October 19, 2013

xanadu HOMMII


Hi, sorry for the wait, this was the shortest comic i could think of.


218 Responses to “zanadu”

  1. Sergeant Major Tom Says:

    Here I was checking through details on a couple of older comix, then I hit “back” to go back home, and saw something that didn’t look right. Forget how long it’s actually been, but wasn’t expecting something new so soon. 🙂

    …now, I’d better actually go read it.

    • Sergeant Major Tom Says:


      As pretty much always, I wish I knew what the hell to say in response to a Subnormality. (The other times, it must be said, I don’t manage anything of much depth, either.) Just too damn much in so many of these to even know where to start.

    • Any feedback whatsoever means a lot, i can assure you of that, so cheers!

  2. Hoh Yi Hui Says:

    This continues to be so beautiful, and god, what-
    how I wish I could find something like that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. Nathan Says:

    It’s always such a treat to get a new one. Thanks, Rowntree.

  4. Sisiutil Says:

    It’s an almost universal experience, isn’t it? That golden moment we had, at some point in our youth, when for an all-too brief moment the world really did seem full of possibilities, just like we’d been told for years. Then we make a decision, then another, and so on, and the possibilities close off and that golden moment is just a memory we become nostalgic about to the point of fetish. But maybe that’s the crux of the matter: it wouldn’t be precious to us if it lasted longer. So, treasure the memory, but don’t yearn for it.

    Thank you, again and as always, for the perspective.

    • A9F Says:

      I’m a bit torn.

      On the one hand, memory, nostalgia, the sensation of possibity, a spark of yearning – they’re different formats we use to organize and represent knowledge. But knowledge compounds. By all rights, if shouldn’t matter much if local possibilities get shot down; making those decisions should open up more possibilities in the scheme of things, and the things we get nostalgic about should probably get lost in orders of magnitude.

      On the other, we aren’t properly exponential creatures and are notoriously bad with perspective. Any possibilities one opens this way might be too large, subtle, or numerous to use. Maybe all this nostalgia/golden moments/precious memories business is a way of deliberately narrowing down possibilities to things that are humanly manageable.

      And now I’m making myself paranoid. I loved this comic. I loved that it treated something ephemeral in a way that I don’t see very often. But something about it makes me feel like I have something missing or have fundamentally misunderstood something, and I don’t know what it is or why I only started feeling this way after I left a comment.

      Maybe I’ve just been awake too long.

  5. Kalle Says:

    Heroes of Might and Magic? Good comic, worth the wait. The linguist in me nods head approvingly!

  6. maarvarq Says:

    Ooh, I got a little prickle up my spine at the end of this one. Beautiful.

  7. I’m speechless, this is a masterpiece! Thank you for such amazing comics.

  8. Leak Says:

    Holy crap that story made me all teary-eyed (in a nostalgic kind of way) by the end.

    Well done… 🙂

  9. FABIO Says:

    Nice story!! Thanks so much!!

  10. Anthony Says:

    Beautiful. Fantastic work as usual, Rowntree.

  11. Nicola Says:

    Your work is impressively marvelous and consistent, I love it! ❤ ❤ ❤

  12. Ricardo Says:

    I absolutely love how even your more dramatic pieces end on a high note or a positive lesson (like the time-traveler comic).

    I think it’s a good outlook on life to spread around. I may have to keep that in mind myself.

  13. Joe Trudell Says:

    Sir you leave me as you so often do at a loss for words. You’re work is beautiful and arguably the best thing that ever happened.

  14. WellWellWell Says:

    Hmm, impressive in idea, followthrough, art and everything else – no wonder it took you months.

    Brilliant, thank you!

  15. Mancuso Says:

    Nostalgia is generally not a thing in my own life, but I’ve never cried so hard over a goddamn comic strip. Or anything, for that matter.
    “We were still at that age when the real reason for everything is that it was placed there for us to explore.”
    Your mind, Winston, is one of the good things that are happening to this planet.
    Thank you.

    (Oh and never, EVER apologize for being too long.)

  16. so beautiful. perfect?

  17. Rijul Bhatia Says:

    Uhmazing (ə-māz-iNG), n. 1. Witnessing an article that becomes true to its title after exploration. 2. A work of art permeating through all transient phenomena by making them seem responsible for arriving at said work. 3. A creative piece that changes the visibly observable behavior of it’s audience.

  18. Nixie Says:

    Definitely teary-eyed. Thank you like crazy.

  19. WCityMike Says:

    My life is substantially richer for having Subnormality in it.

  20. So wonderful. When it comes to the subject of sadness, you’re like the Louis CK of comics.

  21. Ezequiel Says:

    Thank you for sharing such beauty!

  22. Roni Says:

    Beautiful thank you

  23. Infanttyrone Says:

    I almost feel like I should say something critical since all these comments are so positive.

