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  • Sendaz

    Heh, sort of the life equivalent of tl;dr for some I guess.
    Which is why we do like this because it does take a look behind the curtain at a lot of things we sometimes just take for granted or may not even think about.
    Good food for thought

  • OldLion

    This page is totally on the point, and applicable in so many domains !
    I admire how all the comic brings to this point, and shows who the actual super heroes of today are.
    keep the good work !

  • Peter Garnett

    Reminds me of the earlier metaphor. The lightbulbs-and-batteries one. Except it’s displaced in time instead of space.

  • fairportfan

    Alison has just hit Tom Edison’s definition of genius and the relative proportions of inspiration and perspiration.

    The problem is that the world, like Professor Wossname’s point about poets and storytellers, is more interested in believing that the ten per cent of inspiration is all that there is to it.

    Hard work is boring.

    Or, as a button that a stagehand/theatre tech friend used to have said “Any sufficiently low technology is indistinguishable from hard work.”

    • Arthur Frayn

      Do you mean her new friend, Professor Lisa Bradley?

  • Mystery girl

    This page is beautiful and poignant, and I don’t want to nitpick, but it appears you have a typo in the second to last panel. “…Or all the times I failed to keep an appointment because because life trampled over my plans?”

    • Prodigal

      It’s the second half of the question she began asking in the panel before it.

  • Alex Hollins

    is this denouement? this feels like an ending…

    • Soqoma

      No way, I think the Lisa vs. Patrick conflict is going to come back around on us well before then.

  • Kid Chaos

    Hang in there, Alison; we want to see those “few brief moments of impossible glory”…and I know that you want it, too!

  • Lysiuj

    I think I understand the idea of “It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey” better now. Any time something important is easily achieved, that’s great and amazing, but most times the most important things are the ones that take a lot of work and effort.
    In part because the most important changes are often specifically the ones that are:
    a. More far reaching, inclusive and radical, meaning they’ll get a lot more opposition (it’s not hard to get everyone to agree on something they already agree on).
    b. Due to that, they are also much more difficult and complex to figure out and deal with.

  • serenagold

    Well that’s some battery-people thinking right there.

    • Lysiuj

      I know she didn’t mean it like that, but the developer of A.I. talking about battery people is a bit too close to the Matrix for comfort.

      • Jared Rosenberg

        (blatantly plagiarizing tygertyger) The Matrix should be required viewing for anyone who is making AI.

  • tygertyger

    This should be required reading for anyone who is starting a major project.

  • selective_yellow

    I like how they are talking about how the hard work or “hunt” is never really explored in full, but it’s the result or “catch” that they focus on and I think the story itself is doing exactly that. We don’t want to wait once a week to read about every detail of Alison’s every setback, or every class in domestic violence. We want the story to progress. Neat. Very meta.

    • Lysiuj

      “After all, if anyone were reading a superhero comic about my life, they wouldn’t be very interested in all the little details and hard work, would they?”

    • Emily Smith

      There’s a certain irony to writing that then compressing said chase to a five panel montage…

    • chaosvii

      “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?!”
      -Alfred Hitchcock

  • Panel 7 has “because” twice.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    Lisa breaks it down. Much appreciated. And I like the turn of phrase, “they’re all so dull and so important.” Really makes me think of “This is Water.”


    • telk

      My first thought, too. TIW is the best essay on how to adult that I’ve read.

      • Pol Subanajouy

        Actually, and I hope I’m not throwing too many video links out there, what you just said also reminds me of this great analysis of “It’s a Wonderful Life” by the Nerd Writer. He points out that in the end, all that really changes is the main characters perspective on his life. Not some vanquishing of the “bad guy” but just a humble but profound shift in perspective and new found appreciation of the mundane. Seems topical.


  • spriteless

    Her hair is growing again to show the passage of time.

    I suppose a lot of it is we are all chasing our own deer, we don’t have time to hear the whole story because we are busy with our own.

  • MisterTeatime

    Can we get a single image with all the panels of Lisa talking about the Ceryneian Hind story? I want to print it out and frame it and hang it on my wall to show to people.
    Including myself.

