Chapter 4, Page 44

The prodigal acquaintance returns

Another busy week, but finally got around to stocking pins from the Kickstarter (both the set and packs) in the Gumroad! Cute friends for all.

If you’re a backer who didn’t fill out their form yet, feel free to do that any time and I’ll send your package to you :]

Patreon posts will be up soon, will update this section when they’re up! Someone asked why the processor didn’t clean up the bones, which is a small side story in itself so I figure that warrants a post XD

Last, the window for pitching to the Alloy Anthology (an upcoming all-ages anthology focusing on the mixed race experience) closes tomorrow at midnight. You can check out the pre-selected contributors here… got some amazing talent already lined up and judging by the submissions so far, the rest of the book is going to be just as incredible. My lovely assistant editor and myself will also have stories in this volume, just gotta somehow narrow down the rest of the talent! Hope to work with some of you, but if you just want to know when the book comes out, feel free to subscribe to the mailing list~

138 Comments

  • Spottedspeck

    Holy fucking shit, MIKE.

  • Jadeity

    I love how he’s just… a casual fungus hobo.

    • shingworks

      How many future band names must this comments section come up with. WHEN WILL IT END

      • DarkMyste

        How about causal fungus beard?

        • Jazhara7

          Nah, he doesn’t have fungi in his beard. Everywhere. But not his beard.

          The beard is holy.

      • corvideye

        Plaid fungus turban.

      • Jac

        I would listen to Casual Fungus Hobo. Probably a weird trash bluegrass indie band

  • Rev

    HOLY CRAP, how long have they been there?! Mike’s growing a beard like whoa.

    • J-Prime

      Fwiw, I go from clean-shaven to that much beard in about two weeks. Of course, ycfhmmv.

    • Kit

      Time distortion in the caves maybe?

  • Lost Yooper

    Apparently growing Martian cabbage out of your head makes you forget about peoples “bubbles”. Boundaries Mike! Boundaries!

  • Kraziekazoo

    inside the bag is Kalla’s decapitated head

    • Allen

      yes thats perfect

  • An Average Loser

    Looks like Mike’s been working on his Aquaman outfit.

    . . .

    It’s coming along.

  • he’s a fun guy

    … a fungi

    • Rayanne

      You are a beautiful soul.

    • McDoom

      I see what you did there.

    • My nose hurts from snorting coffee out at this, thanks.

    • Hima

      I laughed out loud!

    • HandwashBigpan

      He’ll grow on ya.

  • Fawkes Rinzler

    Miiiiiiiiiiikkkeee……..

    You look different. Did you do something with your face? It’s nice! A little more fungal. I like it! Really brings out your eyes.

    • Biev

      *eye

      • Vert

        I didn’t know you were Scottish!

  • Vert

    … are we sure that’s still Mike in there?

    • Lilian

      I’m a bit concerned.

  • Mallow

    i am one with the fungi, the fungi is with me

  • Alan

    He’s checking out her fungus. Its coming along nicely.

  • JJ

    “You dropped this.”
    “k thx bye”

    • shingworks

      Amazon Key just isn’t working out

  • R Coots

    I know what this is! This is Davy Jone’s locker….on MARS!!!! Holy crap what is left of Mike?

  • EJ

    Is it just the lighting, or are his eyes starting to glow too?

    Really enjoying this comic!

    • shingworks

      It’s normal right? right…

      • evileeyore

        What a little eyeglow between friends eh? Oh… wait, they weren’t friends.

        • Kit

          I drop my friends down cavern shafts all the time! I’m sure they’re tight

  • Ammoth

    … if I know anything about Der-Shing’s art and storytelling, that crown of mushroom is definitely gonna be relevant somehow. Ten bucks Mike is gonna be the new king of that place.

    Also he reminded me so strongly of Luca from the Meek in that one panel where he suddenly appears behind her, looming. This is… not helping endear him to me.
    It’s a really strong panel though, damn. It’s super unsettling.

    • Fawnet

      I’m definitely getting a Jesus-y, crown of thorns impression there. The crown, the beard, and the general tired, doomed, suffering expression on his face. All the same I’m glad to see him again, and went “Eep!” when I saw that panel.

      • evileeyore

        I dunno. I’m beginning to get an Odin vibe from Mike. The hanged man, “losing” his eye, carrying a small wise friend on shoulder for a while (a friend he sent away but has returned –
        shades of Huginn and Muninn)…

  • Bells

    Are his eyes glowing? The heck….

  • Scoot

    I can feel Bex’s terror here. Mike’s stare is super unsettling…doesn’t look like he’s home in there.

