Library Computer + some News

June 1, 2011

Aaaaand we’re back, finally. New comic’s up, apologies for the not-actually-at-the-end-of-May return, things went long (as usual). Thanks for waiting (as usual)! I’ll be back (as usual).


Rather pleased to announce that Subnormality is being adapted for the stage later this month at the Ottawa Fringe Festival! HUGE thanks to Marie Robertson for coming to me with the idea; am Totally Honored. Am non-secretly thrilled to witness a webcomic being translated to live theater, and would encourage y’all to tell anyone who’ll listen that webcomics are Gettin’ ‘er Done. Look what’s happening here in this crazy little medium… And if you’re in the Ottawa area, go see the play!! Camp out two weeks in advance!! The dates are on the site, but i’ll post them here too:

Friday, June 17 – 8:00pm
Saturday, June 18 – 6:00pm
Sunday, June 19 – 2:30pm
Tuesday, June 21 – 6:30pm
Thursday, June 23 – 6:30pm
Sunday, June 26 – 4:00pm

Maybe i’ll see you there!

good times,


120 Responses to “Library Computer + some News”

  1. Nach Says:

    Woo congrats Winston, thats huge news!! Also, this comeback comic is full of alternate reality win. Cheers!

  2. bachterman Says:

    that was pretty nice. on an ipad.

  3. Leak Says:

    Makes me glad I’ve got internet at home – except when lightning strikes in what must have been our back yard and takes the TV company’s cable (or whatever) with it, like yesterday… :/

    Also – is the iBad the new library viewer or what?

    np: Bibio – Wake Up! (Bibio – Mind Bokeh)

  4. Hiya Winston, this is the director for the stage adaptation of Subnormality. So glad you approve of our little operation, and we are Totally Honoured to be bringing Subnormality to the stage. The characters/writing are a director’s dream. I can’t wait to meet you. Hopefully we stand up to your expectations! 😀

    • You’re damn right i approve! Thank YOU for everything, i’m just eternally pleased with this whole thing. Definitely looking forward to the show.

    • Benjy Says:

      Question… Would the script will be made available either for sale or for free or at all?

      I noticed a lot of people wanting to see it that live no where near Canada who would probably want to put it on themselves or at least read the script.

  5. Emily Says:

    Are there actual alternate history forums? I feel dumb for even asking, but WANT.

    • Tobu Says:

      There’s Usenet’s soc.history.what-if, which you can read over here:

    • Brad Says:

      There’s also, the biggest (and at this point maybe the only) forum devoted to this sort of thing. Given the fan following that Subnormality has over there and the reference in the comic, I can’t help but wonder if Winston’s actually a member. His sense of humor certainly does suit us

  6. GlitterBerri Says:

    I like how the Sphinx is like a bad customer at a restaurant, always getting mad at the staff for the manager’s problems. Blaming individuals for the failures of humanity. Hehe…

  7. Hagure Says:

    30 mins huh? *sets timer*

  8. Leo W. Says:

    Oh god I so badly want to go see that play. Why does everything have to be thousands of miles away?

    Also, would I be a total idiot if I didn’t quite get this comic?

  9. Katie :) Says:

    Hey up :3
    I know that you probably won’t get to read this; but I’m going to be obnoxious and post it anyway in the vain hopes that you will. I know that you’ll get this a lot, but I just want to say that as soon as I get home from school, I check your website for ANYTHING new, haha. Your comics make me laugh and feel like there’s another person who gets what I’m feeling, and I really appreciate that. So thank you so much. *some of them even make me cry :$*
    Now, I know that the only people that will get to read this will probably just have come on here to say that that they liked this one, and get freaked out by the fourteen year olds’ overreaction, but hey ho. :]


  10. Shaun Grey Says:

    Is “How to Do It” a real book? I desperately need it.

  11. Dominic Says:

    My first reply when I read of the show was “WHAT. WHAT ON EARTH. HOW.” but after some consideration I’ll change that to “please make sure to get a video recording or /something/” as there’s no way I’m swimming across that pond for this.

