On November 13th, 2014, Allie Brosh, creator of internet comic sensation Hyperbole and a Half, tweeted, “The great social media paradox: share, and expose myself as the sort of egotistical maniac who’d do that, or languish in No-Attention Land?”
Apparently having made up her mind, this was the last day she tweeted to her fans. For people who have followed her since the beginning, her reclusive tendencies are not surprising.
She once went radio silent for over a year immediately after posting a now beloved strip exposing her struggle with depression, causing fans to speculate on her mental health and even start to worry if something had happened to her. She was fine, as she proved when she finally reappeared with a Part Two to her depression comic, and she still is. But this is her longest internet disappearance to date.
So, where is Allie Brosh this time? Will she ever come back?
If you’ve never read Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, a comic strip that started as a blog and ended with a book deal, you’ve probably at least heard her strip quoted.
“All the things” – as in, “I’m going to eat all the things,” or “I want to do all the things,” or “Give me all the things” was a viral phrase that originated with Hyperbole and a Half, for example.
Her comics are not known for artistic achievement, from a technical perspective. Pulling character inspiration from the internet meme “rage comics,” Brosh draws strange looking stick figures in a paint application with triangles for hair, blobs for bodies, and dots for eyes.
However, she spends hours perfecting her rudimentary characters, adjusting the position of their stick arms and one-dimensional faces, and it works. There’s something hilariously expressive about those dumb looking stick figures.
Her writing is just as clever.
Linguistically, she draws from the language of internet memes and culture to develop quirky phrases that are distinctly her own but also highly quotable. Thematically, she taps into experiences from her childhood, (like forcing herself to continue eating the hot sauce that was burning sores into her mouth just to impress her father’s friends), that are at once endearingly idiosyncratic and hilariously bizarre but yet somehow still very relatable.
This balance between the peculiar and the relatable, with a good helping of laughter thrown in, is exactly what caused her fandom to explode when she published her two-part series on depression.
The strip, “Adventures in Depression”, is a personal account of her own struggle with the disease. Allie manages to portray mental illness in a way that is remarkably keen, tapping into behaviors and thoughts many of us have experienced but yet feel like we’re the only ones.
Her comic shows fans they aren’t alone, but fans have shown her the same. Even Brosh herself states, “Depression is such an isolating experience. There’s a tendency to feel like you’re the only one experiencing that depth or that exact brand of misery. And so it was surprising to hear how much it resonated with people.”
The humor she finds in such a solemn topic serves to make it less, well, depressing, without belittling the seriousness of the illness.
In fact, the strip has been lauded by professional psychologists as one of the most insightful depictions of depression they’ve seen. As Jonathan Rottenberg, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida, writes in Psychology Today, “I know of no better depiction of the guts of what it’s like to be severely depressed.”
It’s no surprise, then, that her fan base has an emotional connection to Brosh that supersedes your typical teeny bopper groupie. Any look at the comments section of relevant articles or forums will find hordes of fans asking if anyone has seen or heard from her and whether or not she’s okay as if they’re her closest friends.
They got an answer when Brosh announced, in August 2015, that she was working on a new book. People immediately started purchasing pre-orders.
“Solutions and Other Problems”, a sequel to Hyperbole and a Half, has already accumulated 229 ratings and 30 reviews on Goodreads, all positive, and was named a number 1 new release in the comic strips section of Amazon. The book hasn’t even been published yet.
But the excitement for Brosh’s return was short-lived, with continual delays in publication causing fans to wonder if they’ll even get to crack the spine of her new book. Answers are not forthcoming from her or her publisher, Simon and Schuster, who have offered no comment or explanation.
She has made a couple public appearances in the past couple years, appearing on an episode of YouTube series Tabletop in July 2015. In early 2016, she gave a talk at JoCo Cruise 2016, an annual gathering of creative and techies.
In July 2016, the release date on Amazon changed once again, from October 25, 2016 to December 2030.
Allie manages to portray mental illness in a way that is remarkably keen, tapping into behaviors and thoughts many of us have experienced but yet feel like we’re the only ones.
Fans in the comment section of the book’s landing page speculate on the delays, pointing out the death of her younger sister as a potential cause, (but this occurred well before Brosh announced the book’s publication), as well as a possible split between her and her husband Duncan, given that his Twitter account says he’s living in Seattle, and she is rumored to have moved to Colorado.
But isn’t there something a little uncomfortable about tracking her personal life and whereabouts so obsessively? Being checked up on constantly by a loved one can be overwhelming. Being checked up on constantly by your 400,000 Facebook fans? It’d be enough to make the less limelight-thirsty go into hiding forever, no matter how well-intentioned her fans.
I don’t know why her book keeps being delayed, when it will come out, or what Brosh is or has been up to. And that’s okay.
As she tells us in Hyperbole and a Half, “I’d love to hang out, but I have to go sit in my house by myself…”
She’ll come out when she’s ready.