It’s been a year off Offset, and let me say this:
Comic strips are hard.
I don’t say this to complain, mind you. I do enough of that in the strip. Some people wonder how autobiographical the strip is, and make no mistake – Dean is me.
Or at least a caricatured, exaggerated me. Dean gets to rail on about all the things that bug me, gets to bore his wife and co-workers with his diatribes about the world, what’s wrong with it, and why it can’t or won’t be fixed. My co-workers have had to suffer through this, as has my wife.
Of course, Dean’s wife Gwen is also me. She’s the voice of reason in my head, telling me that everything will be OK. We all need one of those. Gwen is also loosely based on my wife, who’s a lovely lady and usually of more sound mind than I when it comes to whether something is worth getting pissed off about (it’s generally not, it turns out).
So I guess the strip is mostly-autobiographical. The situations are often invented, but I try to make the character’s reactions as close to real as possible.
Unlike Dean, I actually like my job. It’s not perfect, but the people i work with are a great bunch. Particular design jobs can be frustrating (usually the clients that either know exactly what they want and it’s awful, or the people who have no idea what they want, they only know what the don’t want), but overall I like the work. I like fiddling with computers and design, and i like the rare moment when an idea forms and is shaped and worked on, until it finally appears in print pretty much the way I saw it in my head. That’s a pretty nice moment, made nicer still because of how rare it is.
I started posting Offset about a year ago, so that makes this an anniversary. I like comic strips in the same way I like design – the only difference being that I have complete control over my strip, so if the end result is crap I have no one to blame except myself.
Comic strips are hard – to tell a complete joke or story in four panels and make it work is a challenge. Developing characters in tiny bits while making people laugh or groan is a real art, no matter what art college instructors say. Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson was a master of it, so was Peanuts’ Charles Schultz and Bloom County’s Berkely Breathed. Being on the web means comic strippers are no longer confined to the three or four panel format, but I enjoy the structure and the challenge.
I used to do a comic strip for a community newspaper in Nelson, BC. It paid $15 per strip, and each strip took me about 4 hours (and yes, I write this sitting on a throne of money). I got to do pretty much whatever I wanted there too, just no swearing, nudity or making fun of the publisher. The newspaper was read by about 10,000 people or so every week, but I never had any idea if anyone liked the strip or not. My friends said they liked it of course, but friends are notorious liars especially when it comes to being nice to a friend attempting to be creative.
I did the strip weekly for two years before I decided to wrap it up, and it was then that I got my first and only fan letter (which I still have to this day).
The web is very different – WordPress gives me stats whenever I want them that tells me exactly how many people have read the latest strip. This is both good and bad. Good because i know that people are reading it, and bad because it’s easy to see how many people aren’t. At the newspaper I was a small fish in a small pond. With Offset I am a small fish in a giant ocean.
There are a lot of great strips out there on the net these days – The Oatmeal, XKCD, Cyanide and Happiness to name only a few of the big fish in the ocean (for smaller fish like myself, check out my buddy Chris’ Pre-Apocalyptic Blues). If you like web comics, you’ve probably checked them out already. If you haven’t, you should.
Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read, and more so to those who comment. It’s a great feeling to know people enjoy or relate to the little stories rattling around my head.
Happy anniversary to Dean and the gang at Offset Publishing. Hopefully they’ll be haunting my head for years to come.