Message 652

March 2, 2015


Next comic is GO, thanks for waiting… Happy, uh, new year..? Honestly it still feels like late January to me, i think the weather is throwing off my internal, uh, chronometerometer. Thanks for reading, anyway, and special thanks to the Patrons, without whom this would not have been possible.

Cheers and all the best, and i’ll see you next time– likely for a shorter comic you won’t have to wait as long for (on the way to another epic…),


92 Responses to “Message 652”

  1. Amitoj Says:

    Its 2AM here in India, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to sleep after reading this. The comic was disturbing and somehow comforting at the same time.

  2. Greymon Says:

    You made me cry.

  3. Ptrix Says:

    I noticed some Morse code scattered in the comic, and i’m certain there’s a message to be found in decoding it… Can anyone share some insights on that? Thanks for the great though-provoking comic ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Kate Says:

      “What if” (written in green, a little bit after Karen arrives)
      “One lef” (written in green when Iniz leaves–probably cut off from “one left”)
      “Green” (written in green)
      “Yellow” (in yellow)
      “Red” (in red)

      There may be another one or two that I missed because of the comic.

  4. Evelyn Says:

    Whew! If I had to sum it up in one word, I’m not sure…maybe ‘heartbreaking’? Or ‘heart-flaying’? Oh. That’s not one word.

    Aside: you don’t have to bust your ass every time just because you’re getting Patreon funding now, I hope you know. Because that was an insane amount of work.**Fantastic work,** I’m not complaining! Just don’t burn yourself out.

  5. Hag Says:

    Holy crap man.
    Ok, that was worth the wait.

    I don’t really know what to say more. Thank you.

  6. vcunat Says:

    Slight off-topic: that English carol about a Czech “king” always makes me wonder why… I understand that for Czechs he’s an important person, but for English-speaking people? (Side note: Wenceslas couldn’t in fact claim the “king” title, I think.)

  7. vcunat Says:

    To the topic: it reminds me of the Cat’s Cradle book theme. There I agree the greatest creators tend to be absorbed in the act of creation itself (flow) and care little for anything else, often even for the consequences of their creations. Sure, noone can see to all ends, but full indifference can be dangerous, as Vonnegut seems to stress.

  8. Sir Exal Says:

    From 1899-2003, 3,240,140 people died in automobile crashes in the United States alone.

    The question has always been, if you were the inventor of that first car, and you knew that over the next hundred-years plus, it would be wholly and singularly responsible for ending the lives of literally millions upon millions of people…would you still invent it?

    Ken there is a hero, I’d say.

  9. Bjb Says:

    Were the bits of Morse code dispersed throughout the comic a reference to the French Navy’s final Morse code sign off? “This is our last cry before our eternal silence” is particularly poignant in the context of this story.

  10. The Snark Says:

    I don’t know what to say. This captures the dream and mentality that all engineers, well, all good ones have, along with the fear, far better than I could have put it myself. And I’m two years into a degree in aerospace engineering and as far as I know, Winston has no education in the field. I’m very impressed.

    • Kate Says:

      Aye, but you know that sexy character, Justine? And how she loooves military aircraft and so on? That passion comes from Winston. He mightn’t have a degree in it, but he sure knows his stuff.

  11. gueibor Says:

    Man, you gotta stop doing this (don’t).
    My wife doesn’t speak English and I’ve tried to explain to her the scope and depth of what you do, but so far all I’ve achieved is for her to ask “It’s that Canadian dude again, isn’t it”, whenever she sees me reading comics and crying like an idiot.

  12. Joe Trudell Says:

    Great stuff as always. I constantly find myself wondering if this whole “civilization” thing is worth it. I guess it is, since I get to read stuff like this.

  13. Daniel Jonathan Says:

    This is a breathtaking accomplishment, both in the depth and finesse of sheer storytelling, and in the myriad graphic details that bring it all to such stunning life. Deserving of a Hugo/Nebula prize (can someone please nominate it !!!!)

