Random Idea

Monday, October 18, 2010

FINALE: ...the seed of imagination

And that, as they say, is that. I'm going to start ranting and becoming all sentimental for the next few paragraphs, if rambling reminiscence isn't your cup o' tea, click here to skip straight to the comments. Otherwise, listen to a couple of depressing Sarah McLachlan songs - or maybe this one if you're more in an epic mood - and get reading!

Now, if this sudden ending has come as a surprise to you...well, it really shouldn't have, because it was hardly a sudden ending. I've said, all the way back at my quincentennial that my goal for Elderly Apple was 1000 comics. Considering that these were 1000 consecutive, with the latest I've ever been being 8 hours, I'd say that it was still an accomplishment. And really, I had two options for how Elderly Apple was going to end.

  1. I could go the route that many wonderful webcomics unfortunately follow, plowing through until I miss a single update, then continue going until I miss two updates, until I'm at the point where I only update once a month, making the site more of a chore than a pleasure to return to (both for myself and my readers).
  2. I could decide the place, the time, and the number, and give it the finality that I think it deserves.
I decided to go with the latter option, and felt that of all numbers, 1000 is a good one to end at. And so, here we are. I think the last 10 days have made it clear that Elderly Apple, as it was, will not continue. I will not be returning after a month and say, "You know, I've just got that urge, so we're starting up again!" My Microcosm is gone. There is no more to my world. But I hope that doesn't mean it has to be the end of what Elderly Apple stands for. We'll get to what I think that is later.

Of course, this doesn't mean that I won't be doing anything from here on out. If you remember well, I had plans for another webcomic, Vagabond Lions. Not having to work on Elderly Apple should free me up to do more extensive searching for an artist for that. (P.S. If you're an artist, and are interested, let me know!) Someday, perhaps in a year or so, you'll be able to find that comic here. I will be sure to make an announcement here when that's ready to start up.

But back to Elderly Apple! I've looked through my archives extensively, and have noticed a couple of things.

First of all - and this should almost go without saying - the style has matured greatly throughout the life of the comic. When I began, I stated that it was my intent to draw like a five-year-old. In other words, crude. Now, let's not be mistaken: I don't for a minute believe that the art has evolved to rival Renaissance artists. But I do think it has evolved from a five-year-old's to an eight-year-old's. Let's look back on a random old idea: the bar of soap slipping on his own residue. This was one of my favorites from my first year, and I'm amazed to see how messy it is. And let's not even talk about the EA Classics.

Second, I also feel the ideas themselves have matured a little bit. By this I'm not saying they've gotten darker (although some may argue they have), but rather they've gotten more complex, both in the drawings and in the ideas themselves. The artwork has gained more backgrounds, more texture lines, more nuanced colors. The ideas, then, have also been more and more necessary to write in words, because there are elements about the ideas that are difficult to explain through visuals alone. (Take, as a random example, this idea; would you have been able to tell that that knight were the world's most pathetic just by looking at him?) Some have written to me, saying this is a failure of my art to display what is necessary, but I disagree, because the text has always been an integral part of the art, anyway.

