I have very little idea of what I am doing.
I have very little idea of what I am doing.
Work really hammered me over the weekend leaving this week’s J&C only half finished. Rather than letting the page run later this week and potentially jeapodise next week’s, I have decided to delay this page and maybe it’ll help build up a bit of a buffer, so if this happens again you, the reader, do not notice.
Sorry about this folks.
Apparently at the Game Developers Conference there was a panel on “How to reduce fan backlash”.
This is the age we live in. TOY MAKERS are so bad at doing their job they have an entire seminar dedicated on what to do when you make people angry.
That’s… that’s just amazing. They’re so bad at their stated goal, making people happy, they have an entire seminar dedicated to it.
I mean… wow. This is like firemen going to a conference entitled “How not to burn to death in a fire”
Here is a short story I wrote. Perhaps this might tide you over while I work on new Jayden and Crusader. It might not, as they are quite disparate, however I still thought I might share.
“The Burning of Martian Anchorage.” There it came again, that querulous, high pitched, scratchy voice. You knew the moment you heard it someone had had a bee in their bonnet for a long time. It was going to go on and on, buzzing until the bee was removed. “The Burning of Martian Anchorage is where it all went wrong.”
“No, no, peace could still have been achieved.” A quick fired, swift response answered. This voice was animate and unreserved in its sense of rightness. It moved so fast you could scarcely hear mandibles clatter. “If the delegation to the Federal Colonies had been willing to pay restitution then nothing would have come of it. A minor border conflict as a new species entered the galactic congress.”
“The Burning of Martian Anchorage took out half their fleet, not to mention their president,” the first voice said. There was a clatter as tentacles readjusted eye-glasses. “They weren’t going to forgive that, no matter how many goods were paid.”
“There were two events that turned the Federal Colonies against us,” The second voice continued. It barely seemed to notice the diversion; it was giving a lecture, not having an argument. “One came long before the Burning of Martian Anchorage and one came far later. The former was the development of anti-matter reactors. In that moment they had the distinct technological advantage over our deuterium-tritium fusion, and the energy to achieve efficient FTL. I don’t need to tell you how that became useful.” The first speaker sucked air through his beak and tutted. “The second event, the second event,” the second speaker ignored the interruption, “was the Battle of Selrinar – I mean, Alderbaran as they call it now – that battle showed the Federal Colonies that they could win even against a galactic alliance. That was the moment, the very moment; they abandoned their intent of defence, that was when they turned to conquest.” There was a clatter of chitin on wood as the second voice clapped his hand to the table.
“No, no, you see, the Burning of Martian Anchorage was much more of an emotional blow than either of those events-”
“Trust you to believe emotions are what matters-”
Professor H’Lrex rubbed the skin over his third eye. All this arguing was giving him a headache. He had no more patience for his colleagues.
“Could you two please, please give it a rest?” H’Lrex stood up and turned a tusky mouth towards the noise makers. “Surely you have some degree work to do.”
“Not until we get the sample cores back from the lab,” the first voice said. “And it’s an important issue. When did the Federal Colonies turn against the Galactic Congress is the defining question of our age. This is going to be what they ask history students about for the next thousand years.”
“You’d had this argument three times already Eyes-Weak,” H’Lrex sighed. “I think if there was an answer to find you’d have found it.”
“Indeed we did, anti-matter reactors and the Battle of Alderbaran,” second voice crossed his first set of arms and raised his antenna in a smirk.
“Don’t start Klxklz,” H’Lrex raised a hand.
“The Burning of Martian Anchorage resulted in more deaths than any other-”
“You see! You got Eyes-Weak started again,” H’Lrex collapsed into his chair in a huff and shaded his eyes from the bursts of bio-luminous rage coming from Eyes-Weak.
“We could take it outside,” Eyes-Weak gave H’Lrex a guilty glance and moved his glasses back into place with a shy tentacle.
“No, you’ll only bring it back again,” H’Lrex grumbled. Silence reined over the room, broken only by the gentle hum of the computer coolant. “You want to know… when the Federal Colonies turned against us? When they decided that conquest and subjugation was the only way to have peace with the distant stars?”
“How old do you think I am, Eyes-Weak?”
