Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crisis Centre #2 - "Woe Is He"



The crisis begins! I'm not sure that Robot Friend can help me this time. But he's going to try. I'll get by with a little help from my imaginary friends.

56 comments:

Sledge said...

Did you really loose half your readership?

I'm shocked. I've been a fan of SGR for a couple of years now and never even contemplated NOT reading the new strip!

Sure, it's a little different, but to me it seems still as strong as the SGR strips were.

I'm sure the numbers will grow over time and you'll even get readers who have never even heard of this mythical beast called 'Scary Go Round'...

John A said...

Thanks Sledge! Yes, sadly those numbers are accurate. That is why I have opened the Crisis Centre, I am feeling quite crisis-y at the moment.

Tincanphone said...

Oh, Johnny Comics, it saddens me to see you this way. I can't understand why people decided to abandon you. Scary Go Round grew and changed over the years, like a fibrous and sinewy plant made of pixels, and Bad Machinery appears to be an extension of that.

Don't give up hope! Your comics are a joy and the world would be significantly less awesome without them.

Tincanphone said...

Also, I like that Robot Friend has a Robot Belly Button.

Mizufae said...

*gasp* half your readers? I remain suspicious, despite your speaking 100% truthbombs 100% of the time.

Time to go link you all over my corners of the internet!

LovelyLuke said...

If it's worth anything, I'd never read scary go round, but I found bad machinery, and I loved it so much that I'm currently exploring the SGR archive!

Dewi said...

I've been a SGR reader for 6 years (I think... oh god that's a long time) and while the format of the strip is a bit different, ie. landscape/more panels, I've found it to be the same read but with fewer of the old familiar/loved characters.


...weren't we promised robots?

John A said...

The 50% figure is true, it is so ghastly that I am having to laugh about it rather than just stage full scale freakouts all the time (which I did for about 10 days).

Lovelyluke, thanks for being a new reader!

Dewi, at no point were you promised robots. But Crisis Centre has one and that means you are ahead on the deal!

Red_Dog said...

Sorry to bang on about it, but how did you ascertain this 50% drop? Page hits on the main site? How does this sit with people using Google Reader and suchlike? Of course, if it's a case of losing click through ad revenue, that's a different matter, but otherwise, I'd say stay strong, Mr Allison - you are delivering a quality product, and those who have wandered off are numpties!

John A said...

Project Wonderful stats dropped by half between the last month of Scary Go Round and now. It's not a perfect metric but it's an accurate enough sample to be able to work these things out. A lot of SGR readers did not like my new comic.

From what I can work out, there's an age group (college age and just above) that find a comic about children very alienating, some people almost sounded wounded about it.

I'm confident enough in my own work to be able to tell if what I am doing is good, bad or indifferent - sometimes you just have to work through dry patches and recognise that you will only come up with something brilliant once or twice a year. I think this fall off has more to do with what I am writing about, rather than how well I am doing it.

magister said...

I find the news shocking, especially since I rather enjoy the new comic. While I haven't yet developed the same visceral connection to the characters as I did to SGR, I doubtless will in the future. And I am quite disappointed in half of my fellow SGR fans who have chosen not to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Have confidence, sir. I am very much enjoying the strip with children in it (boy, that kind of could have come out better): the one thing I miss so far in your comics is the delightfully addling effects of alcohol. But I agree with you: the drop-off certainly hasn't a thing to do with the manner in which you present your zaniness. Keep up the good work.

ps. I love the Applecat tote in today's comic. :)

Tom said...

Bah! Fools!

If you sustain the level of quality of Bad Machinery at its current level of excellence you will soon have new, much better additions to your readership than that fickle and weak-minded deserter 50%.

Daan said...

I was going to write what I thought, but it looks like other people already told you.

I also thought that at some points there would be robuts. I imagined that is what the title implied :(

It is also very British, with the blue school blazers and everything. Is there a difference in the drop between British and foreign visitors?

I will keep reading it, I mostly just miss the old characters. Once I get used to these ones I will probably think differently.

saskia said...

John I adore you and your comics and will follow you around the internet until the cows come home.

Burbank80 said...

Hard to believe that you've lost over half your readers!

Bad Machinary might not be SGR, but it still have the same tone and sense of humour, although I was good to see Ame and Ryan today and I do miss Ms Winters.

That said, I am interested to see where Bad Machinery goes and of course things are going to take a little time to get going.

Those who have left are fools, fools I tell you!

John A said...

Daan: based on the popularity of "Harry Potter The Wizard Man" I do not think school blazers put anyone off.

