David is leaving Erfworld
This is an announcement that I never wanted to have to make, but David Hahn is departing as Erfworld's illustrator.
It was a decision that David came to independently a couple of weeks ago, but I can't say I disagree with it, and I did not ask him to reconsider. This was never the right project for him, and it's time for him to go.
Erfworld is a tough story to create. The terrible fact is that it requires more focused attention and story knowledge from its illustrators than almost any other comic you can name.
When I'm writing, I set the bar pretty high for myself where internal consistency is concerned. It wrecks me when I forget a mechanic or flub some detail, however small, because I feel like I have let down the readers. And because the art is a big part of the storytelling, the artist has to follow those same standards. They have to have a strong commitment to the final page, and to meeting the expectations of the fans.
I think David and I would both agree that Erfworld just asked more out of him than he had to give. In the two+ years he's been with the team, he and I both worked pretty hard and tried to avoid coming to that conclusion. We tried a lot of different process changes to improve our results. But we've both had to face it: not every artist is right for every job, and drawing Erfworld is a role that he never quite grew into.
Until last night, the plan had been to keep David on for another fifteen to twenty updates, while I searched for an illustrator to take over for him. But the circumstances that led to our missing Monday's update have led me to think we'd be better off making a clean break right now.
There will be one more David Hahn page posted on Friday, after we have taken some more time to make corrections to the art and finalize the lettering. After that, I am not sure what happens. We have made some progress at finding a replacement, but we don't have anyone ready to go yet. It's safe to say we'll be missing a few updates in coming weeks as we try to get on a new footing. Maybe quite a few.
Look for more news as we know more. I'll answer questions in comments (be kind, please). Erfworld has been through rougher seas than this, and we thank you as always for sticking with us. There's a lot more story to tell.
An amusing yet unfortunate truth, with the addition of artist number 4 you now have enough varied talent that you could hold your own erf world themed convention. You could have panels with various artists (and booths for them too) maybe rich burlew could come as a guest of honor. Some panels with fan fict writers. Cos play... People could play games from erf world and erf world themed games. There could be a trivia contest. People could ride on the hippo bus....
All not being a good fit means is that it wasn't a good fit. It doesn't say anything about him or you, and I'm glad that it seems like it has been a cordial break.
I love this comic, and have been through two artist changes before, and can last for many more, though, hopefully, just one. :-)
Also, try to see if you can get Sam Keith onboard. I'd love to see Stanley rendered in his realism style. All of you big-shot comic creators know each other, right? ;-)
Understood, but you will still be missed David. Thank you for all your hard work. There were so many times when you nailed a look or expression in such a subtle way that I didn't think possible.
Beeskee: I think this is so telling. Rob keeps one of the most consistent webcomics I know, to the point where we genuinely get worried and expect a followup post if he's even a day late. When he refers to his readers as the "Erfworld Family", it kind've makes sense.
That's all to say, we've enjoyed David's time with us and look forward to the next step of the comic's journey.
Guess I had a few questions.
1 - Wasn't hiring David & even part of his team a part of the last Kickstarter? How does that work?
2 - I appreciate the attention to detail and whatnot, but, is there some mutual issue that's causing all these artists to burn out that isn't just the weakness of the artist?
3 - If there was money from the Kickstarter, couldn't this have been used to pay one of the previous artists to be able to work on Erf full time?
I'm sure you'll figure it out going forward, and, I know it's tough to get reliable people... but if it is a case where artists keep burning out for minimal reward, and are being told to make many changes for the love of detail... it's tough to find that person who is willing to bleed without feeling like the payoff is worth the bleed.
I think it'd also be true if the artist was leading the project, and insisted that Rob keep changing the story...
You get that "rock band" problem where the lead member who writes the music is passionate about it and can't find a way to inspire the same level of ownership in the rest of the band, and the band breaks up after a few years.
I guess in the end... the question is, how to reward and empower a reliable team of artists to feel rewarded and the same sense of ownership of the end result that Rob feels? That's a tough one.
Next Kickstarter to make "VH1 : Behind the Story - How Erfworld killed a series of artists" And there's a video clip with pencils flung across the room or something. =-)
That's too bad. The artwork lately has been really amazing. And if you are going to end somewhere, that kickass panel with wanda as a devil holding the Arkenpliers, and the surprised Charlie is a good one to end on. That was epic. The closeup of the Charlescomm tower is another one of my favorites, and the thinkspace Maggie.
It is better to find a good replacement artist that is ready then a lot of transitional artists or rushed jobs. So I would expect, and understand, if the main comic is put on hold for a bit. I think it is better to wait until the new artist is ready to do a consistent schedule, then sporadic comic updates. But in the mean time, perhaps the current schedule could be continued with backer stories, or book 0? Here is hoping.
But I am sure that the decision that Rob arrives at will be the best one. Good luck to Rob, David, and who ever the new artist will be.
