I just wanted to post a quick thank you to the kind and generous people who donated to the site in the first half of February: Narsilia,Yaron Kaplan, anonymous, David Borokovsky, masturbatress.tumblr.com, Dan Daggett, and @ProfBforBargain. There are also a number of donators who sent though Gettip and BitCoin but I don’t know how to find out their identities. Thank you all very much! It all helps a lot and I’m very grateful.
After I made that last blog post, I realized that I didn’t give a single reason why it was important to depression comix. Unfortunately it’s too late to fix that post but I can talk about it in a second post.
There are two reasons. One, is that hopefully it helps one understand why in general, the comic is not terribly flattering of the non-depressed people in the comic. There have been people who have made this criticism, and I suspect that they are viewing it from the perspective that the comic is written by a depressed person with a real vendetta against people’s ignorance about the disease, painting them as cruel, flippant, and completely dense about how the disease cripples people. Specifically, the blonde turtlenecked character who appears in many of the comics (or as I like to call her, satellite character #1).
But the honest truth is, that character is me.
That woman is the me who got pissed off because my friend couldn’t meet me because she was depressed. The me that tends to be less than sympathetic when I talk to a depressed friend and they don’t seem to be willing to do anything to help their situation. The me that said all those cliches, the me that didn’t understand, and didn’t try too because I could only see things from my perspective.
So that’s what the Zoe story reminds me, that I can be a very shitty person. For me to draw it is to acknowledge this, and to show it as something that is not right and needs to be worked on.
The second reason is to remind me that depression comes in many forms, and that my own personal feelings aren’t representative of everyone. That’s one reason why so many different characters appear to make that point. My depression was different from Zoe’s. In my depression, I was scared to be alone with my own thoughts. In her’s, she had times where she needed to be because she could not find the will to be with other people. What I thought was best for her wasn’t, and I messed up because of my arrogance.
This is one reason why I am so adamant about leaving people who express their depression online alone. A lot of these people get called out, being told they don’t have depression or that they’re faking or romantcizing it. The thing is, we all have our ways of expressing how we feel, and it’s not our place to judge or tell others how they feel or what they should be doing. To me, this is no better than that final phone call where I told Zoe that she was wrong and I knew better. A lot of arrogance there and only sadly in retrospect do I see that.
Let everyone express themselves. Ours is not the Only True Correct Way to express our feelings.
Those two reasons are the main reasons this story is important to me. It received a lot of likes on Tumblr and Facebook and I am grateful, because it means it’s okay to open up a little more. Thank you for this.
When I do this comic, it’s not just using my own experiences but also thinking of the many people who have crossed my life and also suffered. Someone I think about a lot when writing depression comix is a woman named Zoe. We last spoke in 1996 or 1997. It was a long time ago, but the echoes of regret from our last conversation still haunt me to today.
We initially met in grade two. She was a classmate, and during recess we and our common friends pretended we were the characters of Battle of the Planets. She was often the princess and I was Jason (little did know his fate in Gotchaman). In grade three and four, we still were in the same classes. My mom bought me a long colorful striped scarf, and I became the Tom Baker incarnation of Dr. Who. A particular portion of the fence was the Tardis, and that’s where we spent our recesses, engulfed in our imaginations as we played together.
But, suddenly that stupid gulf between girls and boys appeared, and suddenly we had to have friends our own sex. We had a fight and stopped hanging out. we would soon stop talking to each other not because of animosity but because our paths drifted further apart. Junior high school, then high school. Different classes, different worlds. Then I went to university and she disappeared from my life completely. This was before Facebook when people could easily disappear from your life.
Years later, I bumped into her at the university bar. I was kind of surprised because Ididn’t recognize her at first, but we hit it off well and exchanged contact information. After that, we started to hang out. For one date, we went to the public library. It had been a long time for me to enter a library to read something for pleasure… my library visits were usually to find an article in the stacks at university or for finding a place to quietly study where I couldn’t be found. It was very cool, and so different from other dates where you’d go to movie and sit in silence. Instead, she would show me her favorite books and quiet places to read in the library.
