comic and then sabbatical

May 11, 2011


Hey, new comic/wall of text/meta nightmare/whatever for you. Sorry about the longer-than-usual delay, there were a few Artistic Meltdowns in there and then i had to switch provinces halfway through and get set up on Someone Else’s Computer which took, like, way longer than it should have (plus i remembered to bring every key file with me EXCEPT the script for this week’s comic. Groan… [hitting head on wall]). Ah, but look, it’s somehow finally done at least…


Speaking of being in other provinces (ie: saskatchewan), i am indeed gonna be Out Of Town for a little while, with the objective of working on some Other Stuff (comix-related, at least. Dark, mysterious, etc.), so it’ll unfortunately be a bit of a Pause until the next comic. Thus, i’ll see you around the end of the month or so. Thanks for your patience, and for bearing with me. I’ll be back! Bearing walls of text.

live wrong and perspire,


120 Responses to “comic and then sabbatical”

  1. Mike Harris Says:

    I feel very bad for saying this, but really, this was honestly my least favorite comic of yours thus far. It seemed to have utterly none of the magic of your previous comics. That having been said, at least your previous comics DO have brilliant magic.

    Commenters who follow me, don’t beat me up. I’m normally an extremely major fan of Winston’s work. I’m just saying this particular one did utterly nothing for me.

    But thank you, Winston, for this strip, and for all the other ones that I think are pretty much out of this world.

    • Ashcrexl Says:

      Mike, you are allowed to have an opinion and you do not have to apologize for three paragraphs.

    • Ha, please don’t feel bad, you’re quite free to say whatever you thought about the comic. I’m only interested in honest feedback, so Cheers (and feel free to go into detail, i’m always curious).

      (oh, and if you’re the mike harris who was premier of ontario from 1995-2002 then you can feel free to apologize for THAT!! CURSE YOU, HARRIS!!)

    • Benjy Says:

      Meh, I didn’t have an epiphany of introspection at this one either… but I LOVED the art experimentation.

      Great looking, but I feel like this comic was interesting in that people do have conversations in which no conclusion is reached and nothing is really learned except that it’s nice to have friends to bull-shit around with.

    • Mike Harris Says:

      Winston, thanks for that. 🙂

      And funny story: I’m not that Mike Harris, but back in the ’90s, the very first time I go onto the Internet, I put my name into Alta Vista and the first results are “The Anti-Mike Harris Webpage”, “Mike Harris SUCKS”, etc., etc.

      I turn to the tech and say, “Fess up, you guys do this to everybody, right?”

  2. Scott Hall Says:


  3. Themonk Says:

    I disagree with Mike Harris – great comic. We eagerly await your return.

  4. Xavier Says:

    I think your comic is great, so many of the stories are just gripping and they are long enough that I can really get immersed into each one. The art style is exciting and colorful and I do enjoy reading into all of the backgrounds for the extra jokes. I also want to mention the characters; they have genuine emotion and the tension in their lives shows in the text. I hope you find time to relax during this break and I will be eagerly waiting until your next update.

  5. Aeron Says:

    Experimenting with art styles? Cool.

  6. kleer001 Says:

    what subtle insight, i likey.
    it seems like you could easily populate an entire metropolitan with realistic characters given the time and resources.

  7. Hutif Says:

    I liked it. Not as much as some of your older ones, but it was still fun. At any rate, the experimenting with styles is always fun. Keep up the great work!

  8. Christian Says:

    loved the art, liked where the story felt like it was going. kind of felt like it fell apart toward the end. still an amazing comic compared to many other strips. unfortunately, we are comparing it to you, and by that standard it is only mediocre. i still liked it though.

  9. Vic B Says:

    That was a lyric from “Myriad Harbor” by the New Pornographers, yes?

  10. Andrew Says:

    Ah, changes in character routine, change in art style, your need of a sabbatical for the sake of change, it all ties together! I think.

