The Apple of Discord is taking a break while I come up with new and
interesting stuff. In the meantime, I STRONGLY recommend you check out my
Fantasy Parody Epic, Apple Valley and my brand new 5-day a week humorous
expose of the dark underbelly of the Webcomic world, Webcomic Hell.

Core Strength

Hey everybody, long time, no blog… (‘cept the video I linked up the other day, but that doesn’t count)

The Apple of Discord is about 2 months shy of 2 years now, and while I’ve mostly enjoyed the experience, I’ve also identified the fact that I’m not making a great deal of traction in the world of webcomics.

I hate to say it, but… I need your help.

I never went into webcomics with incredibly high expectations. I am a devout hobbyist, as I affirmed in Wednesday’s comic, here for the love of making comics and interacting with friends and readers more than I am for any other reasons.

That does not, however, mean that I am completely blind to the other concerns. Before my daughter was born, I was capable of giving the comic 110% of my attention (in spite of that being a statistical imposibility) and felt I was ‘making a dent’, even if it meant that the fanbase and readership was growing at rate that I might eventually overtake Penny Arcade… if I had two or three hundred years and could pay someone to kill the guys from Penny Arcade.

During the initial first few months of parenthood, the comic went into a state of decline-to-decay. I thank all those who helped with art, comics of their own, motivation, and best wishes – but it does not change the fact that the readership did not react kindly to these changes. People come here for Discord, not Chaos, and Chaos is well where we were at.

In the last few months following my major lifestyle change, things have stabalized – we’re back to a firm update schedule, have been fulfilling our general “promise to the readers”, and have been trying to provide the wide variety of comical experiences that you’ve all come to know and appreciate.  I admit I am not quite as “on my game” as I used to be. Pop culture and movie parody involve being aware and a part of pop culture and occasionally being able to go see a movie, none of which have come easily for me. Add the stress of being the head of a single-income household with a new baby in what is rapidly becoming a ghost town (Our White Castle shut down! The injustice of it all!) and it’s taken quite a lot of the fire out of me.

As you may have noticed, we’ve been running on hand-drawn comics for a while now. Over the holidays, the pen for my Wacom tablet broke, and we’ve been so strapped for cash that I’ve been unable to replace it.  It’s given me a good chance to practice (and improve, hopefully) on my ability to do the ‘hand drawn’ scene – it’s also forced me to consider and alter my style somewhat, and it’s made direct reference-material-specific comics much harder to draw.

We’re also well into our first ongoing story – stories, really. AoD has always had an ongoing story of some sort running – the traces of the Apple of Chaos’s ultimate comedic invasion can be traced back months before it actually happened if you know where to look – but aside from the sporadically updated Hubris and The Lotus over the summer, this is the first real “push” at an actual story.

Judging by the numbers, it’s not working out so well.

I don’t blame you guys for not being accepting of this change - I tried something different, and obviously it wasn’t the right thing.  I’m not nearly as practiced at the long-form storytelling, and that combined with my lack-of-working-equipment has certainly hampered things, but… well… excuses don’t make New Coke taste any better.

This brings me back to my original point – I’ve never had fantastic traction, but given the current state of the comic, I think I’m officially backsliding, possibly faster than ever.  The comic is an expression of my artistic soul… and what my artistic soul wants is to make you (the readers) happy… so I’m officially asking.

What do you want?

I will (most likely) still be providing a mix of all the unique elements that make my comic what it is – this isn’t a “vote _______ off the island” sort of thing. What I’m looking for is a subjective opinion of what you, the readers, want the most.

Do you want to see (and help) me grow as a long form comic-maker, and are willing to stick with the continuing adventures of Art, Leaf, Horn, Hubris, and the others to see where they go and what happens to them next?  Or should they slip back into the realm of ‘loose canon’, only appearing in self-contained and mostly disconnected strips?

Or should AoD ascend to the steps of webcomic parody, crossovers, and metafictional references with Gayzilla, The Archer, Sir Vivor, and the How NOT To Guy… the metafictional metawebcomical recurring characters?  Would you like to see them more often?

And then there’s the pop-culture and parodies.  Look, I’m not Robot Chicken.  I can only do so many of these.  I could focus more on them, but there are consequences.  As I told someone the other day, “There are a finite number of Star Trek jokes in me.”  Does that mean I’m going to run out soon?  I don’t know… probably not, , but the ideas don’t always come fast and furious to me and when I’m phoning it in… it’s obvious.

I know which sort of comics are the most “popular”, based off of the number of hits, links, comments, all that stuff… but which ones do you actually “like”?  Where is my core strength?


  • The webcomic parody/crossover/metafictional reference one is what I like best, but then again, I am a webcartoonist, so I’m biased.

    From what you said, definitely don’t focus on parodies. Do them when you want to do them, never phone it in.

    The longform comics (this is going to be quite a rant)…my impression is that they tend to feel like they’re dragging on, like you’re making it all up as you go along…or maybe just that they aren’t going anywhere until they get there. Take the current arc, for instance:

    Gabby, Leaf, and Bimbo party too hard, Gabby and Leaf wake up in a beach (Bimbo’s left behind, so already there’s a splitting plotline), they have to find their way home, there’s another storyline about Uwe Boll inducing a coma on Art, then that arc gets interrupted and returns to this arc, they get kidnapped by a trucker, the trucker turns out to be an idiot, and it keeps going on.

