Friday, February 7, 2014

Death of the Creator

A couple weeks ago, Justin Carmical, aka "Jewwario" died.  He committed suicide, something that came as a rather large shock to his colleagues and fans.  It also has very little to do with webcomics as he focused on videos and videogames.

I say that because I can't recall a single webcomic artist who has died.  It is going to happen though, sooner rather than later would be my guess.  The second wave of comics, where Sluggy Freelance and Penny Arcade sit, are nearly 2 decades old at this point, meaning their artists are nearing their 40s.  Some artists are older than that, even if their comics are younger.

And comic artists have issues.  Lots of issues.  Physical, typically in the writing hand, have happened quite often I've noticed.  Then there's the string of mental issues that plague even the best artists.  Accidents, poor health, and just plain bad luck mean eventually one of the comics I read will lose it's creator.

There have been a few close calls.  The artists of Sea of Insanity was hit by a car (while in his house!) and that waylaid him for over  year.  Micheal Poe nearly lost his wife, then had his own health issues, and his dad died.  Commander Kitty's artist suffered from a depression that stalled the comic almost completely out.  And those are just the ones I can immediately recall.

So what are we, as readers and fans, to do when such a thing happens?

First of all, as much as it might pain you when your favorite artist dies, remember the real pain is for the families and close friends.  They actually KNEW the person, talked to them regularly, and will feel their lack of presence most acutely.  For us, it'll be more like an extended hiatus.  Whatever tributes that are made, make sure to acknowledge this fact.

Donations should be made toward whatever the family decides.  In Jewwario's case, all the funds being collected are strictly for the funeral, nothing else at this point (suicides are usually not covered by insurance, so yeah).  The rest of the time, it'll usually end up going to a charity or something.  Do NOT just give to random people, make sure it's as official as possible.  Assuming you can give at all of course.

The big issue for us readers is the fact that, for all practical purposes, the comic is over.  Most artists don't have an extensive buffer, and those who do rarely have a buffer big enough to cover the END of the comic.  Some comics don't really have an end as it is.  If we're lucky, there may be notes, or an extended summary of what was meant to happen as the comic continued.

Someone might offer to finish the comic at some point, it's bound to happen, but odds of it actually happening are rather low.  Unless the artist's family is actively sponsoring the project, it'll likely just die out and never be finished.  Don't count on it, is what I'm saying.  And if it does happen, likely someone will complain about it, and thus the whole thing will be for naught.

Finally, and this is for the creators, make sure you have a clear line of communication.  Jewwario's death was revealed on a Facebook post, which is fine, unless you're like me and don't have a Facebook account (because evil).  His website and twitter had NOTHING regarding the death, and guess where most people went to look for confirmation?  The site crashed the night of the reveal.  In fact, it took most of the night for people to finally come to terms with the fact that it was real at all.  So please creators, writers and artists, have someone you can trust (this is important) be able to relate what happened via your main site or whatever.  Clear communication can ease confusion and make the entire ordeal just that much less trying.

Of course, I don't have anything like that because why follow my own advice?  Well, actually I will, mostly because I should follow my own advice once in a great while.

Anyway, eventually this will happen to a major comic, probably in the next five years or so, and we'll see how it goes when it happens.  Let's hope I'm wrong.  Until next time kiddies, and good bye Jewwario.

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