Interlude 2, Page 5


Chapter 3 begins on Monday (which is, incidentally, our 1-year anniversary, woo)

Thank you for reading.


  • Mallow

    Something tells me she hadn’t considered it like a joke. Either way, awkwarrrrrd.

    (Out of curiosity, is he wearing a hoodie with contrast-color sleeves, or is it a hooded vest over a long-sleeved top? I’m guessing the former based on how the armholes/seams on the torso are drawn, but I just wanted to ask, because a couple of pages made me squint.)

    • shingworks

      Yeah, vest over a top! Sorry about the contrast issue, I suspected I was skewing too hard to dark, like usual XD Another thing on my tweak list.

  • Ethatre

    This talk of parasites makes me miss thigh-friend.

    • shingworks

      Same! Once you go flap, you can’t go back

      • Cthulhufish

        Thigh-Friend was less judgmental and more willing to just be there.

        But on the other hand, Thigh-Friend needs to remember to look after its own emotional well-being first.

        • rimmeh

          Best Comment of 2016 (so far)

        • Sheridan

          “…you would see, the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say ‘Thank You for being a friend’!”

          Holy crap I’m dating myself here.

  • You are just too dang good at setting the mood, aaagh. Seeing no door/the hinges hit it home for me.

    Really feeling for both of them here. :(

  • This is the kind of self-hatred that feeds into itself so much more heinously than most people realize. What you need is unwavering love and understanding, but you just can’t help driving other people away…


    • Fridge_Logik

      Very few people are qualified to deal with someone so intensely angry at themselves and the world. And almost all of them are doctors of psychology.

      • Lilian

        It is very difficult to interact with someone who responds in such a way. That doesn’t mean said people aren’t in pain or don’t need help and support, but it also is true that it takes a lot of energy from loved ones to provide said support.

        All in all, mental illness is hard.

        • Fridge_Logik

          What’s amazing is how most people trying to help can so easily aggravate a festering situation by saying the wrong thing or saying what everyone else says. Or they can screw up by agreeing with the suffering person on the wrong points reinforcing bad beliefs in an attempt to build trust.

          Indeed mental illness is hard.

          • Lilian

            This is why we have people who make a profession out of talking with and listening to the mentally ill. Communication is hard enough when all parties are generally rational.

            It takes behavior that does not come naturally to provide the most supportive and healthy response to someone who is not thinking clearly. It is really difficult to be unassuming and healthily detached when someone says terrible things about himself and/or others. Especially if the struggling individual is a loved one and/or they have a tendency to rope people in to debates.

            But we can all learn from each other.

  • Intile

    The dialog and character writing here is just phenomenal. I love all the mars exploration and sci-fi bits, but the writing is what’s had me hooked.

  • Sabrina

    Holy shit Mike’s Spartan room! :(
    I’m so used to gushing over how you set interior rooms, the blank space is unnerving in contrast!

    • shingworks

      I’m so surprised by how closely people are looking at the background things… but yeah, it is really spare, he actually likes it that way because everything is very tidy and in it’s right place or whatever, no surprises.

      • Fridge_Logik

        I see a lack of distractions as well. Can’t start feeling sad if you don’t get distracted from whatever you’re working on to keep yourself from feeling sad.

      • Wood

        Which makes him feel like he’s in control, right? Which, I assume, is a way to cope with having been a victim of abuse?

        • Petra

          Victim of abuse, but probably also ties into his mental illness. When you can’t even control your own brain, having a measure of external control over your surroundings can help ground you.

  • addy

    well. i wasn’t expecting this set of pages to hit me this hard. :p there are actual tears in my eyes. (which is a good thing, making readers cry is an indicator of success)
    i’ve been the “toby” friend in a sorta similar situation. it was heartbreaking for me to see this beautiful person, absolutely gorgeous, so smart, talented, and capable, continually talk herself down. i wished she could see what i saw, and love herself as much as i loved her.
    anyway this scene is very well done and well-written, this comic is quickly becoming my favorite, A+

  • caribouchat

    It was really great to have this interlude all at once! Thanks for all your work.

  • page 35 of the comic appears to be blank, was it a follow up image of the tyranno-man storyline or was it the cover page for part 2?

    • JJ

      There was a fade-to-black page at the end of chapter 1 as well.

  • Andrewr

    Oh man, I’ve been there, denying your friendships are genuine, and claiming that people are just taking pity on you. It just makes you feel worse, nothing positive comes of it.

    And now I want to delete a bunch of angsty facebook posts from high school.

  • Boxer

    First thing that stood out to me was the lack of door. To me it’s hinting that maybe Mike’s doing stuff that obviously someone (probably a therapist) recommended that his mom remove the door to his room.
    I want to think that he might be self harming or doing bad stuff that there’s obviously a lack of trust between Mike and his mother.

