July 24, 2015


Hi, comix return! I’ve included links to the previous comics in this sort-of-series just for anyone who’s unfamiliar with past premises (it HAS been a while, after all). Thanks so much for reading, and i fully intend to return in a far more timely manner– the spring was kind of a writeoff for various reasons, but ironically the summer has been better (usually i hate the summer).

Hope y’all are well,


144 Responses to “muZeuM”

  1. Maarten Says:

    It’s never easy being yourself if you’re constantly wondering about what would have, could have or should have been done. And yet it’s alright in some sense. I guess all I’m trying to say is: thanks Winston. I have been reading your comics for years now and it’s always worth the wait. Your work leaves me speechless and confused, and I love it. Keep up the good work, man. Keep up the good work.

  2. Biff Jugger Says:

    Assuming it was unintentinal, the OCD in me noticed a missing letter: “I’m ot some fucking unicorn….”

    Long time fan, I’ve read the whole archive and am much enriched for it. Thanks to you.

  3. Phil Roberts Says:

    Another brilliant comic, you continue to have some of the best realised characters in the medium. A really valid message as well, sometimes we’re all just one less helping hand away from going really wrong in life and many people just can’t fit into the big picture as easily as others. There but for the grace of go I as the saying goes….

  4. tutehn Says:

    Saw Tatiana Maslany on Carlaw yesterday, and today I get a comic with Orphan Black and Carlaw references!

    Long time reader and you never fail to blow me away with your writing (and drawing) but this was just such an amazingly brilliant comic that hit home for me that I just had to say thanks for doing what you do, you are fucking amazing.

  5. startupgroupie Says:

    “…And I know that when someone is so badly off, it’s because what would need to happen to you to make you that way is what happened to them…” payload of the comic right here, and I’m stunned and ashamed to say I’ve never thought about it that way. Winston, thank you.

  6. lunarobverse Says:

    “You probably don’t raise your voice in a loud room because it’s the room that should lower its volume.” This was the turning point of the story for me.

    Every new comic just wrecks me in some new way, but this one feels like you’ve been reading my mind.

    Thank you for your comix with so many perfect words.

  7. Really powerful; I’ve read all of Subnormality and a fair amount of your other work as well, and it seems like it’s pretty much the epitome of comix as art, especially the longer pages. They’re really thought-provoking and deep, the dialogue is spot-on, and the visuals really take advantage of the medium’s way of telling a story. Thank you so much for doing all this and posting it where anyone can see it!

    Also: VOLYA! I’m just a Loner myself, but you Freedomers are pretty chill.

  8. MaRo Says:

    This comic moved something deep down in me and i am always astonished anew how you are able to perfectly convey moods and emotions. You are unique in the way of storytelling, even if your comics sometimes have to many words… Keep it up. I honestly would be missing something in my life without your stuff…

  9. Lex Says:

    These are always my favourite strips, but this one broke my heart ;_;

  10. Olivia Says:

    Fantastic comic as always, great theme. Just wanna say I love the Hydra! It looks totally badass! Easily my favourite mythical creature ๐Ÿ˜€ Apart from the Sphinx maybe…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. dogma Says:

    Thank you, Mr Rowntree. So good…

    My upbringing left me not very good at making social connections, having a social safety net, etc., and I have a definite fear of falling to the bottom of the world like this.

  12. Mr ster Says:

    One of your finest work, congratulations. It touch my heart, did you write it. I wish i could watch it in a theater play.

  13. Jack Says:

    You say things so well. In many cases (such as this), the dialogue could easily stand alone, as it’s written very close to the heart. Thanks for doing these.

  14. Dr. Derome Says:

    That was amazing.
    You’re doing good work – saying all those things I never hear from anyone else.
    Thanks for making me feel like I’m not crazy.

  15. Mike Harris Says:

    I say this honestly, truthfully, and with no intended sense of hyperbole … you are the Shakespeare of our time.

  16. Hairybad Says:

    The only thing more lovely and wonderful than your comics, is coming here to the comments and finding everything and anything I’ve ever wanted to say about them already said here. And in many different ways as well.

  17. Sigurther Says:

    You hit too close to the truth sometimes, man, and you cut straight to the core. Maybe they can leave together.

  18. Ziusudra Says:

    ะฒะพะปั’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

  19. Rob Says:

    I guess I’m the Intrusive Thoughts Source here, because I couldn’t help noticing that “successful” Zoe’s angry rant was actually quite on-target. Not necessarily complete, but accurate as far as it went. Being part of a society *does* involve effort and a kind of courage, whether the always-mentioned “helping hand” happens to be available or not.

  20. Over the years you have produced at least a dozen comics that make me cry like a lost child. Thank you

  21. RAIV Says:

    Man, that was awesome. And it’s good to have you back. ๐Ÿ˜€

  22. shaquanrulez Says:

    Thanks Winston! Great work as usual!

    (Random OCD Part II):
    Is there a hidden, symbolic encryption for the ‘VirusComix” logo? I couldn’t help but notice that the two M’s were bold and prominent…..reference to the two versions of her life?

    I may be reaching here, but like the aforementioned comment, I, too, am often left emotionally charged, inspired, and left with a sense of mystery with your work!

    Keeep rockin, Workin’ Man!!

  23. Alex Says:

    Thank you for a wonderful comic. This was tough to read but really worth the effort. I will never tire of these comics with so many words ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. By-Tor Says:

    Just awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Big Mike Says:

    You use all the words and leave me only one. Thanks.

  26. Cam Says:

    Hey Winston, thanks for another great, meaningful comic. I feel like I want to say more than that, but…. ? Can’t think of words. Just thanks, it’s great work you do.

  27. Golux Says:

    I’m titling this one “Things I wished I’d known in Middle School”. Thank you for discussing the hard things of life. I’m doing ok, life’s ok, the “Intrusive Thoughts” OCD has always been really annoying. My crutch was a set of mental handcuffs forged and worn for about 25 years as an inhibition because I couldn’t hear the silent “Don’t”. Such is the fear of being Evil when you never had evil intent.

  28. Rod Ayers Says:

    I cried after reading this.

  29. okay then Says:

    well alright, I wasn’t planning on crying today but

  30. The Old Wolf Says:

    Criminy, Winston, this is… well, I have a daughter and she’s just like… and it’s hard because she’s flesh of my flesh and we gave her literally everything and there she is in a shelter for people with substance abuse or mental issues and she has this beautiful little son, and so much potential and a mad gift for art and I just don’t understand the choices that brought her to where she is and I want to understand and I don’t, and she thinks nobody in her family really cares or gives her any support, and then I’m always asking myself, “was it really something I did that made her go that other way instead of this way, and I want to help her but everything I or anyone in the family does to lift her out of her squalor gets thrown away because it seems like this is where she really wants to be, and jayzus bejayzus what if she’s really sick and can’t help it at all but that’s not who she was as a little girl and I’m always imagining what things would be like had she turned right at Albuquerque… and those mad season five references – Darmok and the Inner Lignt are two of my favorite episodes and I watch them over and over again… This strip was like “We fought the men of Carn Dรปm and we were worsted, Ah! The spear in my heart!” I won’t be quite the same person today since I read this, so thanks. I guess.

  31. Dear Winston, as others have expressed already here, some of your work, indeed the best of it, brings me to tears with regularity. You write with such a talent to offer such moving stories and fill them with a sense of real intimacy that I consider yours the best webcomic I read and I’ve ever read. You are a real humanist and, to me at least, your work is worth more than that of many so called philosophers who haven’t even come close to an idea of the human nature.

    Please continue to bring us these stories.

  32. Woot100 Says:

    this is such good shit honestly. good shit. good shit. a+++ gold fuckin star for effort im not even kidding i never comment on your comix even tho i love them but this is so. this is so great honestly i literally fucking /never/ see people mentioning mental illness/disability in a positive light in any form of fiction and then i click on subnormality one day because Hey, Haven’t Been There In A While and suddenly ocd!zoe muggs happens!! like!!! out of nowhere!!! bang!!! and that’s just. so weirdly comforting i dont know how to describe it. i mean, its not like all ableism is cured now and we all have equal representation and its all fine. especially since you used Ps*cho and Cr*zy like they were Cool and Quirky as opposed to slurs that have been used to keep people like me [hey, psychosis and ptsd and autism, nice to meet you] and hell, people like zoe locked up in padded rooms like animals all their lives. that shits not cool. im not impressed with the usage of slurs. [tho i mean, at least in the case of ‘crazy’, zoe&zoe certainly get to reclaim it]

    but like, that like???? that doesnt mean i like hate you forever or something literally everyone i look up to has done that to me at least once i just. this is????? this is a good comic. this is a good comic. i find it really telling how everyone in the comments is just blatantly ignoring zoe’s and zoe’s intrusive thoughts bc Haha, They’re Not REALLY Crazy. because pleasant nice people cant be ‘crazy’ apparently. even though this comic does an excellent job of showing that thats absolute bullshit and mental illness doesnt wait for you to be unlikable and un-sympathize-able so you can Fit The Stereotype [tm]. mentally disabled people are everywhere. and yes!!! mentally disabled people are homeless!!! WOAH SHOCKER [this is sarcasm, being mentally disabled and homeless is in fact not shocking] that doesnt make them like. bad. bad people are the people who hear “HATE X GROUP, KILL Y PEOPLE, DESTROY Z NICE THING” outside of their head and go “hey, good idea”. good people are, among others, the people who hear “[dont] HATE X GROUP, [dont] KILL Y PEOPLE, [dont] DESTROY Z NICE THING” inside of their head and maybe they end up freaking out because “whats wrong with me, why am i thinking these things, all of society is telling me im a horrible monster clearly i should die!!! aaa holy shit!!!” because its ///so fucking hard to hear the ‘dont’ sometimes/// and then you’re constantly arguing with your own brain and its hell. and maybe they’re like “haha, oh brain, you’re so silly!” and move on with their day with that constant sneaking paranoia in the back of their mind because mental disability doesnt go away when you start knowing its mental disability. And That’s Okay [tm]

    anyways ive been rambling for a while but uh

    from a certified ‘psycho’ [pls note: haha my psychosis isnt even whats causing my intrusive thoughts GET OUTTA TOWN, NEUROTYPICALS]: thanks

