Muddlemarch post mortem

15 08 2008

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with my comic strip Muddlemarch. If you’re not, it’s a weekly strip I drew for about ten years. It ran in The Comic News, Impact Press, and a handful of other papers. I quit drawing it around February of 2007 without much fanfare or explanation.

So here’s what happened; I just ran out of steam. I hadn’t kept up with my weekly deadline for months, and finally just acknowledged the fact that I was no longer drawing a weekly strip, and let all pretense drop. It was a painful decision. Drawing and self-syndicating Muddlemarch was my artistic raison d’etre, and giving it up felt dangerously close to giving up being a cartoonist. Even worse, it felt like a surrender to the bush administration. I mean, I know my little comic strip was never going to overthrow the White House, but at least it was a cry of resistance. I should have been endlessly energized by outrage, but after the 2004 election I was completely demoralized. I wanted to hang onto the strip at least until the 2008 election, and go out with a celebratory kick to li’l bush’s loathsome behind, but I just couldn’t do it. I fell way behind, I was falling behind on other projects, and I had to finally face the facts.

I’m currently posting old Muddlemarch strips on Comicspace, about one a day.  (Update 7/16/15: Comicspace is long dead, but the same strips will now appear here on Comic Fury.) I dug through the archives and sifted out all the best stuff, and there’s enough to bring us just about to Election Day. Presumably no one has seen most of these in months, so even if you’re a die-hard fan you might enjoy a walk down re-run lane.

It may also become clear to you, as it has become clear to me, that giving up on the strip was the right decision. Taken together, the strips are quite shrill and self-righteous. There are moments of wit that make me proud, but it’s very rare that the strip comes anywhere near the high whimsy I was going for. I know lots of people found it entertaining, and I certainly enjoyed drawing it, and I always thought if I just pushed it hard enough it would achieve a wide circulation. But now that I’ve got a little distance, I can see how its flaws would always keep it from really succeeding. Add to that the decline of print journalism and print comic strips in general, and it becomes hard to justify pursuing any kind of syndication. It was hard for me to see, but it was past time to let go of the banana, and I’m glad I did.

Anyway I sorta feel like ten years is enough for any comic strip. Berke Breathed, Bill Waterson, and Gary Larson made the comics great during my adolescence, yet had the wisdom to quit (of course Breathed is back, and Opus is far superior to most of the Sunday funnies, but nowhere near the former glory of Bloom County) (Update 7/16/15: Breathed has just started posting new Bloom County strips on Facebook. Just so he can draw it and people can read it. That guy is awesome.) before their characters became hollow shells haunting the funny pages for endless decades (you know who you are. Blondie. Hagar. Hi. etc etc etc.)

So there you have it. The strip is dead, long live the strip. I don’t know how long The Introvert Manifesto will last, but I’m much more excited about it than I was about Muddlemarch or Giblit. Ideas for new episodes materialize without warning, so that’s probably a good sign. And this internet thing seems like it might catch on. I hope to see you there.

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