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Seriously, Olly?


Just … wow.

This last arc at Octopus Pie opened in the aftermath of Olly’s Organix burning down and Eve Ning at a crossroads. Her life was upended (not least from a health scare), and it turned into a series of old recurring characters from her life trotting out for one last appearance. But as heartfelt a wrap-up as Meredith Gran gave us, there was still one voice to go, and in yesterday’s final installment we heard at last from Olly.

Olly. He’s a jerk (although his wife seems to love him). He’s exploitative, hucksterish, almost completely devoid of charm. He’s barely kept his business afloat all these years, and wouldn’t have if not for Eve. And it falls to Olly (Olly!) to deliver the final lesson (once you stumble over his utter inability to find a stand-in for female strength beyond Wonder Woman [or] the star of a skin care commercial) and it’s a damn good one: There’s more.

More time to grow. More time to decide. More friends. More good times. The celebration at times felt more like a wake or a farewell party, but one that was for our benefit. Olly (Olly!) is here to remind us Eve’s not dying or moving away, she’s just shifting jobs and will see all these people (some more, some less) tomorrow and the day after; we just won’t get to see it.

And, because he’s Olly, he’ll make a gesture that is at once kind of magnanimous, kind of panic-inducing, and ultimately very, very small. There’s depths in Olly; he was never just the cartoon semivillain, any more than anybody else in the cast was just the [fill in the blank]. Olly (for glob’s sake, Olly!) reminded me of that.

Because what Meredith Gran accomplished over ten years and 1026 pages of pure magic was a master class in comics, their ability to tell any damn kind of story you want to, and especially to provide a playground for your characters. Eve Ning isn’t who she was back in strip one; neither is Hanna, or Marek, or Will. Jane and Marigold, Julie and Park, Larry and Puget Sean and America frickin’ Jones, all of them¹ — they didn’t exist in a timeless, changeless story setting. By fits and starts, on camera and off, they lived and breathed, cried and loved and hated and indifferented².

For ten years, they were the circle of friends just adjacent to your real-life one. For ten years, I’ve been picking a storyline to start from and clicking Next over and over again, reading for hours, because the arcs don’t clearly have an ending point … the first strip of one arc feels like it follows directly on the last of the previous because it does. Life’s like that; we put arbitrary markers on some days, but really it’s a continuous stream of experiences.

For ten years, Meredith Gran has invited us along for the ride as her characters — grumpy, ridiculous, infuriating, sympathetic, violent, baked to the gills, righteously indignant, and every other emotional state possible — have interacted. If you’ll allow me a slight digression, think about the classic cartoon shorts of the 1940s and 50s, and the difference between characters do funny things and and funny characters do things.

Classic Disney shorts involve characters with very little distinguishing personality put together, and then they do things. The things are (potentially) funny. Classic Warner Bros. shorts involve characters that are all personality thrown into a situation³, then reacting and interacting according to their essential natures. They do things, sure, but the things they do are secondary to the interactions, which is where the funny comes from. Damn near every webcomic is, at its heart, Disney in aesthetic. Octopus Pie is Warners all the way, with the added bonus of organic (Organix?) growth.

So thank you, Meredith Gran. I thought about pasting in 1026 thank yous here, one for each strip, but I think you’ll take my meaning just as well from one. Thank you for sharing your stories, thank you for never resting on your craft, thank you for somehow making every single damn strip better than the one before it. Thank you in advance for whatever you do next. Thank you to the bits of you that are Eve, Hanna, Marek, Jane, Marigold, Julie, Will, Larry, and all the others.

Olly, too. Can’t believe I’m gonna miss that guy.

Spam of the day:

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I swear, whoever convinced AARP that I was 50 seventeen damn years ago is responsible for this crap in my inbox. This, and ads for hip replacements, in-home health aides, walk-in bathtubs, and golf-based retirement communities with staffs of smiling brown people. When I find the person(s) responsible, they will learn that causing irritation to older gentlemen is a risky endeavour.

¹ Except Manuel. He’s exactly the same. But then again cats aren’t exactly noted for their potential for personal growth.

² Shut up, it is too a word. You can verb any word you want.

³ Normally with just one initiating event; everything spirals out of control from there.

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