On May 12th, 2009 I began a single panel, science fiction, webcomic called Ruinship, published Monday through Friday for 255 panels. Today is May 11th, 2010 and I am posting a 256th panel, and this reflection on the year-long project, which overall, I’d say was a failure. That’s not to say that the project was a terrible thing; I am disappointed with it as a completed work, but very happy with the lessons I learned. I’ll talk about my individual ups and downs with the comic in due time, but first I want to address the history of the project.
In early May of 2009 I was feeling particularly depressed. I’ve dealt with depression for most of my life, on top of that I was dealing with a job I hated, dreams that seemed unattainable, and recent weight gain. I was in a foul mood all the time, and I wasn’t being particularly nice to my poor girlfriend. The only thing that has ever worked for me to combat sinking, pervasive, depression has been to create, for most of my life this has taken the form of drawing and writing comics, though starting in my teens, I’ve used creating music to various results as well.
Ever since I could remember I’ve been drawing comics, the problem being that I have never been a particularly gifted artist. In high school I started to get a lot of attention for my writing, and by college I had abandoned drawing all together and had decided that though I still wanted to make comics I would concentrate on writing, sans art. Soon after I met my friend, Adam Rosenlund, an incredibly talented and hard-working artist and we started to make comics together. So I was writing a lot in May of 2009. I was creating, but nothing was in a stage where Adam and I could devote the time to finish a project. We were constantly developing the beginnings of projects, and though this was a necessary step in our careers, it was wearing on me. I needed to complete a story.
So lack of artistic ability or not, I decided to jump in and begin work on my own, single panel webcomic. I pulled open my massive file of comic scripts on my hard-drive and looked for the one I could most easily adapt to be drawn by someone with no understanding of anatomy, lighting, color, perspective, story-telling, or even how to make basic shapes. I had a script called, Ruinship (gasp). It was more of an experimental comic, hardly any dialogue (good because I didn’t know how to letter) usually with only 1 to 2 panels per page (good because I wanted to do single panel, because I didn’t know how to rule out a page) with very few characters (good because I knew I couldn’t draw different types of people). It was a heavily atmospheric tale of a man who, lost in space, is picked up by a ruin of a star ship. Revived the man wanders through the ship, discovers it’s terrifying nature, and then gradually learns that the ship is not the threat he originally perceived, but is in fact, a ruin. That’s he whole story, you don’t need to read the comic now.
I decided not to work from the original script, because it was still full of shit that I knew I couldn’t draw and worked instead from the basic outline. At first the comic was exciting for me, and working from the fact that I knew I was shit at drawing I was happy with the level of the art. I promoted the comic heavily, and I was learning. I was learning a ton. Helped immensely by Adam, I learned all sorts of things, and I experimented on my own. The first panels were drawn on printer paper, inked with what ever crap pen I had lying around, lettered by hand, and toned in MS Paint. Soon I was drawing them with a set of Faber-Casteli Pitt artist pens, on bristol board, lettering in Adobe Illustrator, and toning in Photoshop. Not long after that I bought a Waccom tablet and the comic went all digital. I learned how to scan files, what size to save them at for web, and how to archive my work files.
And for most of my year run the comic came out every weekday, and it always came out 5 times a week. But this was part of the problem that lead to me becoming unsatisfied with the comic. The update schedule was far too ambitious for my first attempt at a webcomic, and -after a bit- most of the time I was shitting a comic out just to make the update. I hate almost all of the individual panels I posted. But I love a few of them, and that makes it worth it.
A year is also a long time, and I got bored with the thing. My confidence with my drawing was growing and I longed to start, other, newer, projects. I stopped promoting Ruinship on twitter, and I would whip out a panel as quick as I could so I could spend my evening drawing other things. I started working on a comic called The Sunspotters, about a group of colonists on a distant planet that became economically isolated from Earth, and then discovered the architecture of another intelligent species, prompting a bitter battle over the dig site. But the art was crap, and the writing was crap, so I started again, with a re-write. I labored over the art, vowing to take my time until I was satisfied, totally, with each panel. I did about five pages before I realized the art was still crap.
After that I half-halfheartedly attempted to draw a few pages of another comic script I had written called, Cyphus Batson is a Real Bastard, but soon realized that despite getting a little better at drawing, I will never be a science fiction artist, and no matter how long I took on each panel, no matter how I labored over each page, my science fiction scripts would all be better comics if I had someone else drawing them. Ruinship would have been a better comic if someone else had drawn it.
It was also about this time that I started drawing a few daily journal comic type strips, and the response I got from those was immense. The art was simpler and more suited to the nature of the strip. I started writing more diary and memoir comics, intensely personal , comics that wouldn’t be better if someone else did the art, comics that only I could draw. And that’s what I will be working on next. Stay tuned.
So, Ruinship is done, I had a lot of fund doing it, and I learned a lot about comics. I firmly believe now that any comics writer doesn’t know shit until he draws his own comic. You learn so much about writing comics by drawing them. Thank you, very much, for reading the strip. Keep up with my comics at www.floodworks.net and www.fatbabycomics.com
I’ve written too much and rambled too long, plus a Juan Gimenez comic arrived in the mail today and I need to read it, fucking hell that guy is good, he should have drawn Ruinship.