Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Achewood is an online comic strip created by Chris Onstad. It portrays the lives of a collection of toys and pets. Many of the characters live together in the apartment of their owner, Chris, at 62 Achewood Court. The events of the strip take place in, around and sometimes very far from this apartment—as far away as the moon, heaven, and hell.
History and overview
The first Achewood strip was released on October 1, 2001, entitled "Philippe is standing on it". In this strip, Mr. Bear and Téodor are discussing the failure on the part of Téodor of using a drum machine. Mr. Bear informs Téodor that there is an instruction manual. However, Philippe is standing on it.
This bizarre humor is typical of many Achewood strips, especially the use of a surprising visual punchline. However, there are also many developed storylines and a wealth of (hilarious) dialogue. As the humor very often depends on an in-depth knowledge of the characters and their interactions, new readers may want to check out the strips from the beginning of the series ("Philippe is standing on it") and progress from there.
Chris Onstad has self-published five books, four collections of Achewood comics and an Achewood cookbook with recipes from several of the main characters.
In the fall of 2002 Achewood's "Sunday Edition" became part of the online alternative comics anthology Serializer. In their review of serializer.net, The Comics Journal wrote: "It's a pleasure to see strips like Achewood's "Sunday" strip ... use the newspaper format for far more daring, entertainingly perverse work ... would be perfectly at home at a good alternative weekly or a great college paper."
On April 30, 2003, Onstad introduced a new feature to the Achewood universe—an advice column written by the character Ray called Ray's Place. This column has served to further develop the Achewood canon by allowing prose related to the characters to be written. The column has developed characters, mainly as perceived by Ray. It also allows for an interaction between reader and character, a novelty in comic art.
July, 2004 saw the introduction of several in-character blogs. The main characters all began writing on blogger to speak to their audience. This unique perspective further advances character development allowing the daily, often mundane, events of the character to find their way to the audience. Onstad stated in an interview that he found the blogs easier to maintain than the strip, as they do not require as much refining.
In late 2004, it was announced that Checker Book Publishing Group had signed Chris Onstad to a three-book deal that was to begin in November, 2004. However, the deal was canceled soon after due to creative differences.
According to the official website, "Achewood" was used by slaves during the United States of America antebellum in the production of "achewater", a now outlawed Southern drink with psychedelic properties. This explanation of the etymology of "achewater" is pure fabrication by Onstad.
The Achewood Underground is basically an underground version of the human city inhabited and run by stuffed and real animals. The undergrounds have their own businesses and establishments that parallel those above ground, often stealing or borrowing things from their human run counterparts. Aside from Achewood, it is assumed that most cities around the world have their own undergrounds as well. 
Philippe is a naïve young otter who resides in the apartment with Cornelius Bear, Lyle, and Téodor. He is separated from his mother, who lives elsewhere in an undisclosed location, but they talk on the phone frequently and have a close relationship. From time to time Philippe's mother sends him unusual presents.
Though he is only five years old, Philippe has had an exciting life. He has made friends with a french fry, been married to a flower, had a frightening encounter with a murderer (Nice Pete), been possessed by the soul of Billy Idol, run for president, and accidentally killed a robot.
Phillipe enjoys hugs and is very gullible.
More often referred to as Mr. Bear, he is a scholarly bear and fatherly figure to much of the cast. He is not afraid to enjoy a good drink, and is a bit more on the romantic side of things than most. Mr. Bear is also the author of several children's books including "So Many Whales", "The Mayor of Banana Town," and - somewhat later - "Janet: The Girlfriend Who Could Only Ever Complain." He lives at 62 Achewater Ct. Recently, he was shot at by Pat, but survived. During his recovery, he spent his time writing eloquent closed captions for The Spice Channel .
A belligerent stuffed tiger who enjoys playing pranks on his friends and takes his alcohol early and often. He is reticently skilled in the art of calligraphy, apparently knows something about cars, and has a mysterious, possibly criminal past. He has also become involved in pornography. He recently returned from Scotland where he meant to learn how to make scotch, but instead became trapped at a finishing school. He lives at 62 Achewater Court, along with Philippe, Téodor, Lyle, Mr. Bear, and Chris.
