the benefits of pixelation

January 3, 2013


Heyy, happy new year. This would be a newOld comic i’ve got for you this week… I made it like a year ago (and shared it unofficially, drawing a surprising number of emails), but held it back at the last minute primarily because the format made it too big to be seen as a whole and simultaneously too small to read the little text in some places. BUT with the new zoom-in-out thing i found recently (after another last minute panic on the floor plan of the mind comic) i’m gonna go ahead and make this an official part of the archive (conventional version available too). Right now! Before i remember any other reasons i didn’t want to run it the first time around…


Thanks y’all for a very pleasant indeed 2012, i cannot stress that enough. And i keep thinking about how to phrase this… i used to have Other sources of income, but of late i’ve gone 100% artist and obviously that’s great for me (it being my goal in life) but bad for you in the sense that it teams up with the increasing-length-of-the-comix to cause some delays in them subnormality comix being published (what with the unpredictable and work-intensive nature of getting paid to draw stuff. Some great stuff, incidentally– more on that later this year…). I dunno, it’s The New Reality of earning a (rather modest) living as a comix person, the coupling of the merchandise income (thank you) and the freelance stuff (and the refusual by me to have ads on the site), and thus it means fixed deadlines are tricky and, as much as it’s the new reality for most comix people, for that i DO still feel bad because i’d sure love to have something huge and new every couple weeks. However, i do promise whatever you wait for will by god be worth the wait. So just wanna say thanks for understanding, and that the delays have zero to do with lack of interest on my part (but you knew that already), and thanks Again for coming back every time with so very many very nice comments and emails (and donations! which i will never not need, to be unusually candid).  So yeah, cheers! Thanks for the self-esteem, for making this comic strip something i’m very happy indeed to be associated with (to somewhat understate the issue…).


This is awesome: I was recently asked by a woman in Illinois if i’d want to contribute some art to her surgery fundraiser (“Give the Gift of Vagina to Rebecca Kling“), so i was like totally, and thus: if you’d like to own the original art of the “Merry Treemas” xmas drawing (pen and sharpie, 14″ X 17″, looks like this!), just head over to her fundraiser site and it can be yours for only a $125.00 donation. Only one available, obviously, so GET IT BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE DOES!! THEY ARE REACHING FOR THEIR WALLET RIGHT NOW!! And thanks for supporting a good cause.


I have (and want) to spend the next couple weeks drawing the city of Chicago (long story, pays well though. Oh, and thank god for Google Earth, incidentally…), so i’ll see you in a few…

Cheers, 2013-style,


61 Responses to “the benefits of pixelation”

  1. Solis Says:

    I’m so happy to see this comic redone like this, the “can’t be trusted, can be trusted; caused every war, ensured every triumph” part has to be one of the best things I’ve seen you write.

  2. Max Chaplin Says:

    The comic is wonderful but the zoom-in-out thing is terrible. It takes too much time to load and only does it while browsing the comic. It starts at full size, making it necessary to fine tune it to comfortable size first. The movement is stuttery whenever the image isn’t in maximum zoom. The acceleration-deceleration effect makes navigation a challenge and makes the image is wobbly every time it moves. When watching images in the gigapixel range it might be useful, but for Subnormality a mouse with a scrollwheel and the Ctrl button do the job just fine.

    • Harry Says:

      I agree with the general shittyness of what I unofficially dub Mr. Zoomy. Personally, I prefer just having a high res image and zooming with Ctrl+MouseWheel but maybe that’s just me. Either way, zoomy isn’t that bad. He’s just irritating a bit.

      But the focus is on the comics, and I’m glad to hear that you’re doing well, WR! You deserve a lot of money. I think. I wasn’t so impressed by the most recent one. Too many yin-yang symbols and such made it a bit… cheesy? Not enough brain melting cynicism and sarcasm and delightfully observant social commentary. Anyway, it’s the *only* time I haven’t been blown away, so perhaps I’m just picky. I still love your work! Do not be discouraged, etc.

      Love from Australia!

  3. Esn Says:

    Is there any way to see this comic in a normal format? I’m finding the zoom thing to be very annoying and hard to navigate. I think maybe a few different versions could be uploaded somewhere: one in “small” size, one in “medium”, one in “large” (for detailed inspection).

    Actually, just uploading the “large” copy should be enough. After all, I can just ctrl+click in my browser to make the image bigger or smaller…

    pleasepleaseplease… 🙂

    • Esn Says:

      Agh, never mind – I can’t read apparently. 😦 The link to the conventional version was there already.

      Ok, thanks.

    • Esn Says:

      After looking at the “conventional” version, it’s unreadable because the smaller text is blurred out, even if I zoom in with ctrl+click. Could you please upload a higher-resolution conventional version?

