Man plans, and God laughs

I can’t help but think about that Yiddish aphorism “MAN PLANS, AND GOD LAUGHS” whenever I look back at 2020. Coming off of a successful year in 2019, I had some goals that sounded within my reach, but needless to say, my year turned out nothing like what I expected. All my IRL events were canceled, which kind of bummed me out in April … not so much come November, when the situation had gotten even worse. I’m blessed with a roof over my head and a partner who didn’t get sick & tired of me during months and months of living like hermits, so I focused on staying as productively creative as I could, even on the many days when I struggled to keep the real world at bay enough to undertake the deep imagining my work draws from …

SILVER LINING! I was able to collaborate with a number of artists in similar situations. While not all of those collaborations were successful or have reached fruition yet, strengthening those connections was valuable in its own right, especially in a year like 2020. Still, I did manage to work at my goals set early last year, even if they weren’t fully or successfully completed, either…

GOAL 1! Revamping my website was one of those goals, and I pretty much accomplished what I set out to do on that front, as you can see right here. Not sure it’s necessarily connected with readers as much as I’d hoped, tho, as my stats have continued their downward trend of the past few years. Of course, I didn’t post as much as I have in the past, either. My WATUSI webcomic saw a slight uptick in visitors and views per visitor, which is surprising (and gratifying!) considering that strip is in the final episodes of a years-long epic!

GOAL 2! Kind of a subset of that goal, I wanted to better stock and promote my online stores. Still not doing a bang-up job with promotion, but I did set up an online SQUARE STORE that features prints, printed comics, and original art. That’s in addition to my SELZ SITE for downloadable comics (never a big seller for me; I may work to integrate them into my SQUARE store), and my TEEPUBLIC SHOP for t-shirts & other merch.

GOAL 3! I had wanted to do more short comics for anthologies in 2020, and while I missed out on the deadline for one of them, I was able to use my pages in CARTOON LOONACY and the MSCA project THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SKETCHY to get some short stories & other art completed and shared with readers. Actually, 2020 turned out to be one of my better recent years for finishing comic stories; in addition to my weekly WATUSI webcomic, three SMEARY SOAPBOX PRESS-ENTS minicomics, an issue of DOUBLE DIP, and editing four issues of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SKETCHY, I finished another 35 pages, plus more that I just need to finish adding grayscale tones to…

GOAL 4! Not as successfully, I still had no luck finding a store to carry my work year-round, tho I had an even better year at MONSTER MARKET, the one (virtual) pop-up shop I was involved with in 2020.

GOAL 5! My search for a literary agent kept getting put on the back burner, especially when I had a hard time focusing for so much of this past year of disruptions. Still something for me to work at…

A REALIZATION! I’m often slow on the uptake, but I noticed that over the past few years my “creative” goals have really tended to be “business” goals. And they really should be more than just that, shouldn’t they? With that– and the experience of having my 2020 plans so easily sidelined– in mind, I thought I’d try a less list-like set of goals for this year, and focus more on the “why” I want to do things instead of just a list of things to do…

GIVING UP ON COMICS? Comics have been a dwindling proportion of my sales (again with the business, but it comes around to creativity, honest) over the last few years. And they take considerably more time than single-image prints, which seem to connect better with my audience, anyway. Since that’s what people gravitate to, it only makes sense to give them more of what they want, doesn’t it?

NOT GIVING UP ON COMICS! Of course, I don’t think I will fully eliminate comics from my plate, as they’re a key part of my public persona as “DALE MARTIN, CARTOONIST”. So while I plan to flop my focus from “comics, then art/prints as time allows” to “art/prints first, then comics as time allows”, it won’t be an easy change for me to make, since “cartoonist” is also a key part of my own internal persona as an artist…

WANT MORE COMICS? Of course, there’s a simple way to keep me making comics a more frequent part of my creative mix: BUY THEM. They’re available in stores locally, from my website, or via regular PATREON patronage. If they become a larger part of what my audience invests in, I’ll happily invest a larger part of MY time and focus in them, too!

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? While I happily incorporate NOSTALGIC ELEMENTS into both my cartooning and my publication design (as evidenced by the layout of this very post, for those who notice such things), if TWITTER user (and fellow CARTOON LOON) @MJacobAlvarez is right, I may be leaning TOO heavily into them! My cover to THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SKETCHY #5 reminded him of a DELL comic, a comic publisher that predated my own comic reading habit (and with no conscious effort to do so on my part, either)!

GETTING OFF THE TREADMILL! I’ve been thinking for some time that I should take a break from my weekly webcomic, and plan to do so in the next few months. While I’ve enjoyed doing it, the reader interaction of its earlier years has dropped off considerably over time. More than that, though, I’d like to get away from such rigid deadlines to be able to take a deeper dive into processes (get into a solid penciling groove for a whole story– plus some of my landmark prints– before moving on to do the same with inking, for instance) or content (I’ve had a hard time making time to research my next MEMPHIS history comic). Since I was planning for shorter comics following WATUSI IN OZ anyway, this feels like the right time for that…

SO NO LIST OF GOALS FOR 2021? I’m just gonna cool it with my annual laundry list o’ goals & play things more as they come. After last year, I’m only going to look ahead a few months at a time!

CHEERS! To a better (it’s gotta be better, right?) new year!

[May 2022 UPDATE: I’ve closed my Selz store, but have a new storefront for digital publications at Gumroad. Check it out!]
[January 2023 UPDATE: I’ve closed my Patreon page.]

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