gabby's playhouse

a gabby schulz & ken dahl internet repository

gabby's playhouse



Cartooning is a curse. Don’t let the posis tell you different. It might seem fun before the carpal issues settle in, but in the long run nothing will destroy you faster.

Now that i’m finished with another book, you’d think i’d be trying to figure out how to get into grad school, getting a hobby that actually makes money. But instead, i still spend all my free time drawing, as if drawing was just my personal prophylactic against reality (and profit).

But then, picking our own particular poison might be the only thing in this world we have resembling free will. Since i’m getting old enough to see the finish-line tape in minute detail, i’ve realized that i’m probably doomed to keep drawing for as long as my body allows (which means roughly between two weeks and four years, if my estimations are correct). And since what we optimistically call “mid-life” would be nothing without self-aggrandizing thoughts of one’s Posthumous Legacy, i’ve been thinking a whole lot lately about what longer work — very possibly my last — i should claw away at next.

Since Sick is basically begging not to be bought, i thought maybe the next time i spend a year (or five) drawing a long-form comic story (assuming i ever do again), it should probably be something with at least a small chance of selling copies and dragging me out of retail. And before you click away in disgust, yes i know the odds of this are a pencil-shaving away from nil — but still, if i’m doomed to be a cartoonist, why not go whole-hog on the escapism, and dream just a little about literally being a cartoonist, in the actual, the-IRS-agrees sense, right? What i’m saying is, we’re trying to get that paper! And we don’t mean bristol!

So, like any desperate, pathetic failed artist riding that sweet spot between middle age and minimum wage, i’ve been busy sifting through the chicken entrails, trying to divine Just What The Fuck It Is Readers Want [to buy]. After realizing that all of my usual ideas involve angry screeds against basically everything constituting existence (and thus my readership), i decided that a much less-stupid way to go about this witchcraft is just to ask some readers what they want to read. And what better place to start than the one place on Earth i’m pretty sure i can contact people who read my comics — this website.

So, if anyone is actually reading all this: what do you think i should draw next? What kind of work would you want to see me draw, to the extent that you would actually pump some cash into a kickstarter or patreon? What is it that people keep wanting me to draw?

Just to show you how badly i need help with my Art Career, here are some recent ideas that i have sketched out or have already drawn a bit:

1. Shitcan: A Participant’s Guide to Collapse
A “comic” outline of the imminent destruction of everything we know, consisting of a deluge of horrific facts about how things are all swiftly and irrevocably ending, whether or not Bernie gets “elected” to head the Reichstag. Sounds fun!

2. Aloha Means Goodbye
An anti-colonialist history of the Hawaiian Islands, from white contact to the present, seen through the lens of my own childhood experiences there. (Because the world needs another Comic Memoir.)

3. Crass, pandering smut
People seem to buy a lot of story-driven cartoon porn at the bookstore where i work. It makes me think i should draw some too, and sell it. (Because the world really needs another depiction of straight white male-gaze sexual fantasy.)

4. An illustrated cartoon guide to mushrooms
Nothing inspires a dilettante like the opportunity to present themselves as an expert! This will basically be an excuse for me to draw nature a lot, by selling out its secrets to urban Whole Foods patrons.

5. The Normals
A story i started & abandoned around 2010, about the spread of a disease on a fictional island chain in the late 19th century. Got kind of hamfisted, but it was fun for a while. (For those wondering what i was wasting all my time drawing in New York in 2010-2011, this was it.)

6. The White Man’s Guide to Masculinity
So, patriarchy is p fucked up, and it’s p much everywhere, and no amount of callout culture or feminist process is going to fix it until men themselves start doing a better job of addressing it (and destroying it). That means creating a culture among men that’s actually interested in understanding how Manhood is constructed within patriarchal society. And we can’t do THAT until we actually figure out what the fuck manhood even means. Even today, with feminism taking its latest turn as watered-down buzzword in (patriarchal) mainstream media, it seems like the systems built on patriarchal oppression are stronger than ever. Cismen certainly don’t seem any less dominant these days, what with our recent obsessions with “pick-up artists,” being “alpha,” and all this other retrograde rapey-shooty shit floating around the marketplace (and hivemind). And so, big surprise: i thought i’d draw a comic about men. I have some Big Ideas on the subject — from titillating to downright soul-crushing — about how we construct ourselves as men, even post-Bowie, which i’d probably never share with the world unless somebody out there thought that a few thousand people would pay $20 to read them. There’s not many subjects out there that have gotten too little exploration, but masculinity is definitely one of them. At any rate it’s sure to piss off a few MRAs, which is almost payment in itself.

