Source: K-On! Wiki
It was The Secret of NIMH that made me realize men were boring.
I mean, men can have their uses, and a few of us are marginally clever, but it wasn’t until The Secret of NIMH that I began to feebly catch a glimmer of the quantum differences between life as a man and life as a woman, even when dealing with the same things.  And from that point, women began to dominate my writing, and my reading too, when I have the option.
There are exceptions; NeverNever was theoretically about Arthur and Col. Beowulf (although the strip didn’t really come to life until Mopsy showed up, and I don’t think that’s an accident). Greg has sliiiiightly more focus in the Brigid and Greg fictionlets. Michael Macbeth had a long run as a character I kept trying to write about. But compare them to, say, Tiffany Tiger or Verity Anjo, and it’s probably easy to see where my creative interests lie. And as a general rule, in any given group, I gravitate towards and generally feel more kinship with the women.
I have been told that I write women characters well, for which I’m grateful. As much as this is true, beyond the obvious “write about human beings, regardless of their gender,” I suspect comes mostly from simply shutting up and listening to what women say, not just in public discourse, but also (and more importantly) to each other. This latter can be hard to pull off in daily life– women’s behavior changes when there’s a man around just as much as men’s behavior changes when a woman is– so I do it mostly by reading things written by women for a female audience. Doing this took me a long time to get used to, as I had to overcome a lot of social programming designed specifically to prevent it. But it has also taught me many, many things.
At a certain point, however, there are barriers I simply can’t cross. I know what muscle cramps feel like, and I know how changing brain chemistry can send my moods all over the map but I’ll never have a period or PMS. I can use my imagination to picture being shorter, lighter, and more flexible, but at the end of the day I will always be 6’2″ and one of the largest people I know. I know what it’s like to have people randomly dislike you or discount your opinion for no good reason, but I don’t get told I’m “dominating” a conversation when I’ve said one thing for every four things said by someone else.
I think about this sometimes when I’m working on Suburban Jungle. I know I have women readers, but if I had to guess I would assume that my readership skews mostly male. Certainly, there is a tendency among some of my readers to want me to, as the saying goes, “cater to the male gaze.” This isn’t just things like wanting pinup poses or playing up the sexualization of any given situation (although there is certainly that), it’s also pressure to reinforce stereotypical gender roles such as wanting the men come to Charity’s rescue or attacking Langley for being “too bitchy.” It might not be male gaze so much as “want everything to fit into comfortable traditional pigeonholes” gaze, I suppose… but whatever it is, I can tell it’s out there.
I also think about a comment I read online somewhere about K-On! which strikes me as relevant. The comment, left on a review somewhere I have long since lost the link to, was that it was nice to have a show about girls that actually felt like it was about girls, and not just some guy writing his vague idea of the sort of things girls do and repeating all the usual things that sort of scenario usually leads to.
There’s a reason for that, of course. Despite being a show about high school girls, K-On! was originally created by a man for a primarily male audience. What made the K-On! anime a commercial success in Japan, and arguably one of the reasons why it is so much better than most of the other shows of its type, was that it was made by Kyoto Animation, a studio comprised largely of women, who added all that other stuff and gave the show tremendous crossover appeal. In short, K-On! was popular with women too, not just with the stereotypical moe-fan otaku. And when women get behind a thing, they go big. 😉
And really, if I could arrange it, that’s the kind of reaction I’d want people to have to Suburban Jungle. Someone once told me that despite the obvious fantasy elements “When Wally Met Mikey” from the original SJ was the most realistic depiction of a fledgeling gay relationship he’d seen in a comic– which made me very proud. I don’t know if I can hit that level again with Charity and her friends, but it is the target I’m shooting for. And among other things, that means pushing past comfortable traditional pigeonholes, and being as true to the “reality” of the characters as I can.
 See also Scalzi’s discussions of “straight, white male is EZ mode.” Not that it’s all sunshine and roses– being male in our society is a lonesome and painful business, as Norah Vincent so powerfully demonstrated. But on the grand scale of life, not being able to talk about your feelings or wear attractive clothes and constantly having to fight the effects of testosterone poisoning, don’t quite stack up to being in constant (if usually low-level) fear for your life and having to work twice as hard for 2/3 the pay and recognition. And also, any woman over the age of 12 is more badass than most men ever have to be. Ask anyone who draws blood for a living. They’ll tell you.
I'm not happy about it, but I also recognize it as reality.
But in this era of crowdsourcing, Patreon and the like, the relationship between the artist and the consumer is more tightly-knit and blurry than ever. The script I'm working on for issue six started out as a commission someone wanted me to do, for instance.
And in the world of webcomics, this is complicated by the fact that there is a certain "amateur hour"-ness about it. Some of the most popular comics are stick figures; some of the most gorgeous art is done by people who refuse to monetize at all.
There aren't a whole lot of us who make a sustainable living off webcomics; however there is at least one prominent one who's been in the business a long time and is making money by the bucketload. I'm being cagey about naming said artist here because some of this particular artist's methods really put me off but I'm not in the business of calling people out. I'm talking here about my own mind, not to pick fights with other people.
