Have you read Broodhollow? You should. It’s pretty great. I could describe it to you, but I think I might lose some folks who would think “That doesn’t sound like it’s for me.” Thing is, I’d think it wasn’t for me as well if someone just described it to me. But the story and art are so wonderful that it really is worth your time. There are a couple books’ worth of it online. Here’s a link to the beginning of the comic. I want you to decide now that you’re going to go give it a try when you’re done with this post. Please? Start with the first 10 or 15 comics and see how it goes. Okay?
So what’s all the rumpus about Broodhollow, neh? Why am I writing about the end of the comic? First, a timeline. (I should note that a lot of the things to which I refer are no longer available online in their original location. For the moment, they’re still up at the Internet Archive.)
Cast your mind back to the bright, halcyon days of 2014. The world was not gripped by pandemic and civil unrest. On October 10th, Kris Straub brings Book 2 of his Broodhollow comic to a close. He announces an estimated start for Book 3 to be in January of the following year.
A week later, on the 17th, the title of Book 3 is announced: A Game of Oubliette
The next real event is the launch of the Kickstarter for Book 2 on February 9, 2015, it runs until March 11th and is a success, at least as far as I can judge. He exceeds funding by about 350%. (And I rectify my error of not buying the Book 1 hardcover the first time around and get both 1 and 2 in hardback.)
The next month, on April 7, Straub posts an announcement saying that his young son is taking up a great deal of time and he is finding it very difficult to focus and find time to do the writing and drawing needed for the third book. (My fourth child would be born later that year, so boy do I understand how having kids is a serious timesink, especially when they’re very young.)
Near the end of the month, on the 27th, Straub begins to post the comics from Book 3. He puts them up on a fairly regular schedule for a little over 2 months and we see 21 pages. These are no longer on the Broodhollow site, but if you spend some time sleuthing about you can see them on the Internet Archive.
At this point, I think Straub became unsatisfied with the approach to the story he had taken. I can’t say that for certain, because I don’t find that he actually came right out and said that anywhere. But later, he’ll comment something like “I think I have it now” when he restarts in 2016.
For the rest of the year he posts Cadavre comics (strips in daily newspaper style, as if they were snipped from the Broodhollow paper), a Broodhollow one-off in 6 pages that had been print-only in the first book, and a 5 page one-off set in Broodhollow without any familiar characters. The last has been taken down and the only access I know is through the Internet Archive.
At Christmas, he put up a “Happy Holidays” large single panel in a parody of the Calvin & Hobbes style. The Cadavre comics continued into 2016, though the rate of new content had been slowing gradually. It came to a halt with the last Cadavre comic on February 29, 2016.
I wrote about Broodhollow that January and pointed out that it had a notable lack of religion. Delightfully, when I linked the post on Twitter, Straub noticed and read the post and was very nice about what I said despite my being a bit unkind at the very end of the post.
We butted heads a few times later in the year on BLM: The Origin Story and the topic of gender in society and politics, but he seemed to not take it personally (or plain forgot who I was by the time we next communicated; plausible since I’m not really anybody).
After a couple months of silence, the original pages of Book 3 disappeared and started to be replaced on May 2nd. They looked the same at first blush, but Straub posted an announcement (also since removed) explaining that he altered a few details and after a couple pages everything was going to go in another direction.
The first 8 pages appeared in quick succession, then June was mostly quiet. Another 6 pages appeared sporadically until October 27th, and then after another month of silence, Straub announced a delay in Book 3 on December 5, 2016.
And then, in 2017, nothing…
Well, almost nothing. Straub let drop on Twitter that he was working on Books 3 and 4, and then, in response to a tweet of mine that got lost when I deleted my account for a time he informed me that he was not only working on those books, but Book 4 would conclude the story, each book is themed to a season of the year and he intended to do Kickstarters for each while posting them online.
Exciting news! Still, 8 months on, there was nothing. When Straub started a Patreon, however, I decided that it was worth it to kick in. He’s a great cartoonist and this has the hallmarks of being a masterpiece. As soon as I did, well, I heard from him again.
Sure enough, February 20th a new splash page went up with the announcement of the Patreon on the Broodhollow site. March 30th, the second start on Book 3 was replaced by the third attempt. The first 5 pages went up slowly between March 30 and July 12 at which point everything stopped.
Out of the blue another 9 were dumped almost exactly a year later on July 22, 2019. And that’s the story of Broodhollow.
With the facts out of the way, and a timeline established, let’s speculate a bit (for lots of bonus detail, see the timeline at the bottom of this post). Is Broodhollow coming back ever again?
If you take even a cursory read through of Straub’s Twitter timeline, it becomes obvious that he’s had some struggles with mental health. He’s been very upfront and open about how the protagonist of Broodhollow, Wadsworth Zane, is reflective of Straub’s own struggles with anxiety, fear, OCD, and the like. It’s no surprise then, that when these things affect his life, his work is likewise affected.
And, really, I’m not trying to be unkind to him. Though we disagree vehemently on political and social topics (and probably in other ways as well), every single interaction I’ve had with him has been cordial, polite, and (to all appearances) well-intentioned. Every. Single. One. Whatever else you might take away, I’m not asking you to go to his Twitter feed and be a jerk. I’m explicitly telling you not to do that. And it’s not reverse-psychology, or a wink-and-a-nudge thing, or whatever.
(As a longer aside, I think that being critical of authors and creators for taking a very long time to follow through on new works is perfectly fair comment. But that’s worlds away from invading their social media and calling them names.)
