Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013

2012 was a hard, heartbreaking year.

But here comes 2013. Sounds like a good year to finish a comic book. 

Here's page 2 (lots more coloring to do on this one):



I've got about 3.5 pages to finish inking, and there's still quite a lot of coloring to do. And the clock is definitely ticking louder now due to the mid-May arrival of this little fellow:


I don't know how I will continue Nonplayer after he arrives, but I can't imagine that quitting will set a very good example for him. So that leaves "not quitting," which means it's time to search for some new tricks.

Step one: start having fun again. It's amazing how different it feels to work on something because you can, rather than because you feel you have to. And in comics, as with most things, the amount of fun you're having correlates directly with the amount of radness that shows up in the final product. So how do I find the fun? I don't really know the answer to this one (your suggestions are welcome), but for me, part of the solution lies in letting go of my guilt about the book's slowness. 

Okay, this is a slow comic. Funnily, my first impulse is still to apologize. Like, I just started a sentence with "I'm sorry, but..." Well, darn it. I don't think it's healthy for me to be sorry. I'm bringing a new thing into the world, and it'll be born in its own time. If you think I owe you something, may I suggest you subscribe to Netflix? There's plenty of stuff there to keep you entertained until the rest of Nonplayer is done. 

So let's assume it's fun to work on the book again. The next step is to find time to work on it. Right now I'm putting in an hour every morning before work and another three to four hours before bed. That, and all day every Sunday. As long as the day job persists (I'll address this in a bit), the book has to happen in these in-between hours. It doesn't really pay to rob myself of sleep, especially when I need my brain fully online to do good work. I also think it's pretty important to give myself one day off per week. There are times when I feel like sprinting, but committing to insane hours is a one-way ticket to Burnoutville. Plus, that's a surefire way to kill the fun.

That said, I've had to learn to say "no" to stuff. I can't go out for a beer every time my friends invite me. I don't get to watch too many movies. Games, especially, are a humongous time-sucker. I try to cram as much goofing-off as I can into my free day, because the only other fun I get to have is comic-making fun.

Next, there's the challenge of working efficiently within the time I've got. This has been the hardest and most counter-intuitive lesson for me so far. The more I try to get done in the allotted time, the less quality work I do. For me, rushing has been absolute poison to creativity. All I can do is assure myself that I'll keep setting aside the time, and that I won't allow myself to get distracted or side-tracked during that time. If I end up sitting and staring at a blank page for three hours, that counts as work. I can't shout a seed into sprouting. All I can do is plant it and keep it watered.

It has also been helpful to bring some friends in on the project to provide feedback and hold me accountable when I stray. I've got two people to whom I send a PDF of the entire unfinished comic once a week. Sometimes I just need to hear someone say "good job." It can be hard to keep moving forward when the attaboys are months (or years) away. Van Gogh had Theo, right?

Now, if we're talking life-goals, we need to address this day job thing. I'm aware that becoming a father means taking a step further out into that quicksand, but let's proceed from the assumption that living a happy life means continuing to believe that your goals can be achieved, even if I can't completely see the path that leads from here to there. 

I have a simple goal: I want the freedom to create cool things without subjecting my loved ones to undue hardship.

That means that I need to make as much money doing what I love as I can make working for somebody else. So how might that theoretically happen?

My friend Coop says "Kickstarter." His proposal is simple: estimate the amount of time I need to finish the entire series, calculate how much money I'd have made at my current job over that amount of time, and set that as my goal. And since I live in the United States, add the cost of the health benefits I'd have been receiving over that period, as well. We're talking about a 6-year delivery time and a fairly astronomical funding goal (something equivalent to the cost of a really nice house). I don't know, but unless some rich dude comes along and just throws half a million dollars at me, I'm not really sure this is a workable model.

There may be a more piecemeal solution, however. Perhaps a two-year project to fund a large-format, hardback collection of every two issues. Maybe with some sort of making-of chapter at the end that collects concept sketches and pages-in-progress, so that the volume comes out to 60-70 pages. This is where I could really use your advice. What would you like to see, and at what price? Would a finished book be enough, or would you expect some frills? Posters? Original artwork?

The other path is the one I'm already taking: spend my days at the office, make my nightly offering, and release each issue when it's finished. If that takes decades, so be it. 

Happy New Year, everybody.

Edit: A few readers have interpreted this post as an announcement of my intention to stop releasing individual floppy issues of Nonplayer. This is not the case. Nonplayer will be released as an Image comic as long as Image has the patience for it. In addition, any theoretical Kickstarter-funded album push would also have to be published by Image, and since I have not discussed any such project with them, this whole notion is completely speculative. I suspect they'd be happy if I found a way to work full-time on the book, and if a Kickstarter helped them move more copies, that would be a win for everybody. But none of the above blog post should be construed as an official announcement of anything. Thanks.