2022 End of Year Retrospective
Dec 10, 2022, 8:18:33 PM
It's Been A Year (Almost)
A lot of things changed for me this year. A year ago I lived in Los Angeles but I've since moved. I started a new job too. But, you're not really here for that. We're here to do a retrospective on the comic.
If you've read the previous retrospective, then not much has changed. All of the same points I made then, still apply now. This one is just more abridged and is meant as a journal entry for me as to how I did a year on.
All The Good Things
I made a lot of comics this year! So much art!
I did some quick counting and this is breakdown:
- 47 weeks of updates
- 44 of those updates were new pieces of work
- 37 of those new pieces were comics that continued the storyline
- 7 were new illustrations
- approximately 37K words of written text for blogs and prose
That's a lot. Let's say I spent on average 15 hours a week. That's about 700 hours this year of drawing and writing for Magical Girl Kamiko.
I kept to a Saturday posting schedule
My only hard rule for myself when it comes to this comic is that by end-of-day Saturday there should be something new. It actually doesn't even need to be a new comic or a good piece of art. A lot of why it was a new comic or good piece of art is due to me and my willingness to put in the hard work and not phone it in.
I kept that promise to myself.
No Comic Buffer
I don't have a comic buffer. If you're not familiar with the concept, the idea of a buffer is to have some prepared comics so you can post on off-weeks. It helps you cover for weeks where life intervenes and you can't.
But, if you find your buffer thinning out then there's some associated angst in rebuilding it meaning you'll have to work hard for a bit to get ahead of your posting schedule to maintain said buffer.
It always produced some stress to manage this thing (for me), and I decided it wasn't a stress I needed so I did a way with it.
This meant though I was flying blind week-to-week. And maybe that shows in the work, but it also meant I was free to improvise and shape the story moments as I pleased. I would start something on Monday and by Saturday whatever that was would get posted. It's hard work, but I enjoyed the process.
This also meant I worked on art everyday for at least an hour. I'd do this in the morning before I started my work day since I'm still able to work-from-home.
More Fiction Writing
There were a few reasons why I wanted more prose fiction with the comics:
- I like to write fiction, so this allowed me to flex that muscle a lot more
- Google SEO. I wanted to have some text that webcrawlers could pick up. I've seen some webcomic authors use their script as a blog post, but I wanted something more and rewrote and formatted as prose text.
- It allowed me to convey story and character thoughts differently than a comic could. I also wanted the writing to augment the comic itself.
- This was an experiment and practice for maybe how I handle new concent for This Mortal Coil -- in that I go more of a light novel approach.
Around September I began to serialize Magical Girl Kamiko on these sites:
I balked at the idea before because of the small but labor intensive work of cropping and cutting artwork for each of these sites. Each site has a different pixel width and height limits and post lengths.
So I programmed my way out of it. I wrote a python script that handled cropping and resizing all of the comic images for me for each of these sites, which you can download from Github and use for free. I can't imagine going back to a time when I didn't have this script. Doing the cropping and resizing was a lot of boring and tedious work. So I was only willing to do it for the main comic site, but with this tool what used to take 30 min to an hour now takes seconds. This opened up going wider for me. I could focus on making the content and not the tedious labor of publishing.
Static Website Still Going Strong!
I liked that I converted to GatsbyJS. The new website feels much more lean. There's no online backend to protect or log into. I can work on my site on my home PC. It's backed up. And, I have a means of posting online.
Sure, it lacks nice tools that wordpress or some other CMS may give me, but in return I have speed -- the site is faster and I can work locally which is faster than going through some CMS web-backend panel.
What Could Go Better
Here's where I talk about what I think didn't go great and how I can improve it next year.
Some of the writing is sloppy because I'm improvising and putting down whatever comes to mind. I feel that this is okay, because it's a big piece of the creative process that I'm practicing and working towards getting better at. Art that sits in the pipe for too long loses its spontaneity. As I exercise my creative writing muscles I hope I get better at this. But, regardless, like anyone, I'll have my creative off days. In that case, I'll have to rely on some kind of discipline to work through a comic's writing.
These Comics are Unpublishable!?!
These comics don't lend themselves to be published into a standard graphic novel. Whether you think they're publishable or not is another question entirely. (I certainly think they are!)
There would have to be a lot of additional work to convert the vertical pages into graphic novel pages. Then what do I do about the writing? It might end up more like a light novel than a comic, which is fine.
If I were to publish a book there's also the issue that the comic doesn't have a consistent look -- earlier pages are a square image and sketchy looking. Latter ones are vertical and done in high contrast. There are pages inbetween that are in color or various forms of grayscale. Then there's the writing. I don't know what this book would look like, and maybe that's reason enough to make it. To find out.
If I were to try and turn Magical Girl Kamiko into a book, I was thinking of trying the Kickstarter route, but that in itself is more work that I don't think I can take on right now.
Okay, there are things lacking with the website
Things I don't have on this site because they don't come for free out of the box:
- Search. I'd have to incorporate it with a plugin and secondary service. It seems like a lot of effort and I'm not sure how often people are search for pages on a webcomic.
- Comments. Admittedly nobody has brought this up to me, BUT you couldn't bring this up to me because there are no comment boxes. I think this is fine. If you really wanted to engage with me there is a contact menu option for you to e-mail me. Honestly, I don't know if you will ever see a comment section on this site. Maybe that's something to be off loaded to a community discussion site like reddit.
- Scheduling. Yup, there's no nice way to schedule posts with Gatsby. Not that I'm doing that often, but when I need it the functionality to do it isn't easy.
- Updating Gatsby. I recently updated from version 3 to 4 to keep up to date. That took an afternoon of work to clean things up. It's annoying but one of those necessary tech evils. In the future it's something I should do periodically just so I'm not so behind -- although I think Gatsby 5 is out.
Lack of Reach
This comic has no social reach. Mainly because I'm not on social media. Not being on social media is great for me mentally and I'd mostly like to keep it that way. So, I need to find another way to share my work.
That said, something I'm already trying is Mastadon. You can find me here: @AlbinoGrimby@sfba.social I don't post very often, but more often than not.
I'm not sure if I'm mentally prepared to post on sites like Reddit, but that could be another possible outlet.
I continue to post on Facebook but it's primarily for my friends, who are still there, but over the years a lot of them have disappeared off that site.
There's also Kickstarter and doing indie comic shows and artist alleys. All of these are definitely not low-key decisions to make and they're more of a time investment I am willing to make right now.
What Did I Learn?
My main take away from 2022 is that I can do it, and that I can continue to do it.
I can post every Saturday, improvise new art, and build things a little at a time, and now at the end of 2022 there is a lot. There is a lot to be proud of. And a lot of things that need work.
But, I can tell I'm hitting a saturation point and my enthusiasm is waning. I'm getting tired.
From having done creative stuff for so long, I know this means it's time for a break. It's time to let my batteries recharge. It doesn't mean I won't be doing creative work, but instead of focusing on publishing week to week, I can focus on experimenting with things or doing nothing at all and taking a long rest.
The comic will be back next year at the end of January -- at least that's my current thinking (I'd like to give myself some wiggle room in case I'm not ready yet).
Until then, I hope you have a Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. See you in 2023.