About

Westward is a science fiction comic strip produced by Elliot Toman. Drawing inspiration from classic sci-fi like Star Trek and Forbidden Planet, it tells the story of mankind’s first journey into interstellar space using technology far beyond their comprehension, and of the strange and often disastrous consequences of opening a cosmic can of worms with each fearful choice.

First published beginning in January of 2010, Westward now consists of over 1,000 strips. The story is serial in nature, following a group of characters forward and back in time as they grapple with cosmic dangers and with their own personal demons. Though it has its fair share of adventure, romance and even a little comedy, Westward is complex and often challenging. The best way to read it is definitely to take the time to start from the beginning. You can read the story in big episodic chunks using the archive.

If anything leaves you scratching your head along the way, don’t worry! Just leave a comment on the strip or right here on this page, and Elliot will fill you in with backstory, biographies and maybe even an occasional spoiler.

Characters:

Anka

Anka

A citizen of the Scientific Society and close assistant to Deimos, the First Scientist. Anka plays a central role in Lamont’s life; she was his close childhood friend in the Society, and she was responsible for overseeing his torture and brainwashing when he wished to leave it. Most recently, she has tried to help him bring his estranged family back together.

Carter, Francis

Carter, Francis

Legendary pioneer of space travel and captain of Westward. Carter returned from Mars in 1985 with a real-live Martian, Phobos, who ushered in the present era of interstellar travel. Plagued by self-doubt, Carter is deeply torn between his heroic reputation and the mistakes he’s made as captain of Westward.

Carter, Rosemary

Carter, Rosemary

A self-professed Nazi spy, Carter is Westward’s chief physician. As the genetically engineered creation of a mad scientist, she has a long history that she is actively trying to put behind her by adopting a new life as Captain Carter’s wife. Rosemary comes across as manipulative and willfully impulsive.

Deimos

Deimos

Known as the First Scientist, Deimos is the Martian founder of the Scientific Society. He is older than Phobos, but his exact origins appear known only to himself. Like Phobos, he sees himself as a preserver of the human species, but has pursued it by a very different method.

Faust, Milo

Faust, Milo

Westward’s original chief physician, Milo was an associate of Viktor Grafeneck who dedicated his life to learning what had become of the mad scientist and his work. His latest effort in this quest was to subject himself to madness. Milo is quarantined aboard Westward because his brain is the key to knowing where the monstrous descendants of Grafeneck’s super race can be found–and how they can be avoided.

Grafeneck, Viktor

Grafeneck, Viktor

A brilliant scientist and archeologist, Grafeneck became a Nazi during the second world war when he discovered that human history had been profoundly shaped by Martian intervention. In 1949, he used ancient Martian technology to fling a genetically perfected race of humans deep into space and time, which in turn caused the apocalyptic event known as Epiphany.

Lazarus

Lazarus

The youngest of Westward’s crew of space cadets, Lazarus is ten years old but tall and lanky enough to pass for a young teen. He is highly sensitive and intelligent, having been personally tutored by Anka in the Scientific Society. Unknown to him, Lamont Townsend believes that Lazarus is in fact his son.

Phobos

Phobos

A Martian who was brought to earth in 1985 by Captain Carter. Popularly thought to be the last of his race, Phobos was actually fabricated in the depths of Mars by ancient machines, using some element of Carter as a template. Phobos was murdered by Benjamin Schultz and his brain was returned to its place of origin on Mars.

Santana, Amila

Santana, Amila

Westward’s Chief of Operations, Santana worked closely with Phobos on the design of the original Westward in the 1990s and formed a secret intimate connection with him. Her reputation for being high-strung conceals a deeply empathetic nature.

Schultz, Benjamin

Schultz, Benjamin

Westward’s chief technician, Benjamin joined the first Westward crew as Edmond Spratt, but was later revealed to be the son of the oligarch behind Westward’s mission and the grandson of Viktor Grafeneck. Self-obsessed and ruthlessly ambitious, Schultz is disliked by everyone aboard Westward–but everyone seems to owe him something.

Townsend, Elizabeth

Townsend, Elizabeth

An analyst aboard Westward, Elizabeth knows herself as a lifelong member of the Scientific Society, but is remembered by Lamont Townsend as his estranged wife.

