Version 10.0, I Think, or,Welcome to The Home World, or,Free at Last from The Tyranny of the Pen

This is the tenth design of my web site. Appropriate – I seem to change it on average of once a year, although some designs have lasted longer than others. This also means Happy Anniversary to me, I suppose, since the site originally went live in May of 1998, but I missed that one due to various and sundry reasons. Oh, well.

This redesign does three things. It brings a cleaner look to the site, and it finally adds a long-awaited page that takes a look at how an idea evolves inside of a writer’s head over a period of… decades. It is introduced by one of the most personal essays I’ve ever written about the creative process.

Third, it also establishes a family look between this site, and one launching today in support of my other new project, The Home World.

And just what is The Home World?

Well, at risk of disappointing just about everybody out there, it is my new Web Comic. That’s right, it’s a comic strip, just like the ones found in the back pages of your local newspaper. Only not shrunk down into illegibility. And it only comes out once a week, on Wednesdays.

So why a Web Comic, and why now?

I don’t know. That’s the honest answer. Some things have popped up over the years that have slowly been pointing me to try drawing again, even though I officially gave up on it in the eighties. There was tinkering around with the writing aspect to create Lewis and Clark, which I did on a cut-and-paste internet application called Strip Creator. There was finding this particular bit of oddness in my files a while back ago. There was getting in touch with a couple of old friends from my high school days who wanted to know if I was still drawing. And I think there was also the prospect of creating something new and different just for the sheer joy of creating something, with no expectations of money or fame – or even recognition or increased web site traffic. Call it art for art’s sake.

There was also the aspect of having a Secret Writing Project. I haven’t told anybody about this – and I do mean nobody – not my wife, not my colleague with the Comic Book in the running for winning a contest, not even my old high school friends who wondered if I was still drawing (well, I did slip and say something about it to my daughter, but she was busy with coming back from Russia and starting college, so I think she has safely forgotten it). It was kind of fun having a secret in the basement like that (that wouldn’t merit an investigation by the FBI).

Still another factor was developing a process for creating the drawings that circumvented my inability to draw. I do have, as you may have seen in some samples, an odd cartoony style, but I never had any training outside of the one-size-fits-all art classes you get in school, so I never did perspective studies or still life sketches or any of that. The folks that produced the best looking comic strips, like Al Capp and Bill Watterson, were real artists to start with. I’m not. And I’m further hobbled by the fact that, every time I pick up a pencil to draw, my brain goes into this default mode and produces the same stupid looking things. I just can’t seem to control it.

Then I found some cool software called EazyDraw, and it made all the difference to me. Admittedly, the “artwork” I’m producing still looks like my style of drawing to a point, but there are several key advantages. First, I can now produce consistent looking characters. Second, by manipulating shapes into images with a mouse instead of trying to create an image from the tip of a pencil, I have made an end run around what I have for years called “the tyranny of the pen” – my term for not being able to draw outside of preconceived patterns once I get a pen in my hand. It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to lock those patterns in when I’m using a mouse, and before it figures out what I’m up to, I’ve created a drawing.

While my computer generated pictures aren’t all that great, I may get better at making them – but if I don’t, I can take heart at the one classic rule of the comic strip, namely: “Good writing can make up for bad artwork, but good artwork can never make up for bad writing.” And the writing, yeah. I think I have that part down. Hey, if Scott Adams can make a living off of Dilbert, then I’ve got every right to try this little experiment.

As for what The Home World is about, well, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself if you’re interested. I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up, even at the snail’s pace of once a week. At this writing, I am 12 weeks ahead – which means I have strips drawn up through mid November – and I have the strip plotted through the end of this year (when I researched web comics, I noticed that too many creators work on a day-to-day basis and frequently miss their own deadlines – I told myself I was going to treat this like a real comic strip and work ahead). I have no expectations of this doing well, or of generating any kind of audience, or bringing in any kind of financial reward. It may last no longer than my 100 Word Short Story series. Or it may bop ’till I drop. We’ll just have to see.

Meantime, welcome to the new version of the site.

And welcome to The Home World.

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