    The hoodie thing is probably him trying not to be noticed. This is a guy who was molested by his uncle and probably has a hard time trusting people after such a gross violation of trust from a family member. He doesn’t want to be noticed, he wants to be ignored but at the same time the isolation and loneliness he’s experiencing from his own actions is slowly killing him emotionally.

    At least that’s how I see it.

    How old is Mike supposed to be in this flashback?

    • Vert

      She mentioned junior class, if that’s using US conventions, then he’d be 16-17 here. Maybe 15, taking advanced classes. I get the feeling Toby is a bit older than he is, like she’d be a year ahead of him under other circumstances.

  • Cthulhufish

    So… are we looking at run-of-the-mill depression + social anxiety? I’m trying not to read too much into things, but so far it seems Mike’s BFF was a robot… He doesn’t seem to do well with people.

  • Bellar

    Should we be worried about you Der-shing? Is writing about emotionally traumatized people a comic author’s way of asking for help?

    • shingworks

      Haha, I’m fine, but thanks for asking.

      • Jojo

        Glad you’re alright.

  • squidlifecrisis

    let me guess, Toby promised she’s “here to talk if you need to,” hasn’t she? I can tell by the way she’s abandoning him when he needs to talk the most.

    • Micro

      Actually, this is probably the best thing she can do at the moment. Talking can’t help when you’re in htis kind of self-destructive loop.

      • tiny potato

        super true. I’ve been in those loops and literally anything a person can say will make it worse.

  • Leon

    It’s our 1-year anniversary??? Wow! I must have been so drunk when that happened, since I completely forgot…
    I’m sooo sorry, I promise I will make up for it!

    • shingworks


  • Katlamos

    Oh god. This page hit me hard. I had a time where I went though feeling like that. There are some days where I still feel like that. This was genuinely hard to read. You have an amazing gift with writing real emotion Der-shing.

  • Lorenzo

    So if he asked her out, does it mean he still hasn’t figured out he’s “not straight”?
    MI is supposed to be 5 chapters, right?
    Unless things change drastically, we have two more flashbacks of his life in upcoming interludes… Things are gonna get preeetty interesting.

    • Jojo

      “Not straight” does not always equate to homosexual. Mike could very well be bisexual, asexual, or something else.

      • Lorenzo

        Tho he did use “not straight” to dismiss any possibility of having a wife when confronted by Bex’s questions, so I assumed bisexuality to be out of the picture. And since whatever he identifies as is implied to be of no subject to a wife, I assumed those restrictions would also apply to having a girlfriend.
        Sorry if I was wrong or if I offended you in any way!

        • Jojo

          Of course! And you did not offend! Don’t fret. I didn’t interpret that scene as necessarily dismissing a woman in a certain context, but certainly not the context spoken of in the given situation. This could still open up the possibility of a platonic relationship (perhaps characteristic in an aromantic or asexual situation) or else an aversion to the idea entirely (romance repulsed aromantic). But I definitely think there is a high probability for a homosexual or otherwise homoromantic relationship in Mike’s past (present plot line with Mars Mike). I was just throwing the idea out there that we still do not quite know Mike’s orientation. Thanks for replying! I enjoy reading your prospective of that scene and how it plays into this one.

          • Lorenzo

            Hmm. Got to admit I didn’t even consider romantic interests. It could very well be, yes.

            I have to say I recognize that “Relax, I’m just joking” as a sort of defense mechanism against rejection, mostly because it triggered as soon as he noticed even the smallest amount of hesitation from her. But also because I’ve used that before.
            Can’t exactly pinpoint why, but I feel that this scene wouldn’t have played out that way if he was actually joking.

            I’m really looking forward to more flashbacks to see how this ties up.

          • StClair

            Lorenzo: absolutely agreed. That was totally a retreat and attempt to cover up an earnest request… which was, itself, an attempt at emotional blackmail (‘if you really care for me, prove it’). Of a sort he’s been subjected to himself many times.

            Our boy Mike is pretty messed up.

    • Nick

      I imagine he knows that there is something strange about him, which maybe made it easier for the child abuse to take place (though in no way could it be seen as his fault) However, as you said he may actually be feeling real feelings for Toby, as he really could be any sexuality other than straight at the moment. Aww mike, I’m glad thighfriend found you :(

      • Jojo

        Sexuality is very fluid. I wouldn’t dismiss his feelings here (if they were true, which to me they do appear to be, in some extent at least) even if later on Mike provides a more uninterpretable definition for himself. Regardless I think the uncertainty in this point is befitting and adds another bit of interest. I really enjoy hearing what everyone thinks of it.

