Restructuring I – Interactive choices and heroism

It is no surprise we are back at it again with a new blog post. First of all blogging is a solid daily habit by now. Also the brain doesn‘t stop grinding, just because you don‘t actively think about something for a change. I immediately had some more blog post ideas when putting my 100 days of making comics materials to the side. I guess I will have to go through all of them over the next weeks to reflect and to make sure I‘m understanding what actually happened and what didn‘t.

I have a really interesting topic for you today. Yesterday I posted a comic panel that offered a choice to make to the readers. The situation: Rich, the protagonist, has spotted three dangerous or at least unpredictable looking men he does not know. He can then decide to either look for a way around them or stay on the main road, standing his ground against them so to speak.

It is a simple situation. But that one must have struck something, as many readers left long comments why they chose which option. What also came up repeatedly was the philosophical trope of the illusion of safety. The readers were aware that potential danger could lurk on both paths down the line, even if Rich chose the ‚safer‘ way to circumvent the strangers. Most chose to send Rich towards the strangers.

And I was deeply fascinated with the vigor with which most of the readers sent him there. I myself would avoid the situation. I would take the ‚cowardly‘ choice and I take the freedom to assume that at least some of the readers who want Rich to stay his ground would act like me as well in the same situation. Then it struck me. It is not about just simulating our reality here. They want Rich to be a hero.

If I think about it, this is the first moment where Rich is in a shred of trouble. And should this really be the moment he completely falters already before even being actually attacked or opposed in any other way and leaves the scene to the back alleys? I can see why the readers would instinctively dislike that, while you could see it as a smart move. We seem attracted to people who display confidence, people who take risks and walk straight into trouble and towards the unknown. And then, another irony of the matter is, that cowards like us tend to survive those situations – and must have survived them since thousands of years – but then we tell stories about people like Rich to each other and hold this up as an ideal.

I am not criticizing my readers here, no, I want to thank them for sharing their instinct and collective wisdom and leading me down this train of thoughts. Only now do I begin to understand and really feel what a „hero“ as opposed to an everyday person actually is. Hero… That word gets thrown around a lot when talking about story structure and can at times seem like an empty hull or just synonym for main character. Your main character could be anyone. A hero is an idealized version of this anyone who displays or represents one or more higher values, much to our liking. Most heroes seem unattainable by us in their ways…but being a hero by walking towards three strangers…really? That counts already? Apparently it does! And you don’t even have to do it free of fear. You can be scared but do it anyways. And not everyone can or must be a supernatural power wielding superhero.

And then it got even more interesting. My own comic got me thinking about myself and with what knee jerk reaction I would have disappeared from the scene. I should strive to be more confident. In the long run, I must. Living only to survive and stay in relative „safety“ as much as I can might lead to a very miserable existance, where a lot of things have the power to kick me around, just because I would run on sight. Does that mean I should walk towards any dangerous looking situation in future? Probably not. It is rarely as simple as always yes, always no, and nothing in between. Yet, I have to take risk to move within the void outside of proven ways. I take risks daily when creating new panels. They could always go terribly wrong and I could run out of time and then not deliver. Or they could look horrible. Also the project could run into the sand and never amount to anything. I could never find success as an artist. But so far, I‘m not failing, at least not totally. And at least the falling movement seems to go forward.

Am I …finding out what stories ought to do? Give me just a little bit more than just entertainment for my time without getting on the nose preachy? I was told nothing of that by the comic. I am very glad and grateful for this experience today.

(Voting results: 27 votes were cast in total, 10 on Instagram, 17 on Discord. The winning option got 19 of 27 votes, 70% of votes in total. Instagram was a bit more mild with only 60% of votes for “walk on”. The discords went with “walk on” for 76% of all votes.)

100 Days – FINALE

Above: to the left – original first post-it for the challenge, drawn in colored pencil. To the right – redraw done today with same medium reflecting the current state of creator and blog comic team of fictitious characters.

It is done! Today is day 100 of my 100 days of making comics.

Unfortunately I haven‘t gained superpowers or completed a whole graphic novel. Even worse, some of my problems as a comic creator persist while other new problems joined.

But on the other hand there is this:

1. I have stopped doubting whether I CAN make comics at all. Yes, I can do that.

2. I failed at what I originally set out to do. Of course I did. But I was lucky enough to understand the reasons for it after spending weeks on other, smaller projects. So I learned a lot out of it.

3. I have learned how to „start small“ by doing a series of „Mikiko“ shortcomics in this very blog, focussing on the adventures and comments of my virtual assistant Mikiko.

4. I have started an interactive webcomic with a story that means a lot to me. I am more than a chapter in by now – so it‘s past the first bump already.

5. I have a much more grounded, realistic view of my actual skills and means and what to work on. Constantly working on one long term project like a webcomic is A LOT already.

6. I met a lot of great people on the road and appreciate those that were with me already, looking at them through new eyes. Although I can behave quite reclusive, I have learned that even I am not an island. We are connected and help each other and influence each other all the time. Thank you, everyone, and a special thanks to my husband, whose patience had no end.

edit: 7. Editing is important.

Above: I’m currently doing my best to improve my environment drawing skills. I usually fill in a row of 5 thumbnails a day with studies. The first reevaluation is at 200.

Accountability

The blogposts instead of videos worked out fine for me as means to keep myself accountable. They were especially effective in the beginning. Having to make a blog post about the day later might have saved one or two days. In the last days of the challenge I combined a couple of days into one single entry. The daily work got done either way by then. I will most likely not stop the webcomic anytime soon.

And what is next?

I will continue working on my comic with the same schedule as now (at least one panel a day), but other than support my husband with his „Your Land“ videogame as much as I can. It soon will be ready to publish! I hope I have built enough endurance during these 100 days to keep my humor and get things done, no matter what.

Will I ever do this or a similar 100 day challenge again?

Actually yes! If it was not for constraints such as time and other responsibilities, I‘d simply add 100 more days of making comics right away. But it‘s part of the artist‘s toolkit to know when you better take breaks, even if you don‘t feel like it at the first moment. I have some other things to build and maintain right now. I‘ll be back in time with new announcements. It depends on how the game launch will go, honestly. If there is a lot of bugfixing and changes to do within the next weeks that might be my project for the rest of the year.

For now, thanks to all of you. Your company has made my journey even more worthwhile and I hope my documented stumbling through 100 days has given you something, too. See you back on the road soon!

Above: what better way to end this than with an interactive choice in the comic? Quick, go to the respective discords I’m sharing that post with vote buttons or to instagram and cast your vote until tomorrow(23.11.2020). For more context – you can read the whole comic on this website. Check out “PREY”.

100 Days – 78

Voting results: Today the red option won! It received 15 of 26 votes overall, 11 of 14 votes across the discord servers, 4 of 12 on Instagram. The readers were aware of how meaningful the decision was, so I guess a part of them decided to stay impartial so that they are not at fault for what happens in the future. Thank you all for voting!