The artist's regular comic frequently includes what I call "Rat Pack humor," the sort of casually sexist and privileged crap that make Joel and the Bots on MST3K say things like "I would like to apologize on behalf of the entire male gender, thank you" or "I'd slap this movie if I could." It always annoys me to see this kind of thing get applause in the first place. Said artist then takes this a step further by doing what is basically a porn spinoff comic as well, that is behind a paywall.
(In fact, almost everything this artist does is behind a paywall of some variety. They really buy into the idea of "content sold separately.")
I don't object to adult comics; I've got no problem whatsoever with Oglaf (wow, that's a NSFW link) or Oh Joy Sex Toy (holy crap that's NSFW) for instance. Gene Catlow's silly sex-addled side-stories get a thumbs-up from me. But I am very uncomfortable with the prostitution of characters.
At a convention some years back now, when I was still learning what to say "yes" or "no" to, someone commissioned me to do a picture of Tiffany in lingerie with one of his OCs. The guy had sheets of OCs to choose from– all of them being variations of the standard comic book woman figure, in different cliché "sexy" outfits. (Insert rant about it always being guys who do this shit... later.) I was uncomfortable with the request, but as I say, I was still learning these things. I did the picture, but I was unhappy the whole time, the result was not very good art, and I ended up only charging a portion of what I would have normally asked for.
And... well... I felt like I owed Tiffany an apology. ¬.¬
According to the philosophy of the artist referred to above, this is exactly backwards. The correct reaction would have been to let out a whoop, charge an extra $75, and draw the Best Damn Tiffany Tiger Porn any fanboy could dream of.
Said artist has set themselves up as a kind of industry expert on webcomics, sort of like the business writer whose main qualification is that they sell a ton of books on becoming a business writer. I can't really argue with their reasoning I suppose, given that they are one of the few people making a ton of money as a webcomic artist.
But their actual content makes me itch. -.- Their business practices make me itch. -.- And seeing people flocking to them and emulating them makes me itch more. >.<
Everything they do, from the format the comic is shown in, to the pacing of every gag, is designed to maximize the money squeezed out of the audience. If the artist's blog is to be believed, even things like character design/story arc and personal connection with the readers are also weighed against this metric. I used to follow their blog and social media presence on the grounds that they were, y'know, actually making a living in a field in which I am not, but I have finally reached the point where I just can't keep looking at it.
If money is the object of the game, why bang your head against webcomics? There are easier and more profitable ways of making money without caring about what you do.
I don't pretend for even a second to have a viable business model for my own work. And yes, that's a problem. But I can at least look my characters in the metaphorical eye without wanting to slap myself.
In 2014, I missed Suburban Jungle so much that I decided it was time to return to it. But I couldn’t just pick up with Tiffany, Leonard and the crew seven years later. Tiffany’s story was finished, and as she was the star that the rest of the comic orbited around, there was nowhere for it to go except to just sort of string along as a zombie franchise. So I decided instead to for a “next generation” idea, and Rough Housing was born.
I freely admit, I had very little idea what I was doing with it at first, so I just tossed in a bunch of things that I liked and figured it would gel. Possibly not the best way to start a new project, but it was also true of the original Suburban Jungle and that seemed to go fine. My initial vision for Rough House was a lot more pure OTT zaniness and parody. Issue two pretty much exemplifies this, with the S.S. Plot Device and “The _______ of Cangrejo Diablo!” being typical of the kind of jokes I had in mind.
But for whatever reason… I just didn’t love it. Scripting was constantly a chore and instead of wacky hijinks I kept wanting to write shippy or emotional moments. By the end of issue three and well into the scripting for issue four it would be fair to say that Rough Housing was having an existential crisis behind the scenes. This resulted in the scripting for issues four and five taking forever as I wrangled with it.
I knew from the beginning of the “Best Bodies Contest” arc that the big payoff moments were Parker getting up on that stage, and Leonard’s final decision. But I also clung to the idea of wacky hijinks, envisioning lots of sabotage at the contest, Charity doing ridiculous things to stall Leonard and Morrison, and so forth. But while the emotional moments flowed quickly and easily, for the hijinks I ended up with whole pages of script that said things like “FUNNY SCENE HERE.” Fortunately I was able to lean on my wit to come up with gags on a page-by-page basis, but it was a frustrating way to run a railroad.
But as I was working on issue five, two important things happened. First, I began streaming my art sessions, enabling me to get real-time feedback from some of my most engaged readers and see what they responded to and why. Second, I was watching and falling in love with K-On! and examining how I responded to that and why. And when I spotted the overlap, everything clicked.
See, here’s the thing: K-On! hits the sweet spot perfectly. At its core, it’s a remarkably subtle, character-driven story about connections, loss, savoring the moments of life, and so much more– but it sneaks all this past you by being adorable and laugh-out-loud funny. But the humor isn’t the GIANT MONSTERS ATTACK humor of Love Hina or Sgt. Frog. The girls spontaneously forming a cheerleading squad for Ritsu as she tries to eat a receipt they don’t want their teacher to see gets me every time, but it’s also a completely realistic moment.
