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  • Jshadow

    So here’s a nagging question… if she didn’t care about people to begin with why did she get married and have a child?
    It’s about as absurd at the dog bit which comes off as those toddler cartoons where the villian was “born evil”.
    It’s immersion breaking.

    • Evan Tarlton

      She was fascinated by empathy. My guess is that she picked someone she thought she could maybe love, and then had Patrick, and when nothing happened, she accepted her nature.

      • M. Alan Thomas II

        Isn’t that the plot of Tokyo Babylon?

        It is a plot-point I see in fiction sometimes, but I’m not aware of it ever occurring with a real psychopath. (Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen here, obviously.)

        • Tylikcat

          Someone I went to school with kind of went in the other direction – somewhere along the line he decided that his lack of empathy was screwing up his life, and that he was going to teach himself to be empathic. I haven’t heard from him in many years, but I do wish him well.

          • M. Alan Thomas II

            Fascinating. Thank you for sharing!

        • Gotham

          I know a few people who would potentially score medium to high on a psychopath scale and the ones I decided to keep in my life were always the ones who seek therapy and just try to live normal, peaceful lives. Some people might not and never care about validation from peers but everybody needs to eat, at the end of the day, and prison meals are baaaad

          • M. Alan Thomas II

            That is interesting. Thank you for sharing.

          • Gotham

            Oh so it’s not FASCINATING I see, and I don’t even get an exclamation point. NOTED

          • Tylikcat


          • M. Alan Thomas II

            *snerk* The system doesn’t like it if I submit the same comment twice in a row, nor do I. I wanted it to be custom, just for you. 😛

    • Aresius

      Seems like it fit her ambitions (whatever those may have been) to keep a façade of normality – with an apparently happy family around her, it’s harder to suspect her of fiscal evasion and who knows what else. Patrick was just…too complicated for the façade to hold up, so he had to be removed.

    • M. Alan Thomas II

      As I recall, quite a lot of high-functioning psychopaths are married. It’s a social achievement that advances their goals. It’s not misanthropy, which would make marriage and motherhood counterproductive to the goal of avoiding people; it’s simply not caring unless they’re useful. And a socially-acceptable family life can be very, very useful, especially if you’re a woman and need to seem as non-threatening as possible to avoid being moved against.

    • Vaporware

      Because people like this still tend to care about themselves, and often manage to assemble the idea that the more normal they can make their lives look the less likely it is other people will scrutinize them closely enough to realize something is wrong.

      When she spoke of loving her husband ‘in her own way’, that’s likely what she meant. That he was useful to her, in maintaining a semblance of normalcy. In avoiding socially awkward scrutiny of her social deficiencies and pathologies, which might interfere with the process of her living her life otherwise as she saw fit.

      An attitude like that…seeing someone as at least worth keeping around to fill a purpose with minimal disruption to herself…is as close to love as she could likely get.

    • I’maghost

      Because why not? She thought it could benefit her or she thought he was interesting. She’s a psychopath. People like her tend to do it for a number of reasons and the reality of people finding out what kind of person you are tends to lead them to using others to get tension off of them.

    • Olivier Faure

      Actually, that’s an interesting question. Do people diagnosed with forms of low empathy (eg psychopaths) still get married, on average?

    • M. Alan Thomas II

      As my wife points out, a lot of gay and lesbian people have had “straight” marriages and children because social pressures required it.

      For a psychopath, it’s not even necessary just a facade to hide behind; it can be an offensive maneuver to gain social standing and to be able to engage in social events in ways that let you gain and grow your connections to people in power. A successful, high-functioning psychopath like the mother here is usually an expert in social manipulation. Family can help with that a lot.

      • Tsapki

        Aye, there are a couple of notable serial killers who seemed to be normal, productive members of society with family and significant community ties, all the while giving into the need to now and then harm, dismember, kill etc.

    • Eternal

      See it like this: you yourself probably don’t feel empathy for objects (only for people). Does that mean you don’t own objects?

      You probably own things because they’re useful, because they’re interesting, because they’re aesthetically pleasing, etc. You probably also somehow care what happens to those things because they’re yours, but not because you care about their own wellbeing. And if your life is at stake, you probably wouldn’t think too long before discarding those things.

      There you go. She might think of her husband as an aesthetically pleasing (when he was young at least) sex toy that can change light bulbs and bring back money home.

    • zarawesome

      Aside from the social pressure or personal advancement aspects:

      She might have done it simply because she was asked to and saw no particular reason not to.

  • I’maghost

    You guys have outdone yourself. I known I posted on this .com a couple of times and have not really gotten any feedback but I gotten say, that you have successfully introduce and explore the mind of a true psychopath. She knows what she is and admits to it. She does what she does because it is apart of what makes her up and she doesn’t care who it is that gets in her way.

    • Ellie

      “.com “?

  • Gotham

    “I mean yes there’s plethora of other ways including the dramatic cliffhanger reveal for next page I’m heavily hinting at but also like, putting it out there, I could also murder you and deal on my own. Don’t act like your ‘last resort‘ solution is in any way salient or interesting to my needs”

  • So, Mama is messed up up in the head, too. For some reason I do not find this surprising

  • Aresius

    It’s so creepy to see that motherly caress right before she tries to stab him…

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      I don’t think she’s trying to manipulate him. He’d catch that. I mean, she does want to live, and this way is convenient for her, but she also honestly, sincerely believes that killing him at this point is her helping him out. Which is what makes it so effective.

      • Philip Bourque

        He’d only catch it if he were paying attention. He’s too busy processing what he saw and what he’s hearing. He’s trying to rationalize everything so he can understand it and thus a little distracted.

        • Insanenoodlyguy

          He just went into her head. Deeper, not shallower. If she was thinking “lets bullshit him till we can stab him” he’d have picked that up.

          • Philip Bourque

            Unless he’s reading her thought for thought, she can still act spontaneously. I wonder what kind of delay there would be between a person thinking something, him reading it and him understanding the thought he had just read.

      • Aresius

        I didn’t mean she was kidding him – just the whole idea of believing it’s better to stab him in the guts is damn creepy xd

    • Filthy Liar

      I’m not at all certain she’s trying to stab him. She’s saying that she will stab him, if he lets her. That’s not quite the same thing.

  • Tsapki

    Man, both this SFP and Widdershins update on the same days and both are currently on extended dramatic reveals. Oooh, the delicious agony!

  • Weatherheight

    Okay, NOW we can say she is a psychopath/sociopath/APD/SPD.

    I love the way she offers death as a way to ease his pain, as if she cares about his pain, as if she hadn’t just told him she doesn’t care about him, as if she wasn’t just killing him to ease her embarrassment at how his outcome reflects on her.

    Note the shifting of blame throughout.


    • Gotham

      I mean that’s not really the subject the comic wants to explore anyway. It’s more trope-y than it is pertinent. Plus none of them are doctors. And none of us.

      • Weatherheight

        Right on as regards the topic the comic is trying to explore.
        Her psychological status is relevant only insofar as it informs us about Patrick, so that’s also a point in your favor.

        One of my degrees is in Psychology, with a concentration in Abnormal Psychology, which is about the extremes of personality disorders and maladaptive behaviors. These are actually pretty classic waypoints when diagnosing the disorder, primarily the utter lack of emotional connection with others. Most of those people with the disorder are aware of the “shortcoming” eventually; from what I understand, it’s more of a curiosity than a problem from their point of view.

        If we assume that Patrick’s read of Claudia is accurate (i.e. she’s not duping him somehow) AND we assume that we’re getting a truthful presentation from Patrick (which for the sake of discussion I’m granting, although I still have suspicions about the verity of what we’re seeing), Claudia’s admission and her speech patterns really *do* fit the mold.

        Note, however, that none of what we’re seeing here justifies Patrick’s actions. These revelations explain Patrick’s behaviors, but they do not justify them.

        • Gotham

          It’s a wonder it’s taken us this long to discover what a donkey does with his free time and thirst for education!

          With regards to the subject, another point I find important to mention is that nothing bad can come out of deciding to not diagnose villains in positions of power. Even if the representation is fair and accurate, there’s not much lost if we choose to have one less example of mental disorder being the likely cause of antagonistic behavior.
          I’m not going into the whole spiel of “we need more acknowledgment that people with mental illnesses are so much more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators” (preterition!) but that’s the idea really.

