“From An Internet That Still Exists”: Tony Wei Ling interviews SUPERPOSE’S Joe and Anka

SUPERPOSE is a strange thing, even for the wide scope of webcomics. 

SUPERPOSE-the-comic is about three people whose lives are in disarray throwing themselves into the making of a physics-breaking machine. It’s a lusciously drawn comic that loves transsexual mess and the fine-grained details/textures/colors of a person’s specific reality.

SUPERPOSE-the-website, like the town where the comic takes place, feels like a “place out of time”; it’s an ambitious, uncanny love letter to internet message boards, webrings, and conspiracy sites. If you click around it, you’ll find some interesting things. If you subscribe to the “Snail Mail” tier of the artists’ Patreon, they will send you fabricated objects from the world of Port City: a mixtape left in one character’s truck, a pamphlet from a local cult, love letters from a future moment the story hasn’t quite gotten to yet. 

Late last year, I interviewed Seosamh (Joe for short) and Anka about the work of making, promoting, and sustaining the project. I’m very grateful to both of them for generously sharing their time and thoughts with me, and for making this comic exist out in this world. 

Do you want to start by introducing yourselves? Who are you, why do you make SUPERPOSE, and why do you make it in the way you do? How does it fit into your lives?

Anka: I’m Anka. I’m trans and I’m gay. I make a comic.

Joe: I’m Joe. I also do that. I have an unspellable name. Oh, the things I do that aren’t the comic, I call that “painting.” As for SUPERPOSE, it’s both a compulsion and a necessity. At the time, it felt like the easiest way to make something with what we had––so like, a computer.

Anka: …and fairly unstable housing. 

Joe: When we formally started this, we had only just moved into Anka’s old house. That was its own sort of shit show.

Anka: We had to flee for our safety and then live in Vermont with Joe’s parents. 

Joe: At the time, this was something that we could keep going no matter where we were, as long as we had our laptops. That’s just how it’s shaken out. Things are more stable now––I have a desktop now, which feels like a huge commitment. Like accepting that yes, I can sit in one place. Very exciting.

Anka: When we came up with the idea, we’d just graduated and were living in an apartment right next to our college. That’s when it was still just a zine––the more flexible, less nailed down, less linear version of what exists now. 

Joe: We knew we wanted to do it, but at the start, we weren’t really sure how. We just threw all of our data––all of our ideas––into a little book.

I remember it being like you said, nonlinear, messy, and very visceral compared to SUPERPOSE now, where it’s very intentional at every moment. That stuff was more like brilliant shit splashed across the pages in whatever format. 

Joe: Wow, wow, thanks. Yeah, the minute that you bought it, I remembered that it existed and took it offline. [SORRY] It’s just so old, it’s full of so much shit! But YOU should have it.

That’s not the first time I’ve had that effect on a PDF on the internet, unfortunately! On this topic of digital art, though, I have heard from other artists that when you have to move a lot, you end up losing a lot of physical art and original pages. So your approach of having everything online makes a surprising amount of sense, archivally speaking.

Joe: Yeah, I’ve lost a lot of physical work since college if it didn’t fit into a particular bag. There’s so many people’s floors that I’ve worked on, just with the laptop, which is charming in a certain way. The work was a blitz at first: here are all of our passions and ideas! Zooming out from that became a question of how to introduce all of these things as a story and less as-–I don’t know––a small compendium. We realized this zine wasn’t enough for us––single images or scraps of prose wasn’t cutting it. We needed to create the wormhole and have people enter into it with us. 

Anka: We basically started working backward. We knew exactly what the midway point was, and then we asked, “What came before that?” Then we realized, fuck, we have all this attachment to all this stuff happening much later, and now we like it so much that we want it to make sense.

The most delayed gratification ever? You started drawing the webcomic in 2016. It’s 2021 now, and I think we’re just about approaching that dramatic midpoint.

Joe: Yeah, it’s edging.

Anka: When it comes to making the comic the way that we do, I don’t know any other way to say this: we are both mentally ill and neurodivergent. We love a special interest. We love a million special interests. When we needed to fill in gaps, we started doing research. Now we’re obsessed with all these different things we’ve discovered, like Soviet computers, and just the way that some computers LOOK, and ancient, ancient internet. 

Joe: When we first started, I didn’t really take into account all of the history that we’d have to research––it was like, “This stuff is going to be gay because we’re making it!” But now, we can have a more active and engaged approach to this actually-very-queer history. It’s not incidental. That’s part of how it’s moved away from a compulsive chase of ideas into more fully-formed involvement with them. All the stuff that we do, we genuinely really enjoy, so we can tap into aspects of that while also trying to make a cohesive (if very weird) story.

Anka: SUPERPOSE is what we structure our days around. Thankfully, we live with my mom, and she pays rent. She respects what we do and supports us in it. She also doesn’t just consider how much money we bring into the home as the only thing that we contribute to our life inside of it. That’s one of the ways that it fits into our daily lives––we are given the support to do it. 

Joe: We did all of this together, even finding the house. I also contribute with my food stamps, mildly, which I receive along with in-state health insurance for being low-income. Having this space and having this––Anka’s parent––who doesn’t treat our work as some frivolous pursuit… it’s still completely unfathomable to me. 

We structure our days around the time that we start working and what that work is going to be like. Days that we script the comic require a totally separate schedule and energy commitment versus the days that we’re drawing it. I HAVE to be in a horizontal position in order to script!

You’ve posted some of your scripts on Patreon and Twitter. And there’s a lot of note-taking and almost … acting notes?

Joe: Oh yeah, everybody has voices, tones, quirks… I’d love to somehow know how apparent that is. It’s really fun to do.

Anka: And there are some facial expressions that we like, that specifically some characters do and no one else. 

Joe: Yeah, I’m thinking about Royal, just like [makes Royal face]. And there’s also––what is it called? Automatic writing? When, like, the Divine Spirit comes into you.

It’s tricky, imagining the nuances of moving people and then trying to turn that into lines! I have to imagine everything first, and then break that apart into sequences––or screenshots? I don’t know why that’s how it’s done, but it feels the most natural. That’s probably why the comic’s so fucking long, too. There’s so many things I want. Subtlety in motion. And when there’s an emotional shift in one character, making sure that somehow comes through. It’s maybe obsessive.

Oh, it’s definitely obsessive. But it does change what it feels like to read the comic, because so many other comics––to their strength!––are all about compressing time. What’s weird about SUPERPOSE is how it decompresses conversations and moments. It doesn’t feel slow, exactly, but it feels very differently paced than other comics.

Joe: That’s so interesting about the pacing. We don’t plan for every moment to be elongated, then each beat wouldn’t have as much impact––but giving space and allowing time is a priority. 