HUKI365 said...

Not sure if you've ever heard of Starslip.com? Basically the creator of that launched a smaller, gag a day strip called Chainsawsuit.com that now has twice as many readers, even though Starslip ran for years and years.

Also see Applegeek's "real" strip versus their "light" strip.

Maybe in your hectic schedule you could push out a few little strips as a way to develop an alternative audience while also driving people back to Bad Machinery.

John A said...

HUKI365: this is a nice suggestion although I do find it quite funny that you made it given that you are commenting on just such a comic.

HUKI365 said...

John A: Hehe, yeah I realised that after I posted. I subscribe to a lot of comic authors blogs for just this sort of content (like James Turner's). Though maybe a seperate site or something. I don't know obviously you don't necessarily want to tie yourself down with schedules, etc.

Anyway I always enjoy the extra content on this blog.

(PS: Please don't nix the RSS altogether, though I would miss it if the comics didn't appear directly in the feed. I don't mind ads, but read 100% of my comics via RSS, via links or directly in Google Reader)

JAM said...

Maybe if you started manufacturing and selling Robot Friends?

hat_eater said...

"Make lots of friends and sell them"? I think the idea has merit, although it's hardly original.

incomunicado element said...

Just recently found out about your work but I've read all I can find going back to bobbins and am presently reading back through your blog.KEEP MAKING WORK. I will follow anything you do and the audience will come back. You're ahead of the game and you've thought this all through so just stay the course.Remember the ginger ninja's words:"we will do our best because we are british and british is best". You're already doing your best and the rest will follow. You're an inspiration to me as an artist and an oddball. Don't forget to breathe.

Catherine said...

Not for nothing, but I'm still reading... and, um, I'll marry you.

Stephen Hack said...

I'll certainly keep reading Bad Machinery as long as you keep putting it out, but so far there are a few differences with SGR besides the focus on the younger crew that might be confusing your old readership...

- SGR started with a core of 5 or 6 characters that gradually ballooned over the course of the comic...so far in BM there's been at least two or three times that amount (or it certainly feels that way). It might be too much too soon

- In SGR you'd often have a few comics at the start of an arc for frivolity and whatnot, but then the main story would be woven in and you'd stick with it (minus the occasional aside) until the mystery was solved, so to speak. In BM we've had the satellite crash down and that's been about it. The rest has been character introductions and some setup here and there. I'm sure it will all make sense further along but right now some readers may feel very lost.

You art only gets better and better, so it's definitely not that! I'm sure your readers will return as soon as the plot kicks into higher gear.

Neil said...

Loving Bad Machinery, certainly as much as I loved Scary Go Round, and this new one. I look forward to seeing the further adventures of this "John" character, where do you get your ideas?

JonathanCR said...

Wait - is it "Crisis Centre" or "Crisis Center"? Are you prevaricating in order to appease both British and American fans, like Adam & Joe oscillating between "trash" and "bin" in their retro text the nation sting?

I think that Bad Machinery is better than Scary-go-Round, although the way the story is told seems a little more demanding (the individual strips seem less punchliney and more like pages of a book). I am quite confident that even though many readers seem to have left more readers will arrive to replace them, but obviously it takes longer for that to happen.

(Also, I think nothing would lose readers more quickly than a tired comic which the author no longer wants to do - so sticking with Scary-go-Round for fear of change would never have been a good idea.)

Hilary said...

Tch, Catherine, that's my job. Perhaps it's time for polygamy to make a comeback?

But the robot speaks the truth! It'll be fine. *pats you on your pyjama-d back*

On an unrelated note, I completely share Ryan's opinion of the farmer's market. So good... so fancy.

Morwen said...

Look at it this way: The ones who stopped reading when Bad Machinery started were probably the pervy readers.

I'm enjoying the new comic as much as Scary Go Round. The writing is good, the art is good. It's all good.

Jimmy B said...

John,
Keep the faith - I feel that now you're out of the "exposition" business of introducing everyone and into the "First Mystery" bit, people will wander back. I never left of course... I love your artwork, and you've really been putting so much into this new strip that every day is a reward.

Plus, you gave me a bonus robot today. How awesome is that?

Bri said...

I have started up two new readers...you shall be linked relentlessly, do not cry :[

sleek said...

It's weird...I was thinking about this while getting ready for work this morning. (The mind wanders when one is sleepwalking...)

This pretty much pegs it for me:

"From what I can work out, there's an age group (college age and just above) that find a comic about children very alienating..."

