It’s Called A Changeover

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.

Have you seen my wife’s latest geeky jewelry creation? LIGHTSABER NECKLACES AND EARRINGS! 

lightsaber necklace and earrings

Comments (94)

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Taop's avatar

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.

Andy's avatar

Andy · 93 weeks ago

I like this. I liked the comic and found it funny but the lack of continuity stopped me checking in often. Can’t wait.
Not going anywhere. Looking forward to the new content.
JonS253's avatar

JonS253 · 93 weeks ago

Or a Thin Mint, or something… 🙂
Gerald's avatar

Gerald · 93 weeks ago

I’m in it to win it, and by “win it,” I mean “keep reading.”
@TheJoshAtkins's avatar

@TheJoshAtkins · 93 weeks ago

Is this now The Experiment 2: The Quickening?

I’m in.

3 replies · active 93 weeks ago

it IS essentially the next phase of The Experiment.
J.P.'s avatar

J.P. · 93 weeks ago

I 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.

I expect it will be a major theme for the months to come.
Sckazinski's avatar

Sckazinski · 93 weeks ago

A looong time ago I asked you on twitter when would you daughter appear on the comics, and you said “Never”. HAH!

1 reply · active 93 weeks ago

Im sure that was the honest answer back then. Eventually a gut feeling starts to nag and nag and eat away at you until you’re forced to act on it.
Alex's avatar

Alex · 93 weeks ago

That’s great news!! I’ll be sticking around. I’ve enjoyed your comics before and I’m sure that won’t change with more story driven content! Good luck, Joel! I know it will be great stuff.
I’m fairly new here, I’m staying. It’s exciting to be around an artist who is ready for a change and eager to get started. LET’S DO THIS (by which I mean, “Do this! I’ll watch from over here with my toast and coffee.”) Good luck.
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!

1 reply · active 93 weeks ago

Wesley's avatar

Wesley · 93 weeks ago

Oh 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.

JoJo's avatar

JoJo · 93 weeks ago

whoa, great news!! long time reader, and i can’t wait to see how this is going to develop! 🙂
Catjuju's avatar

Catjuju · 93 weeks ago

I’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!

1 reply · active 93 weeks ago

That was a harrowing emotional journey you just went on. Thanks for sticking around!
This is fantastic news! You should develop your comic in the way that makes you happy, and we’ll all be pleased to stick around for the ride.

I am definitely excited. You’re gonna kill it (in a good way).

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.


6 replies · active 92 weeks ago

“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. 🙂


Still though, I will probably make a distinction in the archives between the current comics and the “early years” so new readers dont get confused.
You could always divide the archives up into “Phases,” and then of course sub-divide chronologically, so people won’t be forced to always start at the beginning of Phase “X.”
something like that. Yes.
This strikes terror in my heart!
will's avatar

will · 93 weeks ago

I 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 is fantastic! Your characters are a lot of fun. But I really wanted to get to know more about them. I can’t wait to see where you go as you dive into their backgrounds. 😀
Best of luck, Joel – looking forward to seeing how this new iteration evolves!
Sherry's avatar

Sherry · 93 weeks ago

I 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!

I’m excited as hell.
I plan to delve into some of that with the new comics. The life I used to live, how I got here, what changed and why. I think it will make for some interesting story telling if I do it right.
Chelsea's avatar

Chelsea · 93 weeks ago

I’m excited! I think it’s great you’re doing this, Joel, and I’ll be sticking around to see what happens.
robert's avatar

robert · 93 weeks ago

Well, I’m a little suprised that the comments are all positive. I’m excited for you, and I’m not likely to stop tracking the comic. However, it would be dishonest to say that I’m excited about the child. I hope you prove me wrong.
Biscuit Eater's avatar

Biscuit Eater · 93 weeks ago

This looks fun and new and fun! I’m looking forward to it. Good luck, you fancy bastard!
Karen's avatar

Karen · 93 weeks ago

I 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's avatar

Rebecca · 93 weeks ago

I 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.
Fren's avatar

Fren · 93 weeks ago

Sounds good to me, man. You keep on posting ’em, I’ll keep on reading ’em, nobody gets hurt.