    [ps: god bless that orphan black reference]

  33. Zerhauen Says:

    Holy shit why do you have to write things that make me cry!
    This was amazing man, you are one of the best people, artist, writers, creators out there. I love your work, and I can’t overstate how good they are to read and how much they mean to all of us out here. Hope you never stop.

  34. endolex Says:

    Reblogged this on endolex.

  35. ray Says:

    I alway await your updates with equal part dread and eager anticipation. Exactly because of comix like this. The part about intrusive thoughts made me almost stop reading because it dragged up all sorts of bad memories. I kind of wish the internet and this comic existed back in my teenage years when it would have made a bigger difference. It terrible thinking your horribly broken inside and if you tell anyone your ending up in the nut house/prision/homeless. This is the closest i have been to crying in a long time.

    Even though the previous sentences might not give the impression, I love the comic. Please keep making them. I cant wait for it to be a print so i can keep a copy on the wall.

  36. Mad Cormorant Says:

    … the utter humanity of your characters crushes me.

  37. Stefan Says:

    I read your comics for a kind of clarity that I miss in my thoughts. Sometimes I don’t get all of it (slow thinker) but then the incredibly detailed faces or environments – wow. I love how you use shadows and lighting. You are making up these conversations and reactions of characters! – wow. And the way you can empathize with these just fictional characters… That’s amazing work that you’re sharing. Thank you

  38. jk Says:

    Beautiful. This honestly made me tear up.

    Thank you.

  39. I love webcomics. I’ve been following dozens of artists for almost a decade now, and I can say this with absolute certainty:

    what you make is ART.

    these walls of text, these haunted faces… you have repeatedly touched me in places where no other artist (including authors, filmmakers, musicians etc.) have ever touched. you have reminded me to examine my thoughts. you have made me feel less alone. you have made me wonder about things that would have never even occurred to me otherwise. you have cast new light on lessons i learned in my past.

    I cherish every update, and often read them multiple times. I often show these comics to friends and loved ones in an attempt to share ideas that I am incapable of expressing myself.

    I love your work, and I wish you much success.
    -An Avid Fan

  40. Grimm Says:

    Nice little shoutout to Loco Locass! Thanks for that Winston, you made me see those lyrics in a new way.

  41. Catapult Says:

    Not sure teetering on the edge for years, windmilling your arms and thinking “I’m going to fall!” while looking twenty floors straight down to a filthy broken patched pavement is worse than actually falling.

    But I do not want to find out, either.

  42. DavidB Says:

    Hi Winston. I want to throw in my two cents to say that I was again destroyed by the clarity you exhibit in your work. Truly most inspired and beautifully rendered. I love Subnormality. Every time.

  43. mrbreaksit Says:

    You beautiful bastard you actually made me cry.

    Thank you so fucking much for making this one.

  44. Paul Says:

    Winston, you nailed it. The Human condition. AGAIN. You are a genius man. An A grade genius.

  45. ….gosh. You know I just.

    I took this summer off to try and get my mental health shit in gear. I mean. Im going to school and its so slow, but every semester I do good but sometime two thirds in I just. I hate myself, and I hate everything, and it goes so ugly and I scrape by but. I hate scraping by so bad. And I finally… finally realized I needed to take time. Time to line up the docs. Time to try new meds. Time to get my hormone transition rolling.
    Because just getting by just barely is so hard, and I was so scared of finaly losing it. aand- you know it’s really funny, i go to school on trains, and they really, really are the *worst*. But. But.
    ….I really love and appreciate this. I got on meds that work, you know? I have my first t-patch month going. Im hoping to graduate in a year or two. I have a therapist. Slow, but… steady.
    Anyways. Thank you for all the things you make.

  46. Njam Says:

    As always, worth the wait. If these were a year apart it would be worth the wait.

    “Because I have the internet, dumbass!”
    ^ Oh god fucking this. I’ve noticed how fucking blessed I am to have internet access. Being that I’m too much of a dumb stubborn asshole to ask anyone for help or confide in anyone, I’m sure I’d be a very different person if I didn’t have all this basically free information, or just the little things that I stumble upon that make me feel less alone. Including of course yer comix, though I often need tissues along with internet for reading them ๐Ÿ™‚

    Speaking of tearing up, I’ve gotten into TNG too, recently. It’s goddamn amazing, nothing at all what I expected. I came because of this
    I stayed because of “Who Watches the Watchers” and “First Contact”. Just started on season 5 yesterday.

    • Oh man, “First Contact” is one of my absolute favorite episodes… I absolutely love how it’s from the perspective of the people on the planet with the Enterprise crew as the aliens, and then the woman getting to come aboard the ship and see her planet from space and then travel with them at the end is so great…. And i really love the even-handedness of the episode, how the glasses guy isn’t made out to be a villain at the end and the chancellor’s whole speech. That “it will pass” part definitely stayed with me, it all just really rang true.

  47. Distortion Says:

    Been reading your comments a long time and I just want to comment something. In the panel near the beginning when the successful Zoe is talking to her friend about going to the MotT, you can tell that’s the fantasy world because of the “AltaVista Roadview” car. But this is also the land where PHG’s hair is still pink, the Admirals are a huge hit, and perhaps most poignantly, Ethel is an established author (check the newspaper stand). This made me insanely happy and sad at the same time because it shows a world like this exists and yet it is not ours.

    Just wanted you to know that those painstaking details you put in weren’t missed!

    • Distortion Says:

      Ugh, what I get for not proofreading. Your *comics, not comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Just wanna say thanks– it’s the noticing of details that is always particularly rewarding feedback to me, so i loved reading this and will join you in being insanely happy…

    • I saw that! The blonde Ethel- she’s exactly as tall as she looks. Which is funny to me because Blonde Ethel got arrested in highschool… shes sucsessful but theres a trade off? Well its neat to see bits of how it all puts together

  48. William Osterkamp Says:

    Hi. Wonderful work as always.

    But one thing that caught my attention I would like to confirm or debunk.

    Both girls talk about the headphones that they shoplifted.
    But the homeless one says that the store never went out of Business. The store being RadioShack.

    But her world seems to be our world, with 7 seasons of TNG and what not.

    Was that a mistake in the color of the ballons, or is her reality not ours, but insanely similar. With the exception of sphinx women of course.

    • Hi, i guess i’d say that neither of their realities is the same as our own. Subnormality has always taken place in a sort of alternate-reality Toronto which has a lot of retail stores (and brands and airlines) that went out of business in our own reality. And Sphynxes also.

    • caliburdeath Says:

      I still have a radio shack near me, so they’re not all dead, though I certainly don’t live in toronto.

    • caliburdeath Says:

      Is this the “massive thing”? While it’s great, I wouldn’t call it large by your standards…

  49. Ezreal Desdinova Says:

    I just wanted to let you know how reading through your comics has helped me out immensely. I despise the very idea of therapy, but without trying to you have helped me adjust. Quite a bit, in fact.

    I generally fake it to make it, so to say, and keep the fact hidden that I’m still the same screwed-up person I’ve always been. What has helped is finding out that it’s nothing special.

    Even if I can’t talk about it with anyone, it’s nice to know that I’m not on the outside looking in, and that everyone probably feels as messed up as I do. The most defining moments in my life were the ones when I found out I wasn’t special. While I am more than happy to flaunt my individuality, it is actually the ways I find out that I’m not different that have the most impact.

    Great storytelling helps as well. Please keep doing this even if all your side projects do become more lucrative.

