Hey, Hooligans! We've been hard at work on a few things over here... if I'm lucky, I can post my video illustration tutorial later this evening, but for now I just want to make a few other announcements. First, I just published the latest Hellbent comic page and also our Woohooligan 2016 Year in Review highlighting our challenges and triumphs over the year. I know a lot of crazy, horrible crap happened this year, but it was actually a very good year for Woohooligan, we made a lot of really cool stuff!
On a more sober note, I would appreciate if you could help me with a problem in the autism community. This is a situation that's going to require some public advocacy. It's a slightly long-ish story, but it's all explained here, thanks!
Lastly, a couple different people have tagged me at various times and you know, I just don't get around to these because I never really feel like I have time, but what the hell, I'll give it a go.
1. What do you think is your best quality?
There are so many that are super-important... compassion, determination, optimism, honesty... There's a website made by the "father of positive psychology", Martin Seligman, and his team, that has a questionnaire to assess your personal "strengths and virtues" (this is based on a book called Strengths and Virtues that they created as a companion to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) which only describes mental illnesses like autism and PTSD). Anyway, for me it listed my top three as Love of Learning, Kindness and Creativity, and ironically ranked "humor" sixth. (Out of twenty-four, so it's in my top quarter.)
Multiple accounts? Ain't nobody got time for that shiz!
3. What country do you live in?
The United States of Holy Shit, Trump's in office! Lots of patriotism around here, you know, this is the greatest country, the best! (EDIT: Do I have to say that was sarcasm?)
4. How many languages do you speak?
Three, but only one any gooder... scratch that, all super-fantastically... English, French, Spanish
5. What is your favorite movie?
I have a really super-difficult time picking a single film... or book... or TV series... or comic... or character... There are a ton of action movies I've liked over the years, but the movies that really get to me, the ones that stay with me are the thinkers like Phenomenon... I think right now my top three are the Adjustment Bureau, Idiocracy and the Invention of Lying.
6. If your haircut was an animal, what would it be?
Some kind of long-haired dog... one of those breeds where you can't see their feet because the hair covers them up.
7. What is your gender identity?
I'm a dude, but not a bro as it were...
8. Do you have any pets?
Oh god... we've got two cats and two dogs, my mom moved in with us and has another one of each, and Tiffany got a tortoise a couple years ago, so that's seven in the house.
9. If you were a character from a movie, who would you be?
Data in any of the Star Trek: Next Gen movies.
10. What is the worst lie anyone has ever told you?
"Your wife screamed at me... / threatened to kill me." ... or possibly "I read minds." (and meant it literally) ... It's sort of a long story, but you can read about that here if you're curious:
Tough call... I'd like to be water -- it's super versatile, patient, and given the right circumstances it can cut through stone or steel
2. Grossest food ever eaten?
By me or in general? By me it would have to be vegemite. In general... toe-jam?
3. What is your spirit animal?
Mantis... Several years ago a whole bunch of mantises appeared around me suddenly in a period of a few weeks -- a couple physical ones, but most of them were symbols, like a tech company named Mantis that I worked for. One of them actually climbed in our bedroom window, laid an egg-sack on our bed and then I nearly stepped straight on her as I was walking into my office in our apartment... scared the hell out of me when I saw it suddenly just under my foot.
4. What is your spirit Furniture?
Bean bag chairs.
5. Do you know what interdigitate means?
No, but I would guess it means holding something in your fingers.
6. You walk into your house after work on your birthday, and somebody sprays you with silly string, your reaction?
7. Did you hate Dolores Umbridge more than Voldemort?
Don't remember who Dolores was.
8. What is your favorite thing to draw and why?
Jokes. Dey funny!
9. Worst you've been hurt before?
Physically or emotionally? I ran into a car on my bike once... I had my hand through a window accidentally... infected tooth was probably more painful than either of those... the cancer didn't really hurt actually... Emotionally, see the last question from the previous set above.
10. Did you read Sword Of Truth series?
No. That's not your series is it?
11. how many hours do you spend drawing every week on average (be Honest!)?
Oh, god, I have no clue... I spent at least 40hrs every week on "work", but work is more than drawing. Work is also posting to multiple social media accounts, networking, advertising and research. How much of that is drawing in a given week, I have no idea.
12. what is your favorite type of music?
I'm an 80s kid... pop music mostly... but I'm super-ecclectic... I listen to all kinds of celtic, new wave, folk, jazz, etc...
13. did you have a crush when you were in elementary school? What was he/she like?
Hey guys! I came across this journal from Kelly Mysticaya-StarRain, who's struggling to try and become a full-time digital artist and applying for disability. (So her story is similar to mine.) I'm just trying to do what I can to pay it forward.
First, thanks again to -- you know what for. And thanks to , and for commenting on my previous journal about the review.
I don't usually make new years resolutions. It's always seemed like people describe resolutions, like "lose ten pounds" or "stop smoking", that mostly don't come to pass for a variety of reasons. So I always thought "why bother setting a goal I won't achieve or will give up on?" And moreover, if I'm going to set goals, why wait specifically for the New Year? Why not set goals all the time? When I changed my diet and lost 40lbs in just a couple months in 2015, I didn't need to wait for the new year, I just had to read the right book. Granted, it was a pretty challenging book - not one graph or visual aid that I remember in 450 pages, but loads of places where one would have been incredibly useful. Nonetheless, losing the weight only took committing to that book and switching to a zero-carb diet.
So I'm a bit surprised that I'm making a resolution for 2017. This past year I set a goal (I didn't call it a resolution) to earn my living with comedy. Long story short, we had to help my mom move in with us across country in the early part of the year and adding that on top of more normal yearly setbacks really hurt my progress and I achieved only 4% of that goal. Despite all that, I still managed to update regularly throughout the year with no gaps. Every month in 2016 I updated our Patreon 6-12 times. I think this is the point at which a lot of people just give up. Heck, I think unless there's serious motivation, most people give up if they can't achieve something in 30 days, much less seeing only marginal progress after a year. Don't get me wrong, I've been disparaged... I'm not some Pollyanna who runs headlong into a threshing machine with a goofy grin on my face. The past few months were a real challenge for me and it's the first time in several years that I experienced any real depression. But I'm working to manage my depression, the same way I manage my diabetes, our car, and our house, by researching what I can do and making a plan to do it.
