Leave Freeze or Die
|Leave, Freeze or Die|
|Current status / schedule||Weekly|
|Launch date||August, 2004|
Leave Freeze or Die is a webcomic written and drawn by Jeremy Yuenger. It follows the misadventures of the students of fictional College University in Manchester, New Hampshire, and their dealings with figures from pop culture, state and local politics, and the media. It is published in strip form weekly by Neighborhood News, Inc. in their print publications and on NewHampshire.com, and as part of NewHampshire.com's insert in the New Hampshire Union Leader. It is also appears periodically in graphic-novel format at FileFishComics.com. The title is a spoof of the New Hampshire state motto, "Live Free or Die".
The weekly strip in its current form began in 2004. It is a spin-off of the graphic novel series of the same name begun in 1989, and was preceded by another weekly comic with the same cast, entitled Over the Counter Culture, which ran in Boston College's The Heights from 1996 through 1999. Yuenger created the comic originally to make fun of the industrial arts faculty at his middle school, and later expanded it to include public figures and classmates from Manchester High School Central, who formed the basis of the characters. Yuenger publishes his work as "FileFish Comics", but is in fact the only person behind the company.
The content of the series is largely episodic, usually focusing on efforts by the students to entertain themselves in a city largely devoid of entertainment options. In doing so, they typically run afoul of the Union Leader and its publisher, whose far-right values oppose anything the kids would consider to be fun. The central protagonist is Pete, a 21-year-old divorced college student and actor.
Long-term plot arcs have dealt with the college dean's attempt to clone the faculty for cheap labor (issues 91–97), the students' participation in a civil war in a fictional banana republic (issues 53–54, 72–73, 104–107), and Pete and Amy's marriage (issues 78, 98–99, 101). Several issues (55, 76–77, 87) involve run-ins with members of the Zendik commune. The weekly strips have featured shorter stories dealing with former governor Craig Benson reduced to working in a convenience store, publisher Joseph McQuaid being visited by the ghost of his chain-smoking former teen idol who begs him not to oppose anti-smoking legislation, and Manchester mayor Robert A. Baines attempting to infiltrate the city's nightlife to foil crime. Recent strips have dealt with the influx of presidential candidates to the city ahead of the 2008 New Hampshire primary.
- Pete — Pete is the de facto main character of the series. He is generally the victim of the actions of everyone else around him. He has squinty eyes, curly black hair, and wears a blue turtleneck sweater. Pete is an actor in The Maskers, the college's drama club. His ex-wife is Amy, who he began dating in Over the Counter Culture and married in issue #78. They separated in issue #98 when Amy discovered she was a lesbian. Following a mental breakdown, Pete has since lived with Shawn and James. He also has a rarely seen younger brother, Danny, and a pet boa constrictor. Pete, Danny and Amy all share the 'Boisvert Nose', a genetic condition marked by a rounded, bulbous nose.
- Amy — Amy is Pete's ex-wife. She has large eyes, long black hair, and usually dresses in shades of grey and black. She is addicted to Vertigo Comics and Slash fiction. Amy is known for her sexual openness and activity in the BDSM scene. She operates the website MexicanSexActs.com, where she pretends to be a Mexican man with a salsa fetish, sporting a mustache. The character of Amy is partly based on sex enthusiast Audacia Ray.
- Jimmy — Jimmy is an insecure young man with sandy brown hair and freckles. He wears a Star Trek uniform and a priest's collar. Jimmy joined the priesthood in an ill-fated attempt to win the love of a girl named Libby, who he felt would be impressed with his dedication. He is frequently bullied by his friend Lleij and torn between his priestly vows and his lust for Libby, who refuses to acknowledge him.
- Lleij — Lleij is a part-time talk show host, inventor, and nerd. He is dark-skinned and wears a bow-tie and button down shirt with a pocket protector. Lleij lives in his parents' basement and uses Jimmy as his guinea pig when conducting experiments.
- Nate — Nate is a green-haired slacker who performs in a two-man band and lives in a tent behind the school, where he has pretended to be a student without actually enrolling. He has held several temporary jobs including lumberjack, backpack-stuffer, vacuum salesman, reporter for the Union Leader, and convenience store clerk.
- Trish — Trish is a blonde hippy girl who heads the militant activist group Students 4 Socialist Justice. She carries a pistol and often resorts to violence to get her way. Trish helped Pal the janitor clear himself of murder charges by bringing him to the Zendik commune, where he learned kung-fu and how to speak intelligibly and avenge himself. Trish has a strong cult following, and memorabilia with her likeness (T-shirts, mugs, etc.) is quite valuable to e-bay bidders.
- Rolly — Rolly is the students' former high-school principal, who quit to follow them to college so he could continue to torment them as the school's dean. He has a homoerotic relationship with Dan, his sidekick and the school's quarterback, who lives with him in a bunker beneath the school. Rolly's appearance is modeled after Sludge Vohaul from the Space Quest videogames.
- Joseph McQuaid — Joe is the publisher of the Union Leader, an ultraconservative newspaper that uses its undue influence to control the town's politics. He generally fails in his efforts to live up to the "evil" of his predecessor, Nackey Loeb, despite receiving an injection of her DNA.
- Dan — A sexist and racist jock who lives with Rolly beneath College University and acts as his manservant. Dan was impeached from the student council (issue #53), but won his job back after rescuing a woman from the shower of a burning building. It is later revealed he was unaware there was a fire, and was simply grabbing women out of showers for fun.
- Jenn — Amy's perky, redhead friend. She was briefly brainwashed by the Foam Actors Guild, an organized crime family composed of foam rubber advertising mascots led by Mattress-Boy, a man dressed as a bed with a pillow head. Jenn is based loosely on the author's wife, Jennfier Montigny-Yuenger.
