Chris Onstad at Quimby's | Bleader

Chris Onstad at Quimby's

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The second most exciting thing to happen in Chicago this week: Chris Onstad, creator of Achewood, is doing a book signing at Quimby's today at 5.

I grew up during what's said to be a "golden age" of comics; I do not know what a golden age consists of, but there were at least a few of the greatest comics ever created running in most newspapers when I was a kid: Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Doonsbury, and my favorite, Bloom County. That golden age died fast and hard, but there is now Achewood. It is online, but such distinctions don't matter.

There are people in the field of arts and entertainment doing things which are probably better than Achewood, but I can't really think of someone who is more better at what he or she does than everyone else who does that. It's like Tiger Woods or Roger Federer--there are arguably more important sports than golf and tennis, but there's no one in those sports who is more jaw-droppingly dominant. Achewood is playing in a league in the future against comics that haven't even been conceived of yet, and it is better than those.

That's an awfully abstract way of selling it to you, so better yet: imagine art-house Bloom County as drawn (daily) by Chris Ware channeling Winsor McCay and written by the best student of David Mamet and David Milch. Onstad has a great eye and works wonders in a grayscale format, but his real gift is dialogue and utterly sui generis phrasing:

The dilemma of getting married or breaking up: "It is come to grapes."

Abstract usability jokes: "I'm a human! I invented a voice mail system where '7' means 'delete'!"

20something men's fashion: "I like shoes with a design on the side for which I am assessed a premium"

Mortality: You kind of have to read it, it will break your heart, even though it's about a toddler otter who is marrying a flower.

The worst possible things you could ever say: I'm not typing it.

Passive-aggressive relationship communication: "I'm Sorry I Didn't Pay Attention to the Movie and Kept Reaching Back and Feeling My Kidneys"

The inside of my head: "'Do you think you can get it together enough to do some reading?' 'Just online but definitely not like books.'"

The essentials: Phillipe goes to the transfer station; The Great Outdoor Fight; Phillipe's wedding; Ray goes to hell; Meeting Nice Pete; Phillipe for America.

For me it's up there with FiveThirtyEight, Marilynne Robinson, and a very small number of the best things anyone is doing right now in the world. Read it until it clicks; it will.

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