Gutter Talk: Diving Back Into Octopus Pie

Six panels of vintage horror comics. The center says GUTTER TALK

Gutter Talk – art by Viv Le

I find myself vacillating wildly between feelings of agelessness and feelings of the impact from the years on my body and soul. When I was young, the future was limitless and untethered to certainty, danger and thrill walking hand in hand into oblivion. I lived and aged; I danced and sang and collapsed only to rinse and repeat for days at a time. The days of my youth — as I descend deeper into 40, I am allowed to count my twenties as youth — were spent pushing myself ever closer to the edge of a cliff that threatened to claim me for eternity while promising sheer exuberance in the time I spent lingering close to its edge.

It is in many ways a wonder to grow old, to watch lines form on our face as road maps that mark the ceaseless turns of the clock that led us here. The memories of my younger days are just that, marks in the past that are static frames in my mind, flashes of moments and people. The heat of bodies and the deafening sound of everything that once felt so real and prescient and necessary. As the memories of my youth make the transition from real and present to photos hanging in an endless hallway, so too does a lot of what was once formative culture for me when I needed it most.

On Wednesday November 23, sometime late in the evening when insomnia sent repeated impulses to my brain to stay awake for just a moment longer, I was caught in my past while idly scrolling on an increasingly tumultuous Twitter timeline. Meredith Gran had published a new story of Octopus Pie.

Octopus Pie is a webcomic that focused on the lives of 20-somethings in Brooklyn in the height of the indie sleaze era. Eve Ning and her roommate Hanna are the focal point of the stories told throughout the years of the comic’s run, tales told of frustrating post-college jobs in a grocery store run by an angry yet tender madman, dating a drug dealer, and the one guy who sleeps on your couch after a party that everyone claims as their own yet no one knows where he came from.

I loved Octopus Pie when it first ran, a recommendation from Hark! A Vagrant writer Kate Beaton that became a vital part of my life. I watched Hanna and Eve grow as I grew, challenging the way they saw the world and the way they lived in it. I felt the sting a lot of readers felt when Hanna’s relationship with Marek fell apart and understood all at once that just because something appears cute and fun, it still can have a very real red flag disguising itself as a different color.

I wasn’t a 20-something woman living in Brooklyn; I was a 20-something person living in the Yukon who longed to be a 20-something woman in Brooklyn fucking around and finding out. But I knew how it felt to have a throng of friends who were active participants in a party that felt endless, a good time that felt both indestructible and precious.

As a lifelong superhero comics reader, it opened my eye to the comic book as an important medium of storytelling. How vibrant and real a world could be where no one has to have a special power to drive the story or create tension. Just real people with flaws I could feel in my own skin doing what they could to muddle together something of substance.

I watched Marigold grow from a woman with unfortunate dreadlocks, to a woman who craved the taste of danger inherent, to dating Eve’s ex Will, the drug dealer, to becoming career focused and driven and newly distant from friends who once felt so closely knit they may as well have shared bones. I remember the feeling in my heart when she very casually began a relationship with Jane, a picture of the idealized manic pixie barista from an era when American Apparel was king.

This was one of the first comics I read when a character, Eve’s old co-worker who was very much the model of 2000s dirtbag fuckboys, very casually disappeared from the pages and was reintroduced as a woman named Jackie in the finale. The finale, when Eve is confident in her new role as an Adult Woman, when really she is just 30 and entering a new and untold era of youth that feels very old and adult until you’re through it and wistful for how young you still were.

So delighted I was to read Octopus Pie again, lying in bed on my phone next to my partner, who was very asleep, and our cat, who had very expensive surgery sleeping so soundly (and also high on painkillers) that I had to check her stomach to make sure it was moving with the rhythms of her breath. A former dirtbag fuckboy now just a tired but insomniac 40-year-old woman with very different concerns than the ones that befell me when I read OP for the first time.

What delights me, and hits square in the heart, is how well Meredith Gran tells stories with characters who are built on flawed foundations and make the best of the rocky feet beneath them. No one is lawfully good or pure of heart; they are just trying to do what feels best in the moment. Sometimes that good is an explosion of furious sorrow or tearful regret. But it feels real and lived in. Her characters resonate because it feels as if in the time we haven’t seen them they have aged all the same. Eve and Will with their baby and their tender and exhausted love. Hanna making the best of a messy relationship. Mar and Jane trying to figure it out when they’re getting older and having to make adult decisions about relationships if they’re going to continue moving forward with the passing of time.

I read the new OP story, that you can read starting HERE and which I will not say anything more about aside from the allusions I made above, and felt content in the aging of my own body. I like being older, and I like thinking back to when everything was a little more reckless and fraught and dangerous. Most of the friends I felt knit so tight to I see on occasion or make conversation with when we can, but our lives are no longer woven together how they once were. And that’s okay; we’ve all got our own shit going on. We can grow older and more tired and hold the desire for a night out on occasion with the awareness of time telling us our internal bedtime has shifted radically from when we once swung for the fences in our youth.