Téodor is a teddy bear, as evidenced by his portrait. He is a skilled cook, musician and graphic designer, and is also an all around friendly guy. Was originally quite crazy and uninhibited, exhibiting nudist tendencies in early Achewood strips, though he seems to have calmed down a bit over the years. These days he's probably the most "normal" out of the entire Achewood cast, though he is definitely not without quirks of his own (such as his passion for risotto). He had an online relationship with a girl named Penny, but we never really see where that ended up. He is close friends with Philippe and is usually in charge of keeping him out of trouble. Seems to be a recreational pot user .
Ray is a cat (more specifically, an American Curl) with expertise in such fields as cookery, alcohol and women. His best friend is Roast Beef, and many strips have concentrated on their relationship. He tends to be lucky, acquiring money in a variety of ways, including a record contract with Sony (after selling his soul to the devil for piano skills), an auspicious eBay purchase of vintage erotica valued at 600 million dollars, and various business ventures. Ray has a penchant for prank calls, whether outgoing (Marmaduke, Cathy) or incoming (telemarketers) He wears designer glasses, a thong, and occasionally a cape.
Ray also writes the advice column "Ray's Place" on the Achewood site, though there is a disclaimer at the bottom warning that the advice is in fact from a cartoon cat.
Roast Beef Kazenzakis
Roast Beef, (real name, Cassandra - Roast Beef was born intersexed), a cat, is interested in computer programming and has a girlfriend Molly formerly in heaven, where he visited her twice, each time after being shot by his friends. Molly now lives on Earth, and has now reached an on-again, off-again relationship with Beef (as those who know him call him). One shooting lodged a bullet in his spine, which grants him permanent wireless Internet access, the other resulted in his cardio-pulmonary system being replaced by that of an Aibo. He has seemingly incurable depression, and considers suicide often, though no one seems to care. Some of his accomplishments include a program that determines how many eggs and milk you need to buy in a given week, and another that determines the amount of loose change lying around your house and makes a reservation at a restaurant accordingly.
Roast Beef was childhood friends with Ray, and they remain best friends today, despite having very different lifestyles and attitudes towards life. Roast Beef has also gone to the moon, by stealing Pat's home-made rocket, and hell, via various methods including vomiting into an electrical outlet.
For a long time Roast Beef lived in a trailer with his abusive grandmother, Gramma K. Recently, he has moved out of the trailer and into Ray's pool shed.
Pat is a cat, and was introduced at the same time as Roast Beef and Ray. Originally a more prominent character than Roast Beef, he has now taken a background role. His role tends to be the antagonist, and he is one of the shooters of his friend Roast Beef. He seems to have some anger management problems, judging from his impending lawsuits against anyone whom he deems has slighted him. His interest in Veganism, Zen Buddhism and various social issues seem less a genuine feeling for the causes and more a way to feel superior to his friends. He constructed the rocket which took Roast Beef to the Moon. He is on the run after escaping from jail (he was convicted for shooting Roast Beef, and later shot Mr Bear too, if by accident), but it doesn't seem to have affected his lifestyle.
A cat, and Roast Beef's on-and-off girlfriend. Roast Beef first met her in Heaven after being shot by Pat. Molly now resides on Earth, sharing an apartment with Tina. Roast Beef's lack of social skills often means their relationship is strained, but Molly's extraordinary patience and tolerance (and Beef's willingness to go along with her sexual adventurousness) often win out. Molly may have been a programmer in a previous life but currently works in the restaurant and bar industry. She has held jobs at various fast food establishments including Applebee's and, more recently, Taco Bell (which she was fired from). Molly currently works at a bar in the local underground, The Smoke.
- Dr. Andretti
- A cat(?) and one of the Achewood underground's foremost physicians. He was responsible for bringing Roast Beef back from the dead on more than one occasion.