This was the eye-opener for me. The original Suburban Jungle was very comfortable with the GIANT MONSTERS ATTACK style, with its very tenuous fourth wall, aliens hiding in the sun’s corona, and all that jazz, but when people talk to me about it today, what do they talk about? How Tiffany, Drezzer, or Leona impacted them personally. The connection they felt to Mikey and Wally. How they identified with Dover’s codespeak.
The people in my streams, similarly, talk a lot about how adorable Charity is and wanting to give her a hug, being proud of Parker’s overcoming his fears, or how fun it is to see Rufo wanting to make out with anything that moves.
In other words, the parts that were coming the most easily, are the parts that work the best anyway. XD So! Lesson learned.
The influence of K-On! has already worked its way into rewrites and page layouts. This Langley/Rufo moment, for instance, was not in my original script. It was inspired by the chemistry between Ritsu and Mio and tossed in to spruce up an otherwise dull page, but it’s just as great a moment for these two goofballs.
But the lessons I learned from K-On!, and the realizations I made about Rough Housing along the way, are going to have big repercussions moving forward. Issue six will see a shift away from “this issue’s funny premise”-style writing to focus more on the characters’ goals and fleshing out generally. I also hope to move away from being quite so much focus on Charity to being more of a proper ensemble with stories about the rest of the cast. (Who is Bounce? What does he do all day? What’s the deal between Langley and Rufo?)
This may lead to eventually changing up the cast somewhat, if existing characters aren’t working or new characters might work better. We’ll see. Rough Housing is sure to evolve over the next issues, but I finally feel like I understand it now. Giant monster attacks and wacky hijinks are not and were never going to be the strength of this comic, and really aren’t the strength of my writing generally. It’s the characters and connections, and the humor that naturally arises from them, that will make or break it.
Giant monster attacks may still show up from time to time, who knows? But where before I was saying “A giant monster attacks! What do the Rough Housers do?” I’m instead going to start with “The Rough Housers want X. How does that pan out?”
You’d think after being a writer for thirty-mumble years, I’d have learned that lesson by now. I guess I just need periodic reminders.
Source: K-On! Wiki
So what do you do when your little four-panel comedy manga gets picked up as an anime series and blows away all expectations, becoming a huge hit– even if that success has more to do with the anime studio than with your own talent?
…You cash in, of course! Which is what the creator of K-On! attempted to do with K-On: College and K-On: High School. Spoiler alert: it didn’t really work, but you can’t blame the guy for trying. But what I’m really interested in here is the attempt, because I’ve found a lot of interesting applicability to my work on Suburban Jungle.
I won’t go quite as far as Digibro and say that “the K-On! manga suuuuuuucks” because I don’t think it does. I mean, everything in the manga is also in the anime. It’s just that the anime is also so much more. Reading the K-On! manga feels like an outline, or a very rough draft storyboard of the anime series.
To fault the manga for this is kinda pointless. K-On! the manga never professed to be anything more than what it was: a disposable four-panel comedy strip. Imagine if Zootopia was a licensed version of a Garfield-style comic, and you might see what I’m getting at.
To that end, I don’t envy the position Kakifly (the creator of K-On!) found himself in. The story of K-On! had a definite end, and there were only two real ways you could carry on: either you follow the older four off to college, or you stick with Azusa and do the next year of high school. I don’t know if he was unable to decide which, or he wanted to hedge his bets, or what, but he went with “do both,” running two different series simultaneously with alternating chapters… effectively dooming himself to not doing either one well.
More of the Same, But Differently
Of the two branches, the High School storyline works better, if only because the characterization is stronger. Azusa, Ui, and Jun were already established by the original series, and Nao is an interesting new addition in her own gothy way. Sumire… eh… the less said about Sumire the better. But the storyline, as far as it goes, focusing on Azusa’s quest to create her own Light Music Club rather than living in the shadow of the previous one, does at least have a spark.
The College storyline, by contrast, just falls flat. The only new character who makes an impression at all is Akira, the lead guitarist of “rival band” Only Girlz– but even she was clearly created to merge the roles of Yui’s caretaker and tsundere glomp-target into a single character. It’s as if Kakifly tossed Ui, Nodoka, and Azusa into a blender to create Akira… and then had no more ideas for the rest of the cast. As for storyline, there isn’t any to speak of beyond a vague “battle of the bands” one-sided rivalry on Akira’s part that even the members of Hokagou Tea Time barely even notice.
In short, the follow-up manga series disappoint for two major reasons: the first being that the manga was never as good as the anime in the first place, and the second being that the follow-ups needed to be more removed from the original series and allowed to be their own thing. (The fact that a big Yui/Azusa reunion moment keeps being hinted at, but never appears, doesn’t help either. I’m guessing this was being set up to be the highlight of some future chapter that never materialized.)
