The webcomics blog about webcomics

Things You Don’t Want To Write

But we’re supposed to be about news and webcomics, and a giant bolus of webcomics news hit yesterday in the form of John Campbell’s presumably last Kickstarter update. It’s painful and horrifying to read.

I’ve liked Pictures for Sad Children a lot, but I don’t know John Campbell; I’m pretty sure we briefly met once¹, and we have people in common. Or perhaps we’ve had people in common; reading between the lines on Twitter yesterday, along with conducting a book-burning Campbell has apparently cut ties with just about everybody.

The rambling, makes-sense-if-you-wrote-it … I’m going to call it a manifesto … that Campbell dropped yesterday puts a lot of past behavior into stark relief: the claim to have been faking depression, the systematic removal of comics from the web, a needless shitfight on Tumblr, and a book about a hallucinogen that may or may not be autobiographical.

Like I said, I don’t know Campbell; those that do² have said online that Campbell doesn’t acknowledge inconsistent or worrying behavior, and refuses both contact and assistance. Campbell did some brilliant comics; it’s likely that will not happen any longer, and for reasons that are almost certainly outside Campbell’s control. I’m going choose to remember Campbell not for this turn of events, but for PFSC and the moments of insight and uplift it provided.

And there is nothing else that can be done in this situation but to bear witness, to recognize that this is something that happened, and to hope like hell that this story eventually has a non-tragic outcome.

¹ As near as I can recall, our interactions were limited to an email exchange around the time of the Mexico Comics Commune of Aught-Seven, and it’s possible Ryan Estrada introduced me when we talked that night before he walked across the border. Honestly, I can’t remember.

² No names; this being the internet, somebody is going to berate them simultaneously for what they did and did not do vis-à-vis Campbell, and they don’t need the grief.

Although there are multiple people in that bonfire video; I can only hope that one of them recognizes that in front of them is somebody that needs help immediately and tries to arrange it. I don’t typically hold people that would burn books for the hell of it to be capable of such rational analysis, but I’m willing to make an exception here if it means Campbell finds safety and care.

Actually, I follow his reasoning, though it’s damn rude of him to force other people to do that. It seems like he’s about as happy with Western capitalism as Naomi “Shock Doctrine” Klein, but everything about his ability to communicate these feelings is straight out of troll culture.

If he did art to convey these messages, he might actually communicate, but I guess he can’t, he can only troll people in a myriad ways and seems not happy about that. It’s too bad. Some of that message needs to be heard, but he’s muddied it completely.

I hope one of them does recognize John needs help. John’s not just ignoring e-mails from supporters, but panicked, frightened e-mails from friends with no other means of contact. Though John has been online to Tumbl another book burning video. What I always loved about John’s work is it’s ability to illicit emotion, and boy howdy has this situation ever put me through the wringer.

I hope that readers recognize that fellow artists understand that what he’s doing is completely unacceptable and are incredibly angry about it, but as a completely separate issue are worried about our friend.

This is legitimately very sad. It sounds like John is suffering and I hope, whatever happens, that he gets help of some kind.

It seems like the more creative and unique someone’s output is, the more troubled they’re likely to be. To be a creative genius, you don’t have to have a lot of problems, but it seems like for a time, it doesn’t hurt.

[…] Gary Tyrell at the webcomic blog Fleen points out, there are other people throwing books to the flames in that first bonfire video, and they share […]

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