October 11, 2014


Hi, new comic, apologies for the wait. More later, it’s late where i am. Goddamnit, it’s always late where i am…


82 Responses to “duəl”

  1. Saudade Says:

    And still you’re always on time for us.

  2. kalaluka Says:

    Ahhh. Mahalo. Love it, as usual.
    Oh, and Woolco!

  3. estevan Says:

    Great as always!
    Your comics always hit me super hard and I love it.
    Subnormality is by far my favorite series out there. They’re great.
    Thank you so much for making these!

  4. Beautiful. Absolutely beautifu, as always.

    Is it weird to feel attached to the idea of a person -even a fictional one-? the pink-haired girl is just lovely, in escence. Her dialogues are so spot on with -life itself-… I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.

    on a side note, I’m a bit worried about the “dispatching armored division” bit.

    • You have to consider the overall utility function. Unless she’s stopped eating people, she should be stopped. Given what happened when they tried the pike in Italy, I’m honestly more concerned about the armored division than the Sphinx; on the other hand, modern weapons are a lot better than pikes. If the authorities finally do try to finish her, it’s going to be interesting.

  5. Anthony Says:

    Amazing. Definitely worth the wait.

  6. Joe Trudell Says:

    Hmm, was actually expecting something longer. And yet as usual I’m not disappointed in the least.
    I kind of feel this way all the time. My head’s full of things I want to say, yet somehow the words never find their way out.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  7. andrusite Says:

    93.700°. Nice humorous shoutout to us in the Geosciences. And definitely worth the wait.

  8. Kate Says:

    THANK YOU!!!

    Wonderful as always. I love all the tiny background references and things also.

  9. Strangely comforting this one. One thing that you maybe didn’t touch on that much, is that it might be healthy and exciting to be as conflicted as people are. You become unpredictable to yourself – oh, but while still being able to predict everything you’ll do, of course 😉

    You definitely managed to put a pretty universal conflict into words and art. Thanks. It silences it for a while for me at least.

  10. hortlak Says:

    feels like you’re in my head again. worth the wait. 🙂

  11. SummDude Says:

    As always, you’ve done a spectacular job of reminding people (myself included) that no human is inferior or superior to humanity. Perhaps my favorite ability of yours as a creator is to somehow never even border on pretentious or cliche (something I’m clearly incapable of) while still spouting unabashedly poignant truths. Please keep making things, and please please please always take your time.

  12. Michael Moody Says:

    A great strip. I had the urge to check out Subnormality today, and as luck would have it, a new comix is posted!

    Your comix work very well on mobile screens, where I can scroll and zoom with ease, and no detail is lost. Is there any particular reason for the right side of the comix having a golden glow?

    • yup, that’s deliberate — nice comix technique for keeping the reader aware that they’re looking into a different narrative stream. It’s outside, it’s summer on that side of the comic, whereas the other is many conversations under different conditions hence the lack of tint.

  13. Manda Says:

    It’s so exciting to see a new update, and setting aside a block of time and a glass of wine to enjoy it. Subnormality is one of the few things I make time to read for pleasure these days, and it always ends up making me feel better about being human. Thank you for validating all of our shared neuroses and making us feel less alone. Thank you for being our Sphinx. 🙂

  14. Keith Says:

    Somehow every time you release a comic I seem to be dealing with something, and maybe it’s just your style of writing where you say so much but I can always just poor my problems into all the text.

    Something something being conflicted and taking forever writing a short anonymous comment on the internet when you talk forever in real life :/

  15. lancelotgobbo Says:

    Lovely, WR.

  16. RSS is never late Says:

    Wow. Exactly. I said to someone today (what I’ve thought for a while)—humans shouldn’t be defined as rational creatures, but as creatures who can act irrationally. But do you think everyone is like the pink-haired girl? in the sense of this comic. I’m sure everyone who likes your comix is, but what about the ones who can’t handle too many words? the foodstagrammers?

    • I’ve learned to recognise the looks on the faces of people who are girding their loins to reject incoming evidence or maintain a contradictory worldview. The foodstagrammers can tell you how its their passion and they aren’t into deeper, (presumably by implication more elitist) things but they are the same phenomenon with, I am told, even more fear and even more having-been-shamed-by-no-one-in-particular into not thinking those thoughts that PHG evidently has so much trouble with.

  17. franzy Says:

    One of my true favourites. The whole site.

  18. Simon Says:

    You just keeping digging deeper into these characters and you always hit pay dirt. It’s friggin’ beautiful man.