When You Come to the End, Stop
As I say, I don’t envy Kakifly’s position… because I was in a similar one myself. When I decided I wanted to return to The Suburban Jungle, there was a lot of pressure from people wanting me to just pick up where it left off and basically do more of the same, with variations. Some people wanted Leona to become the new star, some people wanted Drezzer, many people just wanted it to keep on going the way it had.
And Suburban Jungle was a mid-tier webcomic! I can’t imagine the kind of pressure I would have felt if it had been made into hugely successful TV series.
But at the same time, I have studied enough sequels, spin-offs, and reboots to know that just tacking on more chapters after “the end” just feels anti-climactic. It didn’t work for Babylon 5 (twice!), it didn’t work for M*A*S*H or Are You Being Served? or even The Three Musketeers and it wasn’t going to work for me.
That’s why I took such pains to separate Rough Housing from Starring Tiffany Tiger. There is some of that “combine characters from the previous cast to make a new character” thing going on… Charity, besides being the combination of Dover and Comfort one would expect from their child, also has elements of Tiffany, for instance. But it was important to me from the beginning that there not be any absolute corollaries, and not simply repeating the same story or gags with a different skin.
In the case of K-On!, my armchair advice would have been first to let a few years pass in the real world in order to gain some distance from the work, and then to have made a stronger break. If you absolutely wanted to continue with those five characters, which I think could have worked, then fast forward past college and reunite them as adults. My suggestion: make them the stars of a TV show about a band, a la The Monkees, and having to deal with wanting to be For Realz Serious Musicians in a world that just thinks of them as being a corporate cash-in. That could open whole new avenues of humor and would crank up the recurring theme from the original of serious musicianship vs. fluffling off in new and interesting ways. Just imagine Ritsu trying to manipulate studio execs, or Mio finding a website full of fanfiction about herself, for starters…
Dammit, now I want to develop this show. ¬.¬ Anybody got the phone number for Kyoto Animation?
PS: There’s still more I have to say about K-On! and in particular what effect it’s had on how I think about and approach Suburban Jungle, but that will have to wait for another post. In the meantime, the rest of the series is here: Zen, Music, and So. Much. Tea. (My K-On! Obsession, Part One) and K-On! the Anime v. the Manga, Part One.
So, Suburban Jungle launched 18 years ago today. Thanks to the strange time-dilation effect of comics, that puts Rough Housing as due to start happening around 2019 to put Charity at the right age. XD
It’s been a long strange trip and I’m very grateful for all the friends, fans, and extended family I’ve made along the way. Thank you very much!
There was a kerfluffle, back in the dim dark past, during which some self-important pedant at Wikipedia decided that webcomics were not “worthy of note” and systematically went through and deleted them all. What I said at the time, and it’s still true, was that I was actually a lot prouder and happier that Suburban Jungle had a TVTropes.org page, because as far as audience engagement in the modern world goes, that’s a lot more significant.
I haven’t looked at it in a while, but last night on a whim I decided to check it and was chuffed to discover that it’s still being updated, in particular making a note of a page in the current issue, posted in November, where Charity runs so fast she breaks the panel border. So, while Suburban Jungle‘s TV Tropes page isn’t the huge lots-of-subpages juggernaut that something like Firefly is, it is still current and alive.
This makes me happy. XD And I want to build on it. As with the Community Welcome Thread, I want to create a “third place” for people within Suburban Jungle, where people can bring their own creativity and energy to bear rather than just passively reading the comic and then moving on to the next link in their bookmarks. We’ve been there before, thanks to the networking powerhouse that was Mammallamadevil, but also because the word was being spread by folks like Hikaru, the Dirt Den Inn crew, HBar98, TK, and dozens of others.
Rekindling the fandom is one of my big goals for 2017. The semi-regular streaming (generally Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday nights at 7:30 EST) is the first part of that. It’s up and running at full tilt, and either this week or next I’ll be adding a new camera so that I can record doing real media commissions as well. An even bigger piece is under construction right now with the help of several collaborators— but that probably won’t really take shape until March or April.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to keep on keeping on, and I hope you’ll do the same. Get interested, and get involved! If there are ways we can build the fandom, I’d love to hear about them. But I can’t do it alone!
Three Good Things for Today
- Jewelry-making supplies shopping with laurie_robey
- Deposited an unexpected (but welcome) check from Starbucks
- Sent off a bunch of job apps (wish me luck!)
- Bonus Good Thing! Invite to Overwatch from friends (I ended up declining in order to job hunt, but still grateful for the invite)
- Bonus Good Thing! Fun playing with the cats, who were super-energetic and adorable today.
- Bonus Good Thing! More Dreamwidth configuration and friends popping up, as well as some Gneech.com design tweaks.
