The 4th of May isn’t simply Star Wars day, it’s the anniversary of Strange Gods. Saturday marked six years since I uploaded my very first webcomic. I never expected to be still producing them a year later, much less six. It was something I did simply for the hell of it. It was a little side art project predominately designed to keep me busy. I figured it would be a nice way to learn more about color and typography, two areas of art of which I was hopelessly clueless. Now while Strange Gods has never received anything more than a small-to-modest readership, it remained something that I enjoyed producing. It’s always been something that was done, first and foremost, for myself. I’ve honestly never cared if anyone but me found the jokes funny, and half the time, the strips were little more than chances for me to play around with Photoshop layers and try little lighting or color tricks.
The only ever issue was that Strange Gods was never started with any real purpose. I wasn’t a cartoonist, and I had put absolutely zero thought into the characters; either their visual designs or who they really even were. I was making up the style as I went, and it showed, as the visuals would rapid change throughout the course one year to the next. Eventually this left me feeling more than a little stuck. I had grown to like the characters. I had grown to enjoy telling little stupid stories about them. But I hated drawing them. The evolution of their designs had some serious problems from which I couldn’t seem to escape. I didn’t know what to do. It may seem relatively simple now, but even with only producing three strips a week, I couldn’t find enough distance to identify and fix what was wrong. Then life got in the way.
To put it simply: I got busy. I got really busy.
In retrospect, I like to think of it as a sabbatical. Watterson took two that lasted nine months each. Granted, he was also pumping out seven strips a week of what was probably the most intelligent and well-drawn comic ever to grace the newspapers, but still, I had to allow myself to accept that a break was okay. In the end, it wasn’t even an art time management problem, it was a writing one. I was busy, and I simply didn’t feel funny.
I stopped drawing anything cartoony for at least a solid month. Maybe even longer.
And it was amazing.
When I found myself sketching characters, enough time had passed that most of my bad habits weren’t quite so habitual anymore. It seems so bizarre in retrospect, but the decisions to be made now seemed obvious. Most of the changes are under the hood, mechanical stuff that simply allows me to enjoy drawing these characters again.
So, on the sixth anniversary of this dumb comic, I am back from my dumb break.
This isn’t a reboot or a 2.0 thing. Instead, I like to think of it a more akin to a new season of a tv show with a slightly more focused direction.