Interlude 1, Page 5

Someone’s getting a wicked sunburn.

This scene is almost done, thank god. This shit stresses me out tbh.

Today’s bonus art: sketches of things I don’t dread having to draw, haha

110 Comments

  • Urist

    Damn this is some heavy subject matter. What do you do when your only source of support abuses you?

    • Lilian

      Indeed, Urist. Indeed.

    • Windwalker

      Yeah, I’m completely confused, so I can only imagine what the kid is going through, trying to figure this all out. Then, add the dysfunctional parent, and it’s a psychologist’s dream-client (or new kitchen renovation).

  • Draug

    Oh man he’s so ooky blech I want to punch him. Poor Mike.

  • LostYooper

    If you skip last weeks edition this is just the story of a small boy from a broken home and his uncle that is there for him.

    • Jojo

      Yeah. Its really crazy how he turns like that. Manipulative people are scary.

    • Zeph

      I actually only just started reading this comic. This page here was the first one I saw. I thought, “what a nice guy.” Then I went and archive binged on the others, and now it’s like “Oh God. No. ;___;”

      • Jordan

        Yeah… It’s some pretty heavy shit.

  • Jojo

    Excellent page, excellent bonus art. I am never disappointed. Thanks for the update! This was a very emotional scene.

  • skellagirl

    So… does his nose changing shape have significance? Or is it just… idk… is his nose magical, like Pinocchio… Is he a shapeshifter? =p

    Also my heart goes out to people who’ve had to live through this :( I dunno how anyone can come away from this without trust issues or trauma of some kind. You gotta be strong to come away from something like this at all, I think.

    • shingworks

      lol… I’m imagining a world in which, yes, I drew a comic about a guy with a shape shifting nose that nobody in the story has been concerned about to mention.

      • Jojo

        Maybe a side project? ha ha.

      • skellagirl

        Hey, if he’s been doing it for long enough, maybe no one notices anymore!

    • Eversist

      Perspective’s a bitch, but you don’t gotta be one. ;)

      • skellagirl

        Oh no, I hadn’t meant to sound like a bitch! D: I’m very sorry to Der-Shing if I came across like that. I’m also an artist, and I am well-acquainted with the oftentimes terrible, soul-crushing pain of perspective. It’s literally the thing I’m worst at.

        It just seems his nose has been changing shape more extremely than perspective would account for (Esp the last two panels where his face is in almost the same position but his nose is a different shape completely). I was only wondering if there was significance to it; definitely didn’t mean to cause offense, though I can see how and where my attempt at a joke fell flat.

        If no significance, fine with me! If just perspective, fine with me. If something else completely, fine with me. I’m in love and constantly inspired by Der-Shing’s work no matter the reason. Again, very sorry if I came across as a bitch; it definitely wasn’t my intent, nor to cause offense of any sort. D:

        • shingworks

          Wat noooo you didn’t at all, haha. The shape change on this and prev page is supposed to be obvious, and is intentional.

          • skellagirl

            Haha, alright, I just wanted to make sure. Like I said, I know the struggle that perspective sometimes can be, and I just didn’t want to come across as insensitive, esp after Eversist’s comment.

            Keep doin’ what you do, Shing!

  • ok so I guess I’m the only one genuinely feeling sorry for Brian rn. These last two pages make me wonder why we have such a hypocritical society when it comes to picking a group of people to demonize. Currently that top spot is occupied by pedophiles. Yet everyone’s so hyped for “not judging people by their sexual habits because it doesn’t define your entire personality etc etc” and I just wonder… how is this any different? If it’s really such a damaging thing, why not offer them help, instead of considering it an indisputable Moral Event Horizon? Just something to think about.

    So thanks for the well-rounded depiction. I kinda hope we see more of him and Mike’s parents, but if we don’t, there’s still so much implied by what’s unsaid it creates a rich, realistic situation. Hemingway’s iceberg theory, full force.

    • shingworks

      Well, there’s a big difference between fantasizing about children in a sexual way and actually acting on those fantasies. Anyone with mental issues *should* in a perfect world be able to get help for them. Currently, in many areas, people who seek help for pedophilic urges are often persecuted and treated like criminals even if the haven’t actually done anything… That does seem unfair to me. In the case of a real life abuse situation however, no you can’t treat this like you do other “preferences,” since this one by definition means sexual activity with a partner who maturity-wise and legally is unable to give consent. Like bestiality, imho. Yeah maybe the partner could be argued to not be physically “harmed” but that’s hardly the point. The point is unilaterally protecting those who are not in a position to say no. Even in cases like ephebeophilia it often seems like the adult in the situation will be taking advantage of someone with far less life experience than they do. With an actual child the power imbalance is so much more disproportionate.

      It would be nice if persons with pedohilic tendencies had a reliable, safe place to get treatment to prevent the temptation to abuse actual victims. But for the comic, no, Brian is a bad man, there is no wiggle room in that. He has his own backstory and everything, but that offers zero excuse.

      • warkface

        Well said. As a commenter below said, it’s possible that Brian doesn’t believe he’s doing anything wrong, and I absolutely feel sympathy for him in that regard. However, I think you can feel sympathy while at the same time recognize that Brian’s actions are unforgivable, no matter the circumstances. That’s how I feel about it, anyway.

        • Jojo

          He is a well constructed villain in the sense that he does genuinely seem to believe that he isn’t in the wrong and maybe even that he is helping Mike. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s an abuser and pedophile just because he is properly represented as a human being and not a masked monster in an ally way.