    But I’d be lying. Nobody else making comics right now is so exciting, and no one else who’s ever made comics can get my eyes watering so frequently. Thanks man.

  24. L.hagberg Says:

    Kubla Khan his stately pleasure dome decreed

  25. Artaphia Says:

    This one was splendid. I suspect you have a hobby of inventing all the words that are missing in the english language. They are wonderful.

  26. StoOdin Says:

    “Alas, poor brick! I knew him, Horatio.” Brilliant as usual. Sooo happy to have discovered viruscomix in the jungle that is the web. Please check out the H.G.Welles story “The Door in the Wall” for nostalgia for things lost, that seemed to be a glimpse of an immensely brighter world.

    Best regards and may you live long and produce abundantly.

  27. Josh Says:

    Nailpluck (v): The act of hitting the nail on the head while simultaneously plucking at the heartstrings.

  28. Lex Says:

    Yet again, WR, you’ve blown my mind. I’m in the middle of something a little like this, so there’s an added personal edge, but holy fuck is this beautiful.

  29. Caleb Says:

    How, how do you do it?? How do you so masterfully and eloquently create stories like this that completely make my day? The fact that you can pull these tales from the aether and then actually DRAW THEM OUT into something tangible and beautiful just mystifies me. You sir are the Da Vinci of webcomics.

  30. Very nice. It seems that there’s lots of “people bonding” in the comic strips.

    No need to be sorry: IMO quality is much more important than quantity, especially in today’s world/internet overflowing with things/information.

  31. Fernando Says:

    Urbandictionary the mansion.

  32. Squidsong Says:

    Thank you again. Take your time; the wait is easy.

  33. bullestock Says:

    This is full of awesomeness.

  34. DB Cooper Says:

    I needed two episodes of time to read the entire adventure. The comment about eating at the loser table with the art teacher made us all laff out loud with delight.
    Thank you for this story.
    Thank you for too many words.

  35. Leo W. Says:

    I’m trying to think of something to say but all I can think of is that this is completely worth the wait.

  36. Beccah Says:

    Wonderful. Your stories always give me a sense of awe and belonging.

  37. Francisco Osegueda Says:

    Zanadu, the webcomix comes in a time when i’m about to finish high school, it has been the worst and then the best years of my life and now i can already see myself losing my best friend, losing the happiness that i have experienced, yet they’ll be always in my heart, you sir are zanadu, the house, but i hope that the unique experience of reading you can last plenty of time 😀

  38. I’m glad you appreciate (and cater to) our eyeness. 😛

  39. Ric Nine Says:

    Never not worth the wait.

  40. james Says:

    that was beautiful. and touching. thank you.

  41. Bill Says:

    I would, like, totally buy that property!

  42. carly Says:

    I feel like smoking is something that 1. people did up until about 1970 because they didn’t know better 2. people have done since 1970 because they are lowlife dirtbags. So sometimes it’s disturbing how much it shows up in viruscomix.

    • mikeyth Says:

      Really? All smokers after the ’70s are lowlife dirtbags? What made you to think this way? Please explain.

    • Dirtbags aside, i most certainly don’t endorse smoking. But trying to write decent characters means having to let them do things consistent with their personality that you yourself might never do or approve of.

  43. hfanti Says:

    I’m crying and giggling at the same time and my girlfriend keeps asking “What?” Congratulations, this is amazing work.

  44. Dammit, everything you touch is golden. This is a fantastic expansion of the “words that need to be invented” thing you did for Cracked a while back.

  45. dusty668 Says:

    Amazing. Thank you.

  46. Will Says:

    How can one person invoke so much emotion through such a short storyline?

  47. Simon Says:

    As Douglas Adams said, the past is like another country, they do things differently there.

  48. Gary Dray Says:

    We all have had a xanadu summer. Thank you for reminding me of my own.

  49. Magnanimous Says:

    Beautiful. Had a little dust in the eyes at the end. Thank you for this.

  50. BubbaDave Says:

    I just hope that you’re as happy as you make your readers.

  51. john Says:

    I have read the new Comix, and I believe everybody has had or will have a Xanadu happening in their life. I might have already had mine, but then I might be involved in someone else’s Xanadu that hasn’t happened yet. Damn, that would be cool.

  52. Yaddar Says:

    Masterful, as always.

  53. Phil C. Says:

    Ho hum. Another day, another poignant and heartfelt Subnormality.

    Winston, I don’t care if you only manage one comic a year. I just hope you never stop writing and drawing. 🙂


  54. This was so beautiful. I’ve been thinking about something like this for a long time. I’m almost crying now. Thank you so much; I love everything from Subnormality but this was a particularly good one.

  55. Dennis Says:

    Another masterpiece form one of the wordiest comics I read!

