Discordianism is the worship of Eris, the Greek Goddess of Discord. It suggests order and disorder are illusions of human perception. That the escalation of one results in an escalation of the other. It has been called ‘zen for roundeyes’ and I don’t profess to fully understand it, but it fascinates me. Its founding document is the Principia Discordia, and I came to know it through my favorite novel, the sci-fi-conspiracy classic Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. It is a copyleft document, in the public domain and freely available online.
It has inspired all kinds of strange people to do strange, creative things and it is at the root of one of my favorite websites, discordianquotes.com That site serves up random quotes, often out of context of their original sources with hilarious results. I like to read it when I need some silly inspiration or a non-sequitur jolt to the noggin for whatever reason.
What does this have to do with my comics? Quite a bit actually.
While working on Major Spoilers Adventures, I’d begun drawing again, exploring comics art with my own hand. I began to dream of someday doing a hand drawn web comic using my own art, and not the computer generated Bitstrips figures and tools. I felt I needed regular exercise to build up those drawing muscles, and so I set a goal. I would do one gag panel, released every Wednesday, for a year. This would force me to draw. I wanted to focus on the art, and didn’t necessarily want to worry a whole lot about writing gags. I was doing that on Major Spoilers Adventures already.
I decided I would simply find quotes on discordianquotes.com that planted an image in my mind, and draw to that. It was a nice solution, giving a framework and theme for my exercise. Sometimes the art would ‘fit’ the quote too well, so on occasion, I would go back after the art was complete, and use a different, funnier quote that still worked with the art.
I started drawing and ended up doing 51 black and white installments and a final, 52nd full color installment, to celebrate the project’s successful conclusion. I never missed a release day, and sometimes even maintained a buffer. In honor of the source quotes, I called the project Discordian Quote Comix.
One thing about the comic I wanted to mention is that I released it with a Copyleft notice on each strip. The notice reads: by Otter Disaster (K) All Rites Reversed - Reprint What You Like. The Principia Discordia and many Discordian writings are released this way, including discordianquotes.com. I figured it was right and in keeping with all things Discordian. You are still welcome to copy, print, distribute or modify those particular comics in any way you want to.
Looking at them now, much of the art is crude and cringeworthy, but I was proud of the achievement and what I learned over that year. I went from using simple fine point markers and ball point pens to experimenting with brush markers, halftone patterns in Photoshop, and more complex and interesting layouts. I improved my figures and perspective. I developed and refined a certain cartooning style that is still core to a lot of my work, and I laid the foundations for what Brain Teaser Comics became.
The self imposed release schedule and deadline was important in that it forced me to produce. Was I always happy with the results? No, but that was a good thing. I learned that sometimes it is better to finish a piece and move on to the next one, take what dissatisfied me and improve on it for the next week. Those lines are too stiff? Hold your pen differently this time. Too much cleanup needed in Photoshop? Pencil your work more lightly so it can be erased without leaving artifacts behind.
Discordian Quote Comix was extremely important in how my work developed. I thought it was inconsequential at the time I was making it. It was a project that developed my comics ‘voice’ even though I didn't realize it. It built the not-quite-right world of Brain Teaser Comics of weird creatures, weirder people, a universe gone wrong. It allowed me to experiment without fear because nobody was reading it. Without fear, I did what I wanted, and what I NEEDED, never worrying about what anyone would think of any of it. I did it to amuse myself. I did it to learn.
When I created my Doomed Strip it was with other people in mind. I constantly worried about what ‘the audience’ would think was funny. I worried if it was ‘accessible’. I tried to make it universally appealing, whatever that means. And I ended up hating it. Reading them now, they aren’t that bad, and I think some of them are pretty funny but at the time I grew to despise the whole thing.
When I started doing Brain Teaser Comics on the side, what I was really doing, (and without realizing it) was carrying on Discordian Quote Comix. The single panel approach, the weird humor, the oddball characters, and the skewed worldview carried straight through. There are even a few characters that made the leap between projects, namely the pair of nameless alien greys. Every Brain Teaser Comic I do amuses me first and foremost. I make sure I have fun doing it, I hope that carries through, and when you like it too, that’s a huge bonus!
Discordian Quote Comix was almost the comic I wanted to do, I just didn't know it. I had to remake it with a different name and a new coat of paint. Even then, I only figured it out after a time consuming detour in the wrong direction.
Sometimes we have something figured out, but can’t see the forest for the trees. We have to pause, look back and see we were on a path the whole time.