29 November 2010


i don't know how this is going to sound. i had a bit of a breakdown tonight. i've doubled my workload on the comic voluntarily the past few weeks and have experienced some growing pains, to say the least. my therapist questioned drawing double what i'd been doing when what i'd been doing was killing me, but i didn't really listen. cartoonists are supposed to be crazy anyway, but i wonder if they're supposed to be this crazy.

i was trying to draw a blueprint and kept having to do it over and over, when i started saying to myself, why did i even start doing this? why did i bother? i could have gotten another job, a job i liked, instead of trying to do something i can't do twice a week. something i'll never do as well as the people whose work i love. not even as well as people whose work i hate. and in the midst of all that self-doubt, i heard an old, familiar voice: my father yelling at me. real old, like when i was really little. i don't even know what about, but the tone was clear: you're lazy. you're worthless. you can't do anything right. you're a pain in my ass.

i've spent most of my life buying into that message. i didn't know any better. it showed in my lack of direction in life; my failure to enroll at not one, but two colleges; most of all, my poor choice of boyfriends. i always expected men to turn on me somehow, even as i tried to pick men the furthest from my father as possible, at least on paper.

i've tried to deal with it through humor. whenever my sister or my mother and i talk about my father, there's bitterness, but it's always tempered by eyerolling. as if reducing him to a joke takes away his power. yes, it works. but when it's a Bandaid to cover up a seeping wound, sometimes the pain still bleeds through. i really think i believed it would never get me again. the worst thing is...i don't know how an adult who suffered emotional/verbal abuse as a kid is supposed to feel. am i supposed to be this screwed up? just from that? from something that was always around as long as i could remember? i really have no concept of how deep the hurt can go or even the extent of what i suffered. even typing "suffered" seems over the top, like i'm trying to trump up things in my own journal.

if i had a car, this would be where i would take a long, long drive, but i don't. i still have a comic to finish, too. will i throw on another sheen of balm just to get things done? i don't have the strength right now to refute the voices in my head. and who knows how i'm going to get to sleep tonight.

23 November 2010


I started my own webcomic in November of 2009. I did a four-panel strip twice a week. after work, I'd go pencil in my studio, or ink at my computer desk. it didn't leave much room for a social life, and I did tend to slack and play games sometimes instead of draw, but I got things done.

I quit my day job in February. the hours and environment had always been repugnant, but it paid well. so I took the money that I'd saved and said "sayonara." I still think about them sometimes, fondly here, not so fondly there. they'll be doing that job (or something like it) until they retire or die, and more power to them. it just wasn't my scene.

my biggest fear when I quit my old job was that I would turn into a Howard Hughes-type recluse and basically lose all my marbles. I went through a very rough patch after high school; my friends went onto college, while my plans fell through. I holed myself up in my room all day, not seeing anyone but my mother for weeks at a time. I withdrew into IRC and video games, making shotgun friends with people across the country while knowing no one in my town, questioning my sanity at every turn. I became a shell of a human being, culturally dead, useful to no one.

deep in my heart, I was terrified the same thing would happen again, once I doffed my work shackles and concentrated solely on the comic. indeed, it has been...difficult. I try to get out of the house by going to Starbucks or just for picturesque walks. despite doing the comic for over a year now, I still don't have a decent work (or sleep) schedule worked out. risk/reward has fallen heavily towards the former so far.

over the past few weeks, I made a decision to make my comic more of a full-page thing, rather than just four panels. (I start out with an eight-panel layout and mess with it until I get something I like.) I'd wanted to do it for a very long time, but wasn't sure I could pull it off. after a year's passage yielded only two chapters, I wanted to try the change.

so far I've done three of these super-sized comics, still on my biweekly schedule. although the format gives more room to tell the story I want to tell, once again, I haven't figured out scheduling yet. I wrote an outline for the entire chapter on Saturday, something I haven't done before, which felt really good. but. this meant less time for drawing, so I spent all of Sunday - and a large chunk of Monday - penciling and inking this comic.

the next one is due on Thanksgiving. I've got several new characters to sketch out. I still need to learn perspective. soon I have to design floorplans and decorate a five-story lighthouse from scratch. I also have to do laundry, shop for groceries and bake a pie. I've been going to bed at 4 and 5 am. the thought of going out with friends is a joke. the only thing keeping me from going completely bonkers at this point is music and MST3K.

and yet, in the middle of being exhausted, lonely and always feeling on the edge of tears, I don't want to give it up. it still feels like if I can only get my act together, I can really make this work. from the outside, it almost looks like a form of self-torture, but I would rather do this than go back to the corporate world. I've met some great people as a result of this endeavor, with more yet to come. most of all, I've found I really want to tell my story, if not just to please others, then to prove to myself that I could.

