- BY AARON COLTER
- 2:12 PM
Praised for over a decade as being the smartest, most idiosyncratic webcomic to grace the digital space, Chris Onstad’s Achewood has operated on an intermittent schedule since the creator announced an indefinite hiatus in March of 2011. At the time, Onstad admitted that comics might not be the best medium for the characters anymore, and now the somewhat reclusive creator has has announced the next step for the strip and its cast of eccentric anthropomorphic animals : It may soon become an animated television show.
The new development comes as welcome news to readers after a several years of inconsistent updates and relatively little content from Onstad. “The new material feels great,” Onstad told Wired. “It was incredibly liberating to finally write for the new medium. It breathed new life into me, and the characters.”
Although some familiar plots from the webcomic would make their way into the small screen adaptation, Onstad says the bulk of the content potentially slated for the cartoon format will be all-new. Currently, the creator is looking at traditional cable networks willing to host a half-hour show in a nonstandard format, though the Ignatz Award-winning creator says fans of the strip’s relentlessly offbeat and irreverent humor shouldn’t worry about it dumbing down: “It’s not a nuclear family comedy.”
Cartoon Network could be the perfect fit for the project with its Adult Swim subbrand of alternative shows, although Fox is set to debut its own late-night animation blog with Axe Cop, a series based on another webcomic that features the voice talent of Parks and Recreation ‘s Nick Offerman. But if Achewood can’t find a place among any of the traditional networks, here’s hoping one rogue player might: Netflix. The streaming service has already resurrected one cult comedy favorite with Arrested Development , and bringing aboard a property like Achewood would only solidify the company’s ability to focus on niche audiences cable and network stations can’t foster.
An animated show isn’t the only thing on the horizon for Achewood . Onstad says he’s been quietly stockpiling a variety of material during the lull of public content released, including a new webstore, a stand-alone anthology through a print publisher, and another book that has been in the works for over a year.
Onstad also thinks there’s a “good chance” that more original Achewood strips could be in the works. “I took a long time off to take care of myself and recharge, to live life without constantly seeing the world in the service of the comic, but now I am nostalgic for it again. When I first started seeing the tremendous outpouring of support for the new show announcement, I realized what an important part of my life writing and sharing Achewood on a regular basis was.”
He also admits webcomics aren’t always the path to financial security despite the success of projects like Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North’s choose-your-own-path retelling of Hamlet and other Kickstarter campaigns.“My eBook honor system works decently. While it’s not generating surplus money, it’s definitely not generating any headaches, and that’s more important to me,” Onstad said. “I’m proud to have shown that a web-based comic can go a lot of places under its own power, but I would never tell anyone it was a safe way to live.”
Whatever happens with the future of Achewood , Onstad says he hope to “make people happy with writing that I believe genuinely takes the intelligence of both the audience and the subject seriously.” And if you’ve ever read the series, you’ll know he says that without the slightest irony, even though it revolves around misadventures of a motley crew of depressed, loquacious, foul-mouthed bears, cats and otters who befriend serial killers, engage in week-long no holds barred fighting events and get shot in the spine with bullets that grant them permanent wireless internet.