  14. Daniel Jonathan Says:

    Oh, not to mention all the Easter egg references scattered throughout… the Skylon spaceplane, SpaceX’s Dragon, even the (English-language) edition of Charlie Hebdo, still in print 85 years after the haters….and probably many more that I missed. Just great.

  15. MPLC Says:

    For anyone wondering the morse code (those I could find/make out) spells “What if” “One lef” “green” “yellow” “red”

  16. Eddie Daniels Says:

    This seems as good a time as any.

    Winston Rowntree, your comic has helped keep me human. Reminded me that whatever way I’m feeling, no matter how obscure or unique it feels… others can feel that way. Have. Will.

    Thank you. If you ever get out the loudspeaker and ring like that image on the Patreon page suggests, I’m the guy shoving the banner and swiss bank account number at you going, “No, you, take this! TAKE IT ALL!”

  17. That was beautiful, Winston. Thank you. I like that, more and more, you use the freedom of this form to take your time telling stories and let moods and atmospheres and silences develop without being forced to fit everything in to an arbitary size/length limit. They’re cinematic, in the best possible way.

    BTW, I’m supporting you on Patreon, and I see the posts from there and read them, but I can’t post a comment myself, probably due to my old browser. I would if I could.

  18. Xander Says:

    I enjoy your comics the most out of any on the net. Most comics that update so infrequently produce morsels, while you take the time to cook up full meals. I admire your ability to deal out commentary without having it muddied by prejudice or inhibition, and I hope you continue that balance.

  19. anonagain Says:

    Hey Winston, thanks again for a great comic. The more I think about it, and the more I drift through the cultural/artistic landscape of the internet, and the more the artists and contributors across said landscape change and my tastes change, I think I can now say that you are my favorite comic artist out there. Certainly, other comics are great too, and others can give me the feels from time to time, but yours connect with me deeply on some level EVERY TIME. That level of commitment, the consistency of quality, the overarching empathy toward humanity or something?? — it’s quite inspiring. And that is why I thank you for continuing to do what you do.

    I started to get self-conscious about how sappy and ass-kissy that all sounded and was beginning to write out an apology, but FUCK THAT. I’m sick of being afraid to feel emotions and gratitude and shit and I’m gonna fuckin own the fact that I am 100% sincere in my adoration for the work of a Canadian stranger.

    • Well cheers, i hugely appreciate that, and i am similarly wanting to say i’m 100% sincere that it means everything to hear such things. You guys make it really easy to keep going year after year, and for that i am much more than grateful.

  20. Jason Says:

    Yay, a new Subnormality!! I knew if I kept checking occasionally, a new one would pop up.

    I don’t know what to think of this one. For a very shallow reason, I’m partial to it because I do research in speech synthesis ๐Ÿ™‚ The message that Ken wrote was very beautiful and thought-provoking, and it’s cool that his daughter got to hear it. The preceding scenes, though, I wonder if I’m missing something. At first I assumed an affair between Ken and Inez, but that doesn’t seem right. The conflict that I’m getting out of it seems artificial. If Inez was trying to keep Ken company so he wouldn’t have to write those terrible messages alone, then why couldn’t they have written them first? Did the software force them to write them in order? And would a company like that leave such an important message in the hands of an engineer? I suppose these are quibbles, though.

    Thanks again.

    • Oh, there’s a distinct level of plot contrivance for sure– i mean in real life i’m sure the voice things would just be programmed in as a list in five seconds or whatever. One just needs to bend the letter of the truth in order to get to the spirit of the truth, if that even makes sense. Artistic license! That’s the one…

  21. China Moore Says:

    Sapientia Sapienti Dono Data

  22. roberttheaddled Says:

    Welcome back.

  23. Big Mike Says:


  24. Yaddar Says:

    for some reason gives me the imprssion the redhead is crying at the end.

    if that was the intent, you’ve achieved a new level of communication.

    amazing work, as always.