    To be fair, though, the arc does seem to be heading towards an end now. They’ll escape Zeb easily, and find their way home…but how long will that take?

    Most importantly: at the end of the arc, where’s the payoff? It isn’t building to a release, a climax. So far, it’s just “Event, event, event”, as opposed to “Event, bigger event, Holy @#$% what just happened”.

    That’s not to say the longform comics are bad. The current arc opened with some nice silliness and metahumor, and Uwe Boll had that sub-arc coming. It just needs to go somewhere.

  • You’re at least partially right about the wander-y nature of things.  It’s not that I don’t know where the story is going, it’s really equal parts of making some bad decisions anout pacing and timing (it’s a learning process) and having to improvise due to my technical difficulties.

    I was originally going to focus soley on the girls and do the Art story much later, but I am having a lot more problems drawing the girls on pen-and-paper, so I decided to create what-was-supposed-to-be a simple story with Art to cover the what-was-supposed-to-be short period of time until I could obtain a new stylus pen.

    Additionally, I think part of the problem is that, while they’ve always shared the spotlight with the more gag-a-day aspects of the comic, the ‘regular cast’ are at least trying to be deep, well-developed characters living in a complex universe of my own design.  There’s all this stuff I know about the AoD universe that I’d love to share, but aside from the About and Cast pages and the occasional infodump (like when Fletcher and Steve are driving) I have no good way of sharing with the reader.

    Like… why there are elves and goblins wandering around in town like it’s completely normal, or where Dr Hubris got a teenaged Jenny Everywhere from, or what really happened to Steve to put him in his infamous coma.  These aren’t just ramdom plot holes… there’s a pattern, a story in all of it, it’s just that I fear it may be too big to tell in the confines of the comic itself.

    And if it isn’t, I have no idea how to tell it.    

  • The complexities of the longform story comic can get… well… complex. There is deifnitely a skill involved in maintaining the balance between the short arcs in relation to the overall story, setting the pacing to match the action, and helping the reader take the journey along with the characters. Doing the ‘girls side’ at the same time as the ‘boys side’ in the story isn’t a bad thing, but it requires justification in your switching between the two. Say you start with the girls… you need to set up the premise, progress the plot, and then conclude the segment before a smooth transistion to the boys. With them you repeat the process of setup, progress, and conclusion before switching back again. The “Micro-arc” within the story is generally a singular squence that ends with a punchline or a solid plotpoint. The trick is to be aware of the pacing of that point in and of itself along with the over-all narrative…

    … holy crap, I really don’t want to go into a full discertation on the structure of longform storyplots. More about AoD!

    To me personally, part of the problem that comic might have is the attitude it sometimes conveys, especially in the regular cast. In parody, social commentary, and reoccuring seqments it’s not an issue really… as I may have mentioned before, the characters become mouthpeices for the topic of the moment and that has it’s own niche appeal in the gag-a-day world. Other parts where the caracters are sort of “offstage” and more in their own personalities, almost all of them seem to be extremely pessimistic and negative about their lot in life. They’re always seeming to roll their eyes about how they’ve seen this all before and how lame things are… even our little goblin girl, who was so happy and positive, seems to have taken this turn a bit in the kidnapping arc. Honestly I think there is just a fundamental negativity about the comic that may turn people off from your characters.

    I think some of these character realtions really COULD be improved if the audience could get to know them more, so they could in turn connect with them better. Bringing out more of their individuality can help immensely, and I really would like to see more of the background story… much of which can be done subtley as passing plot details in conversation or in mini arcs like The Archer origins. Not everything has to be the main focus of the action, sometimes things are said in passing or can even just be part of a character’s pattern of dialouge. Trust your audience to pick up the details and figure things out for themselves.

  • Well, there’s probably no way to enjoy making a comic less than just focusing on what the readers want/expect to see. Your “artistic soul” will probably get pissed at that.

    So, you are a master of the societal riff, but you seem to want to explore long-term storytelling… but your pacing is a bit off, but you’re not the first… (I might point you back to the story starting here as an example of truly bad pacing). Improving this will come with time, as long as you keep Ahmed’s advice on “building to something” in mind. Just try to avoid the “Lord of the Rings/Deathly Hallows” syndrome where everyone is just walking and walking and walking…

    My personal advice would be to stick with the long form since that seems to be where your interests lie and just break up the “chapters” with your riffs and parodies.

    Now, how to explain your world… yeah… good luck with that… You could always pull a reboot and start from the beginning. It worked for Star Trek, but reboots can be a pain as well. There’s always the flashback, but over done, really. Perhaps, a Dr. Hubris Lab Journals series to explain the history? It leaves itself open to a Punisher: War Journals parody which is a plus… but what do I know… You have more experience in webcomics and it’s your story… so as I say… Good luck with that…

  • The plan for now, at least hypothetically, is to go back to the stronger (and funnier) story with Fletcher and Steve as they go through the process of trying to fix Art’s brain. Some of that will take place INSIDE Art’s mind, which will give me a chance to make him re-live some of the events of the past, allowing us to show (without an actual flashback or reboot) some of the events that lead up to the unique shape of the world of AoD.

    After that, yeah, maybe a Hubris Lab Journal thing is just what I need… or at least an “Origins” edition for Hubris.

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