          • Thrice.Great

            I’m trying to figure out why I object to this. I’m possibly rebelling against what I see is your point (correct me if I have misinterpreted this): “because it serves a social purpose that I find positive, it is acceptable to ignore psychological or neurological disorders.”

            I’m not sure I can get behind the idea that it’s okay to ignore true things just because it might be uncomfortable.

            If your point is that we should have fewer villains who are depicted as having mental illness in various media, then I’m on board with that.

            As to your point that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims, that’s a very true point. Except when it comes to psychopathy, which tends to be noticed by seeing a pattern of others the psychopath has abused/manipulated.

          • Gotham

            I’m only speaking of fictional characters, who need the necessary requirement of “existing” before they could even be diagnosed by professional therapists.

            I’m saying all this because I don’t want to discourage the discussion of this topic by laywoman like us when it comes to representation of victims of abuse with mental illness in media, the “let’s not diagnose mental illnesses” is a rule with a lot of IF this THEN that to get out the most of the discussion and challenging the culture of bias against them.

            Here it is in logic form.
            IF {certified professional} THEN {Yes}
            IF {layperson} THEN -> IS PERSON REAL?
            IF {Yes} THEN {No}
            IF {Yes} THEN {No}
            IF {No} THEN {Yes}

          • Morgan Allen

            Psychopaths constitute 25% of the prison population and 50% of violent re-offenders. And given they are exceedingly difficult to rehabilitate, I imagine quite a few bad things could come out of glossing over the reality of their condition.

          • Gotham

            Oh, that’s interesting, it’s almost like it says so much about the US justice system and the very cultural bias I am warning about and pretty much nothing about people with mental illness.

          • Is there any data about what the percentages are in countries with a less-punitive, more rehabilitative prison system, which also tend to have greater health care resources? I genuinely don’t know, myself, and can think of plausible hypotheses that the numbers would be higher, lower, or about the same.

          • Morgan Allen

            I’m turning up about 20% of the prison population in norway, and maybe 30% in sweden. The nordic countries are much bigger on rehab vs. punishment, and there’s an argument to be made for that, but the stats aren’t a million miles away. And one should bear in mind that as rehab efforts improve, one would expect *only* the hopeless cases to be left in the system.


          • Gotham

            I’m coming hard against the logic behind the argument rather than the argument itself—psychopaths tend to end up a lot in prison because of impulsivity, mostly. But that’s just the thing. Morgan Allen is saying I somehow have the power to end any and all wordwide conversation about the violence they may cause and that’s super flattering but wildly exaggerated. Fact is they are already in prison, (which never ever ever helps), shunned by society, trapped in the cyclical loop of being ostracized because they act out because we ostracize them, what we do need is to balance it out with more talk about how to solve that problem constructively.

            Not /no/ talk about preventing dangerous people to do harm, just /less/, so that we can focus on other things, because as of now the balance is so far weighing on one side it’s going through the floor

          • Morgan Allen

            “Morgan Allen is saying I somehow have the power to end any and all wordwide conversation about the violence they may cause and that’s super flattering but wildly exaggerated.”

            Also egregiously misquoted. …In that I never said this.

          • Gotham

            You said “I imagine quite a few bad things could come out of glossing over the reality of their condition.”, which was vaguely echoing the same sentiment, and annoying because of it. Since you didn’t seem to disagree with the rest of the comment you just responded to, I assume you understood what I meant all along.

            And sorry if I came up as rude, this reminded me a lot of the likes of All Lives Matter who somehow cannot fucking fit it into their brain that the point is not to stop caring about white people but we do that already, quite enough, enough to never be afraid it’ll run out even if we spend our caring with childish abandon, but realize the current imbalance of things and try to correct it.

          • Morgan Allen

            Something of a tangent, but since we touched on black incarceration rates earlier…

            For the life of me I can’t find the source, but I remember reading an analysis that indicated that 3/4 of the black-white incarceration gap in the US disappeared once you controlled for two factors: Age and IQ. And there’s a pretty tight correlation between general mortality and SES regardless of racial group in the US, (which as it happens I can dig out the source for):


            That’s not to say that racist and/or actively murderous cops don’t exist- it’s a big country, of course they do. And again, we could have a long conversation about the ultimate causes of racial disparities in SES, age demographics and measured IQ. But nearly everything I’ve heard coming from BLM advocates reeks of statistically-illiterate scapegoating of law-enforcement combined with the usual media circus surrounding atypical freak events. And since police killings correlate pretty well with both general mortality and incarceration rates, I would say that until you fix the black/white gap in SES- which in turn will probably require fixing the gap in IQ- the rate at which blacks are shot and killed by police will most likely be largely unaffected.

          • Morgan Allen

            Estimated prevalence does vary from country to country, and I wouldn’t say that psychopathy is limited to the prison population. But if you’re pretending that there’s no such thing as individuals with an intrinsic moral deficit, or that there’s no downside to ignoring that fact, then there’s an overwhelming body of medical expertise against you.


          • Gotham

            I’m “pretending” I find it very insulting of you to correlate intrinsic moral deficit with mental illness.

          • Morgan Allen

            I’m not aware of drawing any particular connection between psychopathy and other forms of mental illness. There might be a correlation with other personality disorders or there might not, but each form of mental disturbance has distinct diagnostic criteria, and I don’t know why you’re taking offence at some supposed conflation on my part.

            My point is that what the comic is depicting here appears to sync up with clinical definitions of psychopathy pretty well, and depicting that as dangerous is perfectly reasonable.

          • Gotham

            Say, another better answer to your previous comment I realize would have been to say that well, since you seem to think prison population demographics has anything to tell us about said populations, you must have /grand/ opinion of, for instance, black people.
            I don’t know, maybe it would have triggered a sudden realization of the enormities and awful, harmful, criminal oversimplifications you’re saying?

          • Morgan Allen

            I haven’t seen data on the relative rates of psychopathy within racial groups within the prison population. It’s quite possible that non-psychopath blacks are more likely to be incarcerated than other non-psychopaths, but I couldn’t give you a detailed breakdown.

            With the caveat that I’m not making any particular statement about the causes of racial IQ disparities- these could be 100% environmental and it wouldn’t matter to the argument as long as they affected life outcomes- I might also speculate that higher-IQ psychopaths are better at finding other careers and/or avoiding detection. i.e, a similar baseline rate of psychopathy could combine with differences in intelligence/education to influence different incarceration rates.

          • Tylikcat

            Does psychopathy imply an intrinsic moral deficit? I mean, clearly it’s correlated with such, but that’s not the same thing.

          • Gotham

            I don’t think “intrinsic moral deficit” is a thing that should be considered by anyone, for starters. Considering that violence has anything to do with individual traits and not broader cultural and social variables is so dangerous.

          • Tylikcat

            Well, I definitely shouldn’t have said “intrinsic”, but… the whole phrase is one of those things where I know what it is supposed to mean, but I have no idea what would actually constitute such a thing.

          • Gotham

            You said it because I said it because @disqus_zn0NbE2KXg:disqus said it, no worries there.

          • Devon Jolly

            Given that morals and compassion are massively linked with empathy, and Sociopathy is characterized by an inability or significantly reduced ability to feel or understand the mere concept of empathy,………yes. It can be said that sociopathy=intrinsic moral deficit. Sociopaths who appear capable of morals in any study do so only by noting that is is inefficient to not ape such behaviors and are termed “high functioning sociopaths”. It’s not uncommon to find people diagnosed with “high functioning sociopathy” at high levels of business, politics and banking. This isn’t to say they aren’t violent psychopaths either, as a number of them have been jailed for torturing or murdering spouses, lovers and business partners. Male and female, victim and perp.

          • Gotham

            And what if I reject your given that morals has anything to do with empathy? Couldn’t the most pragmatic and relativistic of logic reasoning be enough to justify good behavior, y’know, the way philosophy did for the vast majority of history?

            And it’s not even my take, it just goes to show that “morals” is just a terribly defined object to vague to have any value and that we can and ought to do without.

          • Devon Jolly

            *Sigh* You’re one of THOSE people then? You can reject anything you like, it doesn’t make what you’re rejecting any less valid.

            Morals, like ethics, are based on people saying, if I were in this position, I would not want this done to me, and this protects me, my group and our interest so it is good, this hurts me, my group and our interest so it is bad. These three judgements build up over long periods of time and repetitions to become moral systems and are broken down by philosophers, businesses and governments to be used in miniature as Ethics.

