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Arthur, King of Time and Space Arthur, King of Time and Space

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1/6/14

3518 daily updates in a row. Nine plus years. That's less than half the time I meant for the project to last when I started it. Back then, when I entertained the idea that I wouldn't go twenty-five years, it was with the assumption that wrapping up early meant the story would be left unfinished. With what I've actually done now, putting together a quick and dirty conclusion after deciding I can't continue, I'm not sure whether that's what happened or not.

But it was also with the idea that, if I felt a burnout coming on (as I was certain I occasionally would, based on the history of my pre-internet daily cartoons), I'd respond by dropping the project for a time. (AKOTAS was never going to become my day job. When AKOTAS started I was twice the age of most successful webcartoonists [this was 2004 - for "successful" read not "making a living" but "continuing to update beyond the first month"]; doing without conventional retirement and healthcare benefits was never an option. Instead I have worn the badge "amateur" with pride and, I hope, with honor; helping the world to see, I hope, that you don't have to be rich and corporate, or even to be able to afford Photoshop, to entertain.)

In the event, instead I responded to burnouts, on two occasions, by adopting a temporary alternate format for six months and then skipping years in the characters' lives on resumption of proper format. (This is aside from, on other recent occasions, creating brief or intermittent hiatus formats with no timeskip in the characters' chronology for unexpected periods of personal stress; the most recent of which, obviously, bringing about the conclusion.) But I believed too strongly that the characters and their readership would be best served by an unremitting daily presence; hence alternate formats when I burned out on the proper format. Then the first hiatus didn't last as long as I had expected and planned when initiating it; hence the institution of timeskips. Then I was forced to conclude that a proper daily commitment is something I'm no longer capable of; hence the conclusion of the project. I wrote in this space early on that I did start this strip expecting it to evolve in some ways I hadn't necessarily planned or would not have preferred if asked in advance. Now the project's done, the burnouts, timeskips and early end - as well as the high frequency of fillers and sketches during normal daily update schedule - rather than any creative issue inside the story are the best manifestation of that prediction. (Although I'd always known that I was going to have trouble letting the False Guenevere storyline run all of the two years it's said to run in the sources [Say, if there'd been no timeskips we'd be smack in the middle of that right now].)

You know, that's wrong. The timeskipping with the high percentage of filler is second. My greatest regret is that I didn't do it all in the same art style. I started it in line drawing, instead of the "triangles" I'd been using in online cartoons for years, because I thought that would go over better with general audiences. Despite occasional use of triangles as a defense against burnout (usually only a day at a time, but twice for weeks on end, and once for a six month burnout hiatus) and, despite great temptation in times of stress to permanently convert to triangles, I felt compelled to stick by my original decision, for having created the expectation. In the middle of the Grailquest year due to hardware issues I compromised by coming up with what I've been calling lineless drawing, and like all compromises it didn't quite satisfy. I had wanted the project to be uniform, beginning to end. You may say, "But it was a learning experience for you, and that's always valuable." My rebuttal to that is, the work was supposed to be about the project not about me. Anyway, if I ever do another daily webcomic it'll be triangles. And unapologetically so because I think they're just fine.

My third top regret is that I didn't write more for the second tier of arcs - the MASH arc, the superhero arc, the western arc, the new slayer arc. Somehow, though, they were just harder to write for.

In the compressed time that's lived online, it's become traditional already for concluded webcomics to go into a rerun cycle with extra added "director's commentary". I'm not going to do that. I still believe it shouldn't take longer to read the text on a webcomic site than it does to read the comics (as you can tell from the density of yesterday's dialog ballons). After an appropriate time I'll move the first cartoon onto the main page, with it and the last one linked together at their "previous" and "next" buttons respectively. If you would like a reread, I recommend the Archive Binge RSS in the link buttons.

What's in the future for these characters? I've always had vague plans to put out books. After thirteen years' work I'd hate for civilization to fall and the internet go away and there be no trace of AKOTAS left in the world outside of that back issue of Arthuriana. But, damn, putting a book together is a lot of work. It may be more likely to happen now that the daily cartoon isn't going to be in actual production any more, but only time will tell.

What'll I do next in webcomics? As I've said both in Creative Process and beyond the fourth wall in cartoons here at AKOTAS, awhile ago I decided that starting a general interest webcomic project was a mistake. Writing or drawing fanfiction of the screen properties that inspire me has always been where my heart truly lies. AKOTAS, while rewarding, has been a distraction from that true calling, the final nail in the coffin of the perennial argument from family, friends, society in general, and, most recently, Scott Kurtz that I'd be happier and more prosperous if I invented my own characters. By the time I realized this I had already shortened the projected lifespan of AKOTAS from twenty-five to thirteen years. If it had been an open-ended project instead of one with a planned ending, or if it hadn't had sufficient loyal fanbase, I would have dropped it then. But, as I say, it's been sufficiently rewarding ... largely, of course, in instances where it functioned as fanfiction of the classic sources, but also for reasons I'll get into below at the end. I wondered pretty much since AKOTAS started what I might do for another general interest webcomic after AKOTAS met its end. If I'm smart there probably won't be another general interest webcomic besides Creative Process; and, if there is, it won't be daily unless it's done in triangle style, or in cut-and-paste sprites like the AKOTAS intermittent hiatus format, or something even simpler.

