Well, it has been a few weeks since my last post – let’s assume I give you the usual excuses about being sick with the flu (which I was) and how work has been especially busy (which it has). With that out of the way, how about I get right back into game – and how better to do so than deal with endings and beginnings, and the sadness of each?
When Home on the Strange mentioned, last November, that it was ending, I found myself saddened by the news. This shouldn’t be a surprise – it is the natural response to such an announcement – but more surprising might be that my reasons for sadness where entirely tangential to the comic itself. Oh, it was a good comic, and one that provided more than its share of amusement… but as much as I liked the cast and crew, I wasn’t really going to miss them. They had their run, and it was a good one. Nearly two years of solid, constant updates is certainly a triumph in its own right.
What I knew I would miss would be the commentary on the strip.
The loquacious fellow known as Ferrett is the writer of the strip – or primary writer, rather, as it is was clear that the entire process of producing each strip was a collaborative process with the artist, Roni. In any case, Ferrett had a specific set of ideas in mind when they went about creating a webcomic – indeed, the entire thing seemed to be approached in a very formulaic fashion. A pinch of regular updates, a dash of nerd culture references, an appropriate blend of cliffhangers and punchlines, and a whole kitchen filled with other tools and techniques designed to produce a perfectly balanced webcomic that will attract new readers, while keeping old readers coming back for more.
I’ve heard the occasional denouncement of this form of manufactured comic, but I never put much stock in it – if it produces a quality comic day after day, isn’t that the bottomline of success? If he simply draws upon what he knows readers want – such as reliable updates and an easily navigated website – why in the world should anyone complain?
But even aside from the convenience of it, I enjoyed the chance to really observe the inner workings of a comic. To see how it was put together, and why. To see analysis of what worked and what didn’t.
And Ferrett did not disappoint, with several posts discussing theories of comic writing, and a whole series of posts reviewing other webcomics – often with specific insights drawing on his experience producing Home on the Strange. And, of course, often detailed notes and comments posted alongside the comic itself with every update, laying out the author’s thought-process right there for the audience to see. Thus it was sad to know that with no more Home on the Strange, there would be no more discussions of random spikes in the strip’s readership, or the challenges of specific story arcs, or confessions of how surprising it was to discover the popularity of certain secondary characters.
Speaking of which – today, they have posted the comic’s final strip. The strip largely wrapped up several months back, but they promised one last conclusion if reader’s made a final donation drive. (Which they did.) The final strip was there to address the fate of a character who was never intended to be the star of the show, but somehow resonated with a surprising portion of the audience – Branch, the annoying chatterer with poor social graces who goes on and on and on about all those little minutiae that no one else actually cares about.
Yet despite being designed as a pest and a nuisance, Branch gained a following. Like Mike in Something Positive, it turned out that readers are all too willing to root for a bumbling social misfit to overcome their own weaknesses and become something… more. Perhaps because many of us recognize that character from our own social circles – the one that everyone finds somewhat creepy and discomforting, but also feels sorry for. And perhaps because we also recognize many of those same elements within ourselves – maybe only in bits and pieces, maybe to a much smaller degree, but still there nonetheless.
Whatever the reason, Branch’s first real storyline was when the comic really seemed to take off – and when the comic came to a close, the one burning element people needed for closure was an answer to “What happened to Branch?”
Especially given that, in her last appearance previously, we saw that for all the progress she had made, she still couldn’t connect to people in person – and it looked like, maybe, she never would. And the only mention after that wasn’t altogether promising, either.
So what was her final fate? Well, I suppose you can go and see for yourselves. And the answer… well, you can judge that on your own, I suppose. There’s a preview to the right, but all in all, I think the answer… is that it ended well.
I don’t think anyone can deny that the artwork for the final strip was absolutely gorgeous. And the final fate of Branch itself… seems fitting, and as happy an ending as could have been for the path she had walked down.
And now Home on the Strange has truly come to an end.
Ferrett is producing a new webcomic, co-written by himself and Catherynne M. Valente, and drawn by Avery A. Liell-Kok. “My Name is Might Have Been,” the comic is called. It currently has five strips to its name. The artwork is stunning and the writing is superb.
I am reasonably sure it will be gone from my reading list within a week or two. Not due to any true fault of its own – but it just isn’t for me.
It is a comic about rock band, and guitar hero, and all the little details and understandings those games entail. And I’m confident those familiar with such things will find it sheer genius… but it just doesn’t resonate for me, unfortunately.
So that too is sad… but I’ll get over it.
After all, I read enough webcomics already as it is.