Making ofPosted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:48:29
(Posted originally on February 9th, 2008)
So, it’s two years of Partly About Food now. Or the anniversary was already on Monday, but due to very uninteresting reasons, it went unannounced at the time. There’s a comic about the anniversary coming up, but not today, because I spent my drawing time talking on the phone about mortgages and writing this little essay.
The second year in the history of this website probably wasn't the most glorious one, and - inspite of my best intentions and ambitions - I can’t guarantee that the third year will be much better. When you are a person with a wife, child, full-time job, social life, bunch of other distracting hobbies (i.e. gaming, beer and sofa-testing), and on top of it all you suffer from a strange and profound aversion towards labour of any kind, you aren’t very likely to be the world’s most productive comic artist.
Excuses, ad infinitum. I’m lazy and that’s just not going to change, but I do aim to improve from the current level of productivity. One big reason to do so is that I really like the story Deadly Mushrooms, which will be the main feature of this site for a long time. If I manage to pull it off the way I have imagined it in my head, it will turn into an entertaining and insightful story. Anyways, even if posting frequency during the second year of Mostly About Food has been embarrassingly low (and I have lost some 60 % of my readers because of that), I still don’t see it as a complete disaster. I feel that I have improved at least artistically and the style has evolved into a more innovative and web-friendly direction. That’s gotta count for something, right?
And now for something slightly different. Namely, I had a revelation the other day, while I was going to get Axel home from daycare. It suddenly dawned on me, why much of the comics that are aimed at a mature audience never really become huge sellers and mainstream in the same manner as books and films do. And why comics just don’t make a break with grown-ups. Namely, a lot of the mature (as in not just for kids, I’m not talking about porn here) comics are only mature in relation to most other comics: The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen may be very deep within their own context, but for most people, who otherwise find it very entertaining to read and watch fictional books and movies, the problem is in the subject itself, i.e. superheroes. A lot of people find the concept of superheroes so incredible and juvenile that they dismiss any stories based on superheroes just because of that. I am not saying that, for instance, Watchmen isn’t a great piece of sequential art and/or fiction (because it IS), but comics like that aren’t attracting any new adults into the world of comics. Watchmen is great for those, who have read a lot of (different) comics as a youngster and just didn’t give it up when they started to work.
The relative maturity isn’t limited only to superhero comics. Let’s consider, for example, Tintin and The Blue Lotus. It is a lot more serious work than any Tintin’s adventures before it and it does bring up very boldly and clearly some – at least at the time - uncomfortable issues. But, taken out of its reference group (other Tintin books and adventure comics), it doesn’t necessarily stand out as an overwhelmingly deep and insightful criticism of European-Japanese colonialists’ exploitation of China.
A lot of comics that aren’t made for kids have elements of incredibility, psychedelia, fantasy and strangeness, which for some reason isn’t very popular among most grown-ups. Some of the comics are so artistic and convoluted that they are difficult to understand. For instance, I really enjoy the mind-numbingly sexy women and situations in Milo Manara’s comics, but I just don’t get what they are all about. Of course, there are exceptions, like From Hell, which is very credible and a thousand times more captivating conspiracy theory than The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons put together. So it’s not like comics are superficial by definition. But I’d assume that comics like From Hell suffer from the obscurity of comic books in general. (It probably doesn’t help that some of them are turned into movies, which are a lot more cartoony than the comics themselves) The bottom line is, a great big share of comics for grown-ups don’t get through to the intended target group, because they see the whole medium as immature and incredible.
So, how does this go together with the success of, say, Harry Potter? Well, I would guess that a lot of adults have been tricked into reading the books because that’s all their kids can talk about. But more importantly, a book – as opposed to a comic book or magazine – seems to be a more grown-up way to entertain oneself, no matter the subject. Somehow it just isn’t as embarrassing to admit having read Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, than getting caught reading Elfquest.
