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Here I Am

UPDATE Next comic will be up as soon as Photoshop stops crashing and causing my to do s#I! f#(&ing TWICE. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ We should only have 3, maybe 4 more comics until this chapter is finally over. So Hopefully by Wednesday of next week we'll be into Chapter 5.

138 thoughts on “Here I Am

    1. Dunno, but that shadowy figure has shown up quite a few times now. I’ll be interested to see whatever develops from it.

    2. I think that’s Zeke. He keeps busy.

      For explanation, look at comics The Chain Part IV (dated 23 Mar 2015 until next Patreon infusion, look at Los Leones & Zeke in the third row down), then look at comic The Chain Part X (dated 29 Mar 2015 until next Patreon infusion, compare second picture down on the right side with previous and also look at eighth picture down on the left).

      With Caleb’s comments here, I’m wondering if Zeke, like Dexter, has a code of sorts.

      1. IDK, the guy in this is hunched over and is a bit more… I want to say inhuman. Could be maybe a serial killer slasher of the Shotgun Shuffle universe. I feel like this could be supper important later on and it’s like bread crumbs of what’s to come. That… or maybe it’s Elle’s old teacher that snuck in and stole her clothes. Chris did say that he was going to be important rather soonish.

        1. Nothing’s impossible. I may be drawing too much conclusion from the fact that Zeke’s wall got more bloody handprints between viewings with the shadow showing up once between.

          This is definitely a different drawing, where the last two doorway shadows appeared likely to be identical with different parts covered by foreground and the second one clearly showed a hoodie. This one does look a little thinner than the other two, though that might be less baggy clothing today, as it’d seem odd for the doorway shadow haunting Caleb’s site’s users being shown to be one of many (once again, not impossible, just would seem odd).

          I kinda’ doubt Mr. Doogan if it’s a serial killer, though. He seemed obsessed, but the quick look we’ve gotten didn’t paint the picture of someone intentionally violent (i.e. crime of passion still possible, but not going to go hunt multiple victims). If it’s not Zeke and is someone we’ve been introduced to, no one else comes to mind as an obvious choice for a serial killer.

          Not that we know that it’s a serial killer as opposed to an underwear thief (targeting men) or aggressive Jehovah’s Witness or other doorway visitor.

        2. I’m actually sure it’s the same shadowy figure we’ve seen before (and again wearing a hoodie here). And reasonably sure that it’s Zeke. I could be wrong, obviously. But will stay by my theory until proven otherwise.

        3. Zeke is also my best guess, however I do admit that he could still be a red herring.

    3. Nah, that’s Nathan Explosion from DethKlok. He realized how brutal these assholes are being and just can’t allow anyone more brutal than him to exist.

    1. Pfft, well if you’re going to lay out bait, I’ll have to refrain from participating in any pointless, bitter spats. YOU DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!
      D:<

      1. You aren’t my supervisor. Maybe because of that, I will just let sleeping dogs lie and not argue about any hot button issues like.. like… the negative effects of anonymity on the internet. Not gonna make one single argument for or against it.

        1. We could always come up with a long argument completely and totally unrelated to the comic.

          Who wants to argue supporting the job the U.S. Congress has been doing for the past several years about just about anything?

          [crickets]

          …or maybe we’ll just not argue today.

        2. If I were arguing, WHICH I AM NOT, I’d recommend going with the ancient programmer holy war. You know the one. Where you argue over whether you put the opening curly brace on the next line or if you put it at the end of line like a &@#$ing heretic.

        3. All I know about cricket is the rest of the universe views it as a tasteless joke, even if we are mostly harmless.

    1. Actually, that’s the observers who are presumably trolls but who we don’t see actually doing anything but observe (well, panel 8 guy does appear to be leaning forward on his left arm with his right arm back and down and we don’t see below mid-torso, but I’ll still call that observing since I’m near certain he’s not intended to be typing with both hands right now).