  12. Jack Says:

    I just want to say, this comic is brilliant. I love the way all the apparently ordinary characters are eccentric in their own way, and especially love the last panel, “Wherever you are, it’s today.” I’ve heard that philosophy said in so many different ways, by so many different people. And it’s always great to hear again. This was a perfect comic.

    Thank you.

  13. Edwin Says:

    Very nice!
    Interesting how the homeless girl snaps to the old lady, or was she whispering sarcastically?

    And another thing, when you make this comics you work on one huge page/file like the final product or make frame by frame in different files? What I’m trying to say, i wouldn’t mind reading the comic frame by frame if each frame would have a bigger resolution.


    • Tobu Says:

      Her first reply was: “You’re right ma’am, that was pretty inconsiderate. I apologize.”

  14. Dzre Says:

    Is there some hidden meaning in the time limit poster since it changes looks all the time? At first I thought it was implying that someone put a clean one every time it got messed but the change between frames 11 and 12 doesn’t make sense.

    • Dzre Says:

      Nevermind, I’m just stupid. The kids draw on it and the staff keep replacing it. It just got replaced between 11 and 12.

    • Caroline Says:

      I think but maybe I’m thinking too far, that the comic isn’t in the right order. For example the old lady looks for houses first and then comes back for the second time that day to check her e-mail.Couldn’t that be possible?

    • Yeah, they’re not all in order, and there’s a gap of a year between panels 11 and 12.

    • Dusty668 Says:

      I could tell the time of day difference from the windows but not a full year!
      Loving the temporal hints you gave, and have passed the word to some friends of mine up north!

    • Caroline Says:

      I think you can see that because the color of the poster has changed

    • Dusty668 Says:

      Honestly I thought the poster changes were tracking alternate timelines.

  15. Luke Says:

    I was sad to see no Mongo on the cast list, but then again I live in New York so I won’t be able to see it anyway.

    Here’s hoping a riot breaks out because of how amazing it is and a huge crowd disassembles the entire stage and carries the cast crowd-surf style across the entire world, and at some point they end up where I live and perform a show.

  16. DoubleW Says:

    Man, I remember the library. At first, back in school, I was totally the kid checking back in again and again to play flash games (well, text MUDs, actually. Flash games made noise and took ages to load then). Later in life, I was the guy getting pissed at the kids for being little cheats, with a complete lack of self-awareness. Now I’m the guy who has internet at home but can’t use it because all of my housemates have dozens of torrents running for incredibly specific pornography.

    • Benjy Says:

      Hilarious story. I laughed out loud at the “incredibly specific pornography” bit at the end. ^_^

  17. Jillyfrees Says:

    Library internet access: I’m still pushing it to my adult ed/ ESL students to cross the digital divide. Now enjoying your particular slant on the characters frequenting the local library, but on my first imac in the comfort of home – however, at this age and stage in life having trouble ready the words (in the very wordy speech bubbles). Oh dear – am I getting too old for comix?

  18. Gregory Says:

    I was nice to see the Sphinx again.

  19. arkonbey Says:

    Seeing the sphinx again I was, for some odd reason, struck by the thought that having sex with the sphinx would be like making it with a giant plushie that would most likely eat you afterward.

    I should get more sleep.

  20. Tandy Says:

    Subnormality on the stage? I want to go! How does one get tickets for the show? Just at the door?

    Also, will you be there every night? I’d be so disappointed if making the trek up Ottawa didn’t afford me the chance to stalk you.

    • No, i’ll only be there for one show just because of the travel costs (haven’t decided on which day yet though). And i would imagine that tickets are indeed obtained at the door!

  21. Esn Says:


    I probably won’t be able to make it to the Ottawa show, unfortunately… granted Toronto’s not all that far, but it’s still some distance…

  22. Sheedy Says:

    Speechless after that comic. Just perfect. Keep doing this, if you can.

  23. Joe Says:

    Glad to see you back and still in top form Winston!

  24. Patrick Says:

    This one is seriously good. Been reading a while, so it’s about time I left a little acknowledgement for the author/artist. Love your work.

  25. Henry Says:

    Wonderful! One of your best in a while. I love the way you extract these sorts of weird uncategorisable messages of profundity from the banality you portray yourself as surrounded by… I think it makes your comics so optimistic and pleasant in tone, when they could easily slide into a sort of apathetic critical depression if you didn’t handle your subject matter so well.