  25. Kate Says:

    I love this. I love the message Ken gives. All creators who are fundamentally good people and care about the rest of humanity have this going on for them, I think, but you never hear it addressed, as Ken points out. “I’m trying to make something that’ll improve the world, but it will also have some negative effects, and I’m doing my best to eliminate those even though I know it’s not really possible.”

    And oh, I love the ending, where the message seems to be directed at humanity in general (or, at least, those who die in the pod), Ken’s daughter, or the readers (making the message from Winston instead of Ken). Beautiful.

  26. The Old Wolf Says:

    My goodness. This one was amazing on so many different levels, Winston. Above and beyond the central message of the joys and dangers of creating something new, it is clear that you are well aware of the universal axiom that “Pizza will get you through times of no answers better than answers will get you through times of no pizza.” Add to that the absolute accuracy of the programming environment; having spent years as a code monkey, I related to the bleak and often lonely creation process. For your own gratuitous enjoyment I refer you to “Ode to a Programmer, which you can find here: This strip touched me more than I can say. My thanks, as always.

    • I know– pizza and/or the promise of more pizza to come is certainly one of my big motivations… Glad if the comic rang true, anyway, and cheers for the comment, as always. Thanks for that link too– i for one definitely plan to work late as opposed to die…

  27. Peter Says:


  28. bfwebster Says:

    Yeah, just leave me a pool on the floor.

  29. This is just outstanding. One of my favourites now. Moved me to tears. I’m a theatre student and was considering the possibility of using some of your writing, especially from this comic, for a semi-devised piece? Obviously fully credited and only with permission of course. Because duuuuuddee…

  30. Greymon Says:

    The redhead looks rather similar to the ittl girl in the photo.

    • prezombie Says:

      That’s kind of the point. The photo and the conversation happened in 2100 when she was a girl, and the museum visit happens in 2130, and the guy with the redhead is the author of message 652, 30 years later.

    • Oh, the guy with her at the museum is her husband actually– her father, Ken, dies in 2130, as hinted at by the calendar. I fully admit that this comic is kind of needlessly subtle in such regards, so it’s none of y’all’s fault for missing things i intended to convey.

  31. Mikko Z J Says:

    I love the discovery of every new subnormality, and the unfolding of secrets and stories. In truth, one of the core parts of the subnormality is exploration of these paintings and the subplot and tangents hidden therein.

    You are not only insightful, witty and concise in your writing, cutting continuously to the heart of matter emotional and rational, you are also a master storyteller, with a penchant for pacing which absolutely infuses the work with life, excitement and purpose, with every reading providing more for the reader.

    You brighten up the internet, expand the medium of comics, and makes my life sparkle a little with each new creation.

    My sincerest and most heartfelt thanks, for all that you bring to this world Winston. I hope that you may continue to do so for a long time, and at last I am able to put my money where my mouth is, through patreon (I can’t believe it took me this long!).


  32. Rob R. Says:

    Well, among all the praise, I’ll be the one to risk saying it. Winston, longer is not always better. You could use an editor.

    • anonagain Says:

      Though I disagree initially, I can see the possibility that you might be right. Any places in particular you’d shave? I’m honestly just curious.

      Personally, I almost always subscribe to the “brevity is the soul of wit” philosophy (though I’m bad at it myself). So I certainly found the older Subnormalities to be like 2x or 3x too long. But after stewing in the atmospheres of Winston’s more recent comix, I always come away feeling much deeper emotions and connections than any others’. I get the feeling that this wouldn’t happen if the comix were shorter, and that there wouldn’t be as much room for nuance and subtlety.

      But more important than all that, all I can say is that it’s incredibly effective. So I’m personally loath to fix what ain’t broke. Still, there’s always room for critique, so that’s why I’m curious to know your thoughts a little deeper.

