“Goodnight and Good Luck”: Jillian Fleck on Finishing Your Comic

Giving a shout from Scotland, Jillian Fleck shares thoughts on the cartoonist’s strange journey.

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Try finishing your comic.

I get it, thereʼs that little voice running through comics culture that says: real comics donʼt end. It would not be difficult to connect this to the latest DC or Marvel reboot. Alternatively, look at any popular webcomic artist; their comics donʼt end either. There is just something about comics, unlike any other medium, in which seriality (or infinity) are somehow inherent. The individuals and corporations behind these serial publications have an economic interest in the story never ending. If it does, theyʼre out of business. Iʼm assuming though, your situation, friend, is a little different. Iʼm assuming your interest in not ending your comic is entirely self motivated. Iʼm also assuming you suspect you might not be cut out for this, though most likely youʼd never admit it.

Take a step back from this culture of the infinity narrative, and realize the Sisyphean mission you are volunteering for. How long do you think you could write the same story? Five years? Ten years? How strong does your passion need to be to sustain such extended output? How good are you at gritting your teeth? What do you hope to achieve by it? Iʼm not saying that there is nothing to achieve, Iʼm simply encouraging you to question this. You have the choice to finish your comic, and I would encourage you to do so.

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Harvey Ball, inventor of the Smiley Face…

The sweetest, most refreshing thing about finishing your comic is that it is finally over. Not on hiatus, not to be continued, no spin-off, and no redo. Over, the end, goodnight and good luck.

Now that youʼre finished, letʼs go to the beach. Your studio honestly smells like garbage water, and the skin around your mouth is stained from too much coffee. Letʼs sketch the seagulls fighting over garbage, and eavesdrop on those around us. We could read about German Expressionist film, or write songs, I donʼt know how you creatively refill: letʼs hear some of your ideas. You are finished with your comic after all, you have time to do stupid, silly things like this. Iʼm not saying quit, Iʼm saying remember why you wanted to do comics in the first place.

This is why I encourage you to finish your comic, so you can get up tomorrow and begin your next one. It can be about whatever you want, and can be drawn however you choose. Itʼs entirely new and up to you. Just think, if you finish it in one day, tomorrow you wonʼt have to suffer under the decisions of the past. If you finish your comic in one go, you could put it up on the wall and look at it, think about why you did what you did. Then the day after, maybe you can build on that. Or do something different. You can set challenges for yourself. Can you tell a complete story in a single page? Inside a triangle? On a roll of toilet paper?

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Receipt paper comic by Sally Ingraham

Yeah, of course itʼs stupid, and childish, and isnʼt going anywhere, and isnʼt for anyone, and isnʼt worth anything. Think about those values for a moment, those which say what you do needs to be serious, purposeful, intentional, worthwhile, and lucrative. Those are values that you have put on your own work. Some of them might be helpful to you, but remember the kind of comics culture those values are ultimately upholding. Think about the comics that would fall into these worthwhile categories, you know the ones. Big fat volumes, or slender albums, beautifully bound, with thick introductions that quote Thierry Groensteen – “Yes, yes – oh god yes!! Gimme that sweet legitimacy daddy!!!”

Get real, come on, snap out of it. Think about what you value in comics, not what these other clowns are pushing, and do that. Do it a bunch of different times, in a bunch of different ways. Suss it out, take your time, play, and relax. Try setting up a structure that is forgiving, something you could leave tomorrow if you had to, or pick up in fifteen years time if you wanted. It would be very good if you could be kind to yourself, and not treat your mind and body as if it were a machine. If you read this and think “No, thereʼs no way I can play with comics, if I do Iʼll never be Osamu Tezuka!”, then I have bad news for you friend: youʼre already not Osamu Tezuka. You are you, and the comics you make and the way you make them, do not need to be defined by the values that came before.

Take what you need, not what you can carry – itʼs a stranger journey than you can imagine. Finish your comic, itʼs time to move on.

the end

Jillian Fleck

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Jillian Fleck is a comic artist from Calgary, Alberta, currently studying comics at the University of Dundee. Check out her work HERE.

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