Yay, the story is finished! Read PART ONE, TWO & THREE

This ended up taking longer than I had planned and was a lot more work than I envisaged. I’m glad I attempted a long-form story, but I don’t see myself doing it again anytime soon. I’m too spoilt with the Zen Pencils format of being able to change styles and subject matter with each new shorter comic.

The theme of internet trolls has been on my mind for awhile now. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, comment boards … is it just me or is the internet being suffocated by negativity and hate? Not necessarily directed at my work but just in general. Maybe I’m visiting the wrong sites but everybody thinks they’re an expert and can’t wait to tell you you’re wrong, or something sucks and why the hell did that person even bother trying?

It’s time to choose a side. Are you on the side who takes the easy option? The troll. The armchair critic slinging snarky quips behind the safety of a keyboard. Firing sarcastic bullets at those in the trenches. Or are you a creator? Someone who makes something. Someone who lets themselves be vulnerable in front of an audience, who contributes something new and hopeful to an increasingly dark and depressing world. Choose. Which side are you on?

And listen, I know my work ain’t the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m relatively new at being a professional cartoonist and I’m sure Zen Pencils isn’t for everyone. But I’m all in – 110%. I’m going to continue to learn and (hopefully) improve and I’m extremely lucky to have a loyal group of fans who have supported and encouraged me every step of the way.

I’ll leave you with this wonderful letter from the incomparable Kurt Vonnegut which a reader (thanks Akshaya) recently posted on the ZP Facebook page (I got the transcript from Letters of Note and I adapted a similar quote from Vonnegut nearly two years ago). Students at Xavier High School had to write their favourite authors asking them to come visit their school. Vonnegut was the only author to reply:

“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience BECOMING, to find out what’s inside you, TO MAKE YOUR SOUL GROW.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but RHYMED. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!
– Kurt Vonnegut”

Thanks for your patience while I tried something a bit different. Next comic, we’ll get back to more cartoon quotes from inspirational folks!