By Masha Zhdanova
Meredith Gran did it again! A year and a half after uploading The Other Side, Gran posted a new, 57-page short story about the Octopus Pie gang reaching their thirties, getting married, having children, and burying old hatchets with the memories of their youth. “I’ve been wondering if I should draw more Octopus Pie as the characters age,” Gran mused on Twitter as she posted the new story. “I guess this is a typical dilemma for an artist: find a new conduit for exploring life as you live it, or risk turning the old one into a whole different thing.”
Gran’s approach of ending the ongoing serialized Octopus Pie comic and bringing the gang back together for self-contained short stories every so often is an effective way to go about it, because it leaves “the old one” as it is, still on the Octopus Pie website, instead of retroactively rewriting what is already out there. Serialized, long-running webcomics usually have to change slowly, especially if they’re being updated every day, or several times a week. Creators have to spend most of their time actually drawing the pages instead of thinking about changing story direction, especially with slice-of-life comics that are lighter on plot and heavier on ‘mundane’ character interactions.
The months in-between Octopus Pie ending in 2017; the Octopus Pie reruns starting; the reruns ending in October 2020; and The Other Side and Octopus Pie Eternal allow both the readers and the creator to have breathing room, and for the creator to consciously think about what they want the comic to look like next, if anything. It’s hard to have a time skip feel significant when you’re posting pages on a regular, set schedule – but much easier when the time skip is posted a year and a half after the last page.
In Octopus Pie Eternal, Gran plays with time and how it’s perceived. Larry and Hanna, who got together at the end of The Other Side, have a massive argument that ends with them each declaring they never want to see each other again. That happens by page 9, and the clouds of exhaust from Larry’s van in the woods transitions into the clouds over their New York City wedding… as a priest pronounces them husband and wife.
It’s unclear how much time passed in-between those two panels, or when exactly the opening scene takes place. What we do know is that Eve and Will have a baby now, and the Other Side took place while Eve was 19 weeks pregnant, so presumably the timeline is still anchored to real-life linear progression of time. It seems that Larry and Hanna had a whirlwind courtship, an interpretation supported by Eve commenting that they might get divorced within the month.
Besides Larry and Hanna’s “little formality”, as Hanna put it, the events of Octopus Pie Eternal revolve around permanent side character Sean’s wedding to Meg. Sean’s side character status is highlighted and commented on in the story, played for laughs throughout as current relationships are tested and past relationships rear their ugly heads. At the wedding, Meg’s friend from school gives a speech reminiscing about their youth together and calls for one of Sean’s friends to do the same for him, to be met with startled silence from our protagonists’ side of the room.
While another cartoonist might have punctuated Hanna’s follow-up speech with flashbacks to the moments of their shared past she references, Gran focuses on the present, panning the camera around the room at the reception to capture Hanna’s friends smiling and other wedding guests drinking and quietly listening, creating the atmosphere of a full wedding reception without drawing every table or every person present. The closer angles create a sense of intimacy, and as Hanna finishes her speech the backgrounds are filled with black to narrow her world down to her and Larry for a moment before pulling back out for the finishing applause.
Marigold and Hanna finally reconcile – or at least, have a civil conversation – after another convergence of past and present where Marigold sees a girl climb on a table and is, for a panel, reminded of Hanna from their twenties. She exhales in relief when a second glance tells her the girl is a stranger, before being startled by the real Hanna suddenly coming up to her. They admit, with embarrassed blush marks on their faces, that they think about each other sometimes, even though their friendship had ended so many years before. While The Other Side gave Hanna and Larry some closure in their romantic lives, Octopus Pie Eternal pulls on the lingering threads of Hanna’s past friendships and relationships. While Hanna gets Marigold’s attention and starts the conversation with her, she avoids her ex Marek, relying on Eve and Will to update her on his life even though she definitely doesn’t care at all.
The scenes between Larry and Hanna, Sean and Meg, Will and Eve, and everyone else in the Octopus Pie world are short and sweet, but reflect the effect time has had on them all. When we first met Eve and Hanna more than fifteen years ago now, they were recent college grads, early twenty-somethings still trying to figure out how to live in the world. The way they all carry themselves and interact with each other now shows just how much the characters have changed over the years.
The scattered interactions between the characters we’ve all known and loved for years, circling around the wedding but rarely focusing on it, make the chaos of the wedding feel real, and the characters feel like real people with real relationships that slowly evolved over time. Relationships that keep evolving even when there aren’t comics being made about them, and the cameras are off. Gran uses both the real-life passage of time and the depiction of time in her comics to create a thoughtful story that remembers its past without lingering too much on it and pulls its characters through the present, leaving room for possible expansion in the future.
Weddings are a time for reminiscence, for remembering what brought the happy couple together and their friends to celebrate with them. The wedding at the heart of Octopus Pie Eternal serves this purpose for the readers, celebrating the cast’s development.
Octopus Pie Eternal
by Meredith Gran
Masha Zhdanova is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer whose work has been featured for sites including WomenWriteAboutComics. To find more of her work, you can find her website here – or follow her on Twitter here!
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