  11. SuckMyComment Says:

    that’s exactly what buying a guitar’s like, you feel too ignorant to risk embarrassment. p.s. just recently discovered subnormality, proceeded to read them all plus everything else in virus comix, now i’m enduring 3 week gaps. i’m like a crack addict who suddenly ran out of money. i’m getting the shakes.

  12. golergka Says:

    Just bought the MIDI stuff I wanted for a few months yesterday, and now this!

  13. Chandler Says:

    Hey, I’ve been a fan of yours for a while now and I have to say that you’ve certainly left us with something particularly interesting (which I mean as a compliment) before your well-deserved sabatical. Good luck with whatever it is you’re working out!

  14. Sheedy Says:

    As a rubbish musician, I really appreciated that one. Thanks.

  15. Sheedy Says:

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, take all the time you need. Sure we’ll be desperate for an update, and sure we’ll be bating our breath and frothing our lips, but at the same time we also appreciate the art that goes into this, and that a genuine talent can’t and shouldn’t be rushed, and that the gaps contribute to the high level of performance.

    You’re like the Daniel Day-Lewis of webcomics.

  16. Joe Says:

    Awesome work. Hope your sabbatical isn’t too long, but I guess we’ll have to deal in the meantime.

  17. bby Says:

    This is just the meta-mega-depressing stuff that seems to define me at the moment!

    I actually felt a bit ill when Pinko got told off. You really try to “fake it til you make it” telling yourself all your woes are just screwy perception and it’s just a matter of confidence.. then someone sees your apparent arrogance and slaps you right down. It’s like NO!! I’M NOT REALLY LIKE THIS! I’M LIKE SUPER TRAGIC AND KIND AND HUMBLE AND STUFF!! WHY DIDN’T YOU CATCH ME AT ANY OTHER POINT IN MY CHARMINGLY HELPLESS LIFE!! >___< But I guess those fears are really just unwanted residue of who I don't wish to be anymore. So the wisdom of the day is: haters gonna hate, to put it eloquently.

    Anyway, leaving that tangent behind and focusing on the actual topic. Sure it's all just a bunch of stabs in the dark, but I can't really see any setback so long as you don't pit your being on whether this new thing succeeds. Okay maybe you'll lose $300 but life is an oscillating marriage of loss and gain! We can't spend our lives in the elevator trying to defend our 300 dollars! The clock fatally rolls on regardless of whether we stand still or walk for the sake of walking.

    But still, that last panel is saddening in a way. It makes me think much of what I resolve I furiously write down, finally sign at the end with "THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE!" and then toss into a drawer somewhere. Maybe our minds won’t be reborn in a day but it’s still therapeutic to sit down and conjure up these little introspective oases amidst the vast desert of turmoil. We can only be here so long and certainly we’ll be lost again, but it’s still good to ascertain direction if but for a moment. Ooh I’m such a poet. ;D

    Anyway, love the comic but I still gotta submit the complaint that they're too low-res to read all the wonderful little post-it jokes.

  18. monsterzero Says:

    It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that the ceiling in the first panel read “ceiling”. I was all like, “uwiling? jwiling?” But in my defense it’s 5am here.

  19. JesterRaiin Says:

    Piękne dzięki.

  20. Horace S. Patoot Says:

    This was really excellent, and very imaginative. We all need recharging once in a while — I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

  21. Chuck Says:

    “Not this one.” That absolutely must have been a Dean guitar.

  22. apotheosis Says:

    Some subtle self-mockery going on here, with the transition from the current style of the first panels, to the simplified style of the older comic, then a grossly exaggerated version of same right after that?

    Whatever. Your amps go up to 12, that’s good enough for me.

    • Yes, definitely self-mockery/etc going on. Without sounding too pretentious, this comic was for me kind of a follow-up to comic #12 (, ie: drawing in a particular style and then wondering why i don’t draw in a more enjoyable style etc. Second opinions welcome…

    • Benjy Says:

      @WR yea I thought back to that comic as I was reading this one. I think the general consensus is that it’s cool. Will you let us know what this mysterious project is even if it may expose your secret identity?!?!