    • Kate Says:

      I can see what you’re saying, but when you think about it, some emotions need to be felt for a while to be properly understood or used as a platform for further stuff in art like this. You can say, “This sad thing happened,” and we’ll feel sad, but for most people it will be relatively superficial. If you say it and show it etc. for 5-10 minutes, the average person will feel it more deeply. Emotions aren’t instantaneous; they take a while to take hold sometimes. I think a longer comic accomplishes this pretty nicely. It’s one of the reasons they can be so impacting, I think, because even if you know where it’s going and there aren’t any surprises, you still experience it instead of being passively aware of it on a more disconnected level.

      I mean, this is for your average person, probably. Some people will work on a faster level than others, I suppose?

    • My perspective is i think that the relative lack of editing is one of the unique features of webcomics– seldom does one encounter art that hasn’t been passed through middlemen or teamwork of some persuasion. Don’t get me wrong, obviously much art can be and usually is much improved thanks to editors and feedback and collaboration and all the rest of it, i just think that for better or worse the chance to see someone’s completely unchanged vision is interesting and/or valuable in and of itself. So i give myself a break with regards to not aiming for brevity or whathaveyou, is what i mean. Don’t think i don’t edit anything, because i most surely do– i just have no qualms about superfluous dialogue for instance, particularly as it’s important to me to always tell character-based stories above all else.

      However, i too would be curious to hear what anyone would cut from this comic– what you feel would be unnecessary even within the context of character building. I’ll never be in a position where i can’t learn something.

  33. Daniel J. Says:

    … WOW. This resonated to me because I have family who are test engineers and Architects. This is their worry and obsession beautifully stated

  34. Alice Says:

    Wow. Just wow. Amazing as always.

  35. ThatOneGuy Says:

    So I notice they are all clones. This does not seem like the healthiest choice. Also how did a tech guy like him get chosen as the cloning stock?

  36. Anonymous Poster Says:

    I don’t have the words to express how your comics make me feel, so I just want to ask you something.

    Did you come up with the “new” way for writing certain numbers (4, 10, 14, 20, 22, 30) in the 2130 calendars ? Regardless of the answer, that detail caught my eye and I just want to make a point of congratulating you for putting it in there. Little things like that make your comics all that much better.

    • Yeah, i was just trying to stick to the theme of things evolving– thanks for noticing the little details, that’s the kind of feedback i always especially look forward to…

  37. Jenny Says:

    Comix with too many words?

    Or a comic where the words are so much greater than the picutres?

    Thanks again Winston

    (though the pictures are good)

  38. Jonathan Yao Says:

    Did anyone else notice that midway thought August, all the plans were canceled for the remainder of the month. It was only on September 24, that Alice resumes her trips back with her parents, but only with her mom and not her mom and dad.

    I am guessing her dad died between the 17 and 20 of August. Also it was interesting that the last meeting was labeled specifically with a location, and that they were going to have a least a 4 day trip there later in the month.

  39. Craig Says:

    The measure of a civilization is not how it treats its greatest elite, but its weakest members. Any civilization that could generate a message like that is one that ranks amongst the best that we humans have managed. And for you, Mr. Rowntree, for having the incredible insight to create it, you are a treasure recognized by far too few.

  40. localvagrant Says:

    Was Alice Ken’s daughter? And was that Alice’s calendar?

    If so, that message turned in on itself in a very interesting, morbid way.

  41. Njam Says:

    I’ll try and skip the corniness this time about how much I love Comix, other people in the comments already expressed that way better than I ever could. I can’t words very good, words is hard.

    I will say though that, with the characters and worlds you build for each story, with your attention to little details like the numbers and writings in this episode, i would pay top dollar for an RPG made by you. Especially if it was a sci-fi type story like this, but an Ethel Simulator or The Sphynx’s Quest to Figure Out Humans would be awesome too.

