Attention passengers, Urban Underbrush is now beginning it’s final descent. Please fasten your seat belts, as you may experience some emotional turbulence.

Today, I want to tell you how I realized that this comic had to end. And, as the opening paragraph may indicate, much of it will be told by clever metaphors.

I wanted Urban Underbrush to be the kind of comic that went on for years. That train of thought probably kept me from acknowledging some of the problems with the world I had built. I knew my comic had flaws, but I downplayed them because I also knew my comic had a lot of good in it too. I figured if I just kept at it, I’d pick up more readers eventually.

But getting people to give your work a chance tricky. I sometimes fantasized that I’d get a recommendation from a successful cartoonist. Then, thousands of readers would check out me site and, surely, enough of them would stick around that I’d have a respectable audience. The celebrity endorsement thing was never my plan (I wasn’t that delusional) but we’ve all seen that kind of success story happen to someone. Getting a lucky break wasn’t impossible, right?

Late in the September of 2015 (was it really that long ago?) I noticed an article on webcomics.com titled “How Do I get More Readers?” (BTW, webcomics.com is a subscription site, but I have talked to the owner, cartoonist Brad Guigar,  about referencing some of his exclusive content and he’s cool with it.) The article started out with a line that was uncomfortably close to what I had been thinking: “If I could get more people to see my comic, they would actually like it.” The article went on to explain that if you have a website, you probably have new people checking you out all the time. And if your numbers aren’t increasing as a result, then you are not giving new visitors a reason to stick around.

I visualized a metaphor:

Metaphor #1 – Building an audience online is like collecting water in a clay pot.

Imagine, your audience is water that you need to collect. You are near the sea, but you are on a high cliff, and the sea is far below you. Every once in a while, a wave splashes high enough to reach the clifftop, but you never know when or where it will strike. To collect your water, you build a clay pot and take it to the cliff. All day people carry their pots up and down the cliffside, hoping to catch water from the waves. But, while they are waiting, a light rain is falling. If your pot is well made, it will gradually be filled by the rain. It will collect enough water, even without the benefit of the waves. If your pot is poorly made, the rain will seep through it. Sadly the owners of these poor pots don’t even notice the leaks. They assume their pots are empty because they haven’t caught their wave yet. But even if they did catch a wave, the water would still leak out because what the thing that they made is not good enough to hold it.

In one terrifying moment, I realized that Urban Underbrush was like a pot in the light rain. It had been sitting out long enough to collect plenty of water. If the water level was still low, then that pot was simply not well made. This was tough to accept because I really did like that little pot.

 

At this point, I feel that I must acknowledge that Urban Underbrush does have a handful of very kind and devoted readers who I value very much. I don’t want any of them to feel like they don’t matter to me just because there aren’t hundreds more of them. In fact if Urban Underbrush could retain even a modest following, it couldn’t have been  all bad. I may be biased, but I believe my comic did many, many more things right than it did wrong. Yet, somehow, getting a lot of things right wan’t enough. Which brings us to the second metaphor:

Metaphor #2 – The elements of your story are like rocks and balloons.

Everything we write that improves our stories, such as amusing characters or useful plot devices, are like balloons that lift the work higher. Everything that hurts our stories, like flat characters or convoluted plot devices, are like rocks that weigh the story down. When our stories don’t take off the way we want them to, our inclination is to add more balloons. We don’t always think about cutting the rocks loose. And getting rid of rocks is not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes, we get sentimentally attached to our rocks. Other times, too many of our balloon strings tangle around them, so cutting the rocks loose would mean losing balloons as well. Sometimes, our balloons can be big and strong enough to lift a few small rocks, but we can’t expect that to work out every time.

Urban Underbrush certainly had more balloons than rocks, but I had been trying to separate the two for a long time with little success. The best thing for it was for me to retire the story and, hopefully, save some of those balloons for the next tale.

 

Okay, I know these things are usually supposed to have at least three items on a list, but I really can’t think of a third metaphor. Please keep reading the comic anyway. On Friday, I’ll have one more blog entry where I share my thoughts on the big finale. Then Draconis can come back and I can write about other things once in a while.

If you keep reading and commenting until the finale, I will feel as warm as a summer day.

There’s your third metaphor.

Oh, wait… that was a simile.

Dang.