I finally finished the sketch for February. Erin Almaz was the randomly-selected Patreon winner, and Erin chose depressed character 10 for her sketch. Due to an ink spill which ruined the first try and falling prey to an influenza virus, I fought to get this done, and here it is:
A while back I had complained about the software I was using for the depression comix site and I needed to change it. Well, I’m happy to report I did change it, and now I’m using the Genesis framework and a modified starter theme. I knew I had to make the move at some point and I’m glad I did. By just using the Genesis theme I could unload a number of plugins I was using and now the site is sleeker and faster than it was before. It also forced me to learn CSS so I could make the site exactly as I imagined it.
One of the things I’ve tried for is minimalism. I got rid of as much unnecessary wording as possible, and removed all sidebars so that the focus is truly on the comic. There are no ads, no unnecessary links. There are so many webcomics out there where the comic is in the middle of a jumble of ads, animated gifs, blogs, link lists… all the things that in the 90s with limited display size aren’t that distracting but with the display sizes of today it looks like a mess.
I also removed all color from the text and thumbnails so that the site is starkly monochrome. Color is not easily found in the site, and it’s on purpose.
I’ll be continually making improvements to the site, so it’s not over yet. But I hope the improvements are for the better.
Every month on the depression comix Patreon I give away a free sketch. The winner gets to choose what character they want me to sketch and I send it in the mail to them. The Patreon sketch winner for January was Calle Englund, and for his sketch he asked for Goth Chick:
I hope you like it Calle and it will be on it’s way to you now.
The best thing about this contest is that I don’t get to choose, because if I did I would probably be drawing Robin & Wren (the girl with the bangs and her freckled girlfriend) forever. But having other people choose forces me to draw things I wouldn’t normally.
Thank you very much for your support and I look forward to drawing what you make me draw next month.
December’s sketch goes to Hallie who asked for depressed character #2 and I just put it out in the mail this morning. This is a monthly thing I do for Patreon supporters and it’s turned out to be a good thing — it’s nice just drawing something different and at a different size — a full page for a face than a credit-card sized panel for a comic. I did this with a liner pen and Copic greyscale markers.
I’m already looking forward to January’s prize winner, and seeing what they will ask me to draw.
Recently, I’ve begun entering the dialogue of the comics just under the comic. This will take a while for all 260+ strips, but I think it’s worthwhile to do. Some people have expressed interest in translating the comic to their language. Although managing all those images is too much for me right now, I can add the translated dialogue to the bottom of the strip as well. If you are interested in translating, please write to me at claycomix at gmail.com. I’d be grateful to hear from you.
Recently I ran out of art to give away so starting last month a randomly selected $1+ supporter would win a sketch of their character of choice. Last month James won, and here is his sketch of depressed character #10 which will be going out in the mail today. Thank you so much for your support everyone! This will be a monthly thing on Patreon so please stay tuned.
Last week was a good week for depression comix as the Patreon page passed over 100 supporters, and on DepCom Tumblr 16 thousand followers was passed. I should also mention that a couple of months ago the WordPress.com version of depression comix was featured in Freshly Pressed and since gained over 1000 new subscribers on WordPress.com.
This is really in thanks to all of you for sharing this comic. Whether it be sharing a link on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or on other social networks and bulletin boards, many of you are using this comic as a shorthand to describe things. This means I have to describe it better, and I know I haven’t reached the point where I’ve really cut through the B.S. and really found the words to describe it. But I think I am getting closer, and obviously I wouldn’t have made it this far without you too. Thank you!
I have to admit I am still learning, but luckily I have learned from my mistakes with previous webcomics and I believe I am doing better this time around. It certainly feels more successful, and I’m a lot more enthusiastic about this comic after 250 strips than I was when I was doing Sexy Losers. But here are some things that I learned this time around that have helped me a lot.
1. One of the worst sins is a missed update.
When I first started doing Sexy Losers I aimed at doing a weekly strip. It certainly seemed manageable, and something I could do on top of a full time job. But after some time I had problems maintaining that pace. There were times when I felt the idea wasn’t good enough, that left hand didn’t look quite okay, or just something that stopped me from completing a strip. Sometimes I had the blank page in front of me and couldn’t think of anything that I thought was worthy enough to put on it.
When I let one update slide, it became easier to let the next one slide too. And the next. At that point the momentum was gone and the motivation necessary to restart my comicking engine just wasn’t there. And when I did start, it was a lot harder to do than when I was following a schedule. Soon the comic’s update pattern changed from “weekly” to “whenever a comic is finished”, a really bad sign.
