After a hiatus of several months, fans of the unconventional (yet highly popular and highly acclaimed) webcomic have been asking, “Is Achewood … boned?” Well, not necessarily. But Chris Onstad IS burned out. From his blog:
As you have likely noticed if you have any interest in Achewood, output has been next to nil for the last several months, and was slowing down before that. Here, let me explain. Have a seat wherever you like.
You see, whenever I sat down to write over the last year or so, I had a growing, nagging feeling that, after nine years, 1,700 strips, 1,000 character blog entries spanning twelve characters, thirty books, 700 subscriber pieces, the New Yorker pieces, tours, hundreds of interviews, terabytes of vitriolic hate mail (incoming), running a merchandise mini-empire, and just generally feeling under the gun to dance for the public, I was getting a little burned out.
Whenever I cracked my knuckles and attempted to start a fresh strip with an idea that had popped into my head that day, I’d get halfway through it and realize I’d already done that particular gag, say, six years ago. Frustrating. Had I run through everything that my finite brain knew to talk about? Couldn’t be…I’d boasted in earlier times that a good writer could write his way out of anything. What a cocksure young man I was. Maybe it’s time to recharge.
Like a sparrow birthing a clenched human fist, Achewood must be reborn in strange ways over time to achieve this ideal. This may mean the occasional hiatus, or span of dark strips that do not make you laugh. This may mean a week of heavily-Photoshopped scans of pencil sharpeners, or simply stenciling a “bobby” on my garage door in a cheap imitation of Banksy.
I know it’s irritating that I can keep no regular schedule; that’s what RSS is for. Also, whatever I put up on Achewood.com is free to the world, and I won’t entertain a bunch of entitled whining. Here’s a great essay by the wonderful Neil Gaiman on that subject. This essay is a gift to writers and artists everywhere.
One thing that’s always made me a bit sad is how Internet presentation seems to devalue content. So much art, writing, and news is suddenly available to us that each piece seems nearly a throwaway, lost in the gullet of our now-insatiable appetite for information. Here in the future, everyone is famous for 15kb. Fifteen reTweets. Fifteen LOLs. Should I work fifteen hours on something that will take fifteen seconds to read? The answer is yes, of course, because I love what I do, but after nearly a decade one wonders if one couldn’t do more for people with that time. Create greater and lengthier entertainment. I’d like to focus more on prose; despite the heavy foot I seem to have planted in the comics world, perhaps I can balance both by shifting the weight a bit. Some might count themselves kings of infinite space when bounded in the nutshell of six panels, but personally I’m finding it a bit cramped.
I’m also trying to gently withdraw from life as a semi-public figure, impossible as that sounds given my medium. I just don’t feel suited to it. It’s very bad for your head (well, my head, anyway) to be intensely praised and intensely hated by a decade’s worth of strangers. I loved meeting the thousands of kind readers on my tours, but the stress of the constant travel, constant demand, and unstanchable 24-hour communications have me longing for a wingback chair, a quiet inbox, and perhaps a calming agent in some cut crystal. That said, you can follow me on Twitter!
In sum, I think Achewood will be back sooner than later. As will other projects, and the sun, and my solo album with Greg Lake (he’s on vocals and guitar). I’ve needed time to reflect on what all this is, but it’s been a good long time, hasn’t it? I still love the work when I look back over it, and don’t want to take it off the ventilator. Cross your fingers, do that RSS thing, and I hope to see you again before too long.
So, in short, while he’s not giving up on Achewood, he’s sort of run out of fresh jokes to tell. Hence the hiatus. And other projects. Also, keep checking your RSS. And this putting comics on the internet thing? Not entirely all it’s cracked up to be.
I can sort of understand the “being burnt out” thing, by the way, especially after ten years of putting out a comic. (Heck, around this time, a guy like Al Capp would be working on spin-off comics within comics and Agatha Christie would start writing Hercule Poirot mysteries not focusing on Hercule Poirot.)
Best of luck to Chris Onstad in his future endeavors, whatever they are.