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January 18, 2005

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Dale, who writes the comics.


I hope you’re doing well.

This will have to be a short post. I've got a stack of grading to do. I'm reading my 7th grader's animal reports. Did you know a snake is blind when he sheds his skin?

Reading the forums, one gets the idea that our fan base is made up of cute girls in costumes, and the occasional college student. Both groups must possess a devastatingly enormous intellect to choose our forums above all others. This is more than I could ever need or hope to expect.

However, I'd like to take a moment to address the small population of readers who are so rich that at any moment God could strike them blind!

I'm asking you to take a few minutes to roll off your squeaky pool rafts and wade on over to your butlers. Sure all the party guests will complain, and the ice waiting in your mixed drinks will melt on the top, making them insipid and flavorless for a brief, less-pleasurable, moment. But by the edge of the pool in the shadow of your immense stone mansion you can draft a check payable to Damage Irreversible’s paypal button in the Patron's Gallery. Know that with every good deed, every jewel on every ring on every finger of your hand glints, not once, but twice, and the birds chirping in the nooks of your vast well cropped grounds sing a little higher each morning.

Sure, a small donation from everyone who visits the site could keep David and me in business for the year. But wouldn't it be better if an eccentric and some say crazy millionaire invited us in to his home to make a proposal we could never refuse?

Your friend,


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David, who draws the comics.

Your Bickering Is My Vindication

Controversy erupted last week with A Lesson Is Learned #19. That installment broke from tradition, swerving terrifyingly like an irresponsible teenager in his parents' SUV. Let us enumerate the bizarre deviations: Only one panel. Chilly distance between picture and words. Familiar protagonist, David (me), appears as a much older person, with a child who might be his son. Lack of any discernible story. You see -- none of the things which normally make our lives tolerable were anywhere to be found. Readers felt the roof blown off their cozy nook, and the rushing untamed darkness of the internet yawned around them.

Debate flared up in the forum, where long-time readers and new arrivals argued the merits or failures of the latest issue. Was it good? Was it pretentious? Was its pretension justified? Was pretension important to the message? Or was it extraneous and was extraneousness important to the message? Was it even a comic at all? For that matter, was it art?

Gentlemen! And ladies. Please. We are all here to have a nice time.

Actually, I don't mind if you argue. I'm happy if something I've made can induce anyone to action, even ultimately destructive action. But I would like to extend a bit of an explanation for last week's comic, both to calm the rising blood pressure of our elder readers and to dispel accusations of pretension. Such a claim often results from confusion and alienation, when a reader, suddenly swaying on a crumbling ledge, a gasp of empty space between him and the comic he used to know, tries to blame that gap on the artists. The artists! They, who above all crave to be understood! It's fine -- I'll be the mature one this time and take responsibility.

Sometimes artists lose their audience by design, raising walls of aesthetic obscurity against which the critic's spear drops embarrassingly. A reader may not like a piece, but if he does not understand it, what is his opinion worth? Other times, artists lose their audiences from sheer incompetence. Please, associate us with the latter.

#19 was a first step in our new effort to produce comics more quickly. (We want to give you one every week, so that your addiction will pain you but never wane.) We used a new process and, obviously, limited the comic's length. It's not our best comic, but it's different from earlier episodes, and it was fun to make. When I'm working on an ambitious comic like #13 or #18, I sometimes yearn for my high school days, when whatever I could draw on the sly during French class was enough. Now, nothing is enough and I wish I'd paid more attention in French class.

This week we tweaked our process again. It still took me seven or eight hours to draw the final version, but at least it wasn't a crazy conceptual composition like our Christmas episode. We will still do those, but only about as frequently as usual (not every week). Sometimes we just want to enjoy ourselves, reasonably, and #20 is about as reasonable as we get. There are panels, there are words bubbles, there is a story, there is a joke, there is social security for our grandchildren. But most importantly, there is YOU.

Thanks for reading.


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(c) David Hellman and Dale Beran 2005