Those big changes I was talking about, the new direction for HijiNKS ENSUE? This is them. These are it. Well, this is the beginning of it anyway. For the past 6 months or so (maybe a year), I’ve been feeling like I wanted to do something different with my comics. I’d get ready to write a comic pointing out how a thing in a movie was like another thing in a different movie or in some way connected to a seemingly unrelated thing and I would realize that I had already made a similar joke about a different film or TV show. The entertainment industry is cyclical and I was starting to feel like I had done every kind of gag I could do poking fun of TV and movies over the last 6 years and now I had looped back around on myself and my subject matter. I could either keep doing the same thing over and over, driving myself and my audience to apathy, or I could stretch my creative muscles in a different and challenging way.
Those interested in goods from The HE Store should watch this space. I’m not saying the biggest blowout sale I’ve ever run is around the corner, but that is exactly what I am not yes are too saying. I’m saying that.
I was also getting the nagging feeling that I wasn’t being super honest anymore with my comics. I’ve always made a point to write about the things I care about the most. Whether the joke hits home or not, the honesty and genuine emotion behind my comics is usually pretty easy to pick up on. The problem was that the things I cared the most about, being a father, raising a young geek, figuring out how to be a parent while still being myself, weren’t represented in the comics at all.
When I started doing short story lines in the comics a little over a year ago I’d find that when a story line ended, I didn’t really want to go back to pop culture jokes. I wanted the stories to keep going. But I always tread very lightly and made sure not to get too bogged down in continuity. The more I did this, the more I realized how limiting it was from a creative standpoint. I couldn’t teach you, The Fancy Bastards, how to love or hate or latch onto a character if they didn’t have any real… character! If they were just soundholes through which jokes were projected, they were completely interchangeable and indistinguishable. But in my head they are VERY different, nuanced and complex. I wanted to share these aspects of my characters with my readers in a meaningful way.
After a life-changing conversation last March with my friend Josh Cagan in a hotel lobby over a bottle of Brandy, and a few follow up creative brainstorms with David and Wil (3 writers and storytellers who I admire a great deal), I decided this would be the year that I took the plunge. This would be the year that I established continuity in HE, and gave my characters actual lives, friends, jobs, love interests and started telling stories as well as jokes.
The humor and the geekiness that the comic is built around will stay the same, but the tone with certainly shift. There will be dramatic and heartwarming moments along with the jokes. I know that sounds pretty basic, but for me it’s a MAJOR undertaking. I am going to be talking about fatherhood, marriage, and delving into the pasts of the characters that lead them to where they are now. I am going to touch on aspects of The Experiment in comic Joel’s life, and how those choices made him the man and the father that he is (or at least put him on the path to be the man and father he wants to eventually be). I have never done anything like this before and it’s super terrifying. I am prepared to lose half, if not all of my current audience and rebuild from the ground up if it means staying honest and not getting stagnant and bored with my work.
From a logistical standpoint, the first 3 or 4 HE books will encapsulate the “pop culture days” and a new book will eventually start with the comics you are reading now. The next few comics will be spent establishing a sort of fixed point in time from which to build off of. I’m going to be reintroducing the characters in a way that hopefully doesn’t feel forced.
SHORT VERSION: HE has continuity and stories now. The geek humor and what not aren’t going anywhere. The hyper-specific references to certain TV shows that most people probably don’t watch are gone (and pretty much have been for all of 2013). Timely pop culture stuff will still be explored in the Lofi Comics. If I get better and telling stories and faster at producing the comics as a result of the momentum, I will do everything in my power to produce more than 3 HE comics a week.
Commenters: Here we go. I hope you trust me enough to stick around. I think it’s going to be fun.
Taop · 93 weeks ago“Be authentic to your dreams. Be authentic to your own idea about yourself. Grind away at your own minds and bodies until you become your own invention. Be Mad Scientists.”
― Warren Ellis
I am really quite glad to read this announcement.
I wanted to leave that Warren Ellis quote because it made me think of it.I’m keeping a second copy of this comic un-read in its foil as the official first appearance of Kiddo!
I’m not just excited, I know it’ll be worth a mint!
@TheJoshAtkins · 93 weeks agoIs this now The Experiment 2: The Quickening?
J.P. · 93 weeks agoI vote for The Experiment 2: Electric Boogaloo, because that’s not overdone at all.