So for the future of my webcartooning please look to The Hero of Three Faces, continuing in its established update schedule of rarely seven but rarely none in a week, with annual summer hiatus. It's there that I've been doing such experiments with the comic strip form that have occurred to me over the years (which, in retrospect, unknown to me, have all probably already been pioneered by Andrew Hussie). It's there where I host characters I've loved since I could draw. I may even give it its own URL and website, or a new website with a new name and a new artstyle to replace the triangle caricatures no one but me likes, and incorporating all the innovations I've been experimenting with that I now wish Three Faces had had from the beginning.

I would guess that AKOTAS characters will appear there, when new jokes occur to me that only AKOTAS characters could tell. When they do, I may mirror the cartoons here, either on the main page or in a special section called something like Fanfiction Of My Own Work or something. I shall have to decide that on the occasion when the first one comes.

As for you the readers: I've had a lot of kind words from you since the announcement, including a flattering writeup from Gary Tyrrell at Fleen. One e-correspondent felt it advisable to put it up front in his email subject that he was "not an angry fan", but the response has been uniformly supportive. I suspect, I've always suspected, that 1) a webcomic's readership size must reach a certain threshhold before there's a significant percentage who are willing to be unpleasant for entertainment purposes (at least in the face of the word cancer) and 2) I've never reached that threshhold. Whether that's right or wrong, none of you have been as hard on me about this as I am.

I don't know how many of you will still be hanging around once there's only intermittent fanfiction and no daily Arthur; particularly since a lot of the positive reactions I've had from the AKOTAS audience lately have been in reaction to recent efforts at representation for marginalized demographics. That's something Three Faces, being about not inventing characters, is much, much poorer at. It's this aspect of AKOTAS, so recently realized, that makes me sorriest for needing to let it go, and that will, I'm suspect, generate the most reader disappointment. I want to say maybe I will one day figure out something to do about that in future fanfiction cartooning. Meanwhile I'm sorry for letting the side down. All else I can really say to the readers affected by AKOTAS' attempts to be inclusive as well as all the rest of you is the same thing I've said every day on every page:

Thanks for reading.

Webcomics I read mornings: Kevin & Kell, For Better Or For Worse, C'est la Vie, Bring Back Roomies, Dumbing of Age Webcomics I read M-W-F mornings: General Protection Fault, Nukees, Newshounds, Spacetrawler, Girl Genius Webcomics I read Tu-Th-Sa mornings: The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, All New Issues, Ctrl+Alt+Del
Webcomics I read middays: Calvin & Hobbes, Least I Could Do, User Friendly, LuAnn, Pearls Before Swine, Schlock Mercenary
Webcomics I read weekday evenings: Something Positive, Girls With Slingshots, Questionable Content, El Goonish Shive, Striptease, Dinosaur Comics, Medium Large, Shortpacked, Hijinks Ensue, Wapsi Square, Scenes from a Multiverse, Sheldon, Sluggy Freelance, Devil's Panties, Welcome To The Future, Help Desk, Real Life, PvP, LitBrick, Mary Elizabeth's Sock Webcomics I read M-W-F evenings: Two Lumps, Bruno, Little Dee, Gospel of Carol, xkcd Webcomics I read Tu-Th-Sa evenings: Darths & Droids, The Gutters, Bruno, Little Dee, NIMONA
Webcomics I read bedtimes: B.C., Station V3, Sinfest, Skin Horse, Peanuts
Webcomics I read Sundays: Order of the Stick, College Roommates from Hell!!!, Get Out of My Head, Blue Milk Special, Three Panel Soul, The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, Megatokyo, Punch an' Pie, Gronk, Head Trip, Irregular Comic, Sporkman Webcomics I hope will start updating again: Boxjam's Doodle, The Angriest Rice Cooker In The World, My Name is Might Have Been, Dandy & Company, AppleGeeks, No Room for Magic, Li'l Mell, Breakfast of the Gods, Something Happens, Butternut Squash, Sketchies, 13 Seconds, Anywhere But Here, Crap I Drew On My Lunch Break, Count Your Sheep, Kismetropolis, The Magnificent Adventures of Hieronymus Bosch, esquire, The Green Avenger, I Draw Comics, Reasoned Cognition, Tux & Bunny, Perry Bible Fellowship, Let's Be Friends Again, The Whovian Observer, Gossamer Commons See also The Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge, Talk About Comics, The Living Comic, Online Comics Day, The Belfry Comics Index, The Webcomic List, Mister Bloo, Nth Degree, 100% Originality Theatre, Brian Roney's Webcomic Reviews, Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed), Fleen, Mr. Myth, Comixtalk and Websnark.

Arthuriana sources I use or recommend:
Arthurian Legend
Arthuriana - the Journal of Arthurian Studies; the website of the quarterly journal of the North American Branch of the International Arthurian Society.
The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester.
Camelot In Four Colors: A Survey of the Arthurian Legend in Comics
Mystical-WWW - The Arthurian A2Z knowledge Bank which has encyclopedically-arranged entries on the characters of the Arthurian legends.
Early British Kingdoms - Arthurian Bios.
Historia Ecclesiastica.
Le Morte Darthur: Sir Thomas Malory's Book of King Arthur and of his Noble Knights of the Round Table, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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