Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman is a webcomic created by Christopher C. Livingston, parodying the first-person shooter video game Half-Life 2. The comic consists of game screenshots, with characters posed using Garry's Mod, a tool which facilitates manipulation of the Source engine used by Half-Life 2. The first issue was launched on May 1, 2005. The comic completed its run on November 6, 2006 with a total of 205 issues.
During the later stages of the comic, Valve, developer of Half-Life 2, sought to collaborate with Livingston in creating a printed version of the comic. However, this proved impractical due to its low resolution.
The comic follows the same general path presented in Half-Life 2, through the eyes of Gordon Frohman, a hapless, lethally clumsy oaf who arrives in City 17 a few weeks before Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the game series. The comic's dark humor is derived from its contrasts with the game, or otherwise by making references to various shortcomings of it. On several occasions the comic also has Frohman causing many of the disastrous circumstances that Gordon Freeman runs across.
Concerned has been well received by critics and fans alike. Several reviews praised the attention to writing and presentation, as well as the comic's humor. Livingston stated that the comic would not continue through Half-Life 2: Episode One, the first of an episodic series following Half-Life 2, as the game "doesn't really lend itself to the type of comic [he wants] to do".
The creator of Concerned also said he thought of a comic as the best way of introducing humor to the game, that he otherwise described as being "mysterious, moody, [and] immersive".
The webcomic derives its name from one of the propaganda broadcasts by Wallace Breen in Half-Life 2, in which he is reading a letter supposedly written by a citizen, signed 'Sincerely, a concerned citizen'. Throughout the comic the main character, Gordon Frohman, sends several similar letters to Dr. Breen, Livingston's intention being to suggest that Frohman was the author of the letter read by Breen in Half-Life 2. The name "Frohman" is derived from the last name of Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the Half-Life series. According to the credits on the comic's website, this name was suggested to Livingston by Sam Golgert, an acquaintance of his.
Livingston has also employed the assistance of other people, notably Michael Clements, founder of the Half-Life 2 comics repository PHWOnline, and creator of SKETCH, another comic based on Half-Life 2. Clements aided him in enhancing the presentation of Concerned. Greg Galcik also assisted in site maintenance, and Livingston later offered him a "guest week special", in which Galcik wrote and published three issues for Concerned. A similar set of three issues have also been published by Joe Yuska, during a week when Livingston was unavailable.
As stated by Livingston in several interviews, his relation with Valve, the developer company of Half-Life 2, was a good one, the company being pleased to have a comic based on their game. According to Livingston, Valve also intended on collaborating with him to produce printed copies of Concerned. However, this was never finalized as the resolution of the comics was too low for printing.
On Frohman's arrival, Ravenholm is depicted as a peaceful, bright, and cheerful place devoid of any Combine elements, but "terrorized" by Father Grigori. After adjusting, Gordon becomes accustomed to the town, but unintentionally discloses the town's location to Dr. Breen, who immediately orders his forces to "bomb the shit out of them". The town is fired on with headcrabs, killing many and turning others into zombies. Frohman himself is attacked by a headcrab and turns into a zombie too, yet retains his free will; and after a while his headcrab dies of malnutrition, which is attributed to his lack of intelligence. With Father Grigori's help, Frohman escapes Ravenholm, now the zombie-infested nightmare seen when Freeman visits it in the game, and presses on to Nova Prospekt. After surviving several more hazards, he reaches the coast. Here, after passing the final resistance base and an Antlion-infested beach, Frohman encounters an Antlion Guard, which is killed by a Vortigaunt, an alien race helping the humans in the game. This allows Frohman to retrieve bugbait from the dead creature, with which he can control the Antlions.
Frohman, accompanied by several bugbait-controlled Antlions, eventually reaches Nova Prospekt, only to be turned away as he does not have an appointment. He gives up and returns to City 17 in the following strip, as Gordon Freeman finally arrives in the city, linking the comic's time frame with the start of Half-Life 2. He is then drafted into the resistance after failing to disrupt its operations, and unintentionally signals the start of the resistance's uprising by accidentally killing a Combine police officer using one of his Antlions. During the fighting, he accompanies Freeman himself and mingles with resistance members, aids the Combine in the capture of Alyx Vance, one of Freeman's allies, and reunites with Norman Frohman, his long-lost assassin twin brother, only to promptly witness his's death at the hands of a Strider, a large tripod war machine.
Following this, Gordon returns to the Citadel, unwillingly aiding Freeman in his journey up the Citadel and influencing the plot of the game. As Freeman is pursuing Dr. Breen to his teleporter, Frohman is about to kill Freeman—but he pauses to come up with the perfect one-liner for the occasion, until Dr. Breen's teleporter explodes. Frohman is flung off the Citadel peak by the explosion. Dr. Breen also survives, having fallen from the Citadel onto a pile of dead Combine soldiers. However, Frohman falls right onto Breen, killing him. Gordon himself is only seriously injured. Baffled by his ability to survive, he realizes through a flashback that he has been under "Buddha Mode", a cheat code which prevents his health points from dropping below one throughout the comic's duration. Frohman inadvertently turns off the mode, and even spoils an opportunity to be rescued by a group of Vortigaunts, as both Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance are at the start of Episode One. In the end, Frohman dies unceremoniously, while survivors of the City 17 uprising find him dead.
Livingston stated that the comic was a good way of pointing out several shortcomings of video games, and first-person shooters in particular. He exemplified the presence of various objects throughout the levels of games, which were intended to aid the player, but would have little chance of being found in the real world in a similar manner.
Much of the comic's dark humor is derived from its contrasts with Half-Life 2: in a depressing, dark vision of a conquered humanity's future, Gordon Freeman becomes a hero and savior; the similarly-named Gordon Frohman, on the other hand, is just an average person, improbably cheerful to the point of stupidity, and somewhat naïve as to what is actually going on around him. For instance, Frohman fails to realize that his return-addressed letters to Doctor Breen reveal his location, and so result in that location being invaded, bombed, or otherwise compromised.
The comic contains many references to events and objects in the game. In one comic, Frohman makes a clerical error that causes the Combine to order far too many explosive barrels, thus suggesting an explanation for the barrels' ubiquity throughout City 17 and beyond. In another, he writes a letter to Dr. Breen asking why using his flashlight reduces his ability to run, a reference to Half-Life 2's flashlight and sprint functions using the same power source. In a further strip, the town of Ravenholm becomes the headcrab-infested ghost town seen in Half-Life 2 after Frohman writes to Breen expressing his happiness with being there, giving away Ravenholm's location. Indeed, Frohman causes (intentionally or accidentally) many of the disastrous circumstances that Gordon Freeman runs across. He accidentally gives Breen the idea of headcrab shells while on a radio, and sets up all of the traps in Ravenholm himself in an attempt to catch Father Grigori.
It is also revealed that, at the Black Mesa Research Facility, Frohman causes the resonance cascade that allows for alien forces to invade in Half-Life by accidentally delivering a wedge of cheese, instead of the intended test sample, to the test chamber where the cascade flashpoints. Half-Life: Decay, however, indicates that Dr. Gina Cross is responsible for this task. Livingston admitted he did not play Decay, and thus was not aware of its storyline. He also stated that the comic takes place in the PC version of the Half-life 2 continuity, and since Half-Life: Decay was never published for the PC, it does not affect the comic.
The comic's popularity, as well as the fact that Livingston stated he does not intend to continue the comic through Half-Life 2: Episode One, led to the appearance of an 'unofficial' sequel to Concerned, entitled Concerned 2: A Concerned Rip-Off: The Continuing Adventures of Gordon Frohman, and created by Norman N. Black.