Let me start out by saying I am not ending Exiern.  But I am changing my relationship to the comic.  This is a LONG post.  Feel free not to read it and go about your day normally.

September 6th, 2005 was the day my first comic was posted on Comic Genesis.  I use that date as the official start date of Exiern even though at the time the comic was called “Dimension Hopping” and the Exiern comic had existed on the Wotch forums for about 2 months prior to that.  9/6/2005 is the only solid date I have on record so it counts as the official start of the comic.

You never forget your first time.  I was nervous and unsure of myself but I soon found a rhythm and soon everything just felt right as I thrust forward, but enough about learning to drive a car.  Posting a comic online was an amazing experience for me.  All my life I had these stories and jokes bouncing around in my head.  To be able to get them out was a catharsis.  For years I had been imprisoned by my dyslexia, afraid to write anything or post anything publically.  Webcomics gave me an excuse to explore my creative side.

At the time I really needed something like this comic in my life.  I had a job I hated and a relationship that was not doing very well either.  Exiern was an emotional crutch for me.  It was something in my life I could take pride in.  Something frankly I could justify my existence with.  I was in bad shape emotionally in those days and the comic was my therapy.  I think you can say that for a lot of webcomic creators.  A fair amount of us are damaged goods using the comic to both express the demons with in us and as a way to salve our emotional wounds.

I was proud of what I was accomplishing with Exiern.

“Pride comes before the fall.”

Fast-forward to today. I am out having lunch with a friend again.  This is the one that has this habit of nonchalantly pointing out when I am being crazy by asking seemingly innocent questions.  Honestly I don’t know why I‘m friends with her.  Who needs friends that make you examine yourself?

The current topic of conversation is the Half Pixel crew and their constant use of the phrase “at my level”.  They say the phrase a lot and it’s always to belittle other creators.  “At my level” pompous and self absorbed phrase was really getting under my skin.

“Why does that phrase bother you so much” she said as she pulled a single blade of lettuce out of from the bulk of her Caesar salad with quick strokes of her fork.  I think she believe separating her food from the heard weakens it and makes it easy prey.

“It’s just so arrogant.  They are so oblivious to the rest of the webcomic world.  It drives me nuts” I said with righteous anger.

My friend took a long time to respond.  Taking bites of blades of lettuce, each on exactingly separated from the salad pack.  Eventually she spoke. “Are you upset that they are oblivious of the ‘webcomics world’ or are you upset that they are oblivious of you?”

“I… well I mean I am part of the webcomics world.”

“So you want to be on their level?  To be a peer of Scot Kurtz”

“Oh good God no! If I was on THEIR level I would leap off to the sharp rock and icy ocean below.  A painful unpleasant death is far preferable to being on that level.  And if you ever refer to Scot Kurtz as my peer again I will… well I don’t know.  Something that is horrible and humiliating but not sexual harassment because you’re a girl.”

“Let me know when you figure something out.”

“I will!”

“So you want to be better than them?” she asked rolling a cherry tomato across her plate.

“There really isn’t a better than them.  They are making a career out of webcomics.  Not any higher level than that.  I mean I could be a better human being than them but I generally already am a better human being or at least I’m better than some of them.  I just want…  I want them to treat me with respect.  To recognize all the work I have put into this comic.  Every time I interact with them they are so condescending.”

“And that’s why you make the comic? To be recognized?”  My friend said looking up from her salad and fixing me with a steady gaze.

“No!” I yell a little louder that I wanted to and causing a group of elderly diners at a near by table to turn and look in half concern and half annoyance, “I make the comic because I have to.  I make it because the stories are clawing inside my head screaming to get out.  And every story I don’t tell is like a tiny death of my soul.  The stories may not be the best story but they are my stories and they have to be told.  I don’t care what other people think about them.”

“So what do you want respect for?” My friend asked still fixing me with her dark eyes.

“For all the work I have put into the business.  It is drudgery, I hate it and it gets in the way of writing stories.  I used to work on the business in hopes of this becoming a career but I like my new job now and margins of the webcomic business don’t work out well if you have to hire an artist.  So why am I killing myself developing this business model if no one is going to recognize it?”

“Oh” my friend replied nonchalantly and turned her attention back to her salad.  A carrot slice had foolishly wandered away from the radishes making it a prime target.

“Why am I killing myself?” I say to myself my friend ignoring me in her pursuit of the wild carrot.

“Why am I killing myself?” I repeat slumping down into the venial diner chair producing a sound somewhere between singing mice and flatulence. I just sit there for a little while letting the enormity of it all percolate thought me.

I don’t have an answer for the question.  And that leads to the natural conclusion that I don’t have to kill myself.  Like a lifting fog all the stress and anger I have felt about this comic lately is gone.  I realize that this can be fun again if I want it to be. I slump down further in the chair producing another flatulating mouse song sound.

I am at peace.

I am not longer angry at Half Pixel’s “At my level”.  I even forgive Scot Kurtz for being well Scot Kurtz.  Don’t get me wrong I still think he is a horrible human being but now that fact is really more his problem not mine. All the petty arguments I have gotten into over the years all the stress no seem so needless. I don’t need to be recognized for anything, I just need to tell stories.  I can enjoy making this comic again.

I have decided.  Exiern is a business no longer.  Fes of the webcomic beacon has a phrase “For the love of the hobby”.  I always though it was a corny phrase.  Actually I still think it is a corny phrase.  Perhaps it would sound better in Latin or Aramaic or something.  But the point is I finally get the phrase.  Why it’s so important some time to do things just “for the love of the hobby”.

Now this change in attitude has a number of implications.

First of all the amount of “fan service” around here is going to drop off quite a bit.  Not disappear mind you since I don’t really see anything wrong with naked people.  And naked people can on occasion be hilarious. But I am done with random stupid reason to get people naked just to bump up revenues.

On that line of thought Dark Reflections is now officially dead.  The comic stop being fun for me a long time ago and the fight to keep it alive is just not worth it.  It was a noble experiment that had some success and some failure but I just don’t want to deal with it anymore.

Also on the kill list is Sarah Fin.  A fun TG comic set in the 1930 but the artist had to bow out after page 6 and really it would be a struggle to find another of his caliber.  I also had no idea where the comic was going and it was just recycling a number of Exiern jokes.  I thought i would probably do well commercially but if I am thought out those concerns then I have other places I can put my attention.

On the other side of the coin I think I am going to try and revive a comic that I enjoyed but I just did not “sell” very well.  This would be the comic Legacy.  I will have to figure out how to work this since the artist has move on to other projects but I would like to see a return of this comic.

But here is the important part of this realization.  Since I will not be hustling for Exiern anymore, since I will not be breaking my self to make as much money as possible, this could very well mean the slow suffocating death of Exiern as a webcomic.

Lets face it Exiern is expensive to make with a professional artist.  I have never even broken even with Exiern.  And that is when I was really trying.  Now? Well the costs will continue to rise and the revenues will decrease.  So I will have to cut back on updates to offset the losses.  Less update means fewer readers and that means less money.  The cycle perpetuates its self until the comic dies.

I love Exiern.  I love writing it.  But at the same time I am done being a business man.  If the price of peace of mind is the death of Exiern I am willing to pay it.  I can still tell stories.  It just will not look as professional as it has in the past.  And I am ok with that.

Granted Exiern may continue to make enough money on it’s own to support it’s self.  I will still continue to make donation comics and commission wallapapers because frankly they are a hoot.  So Exiern may continue.  Or it may die.  Either way I am fine with it.

I am done.

Amor enim pasatiempo

Nope.  Still sounds silly in Latin.