  • Ben

    So….. Bex, the INTENDED colonist, is trying to get back to the base, while Mike, who has been dismissed from the project and is under orders to return to Earth, has become absorbed into the totally unforeseen ACTUAL biosphere and probably can’t now leave, even if he wanted to……

    There’s another layer, though. What does Mike actually THINK OR FEEL about this? We know he was on the point of attempted suicide, that he was taking some fairly important meds for a known psychiatric condition. We believe that he probably doesn’t have much to return to, back on Earth. We know that water and/or immersion, play an important part in his mental issues …

    • Alan

      You raise pretty good points Ben. It makes me wonder if the head fungus might be treating his issues.

    • gerbil

      I had a lot of Mike’s psychology explained to myself as the effect of an extreme situation. Staying up all night, weirdly, is proven to provide temporary relief of depressive symptoms, and I have a feeling sudden extreme stress might have much the same effect.

  • skellagirl

    I’d poop my pants if I turned around to see Mike lookin like that.

    My problematic boy, I have a bad feeling about his fate :(

  • Unclever title

    I’m guessing he took the stairs.

  • DukeBG

    Those glowing eyes… o_o

  • skart

    Dang the toasters have extended their control over Mike’s head. If this goes on for much longer he’ll be mostly toaster(-fungus).

    • Linebyline

      That Mike. Such a brave little toaster.

      • JJ

        Little toaster boy
        Come climbing home
        Brave toaster boy
        Comes climbing home

        • Cipher

          Whhhhhy? :(

          • JJ

            I thought everyone here enjoyed emotional trauma

        • Nick

          why would you hit me with this :'(

  • LanceDance

    Soo, Mike…Have you been on MUSHROOM hunting? :D

  • LanceDance

    Ha, I just noticed, that every damn single main character just popped out a nowhere, hiding in the shadows before. Is that your favourite cliche thing, Shing?

    • shingworks

      Kinda hard not to be in the shadows down there XD anyway, Thrip ran up yelling and jumped on the first ass he could find, so you’re not entirely correct

  • Luces

    Let’s hope Mike is now connected enough with his surrounding to know Kalla is back to life, how ever her (and now his) life is defined. Otherwise the next minutes might be stressfull.
    Compared to the highly disturbed, even dangerous personality he displayed in the beginning, he seems finally found the peace to grow into his new life – in more than one aspect…

    • evileeyore

      Nah. That first in-Bex’s-face-looming-eye-to-eye-stare was his way of saying “I know what you did, murderer”. The taking a step back and offering her the knapsack she set down is him saying “I understand and cannot further condemn you, fellow traveler”.

      It’s Mike’s awkward way of being intense and relaxed at the same time.

      Also he may be hungry.

      For company.

  • Ceceoh

    I’m getting a King Lear vibe from Mike. It must be the ‘shroom crown.

    • awhorl

      Crazy on the heath. For sure.

  • ObservantWolf

    Dang, Mike’s been working on his ‘ancient god of the fungal forest’ look, just in time for Halloween!

    • Asterai

      I was thinking ‘Oberon, king of the faeries’, but mushroom deity works too.

  • HousePet

    Stairs or not, he got that sack back very quickly…

  • Jirenta

    First, Mike´s Appearance couldn´t be cooler.
    Second, IS he the Processor now? In an symbiotic Connection kind of Way?

  • Solanuma

    How does he resist the urge to break and scratch off those funghi? Don’t they itch?

    • Asterai

      If they’re smart little symbiotes, they’ll be excreting an anti-irritant.

  • Some_Douchebag

    Let’s not get too hopeful here. Sure, the Crown of Mycelia might be working its biotech magic and treating Mike’s psychiatric problems. It could also be making them worse, and we’re seeing the sort of flattened affect, like what occurs in full-blown schizophrenia.

    Also, those bumps on his hand look like they’re growing from something internal. Perhaps Kalla should’ve been more shocked, given that no one has any idea what this alien biotechnology does to adapt to a human system.

    • Ben

      Exactly. I don’t see anything offering any guidance on that, either way. Mike isn’t taking his meds, but he doesn’t have them available in any case. He isn’t visibly suicidal, but he seemed to pass that threshold back at base. He was sullen and withdrawn at the base, but that’s hardly unknown within those kind of environments, where it’s known as “cabin fever” – and he wasn’t being particularly well managed, from what we could see (although I don’t envy his boss, managing someone who would be a liability anywhere).

      He was sulky to Bex about her family circumstances, but you could see his point (within the limits of available information; we still don’t actually know the background to this).

      He seems to be functioning within the limits of his extremely limited range of available choices, but he was functional enough to drive Bex up to the cavern entrance and instruct her in abseiling in. Mind you, his subsequent actions were highly questionable, leading Bex into real danger.

      His actions regarding hiding LeVi were highly unprofessional, but he seems to have no agency in that now – and the consequences are totally unforeseen and unforeseeable, he probably expected LeVi to find a safe location, settle into a minimum power mode and ultimately, deactivate from lack of power.