    Unfortunately, I don’t even have bottom dollar right now. Looking for a job. Hoping to be able to add to your Patreon soon ๐Ÿ™‚ I can only offer my sincere thanks for this and every other episode. Comix is my stasis pod.

    • I actually tried making an RPG once, back in the day, using RPG Maker for the original Playstation. It was fun, but beyond cumbersome to make, so i eventually gave up after calculating it would take about 10 years to finish the game i was making. The story i thought up for the game survived though (in much expanded form), in comic #197. #behindthescenes

      I’d love to write something for a video game, to be honest, though i have no idea where that opportunity would come from. Probably for the best– I have too much to do already anyway…

  42. OMN Says:

    The naturalness of the characters and the attention to background detail were incredibly impressive in this comic, possibly even by your already towering standards. I was wondering a little at where the story was going while reading the first half of the comic, but then the second half hit my emotions like a brick (attached to the first of a thousand carefully choreographed wrecking balls) precisely because of how immersed I’d become.

    *standing ovation*

  43. Well, now I’m crying.

  44. Aiarashi Says:

    This really reminded me of Valerie’s letter from V for Vendetta. Granted the context is much different, but it’s always something I find so touching, how a person or character can express such kindness to someone they never met or will meet.
    It’s a bit how someone would write their feelings for a person, but never say them to their face, because they’re afraid of being shamed or ridiculed, even though they’re completely sincere.
    Except this is in a more unconditional way.
    I find it inspiring.
    Thanks, Mr. Rowntree. ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. Owlmirror Says:

    Weird detail that bothers me makes makes me wonder if it’s actually a little piece of tech being subtly demonstrated. . .

    In panels 1,3,4, and pretty much the rest of the comic, the little girl (Lynna, I guess) has a green hat. But in panel 5, it’s yellow in a few places. Weird. Is it a mistake? It’s such an oddly specific mistake, given how carefully and skillfully the coloring is done.

    I noticed that the hat appears to pretty much match Mom’s (Alice’s) purse in color . . . and they are yellow when Lynna is a not near Mom, and green when they are together.

    And I suddenly realized that the hat and purse together could be a simple kid-tracking system with color-changing material and a proximity tracking protocol. Green means the kid is close; yellow means “somewhat distant”; red doesn’t show up, but might mean “too far” (maybe the material flashes?). And Mom could presumably use the purse to find the kid (or rather, the hat) pretty easily. It feels like something a parent would go for.

    Did I guess right?

    • Yup, nailed it– it is indeed a safety thing for keeping track of your kid in crowded places, there was just no way to explain that in the comic so it’s just kind of there. That’s awesome that you were able to figure it out though!

  46. prezombie Says:

    What an amazing story. I sincerely hope that this strip someday gets adapted for film, because damn, I’ve never cried at an error message before.

    I’m adding my own compliments to the typographical evolution, I love the 10 and 11. The only really weird choice was the double p in the “shipping Q1” poster. Instead of looking like a B with a little extra, overlapping the curves of the Ps to look like a crescent moon attached to a flagpole would’ve been more typographically clear.

    I was thinking about the core trope of this story, a message hidden somewhere no one was meant to see it, like the Bugger All This bible in Good Omens, when I found out that Terry Pratchett just died. What a painful convergence of events.

    The story feels incomplete though. Ending just before Ken discovered that his tearful apology to all the victims of fate was discovered, preserved, and put on display makes me want so much to know how he reacted. What would he say to his daughter and granddaughter about the message? Would he let the message go past, remaining anonymous because it said things he couldn’t bare to repeat, or would he admit he wrote it those thirty years ago?

  47. Bryan Langley Says:

    So, last time I posted on your activity, on Patreon that time, I happened to be in an alcohol induced euphoric state. Alcohol tends to crumble my carefully constructed emotional walls. Not that I have any regrets, crumbling mental barriers every once in a while is good for the soul, and I did only say nice things, if in a rather incoherent and babbling fashion.