    • JeffH

      +1 to this. I’d definitely buy and frame that — so powerful and relevant.

    • Soqoma

      Oh, yeah. seconded.
      This entire segment is wonderful, and a good reminder.

    • Roman Snow

      I don’t know about printing it off, but here’s a single image of it: http://imgur.com/ofkla3q

  • ∫Clémens×ds

    I would love this webcomic to acknowledge at some point that the actual way someone like Alison could provide fundamental change, would be to action a lever ad via eternam with her super strength and redistribute the massive amount of clean energy.
    Anything less is quite literally a waste of effort.

    (Plus it’d go super well with Alison’s martyr complex and Lisa could give her insightful commentaries about Sisyphus)

    • …I don’t think Alison acting as an energy source would make any sort of appreciable difference.
      The electricity consumption of the US alone is greater than 10^19 joules per year. I doubt Alison’s strength is sufficient to make a dent in that.

    • ZBass

      You mean you want it to reference SMBC?

      • ∫Clémens×ds

        Very much so.

      • Donald Simmons

        Thanks for linking to that so i didn’t have to.

    • EpsilonRose

      They sort-of did that already with the regenerator who’s donating their organs. It’s a similar concept, if a bit more extreme: The super does a repetitive and undesirable task with no end date that is more beneficial to society than anything else they could possibly do.

      Allison’s conclusion is that it wasn’t worth it.

      • ∫Clémens×ds

        Alison’s conclusion strikes me as poorly advanced. Proof of that is Feral is still doing her thing. Maybe the arc of Alison’s life will be to realize it’s kind of a waste of superpower to be a basic social worker when you have SUPER STRENGTH.

        I mean I can be a social worker and I don’t have super strength. Think of all the mouths she could feed if she let me do that instead of thinking herself more worthy than literally hundreds of thousands of lives.

        • EpsilonRose

          Why? There is some value in caring about yourself and those hundreds of thousands of lives don’t actually have a right to make such extraordinary demands of you.

        • StClair

          So people who have one obvious exceptional quality are defined entirely by that, and only able to help the world through exercising that, rather than any or all other aspects of their personhood?

          You have just reduced Alison to her anomaly, and/or the physical housing for it.

    • Prodigal

      That’s too much like what Feral chose, though. There has to be a middle ground that doesn’t involve permanently sacrificing herself for others, and what she chose is more likely to do that than what you proposed.

      • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

        Alison isn’t, as far as we know, tortured by flying in circles, pushing a giant wheel. Feral is tortured by constant surgery without anesthetic. I’d say that’s a pretty big difference! Also, it shines light on the real problem Alison has with Feral’s solution: martyrdom and ethical transactions of more than a few Utles (happiness). Alison has no problem with small martyrdoms — Pintsize is obligated (in Alison’s mind) to go into science even though it’s hard. Feral, however, is doing something insane that needs to be stopped (again, according to Alison). Also, energy provided by Alison would likely only benefit the middle and upper class, while the truly poor wind up no better off.

        • Lysiuj

          I actually think she’d find a way to help the poor specifically (say, supplying power to homes and shelters that can’t pay for electricity).
          And it would be in the same area as her current project – not trying to punch a solution, and also not trying to fix the whole world at once, but rather using her abilities and position to make a small but important difference (organizing a superhero abuse victim protection program / powering clean energy).
          But making herself a human engine would still be a major sacrifice, at least if she did it full time.

          • Prodigal

            If she’s generating power “ad via eternam” the way the OP said she should, how does she have the ability to dictate to whom it is provided?

          • Lysiuj

            By refusing to do so until someone/Lisa creates a separate infrastructure for her to provide energy to the poor, and then only working in that system.
            (Though I admit I don’t know what “ad via eternam” means, so I might be missing something 😛 )

          • Prodigal

            The really short translation is “forever”.

          • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

            Thanks! That’s a good idea, I don’t think it’s really Allison, but I like the thinking. Maybe it’s for somebody else?

        • Prodigal

          How is making her do nothing but power a generator for the rest of her life when she could be actively helping people anything other than a form of torture?

          • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

            How is providing cheap energy for the needy anything other than actively helping people?

        • motorfirebox

          Hamsterwheeling would certainly be less painful than constant surgery, but it’s still sacrificing your entire life for a possible step towards a solution.

          • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

            It would be a pretty major step! And by the way, life happiness is predicted by ones belief that one’s work us is meaningful. Providing cheap energy seems pretty meaningful to me. Monotonous manual labor is NOT torture — even repetitive manual labor. If she wanted she could have smart and interesting people come talk to her while she span.

          • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

            Credit to SMBC for being highly relevant!

          • motorfirebox

            Well, no, it’s a possible step, and not really all that major one in the long run. For one thing, exactly how much energy would she be able to generate? We don’t really know how strong she is, or how long she can exercise. She doesn’t seem to be at Superman’s planet-pushing level.

            For another, as others have mentioned, there’s the problem of distribution. I mean, we already produce enough food to feed the entire planet, but people still starve, y’know? It’s not enough to just produce the energy, that energy has to reach everyone who can use it, and that means trillions of infrastructure development. Considering that most of that infrastructure could be put in place without the need for a superhero, it’s not clear to me that the involvement of a superhero would provide any serious impetus to start putting shovels into dirt.

            And also, immunity to aging does not seem to be one of Alison’s anomalies. So even if she were strong enough and durable enough to provide free energy for the world, and the world sunk the massive amount of investment necessary to take advantage of that energy production, she’d die of old age in seventy or eighty years and the world would be back where it started. Because while it’s possible that the world would use those 70-80 years to build itself into a utopia that can manage energy production without the assistance of a superhero… where is there any indication that any such thing would happen? Isn’t it more likely that the world would coast off that free energy for as long as it lasts, and then go back to burning coal when Alison died?

      • ∫Clémens×ds

        What she’s doing is nice but *I* can do that and I don’t have super strength. If her plans don’t involve the massive advantage that are her power then don’t blame me for saying she’s wasting them.

        • Lysiuj

          I think part of the point, is there’s a clear limit to what society-changing options her strength alone gives her – she won’t make a very noticeable difference powering clean energy (remember issue one? everyone who had the *power* to change the world is dead).
          But, her fame, and the public perception and influence of Biodynamics, and even the fear and bigotry towards them, can all be used to make an echo through society. That effect won’t rely only on “things that Mega-Girl can lift/push/punch”, so it’s much less limited.
          She still takes advantage of her powers, but also her fame and connections and influence, so she’s doing something much bigger than herself.

        • Tylikcat

          Oo, now you’ve gotten to one of the things I feel fairly strongly about.*

          They are hers to waste. I am willing to consider, under emergency situations, cases where her unique abilities might be conscripted for the good of society… but all of those systems tend to be horribly corruption and failure prone, and not particularly good at promoting either societal or individual happiness. I think she has an ethical obligation to do well by her society, but that’s her obligation to figure out, and she’s the best person to work out the form.

          (And, of course in her case, her society has kind of failed to offer her useful and fulfilling things to do with her super strength. She’s not an engineer. You can not possible expect her to design the infrastructure that would take advantage your proposed hamster wheel.** What her society has offered her is… drug busts. I think she’s doing pretty damn well for herself.)

          * After all, one part of my education involved a lot of being told upfront that I was a national resource. And somewhat less upfront that I also had a duty to find an equally bright young man and serve as broodmare. (No, I’m not that unique or anything, but there’s a lot of eugenics bullshit in our society generally, and it especially creeps in if you’ve been tagged as a prodigy. Fuck that shit.)
          ** Yes, Lisa probably could design a fabulous hamster wheel. But can you really imagine Lisa prioritizing a hamster wheel? Wouldn’t her next thought, before she even started on the design, be, “but how do I free the hamster, because that’d suck, and the hamster in question is my friend?” I mean, I suspect she would care about an abstract hamster as well, but custome building a hamster wheel for her good friend?

        • Prodigal

          The entire point of the comic is that her powers aren’t a massive advantage where making real helpful change is concerned, though, isn’t it?