    • DukeBG

      Don’t forget that:
      1. Mike was in a bone zone with Braid in the last few months before comics events.
      2. That reply to Bex was a retort, i.e. meant to get rid of her questions on the subject.

      • Lorenzo

        Regarding point 1: I’m a little lost here, who’s Braid?

  • Jojo

    Oh Mike….

  • Localized

    Der-shing, it’s been said before, but your writing is fantastic. This is an excellent portrayal of how depression can affect a person.

  • Micro

    Wow. As Somone who had severe untreated depression for 14 years, I can’t say how much I appreciate this. I feel for Toby, because when someone is in this state, there is literally nothing you can do or say to make things better. I feel for Mike, because he’s being horribly unfair to Toby and himself and only half aware of it. I feel for his mom, because everything she does gets twisted into further proof that she doesn’t love her son. That’s an impossible situation for all involved.

    Oddly enough, there were people in my life that literally tried to sabotage my getting help and prioritized their own agendas over my health, but at the time I took it as reasonable behavior because I was so convinced I didn’t deserve to get better. Depression causes so much distorted thinking, and you’ve really captured it well. Keep it up.

    • Lilian

      Well said.

    • StClair


    • Pixie

      So much yes. I hate how depression warps my thoughts and drags me deeper and deeper into a whirlpool of self-loathing and negative thoughts. :(

      • Lilian

        :( Mental illness is a terrible, terrible thing. I’m glad you have a good grasp on the fact that your depression is a thing and that it distorts your thinking.

        I have anxious tendencies. My anxiety can lead to OCD. When things get out of control I become depressed. The joy is sucked out of my life and my faith in Christ and my work.

        I can’t fathom how horrible it must be for people with mental problems who don’t have a good support system to fall back on. I have been so blessed to have a strong family and a mother who has done battle with the same demons in a much more lonely environment than I.

  • Elaterid

    My God.

    I want to give him a hug and tell him it’s going to be OK, but I’ve swum in the same water (never so deep) and I know that’s the last thing Mike would want.

    You write these things too well. It would be a crime if you didn’t get an Eisner one day.

  • Ben

    Have to say that I’m losing the plot on this comic, despite the spectacular art. Mike is progressively turning out to be a complete dick, with a long history of mental problems; I really can’t believe in him as a member of a deep-space expedition. He would have been bumped, long ago.

    Well-adjusted, highly socialised, highly motivated people are ready to murder each other after months on end in Antarctica. Cabin Fever is real, people!

    • Jojo

      It certainly is. I think Shing has worked in an extremely difficult concept, that being the ‘unlikable’ protagonist. The plot is very characteristic of what must be done to continue the plot with a character that at least some portion of the audience is going to see quite like a “complete dick” as you say. The story has a lot going on, a good contrasting cast prior to Mike’s separation from the ship, a good few interludes thus far further explaining the character himself, and certain qualities that are enjoyable to read for regardless of the character themselves (mystery, tragedy, struggle). I can understand how this plot could lose people, and you make a good point Ben; that it does seem unlikely that Mike could reach the point we found him in when beginning this narrative. But regardless of this I find myself suspending any disbelief since I have yet to see how these lines all connect. As for Mike, I would assume there is much character growth happening as the plot progresses.

      • Van

        It’s interesting. Mike himself believes he’s a ‘complete dick’; that is actually a large part of his problem.

        If Mike’s ever going to get better, he’ll need to view himself with more empathy than that. I suspect the audience will, too.
        I get the feeling that might be what this story is for.

      • Ben

        This comic increasingly reads to me, like a Conrad or Melville story, or a Patrick O’Brian.

        The difference being that these represent a setting where people with almost any character weaknesses could, and frequently did walk aboard and become part of the crew, or even take considerable responsibility, because there was no recognition of their problems and anyway, it was no ones role to do anything about it.

        Or, a 1950s “space opera”, most of which are basically “sea stories” IN SPACE anyway.

        I suppose this is largely because I do have experience of actual work in remote locations, so I see a detailed background where most people just see a plot device, but to me the various parts of this story don’t mesh

        • shingworks

          Haha, yeah, I tend to make my stories wear several hats, with this one obviously being skewed towards the internals. I knew before I started that some people probably wouldn’t like the tonal shift that happened after the first chapter, but it was a deliberate choice. Either way, we’re only just approaching the visible 1/2 way point, and there’s a lot more story to go :]

          • Ben

            No, it’s not the story, it’s the story, with the characters, in the setting, combined. It would gel better in a more “retro” setting, because then the background scenario would allow more hand waving of the various problems.