How are we to find new adult readers, then? I don’t know. Why do kids stop reading comics at some point? Is it because the mainstream comics are so heavily based on superheroes and Disney characters that they aren’t exactly aware of the more mature stuff? Or don’t adults have the time to really concentrate on a comic book? Are mature comics so much harder to read than detective stories? Or is it because a lot of the comics people read as kids are funny, so people keep on reading the funny comics even as grown-ups? Having never been exposed to more serious comics at an early age makes it harder to find those comics as an adult, maybe? The humour thing might be one of the reasons, because when I think of strip comics, there is a whole bunch of very succesful comics for mature audiences. Like Dilbert or Baby Blues– you can’t really get most of the jokes in them without ever having had a job or children.
Maybe it’s just a matter of marketing. Today there is no point in making a lot of noise about a comic book, because it’s just not going to sell ten million copies worldwide. But why could it not be changed? Why not make a long-term marketing commitment to comics, just to increase the awareness of the general public? So, you spend a ginormous amount of money in marketing comic books that won’t make it to any newspaper’s bestseller list, but it just might lead to the concept of comic book pushing its appreciation and accessibility closer to ordinary books and then we would have a new mainstream medium with a lot of potential. As in earnings and the the prospect of which, I am sad to admit, are a crucial part of pushing any product to the people.
Maybe it is so that marketing budgets of a necessary scale to reach the critical mass just don’t exist. I am not discussing this because I am unhappy for not making any money out of comics – if I worked hard enough on it, I possibly could earn a part of my living from them. I am just bothered by the fact that a lot of people are unaware of or deliberately dismissing a whole lot of good art, documentary, fiction and entertainment for no good reason. I can’t see it, why comics and especially comic books for adults should forever remain marginalized, only to be enjoyed by live-action role-players and other daydreamer freaks like myself.
What are we going to do about it?
PS: Here's a (relatively old) picture of someone who really likes his food and never minds the comics:
Renfield, bring me my supper at once!
Making ofPosted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 21:51:25
(Posted originally on August 2nd, 2006)
I suddenly remembered the other day, when I was checking my work computer for personal files to be taken home, how I came up with the describing, if a bit dull and uninspiring name for this blog. Namely, at first I was planning to draw comics about sex. Those comics were going to be named "The Man Who Thinks Mostly About Sex", which also would have been the name of the main character, loosely based on someone I know quite closely. The website was going to be named "mostlyaboutsex.com". The reason for me not starting to draw those comics were that they might have been a bit too personal and revealing, and that since I am not Gene Simmons, I don't have an endless amount of different and funny sex stories. Of course, some fifty per-cent of the stories would have been based on the experiences of my friends anyway, but still, in the end I didn't feel that I could keep the thing alive all that long. But since it was MOSTLY about sex, I wrote down all kinds of other thoughts that had nothing to do with sex and then it would have been a permanent gimmick, how The Man Who Thinks... wasn't really thinking about sex today, either, but something completely different. Like politics, traffic, terrorism, oranges and such.
Anyways, the name stayed on for some reason. I sort of like the laconic aftertaste of it. Maybe the Marketing Dept. would have preferred something like "The Food Comic Orgasmatron: Strip-sized deliciousness!" but that's not my style. It could also be that I wanted to have a bit more serious-sounding name for the site in order to take distance from the often presumed childishness of comics as a medium. I am very much for the establishment of comics as another, common, accepted and useful means of self-expression and distribution of information, along with writing, tv, theatre, radio, etc. That is why I like to steer clear of the most cartoony elements so abundant in a lot of mainstream comics.
But now you don't at least have to lie awake at night, wondering what's behind the name of your favourite food comic website. It's taken from an unborn sex comic website. Don't you think that makes MAF a bit more sexy? (or would you rather have read the sex comics? :D)
Making ofPosted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 21:49:52
(Posted originally on August 1st, 2006)
So, the vacation ended on Sunday, after which I had my last day at work and now there’s a week before I start at a new job, which will be rather different from the old job. During the vacation I didn’t work quite as hard on comics as I had hoped, but there will be new material soon. I just need to buy a scanner, because I can’t use the one at my old workplace anymore. Today I bought a drawing tablet, which is an exciting little gadget. It’s not exactly state-of-the-art, but it will most probably turn very useful, once I get the hang of it. It’s a Wacom Graphire 4. And now I want a Cintiq 21UX. Maybe next year, or whenever I have gained sufficient funds and do not decide to invest them in a Les Paul Standard, red sunburst, which has been on the top of my wish-list for many years.