    • Max Chaplin Says:

      What I’d like to know is if there can be a separate RSS feed for the normal version.

    • Leak Says:

      Well, the link to the whole maximum size picture is at the very end of the JavaScript file used to embed the Silverlight zoom widget, so with a bit of looking around you should be able to download the ~2.5MB PNG file…

  4. someguy Says:

    I recall reading this back when you posted it in your ‘collection of not good enough comics’. Apparently, I didn’t recall just how much I enjoyed it. Seriously, thanks for the reminder. And extra thanks for pointing out that sexism is just plain stupid.

  5. Matt Smith Says:

    Wow. Hard to believe there’s so many people dislike the zoom function. I really love it. It isn’t slow or clunky for me. There’s something about the way it starts with the big picture and the zooming towards clarity that feels symbolic. Though maybe that’s just so much whimsy.

  6. Kalle Says:

    I like the comic AND the zoom! Occupational damage from ACAD, Sketchup and Google Earth, I guess.

  7. Yin Says:

    Got thrown off a little by the zoom-in and it took a bit to get used to, but great comic as usual. However, just an eensy correction: the yin-yang symbols should be swapped, or the mars/venus locations should be. Dark=yin=female, light=yang=male. Unless that was intentional, in which case please ignore me.

  8. Jo-ou Says:

    I feel very uncomfortable when an artist or otherwise content-creating person thanks me for partaking in said content.

    I usually end shuffling my feet, looking at the guy behind the artist and saying “N-no… thank y-you…”

  9. Infanttyrone Says:

    I’d love to buy you a drink here in Chicago! I won’t pry into your personal details (I am in 100% solidarity with you in re: protecting my personal details online) but I would spring at the chance to chat with you for even five minutes. I promise a minimum of gushing for everyone’s comfort.

  10. Alex Romo Says:

    I love the comic, specially this one because it adresses directly a subject that i’ve only seen in your comment sections or on the AWA you did for Reddit: “Winston you write like a woman, what’s up with that”; to which you always answer “We are not different in what really matters” (or something akin to that) but it’s nice to finally see it materialized as a comic. This way when i’m in an argument about gender differences i just have to pull up your comic and be done with it. I tend to use your comics in a lot of arguments, although they mostly only work with people who like reading walls of text.

    On a separate note, I’m seeing that some people don’t like mr. Zoomsie. And me in my endless loitering journey across the Internet found a pretty cool zooming plugin that, I think you might like to explore as it’s easy to implement and simple to
    (I think the one called inner zoom would work perfectly for your comics)

  11. Jorpho Says:

    I are also liking the zoominess.

    I don’t suppose there’s any chance you could feature more of the stuff you’ve done for Cracked? I know you’ve done some awesome pieces for some of the videos, but they flash by so quickly that there is not nearly enough time to appreciate the little details. They’d better be paying you well enough for those.

    Also, I don’t suppose there’s a chance of more theater at the Ottawa Fringe? The last one was kind of nice, but was over with much too quickly.

    • a bunch of the older After Hours stuff is here:

      It’s not updated though– i’ll do that when i get a chance if people wanna see that stuff.

      As for the Fringe play, that was like the highlight of my life thus far, so anyone else who wants to mount such a production definitely would be my friend. It’s obviously a matter of money and logistics and such, so i’m just really grateful that it happened once (so far).

  12. Eliot Kemper Says:

    Love it, as usual!
    Only problem for me is the silverlight makes it to where I can’t save the image. If you could post a full-size image so I could save it, that’d be great!

  13. 1969tasmanseries Says:

    I really liked the metaphor.

    Also, I greatly prefer the zoomin’ to the non-zoomin’.

  14. r10pez10 Says:

    So I guess it’s only a matter of time before Mr. Zoomie becomes a character, then? 😛

  15. Keith Says:

    I still have not forgiven you for making me listen to Nickelback. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it spoilt Christmas, but I certainly thought about it a few times.

  16. Nestor Says:

    Excellent, you are always doing a great job making me both thinking and smiling.

  17. Thomas Says:

    I’m casting my vote against the new zoominess — I find my browser’s zooming and scrolling much easier to use, more responsive, and more keyboard-friendly. But I could live with the new design, if there were a link to the full-res version somewhere easy to find (not hidden in JavaScript 🙂 ).

  18. SRdH Says:

    Winston Rowntree – you are a hero! Good luck with the pro artist status, well deserved.

  19. The Old Wolf Says:

    From another cartoon character: “Most things make sense when you look at them right. It’s just sometimes you have to look really, really, cockeyed.” – Florence Ambrose.