But it just wasn’t from my viewpoint either. Readers would expect updates, but when none follow they get frustrated and stop checking. After a few cycles of the comic fluctuating from regular update to no update, they just gave up.
There aren’t any positives when it comes to a missed update. In the beginning with depression comix I missed a few updates, and even then I had problems getting back into the frame of mind necessary for it. For the past two years I have not missed a single update, even when I went to Canada for a month and didn’t have access to a scanner. I just prepared what I needed because I knew how important a regular schedule was. Because of that, it feels like I’m riding a wave of momentum which in turn makes it easy to motivate myself. And if that hand doesn’t look right, fukkit, I’ll just make sure to draw a better hand next time.
I always knew in my heart that the missed update was bad. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see how bad it was. I can say depression kind of derailed my ability to update a few times but even if I couldn’t post a strip I could have posted a sketch or something just to let the readers know I’m thinking of them. Anything. Just don’t miss that update.
2. Advertisements on your site is a Big Ugly.
Since the early days, I always thought that advertisements were a necessary evil. Especially when I was looking for free hosting, every place that would host me demanded ads on my site, and I would rarely, if ever, see a dime from that. Basically, in order to get my comic in viewable space I would have to let others put their ads in my site. J-List was the only one who ever paid me, and I am grateful for that (but I had to decline after a while because the income was messing with my taxes in Japan).
When depression comix started taking off I felt it was time to get it on its own site. Naturally I would have to pay for hosting, and to offset the costs of hosting I naturally thought of advertisements on the site first.
It took me a while to get Google AdSense going when they claimed depression comix was pornographic because of one image with nudity. I removed that, and soon I was swimming in AdSense bucks, or so I thought.
The advertisements were terrible and at times distateful considering the subject matter. When I saw a diet ad on the page of a comic concerning an eating disorder, I knew it was time to end it.
I also tried other advertising attempts like affiliate ads but they did not have any affect.
There are many problems with advertising. The ads are generally flashy and dynamic and do not go well with the layout of the site. And unfortunately you need to put them in prominent places or no one will click on them. So you spend time moving them around to figure out how to make people look at them instead of your comic. Then there are people with ad blockers so it’s a waste for them too. And to top off matters, occasionally an ad will have some kind of malicious code and Google blocks your site.
In my honest opinion, the best move is to move from advertisements to reader-supported. Making the decision to remove all advertising and ask for help from the readers was a much better idea. There are a number of ways of doing this and Patreon is probably the easiest and most sensible. I have never regretted doing this and it has made me appreciate readers even more. depressioncomix.com is a very simple and calm site without the ads, and nothing interferes with reading the strips. And the direct support I receive gives me lots of encouragement and motivation. I feel like I’m working directly for the readership now, and that’s exactly the place I should be.
3. Delete and forget what you don’t want to read.
This is a hard one to learn and I’m still learning it. There are people on the internet who are filled with toxic poison and will dump it all over you if they get a chance. I’ve always been a person who is too sensitive for their own good, and everything gets to me. This is motivation killer and it derailed me several times. Instead, nowadays I just ignore it or delete it. I know I have to take care of my mental health first, and I know that arguing with strangers is not the best way to do that.
4. Sharing is caring
Back in the olden days I tried so hard to stop people from copying my work. I messed with HTTP_REFERER, I cut the comics up into little jigsaw pieces to be reassembled online, sent messages, and did everything I could to keep the work on my site. It was a source of anger and frustration when I would have rather been making new comics.
I gave up on comics for a while, and that was one of the reasons. Why do something that someone will just steal?
But I remember someone linked me The Pirate Bay, and in it was a torrent of all my work. I should have been angry, but instead I was incredibly flattered. Wow. People want to share this? People care enough to continue reading it???
Since then I’ve had a completely different outlook on it. Now everyone shares, and one of the things I can do is make the work easier to share. By uploading depcom onto different networks, I increase its visibility and readership. One can read complete depcom strips and archives on Tumblr, Twitter, deviantART, Pinterest, WordPress.com, and Facebook, without needing to visit the depcom site even once. With Sexy Losers you had to visit the site but with depcom the comic comes to you. And that’s a better way to do it because you’re appealing to convenience – you become a part of people’s online routines automatically. And the comic is more likely to be read that way, and it’s more likely to be shared since it’s only a simple click away.