There’s more on my List of Sad Neglected Projects That Might Never Get Made, but i have to go clock in at my retail job now. I’d love to hear your comments on all this — “your” meaning you, even if you’re a jerk. How would you like to see me waste my life? TBH i’d also settle for a hot tip on a custodial library job in a small college town somewhere outside of Illinois.

32 Comments on “advice”

  1. FWIW, I’ve been reading your blog for at least 2 years. You could set up a Patreon for your diary comics! I’d kick in a few bucks a month, and hopefully others will too.

    My vote is for the Aloha Means Goodbye idea. That sounds interesting. A close second vote is for Shitcan.

    • Thanks man. I have thought about trying patreon for a while now, but don’t have one for the same reasons i never had birthday parties in junior high school — what if you ask your homeroom teacher if you can hand out invites to everyone and no one shows up? I’ll probably do it once i settle on a longer project though!

  2. What I’d read: #1, #2, #6
    What I think would sell like woah: #6
    What would get “mainstream” press/reviews (puke): #2
    What would make you immortal: #4

  3. Currently working on more short-sighted stuff but in a few months I’m planning on fleshing out this idea in a non-illustrated work. You can give it a go, too, if you want. We can race! It’ll be fun.

    Some sort of long-term catastrophe (right now I’m thinking a cluster of smaller asteroids coming our way or something, need to research) results in an extended period of time wherein being outside increases your chances of spontaneous death by 1 percent. So the odds are still in your favor, but much higher than you’d want them to be, and narratives’d explore how people alter their lives, or don’t.

    I think you’d do a good take on it. Also you could add a sort of “What fools these mortals be” narrator to provide some comic relief.

    The last choice on that list feels most commercially viable, but to the same end it doesn’t feel like it could continue being commercially viable after a year or two, at which point it might become outdated. Also asking people to pay for information on how to curb their being assholes instead of providing that information for free feels oxymoronic.

    • i only go outside because wouldn’t the asteroid just go through my roof anyway?

      thanks, it’s good to know other people are making similar plans (in the face of so little hope). and that’s a good point about the longevity of the last choice. it’s a weird time to be alive, when news gets updated so fast, and every new round of disaster (and climate models) so utterly outstrips our previous capacity for conceptualizing the maximum possibility of doom. we’ll probably be wading in radioactive algae-blooming seawater before i even finish any of these books!

      • Yeah, I’d have to figure out a LOT wrt those logistics. Maybe there’s enough advance warning for those who could afford it to reinforce their homes/roofs? Maybe some sort of gov’t-wide program is implemented to reinforce as many living spaces as possible in advance? Then the question of impoverished nations not being able to afford said protection, etc…

        Yeah, it’s fun thinking about issues of “integrity” and “legacy” and “shelf-life” in art when you are devoid of any belief in a future or god

        • i would make a really awful government authority figure because my response to that sort of asteroid situation would just be “well folks we’ve had a good run but don’t you think it’s about time for humans to be wiped off the planet anyway? i mean look on the bright side… less humans!” at least i’d save money that way.

          word on the legacy thoughts. art must have been so much more fulfilling before the world ended!

  4. Shitcan or The White Man’s Guide to Masculinity.

    I really enjoyed your diary comics. Would pick up a copy of those if you ever published them.

    • thanks shawn. it looks like alec longstreth is gonna help me POD a book of the diary comics and it should be ready hopefully by SPX time? (or else whenever i get my shit together to rescan the pages…)

  5. Mushrooms for sure. I would read and pay for 1, 2, 4 and 6 but the mushroom book is your best bet – you’re deeply invested in it already, it has mass appeal even though there’s nothing else like it out there and could lead to lots more work after its done – the whole foods crowd has money to burn and bookshelves of their overpriced gentrified condos to fill.