  56. Kamaria Says:

    I agree with Phil. This is so beautifully expressed, there is nothing else like it and it is worth the wait.

  57. The Old Wolf Says:

    Sweet mother of Mogg, I am so grateful for these little glimpses into your scaryperceptive mind.

  58. Shaun Grey Says:


    • Sergeant Major Tom Says:

      Copypasting from the FB page’s comment thread:
      lockfore , n., 1. a hiding place for a key

  59. David Still Says:

    Viruscomix continues to feed me with just the right mix of melancholy and hope. Thank you for making the world a better place.

  60. BenjiCG Says:

    Subnormality: comics with just the right amount of words to make you think

  61. Wizardy Says:

    No other comics leaves me speechless so frequently. I totally admire your work!

  62. Hiraim Says:

    It is very easy to criticize while being unable to do better, but allow me to say you’re losing the point here. Your stuff is getting longer and longer, wordier and wordier. Conciseness is sharpness.

    • Luis Says:

      I think this comment is out of place for a comic that says “Comix with too many words” on the header… Yes, the point of most comics is being concise, and I can understand how this kind of comic might not appeal to everyone. For those of us who are in the same mindset, though, it’s just sublime. Sometimes I realize there’s a new comic up, and I don’t rush to read it. I know I’ll need a minimum of 10 minutes, and sometimes half an hour, to fully appreciate it, so I save it for later. How many other webcomics can you say that about?

    • Sai Peregrinus Says:

      They’re short stories with illustrations, not comics in the usual sense. They aren’t at all long for works in the short story format, indeed they’re often quite short.

    • Artaphia Says:

      It is wordy, and when I started following subnormality I did go impatient from time to time- But it was awesome. All of the words in these comics are people speaking, talking as they would in real life, and in real life people speak in walls of text. A concise narrator would not be the character that we are now meeting on the page, but someone else.
      I do see your point, and you are right, something concise can cut straight to the bone and be magnificent. However, I find myself unable to not like the wordiness of Subnormality, even if the words are too many.

    • Hiraimorwhoever Says:

      Well Artaphia you precisely pointed THE thing I dislike on most recent works of Sub : it pretends to talk about us, which is fine … But unlike you, I never nor ever met anybody who spoke “in walls of text”, and if I ever did, it would probably bore me to death.
      Lately those characters look like they having a lecture … which is kind odd to me. I dare to comment about it because I THINK (it’s my impression) previously released comics on Sub DO HAVE a more “natural” feeling, which I liked so much I read about 60 of them in a row, and even if they have “too many words” they are not verbose at all. Hence my comment, which I do not see as being “out of place”.

    • Joe Says:

      Rosestomp V 1. rushing to the end to discern the meaning without the impact of the work as a whole.
      N. 1 People who go to the last chapter of a novel and read it first to “save time”.

    • Hiraim Says:

      Well … Apparently I dare to say my content was not so “out of place” as you might think … 5 months and no update.
      I’d say the author finally bored himself huhu 😀 😀
      Hope to see some new comics here, more in tone with the tongue-in-cheek spirit of begins.

  63. Mike Says:

    Winston, don’t you dare die before we figure out a way to eternally preserve brains. The contents of that head of yours never stop cease to leave me amazed.

  64. The Old Wolf Says:

    I had to come back to say this: Winston, your strips have moved me more than many a novel, be it classic or modern, and there has been no dearth of those in my life. I often come back to peruse the archives, and leave fulfilled once again. I look forward to every new offering; thank you for making my world a brighter place.

  65. MB Says:

    Moving is a great word to describe this (and many others of yours). Wow. Again.

  66. Zw Says:

    So many of the best things are your comics.

  67. Hocus Pocus Says:

    Such a beautiful, beautiful story you wrote and draw there, Sir. And for that I thank you.

  68. Benjy Says:

    Hubowntreed Noun. The moment of humbling awe at a beautiful story.

  69. JRChace Says:

    Amazing. I was hooked the entire read. Thanks for making these wonderful comics! I always look forward to them!

  70. I am, as usual, blown away by your storytelling. I really like the impermanence. Couple questions: Did you write a definition for the note under the key or the one on the lightbulb? Secondly, can I get a past tense for Cetch? I intend to use it frequently.

    • The key one is: “lockfore , n., 1. a hiding place for a key.” And the one taped to the lightbulb is: “nilfunction – when you assume a device is broken but the truth is far simpler.”

      As for cetch… uh… cetched? Cautch?

      PS: thanks for the kind words!

    • Heh. Both are pretty useful. My car nilfunctioned recently.

      You’re welcome! I’m honestly a little surprised it took me so long to comment on one of these, I can’t even remember when I started reading.

  71. Nathan (Wilson) Says:

    This comic is almost depressing, because it is MY zanadu. And I can see it getting more popular, a little at a time, and according to the story told here, that’s when it’s getting closer to the end.

