November 19, 2011

oOOOOOKAY i don’t even know if this new comic makes sense to anyone except myself, but the gin & tonic is saying GO FOR IT YOU SUDDENLY HANDSOME DEVIL so here you go anyway. I must slurringly apologise for the delay with this new one; i’ve had a lot of work to get done the last few weeks (some of which you may encounter at some point…), and time sort of flew for a while there (didn’t it?), and my mental calendar is honestly on like November 7th right now. Making this comic EARLY!! So there’s that i guess. I dunno, it’s late, and i should go…



112 Responses to “Spectator”

  1. Bull Slam Says:

    The really brilliant part of this comic, to me, is that not only is it true & hugely insightful, plus, of course, current, but this could only have manifested as a comic. Highly visual content with accompanying text — combine to yield something far bigger than one might have supposed. Lovely.

  2. Randy Lee Says:

    Oh, poor Stevens. He lives in a “different” part of town. Brilliant! I am still chuckling.

  3. Alan Kellogg Says:

    Interesting vignette. BTW, was that a cab Steven was getting into?

    • Joe Trudell Says:

      I think you missed the twist at the end.

    • Yeah, the beard guy is not stevens, just to get that out of the way early. I acknowledge it’s kind of more subtle than it had to be for a Big Reveal.

    • Joe Trudell Says:

      I admit I didn’t catch it at first either. Good one though 🙂

    • Yamara Says:

      The guy taking the taxi is de facto neither homeless or broke: He has somewhere to be, and the means to pay to get there.

      While the pulled focus is well played, I feel the point was made more clear by the Emperor of the Universe, making an impossible effort to relate to the lowest-caste denizens of his omniverse., ultimately revealing the only thing that ever really interests him.

      $tevens… is not removed from the game. He and his colleagues write most of the rules. He cannot elicit the same sympathies as a ¢haracter like Zoe Muggs.

    • Enfermero Torero Says:

      Details are specially important in this one. The bearded guy wasn´t actually begging, when he gets into the taxi you can see there was coffee in his cup. The author shows this by making him a litterer, though. Virtual world collateral environmental damage, I guess.

  4. The Old Wolf Says:

    This was a real mind-bender. The message of the first panels is a good one, but the twist at the end brings it more sharply into focus and adds a shot of tabasco to that gin and tonic. Sharing this one far and wide.

  5. phyzome Says:

    At first the comic didn’t load properly in my browser, so this is what I saw for the first panel:

    …and I thought the blurred text was some kind of clever artistic statement. 😛

  6. Nightlyre Says:

    The colors! Oh, I absolutely love the colors. They draw the eye right to the important bits. Even something as simple as the spillage from the discarded coffee cup we spend the entire time supposing was a collection cup… Beautiful work. This has to be in my top five favorites of the Viruscomix.

    • Math_DSL Says:

      Indeed. I feel stupid not catching the twist earlier. The missing ‘S’, the ‘S’ in the window covers, the fact that only the window has colors, while the coffee cup guy was pretty similar to the rest of the crowd…

  7. Well wow, rather unexpected ending, in the best possible way.

  8. dodoman1 Says:

    I thought this was gonna be a really hackneyed moral about the homeless, but then my expectations got flipped on their head. This was really nice.

  9. hellblade Says:

    excellent! at first I thought it was just childish “occupy whatever” nonsense (h8ers gonna h8), but the twist proved me wrong. I guess you could say that super-poor and super-rich are both equally remowed form the world in general, only in different ways, neither very desirable.

    wonderful comic, this one! you should drink more winston, it does you good 😛

  10. CorgieFriend Says:

    While the ending did create a bit of insight on the other side of town that Steven lives on, does the text also say the same thing about the bearded man? How different, how similar are their ends of the playing field? Just fantastic.

  11. Elizabeth Says:

    I love it. Very subtle.

  12. ogaitnaS Says:

    I really enjoyed this comic, simply because most of the time I thought it was about the homeless/low income man, but then it was turned around and it was really about the millionaire or whatever. For all I know, the bearded guy could also be called Steven’s and the comic was about enjoying life by being among everyone else.

  13. Squid Song Says:

    This was a risky one, and you pulled it off admirably. It easily could have fallen into trite on the one side or “ha! got you!” on the other, but instead it stayed human. Thank you.

