It’s not exactly an announcement that will uncurl your pubics, but there’s new stuff afoot!
For the past several months I have been working on improvements to the comic and the site with the goal of making it look better and read better.
Colors – When I originally started TG, I went with grayscale for a lot of it. I eventually figured out that was just as time-consuming, but had the side effect of not being as nice to look at. Now every comic in the archive is now in comparatively glorious full color!
Horizontal Formatting – Every comic in the archive is also now in horizontal comic strip format! Okay, this part probably doesn’t make that much of a difference to you other than a smoother reading experience, but if I ever want to publish a book it’ll be pretty important.
Dialogue Improvements – Many of these are minor – a better joke here and clearer wording there, but I’ve also done a little playing with time scales. The essential story elements are the same, but I’ve made the series less convoluted and problematic overall.
Consider this new version the TG Director’s Cut. With these updates, I really feel like the comic is the strongest it has ever been. Give it another read-through and enjoy!
As you can tell from the Drunken Aya Timeline above, she’s been with me a LONG time. The leftmost image was composed before I had done any real artwork on the computer, which is obvious from the rough colored pencil work. We then progress through several other variably crappy iterations of her until her most recent appearance in Treading Ground.
I’ve drawn her a lot, and in a few cases I’ve even reattempted the same poses once I learned how to draw them less shittily:
Her terrible tolerance for alcohol came about as a result of Art By Accident. When I first flexed my feeble skills at composing drawrings, I didn’t yet have a feel for expressions and composition. I showed the sketch of the first picture to my buddy Jack, and he told me she looked like she was drunk. I initially balked of course – Aya wasn’t that type of girl! But when I looked back at it, that was all I could see. Instead of ripping up the paper in frustration, I decided to run with it, and it became her cross to bear.
Aya also features in some early, terrible comics I drew.
In those same old comics, you could also see a prototype of Trevor, who is actually the brown-haired guy you see in the 2002 pic in the timeline, conveniently comparable to his more recent look on the far right.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I really figured out who he was.
*cough* a douchebag *cough*
He’s easily one of the most popular characters in the comic, but along with Rose, he’s also one that gave me the most headache.
The first thing you should know about Purvous is that he is a real guy. Well, not quite. Purvous is based almost entirely on a bagger named Ervin that I worked with when I was Bookkeeper and Customer Service Manager at my own Food “Baron”. Almost every single one of Purvous’s lines in the main comic are taken from things Ervin has actually said. The refurbished comic you see above is an exchange I directly witnessed, and yes, he even said “AH WANNA MAKE A BABY.”
As a writer, you’re often tempted to take people you know in real life and put them directly into your work. This is almost never a good idea. You’ll either want to do things with that character that might create a conflict with the actual person, or like me, you may fall into the trap of presenting a character without the proper fictional context. You know the character because you’ve practically lifted him out of real life, but your readers don’t quite get the same connection. They don’t get the disclaimer. I learned a lot from the mistakes I made posting stupid shit out of context.
With Purvous, things were complicated not only by the typical factors but also by the fact that, let’s face it, he’s living with a disability. That’s a concept most writers are uncomfortable with, and for good reason. You don’t want to seem like you’re making fun of people for cheap laughs. In TG’s case, it’s Purvous getting the laugh on everyone around him. He may say wacky things that make you laugh, but nobody’s making fun of him. And the readers have really responded to him.
Still I worried about making the wrong impression every time I wrote Purvous into a strip, and certainly that’s what some who came to the site looking for something to pick at have taken away. But TG is a reality-based comic, and people like Purvous are part of reality. They make life a little less drab and boring.
Ervin himself is an amazing guy, and working with him was a blast. He is a completely unfiltered individual, and he knows how awesome he is. I think I did a not-entirely-horrible job representing elements of him here, and the dedicated Purvous fans would seem to agree.
But ultimately, Purvous isn’t really my character. He’s Ervin’s, and I was just borrowing him.