    But, to balance my positive yet ridiculous ramblings, I have an actual intelligent question for you. As an artist, or anyone really, reaches notoriety and becomes popular they sometimes lose sight of their humble beginnings, it seems to be an almost natural response to power and influence. Like any human behavior though, there seems to be a spectrum, some managing to consciously or subconsciously keep themselves grounded and humble(Taylor Swift comes to mind with her constant personal outreach and genuine positive attitude towards her fans), while others fall down a hole of self delusion and entitlement(Kanye West). As you continue to gain popularity is this something you worry about? Your work has always struck me as being incredibly self-aware, and I’m genuinely curious about your insight on this point of human nature.

    • Hey, good question– one’s work being affected by one’s stature is definitely something i worry about. The benefit of being a comics artist, though, is that i’ll never have the kind of fame/stature/whatever that’s likely to effect me in a significant way. That’s what i love about comix– you CAN’T get famous (Internet Famous isn’t really a thing– if you have to put a word in front of Famous then you can pretty much replace that word with “not.” This is a good thing though, don’t get me wrong). You could be the most famous goddamn guy in comics and you could stand at the busiest intersection in town all day and like two people might recognize you, and to me that’s one of the greatest things about this medium.

      The greater mass appeal of music, film etc. really lifts the stars of those mediums, but the more you’re lifted the farther you get from the common experience and thus the less you can relate to everyone else, and that’s certainly one of my big fears– to have nothing to say about the lives of the majority of people. But in the medium i work in, making the amount of money that make, i am pretty unlikely to forget what it’s like to be a human being. It’s easy to be humble when you’re as non-great as me, in other words.

      There’s of course always SOME difference in having no audience and having AN audience, and i remember being particularly freaked out and totally thrown off the first (and maybe only) time i met people in real life who were fans of my work. YOU MEAN THIS IS REAL?! You just have to make sure that the reasons you’re doing art are so fundamental that what you make is less likely to be affected by knowing people are actually watching you. You can be like Bono and get completely complacent about your work once you’re financially successful, or you can be like Jack White who somehow manages to make every album sound like a first album because it all comes from a place of fundamentally caring about making good art. That’s what i aspire to, anyway. Good comics existing is my priority– comics that hopefully say something about what it’s like to be a human being in some way– and so far the tremendous support of all you guys has only made me more motivated to do the best work that i can. So thanks, by the way.

      PS: This isn’t to rag on artists that are changed by fame– i mean it’s completely understandable. I like to judge artists for that as much as anyone, but it’s not really that fair to do so, and i’m trying to maintain an attitude of being more mature about it and not making people the victims of their own success. And you NEED some level of ego to make it as an artist, because you need to feel that what you have to say is particularly worth saying, and is worth mucking through some lean years– if you don’t have the ego to think it’s a shame if you don’t get to have your say then you never will, so i can’t judge people for getting a big head as much as i’d like to. Except, er, Bono, because fuck that guy and his tax-dodging bullshit…

  48. AkaP* Says:

    Goosebumps, shivers running down my spine, eyes welling up, mind rattling with ideas throughout the whole read.
    I got a feeling I will never forget this.
    Thanks Winston.

  49. Babar Bobo Says:

    I love your vision of the future – optimistic, without being utopian. No magical aliens having to enlighten us poor earthlings, but letting us muddle through ourselves -trial, error, dust ourselves off, trial again. I hesitate to call something so beautifully drawn and detailed ‘understated’, but there it is. Astounding.

  50. mellownade Says:

    As a programmer, this comic was particularly touching. Most software is just the glue holding a company together, but projects that actually affect people are a real motivator to put in everything we’ve got. I became a patron after this one.

    Also, 40% of the way down, should be “self-deprecating.”

  51. Ben Says:

    Glad I saw there was a Patreon announcement previously or I would not have known. Very happy to be able to support your fantastic work.