- Another robot, basically just a box with legs. Apparently he doesn't like to hang out at Vlad's place too often and owns a red Fender Stratocaster which Vlad finds corny.
- A cat who is part of Pat's anger management class, wears star-shaped glasses. Seems overly enthusiastic about most things and is most likely gay. Best known for "smoking Mr. Gary's Pole."
- Chris Onstad (Blog)
- Creator of the Achewood strips. Though not a comic strip character in the strictest sense, he has appeared in at least three comic strips (from the neck down) and, according to his (the character's) blog, seems to be able to communicate with the stuffed animals and cats that make up the Achewood cast.
- A robot who specializes in making people chuckle. He is gay and he has known this since he was 12. He is always happy and thinks Billy Idol is "such a dish."
- Emeril and Spongebath
- Two cats that Ray and Beef seem to be familiar with. Emeril is basically a cat that looks like Emeril Lagasse, and Spongebath is a rather large cat that doesn't seem to do or say much and gets around by means of what appears to be a scooter. They are fans of The Tenmen, a musical group made up of cats with Rickenbacker musical equipment (even the drum).
- Lie Bot
- A robot that tells lies much of the time. He intersperses snippets of truth as well, so it can be hard to tell when he is actually lying. Was last seen impersonating Ray's uncle Marlon Culpepper.
- Little Nephew (Blog)
- Ray's nephew, often at odds with Ray. At one time a hip hop musician, and then a goth. It is assumed that he is no longer part of the goth clique as his recent blog entries are quite rude and crass and do not exhibit any gothic qualities.
- Nice Pete (Blog)
- A cat, Nice Pete is a convicted felon, and a serial murderer. He was once cellmates with Pat. In person he tends to be quite pleasant. He is currently working on a novel consisting of several short chapters which can be read in his blog. Apparently lives with Pat.
- A girl(?) with whom Téodor had an online relationship. The two have never actually met, though Penny did give Téodor what appears to be a sweater with the letter 'T' on it. He wears the sweater in almost every strip he appears in.
- Philippe's Mother
- A river otter, probably stuffed, who is Philippe's mother. She has a habit of sending Philippe various things mostly having to do with how Philippe is a "Special Boy." Is a widow and seeing someone new, much to Philippe's dismay, and was also hit on by Vlad at one point. A guest strip by Drew Weing revealed her to be an abusive "Mommy Dearest" type stage mother; it was given high praise by Onstad but was never firmly established to be canon.
- Roast Beef's deadbeat brother, he looks much like Roast Beef but with hair pulled back into a ponytail. He and Ray seem to have also been friends during childhood, spending much of their time making up cocktails. Apparently owes money to the Rockford Fosgate Company.
- A cat with whom Ray has an on-again, off-again relationship. Currently lives with Molly who considers her to be the very definition of "lowest common denominator."
- Trouble Man and No-No
- Two ghastly characters who are the last ones left in Heaven when Roast Beef arrives, everyone else being consumed by an apartment fire and sent back to earth. They are commissioned by Roast Beef to perform the "murder act" on him in order to return to Earth.
- Todd is an illiterate, drug-dealing squirrel. He drives a miniature squirrel-sized van, and is friends with Philippe. Has recently put on some weight during a stint in prison.
- Ultra Peanut
- A young female river otter who comes from China. Her English is improving. She is friends with Philippe and has a small digital pet called Click Robot that dies if it goes to the bathroom too much.
- A womanizing robot. He has a strong, ambiguously Eastern European accent. Though his current occupation is unknown, he was once proprietor of one of at least three Subway sandwich shops in the Achewood underground. He once made a pass at Phillipe's mother over the phone.
- Volume I - A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave
- Volume II - Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar
- Volume III - The Devil's Dictionary
- Volume IV - Ten a.m. and Drunk as a Lord
- The Achewood Cookbook
Chris Onstad participated in Song Fight! by creating cover art and title for "What We Need More of is Science" and "Red Skates." The first title originated as a Roast Beef expression.
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