"So what's it like, doing an online comic?"


First of all, let me start by saying that the storyline of the comic is completed. There will be no more chronological episodes. Originally, when the idea for Episode 5 popped into my head, it was not meant to be The Last Episode Ever. It was just episode 5, one of perhaps a dozen episodes. I'd never had any plans to actually end the comic, and the wrap up to Episode 5 was rather different. Instead of the current 'everybody gets married' ending, I planned for Madeline to leave Isaac (y'know, in some sort of 'oh gawd, my career is more important than my happiness' fit of emotion), which would then lead up to Episode 6.

But that never happened, and I changed the ending. Why? Well, I saw an out. I saw an ending to all the characters' storylines, and an ending that did not seem forced or abrupt but rather quite natural. Raven's story had wrapped up in Episode 4 (what only remained was her ongoing battle with Poe and dealing with the remains of losing her parents), along with a bunch of other plotlines, so the only stories left were Gabe's and Isaac's, and they could very well end in Episode 5.

So I took the plunge, wiped away all thoughts of an Episode 6 (they weren't very good thoughts, anyway), and ended the comic. And I mean it when I say "ended." There will be no Episode 6. There will be no spinoff reunion with the kids in university (although you can have some say about their future), nor 'where are they now?' twenty years down the road. The story came to an end I am happy with, and I don't think I should drag it out, to the point where I am miserible in drawing it. Bill Watterson quit at the height of his comic's popularity, and I think I should too (although I ain't quitting. My story is over).

In that sense, the comic is over. But I have reached a place in my life where I am unable to think of life without the comic. I miss the characters already. I will not be doing Episode 6, but I will be doing work on the comic. At this moment, I don't have any information for you, but I will say I am thinking of several remakes. Currently I don't know if they will be online or in another format, but I have been doing this comic for too long to chase it completely out of my life. There will be no Episode 6, but there may be a remade Episode 2. There is also the little spinoff involving Sachs' past (watch the D101 LJ for info about that), and I may in the future do more short comics like that. Right now, several things are up in the air. As they take shape, I'll tell you more. Any news I have will go into the D101 LJ.

And now, on to my ramblings about what is is like to do an online comic for as long as I have.

It's been five years since I started Demonology 101. Well, five years this August. I still don't know what possessed me to start an online comic, and I'm pretty sure, looking back, that if I'd known how large D101 would grow (and how damn frustrating it would be to deal with evey now and then) I would not have attempted it.

But that's kind of the fun of something. You don't know what you're getting into, and because of that, you create something pretty spectacular. Overall, I am proud of what I've accomplished in D101 ... but I also hate it in parts. Unlike most artists I bump into, I sincerely dislike my artwork. It's only been in the past year that I've been able to look at my work with a critical eye and not completely want to shred it. And unfortunately, D101 has been ongoing for five years. So that's a lot of art to hate.

At first I was not concerned with D101's artwork. This was before the comic was popular, and it existed only as something that I purely enjoyed, and was read by a handful of readers whose company I really appreciated. Around the end of Episode 2, I recieved a comment from the artist who drew the comic Outsider that my work was pretty terrible. I mention this only because that comment remains the single greatest impact on D101. I can't even remember his exact words, but I do remember him saying things like "sloppy." When you're online, and especially when you have a popular site, you recieve a lot of crap comments, and if I got such a comment today, I would dismiss it. But for some reason, right at that particular moment, that comment stuck with me.

So I began to care a lot about D101's artwork. It improved massively from Episodes 3 to 4. I don't really like the artwork from that era, but I see it's improvement and it was the best I could do at the time. I suppose I should thank that artist for his comment; after all, it made me angry enough to want to do much better. But I don't particularly want to thank him.

I am happy with most of Episode 5's artwork. There are still moments that make me cringe, but I am happy with it. It reaches the point where it is almost what I saw in my head and wished to convey to the audience (if only the rest of the comic looked like that).

I have often wasted time wondering about D101's place in the world of online comics. Most of the time I ignored that world, partially because I never had time to join in (full time school and a part time job will do that), but later it became a conscious choice. There are a few shining exceptions, but never have I seen a community so full of bitterness, whining, self-rightous indignation and obnoxious moralizing. I supppose you could say the same of any internet community, but this one is the only one I was officially a part of. More and more, as my comic became well known, I found myself withdrawing from the community. I saw no point in joining something that stressed and concerned me. I just wanted to draw my damn comic. And that's all I've ever wanted to do. D101 has succeeded not by pimping, joining lists or humping the legs of those who are on top, but through simple word of mouth. I love that that is still possible. Draw the comic, keep your update schedule going, respect your readers, and you'll have a following. It's a great, great thing.

D101 has never been merchandised. At first it was because there was nothing online that could offer such things as t-shirts and prints, but as places like Cafe Press popped up, I decided not to take part. I enjoy the fact that D101 is untainted by money. Many people have emailed, requesting D101 swag, and they are welcome to print out my work and make their own wearables, but I don't want to sell D101. It is nice to have that one thing in your life that is untouched by money. I suppose I am a hippy at heart. :)

I can't pretend D101 hasn't been difficult at times. Personal problems and school problems plauged my work during Episode 4 and the beginning of 5. It's difficult to focus on something like a comic (and one that does not support you, at that) when you have to deal with personal strife. One thing I will mention (and then hopefully never bring up again) was the issue of the closing note for Episode 4, in which I told about my parents separating. I felt that I had to explain myself, as at one point I'd considered shutting down the comic, and maybe the readers should know what exactly had been going on then. What surprised me was the outpouring of reader response to my post, as people wrote email after email offering condolences as well as telling me about their experiences with a wayward parent.

I don't think I answer one email about that topic. For some reason, I didn't have it in me at that time to deal with the kindness of strangers.

Now things are different. My parents are back together and all is surprisingly well. My father and I are speaking again, although it took a very long time (9 months, actually) for me to forgive him. I am, in the end, grateful that he was willing to admit his mistake and come back to us. And I am grateful that God allowed me the strength to forgive him.

D101 was there all through that. I don't really think about that time In my life when I flip through the comic. Sometimes I don't even think my work reflects what I was going through. But every now and then there'll be a panel, and I'll remember ... It's not a bad thing, remembering.

Finally, I love my characters. I know it's strange to say that, when I have so many misgivings about the way they are drawn, but I do love my characters. I felt like crying (although I did not, mostly because I was too busy, what with the move) when I ended the comic and realized that there would no longer be any weekly visits with Raven and the gang. Ice, although an enjoyable, challanging comic, does not have the place in my heart that D101 does. D101 was my first.

I recognize bits of myself here and there in the comic. I see my unwillingness to forgive and bitchery in Poe, but also a desire to do better. Mackenzie I wish I was more like. I try to be that smart, but I don't have a writer thinking up one liners. Bill Watterson said that every character is half the creator, and I believe that. The D101 characters may not look or act like me, but I see bits of myself in them. Even in prats like Isaac and Grey. :)

In closing, I would like to thank everyone who has read this comic and enjoyed it. Thank you for your support and kind words. Thank you for passing my link around and making D101 one of the most read, least advertised comic on the web. In short, thank you.

Cheers,
-Faith Erin Hicks, July 25, 2004