I mentioned before that we had a comical number of setbacks in December, and that was all well before the recent bad review. And I admit, it's been challenging to see the kind of drive-by race-baiting in that review... and then I had an epiphany last night while talking to another DeviantArtist. They're having a lot of anxiety that if they continue to tell people they're a trans man that people will label them a Social Justice Warrior (something to do with discussions of the complexity of gender). Although I can't find it now, the gist of my response was, "if someone is calling you an SJW, that doesn't say anything about you, it just makes them an asshole. You should never let an asshole dictate how you feel about you. Just let them be an asshole and move on with your awesomesauce day."
The whole thing hit me all at once. All the things I've said about heckling or trolling, how research shows that trolling is a sociopathic and/or narcissistic behavior, Pizzagate and fake news. This whole story arc I've been writing about Amity dealing with rumors about her, leading up to her conversation with Trayvon Martin (and associated misconceptions about him) and then with Delilah. I wasn't taking my own advice. I've been letting assholes get to me.
This epiphany is a long time in the making. A few months ago I was strung out about Facebook. I posted a status update there talking about how I was feeling very conflicted but that I had decided to just start blocking anyone I found foaming at the mouth on my feed -- even though those are usually friends of friends whom I don't know (who are no longer allowed to comment on my Facebook). It took my friend Rebecca Gyno-Star commenting to tell me I shouldn't feel bad or apologize about curating my Facebook experience, before I realized that all I was doing was preventing sociopaths from wasting my time. (And that I was allowing the Facebook algorithm to draw the trolls to me like a magnet.) And then of course I wrote that article about how, if you plan to earn your living with comedy, you basically have to deal with hecklers, it's just part of the job. And after all that, I still wasn't really on the ball when I got that review.
I only achieved 4% of my goal of earning my living with comedy in 2016, which means I have to get better at selling myself this upcoming year. At only 4% per year, that would have me reaching sustainability in 25 years time (age 67), so that's a no go. This upcoming year, I'm still resetting my goal to earn my living with comedy in 2017, and I'll be happy if I do twice as well as I did last year (achieving 8%).
In addition, I am making a new years resolution, and that's to do a better job taking my own advice. Let assholes be assholes and get on with your awesome day!
My next step is to start on my 2016 retrospective for my Patreon where I'll examine everything I accomplished and what I can improve on in 2017. Speaking of improving, for anyone else starting into comics, I recommend the Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics by Comfort Love and Adam Withers. It's one of only three small items I got for Christmas this year (which is fine, I was expecting nothing actually, so it was a nice surprise). On the one hand, I already know most of what I'm reading, but I do think it's a pretty good book for anyone starting out in comics. Although I disagree that you need six-years of prep before drawing the first page of a story.
How were your holidays? I hope you had a great time with all your family and friends!
In the spirit of "lessons learned", I'd like to talk a little bit about this review I just got this month from the Webcomic Police. I'll link their review down below, but first I want to take a moment to thank them and really anyone providing reviews of comics.
I'm always grateful for anyone who takes the time to write a review for me or for anyone else for that matter. Reviewing is itself an art form and it takes time and dedication to maintain a review blog of any kind, but especially of long-form media like books or comics. (Reviewing the latest selfie-stick doesn't require hours of reading.) Just as with webcomics, the internet is literally awash in webcomic review sites that started, published a couple of reviews and then died because the reviewers couldn't keep themselves going, whether that was due to time constraints, loss of interest, or the general thanklessness of being a reviewer (trust me, I'm sure Siskel, Ebert and Roeper all got LOADS of hate mail and probably not much else). The Webcomic Police even published their own review of review sites a few years ago and out of the five they mentioned, 1) Webcomics Weekly no longer exists, 2) Tangents announced a move to a new domain in January 2014 (three years ago) and never published again, 3) Your Webcomics last updated nearly a year ago in February, 4) the Overlook had a hiatus from June 2014 to September 2016, leaving only two of the five even functional, one of them with an over two-year gap. So I have to thank the Webcomic Police for sticking with their blog and providing these reviews to the comics community in general. I think the comics community (much like a democracy), is a richer, better community when it has a diversity of voices and opinions in it and to a greater extent, I think that means when it has more reviewers, even including reviews that I may not personally agree with. So thank you, Webcomic Police for staying and contributing your voice to our community.
If I remember correctly, I've had five reviews so far and of those five, this is the only one that's been notably critical of my work, so I feel like I've been pretty fortunate when it comes to reviews in general. You certainly can't expect every critic to love your work, so I think four out of five isn't too bad, really.
The reviewer uses the name LibertyCabbage -- they're very private and don't give real names on the site, which makes it rather difficult for me to humanize them... You know what, screw it, I'll just call him Joe. (Apologies if Joe is actually Joanne.) Anyway, Joe reviewed four humor comics in one contiguous blog titled "The Golden Rule of Humor" (well, three comedies and a drama he said he thinks should have been a comedy). Sharing the review with other comics is fine, although I would have liked the title to be explained somewhere in the blog. I really don't see a recurring theme in these reviews that might reference the title? So it seems like Joe just picked any old phrase with the word "humor" in it, rather than having a particular reason for mentioning "the golden rule".
I will say upfront that I acknowledge that criticisms about some of my comics being overly wordy are fair. That's something I'm working on as I continue to publish, although sometimes it's difficult to find a good balance. The third page of the Taste of Wrath subplot has a lot of text and very little art, and I spent a bit of time contemplating expanding it into two pages to make it more visually appealing. I decided against that because I was worried it would ruin the pacing of the story, that the individual pages would bore readers with a bunch of talking heads (it's an out-take from a TV news program). However despite being text-heavy, that page surprised the hell out of me (see what I did there?), by being rather popular and shared quite a lot compared to most of the pages in that story. That one page got ten shares ... I'm not sure any other page of Amity's story has ten shares. Maybe. I'd have to go digging to find one. The vast majority of those pages have under five shares, so I think it's worth noting that there's significantly more to the appeal of this page than its text-to-art ratio. (The fact that I write lengthy, usually satirical think-pieces in the commentary below my comics may contribute to the popularity of pages like this one, which contains a fairly thorough examination of American gun culture and public policy.)
