Achewood is a critically acclaimed and very adult comic by Chris Onstad, originally about the adventures of his stuffed animals (straight-man Teodor, refined Cornelius, sweet-natured young Philippe and violent boozer Lyle), which expanded to include, and was eventually taken over by, the neighborhood cats (ideas man Ray, and clinically depressed Roast Beef). The main characters are:
- Ray, massively wealthy, hip-hop loving Wacky Guy (or cat) with a penchant for weird side projects. Became a Breakout Character along with Roast Beef once introduced.
- Roast Beef, half Deadpan Snarker, half clinically depressed cat from Circumstances.
- Pat, the self-righteous vegan Jerkass cat. Later revealed to be gay through a family curse.
- Téodor, a stuffed bear Straight Man with slacker tendencies.
- Cornelius, stuffed bear Cool Old Guy, writer and bartender.
- Philippe, stuffed otter Cheerful Child who is eternally five.
- Lyle, stuffed tiger and half Violent Glaswegian.
- Molly, The Chick cat who Roast Beef met in heaven and recently married.
- Todd, unspeakably stupid cokehead squirrel and even more of a Jerkass than Pat.
- Nice Pete, a Serial Killer that fits the Hair-Trigger Temper and Ax-Crazy types.
- Lie-Bot, whose name encapsulates his character rather well.
- Vlad, a robot from Eastern Europe.
The comic is confrontational on just about every level; very sexually explicit, laden with drug references and moments of harsh violence. It also features many episodes which are disturbing in a more psychological manner, such as Ray's and Roast Beef's bizarre encounters with freakish performance artist Cartilage Head, or an occasion where a character dies only to discover that heaven has burnt down. At the same time it can be surprisingly good-natured, and deals quite sincerely on such subjects as friendship, self-esteem and commitment, and is literate about matters like fine food, multi-lingual palindromes and gay porn. It's also, if you're in the right mood, often very, very
A special mention must be made of the dialog, which is often downright poetic. Onstad seems to coin brilliantly memorable phrases on a near-daily basis at times, and every character has a unique and unmistakable speech pattern. It's helped make Achewood something of a darling among literary critics, receiving high praise from the likes of The New Yorker
. However, the wordplay often depends heavily on Genius Bonus
, and Onstad occasionally seems to go out of his way to make his slang indecipherable. Whether this improves the comic or distracts from the story is debatable.
Has a much more expansive world than most webcomics. In addition to the comic, Onstad maintains blogs for twelve
of the characters, runs an Achewood
radio station, and puts out cookbooks with original recipes by the characters, many of which are completely edible.
Can be read here
. If you'd like to skip the comic's Early Installment Weirdness
, start here
instead. For the Wham Episode
Cartilage Head storyline, read here
. And for the Great Outdoor Fight
, which was published as a standalone hardcover comic by Dark Horse, start here
(and read on - the storyline takes a while to get going).
The strip went on a hiatus of sorts
for much of 2011, returning in November and updating sporadically since, although Onstad has put several of the now out-of-print side materials
, including Roast Beef's zine and the Achewood
cookbook, up for download via an honor system-based shop
. On February 25 2013, Onstad returned with the news that there will be an Achewood animated series in the works
Achewood cntains examples of:
- Aborted Arc: The "High School" arc. The only resolution is Roast Beef talking Nice Pete out of the whole High School thing; we don't know what happened to Lurquill — and few people mind. We will now never know if Téodor chugged Nathan's giant hog.
- Also from much earlier is the "Possessed Banjo" arc, which was cut short when Onstad's daughter was born.
- "Ray Goes to Rehab" also appears to be this, as the webcomic has gone back to being about random events.
- Subverted- Onstad has said that he just doesn't think the storyline would work in the comic, and is planning to move it to the blogs.
- Accentuate the Negative: Roast Beef, whenever people try to cheer him up.
- The Alcoholic: Lyle.
"Why can't I wake up with the gin already in me?"
- Alt Text: A major component of the comics humor.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The Mexican Magical Realism camera, among other things.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Roast Beef calls out his grandmother when he's finally had it with her:
"You god damn hag! It's YOUR fault I can't have a meal without thinking it'd give me cancer! It's YOUR fault I can't walk down the sidewalk without expecting a truck to jump the curb and kill me! It's YOUR FAULT I'M AFRAID OF CREEKS!"