  26. Mikko Says:

    Awesome comic, as can regularly and above all expectations, be expected.
    Congratulations on the news, absolutely thrilling prospect. Thumbs up all ’round!

  27. Phil C. Says:

    Awesome to have more Subnormality! I do love to read and reread your stuff because it’s so much fun to go back and catch all the little details. I had fun piecing together the actual order in which the panels took place.

    Hey, have you ever thought of making a cast of characters page? Or giving names to some of these people? It would be nice to refer to them by names instead of “Homeless Girl” or “Pink-Haired Girl” or “Sexy Smart Girl Who Tends to Make Guys’ Heads Explode”, or….well, you get the idea.

    Love the comic! Keep writing and drawing.


    • Homeless girl is Zoe Muggs, but there are certainly a few characters with no names and that’s the way it’ll stay.

    • Phil C. Says:

      Ugh, thanks for the reminder about Zoe, can’t believe I forgot she WAS given a name already. Clearly I need to go back and reread the archive some more (oh no! twist my arm!)


  28. Michelle Says:

    I really liked the third row and the first half of the second row.

  29. Alexis Says:

    This is one of your better-drawn comix, recently anyway. The composition is solid… All the characters are remarkably consistent-looking, which works against the quick-switching arcs… cool pacing. Tight execution!
    congratulations on the stage adaptation 🙂

    • Thanks a ton for the kind remarks regarding the art; was definitely trying a lot harder with this one. Switched to a smaller pen tip for the inking on the characters too, and definitely liked the results.

  30. helen Says:

    I am SO happy to see you back!
    This was really lovely.

    And I’m interested to see how a stage adaptation turns out.

  31. Infanttyrone Says:

    I have a real affinity to the older fellow working on his novel (was it a novel?) on the library computer. I would buy his book, in the six months between when a tiny university press published it and the point when it came off the shelves for terrible sales and non-existent promotion. Loved it. Now wondering if it was a joke stab at ‘terrible pompous self-important writers.’ Conflicted. Torn by anxiety; am I putting myself into a quantified yet self-made category, or speaking up just to hear my own tiny voice, one of billions of pinpricks in the heavy black velvet between the zeitgeist and the sun?

    (See what I did there?)

  32. William Says:

    You know what’s odd? This comic updates fairly infrequently, yet it delivers quality on a consistent basis. Daily, bi-weekly, and even weekly webcomics have quite a few pages of mind-numbing mediocrity. Your comic, not so much.

  33. fabioso Says:

    I’m really glad it is back. Although you really have to much text, it is usually brilliant.

  34. Frank Says:

    This one was awesome! You really need to print it out at 2x the size and sell it!

    Also, I think its funny that no one, not even the alternate history dude, is using the books — especially considering that the shelf behind him contains the friggin’ history section!

  35. Gary Watson Says:

    Wow, what a lucky coincidence that I need to fly to Montreal for a business meeting about that time. Though I might have flown the 2500 miles to see this, anyway. Certainly would have if WR had helped to write the piece.

  36. Gary Watson Says:

    P.S. am I the only American who had to look up Ottawa on google to see where it was in Canada?

    • Caroline Says:

      haha, I’m from Belgium and I even know where it is.I bet you don’t know where Belgium is either (what I totally understand because it’s really unimportant)

    • Joe Says:

      I kinda hope so, but I doubt it.

      Also I believe Belgium is right next to France

    • Caroline Says:


    • Joe Says:

      *takes a small bow* Thank you! I pride myself on being a fountain of knowledge of shit nobody cares about 😀

    • Rob Says:

      Well, it’s really a matter of what year you’re thinking of. The history is pretty much:

      Is France.

      Isn’t France.

      Is France.

      Isn’t France.

      Is France…

      and so on. Check Wikipedia for whatever Belgium happens to be this year.

    • Caroline Says:

      That’s really not true. But I have to admit our history is richer than the american

  37. Jorge Says:

    Awesome comic as always, Rowntree.

  38. El Sjaako Says:

    Have you ever seen a long form improvisation show? This comic really reminded me of how a good Harold goes.