      (Remember a while back you said if you did anything outside of SBNMTY you’d let us know? ^_^)

  23. DoubleW Says:

    I’m actually left wondering how much your style and pacing (especially the writing) would change if you obligated yourself to a webcomic-standard of four panels a day setup-beat-punchline deal.

  24. Kathy Says:

    I know each of those people personally and I want those green pants. Hilarious!

  25. Skinner Says:

    This made me crack up laughing – mostly because the second the clerk asked “Is there anything in particular I can help you with” I IMMEDIATELY thought of the same damn quote, and so I was put down right away along with the woman. =P

  26. zwrdl Says:

    5 strings plus one bonus string!! Still loving the little details.

  27. hmmmm Says:

    I just wanna say thank you for writing “there’re no rules” instead of “there’s no rules”. It made me very happy.

    • I KNOW!! What is it with people always using “there’s”?! I see it in frigging articles on major news sites, like “there’s no survivors,” and, as a Level 46 Grammar Nazi, it definitely drives me nuts. Huge fan of “there’re.”

    • Joe Says:

      people who don’t know how to talk make me want to commit atrocities…

      ..I guess that’s the definition of a grammar Nazi, hmm.

  28. b00zar Says:

    “It is not a question of ending habit but of seeing totally the structure of habit. You have to observe how habits are formed and how, by denying or resisting one habit, another habit is created. What matters is to be totally conscious of habit, for then, as you will see for yourself, there is no longer the formation of habit. To resist habit, to fight it, to deny it, only gives continuity to habit. When you fight a particular habit, you give life to that habit, and then the very fighting of it becomes a further habit. But if you are simply aware of the whole structure of habit without resistance, then you will find there is freedom from habit, and in that freedom a new thing takes place.

    It is only the dull, sleepy mind that creates and clings to habit. A mind that is attentive from moment to moment – attentive to what it is saying, attentive to the movement of its hands, of its thoughts, of its feelings – will discover that the formation of further habits has come to an end.

    This is very important to understand because as long as the mind is breaking down one habit and in that very process creating another, it can obviously never be free; and it is only the free mind that can perceive something beyond itself. Such a mind is religious. The mind that merely goes to church, repeats prayers, clings to dogmas, or that leaves one sect and joins another, is not religious; it is just stupid. The religious mind is the free mind, and the free mind is in a state of constant explosion; and in this state of constant explosion, there is the seeing of that truth which is beyond words, beyond thought, beyond all experience.”

    Jiddu Krishnamurti

    • I have to thank you for posting that, i hadn’t heard of Jiddu Krishnamurti before. Very interesting indeed…

    • Joe Says:

      I have a problem with his use of the word “religious”. I think “spiritual” would have been more appropriate.

  29. Edwin Says:

    Your comics are always interesting. At the end i was feeling angry towards the salesman, i heard that the reason of being of art is to inspires feelings in the audience. For me the what the girl was doing was a good thing somethings you have to change a little try new things even if later you dismiss the experience, the trying is the important part. Some people are easily swayed by others, just a bad face, a not so nice tone all their enthusiasm is killed.
    Also this comic reminded me of the guitar buying scene in the movie “Stranger than fiction” which i liked.

    TLDR: Great comic, keep up the awesome work, have a nice time out. And thanks!

  30. Omar Says:

    Comic was worth the wait.
    I’m sure many of us eagerly await your return. Hope your May sabbatical treats you well.

  31. Jason Says:

    “Cuz I like the way it rolls off the tongue!” Gonna steal that one.

  32. Otter. Says:

    Searched “Rock bands from Alberta” in google… Well, I didn’t expected anything else from Rowntree XD
    I’m not sure though if he likes the other band/singer or not or it’s just the character’s opinion.

