What am I, chopped liver?

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Anywhere But Here…. Click on image to see it full-sized.)

I’m starting to understand why Jason Siebels does his mega-strips for Anywhere But Here. I’ve commented before on how driven Jason is. He has a vision for ABH. Part of that vision is that the comic will run for a few years and then end. Unless things have changed since last we chatted about it, he does plan on a sequel, but the comic has a beginning, middle, and end. Not only that, it also was set in real-time. December real-time was December comic-time. But things changed with the recent storyline.

I mean, this story started mid-January, and we’re still on New Year’s Eve. Well, technically it’s probably January 1st now, but this story has taken months to tell. Heck, it’s been over two months in the bathtub alone, and just now the Dude’s story about his first time and second partner. And we’ve learned something interesting about the Dude during this time.

Sure, we knew before that he believed there was someone special out there waiting for him, someone perfectly suited for him. Indeed, we even saw glimpses of this girl over in France in little snippets that honestly don’t mean a lot at this moment. She’s been cast aside for Chris. Our hero has given up on the dream for reality, and Chris is oh so very real. It’s no faerie-tale romance either. He’s said things that hurt Chris, often without intending on it. She’s manipulated him into feeling guilty, and I sometimes think that yes, she is hurt by some of the things he’s said, but she realizes that he is worth the time and trouble.

Heck, Chris herself has changed. She doesn’t just want sex these days. She’s interested in something more. The Dude himself has changed her by not just jumping into the sack with her. She wants to be in a relationship, a real relationship, something that is more than just physical. The Dude completes her in a very special way. Sure, sometimes it hurts. Life is that way. Life is often pain and people say and do things that hurt one another. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes you force it to work even when you should let go. But there are no happily ever afters. Instead, you work at it, every day.

That’s what the Dude and Chris are doing. They’re working at it. Maybe they didn’t get the romantic night together, having sex for the first time together. And maybe they aren’t going to have sex in the bathtub they’re sleeping in. But the Dude has opened up his heart to Chris tonight, and bared his soul to her. Indeed, tonight has been more intimate than sex would have been.

Perhaps the greatest revelation is what his relation with his last girlfriend was about. He was with Steph because he hated being alone. It sucks being alone. Think of it for a moment. Isn’t this why so many single people despise Valentine’s Day? Isn’t this why people go to nightclubs and the like? Heck, Billy Joel’s song Piano Man sums it up nicely… …they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.

So then, what does that say about his relationship with Chris?

Well, things are a little different with Chris. For one thing, they do have a few things in common. For one, she actually enjoys jazz and shares his disdain about Kenny G being a jazz musician. What’s more, she keeps him on his toes. She’s stopped pushing him away. He’s stopped pushing her away.

Once, after Chris and the Dude had broken up, Jason commented on the two of them. He said the Dude was water… and Chris was fire. Too much water will extinguish the fire. Too much fire will boil away the water, leaving nothing left. But if you mix the two just right, you get steam. Lately it seems that Chris and the Dude have gotten the mixture right. Things have definitely gotten steamy of late with these two.

It’s also interesting that when the Dude tried to get back together with Chris, he commented on how she’d been pushing him away. He wanted Chris to trust him. He wanted her to let him in. In response, she told him some pretty dark stuff. She admitted to losing her virginity when she was 12. She admitted that she slept with two guys after getting drunk at her senior prom. She admitted she thinks her dad committed suicide because of her.

That last one… that’s raw. That’s potent stuff. That’s downright scary. Yet he doesn’t turn away from her. He stays with her, he lets her know that he wants to be with her, because of the light and the darkness. Now, he’s bared his soul to her. He’s revealed some of the deepest darkest corners of his soul to her light. He’s let her in.

What’s more, he revealed that for the last year, before he started dating Chris, he’d been alone. There was no one. No girl showed any interest in him. ‘Zillas even bet him that he couldn’t get a date for New Year’s. For a month he looked. For a month he was turned down, over and over again. Finally he lied to ‘Zillas, but he still spent it alone.

Except he didn’t. He met Chris that night. She reminds him of that.

Much as Chris was despondent after baring her soul, and the Dude made her laugh, brought a smile to her face, so too did Chris get him to smile. She reminded him that yes, maybe he had been alone before. But he isn’t now. He’s got her. And she’s got him.

There’s no way this comic could have been told without the mega-strips. The pacing would be off. The art would be squished. It would have fallen flat on its face if the strip hadn’t had everything together like this. I don’t envy Jason Siebels. I drew one mega-strip when I did the comic Tangents. It took a lot out of me. He’s done a month of these, without missing a day. Without them, this story would have taken a year to tell. It would have bogged down and lost focus.

Fortunately, this story seems to finally be coming to an end. It should be a relief for Jason to draw regular strips again, instead of these behemoths. At least, until the next time he has a dramatic moment that needs a mega-strip to properly tell it.

Robert A. Howard

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