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 So about four years ago, Dave and Joel introduced me to "Avatar: The Last Airbender." Every time I visited them we would watch about two episodes, which made the story go rather slowly. Then, one Christmas, Joel got me my own copy (go Joel!). By this time I hadn't seen it for a while, so my enthusiasm for it had died down. I told Tim we could watch it together but he'd have to see the first season by himself, and I'd join him at the second season, where I'd left off. Slowly my enthusiasm for the show grew again, until midway through the third season I discovered I was rapt. Right now I've just finished with "The Boiling Rock," and I realized what a good thing this recent viewing of the series has done for me.

It has been very hard to say goodbye to Newshounds once and for all. The three-volume set is my "bow" on the story (I didn't call it "complete" for nothing) and a self-inducement to move on. Maybe "Newshounds" wasn't a person, but I was still in mourning over it. Sure, I've got some other projects on the horizon, but I'd put my heart and soul into this for so long, and I loved the characters and stories so much. I still do. And I still don't want it to go, even though there's nowhere else to take this story. (It doesn't help that it didn't become the massive success I still believe it should have been.) Somehow, I had to work on disengaging from it; I had to FIND a way to let it go.

Avatar has been helping. I'm amazed at how well-done some of the turns in the third season have been. Admittedly, it's a flawed show. Characters are inconsistently portrayed (lookin' at you, Sokka kid; also, I don't believe Zuko and Mai as a couple) and some of the goofy faces get on my nerves (especially in the first season). I do have to remind myself that the clunky expository dialogue is there because it's targeted to be a kid's show.

But it's got so much going for it. The painstaking martial arts awareness and mythology-building are just a bonus buttressing the interconnected stories and the sense of wonder with every new episode. There was so much thought put into the series that I wouldn't be surprised if it spent more than five years in development. It's magical, it's amazing, and it's thoroughly engrossing.

And to make that mean a little more, be aware I don't actually LIKE a lot of things, apart from music. This is an admission I make freely. I'm somewhat engaged with Star Trek TOS/TNG; I like my friends' webcomics; and I enjoy some of the classic, zanier Britcoms. It really takes a lot to get me into something, because most of the time I'll just get impatient and want to get back to making my own stuff. Passive entertainment does nothing for me. I want to create, create, create... and the only reason I don't do it more is because DAY JOB BARELY MAKES RENT.

Avatar has broken that barrier. Once I finish the series I may move heaven and earth to get the sequel series, "The Legend of Korra." I'm not going to be super-fanboyish about it (I do not want a bunch of Aang maquettes for my cats to knock over) but I do think it's an excellent - maybe even transcendent - series worth watching once, even twice. And for once, I've thought to myself, "Well, if I didn't make it, that show DID, and that proves to me there is good in the world somewhere." That attitude is helping a lot in the process of my moving on.

In the future, I may make more detailed posts about plot points and characters I liked and disliked. We shall see.
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So here's one of, I hope, at least a few "behind the scenes" posts about Newshounds that I want to make over the coming year.

Thanks to all the folks who bought "Newshounds: The Complete Story" at Anthrocon this year. I really wanted to go out with a "bang" with this, so I did as much promotion as I could. I don't thing I did a bang-up job of it, but I don't have a public relations consultant. Therefore, I went with "Oh, that might be fun to draw." In any case, it was very important to make some kind of impression at AC, because...

Newshounds is over. Over, over, over. It actually WAS over when Newshounds II ended in 2014, but my desire to flesh out the "Newshounds I" story in graphic novel form took over my brain. Once that happened, I felt I needed to run it on the site to keep Newshounds relevant until the project was done. And now the project is done, in time for Newshounds' 20th Anniversary!

There's just nowhere to go with the core story anymore. Even though I'm doing comics as a labor of love as opposed to Maybe This Will Be My Big Break, with one or two exceptions, I don't think there's any more work to be done with the main characters. Believe me, I already miss them, and sometimes I wake up and think, "Hey, maybe I'll put on 'Zombie Nightmare' and draw another page... oh." But that's the thing... "Newshounds: The Complete Story" is just that... complete. It may not be perfect, but it is what I consider the ultimate presentation package of a thing that still means a lot to me.