Some interesting notes:
  • My number one most-viewed comic of all time? Pavlovian fire fighting. Thanks to the magic that is StumbleUpon, it somehow got nearly 50,000 unique pageviews (chump change in the grand scheme of things, but pretty good for my purposes). This is far and away more than any other comic, including that blind date one which seemed to be the most popular for some time (and admittedly was, but is currently sitting at a lowly 41st place).
  • I'm sure you know that I use topics for all my comics, to categorize them based on their content. While you could legitamitely argue that I'm fairly liberal in how I label stuff, I actually only have four topics that have more than 100 ideas attached to them. To the surprise of nobody, they're all referencing subjects (i.e. characters). Coming in at #1 is my old fallback, Objects, with 304 ideas, mainly because anything inanimate that couldn't be eaten. The runners-up are Food (239), Human (184), and Animals (170).
  • My favorite idea of all time? Uhhhhh.......................I guess it depends where you're coming from. This one makes me laugh every time, just based on the priest's face. This one probably puts me more at peace than any other. This one still counts as one of my favorites as far as the concept goes. But at the end of the day, my favorite type of idea is the, far and away, the whimsical kind.
Now, like I was implying earlier, it's tough running a webcomic. Being part of a community is a great way not only to help spread the word of your own comic through group efforts, but also of meeting people who are in the same boat as you. To that end, I would like to thank a man who I haven't heard from in almost two years, Jeb Shookman. Jeb was the creator of the (now defunct) webcomic Cobra Dog. He was also the creator of the (also now defunct) Comic of the Month collective. And for some unfathomable reason, he found Elderly Apple, liked it, and gave it a spot in the collective. At that point, I broke out of my shelled mentality of "this comic is just for me and my friends" to "this is something I can share with strangers, with the world." Which prompted me to work extra hard on making the comic a legitimate experience for all. Now, in addition to this, I was also introduced to many other webcomickers, who've I've grown quite close to (in Internet friend terms). So, a few shout outs are in order (albeit not in any particular order):
  • First, to J Horsley 3, a man who, despite the occasionally risque nature of his comic(s), has always been the utmost gentleman to me, and who has inspired and been inspired by me. I can't thank you enough for the kindness you've never ceased to show me.
  • To Jonathon Bigelow, from A Rusty Life, who has now twice been nice enough to meet with me on my trips up to Seattle.
  • To Sarah Sawyer, who I think you'll agree with me when you look at The Gods' Pack, has some honest-to-God talent, and I sincerely hope she'll be able to keep it going for a long time.
  • To the always-outrageous French-Canadian Dumbbum, who reminds me that while I may be crazy, I'm not the crazy one.
  • To the exceptionally talented David Dees, who I haven't heard from in months and hope is doing well.
  • To "Ratchet" Johnson, whose Facebook antics never fail to make me smile.
  • To the others that I know I missed; I love you all the same! :D
And speaking of having community, let me briefly talk about my audience. I've always considered myself a very niche comic, by virtue of the fact that it's near-impossible to "get it" when you look at the home page. Pretty much everyone I've spoken with has confirmed that you need to click through a couple of ideas before the point clicked in your head. I've been incredibly lucky to have people actually make those couple of clicks. And, on the whole, I've had an entirely enjoyable, well-mannered, and overall awesome audience. One thing I think I've noticed, though, is that the audience (in particular, the commenting audience) seems to be very transitory. There are a few core commenters who have been here (and been active) over the long haul, but many others were here for a few months, and then just disappeared. And while I always love having written proof that people are reading, I can't get angry about this, because I feel it's the way of the comic. People get what they need out of Elderly Apple, and then they move on. I was once told by a very wise individual that I am not a person; I am an experience. I feel the same is true for Elderly Apple: it is an experience that people have, some longer than others, until their need - whatever that may be - is fulfilled. They then move on, somehow enriched, to other, better parts of their lives. To those folks, I wish nothing but the best. (For those of you you were here and active, though, I wish everything and the best!)

Long story short, an oversized THANK YOU to any/all my fans! :D

I've also had my share of mail over the years. It's run the gamut from "this is so cute" to "this is the worst thing I've ever seen and you should die in a fire" to "what are those little furball-lookin' things?" Still, I think at the end of the day, the most inspiring, touching email I've ever gotten was from a Floridian named Jen. She told me that checking Elderly Apple was a daily ritual not only for herself, but for her two young children. And while the site is - for the most part - family friendly, I never considered it to be a site for kids. But to hear that they were able to appreciate it in a new and different way just brightened my day. According to Jen, "Today my kids went back to school with a little more confidence than they had last year because now they know how much fun art can be for both the artist and the person looking at it, and that it doesn't much matter if their artwork makes sense to others or not - it just has to be fun!"

...I have no idea if Jen and her children still read Elderly Apple. It's been a while; like others in my audience, they might have felt I jumped a shark here or there, or they may have just moved on to other things. But really, I don't think that they need to be here any more. Because they got it. They understood what the essence of Elderly Apple is. Fun. That's always been my approach to this. I am of the belief that the greatest asset humans have is creativity. And creativity is one of the key drivers in having fun. And this doesn't stop here. The creative, fun spirit, I think, can live on in all touched by it, and bear fruit wherever they go. In that way, Elderly Apple will never end, even if the comic stops updating. So if I've inspired someone to be more creative, to have some fun, to smile at least one more time than they would have done ordinarily, then Elderly Apple was a complete success.

And I think that makes for a happy ending.