            The important bit is, of the three basic questions that create morals and ethics, each of them requires you, or at least thousands of people before you, to be capable of empathy.

            Pure logic and reason would not have abolished slavery. Pure logic and reason would not resist Tyrany. Pure logic and reason would not come up with capitalism and machines which have been THE driving force behind moving 5 billion people out of abject poverty in the last 50 years.

            By Naturalistic and logical reasoning, your freedom is based solely on your ability to enforce your will. Anyone who cannot enforce their will deserves to suffer the consequences. Tyranny and slavery.

            To say that slavery is bad you need to be able to understand first that they have value as a person despite their weakness and second that going out of your way to protect, support and provide for someone who cannot do it themselves is not a massive loss and burden to yourself.

            This requires Empathy. Sympathy and compassion would merely have you treating your slave well. Logic would not free your slave unless you already knew about capitalism and would only have you treat your slave well if you already knew that someone with a positive outlook and good health worked harder. Hard enough to justify the exta expense.

            10,000 years of recorded history. Millions of Philosophers. And still we only got rid of slavery a few hundred years ago because of a moral argument made by a bunch of christian fundamentalists in England.

          • Gotham

            This is /wild/ nonsense. You’re saying such wild self-contradicting free-form stream-of-consciousness uncritical nonsense I was starting to wonder if you hadn’t managed to convince yourself that your argument was shallow and untenable on your own but you seem to lack the self-awareness.

            So please do elaborate it’s fascinating. Since Empathy Itself has to be thanked for the abolition of slavery and you know not, like, a complex shift of social, economic and technological variables, I guess it must mean that Empathy Itself suddenly appeared out of nowhere a few centuries ago to the surprise and shock of slavers, with generations before them untouched by the fancy new trend?
            You know what? Maybe these guys who evidently hadn’t installed the global Empathy Itself update were all psychopaths

            I also love that you don’t seem to even know what empathy is, sounds like to you it’s mostly the capitalistic foresight and pragmatism of improving the conditions of your employees for better dividends.

          • Zorae42

            Psh, “high functioning sociopaths” would have increased morality compared to non-psychopaths. Not making people sad because empathy makes you feel sad is pretty selfish. Psychopaths deciding not to hurt people because they realize it’s logically wrong seem like they’re intrinsically more moral.

            Jeez, it’s like those religious people who think you can’t possibly be a good person if you don’t think you’re going to heaven/hell based on your actions.

          • Devon Jolly

            No, you simpleton. A Sociopath would decide *whether they could get away* with torturing you to death for being annoying and use that as the basis for whether they do or don’t. It’s not that they’d judge it wrong, its that they’d judge whether or not it was worth the effort.

          • I have at least one friend who is probably something approximating a sociopath, and I trust them more than I trust most people.

            When they were young, they decided to define success for themselves as “being honorable.” Making lots of money didn’t seem interesting. Making other people happy didn’t seem interesting. Physical comfort over a basic level didn’t seem interesting. They decided that what sounded like an interesting challenge in life was to be as honorable as they possibly could. They decided that having a code of ethics sounded like it would be a pretty good way to help make decisions.

            So, this sociopathic friend of mine is the most honorable, and one of the most ethical, people I’ve ever met, because they decided to be.

          • Gotham

            None of what you just said in any way addressed what @zorae42:disqus’s said, completely missing her point, plus you chose to openly insult her. Are we going to have a problem?

          • Zorae42

            Holy crap, it sounds like you just described a regular person. You’re literally on the internet where kys has become a message commonly left to “cringey” people. Where female gamers get the most horrible things said to them. Why? Because the anonymity means they can get away with it. And I doubt the millions of people that do that sort of thing are all psychopaths – they’re just assholes. Heck, there was a movie (and a sequel) about 3 regulars guys getting together and deciding to kill their bosses because they decided they were to horrible to put up with.

            Meanwhile there’ve been multiple posters on this comic talking about either being or knowing clinically diagnosed “sociopaths” who’ve decided “their serotonin and endorphins aren’t more valuable than anyone else’s”, etc because it doesn’t require empathy to realize that you shouldn’t be a dick to other people. They just have to try harder.

          • Tylikcat

            Have you ever heard that correlation does not imply causation? Because the above is full of logical fallacies. Worse, it’s making some pretty horrible judgements about a whole group of people based on minimal evidence and, again, those logical fallacies… in a way that plays into common societal tropes. Considering how many non-sociopaths, especially those who are really big into “morals” go on to do really awful things, maybe we should stick to people’s actions, rather than deciding that a class of people are intrinsically bad? Seriously, has good ever come of that?

            Empathy is a tool that is often used to help people develop their ethics. (I’m going to avoid the term morals, because that seems a lot more fraught.) But don’t mistake the tool for the work. Like any tool, it can be used well, or misused, and a lot of thought goes into understanding the difference. (“OMG, Alice has hurt feelings, therefore Betty must be punished,” can come right out of empathy, and still be a pretty bad reading of a situation, fr’instance.) The thoughtful work is necessary… and, indeed, sufficient, for someone who is motivated to put the time in.

            I’ve mentioned that I test high for empathy*. (Yes, I’ve been tested for just about everything, not the least because I spent time in my teens as a lab rat. Ahaha, was any part of my upbringing not fucked up? But I met some of my best friends there.) But I grew up in an environment where much of the emotional expression by adults was abnormal to say the least. Sure, empathy was really useful in terms of navigating, say, preschool. But relying on it as a guide in establishing an ethical structure around my parents? Let’s all be really glad I didn’t, ‘kay? Even when you have it, it’s not always a reliable guide.

            Lack of empathy is likely to skew the population distribution. But that’s a totally different statement than what you’re going on about with intrinsic moral deficits.

            * As an aside, I am more than a little suspicious of most tests, so I’m mostly using this as shorthand, but it’s in line with my own observations and the feedback I get from other people, so *shrug*

          • Devon Jolly

            I’m not the one who started the intrinsic moral deficit thing, I just said it wasn’t a particularly bad analogy. Sociopathy is an intrinsic part of your being and presents in an abnormal lack of the ability to understand the emotions and experiences of others and in most cases, severely stunting your own ability to feel most emotions. The important part of empathy here is the ability to mentally place yourself in another persons position and get an idea of what they’re feeling.

            While it is true that you can have ethics or morals drilled into you, the greater majority of it comes from being able to say, If I was that person, I wouldn’t want that done to me.

            While I am perfectly aware that correlation does not _NECESSARILY_ equal causation, the greater the correlation, the greater chance that one is cause and the other is effect. Sociopathy in particular has been studied for nearly a century and in great depth.

          • Zorae42

            You really need to get off your bullshit about empathy being the root of ethics and morals.

            You know what other disorder is often characterized with empathy problems? Autism. Because it’s really hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you don’t understand social cues and how people present what they’re feeling. And it’s extra hard if they also have issues communicating their own feelings. Granted, if they do learn how to read people some autistic people are actually more empathetic than others – their issue is with recognizing the feelings of others, not with feeling them. But it still is an empathy problem.

            Last time I checked, there was no link between Autism and violent crimes or major incarceration. Well, a study I found said that there were quite a few more in jail than the normal population percentage (~4% compared to 1%). But I assume that’s because not understanding social cues/rules and having problems handling extreme emotions that causes them to act in ways society frowns upon.

            So as a person on the autistic spectrum I can’t help but feel personally offended by your statements that you need empathy to be an ethical person. And I can’t help but feel offended on behalf of all the APD people out there struggling to function with a severe handicap. You seriously need to reevaluate your ableist views.

          • Morgan Allen

            It’s important to distinguish between cognitive and affective empathy here. Most ASD individuals have affective empathy intact- they care how others feel, they just don’t anticipate behaviour very well. And most psychopaths have cognitive empathy intact- they anticipate how others will behave, but they just don’t care about their feelings. It’s the difference between ‘don’t know’ and ‘don’t care’.

            I would not say that empathy is the be-all and end-all of virtues, but you can’t use the non-criminality of ASD individuals as evidence for that. Because they’re sort of the inverse of psychopaths in that regard.

          • Weatherheight

            Glad to see that I’m not the only one with a problem with the substituted word.