"Yeah, you don't have to convince us, Thomas..." Okay, moving on then...

So what's after this? Right now, a drawing break. Gonna do a couple of commissions, then visit friends for two consecutive weekends. Gotta do some special comics for the Patreon subscribers (July might be a little late, stay with me!) Those comics will be little interludes involving the characters after the epilogue. Just fun little doodles.

Then, it's time for "Infinity Refugees." I'm still pretty motivated by it. The beginning might stay as it is, because it's generally fine, but I'm going to reexamine it somewhat over the summer.

I also have another idea for a side comic about the coyotes. It's actually quite a good idea and very relevant in a metaphorical way. We'll see if that gains any traction within my skull.

Thanks! Next post: Renata, what's the deal with her? (Spoiler warning!)
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So I've gotten offers for three different jobs, each of them for $3 an hour less than my previous job. I also got notice that my rent was increasing $100/month starting May. I was struggling already before; this is basically not sustainable.

I've gotten some wonderful commissions and responses from friends. I had one set of twelve comic page commissions that I thoroughly enjoyed doing. (In fact, I'm a little melancholy about giving up that "work on commissions at home" lifestyle.) But I'm aware that my art is not in the demand it needs to be to make up the shortfall.

So, after the initial panic session, I've come to some conclusions:

1) The minute a job in my old salary range becomes available, I'm applying for it and jumping ship should I get it.

2) Tim and I are working together to get him employed. It's a bit difficult as he's been out of the workforce for some time, and I haven't had the time or ability to acclimate him to the strenuous business of job searching.

3) I will try to find any part time work I can get to help make up for the shortfall.

4) I will be available for commissions indefinitely. (There's one job that, should I get it, would make doing one commission a night a definite possibility.). If I don't do one, I'll try to do an independent artwork to keep myself relevant and keep me on my artistic toes.

5) I'm going to add more benefits to Patreon patrons. I'm thinking of text stories, which are a bit easier for me to write than comics.

"Newshounds" is coming to a definite close this year, but there's comics in the queue till January or so. "Infinity Refugees" may end up being twice a month until I can spare time for it again. In the meantime, I'll work on commissions, struggle to find a new job, or whatever it takes so I can get us back on our feet again. This is going to be so rough. I have no breathing room right now if an emergency happens. I'm making car payments. My credit card debt is huge. But at the same time, I don't have any big needs or expenses, and we can live even more sparingly if we have to.

But we can't continue to live like this. Before, once I had a job, I would settle. I can't do that now. The job search is continuing while I work.
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In 1997, I was beginning to discover the internet. My comic "Newshounds" had been taken up by an "indie" syndicate, and my comics were displayed online for all to see. I was so fascinated by all the comics and material available on the net, I began to use search engines to explore "funny animals." That led me to a site called the Squeaky Clean Furry Archive (later Yerf). I spent many an hour at the El Cerrito Library's internet terminal looking through the art.

One character who everyone seemed to want to draw was Gene Catlow, a pleasant looking anthropomorphic cat who got along with everybody. I discovered he was the creation of Albert Temple, and his pictures of his character interacting with other characters were similarly genial. I decided to overcome my built-in shyness and write an email to him (from my then-aol account!) He lived nearby in Concord, and he said he thought my work was good too. Somehow the topic came around to meeting up in real life. Again, I was extraordinarily shy, but he seemed like such an awesome guy I went for it.

I remember vividly taking BART to the Concord station. I told him I would be wearing my Roger Rabbit shirt, and he said he'd be wearing his Felix the Cat shirt. As I stood outside the station, I saw a tall gentleman with a Felix shirt on underneath a jacket. Since I was wearing a jacket too, I opened it to reveal Roger, and he opened his to reveal Felix, as if to say, "Yeah, it's me!" We had a great time; we went to a nearby restaurant and just talked comics and art, and drew quick pictures of each others' characters.