I feel like requesting this review from the Webcomic Police may have been a mistake on my part. It's still free publicity, right? No such thing as bad publicity? Well... maybe. Joe says in the opening few paragraphs of the review that he basically hates comedy, or at least he dislikes webcomics in our genre. If I had known this ahead of time, I likely wouldn't have asked Joe for the review. If you're a rock band, you don't go looking for reviews from a guy who says, "what the hell is up with all this Rock and Roll nonsense? Why can't people stick to Classical and Big Band?!" Technically, Joe says comedy is his least favorite genre in webcomics, and cites a lot of humor comics being full of negativity and depression, (no one's ever accused Woohooligan of this). Then he says his expectations are really low, but proceeds to apply super-high expectations to all the comics. Admittedly Joe's site, the Webcomics Police, have kind of a shtick of being super-harsh, hence "police" in their name, so I can't be terribly surprised by that. I guess I'm more annoyed by the inconsistency of him saying one thing and then doing the opposite within the same blog entry. (I could also understand more if it was in different entries written on different days, if it represented an evolution in his views.)
Here's a direct quote: "So, on the bright side for the webcomics I'm about to review, my expectations are pretty low. I just want to read humor comics that actually try to be funny and not, you know, focus on how the creator's a depressed loser who wants to kill himself. "
So there's the low-bar Joe set as his expectation for the reader, but that's not at all the bar he holds the comics to. I feel like, if he's this annoyed by comedy in general, why does Joe even bother accepting requests to review comedies? I've had a couple of different reviewers tell me either that they don't accept requests or they don't accept requests for comedies, which may not help me out much, but is something I fully understand. I'm just not sure I understand agreeing to review something and then explaining to your audience how much you loathe this thing you're about to review, sight unseen. "Man, I hate fantasy. Now for my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone." First your predisposing the reader to dislike the things you're reviewing before there's even a review (even if you end up liking them) and second, you're priming them to expect a rant rather than a critical analysis. It feels like poor decision-making.
The combination of normal time constraints (I already said I understand these reviews are time-consuming), the admitted tendency toward dialogue and complex, philosophical ideas in my comic, and Joe's general distaste for comedies may have resulted in skimming rather than reading prior to the review. For one thing, at the bottom of every comic is a ShareThis widget that lists how many times a given page has been shared, and while not necessarily perfect, it's probably a decent indicator of popularity... but Joe seemed to ignore it completely, choosing to highlight three specific segments of the story that both don't work well out of context, and were among my least popular pages. (He did also include three frames from Let the Wookiee Win, which has been moderately popular.)
Joe gave me good marks for my art, which is nice. Everybody seems to enjoy my art -- it's something that Brad Guigar also complemented me on last year when I hired him for a consultation. "The creator's been drawing comics for 10 years, and his skill and experience shows when he puts in his full effort. He also has a knack for drawing comedy, with the effective compositions, expressive figures, and smart color choices indicating someone who's used his time well in learning the ins and outs of the genre." Joe even felt weirdly compelled to give me two separate ratings for my art instead of the individual rating he gave the other three artists. He didn't explain why he did that. My guess is to emphasize that he thinks my story pages are lazy, since he gave me an almost perfect 4.5 donuts for "gag art".
But he says flatly at the top of my review that my work is "not funny" (objective), rather than even saying it's not his style of comedy or he has difficulty relating to it (subjective). He also sums the entire blog with the comment that all the comics (except one) "fail to entertain their audiences", rather than the more accurate, "failed to entertain me", as Joe is obviously not a member of the audiences of any of these comics. He cites as his main criticism of my writing that the comics in my story are dialogue-heavy (which he seems to have arbitrarily decided is automatically "self-indulgent"), and that I make pop-culture references apparently at all. At first my pop culture references are too old because I mention Hitler and the Bible and the original Star Wars trilogy, but apparently also bad if I mention anything recent like Pokemon Go, although he does preface this criticism by saying he basically hates people referencing things in general because he thinks it's lazy.
He goes on to cite what he says are my most prominent references, which actually mostly aren't prominent at all. Here are his picks:
Ayn Rand - who despite being central to the plot is only present in a whopping four pages or so Hitler - who's barely present in only two pages -- did he say prominent because the illustration was physically large? Jimi Hendrix - who's barely involved in a four-page conversation between Amity and Steve -- Katherine Hepburn's part although also short was far more notable than his the original Star Wars trilogy - of these four, this is the only one that I agree with being "prominent" - yes, I've made a number of strips about the first three Star Wars films. But since several of those are pretty popular pages, I would say this makes Joe somewhat out of touch with what's currently popular online, if he's trying to use this as an example of the work being dated. Hell, most of Blue Milk Special's jokes are about the original Star Wars trilogy and they're featured on Line Webtoon and making roughly $500/mo on Patreon! (Despite describing themselves as a "non-profit" fan project.)
Oh, and he says referencing the bible is dated. The bible is dated, folks! Nope, nope, haven't seen any bibles in middle-America since at least the turn of the century! I mean, it's not as though people today are often harassed on the basis of long-standing beliefs about the bible (COUGH! Gay Marriage), right? Nope, nobody's having any modern experiences with that stuff! The bible is as contemporary as carpetbaggers, war bonds and Little Orphan Annie decoder pins!
