A quick bit of business... If you want to see a humorous take on the "family" Tom is referring in today's comic, be sure to vote for Theater Hopper at Top Web Comics for a funny little incentive image. We were in the middle of the pack last week. Now we've fallen down to #91 on the list. Let's see if we can turn that around. And don't forget to vote daily!
Now for a very important announcement...
Originally, I was going to make this announcement last week. I thought it made sense to start the New Year with this, but decided at the last minute that perhaps a more romantic reprieve would ease us into things. Now I realize I was kind of running from the inevitable. I've never been the kind of guy to pull a band-aid off in one sharp pull. But I can't hide from it any longer.
On August 6, 2012, I will be ending Theater Hopper.
I didn't come to the decision lightly. I've been debating about whether to end Theater Hopper for over a year now. Even though I thought I was mentally prepared, it doesn't make the challenge of sharing this announcement any easier.
There are a couple of reasons why I've decided to end Theater Hopper and why I've set a deadline so far out into the future.
First, the deadline. I wanted to give everyone a head's up in advance mostly because I thought you - the audience member - deserved it. Nothing disheartens me more than to become invested in a comic I really, really like and see it end out of nowhere for no reason. It always leaves me with the feeling of "What if?" and I think you guys deserve better than that.
Setting a deadline that far into the future gives me an opportunity to wrap up a few lingering story lines and also moves the characters into a place where you know they're going to be "okay."
Plus, like I said, I'm not a "tear the band-aid off" kind of guy, remember.
August 6, 2012 will be one day past the 10 year anniversary of the comic and I like the idea of going out that way. Call me crazy - I just like round numbers. It'll be a tidy break.
10 years is a crazy amount of time to do anything. Writing and drawing Theater Hopper is the longest job I've ever had. I've enjoyed every minute of it, but it's time to let it go.
Part of my motivation is that I can't maintain a level of quality for the comic that I feel is fair to you or to me. It takes me a long time to put together a comic. Anywhere from 3 to 4 hours. That was one of the primary reasons I went from three strips a week to one. Looking back, I don't know how I ever managed to produce three a week - especially while I was going to night classes, pursuing my Master's for two years! I guess I just had momentum behind me.
But the point is that I don't think I can evolve my art or my technique to a point that will improve the comic or lessen my time investment. If I can't grow or improve, then it makes it hard to justify continuing. The frustration of those limitations strips all the fun right out of it.
A lot of what makes Theater Hopper complicated to produce is coloring and shading. I don't enjoy doing it and I've never been very good at it. But I've picked up enough tricks along the way that it doesn't stick out too bad.
I've talked to a few of my contemporaries about this and they've suggested going to black and white as a way to streamline things. The see no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. To jettison the investment I've made in building up the brand and viability of the domain. They've made strong cases for me to reformat the comic in order to salvage it.
I've considered it. Switching to black and white would improve my attitude toward the work significantly. Truthfully, it might even increase my output to more than one comic a week. When you get down to brass tacks, all people really want is more content. They probably aren't overtly concerned about all the bells and whistles thrown into the coloring and shading of a comic. I mean, look at XKCD, for God's sake!
But, to me, that's a step backwards. Going to black and white kind of spits in the face of the effort I've made so far to build my art up to what it is toady.
Taking the comic from three times a week to once a week was a loss for me. Taking the comic from color to black and white would be another loss - one I don't think I could bear.
It is not my wish that Theater Hopper's legacy become reductive. Stripping away the elements of what made it successful will eventually leave me with nothing. That's not fair to me and it's not fair to the audience that has supported me for so long. This is the way it has to be.
My concerns about the art also does not solve the content problem I feel like I've been ignoring for probably the last... five years.
I feel like I still have stories to tell. But the conceit that Theater Hopper is "a comic about movies" has handcuffed me. Once Cami and I had kids, the amount of movies we went to see dropped off dramatically. I don't think this would come as a surprise to anyone. But it kind of creates a situation when you write a comic that's about movies.
As a result of this life change, Theater Hopper became less about movies and more about how movies are marketed. And while marketing is a personal interest of mine, I can't deny that this evolution has made me feel somewhat fraudulent over the years.
Truthfully, I thought like Theater Hopper would end after Henry was born. I always told myself that once we had kids, there wouldn't be room for comics.
That was largely fear and inexperience talking at the time. Having kids changed my life, of course. But I was able to compromise a little bit and continue pursuing the art that I loved to make. I'm glad I did. Some of Theater Hopper's most successful years came after Henry was born. I self-published three books. I traveled the country exhibiting at comic book conventions. I met awesome people and made life-long friends. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.
But there comes a time when one realizes that you can't go on forever. I realize now that it's time to move on. This post is just as much as head's up for you as it is for me. Believe me - it's going to take me a while to get used to the idea, too.
Over the next few weeks and months, I'm going to take Theater Hopper in a more character-driven and dramatic direction. There will still be jokes - don't worry about that. Oh, and you can COUNT on there being one more appearance from Cardboard Iron Man when The Avengers comes out in May.
But August 6 is the date I have targeted to put a bow on everything and call it a day. I'm looking forward to the journey that takes us there.
As always, I appreciate the love and support I've received from my readers all the years. You guys are phenomenal. My words won't do your devotion justice. But I hope my art and these last few stories will.
I thought we were ringing in the new year with a midnight kiss in the woods?
No. I mean with our lives.
I've been thinking about how much I love our life together and how happy I am.
But I also feel like there's more to life thank going to the movies every weekend, y'know?
I think we should start a family.