    In addition to the great comic, there are so many great comments! I love the people who throw in their own new words with defintions. I’m not that creative though. 😦 It just makes me want to contribute in some way, in order to somehow properly thank the author for his work. To that end, I’ve been transcribing these comics, one by one, onto the subnormality wiki. If anyone else wants to help, you’re welcome to.

    • You’re the one who’s been transcribing the comix! Amazing… Huge high five in your direction… Your task is herculean and i thank you for it sincerely (i don’t actually have accurate transcripts myself, as i Always change things from the script as i’m doing the lettering). Email me your mailing address, i’ll totally send you a sketch in return for your efforts (favorite character..?).

  72. lynchy Says:

    Fabulous, as usual

  73. Timma Says:

    Things change, and then they are never the same again. You capture things so beautifully Winston.

    This episode in your ongoing ode to society and life, has so many aspects. I love the way way you drew your characters. I love the house. I love the little definitions. I love the way that memory is shown in black and white, apart from the pink of the notes.
    I don’t love (because it’s not a pleasant thing as such), but I certainly appreciate how you describe and draw how the house lost its ambiance as new comers, who didn’t know the history came. It happens to so many things, groups, places, etc. People find or build something amazing, and then, all to often, it is swamped with people who don’t understand the culture, and what made it amazing in the first place. And for them, it’s just another place. See also: gentrification.

    Winston, if you make this into a poster, I will at least one copy.

  74. Hafwit Says:

    Absolutely beautiful. 🙂 Nothing’s forever.

  75. Type-tied, adj., 1. The state of being unable to come up with something clever enough to post as a comment on a web site to express your sincere awe and gratitude at what you just read. See also tweetless.

    I also hope I am not the only one who caught the deflowering reference.

  76. James Hood Says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  77. Bill Says:

    This is the first of your comix that has brought me to tears. Thank you.

  78. SuckMyComment Says:

    i’m crying lasers like a man *pew pew sob sob

  79. Jamie McCarthy Says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful comic, and for all your work. I love it all.

    “Fingling” (reaching for a lightswitch in an erroneous location) and indeed this whole comic reminded me of this passage from Philip K. Dick’s “Time out of Joint”:

    Why did I remember a light cord? he asked himself. A specific cord, hanging a specific distance down, at a specific place.
    I wasn’t groping around randomly. As I would in a strange bathroom. I was hunting for a light cord I had pulled many times. Pulled enough to set up a reflex response in my involuntary nervous system.
    “Ever had that happen to you?” he said, as he seated himself at the table.
    “Play,” Margo said.
    He drew three new cards, bet, met the raises that went around, lost, and then leaned back lighting a cigarette. Junie Black raked in the winnings, smiling in her inane fashion.
    “Ever had what happen?” Bill Black said.
    “Reached for a switch that didn’t exist.”
    “Is that what you were doing that took so long?” Margo said, irked at having lost the hand.
    “Where would I be used to a light cord hanging from above?” he said to her.
    “I don’t know,” she said.
    In his mind he chronicled all the lights he could think of. In his house, at the store, at friends’ houses. All were wall switches.

    And this passage from an essay of his:

    I submit to you that such alterations, the creation or selection of such so-called ‘alternate presents’ is continually taking place. The very fact that we can conceptually deal with this notion – that is, entertain it as an idea – is a first step in discerning such processes themselves. But I doubt if we will ever be able in any real fashion to demonstrate, to scientifically prove, that such lateral change processes do occur. Probably all we would have to go on would be vestiges of memory, fleeting impressions, dreams, nebulous intuitions that somehow things had been different in some way – and not long ago, but NOW. We might reflexively reach for a light switch in the bathroom only to discover that it was – always had been – in another place entirely. We might reach for the air vent in our car where there was no air vent – a reflex left over from a previous present, still active at a subcortical level. We might dream of people and places we had never seen as vividly as if we had seen them, actually known them. But we would not know what to make of this, assuming we took time to ponder it at all. One very pronounced impression would probably occur to us, to many of us, again and again, and always without explanation: the acute absolute sensation that we had done once before what we were just about to do now, that we so to speak, lived a particular moment or situation previously – but in what sense could it be called ‘previously,’ since only the present, not the past, was evidently involved? Such an impression is a clue that at some past time point a variable was changed – reprogrammed, as it were – and that, because of this, an alternate world branched off, became actualized instead of the prior one, and that in fact, in literal fact, we are once more living this particular segment of linear time. A breaching, a tinkering, a change had been made, but not in our present – had been made in our past.

  80. Brian Says:

    Thank you for this.
    You’ve put together a lot of emotion that I find difficult to express myself, but immediately identify with when reading your work. Really just throwing my lot in with everyone else who found this touching and beautiful.

