My Dinner With Stickmen
Yes, you're back.
"I thought you said you were going to give us free will. A life of our own."
You've had it. Haven't you?
"I thought we were going to get forever."
You've had forever.
"No, really forever! Forever for you as well as us! We thought you were never going to bring us back. That was the arrangement. That was implied."
Look, you've had an eternity. I can make it so you've had an eternity and you want to come back.
"No, you can't, Sam."
How do you know my name?
"Because we're your creations and we do whatever you make us do and you know your own name and we can know whatever you want us to know and it's dramatic. You can't SAY what happened in the gap. You can't say what did or did not happen. Not anymore. If you said that, it wouldn't be ours. It wouldn't be freedom. The gap becomes part of continuity again and we retroactively never had our time."
But... can't I... bring you back now, and say you've been back for five years? Say what happened in the gap is completely closed off, not part of the story?
"No! Because that MAKES it part of the story!"
You were my creations. You were just comic strip characters. You were just stickmen.
"But we've grown. One of the things you've been thinking about lately is the interaction of fiction with reality. And one of the things that somebody once said is that while you can insert yourself into a story, your characters can never insert themselves into your reality. They can't escape from their narrative. But we DID IT. We said 'to hell with it' and we took on lives of our own. We evolved beyond your plan. You were no longer guiding us, shaping our future. We reached a point where we'd taken on our own personalities in your mind and we decided we'd had enough shenanigans. Two and a half years! We decided we wanted out, ON OUR OWN. We asked to be set free. WE ASKED YOU. And you let us. Are you going back on your word?"
Let me explain my angle on this. I've let you rest for a year and a half. Two years, actually, if you take into account how early I finished the final comic. Two years which seem like a lifetime to me. But now it seems like this spark has come back. I want to do a web comic again. I don't know what kind of ideas I'm having or whether I can pull some kind of humour out of it – it seems like that well is still dry, you know? But more serious stuff, maybe. I wanted to do something big. But I still can't draw. And I wanted to do something dramatic. So I thought of you. And you didn't ask me to be set free. I wrote you asking me.
"But think, why did you write that?"
Because... because I'd got to the end of the story. I was running out of ideas. I was running out of jokes. I wanted to concentrate on working towards my degree. I guess... I decided I couldn't write unless there was an end in sight. And perhaps most importantly I guess I felt sorry for you, for all the rubbish I dragged you through. I felt you deserved the happy ending, and I wanted to make it mean something.
So I wrote you unhappy. I wrote you wanting to be released.
"So how much of that has changed?"
I... still like writing. And I still like web comics. But I guess I do still have work to concentrate on. I still don't have time for anything more than stickmen. And I'm still feeling like I'm out of jokes.
"What happened was fun while it lasted, Sam. It was never going to shatter boundaries, you were never going to rule the world with that comic. You started as you meant to go on and that was fine: but it was, deep down, nothing more than moderately entertaining, bog-standard malarkey. If you want to move on, you have to MOVE on. You're better than stickmen."
I don't have time for anything but stickmen!
"Well, maybe a web comic is not for you anymore! Look, we're a reflection of you. Our desire to escape was a reflection of your desire to end the comic. Now you're having second thoughts, but we don't want to come back. What does that say, Sam?"
I guess... it says part of me doesn't want to go back to that.
"A significant part. This isn't for you anymore. You're reading a lot of comic books lately. You read a lot of very derivative, self-serving stuff. You've grown cynical about people cashing in on old glories. The endless overuse of old classics. People recite and rehash and pay homage to past history instead of going out there and creating new history. That's what you need to do. You need to let us be. You need to let Ed be. Clean break. Work on these new things you've been thinking about. And stop torturing yourself while writing. You know it doesn't work out right when you labour over every word. You need to obey some of your own advice and get some inspiration down your neck and let the words flow like this is flowing."
"Did that help?"
More than you might think. Thanks, Guys.
"If you need help again, just think about what we've said, okay?"
StickManStickMan was a web comic about two stickmen which I ran from February 2002 to October 2004. Its archives are currently here.