    • Thanks so much, and i honestly just do what i do to work out my own issues and try to help myself out, so if my work helps anyone else out too then i’m certainly honored. And yeah, i’ll definitely join you in being glad to be an individual but also being glad that i’m like a lot of people in some ways…

      And yeah, i will most definitely keep doing this, believe me! Especially now that thanks to y’all and Patreon the comix are now literally paying my rent, which certainly comes in handy…

  50. Graham Says:

    Thank you once again for remarkable work and detail and humanity.

  51. Daniel Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t even begin to express how wonderful I find your so-called comics. I have read every single one and hope they never stop coming. Poignant, enlightening, whimsical, they never fail to leave a smile on my face or a tear in my eye, usually both.

  52. Michael Johnsom Says:

    Took me three weeks of coming back to this comic before I could finish it. You spoke words that I have not been able to say abiut my own life, fighting to avoid the strรจets. Thanks.

  53. Ariel Kalati Says:

    I swear your comics are like magic. They come at the right time and say the right things, always. Honestly, they have had some of the most profound effects on my life. This comic in particular was so amazing- I have always been intrigued by Zoe and I love the Museum of the Theoretical. I wish you could make these faster so I could have them more often but it’s always worth the wait. Amazing work as always.

  54. Keith Nunn Says:

    Wow. Thank you.

  55. Oh jesus. this was so timely because I just lost my job and I’ve been slowly circling the drain fighting depression and who knows what else mental illness to even get an interview and I’m terrified of ending up like, homeless right now. This is so weird.

    • It’s a common fear, i guess i just wanted to see what would play out if i confronted my own long-running fear of ending up on the street. And perhaps it’s too easy to say in an internet comment, but for what it’s worth i’m really sorry about your job, i hope there are better things for you on the way.

  56. Jorpho Says:

    Wahey, I just realized you had another column on Cracked back in May. That’s the first one in a while, isn’t it?

    • Hi, yeah, i lost a few months earlier in the year due to a combination of book illustrations and some other stuff, but back at it now with Cracked. New column coming this month as well!

  57. Fellow Says:

    The museum might’ve been nice for Ethel and pretty much everybody else, but Zoe? I like the premise of putting this character in this building as much as the execution.

  58. Tom Says:

    I’m just sitting here in a coffeeshop in Seattle, a few thousand miles from home, balling my eyes out. This was a fantastic read: many things hitting almost too close for comfort and striking at very many a heartstring. Thank you so far much for every thing you post; your work is one of some of the most powerful and relatable things I’ve read in any form of written word or visual medium, and my life is infinitely better because of it. Please keep it up, you will always have the upmost appreciation from me.

  59. On behalf of the world and humanity: thank you for this comic.

  60. Lee Stewart Says:

    This is the single most moving comic I ever read – the idea of meeting a less- (or more-) successful version of myself and shooting the shit with them is literally mind-blowing. Thanks, man.

  61. Lee Stewart Says:

    Thinking about it – I know some folks who I sometimes worry will suicide. “Hold the fort for future you – in case something cool happens to them” is a better philosophy to tell them to keep them going than anything else I’ve ever heard.

  62. I have played in my mind with the idea of meeting either me from another universe, or me from the past/future. I’m kinda halfway were I want to be right now, so I’ve played both scenarios: Meeting the barely-alive me, and meeting the incredibly successful me. That was an incredible read. Winston, you are the best thing to ever happened to the Internet.

  63. marcie Says:

    this was amazingly written. I will share the story!

  64. Got me with the feels again, Winston Rowntree.
    Thanks, man.

    (I like to think that then, another Zoe Muggs walks in and brings them both back to live with her and her husband, who sings for the world famous band ‘The Generals’.

    Because that’d also be a nice ending.)

  65. Woody Says:

    Fuck me. Been a while since I almost shed tears. Thumbs way up

  66. ZGPope Says:

    Thank you.

    You just did more for improving my mental health than… damn near anything I’ve done before. Please, keep writing great things, even if it’s a wall of words. They move me, and help me grow, and I don’t know if I can ever properly express that.

  67. Swede Says:

    I am pleased to see that the artist has taken my advice to heart, to the mutual benefit of the artist and the audience.
    The format is now legible and any remaining confusion I may have, can only be blamed on my own intellectual shortcomings.
    Well done. Keep up the good work.

  68. Leo W. Says:

    I’m always desperate to meet one of my alternate selves, but then that’s probably because I’m pretty much usually convinced that they’ll be better off than me.

    Actually, I just started writing something that was inspired by (read: completely derivative of) this comic, so cheers for that.

    P.S. Always appreciate seeing a bit of Zoe Muggs, keep up the great work!

    P.P.S. Is the implication meant to be that Homeless Zoe’s parents are dead or was that just me?

  69. Alvin Says:

    I’m fairly successful in my career but My love life’s a fair bit of a mess. I’d like to meet my theoretical with no career and all the girls..

  70. Jesus…I felt every bit of that. Brilliant, truly brilliant comic. It’s been a long time since I’ve cried that hard. I loved both Zoes, and I want them both to have good lives. I want it so much it hurts.

  71. Caleb Says:

    Yeah my life is a mess right now. Reading this made me very emotional. I have working as a public librarian for my entire adult life, but clearly I haven’t been working hard enough to get myself in a healthy situation.

  72. Alex Says:

    Even by the extremely high standards of “Subnormality,” this one was a knockout.

  73. Noraimo Says:

    I just want to thank you for writing this comic. A couple years back a friend of mine told me I probably have intrusive thoughts based on random anecdotes I told him, but I ignored it. It wasn’t until I read this comic back when you wrote it that I decided to try to take control of my mental health, and now I’m seeing a psychiatrist and I’m medicated, and I don’t hate myself or my life as much anymore. Reading this, over and over again, was the push I needed I think to take better care of myself, and I wanted to let you know, because I think your work is significant and meaningful, and I think everyone needs to hear that from time to time. Thanks.

  74. Keith Says:

    Man I don’t know why your comix are so important to me but they are. They’ve fully had a really import effect on my life and who I am as a person and thanks for that, really it’s extremely helpful sometimes to come back and read them. It’s gotten to the point where I really don’t like showing other people the comic because it’s like opening up to them, it’s close to my heart and I can’t bring myself to show it to as many people as possible because it feels so personal. And I recognize that’s incredibly selfish and if you like something you should support it but I’ve honestly only shown it to one person ever, my ex, and they ended up using it against me in several arguments. Which hurt really badly. I dunno man, I love you, I’ll buy a t-shirt to make up for it.

  75. OK, that hit way too close to home. I need to go cry somewhere now.

  76. Windlion Says:

    Read this over again this morning. Still staggers me … half a century gone. Does everyone meet other-me at some point in their life? Thank you. This is one for all time.

  77. miphix Says:

    That is the deepest shit I’ve seen in a comic.

  78. Nathan (Wilson) Says:

    If Subnormality could be contained in a book, and was 2ft by 3ft, with fold out pages, 5 inches thick, and cost 300$, I would buy it. I know it’s hugely impractical to try and put this comic in a book at this point, but if it happened, I’d do anything to own a hard copy.

  79. Jesus christ man, where did you come from? Phenomenal.

  80. Shezah Says:

    To me, you are the most inspiring creative genius on the planet. You might laugh at that, or list out 10 different people you think deserve that title better, whom you look up to. But for what its worth, to me, you’re that person.

  81. Gary Dray Says:

    Probably one of your best works so far, although, your quality is so above any other comix out there. Thank you for giving this insight to ourselves in the form of a what-if. This is a recurring theme mentally for me – meeting myself and finding out he is massively loaded and successful as opposed to my meager existence in lower-middle class living paycheck to paycheck. I am closer to the homeless her than the successful Zoe and it crushes me so often. I live a good life, full of the music and art I make so I am satisfied but… how would I be if I were successful /popular/rich? What a great though pattern. Thank you , again. I am a massive fan of your work, by the way.

  82. Kismet Says:

    So, um, I liked that Annelise appeared here, and that both Zoes had Annelise in their history; and I liked that the Zoe we’ve known ’til now mentions that one time she’d run into Annelise who “didn’t really recognize me one time” — that time being, I suppose, Subnormality #144:
    Which I would have thought was the first appearance of ZM in Subnormality.

    I started reading Subnormality when somebody pointed me to #133, “WEIRD?”. By the time #144 came out, I was already hooked-lined-and-sunk. But something in #144 felt like a threshold had been crossed. Probably because Zoe reminded me of someone important and lost in my life. So I’ve always been happy to see Zoe show up in a strip even as she’s been declining.

    But now I look again at #133, and there she is, right at the last panel. Always something new to discover in some o’ these strips.

    Edith’s visit to the museum did seem to help her a little; at least, she’s not in decline any more. Here’s hoping the same holds for Zoe.

  83. Allen S. Rout Says:

    So, what a fantastic script for an intimate stage production.

  84. alexisla92 Says:

    Hey Winston,

    Your most recent comic really touched me. Currently, I’m going through a lot in my life right now (graduated from college and still unemployed), so I’m always afraid of the worst to happen. One of the biggest fears I have would be to end up homeless. I’m not really sure how to say it, but you’ve addressed the this fear in a way that makes sense to me. I just want to thank you for the comic.