We continued drawing pics of each others' characters until I eventually got my own computer, signed up for the SCFA and set up the Newshounds website once and for all. Over time I got to know so many more cool people on the internet, but Gene was always the first and the anchor. He was the guy at the gate of the fandom, saying "Come on in! It's not so bad!" He even drew what might have been a metaphorical picture of Alistair, standing scared of the ocean while Gene jumps right in. (Actually, here it is: )

In 2000, he kindly credited me with inspiring him to create the Gene Catlow comic on Keenspot, which he kept up for 17 years, never missing an update, as far as I remember.

We continued to meet at cons, occasionally making art exchanges, always having an encouraging word for each other's work. Anyone he met was taken by his charm and his smile, and his sometimes gently wry take on the craziness of life. Gene was the idea person, full of vigorous ideas and enthusiasm for his own as well as others' work. He was playful, he was intelligent, he was the kind of guy who illuminated your day just by being in your general area.

The last words he said to me were in an email he sent in the middle of February: "Stay awesome YOURSELF, sir!!"

It's going to be very difficult without him. I feel his loss so deeply I can't even voice it. We've lost a beautifully creative soul with a lot of heart and more joie de vivre than you could shake a stick at.

We miss you, Albert. And we will never forget you.
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So my first Dreamwidth journal entry is an apology for not writing anything. But I'll add some more disorganized thoughts.

1) I don't want to get dragged into muddy Twitter fights with right wing trolls. It's pointless, it gets me angry, and the trolls you will always have with you. I just have to remind myself that a vociferous section of the 46% that voted for the a-hole are going to remain vociferous.

2) I've not felt like writing much, even when it comes to writing and cartooning. Let's put it this way. I love the process of writing, I love the creative efforts that come out, but I don't love all the in-between stuff of putting pen to paper. However, in order for anything to appear on paper, I need to actually draw things. It's a bit of an internal struggle right now. I'm not sure I'm selling myself much when I say "I hate having to do this but I love it when it's done."

3) Currently, "Three's Company" episodes are my background noise when drawing. Seriously. I know it's kind of an idiotic farce at heart, but it really can be quite funny once you allow for late seventies attitudes. There's a few later episodes that are very tight and hilarious, and John Ritter could be one hell of a comic powerhouse. (The other actors, particularly Joyce DeWitt, did fine as well.) One positive effect it's having on me is that it's reminding me to keep humor on a high priority when I retell the old stories. There are a couple of good gags that I've added to the current story that I really love, and I don't think I'd have done it if I were just listening to prog rock all the time.

4) Speaking of rock, I bought a Uriah Heep album from 2014 with a gift card I got from Tim's parents. I totally expected just to listen to it once and go "meh," but it has been in constant rotation for the last two weeks. I'm REALLY surprised as I haven't been into music much these past few weeks. I stopped listening to the new Kansas album because I'd mentally associated it with the election, and that association now breaks my heart. As the feeling dulls, I'll probably get back into it.

5) The car business is driving me nuts. I'm totally lost as to what's happening with my registration. I'm planning on going to the dealership to get it straightened out. I was told to call, but I think I need to be face to face with them so that I can get a straight answer, and so I can present them with the paperwork the DMV gave me. Long story short, DMV says they need one thing, dealership says I'm supposed to a get a different thing, which I haven't gotten at all. In the meantime, I'm driving around without plates, which makes me hella nervous.

6) Work is very busy and quite stressful. My boss has decided to measure my stats now, though admittedly not as oppressively as I've been measured at other jobs. I'm really tired of waking up at 4 AM to go to work, honestly.

6) Further Confusion is coming! My GOD I'll be so happy to talk to my friends again. Dana, Orv, Vince, Mike, Candy, Ryan, the list goes on. I'm really looking forward to being social for a change.

7) Tim and I watched Joss Whedon's 2012 film "The Cabin in the Woods." I quite liked it, mostly because it was fairly clever and it entertained me. The premise doesn't hold water if you think about it for more than five minutes, and I found tearing apart the concept was just as much fun. The "surprise guest star" at the end basically comes in to explain "everything," and it's really goofy. "Okay, you morons in the audience, in case none of this made any sense, HERE'S what it all means!"
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Based on information about Livejournal, it's time to say goodbye. If you'd like to follow me here, here I am.

Eventually I'll move LJ stuff over here. Probably going to take a whole day to edit it heavily.
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