So 200 comics down, in a little over 2 years. No signs of stopping yet. I felt like this would be a good spot to take a small break and reflect on my experiences so far.
How’d it start?
I was between jobs and looking for something to do to keep me motivated in my spare time, basically. I was hanging out in football forums across the internet (namely Something Awful’s Football Funhouse) and when Peyton was teasing everyone with where he would go I started photoshopping his face onto each logo. It quickly exploded on me and all of a sudden I could google my name and see my stuff on sites outside my own. It was a surreal experience. From there I just kept doing football art, and about a month or so later I created the Football Cops comic. Then I made another comic. I made about 2 months of comics before I decided I could actually do this on the regular and with the help of my girlfriend put together a site. It wasn’t really meant to be anything but a place I could collect my football jokes. The comic itself really was just a way to keep myself busy and give some friends a laugh.
It more or less still is. My main goal is still basically to just illustrate dumb jokes about football. Sometimes I want to voice my thoughts on a topic, sometimes I just want to be really stupid. But when all is said and done I just want to give people a chuckle. I don’t want to tell a story or emotionally connect people to characters, I just want them to laugh. If you read one of the comics or see one of my silly illustrations and giggle, even barely, I feel like I’ve done my job.
All I did as a kid was read Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I don’t read comics and never have. Never found them interesting. I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, & The Simpsons. I drew a lot of comics (Sunday paper type comics) as a kid so I like to think this was just a natural progression. I like to think it helped me learn good comic timing and how to tell a joke. Whether or not the joke is good is up to you to decide.
I don’t really read other webcomics either. If I do they are usually the gag strip variety. I don’t consider myself to be a part of the Webcomic community, really. I don’t expend all my energy on the comic, just on football in general with an emphasis on comics to tell my jokes. If the comic serves me a professional purpose, it’s to help me get into the sports media side of things, not the comic arts side. I’d rather work for ESPN than Marvel.
What have I learned?
Webcomics are hard. I have to do a lot of balancing acts. No matter what I do, some aspect of my work suffers. The main reason I elected to do a gag strip in the first place and not something with steady characters is that I didn’t want to write myself into corners. Nothing kills your motivation more than writing yourself into a corner. Neither does knowing a whole story ahead of time, because you only want to draw the good parts and change things on the way. I wanted freedom to make whatever joke I wanted with as little restrictions as possible. Not even panel layouts. Just present a joke, and move on. Even with that freedom to keep me interested, I still have to come up with something to joke about, plan out how I will present the joke, sketch it, draw it, & post it. A lot of people ask me how I can come up with material even in the offseason, but honestly material is the easiest part. Finding out how to wring the best possible joke out of the subject matter is the hard part. But because I do current event comics and draw them the day before they go live, I have to do all this within one day, and something usually suffers. Sometimes I can’t put the effort into the art that I want to. Sometimes I just need to get the joke done and the joke itself isn’t presented as well as it could be. It’s not easy and it’s always the hardest thing. I do my best to try and come up with ideas well before I have to draw them so they have enough time to gestate and become the best they can be, but this results in me second guessing myself or coming up with a joke that a day later is nullified by a news story.
Several of these problems are tradeoffs that I chose to have when I ditched the ongoing story format for current events comedy. I can’t make buffer comics to save me in moments of low inspiration. I have to be completely “on” at least 4 times a week (3 comics, once for my KissingSuzyKolber posts). It’s hard to just turn it on sometimes. Usually by the end of the comic process I just want to be done. The planning is the fun part, the production part isn’t as fun, but it can be on occasion, especially if I’m doing something more dynamic/experimental than usual.
I’ve learned some valuable shortcuts in my process as well. It used to take me 3 days to basically make a comic. I was putting a lot of effort into each individual one. One day for planning/sketch, one day for linework, and one for color. Each part took about 2-4 hours on average. When the first season rolled around I realized how many jokes I was leaving on the cutting room floor, and I sacrificed some of the careful planning to get more jokes out. Those shortcuts forced me to learn new tricks to speed up my process, and now I’m doing 3 comics a week without a drop in overall quality. My art over the 2 years hasn’t improved as much on the surface as I’d like, but the backend of things absolutely has. Now that I can essentially produce 3 comics a week at the same level as my early painstaking ones, I can put more time into improving my art. Not as much as I’d like, no, and I have to try and stay consistent in many ways, but each comic these days you read has at least some element that I am experimenting with. Usually you probably won’t notice them, but I’m always trying something new in each comic. Maybe it’s a background rendering idea, or a new brush, or different panel layouts, or color experiments. Some ideas have stuck and made my work better, others have failed and been forgotten about.
But one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that It’s impossible to predict what people will connect to. I’ve made some jokes that have personally cracked me up, and I expected them to be well received, only to see it get a meh response. Sometimes I’ve totally phoned a joke in, and it gets a huge response and I don’t know why. I’ve been doing this for two years, I still can’t get a bead on what people want or like. Some people really dig the darker humor comics, others seem to prefer the lighthearted dumb jokes.
I also learned that no matter what I do, I can’t please everyone. Some comics just won’t be funny to some people, and some people will call me an unfunny hack no matter what. I’m a longtime internet veteran, so I knew this going in, but there is a difference between knowing and seeing it happen to you. It still hurts sometimes when you see people taking a dump on your work, work you just made to amuse some folks. But, the more it happens, the less it bothers me. Humor is subjective. My style isn’t for everyone, I won’t be funny to everyone, and there are some people on the internet who are dedicated to finding faults and laughing at you. You can spend your time worrying about them and let them dictate your work (lookin at you, Andrew Dobson) or you can mostly ignore them (not all of it, criticism can be useful) and make the work for yourself and your target audience.
And that’s ultimately why I do this comic every week. You guys. The people who read it. What started as just a way to amuse some friends and keep myself busy has developed into something bigger, and I still love doing it just as much as I did when I started. It’s because of you guys. I never thought I’d see regular commenters having discussions below the comics. I never thought I’d be as big as I am now, even if I’m still very small in internet terms. It’s really humbling to know that talk about and share my work with others. Making you guys laugh is now my main motivation for making these comics, because I don’t want to let you down. Thanks for making it possible for me to make this comic work for 2 years, with no stopping in sight. You make the late nights drawing till 1am worth it. Thank you for reading and appreciating my work. There is no describing how good it feels knowing people out there that I’ve never even met care about something I do. Thank you.
More dumb jokes