  85. Nat Says:

    Hey, Winston. I visit the viruscomix/subnormality page once a week, every week, and reread at least a glimpse of the last comic and have a little think about it, every week. This one’s been good for a lot of little thinks. Just checking in to say I suddenly realized it’s been a few months and I hope everything’s all right with you.

    • Hi, yeah, things are good, thanks for asking! The current silence is just due to me working on the next comic, which is really Big, even for me, so it’s been taking forever and will take a while longer yet. But it’s on the way! The comix are what i do full-time, so if you don’t hear from me it’s just because i’m working on said comix and they take forever.

  86. Calvin Says:

    Winston, do you like Daniel Clowes’ cartoons? Just curious.

    • It’s been a really long time since i read any of them, but i at least enjoyed Ghost World back in the day. Really enjoyed the movies of Ghost World and Art School Confidential at the time as well, if that counts, but i don’t know if Current Me still likes them– i should look in to that. I’m sure i do.

      There is a dan clowes quote from an interview with him that i read like 14 years ago or so that’s always stuck with me (assuming i’m remembering this correctly), something about how it’s weird when artists don’t address sexuality in their work. It was sort of a big influence on me and I’m actually including a similar bit of dialogue in the next comic, so your question is certainly apt.

      (sorry, the usual 500-word reply to a simple question here…)

  87. Calvin Says:

    No need to apologize!

  88. Mike Nelson Says:

    Outstanding work. Captures something a lot of people think about and fear but is hardly ever expressed in these terms in our culture, that is the raw emotion that is attached to it. The phone booth was powerful for illustrating this unease to me. Gave me serious chills. I was compelled a couple of times while reading this to put it down for a while to contemplate.

  89. Olivia Says:

    Winston, I totally love you and your comics. I just read the new article on Cracked and I thought it was great! I was going to comment over there but I couldn’t handle the comments section… I really liked your writing style! And I did actually feel a little inspired, so I’m going to stop wasting my evening and get on with the work I have to do for my job. Although reading your article was definitely not a waste of time ๐Ÿ™‚

  90. Vanitas Says:

    absolutely beautiful. I have no other words.

  91. Toro Says:

    Thank you so much for your work. I’ve been helping a friend cope with his transition to homelessness (living in different states, there’s little I can do for him otherwise), and myself am pursuing social work – and discussions like this and like many of your comics are what I go through mentally. If you ever have prints of this or 221, i will jump on them.

    Thank you again, take care, and I hope you’re well.

  92. Chris Says:

    Today’s comic was amazing. Just incredible. Makes you think, what would you do if you met another you who took Path B instead of Path A? How would you react? And the whole bit about Intrusive Thoughts…really an eye-opener. Thank you.

  93. Athena Says:

    Holy shit! [tearing up] That’s… me. THEY are me. I’m right in the middle. No… closer to the dark side. Almost too close, recently. Maybe because I don’t have many of the ‘bad thoughts’. Past me meeting future me? Oh hell. Saving image. Saving link. Wishing text was larger.

  94. acce245 Says:

    I’m so glad you’re able to keep this comic up. Love the art, and the stories are so well thought out.

  95. Graham Says:

    This one hit me hard. It hurt how much I identified with what homeless!Zoe was saying. I’m dealing with depression and ADD, and it’s manifesting as lack of motivation with some suicidal thoughts mixed in, which makes it really easy to believe myself when I tell myself that I’m flunking out of college because I’m too lazy to do the work. I don’t know what reminded me, but out of the blue I remembered that this comic exists tonight, and I’m really glad I googled “webcomic with sphinx” to find it again.

  96. Dave Kyle Says:

    interesting part about Abraham Lincoln being 81. Heheh, unfortunately he had marfans
    disease just like Osama Bin Laden. Upon
    being diagnosed you have maybe 6 months
    left to live. It’s a disease of the connective
    tissues that causes them to break down.
    Probably genetic. Being human can suck and the pay bites. Like your work well enough though

  97. The Old Wolf Says:

    Commented on this one before, Winston, but I just noticed the little ASL riff at the top today. We love you too.

  98. Lukas Xavier Says:

    I can relate to this. There’s no doubt I wouldn’t have done half as good as I have if it wasn’t for the people who had my back when I needed it.

  99. Nick Says:

    Damn, this resonated with me, thank you for this strip. I guess I should rethink some of my thoughts now ๐Ÿ™‚

  100. Salp Says:

    I had already read this before during the summer, but I was shocked by how differently the comic affected me on my second reading, which was only about four months later. Obviously my first reading gave me a deal of insight that first time, but whatever batch of life experiences I collected during the four months after made me view certain parts under a slightly different lens. (Sort of like a really mild version of that adultโ€“good-headphones analogy mentioned in the comic.) I’m still a bit of a naive kid/adult/thing in the middle of university, so I’m definitely curious to see how this comic will resonate with me when I’m closer to whatever Zoe’s age is or whatever and such.

    (I didn’t even really mean to read it again this soon after. I actually just wanted to review Zoe’s hairโ€”becausemygoshthoseCURLSareMESMORIZING, very curly and swirly and suchly and such. But then I read a few lines and couldn’t stop.)

  101. Mystyr Nile Says:

    The resolution seems to be lower than usual somehow.

  102. Mystyr Nile Says:

    By the way, i like Zoe’s new hair!

  103. AkaP* Says:

    Happy New Year Winston!
    Can’t wait to see what you conjure up this year.

    Much love & peace.

  104. Mike Fulkerson Says:

    I liked this and your writing for Cracked-After Hours. Thank you.

  105. Jeff Says:

    Deep. Different. Made me think of things that are hard to think about. Can’t say I like doing that.
    Well done.

  106. Devon Says:

    If you could post a new comic it would make me very happy (do it on your own timeline of course, no pressure). I’ve already consumed basically all of the posted content one day a while back when I spent way too much time reading comics. I really appreciate your writing.

    To help incentivize you I have purchased a sphinx polo, which I am sure I will appreciate as well.

    Thank you for all of the art that you have made, and all that is to come.


  107. L Says:

    There’s a difference between knowing a thing by intuition and knowing by actually know…

    I’ve been a reader for 6 years or so…are you reading my mind sometimes? Totally cool if you are, I lack the ability or willpower, or something, to so adeptly display my thoughts in any kind of medium.

    I think I liked the comic about the Museum of the Theoretical, but it also kind of scared me.

    If that ain’t a sign of art invoking emotion I don’t know what is.

    Anyways, please keep at it. Always been good stuff.

  108. ninja0jesus Says:

    I wanted to show this to my friend because I feel like a lot of this can relate to her but her eyesight is bad and she can’t read the comic text. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Would you be able to provide a text transcription so that my friend can enlarge the text to her level of visibility?

    • Noodle Says:

      Wait, sorry, I meant to reply to your comment but for some reason I replied to the original post, I think? Idk. Anyway, look at the comment below for a transcript of the comic. Again, if you need me to change add anything, I’d be happy to. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope your friend really likes the comic. I know it really helped me… ๐Ÿ™‚

  109. Noodle Says:

    Well, if it’s just the dialogue and text she can’t understand, then I can try to transcribe it for her here. I feel like the author’s really busy right now with trying to create a new comic and everything and might not be checking the comments as much, so transcribing it for him is the least I could do. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I can’t understand all of the words on the signs and magazines myself, but I’ll try to put down what I can. XD This thing is REALLY long, so I’ve tried to break the transcript up into sections to make it more understandable. If you need me to change ANYTHING about it, like rearrange it or change the format or take some stuff out, just say so and I’d be happy to. ๐Ÿ™‚ I could describe the action and images, too, if your friend has trouble seeing that as well.

    Here it is! ๐Ÿ™‚

    COMIC’S ALT-TEXT: technically all these Museum comics fail the Bechdel test

    Panel 1: Yesterday / upon the stair
    Panel 2: I met a girl / who wasn’t there
    Panel 3: She was there again today…
    Panel 4: I wish I wish she’d go away

    CAPTION: “Awkward silence, eh…”

    Zoe’s cardboard sign: not really doing all that well to be honest
    (from left to right)
    Wood sign with gold border: SHOP STORE BOTTLE
    Light blue flyer behind Zoe: EYE-ROLLING SERVICE
    Yellow and orange logo: Heliot

    CAPTION: “I dunno, I could…”

    Panel 2:
    (on wooden pole)
    Orange flyer: Museum of the Theoretical (yellow box) FREE ADMISSION! (beneath) AND A/C
    (from left to right)
    Blue flyer beneath: HUGE TEXT
    Pale flyer with picture of cockatiel: MISSING
    Upper right flyer: POLE NEWS

    CAPTION: “I could like talk about how I grew up or something, maybe?”

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: Something like that maybe? Seems like a โ€”
    Alt!Zoe: No…
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: You know, there are… people in my life who really matter to me and made me what I am and I don’t really feel like picturing a world without that…
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: …You know?
    Zoe: Yeah.
    Zoe (cont): Naw, I get that.