“About, fifty, maybe sixty, by the galactic standard?”
“Don’t flatter an old Lauranot,” H’Lrex closed his third eye and glared with his other two. “I’m almost two hundred.”
“Never!” Eyes-Weak’s tentacles fluttered.
“A well fed and cared for Lauranot can live almost three hundred galactic standard years,” Klxklz’s antennas shook in smug superiority.
“Yes, thank you Klxklz, not all of us get that far,” H’Lrex rolled his head from side to side for a moment and then sighed. He put down his data pad from his hands and his pen from his trunk. He wouldn’t get any work done until this was solved. “I was there at the moment the Federal Colonies decided conquest was the only option. Or maybe no-one was there… they decided it a long time before I was around…”
“Don’t get all metaphorical professor, if you’re going to tell us something worth listening to, just tell it!” Klxklz’s vestigial wings clicked in their sealed casings.
“When I was a young scientist, scarcely 100, I was chosen to represent the University of J’Ling along with three others of my peers in a First Contact Delegation being organised by the Galactic Congress,” H’Lrex said slowly. “I didn’t know at the time of course, First Contact delegations got sent out every few years around that time – ”
“You were there!” Eyes-Weak fell out of his chair with a bump and burst of blue and red light. As he pulled himself back up he continued. “You were there for First Contact with the Federal Colonies!”
“It was unusual,” H’Lrex only frowned at the interruption, “for a delegation to be sent so late in a species’ development. However their home-star however was so weak, so utterly pathetic in the heavens it was invisible after fifty light years and crowded out by so many other stars we never noticed it. If we could have got to the Federal Colonies when they were still in the atomic age – when they were still fractured and divisive perhaps we wouldn’t be having this conversation… but “if we could have”s get us nowhere.” H’Lrex raised his hands to the heavens and shrugged with his trunk.
“Go on professor,” Klxklz demanded.
“There were seventy three of us,” H’Lrex continued. “That’s a core of twelve diplomats, twelve artists, twelve scientists, twelve historians and ooh… about twenty odd others. I can’t remember what they did, but it was meant to be important. I was one of the scientists of course. The Federal Colonies knew we were coming. We never figured out how until later, but that damn PHASE array they had tracked us as soon as we passed Selrinar – Aldebaran, I should say – and they had a ship waiting for us.”
“So… they prepared a First Contact delegation as well?”
“Yes. For the first time, perhaps ever in the history of the Galactic Congress a First Contact delegation was met by well… another First Contact delegation,” H’Lrex picked at cut on his wrist and then blinked in irritation at the bad habit. “You know what struck me when I first saw them? The Federal Colonists? They were so small. I’m what, three and a half hurspics high? They were barely one hurspic. I think only one of the diplomats was their height… How terrifying we must have seemed.” H’Lrex blinked. “No, tell a lie. It was the smell that hit me first. They reeked of esters. Apparently they think their smell is pleasant, reminds them of their home world, but it stank. Their whole entourage stank of esters and sugar and… and decomposing lactose.”
“So when was it in the First Contact meeting that the Federal Colonists decided they had to conquer the galaxy?”
“Such a small species, and so simple. Two arms, two legs, two eyes. Nothing more than they needed, nothing less than they needed. And such strange hair patterns…”
H’Lrex looked his two colleagues up and down. They were so much younger. They had never known a time when the galaxy was free. They viewed it all as an intellectual exercise. They didn’t understand.
“Professor, when did humanity decide to conquer the galaxy? When did they decide our outstretched appendages of peace had to be met with war?”
“Humanity decided to conquer the galaxy the moment their ape-eyes saw the stars,” H’Lrex said. “And that decision crystalised the moment they met us, there, at that First Contact delegation. That moment, the very moment they saw us and their hands twitched reflexively for their weapons they decided there would be no peace until they ruled us all.”
The three of them sat silently in the office. A distant roar of the crowds suggested the university home team had just scored at Yarsh’Tik stadium. Wind rustled leaves in the window frame.
“I… I still think it’s anti-matter reactors,” Klxklz said after a moment with a worried expression. “Like you said, if we could have got to them in the atomic era maybe-”
H’Lrex picked up his data pad and turned away. Tomorrow he’d invest in ear plugs.