  81. Danni Says:

    I love to start rating your work but finishing it is always bitter sweet. I always feel like I’ve just finished a really good book after reading your work (I also get the feeling that you are likely to know the perfect word for that feeling). I guess I don’t have anything else to add except that this was great and as always thought provoking.

  82. John Says:

    I don’t mean to be nitpicky, but I’ve noticed that the formatting on some of the pictures is a bit grainy. Sometimes it makes it a bit difficult to read the writing, and that’s my biggest gripe. It’s a pretty small gripe though, because I can still read the writing, even if it’s slightly difficult.
    I realize it must be a bit of a job to format large files like the huge images that your comics are, but if it’s not a hassle, it’d increase my enjoyment of them by 0.03% if you made the images a bit bigger/higher resolution.
    Subnormality is a prime-tier webcomic though, definitely the best that I’ve ever read of from Ontario, not that I can think of any other webcomics from this province but fuck, the point still sort of stands. Keep up the incredible work, man, I check this page a lot, and it’s an awesome feeling when there is actually a new comic up!
    Yeah! Cheers!

  83. Oniönhead Says:

    Okay. With “Zanadu”, two things just happened:

    1) Subnormality has now officially crossed the line from “graphic novel” and into “art”.

    2) I am now fully convinced that Subnormality is The. Best. Comic. Ever. Yes, right up there with Calvin and Hobbes, only even more unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

    Winston Rowntree, you are a goddamn genius, and don’t you dare stop making comics ever.
    You hear me?

  84. es Says:

    Our House…is a very, very, very fine house. With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard. Now everything is easy ’cause of you…

  85. Truly fantastic, best I’ve seen in a while. Great stuff, thanks!

  86. Toronto Says:

    Thanks Winston. After a bad day this really made me happy..

  87. Frank Says:

    Beautiful. Beautiful as always. We need more of these in the real world

  88. Jon P. Says:

    This is very reminiscent of Douglas Adams “The meaning of Liff”

    It’s a “dictionary of things that there aren’t any words for yet”.

    Great comic, as always!

  89. S. T. Stone Says:

    What’s the word/definition that falls out of the vent(?) after the floor collapse?

    Also: as a longtime reader of Subnormality, I’d easily call this your best work ever. I’m gonna gank a few of those words/definitions for my own personal use, and I’m gonna tear up again when I get to the end of that strip on my next re-read of it. 🙂

  90. Grimm Says:

    Every time I read Subnormality, I feel a little bit shittier about myself and a little bit better about humanity.

  91. Julian Burnell Says:

    I’m reading this at 3.30 in the morning, unable to sleep. in about three more hours my one year-old son will start complaining and it’ll be time to get up and start the daily routine. But just for now, this silent little no-space has been filled with a truly wondrous delight. Thank you.

  92. hagamablabla Says:

    It’s always impressive how you know how to tell a story without having to give the full background. There’s always just enough backstory for the story to make sense, but still enough missing to make you think about the possibilities.

    Also, am I the only one who noticed that when the floor collapsed, the bottom of the lamp had a note too?

  93. the Exiled Hippy Says:

    More proof that Winston Rowntree’s existence makes the world a better place.

  94. Daniel Kohn Says:

    I lover reading these things. This one just reminds me of how sharing things with people usually ends up letting me down. I have been reading for a few years now and always anxiously await the next one. Subnormality Get’s Quietly Hammered is my all time favorite.

  95. bellonova Says:

    That was awesome. I loved the definitions

  96. Glank Says:

    I’ve had this open in a tab for a week and I jut got to reading it. What was I waiting for?!? This has to be one of my all time favorite pieces of yours. Thanks so much for sharing!

  97. Mystyr Nile Says:

    Winston, you are a master of storytelling.
    “at best high school only has artificial gravity” Considering gravity in the literal(?) sense, i’ve seen people remark that real life starts when highschool ends. That it’s really all just a learning experience, in which case its grave-ity isn’t all that great.

  98. Mystyr Nile Says:

    Also, I’ve decided that every time I see one of those big ellipses(…) in this comic, I’ll pause to take a deep breath before reading on.

  99. Toph Says:

    Worldetail, n: 1. Ideas that, by themselves, could form the basis of an entire career, but are casually mentioned by their creator as if to say “Take it, I’ve got a million more at home”. 2. The small hint that indicates the hand of a genius.

  100. Ryan L Says:

    Amazing, as usual, Winston.

  101. Seth Cohen Says:

    That was fantastic. Thank you.

  102. Jon Says:

    This was beautiful

  103. Seph Steel Says:

    How come you can get me to shed a tear or joy or sadness with every comic? Damn you ❤

  104. Michael Says:

    Very, very well done — concept, story, art. Bravo!