    TITLE CARD: Mus3um of the Theoretical (in corner) SUB223

    LONE PANEL: (sound effect) TICK

    Zoe: So… So how, um…
    (from left to right)
    Sign with brown border: WELCOME (beneath) NugneH?!
    Sign with yellow border beneath: Suggested Donation: A gazillion pengoes
    Orange sign over door: (down arrow) (unsure?) EFA HOLA (down arrow)
    Tan sign above: M (beneath) O (capital “T” with a line through the middle)
    Gray sign: GIFT SHOP IS (in red box) CLOSED

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: …How’d I get here?
    Alt!Zoe’s shirt: CLONE CLUB
    Panel 3:
    Friend: So this is liiike a joke… thing?
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah man, I dunno, it’s like some roadside museum type thing, “artifacts from an alternate universe.” Prolly just stupid but I always wanted to check it out, I love this weird local shit.
    Friend: Yo DO love this weird local shit.
    Alt!Zoe: So I’ll meet you after work?
    (on wooden pole on left; from left to right)
    Blue flyer beneath: GUITAR LESSONS
    Red flyer: THE ADMIRALS (in white box) June 23rd
    Pale flyer with picture of cockatiel: FOUND
    (from left to right)
    Blue newspaper box: MON – SUN
    Newspaper in blue newspaper box: The Globe (beneath) WOMEN’S WORLD CUP KICKS OFF IN TORONTO
    Red newspaper box: (capital “I” inside a white oval) Weekly
    Newspaper in red newspaper box: (capital “I” inside a white oval) (beneath) Ethel Blackmore
    Dark pink restaurant sign with yellow text: Often’s (beneath) Since 2002 (in top right corner) “(star) (star) (star) (edge is cut off) (in lower right corner) contemporary cuisine
    Yellow sign on car: ALT(capital “A” stylized as a mountain)VISTA (beneath) ROADVIEW

    Alt!Zoe: I dunno, been seeing the flyers around for years. Thought I’d finally check it out before it inevitably gets paved into a Walmart. Free admission.

    Panel 1:
    (from left to right)
    Sign above door: MUSEUM OF THE THEORETICAL?
    Wooden sign behind Alt!Zoe: M (beneath) O (capital “T” with a line through the middle)
    Poster on the right: see what wasn’t (beneath photo) Abraham Lincoln – Age 81
    Blue sign on taxi cab: Unter
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: Whoah.
    Panel 3:
    Zoe: I know, eh.

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: Didn’t realize it was some kind of magic realism thing that literally involved meeting your, uh…
    Panel 2:
    Zoe: …meeting a theoretical you from another reality โ€” I know, sorry… attention to detail, eh? I for sure assumed it was a joke too and then walking in the door the the the building is like 20 times bigger than on the outside somehow! This is kind of a weird city…
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: You… probably wanted to see another you though, I guess?
    Panel 4:
    Zoe: Aw, yeah, I guess maybe. Kind of neat actually. Lookin’ pretty decent, uh, other me! D’you d’you just wear contacts?
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe: Yup. You don’t?
    Zoe: Naw, you lose one and it’s just, ah, fuck, man…pain in the ass, eh. So so so what d’you get up to..? Naw, wait, don’t tell me โ€” wouldn’t want to feel pressure to do the same career..!
    Alt!Zoe: Right. Yes. No. I don’t know.
    Bottom Two Panels:
    Zoe: Fuck, you’re mad, eh? Sorry…
    Alt!Zoe: …I dunno, it’s just…
    Zoe: Yeah, I can tell if you’re mad though obviously. It’s cool, like I get it. Probly I didn’t think a whole bunch about how this would play out. We don’t have to hang out at all, like it’s fine.
    Zoe (cont): For sure check out the exhibits though! M-monsters and different flags and other neat shit, it’s not bad actually.
    Right section of page:
    (from left to right)
    Sign hanging off rope: PLEASE DO NOT CUT OFF HEADS
    Yellow sign: The Hydra

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: The the magazines are all crazy, even…
    Panel 2: (sound effect) FLIP FLIP FLIP
    Panel 4:
    Zoe: Fuuuck, just ask..! “How come you’re a fuckin’ crazy homeless failure, other me??”

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: Sorry… I know you probly wouldn’t ask it like that. I hate that question.
    Panel 2:
    Zoe: No-one ever asks anyone, like how come you have a house?? “What… what factors led to this outcome??” And it’s totally cool if we fuckin’ like see you as the spokesman of everyone who also has a job and a house ’cause you’re just all the same, right??
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: How long have you… not had anywhere to live?
    Panel 4:
    Zoe: Fuuuck… I don’t even know โ€” a while?! Probly longer’n it feels, it’s just every place I go I always feel like I โ€”
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe: …Just got there. Yeah.
    Zoe: Yeahman!

    Zoe: But yeah, that’s cool you asked! I dunno man, moved out here after school didn’t work out, and we were living in this one place in the east end there โ€” super nice area now, like right after I left they gen-gentrified the entire place it felt like, like hey she’s gone, turn everything into a cafe you guys โ€” and yeah it was just a sketchy as shit house and everything, I guess! We we changed the lock but then this previous guy who lived there got back in with his old key ’cause I guess everyone was buying the same shitty locks. Every possible animal and insect getting in there too, that was good times..! Like where you where you get all used to noticing dots and specks out’ve the corner of your eye in daily li-life ’cause at home you’re used to looking out for bugs the whole time. But I dunno, you like get used to whatever you’re whatever’s in front of you, for sure good times there for a little bit! Fuckin’ just music loud as shit at 4am whenever we wanted. Midnight movies on the the the free channels, man โ€” kind of it’s more fun actually when you randomly just catch something you weren’t expecting, I for sure miss that actually. And so yeah, I dunno, I had this I had like the end part of a student loan or something? I forget what that was, but then after a year it’s pretty well running out and you still obviously have to pay rent. And you just feel like… I dunno, something’s gonna probly come along and happen and it’ll be fine. ‘Cause it never hadn’t, I guess?
    Zoe (cont): But then it just didn’t I guess, like the landlord comes by after a couple days and you you don’t even know what to say, it just did not occur to you that you’d at all be in that situation, so you’re just like yeahman, yeah I’m totally on it, don’t worry, and he’s super nice about it and everything. And literally I’m lying there on the like box spring not even knowing what to do. And then a couple weeks later he’s back and the the smile is just gone, you know? And you gotta move out, and I didn’t really have furn-furniture or whatever, so that all happened pretty fast. And then it’s like noon and you’re just walking around, and you head to the library and then up the street to Shoppers, and then that one sketchy diner with the super nice Chinese people, and you’re sitting t
    here and then it’s closing and it’s dark out, and it’s just like, it’s like… okay, I guess. I don’t even know. Kind of a a neat sense of freedom, actually.
    Zoe (cont): And luckily the weather’s nice, but then you don’t really know what to do about food, kind of. But it’s like, something will probly come along and happen and it’ll be fine. You know?
    Zoe (cont): I dunno, that was the last house I lived at, anyway. Man, I walked past there the other day โ€” it looks wicked now, eight years later of whatever. Flowers out front and shit..!

    Panel 2: (sound effect) TICK
    Panel 4:
    Zoe: Sorry..!! Thanks for listening, eh.
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah, but why where you… like, I’ve been there, eh, I’ve run out of money between jobs. It sucked but I had to borrow from our… uh, from my parents.
    Panel 6:
    (from left to right)
    Sign over door to phone booth: TELEPHONE
    Green sign: Warlac ST.
    Tan sign on newspaper box: EYE (beneath) WEEKLY
    Panel 7:
    Zoe: Yeah.
    Zoe (cont): Naw, I totally would have done that, you know?
    Panel 8:
    (from top to bottom)
    Blue sign: Carlaw ST.
    Yellow sign on newspaper box: eye


    Panel 1: (sound effect of Zoe) cough
    Sign over horse: IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU’RE TOO HIGH
    Panel 2: (sound effect) TICK
    Panel 6:
    Zoe: Man, d’you think, is everything here theoretical to both of us? Maybe you guys actually have horses with wings and it’s just normal to you, or like maybe
    Alt!Zoe (covering up the bottom of Zoe’s speech bubble): Where do you stay usually? Shelters?
    Panel 7:
    Zoe: What? Ha, no-one who’s stayed at a shelter would ask that…
    Alt!Zoe: No?
    Zoe: Nah, I dunno, wherever. Outside a lot, but other places too. If you’re actually smart it’s not bad. It’s just hard to find privacy, like you’d think it wouldn’t be but it for sure is. Ironically.
    Zoe (cont): Ironically?
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah.
    Panel 8:
    Zoe: Right on, man! So yeah I dunno, hang out at places a lot. There there’s this one guy who invites me to his shows all the time, like stealth trying to keep me indoors I guess โ€” “Oh, you should come by early!” Super nice about it. I dunno, tried some dating back in the day… It’s tough meeting people, you know? Or it’s the wrong people and then it’s embarrassing and whatever. Just… ashamed. But you can’t… naw, I dunno, it’s all good, don’t worry about it.
    Alt!Zoe: Okay?
    Panel 9: (sound effect) TICK
    Panel 10:
    Zoe: That’s so cool you have your shit together, eh? I wonder how different we are, like what else’s normal to you? Did you f-finish up school and everything??
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah but I hated it and it was pretty much just pointless with the attitude I had back then. Bad at school, good at life hopefully.
    Panel 11:
    Zoe: I know, hopefully, eh! Did we did we know the same people? Oh, was there ever this one German chick you went to university with?
    Alt!Zoe: !..Yeah. I was just up at their cottage actually. You?
    Panel 12:
    Zoe: See each other around, kind of? Didn’t really recognize me one time โ€” you always drift away from your school friends, you know? Naw, I just ask ’cause she came by a while back, she was like โ€”