I am not doing very well at sticking to my schedule….
I have a serious ton of stuff going on in my life right now. I am filling out cover letters and sending stuff to publishers for three different novels – while tring to write a fourth. I am also looking for a ‘real job’, trying to claim Job Seaking Allowance from the government and get my damn graduation certificates from university.
SOOOooooooo, while I am going to see Pacific Rim today it is not Pacific Rim’s fault there is no J&C today, its just that J&C is at the bottom of an exeedingly large pile of stuff I have to to do.
Thursday, I promise a comic on Thursday.
This page will self destruct when a new page arrives.
Instead I managed to successfully move it into the blog section. Well done science.
On Tuesday I put up a double length page and the next page is also a double length page. I simply could not keep up with that pace. The next page will be Tuesday the 2nd, and then the 6th anniversary. Sorry about that, but the script does not like being split up into smaller pieces like a normal page, so its better to leave it this Thursday and come back on Tuesday.
If you ever catch me talking about a 12 panel page again slap me with a haddock. Its just silly.
In the mean time, have a sketch I drew while warming up for inking.
It’s not being a good week for my dyspraxia. It’s a condition where my ability to control my hands can waiver from “just bearable” to “completely incompetent”. It’s not like Parkinsons, where they shake, or anything. It’s just an inability for my thoughts to correctly translate into the actions I want to perform. The worst part of the condition though, is its day-to-day variability. Somedays I have no problem at all, and you’d never know I had a condition. Other days I can barely hold a pen in my hand and make legible script. It’s like a giant game of Chinese whispers. I start off with what I want to do, and by the time it gets to my hands it is usually something similar, but just different enough to know the message changed somewhere along the way. And sometimes my body throws me for a loop and has that arse who always adds “purple monkey dishwasher”.
Hell, it took me three attempts to make the writing in that image legible… and it is still atrocious. So no post for you today. I would have posted this as an actual comic, but I like the Reservoir dogs image above and I don’t know how long this blocks-for-hands syndrome is going to last.
My girlfriend has been staying with me for the last 5 days. I don’t get to see her very often, so I decided to focus on her rather than my hobbies. For that reason, today’s page is going to be late. Hopefully my dyspraxia will be safely under control and I will be able to get a comic done quickly. It will be my first priority after waking up, so expect something around midday-midafternoon.
Of course, should I fail, expect this message to vanish, and all evidence of its existence erased… making you wonder if it was ever here at all.
TL;DR: Jayden and Crusader is moving to a twice a week schedule
Over the last year or so, I’ve been pondering this question more and more. I didn’t update much, as is quite obvious if you look through the archive. It was a very difficult time. If I didn’t do a comic, because I was busy, or stressed out, or asleep, I then felt I had to make the next comic even better in order to make up for the infrequency. It stopped being enough to just make a J&C comic. It had to be the best script, the best artwork, it had to be the best comic I had done thus far, in order to feel like I was living up to expectations.
Do you know how stressful it is to feel you can only produce the best thing ever?
A week’s lull might turn into two weeks, three weeks, a month. Every time I sat down in front of photoshop I thought “Is this script funny enough? Shouldn’t I try and come up with a better one? A bigger one?” or “these sketches are terrible! I am not even going to bother to ink it! Bluargh!” and I’d put the comic to one side and do something else.
That’s not to say I actually made the best thing ever. By a long shot. Because eventually the dams of internal resistance would break and I would just say “Whatever! I don’t care! Just draw something and put it up!” and I would draw something. And put it up. Now, I like these pages, but they’re not of any higher quality than usual. They’re just pages.
But the trouble is worse than just when I miss an update. Updating only once a week means the comic moves at a snail’s pace. 54 pages a year is not enough for the kind of comic I feel comfortable making. That means I have to sit down and work out better scripts, better art. I can’t let the quality drop because then people will have to wait a whole seven days for the next one. Quelle horreur.
So what’s the solution?
I’ll tell you what it is.
A faster update schedule.
When I started Jayden and Crusader I managed an update schedule of 3 pages a week, and many would say I should return to that. After all, most webcomics are three-times-a-week affairs (or better), why not Jayden and Crusader? Well, there’s a couple of reasons that would not be a good idea. Mostly, the principle of burn out.