          • Windwalker

            I agree, Jojo. Sometimes the best stories have the villians that confuse not only the protagonist, but also the reader: He’s a villian, so why do I feel sorry for him? Why do I like him? And then you realize exactly how the protagonist feels. Confusion, affection, moral complications, etc. This is part of why these pages are uncomfortable to read. Because you’re feeling sorry for/liking the person that is obviously a bad man.

        • fox-orian

          I highly recommend the Louie Theroux mini-documentary “LA Stories: Among the Sex Offenders.” Quite eye-opening and well-rounded look into the lives of convicted and registered sex offenders. It used to be on youtube, but the BBC recently went around removing everything. You can find it other ways.

        • charles81

          I don’t know about unforgivable as I like to believe (hope) that anyone can change and recover from an action, or even an entire period of their life, to be a different and better person. It’s not true that people don’t change as I’ve changed in the past (not from anything bad to others) for the better and I’ve known others to change for better (or worse). Certainly it is very difficult and generally unlikely for people to change though. Pedophilia is, for the most part, a sexual preference not unlike heterosexual or homosexual preference, except they will never find a capably consenting partner of their preference. They’re no more capable of changing their preference for children than any therapist was in changing homosexual preferences through the later half of the last century, but they can understand that acting on them would be exploiting another for their selfish satisfactions and work to curb and control desire and actions. I’d label these actions unjustifiable and no-one can be forgiven, even by themselves, and move on from a wrong and selfish act as long as they continue to justify it to others or themselves in any way instead of taking responsibility.

          • shingworks

            Interesting… I think I understand the point the reader above made between “normal” sexual preferences and pedophilic ones… you’re right, it may not be a preference that a person has any control over, and that is a really shitty way to live. But for the most part, people always have control over their actions. Even when there is an incredible urge to do something harmful, like between an addict and a drug, there is always a measure of control involved. Obviously having support to deal with the impulse is critical. But the part where you gave in and actively do something harmful to another person is the unforgiveable part. It really is terrible to go through life wanting to do something that scars other people but I mean, the alternative just can’t be an option.

          • Kittenears

            As a victim of a pedophile who is a full grown adult, with a family and children of my own.

            It is unforgivable.

            It scarred me, and it has impacted my entire life.

            “normal” sexual preferences are very simple. 1) consensual adults. 2) consenting together 3) consent.

            Pedophiles are so horrifying because children CANNOT consent. No matter how groomed they are to think they “want” it, they’re being abused.

            But, hey. This hits a serious nerve for me. So, I’ll toddle off to a less triggery discussion. I do very much love this comic and how it’s turning out, though. Depicting this realistically has given me many feels.

          • buam

            This American Life has a super interesting episode about pedophiles who know it’s wrong, don’t want to abuse anyone (and haven’t), and are looking for help. Even when you can’t control your preferences, you can still control your actions… Brian is awful, there’s no excuse.
            http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/522/tarred-and-feathered

        • Lilian

          You can absolutely have compassion and love for a person whose actions you do not support. :-)

      • This is probably the best I’ve seen it expressed, and I certainly agree with *almost* everything you’ve said.

    • Intile

      Great. A pedophile apologist. Pedophiles are “demonized” because they prey on people too inexperienced, immature, trusting, and naive to know what’s best for themselves and be able to consent. There is a gigantic difference between what consenting adults do behind closed doors, no matter how outside the norm, and what pedophiles do to their victims.

      Mike is looking for the love and support he doesn’t get from his parents. Brian provides him with that, but it’s conditional. The condition is that Mike must do sexual things with him. Mike would not be doing that with Brian if he had a supportive and attentive family. Brian is only able to do what he does because Mike is vulnerable. That is predation. That is exploitation. That is coercion. That is a form of rape.

      Go back to reddit.

      • shingworks

        Well, let’s watch the tone a little… I agree with everything you’ve said but I’d prefer if you didnt chase the other party off, especially since they are presenting their POV in a neutral way and are not a troll. I know it’s a heavy topic, but all the more reason to try and keep it civil to talk about it more effectively. Thanks~

        • Intile

          My apologies, I’ll be nicer. I just tend to doubt the honesty and good faith of people who defend pedophiles, lending to me not responding in good faith either. You’re completely right though, nothing is lost by responding in good faith, because who knows, maybe they are just misguided and not just trolling. A civil discussion is definitely better and your response to him clearly shows that.

          • shingworks

            I actually used to agree with squidlife, when I was like in middle school, simply because nobody had explained the actual details to me and cuz it felt like a devils advocate sort of position to take…I was 100% an idiot at the time, lol, but there’s a difference between being misinformed and being cruel and it’s nice to give others the benefit of the doubt when possible :]

          • Windwalker

            Plus, you can learn alot more if everyone listens to everyone else. Some of the best debates I’ve had about “socially taboo” issues (abortion, politics, religion, etc) were in a very calm, open-minded forum. But just because I’m willing to listen to you doesn’t mean you’re convincing me to “switch sides”, and I go into these debates with the intention to express my opinions and listen to the other side, not try to convince them. These topics are all based on a deeper level of experiences in a person’s life: the way they were raised, the experiences they had in the past, etc. Their opinions on these topics a a deep-rooted part of themselves. To call me names, question my intelligence, or start shouting and screaming at me because I don’t agree with you will only cause me to stop listening to you and, if insulted enough, to walk away. What’s the point in having a conversation with a person who is trying to brow-beat you into seeing their point of view? Those people have no interest in hearing you out, only the need to push their principles on you.