Zoe was a different person than anyone I met, and it was difficult for me to believe she was the same girl I imagined as my accomplice in my childhood Doctor Who adventures. One night we spent until sunrise talking. It was wonderful.
So how did I fuck it up?
Well, easy. I was a complete asshole.
We had planned a date for Saturday. I was really looking forward to it. I had been in a complete depression after my previous girlfriend left me for my thesis advisor, and this was me trying to come back to life, a chance for me to be happy again. But my depression was linked to feelings of abandonment, self-confidence. I needed people around to justify my sense of self-worth. Depression changes, but at the time I felt like everyone in my life was really just getting ready to abandon me and I really needed someone to show me I was wrong.
The day before the date, she called me. “Sorry,” she said, “I can’t see you today.”
I couldn’t believe it. I was really looking forward to this, everything was going well and now she’s cancelling? I asked why.”I’m too depressed,” she said.I was confused. I know people are sick, or something came up, but too depressed? And I was suffering myself, and I needed people around more than ever. What kind of an excuse is that?
“Hey, come on out, you’ll feel better, trust me,” I said, echoing a sentiment that would later become a depression comix.
“No,” she said, “I feel really depressed. I just want to stay at home.”
What kind of weird rejection is this? I pressed the issue, but instead she was getting frustrated at my attempts to marginalize her feelings. It came to an argument, and finally, I just said “fine then” and hung up the phone. That was the last we ever talked.
Many years later, as I learned more about my own depression and how it expresses itself in many ways, I became to realize how right she was and how awful I was. As my depression progressed I found myself in her shoes, unable to leave my apartment, to do anything, to have feelings of enjoyment. That last conversation echoed though my mind, and I have been sorry since. not just sorry for pushing her out of my life, but sorry that I was so cruel and didn’t understand. I must’ve made her feel like shit. All for my selfishness, because I couldn’t handle being alone. And by some sort of karma, I found myself echoing her words.
Not a strip goes by that I don’t think of her. but one thing is indisputable, I learned my lesson too late, and she was far better off without me in her life.People without depression can be cruel to sufferers. but, people with depression can be just as cruel.
And the final lesson: depression comes in many forms. We cannot assume that the depression that others feel is going to be the same as our own. Their needs will be different than ours, and we have to respect that or else we’ll drive them further away.
(This was originally a blog post in a previous blog and reedited).
In January, i09.com gave depression comix a review which was awful kind of them but it sent an unexpected surge in traffic. In the first day, the site received a third of a million page views. This sent the CPU use on the server skyrocketting far above what my hosting plan covers, and quite a number of generous people pitched in to help out and for that I’m eternally grateful.
So once again, I would like to thank the following people for their PayPal donations: Patrick Herda, Antti Hallamäki, Georgia Taylor, Raeven Irata, Thomas ‘Kranodor’ Hahn, David Riebenbauer, Timo Virkkala, an anonymous donation “For all who struggle.”, Patrick Pogue, another anonymous donation, Craig Mules, still yet another anonymous donation, Filipe Jensen, Ken Gagne, Stephen Shirley, JollyOrc, J.B., Olga MM, C.M. (in honour of Sam), Mark Wintle, J. B., Sonia, and Leonard Feldman.
That’s a lot of people and a lot of generosity. Thank you all very much!
If you would like to help out with hosting or just buy me a coffee (I do depression comix almost entirely in coffee shops, as you may have guessed from the previous post), please see this page. Thank you for reading and another thank you to all who helped me out in January.
I was just working on the next strip, and I now have a blog for this comic, so I thought it would be a chance to talk about how the comic is made.
The comic is entirely done by hand with no computer manipulation besides scanning and adjusting of levels. Occasionally I’ll fix up a spelling error or something like that by computer, but everything is pretty much analog.
The comic is done on I-C Inc. 4KOMEN manga paper, 135kg weight, A4 size. It comes in packs of 20, 10 of them with the black lines already drawn in and 10 without. I never use the pages without black lines so half of the pages go to waste. It’s great paper, it’s really resistant to the humidity which is very handy in Japan. Each panel is drawn approximately 5 x 7 cm (less than the size of a credit card). I rough in where the characters in blue pencil, then draw in the details in pencil.
