I’ve dropped my label.
Personally, I dropped my label a long time ago. Professionally, on the other hand, it was much more recent.
I’m talking about the label that I used to identify myself when I couldn’t find what I was looking for in “normal” society. In my early 20’s I finally had the freedom to experience new things and after a bit of exploration, I discovered my tribe. I found the people whose sensibilities and aesthetics appealed to me. I heard the music that stirred the deepest, most visceral feelings inside of what I thought was my empty and unfulfilled soul. I saw a fashion that excited me, an attitude that validated and vindicated my own, and a new path for me to follow that was different from anything I had ever known. Most precious of all, I found enthusiastic acceptance… I found my tribe. I found the gothic community.
It has been nearly 20 years since I Took The Black. The commitment was an easy one to make. Some people say that doing so is “just a phase.” Some people grow out of it, some are in it for the long haul, and many more can place themselves anywhere on the wide spectrum in between. I harbor no hard feelings for my tribesmen and women who have left, changed, evolved, or just hang on to the facets that appeal to them. I hold no animosity for those that make the tribe their life’s purpose, who revel in every aspect of it, and will defend it till their last undying breath. To each their own.
The adage “Change Is the Only Constant” is very true. This tribe, my tribe, has constantly been in transition. It has changed since I found myself among its ranks and it continues to change to this day. The word “goth” itself has always had many interpretations and its definitions can be, and always will be furiously debated, especially among the people of my tribe.
I’ve stopped debating it and defending it a long time ago, and I’m done identifying with it.
I haven’t actually identified with it for quite some time, to be perfectly honest. Like most of my tribe, I enjoy other things. I don’t only listen to gothic music. I don’t only appreciate the macabre. I don’t only wear black because that’s what I’m supposed to do to fit in with my tribe. I wear it because it’s what I want to do, and it appeals to me on so many levels.
I was happy at first that people described me as goth. It let others know which path I decided to take, which direction I was headed, but after 20 years that word doesn’t work for me anymore. The word “goth” means a lot of things to a lot of people. Unfortunately, it means something completely different to the non-tribe members. It’s not something any one of us can control. To them, it is merely a label, something for that enables ease of classification, something that saves them the time of getting to know you, your art, your writing, your personality. Something one can look at and decide in an instant if they’re interested or not. I never planned for my comics to be only for the eyes of the members of my tribe. I want to show that my tribe consists of real people and have the same feelings, problems and expectations as everyone else.
You may ask, “Why is he talking about this now?”
It’s because I want people to stop using that word “goth” as a default to describe my comics. That one word makes no sense in verbal conversation with anyone not already a member of the tribe. My comics are about so much more. They’re about relationships, friendships, work, life, individuality, conformity, non-conformity, music, religion, mass media, gaming, tourists, awkward social situations, nihilism, and hopefully a lot of other things in the future that we are dealing with as a whole. Yes, the main characters are part of the tribe and one of the strips is set in a fictional goth club, but slapping a label on them reduces them to something they aren’t, and that needs to change.
From a marketing standpoint (not that I know a lot about marketing), the word actually seems to upset people and the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to get more readers is to scare them away.
The term “goth” carries a lot of baggage, especially with the goths themselves. Most people don’t know what the word means or have preconceived notions about it and the individuals that identify with it. They’re usually very wrong. The word scares people. I want ALL people to read my comics. I want them to be interested in picking up the books or clicking on the links to look at them. I want them to be able to get into the story and to identify with the characters without having any initial bias.
I labeled my comics as “goth” because that’s who I was, who I was writing about, and who I was writing for initially. The gothic community and everyone else who is into dark and alternative things is my target market. The tribe is what I know and you’re supposed to write about what you know, right?
Recently, at a massive comic convention, I realized something that has been troubling me for a while, something I had seen at smaller conventions but refused to admit to myself. When handing out flyers, I was denied at the same rate among possible tribesmen as I was with the rest of the crowd. You would think, at least I had thought, that a person that looks like they are in my tribe, or at least a version of it (whether it be goth, metal, rock-a-billy, fetish or even punk) would be more interested in taking a flyer from someone that looks and dresses like they do. That’s just not the case. Everyone is an individual and you cannot assume anything by the way they dress, the subject matter of their tattoos, or even the stack of books in their hands. It is said that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and that’s pretty much true for people too. Some of these people who look like they are in my tribe were among the happiest to accept my flyers. They were glad that I picked them out of the crowd and specifically handed them my advertisement, sometimes with the words, “You look like you would enjoy this.” Others, on the other hand, were quite verbally unreceptive and it blew my mind.