    Since I suffer from severe myopia (physical, although hopefully not mental), all I have to do is take off my glasses and the world resolves into a pleasant blur where all people look very much the same. I loved this recent offering.

  20. Estevan Says:

    Awwwww I really liked this.

  21. dusty668 Says:


    Heeee, some folks would complain if you hung them with a new rope. Be sure to post links to the other stuff as you can/NDA’s allow, would love to see them.
    Thanks for the comic, and the work innovating yourself!

  22. Bill W Says:

    Just a comment about your Jumbo Ranger comics: They are hilarious, especially the riddles. My favorite is,”How is a raven like a writing desk?…Both are useless in the fight against illegal drug trafficking.” I’ve been showing those riddles to everyone 😀

  23. nicocote Says:

    Hey, long time reader, first time commenter. I live in Chicago and we might know each other through friends of friends of friends (so confused): the least I can do for the years (YEARS!) of entertainment you’ve provided is tell you that you can get in touch if you have any questions about the city. I have many photos of the city!

    • Hey thanks, i genuinely appreciate the offer! I should be fine though– the combination of google Earth and Street View is pretty unprecedented in making such tasks quite easy (i dread to think how hard it would have been 30 years ago). Just promise you won’t be one of the 975,000 people who email in after to complain that i drew buildings the wrong size and in the wrong place. ARTISTIC LICENCE!!

    • nicocote Says:

      Yeah, street view was a godsend when we moved here and were looking for an apartment from Internetland.
      I won’t revoke your artistic license, but you better choose carefully: Sears Tower, or Willis Tower?

    • Whether or not this is the right answer, i guarantee you i’ll never be able to think of it as anything but The Sears Tower. I don’t know who this willis is. BRUCE WILLIS?

    • nicocote Says:

      Take that, Bruce Willis!

  24. Francis Reed Says:

    This is a great comix, and a important one.
    And even thoug i agree with your comix i believe that the women have a tougher life than the men, specially in third world countries, the feminism it’s not new and things are better now than before, but i believe that they generally endure more things than men, loved your comix as usual, we must fight for equality of gender, for defocus.
    Congratulations for going pro, i wish you even more success, and even though i would aso like something new every couple of weeks, or every week, i can, and will wait

  25. Falkor the luck dragon Says:

    This is the first time I’m commenting I guess…I’ve been following virus comix through since my first year of undergrad in 2007. I guess I wanted to say thanks? in a way? A lot (maybe most) of your work/the themes you handle resonate with stuff in my head/in my life in a big way…or at least make me look at certain topics in a different light, which is pretty helpful with traumatic experiences, or just stuff you can’t really tell anyone at the risk that they’ll put you in a nice room with cushioned walls. I draw as well so I might be biased, but I think it’s also just a medium that links up a bit better with whatever’s going on in the grey mushy stuff. This one sorta reminded me that both good and bad actions are just committed by humans…which is not determined by aspects or characteristics belonging to them, like gender. Sounds banal when you put it like that I guess, but it’s forgotten enough to bear repeating.

    Also your style’s pretty kickass and distinctive as all.

    etc, etc.
    /end fanletter.

  26. Falkor the luck dragon Says:

    p.s. What programme do you use to draw comics? I…still hand draw *hangs head in shame*.

    • What?! Un-hang thy head!! I will hear none of this. Hand drawing is for champions, otherwise i wouldn’t have hand drawn everything i’ve ever drawn (2h lead, Isograph/Rapidograph pens, sizes .20 and .30, Pitt artist pen size F or S for additional inking and the lettering). I don’t hand-color though obviously, i use paint shop pro for that (aka Ghetto Photoshop).

      [EDIT: just to clarify, the newest comic definitely has a lot of non-hand drawn stuff, the pixelated stuff and such, but that’s probably obvious.]

      PS: Thanks very much indeed for the kind words by the way! Reading since 2007?! That’s really great to hear. I wish i had longevity readership awards to give out, because i hugely appreciate those who stick around. Seriously, i didn’t think i even had any readers back then.

    • Falkor the luck dragon Says:

      ADDENDUM: (I don’t really know how to leave a comment under yours). Thanks for replying…huh, I could sorta tell you hand-drew your older stuff (still really good), but the newer stuff is so clean I guess I assumed you were using digital means. Although it all looks consistent. Anyway, thanks!

      And yeah dude…since late ’07…and across three continents. you do have hardcore/longtime fans, I’d say. I knew this one ill guy who had your prints framed on his wall. I was like…dang I wish I wasn’t broke.

  27. “Orgasm not necessary to reproduction?” That one gave me pause, Winston. Hmmm.