A word about the blue pencil: it’s a Stanford col-erase 20044 Blue pencil. I bought a handful of these from an art shop in Toronto in 1999 before I came to Japan, and now all I have left are stubs (the pencil in the photo is the longest I have). I may have to order a box of these online or something, I haven’t found these pencils here at all. The erasers on these fifteen year old pencils are hard as stone. But I love them.
The next post in the series I’ll talk about lettering and inking. It will be entitled “Behind the Curtain 2” or “Where I Make All the Mistakes”.
One of the challenges of doing any kind of creative work is wondering how people will interpret it, and although I could easily add a rant or comment with the strip I’d rather leave it blank and see how others interpret it. This allows me to check the effectiveness of the comic and see if I’m on the same wavelength as everyone else.
With depcom #165, there were a few people who used the strips to talk specifically about gay rights, which I didn’t intend this strip to be about but just as a backdrop to illustrate what I wanted to say about childhood shaming. This isn’t to say it’s not important, because it is. Homosexual men are four times as likely to suffer from a mental illness as heterosexual men, making them a high risk group.
But it’s not homosexuality in isolation that is the cause of this. Research has shown that societal perceptions and shaming is one root cause, which I wanted to illustrate here. The reason the character feels shame is not because he believes homosexuality is wrong, but because the world has attitudes towards it that make it shameful. And feeling shame about who you are will have consequences, even if the shame comes from unenlightened sources.
This childhood shame affects everyone. We often say that kids are like sponges and easily absorb and internalize the world around them. Unfortunately, they ingest the bad with the good, and that includes all the shaming elements within our environment. We shame all sorts of people due to race, gender, sex, income, nationality, etc, without thought as to how it affects the young ears that hear it.
A few weeks ago, a friend told me a story about how her husband scolded his son for crying. The son had done something wrong but when he was scolded he started crying uncontrollably, and making various attempts to make him stop the father said, “Stop crying, it’s not cool at all. Don’t you want to be strong?”. The attempt didn’t work, but a lesson was learned anyways: the next week, the child harassed another kid who cried because “crying makes you weak.” Shaming in action.
Anyways, the point I was hoping to make is that by creating an environment of shame, especially one that shames the individual based on who they are, may have devastating consequences in their later years. Having pride in who you are is important, but so is having a life where you no longer feel shame for who you are.
Welcome to my new blog on depression comix. It was recently suggested to me that I should have more of a presence on the depressioncomix.com site, which until now has more or less been just the comics and nothing else. Usually with online comics you get rants, commentary, discussion, etc but I’ve been just happy leaving the comics up there and see how people interpret them for themselves, and jumping in the comments when necessary. Most of the comics actually do have commentary, they appear in various places but not in the main site itself or on the depressioncomix Tumblr. They appear mostly in personal blogs or my portfolio site at claycomix.com . But for the most part, I’ve tried to keep the site as impersonal as the characters in the strip.
With this blog, I hope to change all that, and include the reader more. This blog will be mirrored on Tumblr and Facebook, with notes on Twitter. The depressioncomix.com site will still be the best place to read the strip, and I’m constantly doing things to try and improve the reading experience there.
Since this is a personal blog, I can tell you about something that’s on my mind recently, and that’s the passing away of Justin Carmical, a YouTube personality and games enthusiast who died on January 23rd. It’s a terribly sad thing that caught a lot of people off guard and I personally extend my condolensces to his wife, family, friends, and of course all the fans who loved him. A lot of people are asking “Why?” and it’s not a question that can be answered to anyone’s satisfaction. He left no signs, no hints (according to press reports), no warnings. And depression has taken another one of us away.
If anything, this story should scare the living dayligts out of us. Any one of us, under a facade of smiles and friendliness could be living a hellish life of quiet desperation, needing help but unable to ask for it or to even show a whisper of the pain they feel inside.
It’s difficult to understand the terror of the flames until you feel them licking at your feet yourself. Let’s not judge those who suffer and decide that its no longer tolerable, instead, let’s judge ourselves for making it so difficult to ask for help.