Anyway, now for a personal story. Recently I plugged in an old external hard drive to see if it still worked, and browsed around for any cool files from my college years. In there I found my old “New Traditionalists” folder. Man, even typing that word – “traditionalists” – brings up memories. It’s still committed to muscle memory. In addition to the Devo album I wrote about last week, “New Traditionalists” was the name of a webcomic I had done from 2002-2005; so from the age of 16 to 19.
I don’t really know why I started it. Back in 2000 I was into the RPGMaker community and was ‘developing’ my own game. Mostly just a goofy thing that hopefully some people would find amusing, for which the scope eventually spiralled out of control, and sure enough I never finished it. I don’t remember what happened but the “project” I was working on halted. I wanted to create “something” and I always secretly wanted to be a cartoonist. Judging by the first file in the folder: “nt20020714.jpg” – this was about eleven and a half years ago. The comic itself was a cut n’ paste image thing that lamented the cancellation of “Sifl n’ Olly” in favor of Road Rules. There really was not a joke involved. The font was Comic Sans (because that’s the comic font).
After a few MSPaint comics I started to draw some characters. I decided that this would be an “animal comic”, one because I liked to draw penguins, and two because if the characters were people I would only be able to do so many, because I was really not a good artist at all (kind of a mistake – there was really no need for even a third character in this thing). I used the tried n’ true method of scanning it in, darkening the page, then pasting them into MSPaint. This method would get you laughed off the screen today, but I like to think a lot of comics in this era were made that way. The characters had no personality whatsoever. The fox/rat looking thing was named Type and the penguin was named Willis. Type was usually the “straight man” though I got these mixed up a lot. Later on I just replaced the characters with humans and nobody cared. Eventually I brought the animals back and started my own (terrible) coloring. My thought at the time was that all that people will put up with bad art if the writing was good. After all, Dilbert is hugely successful, and we all know Scott Adams can’t draw worth a damn.
I think I lost enthusiasm for New Traditionalists after about 18 months. I was getting an okay amount of viewers – like 35 or so per day, and there would be some fanmail every two weeks or so, but it was clear that this was not going to bust out and be a thing. I often asked myself, “why do you still do this?” – to which I’d answer, “I’ll get better, and I want to have something to show for these years”. Maybe it was a place to store whatever funny thoughts I had in case I needed to pull them out later. I was envisioning reading all these comics 10 years down the road and remembering the way things were back then; perhaps a reminder to keep a piece of the guy I once was.
Granted, I was not exactly that delusional back then – I knew that NT was not a great webcomic, or even a good one, but I at least thought the writing was decent. Now here I am – the end of the road, “nt20050504.jpg” – so it has been about 9 years since the last one. I was right about one thing – the memories came flooding back. There was the bedroom in which I made that first drawn comic. The Sonic Adventure 2 instruction book that I copped for some character design. The high school locker in which I taped one of the comics to. The laundry room which housed the computer I made most of these on. My Dad’s (recently deceased, sadly) Collie named Bandit who always bothered me when I did. And all the references…unlike a good comedic writer, the jokes in New Traditionalists were either dated references (mostly old commercials) or about things that were going on in my life. A lot of them were, in retrospect, things that nobody else could possibly have found funny. Comics for which the intended audience is exactly one person.
Sadly, there was something depressing about revisiting my old archives. All this time spent – maybe 75 minutes or so per comic, times 325 – it all boiled down to about an hour’s worth of half-smiles and full-cringes. There was not a whole lot to be proud of here. Awful political jokes that made no sense. Ugly, ugly character design. Jokes that were so clearly cribbed from stuff I saw as a kid. Drawings that were so poorly layered that you couldn’t even tell what the joke was. Worst of all, a random streak of “ironic” racism that I did simply to get a rise out of people. That almost certainly cropped up once those first Family Guy DVDs were released and promptly bought up by several of my friends. If I hadn’t drawn it myself, I’d have mocked this relentlessly. Granted, looking at the last 100 or so (!), I can get the sense that I was starting to realize how bad this comic really was. I started on the “so bad it’s good” trail (barf). That didn’t really work either. I even remember exactly what persuaded me to quit – Perry Bible Fellowship, a comic that was so funny, so well-made, and so damn likeable that I couldn’t help but realize that I would never be even close to that good. Well, that and losing all desire to draw whatsoever (going to school and being introduced to the wonders of alcohol will do that…)
Still, I did get something out of it, namely a sense of how different of a person I’ve become in the last decade, hopefully in a good way. I am reminded of all the artists who say, “I’m not that guy anymore” when the fans ask about their early work. I cannot imagine wanting to do something like this anymore, or looking over these strips and thinking, “yes, people will laugh at this”. Perhaps in ten more years I’ll say the same thing about Critter Jams. Luckily nobody really bothers me about this anymore. On occasion a friend of mine why I stopped, or say something like “I used to waste time in the computer lab reading those”. I guess the fact that a handful of people remember it at all is nice.
Anyway, I decided to isolate the few comics in the archive that did make me still laugh a little, and chuck ’em up here. I mean I’m guessing a lot of you who just read 1000+ words on some old webcomic are probably at least wondering what it looked like. So here are a few that I still like:
I like this one so much it makes me wish that I learned how to draw characters holding things. Believe it or not I did see that damn Adam Sandler movie. F it indeed.
My first thought when we took the Meyers-Briggs in high school was this – “can it spell any dirty words?” Alas, you can’t, but I still find it amusing. I like the background I drew for this one. First of all I clearly botched the floor line and had to fill in some with a thick line in MSPaint. Secondly, their house was apparently built sideways. Thirdly, a random picture of a rat. I think that was supposed to be a relative. Drawing must give me the jitters.
What a hip reference! The character here is named “Lenard” so I don’t know why I used “Murray”.
This was the first appearance of Lenard. Originally NT had a lot of video game jokes but I hated the idea of joking about something specific in a video game because nobody else would get it. Didn’t stop me from making a dozen strips about commercials though. Eventually Lenard became the main character. Didn’t change much!
I actually own both these shirts. Must’ve been a sick burn I laid on somebody (or most likely, myself).
I guess if you can only read one New Traditionalists comic, it’s gotta be this one. I remember a friend of mine (who really can draw) offering to draw a few comics and asking me about the logistics of the strip. “So it’s just the fox thing and a penguin standing around and talking to each other, right?”. This was back when I was “learning” how to “color” in Paintshop Pro. It didn’t go so well.
The other side of this was the occassional image comic. Must’ve been an episode of Leno that inspired this one. “Logan Boner” was a fake name I used for years. Perhaps lost to the annals of time is the billion jokes late night TV made about Bush’s inability to pronounce large words. I loved the idea that in the late night world, Bush was just a dude that went around mispronouncing things. In a way, I miss the guy!
So, thank you all for indulging me. Now, let’s never look at this again.