I won't stop reading because SGR has been a part of my daily routine for some 7 years or so, but I really don't care about anyone under the age of 15.

...and the "British" thing.

The blazers in the Tim Hunter ripoff might not scare anyone away, but that series is geared towards children, and children relate to the whole "going-to-school" vibe, blazers or not.

I would imagine the "average" reader of web comics is either a teenager or someone like me who works every day and warms up with a varitey of webcomics and newsposts...not the Harry Potter audience at all.

For somebody like myself who hasn't been to school in over 20 years, there is no hook...both children and the school experience are decidedly external to me. They might as well be alien anthropomorphic furniture.

You seem to have a THING for it, though...you kinda did a reboot on SGR with school kids too...the joy of which was that they grew op quickly...the bane of which was that you then dropped them when they became interesting adults in favor of...a reboot with kids...

Again, I'm not going elsewhere, (though if I do, it'll probably be "Hark a Vagrant", a decidedly un-kid friendly comic...), but I am not the *casual* reader...

Eric said...

You are now and have always been brilliant, but the simple truth is Bad Machinery is not the same comic as Scary-Go-Round, and in fact is further from Scary-Go-Round as that itself was from Bobbins.

As with all things new, it's going to take time for it to find and entrench in its audience. However, given how startlingly good it is, I have no doubt but it will do so. Presuming you can continue to eat in the meantime, of course. ;)

Crisis Center is a good response, and increased advertising and doing the "new webcomic playbook" even though it might feel odd to you would be no bad thing.

And regardless, I for one am devouring it as quickly as it comes out, as is She-Who-Is-Named-For-Midweek. I know that's hardly exciting, but I figured I would at least mention.

artistaggie said...

See? You can stay in your jammies all day and still garner wifely proposals :-) All is not lost.

Scott said...

I particularly like the image of you showing the computer screen to the robot.

Ermintrude said...

Never fear. I am a college-age person, and I love Bad Machinery so far. Anyway, I suspect you of having read Molesworth, and if that is indeed the case then you know that books about schoolchildren can appeal to adults too.

HellfireLover said...

I am enjoying BM immensely, having abandoned SGR in a fit of internetlessness years ago and becoming daunted by the prodigiousness of your output.

BM so far is a bit like a friend's kid who won't stop following you and climbs all over you, but somehow isn't annoying and sticky like most children. Approaching old-gittitude at a rapid rate of knots as I am, I'm appreciating the nostalgia for school ties and sweeties at the gate.

I know I could just have said I liked it and will follow it unto the very ends of the earth, NAY, time itself, but verbosity comes natural-like, and I just can't seem to hold it in.

megan lee said...

I'm astonished you've lost that many! I've read SGR since 06, and there's been plenty changes since then. Bad Machinary is just another evolution of the wonderful comic beast I've grown to love!

Maybe those folks are confused and think that your comic changover was a complete one and you've been masquarading as that guy who does the stick things at XKCD.

Don't lose heart, John A.! A month is only a month. Things are going to change! (for the better)

Alon said...

I wonder if such a drop in readers would have occurred if you'd published these exact same strips as part of a new storyline, without announcing the end of SGR. I doubt it would, actually. people are weird...

Anyway I will attempt to buy more stuff :)

Blandwagon said...

As I see it...

SGR - the chronicles of a goblin and devil-bear infested world in which delightfully exaggerated characters fought Wendigos, went to Atlantis and got kidnapped by supervillains.

Bad Machinery - the chronicles (thus far) of a group of ordinary school children who collect football cards and do their homework assignments, while occasionally delivering a droll witticism.

I'm patient enough to stick with it and see how the characters and situations evolve, but I can see why others might not.

john said...

Five mystery-solving eleven year olds - it's Enid Blyton with jokes.

*counts jokes*

All right, it's Enid Blyton... er, drawn very beautifully.

John, I love what you do and will remain a loyal reader, but Esther at universtiy, with spookies and stripy scarves, sex and subversiveness, sarcasm, sossidges and, perhaps, some jokes would have stablilised the old audience and brought in a new one. You've chosen instead to do something different and bold, something that's maybe deliberately a break from what's worked so well in the past. I really hope it gathers an audience and makes you a living; come what may, we're all learning...

John A said...

John, can I be honest, I did that Esther drawing the evening before I posted it. My contemplation of the Esther comic prior to that had been "Esther's personality won't carry a comic". It was only THE CRISIS that focused my mind! Now it looks a good bet visually at least although I don't really have any stories for it. I'll work all this out!

