The webcomic Goats started out being about two drinking buddies, Jon and Philip, and a few unlikely talking animals and (in retrospect, rather quickly) evolved or de-volved into a multi-dimensional sci-fi-fantasy epic about the rush to save the Multiverse from shutting down due to a Y2K+12 bug in the software running all of existence (which was what happened when you had ancient Mayans with their limited calendar programming the automation of the uber-system). It all screeched to a halt last month when the artist/creator Jon Rosenberg took a long look at his real life and realized that, even with the third in a series of beautifully realized books of his oddball epic nearing publication, he still needed to do something more and/or else to make a reasonable living as a webcomicker.

That was a true Call to Arms for his fan base, who provided massive quantities of words of support and early sales of the aforementioned third volume of Goats-toons (I among them) while he worked on a second, less story-arc dependent but semi-related comic to fill the immediate financial gap and the long-term creative gap when the story (but not his entire fictional multiverse) inevitably ends in December of 2012. That strip, “Scenes from a Multiverse”, officially starts any second now.

UPDATE: IT’S ON. IT IS SO ON.

But with the Goats Saga resuming in a couple weeks, let’s see where all the characters and storylines stand right now, shall we? (This WILL take a while)

First of all, if you have followed Goats at all, you know that God is dead, after turning Himself into a porkchop on a dare by Philip, who then ate Him, winning, by technicality, a bet with Jon over whether God really exists (well, he doesn’t anymore). Woody Allen, appointed Acting Editor in Chief of the Multiverse by God when He took an extended vacation (that ended with His being eaten; sacrilegious enough for you?), has been recently killed by One Death, CEO of Xibalba Computer Consulatants after finally agreeing to an extended warranty for their software, making a conventional fix for the Y2K+12 bug possible, but then admitting that he did not know where the laptop computer running the Multiverse program was (he had previously given it to a monkey named Gus to “put in a safe place”).

Jon, the namesake of creator Rosenbaum, whose first experience with the Multiverse turned him grey (not just his hair, his skin and everything went monochrome), had fallen into the involuntary employ of One Death after failing to read the fine print in a software contract. But he turned out to be the only employee who knew the location of his boss when he was stranded in another dimension and left him there while he took over management of the company. After failing to either save the Multiverse or hide in his office forever, he has allied himself with an Mayan programmer and a genius Calculus teacher known as The Math Fuhrer to search for a loophole in the End of the Universe, or better yet, someone else who has already found one (hmm, maybe these guys?).

Philip, Jon’s also-greyscale associate who was believed to be the Great Programmer foretold in the Great Farmer’s Almanac of the advanced farming dimension Topeka Prime, became disillusioned after realizing the simulated universes he was destroying in his system testing were as real as the one he was living in. He is currently ‘on the run’ with Steve and Gus, two of the Infinite Monkeys tasked with editing the ongoing activities in the Multiverse (specifically, they are in charge of Jon & Philip’s home dimension, known as “Manhattan 3”, which has slowed to a near-full-stop in their absence) and Farmella Cummington-Bloomers, a Farmer’s Daughter of Topeka Prime, who has “the knack” for interdimensional travel. At this point, they have acquired a powerful memebomb (in the obvious form of a LOLCAT) capable of general systemic disruption and an army of small green ‘doughboys’ delightfully edible for their friends but viciously lethal to their enemies. And I have no idea what they are going to do next.

One Death has just returned to his home dimension where he intends to give Jon a negative employee evaluation. Accompanying him in varying levels of personal volition are:

Diablo, the demonic chicken, who has been dismembered and reassembled multiple times in the history of the comic, and in spite of his past involvement with a guy whose namebadge either said Satan or Stan (his Satanic status is still uncertain, but he has appeared to be much more than just a Stan), his indentured servitude to One Death after losing a bet is Diablo’s first formal demonic alliance.

Oliver, the very artificially created son of Diablo, whose evil ambitions are as large as his baby chick body is small, therefore he had previously taken control of the body of a decapitated biker who, when alive, thought himself the son of Ricardo Montalban and called himself Khan. After Khan’s body took even more damage in a battle with Toothgnip (more on him later), Oliver has taken One Death up on an offer of genuinely bad-ass battle armor in exchange for his allegiance.

And Fineas, originally a cybernetic upgrade of the far less aggressive Fish (his full name), resolved his conflicts with his original host body by separating in a series of events that even I can’t explain. Fish, who had been accompanying Jon in recent months, has been allowed to return ‘home’ to Manhattan 3 after he resolved his issues with the Reese Witherspoon in his mind (and killed the Henry Kissinger and Ron Howard also in his mind) while Fineas sees One Death as the only being who can help him prevent the End of the Multiverse.

Meanwhile, Toothgnip, the original and only goat in the cast of Goats, and Bob, one of a formerly-wacky former-duo of aliens have both gone fully demonic (obvious from their bright red coloration and large, interestingly located horns), have recovered a box of Demon Fire matches from a discarded body part of Diablo and are working on repairing Neil’s battered flying saucer. And I have no clue what they are going to do next, but it can’t be good.

And Brock Stalkley, the rage-filled but wildly-creative talking broccoli, has blown himself and several other minor characters* up for the second time. Since the first time landed them in a Limbo/Purgatory/Lost-Sideways-World-like place called the Interstice Lounge, their next stop is, according to common belief, SuperHell.
*the other characters being Neil, Bob’s alien flying-saucer-mate, Bean, Farmella’s illegitimate father and Carl and Roger, former art students/biker associates of Khan/henchmen for Oliver.

So here we are, 30 months away from the Ultimate Blue Screen of Death, the Multiverse and Maybe Everything, and with every sign showing that the real-life Jon Rosenberg has emerged from his existential way-too-soon-for-a-mid-life crisis more centered, more focused and more batshit-insane than ever before, it’s going to be a wild ride.