          • Intile

            @Windwalker The tone of my response was more of a reflection of how I perceived the original poster’s intent rather than a reflection of how I interact with people who disagree with me. Which is to say, most people on the internet that I’ve encountered who defend pedophiles by comparing them to other sexualities tend to be willfully dishonest and manipulative. Because of this I wrongly assumed he was another one of these trolls and responded to him as if he was. I saw that I was wrong ((he was just ignorant)) and apologized for the tone of my response. In discussions where I believe everyone has good intent I tend to be very civil no matter how strongly I may disagree with the other party. I actually enjoy civil disagreements because I see them as a potential for learning and growth. But only when everyone is being honest and means well is that possible. I didn’t think that was the case here, I was wrong, and I realized this I conceded.

          • Windwalker

            I understand, Intile. I hadn’t meant to come off as judgy myself. What I was trying to say was exactly what you stated in your reply: I enjoy a civil discussion about controversial issues too. If anything, it helps me understand why a person believes differently than me. And, more importantly, don’t take the discussion too seriously or offensively.

          • Intile

            Gotcha. No harm done.

    • Intentionally Nameless

      The only sympathy I have for Brian lies in that he probably doesn’t think that what he’s doing is wrong. Sure, he’s hiding it, but he’s not a bad guy, he loves Mike, and Mike goes along with it, so clearly it’s okay. The others just won’t understand.
      Occasionally, people realize the lies they tell themselves, but a lot more are comfortable with that fantasy than thinking “I am molesting my nephew”.
      I have a hard time hating those that have recovered, so to speak, but yeah. Some people are so lost that it’s hard to help them.

      • shingworks

        That’s a lot of conclusion to draw from these pages, I think. It’s not really a spoiler so I’ll just clarify here that Brian is aware of what he is doing. He’s taking advantage of a shitty family situation, and is repeatedly making the choice to continue contact despite knowing it is wrong. He’s had numerous chances to back off and hasn’t, because he thinks he is smart enough to get away with it (he is, to his credit, a smart man). For some stuff that is spoilers, this is the tip of the crappy iceberg that is the extent of what Brian is doing/ has done.

        There are definitely some stories out there that give some leeway with this (The Woodsman comes to mind), but I’ve chosen not to make MI one of them.

        • Intentionally Nameless

          I see. He always struck me as a despicable man, I was mostly just using the situation to talk about that subject. Some monsters don’t think they are.
          Should’ve been a bit more explicit about that.

      • You know, that’s not about love at all. That’s about owning, at the very most. But basically this is just self-justification, escaping responsibility: «I love her\him so much, how could I resist? I am guiltless. This is all about my deep feelings».
        Exploitation isn’t love, and we should follow our sense first of all, not our emotions only — an adult person must know it. But yeah, it’s way more pleasing to say to yourself that you’re just a nice loving guy. I bet it is.

        Dear Der-Shing, thank you for your work. I mean it. This is huge, and you are super-wow.

        • Intentionally Nameless

          Yes, I know, I was trying to be facetious. It didn’t work.

    • Penelope Luis

      I don’t give a damn about someone’s sexual habits until they start hurting people which is what Brian is freaking doing. Its the same reason why people demonize rapists whether its a violent attack or by coercion. they are still forcing themselves on others in complete disregard of the damage done to their victim.

      The fact that you could equate the normal consensual relationships of the LGBTQA crowd with creeps like this tells me you don’t have much interaction with others.

      I have a suggestions for you .

      Volunteer at an organization that helps kids who’ve suffered sexual abuse. Sit down and read the memoirs of child sex abuse survivors. Then ask yourself how you would react if an adult(male, female or other) was sexing your underage niece/nephew/cousins/siblings/ whathaveyou.

      There is a reason even in a sexually liberated society like ours pedophilia has remained taboo and it sure as hell ain’t due to prudishness.

    • Sam_i_ham

      Because it’s one thing to have urges you can’t control, and actively seek help for them, but be demonized by others for it (which doesn’t usually happen within the actual mental health realm – a provider will work even with those who have acted on their impulses and work extremely hard to be as non-judgmental as possible… It’s kinda what we do).

      Another entirely different thing is to be manipulative. Also not all child sexual assaults are perpetrated by your typical ‘pedo’. Sometimes (lots of times) it’s about control and manipulation, and there’s various reasons for each one. Brian here is grooming and manipulating the hell out of Mike (which, fun fact, makes it way harder and more confusing for the victim of abuse to actually feel wronged). That’s the whole point. He is manipulating Mike into doing something he’s not comfortable doing, by confusing him with “love” and guilting him when that doesn’t work. Mike is obviously not mature enough to consent, let alone comprehend the relationship Brian is demanding of him.
      Whether Brian is aware of how not okay this is or not is kind of tricky, because it’s common knowledge these things are not okay (sexual relationships with non-consenting individuals is NEVER OKAY), so I have a hard time believing Brian is unaware of how not okay this is… And even if he doesn’t feel he’s doing anything wrong, well, usually people who hurt others but feel justified in doing so are called sociopaths. So, just because you don’t think you’re hurting someone, or it’s not bad because “you’re offering love” doesn’t mean you’re not a bad person. Sorry, not sorry.

    • Roza

      I think it’s quite clear that he is a BAD guy as he is clearly GUILT TRIPPING and manipulating emotionally the very young boy. Isn’t it clearly shown in the comic? Besides, seeing what he does to the poor child, I have no idea how someone might try to defend him.
      I mean…seriously?