    • Paul Says:

      Men require orgasm in order to ejaculate and release sperm. Women on the other hand do not require an orgasm in order to become pregnant.

    • leopoldtal Says:

      Paul: Wrong, cis men can ejaculate without orgasm; look up “ejaculatory anhedonia”.

    • Mystyr Nile Says:

      Iirc, the definition of an orgasm does not involve actual pleasure, so that still doesn’t make a difference.
      In other words, the WP article I got from that phrase is not about orgasm-less ejaculation, it’s about pleasure-less orgasms.

  28. leopoldtal Says:

    I dunno, “don’t obsess over small variations on fundamental humanity” is a pretty important message, but citing only sex differences is kind of gender essentialist. In that model, transsexuality doesn’t make sense, because a human with all the traits on the left side would always be classified as female; if he transitions he still ends up halfway (short and with XX chromosomes and no prostate and so on), not clearly on the male side. It matters what the stereotypes are, because if there’s a stereotype about anger you can’t just be a person with a short temper; you have to be a person with a masculine trait, who’s (un)happy about that and (in)secure about how it affects your self-image, and that clearly depends on gender, not just sex – frankly I spend more time angsting over that than over whether I’ll lactate.

  29. Andrew Erdman Says:

    Subnormality always opens my heart and lets the ego out

  30. Shady lurker Says:

    if you defocus enough, we would be equal to mice, cows, or tapeworms.

    “has a carbon based organism”
    “can get hurt”
    “needs to feed in order to keep living”

    I have heard of too many arguments for “equality”, none of them can hold more than a mere similarity…

    Equivalence in some cases.

    • coming from a MAN Says:

      you appear to be missing the scope of the argument:

      as sapient beings with agency and stochastic multi-modular dynamic signaling systems our populations (of ‘men’ and ‘women’ [gender dichotomy is not a given, and many cultures have had traditional roles for more than two gender identity categories which for some are still too exclusive]) are equal in our capacity to perceive, internalize and abstract information from our environment, and to think and act as agents, or ‘humans’ in the moral framework (meaning we have the same logical value and responsibility as variables in ethical arguments), and are therefore morally equal as individuals in a world that supposes morals accepts that individual life and agents are in themselves essentially good (or their happiness is, or whatever).

      is each individual equal in ability to each other in every way? no, that’s fucking stupid of course everyone has different traits and characteristics and even experience the universe in vastly disparate ways, but we’re each little blips in the total progression of our species which, as a whole, depends on and is defined by all of its individual iterations, each one of us having the responsibility to understand that none of us (or our lives, happiness, fulfillment, etc.) are by necessity any more or less viable and uniquely important than any other.

      like shit, if you think girls are one way and boys are another way and it’s because you’ve found it that way in your life you’re just getting the emic experience of what your culture has decided entire populations of people are like based on their genitalia (and assign them a gender-box and ingrain into them how they should think and act and what their social position and role is from birth) ((though those INDIVIDUALS you’ve met may very well be exactly what you think they are, it doesn’t mean that anybody else in the world other than those individuals are that way at all)).

    • (still self-identify as a man) Says:

      so of course this equality wouldn’t extend to non-human creatures because of their supposed lack of agency and because they are amoral (not within the framework of morality and incapable of moral or immoral thougts or actions). (though that’s another pervasive, caustic theme in the epic adventure of humanity’s hubris and we should already be able to accept that other organisms are deserving of the whole ‘respect for life’ and ‘causing undo suffering is evil’ thing)

  31. Your usual standards are very high but this beats them. Bravo.

  32. ❤ this piece. Awesome work.

  33. M. B. N. Says:

    Is it possible to buy this one as a poster?

  34. crayven Says:

    The woman is a bit…uhh…’manly’ ( short hair, hairy legs, etc ) but hey to each his own i guess

    • Strejda Says:

      That’s the point. Women aren’t born without hair on their legs and arms, or with pernament long hair ect.

  35. Mystyr Nile Says:

    Just want to stop by and say

  36. Eric Pearson Says:

    What if we thought of ‘man’ as the species; like ‘dog’ and ‘horse’ do. Then the male and female would be applicable to humans (canines, equines) like bastard/bitch; mare stallion(? I’m not an animal expert) are to those species. Then ‘woman’ would refer to the female who is seeking reproduction and would refer to those specific parameters that are exceptional to the ‘man’ under those circumstances. Eventually, menopause reduces the entire species to the equality of being ‘man.’ Any guy who would be opposed to this might just hate women ( or the idea that women remind men of death because children come from them and are our replacements – implying the need for replacement). Still, yah’, you’re right. We’re all, really, very much the same thing.

  37. Richard Schulte Says:

    So Many Years Later!
    Can i get this as a poster?

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