This is going to be a long recap of my year. Feel free to disregard this and just read the little comic instead.
This past year was hard for a lot of people. You all know the reasons – the deaths, the elections, whatever else people have been blaming on an arbitrary date. For me it was a huge year of change, the end of most of the projects I’d been working on, the end of the most important relationship in my life and a complete overhaul of my plans for the future.
Right now, if I don’t draw another page of comic or picture book ever I still have enough finished books that I could release them at my current pace for the rest of my life. The order would have to be chosen carefully because some of the stuff is too weird for publishers to take a risk on, but there’s enough stuff to make it work. I still have basically no money because I keep pouring it all into ridiculous projects, but I am making it all work. This is a terrifying point for someone like me to reach. I have worked so hard for so long, giving up so much to make what I am doing work. I wanted to make sure I could keep making books for the rest of my life and now that I’m at a point where I can I don’t have to. So I’ve been at a bit of a loss recently.
On top of all this I have also ended and restarted the comic I was certain would take me until three decades after I expired to finish. The version of Blastosaurus that has been coming out in New Zealand for the last 9 years is now over. It reached a point where I no longer recognized the story I had wanted to tell and the rules of the world had become muddled and alienating and just not fun to write. On top of this, I basically fired my co-writer (see the comment in the first paragraph about ending the most important relationship in my life).
When I started Blastosaurus (then Gunasaurus) it was meant to be a fun joke, a reimagining of stories about mutant crime-fighters where instead the hero was a grumpy old man. If you’ve spoken to me at a convention then you’ve heard the spiel. But, anyone who has read the books knows, we are five volumes in and there hasn’t really been a chance to explore that. In the last three years I desperately tried to fit it in, writing spinoffs and alternate universe versions of the character where he played with model trains and ate too much ham or had casual but disappointing sex with men he picked up in bars, but all that did was make me realize how much I wanted to be doing that stuff in the main book. So the story started getting weird.
In the books that no-one will ever see Blastosaurus takes a bit of a turn. By issue 30 he is no longer a cop, owns a drycleaning business and cries a lot when he’s alone.
At the start of 2016 I went on a trip to LA to try and pitch a few projects around. Nothing came of those projects, nothing ever does, but a lot of unexpected things began to come together and I worked out that I had been jumping up and down on the spot for far too long. I told Terry about the new projects and the new possibilities and which (still sort of secret) things were working and which ones weren’t and he didn’t respond how I had hoped. All of a sudden the thing we had been trying to do for a very long time had a chance of becoming real and that would mean a big change to our lives. Terry didn’t want a change to his life, he didn’t want the kind of success I was aiming for. That’s the problem with having a fun job, to other people it’s fun but at the end of the day it’s a job and if I’m going to get anywhere at all with this stuff I can’t be relying on anyone who doesn’t see it the same way.
So, Terry and I had a tough year. We’re still friends, he’s still by far one of the best people I have ever known and I am sure we will eventually figure out the awkward balance of talking to each other without having to avoid discussing that dinosaur we raised together. In the meantime I have begun figuring out how to do every part of this job on my own.
Since then I’ve been going back and forth between NZ and LA, starting new things, writing new books, trying my hand at writing a musical. I’m collaborating with new people (Paul Eiding and Alexander Burke mainly but also Jim Kraft, Colleen Kelly, Lucy Campagnolo, Stephen Bissette to name a few) and taking things in new directions that I never knew I even wanted to go in. There’s a new Ghost Ghost picture book, a new comic series or three, even a pitch for a TV show about the woman I love (sort of). The thing is, I don’t think I want to release any of them for a while.
One of the driving forces behind my work schedule has always been the need to put out more and more books each year. Then there was that year when Theo and I put out 52 comics and I feel like I sort of broke any hope of beating that. I always had to have new books for conventions because just one new Blasto volume wasn’t enough. Now there won’t even be that. Blastosaurus had to come out the way it did for a lot of reasons, none of those reasons were ‘because that’s how Richard wants it.’ Initially I had to put out a bunch of shitty comics for dumb legal reasons to ensure I had proof that the concept was mine, then I had to stand around selling a messed up American version of the book that I would truly be ashamed to put my name to even then, then I had to start releasing it in collected volumes instead of as issues because there just isn’t the right market in NZ outside of conventions and bookstores, and finally, I had to release it slowly because the one part of the book I wasn’t doing was being done at an incredibly slow pace.
I started work on four new comics in 2016. One’s about a boy who steals a boat to have adventures, one’s about a tree that spews out monsters, one is a sprawling messy story of my life and the other is an all new version of Blastosaurus, told exactly how I want it to be told (co-written now with Paul). In September I started saying I was going to release them one issue a month starting in 2017. I don’t really know why I started saying that. Maybe it was to force me back into my old habit of having to get work out? I don’t know. I honestly can’t figure out where my mind was back then. All I know is that now I don’t even know if any of those comics will ever see the light of day (except Blastosaurus, I can’t quit that dinosaur). I think maybe one of them will stop at issue 2 and just be a nice little story on its own, the memoir will probably just be done in bits and pieces until I die (unless nothing else interesting happens). The point is that I have lost interest in putting out books for the sake of putting out books.
So, for the foreseeable future I’ll be burying myself in projects and just sort of seeing where they go. If I get sick of something after a single issue then I can just let it go because I won’t have the added pressure of having released something unfinished. I’m going to make picture books and comics and bad animations (probably) for the rest of my life, but this year I won’t be showing them to you.
I will still be posting progress photos and occasional finished drawings and probably some videos of some kind. If you want to support me on Patreon as I do that it’d be pretty great. Give me a dollar, give me a few dollars, give me nothing but share my posts, whatever you can do to help with this would be hugely appreciated because this whole thing is kind of terrifying and uncertain.
It’s a new year and I am in Canada surrounded by dogs. I have wonderful new people in my life. I am so much happier than I have ever been.
Now, have a look at the first three pages of the new Blastosaurus comic Paul and I have been working on. I drew this last week and colored it this morning, it’s part of a longer story that I may or may not put online later this month.
See you all soon.