  33. Charlie Says:

    the new pornographers reference was just awesome. it makes your comic so. much. BETTER!


    and i’ll miss the comic during this sabbatical time of yours

  34. Dom Says:

    Hey Winston, thanks for the continual brillinace, I still haven’t exhausted your complete catalogue.
    Hope your sabattical is everything you hope it will be.
    I’m another who will be using the roll of the tongue thing too. I’m allowed though as I thought I coined ‘rocket surgeon’. No proof of course.

  35. Drgals Says:

    So, just couldn’t help noticing the reference to Rush’s La Villa Strangiato…

    I’m sure the changing art style holds another meaning, but I couldn’t help to notice that it’s quite close to the Rush song, since it has some simple parts, with conventional comic format (comparable to any 4/4 meter section in the Rush song) and then, BOOM, the progressive, creative, Rowntree side appears and has weird shapes and color, exaggeration, references, depth… just like the 7/8 time and well constructed, but still emotion-filled solos in La Villa Strangiato.

    Definitely an exercise in self indulgence, I would say.

  36. migue Says:

    I feel happiness inside my chest everytime I came here and see that you have a new page done.

  37. Zac C. Says:

    Sadly, my first thought was The Tragically Hip, not Rush.
    Interesting idea there, doing different sections in your evolving art style.
    I’m crap for useful feedback. I’ve discovered this over the years; “yay, people shapes! I R JELLY/Approval noises.”
    So it’s alright. If I’ve seen worse, I can’t recall it, and this is just fine.

    One query: so is the black haired woman the “causality wreckingly hot chick who likes what you like” from 487, 533, and the like?

    Never been to Saskatchewan, have fun. I was in Manitoba for a summer. Was alright.

  38. steve parsons Says:

    panel 8- if guitar heads like that actually existed, guitar awesome would be over 9000

  39. Cedric Says:

    That’s me buying a guitar like 6 months ago!

    It’s still right there standing fierce on it’s small stand,
    mocking me for not being able to play it.
    A good remember that if a short impulse of desire is enough to start something,
    it require a neverending passion to achieve anything. 🙂

  40. SpanishMan Says:

    Hey Saskatchewan reader here. First off, your comics are incredible, probably the greatest thing I’ve ever found on the internet. Second, since you’re a grammar Nazi forgive me for my poor spelling/grammar. Third, would you ever sell specific drawings or previous comics? I need a poster/picture in my room to go along with my Snakes and Arrows poster and I was thinking some Winston Rowntree artwork would be dashing. Thanks for the comics they’re are truly works of art.

    P.S stay away from Prince Albert, it’s not the freshest place in all of Saskatchewan

  41. Michael Says:

    I totally saw thought of when I saw the second part in color.

    I thought this comic was good. It made me laugh through out (always a plus). I enjoyed the little touches (“arse co” and the way the badge keeps changing). Keep on rocking, and don’t promise anything. I’ll keep your feed in my browser forever! (Even if it only gets updated once a year!)

  42. Michael Says:

    And wordpress ate the link to the comic that was mentioned by the author further up the thread. The way I draw vs the way I want to draw. Bastard wordpress.

  43. Phil C. Says:

    Loved all the inside jokes (the “Lifeson” guitar was awesome). Honest to God, though, what the hell did Nickelback ever do to you to earn this level of enmity? 🙂

    Entertaining comic, by the way. The changing art styles fuck with the head most divertingly. 🙂


  44. The Old Wolf Says:

    This one rotated my brain 90 degrees out of my space-time and yours. Being a part of the graying generation, I think most of the rock jokes flew over my head (Nickelback? Isn’t that an elderly gorilla?), but I was pleased to find numerous bits, pieces, lewd jokes and rimshots to enjoy. Always look forward to your next offering.

  45. J.Martinez Says:

    After reading the comic, I feel good now. Also, you know, vintage guitars just have that… “vintage-y” sound.