      What the dude in the comic did is as bad as rape. If someone rapes somebody else, victim goes to police with that. Person would not just sit down and think: I bet it’s not his fault! Poor him, he just can’t find anyone who could give him the consent so he must be really frustrated sexually. It’s not his fault he did it! I was just in the wrong place! All my fault!

      No. You simply think that the person is worst and same with the guy above. He didn’t just thought of that, he actually DID IT. He is a monster. No excuses.

      I feel not only perverts like him should feel shame but so should feel those who defend such twisted, selfish people.

  • Man, I don’t know how you draw scenes like this, even though I know it must be hard. The storytelling’s phenomenal, and never suffers from quality despite it all (technical rendering, body language, flow, dialogue, what have you).

    (slightly unrelated – is there any plans for a print edition of MI? It’s one of the few webcomics I’d legit pay any amount to be able to have on my bookshelf.)

    • hideawayhero

      I hope so! If there will be a print version I can tell you I already have the money saved for it.

      • Jojo

        Man, yeah. I would love to have a physical copy one day soon.

    • shingworks

      Yeah, probably at some point. Likely no actual book until after the story is over, sometime next year.

  • it’s just something I’ve been wondering about, and this seemed like an appropriate place to hear some others’ thoughts. It’s a difficult thing to ask about… I’ve got loads more idle wonderings that would detonate the average reply thread, so I keep them to myself. Which in turn is probably what perpetuates my ignorance.

    It’s supposed to be easier to discuss things online with an accepting audience but like… still there are just as many ways to ostracize yourself as irl. So, I wonder about that, too.

    That’s one of the reasons we tell stories and make art, though, to talk about difficult stuff without attaching real, literal people to real situations with real consequences. It’s a way of giving us a safe way to discuss and speculate.

    so I guess tl;dr, Der-shing, I like your art because it makes me think. that’s all, maybe I should’ve just said that, ahaha.

    • Corbie

      People on the web use to react more harshly and judge more extremely than in direct conversation.
      And almost everyone stumbles about unpleasant topics sooner or later. Stuff like this is kinda banned from everyday talk, so how to learn to think about it when it is “not there”? If nothing bad happens to you all the time, why think about it? That’s sad. Our whole oh-so-modern society can be blamed for this, most media depict it in a one-sided or even wrong way, school at best spends an hour of thoughtless babble and then returns to maths and other blurb. To blame anyone who trips over such a topic, and learns and thinks about it in the process, would be hypocritic. Seriously, I think your posting here and Der-Shing’s answer will also make a lot of other people think. :)

    • shingworks

      It’s also somewhat my fault; I’ve been meaning to post a further reading section for people who want to delve a bit deeper into some of the subjects in the comic (I’m low on free time atm unfortunately). But I do appreciate your posting and hope you feel free to ask about anything you’re curious about. Phrasing it out as a question rather than an opinion usually is a good way to get a good crop of responses from other readers :]

      • Oh man, please please do that (adding the reading section)! That would be a real treat to the book-aholic over here, and I suspect many of your readers would agree. (Especially since you dig into so many different topics; the Mars/extreme adventuring angle too.)

        Only if/when you have the free time, of course. :) Take care of yourself.

        • Joel

          I would suggest looking up pedophilia or child sexual abuse on Wikipedia, the scrolling down to the source list. There will be book sources, scientific publications sources and online sources.

          Considering all the stuff I’ve researched in the past to base parts or even single-line mentions in my stories, I’d probably be put on all the lists FBI has ever kept. I, like this comic’s creator, prefer doing my homework before expecting others to want to believe a word I write.

  • Ben

    Interesting posts, above.

    Shows how political correctness and moral relativism erodes the ability to make any sort of judgement.

    Uncle Brian is manipulating Mike, grooming him, taking advantage of a very vulnerable young person who has no real alternative and doesn’t understand.

    It’s an entirely one-sided relationship, in which the worst part is that Mike needs any part of it because of his wider situation,

    I knew someone, years ago, who became involved with manipulating children in that way at a time of prolonged and severe stress. You had to have some sympathy with him – I’d known him when we were in our twenties and he certainly wasn’t involved at the time – but the bottom line was that the children needed to be protected. Eventually I found myself having to tell him that he wasn’t welcome in my home or around my family.

    That wasn’t easy but had to be done. I took some flak from more PC people involved but I just had to say “f*ck you and what you think, your attitude amounts to allowing him to continue and that’s the greater harm”

  • Jojo

    Side note: Looking back on the last two panels there is a definite nose size difference. I think it’s the side-by-side that makes it more clear. Its almost like Mike’s nose morphed to look more like Brian’s. It actually does seem intentional. Is it meant to be symbolic after all? I had been humored by it before but subtle physical changes in visual media does take place for a variety of reasons, most of which are in the sub-textual realm. If we fail to pick up that sub-text right away it tends to influence our perception on a more subconscious level, which is powerful. I wouldn’t know the significance at face value here, but I just thought it was interesting.

    • shade

      My personal thoughts are that we’re viewing a memory, a flashback in real-time, and that the details of the memory are shaped by context.

      Some of the memories seem innocent (even though they really really aren’t, but it’s a personal interpretation from someone struggling to feel ok) and some allude to either the future or an understanding that these things weren’t remotely all right. Basically, a flashback split between innocence and retrospective realization.

      • Jojo

        Thats a good point. Perhaps under closer scrutiny there is a pattern to the facial changes?

        • Kittenears

          It seems to me that the childlike rounded nose appears when Mike is… well. Childlike.