Three Goals for Tomorrow
- Print and mail Plotline's badge
- Rough Housing script work
- Terinas Tiger commission
- Bonus! New Years' Eve/Kormath Christmas at the Rathbun House
'sall good. :) Gnite world, and have an awesome tomorrow. <3
Yeah, 2016 pretty much blew chunks in a lot of ways. Thing is, it started out so well! I thought 2014 was the worst things were going to get, 2015 was the beginning of an upward climb, and that 2016 was going to be awesome. Then everything went pear-shaped, starting with our moving plans. Then Buddha died... and from there it was a nearly-unrelenting sea of crap that culminated in the Worst Possible Result in the election. I used to joke about not wanting to live in 1930s Germany. I don't joke about that any more.
For the record, some good things DID happen in 2016, and there's evidence that 2017 will be better. So even though things have been rough, just wallowing in it isn’t going to help. Since the end of November, I have been making a concerted effort to wedge positivity back into my life by any means possible, and it is working, even if there is a lot of resistance from a world determined to set itself on fire. But more on that in the Goals for 2017 part of the post. For now, let's review the goals I set at the beginning of the year.
- Issues Four and Five, Plus the First Collection. Partial success. Issue four is out and issue five is running currently, after moving and story development heck. This will be finished in early 2017, assuming all goes well.
- Publish That Book! Still working on it. I've received a fair amount of positive feedback from the various agents etc. I've shopped it around to, but so far it hasn't found a home. I'm going to keep at it until it sells or I run out of potential markets. If it gets to that point, I'll look at self-publishing.
- Finish Another Book! Didn't happen. Had to punt mid-NaNoWriMo, but I'll get back to it in 2017.
- Get the Money Sitch Fixed. Didn't happen. Despite being a very strong candidate, lythandra went to trainings and applied for jobs and talked to headhunters and out of all that got a few tiny nibbles and only one offer– which was immediately cancelled a few days later due to the contract being disputed. I hung out my shingle as a freelance/tech writer but so far have spent most of my time on that front turning down such lucrative offers as "Write ten full length novels for us to sell without giving you any residuals or credit for $35,000/year." So, still living on savings and what income the comics and art bring in, but we have plans in motion. (See below.)
- Move. Um. Happened, yes. But not the way we wanted. It needs fixing still/again.
- Get Back to Conventions! Eh... sort of. AC and MFF happened again. We also went to a steampunk meet in PA, but we had to punt on FurTheMore and Dragon*Con for financial and/or scheduling reasons. I expect 2017 to be different, however.
- Stronger faster slimmer better. Big setbacks here. Depression, stress, and a host of other factors meant that in six months I regained all the weight it had taken me two years to get rid of. :P I am not happy about this. The good news is that at the end of November I rejoined Weight Watchers and I have recovered 11 pounds' worth of progress since then, despite the best efforts of convention food and holidays. More significantly I have figured out how to live comfortably on a 35-ish point diet– basically the allocation for someone my age weighing 220 lbs. At my current rate of weight loss, I will hit that in six months, which would suit me just fine.
- No More Afib. Success! Heart ablation surgery was a complete success. Since March, I have only experienced afib twice, both of which were in December and seem to have been triggered by salt. As long as I continue to limit my salt intake, I should be set.
- Bernie Sanders 2016. Ugh. Don't get me started.
Now the review post from last year had unexpected things achieved in 2015. Alas, 2016 didn't really have a lot in the way of such things. However, it wasn't entirely bleak. Zootopia was really good, for instance. Also, I got into Overwatch and a fan very kindly built me a terrific computer to run it on, which prompted me to create the Learning Not to Suck at Overwatch series. It didn't exactly set YouTube on fire, but the videos were fun to make and I got to test my mettle in a competitive environment, something which I've never done a lot of. Overwatch also provided my single longest running batch of art commissions, in the form of "Play of the Game" badges. My Overwatchery has been thin since Halloween– other priorities eating my time– but I hope to get back into it in January.
So that leads me to my goals for 2017...
- Issues Five and Six, Plus the First Collection. Five and collection should be done well before AnthroCon. Issue Six, we'll see. I’m thinking of taking the comic in a slightly new direction based on the ending of Issue Five, but that's still in the very half-baked stage so I can't really go into detail yet.
- Publish That Book! Like I said, still working on this.
- Finish Another Book! I am looking at creating a series specifically for self-pub. More on that as the development fills out some more.
- Start a Company. This is a big one that Laurie and I have been messing with off and on again all year, but which is really starting to take shape now. Again, I don't want to talk about it in too much detail before everything is set in motion, all the T's are dotted and I's are crossed, etc., but it's a cool, exciting project designed to put the making of money back into our hands, since getting hired by other people doesn't seem to be a thing that really happens to anyone any more.
- Move to California. Okay. So. I thought this was going to happen last year, but for various reasons I kept fairly quiet about it at the time, and then it fell through anyway. It's back on the plan now, and I am not keeping it a secret any more. The exact details are still being hashed out, so you can expect to hear more on this as the year goes on. But part of the reason for the Start a Company item, is to enable living where we want, and since Fed jobs are going to all be utter crap for the next four years or more as the assholes-elect try to burn down the country, there's not a whole lot of point in staying around here for the job market anyway. Our families and some of our friends are here, of course, but we only see them a few times a year as it is– Facetime/Google Hangouts and plane tickets will probably take care of that problem. California is not necessarily the only candidate, we're also looking at some spots around New England for instance, but it is by far the strongest candidate and my top choice unless there is a strongly compelling reason to go elsewhere.