      The five we see making comments are Claude, Lucid, Camwise, Fries, & Steel Pancreas. Fries is at least heavy set, and I don’t think we saw enough of an establishing shot of Lucid to tell, but the other three aren’t all that heavy and Camwise is definitely underweight (Lucid introduced in The Chain Part II, others in The Chain Part IV).

      1. You think Lucid’s selfie here happening before the Chains comics timewise and being responsible for her looks there?

    1. It does bring up the question of if Caleb thought she was too and is trying to discourage it just in case. If I were him trying to metaphorically throw a glass of cold water on Ellie, this line of discussion seems like it might percolate to the top of the list for good directions.

      I really can’t tell the degree he’s not intending on trying anything versus explicitly not interested.

      1. I suspect Caleb just brought it up either to assure her she made the right decision or to warn her about what could have been. I don’t think he has any designs on her so he’s just having an honest conversation.

        1. Even setting aside intervening Word of God confirmation, I hadn’t thought he wasn’t having an honest conversation. I just know there have been times that I’ve said things in honest conversation that I hoped would also influence topics that were not brought up (sometimes discouraging possibilities).

          I do like what the Word of God confirmation says about Caleb’s motivation, though.

        2. I meant more that he was only having an honest conversation. Caleb kind of seems like he shares one of my traits; I very rarely say anything with an additional motive or goal. As such people who know me eventually learn to take what I am saying at face value, and I can say things that anyone else saying them would be taken as underhanded insults or false flattery.

    1. What’re you thinking that’s upsetting? I’m seeing Caleb be honest and give Ellie a, “Be glad you stopped” sort of warning.

      1. And Ellie taking active part in the conversation and proofing that pretty head of hers ain’t just for show at all.

  1. The Internet Ladies and Gentlemen! For an encore the internet will provide the masses with all of your contact info including your home address and any phone numbers where you or close relatives may be reached. Feel like you need a shower yet? But wait, there’s more! Act now and you’ll also receive… creepy stalkerish emails, IM’s and social media messages no matter how often you change accounts… and if you’re really lucky, a degrading demotivator or snowclone meme starring you that just may go viral! Call now and be internet famous TODAY!

        1. All I know is that if 4chan tells you yes, you shouldn’t trust them.

          I mean, in general, not trusting 4chan seems to be what people recommend. Can’t say from personal experience, as I waste my time elsewhere on the Internet, but that seems like the consensus.

        2. I was never a 4chan regular though I did lurk there for a while during a time when I was moderating a webcomic forum through a rough patch where it had been infested with /b/tards. Kind of a “know your enemy” type thing. The 4chan party van back then existed as a joke/memetic slang expression for the inevitable FBI response team van that would swoop down on some well deserving /b/ who’s shenanigans had crossed the line. Since then it became a reality for such things as school bomb threats and other wholesome /b/ activities. Today’s strip reminded me of the time I spent there because at least at the time the 4chan /b/ webcam girl subculture operated very much along the lines of what Caleb is describing.

        3. By the way, the FBI (at least the ones I met) have NO idea that their response vehicles (I’m talking about the big mobile command centers) are referred to as 4chan party vans. I know this because FBI who responded to a big interagency drill had nothing but blank looks for me when I was like, “cool, you brought the party van.” Attempts to clarify with, “you know, for 4chan?” did not help. I’m sure they have a file on me, I’d love to know what it’s in it. It’s probably pretty amusing.

        4. See, the government agency to be curious about the file they had on you now is OPM, because someone out there (word in the media is the Chinese) could answer that one for you now.

        5. Heh, 4chan.

          I occasionally dropped in there for a picture thread or to find an otherwise unavailable series/doujinshi/whatever as a download. Always stayed clear of /b/ though. Not so much by virtue of being wise or anything. Simply because I wasn’t interested.

