I shaved my beard off for New Year’s Eve, as a gesture of rebirth for 2012. While I’m going to grow it right back, I think I was most surprised to see how deep my laugh lines are, and that I’m fortunate to have them. As a sufferer of anxiety, I also have two vertical lines between my eyebrows, just like I draw myself in the Blamimations. Both of these pairs of wrinkles got deeper this year. This, then, is my work year in review.

2011: The Affirmations

  • Scott and I raised nearly $68,000 from our audience to fund Kris and Scott’s Scott and Kris Show, which airs on Penny Arcade TV until its finale in April. We kept lowballing ourselves thinking we shouldn’t ask for more than $10K, or maybe $25K, and if we had to, we’d just kick in the amount we were missing. We made the full amount far before the 30-day deadline, which was so incredible.
  • I met a lot of great creatives this year, including new types of creatives that I look forward to working with. Doing the Scott and Kris Show and our well-attended panels at PAX has made me really interested in taking on more work in front of audiences, live or internet or otherwise.
  • I have a store solution I’m finally comfortable with, and one that will let me deliver more products to my fans and readers with confidence. One of the big things holding me back on merchandise was worries on how to control promotions and limited-time offers, as well as how to handle customer service if mistakes get made. I have every trust in the PA warehouse, it has been amazing from the get-go.
  • The Chainsawsuit 5-book pack taught me something too: there is a lot more demand for Chainsawsuit stuff! The sale was driven by the discovery of about 150 of the first book. I sold them all before Christmas in record time.
  • Last but not least, in addition to all the professional stuff, I got married to someone who loves and understands who I am, and respects why I do this, instead of get a real job.

2011: The Realizations

  • Towards the middle of 2011 I think I learned Starslip had done about all it was going to do, success-wise. It’s been slowly bleeding its audience since the upsurge after the soft reboot in 2009 — which worked as a whole but ended up costing the strip some of its heart and its appeal to die-hard fans. I get that now. I spent the last year struggling with where to take it in 2012 and realized I had pretty much told all the stories about Vanderbeam, Cutter and Jinx I had to tell, save the final one. I’m very happy with it overall; it’s just time to do something else.
  • F Chords was a huge misstep for me personally, and though it didn’t really cost me anything but pride, for some reason I thought I was beyond missteps like this, and I’m not. Maybe no one is! My ham-fisted retooling of a long-awaited reader favorite was the apotheosis of putting the cart before the horse.
  • In 2011 I think my snobbery about other creative work, especially forms of humor, reached absurd levels. Looking at myself from the point of view of other creators who don’t know me, I think I appear at best intimidating, and at worst like an insufferable effete. I have derided cartoonists this year for their carelessness and reliance on low-hanging fruit, then turned around and made hundreds of dick jokes. Come on, man.
  • I’m also aware that I can be a huge flake. Anyone who has known me for longer than a year is aware of this already. And I’ve let people down this year. It’s not something that goes away by me not working on it.

I think the overarching takeaway (could that sound any more corporate?) is that you have to be able to predict what you can, and prepare for what you can’t. I spent a lot of time this year predicting one outcome and neglecting the preparedness. For the most part I was right or close enough to right to be fine. But in some areas — F Chords is a good example — I only knew what I was going to do if it had succeeded inside of two months. Any other outcome cast me into turmoil. I throw myself at problems way more often than I sit down weeks and months before and plot things out. This year I’m going to be too busy for that to work anymore.

2012: The Expectations

  • More things in my store, turned around faster and planned for debut at conventions. I would really love to be able to offer all five Starslip books — the entire series when it’s complete — at San Diego Comic Con 2012.
  • Hosting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in April with Scott and Wil Wheaton, and possibly doing a con in Australia the following weekend. I don’t even know how to prepare for it. If Andrew is reading this, what I mean is, I am completely prepared for it. Ha ha! Hmm.
  • Starslip will end by the first week of April. A lot of my hesitance to end it was based on how many books I have sitting in a warehouse, and my fear that no one will want the books for a complete series once it’s not updating. But the inventory thing is a separate issue, and fear of a monetary outcome can’t drive a story. And on the artistic side of the coin, once I had plotted out the strip’s last storyline, I had kind of resolved it in my mind. I had all the storytelling tools to end Starslip six months ago, but I didn’t. So I’ve been waiting for the right moment, but in doing so, it feels like I’ve been treading water. It’s not an easy goodbye for me, but I’m excited to move forward on more projects.
  • Chainsawsuit will get a ton of my attention. I still treat it like this ugly stepchild I’m embarrassed to be seen with. I have a lot of ideas for it and how to extend/expand it without wrecking the core of what it is already. Chainsawsuit is a great place to experiment with ideas and I’m only now understanding that.
  • Another album. I would like to produce an internally-consistent EP I can perform in front of an audience.
  • A regular podcast. Something with the tone of Webcomics Weekly or The Morning After, where it is regular and topical and conversational. I don’t know who else would be on it.
  • A new regular strip to replace Starslip. I was grooming F Chords to be that, but if I go back to it, it’ll be exactly like it was in 2008 again. I have a good idea for a strip that would be episodic, three times a week. I have the same feeling about it that I did Starslip at the beginning: unsure, but excited to see how it comes together. And it would play to my strength, as opposed to some… gap I perceive in a marketplace.
  • Revisiting old dislikes and distrusts, and unpacking them. This also goes to the humor snobbery stuff. It’s fun to come down hard on something, but it’s bad for business. I’d rather be inquisitive about a thing I hate, than just continue to hate it. Maybe my opinion won’t change, but what’s the worst that could happen? That I’d understand more about it and its motivation?
I’ll wrap it up by saying I’m very grateful for what I learned in 2011 and excited for 2112! I’m also excited for 2012.