I’ve dropped my label.
Personally, I dropped my label a long time ago. Professionally, on the other hand, it was much more recent.
I’m talking about the label that I used to identify myself when I couldn’t find what I was looking for in “normal” society. In my early 20’s I finally had the freedom to experience new things and after a bit of exploration, I discovered my tribe. I found the people whose sensibilities and aesthetics appealed to me. I heard the music that stirred the deepest, most visceral feelings inside of what I thought was my empty and unfulfilled soul. I saw a fashion that excited me, an attitude that validated and vindicated my own, and a new path for me to follow that was different from anything I had ever known. Most precious of all, I found enthusiastic acceptance… I found my tribe. I found the gothic community.
It has been nearly 20 years since I Took The Black. The commitment was an easy one to make. Some people say that doing so is “just a phase.” Some people grow out of it, some are in it for the long haul, and many more can place themselves anywhere on the wide spectrum in between. I harbor no hard feelings for my tribesmen and women who have left, changed, evolved, or just hang on to the facets that appeal to them. I hold no animosity for those that make the tribe their life’s purpose, who revel in every aspect of it, and will defend it till their last undying breath. To each their own.
The adage “Change Is the Only Constant” is very true. This tribe, my tribe, has constantly been in transition. It has changed since I found myself among its ranks and it continues to change to this day. The word “goth” itself has always had many interpretations and its definitions can be, and always will be furiously debated, especially among the people of my tribe.
I’ve stopped debating it and defending it a long time ago, and I’m done identifying with it.
I haven’t actually identified with it for quite some time, to be perfectly honest. Like most of my tribe, I enjoy other things. I don’t only listen to gothic music. I don’t only appreciate the macabre. I don’t only wear black because that’s what I’m supposed to do to fit in with my tribe. I wear it because it’s what I want to do, and it appeals to me on so many levels.
I was happy at first that people described me as goth. It let others know which path I decided to take, which direction I was headed, but after 20 years that word doesn’t work for me anymore. The word “goth” means a lot of things to a lot of people. Unfortunately, it means something completely different to the non-tribe members. It’s not something any one of us can control. To them, it is merely a label, something for that enables ease of classification, something that saves them the time of getting to know you, your art, your writing, your personality. Something one can look at and decide in an instant if they’re interested or not. I never planned for my comics to be only for the eyes of the members of my tribe. I want to show that my tribe consists of real people and have the same feelings, problems and expectations as everyone else.
You may ask, “Why is he talking about this now?”
It’s because I want people to stop using that word “goth” as a default to describe my comics. That one word makes no sense in verbal conversation with anyone not already a member of the tribe. My comics are about so much more. They’re about relationships, friendships, work, life, individuality, conformity, non-conformity, music, religion, mass media, gaming, tourists, awkward social situations, nihilism, and hopefully a lot of other things in the future that we are dealing with as a whole. Yes, the main characters are part of the tribe and one of the strips is set in a fictional goth club, but slapping a label on them reduces them to something they aren’t, and that needs to change.
From a marketing standpoint (not that I know a lot about marketing), the word actually seems to upset people and the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to get more readers is to scare them away.
The term “goth” carries a lot of baggage, especially with the goths themselves. Most people don’t know what the word means or have preconceived notions about it and the individuals that identify with it. They’re usually very wrong. The word scares people. I want ALL people to read my comics. I want them to be interested in picking up the books or clicking on the links to look at them. I want them to be able to get into the story and to identify with the characters without having any initial bias.
I labeled my comics as “goth” because that’s who I was, who I was writing about, and who I was writing for initially. The gothic community and everyone else who is into dark and alternative things is my target market. The tribe is what I know and you’re supposed to write about what you know, right?
Recently, at a massive comic convention, I realized something that has been troubling me for a while, something I had seen at smaller conventions but refused to admit to myself. When handing out flyers, I was denied at the same rate among possible tribesmen as I was with the rest of the crowd. You would think, at least I had thought, that a person that looks like they are in my tribe, or at least a version of it (whether it be goth, metal, rock-a-billy, fetish or even punk) would be more interested in taking a flyer from someone that looks and dresses like they do. That’s just not the case. Everyone is an individual and you cannot assume anything by the way they dress, the subject matter of their tattoos, or even the stack of books in their hands. It is said that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and that’s pretty much true for people too. Some of these people who look like they are in my tribe were among the happiest to accept my flyers. They were glad that I picked them out of the crowd and specifically handed them my advertisement, sometimes with the words, “You look like you would enjoy this.” Others, on the other hand, were quite verbally unreceptive and it blew my mind.
