Six Minutes LaterThursday, September 27th, 2012
In 2002 I finally followed through with an idea that had been festering for years and made a webcomic. Called Nervillsaga, it was a comedic take on fantasy adventures, especially of the type experienced by a stereotypical D&D party of adventurers. The name came from the primary character, Nervill, an accident-prone simpleton that had been gracing the margins of my notebooks through high school as the victim of traps and monsters that would plague him at every turn.
My art style at the time was even cruder than it is now, and I had no training on Photoshop on how to take hand-drawn art and cleanly scan and colorize the resulting images. It probably didn’t help that the comic was drawn with ballpoint pen on standard printer paper, and that for the most part I filled in color with the Paint tool.
But it was a webcomic. It was my webcomic. A little piece of something put out in the world for people to enjoy, scoff or pass by as they saw fit.
For six hundred and seventy seven strips, Nervill and his friends participated in one misadventure after the other. It was supposed to be a daily strip, but as I had only reached strip #677 after a whole six years, I obviously didn’t manage that.
One day the comic ground to a halt. I felt like I’d lost my sense of humor, real life stress was at a high point, and I was plagued with writer’s block and great deal of self doubt.
You know, typical starving artist stuff.
So I put the comic on “hiatus”. From a cartoonist, “hiatus” is almost always code for a silent death for the comic that was.
It would be another two years before the boredom and urge to create caused me to create CSSquirrel.
During that time, I had let the domain registration for Nervillsaga expire, taking with it all the strips I’d previously made.
Later I’d find my offline archive, and I put it back online as an online archive that I’d hope to add to someday. Then I let that domain expire.
Much of 2011 and the first part of 2012 were pretty rough for me. Life had some serious hiccups, which did a good job of disrupting CSSquirrel’s patchy update schedule so that it too was more or less on a “hiatus”.
I was too busy. I had work to do. Sites to code. Friends to socialize with. Television to watch. Games to play. Arguments to get into.
Then things changed. It’s a process that’s ongoing. I began to re-prioritize, and started putting aside time for created and productive hobbies again; putting more value into the concept of creating for its own sake. Putting stuff out there for the mere purpose of having it exist.
It’s started with CSSquirrel, which has begun to grind ahead again in a ambitious fashion. It’s going to take some time to get into the flow, but at least one comic a week (often two!) will appear along with my snide commentary on the “web design issue” of the week.
And it feels good. That’s addictive.
So this weekend I sat down and I looked at Nervillsaga again. I’m not happy with where it was. It hadn’t ended. There were a lot more stories to tell.
But I’ve also changed a tremendous amount since then. In many ways (I hope) I’ve grown. In others I’ve probably regressed. Some of what I found humorous before I’d find offensive, and plenty I used to find offensive I now think is hilarious.
So I’m going back to Nervill and his comic. It still won’t be five days a week. But it will exist. I fleshed out the main cast in vector art, having put down the ball-point pen a long time ago. I’ve created a larger sized version of the four-square frame it used. And with a tremendous amount of effort I put together strip #678.
I’m happy with it, but not satisfied. Writer’s block is a horrible logjam that gets worse and worse as time passes. It was six minutes for Nervill, and six years for me. The story never had an ending in mind, and now I needed to give it one before I moved Nervill and crew onto a new adventure, complete with changes that representing the kind of stories I have to tell in 2012.
And really, that’s the trick for any art, any skill, virtually anything. It was something that took six years for me to learn.
You have to keep moving forward.
Seriously, keep moving forward. It’s what I’ve learned in my career as a web developer. You can never stop learning. You can never stop growing. The second you do, you’re out of date, which is something rarely affordable in these fast-paced times.
So as with CSSquirrel, I’m going to keep Nervillsaga moving forward. Things will definitely change, and at the end of the current storyline some will be far bigger than the changes of the previous six-hunded strips.
Which is good and healthy. Garfield aside, who would want to write and draw the exact same thing forever?
Keep moving forward.