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An ‘Achewood’ Primer Celebrating the Webcomic’s Thanksgiving Return

Just when it seemed there was little to be thankful for this year, Chris Onstad dropped the best news I’ve heard all month: Achewood has returned!

Onstad made the announcement today on Twitter, ending the eight-month hiatus of what is quite possibly the best webcomic ever. Regular Achewood readers may never learn what happened to Teodor in the back of Nice Pete’s van, but we’re nevertheless overjoyed to have the strip back with an all-new story arc to welcome new readers. But if you’re one of those new readers and you want to learn a little more before jumping in to a decade’s worth of Achewood, we’ve prepared a crash course on a few of the series’ main characters. Check it out after the cut.First up, Ray Smuckles:

Even in a strip that manages to juggle an ensemble cast better than almost any other, Ray often slides pretty easily into the main role. He’s a cat who was born into wealth and only became richer through his record label, Prime Time. He drinks too much, sleeps too much, and tends to overindulge in anything else he can. More than anything else, Ray values good times.

He is the son of Ramses Luther Smuckles, AKA Rodney Leonard Stubbs, the Great Outdoor Fight Champion of 1973.

Ray’s best friend and frequent costar, Roast Beef.

In a lot of ways, Roast Beef is Ray’s opposite: A soft-spoken, introverted computer programmer who suffers from depression. He had a rough childhood — he’s often described as being “from circumstances” — but he and Ray have been friends since they were in school together. He’s married to a girl named Molly, whom he met on one of the surprisingly many occasions that he died and went to heaven.

Next, Philippe:

Philippe is five-years-old. He’s an otter who was accidentally shipped to California when his mother was selling lamps on eBay, but Achewood is his home now. He’s extremely cheery and incredibly curious, a combination of traits that often leads him to ask Lie-Bot (a robot who lies), “What is The Saddest Thing?” with unfailingly depressing results.

Philippe’s roommates are Lyle, a frequently angry short order cook, and Teodor:

Teodor is a gourmet chef who doesn’t seem to have much luck with the ladies. He tends to be pretty easy to push around, but he’s often surprisingly judgmental of others. He seems to have a a certain reverence for Ray’s “alpha male” status.

Philippe’s third roommate: Cornelius Bear:

Cornelius is the epitome of the classy gentleman. Well-read and much older than the other characters, he’s a widower and author who currently makes his living knocking out cheap romance novels and writing overly verbose closed captions for softcore porn. He is, as Ray put it, “so old school he drives a yellow bus with gothic arched windows.”

And finally, rounding out the main cast, Pat:

Pat’s a jerk. He once shot Roast Beef in a dispute over a robotic dog (a dispute kicked off by Pat being a jerk), but eventually escaped from prison along with his new roommate, a Southern serial killer named Nice Pete. He came out of the closet after a magical Mexican camera revealed that he was gay (due to an ancient curse placed on his family that turned out to not be so bad). Pat is now in anger management. He hates barbers for reasons that have never been addressed.

There are certainly other characters in Achewood, like the meth-addicted Todd T. Squirrel, but the information above should be enough to get you started with this most excellent strip. And if you’re not sure where to begin in the 10-year saga, we have a suggestion for that too: The Great Outdoor Fight. It’s a story of three acres, three days and three-thousand men; a story of fathers, sons and best friends, and of the greatest brawl in history. If you prefer print, there’s a beautiful collection from Dark Horse that features additional strips and bonus material.

Achewood is, no joke, one of the best comics of the 21st Century so far, if not the best. So enjoy it! And rest assured, we here at ComicsAlliance are definitely thankful for Achewood this year.

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