Don’t get me wrong. When I had a massive stack of flyers to hand out I did not discriminate, except by not handing them to kids younger than 15. As my stack thinned to only a handful, I was more deliberate.
This experience proved to me that something had changed out there- that maybe I’m doing something wrong, or thinking something completely different than what’s actually happening out there, that the alternative world out there had changed somewhat since I became a card carrying member of the tribe.
Other people’s preconceived perceptions are what I’m having a problem with and what I’m trying to get away from. That is why I will be dropping the “goth” label from any further physical or verbal marketing. I’m not sure if this problem I’m having is because I’m in the US. It may be very different with independent comic artists everywhere else in the world.
All the characters, story lines, and subject matter will remain the same. The only thing that is going to change (besides the quality increasing) is the basic description in marketing terms and I hope all of you can help me out with that. From now on, when you’re talking to anyone about my comic strips, please refrain from using the word “goth” or “gothic” in the first sentence or two. It would be much appreciated from a marketing standpoint! If you feel the need to respond to this post, I’m not really interested in hearing you say, “It’s about time you grew up. I’ve never labeled myself and you shouldn’t either.” I also don’t want to hear anything to the effect of, “You’re a traitor! How can you turn your back on us and the community? We hate you now.” I haven’t grown up and I haven’t turned by back on my tribe. I’m just trying to do what’s best to grow my audience.
I’m not saying that the gothic community doesn’t support me. It does. I am constantly amazed at the fan mail I get from members of my tribe across the world. I hope that they can continue to support my work and future endeavors.
Here is the schedule for the Broadcasts I am planning for my birthday.
Sunday May 18th, 2014
10am PST / 5pm UTC – Exclusive Google Hangout for European Patreon members
11am PST / 6pm UTC – Ustream Broadcast for anyone
5pm PST / 12am UTC – Exclusive Google Hangout for US Patreon members
7pm PST / 2am UTC – Ustream Broadcast for anyone
You can subscribe to my Ustream Channel here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/writhe-and-shine
Hope to see you there!
Now that my comics are being posted in several different forums, they have come to the attention of Those That Say Negative Things. As a victim of bullying in his youth and a man living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I can probably say that I feel the negativity presented by others a little more than the average person.
When I was bullied in Junior High and High School, the only words of advice given to me at the time were “ignore it.” Yes, people tend to think that if you ignore it, it will go away, but it doesn’t. It’s like a chronic pain in your shoulder. Your body is telling you that something is wrong and that you should go to a doctor. If you ignore it, it may go away for a little while, but it can end up becoming even worse back pain or causing you to lose feeling in your entire arm. If I ignored the bullying the first time it happened, it would have gone away from -me-. The next thing I would have seen is some other nerdy kid being shoved into a locker. Ignore it and it will go away, but it won’t stop.
It is time to stop it. I will not back down. I will no longer say nothing.
Here is my first action, a response to Those That Say Negative Things:
@[user name removed]- I apologize for taking so long to get back to your comment (and your comments on my previous entry) in My Journal here on [website removed]. I was going to follow the advice of “Don’t Feed the Trolls,” but decided that I should say something before you could continue on what I believe is your current path of anonymously posting hateful comments and not realizing that you are targeting -real- people. These people have real thoughts and feelings, just like you.
I love comics and sequential art. I make them because it is what I was meant to do. Like most artists (even though most won’t admit it), I also love hearing what people think about my work, especially if it is constructive criticism. What you’re doing (calling my comic a “trainwreck”, saying that it’s “so bad”) is not constructive, it is destructive. It is also considered a behavior used by bullies and it is not cool. I doubt you would seriously say those things to me in person.
To put it in context, what you just did was walk by my table at a busy comic convention, spit on my portfolio, and then stare me in the eye.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t surprised by your comments at all. I hear that stuff ALL the time, but 99.9% of it is coming from my own brain. I am the biggest critic of my own work, hands down. Nothing you can say about my writing or drawing will even come close to what I’ve said about it to myself.
Now, if you are smart, you will not see this as a challenge for you to prove me wrong. This is not an invitation to post the most vile and hurtful things you can think to type. No, this is a challenge for you to cease your destructive and hateful comments, to stop bullying people, and to become a better person. It is a challenge to join with the rest of the human race who are capable of kindness and empathy.
Come and help us continue build a place where we are all comfortable to live in our own skin and where we can share our art without the fear of violent, uncompromising rejection from our peers.
Can you do that?
If you need any more convincing, please watch the following video: Why Internet Jerks Aren’t Going To Win, And You Can Help