(Note: Sorry I haven’t yet gotten back to my comments from Monday. My son has woke up 3 nights in a row for 3-4 hours at a clip, refusing to go back to sleep until he has exhausted the clock and me. I expect to get to the comments Wednesday afternoon. Please keep them coming, I appreciate the feedback immensely. And thank you for the large show of support for the Blogger Dad comic.)
(Another note: Remember right before the election I teased that my next post would make half of you leave? Well, the election post was actually a way of introducing THIS post, which was supposed to be part of it. THIS is the post I figured would likely cause half of you to leave. You’ve been warned.)
How do you pick which dream to follow?
I’ve got a bucket overflowing with dreams. Inside you will see a series of children’s books, this blog, a regular column, a syndicated comic strip, a horror novel or two, and another two blogging projects on the horizon (one of which will be unveiled this week).
The only problem is that I haven’t got time to make them all come true.
Since starting Blogger Dad a couple of months ago, this blog has opened up new worlds or possibility to me. I’ve met a lot of great people and potential collaborators. This blog has also come at the expense of something, and that something is my comics.
Since I’ve used a lot of time once devoted to comics and turned it over to blogging, I figured I would return the favor and spend some of my blogging time to speak of the comics. I hope you will indulge me.
My main gig for the past eight years has been as a webcomic artist (kind of like a newspaper artist, except you usually don’t make any money at it). I draw a couple of them, the cute and family-friendly Todd and Penguin and the less family-friendly, not as cute, Taking Up Space. The two are as different as night and day as are their audiences. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to draw every comic I’d like to. Truth be told, since I’ve been blogging regularly here, I’ve had trouble working on any of my other comics.
And I miss drawing them.
While Todd and Penguin has been with me longer – since November 2000, to be specific, it isn’t the comic I think about when my pencil finds way to paper lately.
Todd and Penguin has always been my MAIN comic, the one for which I am most known, the one which has the most readers and I get the most email about. Taking Up Space has been sort of the black sheep. I started it in 2002. It was my first published comic, appearing in The Stanford Daily ( Stanford University’s paper for you non-U.S. readers). It’s left of center politically (which drew me some hate mail from some of my regular readers who didn’t like that I hold an opinion different than theirs) and it’s sometimes dark. It has been described by another comic artist as “Peanuts for the new millennium”.
I kind of like that description because Peanuts was a dark comic in its early days. It spoke to the insecurities of its artist, Charles Schulz. It spoke to millions of readers. It conveyed volumes with themes that betrayed the simplicity of the form. As a child, I got lost in the world created by Schulz. As I grew older, I found deeper meaning, and solace, in my collection of old Peanuts comics.
I believe Peanuts was cathartic for Schulz. That’s how I feel about Taking Up Space.
I recently read an old interview with Chuck Palahniuk who advised if you’re going to write, write about the things that piss you off. Those are things which you will write best about. Those are the things which mean something. In other words, that is where your passion is at.
The comic’s tag line is “Unhappy comics for unhappy people.”
The two main characters in Taking Up Space are Jessika, the angry gothy elementary school student (who is also in Todd and Penguin) and her brother, Bobby, a hopelessly optimistic (though unlucky) sort. While Jessika rants and raves at the injustices of the world (from a myopic point of view) and the basic inherent flaws in people, Bobby is more thoughtful and prone to believe in the good of people.
The comic oftentimes makes fun of pop culture though it is just as often likely to explore some of the issues and themes which bother me – those who persecute, those who exploit, and hypocrisy. While the comic leans left, the attacks aren’t on a particular political system but rather specific types of people.
Below are a few examples:
Exploitation by fear mongering politicians and media.
Exploitation by hucksters looking to sell the latest and greatest snake oil. (This should get me some nasty comments given my readership is made up of some of self-help type bloggers.) Let me preface this by saying that this is not a blanket assault on the entire industry (and certainly not MY readers who are among the most honorable people to ever grace the planet!). Hell, I even have a few such books myself (shh, don’t tell anyone). However, I defy anyone to say the industry is not full of sharks and con men looking to exploit people’s weaknesses.
Exploitation by religious leaders who preach hate and take money from those who can afford least to give. The second one earned me the biggest look of disgust from a former co-worker who didn’t at all get the point.
These are the comics from my pissed off inner child.
But there are also elements of love, sincerity, friendship and faith. Take Alexander Rabbit, a naive, happy-go-lucky bunny who checks his mailbox for letters everyday in hopes that someone, anyone will talk to him.
And sometimes, the comics are just plain goofy (or mean, I guess it depends on how you look at it).
And of course I wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t point out the hypocrisy or angst of my own characters.
Taking Up Space is cynical, make no mistake, but at its core beats the heart of a guarded but hopeful romantic. Which is why when I look back on the archives of the strip, I wish I had devoted more time to getting this comic right. Looking back, I can see the days where I was rushing things. I can see the stories which I meant to write but didn’t because I was too tied up in my other comic or work-related stuff. I see a lot of potential not yet realized.
And it pains me greatly that I never gave the time to make it what it could be.
The comic has been very much living up to its name, Taking Up Space.
But with little time, I can’t do it all.I have a hope that all of these dreams I am pursuing, all of this work I am doing and blind faith I have in myself is rewarded and something clicks. If just one of my dreams comes true, then I wouldn’t mind continuing to do the others for no money. But I need to find a way to make a living again at doing what I love.
So I have decided to take a shot at the syndicates for both of my comics. See if anyone wants to buy them. If not, I will likely stop drawing them with any regularity.
I hope this post isn’t as self indulgent as I fear it might be.
as always, thanks for reading.
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