See, Jayden and Crusader isn’t like other webcomics, not to sound immodest. Jayden and Crusader is not a gag-a-day strip, where 4 panels in black and white is acceptable. Jayden and Crusader has 6 panels, almost every time, in full colour. That’s a lot of work. When I started J&C a comic took an average of 2-3 hours, in 2009 it might take 4, now it takes me about six hours from putting stylus to tablet to posting it online. That’s 18 hours a week, minimum. Some pages can take a lot more than six hours. 18 hours a week for a hobby is asking a lot.
Jayden and Crusader is not a carefully thought out comicbook, with the script planned out weeks or months in advance. It’s not something I can make a production line out of, like other webcartoonists can. Sometimes J&C has storylines that last a few comics, but they’re usually spur of the moment things. The two longest storylines in J&C history, the Ozimaar Arc and the Computer Returns Arc, exemplify why storylines is Jayden and Crusader at its best and worse. When I have a script written out too far in advance I get bored of the lack of room, my creative inspiration dies. After all, ‘I’ve already written it, isn’t that enough?’ my brain seems to ask. In Computer Returns there was a lot more improvisation and twists and turns, and that let it stay fresh, but it was still not something where I could script 20 pages, then sketch them all, then ink them all, then colour them all, then post them all, like a production line. To really be J&C it almost has to stay in the slow production method of one page, from sketch to colour as a single article.
And the last thing Jayden and Crusader is not, is a slice-of-life comic like Questionable Content. Now, they might appear similar on the surface, but they’re very distinct. Without delving into the thematic differences between them I will some it up as this: Only one day in Jayden and Crusader time has lasted more than 10 pages, and that was the Computer Returns storyline which, while I love it, was not an ‘average day’ in the lives of our characters. Jayden and Crusader is not about finding the wit and humour in everyday situations. Each Jayden and Crusader page is carefully designed to attack one aspect of life I find funny, annoying, ugly, beautiful, brilliant, weird or wonderful. They’re not designed to flow together into a seamless narrative. The way each comic stands somewhat apart from the one before it makes it harder to write scripts and re-use backgrounds. It wasn’t intended, it is just how it came about. I wouldn’t change it, but it does mean that each page is more of a challenge to start than it would be if each page followed on directly. That makes J&C more work than your average slice-of-life comic.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Jayden and Crusader is a lot of work.
I have not even covered the concept of running out of ideas, the workload alone is enough to create burn out.
You have to remember that updating three times a week doesn’t actually mean doing three pages a week. At the moment I am operating without a buffer, which means if I am held up by something, no comic goes up. To get a buffer back, I’d have to be drawing J&C pages four or five times a week for several weeks. That’s just too much. That’s more work hours than an actual job.
If I was updating three times a week Jayden and Crusader would stop being fun, would become a job that doesn’t pay me any money, and I would probably burn out, unable to continue working, and sink back into the depths of the internet.
This has happened a few times before.
So, thrice a week is too much, once a week isn’t enough. The solution? The golden sweet spot. Twice a week.
I was always happiest when Jayden and Crusader was updating twice a week. The story moved at a reasonable pace, the workload wasn’t too heavy. It was good times for all. I was limited by my parents during school and university to once a week updating but now I am free, free! And to twice a week I shall return!
But which days? In the past I used to update on a Monday and Friday. This seemed to make sense, as most webcomics updated Mon-Wed-Fri, and I’d just remove Wednesday. However a lot of comics these days update on Mondays and Thursdays (Looking For Group, Khaos Komix, for example).
So what do you think? What days should Jayden and Crusader update? Tell me in the comments!
And hopefully you’ve all made it through this long, long blog post of introspection.
Hey there folks.
Well, my 3 times a week updating seemed to be going smoothly for almost a whole two weeks when BLAM! blind-sided by the girlfriend. OK, so I had planned her visit for a few weeks, but her presence has still prevented me from getting Friday’s comic done on time. I will put one up on Friday, but it might be closer to Saturday before it is done.
Sorry about that guys.
I’ll have another post about update schedules at the beginning of next week, but for now we’re sticking to Mon-Wed-Fri, for at least another week. Though again, Friday’s comic will be late.