Anyways, our holiday was both busy and relaxing and the summer’s last strawberries from my parent’s garden were simply phenomenal. I feel sorry for you for not having the chance to taste them. On our last evening in Finland we cooked a dinner for our friends and everything else on the menu than the meat and fish originated from my parents plantation, which I found particularly satisfying.
Yes, I should draw comics about all that and not write about it here. I just wanted to say that I’m back - in the unlikely case you were wondering, when there will be any new comics.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 21:33:10
(Posted originally on June 26th, 2006)
Yet another advertisement for a food-un-related comic, made by yours truly. (mis)information about Finland is published on the website of the Finnish Institute in Copenhagen. The main job of the institute is to raise the awareness of Finnish culture, art, music (classical and modern), dance, photography, you name it. So it's only natural that they want to have a comic about the country on their site. There is a link to an interview at the end of the comic. At its core, the comic series is (hopefully) a funny advertisement for Finland, playing on the assumption that a lot of people don't know that much about Finland and what they do know is false. And how that is making the oh, so obsessively self-aware Finns mad. We Finns worry about our image, only to find out that for the most of the world we don't have any image. Nobody knows, who we are or where we come from (now this starts to sound like "Stonehenge" by Spinal Tap... :o) My friend, Esa, who is also the director of the institute, gave me the idea of drawing this kind of comics for them. He got the inspiration from the Mohammed Cartoon Scandal earlier this year. He meant that if cartoons can cause so much misunderstanding, they could also be used to increase knowledge of other cultures. As the name of the series implies, it aims to do both: facts and straight bull. That's the current strategy to make the reader curious about the country and go see it for herself.
You can follow the development of that comic series by clicking the picture on the front page. New updates should turn up monthly. Expect more bears.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 21:20:28
(Posted originally on June 16th, 2006)
So, now the monkey in charge of the tech dept. has finally managed to put up an RSS feed. Of course, it would never have been able to do it without help and guidance from some very smart friends, to whom the management sends a thank-you fruit basket. Or something in that direction.
For the moment the service is limited to RSS 2.0 but it will be improved as the tech monkey learns more about feeding. We're training it with bananas and electric shocks, so you can expect progress in the foreseeable future.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 22:18:40
(Posted originally on June 11th, 2006)
E-mailing a link to your site to all your friends and relatives and demanding them to forward the link to everyone they know doesn’t really bring all that many readers. Not even though they all would comply. I knew from the start that if I wanted to have such a number of regular visitors that would compel me to keep on drawing, I’d have to do something a bit more dramatic. Having some experience from sending comic-based job applications and other personalized comics to some people (we’ll return to this one day), I felt that sending a comic link-me-plea to my favourite food bloggers (whom I knew are popular) might help raise awareness of my site.
The plan worked beyond all expectations. Two of the blogs, Amateur Gourmet and Accidental Hedonist, published the comics they received on their websites and a third, An Obsession With Food wrote about it. Fourth one asked me if the comic I sent could be published on the blog, but it hasn’t turned up yet, but I'm quite sure it will. Only the fifth food blog, which didn’t really receive a comic as much as a single picture cartoon, hasn’t yet reacted in any way. In order not to press anyone to do something they for some reason don’t wish to do, I’m not going to say, which these blogs are. Also, I am not publishing the comics (at least now), because they were sort of personal pleas to each the specific bloggers, which means that they are free to keep them to themselves, if they please. Honestly, I mean it.
Anyways, then, after a couple of days I started to find links and articles about MAF on websites, which didn’t get any comics, like Slashfood. Great big thanks for that!