          • Elaine Lee

            Not a correlation. You may say “most violent criminals are mentally ill,” while certainly not meaning “most mentally ill people are violent criminals.” But anyone who has had mental illness in their family knows that poor decisions on the part of their loved one can easily veer into illegal activity. Mental illness can make a poorly functioning person feel desperate and that desperation can lead to acts that could be judged immoral.

          • Gotham

            Exactly my point. It’s not like I’m defending portraying solely people with mental illnesses as angelic creatures of pristine hearts and souls but, is there a shred of desperation here? In the way Claudia decided to murder and son when he was an “inconvenience” to her? Is her intent to murder him now and having actually murdered her husband under duress portrayed as desperation for survival because a crazy lunatic supervillain intruded their home at night at and made her do it at gunpoint?

            Not a single pixel of this framing is portraying this as justified self-defense. If there was, then I’d be more willing to discuss how a mental disorder she might have might make things way worse for both of them.

            I’ve dealt with many mothers who hurt, abused, brutalized, murdered, raped their children. Many of them may have been mentally ill. I ought to quit my job the /instant/ I’d start to draw a correlation between the two instead of trying my hardest to see the broader social picture.

          • Weatherheight

            Diagnosis is never final – it’s a starting point. It allows the person doing treatment a place to stand while they decide on what treatment avenues to reject and to provide a basis to weigh treatment options. Question, hypothesis, prediction, experiment, analysis. Diagnosis is the hypothesis/prediction part.

            Labels are only useful insofar as they increase understanding and decrease misunderstanding. If the reverse is true, then yeah, labels need to be tossed aside.

            Mental disorders are nearly always a a description of maladaptive behaviors, rather than a description of causes, although sometimes the primary difference between two very similar conditions is essentially a description of differing medically verified associated manifestations (Alzheimer’s syndrome versus dementia is the one I grapple with in my daily life). Correlations with underlying life experiences are often made but correlation isn’t the same thing as causation (which is a tough thing to keep in mind, considering our brains are hard wired to make that link).

            All that said, a rush to diagnosis is usually always a mistake.
            Considering the person we’re contemplating is a fiction, your point has a certain cogency – let’s treat real people well whenever possible.

        • motorfirebox

          Really? Honestly, his actions seem fairly justifiable to me, regardless of any diagnoses. They attempted to murder a child, the child was him, and their continued existence is directly harmful to him. And now it’s revealed that they haven’t changed their mind on the whole “murdering him” deal (I include the dad in this because he made no attempt to stop any of it, and is unlikely to have changed his mind had his wife not given him a bloodectomy).

          Even setting aside the fantasy elements, I’d have a hard time casting moral aspersions on Patrick. I feel a little sypmathy for the dad, because he experienced something gutwrenchingly painful and was also stabbed to death, but hey man. If you just let bad things happen, you can really complain when they happen to you.

          • Weatherheight

            I was referring to his actions outside of the memory we’re being shown.

          • motorfirebox

            Oh, oh, oh. Yeah, he’s the worst.

        • a_lethe_ia

          yeah.. the one I know.. he knows it.. he still cant care. he often views wat he did with some sort of amusement, I’m unsure whether thats some self defense to not really face what he did- but he is capable of feeling empathy for his own two children- nobody else tho.
          its weird.. like this mix of detachment and almost pride in how strong he was, how cut off, as i that gave him power (well it did in a way)
          so she shows pretty clear sign s of being a sociopath- very rational, very intelligent, being able to rationally know what to say and which effect it has, but not actually feeling it…
          while I feel but dont know how to express it or how to read others expressions correctly

          • Weatherheight

            Like many expressions, people tend to manifest along a spectrum. I’d be willing to bet he’s got issues with one or the other of his parents, if not both (it’s a cliche for a reason).
            It’s only the extremes that we need to be really worried about. The fact that he can feel strongly about his kids is a very good sign (assuming he’s not being all villainous for their benefit. 😀 ).

  • Professor Harmless

    …does anyone else suspect that Patrick shares his mother’s clinical psychopathy, but was forced to empathize due to his abilities?

    • Weatherheight

      I suspect that Patrick may have some degree of empathy impairment brought about by coping with his anomaly, rather than than the other way around.

      He’s more likely to suffer from megalomania and delusions of grandeur than APD/SPD. And it appears that he’s getting a grip on that as well, albeit in a halting manner.

    • Jshadow

      Then why did he have a dog?

      • Professor Harmless

        At first, probably because his parents thought it was normal for him to have one.

    • Gotham

      Let’s not diagnose mental illnesses

      I’d be hard-pressed to even say with assurance that Claudia has an antisocial personality disorder that’s true to reality. The Hollywood version of a psychopath sure but heh how far does that take us

      • Professor Harmless

        Fair. While we’re on the subject I would point out that the term “sociopath ” is more a colloquial term that has come to denote persons who’ve developed low empathy, rather than just another word for the more modern anti-social disorder.

        • Gotham

          Although it would be a shame if the webcomic didn’t try to explore the potential venue that anomalies aren’t random, as we tend to think for now, but tied to personal history or genetics. An emphasis on a given trait or, in this case, a cruel twist of fate. Someone unable to empathize with others afflicted with the capacity to mindread as well as Patrick does would be super interesting.

          (That girl who lived as a ghost in a rolling glass canister likely cosplayed too much as a Dalek before puberty I figure)

          • Weatherheight

            There’s a short bit in the Wild Cards books that strongly implies that powers are a manifestation of one’s psyche as it actually is (rather than how one wishes it would be). Insecurities are often picked up and made manifest by the takisxenoviorus A. It’s an interesting idea.

          • Todd

            Mmm. Still way too facile (and this is an analysis coming from a group ideologically predicated on Classical-Grecian type-ideas of Goodness = Beauty).

            Never did like that explanation (nor what seem to be G.R.R. Martin’s politics underlying his writing).

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      Could be an actual secondary power. If you literally feel what everybody else feels, lowering your own empathy isn’t a flaw, it’s a legit defense mechanism.

      • Oren Leifer

        Wait, that series took the same psychological premise as Neon Genesis Evangelion (that we are all alone and do not connect to others enough) and inverted what it means? That is so cool!

        • Insanenoodlyguy

          For a children’s book writer, Bruce Coville could get pretty deep. (If all you know if him was the movie Aliens ate my Home work, let me just say it was drastically inferior to the original material. )
          But yeah. Never thought about it before, but there are a few inversions. The aliens are a threat to us, but for a very different definition of alien: They are honestly terrified at how messed up we are compared to how far we’ve come. Plenty of species have histories of war and murder and the like, but nobody else makes it to space before resolving that, and till they figure out that spoilerly bit I already stated (which incidentally involves humans being immersed in breathable organic goop) they just cannot fathom how or why. A few drastic solutions are being considered, but mostly they just hope to figure us out so they can help us instead.

          • For the record, he’s also a pretty nice guy in person. He shows up at some of the same science fiction conventions I do, and is deservedly well-liked.

          • Insanenoodlyguy

            Oh I know that. He’s from my hometown. He’s participated in local stuff and signed books for me as a kid at a local bookstore during a street fest. Also did a pretty sick Halloween show at a local theater (did horror readings, we all actually camped out on chairs on the stage while ghosts and monsters stalked the audience seats in front of us. It was neat). I definitely like the guy.

      • Weatherheight

        I now have a new series to seek out and read – thank you.

        • Insanenoodlyguy

          Do keep in mind it is kids books, if decent ones. But I certainly wouldn’t tell you not to read coville.

      • Dwight Williams

        I am reminded of the Callahan’s stories by Spider Robinson now…

    • A Tiny Little Baby

      No, he had to cut out his emotions in order to become a monster. He made himself into someone who doesn’t care so he could survive. She just was one by nature, no psychic lobotomy necessary.

    • martynW

      That’s an interesting take. I’ve noticed in the comic books that one of the first things telepathic superheroes have to do is figure out how to shield themselves from the people around them.

      And if shielding isn’t possible? I wonder if the reason we don’t see telepaths in real life isn’t because they don’t exist, it’s because they’re either dead or living somewhere in the Himalayas.

  • Jshadow

    Something else comes as off here:

    The mind room, what’s that supposed to tell?
    No vices, desires, or anything? Just white sky and geometrical shapes?

    What is she a robot then?

    Nothing is explained just as in case of Feral’s mind so it just looks random.

    • Weatherheight

      Minds generally are random – none of us are as rational as we’d like to believe.

