Confessions and Commencements.

Fucking Webcomics.

I look back at my archives of this blog and I see someone I was once. That’s what we all do when we reflect. That’s what’s to be expected during reflection. About a year and a half ago, when I started this, I admit I was jumping aboard the Webcomics Critic Bandwagon (before it was really a bandwagon to speak of, in my mind). It was a field that was not densely populated. To put it bluntly, not many people were doing it.

So I often wonder why I did.

I love Webcomics. The raw accessibility is what draws me to them more than anything else. Second, of course, to loving the medium itself. If you know me personally (and even if you don’t you could probably gather this from my general attitude), you know that I hunger for success. Validation. Any sort of tangible proof that I’m an intelligent or creative person. A lot, if not most of us, also want that. It’s a pretty basic human need. Seems to be often more at the forefront of my mental wish list than other things, and I just want to be honest about it. Webcomics helps me feel like a big shot, even though I’m so not there yet.

Conventions have fueled this greatly. At this point, I’ve been to fewer Cons as an attendee than as a participant of some kind, whether it be as a panelist, a member of the press (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) or pushing my wares in the artist alley. That’s 7 out of 10 total. Not many cons altogether, but I’ve only been seriously doing this for a year anyway. And I don’t intend on stopping, for what it’s worth. When I’m at these cons, I’m making new friends. New contacts. Both professionals and casuals. More people than I, regretfully, have the mind to remember. There’s just so goddamned many of them.

I’ve managed to “con” my way into these things, usually, by convincing them I’m some sort of Webcomics Expert. I’ve done a shitload of Webcomics 101 and other type panels, moreso than my background of experience truly warrants. I regard it scathingly because I have to continuously remind myself (not just in Webcomics, but in all the walks of life I partake) that I haven’t done that Goddamned much. Even less successes. Fortunately, I’m often able to use my failures to help others in the “Do What I Say, Not What I’ve Done” model of advice. Generally speaking, it’s been good. I’ve received no complaints.

I’m better at talking about comics than I am at making them. That, as any critic who yearns to be an artist can sympathize with, is a painful thing to embrace. Because, dammit, we want to make things and entertain people.

This past summer of cons has thrown my dissatisfaction of my station into my face repeatedly. Wizard World Philly, ConnectiCon, Otakon… people ask me the question that is to be asked, as I am a man who surrounds himself with Webcomic professionals every chance he gets:

“So, what Webcomic do you do?”

Generally, I explain like this:

“I’m kind of a rare case, where I’m at conventions moreso for my knowledge than my craft. But to put it simply, I do everything in Webcomics that doesn’t actually involve making a Webcomic. I used to make a Webcomic called The Hoojie Crew, but these days I do a criticism blog, a podcast, I run a collective, I’m on the committee for the Webcartoonist Choice Awards, I’m involved with Clickwheel as an animatic editor, I run a Wiki dedicated to compiling and creating Webcomics-themed cocktails…”

That’s usually the point where I trail off and wrap it up when the person I’m talking to stares at me blankly, as if to say, “So, you’re not a real Webcomic artist, are you?” And that’s uncomfortable. I do a fucking lot, more than I usually have time for. But to the average viewer, none of that fucking matters. Because I don’t actually make a Webcomic. Why don’t I make a Webcomic?

Well, I used to. You may have known that, you may have not. I don’t bring it up often, specifically, because as most “artists” do, I’m thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of my previous efforts. An artist’s their own toughest critic. Even tougher, you might imagine, if they were also a practicing fucking critic at the same time.

It was called The Hoojie Crew, and it was about (shock!) the random fictional adventures of me and my dorm-mates with the more than occasional reference or discussion of a video game. I could rarely stick to my own update schedule. I made practically every mistake you could make when starting out. I even made one of the characters into a catgirl for Christ’s sake.

Although, I do look upon it fondly, as well. It was fun while it lasted. I learned a ton just by doing and failing and re-trying and failing again. It was the work I cut my teeth on. Experimented on occasionally, fucked around with, and learned with. I jumped right into Webcomics expecting fame and notoriety, not knowing a damned thing about Webcomics. Heck, at that point I don’t think I was even fully aware of the existence of more than a dozen Webcomics. I didn’t know what PVP was. I didn’t know what Webcomics were. And this was in 2003. By then, things were really starting to take shape. And I was jumping in expecting immediate rewards (on then-KeenSpace, no less).

But the fact remains that while I was doing it, I was enjoying it. While I was working on it, I was learning a lot. So I’m glad for it, and I am lovingly and respectfully putting it to rest for multiple reasons, including ones that don’t really need discussing right now.

And I miss it. The act of making Webcomics, that is.

I’m pretty tired of going to cons without something wholly tangible to show off. I’m tired of speaking to all my Webcomics partners and friends about traffic and business and method without having anything to really go on than outdated experiences and speculation. I’m tired of being the guy that does everything in Webcomics without actually making a Webcomic. That missing element needs to be re-inserted. And after a year of being totally burnt-out on drawing comics, and the enjoyment thereof. I miss making comics very, very much. And I feel ready. Ready to get back into the habit.