    Anyway, the quality of these comics continues to amaze me. Wish I could see the play.

  39. BigSoph Says:

    I may just have to find it in my budget to make a jaunt to Ottawa for the play.

  40. Richter Says:

    1 year gap in those panels? Ahh… man, that one was hard to understand. Ah well, hope Mongo finds someone (I’m older than him and still dateless so it kinda struck a chord). 😦

    Again : awesome sauce on the play! That’s such great news, really excited for everyone involved. Hopefully it’ll be available to see in some shape or another for us who can’t make it to Ontario (*cough*youtube*cough*). 🙂

    • Leak Says:

      I think a newspaper/flyer/poster/whatever lying around with some headline mentioning the year in that frame and one of the others would have helped immensely at discerning the year difference… 😉

    • Richter Says:

      What confused me was seeing both Mongos in the same panel. If you’d seen him once on one position in one panel, and then just once in the same position in the subsequent panel, I would have understood.

      But meh, artistic license grants an author anything. 🙂 Carry yours at all times!

  41. onedtwelve Says:

    Why is the home page not the newest comic?

  42. Sean Says:


    I wouldn’t mind reading that book by the author, in a full published form…

  43. JesterRaiin Says:


  44. William Says:

    Heh, the Inner Light. T.T

  45. Rex Says:

    ha, so we’ll go from comics with too many words to a play with too much dialogue.

    i’m absolutely stumped as to how you’d format something like this…present the pages as short individual scenes?

  46. Kalontas Says:

    Okay, so I think I’m officially too stupid for Rowntree. I don’t get the overall message.

    “Alternate History forums” getting “we could have fewer weirdos response”… heh. I wish there were actually more of us. I mean, weirdos. Did I say “us”?

    • Joe Says:

      The hot chick was the one looking at the alternate history forums. When he saw her he said he wished more people like her came in.

    • Anthrax451 Says:

      She’s into Alternate History after visiting the Possibility Museum!

      I read the message as being about Time, like how the writer’s book is about how false media images make people live in the future or in different times,
      or how Beard guy and Hot girl spend their time differently and that defines how boring or weird they are, or how dating guy waits a year or the non-linear story,
      ..I think I’m also too dumb for WR

  47. Benjy Says:

    I loooooove you. Seriously. Make a book. I thought about how you said previously your ever-changing size/format would present a problem with that, make one of those huge coffee table books.

    Or even if it’s not a Subnormality book, you keep showing us inklings of insight (grocery/apartment/online dating guy)and wisdom (usually PGH or Sphinx) and challenging our perceptions of what people are like on the inside (homeless girl and hot girl) and I know I’d love to see that fleshed out in a book (pictures or not). Your storytelling is evident in your one-shot sci-fi stuff particularily strongly.

    Idk, you’re swell. We love you. Break a leg with the stage presentation.

  48. Erdosain Says:

    Hey, isn’t there any chance of having the play taped? For those of us who live a few thousand kilometers (still using miles? come on! 😛 ) away and are way too poor to travel, but still love every single one of your fantastic comics?

  49. Guinevere Says:

    I just finished reading all the archives. I really like this comic, I can relate on so many levels. I can relate to the lady who makes guys explode. Many gamers react to me that way. Have the pink hair girl find a happy job in a comic or record store where she can have pink hair! There are jobs for people with colored hair. My hair is long and green, and I was able to get work at a boutique. She deserves something better than being a waitress! Last of all, the comic ‘Year Five Beginneth’ brought me to tears. And it’s been a while since I’ve cried about something other than dead animals.

  50. Says:

    Book! YES! Would buy book.
    Comic remains splendiferous.

    Perhaps whomever could tape the play would post it on You-tube (Ew-tube?)?! No trees harmed in the conversion of web-comic to web-video. How lovely. Best, R²

  51. Dude Says:

    Apparently the guy on the dating website is the only one who isn’t allowed to play flash games.

  52. Deckhouse5 Says:

    Moosejaw park on 10 year old’s shirt was closed down in 1995 for financial reasons, kinda sad
    Also, congradulations! I doubt any other webcomic has the depth or content to merit theatrical adaptation. If you’re ever modest in your blog again I will fly straight over there and force-feed you endorphins

  53. Nick Says:

    Hello! I quite enjoy reading Subnormality, and after reading the latest comic (Library Computer), I was wondering if you are planning on writing a book?