          • ∫Clémens×ds

            It’d be a pretty terrible point if it went from “changing the world doesn’t happen just by punching bad guys really hard” to “unequally distributed power is literally worthless”.

    • Haven

      As the first issue demonstrated, if Alison was capable of that, she’d be dead.

      • ∫Clémens×ds

        But she wouldn’t: out of all the powers, she’s the one that could pretty much be immortal. What does she have to be afraid of? A giant monster who leveled a city barely have her a scratch.

        • Mechwarrior

          I’m pretty sure Haven meant that the Conspiracy would have whacked her when she was five.

          • ∫Clémens×ds

            I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have shown her intentions to save the world by making energy companies obsolete at five.

        • Haven

          As was mentioned a couple of pages ago, the force that makes her invulnerable can be manipulated, and whoever took out all the disease curing, energy crisis solving super-superheroes apparently knows way more about biodynamism than anyone else.

          I was going to say “this is besides the point”, but really that is the point the comic has gone to great lengths to illustrate: there is no one ultimate answer to all the world’s problems forever. Things just aren’t that simple.

          • ∫Clémens×ds

            Thing is, we aren’t in the real world: we’re in one where a magic storm gave unborn humans superpowers.
            I feel it’s one especially one that strives on subtlety.

        • motorfirebox

          Aside from the ways that her powers can be manipulated, we haven’t seen any indication that Alison’s anomaly gives her any resistance against poison, disease, etcetera.

    • bta

      Providing a bit more energy for the duration of a human life for the world to use in the exact same way it already does is the opposite of a fundamental change. The actual change would be helping modify what people do with the resources and abilities they already have, which is what she’s trying to do in her own way.

      It’s like the idea of the Singularity: the belief that just by throwing more vague technological advancements at it, society will magically and radically change without any reflexion on the efforts necessary to actually improve what it does with the tech it already have.

      • ∫Clémens×ds

        That’s… entirely wrong.

        But it’s not my point, though. If you can’t see how Superman choosing to forgo with his superhero career and become an (albeit proactive and efficient) political activist never using his powers is a waste of potential for change, I can’t do much for you.

  • lizasweetling

    that actually kinda explains the pervading desire to win in one shot that Allison observed in herself and the other supers- they expect it to be one glorious instant.

    • Preacher John

      This is not exclusive to supers. :p It’s the hunger for the glory of deeds done v. shirking the grind of miles run.

      • Lysiuj

        The difference is, supers are actually given a good reason to think they can do it in one shot – until they discover they can’t.

  • Tony Lower-Basch

    Wow, Panel two. That’s clearly Allison, just like she’s drawn elsewhere, but looking up into that slightly elevated camera angle she looks soooo young. Perfect match to the content.

    • Oddly enough I was thinking the same about Lisa in panel 3. I think it’s the face-on shot de-emphasising her glasses.

      • MrSokar

        It is worth remembering that they both are actually really young.

  • elysdir

    This is an especially excellent page, even by the high standards of this comic. Thank you.

  • Preacher John

    Wait, wait. Her dad’s dying of cancer right? But she has a friend who can shrink down to sub-cellular size and owns all kinds of miniaturized machinery. I’m just saying: wouldn’t whatisname – the Might Atom-like lad – in this universe be an awesome targeted delivery system for anti-cancer drugs / antibodies?

    • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

      Yes, but “science is hard”. *sigh*

      • PizzaLord

        I don’t understand why you’re saying that like it’s not.

        • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

          Science is hard, but that’s no reason not to try. Pintsize has an incredible and unique skill, which gives him the opportunity to do amazing things. Doesn’t he have a responsibility to try to use that skill for good?

          • Wizardblizzard

            Pintsize seems to be still thinking in terms of either being a superhero OR a (non-super) scientist, so he thinks he’d actually be wasting his talents by doing science stuff rather than crime-fighting stuff when he’s not particularly good at science. If someone could show him very clearly something new he could do with his powers if only he had the scientific knowledge (like this, for instance), he might be prepared to knuckle down and study that. (He did mention that one thing he did put in a lot of hours of study for was his pilot’s licence).

