intro: dont get your hopes up
look, i’m going to be straight up with you: there’s no messy drama or fallout that caused this. no juicy deets or salacious rumors to slurp down. you know if this were the case, i would have erupted across my various social medias in a frenzied rage with all the delicacy of a bull in a china shop partly for entertainment purposes. instead, this will probably be a boring at best navel gaze where i try to walk the line between pragmatically trying to explain why i left and moral grandstanding. because leaving abruptly looks weird externally, i do actually have to explain why instead of just mysteriously leaving during a period of time where i am being an obnoxious asshole. a combination of disdain for the current cultural zeitgeist and a growing culture of disrespect toward audiences has culminated in my online behavior devolving into the online version of grabbing people saying stupid shit on the street and shaking them very hard. this is something an insane person would do. i know.
the commodification and increasingly blatant commercialization of an art format that could once arguably be compared to other amateur transgressive arts (ex: underground comix, tijuana bibles) is borderline heartbreaking. not to be too dramatic, but i want to start smashing things like im a monster from the rampage arcade game to scare the NIMBYs away before they start building escape rooms where the fetish web comics used to be. there is no place unspoiled by the poison of advertising and sponsorships. except…
trying to make money in comics is a fool’s errand. go make furry porn commissions if you want to make money doing art! you’re completely out of your mind if you go into the arts to make money. full on detachment from reality if you choose comics. they should commit you if you choose web comics.
i think people have a wildly different perception regarding the popularity of A Ghost Story so i have approximate data to give people an idea. having culled the SHIT out of my analytics results to remove bot traffic, i think i have relatively accurate results, i get about 1000 unique visitors a month (generously rounding up lol), about half of them are regulars, and 10% of them donate to patreon (this is, imo, an unfathomably large amount lol. shocking and humbling. thank you for your continued support of me in spite of [gestures]). i feel like a small comic 99% of the time, but man. 1,000 is a big number. i can at least reasonably assume, i’m PRETTY sure, that i was a comparatively small comic in hiveworks.
my monthly payout was roughly $100 a month (and merch sales, if applicable) and their services included web site help, dealing with any merch sales, and site hosting in exchange for running banner ads (which have been a fixture on web comics since the conception of google’s ad program; remember the homestuck bidding wars??). banner ads felt like a small and reasonable compromise to be included in something that felt like a weird pipe dream. in certain circles, a hiveworks invitation was a stamp of quality with prestige; i was very aware of the company i was invited into keep and was initially pretty concerned with how my presence reflected onto them and their work. i was going through some serious brain problems due to a deeply stupid relationship and, as a result, i did my best to keep my head down, stay out of people’s way, and focus on not bringing undue shame to something i was well aware i was completely unsuited for. i had (and frankly, still have) no idea why i was chosen as i had not applied. i cannot stress enough that i was under no delusions as to the quality of my comic lol. my perception was that someone had stuck their neck out to make a special exception for me and i was constantly on the verge of fucking it up and humiliating them.
it was a very off-balance exchange extremely in my favor, and i was aware of this. especially since, being frank and honest here, i was bringing absolutely nothing to the table for them. i don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but its a reasonable conclusion that i was more trouble than i was worth, given the infinitesimal worth.
the vast majority of hiveworks readers completely bounced off my comic, which makes perfect sense given the hiveworks audience is i think more interested in the genre they primarily host: fantasy and magical realism. in comparison, “a ghost story” is a slow, slooow burn about federal bureaucracy and being insane with extremely amateur art; i know what i am! and that’s fine! but i became a little resentful (and i tried not to! honest!) after 7 years of perpetually being put on a back burner. it felt like i was being strung along for reasons beyond my comprehension or as the baseline of acceptable awfulness for the website’s quality. someone has to be the “worst”, objectively. it’s not a great feeling to know it, coming to terms with it i think was much healthier than trying to fight it. it was a really good driving force to keep my mind off the nightmare of my life at that point and improve my art a lot.
AGS’ irrelevance was underscored by it being mentioned once over the course of 7 years on official social media networks, upon which a great deal of importance was placed. but frankly, there is nothing worse than dealing with the guy who sucks whining for the spotlight as though they are clueless as to why they are getting the shaft. so i simply achieved enlightenment by getting over it and realizing where i was in the hierarchy and how lucky i was to have so much shit done for me. i was (am, unbelievably. it never gets less wild when i sit down and really think about it) making enough through patreon that the $100 became my monthly fun money while i lived in oregon. it was welcome, but not essential.
a lot of real life, awful things happened that suck and couldn’t be avoided: one of the main points of communication and organization became terribly ill, COVID happened and obliterated shipping and manufacturing rates for apparently all eternity, uhhh the fabric of reality began to unravel lol. it’s been a terrible couple of years. i want to underscore this stuff so that people understand i was not wronged greatly in the grand scheme of things.
there are things that started to chip away at me over time, which made me question if i was a good fit at all. genuinely: the only thing i want to do is to try to live happily within my morals doing what i love to do. even and especially if it means living very broke. that’s the exchange i’m consciously choosing to make when i pick up the pen every day. due to the generosity of the people who support me or have supported me at any time (special shout out to adam, who puts up with this shit for some reason), i am able to do that. i contribute a proportional amount to the household now but tried to be (was??) 50/50 or 25/25/25/25 when i had roommates. i don’t want my one unyielding selfish choice to be anyone else’s burden.
i was told by another artist in hiveworks that my confrontational behavior could be a poor reflection on the brand, which became the tipping point in my choice to leave. to be clear, no one in charge told me this, but even conceptually i was not comfortable representing a company that i felt i was a member of out of obligation or inertia. i didn’t belong there and my presence was an active detriment instead of a tolerated nuisance.
when the offer to leave was presented, i didn’t feel regret, or anxiety, or upset at all. i felt a placid sense of relief. i COULD leave. that’s TRUE. i had been kicking it around on my private twitter for a few months going back and forth with myself over what was more important to me: being able to take care of myself financially or doing something about my own hypocrisy that kept me up at night. if my incessant argument is that advertising based commercialization is a societal poison, then i need to put my money where my mouth is. and if i’m consistently annoying, i need to leave as a courtesy to everyone else.
i don’t regret my time with hive at all, but the overarching transformation from a collection of cartoonists to a brand is not where i want to take my art. i can’t bring myself to work even within the proximity of seven seas, a deeply abhorrent company. i am completely disinterested in wasting time or energy worrying about “the algorithm” because i don’t make comics for the computer’s sake and recognize that there’s a finite number of people interested in web comics in the world and an even more finite amount of money to spend on luxuries (because none of us have any money lol). i don’t want to repeat the familiar cycle of lamenting the death of art as we know it every 6 months.
people who are choosing to spend their limited funds supporting me are making a deliberate choice to elevate my presence in their life. i want and need to keep this in mind at all times, because it drives my attitudes toward what i want to choose to focus on. i want to keep my art (“art”) free with additional goodies being as reasonably priced as possible in the hopes that in this way we scratch each other’s back. making money drawing comics is a ridiculous privilege granted to me by people willing to sacrifice their time and money to me; i need to be thinking more about all that i have instead of worrying about what i don’t.