Got questions about the comic? Awesome! Some stuff will come out gradually through the story, but whatever needs answering sooner, you can find it here

Where does this comic take place? Is this a real place?

Umbagog mostly takes place within Coös County, New Hampshire. This is the northern tip of the state and encompasses Umbagog Lake (the second largest lake in New Hampshire and a state park, shared with Maine) and the city of Berlin, a former paper mill town now on the downturn. Errol is the closest village to Umbagog Lake in New Hampshire. It’s very small, dominated by an enormous camping warehouse, a bar, and a motel. Much of northern New Hampshire depends on forestry and tourism for its economy.

All the locations (except The Facility of course) in Umbagog are real places. Some details are changed around for visual or story convenience, but for the most part you can actually visit these places. And please do! They are beautiful and the people are pretty stellar. Go pick up some maple syrup and loon souvenirs if you drive. And take a canoe ride on Umbagog Lake. It’s incredibly beautiful and there’s a ton of wild bird sanctuaries you drift past as you go.

What is Wendigo? Is it the Wendigo from Algonquin legend?

Wendigo from Algonquin legends are humans or spirits consumed by hunger. There’s some variation in the stories, but mostly they are perpetually growing, tall, and live in the woods waiting for victims. According to the myth, you can become a Wendigo if you eat human flesh or become overly greedy. The legend is pervasive enough that–like lycanthropy–it’s an actual psychological illness that affects real people.

The wendigo in Umbagog are not Wendigo, they’re more like “wendigo”. The parasite shares the legend’s name because researchers from the Northeast were the first to study and name it. They gave it the name as a callback to their homes and because it shares some superficial similarities to the Wendigo of legend (notably: mutations, increased appetite, withdrawal from society). Inside the fiction of Umbagog, there’s debate between researchers as to whether it even spawned the legend. Evidence for this is minimal, more a matter of speculation than rigorous study. The name is viewed as a callback rather than a the true legend in universe. And it’s only ever used in reference to the parasite. The zombies/hosts themselves are not called wendigo. The name is too obscure and zombie is easier lexicon to the majority.

What year does this story take place? Is it this the same timeline as our own?

The year is 2020. Technology is mostly the same, though some things are smaller or more common (Augmentation devices, electric cars, cloud-data systems). The universe is mostly the same, except for the wendigo parasite’s discovery decades ago. It’s treated as a kind of medical oddity much like Ebola in universe (before the pandemic that is). It has as much influence on zombie and horror stories as other weird medical phenomenon. The actual extent to which the parasite can transform the body was an obscure and barely studied fact, mostly because animal models showed progression of the parasite only to Stage One. Stages beyond require living human hosts deliberately infected with the parasite. The ethical ramifications of this prevented most study. Until recently.

What does “Umbagog” mean? Is it a native word?

“Umbagog” refers to Lake Umbagog. The name is Abenaki for shallow water. The Abenaki are people native to the north east, primarily having settled Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and southern Quebec. They were mostly chased out by European colonists, though some families have survived and are gradually reclaiming much of their shared home, language, and history piece by piece. They’ve only recently obtained tribal recognition in some states and most Abenaki people live in Vermont and Quebec. Though they share some similar mythos with other northeast bands, they were not part of the famed Iroquois Nation. Their nation is one of the Wabanaki Confederacy, along with their cousins the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy, and the Penobscot. Many area names in New Hampshire borrow from their languages.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Abenaki and other Algonquin nations, I recommend you look up both their texts and their websites. Nulhegan Band Abenaki Tribe site is one place to start

Kate Stephens’s father was part of a Western Abenaki band in Vermont. She sports a turtle tattoo on her shoulder to remind her of him and her roots.