  46. William Berg Says:

    People can call this comic absolutely anything, except ‘boring’. That would truly be a sin.

  47. Steve Says:

    Every detail of each panel is entertaining.

  48. Spike Gomes Says:

    So Winston, do you play Guitar?

  49. Damian Says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that you dissed Metallica. And to lump them in with Nickelback and Nugent…?

    • Joe Says:

      I personally just felt that the characters are musically ignorant. Well, ignorant of rock music anyway.

  50. Hannerz Says:

    favorite webcomic + favorite song by the new pornographers = day made.

  51. Dhue Says:

    That rockstar-on-his-day-off is totally Neil Young, isn’t it?

    P.S. Thanks for hating Nickleback so much. Glad to know some people still have their music senses.

  52. Richter Says:

    Awesome variety of styles, great continuity in the story, loved it. Special thumbs up for the transition panel, half still psychedelic, half becoming reality, brilliant. The blue tiles, half the thick border. It’s those little things that put Subnormality a cut above the rest.

    Side story : I recently went through the exact same thing (complete with paranoia) except I walked out of that store with a guitar. I said, fuck it, I know nothing about music but I’ve been wanting to do this forever, I’m doing it.

    One cheap bass later, I’m taking bass lessons from some random bloke found in my neighbourhood and I’m loving it. Can’t keep my hands off the gal (the guitar, not the teacher). Still have no clue what I’m doing and I feel like a talentless dork doing it but hey, I’m doing it!

    TL; DR : this comic happened to me last month. Winston, get out of my head!

    Enjoy the time off Mr Rowntree. Hope you have a great time. Wishing you good food, good times, good company.

  53. benS. Says:

    Sigh.. 55 years ago;

    I remember it as if it were yesterday.

    It was me, the old Guarneri and the owner of the music shop.
    “It’s a 3/4 violin” he told me, rightly pre-judging me as being a total newbie.
    That’s why I didn’t tell him about the Guarneri-label inside, in the bottom.

    And he didn’t tell me; that label also said “copy”.
    ben, no grammar Nazi.

    P.s. My copy and me never produced beautiful music together. Those vibratos, you know; very embarrasing things to make.

  54. eric Says:

    happy saskatchewaning, mr rowntree…

  55. TheBrummell Says:

    Where in Saskatchewan are you? If you find yourself in Saskatoon (or even reasonably nearby), I’ll buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice!

  56. JollyBard Says:

    Very funny. Also, I like how the girls you draw are always sexy but in a pretty, not slutty way.
    I love the green pants girl’s ass.

  57. Jim Ryan Says:

    So, is the three-panel B&W with the name joke singed “Rowntree ’87” really from 1987, or just labeled that way to suggest something else?

  58. Dave H Says:

    I’ve been there. Bought a guitar as a short cut to the Bohemian circles I desperately sought for. For some reason it didn’t spring to life in my hands. A bit of practice led to sore fingers and some pretty horrible noises and it languished my attic for years. Seems that creativity requires a bit more work than buying the accessories, T-shirt etc

    • Richter Says:

      Practice mate, practice! 🙂 Except for a very few gifted bastards, nothing ever springs forth from us in all its beauty. It takes practice, pain, hard work and repeat, repeat, repeat until you’re sick of it. And even the first hundred attempts are mere shadows, wretched abominations of the masterpieces we want them to be.

      If you do something to get somewhere, it’s the fastest way to Soul Crushing Dissapointment Town, population : so many of us. Those who exercice, shed the pound or pick up a guitar, a paintbrush or a pen only to belong somewhere or sneak their way in a girl’s pants will go nowhere.

      Do something for its own sake. Just for fun and self-improvement. Don’t think of where you’ll be, just think of where you are right there, in the moment, doing it. Eventually there’s less twangs and buzzes on the strings, there’s less fat splodges on the canvas and a few words sound nice.