As is customary, I read the very positive comments about MAF on the above-mentioned blogs (many times, to be honest) and wrote a thank-you note in them. And I AM enormously grateful for the Link Love from such well-known bloggers, who quite clearly have all kinds of other business, than linking other peoples sites, too. I wrote on Amateur Gourmet that I owe Adam a dinner, if he ever comes to Copenhagen, but the same offer goes to Kate and Derrick as well! So, once more, thank you seven thousand times, it was very kind and helpful of you to link me and it might just make all the difference for the future of Mostly About Food.
Naturally, getting link love from some very popular sites caused an enormous rush of readers to my site, which felt nothing short of ecstatic. After surfing and lurking on the Internet for some 11 years, building up my own website and then, all of a sudden, have an inspirational number of readers is quite overwhelming. The pressure to produce more, better, faster comics is pretty big, so I am trying to create as much time as possible for MAF-related activities. This will apparently turn to demand quite a lot of commitment from my part. Well, if it keeps me away from my PS2, it will make my wife happy :o) Also, I’ve read the readers’ comments and you are dead right about the necessity of RSS-feed. It will be available as soon as the monkey, who’s in charge of the tech department (pays close resemblance to me, myself and I) gets his head out of his butt and finds out how to do it. Or gets an intelligent person to fix it. Several improvements are on their way. Just be patient.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 22:14:25
(Posted originally on June 7th, 2006)
Now I've finally added some links. Not that many links to other food blogs, one might notice. But then again, I don't read them all, so there's just a list of the ones I do read on a regular basis. Maybe someday I manage to penetrate into the food blogging society, which might increase my interest in checking out more food blogs. Maybe. But these are my current favourites.
Then there are the comic links. It was surprisingly hard to find decent links for many of them, like Iznogoud or Moebius sci-fi comics. Thank Pete for Wikipedia for having at least some information on most of these. Of course, many of them have had their golden days a long time ago, so they aren't featured too much, apart from some retro-lover sites. This is especially true for Tex Willer and Commando, which were popular in the 70's and 80's but I don't think there are many 10-year olds getting all excited about them today.... am I right? But I still find it a bit odd that some very well known comics have such a weak (official) web presence, like Frank Miller's "Batman" and Alan Moore's and Eddie Campbell's "From Hell". Of course, my inability to Google effectively could be a factor in not finding much useful information on popular comics. Feel free to e-mail me better links, should you come across such.
One of the web comic sites has struck me as really phenomenal, namely E-Sheep by Patrick Farley. It is really showing the potential of what web comics can be and could become. And it's so well done that I want to toss all my pens, papers and the laptop to the trash bin and then start to concentrate on the business-school-graduate jobs, as I am supposed to.
Why do I always feel stupid, useless and talentless every time I see something impressive? Should it not be inspiring? Would it not be more creative to just try to improve your skills whenever examining the work of someone, who is so much better than you? Maybe it's the realization that there is so much quality stuff out there, most of which will never emerge from their obscurity and reach a wider audience. Majority of people will live on happily with soul-free strips of Garfield in their newspapers, never once acquainting themselves with, for instance, Electric Sheep. Maybe it gives me that bad feeling, that if this stuff is more or less "underground", how am I, with my meager skills in art, writing, technology and structuring, ever going to find readers and/or a publisher?
But then again, a completely mediocre product like the aforementioned Garfield can make it really big. So why wouldn't Mostly About Food? Not that it really needs to (in terms of money and fame), but some kind of popularity would be welcome. In any case, I strongly urge you to check at least the web comic links. I'll be adding more of them as time goes by.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 22:08:54
(Posted originally on June 7th, 2006)
You may or may not have noticed a change in the title: the unpeeled potato-shaped O and the orange half O's have stepped down to give way to the maki roll (think of it as some candy, if you don't like sushi) and the cherries. I'm going to keep on doing this kind of thing in the future. But I'll probably keep the sunny side up O.
Just FYI, there was also a slideshow, "Sandwich of the Month", if only briefly. It didn't really fit. I am not completely satisfied with the emptiness of the front page, but I haven't really figured out yet, what to fill it with. Right now I don't want to direct the readers anywhere else than to the comics themselves, or the extra stuff in the top frame. I'm trying to construct a new kind of slideshow, just to make the front page a bit more appealing.