    I ask because I was more immersed than usual in the body of the Bowl-Cut Man’s story.

    This comic is one of the cornerstones of the internet. Don’t ever change.

  54. Stef Says:

    I want to like this on Facebook.

  55. Bee Says:

    Missed you and the Sphinx, Winston. Hope you’re enjoying the weather, wherever you may be.

  56. Human Unit #3546349 Says:

    Woah, I’d definitely read that guy’s book, notes-to-self and all. A triumphant return!

  57. Stone Taggart Says:

    so apparently the dream-girl is into alternate history. God damn! How do you get into our heads so much with her? If male humans were this easy to figure out, why don’t we see more of this? Oh, reality, why must you be so disappointing? How can this comic be so incredibly realistic in terms of personality, yet have characters that are so much more interesting than real ones–at the SAME TIME? It makes my head hurt. In the best possible way.

  58. Amanda Says:

    I’m currently reading this comic using library wifi because I can’t afford internet for my apartment, oh the irony! Great job, Rowntree. I loved it as usual.

  59. Luke Says:

    I was personally really happy with the fact that alternate reality Confidence Mongo made an appearance. It was a foil to his self-criticism and constantly over-analytical introspection introduced at just the right time to keep it from becoming a trope. Even someone who seems like a relatively minor character like Mongo is developed to such an extent that they literally never stop being fresh and interesting for even a single comic.

    That’s (as other people have pointed out) the real beauty of Subnormality for me. Absolutely nothing in the characterization, and moreover every imaginable portrayal that you’ve worked into the comic, is overlooked, unrealistic, boring, or trite.

    Reading about the stage production, I believe it was the director who was talking about how she saw Subnormality as an expression of people as a collective, the strange ways in which we’re more similar than we think.

    These sorts of intricacies are what really brings that whole philosophy to life, if you ask me. You could come out and say that in the comic. But you wouldn’t be a very good artist if you did, would you? Being an average or mediocre artist is nothing that’s really looked down upon in the webcomic community. That’s why Subnormality is great: You personally make a point of defying that. You go out of your way to craft every character, every exchange in the entire series in a way that the reader isn’t just told about this idea, they’re sucked into it. They discover it on their own, being led to some great truth of the universe or whatever the fuck you want to call it.

    My wordpress-comment pseudo-eloquence is starting to fail me, so I’ll stop here and leave it at what I’ve written so far.

  60. jonathan rex Says:

    I have the oddest feeling after reading this that you’re trying to make us judge people for who they are, and what they can’t help. Which is an interesting deviation from your older comics.

    If thats the case, then fuck you.

    • And if that’s not the case..?

    • jonathan rex Says:

      I dunno. Im too drunk and studenty to analyse this. Maybe someday ill come back and write a poem about the webcomics i consider worthwhile enough to comment on. Till then i have my youth and my false sense of wisdom. And my sexy irish accent. Aside from that, pretty much fuck all.

      So what im trying to say is, i don’t like it when people try and make me go “oh yeah, im better than THAT guy.” Not sure why. Maybe ’cause i was bullied or victimised or whatnot, but still i get oversensitive whenever i see it in people who i think are smart enough to know better. So in the end, try and understand i will take a stance on things when i see it. Otherwise whats the point of getting wasted at 3am with your mates and thinking about how to do some good to this world aye?

    • Heather Says:

      you’re a jerk.

    • jonathan rex Says:

      Yeah, or a “cunt”, or a “twat”. But not a bastard.

    • For future reference, if you could refrain from wheeling out the level-99 profanities for no apparent reason then that’d be fantastic. Pleeeeeeease don’t make me delete comments, i really don’t like doing it. I’m quite willing to accommodate Drunken Ramblings, but keep it borderline-civil at least.

  61. squishydish Says:

    I would definitely see the show if I were anywhere near Ottawa!