          The sharper, longer nose appears when he seems to realize, or see, the horror that his situation is.

          Just my guess so far, though.

    • shingworks

      Well, it’s intentional to some degree, for these interlude pages at least XD it’s just supposed to be default “large” in the previous chapter but I’m sure the proportions fluctuated as I learned how to draw him properly, haha. The magic of inconsistent artists.

    • LeDayz

      I’m thinking the shift may be….. ooo, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise!

  • Spav

    Is Brian (clinically speaking) a psychopath, along with the whole pedophile thing?

    The ease with which he manipulates the situation and simulates empathy suggests that to me. Even his posture and mannerisms do as well.

    • shingworks

      From my perspective I think he’s just deeply up his own ass. He’s internally justified what he’s doing for so long that his reasons sound pretty good to him, and Michael is so desperate for approval that he’s not really offering any argument or resistance. I think if you were to ask him point blank to explain himself, he would not be able to say anything.

    • Joel

      Pscyhopathy as an excuse is thrown around all too casually, it is an actual psyhcological disorder, not just “incapable of empathy/selfish bastard”.

  • brumagem

    I suppose no one is 100% garbage. Brian will just have to settle for being like 96% garbage.

  • Ben

    I’m afraid that to me, ALL the adults involved are completely up their own arses; “it’s all about me” , all round.

    The worst of it is that this sort of thing is well known and widely documented; you don’t have to look far to find it

  • Mistress Dizzy

    I think I might cry. Over a pair of comic pages.

    *crawls into a hole, pulls a blanket over it*

    A testament to the power of the author’s work, for this to punch me in the gut so well.

  • I just wanted to say that this is amazingly well-written, beautifully drawn and coloured, and absolutely gut-wrenching. You are handling this masterfully.

  • Shihchuan

    First time commenting and already I’m stepping into some difficult topics here. I’d just like to point out that even among researchers, a distinction is made between child molesters and pedophiles: what Brian is doing here is clearly child molestation and should not be accepted or defended. However, he may not be a “pedophile” in its more accurate sense: there are no evidence in the comics yet that shows that he prefers boys over adult men/women in general. Moreover, it is reported that there exists – albeit probably a minority – pedophiles who do not molest children. It is still regarded as a disorder at least in present days, and pedophiles are advised to seek help. I just doubt that from a pragmatic standpoint, we’d be helping them admit they have a problem and seek help if all we can think about is “CRIMINALS” when we hear the word.

    (I was not able to freely access the citations 4-11 on the Wikipedia article on “pedophilia”, but here is the abstract of one of the citations, for those interested)

    • Artemisia

      *Thank you*, Shihchuan and Sam i ham. This is a point I’ve been wanting to bring up. For many, many child molesters, it has nothing to do with sexual preference or pedophilia. It’s about control and manipulation and not being able to deal with their own pain–just as rape usually has nothing to do with sexual desire. Most abusers endured some sort of similar experience themselves.

      Also, the majority of male abusers of boys are not gay, but identify as straight; same thing with female abusers of girls. Further proof that it’s not a sexual preference thing, it’s a predation thing, perpetrated by people who are torn up inside and haven’t ever dealt with their own abuse in an appropriate and healthy way.

      The reason it’s still so common is that nobody wants to talk about it because it feels so awful; it’s horrible to acknowledge that most molestation happens at the hands of relatives and family “friends.” It’s so much easier to demonize strangers. But when these things are not brought out into the open, there’s no chance for prevention, victims don’t get the help they need and some will grow up to be abusers themselves.

      *** Der-shing, I have so much respect for you I can’t put it into words. Thank you so much for addressing such a heartbreaking and painful subject, and for doing the research to present it realistically (and tactfully; which is even more difficult!). ***

  • Shihchuan

    Okay, all that heavy stuff said, you’re handling this interlude scene (and the comment section) exceptionally well and I applaud you wholeheartedly. I already forget how I discovered MI (not through The Meek, even though I discovered The Meek before this one and immediately liked the premises), but I have been and will definitely keep anticipating more awesome comics to come. :) The story is so captivating, and I really love the clean-edge and almost 3D drawing style. (I’m at a loss for better words to describe it now, darn you English language :p)

  • Jakob

    I think the scariest part of this, is your ability to create even the tiniest bit of humanity in Brian’s character- (that look in panel 4)- even though we know what he really is.

    I just really hope he doesn’t turn out to be one of those guys like Jimmy Savile who get away with it, even to their grave.

    • shingworks

      Hahaha, I hate that look. It’s like, you swerve to hit someone with your car and then run out and ask “are you okay?”

      • Jakob

        Ha! Exactly.

      • Tadrix

        So, did he intentionally cause breakup of Mike’s parents to get to the kid?

        • shingworks

          No, the parents have a shit marriage. Jes got pregnant and dropped out of college her sophomore year to marry Bill, Mike’s dad, who is ~20 years older. They used to get along back when things were starting out, but have since realized they have nothing in common.

  • ALL MONSTERS ARE HUMAN

    Well this kind of relationship was usual, even lovely and poetic, in the Ancient Greece where adult men took care of young boys in exchange for sex until their beards grew, like a teaching process.

    Greeks were pretty hedonist I think, but I can’t understand why they didn’t see how awful pederasty is.

    About this page, I like how memories are going, I imagine a tragic end for the uncle Brian but I don’t know, hope this memory is just an imaginary memory of Mike about his uncle and this actually never happened because he is so d&mned crazy lol, sorry.

