I had a friend die recently, and his story played out similarly. He laughed and enjoyed other’s presence right up until the day he died. He was never alone. I talked with him one day before he died and told him how much I had enjoyed his friendship, and that I was sad it was ending. I tried to be a good friend, and I hope it helped.
You are my therapist and I want to have unethical exploitative sex with you. I just have to keep escalating the splurging admiration, devotion and ill-thought-out sympathy I have for you. I’m sorry I keep sexually harassing you. Are you polyphilic?
Once again you have left me not just without words but with barely enough functioning emotions to compose a response. Wow.
One semirelated question: is there a mailing list or alert that I could get when you do a new posting? I’d love to know when something new arrives.
Thanks again for sharing this and creating it.
Well, I just finished the last one. before that one here, 3 days ago. It was one of the best, very…insightfull.
I’ll tell you what I think if this one here when I’m finished with it. 😉
(btw i like the “wall of text” format a lot)
I have following your art/comics for a few years, and they were always interesting, sometimes inspiring and thought-provoking.
My partner’s elderly mother has passed away a few days ago, after suffering from lung cancer for a few months. I spent a lot of my time these past weeks at her bedside, at the hospice, watching her fade away from this life, and her body collapse. It was an emotional and hard time, but also healing time for her family.
As always with your art, I suspect I don’t fully get your intention, your innuendos, all the layers of meaning. But at least, I think you’ve conveyed the atmosphere of illness. I suppose you’ve done so from personal experience, as it’s hard for me to imagine how you could understand it this well otherwise. If I’m right, I’m sorry for whatever loss and pain you’ve been through. Thank you for tranforming your experience into art, which made me emotional and reflective.
As the Buddhists pray:
May all beings be free from suffering.
Very sad, reminded me of the vigils I took part in.
My father hated to have people show up just because he was sick & they felt obligated. Their presence was never a comfort, made him feel trapped, an inescapable reminder of what was happening. Didn’t want to be defined by illness. Didn’t want to be “The sick person”.
He worked for long as he could, when he couldn’t do that he read & watched movies. He loved CNN as it hadn’t turned to shit yet.
He stayed sharp until the end. If you sat around watching him he would demand to know “What are you looking at?” “Fuck off & get a life.”
He was the one watching. When I think of him, I know he would roll his eyes at me for dwelling on his memory. In particular the memory of his illness & death because that was never who he was.
He was actually kind of an asshole a great deal of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my father but sentimentality really wasn’t his thing.
That leads me to ask you something, Winston (if I may be so informal in address). I shared this with a couple of my friends, and when one asked me about other strips like this one (i.e. the stand alone strips that aren’t really built into the on-going narrative and cast), and I had trouble finding them in the archive. Is there any way to make them easier to find in the archive?
As usual, Winston, your latest strip has moved me to tears. You put a lot of yourself into this work, and it comes through. As gauche as it seems to suggest it, I would love to see Subnormality! in a dead-tree edition… there’s a different feel about reading something you can hold in your hand and thumb back and forth in. Just my two penn’orth.
I am deeply, deeply appreciative of your ability to break down a desperately complex situation that has been many times painted over with generalities. These are things that deserve as much space and dedication as a human can possibly produce, so thank you for taking the time to create. Thank you.
Reading your work is like meditating in an empty hall, where the noises of the other rooms only serve to enhance the silence. Every time you update, I feel my heart rate go down, and the world seems less like noise and more like a mystery that I have received another clue to. You’ve gotten me through some hard times and for that, again, I thank you.
Loved it all. The concept for it is incredibly entertaining. Really gave me food for thought, as you invariably do. Only this time i felt somewhere that this really resonates with me as a person. I believe it is one of your best so far. Keep doing what you love
Well, damn. That was brilliant. And deeply affecting. And now I’m very probably not going to think about much else for the rest of today, other than how my father died the same way, albeit in a less crowded and visited room, and that it could be comforting in a way to think that someone else other than us watched him leave as he did…
I loved it and teared up as much as … well everyone it seems. That was one of the best things I’ve read in awhile, in any media format.
My first thought though, when we saw just the other people and the iv bag and such was Oh God don’t let that be one our loved main characters, former pink haired girl was my original thought but I didn’t want it to be any of them.
What can you actually say when you’re confronted with art so deeply moving? Words will never adequately express the emotion that comes from something so real and so powerful. This, like so much of your work, is phenomenal, touching, cutting… As always, you capture the human condition in such perfect clarity that it’s hard not to think of this as a revelatory work.