I’m still learning in real-time how to most effectively translate something. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, or just purely neutral, but I definitely didn’t want to wait on making the comic. That would have been very easy: “I’m not good enough. I’m not committed enough to this thing.” But learning to manipulate time and emotion necessarily has to be an ongoing thing for each scene and for each character. So I’m kind of glad that that wasn’t locked in.

Anka: You just mentioned not waiting to make it. I have the dates here: the idea for the comic happened on January 8, 2016. Then the zine was released on April 3. And then we launched the webcomic on May 31. [Laughs] Holy crap.

That is some QUICK follow-through.

Joe: It feels like a dare. We’ve just been daring each other back and forth forever. “What if this happened? What if we did that?”

Wow, what was it like, after the zine, drawing the first pages of the webcomic?

Anka: A whirlwind. It was really different when we launched it. For one thing, I didn’t know how to color, so Joe did all the colors, literally all of them. 

Joe: You put the flats down.

Anka: [Laughs] No, not really! I was teaching art classes at a nonprofit a couple of times a week, I think. I would come home, and we would be up, and Joe would be working on it all day, so it made sense that he would be able to color things. At the time, we broke it up by scenes. 

We thought it would be faster. It was like, “Oh, if we’re going to update once a week, we only need to do one!” It didn’t make sense. Joe had a webcomic prior that was more traditional, with multiple panels on a page, and got burnt out doing that. So it was a relief to do basically an illustration at a time.

Joe: There were also a lot of comics doing that then, for some reason. I think partly because of Homestuck, for one. And on the Tumblr dash, scrolling was a natural way of reading, and now it’s not that different from the way that Webtoons are structured––a very long sequence of pages structured as a single image flowing into itself. There was some––maybe rightful!––criticism of the format. I do understand that; it’s pretty annoying to click through so many single images. 

And yeah, I guess it just made sense in terms of breaking up the work.

Anka: For a while, it gave the illusion of speed. And satisfaction.

Satisfaction, or the illusion of satisfaction?

Joe: The illusion. Eventually, formatting it for print made us realize that this was a mistake. It was satisfying to produce the artwork, but I think it tricked people into thinking that these were just illustrations without any motivation or story behind them. I’m not happy about that. I don’t want the art to be divorced from the story. 

How much of that was people’s prior expectations for what comics look like? I wonder if that would feel different now that the single-image format is so familiar, with Webtoons and all that.

Anka: The format of Webtoons and Tapas––how it’s just a continuous scroll––that’s what we always wanted from the launch. But we didn’t know how to code that.

Joe: And at the time they only accepted JPEGs. … Anka met with a Webtoons person and criticized their JPEG problem!

Anka: I didn’t criticize it! They asked, “Why aren’t you posting on Webtoons?” And I said, “Oh, because of the JPEG problem.”

It’s still not on Webtoons, right? It’s on Tapas, but not Webtoons. 

Joe: I don’t even remember when I took it down. What’s allowed on there as far as adult content isn’t a lot, no sex or nudity, no “glorification of self-harm,” which is a problem on Tapas too. I don’t feel comfortable litigating that myself, and less so letting their TOS do it. Even the comic being on Tapas feels like a fluke––there’s a lot in it that they formally don’t allow. Like, you can’t say slurs on Tapas! 

Anka: I think about not having it on Tapas either. All business is hostile to trans and queer people, while simultaneously making a profit off of us. I would already face potential hostility in a face-to-face job: why would I want to build an audience there, and become dependent on a singular site?

Joe: Yeah, we’ve heard some insider information… And I see their own ads for comics where fat or “ugly” people are a joke or a plot point. I think if you get to be fatphobic you must also allow work exploring the harm that engenders! You can’t show people being homophobic, and you can’t show homo sex. So it’s floating for now! 

Having our own site for the comic feels more secure. We use the open-source Comicpress plugins via WordPress. Their service costs $300/year upfront. I don’t know much about WordPress as far as the rules go, but our other webhost, Neocities, is $5/mo and fully allows adult material. And the conspiracy site is through… something else. You’d have to ask.

It was really easy to fuck around with Tumblr, for better or for worse.

It’s interesting that you guys get affected by platforms even if you aren’t on them. The expectations for updates, and for what comics look like and feel like, are partly shaped by Webtoons and Tapas. Do you have a sense of how update schedules and production expectations from readers have changed over time?

Anka: What is the quote that people pass around about video games? “I want shorter games that have shittier graphics made by people who are paid good wages, and I’m not joking.” 

That is basically what I feel with what we do now. I mean, we’re giving away a free comic. In the past, we thought, “If we’re going to be taken seriously, we have to make sure we always update on time.” And that is absolutely the goal––I would love to be more consistent with what we make. But it’s unrealistic for us. 

I’ve never been healthier in my life at this point in time, but previously, I was really, really unhealthy in a way that I didn’t quite understand. Part of that was plowing through work and not having the time to assess if I was actually making bad work. Like, maybe I’m not able to hold plot details in my head or see the scope of it because I’m too tired or physically exhausted! Different things have ended up affecting me and the comic in ways that had to be edited. 

If I went back in time to talk to myself in 2016, I’d say, “Hey, there’s not going to be an update schedule later on. It’ll be hard to deal with emotionally because it’ll feel like disappointing or damaging the audience.” But I’m happier the way it is, even if it’s not perfect. I still have goals. It’s going to grow and change, as is our relationship to it.

Joe: I used to be a very fast worker in a way that I might miss, even knowing it was a symptom of some of the same problems I have now. And now I’m slower, and, as difficult as that is for me to grasp as a very real loss of ability, I know I SHOULD be slower.

There was a brief time when we had a formal update schedule, but there was no way––with our life––that this could be standardized. Also, there are so many people who say, “I don’t read webcomics weekly. I wait a while and then catch up.” That’s awesome. I mean, I don’t follow up with things weekly, not out of lack of interest; I get busy, I forget. It’s really nice to hear from people who binge the whole thing, or who say, “I just caught up now and here’s my thoughts and feelings!” That’s just as rewarding. I still aim for consistent updates but I’m glad that can still happen with the higgledy-piggledy way that we do this! 

I used to check sites that’d do breakdowns about which days and which hours are best for which time zones. Each time someone discovers some awful new aspect to Twitter or Instagram, there’s new tutorials about how often you should post, what kinds of posts, whatever. It’s fucking grueling and immediately boring to me. It sucks that that’s now part of making art. 

Regardless of how consistent we might be, that consistency doesn’t translate to what someone else sees on a feed.

All of these platforms are supposedly just, y’know, a platform where you put your stuff so people can find it. But as you’ve talked about, you end up struggling against these platforms, at a basic level, with how they make things more and less visible.