Adam said...

I'm sticking with it on the principle that I suspect it to be like SGR and Bobbins before it: more rewarding in the long term than in the short.

When I first checked out SGR a couple of years ago I read the first few strips and then decided that I couldn't really be arsed with it. A while later, for whatever reason, I gave it another go, read further into it and found myself hooked right up to the very end.

Now so far Bad Machinery, while quietly entertaining, hasn't really had quite that same touch of the absurd that made SGR so wonderfully winsome, but it's early days yet and I have faith that like its predecessor it will prove to be greater than the sum of its individual strips.

I'd also not be entirely surprised to see some of the vanished readership return once there's a bit more of an archive to devour in one sitting. I'd almost be tempted to do that myself, if I wasn't so averse to having the artist's hair-loss on my conscience!

sleek said...

Re:Esther, Esther is a CATALYST...it's always her interactions that are more interesting than just her....though she is a great character on her own, the real hook for me was her relationship with The Boy...their interplay was greater than the sum of their interplaying parts...er...that came out wrong.

...I was actually very interested to see how that was going to develop, especially with that sublime little year ending/beginning soliloquy she did about how they were all becoming...adults, or something.

There has been an alarming trend over the SGR arc for characters to disappear or change when their stories are just getting good...or when they get complicated...almost like you're shying away from the depth that would develop, and want to focus more on the more surface-level characters.

John A said...

Sleek: characters disappear when I haven't got anything else to write for them. I admit that I haven't handled some characters well but I always tried to imply the framework of people's relationships without writing page after page of moaning talking heads.

What always interests me is how readers will invest the most paper-thin characters with things that I never saw in them. You may laugh but to me, Desmond was an infinitely more rounded character than The Boy, who was pretty much just a cipher. There's no right and wrong to this of course!

The limitations to characters that you're talking about were limitations of the 30 to 45-page story arcs I did on Scary Go Round. To fit in the plots and keep things from spiralling out of control length wise, a lot of character stuff was lost.

Bad Machinery may seem slow right now but hopefully, looking back, you will see that it was actually full of the sort of stuff that you like. Proper character development without suddenly wiping people from the scene.

The idea was: the 45 page adventure is still there but I combined it with 55 pages of ambient dialogue, sub-plots and genuine human feeling for a change rather than glib nuttiness.

That has turned out to be rather a hard sell.

elfstar18 said...

See, you just need to put out five comics a week again. That's all.

(Did my shameless ploy for more comics work? Dang.)

Nothing really important to say, just man, do I ever like Shauna. And I've gotten my "I know you say it's good but I don't know who any of the people are and I don't have time to read the archives waaaaaah!" SGR-phobic friend to follow it too.

mightypangolin said...

"Five mystery-solving eleven year olds - it's Enid Blyton with jokes.

"*counts jokes*

"All right, it's Enid Blyton... er, drawn very beautifully."

This and that "sleek" person's comments really hit home for me. I loved Bobbins and I loved SGR, but so far Bad Machinery has just felt...unengaging. Days will go by in which I completely forget to read it.

It has nothing to do with the fact that it centers around children. I read other webcomics with child-protagonists, so I have no bias against them nor do I find it difficult to connect with them. Honestly, I think the problem is more that I can't connect to *these* child-protagonists. I didn't much care for them in SGR so it's much harder for me to care about a comic entirely focused on their adventures -- really the only parts of Bad Machinery I've liked so far have been the interaction of the teachers and the older versions of Ryan and Amy.

But as has been said, I enjoy your work and I have confidence that you'll be able to make something special happen. And in the end I'm just glad you didn't pull a James Turner!

PS: To add insult to your injuries, I couldn't stand Desmond.

Stephen said...

Johnny,
Many good things start slowly. It's a different feel than SGR. but you know that or you would still be writing (etc.) SGR, but I have faith that your fanbase (for what that's worth in feeling of validation) will rebound, and you should know in the meantime that many of us are happy to follow you, O storyspinner, where-ever you go, be it ever so British!

rob said...

I'm not going to stop reading, for what it's worth!

sleek said...

Jonny A done writ:" You may laugh but to me, Desmond was an infinitely more rounded character than The Boy, who was pretty much just a cipher. "

That's interesting...to me, having been through *numerous* relationships with girls I never would have expected to find myself with, always fallen hard, always knowing that despite my optimism, it really couldn't end well, the boy gave me a great many things to invest myself in...even a sort of:"Hello younger alterself. I hope this works out better for you than it did me."