  52. Tore Nielsen Says:

    I finally got through this one. Very moving.

  53. Garo Says:

    I’m an engineer currently working for a big company; and the depiction of Ken’s work is stunningly accurate!

    I’ve been *personally responsible* for a product recall of a specific version; and I can attest that several layers of emotions come with it.

    As far as the technical accuracy for developing a list of error messages… It is done EXACTLY this way at my company! There is an enum of error message IDs almost exactly like the shorthand definitions:

    i.e. [VICINITYALARM] 60 min w / 30 min w
    in my company would be defined in C++ code as:

    enum Error_Codes {
    VA_60MINW = 0,
    VA_20MINW = 1

    And then separately each error message is defined for each error code. It was very cool going through and recognizing that!

    Ken misses a closing bracket ] in the [NUMCODE string resulting in an evaluation error made me laugh as well! It prints the variable’s name NUMCODE instead of getting its value; very technically clever!

    Also I thought Ken’s partner was a girl until the panel he departs in, as Ken sees him off with “Man.” So that made me laugh!

    I am missing some context though; which comic was it that had a ship crash and cause all the pods to fly out? Before reading all the comments, I was under the impression that the museum visitors were a separate family where the dad went to Mars in one of the pods and died, as that one pod with the red light indicated. I had thought that the family visiting the museum had lost this “dad” of one of them and were discovering this as consolation… Where did the ship come from?

    Loved the comic!

    • Nathan (Wilson) Says:

      I’m pretty sure Ken’s partner was a girl. I’ve seen “Man” as a pronoun applied to just about anyone, much like “Dude” or “Guys”, I could be wrong though.

      The panels depicting the ship, the car crash, the plane crash, etc. .. after rereading the comic a couple times, I guessed they were just meant to show different places where his message were played, as some pods failed, were crushed(like in the car accident) or ran out of battery, etc
      As shown in the picture, and by Ken’s conversation, the redheaded mother seen at the beginning, is Ken’s child, 30 years after that night where he wrote that message. We aren’t told how he died. Her Calendar that gives us a timeline of when he died(mid 2130, so it would have been earlier that same year that she went to see the museum with her family), doesn’t say how he died.

      The great thing about this comic though, is that those words have a different meaning, either when applied to us reading it now, the people who died as a result of the pods being made, or his daughter who heard it several months after his death, but 30 years after he recorded it, as if he were speaking to her after the grave.

  54. Pat Says:

    I’ve been reading this comic for years now, but this is the first one I felt that I needed to leave a comment. This hit pretty close to home. I’m working on developing a new technology for use in disaster and mass casualty incidents and my worst nightmare is that someone does pick it up for wide use and for a glitch to end up killing someone. I know that part of the job description is the fact that there will be a loss of life, and I feel like my work will help reduce that, but I always wonder that if something were to happen, and someone, who would have otherwise lived, died, I don’t know what I would feel. Part of me wonders if it is worth it. I hope it is.

    I’m still in school right now, but I’m volunteering on an ambulance during my spare time. I understand that sometimes, no matter what happens, people go. I know this. I’ve seen this. Still, you always look back and think what else could have been done.

    Bravo, though. Bravo. Fantastic ending and an absolutely gorgeous comic.

  55. spriteless Says:

    I really like these slice-of-life in a fantastic setting comics. Thank you.

  56. bibliophilica Says:

    I think this is the first Subnormality I’ve really teared up at – I’ve had a few close calls, but this one….. Good job, man. It’s so long but the payoff is so huge; it’s perfect.

  57. Phil Carter Says:

    Dammit, Winston, you made me cry again.

    This reminded me of two things, very strongly:

    1. The bit in the prog-rock group Ayreon’s “Universal Migrator” dual-disc album, where the life-support unit is failing and the computer voices are urging the user to return to consciousness in increasingly cracked and stuttering voices….and then a long silence. It chilled me then and it chills me now to read similar sentiments in this lifepod. But I’m comforted by the final message he recorded. I like to think that some part of the user would hear it, and be comforted in their final journey into the dark.