The world of Octopus Pie has been a source of great comfort, and when I needed comfort again I was wholly surprised and thrilled to find a new story in its world. I hope we continue to get new surprises from old friends like this — if not regular check ins, then random updates and peeks into the how and why of their world.

Every week, I’m going to end with a little wrap-up of comics and comic-related bric-a-brac that I’ve been digging lately. There’s no homework or anything here, just some stuff I’ve been digging that you might too.

Niko’s Pull List

In a previous Gutter Talk, I asked people for their recommendations! Thank you everyone who sent me a recommendation, I’m going to go over them in brief here:

Giant Days

KatieRainyDay mentioned Giant Days, a book I read forever ago, when I first transitioned, and had totally forgotten about! I went back to my Comixology app and realized I had 6 volumes to re-read. It’s about three women: Esther, Daisy and Susan, who attend the University of Sheffield. They are of three lovable archetypes — goth, secretly gay, and very messy/maybe gay? I never figured the last one out. It’s cute and fun and very slice-of-life. It’s a fun little book to escape back into, which is exactly what I did for a night when I could not sleep.

Moon Knight

Caitlin recommended Moon Knight, a book I have been reading for a while now and love very much. Maybe you watched the Disney+ series starring Oscar Isaac and wanted more? If yes, I very much recommend giving it a read. The current run, written by Jed Mackay with incredible art by Alessandro Cappuccio, is familiar enough if you’ve just come off the show but deep and interesting and much more supernatural-y to give you a feeling for Moon Knight’s whole vibe as it exists in the world of Marvel Comics proper.

Gideon Falls

The one recommendation I hadn’t read yet was Gideon Falls, sent by Cassie, which I looooooooved the first volume of. I am constantly making notes to myself that read “find time to read more Gideon Falls.” I don’t want to give too much away; it is dark and grim and sad and laden with conspiracies and a weird building (LOVE a weird building. The video game Control was set in a weird building, and I could fucking live there forever if I could). Gideon Falls is created by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, and if you read comics on Comixology, which yes is bad but sometimes it’s all we got, the first volume is free. Read it. Do it.

If you ever have new recommendations for me, PLEASE let me know. I will tell you all that the last comic I read, which I will write about for the next volume of this, was Mike Mignola’s Koschei The Deathless which is set in the Hellboy universe, and it was exactly my shit. More on that in two weeks my loves.

Gutter Talk is a biweekly series by Niko Stratis that looks at comic books from a queer and trans perspective.

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Niko Stratis

Niko Stratis is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in outlets like SPIN, Bitch, Xtra, Catapult and more. Her work primarily focuses on culture, the 1990s, queer/trans topics and as often as possible where all those ideas intersect. 

She wrote that piece about Jackass that you liked and also the Gin Blossoms one. 

She is also the creator and host of V/A Club, a podcast about movie soundtracks.

Niko lives in downtown Toronto with her fiancé and their dog and 2 cats. She is a cancer.

Niko has written 41 articles for us.


  1. The like two OP epilogue stories have both been really great, in different ways. I thought the setting for this one was absolutely perfect. The interpersonal dynamics are all excellently done.

    Girls With Slingshots introduced me to the slice-of-life comic genre and I really it and OP were really formative to my early-twenties. It also introduced me to idea of romantic asexuality which literally changed my life.

    I still havent finished Giant Days, but I love love love Bad Machinery. It’s the same author and sprung from the same previous series as Giant Days, Scary Go Round. It has a much more childlike feel (because it is about children), but I’ve greatly enjoyed reading it as an adult. I also believe that the main character is ace, but I’m extremely biased.

    • oh I don’t know Girls With Slingshots! I’ll have to take a look. I love this kind of storytelling, it’s really informing a lot of what I would like to do myself at some point in the future, so if you have more recommendations along this line I would love to hear them!

      And I agree, I’m glad we got to come back but the characters have grown and changed and I thought the backdrop of a wedding is perfect for people in this place in their lives.

  2. the Massive-verse radiant black (and its spinoff miniseries radiant red and radiant pink) stories are delightful- a power rangers type story with alien armor suits that give some randos powers which, of course, they use and attract the attention of some bad guys with powers

    the jessica jones miniseries the variants, which just wrapped this month, was an excellent little multiverse story.

  3. So, I read the first paragraph, then had to run over and read the new story. And now I’ll have to reread the entire series over again so I can remember better all of the relationships and callbacks so I can reread the new story again.

    Octopus Pie was always my favorite comic. I used to anticipate new pages getting published. I got the physical book and got Meredith Gran to sign it at a book signing, and she drew me a little Eve in the front cover!

    Makes me want to check out her video game.

    Anyway, thank you Niko for letting me know this exists :)

  4. Ah! I’m so glad you like Gideon Falls! It gets so weird in the best way!

    I’ve started reading Octopus Pie after this article, and like all your recommendations it doesn’t disappoint. I’m nowhere near finished reading, but it already feels like something I’ve always had in my life.

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