About The Comic
I’m in the business of (trying) to make things interesting.
I once read an autobiographical webcomic years ago that was essentially a story about how nothing ever goes right for the writer. The girl he likes doesn’t like him, so he’s sad. His job is reliable, but boring, so he’s sad. Whenever opportunity knocks at his door, that’s great and all, but it’s not good enough. And that makes him sad.
There was another series that heavily relied on sad stories to get more readership. That series also produced these strips in the same way – As bright as his life is, and it’s very bright, any splinter in his foot just immediately makes him sad.
This all makes me sad.
It wouldn’t make me sad if I didn’t see it as a common thread to autobiography comics in general. Part of the fun of comics like these are that they’re accessible in ways that regular stories aren’t – minute details, ones that may seem like filler in bombastic titles, are the frosting on the cake moreso than punches, kicks, and soap-opera story beats. Stories about a car accident or an overdue bill become stressful, relatable crisis that are otherwise just used as window-dressing in something like a superhero comic, to remind us that these characters are “just like you!”
The “problem” with a lot of these autobio webcomics, if there really is on that I can put my finger on, is that they are not much better at producing relatable material either. Under the everyman layout of these strips, there are still vague blobs of material that are relatable because of the everyman-ness of it, and less because of the actual content. Seeing a scratchy panel of a guy sad over a wrecked car is inherently relatable because of the broadness of it, but if that’s all you have, then you aren’t capturing the “autobiography” part of it all. I get it, your car is mashed. But how does that effect you, personally, aside from making you sad? What can I gleam, as a reader, from your page-long bout of being sad over this car? If all you have is “I’m sad because this made me sad,” then not only are you writing nothing, I’m reading nothing.
Usually when that first strip hits that really catches on about the writer being sad, and the writer sees this, they’ll go forth to produce more of the same. So it’s just more strips about being sad, just ‘cuz, and woe is them because happiness will never knock on their door. Whenever anything happy appears, it’s just not enough.
While this is a comment on the genre as a whole, and a troubling issue I see with it, this can also be a comment on the types of people willing to write a webcomic under the autobiographical banner. It can also be a comment on someone like me.
Which is why, when I first started this series, I knew I’d fall into that trap and immediately tried avoiding it. I pinpointed what I hated reading when I read autobiographical comics, and wanted to expand upon it, instead of straight lampooning it. Yeah, I got into a vehicular accident early on in the comic, and was sad about it, but instead of just beating that drum over and over, I went ahead and started filling out why that made me sad and what I was going to do about it, even if I didn’t come right out and say it. As I continued to write/draw the comic, I had flashbacks about experiences happening in that truck. I drew comics about using that accident to be happier and more optimistic in my life, even if I continued to forget to. At no point did I draw these comics hoping people would feel bad for me, because it was just one accident. Life goes on. What I did want to capture, though, was “who” was experiencing it, and why.
Yeah, one of my girlfriends broke up with me, and that made me sad. But why did it make me sad? What built up to that? How layered was this sadness, and why? Did I want to be sad, or did I want to be happy? Was this something I could get over in a weekend, and if not, what specific elements of “Me” can I write about? People know I’m sad. But what’s BEYOND it?
To me, it’s just too easy to draw a comic of something sad happening and calling it a day. How do these sad things effect our lives? Our friends lives? What about those goofier things? What if that really goofy idea sprawled out into something a little sadder? Why is it sad? Who is it sad for?
The obvious answer to this entire problem is that autobiographical comics are easy to make, easy to read, and easy to “sell” (well, easy to sell someone on reading for free, but actually selling them for cash is like selling ice to eskimos). That’s why there are so many of them. Of course, there are plenty of these series that do it right, that inform you about the person you’re reading about, that steadily fill in information about these people’s hobbies and the world they’re contained in, but they are few and far between. For most, it’s just easier to hammer out a simple, cute comic on tumblr and call it a day. Everyone likes The Mario Brothers, so in this one, my girlfriend is dressed like peach and we eat mushroom pizza. 300 shares! Awesome.
Facebrooks has a fair share of problems too. It is nowhere near perfect. Half of the time, when I look at these strips on the archive, I want to take the entire thing down and call it a wash. But there’s always tomorrow. And tomorrow, these could be better. How could they be better? Well, let’s start at “this character is sad” and work our way up. Someday, I might be able to hit that sweet spot.
This is never about pulling rank. It’s about wanting more from people. It’s about seeing a story and saying “yeah, this is good, but it can be great.” Everything has a place in the world – it takes all types to make this blue marble spin. Even the scribbliest autobio comic is just as valuable as the most polished. But it’s important to not settle, “artistically”. That’s what drives us to bigger and better things. Maybe.
So, after reading all of this, this probably makes you think that I’m a little snooty. That I need to get off my pedestal and that I need to get back to my corner and stay focused there. That’s good! But WHY do you feel that way? Yeah, you’re irritated, but isn’t there more to it? Sounds like you have a start to a strong autobio strip.
About The Site
Excuse the dust! Rod and I just got back from our goings on in real life and we’re flipping on the update machine again. Since this’un (Facebrooks #512) is a double-update, Facebrooks will be back next Monday with another new strip! See you then!
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