I’m also in. Way in. Especially, Joel, if you can walk the rest of us through this parent/self conundrum. Please. And soon. You know what I’m saying.
Sckazinski · 93 weeks agoA looong time ago I asked you on twitter when would you daughter appear on the comics, and you said “Never”. HAH!I’m excited!
It’s been interesting to see the comic change, not just the development in art but in your storytelling skills as well. I love the longer arcs, keen to see what the addition of Kiddo brings to them!
Wesley · 93 weeks agoOh my god, how could you do this?! Continuity? Actual character development? OMG..
Just kidding. This is only the next logical step, and I’ll be sticking around. It’s not really surprising either.. the arcs from before felt way more inspired than the one-off gags that came in between and it’s been clear that you have a very deep understanding of how your characters behave and on what basis. The interaction between the foreground and background in the “Why do you buy dvd’s”-arc made that especially clear.
I’m very interested to see how this works out and love the fact that you decided to add continuity. Also, I’m pretty sure you’ll rock it.
Catjuju · 93 weeks agoI’m going to comment as part of the readership you are prepared to lose. That other half that say ‘I liked the repetitive in-jokes, the recycled geek memes, and they are going away? I hear you say you’ll be doing a strip about fatherhood and heart warming stuff, no way!”
Because that was my initial reaction. However, even as that guy I still have enough faith in your talent to keep going. You are the guy that did the Experiment, so if you did any less than follow your real calling I would be truly disappointed.
Also as a long time reader I have seen your behind the scene nature come through in all the aspects of the work that is not just on the comic. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have shown that you have a great family and a great, geeky life that is worth representing.
Then, after just a little reflection I find all my cynicism has melted away and I am riled up for you DO IT! Huzzah for the continued and expanded Experiment! Three cheers for Joel!I am actually delighted by this. HE has always struck me a bit as a comic which is swinging around, trying to find its direction. Sometimes there would be self-contained storylines with continuity and then sometimes right in the middle of those there would be gag-a-day strips. It was a bit jarring sometimes, but I stuck with it because I love your artwork and your sense of humor.
Now, it sounds like you’ve finally settled on where you want to go and what you want to do with the comic. Far from being upset, I’m really looking forward to seeing what you do with these characters. The comics I love the most these days are the ones with plenty of continuity and backstory, where there’s a continuous and ongoing story, where the characters (and sometimes the artwork!) grow and change and evolve.
Can’t wait to see how it turns out! And because it bears repeating — we Fancy Bastards are here for you, supporting you all the way. Go now, and Write, and Draw! We’ll be here, cheering you on.
Phil“a comic which is swinging around, trying to find its direction.”
Yep. No argument here. I almost want to wipe out the previous 6 years of archives and start over.Hell, don’t do that (yeah, I know you said “almost”, and weren’t serious). It was a part of your artistic journey. Be proud of it because without those six years you wouldn’t have discovered what you wanted. 🙂
PhilStill though, I will probably make a distinction in the archives between the current comics and the “early years” so new readers dont get confused.
will · 93 weeks agoI can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. I have enjoyed your comic for the past 3(?) years or so, and I’m Damn well looking forward to what the future will bring from you. Keep doing what you love. If you are honest to that, everything else falls into place.I think this’ll be good.
Lately, I felt that the short stories that span a couple of strips were a bit too random at times, only to then be followed by a one-off joke. It’s probably how some who don’t like the recent development feel. So, committing to a more continuity-driven narrative should be good.
If it alienates those that only want one-strip jokes, so be it. The [i]Lo-Fijnks[/i] are pretty much still delivering this, and if they don’t go anywhere, it’ll be alright.Every morning when I see my kids off to school I encourage them to “Dare mighty things”, much as you are now. For your historical amusement, here is the last paragraph of Teddy’s speech:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt 1910
Sherry · 93 weeks agoI think this is a wonderful upgrade, and I’m not one that typically likes the things I love to change. I think your honesty and courage should be applauded (loudly!), and I look forward to what the future of HE will bring.
Congratulations on a wonderful new era, Joel! I’m here to stay!In Austin, I talked to you once about how different your life was from the comic Joel, who seems to be living in that chaotic, post-college bachelor phase (which might have been reflective of your life at the start of the comic). It’s interesting to see this, and it’s very different. Geekdom and raising kids are both huge parts of my life, and I don’t really see both in a comic.