  19. I know it takes a while to create Subnormality. Every strip takes a good while to read, and likely re-read. I have never found one I did not like or felt bad for having spent the time reading. I appreciate the characters getting more complicated and the stories getting longer and longer. I remember the first strips, and wondering how such a deep idea could be expressed in so few panels. The ideas have continued to get bigger and deeper, and the space needed to get them across to your readers is expanding as well.

    Comic readers are all different and expect different things from having read a comic. Sometimes Subnormality is so deep, I will read it again and again, until I get the same idea a second time. Then I think I might have “got” the story.

  20. butterflymcdoom Says:

    Whoever you are today, whoever you are when you write and draw these, I love you,

  21. Njam! Says:

    Aw yess, I always get this big ol’ grin on my face whenever a new Oodles of Text is out! Or maybe it should be Oodles of Cool T-shirts this time? Gorgeous Hair Comix? Everybody Has a Smartphone Now Comix? Set Aside an Entire Evening to Read and Reread a Single Episode Comix? Eh, it’s all of those. 🙂

  22. m Says:

    Sure do wish I had a mentor / friend like the Sphynx.

  23. anon Says:

    Oh right, the Sphinx is a murderer. That does make it difficult to take life lessons from her or her friends.

    There’s some good stuff in this comic, but I’m a little confused that it seems to put harassment over that on the same level with catcalls and such. The animal-eating thing in particular throws things into relief – all that stuff the Sphinx talks about, the human stuff, helps form a clear moral distinction between eating animals and eating people.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    To be fair, humans are obviously sentient and intelligent, and the Sphinx eats them anyway. That is basically murder, and if you were friends with a known serial killer (who wasn’t being arrested for some reason) people would be pretty shocked. It’s not that the Sphinx is a ‘thing,’ it’s that she kills people for no good reason. I mean, I’m pretty sure a steady diet of cows/sheep/horses/whatever could be arranged and the sentience of those animals is much more debatable. Even if she NEEDED to eat humans enough die of natural causes, or just want to die, that eating unwilling people shouldn’t happen.

    • Olivia Says:

      In other strip, it shows the Sphinx about to eat a person and she tells that person a story that is so sad that in the end the person wants to die.

    • Line Noise Says:

      … do you not know the human cost of cocoa harvesting? Don’t we all but stuff from suicide inducing 3rd world seat shops? For common practices like this we are all killers. The sphinx may be responsible for taking 50 years of life from 100 people per year but i suspect that each of us has a hefty death toll on our personal accounts. Yet we befriend each other well enough.

    • Philippe Saner Says:

      We can’t have an average death toll above one, unless you’re letting multiple people take full credit for the same death.

      It’s true that most people tolerate some pretty bad stuff, but serial murder is still way worse.

      But hey. The Sphinx isn’t a human being and I don’t see much point in applying human morals to it.

  25. gridsleep Says:

    Each of your entries (I don’t know whether to call them strips or works, they are both comical and monumental at once) has some indefinable quality that leaves me with this odd impression that life actually means something. Then I have to sit and think for a few weeks. I wish I had that much time.

  26. grapplingwithfatherhood Says:

    I love it. It’s beautiful. Thank you.

  27. jl Says:

    This spoke to me.

  28. anonagain Says:

    Thanks again for good comix. Actually, I was just thinking that anything that takes me three lunch breaks to finish probably can’t be called “comix.” I’d say “graphic novella” is more accurate. It better justifies your update schedule, too. You say, “yeah, I write a new graphic novella every few months.” Except wait, that sounds like you’re writing sordid bodice-rippers. Shit.

    Once again this reaches me in a way I’ve been thinking about a lot. I’m not sure if it’s serendipitous that your comix happen to be so relevant to my life in the exact moment I read them, or more that they’re about the human condition so they’re general enough to apply to any situation and still feel very present. Like a horoscope.

  29. Nice try, but I’m pretty sure 93.7 North isn’t a thing. 😛

  30. Ross Says:

    As usual, WR, your torrent of words has left me speechless with admiration. Thank you. A new VirusComix is always on time, never late.

  31. Ben Says:

    I’m unable to read this, most of the right side is chopped off, it only scrolls partway. Is it just me?

  32. Chris Johnson Says:

    I understand what you are trying to say about everyone being conflicted and unrealistic about how they imagine themselves vs how they actually are, but the whole reaction of the public to the sphinx really took me out of it. Everyone seemed to have a strong negative feeling about it, but no one avoided it or did anything about it. If the creature is supposed to be a representation of the unknown, I don’t understand the claims of evil, and would rather have expected claims of wasting time. if the creature is supposed to represent death or other “natural” horrors, I have never met anyone that refers to these things as evil. Does the sphinx have choice or care in the matter of choosing who it will eat? Would it just as soon eat the main character, and if so would that not validate her constantly being berated by society that she is being stupid in her life choices?