Joe: Yeahhhhh, it’s shocking to me that anybody thinks that’s how it works. It’s literally not conducive to discovery or community, and if it hasn’t hit a plateau by now, it’s only going that way more and more. The simple fact of not being able to link outside of the app is unbelievable. You can’t even say “Patreon” in a tweet now. You get punished by the algorithm for attempting to do the only thing it’s supposedly good for. Your tweets aren’t going to be promoted if they have a link, or multiple images, or a certain amount of hashtags––or, you know, adult content. It’s fun for everyone to begin to acknowledge that these platforms are solely for advertising, but I don’t think acknowledgment is enough of an action and enough of an indictment of who or what these apps actually want to advertise, and advertise to. Twitter saw its most recent surge during Trump’s presidency, not because it’s a sick-as-hell platform!

Anka: All social media––except for maybe Tumblr––is hostile to the idea of like free things, which is why Twitter implemented monetization for your posts. And I say “maybe Tumblr” because it’s largely hard to monetize that userbase—though Reddit is the least monetizable userbase going now.

Joe: Remember when Tumblr claimed it was implementing that in like 2014 and then in 2021 might’ve finally done it for real? Twitter probably just doesn’t have the backend yet to support a shopping network like Instagram and Facebook.

When there’s an expectation that monetization is possible, even for a select group of people, that necessarily changes the relationship between a viewer and whatever they’re seeing. It’s like, “We all know this is for advertising, so I’m going to treat this like an advertisement. It’s being done for me.” I don’t think that’s good. 

What is it like as artists who use these platforms for advertising? 

Anka: It’s not a secret that Joe has more followers than I do. 

Joe: ROLLING in it.

Anka: Yeah, big dick. I have less experience sharing my work online than Joe does. I didn’t have a scanner growing up, let alone a tablet, or have a presence on DeviantArt or LiveJournal. Of course, that’s barely relevant to the way social media is now, but yeah––Joe does the majority of advertisement and promotion.

Joe: Well, here’s the thing: I think up until recently I still behaved as though I’m on DeviantArt and LiveJournal, in the way that I do promotion. I just figured, if I don’t shut up about this, people will eventually notice. But this has become harder and harder as things shrink smaller and smaller. I feel like I’m explaining Twitter, sorry!, but it has to be digestible so quickly. If for whatever reason one is not able to succinctly describe something, then it’s a) not going to be read, or b) maybe only a section of it will be read, and that’ll be seen as some sort of incendiary remark divorced from context. Trying to introduce a story into that environment, and in the age of live-tweeting/streaming spoilers as fast as possible… I don’t know the right way to do that. If somebody wants full context for whatever dumb shit I might talk about, the story is there. 

The emotional effort that it takes to get into a story is substantial. It is for me, so I don’t blame anyone for not seeking that out. But I’m also not sure how to fix that. I don’t want to change myself for a platform that I am only using as a means to an end. I’m not, like, passionate about Twitter.

Anka: Joe, you’ve talked a lot about how at a certain point in time during the 2010s, there was a great time to launch a webcomic and get people in on it. Social media wasn’t as insular as it is now, where it’s like a walled city that you’re not supposed to leave. People still had the expectation that you would go to a website to read a comic, because that’s the website for the comic. 

The same thing is kind of true of most artistic industries, at this point. The joy for so many fans of Taylor Swift is that she has a full narrative to her albums. She’s one of the few artists who gets to do that, besides Beyonce, maybe Kanye West, and other people who have been around for a while. People want to listen to their albums because people want to be a part of whatever narrative they’re telling about their lives. That’s so different from artists who started in the streaming era––they can’t put out an album that has a solid 13 songs. It has to be 26, and they have to all be slightly different pop genres, and they have to be able to have different moods to get algorithmically picked for different playlists. Or they have to pay to go on different playlists. You don’t get a sense of cohesion from those artists in the same way. The same thing has happened with webcomics.

By that I mean, you have to use marketing words, like “demographics,” in order to attract an audience. It’s a bizarre, backward attempt at human communication, because I’m expected to put the trans flag emoji in my bio, but that’s never produced an authentic interaction or even a friendship for me. Mostly, it produces a new kind of hostility, from both cis/het and trans/queer people. Because this way, SUPERPOSE becomes solely a product and so do Joe and I.

Joe: I think that’s fair. Tumblr is kind of a weird… not a wasteland, I hear it’s actually having a renaissance of sorts. But because of the formatting, the expectation to engage with something longer isn’t as universally off-putting, and people even enjoy/ed following something with a bigger narrative to read and play with and react to, alone or with friends. There was a point in time when stumbling onto these things felt genuinely exciting and new, and that wasn’t because of austerity and artificial scarcity. But as things shrink down and become literally streamlined into such a collapsed state… there’s this image of more accessibility or less gatekeeping that’s been very intentionally constructed. But I think that supposed ease means there’s also less drive to share it or share IN it the same way. And I completely understand why that becomes the expectation––like a prefabricated home for prefab stories, communities, nostalgia. 

But also, I don’t want to fit in with that. I want to constantly invite people into a different experience. That’s what I really do want for SUPERPOSE and why I make all the weird extra stuff. I love to build a website.

Anka: Even though it’s spread out––all the ARG elements, and then the comic itself––we are still creating a stability. If you’re going to read SUPERPOSE, you’re going to get SUPERPOSE. You’re not going to get things divorced from context unless that’s the only way the audience is willing to engage in it. It’s also why we limit how much of ourselves we put on social media, to avoid divorce from context. We mostly say the same things there: We’re gay, we’re trans, we’re poor, etc.

That’s true. Even though the comic is on Tapas, I don’t know many people who read it that way. It seems like most people, if they’re open to reading this comic, they’re open to (or at some point will be open to) this weird big website and everything that comes with it. 

Joe: I hope so. I don’t know if that’s like, stubborn of me in a stupid way when things are changing so much. It’s not conducive to the shape of these apps, or even the way that information is digested, but I mean, I’m not going to make like a TikTok to talk about SUPERPOSE.

That is hard to imagine.

Joe: I don’t even know what the fuck I would do. 

Anka: Oh, I’ve thought about it. People love bite-sized bits of information that can go viral: “Hey, have you ever heard about that Agate computer from Soviet Russia that’s an Apple Two clone, but it looks way better?” I can see it in my head. 

Joe: Whenever people talk about like, “Hey, all you artists, I’m sorry, but you just got to get on the TikTok, you’ve just got to do it, you’re going to get rich immediately and everybody’s going to see your stuff!” But people have had their accounts shut down, repeatedly, because they posted ‘adult content’. You can’t just promote this idea of instant attention without also stressing the reality of what has happened––not just to OP––but what could happen to literally anybody. Only a very select sort of person is allowed to make any sort of money or garner any sort of attention through these things. The apps themselves have made it very clear about who actually gets rewarded.

So basically it’s just instant Jokerfication. 