  14. Mohamed Says:

    know him

  15. anarcissie Says:

    I thought they were both Stevenses, separated from each other and us by only the thinnest slice of the grace of God.

    • Questo and Quistis' Dad Says:

      Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but that they were brothers who had a falling out over business (bearded Stevens can afford a taxi and to throw away coffee, so we know he’s not desperately poor, but he may have been forced out of the company?). I thought the text applied to both because of the clearly different angles the crowd is viewed at in panels 6 and 7…

    • Questo and Quistis' Dad Says:

      Never mind…how did I miss seeing seeing Stevens in Panel 6? He truly is the Invisible Man…

  16. DH Says:

    It took me a second to catch it but when I did I loved the twist at the end. Very well done. Especially the excellent use of color to help illustrate the point.

    Was this an Occupy Wall Street-related comic, Winston, or did you just spontaneously feel like making something with a similar sort of message?

    • Any topicality along those lines is coincidental, though i would definitely have no problem with anyone relating it to the current Occupy situation. I actually came up with this one quite a while ago, but didn’t finish it until now because it was kind of similar to “The Race” and i wanted some distance between them. Or something along those lines.

    • DH Says:

      Wonderfully insightful of you, then. It’s definitely got the whole “we are the 99%” vibe, but I’m sure I would have had a very different reading of it had it appeared shortly after The Race.

  17. GlitterBerri Says:

    Your god has a strange sense of humor.

  18. Gregory Says:

    If you thought the first guy was homeless that makes me very sad because he dresses much better than me.

  19. Mark O'Leary Says:

    You had me until the last panel. So, there BY the grace of god goes–someone else?

    • No, it’s not used in a literal sense, it’s just a common turn of phrase one might apply when presented with the misfortune of someone else– used here in a delightfully ironic fashion or, uh, something.

  20. Squiggles Says:

    you’re so clever. can’t wait for the next comic ^_^

  21. AkaP Says:

    I think Stevens would be a whiny bitch regardless.

  22. TentacledBeast Says:

    Great presentation, but as for the main concept… no… you can’t make me feel sorry for the rich capitalist.

    For one thing, he is by no means “out of the game”; people like him control the world. And in the end, if he doesn’t like his life he can change it, he has a LOT of choices – heck, he can even give his fortune away if he can’t handle the lifestyle. I’d gladly take it off his hands 😀

  23. Jen Says:

    Please do a book. Please, please do a book! I need to be able to carry these comics around with me!

  24. Chris Staikos Says:


    in response to the line that said “they march on city hall, but he is never there”

  25. Chris Staikos Says:

    haaa! i totally missed the ending as well..

    brilliant ^_^

  26. Jamie Says:

    Just loved the ending. Not to say I didn’t love the comic, but that ending was just a smack in the face. Just brilliant stuff man.

  27. Djiril Says:

    I just keep wondering why Stevens’ office is on the bottom floor. I understand there are artistic issues involved here, but I can’t help but think that the person being described would have on office on the top floor away from the prying eyes of the masses.

  28. Mary Says:

    I wish I could shake your hand.

  29. Jeff T Says:

    haha Since all of my previous posts involve typos, I cannot resist stupidly shouting: “Good Sir, you forgot the s in invisible!”

    On a (somewhat) more serious note however, this was incredible work. One of your most poetic works, on par with The Last Stand. Despite seeing the twist coming, I still thought it was incredibly, emotionally powerful when viewed through the lens of the older gentleman. Still, the reveal involving Steven was very insightful and clever. Loved it

  30. SuckMyComment Says:

    A subtle but intriguing dichotomy. I liked it. Though no number of gin and tonics would inspire me to pity the rich.

    • Line Noise Says:

      It is not G&T but proximity that teaches pity.
      I have dealt with the rich often enough, I pity them.

  31. Jack_Cookie Says:

    With a twist!

    You’re so classy, I’m a little jealous.

    Keep making good works.

  32. Noah Says:

    Excellent. Just Absurdly excellent…

  33. Halleachooyah Says:

    Gah! A well-placed mindfuck gets me every time. Just brilliant.

