Lauren. 20, Colorado, Homestuck, LGBTQWTFBBQ. Married to science. Ceaselessly affectionate, compulsively creative, borderline incompetent. I'll believe in anything.
I am a citizen of the Internet. I do things sometimes. Some of those things will go here. Yeah.
Sure, I’d be happy to. Since you’re anonymous, of course, there’s no way I can actually guarantee you’ll ever see this, but hopefully this will at least help somebody. Also, I will warn you now, this will not be terribly “brief.” I’ll try to summarize what’s going on for you, though. As best I can, anyway.
Let’s start with the thing you mentioned from before. So, John started a Kickstarter in spring 2012 for a new project. It was intended to be a book of John’s post-Pictures For Sad Children work. At that point, it wasn’t clear exactly what that would include, but John had a big audience from Pictures For Sad Children and nobody really expected her to know exactly what she was going to do beforehand, so people supported her. For whatever reason, she decided to use the Kickstarter backer updates blog as another outlet for her weirdness, just as she had her Twitter and Tumblr, and so she made a lengthy post revealing how she had been “pretending to be depressed” throughout her career. If you want to read it, it should be here. Anyway, this obviously got quite a lot of backlash, and about a month later John spoke up basically just to say that, yeah, that was the point. She obviously wasn’t pretending to be depressed, and the whole thing was never intended to be taken seriously. That response is here. It was pretty clearly a kind of satirical look at how fucked up our society’s views of mental illness as a “profitable” thing that could be “faked” are in the first place. A lot of people didn’t get that, though, or felt like this explanation was insufficient, so it sparked a lot of controversy. John resumed updating normally after that, but many of these updates revealed difficulties in making and delivering the books. One of them included John coming out as a transsexual woman, which is not relevant and I cannot link to it because it is not public, but seems worth mentioning. Anyway, John kind of went quiet for a while after that. The “faking depression” thing isn’t super relevant, either, but it’s worth mentioning because 01. it shows a history of using people socially as a part of her work in order to express her ideas, in a way that a lot of people don’t like, and 02. a big part of the conversation now that John seems to be abandoning all of her endeavours is that those Kickstarter backers are still waiting for an actual update on the distribution of the book they funded (i.e. one that isn’t just a satirical rant or a coming out speech), and many of them still haven’t received their pledge rewards, either.
Since the Kickstarter, John began two new major projects: DMT, a book about her experiences with the eponymous drug (and, tangentially, also slightly about her experiences with religion and mental illness), and Michael Keaton, a weird comic about Michael Keaton and Mr. Rogers with a very different art style from her previous work but a similar sense of humour. Michael Keaton is noteworthy for being the only actual artwork that John hasn’t (yet) removed from the Internet.
On January 7th, John posted these on Twitter:
(Read bottom-to-top, since it’s Twitter).
She’s never clarified that first statement. I don’t know if it’s sadder if it’s true or if it’s a lie. In any case, this began the process of removing her work from the Internet. John’s Tumblr became a vehicle for the posting of blank images. At first, she actually posted a blank image. Then, as she continued to do this repeatedly, it became clear that this was part of the process by which images were removed from her Tumblr. Each blank post was a comic of hers that was no longer on the website, neither viewable on her own blog or in reblogs. This was made possible through collaboration with Tumblr staff, who have removed John’s work at her request. John’s cited reason for this was “an art project.”
From this time on, John began to delete artwork from her other websites, as well, including Pictures For Sad Children, Sad Pictures For Children, the Hourly Comics website, and her old Livejournal account that held most of her early work. John only deleted the images, however, leaving a lot of fragmented pages with orphaned pieces of text. One of the last things to be removed was a recent interview (from August of last year) about the DMT book that she did with Jesse Moynihan on the Anecdotal Evidence podcast. John asked Jesse to take it down, and he did. This process sped up gradually until about last week (when I heard about it), at which point everything John’s ever done except 01. Michael Keaton, 02. some recent essays, and 03. her Twitter account is unavailable. I’ll come back to those essays, since they’re important. In the end, she replaced some of her websites entirely with blank images, so as to destroy them but not trigger 404 errors.
During this period of removing stuff, John kept tweeting and posting on Tumblr. She never explained what she was doing or why. People gradually began to realize and grow confused and scared. John’s tweets during this period have three main repetitive elements: 01. extremist feminist critique of comics and webcomics, including some heated arguments with other creators, 02. requests and entreaties to unfollow her with varying degrees of sincerity, and 03. the almost ritualistic repetition of the phrase “we can’t do what we’ve tried before.”
So, John’s attacks against (both real and perceived) sexism became important a couple weeks ago when Joel Watson (the author of the popular webcomic Hijinks Ensue) posted a response to a woman’s question. She had asked Joel for advice about getting into webcomics on behalf of her daughter, who was an aspiring comics artist. Joel gave some trite but honest and well-intentioned advice. John latched onto this and posted a very aggressive response, implicitly criticizing Joel for failing to say anything about the opposition that this girl might face in the webcomics community, particularly as a woman. John’s focus was on the presence of sexism in comics (and society in general). Later parts of this discussion featured some scathing accusations towards Joel of actively perpetuating this state. Joel responded dismissively, arguing that there wasn’t any “webcomics industry” and therefore no institutionalized sexism beyond that of individuals in the community.
Two days ago, John posted this. Things have gotten pretty confused since then, because 01. John is playing the role of an active and fervent feminist, which has won her the support of a lot of people, even those who don’t have any idea about the rest of this, 02. John’s personal life, her obligations to her fans, and her weird behaviour recently are all intimately tied into a conversation that has become about something else entirely, as well, and 03. a lot of other comics creators, including Erika Moen, Spike Trotman, David Willis, and Chris Onstad (creator of Achewood) have been dragged into this by John, Joel, or both.
This wasn’t the first time John has gotten in arguments about sexism in comics, though. Like I mentioned, this has been a continuing theme both of her tweets during the removal of her work and in some of the essays she’s posted on Tumblr during the past few months. John had a similar fight with Ryan Sohmer about a month ago. I’m not saying what that means; that’s up to you, but this is clearly a big part of John’s thought process right now. It’s also worth mentioning that 01. John has virtually always been (not pretending to be, ha) depressed and has a tendency to take things like the global reality of human suffering very personally, and 02. she has done a fuckton of drugs over the last year. I am not blaming either of those things for this, nor am I saying that drugs or mental illness in general have anything to do with feminism or weird, self-destructive art, but they are relevant in this case.
Finally, I think anyone wanting to understand how the removal of John’s work could have anything to do with her frustration at sexism in comics should definitely read this. Once again, I’m not saying this is her motivation, I’m just saying it’s a thing she wrote that’s relevant.
So, that’s where we’re at right now. John appears to be leaving the Internet pretty much entirely. Nobody is 100% sure why, but it’s clearly pretty related to her growing cynicism toward the webcomics community, which she has always been very intimately tied to. She has made a lot of people very angry, both at her and at others, for various reasons. Everyone is talking about sexism in comics. I guess we’ll see what happens next. I hope John’s art comes back. Honestly, that’s all I really want from this. I don’t know if it will.
Edit: this post has been slightly revised/updated, primarily for pronoun use, but also just to correct certain bits of misleading wording, and to include a couple new links. A lot has happened since I wrote this, so this post can in no way bring you completely up to date, but it should now be more-or-less completely accurate up to the date at which it was originally published. This version (the one on my blog, not the one going around) is the most revised version of this post. If you want to know what’s happened since I wrote this, you can either read what I’ve written about it, or just go read John’s major update. Or both. Do whatever you want; I’m not your mom.