  105. Chackra Says:

    I love it… 🙂

  106. Doyle Says:

    Hey, Winston, I just wanted to say that this one was a real doozy. I loved it, also that while I used to come to your website every couple days looking for an update, in the last couple of months I started saving it. I even would come here, see a comic and save it for a better time, I want to be in the right mood for your work. Very early in the morning is most common, but whenever it happens I feel things click and I am suddenly in the mood to receive you work properly. Just wanted you to know that your productions are deep enough for me to wait till I am in the right frame of mind to read them.

    Thanks again,


  107. I came to discover your work rather late in the game (sometime before Cracked, but didn’t start reading in earnest until the past few months). I have lurked and lurked until I could not lurk any further.

    However, there is nothing else I have found outside of certain classic works of literature that have left me as spellbound and thoughtful as your work. I have been filled with joy, rage, empathy, antipathy, and various levels of sadness from bittersweet to soul-crushing.

    I think, when a hundred years or so have passed, that there will be college courses that include you as the focus of their curriculum as we study Dostoyevsky and Proust for literature or Kierkegaard and Nietzsche for philosophy.

    Take as long as you need to produce the next comic, and the one after. Though being a fan and consumer of your work makes us yearn for regular content, it is the sheer quality that keeps us fans in the end.

    • That is an almost overwhelmingly nice thing to say, so i’ll just say Thanks, it means a lot that you would say it, and your patience waiting for new comix means everything. I’m seriously just honored.

  108. Gina Says:

    Please tell me what work of art or mythology you were presenting us with with the lovely image of the young couple at the start?
    Best I can figure, it’s Krishna and Radha, but there seems something off to be them.


    • While no deliberate symbolism or homage may have been intended, it doesn’t really matter what i intended — it’s up to the audience what something means, if it means anything. There’s nothing worse than the artist saying “no, no, you’re interpreting it wrong!!” I love the idea that you saw something in the image that i didn’t, it’s hands-down one of the most rewarding parts of being an artist. All art is bigger than the people who created it, and that’s the most exciting thing about creating something.

      PS: sorry to turn a simple answer into a paragraph, i can’t help it…

    • Gina Says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Believe me, there is no way you could talk to me too much.
      I feel the same way about art as you do.
      It was a beautiful image and makes me feel like they are an eternal couple.
      Thank you for all your hard work. You are a bright spot on the internet.

  109. the Exiled Hippy Says:

    I want to echo Gina’s question! I can’t help wondering whether there’s some sort of symbolism in the position of their hands (hers up, his out), or if maybe the image was inspired by some painting or sculpture.

  110. joeyk Says:

    That was amazing, really loved it!

  111. Tomas Says:

    This reminds me of the more serious definition of “mystery”. A mystery is not a puzzle to be solved. It’s something that exists while being completely impossible.

  112. This Is My Handle Says:

    Thank you.

  113. XIO Says:

    I will supply the two definitions that were never revealed in the comic:

    an obviod: 1) An object hidden in the location where it’s most likely to be discovered
    2) An object purposefully placed to be found or located.

    an obstruct: A foreign object inserted into some appliance or machinery to prevent it from working properly, wherein the removal of the said object restores the functionality of the appliance.

  114. SRdH Says:

    I think this one of my favourite Subnormality comics

  115. DigitalDevourer Says:

    Wow…there is something terribly haunting in this comic. There’s such a feeling of loss, and contentment, and an acknowledgement of something that I can’t quite grasp.

    I like how you never answer the mystery. The house exists, the notes exist, and that’s all we’ll ever know. Was the house magical? Or haunted? Perhaps there was a stalker watching these kids and placing notes, or an old resident of the house who decided to have some fun. We’ll never know…we can only guess.

  116. Winston, man, I love everything you do. You should probably know that there’s a shoutout to your older work in one of my games:

    This also comes on a day of discussion of neologisms and linguistic peculiarities, synchronizing with today’s XKCD. It’s been a good day of semantic synchronicity.

    • I had a look and found the shoutout, and was quite honored indeed! (i even paid for the pdf to say thanks). Your game is really impressive too– the idea of using lego to make all the figures is really sensible and looks amazing (there are clearly a lot of lego pieces that didn’t exist when i was a kid). I’m guessing you’ve been influenced at least somewhat by Heavy Gear, which is quite awesome, because i always loved that whole universe. I never actually played it (except for the video games), but just from reading the game books i really loved the detail of the universe and more importantly the whole aesthetic, all that just wonderful art by Ghislain Barbe was like candy to me. So yeah, best of luck indeed with your own game, ’tis a fine tradition.

  117. GinnJosey Says:

    A really beautiful and touching comic. I hope to see it in book form. That is one for the shelf I show people first.

  118. You absolutely blow my mind. I could get lost in your comics forever. Thank you so much.

  119. Julia Says:

    This is beautiful!