      • evileeyore

        If you are truly suicidal, there is no “threshold” to pass.

        Mike’s problem was, is, and always shall be not having somewhere he feels like he belongs. A place he can trust.

        Maybe here, now, he has found that peace and acceptance? Maybe?

    • Murky Neuron

      Pretty likely not Schozophrenia, but a condition originating from trauma. Maybe undiagnosed, something he prevented by functioning so well that it didn’t hinder his career. If it had been known, he’d likely never have made it onto the spacecraft to Mars. Or his medication worked so well that he was not a liability at all. Or he got them only lately, when he did not function quite well any more, so it’s mostly a try to treat the symptoms. Life on Mars might have worn his functioning part out. Whatever happened with Braid, plus his thoughts about LEVi, plus Penelope hitting unwillingly, unkowingly a lot of “mom” triggers. Maybe he doesn’t know about his mental state himself except for feeling shitty sometimes or as hollow as Mars.

      • Some_Douchebag

        Oh, I’m not saying he has schizophrenia. I’m saying that the fungus crown is doing something to his brain that’s making his mental health worse, which presents as a symptom of schizophrenia.

        Of course, it has since occurred to me that the fungus crown is indeed treating his mental problems, and we’re still seeing flattened affect, but it’s akin to the side-effects of some modern psychiatric meds.

        I’m saying his expression is “flattened affect” because I’m hoping Mike’s placid appearance is not him carefully keeping it together, but something far more tragic and unsettling.

        They all must suffer for my amusement.

  • AGV

    “Hello…
    It’s me…”

    • Spongegirl Circleskirt

      Is it me you’re looking spore…

      I can see it in your eye.
      I can see it in your “smile”.
      You’re all I’ve ever wanted and my cave door is open wide
      Cause you know just what to say and you know just what to do
      And I want to tell you so much, I love you

      I long to see the fungi in your hair
      And tell you time and time again how much I care

  • Kyle

    :O

  • “Nice haircut, man”

  • Kuggur

    I think she is pretty casual too, I think I would have turned around a lot (A LOT) quicker, hearing those crunch, crunch, crunch noises behind me under such circumstances…..

    • shingworks

      Yeah, I was wondering how to handle that part… without a weapon I think I would have turned slowly, like “to be frank, I don’t really want to see this, but I’ve come too far to run.”

      • Linebyline

        When in doubt, resort to awesome facial expressions such as the one in panel 2.

      • David

        I thought she was the one doing all the crunching. Didn’t Mike come out of the water?

  • Oh hey, it’s the mushroom man. How’s it… sprouting…?

    • Eversist

      How’s it *growing*?

    • Karretch

      Do you know / the Mushroom Man?

  • Roo

    JFC NO WAY NOPE SORRY MIKE I’D PUSH YOU BACK DOWN OFF THAT MANTEL WATER WAY CHIMNEY THING SO FAST YOU POP OUT THE SHADOWS AT ME LIKE THAT ALL JESUS CHIA PET (special fungus edition) GTFO

    • Vert

      Mike is huge. I mean, just huge. I think pushing him would just result in you falling on your ass; it’d be like trying to push a dumpster made of brick.

  • Glavos

    Hi there Mike! You’re looking, errr, well.

  • Kat Serapha

    THIS IS NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING, MIKE

    my verbal reaction to this page was “oh no no no you stop that”

  • Arianwen

    This is such a good page.

  • Jac

    This page is SICK AF. I am in love with that third frame, his beautiful fungal crown, and tiny pinpoint pupil. And the lighting. UGH DER SHING<3

  • Snerk. I was looking at the image of your pins – and then specifically the thrip one. And suddenly, imagined a thrip backpack. In the style of those kids’ goofy animal backpacks.

  • Grem

    ‘TIS THE DRUID OF THE TUBES, MIKE THE MESSED UP!

  • Lynne

    Okay, that is awesome-looking. The creepy fungus crown, the creepy looming. He looks like some jacked-up king of the underworld.

    Or perhaps, the king of friendship? Look at him, covered in friends! Mike has come so far in this comic~

    • Lilacgirl8

      Truly, he has bloomed.

  • Bottas Heimfe

    he’s got fungus on the brain. that is probably going to kill him. have you ever seen parasitic fungal infections? they are not pretty. and ones that affect the cranium/brain are very dangerous

    • Ford Prefect

      Dangerous? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now I have to go climb to the top of the highest stem I can find, before my limbs involuntarily contract in a permanent rictus & a stalk bursts out the back of my head to spread wonderful happy spores over all my friends.

  • SandScales

    He is now the old man of the sea. .-.

  • TuesdayNightCompany

    Mike!! It’s… good to see… you?
    And the fungal toaster you have fused to your face is so… chic?

