Hey guys, guess what today is? Today is the weekend before Labor Day weekend, and thus is the 14th anniversary of the beginning of my very first online comic. This weekend, in 1999, I posted the first chapter of my webcomic Demonology 101 online, on a website I made myself using a terrible html editor! Back then there was no social media, and webcomics were just becoming a popular thing. I was new to drawing, and horribly new to drawing comics, but I saw what people were doing online, and wanted to join in. So I started making comics.
I wrote and drew Demonology 101 from 1999-2004, while I was in university & college (I went to university before going to animation school). When I finished it (yes, it ended, I didn’t abandon it, like Ice), D101 was over 750 pages long, with five separate “episodes” (I thought of it like a TV show; each episode has a beginning/middle/end, although plot lines & characters carry over from episode to episode), and I had fallen in love with making comics.
For those those that don’t know D101, it started out as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer ripoff, because I really liked Buffy at the time. It was basically supernatural hijiinks + high school. The main character, Raven, is 15 going on 16, newly moved to an unnamed town (a thinly disguised version of my small hometown, Milton, Ontario). She makes two new friends at her new school, Mackenzie and Malcom (I was deliberately aping the Buffy/Willow/Xander relationship). Unfortunately, she’s also a demon (lol), her adopted dad (Gabe) is the prodigal son of an extremely evil family called the Jenners (named, weirdly enough, after the villain from the Secret of NIMH. Great movie!), and his younger brother Isaac is out for blood after their dad committed suicide. And then various stories about demons, God, high school and giant killer kitty cats happened.
It’s hard for me to judge D101’s lasting impact. I am often surprised/impressed/shocked/blown away by how many people approach me at comic conventions to tell me they read it, back in the day. In the late 90s and early 00s, I don’t think there were many story-based online comics, so maybe it filled a niche. I’ve even had a young creators, male and female, tell me it was the first online comic they really engaged with, and it made them want to do comics. It’s really cool, and really makes me curl up in a fetal ball of embarrassment! XD
I look back on D101 with a mixture of pride and shame. It’s hard for me to look at it at all, because the art is very old and I’m capable of so much more now. But I also think it’s possibly the best thing I’ve ever done. There are many things that are problematic about it; I was learning throughout all of the 750+ pages, learning to draw, learning to write, learning to tell a good story, but there are lots of bits of D101 that I still like, and the sheer volume of it is stunning to me. I drew this comic when I was in animation college! When I was dealing with a million deadlines and struggling to transition into adulthood, and dealing with horrible personal stuff like my parents breaking up (and then getting back together, which was its own trauma).
And then, oh man, there was the learning to draw comics thing. The actual sitting down to draw a million pages and learn it all from scratch. Drawing is so hard, you guys. It’s like digging a hole to nowhere, scraping and scraping away at dirt and shale and thinking you’ll reach the bottom at some point, and finally be done. But every day brings another thing to learn, some new discovery, and it’s wonderful and challenging and I’m so excited to still be learning after making comics for 14 years (nearly half my life!), but it’s so hard, you guys. I’m still learning. Every day I see how far my skills have come. I see how far I have to go.
I really wanted to do something for D101’s 14th anniversary, because I haven’t really done much in the nine (NINE!!!) years since I completed it. I’ve been working on a poster of all the characters, but I wasn’t able to finish it in time for today. So here’s the consolation prize: the top image is a page from D101’s Episode 4 (otherwise known as We Find Out Who Raven is & Meet Her Biological Dad), the bottom image is the page redrawn. There are eleven (ELEVEN!!! I am old) years between the two pages. First page was drawn in 2002, the second yesterday. And there we have it, eleven years of skill development and thousands of comic pages, drawing drawing drawing.
I actually like the 2002 page. Artwork aside, I think the emotional beats are quite nice. Aaron (guy) blankly telling the daughter he thought was lost that he can’t be with her, he’s got responsibilities, his quick “no” when Raven asks about her mom, and then the tiny bit of humorous banter. I like the flow of the page, and the conflict of emotions. I have never felt comfortable with drawing, but writing comes easier to me. It was fun to re-draw the scene. Back when I was making D101, I drew on 8 by 11 inch printer paper, so I drew the 2013 page on 8 by 11 inch paper too. So tiny! Now most of my comic pages are 10 by 13, or in the case of The Last of Us, 11 by 17.
So anyway, happy birthday Demonology 101. And thank you everyone who read the comic when it was ongoing. I’ve never had a mentor, but looking back on the time when I made this comic, I’ve come to the conclusion the internet was my mentor. Thank you to every reader who encouraged me and sent me emails or posted about it on Livejournal (ahh, so long ago). I probably wouldn’t be making comics without you.
I’ll post that poster when I get done with it, but it might be a little ways off.
Thanks everybody! … whew, this was long! XD
oh, wait, one final thing: You can’t see the original D101 pages that I did in 1999, because I redrew them, probably around 2002 (yes, all 76 pages of Episode 1 were redrawn, ugh), but here is the original page 1 from 1999. Enjoy! XD