I was going to bring up a different platform, Patreon. You two are writing full essays, tutorials, and archival history lessons on the Patreon, on top of fabricating physical objects to send out the black hole to Snail Mail-tier Patrons every month. It seems to fit your artistic and personal vibe a lot better, but how do you feel about it?

Joe: I have mixed feelings about Patreon. As far as it being a place to show our work and have a small but robust audience, I do like how it allows for long-form posts. Because I love going off. It’s also like, “Okay, well, people are signing up for this. So we are both entering into an agreement that I am going to like, say stuff, and you might even read it.” Even if it’s insane! That’s nice! 

Patreon has murky rules about adult content as well, especially following fucking MasterCard’s policies. Like suddenly I tried to write the word “yaoi” in a Patreon post, and it got flagged for pedophilia. Not much different in that regard from the other platforms!  

They do have huge fees for their service, and the app constantly crashes. Also, if a payment is declined, Patreon will send the patron just one email, and they aren’t removed from Patreon after that––they stay there, so whatever they planned to pledge is still estimated into our projections. Oh, and the only way to remove anybody is to block them, which I haven’t done, but Patreon emails any users who’re blocked––so if somebody did get really rowdy and rude, it’s unfortunate that they are then alerted. 

Those are issues with the platform itself, but in using it as a means of communication and sharing information about the comic––I think it’s mostly great.

Anka: I love having a place where I don’t know if there’s a word limit on a post.

Joe: Haven’t hit it yet! It feels really good to know that there’s a group of people interested in what we do to the degree that they’d materially help us make it, and want to interact with it on that level. I don’t feel comfortable enough to make the same kind of posts on Twitter as I do there. Patreon is like this self-constructed safe space. 

Anka: I don’t know if this is true for you, but the Patreon website is so clunky. It takes years to load. I can’t type a post in the post editor. The lag on text is so intense that if I just hold the backspace, it’ll be like, “chnk…chnk…chnk…” I write posts in TextEdit.

Like a Notes app apology. 

Anka: Yes, everything is a Notes app apology, and now you know! It’s hard for me to view it as a social media website; people don’t really talk a lot on the Patreon, which can be frustrating. Like some of the Snail Mail stuff––those postcards I sent out this year explicitly said, “you can share what you got!” Because there’s three versions to receive. To my knowledge, no one did.

Oh no, I didn’t either. I could get us started!

Anka: No, no, you don’t have to do that, you don’t need to do a Notes app apology! That’s a thing where I realized, “Okay, I’m trying to promote a social interaction between people.” I would consider it a big ask if it was being requested of me. But then that’s a part of the story being missed––you still got what you paid for, but there’s this other layer to it. I do wish more people were able to share or felt like they wanted to. I feel selfish requesting that kind of thing.

Joe: I don’t think it’s bad, maybe, but I am confused: what does this feel like to read about or receive this––do these things feel connected? It’s all connected to the comic, of course, but I want to know what that connection feels like to somebody else. 

Trying to forge that connection is really the only reason why I would want to use Patreon. I get a very genuine, giddy sort of joy out of sharing this stuff with a community. But monetization makes it seem like things do have to be a little bit secret. We make a free, public thing––there’s already no real incentive for somebody to pay for it. I don’t know if it’s as a result of this, or just the way that I am as a person, but I also don’t know: How much, or how little, do people want to know? Does it ruin something to learn a certain amount of backstory or of what’s going to come next? Are those spoilers, or is that just part of the Patreon relationship, all of this hidden info? 

Anka: Could we take a quick break? I have to make some tea and coffee because my mom can’t go out.

Let’s reconvene! 

OK, this could be a good place to talk about more of the world around SUPERPOSE, including the website and ARG elements and the Discord––which you two are involved in, but don’t run. How do you both think about this whole world of platforms, websites, and formats for this project that started out as one very mad PDF?

Joe: It’s really spiraled out in ways that must appear equally as crazed! Social media doesn’t factor into the storytelling or the orbit of SUPERPOSE in the same way, at all. I think the delineation is probably pretty clear. There’s a 404 page that I’m pretty proud of…

The Discord in particular was deeply flattering because it happened totally independently of us. We’re not moderators there. We didn’t make the rules. I’m not always sure what I have to say of import or if my involvement is even necessary. Weird. 

Anka: I don’t know how to code a single fucking thing. I learned how to make text into different colors on Neopets pet pages, and I stopped there. So Joe does all the coding for the websites, and a lot of them are also surprises to me too because he’ll just be like, “Hey, can I show you something?” [Laughs] And he’ll just send me a link, and I’ll click on it and get my ass rocked. 

For the Snail Mail stuff, I do most of it at this point, though it goes back and forth. We think about new ideas for it together. If one of us gets a particular idea that we really want to do, we’ll just drop and do that. There’s also some stuff that’s essentially a part of the ARG that no one’s seen because it’s not for you guys: Joe made a shadowbox for my birthday.

Joe: Gave it to them at a Cheesecake Factory. 

Anka: Yes! So, Joe collected a bunch of stuff off of eBay and Etsy, I think. It’s a bunch of artifacts that belong to the older brother from Nom de Guerre, Jana, and it’s on our wall. No one knows; this isn’t for anybody else. Now you know about it. It’ll be useful in the future, maybe, if we want to take a photo and print it out and send it in the mail––there’s fake dog tags that have his name on it. But also, it wasn’t made with that intent and wasn’t made to further the story for anyone other than ourselves. 

There’s other things like that: I’ve looked for toy cars, like the model of the Volvo that Rafael’s mom owns. Real-life things that would be good reference images. But it’s hard not to think, “This doesn’t belong to me; this belongs to a character, and I just have it so that I can hold it.” As bizarre as it is, some of the ARG elements kind of serve that purpose, especially with SUPERPOSE’s weird physics stuff, the breaking of reality. That is really a cool thing to have the audience explore through the websites. 

Joe: Essentially what you’re saying is just that we like it, we live-laugh-love it. We have a pair of shoes and an Adidas jacket that I reference solely for Royal, and, at this point, I think of them both as his. As we go on, we learn so much more about what we need to know about the world, in order to make this world. Out of necessity, we have to learn, and we end up finding and researching things, or connections between things, that resonate with us. Many elements connected in ways I wouldn’t have necessarily anticipated from where we started in 2016.

Exploring this is fun for writing a story, but that’s also really nice as people––learning and maturing in the world we live in. I do get intense tunnel vision, and because of COVID lockdowns, I worry about weakening my relationship to the larger world. SUPERPOSE requires a lot of intense focus––making sure that all the important things we’ve introduced are followed through. So being able to learn about history and contemporary events creates a larger context and makes things stand out in importance. 