But then he says he doesn't like my story or the jokes in my story either and that I should have stuck to one-shots (that's how he ends my review). So which is it? Are my one-shots better (which are primarily references you say you don't like), or my story (which you say you also don't like)? You say I need to stop doing one to focus on the other, and then you say the other sucks. Incidentally, a large amount of the traffic to my site is because of those pop-culture comics that Joe says suck. So by saying in his review that I shouldn't do this, he's explicitly stating that I should stop doing one of the main things that's helping me make a career out of this work. It's effectively like telling AT&T that they really should get out of the telephone business, despite the fact that it's their primary source of revenue. So while I appreciate critique, I have to say, in any objective world, this bit of critique is worse than useless, it's counterproductive.
Joe did actually give a lot of positive marks to a comic called Trixie Slaughteraxe for President, comparing it positively with Beavis and Butt-Head, which is probably fairly telling, since I never liked that show. And therein likely lies the main problem. He's really looking for his comedy to be in the style of something like Beavis and Butt-Head -- sight gags, puns, dick and fart jokes, and please for the love of god, don't give me anything that engages the front-part of my brain in any real way. I've never been opposed to Beavis and Butt-Head, if that's your style of comedy, more power to you. I take issue with people saying that's the way comedy "should be" or that it's only funny that way. I didn't care for Beavis and Butt-Head or for the Three Stooges, but I happened to enjoy the TV show Frazier quite a bit (and more recently The Big Bang Theory which is one of the most popular shows on TV in recent years). Those are vastly different styles of comedy and all three of them were very popular in their day. In another ironic twist, he compared Woohooligan to the comic Tripp by my friend Bill Taylor (spinester). I'm pretty sure he didn't know that I've known Bill for some years now and he said he also didn't like Tripp apparently primarily because it was also too dialogue heavy, although I happen to know Tripp had a really active following.
Here's another direct quote from his review of Trixie: "There are no pauses in the narrative to explain the characters' backstories or provide a wall of text about minor details, and it lets the creator completely focus on setting up these goofy situations. I mean, I know saying that makes me sound illiterate, but creators can get self-indulgent with their writing, and nothing's more irritating for me as a reviewer than reading a bad webcomic that has way too much dialogue."
I get it, shut up with the talky-talk and give you a pie in the face. This probably also explains a lot about why the gist of his review of Bohemian Nights was "I don't like drama, your comic should be a sitcom."
But while these kinds of comments speak to what I said earlier about how I think he'd be better off if he decided to stop reviewing comedy (and possibly drama), my biggest problem stems from a kind of drive-by race-baiting he did toward the end of my review. You didn't like my comedy and you think my characters talk too much? Fine. But then he decides he can't move forward without mentioning the Trayvon Martin subplot and this is where it becomes really apparent that he didn't really read.
Here's Joe again, "My last complaint with the writing is about a scene where Trayvon Martin goes to Hell, which implies that he was an evil person. It's hard for me to understand why the creator included a scene about this sensitive subject, as it isn't funny or tasteful, and there isn't a coherent message behind it... Even if the gag was handled a little better, it's generally not a good idea to joke about racism, and if someone's committed to trying to do it, then it should be done with more delicacy and finesse."
He's complaining that he didn't feel like I was delicate enough with it, but then his answer to what he says is my indelicacy is to say to his readers, "hey everybody, RACISM!" without bothering to try and figure out why those pages are there. If he had read, or maybe even glanced at the commentaries underneath my comics, he'd probably have figured out that those few pages with Trayvon Martin are among the most researched pages I've ever created! I spent days and days researching the Trayvon Martin story both for the comic itself and for my lengthy commentaries underneath those pages. There is a great deal of my heart and soul, bleeding onto the page there about the challenge of being a decent person in the face of cultural forces and media distortions, and he reduced it to "oh and there's this stupid racist shit here." Thanks, Joe, you're a real stand-up guy. This is the real reason I'm concerned that it may have been a mistake to request this review. Maybe this publicity is bad publicity? If it makes people think I'm just casually throwing racism around?
On the issue of what being in Hell implies specifically, I left a comment on the review and I'll repeat it here: I can't imagine someone reading from the beginning and still saying that subplot implies that Trayvon was an "evil person". (And I said in no uncertain terms in the comments on those pages that I think Trayvon was a good kid.)
The entire story about Amity begins on the first page (comic 214) by saying that eating bacon damns you to hell, though it hardly makes you evil. Page after page of the story reinforce the idea that being in hell doesn't mean anything other than that you were mildly interesting before you died. (And for those reading along, there's a long-term story here that I don't want to give away.) If you ate bacon (gluttony), if you even thought about having sex (lust), if you wore makeup or were famous (pride), if you enjoyed owning a car instead of riding the bus (greed), if you gave your niece a stuffed animal gift (idolatry), all of those things are cited as reasons for being damned to hell, though obviously none of them make a person evil. This is a story about a world in which, as the author, I personally would be in hell for a wide variety of reasons, though I hardly consider myself evil. You can't understand what the Trayvon Martin subplot implies if it's taken entirely out of context.
I'm realizing now as I'm writing this that Joe says his review started on page 235, which is a pretty weird place to start. Man, I hope I didn't accidentally recommend that page to him... He completely missed the intro to the story and Amy's entire journey through heaven before she dyed her hair and changed her name... I guess that would explain why he would think being in hell implies being evil, because he started in the middle. But even starting at 235, he would still have seen Black History Month (which is 257) if he'd actually read instead of just skimming a few, and he would know that I'm not being casual about racism. That's also one of the hardest and most researched pieces I've done, and like the comic about gun culture, it's one of the most shared (I think it also has around ten).
Okay, I've gotten all of this out of my system. It's 3AM here. Thanks for sticking with me!
EDIT: I don't want people to think I'm just trying to blast the reviewer or that I think this is the worst thing that's happened to me. Like I said, I'm always grateful that people are willing to review me. It just seemed odd to me that Joe agreed to review my comedy in light of what he said about not liking comedy, and I'm a little miffed and a bit concerned about possible backlash from the casual inclusion (and dismissal) of the Trayvon Martin subplot. Although to be fair, I knew when I started the Trayvon Martin subplot that it was sensitive and there could be uncomfortable consequences, but I published it because I felt like it was important. And to be honest, I'm still kind of puzzling out if there's a better way to approach requesting reviews, or if I should just accept this as the normal occasional setback? Basically, I'm still trying to figure out the lesson or take-away from this. So if you have any thoughts, I'm all ears. Thanks!