31 May 2010


this past weekend, I went camping out in Iowa, very near the state line. I'd been gearing up for it all week; my excitement was doubled by a new recipe I was trying out on my fellow camp-goers, homemade Pop Tarts* with breakfast treats in them (eggs, bacon, and cheese). when I find myself looking forward to something with great relish, it tends to overwhelm my consciousness at night, making it hard to get to sleep. I had the same problem during my Rush period. (their calmer songs were too upsetting for my taste.)

couple that with the fact that I sleep lousy on camping trips in general, and you got a very cranky Shannon come Saturday morning. my sister informed me that Benadryl or Xanax would put one out not unlike a light when sleepytime is nigh. she just happened to have a Xanax with her, of which I took half on Saturday night. I was curious as to what it would do with my anxiety, too, as well as what it would have done if I'd wanted to stay awake, but that's another situation for another day.

I took the half, as layperson-prescribed. the first thing I noticed was that yes, it did indeed make me sleepy. the second thing was that as soon as I closed my eyes, I saw pre-dreams I'd never seen before. usually my hypnogogia is chaotic, stream-of-consciousness and, due to looking at small screens almost all day long, only takes up a portion of my inner field of view. when my head dropped on the pillow, great fractal-like visions filled the entirety of my eyelids. my subconscious spit out calm, organized images, tessellated to the edges of my brain. and brother, once it was over, I slept. I slept like Bob Seger.

now that I'm back home, I keep seeing the monitor in front of me as a tiny slice of a huge swatch...that my Paint the Line wallpaper is indicative of a voluminous landscape. add that to the rolling contours of eastern Iowa and the disconnect of webpages becomes fascinating again...

* if you make those homemade tarts, do not use that dough recipe. that thing was conceived, literally, in Hell's Kitchen. find something with less butter.

17 May 2010

the tradeoff

long, long ago - I know not through what channels - I started reading an offensive, bong water-soaked webcomic using Microsoft Comic Chat as its medium. it was called Jerkcity, and its name was apt. stock MS characters joked about how queer they were, how many cocks they could gobble in a minute, how much Windows/Netscape/IE/et al sucked. (the funniest joke ever strip is still one of my favorites.) it was counter to everything decent in society, and I ate it up. it's still a guilty pleasure, though the quality has diminished somewhat, IMO.

part of the draw of Jerkcity is: who would write this mindless garbage? was it one guy? a bunch of guys? sometimes there'd be a fuzzy .gif image of an unshaven man lurking in a panel here or there, usually ingesting copious amounts of ganja. was this the guy, or a red herring roommate or friend?

poking amongst the Jerkcity links, I found a blog purportedly from one of the characters, Rands. and what do you know - even if he was the main proponent behind Jerkcity, he wasn't a total nimrod. something about his obsession with and personal mastery of Vegas spoke to me. his description of Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder (or N.A.D.D.) eerily shadowed my own habits. I still knew almost nothing about the guy besides his inclination towards strippers, but I liked what I was reading.

fast forward a few years to the Twitter age. I joined up last summer our of curiosity and potential self-promotion. not long after, I discovered Rands had a Twitter account. cue futher mystique breakdown. most of his tweets deal with design and office management (the latter a little hard to swallow due to my last job), a pithy missive here, a well-timed link there. it's a link to his own blog that prompted this blog post.

after perusing his latest post, a wish for the perfect store unhampered by anonymity and marketing jackals, I noticed he had a link to his Amazon wish list on his sidebar. curious, I took a look. I now know more about him, his tastes, and even his state of mind than I ever dreamed possible. the Internet has bridged the gap between creator and audience, stranger and stranger, possible friend and potential stalker. no privacy was invaded; he put up the list on his website for public browsing. undoubtedly, he has preferences and hatreds he has not shared with the public at large. still, I can't help but feel a little weird at this peek inside someone I'll never know in person.

11 February 2010

the final countdown (c'mon, i had to)

so...it's Quitting Day Eve. I can't believe it's really happening. I've been more emotional than I expected about this whole thing. but then again...it was nearly six years of my life. six years of 9+ hour days, waking up WELL before my Circadian rhythm demanded, working in a field I never cared about. let's get the crap stuff out of the way first.

what I won't miss:

  • the constant blather of CNBC in the background.
  • lack of privacy.
  • tone-deaf warbling along with the classic rock station.
  • having to drop everything for the most important thing ever, only to be trumped by the next most important thing ever 30 seconds later.
  • the grandiose stories of getting hammered, wasted and/or shitfaced.
  • MI-waiting-to-happen coworker's struggle to breathe whenever she moved.
  • the resulting numerous late or sick days from the preceding.
  • not really waking up until at least 10 am.
  • dressing really nice and no one noticing. hey, maybe I DO enjoy being ogled once in a while. ever think of that, mr. businessman? sheesh.
  • carrying ten drinks from Starbucks at a time.
  • not having the day after Thanksgiving off. can't do it cuz people need to have access to their money cuz of the 1929 market crash. now that ATMs are always reachable, how lame is that?
  • the obnoxious New Yawk coworker's nasal tone over the hoot 'n' holler.
  • ordering Christmas gifts, though I've gotten out of it the past two years.
  • staying ungodly hours to do IT work, since I can't do it while everyone is working.
  • no lunch breaks.
  • going to Brigg's (RIP) or Marquette Inn for a greasy breakfast hangover run.
  • worship of money above all else.
  • feeling cheated out of a social life due to early bedtimes.
  • not connecting with my workmates on any kind of deep level.
  • lack of creativity.
  • being so stressed my mind is obliterated.
  • feeling helpless trying to explain just how much this job has affected me.