I love learning about all the food the characters eat, where all those things came from, and different words for things in different languages. It’s heartwarming! And those are cultural contexts and activities that build and ground the characters as individual people, but that’s also a really nice thing to think about in real life. [Laughs] It’s just very sweet to me. Being able to talk to real people about those things, and even make those foods in the home, too, it feels important to be involved that way. I see all that as part of the involvement that we have in SUPERPOSE, as a weird alternate reality, it does feel expansive. It touches everything.

Anka: That can make it difficult to decide what will further the story for the viewer on the Patreon and Snail Mail. Like, two out of the three main characters do celebrate Christmas, so it would be nice to send out a recipe card or something––but what value is that to somebody who has a dietary restriction? It’s not going to be valuable in the same way. Food and cooking are a really big part of my life, but that aspect of it isn’t fair. Thinking about that, it’s hard to know where the story starts and stops—which makes the spread of websites make more sense, maybe. The story is never not happening, so it feels the same as what we were saying before, about desiring a fuller, longer context. Time never stops. 

And there’s those fake Polaroids that I made. Joe came up with the idea for that. Instantly we knew it had to be for October because it’s scary and it’s a really big foreshadowing thing… But that’s going to be weird to get in the mail!

Uh yeah, it sure was! They have the vibe of survival-horror video games, because of the lighting effects and the DIY home-science aesthetic. But also: a lot of this project involves engaging human behavior––not just the characters but also the readers and community around it, and yourselves. With the traditional part of the comic, you get to have more points of reference for how people will respond to any given move. But how do you predict how humans will respond to getting these Polaroids in the mail, or to a hint that you leave for people to follow? There’s another level of not knowing around how these moves will take effect or how people are going to respond to them, either through pure interest or how that gets shaped by these platforms.

Anka: Yeah, like with the postcards––it’s a big ask to send this to somebody and want them to connect this to the existing story, especially because the narrative in the postcards is some very petty family drama. There’s only so many things that you can connect as a reader. But that was really immediate and easy for me to write because that’s something in the story that I’m really excited to get to.

And I mean, when did we even do Nom de Guerre? 2018, for TCAF? So we did that in 2018, and then in 2021, like three years later, I sent out a postcard referencing a character from it. 

Joe: [Gasp] Gimme it. I didn’t know that! I’m gonna flip out. This is what’s so fun. It’s SO exciting to me––Maybe this doesn’t hit right now, but the goal is that it WILL, and you are FINDING things, you are RECEIVING things from this world. 

People talk a lot about how lore is not storytelling––lore almost as setting told as past-tense, versus the verb that is story. I’m still formulating how I feel about that in action. Like I don’t think of it as merch, really: These objects are intimately attached to the story, but it’s also something that you don’t have to own in order to read the comic and still have a full experience. Though I do hope that their emotional value will appreciate over time as the comic unfolds.

The objects are on a different timeline than even the comic’s story. That’s queer time, baby.

Shifting gears a bit, I wanted to ask about the work of making this comic, promoting it, trying to make a living off of it. How do you think about making SUPERPOSE: as a job, as daily work, as a long-term personal project? Has that changed with making income from Patreon? Do parts of the project feel more like a job than others? …Sorry, that was a pile of questions. Answer whichever part of it interests you.

Anka: The parts of the project that feel more like work = anytime we have to be thinking like marketers or advertisers.

Joe: Fake. Fake jobs. 

Anka: Yeah, those are fake jobs. They suck, and it’s awful, it isn’t fun, and it’s hard to say if it’s worth it or not, even though it’s necessary. 

The other part of it that does feel more like work is educating ourselves on the physics, how the technology works, and how it doesn’t. We both went to art school; I don’t think either of us were necessarily great students for other subjects. We aren’t as literate in physics as we are about other things. So yeah: having to look up different definitions for scientific terms to make sure we’re using them properly, versus just being able to say something. 

Joe: And then deciding––filtering!––that stuff through how much a reader is going to care. How much does it actually matter that we use the right term? There’s a lot of going back and forth to finally come to a decision about what we are going to say, what we are going to show, how literal we’re going to be. That does require a weird literacy to first understand and then alter something. It’s work, for me.

Anka: I’ve watched MIT lectures to try to understand stuff while also simultaneously doing other things. I don’t have the time to sit down and attend a class, I have to be cooking. So when I’m in the shower, I’m listening to a lecture and filtering through: okay, they’re talking about equations and mathematics that are not going to be relevant to me––other than maybe remembering the name of the formulation so that I can draw it in the comic to fill space on a chalkboard. That kind of thing is a part of the job. I have to be learning, and then I have to figure out how to explain it, figure out what information is valuable to us.

Joe: Because our day is structured around it, some of the work is working to even make SUPERPOSE a priority, if that makes sense. I don’t view that work as being detached from it––it’s the work that helps it exist.

I don’t know how people conceptualize a pet project or whatever, but SUPERPOSE doesn’t feel that way to me. To call it that would be a major disservice to what it is and our plans for it. That isn’t related to income–– I’m very grateful that we make literally any money at this point, not because I don’t think we deserve it. We deserve money to live on and time to nurture these things, just like anyone.

We were turned down from Hiveworks––a webcomics platform/publisher––allegedly for being too Webtoons-y, and we turned down two contract opportunities: one because we’d have to make dramatic alterations to the length, and the other due to how rights are retained. These are symbols of success with certain levels of seriousness attached to them, but, even without them, we continued to make this our job. That means that it’s not a lark, it isn’t always fun.

The most recent example I can think of is when Rafael comes out to Kas––because it was important, I wanted it to be perfect. It needed to communicate multiple things at once. It touches on and dredged up real-life things for me. It just took a lot out of me in a way that I didn’t expect. That’s not always factored into conceptions of work or labor. I know that that whole process doesn’t end up visible to a reader. I wouldn’t know how to translate that to someone except for just flat out stating like, “This one was rough.” I also don’t know how much that matters. Since I was a kid, I’ve had people ask “Why would you make this?!” whenever I wrote something emotionally charged or even traumatic, but it was a judgment of my character, not a question about the conditions of my life. When you’re making a comic, I don’t know what other people are going to view as being the work––if that’s literally just the act of drawing it. Or what? I’m not sure. 

Social media being about self-advertisement and bragging does obfuscate the effort involved in this work. It’s not what I think is usually considered labor. Expectations and conclusions drawn from that process (or us having social media accounts at all) can alter not just our relationship to it but even more so the public’s relationship to it. That’s strange/discomforting; that it is a relationship where our role in it can be altered.

Anka: When it comes to us having an emotional experience making a certain scene––what that makes us feel like? That’s one of those things where it’s kind of hard to know how or if to share it. Especially because that would be maybe most appropriate on Patreon, but I would never want it to feel like a compulsion that we have to essentially monetize our emotional experience to something.