And raising a geeky girl child is the best thing. I adore mine to bits and trip all over myself to indulge her nerdy whims.

HE with continuity?

Consider me terrified but curious.

Fuck yeah. I’m in.
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.
Hey, Joel? I’m absolutely looking forward to this. No joke.
bubujin_2's avatar

bubujin_2 · 93 weeks ago

Joel, 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's avatar

Carol Elaine · 93 weeks ago

You’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.


Mike's avatar

Mike · 93 weeks ago

Sign me up. Always interested in a good Dramady.
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!

2 replies · active 93 weeks ago

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.
Galley Slave's avatar

Galley Slave · 93 weeks ago

I 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?

1 reply · active 93 weeks ago

The big green sharing button in the navigation under the comics has a G+ button in it.
David's avatar

David · 93 weeks ago

Fancy Bastard checking in. Not going anywhere. I love a good storyline so I’m curious to see where you’ll take this.
HikingViking's avatar

HikingViking · 93 weeks ago

I 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.

1 reply · active 93 weeks ago

“One of my favorite things about getting older, and maturing, ”

Its probably that I was just delaying that as long as possible.

Conrad's avatar

Conrad · 93 weeks ago

Here to stay, Joel!!

Keep going where YOU want to go!!

FuryOfFirestorm's avatar

FuryOfFirestorm · 93 weeks ago

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!

2 replies · active 93 weeks ago

FuryOfFirestorm's avatar

FuryOfFirestorm · 93 weeks ago

BTW – I’m sticking around. My remark was playful teasing, not butthurt nerdrage, so keep those pistols holstered, OK?
Im not “adding a kid” as much as Im “adding a life” and she was the first step.
Jason's avatar

Jason · 93 weeks ago

I’m in. Loved Hijinks Ensue so far and I am excited about the new direction. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us Joel!
I’m in for the haul, Joel. Excitedly curious to see where you take this.
Rikonius's avatar

Rikonius · 93 weeks ago

Looking forward to seeing where this new direction takes Hijinks Ensue. Also wondering whether you’ll toss a “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN-tinuity!” joke in there.
The apathy thing is hard to hear but impossible for me to ignore. I knew people felt this way whether they were saying it or not. We’re moving in the right direction.
I’m really excited about this! You’re an awesome dude, Joel, and I wish you the best of luck in this next phase of The Experiment. Being true to the changes you feel you should make is really important, and I think it’s also pretty brave. Kudos, sir!
Blahman's avatar

Blahman · 93 weeks ago

Blah blah blah nothing but support blah.
Ceri's avatar

Ceri · 93 weeks ago

Nice try, but it takes more than a little continuity and real life to get rid of me!
I’m in, and I know you were waiting with bated breath for my opinion, right? Right? Joel? Joel? Anyone?
Fred's avatar

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!

3 replies · active 93 weeks ago

“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.

“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's avatar

WaytoomanyUID’s · 93 weeks ago

OMG! 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 Positive

As long as you don’t try to convince me that any new arrival is the Key transformed into human form by a group of monks, I am totally okay with this.

(Who am I kidding – I would probably also be all over that.)

Well, 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!
Wikipediocracy's avatar

Wikipediocracy · 93 weeks ago

Now I have something to come back to. I have been bookmarking your comic this year. I am now a fan.
A more important issue is why your doorbell goes “doorbell sound” instead of just ringing or buzzing. Where can I get one of those?
psssst… don’t tell anyone… it’s because I have always been terrible at drawing women.
BUT, But …
There are no “fixed points in time” for ComicLord Victorious. Allon-Sy
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 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.
Good luck.

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One Comment

  1. “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.

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