You may not republish Between Failures without my express written consent.
From TV Tropes:
“Between Failures is a slice-of-life webcomic following the (somewhat under-motivated and decidedly sarcastic) staff of a chain bookstore. The primary protagonist is Thomas Blackwell, but it cuts to follow many members of the staff. It’s often compared to clerks, though up to the second volume only 2 customers have actually been shown.” (It’s actually a lot more like Empire Records, which the author totally suggests you see.) “The main focus are the characters and the shenanigans they come up with to keep themselves entertained.”
It updates Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays at present, but the author often says witty things on Twitter, and posts extra stuff in the blog from time to time. He is very cool.
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FAQ, order based partially on how often I get the question:
What is Jolene’s ethnicity?
Her father is white her mother is Mexican.
What is Carol’s bra size?
Somewhere around 36-38 G in most American sizes is my best guess.
Why is Jess so much taller than Ed if they are twins?
Girl/boy twin sets are from two eggs, so you can get all the variation that you would between regular brothers and sisters.
How old are you?
I am approximately 34 years old at the time of this writing.
Do you have a day job?
I am a janitor.
Do you have a significant other?
No. I am incredibly hard to get along with. Also fat.
What kinds of games do you like to play?
I am open to pretty much any kind of video game as long as it’s well made. Earthbound for the SNES is my standard answer for favorite game of all time. Final Fantasy for the NES was the game that convinced me that RPGs didn’t always have to suck. I don’t care for sports, so I don’t play those games. However, I always thought if I got crazy rich somehow I’d try golf. I like walking around.
What is your favorite television series?
What is your favorite animal and why?
I prefer to like things on a one on one basis, but dogs are probably my favorite animal, which is odd because I was terrified of dogs as a child. Dogs are, and have been, a big part of my family for may years.
What Is your favorite comic?
American comics are so hard to find, where I live, that I haven’t read them in years. Batman: The Long Halloween was the last series I really loved.
What Is your favorite manga?
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind.
What is your favorite web comic?
Questionable Content probably, but Murry Purry is gaining ground.
What is your favorite movie?
What is your favorite anime?
Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honneamise
What type of socks do you wear?
What music do you listen to?
I like symphonic stuff mostly. Things I can listen to while working that won’t derail my train of thought. Cake, “Weird” Al, Gorillaz, and Ben Folds Five, are about the only bands/performers I own multiple Cds of.
What inspired your work?
My life, & working in retail.
What Inspired your characters?
My characters are an amalgam of memories of people I worked with and parts of my fractured personality. The situations are a combination of fantasy and real experiences.
Thomas is nicely generic looking, so readers could have an in for the story. He’s the character most like I am now. If you don’t like Thomas you probably wouldn’t like me if you met me. He shares my middle name with me. The relationship between Ed and Thomas is sort of like old me talking to young me. He and John are both as tall as I am.
Ed is a very old character. He was the star of a series I came up with when I was younger and had the good sense to give up on. His back story is essentially a synopsis of that idea. His personality is a reflection of mine when I was young. He evolved into the current incarnation over many, many, years. The first drawings of Ed probably date back to when I was 7 or so. His glasses are inspired by Brainy Smurf.
John was originally a character from Ed’s back story. In fact, they were friends, but I needed an easy face for the games manager. It had to be something generically handsome so I used John. I kept his old name because it was easy. He’s sort of every ladies man I ever worked with, and there was always at least one. Ironically I actually worked with a guy who looked almost exactly like him.
Nina is my voice of love for the world. She is that part of me that still has hope for humanity, and a better tomorrow. She is that little voice in my head that keeps trying to tell me that things are going to be okay. Physically Nina is an amalgam of two girls I’ve known. One of them was slightly taller than me, which I found fascinating. (I’m 6’1”, by the way.)
Carol is, physically, the kind of girl I am attracted to. But really, so are all the others. I chose her as the object of Thomas’s desire because she isn’t media perfect. She’s regular perfect. Carol is much more practical than I am, but shares my impatience. She doesn’t like to wait for anything, and the more she has to the more cranky she gets. She is the daughter of a character from a discarded idea. Her surname is not inspired by Randal Graves of Clerks. It comes from a joke I wanted to do that I haven’t had a chance to use, and an underlying theme that runs through all of Between Failures. So far no one has even come close to unraveling the naming convention I used.
Jessie was created so that Ed could have a foil he couldn’t be rid of. She wasn’t in the original script for Between Failures, but I added her in at the last minute because I thought of a series of jokes I wanted to do with her. I actually thought, at the time, that she was created on that day, but I recently found an old sketch page that had her old bio as Ed’s twin sister. It was dated about half as old as the oldest sketch of Ed.