    Panel 1:
    German friend: Can I tell you something?
    Panel 2:
    Zoe: Oh this is where you reveal to me the the the personal secret you never tell anyone or whatever?
    German friend: Oh no, this is a THING isn’t it..?
    Zoe: Yeah pretty much, no-one’s afraid of being judged when they’re not afraid of you. Don’t get me wrong, I love this shit, man. Wish I’d been writing all of it down.
    Zoe’s bag: OFTEN’S (smaller) BAR AND GRILL
    Panel 3:
    German friend: Well I’m not afraid of anyone, if that helps. But what I was going to say was I have problems of my own you know. That’s probably no real secret, I mean I don’t dress worse than you do because I’m not nuts…
    Zoe: Yeah? I always wondered about that kinda. Super… super confident and pretty but then with the psycho wardrobe. Pretty awesome actually, don’t get me wrong โ€” you for sure like who you are.
    German friend: Oh I love who I am, believe me. I think I’m rather fucking fantastic to be perfectly honest. And crazy, albeit good crazy.
    German friend (cont): But I’m surrounded by people too, Zoe.
    Panel 4:
    German friend: When you have always a safety net and high expectations, I think you’re upgraded to “eccentric.” I’ll never believe that I’m different from you โ€” I just had help. Because literally everyone needs that. That’s what society IS, it’s the people who had help. Even the assholes. Especially the assholes!
    Zoe: I guess?
    German friend: But I can be OF help too, you know..?
    German friend’s hat: POOL

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: Whatever you call it. People wanting to to step in or whatever. I dunno, it’s weird though, like obviously it’s it’s not… an… advantage to not be part of society really, that whole thing, but wanting something to change is is is wanting someone to change, right.
    Panel 2:
    Zoe: On some level you’re… you’re asking someone to stop being themself and and start being someone else, good or bad. I dunno if people get that, really? S’like… imagine if I came to your job and was like yeah, you’re not this anymore, you’re this other person now. Embarrassing kind of. Maybe you get it, I dunno…
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah I probably know what you’re like. You probably don’t raise your voice in a loud room because it’s the room that should lower its volume.
    Panel 4:
    Zoe: I just… I try but I just can’t judge myself over it, like it’s not actually wrong to be โ€”
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah but I’m MAD because you fuckin’ take it too far!
    Zoe: Cool, man…
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe: You’re doing it right now! Doing that fuckin’… that fuckin’ crazy middle-aged bag lady thing where you live in your own little world there and and you talk to animals “’cause they don’t judge” and you fucking talk to people just fine at first until they say anything incompatible with your fuckin’ little universe there and then you just stop responding and go muttering off somewhere..!
    Panel 6:
    Alt!Zoe: Fuckin’ DON’T you?! ‘Cause you you just caaan’t deal with re-reality so you just create your OWN rules, like I’m constantly in danger of doing! But you just go ahead and do it, you and everyone else who don’t wanna deal, ’cause it takes courage, it fuckin’ takes courage to put up with all the bullshit involved in getting through life and you fuckin’ don’t have it!!

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: I’ve fucking worked REALLY hard to not just give up, do you know that??!
    Zoe: I’m sorry!!
    Alt!Zoe: To not to not sit there ignoring everyone and and calling everyone a fucking conformist
    Zoe: I’m sorry!!
    Alt!Zoe: and resenting being expected to behave properly and disappearing into my own head and saying everything’s find while your fucking teeth are falling out!!
    Zoe: I’m sorry!
    Panel 2:
    Zoe: I’m sorry!
    Zoe (cont): I’m sorry!
    Zoe (cont): I’m sorry!


    Zoe: (too small to read)
    Zoe (cont): it’s okay
    Zoe (cont): it’s okay..!

    Zoe: It’s okay!
    Zoe (cont): I’m sorry I’m sorry, it’s just hard
    Zoe (cont): It’s hard
    Zoe (cont): to deal with shit when you don’t
    Zoe (cont): don’t even feel like you’re su-supposed to to be here
    Zoe (cont): When when y-you s-say shit and everyone just stares and you’re bad at school a-and having friends and there’s
    Zoe (cont): there’s no job that fits you, you can’t fi-find it and you’re just sick of bothering everyone and being ashamed and and
    Zoe (cont): and just sick of dealing with the the
    Zoe (cont): the horrible ideas in your head and they won’t go away
    Zoe (cont): they won’t, and
    Zoe: and there’s no-one a-around so it’s all you can hear it’s like solitary c-confinement and and and
    Zoe (cont): and I just…
    Zoe (cont): …I just
    Zoe (cont): I just wanna be n-normal but I’m not and I try and I just get so sad
    Zoe (cont): so sad all the time
    Zoe (cont): ’cause ’cause
    Zoe (cont): ’cause I’m not, a-and it’s hard but it’s okay it’s okay!
    Zoe (cont): It’s better for everyone if I’m not around m-making them all uncomfortable and a-angry and disappointed and…
    Zoe (cont): I don’t hurt anyone, I swear!
    Zoe (cont): I’m sorry
    Zoe (cont): I’m sorry I couldn’t make it
    Zoe (cont): but it’s okay
    Zoe (cont): it’s better this way it’s better
    Zoe (cont): It’s okay!
    Zoe (cont): Please don’t be mad it’s okay!

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: Horrible ideas?
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: So you get the… the bad thoughts too, eh?
    Panel 3:
    Zoe: Uh… I dunno. Do you..?
    Panel 4:
    Alt!Zoe: “Hi, it’s your brain speaking! Look, there’s your best friend โ€” for no earthly reason let’s out of the blue imagine in graphic detail what would happen it you just suddenly pushed her down the stairs over there!! What’s the problem, stop crying! Or what would happen if you just stripped off while you’re in line at the grocery store โ€” let’s go ahead and imagine that, the specific visualization of people staring and shouting in confused disgust!! Don’t tell me you don’t want to โ€” if you’re thinking it you must want to! Or hey, here’s a person of another race โ€” let’s just instantly think of racial slurs again and again and again and fucking again until y-you literally wish you were dead!! Let’s do that, because I’m your brain and I fucking hate you!!!”
    Panel 5:
    Zoe: …Fuck, you too, eh? Shitty…
    Panel 6:
    Alt!Zoe: You know that’s a thing though, right..??
    Zoe: No…
    Zoe (cont): How d’you mean..?
    Alt!Zoe: How it’s a common, recognized condition? How recurring and unwanted disturbing thoughts that are completely out of character and make you think you’re the worst person in the world are actually common and don’t mean anything?
    Panel 7:
    Alt!Zoe: Shit, do you just think you’re evil and insane??
    Zoe: Uh… maybe..!
    Alt!Zoe: Well you’re not. Jesus, we gotta talk about this…

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: It’s tied in with OCD, eh โ€” the actual kind, not, like, Hollywood OCD. I forget the exact explanation, but that’s why the unwanted thoughts are so recurring and similar or whatever. I’m serious, it’s completely a universal experience to randomly think of awful things you’d never do, that’s everyone to some degree, it’s just that some people get it worse than others and it’s obviously amazingly disturbing so they never talk about it. So they think it’s just them. Because who the fuck’s gonna admit to constantly having horrendous ideas come into your head that you can’t seem to prevent? But it’s not โ€” it’s not just you, eh.
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: You know โ€” it’s not actually Zoe Muggs Syndrome, as much as I know we like to feel special.
    Panel 3:
    Zoe: Man, whaaat..? How d’you know, then, if no-one talks about it?
    Panel 4:
    Alt!Zoe: ‘Cause I have the internet, dumbass! I was literally about to go crazy when I was younger ’cause I had, you know, these horrifying unwanted thoughts all the time, when all I want to do is not ever hurt anyone.
    Alt!Zoe (cont): But then you actually look into it and holy shit, there’re encyclopedia papers and there’re other people describing your exact experience on message boards, and then later you find a few people actually are openly discussing it and you hear a podcast about it and you see a famous author mention it in an interview and you find a comedian who works it into her material and guess what โ€” it’s just another stupid human imperfection, you know? It’s a thing, that people have. And you think it’s just you and I’ve been there and it’s fucking awful. You had no way of knowing and that’s not fair AT all.
    Sign with yellow border: Suggested donation: fourteen keladas
    Panel 5:
    Zoe: Naw… is it really a thing though? That’d be wild…
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah. It is. “Intrusive thoughts” they’re called. Fuck I wish we were in front of a computer right now… But you know why you get worse, it’s ’cause you’re the least likely person to do all that horrible shit, that’s why it’s so disturbing. It’s the people who aren’t horrified that are evil.
    Panel 6:
    Alt!Zoe: What helps me is, I think about it like this: you’ve got this inner voice reminding you of all the bad shit you should never do, and that’s great, but it’s just, like, a faulty, fucked-up kind of warning voice where it’s so afraid of you hurting anyone, it’s so hysterically paranoid that the message is garbled, you know? It’s like, you can’t hear the “don’t” at the beginning ’cause the rest is so loud. Completely made more sense to me once I thought of it that way.
    Alt!Zoe: Right?!