            It’s the scenario where Mike is under some sort of medication, and various base personnel behave in ways which are highly unrealistic, in conjunction with the “used-future” settings which don’t ring true.

            If he were on a 1950s-future space outpost, or even a steampunk one, and just drank for his problems, or took soma, it would just glide by… But it’s too realistic to be this unrealistic, if you take my meaning?

          • shingworks

            Well, not sure if I agree 100%. You’re of course free to interpret things however you want given the amount of info you have from the story atm, and based on personal tastes… to clarify though, Mike is not acting the way he was when he was selected. He would not have been a candidate at all if that were the case. I think you are taking issue with the fact that someone who requires medication for a mental condition would be barred from this sort of work, based on your experiences irl working in remote and dangerous areas, but this particular story is operating under the premise [which I’ll be detailing more later] that it is not necessarily the case. Not discrediting your experiences in the field at all, but part of the focus of this comic is to look at a futuristic scenario where mental illness is not treated the way it is currently, and also look at the role/ extent of personal responsibility when it comes to health management.
            The only thing I’d argue is a really stupid decision was for Goto to let him leave the base with Bex at all, but on the other hand he was hiding the severity of his condition, and she is also bound by some privacy law that he already stated that he sued her over to maintain. And, the story needed them to go outside, haha.

          • StClair

            Another thing is, as some people noted in the comments on the previous strip, these people are not being vetted as tightly as in the present-day space program. There are a lot more seats to fill. (Right now, the total number of people off-planet at any given time? Six.)

  • One-year anniversary coming up already? Jesus, time flies.

    Also, Young Mike is remarkably unlikable.

    • StClair

      He works hard at being so.

      • Sheridan

        As someone who was a thoroughly unlikeable teenager himself, it’s hard work keeping everyone beyond arms reach.

  • Ash

    I’ve been on both sides of this conversation. What a wild ride this was for me to read. A+++

  • tiny potato

    Wow, this hits deep. Once you start pushing people away with your own insecurities it’s really hard to stop. It just makes you feel worse about yourself and more lonely and as soon as you get the chance to pour that all out on someone else you just can’t stop until you go too far. And it hurts.

    • Pixie

      Yessssssss! It’s hard not to hate yourself when you can push people into disliking you, and prove yourself right. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • JepMZ

    Ewww… His dialogue is super cringeworthy. Tho it does remind me about that really tragic suicide note that a guy published in the internet before he died. His parents were super religious. His first memories were being raped and being raped for a long time. He was a straight dude but wrote about how he has darkness in him and he fears being with anybody would infect them with his darkness. He seemed really incapable of getting into any relationships.

  • AudGirl

    Ugh, self hate. I feel you, Mike. I feel you. There is nothing worse than self hate and pushing away all your friends.

    • AudGirl

      Ok, there are worse things but it’s still such a lonely feeling that only makes the self hate worse.

  • tompis

    Oh, crap. I’ve been Toby for a friend, and I really feel for her… but it’s mostly heartbreaking because of Mike. This page hit hard, it was as if I could hear my friend saying the things Mike says, even though they never actually did.
    Great job.

  • JepMZ

    Ugh… I feel so much second hand embarrassment. >_<

    Mike would have been fine asking her out without saying all these unattractive things!!

    • JepMZ

      Oh dang, I forgot I read this already, oops. Haha

      The secondhand embarrassment is just that powerful :P

  • Steelbright

    Going to fall into the category of ‘people who empathize with Mike’ because…. being that deep in self-hatred, you hurt everybody else just by trying to express how much you hate yourself.

    God it’s so painful. But so real. Great writing.

  • Glew

    I wanted to say this 2 chapters ago, but… I really wanna hug the guy :’/

  • jessi

    poor Mike has no one ever told him how to behave around normies?

    looking at his behaviour is kinda weird bc on one hand it’s relatable but on the other hand I only know mentally ill people who repress their illness at all costs (which isn’t healthy btw) to avoid ostracization, myself including. mike seems to snap at people all the time and to be very open about his “craziness”, which is confusing. maybe there’s less stigma abt mental illness in mare internvm?

    • shingworks

      He is very much the sort of person who doesn’t talk about it… I don’t think he’s mentioned it at all so far tbh. If you reread this first few pages (including this one) it’s probably more obvious that he is keeping that info private. However he was (in Chapter 1) also off his meds. After that is just ??? haha, we’ll probably find out more info later.

  • SotiCoto

    He may be half right, half wrong in all the worst ways… but the last thing he needed to do was to voice all of that in so caustic a manner around one of the few persons who could tolerate his company. Is driving them away really in his best interests? Is it in anyone’s best interests?

    Or are we supposed to assume he doesn’t really get that yet?

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