      It’s not the goal, it’s the journey, etc, etc…

  59. Bob H Says:

    Love your mashup of styles on this page! WR is a genius. Subnormality is the best comic to hit this generation.

  60. Forrest York Says:

    You have made my day yet again. Keep up the awesome comics.

  61. Sean Says:


    Quite the intriguing progression of modes, on the page – with lots of neat easter-eggs in the background. Groovy!

    ( This Comment was Sponsored by WebCo Inc >< )

  62. Golux Says:

    You won me with “that horrible Alberta band”.

    For some reason, our local rock station wants me to wear ear plugs. Talk about over played. If they were a juke box, I’d want my…

  63. Dusty668 Says:

    Honestly, this comic always leave more than my hands jazzed.

  64. Edddd Says:

    okay it just makes me sad that you never followed this comic up

  65. Benjy Says:

    Oh Winston you dog! I know why you’re busy! Best of luck with the theatrical depiction of Subnormality! I think that’ awesome and PHG looks like a pretty good candidate. (By which I mean she’s cute!)

    Not gonna lie, I’d fucking love to go see it but I’m broke and out of time off because of my sister’s college graduation… please tell me you will post video footage of it? I’d even buy a DVD if you guys recorded and sold it.

    (For those of you who don’t know: )

  66. Richter Says:

    Best 300$ I’ve ever spent in my case. C’mon Aoogah Girl, follow your dreams already. 🙂

    PS : What does the blonde girl’s button say in Panel 10? Suit Whack? Slut Walk?

    PPS : Just noticed the red monster’s facefrom the tag team comic is on the back of the guitar. Effin brilliant.

  67. Richter Says:

    Cheers for the heads-up Winston, had a hunch you’d awknowledge the cause. 🙂 Gonna go support the girls when it comes to montreal next week.

    • Best Cause Ever! I’m really glad it’s happening in other cities now, that’s definitely encouraging for humanity. High five for attending the montreal walk!

  68. cbobgo Says:

    hey, it’s “the end of May” – is the sabbatical over yet?

  69. Isi Says:

    I have been reading your comics for about 3 years and I really love them =D I just wanted to tell you that I enjoy the flow of thoughts you put in them and also tell you that it’s amazing how much your comics have evolved, I just realized that because yesterday i decided to read all of them from the beginning and it’s really noticeable how your drawing style and writing has evolved. So yeah, greetings from Chile. Sorry for bad english.

  70. Holly Dee Says:

    How, out of 100 comments, am I the first person to comment on the Radiohead reference on the sandwich board in the last panel?

  71. MrSpeesh Says:

    That last panel really resonated with me, the idea of “maybe its foolish to pursue change for its own sake”. For the last few years I thought exactly like her, rabidly pursuing this idea of ‘change’. Fairly recently I realized that I was chasing a shadow, nothing but a self-created ideal that has nothing to do with the world outside my head. I found that the real trick is as simple as learning to really enjoy myself in the present moment, in this wonderful world of the senses.

    Its really quite a thing to come here one day and see a character spell out my thought process so perfectly like that! Far too often one can feel alone in these matters, its always strangely empowering to see there’s others out there thinking along the same lines.

    Oh and by the way, I IMMENSELY enjoyed the different drawing styles.

  72. Guest Says:

    While I feel sorry for the girl, am I the only one who DOESN’T think the employee was being a jerk?

  73. I love the Rush reference in the title.

  74. n Says:

    I hate that feeling.. i;m too introverted and when i;m not i end up feeling like a douchebag.

  75. Dalenbourg Says:

    Yo its my first time posting a comment, this comic seems like an appropriate place to start!
    Actual comment \/ \/ \/
    True Dat

  76. Bill Hoffman Says:

    I like your perspective,the drawing reminds me of Cal Shenkel’s work(dude who did Zappa cover art)

  77. No offense, Winston, but I always get this weird feeling that you’re a girl when I read your comics.

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