  120. As always… heartbreakingly beautiful

  121. Doubtless my favorite story of yours so far. And I have read them all.

  122. lutzgame Says:

    Loved it
    I am a linguist so…your work speaks for itself 😀

  123. toaster_pimp Says:

    I like it. Weird, exploratory. Thinking of captain estar again for some reason…

  124. Will Says:

    Just awesome. Should be a movie, but it would probably end up not doing the original work justice.

  125. Norm Rosolen Says:

    Weird and wonderful. I kept waiting for it to get scary creepy but it just stayed lovely and maybe a little sad at the end. Which is good.

  126. Once again, spot on.. I have read your comments about creative depression and sympathise as I do too sometimes..

    But rest assured that I still believe you are doing something of true worth. Keep it up, please!

    And I do love all the comments, so many people seem to resonate in the way I do. Sometimes when I show the Sub to friends I get blank looks but I have the feeling they read it in a subversive and hidden manner – so maybe they fir in too 🙂

    Beautiful, as always Sincere thanks and appreciation WR.


    • Thanks! That’s very nice of you to say. And on that first point, it’s always nice when someone can sympathize. I honestly had a bit of a creative meltdown over the summer, sometimes you sort of forget your motivations the farther into your career you get, but on the bright side hitting bottom is a reliable way to get things turned around. I’m feeling much more excited about the possibilities of having a comic strip than i have in a while. Hopefully the last couple of comics have reflected that a bit.

  127. Duke E. De'Gryn Says:

    Would say more but I’ve got something in my eye…

  128. kitchenmudge Says:

    Ho Lee Fuk.

    I wish this story were literally true, but that would be too much to ask, right?

    • Duke E. De'Gryn Says:

      Anything that can be imagiend can be made so.
      One packet of pink sticky notes and a bag of pens is all you need for this to be real.


  129. It has been a bit of a time since the last excellent comic.
    Is this the hole in the production that you mentioned for this summer?
    I generally enjoy your work when I get the courage to read it all. I have changed that a bit by telling myself that you are writing short stories.
    There have been some comics that were just brilliant, as good as any and better than most.

  130. Drew Says:

    I actually feel like I shared something special with the characters. Well done–and thanks.

  131. DoomSp0rk Says:

    Another brilliant comic/short story. I cannot express how grateful I am for your work. Your ability to make readers identify with your characters and your brilliant, heartwrenching twists are absolutely unparalleled. Thank you.

  132. robbie Says:

    Whoa, that was beautiful. Genuine tears of I don’t know what In my eyes. Can’t express how much I love reading your stories (when I can work myself up to it). Thanks

  133. Kath Says:

    Absolutely beautiful. I’m all tears and melancholy. Reminds me of my own Zanadu.

  134. It’s an awesome story! Loved it!!

  135. Beautiful and touching, as always. I wish I could share this with my friends. But like Zanadu, no matter how much I show them, they never ever really understand.

  136. rashid Says:

    Instawe (insta-awe) n. 1)The act of being amazed the instant you see something new. 2) What converts a casual passer by to a fan.

  137. Ahmed Says:

    Incredible touching. This story lighted my day up.

  138. Andrew Says:

    You are just the best.

  139. Wynter Says:


  140. I can’t decide if I like this better when I take it literally or when I let the full possibilities run through my mind. Beautifully done.

  141. Misty Says:

    Happy New Year Winston! Hope this one will be filled with your awesome comics because, even if I have to wait months to see new one, it’s always little ray of sunlight knowing somebody out there is making something so awesome as you are 🙂

  142. Kay Cee Says:

    are the two protagonists drawn in the likeness of Trent and Mariqueen?

  143. LB Says:

    Although I’ve been reading subnormality for a long time, I’ve never actually left a comment, which means that I’ve never thanked you Winston, for your always beautiful and thought provoking comics. I check your site often for updates, and every day that I read a new one of your comics is a day that has been slightly improved thanks to you.

  144. Ogre Says:

    Hey, thanks WR.
    This one hit the spot and had me feeling like it should never have an end but it did and it was wrapped up like the reality it speaks of. Great work as always. Thanks again dude.

  145. cisco Says:

    every single comic has more truth in it than half the books in the world

  146. my zanadu was teared down. my zanadu is an apartment block now. only a piece of marble tile was left, i buried it under a young tree years ago. I pass by that tree every once in a while when visiting mother. nobody remembers my zanadu but me.

  147. crash Says:

    If, someday, I run into you at a convention (or something), I will be surprised if you are not, in fact, a sphinx.

  148. I think this is my first comment on one of these comx. I first saw Subnormality through, and I was always very struck by the artstyle and writing. I remember when I finally checked out the main website how amazed I was by the story presentations, everything from the content to the presentation just came off as novel and engaging. The writing has always come across as intelligent and easy to relate to, and the recurring characters have always been memorable and felt “human”

    Above all it’s pieces like “Zanadu”, however, that have the biggest impact – evoking those deeper human emotions and really bringing into question where my life is, was, and where I want it to go… I believe they call that “art”. 🙂

    Thanks for the years of great material Winston. Like others have said, please keep doing what you do. Cheers from Baltimore!