      Feral’s mind is filled with living things.
      Patrick’s mind has a well regulated city with strong defenses.
      Claudia’s mind is barren, desolate, and filled with Aristotelian shapes.

      These landscapes are reflections of the persons, not intended to be accurate representations of the minds of those people.
      Your analysis is getting in the way of your understanding – it feels to me as if you’re looking for one-to-one equivalencies, and that’s an oversimplification of a complex thing.

      Not that your questions aren’t valid – they’re actually pretty good questions. Allow associations to intrude on your consciousness and follow them where they lead.

  • Gotham

    So like does Alison see this? We’re jumping through minds almost as much as we’re jumping through hoops to justify the narrative voice here

    • Weatherheight

      I was assuming that, but that’s a valid point.

      Can Patrick provide access to another mind for Alison because she is linked to him? It seems reasonable at one level since we’ve apparently been in Tara’s mind via the agency of Patrick’s anomaly, but Alison is externally watching Patrick talk to Claudia and then she’s inside Patrick’s point of view in Claudia’s mind, and then perspective shifts to standing outside both of them in the landscape of her mind and then we shift back to the memory of the bedroom, where we started…

      You’re right, point-of-view is jumping rather a lot on these last few pages.

      • Anondod

        Patrick is sharing his memories with Alison. He’s not providing access to Claudia’s mind, he’s providing access to his memories of Claudia’s mind.

        • Weatherheight

          Still an interesting idea to me.

      • Gotham

        I’m being mostly cheeky, just in case. I’m more than willing to accept the explanation that in his mentalscape he can project pretty much anything at will anyway (remember when smol Patrick wrote into the air?), this is more than enough suspension of disbelief

      • Professor Harmless

        Re: providing access, do you suppose he’ll try to give Claudia access to other people’s minds?

        • Weatherheight

          Assuming this is entirely a memory AND assuming that Claudia (Real) is dead AND assuming Claudia (Memorex) is restricted to being just that and hasn’t been psychic-vampired into Patrick’s head somehow, then probably not.

          Then again, et asinus vacillare.

  • AustinC123

    I mean, is there a problem any more? If his issue was feeling their bad vibes from across the US, then… problem solved because she doesn’t care about him or the people he hurts, right? Or does he need love from her specifically?

    • Gotham

      Yeah, still flabbergasted Patrick would crave his mother’s approval more than dad’s, whom he didn’t even blink before issuing the kill order of

      • Insanenoodlyguy

        You want what you’ve never had more.

        • Gotham

          It’s not going to be surprising to hear that I’m not a fan of the trope of the victim clinging back to the abuser.

          • Insanenoodlyguy

            Granted, but it’s around for a reason.

          • a_lethe_ia

            its pretty real tho. especially for a child. you cant just easily stop loving your parents,. no matter how much better that would be.

          • Gotham

            It’s not about how true it is, it’s about how it comments on it.

      • Talina M

        Voice of experience here. When dealing with insane parents – you strive harder to get their approval. As a child you can not comprehend what the problem is. You perceive the situation as broken- that the parents reactions to the child is normal,and that it’s obviously something said child did that was wrong. the child can only strive to “fix” something that is beyond their control. It sets up a situation in which the child is searching for something they can’t ever achieve.

        • Tylikcat

          That’s one response. It wasn’t mine, though it was my sister’s. And my mother decided early on* that I wasn’t the daughter she wanted, and for whatever reason I mostly got my father’s approval through my intellectual accomplishments… and somewhere between when I was six and eight I realized that neither of them were really capable of being responsible adults. But then, I had other responsible adults in my life to compare them to. (There was also a middle sister between between L and me who died very young, and her death probable was a further factor in the weird dynamic we had.)

          * Between when I was six and eighteen months old, by her own accounting.

          • Talina M

            I got out,but I can certainly see where it can be a self sabotaging factor.

          • Tylikcat

            My sister got out, too. We talk, sometimes, about the different effects our different upbringings in the same family had on us. (And the similarities. We just had a big discussion about techniques for managing our residual hypervigilance… which was more than a little heavy.) In both our cases, our parents got much more hostile as we went through puberty, and being a teenager doesn’t necessarily lead to wanting to play those games.

          • AustinC123

            Tylikcat, may I ask why you tell your childhood trauma experience to these comment pages over and over again? I believe I’ve heard different pieces of your upbringing a dozen times while perusing the comments over the last couple years. I don’t begrudge you speaking truth here no matter what the motive, but I notice it as I do the patterns of other commenters. Do you see it as legitimizing/giving authority to your take on the comic? Does it get brought up organically and specifically every time? I’m just curious, and you seem open in this area. Please forgive me if I am elbowing my way into unwelcome ground.

          • Tylikcat

            It’s really hard to get past the weirdness of the request, because despite the your attempts to soften it it’s hard to get away from the underlying message that you see me as violating social norms, and doing so for (perhaps) ulterior motives… which you go on to suggest. What the what the what?

            I participate in these forums because I enjoy the comics, the community here, and to relax. (I’ve been on a weirder than usual experiment schedule this last bit, but I don’t know if that’s really had impact.) Sometimes, as with this last storyline, parts of it resonate with my own life, and I’ll often mention those pieces, especially to clarify my reaction – or just because they remind me of them. The transparency bit is common though – an example: I was really negative about Dadrick, even when a lot of people were arguing that he was a passive victim. Part of my reaction was “Aha, yeah, I spent years thinking my mother was a passive victim, look a little harder.” But that reaction? In some ways, it provides insight. In other ways, hey, different situations, so it might be leading me to the wrong conclusion. Whatever. I’d rather just say where it’s coming from and move on. Acknowledging bias, I suppose.

            I guess there is another, broader answer, wrt the social norms. People who’ve experienced trauma are often expected to adhere to a bunch of scripts. Like, it’s supposed to be very hard to talk about, because oooo trauma, and everyone is supposed to be deeply scarred. Eh, whatever. For the most part I stopped being traumatized decades ago, it’s my life, it’s the only one I have, and I’m going to own it. Part of the reason for this is that I think the societal stands end up being pretty unhealthy and reinforce the sense that people *must* stay traumatized and forever broken and that all these things are horribly taboo. I wholly support other people making whatever decisions about their own pasts, but I’ve pretty much decided that mine is just a past, like any other past, and, y’know, sometimes relevant to discussions. If anything, when I’m not seeing people face to face, I’m likely to forget to think about shock value, because mostly it’s not shocking to me, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to turn as much of it as possible into amusing anecdotes.

            Most of the time, I walk a line between not upsetting the people I’ve around and not participating in bullshit. It’s highly contextual, as one might guess – back home, socially I’m part of a large, and fairly tight knit community, and most people have at least a little idea of my family background… and some have known me since I was twelve, or younger. And many have met my mother (and a few my father – and oh, the hilarity when my mother was briefly on the school board, and so many of my friends were concerned voters, not to mention parents, in that district…) But also, there are a lot of people with difficult family backgrounds, and kind of an understanding that that’s a thing. Since I’ve moved to Ohio, I’ve had to deal with more people who both make a lot more assumptions, and also descend into paroxysms of pearl clutching at pretty innocuous answers to direct questions.* Throw in that people often also freak out about my education and career background, and I do sometimes feel like I’m stuck on *facepalm* (I suppose this does tend to leave me a little crankier, though I am building up more of a community out here. And of course, pretty much everyone I know is highly online.)

            Here… I mean, this kind of thing is being discussed. It’s kind of weirdly homey.

            * Which I find offensive. I mean, for me, personally, they just strike me as clueless numbwits, but it’s not hard to imagine them pulling the same stuff on someone who was less of a coldhearted bitch than me. Like anyone needs to have the idea that their life is shameful and should not be spoken of reinforced.

          • Tylikcat

            And I wrote a long thoughtful response, which apparently got marked as spam. Disqus says they’re fixing it, and eventually if they don’t I’ll… I dunno, repost it in two parts maybe? But I just stuck my head back in to see if anything entertaining was going on and noticed it had disappeared.