December's been really rough on us here... the first week our washing machine died. We called a repair guy, who came out and charged us $100 to tell us that it would cost as much as a new machine to fix the one we had and that it probably wouldn't last much longer, so basically, "hey, you're screwed, that'll be $100 please." My first inclination was to go to Craig's List for a new one. (We've had a $40 Craig's List dishwasher for three years now, no complaints, so that's a great deal!) But my mom decided she wanted to replace the washing machine for us and she didn't want to trust one from Craig's List, so we picked one up at Best Buy for about $350.
Immediately after getting the washer squared away, my mom's truck died, which put me back to driving her to work every day in our gas-guzzling Buick. Tiff and I sprung $60 to help mom get her truck towed to the mechanic her coworker recommended because he doesn't trust Grismer (despite the fact that we've worked with them for three years with no problems). Luckily mom's coolant leak was due to old hoses, not a busted radiator, so replacing all of them at her mechanic is going to run $300 or roughly the cost of the washing machine she just bought. If she'd brought it to our Grismer, she could have got a line of credit like Tiff and I have and paid off the balance $50/mo, but since she took it to a mom-and-pop mechanic, she has to pay the whole thing when she picks up the car.
All this is on top of recently having to take on an extra car payment when our transmission failed and we couldn't afford or get credit to repair it, (because there's no way to get Tiffany's mom to her endocrinologist via bus or taxi), and a new loan to fix all the windows in the house (which we only agreed to because we were betting that most of the cost of the loan would be saved in heating bills once all the windows were no longer cracked everywhere and framed with cheap aluminum -- which turns out to be true, thank god!) ... So finances are tight... and the motors in our Buick's front windows are going bad, which obviously isn't covered by the warranty.
That's when we discovered the giant pool of water in our garage, just as we pulled in after dropping mom off at work this morning. So instead of spending today working on... work... making more comics, I spent the day trying to repair a pinhole leak in a copper tee that supplies cold water to the master bathroom. (It wouldn't be an issue if the house had been plumbed with PEX, we could just shut off the cold water to that sink, but traditional copper pipes give us only the option of a leak or no water for anyone anywhere at any time.) After letting some JB SteelStick cure for an hour, it had no effect on the leak. So I started getting out the rest of the tools.
Now, I know how to repair a pipe -- I have the flux, the solder, the torch, not a big deal. Unfortunately, the pipe in question is ridiculously inaccessible. The tee is directly below and butted right up against the side of the hot-water supply line. I can reach it with my hands from the garage (even without a proper ladder, just a stepladder), but there's no way for me to get the tools to it. The wall is open on the other side in our den as well, but I can't get the tools to it from there either, in part because my mom has a mountain of crap along that wall. She's said she'll start moving it away from the wall when she gets home.
In the meantime, Tiffany and I called the plumber who said they can have someone out here on Friday for another $100-200 due at time of service. Not wanting to make everyone else go without sinks and toilets for the next 48 hours, I decided to start doing something to manage the water between now and then. It started with a plastic Taco Bell cup that I cut in half with scissors and wedged under the pipe to catch the drip at the source and carry it over the first wood beam.
From there the water is just barely passing the side of the drain pipe and dripping into a bucket at the floor... but at the floor, the drain pipe has another opening that juts out of the drywall and it's catching half the drip. So I tried stapling the other half of the Taco Bell cup to the wall underneath the first one, which sort of worked. It moved the drip a little, but was still hitting the drain pipe. Then I noticed my mom left an empty distilled water jug in the garage, so I cut the bottom off of that and stapled it in place of the second half of the Taco Bell cup. Better... still imperfect, and still hitting the drain pipe at the bottom... So I stapled the second half of the Taco Bell cup to the wall just over where the drip is hitting the drain pipe at the bottom.
Now the water's hitting the cup instead of the pipe, but it's still splashing everywhere... then it occurs to me we have a bunch of Country Crock butter tubs in the kitchen. So I grab one of those and I staple it to the wall about half-way down, with a slight tilt, so the water will collect to one side. I drill a hole on the underside of the tub on the lower side away from the drain pipe. Viola! I have water dripping into the bucket and not on my drain pipe... so I mop up all the water off the wall and I think "Rube Goldberg would be proud!" ... I come back to check the bucket an hour later... it turns out the water hitting the inside of the butter dish is still splashing the wall a bit.
We do have some silver linings here... We still *have* a car (albeit with problems), we still have a house (albeit with problems), we still have food, we struggled to pay our bills, but we paid them. And, although I thought for sure Tiff and I wouldn't be able to get Christmas gifts for anyone this year, we were lucky and the food pantry we've been getting assistance from apparently selected us for Christmas gift help which was a surprise, because we didn't even know they did that. It came in the form of a Walmart gift card, and it gave us the ability to get an item or two for the kids this year. So this month has been really frustrating and although we're managing, we could really use a Christmas miracle about now. And of course all of this wouldn't be so hard if I were further along on my career-change goals. So as is always the case, if you'd like to see more laughs from me, you can help me out by sharing my work and/or pledging to our Patreon!
How are your holidays? I hope they're better than ours so far!
So... apparently I'm being punished for the hubris of saying we could use a Christmas Miracle... Right after posting this journal yesterday, Tiff and I had to jump in the car and go pick up my mom from work. Earlier I laid my jacket on our bed instead of draping it over my chair like I usually do. I put my jacket on and started toward the car. I stuck my hand in the pocket and directly into a glob of cat puke. Our cat, Mocha, has been sick for a few days and when my jacket showed up on the bed instead of my chair, he puked directly into the pocket.