  34. Libertariandude Says:

    This peace only deserves my unqualified critical acclaim. You made my day.

    • I don’t wanna put you on the spot or anything, so don’t feel obligated to reply, but i’d be interested to know what you, as a libertarian, took away from this one. Just curious, is all.

    • Libertariandude Says:

      Hey, WR, sorry I took so long to reply, but for weeks I was literally restricted to the Internet in the workplace (at the middle of nowhere in the Chocó wilderness, I’m an ecologist) and your site, needless to say, is off limits there. Sigh…
      Anyway, I really don’t see that my ideology has to have any influence over my perception of this comic in particular. As I see it, it’s about alienation, sadness, unhappiness. And I think it doesn’t really matter if you are a libertarian lunatic, a communist nutjob, a conservative nutcase or whatever: we can all agree our decisions can brought happiness or the exact opposite of happiness. So it’s up to each individual to administer his or her freedom to achieve happiness.
      Most people think money brings fulfillment, and that’s wrong for most of them (and certainly for me). As a libertarian, you just let them make their own decisions. If some guy thinks he must have a luxurious office to be happy, that’s up to him. I think he will probably be proved wrong, but I won’t stay in his way. He is free.

  35. annouxedge Says:

    Really, really, really, good.

  36. Orphan Says:

    “The beauty of choice is that the person who foregoes love for money is as free to do so as the person who foregoes money for love.”

    Success is what you desire. It is hubris to call another human being’s dreams a tragedy.

  37. Vivian Says:

    I love it. Completely and utterly. I have nothing more useful to say than that.

    Except perhaps that those above saying that they could never feel sorry for “the rich” are perhaps not thinking in terms of “the rich” being a group made up of individual people, some of whom do indeed have, you know, problems.

    Not that that is overly relevant here. Only my love is relevant here. And it is not directed toward Stevens.

    • TentacledBeast Says:

      I do feel sorry for people with problems. If one has a serious illness, for instance, or they are grieving for the loss of a loved one, they have my sympathy for it, regardless of whether they are rich.

      But I would never, ever feel sorry for a free adult *because* they are rich. If it’s their fortune and power that isolates them from others, then they are completely free to give it up. For that, they get no sympathy from me.

    • Pyralspite Says:

      Wouldn’t there be some issues involved with giving up their wealth/power? Not only would they get some stigma attached to them, but they’d probably lose a lot of the few connections they have, apparently. Even living as a middle-class citizen, they’d have a bit of trouble forging new relationships if they’re remembered as some loon who gave up their empire. By dropping their power, they’re launching themselves into the unknown. Sure, it might be lonely being powerful, but it might also feel safer?

      ((hehe, sorry if this sounds dumb, I’m below the legal working age and have solidly middle-class parents. so, pretty much my peak financial years ;3))

  38. TF Says:

    Definitely one of your best, WR. Great job 🙂

  39. agustín Says:

    you magnificent son of a bitch

  40. Karel Zapfe Says:

    Gooeeey, your usage of the english tongue is beauuuutifull. Can’t say the same of myself, though.

  41. benS. Says:

    First: wow for the panoramic umbrella parade view! Cool!

    Panel two: Double wow! This could be Lois Lane (to the right) in pole position to get the scoop of her life: Superman, unwrapped and stripped. Dunno. Maybe she’s just out to breakfast/lunch/dinner*. I do remember her from the 50ths as a bit thinner though.

    Most panels: Disguised Litter Guy is trickier. Either he’s got money for cab rides and stiff starch shirts and whatever, OR he’ll just rob the cab driver. My two cents on rob.

    * Sorry D.R. , don’t sue me pls.


  42. Snake Says:

    Wow, dude. That was some powerful stuff. Not what I expected from your latest strip (don’t get me wrong; equally good, just for different reasons). Strips like these (and the others, of course) are why you’re by far my favorite webcomic writer. Good on you, sir.

  43. Sean Says:

    Brilliantly done!

  44. RedLeader Says:

    That one really touched me. I can truly relate with it.

  45. Frank Says:

    Masterful. I love that at the end Stevens is the well-known Ebenezer Scrooge

  46. Darkiush Says:

    wow, just wow
    great work here…

  47. Ric Locke Says:

    The shopping bag (last panel) is a nice touch. Well done, sir!