          • AustinC123

            I got it as an email notification, at least.
            Thank you very much for the message. I do not often engage with the interior life of folks who have been very badly treated in their young lives, and I did not appreciate how liberating it must be when folks in that position find a space where it’s ok to just speak openly about their experience without having to mediate their own narrative in a society which assumes that never happens. Those stories are both valuable in their own right and also entirely your right to express.
            Thank you, sincerely, for both your continued perspective on these pages and your willingness to engage with my questions. I know there’s a real tension between sharing a story which challenges the predominate narrative and being obligated to ‘teach’ people like me, who are ignorant out of privilege. Thank you.
            I also apologize for the implicit scolding which led me to ask. You are right, I would not have put you on the spot had your comments not stepped outside of what I thought of as ‘acceptable’ discourse, but that’s the whole point, right? You and others in your position are speaking as yourselves, and when people like me police those comments it establishes a pernicious set of boundaries for discourse. I appreciate you highlighting that, and am grateful for the education.

          • Tylikcat

            I’m really glad to get such a positive message back. With your original message, I wasn’t sure if you were trying to engage with me or start some kind of fight… and had to really think about how much energy I had to devote to the interaction.

            I think most people have some awareness that it happens. But many people cling to the idea that it doesn’t happen to nice people, in nice places, like here, but just to other bad people. As former techie turned neurobiologist, apparently fairly respectable appearing and entrusted with the molding of young minds… this might also be one of the reasons I’m so cheerfully subversive. It’s entertaining to poke holes in people’s expectations when those expectations annoy me (I’ve gotten a really absurd number of lectures on how it’s wrong to cut off your parents for any reason. And I am super reserved, and tell them as little as possible, but they won’t back off… and then when I finally tell them a little bit of why I don’t speak to my parents, it’s a 180, every time. Actually, it’s more depressing than hilarious.) I see a lot of cases where policy is being made that sets up stable two parent families as *the* normative option… and my background might be weird, but messed up families really aren’t. We shouldn’t be telling people over and over that parents will handle all these important things and they should go to their parents for them, because a lot of kids learn pretty early on that their parents aren’t trustworthy, which makes that kind of advice even more alienating. It’s very much like the stigma around mental health – except, that’s a lot more out in the open.

          • Tylikcat

            BTW, just to make it clear – I’m not saying one route is better than another, just that there is more than one. My sister has been on me to acknowledge the cost of being so locked down and distanced from our parents as far back as she can remember. And there was a cost, no doubt. It was also adaptive, pro-survival behavior – and her situation and mine were really different.

          • Talina M

            Whichever route works for the individual is the right one-yes?

          • Tylikcat

            If we’re still standing, we won, as far as I’m concerned. Or, y’know, sitting, breathing – I’m flexible on those win conditions, too.

          • Talina M

            Breathing is a good sign!

        • Gotham

          I deal with insane parents every day—I’m definitely not saying it never happens, au contraire, but considering he’s likely going to propose a compromise next page, I’d be kind of pissed off if this story isn’t about how Patrick managed to reclaim his humanity/heart/agency over his abuser but how they “got over their differences”.

          It’s a good thing the comic doesn’t shy away from saying pretty explicitly that what Menace is doing here is /terrible/, being a flashback explaining the current state of affairs and all, but that story has got to end somewhere and if this doesn’t do with Alison or him beating Claudia to a pulp (figuratively or literally; managing to forgive and move on is sometimes the best victory) then I’m going to be pissed

        • AustinC123

          But his stated intention here was to remove a constant source of distraction – one which did not distract him until his power expanded in range. I’m sure his whole life has been shaped by his crumby upbringing, but this particular encounter seems very specific and I don’t get what still needs to be resolved.

  • Callinectes

    I see, the ducks are from Minecraft. It’s all coming together now!

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    and then he shut it all up in his mind bunker.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    At this point, the bigger plot twist is if he *doesn’t* kill his mother. If he instead just locks her away on some island and that’s where his infatuation with conspiracy begins.

  • Walter

    There…is another way.

    Honestly there doesn’t seem to be a need to get rid of her. She doesn’t think about people, just let her wander away.

  • Filthy Liar

    I just hope Alison resists the temptation to absolve Patrick here. His mother didn’t need to die. His father, sure.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      She might not need to die now. Remember this memory was blocked off.
      Patrick blanked out his mother, and probably only kept a sense of “Well my parents sucked but I took care of it, don’t want to think about it anymore.” No more bad thoughts about him, and mom deliberately shut out of the process, no reason to kill her. Not sure what is going to happen next but that’s now possible.

      • Filthy Liar

        That hadn’t occurred to me, and I hope you’re right.

    • Danygalw

      His father?

      • Filthy Liar

        He’s the one whose emotions Patrick can sense across a continent. His mom may as well be a blank. Needed to die was a poor way of phrasing it though.

  • 12th

    “You are abhorrent.” // “Why? Because I was not capable of loving you? Because I thought the world would be better with you dead?”

    “UM YES. BASICALLY THAT. Also because you didn’t JUST think that – and yes, a lot of parents think this at least once about their kids – you ACTED on it. You didn’t even attempt to nurture your own child to prevent him from becoming that which you feared. Which is pretty abhorrent. Also, because you’re planning on casually murdering me and pinning my father’s murder on me as well.”

    • Filthy Liar

      Your last sentence is entirely projection. There’s zero indication she’s planning on doing this.

      • SmilingCorpse

        Technically, the last half of the last sentence is conjecture. She’s offering to end his suffering. And I don’t think she would just back off if Patrick declined.

        • demosthenese10

          And at that point, her desire for survival in the wake of two dead bodies in her bedroom would lead to the logical reaction of calling the cops and blaming your supervillain son for the death of your husband. It’s a leap, but a pretty reasonable one.

  • On the one hand, I do agree with the sentiment presented in “if your definition of personhood doesn’t include me, then it’s your definition that needs to change, not me” (after all, empathy problems and whether someone is a ‘good’ person or not aren’t linked nearly as strongly as most people tend to think), but on the other hand, let they who hath not just stabbed their husband cast the first stone.

    • Filthy Liar

      Gun to her head though. Not something she seems to have wanted (insofar as we’ve seen any emotions from her) to do in particular.

    • Teka the Budgie

      I also like this statement. Because while Claudia is obviously a terrible person, but she is still a person and that needs to be respected. In a way it’s taking the easy way out to say someone totally lacking in empathy “isn’t a person” because it’s not accepting the fact that humans as a class can do some horrible messed up stuff.

    • R Lex Eaton

      Being a monster and being human are not mutually exclusive.

      Then again, it would necessitate different definitions of humanity.

    • I’d also point out that, while she’s definitely saying things to make Patrick vulnerable enough to knife, she’s not wrong.
      I mean, she’s definitely wrong in that treating your child like a monster and then acting like it’s some intrinsic part of him to be a supervillain that is in no way connected to her actions is in any way justifiable.
      But she’s still a person, and not having empathy doesn’t mean you’re Definitely An Uncaring And Horrid Evil Creature.

  • JohnTomato

    She’s just a memory of a monster. We’re here to see if you can overcome yourself.

    First, admit you have a Mommy Problem.
    Second, go to meetings.
    Third, Profit!

  • Anarquistador

    Okay, is Claudia trying to do that whole Moral Relativism, “Sociopathy is a valid mindset and your moral system is outdated and flawed for not accounting for it” thing?

    • Jack Markley

      She’s simply stating a fact in that panel. She technically fulfills the definition of human so monster is an inaccurate term for what she is. It’s framed in a way that sounds like she’s saying her psychopathy is not bad but the real mistake would be how Patrick called her a monster in a way that implied being human and being good are perfectly correlated.

      • R Lex Eaton

        Meh. Brainiac did it better in Red Son.

  • A Tiny Little Baby


    You don’t get to claim you were right when the reason he’s so broken and messed up is *your* fault!

    • R Lex Eaton

      It’s the parenting equivalent of making sure no one eats all the cookies you baked for the party by eating them all yourself.

    • Dwight Williams

      Her reply: “You don’t get to blame me for the consequences to other people of my being true to my nature. Ever.”

    • Tylikcat

      And it’s more complicated than that. The involuntary telepathy was always going to be a huge deal, and change him a whole lot. How do you weigh that against terrible parents?

  • allneonlike

    I’m really impressed by what a perfect mashup of Patrick’s parents Alison is. She’s about Claudia’s height and build, and I’m pretty sure Molly used the exact same color palette for her and Henry on purpose. She has Claudia’s capacity for violence and directness/impulsivity, but that’s tempered by deep empathy, compassion, and a commitment to not use her powers abusively. I’m not surprised at all that Patrick imprinted on her the way he did, and I am taking that “I am with you, always” as Alison semi-consciously acknowledging that she’s been promoted to Patrick’s acting parent.

