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Today is the anniversary of Stress Puppy.  The strip started approximately three years ago today.

What initially had me going, Yeah!  Three years and still going! instead has me going, Yikes!

I'm wondering if I should put Stress Puppy on the back burner for a while.

The problem is the current storyline, The Paper Chase.  Keep in mind, in a strip, you only have the strip to convey the joke, the actions, the characters, and the plot, in that order of importance.  Yesterday's strip is the second time I've included a "time shift" element to skip through the plot.  Doing only four panels while trying to advance each of those points not only really stretches things out, but I'm not sure what kind of jokes I could make in each.  Remember, in comic strips, the joke is king, and anything that detracts from it HAS to go.  The fact is the plot may have been a little too complex for a comic strip.

There's also the fact that, working on the strip, I get a sense of deja vu.  In a way, The Paper Chase has a bit in common with Package Deal.  I feel like, even though the gags are different, I'm repeating myself.  I had a similar reaction to Cash On The Barrelhead, coming so soon after ...And One For All.

I had mentioned that I would do the strip until I ran out of ideas.  The problem is, I've suspected for a while that I'm closer to the end of the series than the beginning.  I have a few more ideas left, maybe four more stories.  Other ideas are still coming to me, but they no longer gain that clarity, when I think about them and know exactly how the plot is to proceed and how the characters will fit in and how they will interact and....it's just not happening any more.

I've been doing Stress Puppy for three years now.  Over 320 strips and a 54 page graphic novel.  I love the cult following, it's great to hear from the readers and get props.  I mean, I love comic strips.  I have one of my own.  And this isn't something just to say, "I'm doing it," it is genuinely enjoyed.  But with it becoming harder and harder to proceed, I'm thinking I need a little bit of a break.

This isn't to say the strip is gone completely.  I would still finish those last stories and any others that occur to me later (and I won't leave everyone hanging, I will wrap up The Paper Chase first).  Raff and Holly and the gang aren't going anywhere.  And I can still do the occassional single strip like Holly doing her bad stand-up or whatever.  But I think, after three years, I need to set things aside, let the gang recharge.  Get some freshness going in my system again.

There are two reasons to do things -- to get paid, and because you love them.  And I love Raff and Holly and the gang too much to lose the love.  I want to look at the strip and go, "You did good there, Peter," not, "Jesus, why did I let that go on so long?"

What do you, the viewers at home, think?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2010 07:40 am (UTC)
Well, congrats anyway!

There are some strips with ongoing plotlines, of course -- but most of them aren't meant to be funny, and in general I'm not a fan of them. I've been writing a column for 20 years, but I have an advantage over you -- way more words to work with, more subjects available, and I don't have to match it to a drawing.
Oct. 16th, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah. Lots of people think that a comic strip is nothing but write a joke and you're done. There is art and craft involved in its creation.

When I started the strip, it was literally a lark. The guys at Hard Ways Studios thought it would help increase traffic, I was willing to do it without getting paid as long as I kept the rights, and I love comic strips. It never really took off for whatever reason (I think, at its peak, it had about 150 regular readers). Chris Carpenter, the EIC, apologized, but I told him it was okay.

I went into this expecting the strip to not do much better than a cult following. Lots of people create strips and are disappointed that they don't achieve User Friendly or PvP levels of success. Others simply give up. Three years without missing a deadline is incredible for a web comic. Most people will start off consistent, after a few months, the deadlines will start to slip, and then it's simply gone, no further communication.

It's actually kind of strange how many things I do start off as just larks that become their own entities. I started Stress Puppy as a lark, and was shocked when I hit the first year anniversary. Sound Waves was originally just five issues, and now, I've got scripts for up to #25, with more coming. Hannah Singer started with a story to just see if the idea could work, and soon I had created an entire mythos and order of procedure for the court that initially wasn't there. Stuff like Quantum Redshift, it was all part of the engineering process. SP, SW, and Hannah? They were ideas that took on a life of their own.

I'm giving thought to doing runs of old stories so that readers who are still new can get their SP fix and still keep the habit. Given how close to the season it is, I'm thinking the first one I'll rerun is Loose Canaons, the Christmas story. What can I say? I don't want to say goodbye to the characters yet, either.
Oct. 17th, 2010 05:52 am (UTC)
I tried writing a strip once, many years ago, with a friend who was a decent artist -- the amount of work involved is just overwhelming. It's certainly not a thing for a long winded writer like me.

I've followed some web comics that took the path you described. I have a good idea how that goes, since I struggled for years to make my column a success before it finally started growing enough to make it worthwhile from a career standpoint. I never had any desire to write non-fiction, either -- like yours, my career took off in odd directions.

I think your idea of rerunning old stories is a good one -- after all, it works in the papers for Peanuts! Once you and readers get to like a universe and its inhabitants, it's hard to say goodby to them.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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