I’ve tried, a few times, to get friends to check out these comix. But what does one say? How can anyone clearly communicate the depth of these comix? When you read something like this, something that makes you sob in quiet desperation because it captures the emotions of life and death so exquisitely–how do you communicate that to someone else?
Winston, your comix have been the illustrated guide to my growth as a person over the last few years. I remember reading the first one; I remember the first one that made me really think; I remember the one that marked the sea change in my emotional thinking; and I remember the one that helped me realize that I have so much that needs to be given back.
After re-reading, what was so beautiful about this to me, was that this was a character learning for the first time what grief is really about. I think it’s really important for anyone to learn this lesson, and how to deal with it. She even went through several of the stages of grief, denial, anger/bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
And I’m really impressed by this character’s strength, that she kept coming back, of her own volition, to experience and learn something she wasn’t forced to. I don’t think I would have had that strength in her situation, the mental and emotional stamina to bear it, especially in an age where that lesson isn’t necessary. And she learned, in a way, what it makes us.
At one point, she admitted she’d be a person that would have faded away at first. But she became the friend who wouldn’t leave you no matter how sick you were.
You seem to have made it your goal to crash Firefox with these damned big comics. Not that it’s really very hard to crash Firefox anyway, but have you asked Mozilla if they’d pay you to do stress-testing? Or Google if they might want you to do a Google Doodle that only Chrome can load?
This made me feel so much, but I honestly can’t figure out what you were trying to tell me with this and I desperately want to understand! Is that the message? That we can never truly understand!? I’m so confused and I want to know and understand, help me! D:
I dunno, i’ve never believed that art works that way. If what i’ve made IS art (which is also not up to me), then i can only tell you what it means to me personally– there’s no, like, Official Interpretation that you’re missing out on. I believe in finding your own meaning in things, so the message or whatever is just as much or as little as you got from reading it.
I’m just grateful when anyone gets anything at all out of anything i’ve written, it’ll always seem improbable to me, and having people find things in my work that i didn’t even see myself will always seem just awesome and very gratifying. That’s what’s exciting to me about all this, just trying to not tell people what to think and thus getting to hear what they do think, even if it’s that they didn’t understand (so thanks, as always, for the comments, y’all).
The only thing better than this story was reading it while a mellow cover of RadioHead’s Creep was playing.
I was sitting and worrying about what will happen next – my wife is about to lose her job – and now it feels inconsequential, a mere blip in life. Thanks for the perspective reset Wince – as usual – spot on.
I found this comic to be particularly interesting because I was all wrapped up in myself (I am in the same situation as the gal on the bed…hey life sux.) and forgetting the implications to people around me. What I got out of this is the more you give, the more you get. And kindness is an end in itself.
(Or maybe more than that. Still processing…)
Unless I am wrong, you recommended this comic to me, and after watching, both here, and with you, Your kindness has been a gift, I hope I can be as thoughtful as you have been throughout your trials.
I definitely take away from this that the stories never really end; the characters may change, but the memories remain, and the story continues; just as my story began before me, so will it continue after me.
I haven’t read a lot of your comics (the other one I read was Anomalies which thoroughly hooked me), but I have to say that evoking such strong emotion speaks to a great story-telling talent.
As for the comic itself, I feel like Understanding could almost be an adequate title for it (Watching was actually very clever though, so I prefer that over Understanding). I come from an Asian background, and the culture there is very different. However, as I was born in Canada, I was brought up at a sort of crossroads. As I grew up, I realized that I had adopted Canadian culture, and it was difficult for me to understand my parents’ culture. It really is like watching someone back in time – you can’t understand how they come to some conclusions; how they feel for certain events or persons. It baffles you and it frustrates you. This is where I think your comic was so brilliant – my takeaway was that it is difficult to understand others if we can’t understand ourselves. The person watching the girl reminded me of how I wasn’t able to understand my own emotions in my teenage years. The reaction, of course, is to be rid of it, which is what we, as humanity, tend to do. I have never understood the culture around rap and the “ghetto”, and until one of my professors talked about it during a class, I have always avoided it. Not as a reaction out of anger or distaste, but because I felt strange in their candid and frank mannerisms. It left me uncomfortable, as the main character in the comic did. And even when you watch other cultures, it is difficult – if not impossible – to understand it unless you immerse yourself in it. For me, this is what the comic was relaying.
One of the last few slides stood out for me. When the girl wanted to understand, asking the doctor about her illness’ condition, it reminded me of some brushes I had with my own depression, and how I came to understand the feelings around my own mortality. Fearing death, we avoid it however possible, but when you understand that you live on through the things that you do and through the friends that you influence, it becomes less scary. For me, it was learning how to enjoy and appreciate the things in my life.
