The webcomics blog about webcomics

Can We Agree That People On The Internet Are Humans?

Are we, collectively, godsdamned capable of that? In the past 48 hours, I’ve watched two creators whose work I enjoy to bits take public steps back to deal with reactions to their work, and the necessity of those actions doesn’t speak well of us as a species.

Minna Sundberg released a 72 page comic about cute bunnies living in a dystopian social credit system; she’d been working on it for months, reducing the updates of Stand Still, Stay Silent in the meantime. In addition to social commentary, Lovely Peopleserved as a vehicle for Sundberg to declare her recently-accepted Christian faith (one that appears to be on the literalist/traditionalist end of the spectrum), which she mentioned in text matter accompanying the comic. The comic itself is gorgeous, the idea of government and commerce collaborating to coerce the population is appropriately chilling, but I found both the story and the accompanying text to present a perspective that Christians are uniquely oppressed that is unconvincing.

Disclaimer #1: I am about as nontheist as you can get, having been brought up a Methodist and been a believer until my late teens/early twenties, when I started sliding from a personal faith to a belief that Christianity can be a metaphorical model without being literally true, to being implausible, to being no more convincing than any other faith or spiritual system, to being entirely without a belief in more than can be measured and observed. My declaration of belief starts with the speed of light in a vacuum, and the closest thing I have to a spiritual belief is I’m convinced that Shannon’s Figure 1 can be used to make my interactions with others better.

Disclaimer #2: Despite the fact that Sundberg has a belief system that is completely alien to my understanding of the universe, this doesn’t make us enemies. I use the term nontheist instead of atheist is because there are so many self-declared atheists that use that label as an excuse to be godsdamned¹ assholes to people that have faith. Any faith, but a lot of them seem to hold particular disdain for Islam². Thomas Jefferson is coming into a much-overdue reappraisal, but I will always respect his greatest work, the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom, in defense of which he said It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg. So long as my nontheism doesn’t seek to punish Sundberg’s belief, nor her beliefs seek to punish my lack of belief, we’re good.

But she still felt compelled to write this yesterday:

Today’s comment section is closed since I know many people will be upset about the comic. I left it open yesterday because I wanted to let you vent negative feelings for a bit, but in order to let those who just want to read SSSS in peace do so, I’d direct the venting to the fan forum (or wherever else). I heard there’s a place set up to argue there. I’m in no way affiliated with the forum, it’s all fan-operated, and I don’t visit there, so whatever the mods decide to allow is up to them, I don’t mind.

And, from skimming through the comments (that would be on Monday’s update, here), I can’t say that her reaction was wrong. My usual policy of never reading comments appears well borne-out because I find self-pitying bullshit over there about (paraphrasing lightly here) She’s been brainwashed by evil zealots and In a year there won’t be any of the old fandom left because fundamentalists will flock to keep her from hearing reason and Only if we let them. What the crap, people. No. Stop it.

And today, in place of one of my favorite comics since forever, from one of my favorite creator duos, this:

Shaenon: Hey there. Since all the comments on today’s strip were people complaining about how boring and badly-drawn Skin Horse is, I’ve decided to stop drawing it. There’s no point in continuing a project nobody likes. Sorry for wasting your time.

Sorry, [Skin Horse co-writer] Jeff[rey C Wells].

I don’t know Shaenon Garrity well; I’ve been a vocal booster of her work for about as long as this page has been up, but if I recall correctly, we’ve met in person once³ plus occasional contact on Twitter. If her read on the situation is that this was necessary for her well-being, I am not about to gainsay it. But Jesus tapdancing Christ, can we please, as a society, agree that if something isn’t perfectly to our liking, it is okay to not expose ourselves to it and let other people enjoy it? Are we capable of that? Life is hard enough under normal circumstances, much less during the Plague Year, that it makes less than zero sense to spend time sniping (and worse) at people who aren’t hurting anybody, who are just trying to share a little levity and joy for those that happen to like whatever thing they’re making.

I’m heartened that Garrity updated her stance some hours later:

Update: Thanks to everyone for the kind words. I’m talking to Jeff about what to do next.

To be clear, no one was super mean in the comments; there’s just a long history of complaints and nitpicking and “funny” little jabs, and the first few comments on today’s strip were all in that mode. It just feels like people aren’t enjoying the strip, and I don’t want to make something people don’t enjoy.

I’ve long had a hands-off policy about comments on this page (not that there have been many comments for a looong time), but this is fair warning: if anybody shows up here to complain about Garrity’s present or future decision(s), I will fucking nuke you from orbit. You’re in my house, and we are going to treat people who aren’t doing any harm with a baseline of respect and empathy. You want to be the kind of person that would make Mr Rogers or Dolly Parton ashamed to know you, do it on your own time in your own space where I can pretend you don’t exist, or that you’re a better person that you are.

In the meantime, both Sundberg and Garrity have stores and Garrity has a Patreon. Like their work? They could use some support, and given the parasocial world we’re in, the best most of us can do is to buy their stuff.

Spam of the day:

Firefighter Mike Banner recently stumbled on a Japanese ‘red soda’ that actually heats up and melts large amounts of clogged fat…releasing it as energy…

You’re talking about the country that has a specific style of cooking that’s designed to give sumo rikishi more mass. But they needed to invent a soda to counteract that? Sure.

¹ If you’ll pardon the contradiction.

² Looking at you, Dawkins.

³ On BART, of all places; my wife and I were on vacation, pretty sure it was Free Comic Book Day, and I was only certain it was her because she was with her husband Andrew Farago, who’d sold us the admission tickets at the Cartoon Art Museum the day before. I did some mid-grade fanboying, and she was kind enough to direct us to some good comics shops in Berkeley.

Shit, what?! The Internet has taken things too far this time. Mess with Shaenon and you’re going to have to deal wth me.

Argh… so upset by this. Just… urhghgh.

Yeah… the situation at Skin Horse has me down. I’ve been a huge fan of Garrity’s since Narbonic, to the point of flying down to SF so I could drop by WonderCon and get a signed Narbonic collection. But I don’t know her personally, and I can’t hold it against her if she’s hurt by her audience. This has probably been building up for a while.

Skin Horse update:
coauthor Jeffrey Wells made a statement, way down in the comments, that offers us fans some hope it will resume.

RSS feed for comments on this post.