  2. Ouch, Ellie must feel terrible hearing about this. She was exactly a participant of this sort of thing back at the beginning of the strip, criticizing other’s pictures and posting her own in an attempt to out-skimpy them. Hearing that behavior described by a third party has got to hurt.

    1. Yeah, I don’t imagine too many people enjoy being played, least of all in such a fashion. It is good to see her wising up and taking some long hard looks in the mirror, so to speak.

        1. Agreed. This is more like the moment that affirms her decision was the correct one, and that she learns how deep the rabbit hole really goes.

        2. Yep, agreeing with the above that this was a good thing for her to hear stated so plainly like this.

        3. Hmm, speaking of difficult lessons, I’m wondering if this is why Lucid’s mascara appears to be tear-streaked the first time we saw her.

          Thoughts?

        4. My first impression is that the streaks are intentional style. I did notice and was a bit surprised they weren’t in today’s picture, however they were there across several days with the first time we saw her up to the comic that broke Rushe’s computer (Chain X).

          So I’d consider it a possibility but intentional styling as still more likely.

        5. I really should read through the comments before asking about theories.

          That was actually my first thought as well, as soon as TOG pointed it out to be her. (I didn’t realise at first.)

          Though I’d go for intentional style as well. But because of what happened here. (And the first time maybe not being quite as intentional.)

        6. I rarely ever read through everything before responding. I used to do that and it just took way too long.

          See, considering that we’re seeing her jump on here, along with apparently liking that style, I was figuring that she’s perhaps a bit gothy and maybe doesn’t have fond memories of the popular girls in grade school and her participation is one of those vicarious revenges on Girl X who treated her so badly etc. From that stance, I was thinking that possibly the mascara eyes were a deliberate taunt for any victims who get upset as a “No, here’s how it’s done” or “Wow, you can’t pull this look off at all, it’s really pathetic” type direction.

          Possibly I’m having a bit too far of a knee-jerk judgement from her shown trolling here, though.

        7. “..annnnd eventually some are conviced to prove it.. by outdoing their predecessor ..and THEIR photos are met with even worse scrutiny.”

          Being as this scene must pre-date when we first met Lucid, it’s possible that both are true… I suppose only Rusche knows for sure.

        8. Sure, it could go either way.

          I think my estimation comes from my guess that I don’t think she believes she has a better body than these girls who are showing themselves, she just enjoys watching them be tormented and helping twist the knife herself sometimes too.

          We certainly don’t have enough info on her to have any idea, and agreed it seems unlikely we will end up with that info. Seems likely Rusche may not have developed that much of a character for her even.

          It’s just the way you look at a picture and to fill in details you don’t know anything about, you draw from things you do know and have seen. Her facial expression reminds me of someone who was bullied by her more popular classmates in grade school and hasn’t gotten over it. Part of that is lower self worth, more body image issues, enjoyment and validation from watching those she equates with her tormenters receive torment themselves, etc.

          There’s no valid reason I fill that in rather than that she was previously convinced to strip herself and is caught in the cycle, it’s just stuck in my mind that way.

        9. How long have Ellie and Quinn lived together now? I figured it was somewhere in the four to six months category.

        10. We have that they lived together for some amount of time (I’m guessing ~1 month) before the fight. We know that Ellie got kicked out during the school year and that she had enough time to be a manager in training, but not sure time was quite spelled out specifically between there and Thanksgiving (just that her 19th birthday was between and I think that was stated at least in comments by Rusche to be in the fall). Ellie lost all her holiday jobs even with at least one with a extension at full-time hours to regulars take vacation (so mid-to-late Jan or Feb) and she was desperate for cash and Quinn getting angry by the time Danny showed up, and we know she was screwing around 2 months with Danny.

          So I think we have a solid, no doubt >4 months. Probably a year at the absolute most (and I’m guessing less than a year, as I think Pumpkin has been 15 the whole comic and didn’t start out 14 and she’s still in Mr. Steven’s class and I would generally expect a school that size to have different English teachers for different school years so probably Ellie got kicked out in fall and it’s now spring of same school year).