People have difficulty understanding the differences between types of production. Either you’re an auteur and you’re Francis Ford Coppola arrogantly renting helicopters from the Philippine Army to shoot a movie during wartime, or you’re making a Marvel movie pumped out using algorithmic appeal––it’s all data-driven, and people show up in front of a green screen and have a target to look at. Those are basically the two ways in which I think Americans are taught to understand art and storytelling and to devalue the relationship an artist or author has to their work. 

We want to rail against that and say who we are informs what we make––we’re making it, and it’s the way it is because of who we are. But at the same time, I don’t feel any ownership over specific aspects of the characters. Like, Kas is blind, I’m not. There’s different things like that––cultural ties, race, religion. In talking about it, especially on Patreon, I don’t want to come off as if an emotional experience I have writing or drawing the scene is what’s literally happening in the story. It’s a strange thing to balance, and it is weird when money is involved in that. And social media.

Joe: Someone called Superpose “hopepunk,” which I still don’t really know what to do with. 

Anka: Yeah! Coming off Tumblr, there was this expectation for things to be morally upstanding. For a long time, we felt pressure for the comic to be like, morally good––for that to be the thing that people could walk away from it with. That’s not the concern anymore. We’ve gotten older and had more perspective and realized, “Oh, no, it doesn’t need to be that way.” No matter what, trying to appease people with it, and trying to appease, essentially, oppressors about it––that will never matter because, at the end of the day, we’re not going to be respectable enough. 

Making that Polaroid tutorial post was a really big deal to me because I did it in part because I felt bad that they were going to be late. I wanted to explain exactly why. Maybe it’s a little insane to think it makes sense that it would take a month to print, cut by hand, and tape together eighty fictional Polaroids.

This also came up when I made those postcards because there’s a lot of unseen labor going into this that nobody’s going to know about––I had to practice someone else’s handwriting! And design that and then cover the postcards in glue.

There’s a bit of a tension between wanting these things to feel like they are appearing out of nowhere––that they just exist––but also they DON’T. We do make them.

As much as it is a tutorial on how to fabricate a similar object, I also take it as a history of these objects and how they’re constructed. My experience as a reader who gets these in the mail is that they appear as though from the storyworld. But then that’s also how we experience commodities that we just received or like traded money for––they appear as though from a black hole. A document detailing what was involved (physically, mentally, and potentially emotionally) creates a much deeper history for the object. It creates the potential to see it both ways––as something that came from that storyworld and as something that’s very meticulously fabricated and made. I mean, I love it. That’s why I’m into it. 

Anka: Hearing even one person’s feedback is enough for me to want to do it again, to share more. Politically, ethically, I’m becoming obsessed with having things that are built to last. I am going to try to save up money and pay for them in order to have things that stay because they were made with care and craft and not––hopefully not––exploitation. Obviously, this involves thrifting and antiquing.

Joe: I go through periods of screaming about this publicly, but it’s just commodity fetishism! Apps helped smooth out and “clean up” our relationship to production. Still, I don’t want to sell an image of myself––I want to sell the literal actual thing and be the grubby transsexual origin of it and I want what isn’t known to be respected, too. Even just saying you want “queer or trans stories”–– okay, that very much is enough of a reason to pick something up and see through that lens, but also like, that should matter in terms of a larger scope: who made this? What moved them? With what resources? What are they saying? What do they seem to leave out? Do I feel wronged by this, and if so, why? And if I do, do they need to hear about it, and in what format? Or do I need to do something else about it? It’s easy for me to lose track of both time and permanence, so I keep a digital notepad of all the wonderful feedback that’s been shared with us.

Because of the climate back when we started, I was frozen, worried about causing distress in a way we couldn’t instantly fix––and that was years ago. I felt like the best I could do was just to be quiet and acquiesce to almost anything. Once, in the wake of various artists being accused of “trans fetishism,” I facetiously asked if it was problematic if I, as a trans person, drew trans people fucking. The responses were grim. Somehow I was scared of all these hypothetical issues while living with much more immediate threats to our safety. [Laughs]

Anka: Getting older gave me a lot more perspective. It occurred to me like a few months ago to look at what social media websites have the most users and compare where Twitter falls on that. Twitter is just above Quora! [Laughs] Which is somehow considered a social media platform. 

Like, Twitter is so small, and the amplification of it is absolutely tied to Trump and the way the website works psychologically. It does make you think that everybody is on there. Even though Facebook has more people than there are on the planet, essentially. 

This is important because the reach for the comic is limited if we promote it strictly on Twitter, but also it’s like, oh, okay, all these people are screaming at each other. And Tumblr was a different kind of a pit, in a semi-similar way, though it seems different now. Not having that perspective of who uses what and where and what influences the conversations going on, it felt like, “I have to make sure my webcomic about gay trans people is sanctioned by every [laughs] church, every Christian church, in this country.”

Thinking about it in those terms was so easy. Now it’s like, “Oh, I couldn’t give a shit.

I’m glad that’s where you ended up.

Joe: I wish I had started from that place. Instead of fielding individualized accusations of harm, like, portrayals of transphobia in action not sitting right––understandably––but then we’re called transphobic for portraying it. The pressure is not insignificant: there’s already plenty of groups keeping track of which trans people are the easiest to bully out of existence. 

Anka: Or not even necessarily a call out, but where that culture lives on certain hate sites, where there’s calls to arms to destroy a trans person’s life, livelihood, and safety. That’s where that begins, and then, unfortunately, gets filtered and passed around by young trans/queer people who have trauma and are trying to protect themselves from what they assume to be an awful person––not knowing that taking a deep breath and viewing “the content” as “art, with context,” or “person, with context,” would assuage all moral panic. Hopefully.

Joe: I’ve had my work––and my friends’ work!––posted on [hate site]. While speculating about the identities and sexual proclivities of marginalized artists. Getting called a “trans-identified female,” that the people I draw are mutilated, getting called a pedophile because I drew something as pedestrian as sucking on a tit or whatever. So that was alarming. Mostly because all that [hate site] does––besides doxx and mob people––is draft and proliferate ideas with the intent of getting them circulating on Twitter so that THEY don’t have to doxx/mob people. It’ll get picked up by users who don’t know that maybe this is where it originated, or that there are ways to suss out its veracity. It breaks down trust among people already scared and hurt.

Ever so often there’s a resurgence on the topic of “trans fetishism” committed by trans people, coupled with who is and isn’t really trans and here’s how, who is or isn’t an abuser, and course it’s [hate site] so that’ll be positioned alongside other reprehensible ideas––not divorced from them. This happens in threads where people post my artwork and my face. Even if we fuck up about something important, we need to start from a position that there is a difference between that and this sinister shit. 

Anka: Doxxing is a tool used to keep people in line; it destroys context, and it destroys people’s ability to do better. We’ve changed a lot of stuff. We’ve done big edits to SUPERPOSE. We’ve had people tell us their criticisms and concerns about it. And we’ve responded and changed things because of that, because it wasn’t our place to decide that we had gotten it right. Talking about that on Twitter, or Patreon, would essentially be monetizing a conversation in which someone came to us in good faith with their concerns, which would be a dogshit thing to do. 