    Regarding this comic, speaking as a tech help-desk volunteer at my library, there aren’t nearly enough people struggling through job applications and asking the staff for help with printouts or setting up e-mail or even using a mouse, if this is supposed to represent a cross-section of reality. But given the presence of the Sphinx and other familiar characters here (yay!), you’re probably going for a metaphysical truths version of reality. Anyway, I enjoyed it!

  62. Heather Says:

    I love this! So! Much!

    Really happy about Mongo. I have so much more to say but I’m feeling inarticulate at the moment.

    I love your brain 🙂 I wish I could drive, I’d road trip to Ottawa to see that play.

  63. The Old Wolf Says:

    Subnormality! is like spaghetti sauce. It tastes good when you first make it, but leave it in the fridge a couple days, and the flavors swap around, and then it tastes awesome. I always get more out of this strip when i come back to it again after a bit of time has passed.

  64. toronto Says:

    What is the opposite of ‘fuck you’ ?

    Love this one. Good luck with all the side projects.

  65. Steve Nordquist Says:

    Knew roughly where Ottawa was going to be; spell checker kept me from North-American Indianifying ‘Otto’ though, and taking Amtrak (SCV?) anyplace will be alt-history in itself (nemmind the Fringe Festival that’s still called that. Congratulations Ottawa.)

  66. okay, wow. I just started reading Subnormality, and I love it. Thank you so much for making this, theres not many things (comics, books, etc) that can make me laugh but also connect deeply into my head, this latest one in particular.

    -Wish I lived anywhere near Ottowa!

  67. Swift Man. Says:

    Winston, I don’t mean to offend, or sound like a junkie dickwad, but have you ever taken LSD? Practiced Transcendental Meditation perhaps? You seem to have an excellent grasp of cosmic understanding of the randomness, surreality, and unknown connections between unconnected events. I love your work.

  68. benS. Says:

    A security guard in the library! What’s the problem besides the Sphinx? Jack the Ripper?

    Panel 6:
    Holy cow !
    Zoe Muggs! – didn’t you notice the “bitch’s” hearing aid at first ?

    Sometimes, silence is the best garment…
    no doubt, free from deadline.
    (There’s no Justice!)

    • Joe Trudell Says:

      I figure they probably have a problem with homeless people sleeping in there.

      On a side note: Hey! There’s a facebook button now! Wicked! 😀

  69. Hey when are you going to have the Monsters playing poker poster back up? I wanna get one!

  70. Evan Balster Says:

    I am not at all surprised the comments on this comic are unusually wordy. 😀

    Anyway, keep up the good work, Mr. Rowntree.

  71. TheDancingGeek Says:

    Great comic as usual! I’d kill to see Subnormality on stage, but unfortunately I live down in the States. 😦

    Of course, if you got a show up in Toronto I could make it…

  72. Mr Gask Says:

    I am not sure I understand what you were going for here, but I like it anyway. The guy writing to himself has a nice lyrical quality to him.

  73. Jim Dubya Says:

    I’m visiting my sister in Ottawa in July, I really hope we will be able to go see your play!

  74. Angela Says:

    The novel that the older man was writing seems familiar for some reason. Does anyone know why?

  75. Pirengle Says:

    I am a librarian. If this comic was available in poster size, I’d put it up at work.

  76. brock Says:

    Hey, good stuff.

  77. Sarah Says:

    I’ve only newly discovered your website … your comics are excellent. Poignant, well-written, well-drawn. Now to the archive!
    Oh, haha, also I couldn’t help but notice the Moose Jaw shirt, being from nearby Regina…

  78. oh jeez yeah really poignant. You’re white and your life in sparkly shiney 1st world is so hard. Please, branch out a little, try and see what life is really like for people who can’t afford red hair dye or lime green pants…

    I’m serious.
    You. Really. Have. No. Clue.

    • You mean, like, people who can’t afford iPhones who have to use the internet in a library? Or the workers in Asia who build the iPhones, specifically alluded to in the comic? Or internet artists who work essentially for free making comix about such things? Or do we too not make the cut for your list of People Who Are Allowed to be Sad? I’m guessing by your tone of voice that you’re top of the list, so congrats on winning the righteousness contest. YOU’RE SIMPLY THE BEST / BETTER THAN AAAALL THE REST / ETC

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