what I will miss:

  • the best paycheck and bonuses I'll ever have.
  • not having to budget myself.
  • jock coworker's zealous, incongruous use of the word "glorious."
  • the sense of routine.
  • being forced to socialize due to office structure and the nature of my job.
  • the occasional kickass Youtube vid or rock song on the radio.
  • "rally songs" in the morning, though we haven't done that in years (that I know of). mine was "Mamma Said Knock You Out."
  • free lunch and breakfast. so many tasty Loop lunch joints!
  • the genuinely nice, interesting people who made it worthwhile.
  • no one to bake goods for.
  • smirking self-righteously at the boys after a big night out.
  • the occasional bursting into of song.
  • March Madness.
  • carrying ten drinks from Starbucks at a time. (it does kinda make me feel like a badass.)
  • knowing what everyone's usual is.
  • the fact that I knew how to deal with my rich, arrogant masters.
  • kicking ass at a highly strenuous job I never would have taken if I'd known.

it's really over, and I will grieve. but there's so much to look forward to I can't even begin. I surprised myself when I took this job. now it's time to surprise myself after it.

01 February 2010

the inevitable

I woke up this morning, groggy and incoherent for the umpteenth time after a night spent ill at ease. it’s always this way on a Sunday night; my 5:20 am wake-up time comes far too early, truncating my nights and prolonging my days.

as I struggled to jump-start my day via Starbucks and thrusting myself into my work, I came upon a CNN article (thanks, Joe). it was about four young black men in Greensboro, NC who sat at a white diner counter at Woolworth’s fifty year ago today. I’d probably heard of them in passing, part of a grouping of factoids in American history class.

but the interview garnered from one of the protestors struck a few chords in my heart. the fact that the Greensboro Four were terrified to do what they did, but they did it anyway. the fact that although they got support from some classmates, most of the people they petitioned thought they were crazy. the title of the article says it all: “Never request permission to start a revolution.”

so I quit my job.

it was not a true revolution, per se. I didn’t confer with anyone before acting, partially so I wouldn’t lose my nerve, mostly so I wouldn’t be convinced I was as crazy as I knew I was. it was a personal revolution, something that needed to be done. and it still scared the hell out of me. I’m scared stiff as I write this, ready to burst into tears again at the thought of the wide open space underneath me.

the article can’t take all the credit; I’ve wanted to do this for a long, long time now. I remember starting as a temp and hoping earnestly that I’d be hired to get my benefits, wondering at the same time how long I’d actually stay. my fourth official year ended yesterday. (my unofficial sixth year would have passed in April.) last March I got a wild hair and started to peruse job listings, updated my résumé, wanted more than anything to get out of this place…except I forgot to quit. I don’t think I quite forgave myself for that. luckily it was a fantastic year and staying on meant I could pay for wonderful things like PAX and SPX and three CP cons…but the fact that I’m getting more and more into those wonderful things meant something had to give.

besides improving Wighthouse, I don’t know what I’m going to do now. this is the dumbest and smartest thing I've ever done. I've got the usual two weeks; there’s the technical stuff, like making sure my health insurance is extended and wrapping up loose ends with my coworkers. I am convinced I will not be paralyzed by this change, but energized by this freedom. eventually.

I still have to freak out just a little.

12 January 2010

status report

  • I got less than five hours of sleep last night, thanks to chatting on Skype. I daresay it was worth it, though.

  • I'm also still quite sick from contracting some minor plague over New Year's. it’s reached the lung infestation stage, to the point where I welcome productive coughs so that I will be rid of it. also, I’m gross.

  • there’s an email from Kris Straub sitting in my mailbox I’m scared to read, for its mere presence implies rejection…in my mind, at least. (I asked for permission to use something from CSS in my own comic.)

  • I need a smartphone oh so badly. according to T-Mobile I’m not eligible for a Nexus One upgrade yet, but I’m not sure I’d want one anyway, what with them jerking their long-time customers around in exchange for new ones. I hate Blackberry, and I’d rather have Android than iPhone cuz I’m not a Mac person and it just makes sense…I dunno. options look slim.

  • I've been playing games again, but I'll cover that elsewhere.

  • can’t stand being at work today. however, part of the reason I’m still here is I’m allergic to job post jargon. me opening up Craigslist is eerily akin to Bart reading about the Supreme Court.

  • today feels like the kind of day where, 20 years ago, I’d be curled up at the family PC with piles of my dad’s Big Blue Disks and UpTimes (which I still have). oh Dungeons of Kroz and Moraff’s Revenge, how I miss you. shit, that's how I came upon Zoarre, too. *sniffle*