    Der shing, I’m becoming your fan. :)

    • shingworks

      Not sure if it was usual… I did some light reading on it while I was doing my background research and it seems like it kind of varied from area to area, and was even frowned upon in some circumstances. Like, there were a lot of rules involved. IDK, I probably don’t know enough to even make this comment haha. Anyways, different people, different times.

      Oh, and thanks for reading~

      • charles81

        Not accusing shingworks or AMAH of this AT ALL, but I see a lot of people in other forums argue, not necessarily prepubescent, but younger people’s ability to consent to sex, etc at earlier ages and cite other countries or times where it is/was perfectly, sociably, acceptable for a 12 year old to marry, have sex and even children.
        But different people and different times are exactly what those are. My view is that in the western/civilised/modern/advanced/rich/depraved (whatever you want to label it) nations, we are able to give our young the very precious gift of a childhood. There were times, and are still many places, where that gift is not given or cannot be given and even those nations who can and do, have anything from offending pedophiles to simply bad parents who take or destroy that gift for some children.

        • shingworks

          Yeah, the big difference is whether or not this kind of relationship does any good for the child in that culture. I am sure theoretically there are cultural situations in which a child could have sex with someone and come away from it completely fine, with their happy childhood intact. But in our society anyways you get a majority of abuse survivors who grow up with mental issues caused because of the overwhelming shame and stress… I get so annoyed when people argue for these kinds of relationships on some of those shittier forums, when the health and happiness of the underaged partner is clearly not a concern. (ps just commenting in general response to your comment, haha, not like to chastise or something)

          • T

            So, theoretically, in our society the mental trauma is possibly talked into victim where it initially wasn’t any? Like, those around press the victim into traumatised role and he or she starts to think accordingly (“I will never be like the rest, I’m stained for my life” — thoughts that possibly could have never come at their own)?

            I know it’s a daring thought, but I’ve wondered for some time already whether attitude victims get from society, singling them out, making the feel different (and never be able to be “normal”, whatever that means) isn’t even worst than the experience itself, and if wouldn’t it be better to just help them return to a normal life, not making a big deal out of it. Past isn’t changeable anyway, and it’s harder to live on if someone (or everyone) keeps reminding the past.

            Just something that bothered me for some time. Perhaps, I’m entirely wrong.

          • madock345

            Hey T, That’s entirely possible, and a really interesting question. I’m studying cultural anthropology at college (Though I kind of hate citing real-life accreditations online where it can’t be proven) and questions like that come up a lot. There are times and places where things like sex with kids are common, and seem to cause no harm to anyone involved, and others where there is clear trauma. And we don’t really know why. The after-response, the clear message from others that something awful has happened, may be part of it, or it could be something much more deeply ingrained in our culture, so someone raised here would have such a reaction even if it happened in a place where nobody made a big deal out of it. It’s fascinating! There’s a particular set of pacific islander tribes where oral sex is considered a kind of coming of age ritual, young boys fellate their fathers or older brothers or uncles throughout their teen years, often quite publically. This is because the tribes believe that semen carries the essence of masculinity, you have to absorb it from mature men in order to develop. And it doesn’t seem to hurt them, even though it breaks so many taboos of our civilization. It’s those kinds of questions and violations of what most westerners would probably consider basic aspects of the human nature that really fascinate anthropologists.

      • RyGuy

        There seemed to be a lot of disagreement among Pagan Greek tribes over which forms of “homosexuality” were acceptable, if at all. Rural communities tended to be against it mostly or entirely, preferring gods that supported that position, while the Athenians preferred gods that supported pediastry, and looked at the farmers as contemptible bumpkins. The many Macedonians and all Spartans took a more middle road, condemning pediastry (usually) while enforcing as mandatory bisexuality, (but not promiscuity). Specifically, each Spartan warrior was required to select a male lover and a wife, and had to be faithful to both. He could lie with either whenever he could, but no other man or woman, and the man had to be a fellow warrior and peer. Women actually had fewer restrictions, as the wives could do whatever they wanted with one another when their husbands were not around, but could only lie with him among men, or be condemned for adultry. Spartans had to know who their children were, as they had the strictest eugenics program of all time, and kept careful account of bloodlines. After all that grief and confusion, it is little wonder that the Greeks united under “the Unknown God” and a common, comparatively compassionate message, even if it came to make life difficult for genuine gays. Anyway, even though gays can now marry, mike seems to suffer from the same relationship difficulties that opposite sex victims of “straight” pedophiles (I forgot the proper term) have. When a straight boy is molested by a man, or a lesbian girl is molested by a man, their initial helplessness and confusion usually coalesce into visceral loathing as they hit puberty and discover for sure what turns them off. They can turn into particularly militant anti-gay or anti-strait types (respectively) in adulthood as a result. When a child is molested by someone who they might actually find physically attractive in maturity become all the more enslaved, and find it harder to form normal relationships later on. Mike probably didn’t have a lover his own age until college, and then probably proved unable to commit, because, after all, once he reached a certain age, Brian would have dumped him. That is always the last straw cruelty from those monsters, usually. Occasionally, women molesters will stay with a male victim after he grows up, if they had a baby by him, but that’s probably just biological imperative, more then anything.