What I’m trying to say is, rather than shutting up, I’m putting up.

I’m going to start making comics again, the way I want to make them, in the most professional manner I’m capable of. I’m doing them with my lovely girlfriend Sarah. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to make something I’ll be proud to show off, and use to practice and get better at the craft, so that when I want to make something truly big and artistic, I’ll be ready.

So. Premiering September 1st, PUPPIES!! will be born. You will find that at www.puppies-comic.com and I do hope you will enjoy it. I will be updating it on Fridays, and Sarah will be updating it on Mondays. I’m going to have some fun, Goddammit.

I’ve had a great run here. I feel satisfied with what I’ve done so far on I’m Just Saying. And that’s a good feeling. I’m putting this blog aside for now, and putting that energy into Digital Strips. Though, I’ll still be using this space for announcements and things. The archives have had the riffraff and othersuch unimportant entries cleared out. What remains is all the substance I’ve put in here over that year or so, whether good or bad. I also added a list in the sidebar of some posts that I consider to be classics (also, whether good or bad). You never know, though. Something might just move me to write some new stuff here. I guess that depends on Webcomics, et al.

There’s a few people I’d like to thank for their parts of the duration of this thing. Thanks to Eric Burns, Wednesday White and the Snarkoleptics, for giving me the idea to do this thing in the first place. Thanks to AleX Kujawa, for encouraging me and sticking by me with Biscuit Press as the best webmaster I could ask for (through all the good and the bad). Thanks to Zampzon and Daku for bringing me on to Digital Strips. Thanks to Rob Balder for the massive help in launching I’m Just Drinking, and all the general sort of comradery and mentoring he’s given me. Thanks to Annie, LucasTDS, Abby L, and all the other frequent-commenters that indulged me in discourse (including that motherfucker, Will G). Thanks to T Campbell for getting me involved in my first paying job as a video editor with Clickwheel, AND the WCCAs. Thanks to Xaviar Xerexes for all the times he’s quoted me, or otherwise pointed people here for Important Webcomics Stuff. Thanks to anybody I forgot to mention, because this list turned out to be a bit more than “a few” as I was typing it.

And, of course, thanks to all of you people that have simply read along. I obviously wouldn’t have been doing it if it weren’t for you.

Hasta

-Phil!

12 Responses to “Confessions and Commencements.”

  1. Nate says:

    The first half of your essay is one of the reasons I haven’t ever started a seperate comics blog, and just blather about comics I like in the snarkoleptics community. The extent of my webcomics making was an extremely random comic I made years ago with Microsoft Comic Chat. I’m just a dude who likes comics.

    Which was one of the things at MoCCA. Well, two of the things. One was I wanted to start a comic just so it’d be easier to introduce myself. “I’m me and I do this,” rather than “I’m me and I sometimes babble about comics on LJ and forums.”

    The other was I felt weird hanging around with some of the comic folks I met, awesome as they were. Because I know enough about comics, and knew most of them online, so I could keep up with most of the conversations. Especially since I’d looked into a lot of the practical parts of publishing printing and such, when I never got around to actually looking for an artist. But I haven’t actually done anything so I felt like I was just sorta tagging along.

  2. You usually don’t believe me when I say things like this, Phil, but I always thought your comic making skills were great. I’m glad that you are taking another run at it with the sober reflection of experience behind you. Looking forward to reading “Puppies!”

  3. Phil Kahn says:

    You’re right, Pete. I don’t believe you :D But thanks all the same.

    Nate, that’s exactly it, man. Exactly.

  4. Abby L says:

    I really enjoy your quirky art style, that of it that I’ve seen, and I hope you really enjoy the new comic you’re doing. As much as I loved reading your blog, it will be great to see a new project from you. :) I am also envious of your blogging skills, because even if I decided to, I couldn’t write commentary as well as you do. Hopefully there’ll still be opportunities to hear your take on the goings-on.

  5. Phil Kahn says:

    Oh don’t you worry. Through Digital Strips and likely other outlets as they come… well, let’s just say I can’t shut up :D

    Thanks for the compliments, as well.

  6. Bernie H. says:

    No, seriously, shut up and make your comic.

    I’ve bookmarked puppies-comic.com already. See you there.

    And oh yeah, see you at UberCon too.

  7. Phil Kahn says:

    Done and done. And I mean done.

  8. lucastds says:

    Thanks for the thanks, Phil. I’ve always found your writing engaging. It’s sad that we have to add this blog to the list of webcomic blogs that have passed away recently. At the same time, it’s exciting that you’ve got a new comic going. Good luck!

  9. Phil Kahn says:

    Not dead, Lucas. Just backburnered.

  10. Hey, I discovered webcomics in 2003 too. You go, boy. Gonna go take a look as soon as I submit this comment.

  11. Phil Kahn says:

    Thanks, Paul. That’s encouraging for me.

  12. xerexes says:

    Don’t you mean Javiar? :)

    Hey thanks for the shout out. I missed all this so I’m off to check out Puppies!!