So I took the jacket off and asked Tiff's mom, Carol, if she could clean it for me while Tiff and I went to pick up my mom from work at the hospital. When we got back, we discovered that Carol had passed the jacket along to my daughter, Callista. In itself that's not such a big deal, but she'd thrown the jacket in the washing machine which created a couple of new problems. First, the jacket is hand-wash only (the outside is water resistant even though it's got holes in a few places), and second, she didn't check to see if there was an inside pocket. What do I keep in my inside pocket, you ask? Not much... pens (that could leak), earbuds, a jar of glucose tablets for diabetic emergencies, and my PayPal Here credit card reader... all rolling around in our brand new washing machine. So we send Calli to get the stuff out of the pocket, and thank god the pens didn't break (that we could tell). I head back to the bedroom to lay down, already feeling like I'm coming down with a cold or a flu (thankfully I had a flu-shot at my doctor a couple weeks ago)... and I step right in a pool of cat puke on my side of the bed. Really, the amount of crap I got for the day is comical at this point.
Okay, that's enough of my horror story. In my rush to pick up mom from work, I neglected to mention something else that I was grateful for the other day. If you read my comments on my last comic, you'll already know this story. A few days ago, Tiff and I were taking mom to work. Unfortunately my mom neglected to get her work badge out of her car when the tow-truck driver picked it up, so Tiff and I agreed to drive the mile or so from her work to the mechanic to fetch that. It had rained the night before and then frozen, so the roads were covered in ice and on the way back from the mechanic, we encountered a white Jeep that had slipped on the ice and plowed into a telephone pole.
So Tiff and I did what we usually do, we stopped to ask if we could help. Derrell and his daughter, Elana, were on their way to drop off some paperwork pertaining to Elana's Army enlistment when it happened. The two of them hadn't been able to reach a 9-11 operator on their cells, so Tiff called and got through. While we were waiting for an emergency crew, a police officer drove past (slowed down and looked), but decided not to stop. WTH? Derrell and Elana were both thankfully walking around, but Elana had some pain in her hip, so we offered to drive them to the hospital to save them an ambulance (and associated fee). At first they wanted to wait for the emergency crew, but the crew seemed to be taking a long time, so they eventually decided to go on to the hospital to make sure she wasn't seriously injured (which she thankfully wasn't). In the long run unfortunately calling 9-11 ended up hurting them instead of helping because the police decided to immediately tow their car to the impound instead of waiting an hour for Derrell to come back and get his mechanic to tow it. But that unfortunate outcome isn't the reason why I'm mentioning it.
The thing is I enjoy helping people. I feel good when I help people, and Derrell and Elana were incredibly grateful that someone stopped and helped. And I have to consider that it's a bit of luck that we found them at all at 6am that morning, because on any normal day, I wouldn't have been driving. If my mom hadn't forgot her badge, if her car hadn't broke down, I wouldn't have been on that street, or we could have been an hour later or taken a different route. So I feel especially compelled to help when serendipity seems to put me in the moment. I don't really see it as a big deal, even though the several hours we spent helping them interrupted my work/publishing schedule... but it's nice to remember that it really doesn't take much, just a little bit of your time and care, to help someone out and be their Christmas miracle, if only for a few minutes or hours.
So that's my deal. If you expect me to be the kind of guy who will take your pledge and spend every second of every day just thinking about myself and my work, then I'm not your guy. If you pledge to my Patreon, I have to let you know that your dollar or two may occasionally help me help someone else in their hour of need.
A friend of mine has been struggling. If you have a minute, check out the commissions on her profile.
Hey, Hooligans! Thanks for all the birthday wishes.
Sorry if I haven't responded to you personally... been kind of busy and taking a bit to get through all my messages.
If you'd really like to do something nice for my birthday, remember that it doesn't have to cost you anything! I'm always totes grateful when people share my comics. The more you guys share them, the closer I get to my goal of making you guys laugh for a living! It's my dream job!
Happy Halloween, Hooligans! This year the pumpkins are still orange, but the horror is existential and it won't just turn you white, it's already turned the whole house white. With any luck, our Sleepy Hollow horseman will remain head-of-stateless.
I just published my monthly progress report for September! Among other things, it mentions this awesome review I got from Pippa Bailey of Ghoul Guides. They also review a bunch of other geeky stuff like Loot Crate and whatnot, so check out their YouTube channel.
We also finally found someone to help me with marketing and I'm going to be switching from managing ads on Project Wonderful (that was taking a ton of time I could have used for making comedy), to spending that same money instead hiring Beau Brooks to help me with social media and networking.
I just recently published Woohooligan's August progress report and I have to say, I'm on fire!
I've just realized how amazingly far ahead of the curve I am and have been for a long time now! I'm making $83/mo on Patreon, I've grown an average of $10/mo for the past 7-8 months, and that's way ahead of MOST cartoonists... and that's just recently! I've been at this for TEN YEARS when most webcomic authors give up within the first year or two! I've consistently published way more content than I promised for 8 STRAIGHT MONTHS! And my recent experiment with the Batman and Star Wars comics and the ads I made from them are kicking serious ass! They're both driving not just a ton of traffic to my site, but people who stick around and read and are engaged! And all of these things are despite MASSIVE setbacks this year! My marketing has improved, and even in my personal life I'm still killing it! I'm involved in three separate gaming groups, I'm up to 18 chin-ups in my workout, and just yesterday Tiff and I were approved for a seven-year loan to replace all the windows in our house!
I'm just $3 away from my next Patreon goal at $86... can't wait to blow past it and hit the next one at $157! All it's gonna take is improving my promotion and I've already proven I can do that!
Anyway, I feel great! I gotta run return some videos.
And Angel and Jaymz have just been having a rough time lately and could use a few commissions as well.
Unfortunately our AT&T U-Verse service got smashed yesterday and the earliest they could get a technician to us is tomorrow... so I likely won't be online until late tomorrow or Wednesday. Stay awesome!
7:40 Aug 30: Our internet is back on after two days. Apparently our lawn guy cut the U-Verse cable. I spent the whole time working on my next comic.
Hey guys! Someone I watch posted this video in his journal. Loved it. Have a listen!
