Giraffes, rabbits, and dipshits. The beloved internet photo-comic Leisuretown is back -- in a big way!
The main page has been covered with a crazy quilt of new features -- like, 11 different
storylines to click on -- and a few even have fake comments from readers. ("Maybe if you
pulled your head out of your ass just one inch, it would help you identify the crucial
components of life and allow for some follow-through with the appropriate action!") And
even though all these comics just went up last week, this week brought still more
new content. Today's feature, "Rhapsody in
Yellow," was sort of like "The Red Balloon," except with traffic accidents -- and
there's also "The Big Book of Jokes", a new experimental format where each picture in the
cartoon materializes over the previous one!
But it's not just that there's more comics on the site. The re-design even included some
new technical features. "There may be times when displaying these articles in your
environment might be considered inappropriate, inconvenient, or embarrassing," a manual
explains. Clicking the "W" in town
pulls up a white-out window, and the "O" pulls up a fake "debugger" page of computer
jibberish. Just like an old-school computer game! This is a major overhaul, and there's
hints about a new-content-every-week schedule. (A piece called "A Winter Solstice Party"
is still planned for later in the week.) Yay!!! No more waiting a year for the next
In fact, it's a little disorienting to have so much new Leisuretown to wallow in after
four years of intermittent publishing. Let me see if I can explain this. I once found an
interview with Tristan A. Farnon, the one-man geekmeister behind the site -- and it
freaked me out. Not because he said anything particularly unsettling, but just the
opposite. Because the stories on Leisuretown can be so disturbing already that they
almost seemed more appropriate coming from the dark unknown beyond the other side of the
web browser. The plastic bendable animals were trapped in dark stories, traipsing
recklessly across social boundaries, mocking dipshit obedience and voicing cutting-edge
dispair. And we loved them for it. Some of the stories -- like "Winter Pageant" and "Q.A. Confidential" -- sprawled
close to 100 pages each. But whatever was wrong with them just enhanced their angsty
catharsis. Reading it was like a ritual, like the toy animals were totems channelling an
Now, even with a new personal statement on the site written by the webmaster himself,
there's still uneasy dark hints and ambiguity about what's happening on the other side.
Every page now features two sentences leading to the author's statement (which solicits
Paypal donations.) But the two sentences are always different, usually a non-sequitor,
drawn from an apparently inexhaustible database of come-ons, most written in capital
letters. ("MY WEB-BASED SOAP OPERA WAS A WEB-BASED DISASTER." "IS THIS AD ENOUGH OF AN
IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE FOR YOU DUMBSHITS?") At least half of them are blatantly misleading.
("ONLY NICE, CUTE GIRLS UNDER 21 SHOULD CLICK HERE." "Click here for your free Pepsi One
Infotainment calendar! *BLAM* dead forever.") But while every link is its own slice of
Leisuretown random, the pitch itself is a
work of inscrutable art. Maybe
Farnon felt it would have been too self-serving to say "This site was nominated for a
Webby in the year 2000" or pointing out that it made the personal Top Ten list of Scott
McCloud, the author of the Understanding Comics. Instead, Farnon couched his plea
in words that are just as dark as the rest of the comic strip. "The characters in Leisure
Town have nowhere to go. They’ll never be immortalized in print or make that leap to the
silver screen.... They lie awake each night staring at the ceiling, afraid of their
dwindling bank accounts and afraid of tomorrow."
"They hate themselves. They consider suicide at least once or twice a day. At no point do
they ever stop wondering if there might be a kind, conscious force at work somewhere at
the universe, a god or a goddess like yourself willing to bear witness to their lives."
Er, is this a web page or a cry for an intervention? Readers may have already asked
themselves that question after following some of the comics' homicidal, suicidal, and
sexually frustrated misanthropes. Sometimes you have to wonder if the characters are
acting out personal demons that the cartoonist is fighting. "I could pull my pants down
right now and my entire career as an independent content provider would be over," one
But that kind of blunt shock is a good thing in ways that aren't easy to articulate. Deep
on the site I found another interview with Tristan A.
Farnan, this one by the Comics Journal. But I'm afraid to read this one.
Maybe this is the highest compliment I can pay Leisuretown. I've decided that for me
what's special about the site is probably best left in its own crazy world of
irreplaceable anti-social animals, ignoring orange traffic cones and always crossing the
street against the lights.