There is a pressure to perform being “decent” and to distill who we are as people through posting. The majority of people are going to see that through Twitter or Tumblr. We have to be able to present––however many characters we have––that we are real people. 

People don’t seem to always know how to specify the scale of a complaint, or know what they actually want or wanted from a piece of art.

Anka: The only really bad faith criticism we’ve gotten that never got followed up with was somebody telling us, “I think that the way you draw the characters is transphobic and ethically bad.” I think part of that ended up being because they expected Kas to be a trans woman. It’s not a spoiler to say that that’s not going to happen. That’s not who they are. That was a really easy out because it was basically like, “You have an expectation that’s not real.”

Joe: There was some very confident she/her-ing of Kas, and those words have never been used in the comic. But also it’s like, do you have an expectation for what these people should be or look like?

Anka: Very plainly, that’s not something that we would engage with. That’s a request that’s about us needing to then emotionally help an individual through the bigoted way they view the world, that some trans people don’t pass or you personally want a specific person to be trans in a way you deem correct for them? Because no, you just need to get a little older, like, that’s it. Time needs to pass for you. It does not need to for us, and we don’t need to catch you up.

Joe: Is any of this worth saying? Like, is this good interview stuff? I feel like we’ve just been running our mouths.

It totally is. Is there anything you want to talk about that we didn’t touch on yet?

Anka: I guess we could talk about the collaboration stuff maybe a bit more. It’s not a surprise to say there’s two parts to the story, right? In the beginning, Joe did one part and I did the other, and it very quickly became clear that was not how it was going to continue. Part of it was the fear that we draw differently. And also, my skill set was not up to par––

Joe: ––whatever, neither was mine!

Anka: And I didn’t know how to use Photoshop post-college. Like, I didn’t know how to draw in it. I wasn’t comfortable doing it. I did everything traditionally. By 2017, I caught up enough to be able to make the comic in the way that Joe had taught me, how to color it essentially. As we decided it would be a webcomic we would make in this way, we knew it had to be more collaborative. That just happened organically. It wasn’t like we sat down and were like, “We’re going to blend our two families together!

We love telling each other stories. We love making each other laugh. It’s really important that the characters are funny. Humor is like, really important. And I don’t know if people know that. I feel bad because it’s like, “Shit this conversation before we scripted it was so much funnier.” People need to know! The characters are being funny. 

Joe: We need to make them react to each other more! We need to make our Barbies kiss. But yeah. That is a joy that drives what we do and I think the way that we collaborate as well. On a technical level, we do touch base ever so often about which assets are available or even about the art style and what it communicates; our process varies between each other, or in our influences, so the SUPERPOSE art meshes or diverges here and there, naturally.

Anka: When it comes to drawing, the process is really different from how we first began, in part because the format’s different, but also because I’m not afraid of using shortcuts as much anymore. I think that coming out of college people are like, you can never trace anything, there’s no justification for it. Look, I wish I didn’t have to, but I’m trying to tell a story that has to evoke a certain sense of familiarity and consistency within it. Making everything consistent in order to then break it as things get more ramped up is really important to us. So yeah, I’m not going to draw a 242 Volvo from 1984 off the top of my head the same every time. 

Finding all those kinds of shortcuts, making different assets to reuse, is important. I have a file full of Kas’s earrings from different perspectives so that we can just paste those in.

I love that. Automation!

Anka: Yeah, I think all the time about how many things eventually I will probably learn how to turn into vectors in order to size things up all the time––specifically text. Not like Photoshop and rasterized text but like the back of Rafi’s Tarzan Boy jacket. Trees too. Those are just assets we created that we reuse constantly.

Joe: I’m always going into our old files and pulling stuff out of them! 

Anka: Like Royal’s car.

Joe: Yes, Royal’s fake fucking car!

Anka: His car is like a mix of a series two Dodge Challenger and a series three Dodge Challenger just so it looks both futuristic and not at the same time. So that’s something that doesn’t have a model.

Joe: Are we talking about being consistent or tracing?

Anka: Consistency and tracing. We figured out how to do that and have it be more collaborative because part of the issue with being collaborative is that we visualize scenes differently. You’re a cinematographer, so you view it shot nicely. I have like a 360-rotation happening that’s not locked into the 16-9 ratio. 

You’re like the Num3ers guy who can just visualize something and turn it around. 

Anka: Sometimes I can’t! If I don’t know what something looks like. It’s like, “Fuck, what’s the scene direction? Royal is going to be walking in this direction and Kas has to be going over here, and then they cross.” Where are you going to leave them off at the end of the page, when I’m handing off a scene to Joe? That can get complicated. 

Joe: It seems like it’s become more fluid as time goes on.

As the folder of assets increases in size?

Anka: Oh, yeah. And just learning a vocabulary to talk about it between ourselves.

I’m thinking about that hidden ARG page on the website with a blown-up newspaper page. I love the weird close-up effect of having to scroll through it on the webpage––it’s just a very different, intimate, almost tactile way of looking at something on the screen.

Joe: I’m really glad. That’s exactly what I wanted for it. Like you’re in some sort of strange… not hostile internet exactly, but, maybe not a trustworthy one.  “Oh, am I supposed to be seeing this?”  Or like you said, more tactile. These pages are art, too. Crawling over and through it. Even the first pages of the comic––the ones that go from underwater to the surface––were done with that feeling in mind. Like you yourself are working at it. I don’t approach the creation of these pages as separate or incidental to the rest of the story, like, if it’s going to be hosted on the web I want to engineer that with intentionality.

Anka: The internet that we pull inspiration from is an internet that still exists. We’re people with special interests who are making work dedicated to those special interests. It would not be possible if other people didn’t have those. The internet and the resources on it are largely usefully defined by people that have special interests and are autistic or any kind of neurodivergent. That is just real, the more you look at it. Kas uses a TV monitor for their computer screen because it’s very large. Most people used TV monitors at the time, but this is a big one. I picked it up because it’s called “Galaxy” or something space-related. I found it because someone still has a website up where they just collect all these TVs. 

Joe found multiple websites, but the best was somebody who took photographs of different parking lots from the 1980s. That was a big resource for us. 

Joe: These are all either websites that somebody built themselves––and it’s very clear––or it’s just a Blogspot. Almost everything I find is on a Blogspot or directory. One of my favorites is “Miami Vice Locations,” which I think is still being updated in 2021. Their site starts off with “I have come to realize that I am far from alone in my interest in…” and no matter how that sentence ends, they’re already right!

Anka: I found one for someone who did a big laser collection. They had links to both pictures of all the different lasers that they were working with, but also links to GIFs that they made that said, “WARNING! LASER USE!” That’s really cute. 