    • Joel

      It’s currently agreed among historians who specialize on the Hellenistic era that while pederasty did involve what we would call “romantic love” gestures and gifts and language, it has been falsely reviewed through our current era’s over-sexualization of such gestures. Even in actual Hellenistic city-state of Athens, which modern world, scared of differences, wants to cast as the haven for pedophiliacs and gay people, it was forbidden – probably by death, certainly by loss of citizenship (which meant being cast out of the top 10% cream of the crop of the civilization) – to put another citizen (man, the son of a citizen, or a freeman who has been granted citizenship due to their accomplishments) into any sort of “feminine” (we would call it submissive/receptive) position when it came to sexual things.

      Slaves, on the other hand, were free game, unless they belonged to someone else. Then you had to pay the owner of the slave if you abused (including sexual abuse) their slave.

      It was a fucked-up society in many ways, don’t get me wrong, but pederasty was not just another name for pedophilia.

      • Joel

        Actually, in the interests of depicting the place and era more accurately, there were many restrictions on what you could and could not do to your slaves, but the punishments for misconduct were merely financial.

  • Badger

    I really like that little detail where Mike is deliberately facing away from Brian to hide that’s he’s crying. I used to do that a lot as a kid when I didn’t want people to know I was upset.

  • aroree

    So many feels. T_T You are amazing Der Shing.

  • Hey, new reader here. One of my best friends has been recommending both MI and The Meek for a while now and I finally got myself caught up.

    I just want to say thanks, for handling this so well. It’s really scary talking about these things on the internet, where people can get so hostile, and in many cases fully believing that they’re right to be hostile. It’s a tough conversation to get involved in, and I really appreciate your strength and care in doing so.

    I’m just crying, reading the comments and seeing how some people who didn’t really know how these things happen, who thought that it was strangers who hurt kids and hardly ever people who are close to them, are finding out what the reality looks like. I’m so thankful, because if my mom had known these things, she would’ve been more careful with me and my brothers.

    I’m just so happy to see people learning here, in this environment you’ve created where tough topics can be addressed and discussed in a safe, caring, and understanding environment. Where people can come in with less experience and understanding and be informed without being belittled for their ignorance. I appreciate the effort you take to encourage everyone, to moderate when conversations are getting heated, to make sure that people are free to talk but also reminded to be kind. I’m just really blown away by both this comic and the community it’s fostering, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    That’s all, I guess. I hope you remember every day that you’re doing a great thing here. <3

  • 7 Years Later.....

    Ya know, these last few pages (and the following discussions) keep making me think of something from issue 5 of Saga…..

    An absolute monster of a man (a bounty hunter and killer for hire) is in a brothel, and is presented a six year old little girl, and told he can do anything he wants to her. He is disgusted/furious, and kills her pimp. Her owner then asks him:
    “so its morally acceptable to execute people of any age, but only to make love to a select few?”

    And he responds:
    “If I gotta explain the difference, you’re too far gone to follow.”

    You and Mr.Vaughan never pull your punches….and that is why the two of you are my favorite writers. You both deal with the gritty messiness that is real life. Bad things happen, people die, and nothing really ever pans out the way you expect it too.

  • Umm

    Is this.. realistic? Would somebody who acts on pedophilic urges really be so sincere? Or is that just manipulation well masked?

    Some people were discussing how Brian might think what he’s doing is okay but honestly I fail to see how that’s possible within the context you’ve given us? He seems manipulative and bored a few pages ago but then genuinely sincere in this one & it’s messing me up cuz I can usually tell when someone is being manipulative or sincere and I know this is just a comic but.. maybe next time if you want to make someone a bad guy make them seem more bad??

    I just think this was a bad place to explore morality if that makes sense??

    Don’t let my comments deter you but.. that’s just what I felt.

    • shingworks

      I don’t think he’s sincere at all (in this scene). Some other people might see that but imho he’s going out of his way to be the only clear source of support so Michael doesn’t talk to someone else and get his ass thrown in jail…

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      • Kittenears

        grooming. That’s what this is. Grooming.

    • Missa

      that’s the thing about manipulation – ‘good’ (and I don’t really like using the word ‘good’, but, you know what I mean) manipulation is subtle. it has to seem sincere in order for people to buy it – if it isn’t, then it’s pretty easy to read that something sketchy’s going on. manipulative, abusive people can be experts at looking kind-hearted to anyone on the outside… which, technically, we are, as the audience. and he has to look ‘kind’ to the victim in order to keep them around.

      The biggest tip off that he’s not ‘genuinely sincere’ is that he’s, y’know, a disgusting child molester. How he acts doesn’t mean diddly once you know that fact. His ‘kind’ behavior is a necessity to get what he wants.

      Think about it this way: in Tangled, Mother Gothel switches between insulting Rapunzel to her face and being kind and affectionate at the drop of a hat, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing here. He’s definitely portrayed as a ‘bad guy’ – maybe not on this page, but you literally just have to go back one page to see him being an awful, villainous human being. It’s that drop-of-a-hat switch, which is a little harder to read when you’re taking in the content on a once-a-week basis rather than all at once.

      der-shing, you’ve done a really… I hesitate to say ‘lovely’, but let’s just say what you’ve portrayed here is really spot-on and well thought-out. I can’t imagine what writing this scene must have been like – I don’t think I could do it myself. Kudos.

      Sorry this ended up a whole lot longer than I expected it to be! dang.

  • a.a.

    So Brian has his (messed up) reasons, and believes them to a certain extent. But my question is his “love” for Michael, and I mean any sort of platonic he may or may not have for him. Does he actually care about him at all, or are the claims that he cares for him a lie as well?

    • shingworks

      Uhh… Honestly I don’t know. In this scene, no. Later (not going in the comic) his sense of self-preservation becomes deeply tied with the relationship they have, and he loves himself, so I guess there’s that… I think at the most it is only ever love of an possession, like how you feel towards a pet cat, vs love of an equal.