Don’t get me wrong. When I had a massive stack of flyers to hand out I did not discriminate, except by not handing them to kids younger than 15. As my stack thinned to only a handful, I was more deliberate.
This experience proved to me that something had changed out there- that maybe I’m doing something wrong, or thinking something completely different than what’s actually happening out there, that the alternative world out there had changed somewhat since I became a card carrying member of the tribe.
Other people’s preconceived perceptions are what I’m having a problem with and what I’m trying to get away from. That is why I will be dropping the “goth” label from any further physical or verbal marketing. I’m not sure if this problem I’m having is because I’m in the US. It may be very different with independent comic artists everywhere else in the world.
All the characters, story lines, and subject matter will remain the same. The only thing that is going to change (besides the quality increasing) is the basic description in marketing terms and I hope all of you can help me out with that. From now on, when you’re talking to anyone about my comic strips, please refrain from using the word “goth” or “gothic” in the first sentence or two. It would be much appreciated from a marketing standpoint! If you feel the need to respond to this post, I’m not really interested in hearing you say, “It’s about time you grew up. I’ve never labeled myself and you shouldn’t either.” I also don’t want to hear anything to the effect of, “You’re a traitor! How can you turn your back on us and the community? We hate you now.” I haven’t grown up and I haven’t turned by back on my tribe. I’m just trying to do what’s best to grow my audience.
I’m not saying that the gothic community doesn’t support me. It does. I am constantly amazed at the fan mail I get from members of my tribe across the world. I hope that they can continue to support my work and future endeavors.
Here is the schedule for the Broadcasts I am planning for my birthday.
Sunday May 18th, 2014
10am PST / 5pm UTC – Exclusive Google Hangout for European Patreon members
11am PST / 6pm UTC – Ustream Broadcast for anyone
5pm PST / 12am UTC – Exclusive Google Hangout for US Patreon members
7pm PST / 2am UTC – Ustream Broadcast for anyone
You can subscribe to my Ustream Channel here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/writhe-and-shine
Hope to see you there!
Writhe and Shine comics are being posted on the main page a well know “gothic” social network which receives a lot of traffic. That means I was going to attract the attention of some of those People That Cannot Say Anything Nice also known as Trolls.
I have already determined in a previous blog entry to Never Say Nothing, and have come to expect constant nasty remarks merely because I refuse to Not Feed The Trolls. Although, today I received a bizarre response from my troll that put things into an entirely different perspective.
After reading it, I realized that my troll has a crush on me.
Troll: can you try saying something comprehensible
Robert: Can you try saying something not reprehensible?
Also, can you try typing better and use proper punctuation?
Troll: can you go a single panel without being completely contemptible
i mean ive read your entire fucking archive its really indefensible
these are supposed to be humorous i understand, though thats quite ostensible
your writing is like your art though and by that i mean wholly one dimensional
calling any of these – even a single one – at all funny is totally untenable
the only comical thing about your work is that you call yourself a professional
so forgive me for using this comment as my personal polemical confessional
but your strip is a waste receptacle
always and forever forgettable
your rhyme was not impressive.
Robert: I love the fact that you thought I was trying to rhyme and therefore put so much time into creating your own, just for me. How sweet.
I love the fact that you read my entire archive even though you hate the comics.
I love the fact that I piss you off.
After thinking about it, I shouldn’t have used the word ‘love.’ It might give him/her the wrong idea.
I had an absolutely terrible night after finishing my comic yesterday and I ended up doing a lot of soul-searching.
I just wanted to Thank all of you that “get” my comics and that “get” me.
Thank you for sticking with me as I butcher the English language and for saying the things I want to say in the only way I know how to say them.
Now I just have to figure out a way to speak my mind in a manner that more people can understand and digest WITHOUT compromising the integrity of my ideals.
I don’t want to have to start adding sports references to the comic or talk about Justin Bieber mainly because topics such as these are completely disinteresting and disgust me.
Something’s got to change and it’s going to take a lot of work on my part to get to an acceptable point. Thank you for sticking with me through it all.