So thank you for posting this; it was definitely worth the read. I’m looking forward to the journey through your next piece 🙂
I liked it, but you repeated sections multiple times to the point of nauseum. I think “understand” was used so often as to become gibberish. This would have been just as effective at about a third of the length. It’s a normal problem for you so I doubt it’ll ever change but hey, that’s my two cents.
I always save your comics for late at night when I’m in just the right contemplative mood to fully appreciate them, and my god does it pay off. I still have trouble describing the beauty of some of your comics to other people.
This comic touches on so many things that it’s hard to wrap my brain around all of it, but I was crying by the end. It so perfectly encapsulates the confusion of seeing bad things happen to good people, especially people like you; the need for pain in life for a meaningful existence; and above all the strength of the human spirit, the ability to adapt and still experience happiness in the midst of pain. Poignant and stunning, as always.
“It is hard to derive answers when you are used to choosing easy questions.” Masterful line. Reminds me of my favorite line from “Pulp Fiction:” “If my answers frighten you, Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions.”
How many times do we avoid uncomfortable questions? Not just in the public sector (it’s so much more fun to watch Adventure Time than the nightly news) but in our own lives. When we’re alone at night, and there’s a thought at the edge of our consciousness that we don’t dare acknowledge because we’re not ready yet.
Time and time again, i visit here, and just for a few minute see the depth of what I have. The good of a rare few moments of sandy lucidity. And it always leaves me in a fey mood. A good one, that all should be prone to visit, stay, and talk a while on.
Deeply insightful and moving. I have a chronic illness and this helped me to understand some important things and stirred up some powerful emotions that I’ve had a hard time dealing with. It’s helped me see how I can cope more successfully. I was in tears much of the time. Keep it up.
I loved this one. I’ve been reading your comix for a while now, ever since the one about the professor who researches anomalies. You spot the little strange things no one else sees and give them full, startling life. I keep coming back to this one and rereading it. The scene where the couple walking away fall to their knees and embrace: no words, just tears.
Big piece. Everything else having been said by someone else, so here come the negatives.
Watchman from the future seems a bit focused on our era, but that’s ok for a comic on our internet. Than of course most of us die this way, if not by illness, than by old age which could just as well be categorized as illness. There is one and only one explanation given and it has been written down by the devil’s chaplain in 1859.
You might want to look into Feynman’s “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” where he describes how he had fun with his terminal ill first wife. He felt the need to explain their behaviour, so he explained by saying: imagine there is an immortal race watching us. Wouldn’t they be surprised how we laugh and have fun despite being fully aware of immanent destruction?
Profound and poignant. (Just for context: I am a 71 year-old female. Loved comic books as a child. Discovered graphic novels in my 40s, and have collected many, which I still have, despite periodic purging of my books when they overflow my bookcases. I would keep yours.)
Thanks again for the work you do, Winston. That made me cry and send a heartfelt text to my girlfriend. These gifts you give us all are amazing. They are still like coffee early in the morning and the smell of rain.
The theme of viewing the past is theoretically possible to some degree…
If you imagine the universe as an incomprehensibly large system of particles and equations governing them… It would be feasible to use (quantum?) computers to map out all of the forces and quantum information of these particles perhaps.
Through reversing those forces, you could in theory scroll back time in a simulation, just like a computer reverses a movie, and allow replaying the forces and effectively observe the past. Easier than true time travel I’d think!
Things we now can only imagine… may be commonplace in a thousand or million years.
To me, the watching man in the comic reminded me of ourselves, of us watching and reliving *our own* memories, preserved in our minds for us to continually visit.
Truthfully… if you imagine replacing the “watching man” in this comic with someone from our own time who is completely unfamiliar with loss or death, reliving their memories in their minds, watching, and trying to understand… then the comic is almost exactly the same!
Hi Winston, loved the new comic. Been following you for years, tell people about you all the time… Just wanted to say though, not to criticize you or anything… That I miss the days when you could expect a regular update, some fun artwork, maybe not the cleverest joke in the world, but a stab nonetheless, but most of all yet another window into the subnormality universe. I miss it. Lately it seems every new addition has turned into this epic multidimensional page-defying masterpiece… A masterpiece that must take you forever to make… And thought I love and appreciate these, I wouldn’t mind a 4-frame rimshot every once in a while. With love – T
Hi, thanks for that actually– i honestly like the idea of posting smaller stuff again between the long stuff, i hate disappearing for months at a time so it’s a good idea. I suppose the only impediment is that it’s ironically hard to think of short comics… my brain doesn’t like to go backwards so it’s always looking to make the next comic something more than the last one. But i’m gonna think about it anyway… I’m glad you raised the issue, it might be the license i need to give it a shot.