      • shingworks

        I think people are confusing his worried expression in panel 4 as real concern or caring. His thought process is more like “oh Christ, the last thing I need right now is you making a scene.” He’s the cool uncle, not the red flag uncle.

        • Jojo

          That does come across in the material.

        • Brad

          And here I thought there was actual compassion layered in with the abuse. Does Mikes nose get bigger when he is upset?

          • shingworks

            It’s open to interpretation at the moment~

  • BlueSaved

    This has to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever read… Yet I still come back to check for updates almost daily. Poor little Mike. I want to know what he went through, and why no one noticed or tried to help. Brian is disgusting, and my urge to slug him (or much worse) has to be kept in check (with similar feelings toward Mike’s parents). I wasn’t abused like Mike, but I had a very irregular and at times turbulent childhood, so I know the pain of grieving over a period of innocence that you can never get back. The poor guy never had a chance to figure himself out or feel secure about anything, and since he never had a chance to develop, he never really had a chance to grow up. People underestimate how crucial the period of development is to a child… Even small things can give them a huge disadvantage in adulthood, so I doubt anyone can understand the magnitude of the trauma that Mike is suffering because of his scumbag uncle. I hear everyone discussing the adult’s, Brian’s, issues, but no one is stopping to talk about the ramifications for child Mike outside of “Wow that must be so confusing”. I’m sure you’ll address that in spades, Der-shing, as you’ve done an amazing job of portraying Mike’s issues thus far.

  • Infinity1201

    WHY shall you put me through such feels? Its too much, but I cant stop ;-;

  • Tubs

    You can’t love someone and do this to them. If you’ll notice, Mike can’t even look at him in most of these panels. And in panel 5, that hug just looks so uncomfortable and forced. Mike’s cringing with his arms up like he’s trying to protect himself. And of course he’s like that. From an abuser, no kind of touch feels safe anymore because you never know if they’re gonna try something. Seeing him grab Mike like that just makes me so angry. There’s nothing comforting about that gesture for the boy.

  • vancho1

    You’re a brave person, to tackle such a difficult topic. I’d agree with the majority of voices – it’s rather disgusting that Brian would take advantage of Mike in such a way. It is obvious that the boy needs some sort of mature support to deal with his home situation, but to use him to satisfy a sexual need is wrong. I think it’s best shown in the previous comic – Mike mostly does ‘regular’ things for a young boy, like being grossed-out at bugs, or wanting to do cannonballs and swim.

    I have not done any in-depth research into whether or not it is possible for an adult and a child to have a sexual relationship without causing trauma to the child, but this one is definitely an abusive relationship. It has many of the warning signs, such as strong use of guilt, etc.

    Anyway, great comic. Will continue reading.

    • vancho1

      To continue from my second paragraph – Mike wants a normal childhood, which Brian seems to provide through his caring support (as a paternal figure), yet the fact that Brian is coercing him into fulfilling a sexual need is what makes the relationship abusive.

  • skygazer17

    So much talk about noses. Does it matter??? Geez. Haha

    You did an amazing job with Mike’s expression in the fourth panel.

    And there’s a ton of comments that are a paragraph long, which means that you’re sparking a controversial conversation and making your readers think (which I think is is a sign of a great comic). ;)

  • Hmmm. I don’t think that pedophilia has anything to do with sexual attraction at all. Nothing like being gay.
    The issue is that true pedophiles are, in some way, ‘trapped’ in childhood- they are weak, soft individuals with a childish demeanor and inadequacy issues; which is the root of why they prey on children. Or are attracted to them in that way. It’s been a while since I read up on that, though, so I’m not sure of all of that. It basically boils down that they’re fascinated by children in a very wrong way, because in a way they *are* children.
    I’m not sure that counts as an ‘orientation’. ‘Serious mental issues’ describes it better.

    But as for everything else being said; i.e. sexual predation for power and control- that’s a pretty spot on description.

    • shingworks

      Yeah, I’ve read some conflicting info… have definitely read some definitions like the one you described, but there are also some that specify pedophilia as a harmful sexual preference, but a developed preference nonetheless. Despite the “preference” label I really don’t like the comparison between pedophiles and same-sex attraction, when one is 100% harmful and manipulative and the other is a normal type of relationship.

  • lamepudding

    … Am I the only one baffled that in the last page where the act was being performed, everyone in the comics was hating on Brian (as they should)
    and on this page were Brian is still manipulating a child (in a way that i actually find even more disturbing than the last page) people are changing their tune and questioning his motivations as not being as sinister as they really are?

    @n@
    The comments on this page disturb me

    • shingworks

      Yeah, this is the worst page in the comic by far. Not just for the manipulation but because I wanted to show that it works… I choose to look at it like he is as good at fooling readers as he is at fooling kids.

  • Glew

    Ugh, don’t know what to say.
    Feels weird to compliment the page. But yeah,… you now, it’s like that scene in Downton Abbey [SPOILER ALERT] when Anna is raped. And it was just done so “well” that I’m still kinda scarred by the horror of it, because I cared for the character and they just got the vulnerability and brokenness through so effectively. I still see the actress’s bloodied face… [END OF SPOILER]

    So um, yeah, this page definitely gets the message across. So great arting. I think we need art like this, that is accessible and genuine and speaks of these things.

    But, man was I not ready for this. I thought I was gonna read a quirky sci-fi story about aliens. Heh…

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