  • Dave Van Domelen

    Mother can you help me build the Wall….

  • Graeme Sutton

    1. I find it pretty hard to believe that Patrick would have made it this far without knowing what a sociopath’s mind looks like. They’re at least 1% of the population. Unless Patrick’s mom is some kind of super-uber sociopath.
    2. A sociopath’s mind would still be expected to have ‘people’ in it. A sociopath is still a social animal, they still understand things like dominance hierarchies and they usually still need people for sex they’re just deficient in a lot of the softer emotions like loyalty, trust or guilt that make cooperative relationships game-theoretically stable over the medium-to-long term. They also still have emotions like anger, fear, lust, and even a certain amount of protectiveness (or maybe possessiveness is a better word). I guess this backs up the ‘Uber-sociopath’ theory.

  • zathura

    Guys……how is Patrick inside his Mother’s mind? Can he bring her into his? Or into the mind of someone else? Can he show his mother how to empathize? Or is he going to “swallow” her mind so that she just becomes one more walled off voice in his head?

    • Dan Steadman

      You are right, as I recall, according to his own description of his powers he can’t communicate with others, he has one way telepathy (apparently until now with Al). Perhaps he is reading her responses mentally but replying physically without her needing to say anything.

  • zellgato

    Man. That is some interesting psych games.
    I wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t asked and instead just did it straight up?
    He was pretty off guard….. as much as possible with his power set anyway

  • zellgato

    Also that was some inception weird there.
    Alison in his head, in his memory, with his memory, viewing his memory’s power usage into his mom’s head.

  • McFrugal

    Here comes the eraser.

  • Hiram

    * A stark naked Guwara runs past in the background *

    It’s like Patrick got all the mirror neurons in the family and his mother got none, yet they still ended up in more or less the same place. I wonder if Patrick used his mother’s mind as a model to build the city?

  • zophah

    Reminds me of the arch-villain from Psycho-Pass. He escaped the system because he felt absolutely no remorse in any of his actions.

  • aseariel

    I mostly find it fascinating that someone who (by her own estimation) cannot feel what other people feel has given birth to someone who cannot stop feeling what other people feel.

  • Sengachi

    This arc has hit me on a fairly personal level and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.

    So, uh, to be blunt about it: I’m a psychopath who made the conscious decision to be compassionate to people (I couldn’t figure out an isotropic moral system which justified murder and the idea of using non-isotropic moral justifications made my skin crawl) and found out while going through the motions of helping people that emotional vulnerability with other people is awesome. I lack a direct empathetic response to other’s emotions but I’ve figured out how to jury-rig second-order emotional systems to aid in paying attention to other’s emotions and being attentive to their needs, and uhhh, the results have been pretty fantastic? Feeling the pride and wonder and appreciation I’ve hijacked into helping me feel good about caring for loved ones is pretty awesome. As is being able to not concern myself with maintaining barriers around loved ones and being able to rely on them to help me when I’ve got problems is pretty awesome too.

    So yeah, I’m your friendly neighborhood psychopath, with emphasis on the friendly. (Dear gods though did it take me forever to figure out the body language and facial expressions to actually come off as friendly. Picking up and replicating that stuff does *not* come naturally to me).

    But ummm, yeah, with this panel I fucking *get* Claudia (The “it always seemed like magic to me” comment is seriously on point). And about her own personhood … she’s right. She’s a person. I think so long as the way she expresses her existence hurts others (she clearly hasn’t been for the best in her husband’s life or her son’s life) then shutting her down is perfectly justified. But she’s not inhuman. She’s just … human with a piece missing. Her internal world is full and nuanced and complete, but people just … don’t feature in it.

    Like me.

    And as much as I’m happier having stumbled into, y’know, compassion and intimacy and jury-rigged empathetic responses and shoehorning people and the benefits of love into my world however I can, I can’t really fault someone like me for just existing in the way that comes most naturally.

    But I feel like I’ve gone astray here.

    The point is that this arc has really resonated with me because I recognize Claudia. She’s who I could have easily been. She’s who I am even with the path I’ve chosen, in many ways. And I’ve never seen a story actually acknowledge that people like me can have meaningful and internally valuable lives without caring about people and that’s something which means a lot for me to see. But at the same time it’s kind of sad to see this? Because, like, she is the monster of this piece. For good reason and in a way perfectly consistent with how many people like me actually behave. But … it’s still sad?

    I don’t know. Like I said. Not quite sure how I feel about it.

    I am glad to see this written though. For what it’s worth, coming from a psychopath, thank you for writing this. You’ve done a very good job.

    P.S. And yes psychopaths and sociopaths have feelings. We just don’t have autonomic empathetic responses to the emotions of others. Or to stuff which might happen to us, because the human brain is a hack-job kludge which treats its future self as a separate person. (So in warfare terms: we don’t get shell-shock from mortar fire or eventually shut down after extended front-lines deployment like everyone else does, but we still get combat PTSD from actually being injured. It gives us a really weird, apathetic and distant sort of bravery, and an unfortunate inclination to not automatically react to / think about the dangers and risks of the actions we take). The end result can look like being devoid of emotions from the outside, especially in combat environments (where psychopaths are easier to recognize), and especially among psychopaths who don’t bother learning how to do face stuff (who are also easier to recognize), and especially in tragic moments which typically evoke empathy from normal people (which are the scenarios we have the hardest time blending into), but we still have emotions. Just not emotions that automatically mirror your emotions.

    (Honestly I’ve always found it vaguely egocentric and off-putting how people assume we don’t have emotions. Yeah, sure, just because I don’t automatically feel what *you’re* feeling, I must not be feeling anything at all. And because I can’t mirror your pain, I must not be capable of caring about your pain at all. Can y’all really not recognize or value others emotions outside the context of empathetic mirroring? [This is mostly just me doing an exaggerated rant, but for real, so many of y’all seem completely fucking incapable of valuing other people’s emotions beyond your own empathetic mirroring of them and it’s actually kind of egocentric and kind of creepy.])

    • Tylikcat

      I really appreciate this comment, and it makes so much more sense in terms of the psychopaths I’ve known, than the majority of the framings I’ve seen. (I’m mean, that would be expected, but that seems worth restating because a lot of those tropes are really loud.) Both the people who have been in my life in ways I’ve appreciated… and ones I really haven’t, inclusive of one or two whose actions were criminal.

      So, yo. FWIW, I test out really high for empathy, but I also tend to think that a lot of the way people tend to model empathy is more than a little creepy, if mostly for reasons pertaining to societal tropes. I don’t think there’s just one way to be a decent person, and I’m here for yours.

    • Gotham

      I think you’re selling yourself so short by comparing yourself to Claudia, even remotely. If she actually is, you know, as far as a fictional character can actually be, then she ranges in the high-functioning side of things, like all those CEOs trashy articles can’t help but rave about and exoticize.

      I don’t want to assume anything about your life so I’ll contrast that persona with the one I’ve been much more in contact with, my boyfriend (he’s great!) He’s a psychopath who also tried very hard to open himself to others and he kind of hates that image of the composed, calculating, always-in-control-even-in-the-face-of-danger sweet talker, that we have up there with Claudia. To him, growing up was a nightmare, and daily life interacting with others is still consistently difficult, frustrating, depressing and infuriating. He gets to be filled with inner doubts about his value, jealous about things he can’t have and terrified about facing another day like the rest of us borings. My point here is—from my own limited experience, psychopaths are people who try as hard as anyone to understand themselves, only messier and with much more hardship.

      I know those elusive psychopaths who got it all together, succeed in manipulating anyone and absolutely do not get /anything/ out of validation must exist somewhere we’ve written so damn much about them, but damn if they’re hard to find.
      So much so, I wouldn’t be surprised it’s all a scam to get people to tune in for the next episode of Criminal Minds.

      (Oh and by the way: I don’t condone all murder but who ever said principles should always be universal to be valid? My boyfriend is scary sometimes how he manages to prove almost mathematically that a life of oppression and egoistical opportunism is the only one that makes sense. Not that he indulges, but he likes to see my helplessness coming up with counterarguments, “for fun”)

      • Sengachi

        Thank you very much for your comment, because this is the first time I’ve *ever* heard of another psychopath like me. And yeah, growing up was kind of low-level scary all the time because I had such a hard time interacting with people and accurately evaluating what they were feeling.