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: That’s why it’s so constant too, but like, fuck, I get it, don’t push anyone down the stairs! Fuckin’ shut up!!
    Zoe: Yeah. That’s solid info man. It’s tough, you know. No-one’s around, so it’s like…
    Alt!Zoe: …An ambient noise that you only notice when nobody’s talking, I know. the brain just sucks, man! Like, intelligent design my fuckin’ ass..! As soon as silence hits we’re all dealing with some bullshit inner voice in one way or another. It’s just the stupid way it stupid is.
    Zoe: Fuckin’… gremlins, man…
    Panel 2:
    (from right to left)
    First gremlin: YOU’RE WASTING YOUR LOVE
    Zoe’s gremlin: don’t JUMP IN FRONT OF THAT TRAIN!!
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: Oh, fuckin’ trains are the worst, eh?!?
    Zoe: I know, like whyyy?? Trains, man…
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe’s gremlin: YOU’RE GOING TO END UP HOMELESS!!!

    Alt!Zoe: Yeah.
    Alt!Zoe (cont): Fuck, that was such a shitty thing of me to say before, speaking of the fucking worst. I just…
    Zoe: We’re cool man.
    Alt!Zoe: No, we’re NOT cool. Don’t you ever say it’s okay when someone yells at you, you hear me?? I pretty well went full gremlin there. I’m so meekly nice usually, and I just… I dunno…
    Zoe: No worries, everyone’s hard on themselves, you know? I’m not on the the street or whatever ’cause of crazy thoughts, don’t fuckin’ feel sorry for me, if you are.
    Alt!Zoe: No, I know. I just get it, that’s all. I just… have had to work at being part of society I guess, and I get resentful when I shouldn’t and I get so mad when people seem like reality’s not good enough when the rest of us have to work hard to stay here every day, even though I know that’s not you. Not that it would be justified otherwise.
    Zoe: You’re like a… a sanity immigrant!
    Alt!Zoe: Fuck..! Well don’t feel sorry for me either, believe me โ€” everyone emigrated from somewhere. Everyone’s rein-reining in some aspect of themselves so they can fit in better. I’m not some fuckin’ unicorn, I guess I’ve just had to kinda learn to actively not say the first thing that comes into my head ’cause half the time it literally makes no sense to anyone except me, and I can’t help resenting that sometimes. ‘Cause like you said, maybe it’s not actually wrong who you… we are. The real issue’s probly me needing life to be fair and for everyone to have deserved what they’ve got so you’re free to go ahead and yell at them. All that bullshit.
    Zoe: Naw, you know, I could stand to self-edit more, probly. The blank stares, eh? I just I just can’t bring myself to judge me either, and not judging me is kinda all I have lately.

    Alt!Zoe: You fuckin’ shouldn’t judge! I think we just have kind of a creative mindset..? I was reading one time, it’s like… some people are able to be all different and creative or whatever ’cause they can make connections between things that other people don’t see, but then the other part of that is sometimes making connections that, uh, aren’t actually there…
    Zoe: Ha, for sure, eh??

    ALT!ZOE’S CAPTION: “I always kind of wished I didn’t look so conventionally acceptable on the outside because I look so different on the inside and you hate that people assume you’re not weird and a nerd and crazy, as crazy as THAT sounds. I always half-wished I looked unacceptable on the outside too, to cause fewer misunderstandings.”

    Words on Imaginary!Alt!Zoe’s shirt: ME

    ZOE’S CAPTION: “But then that comes with its own drawbacks obviously…”

    Zoe’s cardboard sign: i’ll pay YOU if you wave hello (in corner) 25ยข!

    ALT!ZOE’S CAPTION: “…Yeah.”

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: Here, would you accept a minor upgrade at least?
    Zoe: Naw, what… Are you sure man?
    Alt!Zoe: Go for it. I guarantee it’s your size..!
    Zoe: Arright, thanks!
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: But seriously though, you know you’re not evil right?? I really need you to know that.
    Zoe: Yeah, you you know you seemed to be pretty fuckin’ on it with some of your points actually. Dain bramage, eh? It’s a fucked-up thing to hang out with someone who understands all this shit, you know? Pre-pretty fuckin’ neat to be honest.
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: Tell me about it man!
    Zoe: But yeah, if I was evil I guess I wouldn’t be so horrified at evil ideas, I never thought of it like that. And and I always notice that, like, with the drinking, the more I drink it’s the good thoughts that get louder. That’s what get uninhibited.
    Panel 4:
    Zoe: …
    Zoe (cont): Sorry, silencing the room there..! I don’t drink that much or anything, barely works anyway. I just heard it’s good for you in in moderation as opposed to never drinking, right. Red red wine.
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe: For fuck’s sake, here…
    Alt!Zoe (cont): Oh, okay, yeah โ€” I completely read that article too actually. Wine and chocolate, the snack that gives back, good times.
    Alt!Zoe: So do we agree on a bunch of stuff here?? Sh’we test it out?
    Zoe: Sure man!

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: Okay, like… finish the sentence: uh… like… I dunno… the the number three is orange, ’cause of….
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: ‘Cause of that one puzzle I had as a kid with horses and numbers and Horse #3 was orange! Ha, wild!!
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: Okay, uh… oh, I know: also when you were a kid, you swore up and down that black & white TV was….
    Zoe: Oh! It wasn’t just black & white ’cause I thought I could also see some orange in there for whatever reason..! Man, orange, eh??
    Alt!Zoe: I know, like what the fuck?!


    Zoe: My turn, uh… how about opinions, how about… I dunno… fuckin’… people who make fun of overweight people fuckin’ suck more than it even seems a-and are hypocrites ’cause…
    Alt!Zoe: ‘Cause we all have something we do a lot and if what you did stuck to the outside of your body you’d be big too, it just doesn’t. Fuckin’… fifty course meals of hate with hate sauce every night and you’re somehow better than anybody else? Everyone’s fuckin’ fat, motherfucker.
    Zoe: Dude, I’m SO fat…
    Alt!Zoe: I know, I’m not saying what I do a lot, but I’m like 280 easy…
    Zoe: Word. Bypass surgery, man.
    Alt!Zoe: My turn, uh… how about: being an adult is like…
    Zoe: …really good headphones, ’cause you start noticing a bunch of stuff you never did when you listened to the same shit as a kid. Man, I sho-shoplifted these just wicked headphones one time… seriously blew my mind, there’s whole other instruments in there suddenly…
    Alt!Zoe: I know, I did that too. Fuckin โ€”
    Zoe: Radio Shack?!
    Alt!Zoe: Man, that place was like going to the bar โ€” you just wanted to browse and spend 5 bucks but then a guy’s demanding your phone number as you’re about to leave and you’re just soured on the whole thing…
    Zoe: Looks like you’re gonna be needing those batteries you just bought, eh.
    Alt!Zoe: heh! Right? anyway, I was too afraid to go back to the mall until the whole chain went out of business. High school, man…
    Zoe: Still in business where I live man.
    Alt!Zoe: Shitty!
    Magazine with red border: TIME (beneath) NADER GORE RFK CLAY PEROT WE RANK THE PRESIDENTS
    Sign in flower pot: MORS ONTOLOGICA
    Magazine to the right of flower pot: NIU (beneath) Bleed Through…

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: Hey, uh, in high school did you ever bring a guitar to class and โ€”
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: and sing a poem to everyone instead of the essay you were supposed to do because, like, in your mind, sort of the… the thoughts you spent coming up with the idea to do that somehow were equivalent to an essay..? Like, it all made perfect sense to you, and โ€”
    Panel 3:
    Zoe: and you ge-genuinely wondered why other people never did the same thing ’cause it was so much less stressful than sitting down and writing an essay.
    Panel 4:
    Alt!Zoe: And then, yeah, the blank stares. Word.
    Zoe: And then you just fail the class. Still think that was uncalled for to be honest. Like, I get it obviously, but still.
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah. I know.
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe: My turn, eh? How about “the more resources you have…”
    Panel 6:
    Zoe: Um… I don’t actually know this one, I don’t think?
    Alt!Zoe: “…the more freedom you have to make mistakes.” Nah, it’s… just something I was thinking just now, actually.
    Panel 7:
    Alt!Zoe’s shirt: CLONE CLUB
    Panel 8:
    Zoe: Man, holy appropriate shirt, eh?
    Alt!Zoe: Oh, yeah… it’s from a TV show. You’d completely dig it actually. If you guys have the same shows in your reality, anyway…