- When Roast Beef is driving Trent Rezor's old car and the aura of utter despair overtakes him, he declares that he has nothing to lose and he might as well shoot a cop or buy a nose on eBay.
- Author Appeal: Computer programming, apparently. And heavy drinking.
- Cookery too; a couple of characters are shown to be fine chefs on more than one occasion, particularly Teodor
- Onstad himself is a lover of fine food and cooking, and in one third-party article, prepares several dishes of testicles.
- Author Avatar: Teodor, to a minor extent, particularly given his sarcasm, and interest in cuisine. Onstad himself once admitted to a fan that while there are small elements of him in most of the characters, Teodor gets the biggest share.
- Ramses Luther. Good God, Ramses Luther. He's also fathered countless children, who are now well into adulthood: he's a Badass Grandpa.
- Cornelius Bear, having won the first annual Badass Games. Could've won it in his sleep, but didn't, as a courtesy to the other participants. See also Cool Old Guy.
- When all is said and done, Ramses's lazy easy-going son Ray Smuckles still won the Great Outdoor Fight against 2,998 other men. Badass runs true.
- Badass Bystander: Spongebath and Emeril. They seem to know everybody and everything happening in the Achewood universe and how to immediately deal with whatever problems come up, though they mainly stand in the background and expound on bizarre conspiracy theories.
- Berserk Button: Roast Beef is normally pretty calm and cool, and sure, he gets angry from time to time like anyone else - but gods help you if you skip out on his Moussaka. Being tied up is about the only excuse you have.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Roast Beef.
- Blatant Lies: You'd think people would get that a character named Lie-Bot is prone to these.
- Black Comedy: Despite being extremely funny, it's a very dark webcomic with some rather horrifyingly sad undertones. According to The Other Wiki, it was inspired by 9/11.
- Bleep Dammit: A couple of posts on I-Got-Problems.com contain the word "fuck*ng".
- Born Lucky: Ray Smuckles can't seem to turn around without falling into a pile of money.
- Brains and Brawn: Roast Beef and Ray fit into these roles, but not until "The Great Outdoor Fight". (prior to that, while Ray is decently successful in business, losing a fight to him is just downright embarrassing).
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Pat has a bumper sticker that says "Didn't you get the memo? Don't eat in your car or use the phone it is not a God-damned phone restaurant".
- Break the Cutie: When Philippe asks Lie Bot "What is the saddest thing?" he never holds back, and usually Crosses the Line Twice.
- Breakout Character: Ray and Roast Beef are currently the main characters of the strip, with the rest taking supporting roles. They didn't debut in the strip for months, and took even longer to take over, but there they are.
- Call Back: Girls like a guy who eats cheese.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Philippe often fails when he attempts adult humor. For example, his "Yo Mama is so fat" joke had the punchline of "she broke her leg and hot bloody fat sprayed everywhere! Some even got on the mayor!"
- The Casanova: Vlad, King of the Make-Outs.
- Catch Phrase: The characters don't use as many in-universe examples (aside from great usage of the word "dogg"), but the fandom picks up very quickly on certain great lines. Expect to hear "do you think it's rad to have alcoholism?" more than a few times from Acheheads.
- Character Blog: Almost the entire main cast have blogs, even relatively minor characters like Emeril and Little Nephew. In Fact, Todd is the only frequently recurring character who doesn't have one, though he is illiterate.
- Characterization Marches On: Pat wasn't as big a jerk as he is in his first appearance as part of the cat trio.
- The Chessmaster: A very weird example with Cartilage Head
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Lie-Bot, Lyle, Little Nephew, Vlad, Todd and Pat have all been MIA for some time.
- Comic Trio: Eventually heavily subverted in the form of Ray, Pat and Roast Beef.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ray becomes this when stoned.
- Cluster F-Bomb / Berserk Button: Roast Beef had no idea Leo was sensitive about his thighs.
