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Popular webcomic could become animated

By Joe O'Leary
On March 3, 2013

 

Certain corners of the Internet spent the last week in a state of frenzied bliss after the author of "Achewood," a cult-classic webcomic, announced he was shopping an animated television adaptation of the series to become a potential series.

Named the No. 1 graphic novel of 2007 by TIME Magazine, "Achewood" and its creator Chris Onstad have created an army of dedicated fans since the strip's beginnings in 2001. The comic, which has been in a general hiatus for a few years, has some of the strongest writing and characters across the entire medium. Its absurd, ever-changing scope has made it an iconic mainstay among the best online strips.

The main protagonist is Ray Smuckles, a thirty-something Californian cat with a pot belly. Successful at everything he does and incredibly rich (his single "Everybody Dance Like There's Ass In Your Pants" has sold 34 million fictional records), he enjoys the finer things in life. His best friend is Roast Beef, a gray cat with serious depression. In the comics, Roast Beef's speech bubbles' text is two font sizes smaller than everyone else to depict his reserved manner. Other characters include a five-year-old otter, an alcoholic tiger and a deviant, cocaine-addicted squirrel named Todd who frequently dies and spends time in both heaven and hell.

"Achewood" has a lot of aspects that could lead to an adult-oriented television adaptation becoming a beloved cult comedy much like "Archer" on FX or one of Adult Swim's many shows. In five minutes of test footage released to Youtube the show keeps the comic's art style, rendered in cel-shaded 3D. Its closest comparison would be Adult Swim's "The Drinky Crow Show" from 2008, another comic adaptation animated using cel-shading (although it was funny it only lasted one season). 

The humor is both dry and layered in the comic, similar to the witty dialogue of "Archer" complete with in-jokes and pop culture references. The test footage implies there may be growing pains adapting the show to TV, as the four short episodes directly adapt comics and don't fully succeed. Ray is voiced by Toby Huss, a character actor from "Pete and Pete" and "King of the Hill" and the creator Onstad does Roast Beef's. Onstad's voice acting works well with the character, while Huss doesn't quite nail the fat cat's ideal voice but comes close.

Where "Achewood" excels is character development and plotting. Over the years, the comic has developed its characters in absurd situations that capture relatable, important moments in life both absurd, such as Ray attempting to honor the Smuckles family by winning a three-day, thousand-man brawl, and down-to-earth, though still absurd (Roast Beef is shot and nearly killed in a Subway restaurant and goes to heaven, where he meets Molly the angel; she later incarnates herself and creates the series' high point by marrying him). In these wide-ranging plots, Ray, Beef and the rest of the cast noticeably change over time, becoming more pointed. Also of note are its soundtracks: while Beef listens to the fictional art-rock group The Tenmen, all real references are hilarious: of special note is one plot where Ray buys Nine Inch Nails lead singer Trent Reznor's Volvo of Despair.

It's unknown if the show has been picked up by a network at the moment, though Onstad has recently tweeted about "interesting developments" during a week of television pitches. Should it make it to series, "Achewood" has incredible creative potential and is worth keeping a close eye on. 


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