    • yeah, the whole foods crowd really is the only group left with any money to spend on books, aren’t they? thanks for the perspective, i think you’re right about the chances for the shroom book. the only thing holding me back is the thought of all the people who know more than me seeing the book & being like “who does this guy think he is to be casting himself as an authority on fungi??”… they sure are fun to draw though. maybe i should just make a story about why yuppies shouldn’t forage. i’d love to start a new eating-shit-food-is-cool trend.

  6. #2 seems the most interesting to me. Whenever you write about Hawaii, it is compelling and I want more.
    Maybe #4 is a series of prints?
    Keep taking notes about #6 for the next next project.

    • thanks that is cool, for decades now i have been dreaming about drawing a book about hawai’i but also, much like with the mushrooms, never feel like i deserve to stake out the territory as Person Who Knows About This Thing. that’s why i only draw comics about myself (and end up looking like a self-absorbed narcissist).

      mushroom prints would be great!

  7. Aloha Means Goodbye could be a decent commercial project andaybe pull you grants. I’m personally interested in the guide to masculinity, and feel that we need more of that in the world.

  8. These all sound great, but my personal vote is for Shitcan, since I always enjoy your takedowns of western civilization’s endtimes. Aloha Means Goodbye would get you on to a bunch of college syllabi for “graphic novels” courses and could mean a steady (if relatively small) source of income. White Man’s Guide to Masculinity is probably the most original topic, and would also get you exposure across the internet and a place on gender studies syllabi–and there’s a lot of those! Basically I think the college market is a good thing to aim for in terms of long-term revenue since people like me tend to teach the same things over and over if we really like the work. Anecdotally, I’ve been assigning either Dahlhouse or Monsters for a few years now, and my students always love them.

    Also, is there a way to finish The Normals quickly? More books is always good! And definitely set up a Patreon–I’d contribute something for sure.

    • god, thank you for using my books in your classes. and that’s a great point about targeting colleges. this is the sort of points i was hoping people would point out to me, i can’t believe i never asked these questions before.

      i think i ditched The Normals because i realized my writing wasn’t up to the task of total world-building (which was a hard fact to face). and thanks for the vote of confidence for patreon!

  9. 4 seems like the most marketable as BOOK book. I know a lot of people who’d love that who don’t care about comics at all. I find 1 and 6 to be the most interesting ideas personally (particularly 6.)

    • cool thanks! i’ve always been most interested in writing comics for people who don’t necessarily care about comics (aka the other 99.99% of the world), so that’s good.

  10. I’d buy/read all of them, but, I think that #2 and #4 both would be fantastic and would find larger audiences. #6 would probably be a great thing for many to read, but whether those who need to read it would is another question.

    • thanks. yeah it’s hard to preach to anyone else but the choir. i’m really interested in what the response will be to Sick (the book that’s coming out in may) — a true test of how much abuse a comic-book reader can take before demanding their money back! if i’m not rode out of town on a rail, i’d love to keep playing my Diogenes Lite role in adult-cartoon athens…

  11. My vote goes for shitcan – with a goodly chapter on mushrooms! and also the masculinity one. If the history of our trip into the shitcan is ever written – I bet it’ll have plenty to say about the perils of toxic masculinity.