- Cool Old Guy: Cornelius Bear won the first Badass Olympics, unanimously. Cornelius Bear prepares remarks for a competition he thinks he won't win, just in case. Cornelius Bear writes closed captioning for pornographic films. Cornelius Bear was invited to join Mensa's Distinguished Lecturers circuit during a conversation in which he was turning down an invitation to join Mensa. Cornelius Bear is legally registered as a church. Cornelius Bear is so old school he drives a yellow bus with Gothic arch windows. Cornelius Bear is a mirror that normal men look into to realize they are but clowns.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: Pat's meals are so aggressively vegan that they come off as tongue-destroying chemistry experiments. Teodor also flirts with this when he gets too ambitious with his cooking.
- Cross Over: With The Drinky Crow Show in this guest strip by Tony Millionaire
- Curse Cut Short: On the menu at Friendly's: "Have you ever stuck your fingers up your own-"
- Deal with the Devil: Ray, to get his amazing musical talent and 34 platinum records.
- Disproportionate Retribution: A common event in the webcomic. Such as the guys savagely beating up the guy who created the Comic Sans font, or Todd shanking Pat in the ankle for insulting him.
- The Ditz: Todd. Who is also a massive Jerkass and a more-fail-than-usual Casanova Wannabe.
- Gets a little character development in the North Korean Magical Realism arc... but it doesn't stick.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Averted by the alt text, which instead of ruining the joke often points out how ridiculous it is.
- Drink Order: Ketel One. And Blue Nun.
- Embarrassing First Name: Roast Beef was born "Cassandra".
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Ray may be the baddest dude with a hell of an elitist streak, but he loves his mama. So much so that when she tells him to stop running for President, he stops running.
- Fan Disservice: The series has a lot of penis shots for the sake of some dick joke (or sometimes, just because). And very few, if any, are something the reader will want to see.
- Flanderization: A rare case where the character in question didn't have much personality BEFORE the single trait was accentuated; Roast Beef was just one of the "dirtiest dudes in town" who didn't talk much (when he did his personality didn't seem too much different from Ray's.) It wasn't until The Famous Party Arc that he developed the persona of the put-upon, clinically depressed programmer from Circumstances.
- Flat Character: Part of the reason why Lyle moved so quickly into the background from the original main four cast members. His "drunken angry guy" schtick was all he really had. (Although, interestingly, he's given backstory and some growth.)
- Foreshadowing: Many years before we find out who Darlene was, Lyle is seen grieving her loss.
- The very first thing Nice Pete does is ask Pat about gay marriage.
- Fourth Wall Mail Slot: 'Ray's Place'
- Funny Foreigner: Vlad, who apparently is from Ruritania, ant ees font off talkeenk like thees.
- Fun Personified: Ray, who's virtually imperturbable and uses his unlimited riches to throw parties with a frequency most people reserve for using the bathroom (which in one case was the cause for a party, in his mind.)
- The Gambling Addict: Ray again. Cornelius pockets a cool ten grand over several weeks just from winning pool bets with him.
- Gang of Critters: Subverted on many levels.
- Gender-Blender Name: Cassandra "Roast Beef" Kazenzakis.
- Genius Ditz: Philippe, usually possessing the mindset of an extremely hyperactive and naive five-year old, has several moments of extreme savantry, such as being adept at polyglot palindromes, "leading a frog through a makeshift obstacle course using only a small tatter of yellow madras," and becoming a successful, Stephen Wright esque comedian. This tendency both amazes and troubles Cornelius.
- Gratuitous German / Gratuitous Spanish: Periodically there will be entire strips done in Spanish or German (Heute auf Deutsch/Hoy en Español) with no explanation why. Sometimes goes into Bilingual Bonus territory, such as one "Fuck You Friday" strip featuring a Mexican taco preparer telling Ray "Chupa mi pene, cabron" note when Ray bemoans that the restaurant's chips are store-bought.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Pat and Nice Pete, though in opposite ways. Pat is constantly furious at something or another, but aside from having a shitty attitude he's mostly harmless. Nice Pete usually has the emotional range of a corpse, but replies to any slight, real or imagined (usually the latter) by killing the offending party and burying their body in the woods.
- Heroic BSOD: Ray has one when he thinks he's blown up Philippe with Airwolf.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ray and Roast Beef, but their phrase is Knuckleheads from Old Times.