Mike is based on every timid, useless, manager I ever worked for, and one guy in particular. He’s a illustration of everything that’s wrong about American business management. I do like him though, and hope he finds redemption as the story progresses. I made him sympathetic because I feel the fault is only partially his, and wanted to play with the idea that someone who should be a clear villain isn’t really.
Jolene was very much a female version of John in her first incarnation. I ditched that version because she clashed to much with everyone else. She ended up becoming the repository for my shyness. She’s very timid when she’s in a new situation, but opens up much more when she feels safe. Her tendency to call attention to herself with her hair is inspired by several girls I worked with over the years. They all seemed distant, or shy, but clearly wanted people to notice them.
The 3 annoying kids, and really all the annoying, nameless, characters, are inspired by people I served during my many years in retail. Kids seem prone to run in groups of three for some reason. I can think of several 3 man cells that pissed me off as the years rolled by. They usually consist of a de facto leader, a toady, and the quiet one. I used to give the groups nicknames because I couldn’t remember their real ones.
The early stylization was born out of ideas I ended up tossing aside, and the difficulty of drawing on a tiny Wacom tablet. One of the only things I carried through to the present is the design for each ear. They all have a numeric designation which means something different for each character. I repeat the numeric pattern on their clothing. Jolene, for example, wears a hair clip with the number 8 on it. The heart on Nina’s pink hat is two 9s facing each other, which looks like a heart. The reasoning behind each numeric choice would be almost impossible for anyone to figure out. The longer the comic goes the more stylized the ear designs have become. To the point now that most people can’t even guess them.
Each character speaks in a different typeface because I thought it would be fun. Thomas speaks in Comic Sans MS because it pisses people off so very much, and that makes me happy. Also, anyone who gets that hung up on a typeface is obviously an asshat, so you can instantly write them off as a lost cause. I use the typefaces packaged with Photoshop because it’s easy and, again, anyone who gets hung up on that is probably a dick who I don’t need to listen to. When i started hand lettering I intended to make each character’s voice unique, but I’m not good enough. Eventually they may all find unique voices again.
I chose the name Between Failures because I figured no one would want failure in their title so I wouldn’t have to fight for it, and it worked well when I scripted out the beginning and ending. It also helps sort out fuckers in the crowd. The easiest joke to make is that the comic isn’t between failures, but rather right in the middle of one, or some variation on that theme.
How do you produce your comic?
I draw almost every element on my Wacom directly into Photoshop Elements. The actual base files are twice the size of the ones I post. All the sections are separate layers. Line work, text, speech bubbles, color, and so on. It takes me a long time to draw anything, so every time a character does something it hasn’t done before that action takes up almost all the time for a page. Each character has a library of sprites to refer to, or reuse. Characters with side sensitive hairstyles have twice as many reference sprites. Every so often I try to update the libraries to reflect changes in my style. My natural sketching style is much less realistic, so I have to be careful not to lapse into it. The less time I have the more likely I am to freehand something and let the chips fall as they may. Eventually I’ll probably just give up and start using my natural style, or the two styles will merge together either way.
The thick line quality is mostly due to an obsessive tendency I have. I will work over a line again and again until I can convince myself to stop. I’ve gotten much better about not fiddling with lines until I run out of time.
I color the characters pretty much the way a person might paint an old cell of animation, except I work from the back to the front.
I scripted out the original story over the course of ten or so years. It was written in my spare time as a movie. I retooled it to fit better in a comic format as I went, about two weeks in advance for each section. The new stuff is outlined roughly up to a few years. I’m not sure exactly how many pages a plot point will take to work out. The current stuff is fully scripted up to about two months in advance. Each page is rewritten right up till the time it’s actually drawn. If an idea for a new section comes to me on the day I sit down to do a page I’ll quickly script the scene and then draw it on the spot. Pages 310 & 311 are examples of a scene I wrote the morning I drew 310.
I sketch ideas in little sketchbooks I take with me everywhere. I have 3 Copic multilinkers I use to sketch. I use sizes .5, .3, & .7. I almost never sketch in pencil anymore. Each sketchbook has about 50 pages and I’ve filled 3 ½ since I started Between Failures. I always intended to sell the completed books someday, but I’m not sure if a market for them will ever exist.
Any advice or tips for us struggling comic bookers who want to get our work noticed?
Don’t suck. Failing that, keep sucking but don’t stop. People will get attached to your work always being there. Update on time every time.
What kind of computer do you use?
About a 4 year old PC I’ve been upgrading as needed.
Do you ever go around to comic or anime conventions?
No. I’ve never been to a convention.