This week I’ll be posting extra Treading Ground material that either didn’t quite make it in to the main comic or otherwise provides some additional perspective. I have posts lined up for Monday, Wednesday and Friday for sure. Today’s post is an extra comic!
Way back in the day when I first got into webcomics I would take other people’s existing comics and rewrite them, changing the words and the expressions to match my new words. I referred to it as “strip hacking,” though when I do it with my own work it’s probably more accurately referred to as “refurbishing.” Expert TG readers will recognize the art from an earlier storyline, but the words are all new. I’ve seen whole comics made that way, so I figured it was worth a shot.
This script is one I wrote quite some time ago, but since TG has been so heavily storyline driven for the past year or so, I never did get another chance to put in some more one-off Nate and Steve roommate banter.
Enjoy! Wednesday’s post is all about Purvous.
This will be the last week of Treading Ground.
To say it’s been a while would be an understatement. While most of you have only been with me for the last year or so, I originally started this comic on Keenspace way back in 2003. It wasn’t until February of 2010 that I was able to give it the attention it deserved, though, and since then the comic has been going strong, gaining steam and attracting a readership that has been both numerous and vocal.
But this story was never intended to be something that would run forever. I’ve always had a beginning, middle and end in mind, and on Friday we’ll see that end come to fruition.
This story may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean I’m done making comics, or even that this is the last you’ll see of these characters. On Friday after the final Treading Ground comic, I’ll announce the first details about my next webcomic project, including where you can find it and when it will premiere. I’m working hard to get that project off the ground as soon as possible so no one is kept waiting too long!
I want to thank everyone who has been with me as we followed the lives of Nate, Rose, and the rest of the cast. There is much more to come, and I hope you’ll continue to join me for it.
As you may recall, a while back I ran TG’s first ever (and likely ONLY ever) Favorite Character Poll. Let’s examine the results!
Who is your favorite Treading Ground character?
1. Rose (29%, 300 Votes)
2. Aya (15%, 159 Votes)
3. Nate (12%, 125 Votes)
4. Purvous (12%, 123 Votes)
5. Tracy (10%, 103 Votes)
6. Arne (4%, 40 Votes)
7. Miranda (4%, 38 Votes)
8. Beth (Rose’s Mom) (3%, 33 Votes)
9. Steve (3%, 31 Votes)
10. Les (3%, 28 Votes)
11. Jimi (3%, 28 Votes)
12. Nina (Rose’s Sister) (1%, 11 Votes)
13. Derek (0%, 5 Votes)
14. Trevor (0%, 4 Votes)
15. Bill (0%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,031
She’s made her mistakes, but Rose still takes the lead in the hearts of the people. Thanks for voting, everyone!
The Food Baron is a place full of unforgiving flourescent lighting and colorless backdrops, and I assure you this is intentional. This has been the primary theme for grocery store design for as long as I can remember. From the easily scuffed white tile floors to the monotonous beige racks, stands and shelves, it’s just a never-ending cocktail of mediocrity. I suppose there was some market research that went into that choice, perhaps imagining that the chromatic purgatory of the decor would draw more eyes to the products themselves, and consequently lead to more sales. Whatever it is, it’s a fitting metaphor for the way Nate looks upon his job, so I made sure it shone through in the store scenes.
But lately I’ve noticed this theme changing. As some of the stores in my local area are remodeled, I’m definitely seeing a pattern of more earthy tones in the floors particularly, and much less harshness in the color scheme in general. It might be part of the response to the movement toward more natural and organic products, but no matter the cause it’s a welcome transition. The products might not get the spotlight as much as they used to, but the fact that your eyes are no longer being assaulted by the bright white void should allow customers to spend more time in the stores, accomplishing the same overall goal.
The ambiance in the Food Baron, on the other hand, will always remain blindingly banal.
Man, I saw these guys one time. Best show of my life. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a chick play the xylophone on her exposed ribcage. They don’t play during the day because the vampire bassist would disintegrate in the sunlight. But that zombie babe they have on lead guitar, WOW. And so what if things occasionally fall off when she flashes the crowd? Great souvenirs, I say!
As seen in this comic.