    But you should find a way to get the mini-clank back to Agatha. They’re dangerous when lonely.


  48. Rob Says:

    Yes, yes…excellent beyond words, outstanding beyond mortal comprehension. And so on and so forth.

    Next time the gin and tonic speaks, send it back to Sociology 1A, where it can (and does) live forever in the insightful souls of 18-year-old college newbies.

  49. Theine Says:

    This is stupid and utterly unbelievable.

    • This isn’t twitter, you can use more than 140 characters.

    • John Says:

      Back in the 80’s, my brother nearly lost his job as assistant bank manager at Seafirst bank when he tried to ask a filthy old woman to leave her shopping carts outside. She made a scene declaring she would close all her accounts. Accounts in the millions. Another employee filled him in and she was calmed down.
      She was both homeless and wealthy. And possibly batshit crazy. The scene in this comic is completely plausible to me, since the “homeless guy” is obviously making his own choices.

  50. Lee Says:

    Threw me off on this one, i loved the switch at the end. nice one.

  51. GerryB Says:

    A most lovely reveal, confounding expectation like that; still swayed to the TentacledBeast’s view that it’s difficult to sympathise with the plight of those who make life difficult for others though. Much as it’s important to see the sides in a decahedronic issue, I find it hard to twinge at poor-little-millionairre-manboy in the window looking at his reflection and counting his friend.

  52. seven Says:

    i love you.

  53. sadfay Says:

    Hey, this is probably an annoyingly repetitive question, but around a year or maybe even 18 months ago, this site seemed to have disappeared and I was genuinely gutted.

    I for a long while there, I’d given up hope of it ever returning, but I just had a look on a whim just now.

    It’s back!! And there be’s loads of lovely content for me to catch up on. YAYSS!!!!!111!!111one!!

    Anyway, what happened? Did the site go down because of bandwidth demands or some such? Did you need a proper break from this stuff, because that would be totally understandable. This comic is amazing and it’s equally amazing how frequently you update!! How do you do it!?

    Please keep doin’ it. LOVES!!

    • Leak Says:

      Ummm… it’s been here all the time; are you sure you’re haven’t been behind the Great Chinese Firewall or something?

      np: Mogwai – Does This Always Happen? (Earth Division EP)

    • I think there was definitely a day or two in the fall of last year when the site was down due to some server issues over at my web host, so that might be what you’re remembering. Glad you checked back though!

  54. Sam Says:

    The sincerity and thought filled within your works gives me great satisfaction. Thank you for giving the world something cool.

  55. Emerenz Says:

    This is great thanks mate.

  56. Rex Hull Says:

    But I, I work in his factory……..

  57. jeffrey Says:

    I just read the invisible man, I just have to say it blew me away. Im an aspiring writer myself, i have tons of great ideas i would like to write graphic novels but im no artist, would you be at all interested in maybe discussing a few things with me? sorry for the brief message the a’s and s’s dont work on my keyboard, but we have much to talk about your art would couple perfect with my story. I look forward to hearing from you my E-Mail is brk7@live.com thank you


  58. Nishido Says:

    This sort of reminds me of the time I created two sims, who lived alone, had no friends, no jobs, surviving only by making garden gnomes, gargoyles and paintings they would sale. So, they were in the game, but out of it at the same time.

    I want to be out of the game. I hate The Game…

  59. Del Says:

    Thank you for reminding me that we’re all human, regardless of where we are in the scheme. I forget that sometimes. Like it’s noted above, it’s difficult to sympathize with the ones at the top who make the rules for those who aren’t – or vice versa – but there our task lies just the same.

  60. DonPenguini Says:

    I take it that the audible similarity between “the enviable man” and ” the invi ible man” was considered when creating this, it just seems like the kind of thing that you’d throw in there.

    Also; nice, very nice.

  61. colonelslime Says:

    Must say, great job once again.
    This actually mirrors an argument I had with some friends in university (I’m in public affairs), where I ended up having to side with the rich against my friends supporting the Occupy Wallstreet protesters. My main point was that you couldn’t treat the 1% as uniformly the bad guys, nor could you treat the 99% as uniformly the good guys. I won’t recount all the arguments I used, but it was a long drawn out process to convince them I wasn’t some sort of staunch objectivist preaching for the elimination of the working class.