    I usually really like your work, but this was not your best by a long shot.


  33. Will Rieske Says:

    I don’t know, man. You obviously put a huge amount or work into this image, but I feel like it was repetitive and played-out. You’ve done the “self-doubt, paradox of humanity” thing so many times, that this big spread really didn’t add anything to that theme.

  34. The Old Wolf Says:

    Superb as usual. I’m going to have to go back and read this one again a few times to get all the bits and pieces, but for me the point is that this internal dialogue is going on inside almost everyone, even if they’re not usually quite so articulate about it. Mostly surfaces in terms of feelings, and then the crazy things we do in order to come to terms with those feelings. It’s nice to see the full spectrum put into words. And yeah, it’s nice to have someone that you can tell anything without being judged.

  35. Can someone with Sam Harris’ “End of Faith” (why would the confessional guys not like that book? Does Harris seem dismissive? I hear people saying that about him, but it seems like commendable pragmatism to me) please quote the bottom of page 57? Doesn’t seem to have happened on the deserted subnormality subreddit.

    Also, this update is a conversation I’ve been having off and on for as long as I can remember — as a result, I’ve been seeking out my internal conflicts, and I’m running out of low-hanging fruit, I guess. I can’t find any other contradictions in myself that aren’t either

    a) trivial (eg. I like the music of wagner but the guy himself was technically an antisemite — who gives a crap, people are not quite the art they make, or rather the art they feel worth demonstrating to the world. Ask the poem, not the poet etc.)(I still want interior pants knowledge of WR but he never got back to me on that)

    or b) something I can on the fly redefine with enough granularity to excuse what might, expressed otherwise, be a hypocrisy (eg. I loathe ~Unholy, soulless, airwave-straddling corporate hell-pop~ *because* primarily it fails to be the art-form it imitates for the purpose of making money, but there are people who churn that shit out who also make music I love — starting at that position, I can say that black sabbath, sure, they’re commercial musicians whose latest output is largely an exercise in pension funding, but they birthed metal and dammit their place in artistic history is obdurate and assured. It’s a sliding scale. There *are* “musicians” who deserve the former condemnation entirely, and they are qualitatively different because — despite the fact there are millions of people effectively indistinguishable from me for whom these shallow, high-liquidity merchants of dross have created incredible meaning).

    Anyone got any tips?

    • hi, here’s the stuff from page 57:

      “If perfect coherence is to be had, each new belief must be checked against all others, and every combination thereof, for logical contradictions. But here we encounter a minor computational difficulty: the number of necessary comparisons grows exponentially as each new proposition is added to the list. How many beliefs could a perfect brain check for logical contradictions? The answer is surprising. Even if a computer were as large as the known universe, built of components no larger than protons, with switching speeds as fast as the speed of light, all laboring in parallel from the moment of the big bang up to the present, it would still be fighting to add a 300th belief to its list. What does this say about the possibility of our ever guaranteeing that our worldview is perfectly free from contradiction?” [the computer example is cited in the endnotes as being from Labyrinths of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles, and the Frailty of Knowledge by W. Poundstone]

      As for why Bernard wouldn’t like the book, it’s just to add to the theme of duality– in the same vein as the things you’ve mentioned.

    • heh. that actually answers all my questions at once. tx wr 🙂

      woo emergence

  36. Leo W. Says:

    What the hell, man? This comic isn’t as long as the last one! You’ve totally jumped the shark.

  37. Magnanimous Says:

    What a lovely comic. Thank you.

  38. Stephen Says:

    The coordinates are actually 43.7N, 79.4W; note the difference between the ‘9’ and the ‘4’ in the ‘79.4’. Supporting this is that it’s in Toronto, where Rowntree lives (and me too!). The specific location doesn’t seem to be anything particularly notable (and the 199 bus runs significantly north of it, so presumably that armoured division isn’t going to find them), it’s just a relatively round number that’s roughly at the centre of the city.

  39. BenjiCG Says:

    Thankyou for this comic
    It’s really put some things about my own mentality into context, especially with the whole ‘Am I the only weird one here?’
    ‘Why does everyone think I’m so normal?’
    ‘If all I do at work is wear a happy façade does that mean everyone I know at work thinks I’m actually happy?’
    The kind of feelings you get when you start a new job surrounded by people who have seemingly ‘normal’ lives.

