While I could totally talk again about refinement and character design, and talk to you about designing all the different hairstyles that Frances will have over the course of FEELS (spoilers, she gets a haircut at some point), but I won’t.
Because there is one thing that stands out in the history of FEELS (such as it is) that I haven’t talked about yet, and that’s the decision to make it a ‘webcomic.’ Because it was a decision. I didn’t wake up and say “oh, yeah, I’ll make a webcomic called FEELS and it will be about college.” I woke up and said “oh yeah, it would be funny if I made a McCay-esque newspaper strip called DOODZ about my friends and I’s adventures in college.” Somewhere, there are sketches for this rotting in a drawer.
No, FEELS was going to be a book, a proper book with pages. I was planning to have “Issue One” out for this years’ CAKE. I was ravaging myself trying to get it finished —it was still going to be a full color book. And then I thought— why? Why spend the time rushing to finish something that’s actually pretty good when I might sell only, what, ten copies tops? Give the rest away? Why should I rush to finish this and then spend over a hundred dollars printing a full-color book that I have no chance to recoup the costs on?
These are the questions that plague self-publishers every day. To be clear, it isn’t about the need to create. That’s always there, and that will happen no matter what. And it isn’t really about the money, either— life’s always a struggle in this business, no matter what. And that’s fine, that’s almost the point.
But sometimes, you hit a point where it just doesn’t make sense anymore. This isn’t to say I’ll never self-publish a book again (I certainly will), or that FEELS will never be collected in a volume (though when, hopefully, is not up to me). I was working on FEELS, and feeling very deeply the sting of every time I’d plunked down a hundred to print my new exciting project, and watched as I sold three out of twenty five and gave half the rest away. Couple that with my self-irritating ability to begin giant series that I never finish (for whatever reason— there’s actually a second issue of “Next World Over” sitting on my desk right now that is pretty good, but for whatever reason I have no idea when you’ll ever see that), and you have a little bit of self-publishing exhaustion.
The real issue, though, is that with FEELS I honestly felt like I’d hit something I hadn’t quite before. I’d had previous projects that felt good at the time, or were very important to do. (Examples: I gave myself a huge project to work on right before I finished college. That book, which was going to be titled And The Birds Flew From The Trees, was hugely important to me— it taught me a lot about discipline, about storytelling, about work ethic, about drawing, but most importantly it made sure that I would continue to keep working after I didn’t have any “assignments” anymore. I’ve got to the place now where it’s okay that I don’t think I’ll ever finish it— that might not have ever been the point in the first place. In other projects, my hugely popular book “The Human Condition” was originally going to be many different things, before I realized what it really should be— a graphic novel history of the Women’s Lib and Gay Liberation Front in England in the early 70s. That’s a huge topic, and the reason I haven’t done more with it is because, frankly, I’m not ready to, and it’s a book that’s better than I am, and I have to work towards that. There are more books, more series, more everything, that haven’t even seen any sort of light of day. That’s fine. That’s how it works. It isn’t sad.)
FEELS seemed like the right project to do— the right mix of “I can do this” and “this will challenge me.” It seemed like the thing I wanted people to see the most. And people just weren’t going to see it if I made twenty five copies of it to basically hand out at one festival. I wanted more! (Ha ha ha.)
So I decided, basically, “Fuck It, I’ll Put It On The Internet.” I mean, it was more than that, I asked friends casually what they thought. They seemed convinced it wouldn’t be like “other webcomics.” Which is a good time to admit I know nothing about the “webcomic” scene— does Kate Beaton even count anymore? I don’t read them, I never really have, and I probably never will— though if you’d like to point me in the right direction of some good ones, sure.
But somehow, this seemed the right place for it (tumblr, too— the social aspect of the story seemed to fit the platform pretty well)— in part because of the triple joke of the title (the internet term “all the feels” is just one, the other just being, y’know, actual emotion. The third would be a spoiler), in part because I needed, really needed to be able to just say “here it is.”
This actually had ramifications for Episode One, since it was already drawn intended to be in book format. The at times idiosyncratic layout of FEELS actually came from the decision to split up characters’ viewpoints between posts, not because the book was laid out that way. Which meant that every post of Episode One was rearranged way late in the game. Which stuns me, since I think the layouts for the most part are great.
Episode Two (and beyond) are conceived with the web in mind—which is the most exciting challenge to have! I’m not constrained by the page anymore! I mean, I am a little bit— I’m constrained by the screen. But working on Episode Two has been even more fun than One, mainly because I can let myself imagine so much more. FEELS’ budget is almost limitless, and that’s exciting. There are things I can do that I couldn’t before because of the “webcomic” format. These are things I am very excited about.
I have a complex relationship with the internet (don’t we all), that borders on seething hatred. But sometimes, it’s still okay. Great things can happen. The reaction to FEELS’ first episode has been really wonderful, and makes me completely confident in the decision to do it like this. Again, I thank you, and again, get ready—
Episode Two begins Monday, and it’s going to be amazing.