- Katie — Joe's daughter and heir to the paper. She insists that he call her by her proper name, Katharine, instead of "Katie". Katie sometimes ghost-writes editorials of dubious quality.
- Erin — Nate's successful ex, who moved to San Francisco to start a new life after living with him in squalor. Nate tried to track her down and found her living in a spin-off (issue #85).
- Shalome — Another member of Students 4 Socialist Justice, who tries to balance Trish's thirst for blood with pragmatism. She likes the music of The Beatles. Shalome brought Pepe, a Huevolarian refugee, to live with Pete after Pete bought one of his sweatshop-manufactured textbooks.
- Shawn — Pete's former college roommate and foil. Shawn was unwittingly cloned by Rolly (issue #95) and encountered his doppelgangers, who appeared as he did early in the comic's run. Shawn has appeared in the series longer than any other current character.
- Matt — Long-haired and temperamental Masker obsessed with the "whimsy" of lesbianism. Matt was presumed to be killed fighting in the Huevolarian War, but was later revealed to be merely wounded. The thought of women making out with each other sustained him, and was enough to keep him alive. Matt's nemesis is the lecherous Uzbek circus artist Akmal, who wants to steal his girlfriend away.
- James — Bitter playwright and current roommate of Pete since issue #99. James, "likes his booze like he likes his women - XXX". His unfinished masterpiece is the play Kronos Unbound, which will eventually encompass all works ever created by mankind in storyline that narrates all of time.
- Adam — A tall blond-haired man sporting a goatee, Adam is the resident atheist and skeptic. This posed a problem when he was cast as baby Jesus in the school's nativity play (issue #37). He dated Erin and had a violent breakup with her, although they made peace after intense negotiations involving the United Nations (issue #70).
- Adrienne -- A smart but apathetic lesbian Pete knew in high school who likes to sleep in her car at lunch, and really any chance she gets. Pete lusts after but doesn't know she is gay. She rejects Pete stating she is gay, but Pete doesn't believe her which breaks his heart. He soon leaves Las Vegas back to Manchester, NH. She was the first in a long line of lesbians (see Amy) that Pete has had a thing for. Technically Adrienne exists only in pre-Live Freeze or Die (FileFish) days so no issue number can be cited.
The Huevolarian War
The current plot of the graphic novels concerns the Huevolarian War, an attempt by the American government to prop up the corrupt government of Huevolaria through military intervention. In issue #53, Amy Cameron of Students 4 Socialist Justice became involved in the Huevolarian Civil War, helping to train a band of communist rebels (all named "Juan") in their struggle against the dictator Juan Volaro Cortazio. Cortazio had grown insane, and believed he was actually Tony Garza, the hero of Amy's high school Spanish textbook. Amy fled Huevolaria with the Juans, and brought them to her prom to hide them. Cortazio pursued her home to Manchester, and captured them all.
In issue #72, Shalome went to Huevolaria to negotiate Amy's freedom, and found that Amy had become a rich drug kingpin. Amy repented, and they attempted to reenter the United States, but were stopped at the Texas border by Ross Perot, dressed as a Boy Scout. Once again Amy returned to Huevolaria, hoping to undo the damage she had caused.
In issue #104, President George W. Bush named Huevolaria part of the Rhombus of Inconvenience, and attacked the rebels on behalf of Cortazio. Rolly tricked his students into enlisting, but was surprised than Dan had also volunteered in order to impress women. Trish and Shalome went to Huevolaria to protest the war, only to discover Amy and rescue her again. During the war, Matt was shot (but survived), and Amy Cameron met Pete's ex Amy, who had taken the "Amy" spot in the comic during her absence. Amy Cameron decided to go by her surname of Cameron rather than fight for the right to the "Amy" role.
Cameron was able to rally the Juans against Cortazio, the Americans, and Cortazio's henchman, Bruno, and the Juans won the war. Dan was discharged honorably but refused to be used for propaganda by Rolly and McQuaid, and instead left the school and moved in with Rolly's mom. Dan and Rolly eventually reconciled, and adopted a daughter, "Rollina".
Unofficial photocopy collections of the comic date back to the early 1990s and were edited by the real-life inspiration for the character of Pete, Pete Boisvert, at Yuenger's request. CD-ROM's were issued later, covering most material through the year 2000. Yuenger began printing paperback collections of issues #91 onwards beginning in 2005, and issued self-published hardcover collections in 2007.
Yuenger has been criticized by members of the Zendik movement for his portrayal of Wulf Zendik and life at the Zendik commune. He has also been chided for originally using the full names of private individuals who inspired the characters in the comic. In recent years, the characters' surnames have not been mentioned as often (the exceptions being public figures such as Dean Kamen and Joe McQuaid) and have been removed entirely from the FileFish Comics website. Some readers have also complained the comic blurs the line between fiction and reality by featuring "real" people and using some real events as the basis for otherwise fictional plots.
Yuenger has said he has received hate mail from readers opposed to his liberal political views, since the publications that run Leave Freeze or Die are politically conservative. The publisher of the Union Leader, which carries the strip in an insert, is portrayed as one of the comic's main villains.
- Feinberg, Cara. Boston College Magazine. Chestnut Hill, MA: Fall, 2005.
- Matthews, Heather: Manchester Mirror. Manchester, NH: November 3, 2005.
- Clayton, John: And on top of it all, John makes a strip. New Hampshire Union Leader. Manchester, NH: June 27, 2005.
- Walters, John: The Front Porch. Concord, NH: March 8, 2001.
- Clayton, John: In The City. New Hampshire Union Leader. Manchester, NH: January 17, 2000.
- Scheiner, Eric: WNDS News Now. Derry, NH: 2000.