Chris Onstad | Quimby's Bookstore | Literary Events | Chicago Reader

Chris Onstad Free Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Thu., Nov. 6, 5-7 p.m. 2008

Chris Onstad's Web comic Achewood inspires the sort of slavish devotion normally reserved for Star Wars or methamphetamine, particularly among "white guys with glasses," as Onstad describes his audience, but it can be hard for newcomers to get a foothold. Most of the daily strips continue long-running story lines involving the wide array of stuffed animals, robots, cats, and other furry sybarites populating the fictional California suburb of the title. The comedy isn't packed in a punch line but found rather in the characters' bizarre syntax and idiosyncratic behavior and in the conceits of the strip's universe, where everything is possible and every impulse--brilliant to boneheaded--is pursued. Dark Horse has recently released a single hardbound volume containing perhaps the most popular story line of the series, which makes it a good entry point for newcomers. In The Great Outdoor Fight, the be-thonged millionaire cat Ray Smuckles discovers his father was once champion of an infamous annual brawl ("Three Days, Three Acres, Three Thousand Men"). Having discovered he's "Blood of Champion," Smuckles enters the fight and enlists as his aide-de-camp Roast Beef Kazenzakis, a chronically depressed computer programmer friend who has studied the fight obsessively "since small times." The Great Outdoor Fight showcases Achewood's best qualities'--an immersive plot that turns from mindlessly (yet somehow adorably) scatological to near-mythic in scope and Onstad's deep investment in his characters and their world. Onstad makes two stops in Chicago for his first national book tour. --Alex Yablon


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