        Say hi to your boyfriend for me by the way, and tell him that he’s pretty awesome for working at this even though it’s so damn hard and uncertain.

        Yeah. I totally agree with you that self-centered psychopaths probably don’t actually end up being the cool, collected, in-control people media portrays them as, if for no other reason than that they lack feedback from others. Multiple perspectives is just so damn necessary for self-improvement that I think people who go it alone are fundamentally limited in how good they can ever get at regulating their own emotions.

        Oh, and the moral system I came to doesn’t actually strictly forbid murder. Just me murdering people for my own enjoyment, on the grounds that they’d lose/suffer significantly more than I’d gain/enjoy doing it, and my serotonin and endorphins do not have special physical labels from the universe tagged “more valuable than other people’s”. I do generally frown on even ‘justified’ murder though. Humans are pretty fucking flawed hardware and inclined to way overestimate plan success odds and rewards, and way underestimate potential consequences and ripple effects. So I don’t really trust humans with the ethical option of murder in much the same way I wouldn’t trust a little kid with a lit torch. Like, not that it can’t in theory be a useful or necessary tool but … I just don’t trust the kid with it.

        (By the way, if you want to win one of those arguments with your boyfriend, look up the current research on getting AI to be good at game theory. The takeaway from it is basically: “intelligent cooperation is a far more effective winning strategy than intelligent defection/backstabbing/opportunism, in basically every system more nuanced than the more bare-bones one-off Prisoner’s Dilemmas”. This is a pretty comprehensive paper showing cooperation kicking ass relative to defection: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-02597-8 .)

        • Alynna Benhart

          Thank you for sharing. It gave me the courage to share my own issues/thoughts on this whole arc in a non – sarcastic way.

        • Gotham

          Well, we’d have to agree on axiomatic values and intended goals first. Sure collaboration is queen if we strive for betterment of the species overall but complete fulfillment of one’s own individual life takes us in very different directions.

          • Danygalw

            That’s the point of the “in basically every system more nuanced than the more bare-bones one-off Prisoner’s Dilemmas” caveat: reality *is* more complicated. If you defect, the other ‘players’ can punish you. It really is better for your individual fulfilment to cooperate and punish defectors.

            (as long as you have enough shared axioms to agree on what ‘cooperation’ and ‘defection look like, but somehow that never seems to be in question.)

          • Gotham

            I’m sorry but this above all else feels like the oversimplification. If that was true then the real world couldn’t be anything else but the wondrous garden of perfect socialism it dishearteningly isn’t.

          • Danygalw

            So sometimes people do things that are irrational.

      • Alexandra Lamberton

        Pardon me for asking, but why would a psychopath date in this day and age? You can have a normal life without a SO; why would someone who’s incapable of caring about others bother with the annoyance and stress of a relationship?

        • Gotham

          “Not caring” is not quite accurate. For him, but maybe also for the whole spectrum: it implies a choice in the matter.
          As far as he’s concerned, the yearning for acceptance, validation, sex was always there (sometimes to a dangerous degree, why do you think the trope of the charming psychopath manipulating people for the thrill of power over them exists), only super extra hard for him to get. He’s decidedly not one of the smooth ones in person, although he can flirt over texts like a motherfucker, and he wants to. Like anyone, he wants to be listened to.

          Really, being a psychopath is not about that, it’s more about the difficulty to listen yourself.
          He’s making progress. He knows what he’s losing if he doesn’t.

  • Alynna Benhart

    I feel like my mind is full of contradictions (as probably most people do)

    I am quite capable of self analysis and self control (and since I have severe PTSD/depression I believe it has saved my life multiple times) and throughout my life I have had a very hard time understanding emotions. But I am very good at predicting what people I know well will do – I can often tell what emotional dilemmas they are having, and predict a likely outcome. I am not a psychopath/sociopath (maybe Aspergers), I can understand what people are feeling, I can understand why – I just cannot understand why that controls them. Do they not think things through? Do they not realize what they are feeling – just acting? I know that I am also an intrinsically kind and generous person, because I sacrifice my own happiness for others. I won’t let a friend go hungry, I will stay up for hours helping people with homework. I have had a lot of training in diplomacy throughout my life (NEVER talk about philosophy with classmates – especially kindergarteners or middle schoolers) and I have had bitches for grandmothers.

    Or maybe I am sociopathic. I consider human life equally valuable as any other life, thus I am a vegetarian. I do however like food, so even though I believe the killing of sentience, and plants are sentient as well, I still must eat. I am selfish. I am cruel. I murder. Murder flies and mosquitoes and plants. I would rather consume human flesh than other animal flesh. As long as I can remember I have dreamed of ruling the world in various forms. Frustratingly, I always reach a moral dilemma. What would I do if my friends/family/someone I cared about disagreed with my actions?

    I have been dealing with my personal issues for the last two years, when I realized I would seriously rather be dead than alive. I am hypersensitive to others negative emotions and extremely hydrophobic because I nearly drowned having an asthma attack while snorkeling. I have emotions. They just never had so much power over me. They were never uncontrollable. They still are controllable – its just so hard. I spend about 80% of my energy every day restricting my self hatred and despair from hurting me or others. Even now I still would rather be dead than alive. I know that it is irrational. (Although it might not be – I have a hypothesis about that)

    Throughout this arc I have empathized with Patrick – the giant walls blocking out that which you cannot handle, that which could kill you. I however allow some of it in, like a tap. I make decisions based on evidence, desire, and emotion. But I temper my emotions with logic. Opening myself up to my first boyfriend – it wasn’t a matter of love, it was a matter of trusting him and myself to allow myself to love him. Because love is dangerous.

    Accepting your own emotions, your irrational desires, but maintaining enough reason to not let them destroy or control you – that is what I hope I have achieved, and what I believe Patrick needs to achieve.

    Allison’s methods are… probably not the best, but Patrick has very limited options. I hope she doesn’t destroy him in her pursuit of his knowledge of the conspiracy.

  • Jordan Hiller

    Something that bothers me about this is that this is someone who supposedly feels no connections to other people. Without the social constructs that those attachments and chains create, she shouldn’t be as “composed” as she is.

    • Danygalw


  • Nightsbridge

    “I don’t identify as a person,” so once said Patrick.

  • S.I. Rosenbaum

    but none of this makes sense? She is a sociopath incapable of caring about people and her mind is a void yet he can sense her hating him anywhere on the continent????

    • Beroli

      More likely, he just felt his father’s hatred, and he hoped that his father would go along with his request and he wouldn’t need to either have him killed, or spell out in front of him “well, you hate me, father. Not the complete emotional void you’ve been sharing a bed with, of course.”

      • S.I. Rosenbaum

        Except that’s not what the comic says? Like that literally contradicts what actually happened. In order to make this make sense we have to assume that someone is saying something they don’t mean.

  • Natsumeg

    as much as I hate her character, I agree with the sentiment of ‘I am a person. If your definition of personhood cannot accommodate me, then it is your definition that needs changing’ . I don’t agree with that last remark at the end about how she doesn’t need to change at all,but I feel like a huge part of this comic has been exploring the different ways a narrow view or out of context view of what personhood is can have devastating consequences.

    Alison wants to help people, but she fundamentally misses out quite a bit of how people’s vulnerability and her invulnerability makes it easier for her to be less selfish.

    She struggles with the idea of authoritarianism and one major downside of authoritarianism is that like many ideologies, it reduces humanity and often takes it away from people.

    The people who see Feral as a monster see her so separate from being human they would rather have their loved ones die than receive help.

    Alison’s professor is so distraught and angry over the death of his partner that all he can see in Alison is a force of nature rather than a person.

    Moonshadow has stopped seeing rapists as people with more interiority than just what they’ve done and their refusal to acknowledge it.

    When you inflict your will as if they were less than human, there’s always going to be devastating consequences

  • Potato Patato Von Spudsworth 3

    A criminal psychologist told me that the first thing they found when speaking with psychopaths/sociopaths was how incredibly charming they always were. How genuine they seemed, because they always realize from a young age that they are expected to act in certain ways, and learn to perfectly mimic the correct responses to scenarios. The psychologist also told me that despite this there is always something deeply unsettling about psychopaths, even when you don’t realize what they are, and that this feeling grows with every interaction. They said it’s how they look at you. Like they’re seeing right through you.

    I don’t know how, but you perfectly nailed that look.