Agreed. Save your hand and your mental state. Maybe consider serial, short-story arcs running over several comics rather than monolithic creations. Tolstoy wrote wonderful stories but they would have been more digestible in serial form. Regardless, you’ve already done great work. We just hope to keep seeing whatever you have to offer.
I am not so sure that’s the point. One of the reasons I love Virus Comix is that they are not (forgive) click-bait, and he follows the idea through to its fruition. I would much rather see his pieces get longer and more introspective, and have something to sit and chew over, and read over and over again, getting something new every time, than to read a bit, be psychologically satisfied and frustrated at the same time, and only be looking for the future comic, instead of experiencing the one that already exists.
Oh, don’t worry, i would never, ever publish anything in serial format, for the reasons you state and more (it’s a long list of reasons). The work will continue to be be large and introspective (and/or large and sci-fi and introspective) and published all at once, that’s definitely not going to change. I just really, really hate disappearing for months at a time, content-wise, and am thinking about challenging myself to come up with some smaller stuff just to fill the gaps in between the ongoing 99999999-word megathings. I’ve got myself to the point where the comix take like 4-6 weeks to make, plus i have Other Stuff to work on too, so i should be trying something new at this point to keep things more frequent.
I don’t know if this was intentional, but I found myself reliving many emotions I’ve experienced when thinking about humans living in various periods of history I’ve learned about. Seeing ‘my image’ in those exotically brutal times and sort of wondering at the suffering.
The power, the depth, on so many levels. This hits me in the heart and I wanted to look away but could not. Reading this I am like the observer, unable to look away and not understanding why, until I looked deeper. Thank you.
Winston, it has been over 3 months since a comic!! I have found solace in your comics, your masterful works of art have saved me from committing suicide more than once, by showing me the beauty and the accompanying despair of life, you have made my life livable. I hope you come back soon!
I know this is hardly a recent comix, but what the hell. I’m writing this for myself more than anybody else, I guess.
“And we have friendship in our time
but it is not like this”
My dad is dying. I mean, he is 80, and he had a heart attack in front of me almost 30 years ago, and over the years, and the close calls, and the waiting for the surgeon to finally tell us something, I sort of got used to the idea that he wasn’t gonna be around forever at a fairly young age. In fact, if you had told me 15 years ago that I’d get another 15 years with him, I would have laughed at you.
But I did get them, and I learnt what “gratitude” means.
He’s been in his hospital bed for 3 weeks now, and he looks terrible. But I visit him virtually every day, and when we can, we talk. I feed him some soup, and we talk – like we’ve talked in all the years before, for minutes or hours, agreeing and arguing, high fiving and fighting, about politics, art, poetry, football, love. Remember, for the past 15 years, we knew that what time we had together was borrowed, so I hung on his lips, trying to extract all I could.
You see, my father is what one would call a “great man”, I guess. The kind of person who influenced the course of history, who has profiles in magazines written about him, who is friends with world leaders, important artists, and eminent scholars, that kind of thing. When once, as a diplomat, he left a post, those friends made a 300-page book called “Sceneries of Friendship” about what his friendship means to them. And now in his bed, his friends – colonels, directors, deans, diplomats – come to visit.
We’ve been talking about that a lot these days, friendship. About Pushkin, who told the Czar that if he’d been there, he would have been alongside his Decemberist friends and that he would have died alongside them.
About what he called “the liberty of friendship” which so recalls Goethe’s “to the excellent, there is no freedom but love”.
We talk, about friendship. And how he defines his life, now almost all in the rear view mirror, almost exclusively through his friendships.
And one evening, after one of these talks, when me and my fiancée are about to leave, he takes my hand, grips it with surprising strength, and fighting back tears he says “My boy, know that you’re my best friend.”
And just two days later, I come across this. I’ve always admired Winston’s work, but those words? In that context? In my situation?
“And we have friendship in our time
but it is not like this”
Which says a lot about why they keep visiting a time when we had it, like this.
It hit me like almost nothing before. I closed my office door – briefly thinking about how blessed I am to have an office door I can close – and just cried.
The essence of all art is truth, something I believe Winston understands better than most. Because that truth is something we all share, and bringing that truth to the light and showing it to us makes us come together just a little bit more.
I wanted to thank the artist for digging out this simple yet so crucial truth about the human condition; to thank him for sharing it, for making me share. How blessed are we, that in a time when we have to see loved ones whither, we do have friendship like this.