    But yeah, thanks for being, as ever, an amazing person

  40. saudade Says:

    Longreet (ˈlȯŋ ɡriːt), to longreet, verb. The externalization of the impulse to greet someone that is greatly cherished while being too far away to do so, and by looking a bit retarded in the process, more-so by trying to explain it to strangers (even if that someone is a mythical creature whose sole existence should awe us all, inspire us all or, at least, force us all to ponder the immense spiritual implications that his/her/it lonely existence proves; and also not to be too afraid, while running for our lives, of the fact that her fathomless presence is also her biggest weakness: for it is so easy to gobble a benighted person, but it is oh-so-hard to have someone in your life willing to longreet you. (ex. Shirley Estar longreeted the person that she still was.)

  41. Lexible Says:

    Oi Rowntree!

    What is the scoop on the angel being slain by the sword labeled Schulz?! I totally don’t know what to make of it… insights welcome. Thanks as usual…

  42. Zach Says:

    I would throw money at a HQ Print of just Spinx. Seriously, this has me hankering for a poster of her. 😀

    (I’m aware of the prints via the website, but I couldn’t find what I wanted)

  43. Mystyr Nile Says:

    How old is Pinkie now, anyway? She was in college in 2008, right?…

    Also, was that Anneliese she was talking to?

    • Yeah, she was like 19 when the comic started, and i don’t want to 100% commit to saying the comic ages in real time but she’s 7-ish years older now anyway.

      And yeah, it was anneliese– i wanted it to be an actual character who was questioning her.

  44. jess ss Says:

    oh my god im coming back to subnormality after several months without internet and normally i’m, like, 100% a lurker and have never commented on any webcomic before, but i love this strip + this comic + your body of work so much that here i am. this comic gives me headaches and i love it so, so much

  45. Jiffy Says:

    The wait between each comic is no problem! I think that if you put out these comics more often, half of us would have our brains overheat from contemplating everything and the other half would go blind from unblinkingly staring at the screen, admiring your art!

  46. Flakes Says:

    This comic was so introspective it took me a week to get through it. Also I read it left column top to bottom, then right column top to bottom (was that your intent? it’s hard to tell with some of your comics), and I nearly shed a tear at the end.
    Wow. You must have gone on a journey and found yourself, or something. Whatever part of you that writes PHG’s questions and Sphinx’s answers is a genius, and you are extremely fortunate to have them occasionally interrupt the rest of your monkey brain with their wisdom 🙂

  47. Ricardo Says:

    I was obsessively reading left-to-right. Switching from the one column to the other whenever a natural pause was allowed.

    While it doesn’t change the message or the story, it did rather change the experience. Twas all worth it at the end though, as it made for a rather fitting conclusion.

  48. It’s the best feeling to check the site and see something new, like forgetting that a new book comes out today. Read it left column then right column as they seemed delineated. Thought the sepia tone implied memory rather than present, got that backwards; you’re great at playing with time like that. Thoroughly enjoyed it as always, thank you!

  49. Sulaiman Daud Says:

    Man, I’ve missed these characters. I love all the little references to previous strips and characters. And thanks for answering my question in your AmA, Winston!

  50. Holy shit, Winston. I think the key to the fact that you never disappoint is that you never promise anything but always deliver. I haven’t found one single one of your comics that is “meh”. And I think that’s because you don’t do one if you don’t have anything to say.

    What I mean is, thank you for doing this stuff. It gets me in the mood for singing, playing guitar, writing songs and thinking, and that’s not so easy.



  51. Thomas Says:

    Wow, it’s been a while since I visited Subnormality, obviously, because here I am, delighted by another beautiful, thoughtful and philosophical wall of text, and it’s been up for three freaking weeks already?!?

    Anyway, cheers Winston, for making my day once again. And I think I am going to check the site more often, because somewhere in the recent past (probably when I got a new phone), the phone browser no longer chokes on Subnormality, not even on the really big pages, like these last two. Yay!


    I need to make a request of you. Stop making me feel bad about myself. Every time I read one of your glorious comics here on VirusComix.com, I feel bad about myself. Why?

    Because, I feel like I’ll never be able to bring this sort of beauty to people. I’ll never be able to sound this profound. I’ll never be this thought provoking or amusing or moving as these comics are. You have to stop this right now. It’s becoming a real problem for me. Go get a job in retail somewhere and pretend like you don’t exist.

    …but, seriously, thank you. Every time I read one of your comics, it makes me want to work harder at realizing my dream of becoming a… whatever it is I want to be. Comedian/film-maker/artist of some sort.