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: Oh man, I never even thought about that! You guys got Star Trek i hope..?? Fuckin’ Trek, man…
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: Star Trek? yeah, for sure. Are you super into it? I thought it was decent.
    Zoe: Aw, yeah! I I I just love the the Picard ones mostly. He’s so nice but then he can’t find a relationship, and then in that one episode he gets to li-live an entire life as a family man and he’s SO happy and then he he returns to his o-own reality a-and it’s like which… which one was he supposed to be, ’cause he’s so good at both, right? Ha, I dunno, obsessed with that show, man. I used to watch season five on repeat at the library before they noticed and got all bitter about it…
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: The Next Generation, you mean..? Wait, are you saying you guys got more than one season of that?!
    Zoe: Yeahman, did you not get all s-seven seasons??
    Alt!Zoe: No, it got cancelled after like a year ’cause of some big writers’ strike and stuff, plus it wasn’t that good anyway! You got SEVEN seasons?!
    Zoe: Aw man, yeah, and a-after season two it gets way better too, eh. That sucks for you guys! I heard once it did almost get cancelled but just luckily it didn’t I guess…
    Panel 4:
    Alt!Zoe: Shit, man, that’s nuts, eh?
    Zoe: Yeahman. I love shows like that, you know?
    Panel 5:
    Alt!Zoe: Oh I know, for sure. Positive visions of a future you won’t get to see or whatever.
    Panel 6:
    Zoe: Yeah…
    Panel 7:
    Alt!Zoe: Holy shit no, I didn’t mean you, I โ€”
    Zoe: Man, it’s getting late, eh??

    Panel 1:
    Alt!Zoe: No, seriously, I…
    Zoe: Naw, don’t worry, I knew what you meant.
    Zoe (cont): But I’m under no illusions too, you know?
    Zoe (cont): I know I’m not well off here, and I know it’s not getting any better, and I know I’m probly gonna be gone, you know, in not that many years. Might as well just say it, right? I’m still around ’cause I still hope for the best I guess. Like, I know that of all the good things I’ve gotten, none of them I ever would have seen coming so sometimes you have to kinda hold the fort for future you in case something cool’s coming their way, but I can just as easily imagine that one morning I’m gonna be older and still the same and it’s gonna be yet another day and it’s gonna be obvious that yeah, probly not much is ever gonna change. I guess I can see that happening as much as anything.
    Panel 2:
    Zoe: And I’m sorry, you know? Before we get back to our lives here, I’m sorry that I kinda let the team down ’cause clearly the potential was in there somewhere. ‘Cause look at you man โ€” you obviously do work hard and you pretty much don’t deserve to see some horrible example of how shitty you could have been. Hopefully I’m just like that inner voice freaking out like usual about something that won’t ever happen, ’cause I’m sure it won’t, you know? I think if you were ever gonna become me you already would have, I mean I got that shit done early, I’ve fucked up in ways you’ll never think of. I’m sorry you have to worry about it, but don’t worry, you know โ€” however much you think you don’t fit in, believe me, you do.
    Panel 3:
    Zoe: And I guess it was selfish but I at least enjoyed meeting you! That’s pretty much why I came here, I guess I was hoping for the best, for whatever reason. It’s fuckin’ cool knowing that some other me made it work, I know I didn’t see that one coming. There’s some inner light there I guess.

    Panel 1:
    Zoe: Hey, no worries โ€” I’m only sad when I’m not myself, and I’m always myself.
    Alt!Zoe: Yeah, you are! And I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent living in fear of becoming you, how much I’ve worried you were my future, how there’s no place for me in the world and whatever I have was just a fluke and it’s all gonna crumble overnight and I’m gonna be roaming the streets while society waits for me to just fucking die already because I make them uncomfortable. I’ve probably spent every day of my life worrying I’ll end up like you.
    Panel 2:
    Alt!Zoe: And a lot of p-people and things have lined up to make sure I could never become you even if I tried, to make the idea just another stupid panicky voice I need to ignore, but it’s such a loud voice and I walked in here a-and there you were and I’ve never been more horrified in my life. And I just I just wanted you to disappear โ€” you were my worst nightmare and I’ve never felt such hate and i couldn’t even look at you. And I know that when someone is so badly off it’s because what would need to happen to you to make you that way is what happened to them, and I try and understand and be good to people but it’s so hard. And I think it’s hard because if I’m so disgusted with that version of myself then how could I care about a-anyone in that position, and you don’t deserve any of this stupid selfish bullshit and I’m sorry.
    Panel 3:
    Alt!Zoe: I’m sorry for b-being so afraid of you and I’m sorry that I thought I would hate you, and I’m sorry that if I knew you were gonna be here I w-would have walked right past. I’m sorry I wanted you to disappear, but I don’t โ€” I’m sorry it’s so hard to show, but I don’t ever want you to, you know??

    Alt!Zoe: I’m so sorry, I just want you to be okay.
    Zoe: It’s alright man, sometimes I think about being you too.

    • Did you just transcribe the entire comic?? That’s amazing, thanks so much, i really appreciate you helping someone out like that. I am indeed busy with the next comic (99% done, almost there…) and so thank you for doing that, i suspect that you might be The Best…

      Firm handshake,


    • ninja0jesus Says:

      Oh my god, thank you so much! I’ll be sending this to her with the comic. You’re the best!

  110. Jim Says:

    This is such a wonderful piece of work. It felt like me talking to myself. I am so glad you’re back!

  111. James Bryant Says:

    Amazing comic, and it has certainly reflected of how I feel: Me realizing that I could have been on the streets if it weren’t for the kindness of others, and to reciprocate that generosity to others.

    I’ve always felt that I always needed to go against a part of myself that wanted to resign and let all of this come to pass, but instead fighting against that part of myself because if it did happen I could have at least say I tried.

    I saw a lot of “me” in that comic, and remembering the times when I had to yell at myself and just keep moving forward even if it didn’t make sense yet, and not knowing if it will ever make sense.

    Thank you for writing these comics!

  112. neuroniky Says:

    Amazing reflection that’s oh-so-right on how so many different levels, and that so well depicts how we feel sometimes. Or, like, everyday, when anxiety is your middle name. Thank you so much for sharing this… it was heart-rending at times, but it’s just so… true.

  113. Joe Says:

    My idea of hell is that on my last day on earth…
    The person I am meets the person I could’ve been.

    This comic hit really close to home.

  114. UrbanRaccoon Says:

    I didn’t know comics could do this. A glimpse through the haze

  115. Priyansha Gupta Says:

    Thank you so much for this, it was brilliant. You have an understanding of people that I’ve never seen before. It’s a heavy gift, I’m sure, but it’s a gift nonetheless ๐Ÿ™‚

  116. Salp Says:

    I’ve posted here before in Dec 2015… Nearly three years later, I guess? I suppose that I’m closer to Zoe’s age, now, though I probably still have a handful years left to go, I hope…

    I don’t know. As I suspected, again, the comic would read differently to me the third time… Things are SO much different for me… Some good, and some bad… But… a lot of the bad that I had before and had hoped would go away persisted…

    I feel like I’m still waiting for that something Good to come and help make that Persistent Bad go away… But it might not… And I fear that I’m on my way to becoming the Homeless-Zoe version of me instead of the Successful-Zoe version of me that I always think about being, and it’s driving me crazy… And I have new Bads that are now driving me crazy (though “new” for some of the Bads because I’ve had it all along, just that I didn’t know that it was a thing that could be treated by now but treatment isn’t working as well as I’d hoped), and I don’t know…

    I hope that life will be okay for me… I still feel that I have a chance to become the Successful-Me that I always think about, but I’m becoming increasingly certain that that Persistent Bad isn’t going to go away, and I’ll be okay, ultimately, but I won’t have the life that I always wanted and think about… And I cry so much more often, now, as it’s becoming increasingly clear just how bad my Persistent Bad is, and how I feel like I’m depending on this one person to be my Good, but she may end up killing herself before I may even be able to meet her IRL, and I just know that, even if she survives her crap and we meet, she won’t be my Good, and my Persistent Bad will persist and I’ll continue not having the life that I want but I’ll be okay but I don’t WANT to be just “okay”, and, I don’t know…

    I don’t know……………..

    (I came back because the “Yesterday upon the stair” poem was in my head, and I wanted to see just the first strip of the comic, but then I kept reading, even though I can’t afford to procrastinate anymore, and, you know how it is, maybe…)

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