        11. Your thoughts are well constructed, however, I think I’ll go with Rusche’s answer on this one.

        12. I had a very nice “Doh” moment when I finished typing that, hit post, and saw Rusche beat me with a clear/certain answer by a minute.

          Not quite a literal facepalm, but definitely an audible sigh.

        13. Your reasoning works well with his answer though. Just that Ellie got kicked out not long after start of the school year then (if it starts around the same time in the US than it does around here, that is).

        14. I’d be surprised if the timeline Rusche has determined here would diverge from the facts we know.

          I recall Rusche mentioning on one of the comics that he’d had to re-draw a panel due to the time frame being wrong for the sport he was going to have Herb mention and the replacement dialog didn’t fit the old panel well enough (I think it was a post comment on Patreon, but since Patreon hates this computer I can’t check just now, didn’t see anything that jogged my memory in the archives here though).

  3. I think I just discovered a seventh level of fat with Purple Shirt Beardy Guy up in the top.

    Big, Healthy, Husky, Fluffy, Dayumn, Oh Hell No, and Are The Nails Holding Your Chair Together From The Planet Krypton?

  4. So Caleb, exactly what did you do to prevent this kind of trolling that you clearly don’t approve of on the website you run?

    1. Yeah, I’m with you and fairly certain that he’s doing nothing and that’s probably a good part of his paid memberships.

      I do wonder what that does to a person. Raking in money hand over fist, go-to place for things, everything looks rosy. Then someone else steals the greater public’s fickle attention and all that’s left are the people you didn’t get around to banning yet and it’s let them do their thing or shut down.

      I’ve watched people with other [less morally questionable] businesses put themselves in all kinds of debt and do things to keep their business up and running. Wonder what it does to a person to be in that mindset and realize all you can do is cater to the worst element to keep your head above water. Wonder how many people would make the choice to break from inertia and just shut down.

      Also makes me wonder a little more about Vu’s job duties. Caleb’s description in comic Needless Need for Comparison (currently 1 July 2015) was she “maintains users and content”. What does that entail if a good portion of his memberships are from guys wanting to watch girls get brow-beaten into stripping.

      1. You’ve also got the effect where people who dislike trolls will start leaving the site, while trolls discover the lack of banhammer and begin flocking there in greater numbers so after a while you end with a huge mess of trolls.

        1. I had a good laugh when that music shortly played during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sotschi.

          It wasn’t all that much of a surprise in hindsight. But given the circumstances of the songs new prominence on the internet, it still was funny.

        2. For trolling regarding the winter Olympics, I have to say my favorite was the Polish newspaper that was lazy with their image searches and published someone’s Photoshop joke of the Vancouver Olympics mascot including Pedobear.

  5. Where going online posting ‘AH A SPIDER JUST RAN UNDER YOUR BED!!!’ and then leaving meets with Hilarious results on sites like these, best done for video ones :>

  6. This scenario makes me sad for humanity, it is all too unfortunately real. Ahh and please use “goad” not “gode”

  7. I’m really interested to see how this chapter ends with the discussion on this car trip. Today’s installment definitely wasn’t what I was expecting to hear from Caleb. I’m wondering how this conversation will end.

    There are so many directions this could go from here. Ellie’s not looking more sad than angry right now, but if Caleb’s not careful he could push her back to fury, so it’s possible that she’ll injure him and there’ll be fallout from that. Danny having Heather’s contact info and be familiar with sending her things might be due to her being on Caleb’s site’s payroll for views she gets, being someone to get other girls to compare themselves with, and maybe Caleb’s going to make Ellie an offer to be another plant. He could also just look at her with dead eyes and tell her he’s not proud of it, but it’s a living and she’s had at least some experience knowing that can be harder than it looks at first, and maybe it’ll turn out Ellie was flirting and that is a lead-in.