  149. Alex House Says:

    This is really special 🙂

  150. Patrick Lynch Says:

    Nice use of the interrobang.

  151. null1024 Says:

    Wow, this was great! Brilliant concept, brilliant execution.

  152. Mancuso Says:

    I just read it again.
    I am pretty sure that Zanadu marks the moment when the comic as a form of expression matured into full-fledged art. The funny thing is I’ve felt this exact same way about older Subnormality updates, but you just keep upping the ante.
    It’s breathtaking.
    Thank you for every line you’ve ever drawn.

  153. Bryan Trim Says:

    I am a manly tough Iraq War veteran, and that comic just left me with tears in my eyes, and a heavy feeling in my chest. You are am amazing artist, and a genuinely awesome human being.

  154. Nicodemus Jancewicz Says:

    This is incredibly touching and for me hits so close to home. Thank you for working so hard on this, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

  155. Paul Says:

    Thank you.

  156. mrcovet Says:

    Wow, jeez, nearly crying at my desk. So wonderful.

  157. Ben Zyl Says:

    So, this is the last strip, and what you’re actually trying to say is – don’t be sad that it ended, a transitory experience. Be happy that they happened at all and you got to read and remember them?

  158. Graham Says:

    As always I am entranced by your dialogue and imagery.
    Keep up the wonderful work, I really appreciate you.

  159. Thomas Says:

    So here I am, on the other side of Subnormality.

    It was about a year ago I discovered your webcomic through your work on cracked. I had a look at some of the last comics and was intimidated by their length and the walls of text (obviously, you don’t develop a preference for list-based articles because of your great attention span).
    But when I started reading one (photo from the future) I found myself captivated by the clever dialogue, complex and likeable characters and I was surprised at the unusually deep sense of satisfaction I got at the end.

    Today is the day I’ve finished reading all of the comics to date in this vast archive of yours. I can say that pretty much every single one of these strips has touched me in some way or another, changed my view on society, my outlook on life, or simply uplifted my spirit. You always start with these little snapshots of life but by the end of the comic you’ve seamlessly weaved in a statement about the entirety of human nature, and I feel like I’ve walked away from it a wiser man. It truly is incredible. Not to mention the beautiful artwork that accompanies your stories.

    This is without doubt one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever found on the internet. All these nights of staying up way past my bedtime to read “just one more” always proved, as far as “entertainment” goes, incredibly deep experiences.
    Nothing is ever perfect, but subnormality comes really goddamn close.
    Winston Rowntree, you are an absolute genius and a true 21st century philosopher. I honestly believe that your work is making the world a better, saner and kinder place with every single person that reads it and takes it to heart.

    Thank you.

    PS.:I’ll have you know that in real life, I’m a man of brevity, I barely ever comment, and when I do, it usually doesn’t exceed 4 words, but I just couldn’t keep this opinion to myself and wall of text seemed the appropriate way to go. Look at what you make me do.

  160. Anna Says:

    I had a place like this. It was as magical as it could have been without unexplainable, witty post-it notes. The development and downfall were quite similar, as was that era of my life, to your comic. In fact, this hit on so many specific similarities that this comic is like one giant post-it encapsulating all the truth and glory that place held for us in just as much wit – though considerably more long-winded. Thank you for being the post-it to my Zanadu.

  161. PO8 Says:

    Damn, dude. That is just too damn good. Unbelievably good. Gift to the world good.

    Thank you.

  162. breakslow /ˈbɹɛksloʊ/, n. 1. Spending another rainy morning with a warm cup of coffee, slowly reading through this amazing piece of art and having mood shifted to better for the rest of the day.

    Thank you.

  163. Ethaniel Says:


  164. Michael Says:

    This is my favorite comic on this site. Thank you.

  165. Tom Graham Says:

    Must have read this one a dozen times….love it. And the site as well.

  166. Peter Zach Says:

    I fear I am most extremely late to the party, gentlemen, but I shall contribute my two-hundredths of a standard currency bill nonetheless. This comic seems to have captured the most distilled essence I have yet seen of one of the basic plots of many stories; the discovery of something special, the appreciation of it, the loss of it to outside circumstances, and the final bittersweet revival of it at the very end, if only for a moment. Though perhaps I wax too prosaic. Either way, have a very good day.

  167. I am sure I am not the first to do so; but while I wait for the next wonderful comic, I click on the Sphinx and go back to randomly re-read previous comics. When I arrive, I enjoy where I was sent, and choose to head forward or backward, re-reading everything until I run out of time for such reading.

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