This week marks the beginning of a brand new Mr. Wiggles storyline called “Take No Prisoners.” It will last for seven strips and culminate in a special, supersized comic. The reason that this comic will be so special and supersized? It will be my last Mr. Wiggles comic. There’s no easy way to say this, but, after thirteen years, I’m going to be retiring the strip.
Obviously, this wasn’t an easy decision to make. Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Throughout my adult life, it’s been the only constant—lasting through a variety of jobs, girlfriends, apartments, and cities. I’ve grown incredibly close to the characters and have always thought of Mr. Wiggles like my child. Well, that’s not true. Like my friend. Because you usually have to look out for children and help them, but Mr. Wiggles did the opposite for me. He helped me to make sense of the world and to grow up. With him I was able to pour through my neuroses and figure out who I really was and what I was about. And I had a lot of fun doing so. He really is a kickass teddy bear.
My reasons for retiring the comic strip are varied. The first one is that I feel like the strip has run its course. When I first started the comic, I vowed that I would quit when I’d exhausted the premise. I loathe cartoonists who continue to rehash the same concepts week after week or, worst than that, phone it in. Doing a comic where I merely “showed up” every week would mortify me. After thirteen years, it felt like I’d reached the tipping point. Having already mined so much comedic gold in the premise, there aren’t a lot more places left to go. Continuing would only see me retracing my steps. It wouldn’t be fresh anymore. And that’s not fair to me or my audience.
The other reason has to do with the limitations of a weekly comic strip. With the premise milked to the bone, in order to take Mr. Wiggles further, I would need to focus more on long story arcs that would have to span many, many comics. Unfortunately, this is not easily or satisfactorily done in the weekly comic strip format due to pacing issues, audience retention, and general reader interest. My only other option would have been to turn this into a daily comic strip and that would have been impossible for me.
The third reason is financial—though not in the way you think. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been paid to do Mr. Wiggles for twelve out of thirteen years (my first year was free when I did it for my college paper). The payment was never a lot, though, but that didn’t matter as I would have done it no matter what. Financially, the problem became one of time. Mr. Wiggles was never self-sufficient so I’ve always had either day jobs or, in the past several years, freelance work to pay the bills. Because of that, Mr. Wiggles simply got done after everything else I needed to do to live was taken care of. What that always came down to was working on the comic on the weekend. For almost the entirety of its existence, I’ve spent my Sundays creating it. For thirteen years. And I miss my weekends. To say that I was getting burned out working six to seven days a week is an understatement.
The final reason also ties into this issue of time. As any creative person knows, there is usually not enough of it to be able to pursue all the things you want. Over the years, my interests have been growing in other media. I have many projects I want to develop and need the time to be able to do so. Unfortunately, committing the hours and the energy to Mr. Wiggles every week has been a stumbling block in doing so. No longer having a weekly commitment frees me up to pursue these projects more fully and passionately.
Individually, each one of these reasons has made me consider retiring Mr. Wiggles. Together, they formed a juggernaut of an argument I could no longer ignore. But, it’s not a sad occasion. I’m enormously proud of the comic, the relationships and friendships I’ve built through it, and the fans that have supported it. As a cartoonist and a creator, what more could you want?
So, the comic will go on for six more weeks to finish out this final storyline. I’ve worked really hard to come up with an ending that I hope will be satisfactory and worthy of the emotional investment that you’ve given the strip over the past decade. If I haven’t screwed up my dates, the last comic will run on June 25th. This will also be the release date of Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles: Vol. 4, which will contain all the comics since Vol. 3, including the very last strips.
And as for me? While I might not be doing a weekly comic strip anymore in a month and a half, I certainly won’t be disappearing. At the moment, I’m illustrating a Middle Grade novel for a very well-known author that will be published in the next year, an episode I wrote for an upcoming show on Cartoon Network will premiere this summer, and I’m pitching a variety of new projects—from books to TV shows—to various publishers and networks with some promising prospects already nibbling. In addition, I’ve just launched my personal blog, To Baldly Go…, which will be my new home on the web to write about whatever comes to mind. There may even be some comics on it from time to time.
And we’re not quite finished here. We still have six more comics left to go and, throughout those six weeks, I’ll post some random thoughts and unpublished things that might be of interest to you in regards to the comic. I’ll save the official goodbye and send-off for the day the last one runs.
In the meantime, I want to thank everyone who’s supported me and Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles for the past thirteen years—the fans and the publishers. If it wasn’t for you, this comic would have never made it past the first year. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had a forum to speak my mind and tell my dirty jokes and to all the people who listened and laughed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.