- Stronger faster slimmer better. 220 lbs by end of September is the plan. 220 lbs by end of June is the stretch goal.
- Bring the Awesome! I was just getting through my grief about my parents when Buddha died, kicking it all off again. I spent most of 2016 in a depression deeper than anything I’ve been through since 2001, although instead of manifesting as "feeling bad," it was more like an emotional dead zone, making it hard to enjoy anything and leaving me in a constant state of "peeved and grouchy for no good reason." That shit's got to go. As I said, since the end of November I've been focusing on positivity, and I'm just going to build on that and do more in 2017.
- Edit Myself Less. This one is kind of hard to explain without context and it's more a note to myself than anything. There are aspects of myself that I have simply made a point of not talking about for one reason or another; opinions, feelings, or wishes I have kept to myself when it would have been appropriate to share them, and so on. But honestly? It's not doing myself or the people who care about me any favors. I've had people tell me "I thought I knew you..." before for just this reason. And while I'm a lot more myself now than I used to be, I still get into that self-censorship habit when I’m depressed or afraid. This is something I need to work on. Shoving every thought in your head into other people's faces isn't a good idea– but shutting yourself down just to please other people isn't a healthy choice either. I'm not about to start drawing porn or anything like that, but I am going to be loosening up.
- Reverse course and mitigate/repair damage to the country. Grassroots action FTW. They're not going to burn down the country while I have anything to say about it. More on this in some other post.
jamesbarrett's sister Kimmie said that 2016 was the end of a 9-year cycle, which is why there were so many deaths and endings and so much loss, but that also meant that 2017 would be a year of new beginnings.  While astrology and numerology are not my particular flavor of crackpottery, I can’t deny that 2016 sure has felt like everything was crumbling around my ears. Not going to California when we originally planned to, which pushed us into the Maryland move, and the death of Buddha all hit me hard. Seeing the end of the first administration in my life that I actually liked the President was going to be tough; seeing him replaced by somebody so obviously The Worst Possible Candidate For the Job just hurts.
But these things all happened and can't be undone. I've had my disappointment and my grief and my rage. While there may be emotional aftershocks, the end of November made a sea change in Laurie and me, and I am excited and ready for the things we’ve got coming up in the year ahead. If 2017 is indeed the year of new beginnings, let's make it the beginning of something amazing.
 This is based on numerology: 2016 breaks down to 2 + 0 + 1 + 6 = 9. 2017 will be 2 + 0 + 1 + 7 = 10, 1 + 0 = 1. Thus 2016 is the end of the current cycle and 2017 is the beginning of the next one.
As mentioned last week, I’m in the midst of something of a “brand overhaul,” which includes everything from my comics and art, to my novel writing career, to my business writing and graphic design efforts. Each of these categories need a slightly different approach, and I’m still banging out a strategy for that, but today I’m concentrating on the art end of things. Because this past week I set up a TigerDile streaming page, for which I needed some graphics to spruce up the place. To that end, I tossed together this banner image:
Honestly? I like it. I like it a lot, in fact, except there’s one big problem, and that’s using “Three Lions and an Otter” as the central motif. It’s a handy model and I think there’s value in it as a touchstone for myself, but it’s not what I want to use for my “brand identity.”
As I took pains to point out when I first started using it, the idea was
shamelessly stolen from inspired by M.C.A. Hogarth’s Three Jaguars. This is not a secret. In fact, it’s kinda the whole point. It was intended as a respectful nod towards a brilliant conceit. But what do I immediately get every time I reference “Three Lions and an Otter”?
“Say, are you familiar with Maggie Hogarth?”
“Y’know, M.C.A. Hogarth did something similar. You should check it out.”
“Have you seen Three Jaguars?”
Okay, world. I get it. Message received. XD
So I’m still casting about for a proper umbrella term to use for my “personal brand.” Don’t be surprised to see me “trying on” a few different ideas in the upcoming weeks! Some great ones I’ve seen over the years besides “Three Jaguars” include Michele Light’s Light Bright Studios, the OzFoxes, and so on.
I thought about simply broadening “Suburban Jungle” to reference the body of my work, with the original comic and Rough Housing simply being two projects flying under that banner, but I worry that might be too confusing. Those two projects share a history and a continuity, which random bits of furry art or whatever might not.
So… still chewing on it. I’m open to suggestions if you have any!
So one thing that was made quite clear at the most recent Midwest Furfest is that I’ve really gotta get back in touch with the fandom. Suburban Jungle used to mean room parties and charity auction cameos going for hundreds of dollars, but this past weekend it seemed to be “That comic everybody used to know and remembers fondly.”
Dude. What am I, the Animaniacs? XD Nostalgia is not my brand!