Karen · 93 weeks agoI consider myself to be a relatively new reader since I just discovered HE a couple of years ago. Your geek and pop culture commentary is some of my favorite in comic form. I enjoyed the change to small story arcs you did last year. As long as there are still silly references in there occasionally I’m in for Experiment 2.0.
Rebecca · 93 weeks agoI will be sticking around, for sure. I’ve told you before how much it warms my heart (and makes me call my dad) to know that you are raising geeky girl child. I’m glad that you are making changes that are meaningful to you, and I’m confident that the comic will only improve because of that.I’m thrilled with this new direction. I started reading HE because it was SO different from other webcomic formats, but I’ve come to realize that what brings me back day after day to many comics is the continuity. It’s a good thing. I can’t wait. Thanks for staying so open & honest with your fans; it means a lot. You continue to be a creative inspiration to me. God Speed, Head Fancy Bastard.
bubujin_2 · 93 weeks agoJoel, I’ve only been reading HE for the last couple of years or so but have enjoyed it so much that I;m always disappointed when there’s no update. So I’m in for the long haul. Keep in mind that your snarky, humorous geek references are like a PSA to me. I live outside of the U.S. and your pearls of wisdom and nerd-filled comments help lead me to movies and TV shows I hadn’t been aware of previously or overlooked or neglected to consider.
Carol Elaine · 93 weeks agoYou’ll be keeping this reader. I’ve loved reading HE the last few years, even though there’s been no continuity, because it’s freaking hilarious. But I love continuity and character development. I love becoming invested in the characters’ lives to the point where I care about them. Combine that with your awesome humor and I am doubly there.
W00t!I gotta be honest with ya. You won’t be keeping me as a reader. You’ll be gaining me.
I’ve been dabbling at the edges of HE for a long while. I like the format, and I enjoy just about every webcartoonist you’ve associated with on Twitter and conventions. You even drew a lovely sketch for me in Chicago of Uhura doing her fan dance (I tipped well, I suspect), but in the end, there wasn’t a sense of growth or progress about the series that grabbed me. But I always saw the talent and (I know you’ll hate this word) the potential in this series to be more than just jokes. With this announcement, I’m now committing to your series. I have that much faith in you. Plus I know Willis will now REALLY let you have it if you screw up!I appreciate the candor. I suspect you are indicative of a large percentage of my former audience. Those who liked something about what I was doing but never got that something with enough consistency to really latch onto it.I just wanted to comment that this is almost exactly how I felt about the comic too, except I kept reading it reguardless of the lack of focus. I think I started reading the comic because of Wil Wheaton but I stuck around because the art and humor were really well done. It always felt like it needed something though, but it also felt like that something was never too far off.
So I hope this goes well for you! And I hope we see more regular updates as well. Also, I hope I can see you in a convention someday because I totally missed out on my chance last year. =p
Galley Slave · 93 weeks agoI for one am SHOCKED and or APPALLED! I’m leaving and NEVER COMING BACK UNTIL YOU CHANGE IT BACK!…Or TOMORROW…Which ever comes first ;p ;p ;p
But seriously, as long as you are making changes to your comic, could we get a G+ button?
HikingViking · 93 weeks agoI think you’ll keep a lot more Fancy Bastards than you think Joel. One of my favorite things about getting older, and maturing, is watching artists that I like do the same. Be it musicians, comic artists, actors, or authors, I find that the creators I like the most are the ones who grow and change. I’m happy that you’re making the leap.Whenever a TV show starts to get stale, they usually add a cute kid to the mix, like Cousin Oliver on the Brady Bunch, or Olivia on the Cosby Show. Hmm…I’m sensing a pattern here…
How about naming the kid Olivest? She’ll be even more Olive than Olivia and Oliver combined!This is SO EXCITING! I’m gonna be totally honest and tell you that I’ve been pretty apathetic toward HE for about the last year. But I’m really excited to see where this goes, because I do love your mini arcs and I think you’re a great storyteller.First, great work on the eyes and facial expressions on Joel and Josh.
Second, thank you for making the next step in the evolution of a comic. There are a few other longrunning comics that went this route and never looked back. You open the comic up to a neverending vein of stories, annecdotes, developement that you couldn’t get with the old format.
Congratulations on taking the plunge and hope this is the start of decades of HE!