That said, I do wonder, as one might, if Broodhollow is coming back, dead already, or lingering on in a state of terminal decline. It’s been nearly 6 years since the end of the second book. There have been three false starts, and a year since anything was last posted. (I stopped using Patreon a while back, so I’m not sure if anything else has appeared there. If Patreon still allows you to see if things are posted, even if they’re locked away from public view, then he hasn’t.) I don’t think I’m being unfair. Frankly, I’m much more sad than angry. I think it might be time to close the book. The draw here is not like it is for the infamous GRRM; they’re not NYT bestsellers and HBO isn’t picking up the show rights.
It’s not to say, however, that hope is dead. After all, his son will grow up and be less of a demand on his time eventually (again, speaking from personal experience with my own kids). And, at least at one point, Straub thought it was “the best thing” he’d ever done (second image above), so why wouldn’t he want to get back to it and finish it eventually? And why wouldn’t I hope for that?
As well, the simple fact that I would recommend this comic to anyone and everyone who likes comics despite it being unfinished and uncertain if it will ever be finished is indicative of the quality I think is there. As lamentable as it may be to see a masterpiece unfinished, I think it is obvious that it is a masterpiece of comic art and story and it’s perfectly possible to appreciate it as it is now.
10/10/2014 Book 2 Ends, Book 3 Estimated Start: Jan 2015
10/17/2014 Book 3 Title, A Game of Oubliette, Announced
02/09/2015 Book 2 Kickstarter Starts
03/11/2015 Book 2 Kickstarter Ends
03/16/2015 Cubby’s Diner Menu
04/07/2015 Book 3 Delay Announcement – Son taking time away from work
04/27/2015 Page 1 Something Old
04/29/2015 Page 2 Something New
05/01/2015 Page 3 The Value of Things
05/04/2015 Page 4 Hemwork
05/06/2015 Page 5 Concerns of the Auxiliary
05/08/2015 Page 6 Appointments to Keep
05/11/2015 Page 7 Today’s Weather
05/13/2015 Page 8 Change of Subject
05/15/2015 Page 9 The Old Ways
05/18/2015 Page 10 Participation
05/25/2015 Page 11 On the Verge
05/27/2015 Page 12 Coping Mechanisms
06/03/2015 Page 13 Getting Along
06/09/2015 Page 14 Evening Stroll
06/10/2015 Page 15 Scram
06/16/2015 Page 16 Progress
06/18/2015 Page 17 Feet on the Ground
06/23/2015 Page 18 A Little Fun
06/25/2015 Page 19 Betting Man
06/30/2015 Page 20 Research
07/06/2015 Page 21 Confidence Games
07/09/2015 Cadavre – Strength
07/14/2015 Cadavre – Nature
07/21/2015 Cadavre – The Bike
07/24/2015 Cadavre – An Uncaring Universe
07/28/2015 Page 22 Intercession
08/04/2015 The Camera Part 1
08/06/2015 The Camera Part 2
08/11/2015 The Camera Part 3
08/13/2015 The Camera Part 4
08/18/2015 The Camera Part 5
08/20/2015 The Camera Part 6
09/03/2015 The Last Train Part 1
09/08/2015 The Last Train Part 2
09/11/2015 The Last Train Part 3
09/22/2015 The Last Train Part 4
09/22/2015 A More Serious Post (Health, delay, the future of the comic)
10/06/2015 The Last Train Part 5
10/26/2015 Local 58 Halloween
11/10/2015 Cadavre – Kierkegaard
11/17/2015 Cadavre – The Price of Care
11/25/2015 Cadavre – Cadavre and Belief
12/08/2015 Cadavre – Work and Respect
12/25/2015 Happy Holidays
01/13/2016 Local 58 Contingency
01/18/2016 Cadavre – Cadavre and the Importance of Again
01/25/2016 Cadavre – Legacy
02/05/2016 Broodhollow Returning Soon Announcement
02/11/2016 Cadavre – All Kinds of Love
02/15/2016 Cadavre – Cadavre and the Casino
02/29/2016 Cadavre – Consequences
05/02/2016 Page 1 Among the Bowers (Replacing previous Page 1)
05/03/2016 On the Hiatus Comment
05/04/2016 Page 2 Among the Bowers
05/09/2016 Page 3 Among the Bowers
05/11/2016 Page 4 Among the Bowers
05/13/2016 Page 5 Among the Bowers
05/17/2016 Page 6 Among the Bowers
05/24/2016 Page 7 Among the Bowers
06/03/2016 Page 8 Among the Bowers
06/20/2016 Local 58 You Are on the Fastest Available Route
07/05/2016 Page 9 Among the Bowers
07/13/2016 Page 10 Among the Bowers
08/11/2016 Page 11 Among the Bowers
09/09/2016 Page 12 Among the Bowers
10/12/2016 Page 13 Among the Bowers
10/27/2016 Page 14 Among the Bowers
12/5/2016 Broodhollow Delay Announcement
02/20/2018 Patreon Announcement Previous Pages removed
03/30/2018 Page 1 A Dream of Fire
04/10/2018 Page 2 What the Doctor Said
04/26/2018 Page 3 Side Streets Home
06/12/2018 Page 4 Ockham’s Razor
07/12/2018 Page 5 Before
07/22/2019 Page 6 Restless
07/22/2019 Page 7 False Smile
07/22/2019 Page 8 What is Real
07/22/2019 Page 9 Public Health Crisis
07/22/2019 Page 10 Sightseeing
07/22/2019 Page 11 Book 3 – 011
07/22/2019 Page 12 Book 3 – 012
07/22/2019 Page 13 Book 3 – 013
07/22/2019 Page 14 Book 3 – 014