We know how to Google better than most. We know how to use different search terms and having to stretch your mind in a roundabout way to find what we need. If I need Kas to turn their head around, and their hair is whipping in the air, then I need to look up like, “woman pretty spinning.” [Laughs]

Joe: When it comes to references, if it’s not photos we’ve taken, I use video footage a lot. Because I often want to capture, like, a middle moment of an action or expression, not the most static version of it. And I’ll use search engines other than Google, or search within a select time frame, or search exclusively on old Geocities archives. It’s a great way to be surprised, too, and to remain curious. With various pressures and obligations, plus a homogenized media landscape, curiosity is a skill that can understandably atrophy. It’s risky, isn’t it! But I say that while acknowledging that the pandemic has taken a major toll on my memory and what I’m able to handle, too…  

Anka: You can type a sentence into Google that you would never speak aloud. I could go through my search history and pull up something that’s just, “when madonna Argentina,” and then it’ll come up with “Evita.” You do have to stretch your brain in really different ways and get specific about being specific, while also learning how to parse information. 

For example, I’m trying to learn more about rug art from the Middle East and North Africa. In trying to find references, a lot of books I’ve looked at are written by white people who are trying to sell rugs and teach other white people how to spot “an authentic one.” I had to do a lot of digging to find a website that actually catalogs rugs by different ethnic groups and peoples in Iran, and how they made their rugs and what the patterns mean, and why they exist the way that they do. That’s important for the story, but also in general in life. Especially when like, there is a provenance to those rugs: you can sometimes even track down what families made it if you know the right terms to search for. People don’t talk about them in the same way because these are just products to be sold. Not that the anthropological approach is any more humane, but at least I have the opportunity to learn the right words people use for themselves, and take those words on a new search to find direct sources. To not gawk or steal or categorize, but to see even a public Instagram post, just something normal a person somewhere else publicly shared.

I only found that one website for the reference info because I searched for a specific nomadic group of people that live in the same province that Kas is from. But I had to know that first. 

You have to know or learn things in order to learn the other things that you want to know––you don’t even know in advance if they’re related or if you’ll need to know a certain thing to have the right search term.

Anka: […] I think there’s some penalty to learning. Because in order to learn how to make this right, we have to take the time to do it. And we are then punished by algorithms for not posting as much. At the end of the day, if someone did come to us with an issue about how we depicted something cultural or historical, for us, it’s not okay to just say, “I didn’t have the time.” We don’t have enough time, no one does, but I’d rather give what free time I have to this important task. 

Joe: Yes. There’s no reason we should be above taking the time. Honestly, before the pandemic, I know I had more room in my head or could more easily access memories, and I’m afraid of that taking a toll not just on the writing but on how and where to hear people and respond quickly. 

That sort of goes back to what I was saying earlier: I understand why people very literally don’t have the time to engage in what we do in an involved way. It takes time to read something––SUPERPOSE is very long and it’s only going to get longer. It could be taxing for the same reasons it might be taxing for me to work on certain parts of it. But we are still inviting people to meet us there. To not just look, but read. Beyond those limitations, I know that there are criticisms of webcomics not actually being accessible: it’s not like everybody has consistent internet access, or has or wants to use a phone or a computer. 

In early 2020 we started setting up new SUPERPOSE books for print, including vol III. For our first small runs of vols I–II, we handled it through pre-orders because our audience is relatively small too. We watched the supply chains slow down and heard more about the treatment of these workers, even or especially during their strikes. Kickstarter has announced its blockchain plans. NFTs, which use the same tech, are reserved for the select group that can afford to disregard the environment, provenance, and the white supremacist personalities behind this acceleration of capitalism.

I still want to have a story where the things that light up my brain can do that for somebody else. That includes a story where maybe it feels like it’s better suited for an earlier iteration of not just the internet, but the way we use it. It feels stupid to worry about marketing instead of giving myself to something that I know, at any other point in my life, would’ve saved it in exactly the way it has now. We’re six years in, so who knows. But we’ve created something that makes art and living feel exciting.

We had to cancel on multiple conventions because of the pandemic, which is a blow to our finances, and to my social skills. And it’s infuriating that conventions have started up again at all, with news of people getting sick there, because I really do miss these events where walls fall away and everything becomes physically real. It is nowhere near the same trying to do this stuff online exclusively. I’m a weird, anxious, autistic person, but I very much thrive in settings where I get to talk to people face to face. We’ve met and heard from so many readers, and friends, I’m always profoundly touched. So, I’m eagerly waiting for when in-person meetings will be possible again. 

Oh, I wanna shoutout (blink)-155 pod for being my work soundtrack… kinda humiliating since they do slag off webcomics a lot because they think webcomics are, like, Bitmojis.

Anka: Joe touched on this thing about the huge scope of the project keeping us entertained and focused on it. That’s essentially the opposite of what people will advise about making a webcomic. It’s basically like, if you’re going to start a small business, you can’t have your business plan be to be the next billion-dollar company. That makes sense, especially the business analogy, because we’re all encouraged to monetize our hobbies. But also, I could never make a short comic and feel like I put anything of importance into it.

Joe: Yeah, I liked doing Nom de Guerre, and I would do more like that. But I have a lot more clarity now about why I can’t just bend my brain into a new shape. I’m so glad we expanded past the zine. I wanted to explore all the different motivations of different characters and shifts in them and their growth over time––or their backward growth! 

Any advice that’s like, “do this, not that” only goes so far. I know why it’s helpful. But like, we did survive the scam of art school and all its crimes, and after that, I just wanted to give all of myself to a project, the many multitudes of myself discouraged in insular academic settings. We survived a lot more. I wanted something to live in. 

Anka: You wouldn’t tell a kid learning how to do something, that they MUST start small, not if they’re self-motivated enough to begin without any oversight at all. They’re going to be excited and learning and doing things wrong and learning how to do them right. They can actuate their own enjoyment of it. When it comes to the advice on how to start a webcomic, there’s the insinuation that this is a business you are signing up for. It shouldn’t be that way.

Joe: It implies that the worst thing that could happen is that you don’t stick with it––like that this would be devastating. Maybe for some it would be… but why? Because it derails the grind?  Passion and exploration are punished by capitalism. I’m disabled in a way that I might not’ve been if I hadn’t constantly pushed or been pushed past my limits as a literal kid. So right now, this is what I do, in the ways I can do it.

SOLRAD is made possible by the generous donations of readers like you. Support our Patreon campaign, or make a tax-deductible donation to our publisher, Fieldmouse Press, today.

Tony Wei Ling is a teacher, editor, and peer support worker living in LA. They are a managing editor for Nat.Brut and The Rambling, and their writing has appeared in Black Warrior Review, WWAC, and ZEAL.

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March 2023


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