Fred · 93 weeks ago“I could either keep doing the same thing over and over”
It worked for Peanuts for 50 years… and Family Circus.
Your insecurities are kind of cute… I can’t really imagine that many if any people will stop reading your fine comic just because it will be story-based.
It would take a complete disaster for me to stop reading… and you are more than capable to not create a disaster.
On the other hand, maybe I am not a good judge… I mean… I still read Looking For Group, for chrissakes.
#1 thing IMO you can do to build and keep your audience happy- establish a consistent posting schedule. Get a backup built up.
Good luck!“establish a consistent posting schedule”
my biggest failing for the last 6 years. I know how important it is and yet Ive never been able to keep to one. We’ll see if it works this time around.I have a feeling that continuity will be a HUGE help for you. Because your content has mainly been a reaction to something to this point there is no real way to store it up. It will take some planning, to be sure, but being able to look ahead at what you’re going to write about without requiring a time machine should increase your capacity for building a backlog.“your content has mainly been a reaction to something to this point there is no real way to store it up.”
You just summed up my ongoing dilemma for the last 6 years. Cant have a buffer because the stuff Im going to make fun of hasnt happened yet. NO MORE!
I honestly feel so much more free not being bound to scouring geek news sites for inspiration.
WaytoomanyUID’s · 93 weeks agoOMG! Hijinks Ensue has jumped the aardvark! Caught Jaws Syndrome!
But seriously, it’s your comic, do what you want. At the worst you’ll provide us with fodder for CAD style memes. Hopefully it will be more like Girls with Slingshots and Something PositiveWell, I’m glad that you’re taking your work in a new direction! Not that I had any problems whatsoever with the previous directions the comic was moving in; far from it! I just hate to see an EXCELLENT comic get bogged down and static, never changing, never improving. I like to see art and content that evolves over time; If most of the many webcomics I read never changed/evolved from the way they were at the beginning, I would probably stop reading them. I LOVE watching the art & writing improve over time; to me, it proves that the creators give a shit about their creation!I laughed out loud at Josh’s confused “She?!” in panel 3. As a woman who’s been a fan of Hijinks Ensue for several years now, that’s always been something that hovered in the back of my mind: how complete a boyzone these characters live in. I often found myself thinking “don’t they know ANY women?” So I’m super excited to see your daughter as a character.I AM re posting this from G since its a Fancy Desert there:
*So, dont miss the woof for the warp—or the Warf…*
Just Dont throw away the Girl scout, out with the Non-thin mints .
First, as a long term reader, I want to validate that some of your instincts are spot-on. Character development was missing in the before “The Experiment”.
I actually got some of the characters mixed up sometimes, because you used them as interchangable joke tellers.
BUT, it always seemed this was a _rather small_ flaw.
Since the characters were all real people I just had to read your other media.
But heres is what I think you are missing now: the role your comic plays in readers lives. Just as your real life was opaquely missing from the strip, paradoxically in a semiautobiographical strip; You are in danger of overlooking all the very non-superfical ways you HAVE been connecting to your readers the whole time.
First, the strip works as a fantastical reflection of your life, your Geek Life.
As long as you keep it a fantastical reflection, it should still work.
While you _now_ perceive the original run as superficial pop-culture, there is a LOT MORE depth to it. While it wasnt primarily about plotting or characters, IT WAS ABOUT PURE IDEAS. And Friendships.
I am glad you talked to WIl, because, he is, like you and a handful of people, creating geek-culture centered art & content. You have ALWAYS had a bigger cultural footprint than you imagine. I could write entire essays in your role as an gay- ally in culture , and your role in normalizing the life-experiences of the peripheral and invisible ( to popculture ).
Was riffing on pop-culture EVER really _the message_?
or was it the medium of a cultural ambassador?
Because I ( like most, I suspect ) read the blog strips below the strips, It doesnt seem weird to have your child in the strip.
YOU ALWAYS COULD HAVE DROPPED HER IN HER, with no explanation,
( You didnt need the feather to fly, Dumbo ) —- but it especially would have worked Post-Apocalypse, as a cultural criticism of Marvel ( post- “House of M” and DC ( “the new 52” ).
So, dont miss the woof for the warp—or the Warf. What to you, seemed like a vast missing universe that you want to make up for, looks to us, long-term readers of the comic/blog, just like a few missing pieces.
Or so I hope.