Seriously tho, I think a lot of the problem is that as time has gone on, I’ve just gotten out of touch. I met plenty of people at the convention who’d never heard of me or my work, but upon seeing the art were instantly interested in checking it out. So clearly what I’ve got to do is get it front of more eyeballs!
To that end, I’m working on a retool of my online presence generally, looking for new venues to spread the word and so on. Besides the usual DeviantArt and FurAffinity accounts, I’m going to start posting more of my work on my Tumblr account (which has until now been little more than reblogs), I created a Pinterest board for my art, and I have (finally) started dipping my toes into groups on Telegram.
Sometime by the end of the year I expect to also start streaming fairly regularly on Monday and/or Tuesday nights as I work on the next comic page. Right now I’m still researching that, looking for artists with successful streams and watching what they do. (If you have faves, let me know! I want to see ALL THE STREAMS.)
As a general thing, I also just sorta need to get back out into the world. Over the past years I had kinda retreated into a cocoon as I dealt with the slings and arrows being fired at me by outrageous fortune, and I’m finally sticking my head back out. (What did I find? 2016. For cryin’ out loud, world, I hide away for just a few years, and you turn into a dumpster fire? I want you to go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done while the rest of us clean up this mess.)
…Er, sorry, what was I saying? Right, getting back in touch with the world. I’ve got a few volunteers who are helping me with that, and I’ll gratefully take any assistance I can get, but nothing replaces me getting out there and taking care of it myself. I need to do a lot more connecting with the world than just posting to LiveJournal and Twitter, and that’s going to be a big priority for me over the next several weeks.
If anyone has ideas on what I should do, I’d love to hear them! 😀
As things have developed, both public and private, I have decided that my I need to change my priorities in the upcoming months. To that end, I need to put By Elves Abandoned on the back burner and work on other things. Instead of working on those other things and feeling guilty about not hitting wordcount goals for NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to simply let that go.
The book still has a lot of potential, and I expect to pick it up again before too long, it’s purely a matter of timing. Maybe my own personal NaNoWriMo will come in February, we’ll see!
Suburban Jungle will keep going, and punting on NaNo will hopefully give me time to fix up lingering issues I’m having with the current storyline and the direction the comic is taking generally. Fortunately, that only takes me a couple of days a week and could be done at night or on the weekends as needed. I am also still working on finding a publisher for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania.
How Not to Suck at Overwatch is also going to go quiet for the foreseeable future. It was a fun project and I enjoyed it (and I’m very grateful to the friends and fans who made it possible), but at least for now I have other things I need to concentrate on.
As for what I am working on, that’s not in a stage where I’m ready to tell the world. But when the time comes, I will! But until then, I’ve got commissions to finish and a comic to draw, so I’d better get to work.
Three Good Things For Today
- Wrote almost all of a novel summary for NaNoWriMo. Still needs the last act and chapter/scene breakdowns, but I think I may have the workings of a real book here. ^.^
- Submitted dealer table application for AnthroCon.
- Actually put up a (very small) Suburban Jungle update for tomorrow.
- Bonus Good Thing! TwitterPonies fun. :)
Three Goals For Tomorrow
- Find and apply for three jobs.
- Finish novel summary.
- Resolve prescriptions weirdness.
G'nite world, and have an awesome tomorrow. I love ya. <3
Certainly, the largest factor is money. While I have been earning some money with my art commissions, writing, and other projects, it has never been more than "supplementary" level. That was fine while lythandra was making more than enough for both of us, but despite having an amazing job history and regardless of the best efforts of an army of recruiters, it's been over a year now since she had regular employment as well, and we simply can't keep living off our savings any more (or we soon won't have savings to live off).
As for what I'm seeking, I'm still working on that. I want to be in an office environment, but I don't think I could go back to writing code all day (and my skills in that department are super-rusty anyway). I'm going to start by looking for admin, data entry, or other sorts of entry level work and see where that leads me in the short term.
If anyone has leads, I'd be grateful to hear them!
How this will impact the writing and comics, I'm not sure. I imagine it will take me a little while to actually find a job anyway; during that time I am continuing to submit Sky Pirates of Calypsitania (rejection number ten or so just came in this morning) and working on other ideas, and I still have commissions to get through. Issue five of Rough Housing is kinda stuck in development heck as I fight through script problems, but I am still plugging away at that, too.
In the meantime, I'm also going to refactor my Patreon, as I'm just not able to devote the proper attention to it and I don't want to be misleading people about it.
I'm grateful to have had the past few years "off" to help my parents in their final days and to deal with other various life crises, as well as finishing the Sky Pirates novel and various other projects. But I can't keep coasting forever.
I am askew. And last night was the worst of it. Today was to some extent a sick day, although I didn't officially label it as such and like a nitwit tried to actually be productive in the morning. By lunchtime, I knew that wasn't going to happen.
But, with years of practice, I can feel this evening that the worst is over (for now) and I am starting the climb back up out of the hole. Assuming I can shove myself into bed early and get some proper sleep tonight, I will be back to being myself in the morning. At which time, I will want to have a plan so I don't end up just pfutzing around. To that end, here's this week's Too Much To Do List:
- Work up the "Langley the Lifeguard" idea for Roar 8.