My daughter, Calli, turned 18 yesterday. She gets her first tattoo tomorrow. We would have postponed it after the transmission failure in our car last month, except that the time for the artist was prepaid and we would have lost the deposit.
I hope you guys are all having a great time out there!
Hey guys! Happy 4th of July! I just published my progress report for June. Things are still pretty rocky around here, but I think there's some good news anyway. The whole update is here: www.patreon.com/posts/6019708
Lucky! The Dodge dealer turned us down for the $4,600 we needed to replace the transmission. So we called the bank and they turned us down for a loan too... and then today the sales guy from the dealership, John, picked us up at our house all the way across town a little after noon and we drove back to the dealership. And they gave us credit for an older, smaller car for $11k (with $5k tradein and $1k downpayment)...
Unfortunately we didn't get to choose the car, they said we only got the approval because this particular car had a really good "book value", better than anything else on their lot. Frankly, I'm SHOCKED they gave us credit at all. They said Transunion gave them a credit score of 580 (the bank earlier the same day said 619).
On the plus side, the Buick now has fewer miles on it and they gave us a two year warranty that will cover us through the end of the payments on our current home repairs.
But since we're now out another $260/month compared to the relatively negligible monthly expense of a well-maintained car we already owned (and that's going to severely hamper my ability to promote myself), what I said before about now being a great time to share Woohooligan with your friends still stands! www.woohooligan.com/2016 Thanks!
The Dodge dealer tells us we need a new transmission. We obviously don't have $4,600 and we're unlikely to get credit for that (the dealership already turned us down for credit to repair it, which leaves potentially our bank or a mortgage broker, but neither of those are particularly likely either)... we're headed over to the dealership today on the slim-to-none chance that we might manage some kind of trade-in. Our vehicle suddenly (and without warning) lost $4.6k in value on Wednesday last week... and left us without real transportation. So... if you enjoy Woohooligan, now would be a great time to share it with some of your friends! Thanks!
Hey guys! Can you think of a catchier title for the journal?
And I made this graphic to post here and on Facebook and Twitter to hopefully encourage more people to read my monthly progress reports.
TL;DR - May was challenging... Good News: got another $10 patron, published my first forray into NSFW adult art on my Patreon and people seem to like it, and people seem to be enjoying the Trayvon story arc that's been killing me with nerves since I started. Bad News: Still not getting as much done as I would like, despite being "ahead of schedule" for the amount pledged on my Patreon (still behind schedule for getting more pledges), and coming back from an oncologist appointment yesterday, the transmission in our van died.
Hey guys! I mentioned a few weeks ago that I might start making some NSFW art on my Patreon. If you're already a patron and don't want to see these, don't worry, the adult content is all behind a clearly labelled download, so only people who want to see it will. That being said, I managed to carve out a little time on the last day of May to publish the first one. It's available to anyone pledging a dollar or more on my patreon here: www.patreon.com/posts/may-nsfw…
The kids are out of school for the summer this week. Had a bunch of errands for that and had to take my mom to run some errands and we had to take my mother-in-law to an endocrinologist appointment. It turns out the reason she has bone destruction is hyperparathyroidism. Apparently there is a relatively simple outpatient surgery, however the doctor is concerned that a general anesthetic could be dangerous at her age. So they want to try some drugs first. In the meantime we're supposed to be extra careful to avoid her falling, because her bones are weakened from the loss of calcium and other minerals and a fall is near guaranteed to result in a broken hip.
All of this, plus doing a lot of research into the Martin/Zimmerman case really slowed me down, so it took the whole week to get this page done... I still feel like, despite my being about to have a stroke from my anxiety over it, that this part of the story is important, so enjoy my imminent demise! www.woohooligan.com/comics/256
Hey Hooligans! I can't post polls here on DA anymore since I'm not a core member these days (I'm putting that into advertising when I can instead)... but Twitter has polls on free accounts, so here it is:
5/17/2016 - I posted this two days ago and the next morning two things happened. The bad news is that there was a bit of an emergency with a software client and that's been taking more time away from me making more comics. The good news is that when I checked all my sites the following morning, the number of shares on Woohooligan in the previous 72hrs jumped from 17 to 28. So I wanted to say 1) I've seen the comments and will respond to them soon and 2) thank you for helping me share the comics, you guys are awesome!
Hey guys! Do you enjoy the TV Tropes website? I know I've spent a ton of time over there, digging through articles on all sorts of things... it can be a real time-sink... incredibly fun, and that's what makes it dangerous.
Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about my goals for the year. I am making some slow progress, but if I'm going to meet my goal at the end of the year, I need to speed it up. I expected there would be periods when I was behind schedule... what I didn't expect was basically losing most of 2-3 months helping my mom move in with us and getting her settled. But, like I said the other day, the important thing isn't whether you've been knocked down, but what you do when you get back up!
So I have this basic situation:
The Goal: more traffic to Woohooligan.com! None of this career transition works without meeting that first goal. So far, I'm working social media (Twitter, Facebook and DeviantArt) and paid advertising on Project Wonderful. As much as people say you gotta do the social media, I have to say that so far, it seems like the advertising is working a lot better for me. Which is a bit frustrating. Everybody says that you're supposed to get on Facebook and Twitter and do the hustle there and then something goes viral and the next thing you know you're on your way. Brad Guigar, who's quite successful making Evil Inc. even told me (during a consultation I paid handsomely for) that I should just flat-out stop paying for advertising because whatever I'm doing should just advertise itself.
Well, that's not so much what I've found. I do pay for advertising and I find that especially after creating some new, funnier banner ads, a lot more people are coming to my site from those ads and the people who come are staying and reading a lot more. On days when my advertising budget is high (and over the past week it's been way up, in the range of $8/day instead of my usual $3), my AddThis account shows that not only am I getting a lot more traffic, it's also shared about THREE TIMES more often. So the ads I have are quite effective. For every dollar I spend on advertising it seems like it would have taken me no less than five hours to get the same exposure from social media... so if I do the math, that means my return on investment for social networking is on at most $0.20/hour, probably less. No business person in their right mind would or should accept 20-cents per hour as their return on investment if they live here in the US, it's just not sound business.