Townsend, Lamont

Townsend, Lamont

A newspaperman by profession, Lamont discovered that he was in fact a sleeper agent for the mysterious Scientific Society. His life is a tragic patchwork of fractured memories, broken relationships and unresolved regrets. Sensitive and moral at heart, he hides behind a veneer of sarcasm and dangerous charisma.

  • Blissex

    I like the updated bios and their portraits from recent strips, but there are some peculiarities:

    * Ben Grafeneck as told in this fascinating and long story is ruthless and a (changing) jerk, but not “ruthlessly ambitious” in the usual sense. He has demonstrated no personal ambitions, as after all he knows he is already the heir to the corporation that controls most of humanity, the only guy who can interface the diabolical Escherspace engine, etc.; if he has ambition it is altruistic or perhaps heroic, that to save humanity from being manipulated and used as guinea pigs by the ancient martians.

    * Milo Faust is quarantined because he is probably still infected by the alien ghost found aboard the lost 5 million years old spaceship. The story so far as I understand it is that they hate humanity not because they are “the monstrous descendants of Grafeneck’s super race” but because of what those monstrous descendants have done across space to native aliens.

    There are glaringly missing entries for Alice Donovan/Arizona and her brother Rex. Alice is arguably the fulcrum of the entire story.

    • Good points all, Blissex! I think it’s great that you see the characters a bit differently than how they’re described. I certainly wouldn’t want them to be one-dimensional.

      All your points about Ben are quite valid. As for Milo, time will tell. In 1054, Rosemary suggests that she doesn’t believe Faust is still infected by the incorporeal entities. From the sequence starting in 0986, we know that the entities can’t really be called “alien,” since they originate from Earth, apparently long predating mankind. Their return to Earth was supposed to be a return home.

      Guilty as charged in regard to Arizona, Alice and Rex. Honestly, I haven’t included them yet because it’s so difficult to summarize their stories and roles in a paragraph. If I include Arizona, should I also include the alternate versions of Francis and Rex?

  • Blissex

    So, just in case, I have uploaded my (rather rough) notes on “Westward” (in ‘org-mode’ syntax, but should be legible regardless) at:

    http://paste.debian.net/hidden/8b82dff6/

    There is a list of people, of places, of dates (a timeline), important story points, with URLs to the relevant strips.
    The attached descriptions are quite short.

    • Blissex, I could hardly imagine a better gift for Christmas. I’m truly humbled!

      • Blissex

        Many thanks for your appreciation, but my work is really a small complement to yours.

        • In any case, you’ve done something that I never could have found time for. Would you mind if I use your notes as the basis for more encyclopedia content—with due credit, of course?

          • Blissex

            Absolutely, it is your story, your characters, you have permission to use that in any way you want.
            I’ll probably put it up on something like Github with a Creative Commons copyright once it is less draft.
            I hope it makes your wonderful story more accessible to newer readers. I hope I haven’t made any great misrepresentations, as your story is sometimes a bit intricate, especially when time travel and alternate realities impinge. 🙂

          • Really, Westward is an exploration of the nature of reality and possibility. Most of its developments are open-ended. Eventually, some of them are explained, but to me your speculation is more valuable than the eventual explanation. From that point of view, your interpretations are at least as valid as mine—assuming I have any!

          • Blissex

            «time travel and alternative realities impinge»

            Oops I have just realized that the timeline is partially wrong in one vital respect: after escaping the alien ship, “Westward” arrives on planet Alpha 260 years ago, because the emergency Escherjump was done without normalization calculations. So part of that timeline needs re-dating. Also I need to put in the estimated dates of arrival of Viktor to planet Epiphany and Alpha and related Escherspace events (IIRC 1,000 years ago for Epiphany and 200 years ago for its event).

          • Right you are! The time-slip is revealed in http://westwardcomic.com/archive/episode-four/#0610, and would technically place them somewhere around 1769 AD relative to Earth. You could speculate, then, that the flash-forward sequences in Behemoth take place in the not-too-distant future, after Westward returned to normal time.

            Another interesting related tidbit: When Westward returns to normal time, it does so by leaving all members of the crew who are aware of the time decay factor out of the normalization process (0765). Earlier, there is speculation that the small instances of time decay experienced in previous jumps was caused by Lamont’s conditioning: http://westwardcomic.com/archive/episode-five/#0764.

    • “/Grafeneck Viktor/ German scientist, wants immortality, finds martians” LOL