needed to do.
Your comics are truly something else. I’ve only read 3 of them so far (this one and the next two), and I’m already in love. Never before had I read something so beautiful, or that took advantage of the full potential of the webcomic medium, that narrated a full story with so little, or that was so honest.
i love it. i love your work and i gotta say this is the most original deserving comics i have ever seen. once i spent a whole day doing nothing but reading your comics. absolutely grand. thank you for writing
I absolutely love your comics. At first, I thought they looked vividly stunning and when I got down to reading them, they blew my mind. I love the fact that you touch upon such real, relevant issues about life that most of us experience and narrate them in the most nonchalant and hilarious manner. They’re a real treat.I wish you the very best and I hope you continue to create outstanding work. I’ll be coming back very often.
I have enjoyed your comics casually, reading them off cracked.com every now and then. I decided to browse through this time and I have to say that your cartoon “the inner dark” really hit home for me. I am still pretty young, and I am staring to come to grips with adulthood, and accepting the responsibilities that comes with it.
Long story short, Panel 6 specifically really hit home for me. It definitely feels like an individual struggle, to not think or act like “normal” people. I go through this very form of self doubt constantly. It is comforting to see someone else struggling with it too. Not that it is a good thing that they are suffering, just to know that this isn’t necessarily an individual problem I have. Other people feel like outsiders and outcasts because they don’t think exactly like the collective does.
Didn’t mean to go on rambling, I just wanted to share that I have enjoyed your comic (Subnormality) and the creative work hasn’t gone unnoticed, in fact it has lifted my spirits on this Easter Sunday in which I am eating my dinner alone on front of a computer.
I don’t know why, but after reading a (bizarrely similarly dystopic) novel for class, I was starting to wonder if I– the I that is still depressed, no matter how much better I get –was just holding back the people who supported me to this point. Like, maybe I’m just being selfish getting pleasure from their company and now I should let them go?
And then, internet-searching and soul-searching led me back to this comic once again. Those thoughts are so hard to permanently disconnect, but maybe I’m just not yelling loud enough. 🙂 Thank you.
I honestly love your comics(and im more than sure you have heard that before). i recently stumbled upon them and decided to start reading from the beginning and this is the one i decided to pause on and leave a comment. i doubt it’ll go noticed but on the off chance it does i’d just like to say, i honestly like the tone of your work. while so many people are sure to say that so much of your work is negative or even too negative, i see alot of up beat and inspiring things in them. this one comic made me think of that. well bisides, im sorry for the long message. keep this up, i (and many people im sure) appreciate it.
Winston, if your work had any more perspective you would be omniscient, I kind of suspect on some level you are. You have somehow managed to create a portal into the human condition. Your work is brilliant beyond all justification, praise and reverence.
Thank you for sharing your immeasurable awesome brilliance.
This comic is amazing. Almost every time I read one I’m like “This is an American version of me! How is it that this person is living my life?” I was going to email you and say as much, then I thought about it and it doesn’t seem so strange. I just have what passes for a normal life for much of my generation.
I don’t know if that makes me feel better. I think it does, but it does kind of make finding a kindred spirit seem a little less special.
I remember seeing your comic about “normal being a figment of popular imagination” (the ‘Weird’ one) a while ago, but somehow I didn’t get to going through the entire archive until these last two days.
I am just writing to say that this comic encapsulates how I have been feeling lately, and thank you for making these comix. You give a lot of us hope and comfort.
Yikes, just realised this comic is a year old, as opposed to a couple of weeks old. Lol. My bad. I just found this strip a few days ago and have been going through them one by one from the start. Really amazing work. Pink Haired Girl and Sphynx are my favourite characters.
Well done on your amazing creativity and thoughtful mind. 🙂