So that means that if social networking is going to work for me, I need to find a better way to leverage it so it's not sucking HUGE amounts of time for very little return. I've looked at all the various social media dashboard apps and so far, I don't see any way for them to really help me cut my workload down or improve the return on my investment. I've also already read through two entire marketing books and both of them were virtually useless!
(And I'm working now on the For Dummies Social Media All-In-One, which is a HUGE book, but so far it seems similarly unhelpful, spending a ton of pages on how to justify spending money on social media to your corporate overlords who I obviously don't have.)
My next step seems to be one of these options:
hire a marketer (need money) get money from software engineering *probably* spend too much time programming and lose the time to make comics
buy more advertising (need money) get money from software engineering definitely lose the time to do any social marketing at all -- *probably* even lose the time to make comics anyway
put all my time into making comics not worrying about social media or software engineering means lots of time pray for a *miracle* to fall out of the sky that drives more exposure for my site
It really feels like a bit of a no-win situation right now, but I'm not giving up... Right now I'm just writing out these ideas here and thank you for reading.
What it all means: In a worst case scenario, what I'm already doing now is working, it's just torturously slow and so far it's nowhere near reaching my goal... that's the real problem, because I'm TERRIFIED that if I don't get to $2k/mo by the end of the year (which is still poverty, but would replace my disability), that the state of Ohio will simply say "oh, you worked, so you're obviously not autistic or disabled anymore, good luck!" and I won't have any disability payments anymore.
If Tiffany's experience applying for disability in Ohio is any indication, that's likely to be how my review will go. The 90-year-old Russian doctor who barely speaks English told her to lie to the x-ray techs about her weight -- the techs saw that she was obviously over the 300lb limit for their equipment and told her they couldn't take the x-rays. So the doctor said "oh, they can't x-ray you at that location, *therefore* since I can't see the back problem, you obviously don't have a back problem." And so far, there's been no real luck getting that decision appealed.
As it is right now, I'm struggling every day/week to keep up with my workload and still have time for friends... but I worry that if I just stop talking to friends to make time for work, that aside from not being able to talk to friends, the whole thing will grind to a halt anyway because I need your help to promote myself.
So if you guys have any ideas about ways to improve my marketing efforts, fire away!
We're still kind of recovering from my mom's move. I'm working on the next Woohooligan comic and today I took mom down to the SS office to apply for her retirement. Getting her driver's license is going to be a weird challenge. Even though my name no longer matches my birth certificate and the BMV's response was "ayup, sure", for the women in our family apparently they demand a physical document change for every name change from their birth-certificate until now. So my mom needs proof of her marriage and proof of her divorce showing her new name. It's even worse for my mother-in-law, Carol who was married three times. (Unless I'm forgetting them asking for my divorce documents, but... I dunno, it just doesn't seem like something I would forget.)
In any event, the website Graphic Policy posted a pretty cool review of Woohooligan today!
Hey Hooligans! I'm not sure if I'll have time to finish the next comic page and publish it before I leave town early Saturday morning. I'm headed down to Dallas to pick up my mom and bring her up here to Dayton. Twenty hours on the bus, a couple days packing the truck, fourteen hours drive back. So I'll be gone from Saturday to around the 1st.
Have a great week!
p.s. Here's the previous journal about why mom is moving in with us.
I know why people have those "hang in there" posters with the little kitten... This month I've managed to publish three pages of comic, plus the NSFW Deadpool/Valentines Day bonus for patrons. And I got all that done by the 15th, so I'd already produced almost as much content by mid-month as in the entire month of January. So I'm feeling pretty good about where I am on my goals (we've got one or two more patrons now btw).
About that time I got a call from my mom. She's been living in a rough neighborhood in Dallas for a number of years now. To be honest when I first saw her apartment a few years ago, I was thinking to myself, "uh... you CHOSE this neighborhood?" Apparently around the holidays she was mugged at gunpoint (a tiny 63yr old woman - stellar job there, kid, beating up on retirees... planning to hit the nursing home next?), and then someone shot and killed her neighbor's son... So obviously we all want her out of there, and we've agreed she'll move in with us here in Dayton (my sister wants her out of there too and is physically closer, but I can just imagine the apocalypse from the two of them living together again).
This is the same month my oldest daughter moved out with very little warning, and although she and her boyfriend promised to give us half their rent for the month (since they moved out around the 15th), we still haven't seen any of it. But despite not really having the extra to spend, we went ahead and bought a $100 bus ticket for me to be down there on the 26th to help mom pack and move in with us up here in Ohio. We rescheduled the bus for another $20 because she didn't feel like she could get everything packed by then, so now it's the 26th of next month... and a few days ago, just as I was pulling in to a friend's house for a game night, I got a speeding ticket for 11miles over... they're more expensive here than they were in Dallas, at $135. So far we're down abut $635 this month.
I put comics on hold so I could log some extra hours of software engineering work this past week, to help us make those ends meet. I really wish I didn't have to. That's what the goal for this year is about and I'm not giving up. I had a table at the local Independent Creators' Expo (ICE) here in Dayton on Saturday. It was fun, although with 54 booths, I would be surprised if there were more than twelve attendees in the room at a given time. I bet the attendees felt special. Though this was only the third year for ICE and despite the fact that their hotel closed and told them about closing all of FOUR days before the event, BJ said the turnout was still better than the previous two years. So all in all, I still think it was good and I'm looking forward to next year.
I've also put in a few days already on a 4-page comic strip for Black History Month. I'm the lily-whitest mofo you'll ever meet. Family surnames are Dealey and Fitzgerald. Mostly of British descent, some Irish, some German, a tiny fraction of Indian on my mom's side. Regardless, I feel like I can't just stand around and do nothing while my neighbors are struggling with police mistreatment among other things.
If you guys could give me a hand building my audience, by sharing my goals page, I'd really appreciate it!