    Also, to anyone who doesn’t believe that excess money/power can be detrimental, there’s a whole subset of behavioral economics dedicated to trying to figure out why, beyond a certain threshold that allows for comfortable living, money doesn’t correlate with life satisfaction or happiness.

  62. pG Says:

    Once again you’ve outdone yourself Winston. Even the subdued style of the background is fitting. Grey – Almost no witty jokes and funny advertisments.
    And the timing is perfect – I’m currently reading The Psychopath Test – a book that has a whole section on a theory that most high-ranking CEO’s are psychopaths. http://www.amazon.com/Psychopath-Test-Journey-Through-Industry/dp/1594488010

  63. Aaron Says:

    Now I don’t normally frequent the comments section, so I couldn’t know if this has been mentioned; but there is a TED talk detailing some stuff about comicsspecifically the presentation. It was quite amazing, and made me thing about Good Ol’ Winston Rowntree. If I’m not the last person to see this, here’s a link to it: http://www.ted.com/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics.html

  64. Amber Says:

    I’m not even sure how you just managed to evoke sympathy from me for two divergent economic groups. A subtle reminder that it is the system as a whole with which the issue lies, not the people. Awesome, sir, just awesome.

  65. Kim Says:

    Dammit, Rowntree – again you’ve won my heart. At first I didn’t get the twist at the end and thought it was all about the bearded man (which makes for a much lamer comic – a trite “be nice to the homeless” message), and thought this comic might have been a rare dud in your repertoire, but a quick visit to the comments section straightened me out, and DAMN.

    The best line, I think, is “None would ever choose such a path, knowing where it led.” It’s easy to hate, envy, and scorn the rich because it appears that they have everything, and yes, they DO make a lot the rule$ which we often find ourselves having to play by, and a lot of those rule$ are fucked up. It’s true that materially they may have everything, but almost none of them have any of the things that make life truly worth living. Spiritually and emotionally, they are dead. If you could have all the money in the world but have to give up your ability to relate to, care about, trust, and engage with people on that deep, meaningful level that satisfies your soul – would you? I wouldn’t. That may be a very comfortable form of survival, but it ain’t living. Regardless of how rich, powerful, or influential The Rich are, they are not gods; they are still human – and whether they realize it or not, they are not invincible, they have the same needs as everyone else, and they will die someday like the rest of us. But most of them will die without ever knowing true fulfillment. They make the rule$ hard on the rest of us because they are unable to relate to and care about humanity.

    Pity your enemies, because they are flawed and weak, hence, human.

    Excellent work, man. You help keep the flames of my idealism and joie de vivre alive. Don’t ever stop.

  66. sedet, aeternumque sedebit

    seat, be seated forever

    Virgi’s verse, means when you stop trying, then you loose

  67. Rev Says:

    While the method of the reveal is handled subtly enough to be classy, the whole thing is pretty agonizingly predictable for one simple reason: Whenever you go walking miles and miles out of your way to avoid talking in specifics, EVERYONE can tell you’re trying to fake them out without lying to them outright. It kind of hurts the flow when you’re sitting there calmly counting down to the ‘big twist’.
    Forgive me if that sounds harsh. This is honestly meant to be constructive criticism. I’m just not the best in the world at it.

  68. Samantha Says:

    Love your comics & art! Thanks for posting I guess is all I wanted to say. 🙂

  69. Stevens Says:

    I feel so lonely…

  70. Katie H. Says:

    This was a very clever illustration of the meaninglessness of wealth and influence. Kudos!

  71. Anonymous Says:

    i wish to join steven… drop from the game and start anew…

  72. RP Says:

    I was looking back at this and only just now realized that it doesn’t say “Invisible Man” but “Invi ible Man”. I’m guessing that it’s supposed to be read as “Enviable Man”. If I’d caught that I might have been less surprised by the ending but my brain sped right past it.

  73. seth Says:

    That ending….. Incredible

  74. Adrian Griffin Says:

    ok, so am I the only one that looks at the rich dude in the window and thinks “dude, that’s totally a mannequin” seriously am I the only one?

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