    I recall someone else in the comments (not Rusche) mentioning that Vu is apparently going to have a big issue with Ellie at some point in the future. Not sure if that’s from one of Rusche’s comments on a comic when I was too busy to go through, or something from chat, or what. If it’s true, then injuring Caleb, romance with Caleb, or threatening her financial safety are the three major ways I could see that happening.

    So many possibilities for directions for the next few comics.

        1. It’s ok, I put UnxUtils and GVIM on every Windows box I use that I have rights to do so (which is all but one at the moment, though I could get Python installed to it if I wanted, which I primarily haven’t done because I only use it for the forced usage of Outlook and don’t consider it something for anything at all productive).

    1. The part about Vu not being happy with Ellie probably came from Chris answering to a question or theory of mine (don’t remember without looking it up right now and I don’t know in which comic’s comment section it was) that Vu on the cast page is holding a (voodoo) doll of Ellie and a knife in her hands.

      1. Which brings me to the question whether the obscured person next to Alex might be our serial killer. Now that would be some ‘foreshadowing’.

        1. Could be. If so I’m thinking he’s holding a victim or something.

          I think my shot-in-the-dark guess for that shadow is Quinn’s mom.

  8.      This ideal of beauty has always made me mourn in anguish. Every beautiful thing in the world is but a mere drop of paint in comparison to the masterpiece that is the elegance of a lady. Every song composed by humanity is but a single note in the grand symphony and serenade of the splendor that is being in the company of a woman. Those that point out only “desired” traits or aspects of “beauty” discredit it and devalue the magnificence that is the entirety of a women’s beauty. May it be for those women who live in this world to be able to live in complete confidence of the grace that has been bestowed upon their form and fear not what others may say. You are all beautiful, uniqueness and all!

    1. the traditional sense of beauty is related to the simple fact that a healthy individual is more likely to have healthy offspring, a thin but not malnourished person is a better candidate for a mate than one who can barely stand due to obesity or other illness.
      and this is coming from a 300lbs dude who admits he needs to get his shit together and lose weight.

      1. I’ve heard studies that go past that. I seem to recall there’s some binary genetic factor that we can’t really perceive in any conscious way where if the mother and father of a child match in that factor, the child will have a slightly worse immune system than if they mismatch. After testing people for that factor and introducing them in person, turns out the majority of the people were attracted to (I’m thinking somewhere between 65% & 85%, though don’t recall clearly) were ones with that mismatch of that factor.

        So I suspect there’s probably a lot of unconscious workings in our perception of attraction that are geared towards better chances of offspring survival.

        However I’ve also noticed that my sense of beauty is decidedly not the same as my sense of attraction. I’ve known some ladies I consider extremely beautiful, but I have zero interest in doing anything of a romantic nature with them (and yes, some of them I’ve liked personally and enjoyed spending time with too).

      2. The “traditional sense of beauty” is also heavily subject to temporal changes. In Europe, just to name two examples, it has been both athletic or not athletic at all, suntanned or as pale as possible as well as something in between in the last about 150 years alone. Some it several times around.
        And being, well not obese but at least bulky, was actually considered very attractive in some periods as well. It meant you were capable/well off enough to get more food than needed for survival.

    1. I do care about my appearance. But only really in the “Yeah, I’m happy with that./Hm… I could do with a bit stronger arms, better get out the dumbbells for a quick routine each evening again./I need a haircut.” sense. Don’t care a lot about what other people think. It’s my body. The person having to be happy with it is me.

      1. When you get bullied from the first to the eighth grade, you quickly adapt to not giving any craps about what people think about you

  9. Is Vu a serial killer who eliminates the pervert trolls and makes sure their accounts keep making payments to the site until they run dry? because that would qualify as moderating users and content.

    1. It looks like a male silhouette. We think it’s Zeke, who is a serial killer, but I guess that could be Vu if she had super narrow hips or dressed to conceal her form. We haven’t seen much of her.