  • musa

    im gonna tape some mushrooms & lichen to my face & be mike for halloween. luckily my eyes already have an unearthly glow so that part is covered

    • poot

      pics or gtfo

  • ItThing

    I wish my eye was a light source too

  • Indedipal

    Kallacore referred to the growth on Mike’s face as a “toaster”. At first I thought she was generalizing “small appliance-type device”. Looking at this image though, I’m afraid to ask: are… are those red bands emitting heat?

    Perhaps Miss Kalla was being quite specific. o_o

    • shingworks

      lol, no, his face does not actually toast breads (also I think she was referring to his thighfriend at the time).

      • DukeBG

        Her words were “toaster fused to the face” iirc

  • poot

    Loving the fungi crown you got there. Real Martian grunge.

    Wait, can I even be sure this is Mike? I mean, this place is fully capable of popping out several copies of anyone and running them at any time. Who’s to say this isnt the computer picking the least threatening form to approach Bex?

  • poot

    Hey… anyone wondering if the changes are also working on his brain chemistry?

    • evileeyore

      Absolutely. He has Thigh-friend filtering his blood… the Fungus Among Us also has to be doing some magic in that regards. It might even be feeding him relaxants… as it slowly eats him alive.

  • Cheri

    him got lumps

  • TorgueRND

    …Is anyone else here?

  • BigDogLittleCat

    Whoa, he is Messed Up.

  • Lord Hideous

    Glory to the Fungal Crown! All hail, King Fisher!

    Kingfisher?

    • evileeyore

      The Fisher King.

  • Mike, you’ve got a little something on your face right… everywhere.

  • bambo

    not fishing for spoilers, but i’m SUPER scared of mushroom stuff (like girl with all the gifts, last of us, etc) and was wondering if this was going to be a cordyceps / fungal takeover sort of situation and if i should skip out or if it’s… not like that / not that bad? i understand if you can’t answer :(((

    • shingworks

      [spoilers/ don’t read if you don’t want to know anything about anything]

      Visually, as far as fungus stuff goes, it probably doesn’t get any worse than this. No like, head exploding into spores or whatever, haha.

    • Ford Prefect

      If you found the Last Of Us story to have a disturbing core concept, check out the novel A Deepness In The Sky by Vernor Vinge. Probably the most horrifying use of fungus as a plot device of anything I’ve ever read.

      • shingworks

        Oh, I loved Deepness. Fire Upon The Deep is good for less fungi, more poly telepathy wolves.

  • Volkspanzer

    King Triton is aware of all things lost in his watery domain! That he should return to you your discarded valuables is surely a boon, intrepid adventurer!!

  • Toastwsweetcheese

    Tried to think of something clever to say but I’m just loving that crown tbh.

  • arteopteryx

    Looks like Mike won’t have to bother with a comb-over soon!

    Yay! Bex has her helmet back! And the soon-to-be-smelly fish corpse. Yum. …Would making a soup in the helmet compromise its integrity?

  • Android 21 3/7

    Next page

    Bex takes bag.

    Bex: Thank you.

    Bex clobbers Mike in the face with said bag.

  • Hey, Mike, uh, you got a little something there…and there…and there…

  • Sunflower

    Full fathom five thy father lies;
    Of his bones are coral made;
    Those are pearls that were his eyes:
    Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.

  • Alan

    She dropped a brick too, right when he appeared.

    • Kent

      this made me lol

  • Ponyhome

    Man, the way he’s looking at her, you’d think she killed his best friend or something. Oh, wait…

  • Karencopyedits

    We keep calling it fungus because that’s what it looks like to us. But where does Mike’s, um, “addition” really stand on the Tree of Life? Then I realized, from what Kalla says… all Earth life is a branch of the Martian Tree of Life. Okay, that’s some serious phylogeny.

  • Indedipal

    Ok, next ponderment: It’s been bugging me that in the last panel Mike isn’t exactly looking at Bex– I mean, yeah, it could be art-gaffe, or it could be intentional and he’s supposed to be looking away in discomfort/disgust… but the more I look at it, the more I think he just looks… disoriented.

    Now I’m wondering: Mike’s emitting light from his eyes, which would make it difficult to see anyway, but apparently it’s also causing his pupil to contract, further limiting what he can see in an already dark environment. So…

    Has Micheal gone blind?

    If so, I’m squirming to find out which of his new Friends is doing the “seeing” for him. It might explain the hundred-yard stare, and why he was practically on top of Bex before he stopped walking– aaand We’re getting into spoilerland now, aren’t we…

  • OhHiThere

    I’m pretty sure that increased stress can stimulate hair growth, because winter, which is a little funny since too much stress contributes to early baldness. Well, I found it mildly amusing at least.

  • Gaylee

    Are those mushrooms micro-dosing Mike with hallucinogenics?

  • Jojo

    HES BACKKKK

  • WELP JOKE’S ON YOU, FRIENDS WHO ABANDONED BEX

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