- Find a "non-steampunk" tarot app to facilitate the "tarot as story prompt" idea.
- Find old "story vault" file and transfer to Google drive.
- Work on Issue 5.
- Furplanet commish.
- Let Man In Amber percolate on the back burner a while.
- Do some meditation not related to past-life regression.
That should keep me busy for a while. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna curl up with Tumblr and look at KorrAsami and AppleDash stuff for the rest of the night and get all the feels.
But I have discovered, of late, that I lack skill in just coming up with funny bits for the sake of them being funny bits. This has been a recurring problem with Rough Housing, which was conceived with the intention of having lots of things that were just funny bits. But it also informs a lot of the issues I've had with Brigid and Greg and several other projects. I think I have been fundamentally approaching them wrong.
What I do well (I think) is to put a funny spin on a serious (or at least "played straight") situation. Take for example Ghostbusters (the 1984 one): if you just outlined its story, it wouldn't be that far off from a standard Lovecraftian horror tale . What makes it a comedy is the fact that the characters are all oddballs with quirky behavior. When he witnesses Dana Barrett transformed into a snarling hell-beast, does Venkman descend into madness? No. He busts out a Rodney Dangerfield impression. That's what I mean by funny spin.
This explains, I think, why I keep having big holes in my scripts that say things like "LANGLEY DOES SOMETHING FUNNY HERE." If I was part of a bullpen of writers where someone else could polish up jokes while I worked on character development or something, it would be different, but flying solo I just can't write that way and I need to stop trying. What I need to do instead is focus on the characters and have them do what they will do. It can be a frustrating process, as the characters often want to go off and do things that completely negate everything I've been building towards or whatever, but generally the characters know their story better than I do.
 With the premise inverted such that human ingenuity can totally kick the cosmic horror's ass. But still.
Things are gradually improving here. We're finally getting some sun, which has improved my outlook and energy level. The dishwasher pump is still hosed, but the technician showed us a workaround that will suffice until he gets the replacement part, so we can at least wash dishes. My foot is still a bit swollen and tender, but it can at least support weight for a few moments without hurting. The nasty blood blister that accompanied the broken toe is gone, and the wound is healing up now. lythandra has been unpacking like crazy and you can see the beginnings of a home taking shape out of the chaos. Even InkyGirl seems to be fairly comfortable in her new digs, although she's still hesitant about going upstairs (but will pluck up the courage to come up and walk on our heads to get her breakfast).
Since I'm pretty much supposed to plant myself and stay whenever possible, I've been cranking on Suburban Jungle. Yesterday I finished next week's page, which means that today (Gasp!) I actually start getting ahead again! Just in time to only have four pages of this issue left. ¬.¬ But that's okay, I need to get issue four finished by the end of May so that FurPlanet can have June to print it before AnthroCon.
Once that's done, I'm going to return to a) Marketing the Sky Pirates book, and b) Writing Mortal Thoughts. Those two projects will probably take most of my June, with some scripting for issue five done around the edges when I can.
So that's where things stand. Will we have internet today? Will I ever sell my bloody books? Will Susan ever confess her love to Brad? The answers to all these questions and more, on the next episode of... SOAP.
-The Gneech, kidnapped by aliens
Not gonna lie: I felt kinda gut-punched by the initial appearance and marketing of Zootopia. When I first came onto the furry scene, I had friends working at Disney who lived in constant fear they would be “outed” as furries and get fired. So now, 15 years later, to have Disney release a movie that is clearly aimed at furries but still didn’t want to name them as such (remember the “What Is Anthropomorphic” trailer), about a fox and a rabbit teaming up? Tell me that doesn’t sound like The Lion King : Kimba :: Zootopia : Kevin and Kell.
And then to see a promo poster with a big ol’ pair of furry faces and the caption “WELCOME TO THE URBAN JUNGLE”? It was real hard not to take that personal. It felt like Disney saw furry conventions bringing piles of money in to convention hosting cities and charity auctions and thought, “Hey, why isn’t that money coming to us instead?” It also felt like people like Bill Holbrook, Uncle Kage, and me had spent years working to de-stigmatize the furry genre, only to have Disney swoop in and reap the rewards.
But the movie received out of this world reviews, even for the usual softball of a Disney movie, and everyone I knew who saw it loved it. I knew that I was going to end up seeing it eventually anyway, so I went ahead and did on Saturday.
Well, I’m pleased to announce that I was wrong. This is not “furry being co-opted.” This is, “furry has arrived.”
Zootopia, from the train with separated compartments based on passenger size, to the themes of speciesism, to the surprisingly biting social commentary, is legit furry literature of the best kind. The filmmakers didn’t just take someone else’s work and throw a billion dollars at making it pretty, they took the furry premise and made something new, original, and beautifully realized.
So, all objections withdrawn. Go see it! In the meantime, I’ll just leave this here for you to consider (beware spoilers).