        1. Personally it reminds me of the pose Pittacus Lore makes on the book jacket for the I am Number Four series.

        2. If you look at the shadow behind Oyster in comic The Chain Part X, you’ll see that shadow does appear to be wearing a hoodie.

          Something that looks not horribly suspicious but conceals facial features from in person observers and cameras does seem like it’d be generally helpful for illegal activities.

        3. … hoodie, huh? Perhaps it’s part of the spinoff, Timeline Tangle, where Quinn travels back in time to put right what once went wrong…

          … with murder.

        4. I suspect the pilot comic of that is Pumpkin taking Quinn & Ian on a tour of Tarra’s workshop as an attempt to play nice. During that tour, Ian notices and gets extremely excited about Tarra’s flux capacitor. They go on to other things in the second to last panel and in the last panel it can be seen sticking out of Quinn’s back pocket.

          If he gets caught up enough, I could see Rusche posting that pilot eight months from this coming Saturday.

    1. If we’re going by the Erf scale that Rusche put in the author post regarding characters in comic The Fellowship of Something Stupid (dated 05 Feb 2014 at this time, part of Black Friday story), I think all sides of the behavior described on this page is at the bottom of a 6 foot hole in the Erf.

  10. Ok, I know his is wrong but Cat Crap Emo girls has a nice body and all. Serious message aside guessing this was a fun one to draw XD.

    1. Oh Bats, is that what you and Catwoman have going on with each other? I never would have guessed but I suppose with the masks and whips it’s a bit of a logical progression. You know what they say, it’s always the quiet ones. AH-HAH-HAH-HAHAHA!

  11. Wow. A four tier comic? That’s pretty well epic, sir. I can hold out until Thursday for something like that.

  12. Rusche – You know you should count a four tier comic as more than one post.

    I love seeing the next comic sooner rather than later, but when you say that a comic shouldn’t be split up, it shouldn’t be split up and it’s going to take longer.

    Count your work appropriately, don’t feel bad about doing so, and most of all don’t drive yourself into the ground for not being able to go at an integer percentage of the speed of light for drawing (I mean, that’d wear through your Cintiq pretty fast anyway, so best to keep to more normal human speeds or you’ll just be waiting for new Cintiqs to ship to you every week anyway).

    1. Yeah! That thing we keep telling you to do! DO THAT!
      .
      As an aside, Jessica is doing an awesome job coloristing. I have yet to spot a difference and the work is still high quality.

      1. Thanks but I haven’t been coloring any of the comics on the regular site. I have only been coloring pateron comics and only the foreground, one a week. Chris is still doing the bulk of the coloring.

    2. Very much this. Keep telling the story as you can and in the way that makes the most sense. We’re happy to be patient!

  13. You may want to check your hard drive. Try SpinRite from GRC.com. Bad sectors can cause PS crashes. Also, if your computer has an SD Card slot, put an inexpensive one in, and make it the scratch drive. It may ware out over time, but will speed up things, as it has a faster access time than a disk. Think of it as a Solid State Drive on the cheap.

  14. Uhh, can we back up one step on this?

    The mouth breathers may be inbred lowlifes, but if their agenda was to secure more nudie pics they’d just throw money– or phony complements. It’s women, quite bluntly, who resort to convoluted strategies and psychological head games (fishing for complements by posting saucy photos and then bemoaning their own appearance: “Oh I’m so ugly,” etc.)

    Perhaps they should entertain the idea that, just possibly, the men in question are more straightforward and simple than that? Guys who fling insults and mockery at cam-whores online are simply treating the girl in question with the same disrespect she’s treated herself. They may start out with little respect for other people to begin with, and they’re certainly not going to exert themselves being respectful to a woman who showed less modesty, restraint or judgment than a streetwalker or stripper. That’s not manipulation, that’s just cause and effect. What a shocking idea— that a girl who flashes her boobs at millions of complete strangers will be treated by many of them like she was a dockyard whore.

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