            But I get the feeling that what he actually needs is another hero cheering him on/breathing down his neck. He’s just fed up with being left on his own.

        • chaosvii

          It’s a reference to what Pintsize himself said about why he’s only really motivated to be a superhero rather than an okay scientist.
          His words were “Science is super hard and boring though.” when Al suggested that he use his powers for scientific advances in biology & physics (Issue 5, Page 40). He elaborates more on the following page.

    • persephone_the_wanderer

      I think you underestimate the amount of time it would take to destroy a few million cells by hand.

      • Jared Rosenberg

        Not to mention that a super curing cancer would likely become a target of THEM; The mysterious guys who enforce “Reed Richards Is Useless” as law.

    • MClark7

      Tumors are collections of hundreds of thousands of cells. Going after them one at a time would be uh, like chasing the deer. OTOH, the tech that Pintsize and Paladin could bring to the cancer problem together would still surpass the stuff we have now.

      Maybe she should go slap her telepathic friend/enemy upside the head and tell him to stop frelling around with time travel and work on oncology. Or fusion. Or solar panels.

    • deebles

      Depends massively on the cancer. Cancer isn’t a single disease, it’s a category of diseases caused by the normal growth, death and replacement of cells going wrong. If you have a single isolated clump of cancerous cells, he can probably find it pretty easily and remove it at least as neatly as any other method.

      But for any cancer that’s metastasised around the body… There’s a big time issue. There’s also the challenge of successfully identifying genuine cancer cells. He’d probably want a skilled pathologist looking over his shoulder all the while, at least until he’s chalked up many years of study and practical experience himself.

      That said, while curative power would be limited, just going in with a camera and some handy navigational aids to steer him through the lymphatic circulation of a given cancer could be very handy for diagnostic purposes.

  • RobNiner

    Luckily for us we get a montage.

  • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

    That’s very Battery > lightbulb of Alison!

  • Andor

    Well that’s certainly an apologetic lampshade being hung on the hard work montage. 🙂

  • motorfirebox

    *positive difference

    • Rick Sullivan

      Arguably, yes, but that’s not what Alison actually said.

  • EgilGB

    Those two girls are almost exactly the same age, aren’t they?

    • Lysiuj

      Pretty much – at the moment, the only Biodynamics (as far as we know) are people who were fetuses during one particular storm, putting them all within a year of each other in age.

  • ∫Clémens×ds

    Ouch, that’s a heavy burn on Alison you’re dropping here. The intentions to change the world, the powers of a God… and literally no potential.

    • Mechwarrior

      I didn’t drop it, it’s what Patrick said to her way back when that caused her to take the mask off.

      • ∫Clémens×ds

        Well– I mean, in a sense yes, not exactly but okay.

  • It was a strip from a few months back, under a mural entitled “No Glory Save Honor” with actors on a stage supported by many crouching people.

  • Philip Bourque

    It all depends on what kind of story you want to tell. If you want something action-y with things getting done, then you’ll skip all that stuff and go for the final chase. If you want one of those uplifting, triumph over adversity stories then the actual triumph will be glossed over in favour of the exaggerated, overly dramatic road to get there.

  • Lysiuj

    In the last arc, Lisa at one point talked about the difference between lightbulbs and batteries (though I don’t currently remember what exactly she said).

  • Kid Chaos


  • Wizardblizzard

    We been through that a few pages back. The thing that makes pancreatic cancer such a particularly nasty one is that for some reason it metastasises much more than some other types do. So there’ll probably be bits lurking all over the place by now, even if you replaced the pancreas. Even if you replaced ALL the organs, there woud be stray cells lurking in the bits of tissue in between (to use the medical term), waiting to grow back out and trash them again.

    Similar reasons would make it a difficult job for Pintsize, as he’d presumably have to search the entire body from head to toe while at the same time being small enough to see individual cells. For any individual tumour that the doctors had already found and were having trouble getting at safely, though, it might be a plan. If he’s prepared to risk the “Reed Richards Is Useless Gang”, that is. Is the amount he can do still sufficiently useless to get by?