Comments and reflections
I’ve recently written a retrospective about the comics in commentary form, here in its own spot.
Influences and inspirations
Underground influence: on fantasy, on me
Vaughn Bode, Frank Thorne, Wendy Pini, Phil Foglio
The gang: S. Clay Wilson, Robert Crumb, Howard Cruse, Dave Sim, Peter Bagge, Allison Bechdel, Berke Breathed, and Garry Trudeau.
Strip, story, saga
Just write the stories, don’t plan
Larger story approach – tried to be open to it without letting it take over
Nailing it down
I take a structural approach to comics in general. In this case, I was all about constraint. I wanted three panels per individual strip, always and forever. This is one less than the four-panel standard found in most newspaper strips, for instance.
I wanted every story to have six, eight, or ten strips, no more and no less, and I wanted the stories to add up to a single year, i.e., 52 weeks.
Here’s a quick look at the process.
What mattered most
The “silence” aesthetic
The reason for the constraints
A bit about how it relates to the game: key to Trollbabe is that it really is yours – different and better kind of “yours” than, say, giving license to shift settings. Instead of a thousand variations on nothing, a thousand possible events and identities within something.
Didn’t want the comics to tell you what should be in your gaming.
Production and process
Publication and ownership
I’m about as far out into creator ownership as you can get. Dave Sim’s views on the topic seem eminently reasonable to me. For Trollbabe, I put my views into effect as follows.
First, the initial endeavor itself was to have no money associated with it, nor authority in terms of obligation. Neither of us was paid, and the web posting would involve no customers. The artist wasn’t going to be doing this for me, nor I for him. We were both simply doing it.
Second, we individually own what we jointly created. The artist can do whatever he likes with whatever he drew, and that includes the story content, dialogue, and so on, for that particular story. I can do whatever I like with whatever I wrote, and that includes the pictures. Neither of us has authority over either’s future use, nor any financial claim to it.
The big fear, and my response
The internet plan
How totally lame it was compared to real webcomix
The first sequence was published a little bit out of order, because of the various starting artists completing things at different times. Instead of waiting for them all to come in, I said “what the hell” and posted them as they arrived. I put them in the correct order for this webpage, but here’s the order they appeared in originally:
Sex and Death, with Music; The Green Goo Feud; The Birthroot Bargain; A Day at the Circus; Holy Trollers; Avatar is Plenty
This order unfortunately lost a certain amount of build, as the real sequence keeps getting more and more ethically ambiguous. Retta’s relatively light adventure was supposed to be her introduction, not the weird and moody one. Tha’s sequence was especially flipped, as the whole “child” issue should arise as her personal answer to the “where do I fit in” issue.
The second sequence was published in the correct order. I also made a serious effort to recruit more artists, and fortunately the reverse was also true as they contacted me.
As it turned out
I knew it already from having a bunch of comics pros for friends, and I thought I was prepared for it, but there’s no way around the fact that comics are a royal bitch to do and to organize. At least with theater and film you have a very big physical result and you can see the fruits of the effort for the most part. Comics are more like science, in that you’re up there at the podium wanting to say, “Do any of you actually realize what went into generating those 112 data points? Do you?” in a rising shriek.