- Hidden Depths: Lyle is usually drunk well past the point of coherence, but his checkered past has left him with a bevy of talents, including cookery, calligraphy, and hairdressing.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Roast Beef's seesaws between this and just plain tragic.
- Inn Between the Worlds: The Friendly's restaurant in Hell is used by several characters to escape back to Earth, and it's suggested that every Friendly's on Earth similarly contains a portal to Hell.
- Intercourse with You: Or, more specifically, with ya' face.
- Jerkass: Pat. He's so insufferable that even his friends only tolerate him at best - with the exception of serial killer Nice Pete, who seems to be impressed at the sheer force of Pat's personality.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ray, especially where Roast Beef is concerned.
- Karma Houdini: Nice Pete, who never really gets any comeuppance for the horrific stuff he's committed since he escaped jail with Pat (save for his attempt to kill Ray and Téodor with a knife device that just ended up incapacitating him).
- Played straight and subverted with Ray depending on the occasion. Sometimes, he gets away with morally questionable acts because he's rich. But then you have times such as the arc when Ray gets pulled into Hell when Satan wants him to pay up for their previous agreement that made Ray rich.
- It's just easier to say that the cast gets away with a lot of morally questionable acts. Another really obvious example would be Todd who engages in theft, attacking people, and so forth. Though his Butt Monkey status might null it a bit.
- Lack of Empathy: Pat definitely shows signs of this. All the more notable in his blog where he tries to have any "offender" to his sensitivities greatly punished. And their families and businesses too. (In one case, he shows no sympathy for his attorney who was Driven to Suicide by manic depression, calling him a "damn idiot".) Fortunately, these attempts generally go nowhere. He'd be an example of The Sociopath were it not for his few genuine Pet the Dog moments.
- Le Parkour: sort of, in this strip.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: There is a conceit that Onstad is just representing actual events, and shares a house with Téodor, Cornelius and Philippe. This has become less central to the comic as time goes on.
- Magical Realism: The storylines were already fairly surreal before Magical Realism became an actual in-universe quality of goods imported from Mexico, along with (possibly) the UK and recently North Korea.
- Man Child: Téodor is a non-comedic example. He's a talented guy and one of the most well-adjusted members of the cast, but he's shiftless, unemployed, and liable to mess up big whenever he's given responsibilities of his own.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: When Beef comes back from heaven, he somehow has the receipt from the Chinese takeout food he ordered there.
- Morgan Freeman: He somehow has written down his views about certain tostadas.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Nearly every character in Achewood has tried their hand at writing fiction at some point. Most notable is Cornelius, who writes for Harlequin Romance. There was a series of strips in which some of the characters wrote Harry Potter fan fiction.
- Murder.com: Resident murderous psychopath Nice Pete take the concept one further by having the murder be tied to an automatic device controlled by web poll.
- My Beloved Smother: Sondra towards Ray to a degree, especially demonstrated by this chart.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Balthazar Murder Stonefield Accalum and all his brethren.
- Nice Pete. When a guy has such a pleasant adjective in his name, you should always assume it's a warning (unless they are Good Guy Greg). Also many of the contestants in the Great Outdoor Fight.
- No Ending: Averted- though it probably wasn't planned this way, the final full-length story arc (not counting 'high school' arc cut off by the hiatus) was a poignant, fitting conclusion to the series.
- Noodle Incident: Averted in the already-nightmarish Transfer Station arc with Zell and Cory.
- In the Great Outdoor Fight arc, something happened in Ted's past that made him need to "stuff his trousers"
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Apparently, Philippe. As of the final full-length story arc, this may no longer be true.
- Old Shame: Ray pays hush money to cover up the existence of a series of embarrassing videotapes of him as an underground hip-hop dancer. Subverted with Lyle, who is open about having done porn.
- Overly Long Name: Todd Todd Todd Todd Todd T. Squirrel.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: Apologies4men.com is "quite possibly the worst men's discount-apology e-service on the market today."
- Painting the Medium: Dang you know how Roast Beef uses hell of a small font to talk in with his speech balloon all crowded like the Dickens plus the dude has got No Punctuation Period so his sentences run like they are on rails
- all comin' back with another speech balloon if Beef is gettin' a second sentence on to make sure his sentences end all vague and lacking the definition brought about by your common or garden period or full stop