    • a mycologist friend of mine actually wrote a funny lecture once called “six ways mushrooms will destroy the planet,” which was a response to a paul stamets lecture about how mushrooms will save it (with stamets’s wizard-bag full of patented mushroom-magic products, natch!).

      it gets hard to write about things from an intersectional, the-personal-is-political standpoint, because almost immediately you have to figure out a way to point out concisely that EVERYTHING is the problem, and it’s all tied together, and even the language i’m using to tell you all this is itself an agent of the oppressions we’re trying, oh so inadequately, to dismantle! sometimes i think that’s how wingnuts are born…

  12. Dude, basically I’ll buy anything you make possible for me to purchase. As of right now I think I’ve got everything you’ve published. I use ‘Welcome to the Dahl House’ in my classes all the time, as I do the short piece ‘Ken Dahl Endures the Wasteland’ (I’m one of the teeming ranks of the permanently adjuncted).
    That being said, you wish to reach beyond the converted.
    My advice would be for you to try and stretch beyond the borders of Nihilism into Existentialism. While the world and the majority of its populace (myself included) are properly fucked, there comes a moment when the creative forces among us must look past social criticism and begin to formulate paths of redemption.
    There must be hope. People definitely want that.
    I see a lot of possibility in the Mushroom as a symbol of beauty rising out of shit.
    Good luck to you. Know that you’ve got a patron in me what ever you decide to produce.

    • thanks jason. and thank you for using that stuff in your classes (even though it makes me wish i drew those old stories better).

      i agree with the strategy of finding beauty in shit. right now i am drawing an extremely woo 5-page story about how gratitude for nature is essential as a way of reconnecting with the world, so hopefully my muse will be dragging me in a more profitable direction soon. i can set up a comics table at burning man 2017

  13. I would read shitcan. I’d also like to say I did a little dance around the room when I heard Sick will soon be for sale so I look forward to getting my hands on that ASAP.
    I don’t like the idea of Patreon, but just to second some previous comments I would set up a Patreon just to support you. I was enjoying the dairy comics immensely. Kinda sad they stopped, but I’d buy a collection of those if you ever produced one.
    Give me more ways to exchange my monies for your product! You’re one of my favourites (even though I’ve never commented in all my years of lurking… sorry. Am shy) Good luck with everything!

  14. Oh, there’s another ‘H’ here.

    I would purchase any of these. Of course, whether or not they would be (somewhat) widely successful is a tougher question. Here are my (probably totally unsound) thoughts regarding that.

    Shitcan has potential. You’re good at doom and gloom stuff. Some suggestions on what to do until or after the end might be fun. Too much negativity could be a drawback, but I’d rank this, masculinity and mushrooms as tied for second best choice.

    Aloha Means Goodbye sounds like the best bet. Hawaii is an intriguing place that people might like to learn more about. And you have personal anecdotes to add to the facts, which I think is a big plus.

    Smut sells, as you say. If you really want to sell out this could work. You didn’t say what your angle on it might be. Smut-light seems very popular. Maybe adopt a female nom de plume and do some illustrated Fifty Shades of Grey type junk. Or smut-self-help. That could be a goldmine. Even if it’s completely fictitious. You could even fake the facts. Who cares?

    I’ve enjoyed your mushroom drawings and photos, even though I’m not a ‘mushroom person’ myself. I don’t think you should worry about passing yourself off as an expert (as long as you get the facts right.) It seems that you’re thinking along the lines of an illustrated field guide sort of thing. I think this would sell. However, I do wonder how many of those Whole Foods/Foodie types would be really interested in this information. Are they going to start foraging in nature instead of on the store shelves? I think their interests lie more with something like, for instance, Mushrooms: Easy Recipes that Will Make You Look Younger and Live Longer.

    The Normals: since you’ve started, why not finish? Even if it doesn’t make you rich, it’s more exposure.

    It sounds like you’ve given masculinity a lot of thought and have lot to say on the subject. This might be a reason enough to choose it. And anything that’s not promoting the ‘alpha male’ would be a good thing.

    I hope I didn’t say too much and might possibly have contributed something of some use.

  15. mushrooms or hawaii please. #6.. these high concept “I’m gonna use art to change the world” stuff is a bit much for comic books. you might loose your mind and become Dave Sim. you sure your even credible for that one? be honest, isn’t your work all about being a self confessed nervous yet lovable nerd who works minimum wage and has increasingly fragile health? not exactly the lived experience of white supremacy as told by a paragon of the master race.

  16. I’m little late here, but I would definitely buy #1, #2, and #6. I can’t wait for Sick and I am excited the diary comics will be assembled in book form as well! I really enjoyed those too!

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