    2. The letter from Valerie in “V for Vendetta”, where she ends with “But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you. With all my heart, I love you.” There’s a lot of that sentiment in his message as well.

    Thank you as always for a wonderful read.


  58. cerdoenbrama Says:

    Right on the feels man, you actually made my eyes all watery.

  59. Mike Sol Says:

    So very well done. Tremendously emotional in all the best ways – from the sadness in death to the triumph in engineering despite that ever-present feeling of futility.

    Scrolling down near the end… the red light on that one pod comes into view. Absolutely brilliant use of the format.

    Thanks, Winston, I’ve signed up to be a patron. Keep ’em coming.

  60. Alex Says:

    I have never been so moved by such a format. The way you wove each element of your story-telling together was truly beautiful. Thank you for this.

  61. dan Says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  62. kylet51 Says:

    I don’t cry that often. Well, I mean I do more now than I used to (growing up I guess?), but still, kind of a rare occurrence.

    “Fix You” by Coldplay, the end of Brokeback Mountain, the first time I watched the the last 40 min or so of Harry Potter, and now this. I’ve never cried reading a comic before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

    This is remarkable and beautiful and wonderful and so very smart and it just touches something inside me and it makes me break down every time I read it. In a good way; or in at least a way that’s getting better every time.

    Thank you. Just….thank you.

  63. Tomas Says:

    Stasis pods are taken for granted in sci-fi. They’re just sort of there, and never explained or looked at too closely. I love the idea of someone standing at The Dawn of Pods and freaking out at what he knows is coming. I especially like how decades of fictional pods are part of the culture that made the real ones. “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” — “Dave’s not here, man.” That must be an inside joke at the lab, repeated on a daily basis.

    Speaking of fictional pods, was that instant coffee tablet a nod to the movie, Pandorium? If not, go watch Pandorium, right now.

    I loved all the yellow notes, especially the empty room one.

  64. Max Says:

    As an engineer who has always developed for the sheer joy of it: thanks a lot for the new slew of nightmares I’ll have for the rest of my life. ๐Ÿ˜›

    Wonderful comic as always, and I hate myself for taking so long to read your work. I just need to be in a certain mood for Subnormality, and I hope you understand.

  65. I’m reading this at a time in my life when I know I have to move forward. I just met this girl who’s wonderful, but I’m moving one town over and neither of us drive and, although we can both easily take the bus to see one another, I still have to move forward with my life finally, if I want to get the things I want. if I want to get the things I NEED.

    Every time I come back to Subnormality in order to read whatever comics I have missed over the last few months of not checking, I am overwhelmed with a various, indiscriminate amount of emotions. These quickly subside though, after I am done catching up… but I find it hard to move on from this particular comic considering I’ve already been feeling these various, indiscriminate amount of emotions because of this girl.

    This comic is… amazing. Superb. Terrifying.

    “Message 652” and the impact it would have on the future. It’s discovery. That exhibit. The people who heard it. Not to mention the stasis pod technology and it far it would go after the initial product was launched.

    I hope I can become the person I want to be. I hope I can affect the future as much as that dude scientist did (I SCOURED the comic, but I couldn’t find his name :(… ) I hope. I hope. I hope that everything goes the way I want it to…

    I’m just about to go meet up with that girl again. I hope the path I’m currently treading down continues onward forever for me.

    “You can have guarantees or you can have civilization.”

    • Thanks, and best of luck with your own path! And to answer your question, the main guy’s name is Ken– i think it’s mentioned at some point, though i forget where.

  66. Xidas Says:

    This is why I read this comic.
    This is why enduring all the superfluous words and immense panels and chit-chat is worth itโ€”that moment at the end when all you can say is “Holy sh**.” Well done.

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