...but this may be the crux. When you say "readers will invest the most paper-thin characters with things that I never saw in them", it's because readers see themselves in those characters...you, not being "the reader" do not (...and to an extent can not) see those same things...

I identify with his fears and his elation. I know his girlfriend, and am invested in that relationship. I know his parents and friends. I know what it is to finish school and leave home, leaving those you love and launching yourself into an uncertain future.

Conversely, Desmond Fishman is...a fish.

He seems to have no motivations, no desires, no opinions, no *real* friendships or family...completely awaft on the winds of plot...nothing familiar to grab onto.

It IS interesting though. To me, Desmond lacks depth (almost as if specifically created to do so! Desmond the enigma.)

I also find it interesting that you seem almost actively against in giving him any...I mean, there was an entire story line devoted to his history and origins...which turned out to be false.

mightypangolin said...

Once more "sleek" has said things better than I ever could have.

I always assumed Desmond was deliberately created as an empty, undefined character. I assumed he was intended to be off-putting and tiresome. A sort of parody of the typical "mysterious origins" creature so often found in other comics (a la "Abe Sapien").

TimH said...

"I think this fall off has more to do with what I am writing about, rather than how well I am doing it."

I think this is pretty accurate, at least in my case. The last few comics with Ryan and Amy I really liked, aswell as the one where the children question Ryan in class (because I found the way they asked questions about their assignments very recognizeable). And the punchline in the comic where the boys are in front of the TV's in the store window had me in stitches. But the beginning of that comic was confusing as hell. It took me a while to realize it was about football (which I don't care about at all). And I have no idea what's going on with that old lady. This perhaps has to do with the way it's written, it's a lot more slang-y than SGR was. And perhaps too that it's children - which doesn't put me off per se, but it speaks less to me than young adults (as I am one).

But maybe it's all part of the startup. Most of these characters are brand new, it takes a while to get to know them. Plus maybe you're putting too much focus on your old readership. When a strip changes fundamentally, you can expect to lose some readers. But over time other will come. People who may not have liked SGR, but will like BM.

I still enjoy all these different characters and wacky antics, the art is magnificent as always ofcourse, so I will continue reading. Don't stop man, keep drawing the good stuff.

Seth said...

I've been reading Scarygoround since my sophomore year of college, so just a few months after it started up. I never went back and read Bobbins but I was fascinated by both its existence and the transition of certain characters (and the overall focus) as SGR evolved. It's one of my favorite comics, something I recommend to friends and strangers often, and I was sad to see it end.

BM is different, and it's taking a while for me to get excited by it but I strive to read it every day. I do admit I would have happily read more about Esther and The Boy and their university adventures; that was a compelling storyline which ended on a pretty brutal downer-note.

In fact, all of SGR ended on what felt like some brutal downage, and that may be part of what makes it difficult to come into BM. I'm glad to see Ryan and Amy together (though I hope to find out how that went down before too long) but moving from the familiar faces to these young folk is jarring. It will just take some time, I conjure, to become sufficiently engaged in what they are involved in, and driven by, so that I can snap up new Bad Machinery (see, I avoided saying "Snap up new BMs" there. Then I said it here) with the same vigor and excitement.

It also probably isn't helpful that I'm an American with no affection for sports, so nearly every element of the current football storyline is lost on me. Regardless, I'm here to stay and eagerly reading, as well as largely clothed in shirts you've produced over the years. The dark times will pass, and glories await you on the horizon.

John A said...

Seth, I imagine my own affection for football matches yours. There aren't any secret sporting things in there, in fact all the terminology I use is deliberately silly and wrong! Just think of the football club as a large, out of control corporate entity - I believe those are popular worldwide!

If it helps you to enjoy the new comic, remember that Charlotte is the small disciple of her idols, Shelley Winters and Esther de Groot.

Thanks for your patience and for being a longtime reader.

TimH said...

Additionally, since 'meeting' Ryan, my use of the word "dang" has enjoyed a considerable upswing.

TimH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

From what I can work out, there's an age group (college age and just above) that find a comic about children very alienating, some people almost sounded wounded about it.

What I find funny about this is that these are the same people who would watch South Park and see no irony in their abandoning the kids of Bad Machinery. Maybe you should curse more?

I've been enjoying Bad Machinery just as much as I did Scary Go Round. It certainly feels fresher and more energised than SGR did in spots towards the end. And even though it's a side effect of panic, the Centres of Crisis and Victory have also please the Happy Spots of my brain. So up the good work keep, sir!