It took me some time to start calling myself a writer and even longer to embrace being an author.
But I’m going to claim this right now: I’m also a cartoonist.
The title might not mean much to some, but it certainly makes me smile. Like most kids, I cycled through a few when-I-grow-up careers. Along with comedian and detective, cartoonist ranked among my first professional aspirations.
I loved to doodle. Just ask my grade-school teachers, who were treated to bizarrely illustrated borders on my assignments. I also possessed a respectable sense of humor (see also “comedian” above) and harbor fond memories of ripping open the Sunday paper to find Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side in the funnies.
Years later, I got hooked on comic books that contained more heroics than humor, which redoubled my interest in pursuing this visual medium. I even tried drawing my own once. It was awful.
Even though I continued to sketch my heroes and villains throughout high school, I never transitioned into a serious artist. I quickly decided that I could better capture my characters and their stories with the written word. After that, my creative time was dedicated to worldbuilding, dabbling with fiction, and finally, writing novels.
In recent years, creating a comic book crawled its way up my bucket list. I almost made one with some friends, but the project fizzled, and the Sir Larpsalot one-shot became a full-fledged novel instead.
Then, at some point in 2020, I got it in my head that pursuing a digital-only, pixel-art comic could be both fun and feasible despite my meager art skills.
Only after publishing 32 issues of Curmudgeons & Flagons did it dawn on me that I’ve come full circle back to cartoonist.
For those not in the know, Curmudgeons & Flagons is a humorous commentary on Dungeons & Dragons, RPG video games, and getting older. Osmund the Oak, Sister Sidra, Kaf’ael, and Ronnie while away their retirement at an inn, drinking, reliving their glory days, and questioning the changing world around them.
It’s essentially a free five-panel comic, and while each issue builds on the next to a small degree, it’s mostly episodic—just like so many of those old newspaper comics. Curmudgeons & Flagons even comes out once a week, though on Fridays, not Sundays.
While I can’t say for certain where Curmudgeons & Flagons will end up, I am committed to concluding Volume 1 at Issue 53 on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. Whether I return for Volume 2 depends largely on readership: if enough people click each week, I might be motivated to keep going.
Truth be told, I’d love to transition from self-contained episodes to an epic serial that sees the former adventurers leave the inn to face an adversary both new and old—which, in fact, was my original idea for the comic—though that would require me to make many new art assets, an investment to be sure. And since creating a video game is also on my bucket list, one wonders how difficult it would be to transform Curmudgeons & Flagons into an old-school, turn-based RPG.
If nothing else, I’m sorely tempted to design a Curmudgeons & Flagons T-shirt so that I can keep the Bright Warriors close for years to come.
Regardless of whether Curmudgeons & Flagons continues as a free webcomic, the title evolves into something more, or I find my way into a collaboration for a full-blown comic book, I’ve had so much fun exploring this storytelling medium.
Creating the art itself simultaneously stimulates the left and right sides of my brain, and the sprites (disclaimer: any video game sprites) never fail to make my heart happy. It’s also a boon to be able to publish something new every week, instead of a novel once or twice a year!
The tabletop roleplaying game I alluded to last month, tentatively titled The Curse of Er’Mah’Gerd, will take at least another year to finish. In the meantime, I’m delighted to share a few more drinks with the Bright Warriors.
Why not pull up a chair?