    You’ve got this life by the ass, man. I only hope one day to live it like you do.

  53. Philippe Saner Says:

    I don’t feel particularly conflicted…

    Maybe I’m some kind of freak.

  54. Max Says:

    I’m afraid I got over my self-esteem issues a long time ago (not in an enviable way, so don’t worry PHG you’re not missing any big secret unless you think a deep dive into depression sounds fun), so this one isn’t as hard-hitting for me as it would have been 5-10 years ago.

    That said, with the mention of PHG, I have to say she’s just gorgeously drawn in this comic. I normally don’t pay a lot of attention to the artwork; it’s pretty, it conveys what’s going on, and that’s the extent that my soulless self can appreciate art. But a lot of the panels in this comic just kept pulling me back. I went back to the “high five” panel at least half of a dozen times because I just love her expression there.

  55. Yamara Says:

    οἴμοι, καταύδα: πολλὸν ἐχθίων ἔσει
    σιγῶσ᾽, ἐὰν μὴ πᾶσι κηρύξῃς τάδε.

    I only came across the new strip a couple days ago, too. Shortly afterward I accompanied a friend to a doctor visit, and the assistant had just had her hair done in pink. So that was nice.

    And it only took me an hour to read, and it was excellent as always, and more troubling than usual, but at least I felt I caught all the callbacks on the first read, and that I’d only have to check a character or two and see what threads I missed.

    And that’s where the extensive and tightening weave of clues and connections started to knot like a stomach denying acid reflux.

    How we still don’t really know whether Ethel knows who Pink’s other odd friend is. How we don’t really know if Pink was afraid of having a dark side or afraid of not wanting a dark side. Or how that has changed.

    How you need a very large or high resolution screen to read the title on the book next the mirror, and even with zooming you have to lean in close enough to catch your own reflection in the surface as you read it because of course you do.

    How the Chorus is made up of individuals after all. They just all agree on a Line not to be crossed.

    How the State is what we collectively let it be, because it’s the most efficient way to outsource blame and responsibility, until it’s too late to escape.

    How the other way to fail to bury the dead is to not let them die in the first place. How at first, it looks like it’s obviously the right thing to do.

    How Pink had liked the color of the purple scarf at the time. How the new scarf is the same pattern as the shirt she was wearing when Sphynx saved her life. And how a gift becomes a payment, and happiness, a noose.


    Well. Maybe happiness is just a harness…

    Another enthralling installment, Winston. Many thanks.

  56. Nonny Says:

    I wish I had something more useful to say than, this. This. This is me, pretty much spot on, my running monologue every time I look in the mirror or stop to reflect or chatter into the wind while I drive. Just this. A moment of intense, almost intimate connection with someone else, like the best of first meetings in the dark corners of social gatherings, though of course in this case it’s with PHG, and I can’t subsequently want to snog her and have to pretend for the rest of the interaction I’m not actually thinking that and being and an awkward shit. Which is a good thing, really, though this comment is getting completely out of hand, so perhaps the opportunity to be an awkward shit hasn’t been lost, hurrah. I kind of want to print this comic and put it on my wall, because one’s room is supposed to represent one’s psyche isn’t it, so why be subtle about that?

  57. Zebedee Says:

    I want to point out just how good the art looks in the right panel. The golden, summer-sun tint to everything is beautiful! I don’t have much of an eye for art, but it was one of the few times that I got thrown out of the dialogue in Subnormality just to admire the detail (hunting for easter eggs doesn’t count!). The facial expressions, the blades of grass twining PHG’s hair, the gorgeous shadowing on her sitting down, and the insane detail on Sphynx’s feathers when she’s profiled in the shade.

    There really was so much work put into making the scenes beautiful, I want to let you know it came out wonderfully!

  58. Stan Says:

    It took me about 6 months to look at the clouds and buildings sideways and figure out what they were!

    My favorite panel from any comic ever is from this strip. It’s the one where she asks “Do I feel unusually conflicted?”

  59. I have to say your work is the best. From the art, the dialogue, characters, stories, ideas, evaluations, humor.

    Sometimes I have to save up batches of your comics to read later when I have the time, and I am just getting to them. I am so appreciative I saved it. I really love your work.

    Thank you.

  60. Swede Says:

    I noticed there were people with rakes AND leaf-blowers, if that’s what those infernal machines ae called. Rakes are the more hygienic option.
    It is nice that the girl is courageous enough to be friends with a sphinx.
    Courage to you!

  61. Yes but is the rhinoceros book real, like, on my plane of reality?

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