But the cool thing is, since I eliminated advertising on the site as a source of revenue, there is no reason for me to try to get people to come to the site anymore. If I had ads, I would need the readers to directly visit the site more and I would be hesitant to allow sharing on social sites. Some solutions to problems become solutions to other problems too.
5. Readers are wonderful.
It took me a long time to appreciate the readership because I didn’t know how to reach them properly. I couldn’t separate the rare troll from the vast majority of kind people and there was a price to be paid for it. I was too sensitive, too reactionary, too angry. I fucked up and alienated a lot of people. Now I’m supported by those readers. I’m not going to fuck it up again. You are incredible and it is my humble duty to do this for your smile.
Thank you everyone!
I’m now just finishing a month in Canada and I’ll be returning to Japan in a few days. Probably the next time I’ll be in Canada will be in 2017. This is the longest I’ve been outside of Japan since 1999.
Because I didn’t know if I had a chance to do any strips or whether I would have a scanner available I did all the strips in the last month far in advance. I did the updates remotely and for the most part, all four updates happened without a hitch.
There was a lot of learning involved in the last month. Some of it good — this country is more important than I thought, and so is my identity as a Canadian. Family is also important, probably more important than anything else.
On my to do list in Canada, I managed a fair bit:
- eat lots of poutine
- buy 3 pairs of shoes — size 10 1/2 is hard to find in Japan
- shop at Roots
- get some books to bring back on Canada, including a book on The Group of Seven
- hike some of the Bruce Trail
- eat chicken wings in Buffalo
- visit St. Jacobs and West Montrose
- drink Canadian wine and Canadian beer
- visit Tim Hortons pretty much every day
- get an Ames Lettering Guide
Being here was awesome, and I’m glad to have come back, but it’s time for me to return home and go back to work. I’m itching to do new comics, to draw more. I feel reset.
I’d like to thank all of your for your patience during this time, especially to the Patreon supporters. Your kindness and understanding have meant a lot to me.
I will see you in a few days on the other side of the ocean. Take care, and thanks again.
Today I found out something rather special. The word fap made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, a word introduced with its current meaning in a comic I drew 16 years ago. However, the comic it appeared in faded because of depression.
Drawing funny comics was something I enjoyed doing. I drew them ever since I was a little kid, continuing through school and including University, where I drew a dark humor strip called “no name comix” which the editor just hated. When depression kicked in again in 1997 I started drawing another comic called “A Heart Made of Glass”, an autobiographical comic about my failure at life and love. Halfway through the second issue, my depression receded and the comic became irrelevant, and I started drawing funny comics again.
But depression ebbs and tides. The self-confidence problem, all my self-doubt and self-hatred remained unchecked, and soon the grey cloud enveloped me again. It drained me of motivation and energy, and my weekly schedule became impossible. I had an idea book and during these times all the ideas I had seemed no longer worth pursuing, not good enough to finish. Occasionally I’d find a way out of the mist and draw a series of comics before falling back in. The cycle continued for over a decade, long periods of inactivity with brief spurts of activity.
At first, people asked me what was happening with the updates. I suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, something that still affects me when I use laptops for too long. It seemed like a reasonable excuse, a physical injury preventing me from drawing. I wouldn’t have to talk about the real reasons, and become another “sad artist” who complained about an illness that many questioned was real. I didn’t want to be that. I didn’t want people’s sympathy or mocking. Blaming my inactive spells on carpal tunnel just seemed the way to make everything go away.
That was the big lie. I lied to so many people, complaining about my hand when it was really my mind that was in pain. It allowed me to not confront my real problems. It became more dangerous because I was also trying to convince myself too. And this allowed depression to run amok until I was actively planning my destruction, safe in the knowledge my depression was secret and no one could stop me from carrying it out.
So I guess what I want to say is beware the little white lies we tell ourselves. Depression is real and we need to get help. We can’t make excuses for our behavior, burying our true problem so that it can manifest itself in the dark unhindered by the light of truth.
Now, I see that the work I did has some small impact. That’s amazing and I’m glad to be here to see it. Maybe it’s a good time to shed the light on the lie that made me end my dream of being a comic artist.
If anyone questions why I still do a comic on depression, it’s because I’m still continuously in awe at how it can destroy you. It starts with the lies that we tell so that we don’t seem weak to ourselves and others. Please be careful.