There hasn't been a polite way to bring this up (mostly because I was starting to dig David's artwork, and didn't want to give the wrong impression) - but if there is any chance of getting Xin back as illustrator, I would be very pleased to increase my Toolshed contribution.
I adore Xin's artwork, and her glorious pin-ups are a monthly reminder of just how striking Erfworld can be.
I know Xin had to step down for many many crucial reasons. All love and respect and understanding. But if making a livable wage, with perhaps more text updates, could make it happen, I would be happy to contribute my part.
That said, best of luck Rob. If pipe dreams aren't possible, there's hard work to be done. Cheers.
Damn shame to hear. David's art lacked some of the richness of detail that Xin developed, but there was a lot to be said for a stable update schedule, and I've been very pleased with Erfworld's progress on that front. I'm sad to see him go simply because it creates the specter of concern that the update schedule being knocked for a loop is less temporary than we'd otherwise hope.
All we can do, I suppose, is have faith, wait, and see.
Nooo :(( I got used to the art so quickly - im very sad to see him go, but I wish the best for him nonetheless. Thanks for everything you have done for us so far David!
And Rob, I remember you stating once if Erfworld changes another artist that it'll be the final curtain call, and I'm happy to see you reconsidered - please let the comic continue! We the fans are here for you!
I'd be quite happy to back a kickstarter for another artist. I don't know the circumstances Jamie left under, but I loved his originality in the art, it came alive in his hands. Is there any chance he would be interested if the position were more stable this time around (ie, kickstarter and toolshed guarranteeing a revenue stream)?
With David Hahn's departure, that means Book 3 in print form will not feature a uniform art style (unless coming Friday will be the last page of Book 3 (part 1?)). What are your plans there? It'd bother me more than a little if a book I bought had its art changed dramatically at some point, and while I KNOW you've got worse problems on your hands, this is one I'm curious about.
I love Erfworld, I really do. Passionately. And I have massive respect for you Rob, and particularly, I believe you are an exceptional storyteller. But I think it's becoming apparent - and I mean this constructively, not cruelly - that you have particular problems with the project management side of things. I really sympathise with the fact that that's not what you're hear to do. Your passion is for the story! It's not for a managerial position. (I've read J Michael Straczynski talk about exactly the same issue on Babylon 5.)
But there are evident patterns developing over the history of Erfworld. There are, I do not mean to say otherwise, always valid reasons for the problems that crop up. But those problems have never been well handled, and I am afraid I have come to the conclusion that the reason the comic has been derailed by these issues in the pattern it has been is in some part due to flaws in project management. In particular, Rob, you have, I feel, a somewhat naive lack of focus. This is what sent the Year of the Dwagon kickstarter so far astray. You started talking about boardgame testbeds and site redesigns with goals that were much broader than simply *delivering Erfworld*. The passion and vision there was admirable, but the logistical thinking was terribly naive. Eyebrows were raised even at the time. You obviously learned some things from that experience, but even then, I can't help but feel you've allowed enthusiasm and passion and excitement to sometimes carry you forward where logistically it's just not the right choice. The website redesign, whilst a lovely idea (and I really do appreciate the desire to foster rather than stifle fanwork), is not what Erfworld needed, and that effort would have been better directed elsewhere.
When the book three kickstarter went live, there was a well-written and polite message from one fan stating that though they loved Erfworld, the pattern of problems was undeniable, and there wasn't any sign you'd really understood and adapted. It basically said 'Fool me once...' and explained that they wouldn't be contributing that time. I really felt strongly sympathetic to that post, but I still paid in again because at least you had kept the goals focussed this time, and for once, you were keeping it entirely to the things needed to deliver Erfworld. But there was a lot of skepticism about David. A lot. And now we're faced with the fact that, having funded a Kickstarter with the express intent of paying an artist to ensure reliable artwork throughout the whole run of the book and avoid the issues that plagued the previous book, we're having exactly those issues again. There's already been one massive disruption to the schedule. Now there's another because the artist is departing completely. I don't like to be negative, especially when I realise you're probably already pretty down on things, but I think you need to acknowledge that in spite of everything, somehow the same pattern has arisen yet again. And it's arisen after many people donated money for the express purpose of it not happening this time.
I would like to know exactly where the kickstarter money intended for David to finish out the book will now go? Will it be held in reserve to pay a new artist for the remainder of the book, or is it going to be swallowed up by site costs in the interim. I worry that in spite of the whole purpose of that kickstarter and all the additional money fans paid in, we're yet again facing the prospect of not having enough money to finish the story. I know it sucks, Rob, I really sympathise with how shitty you feel. I think you're an amazing storyteller and I have boundless respect for the effort and life you put into this project. But, as miserable as it is, I think that you really need to take a very cold, realistic look back at the problems Erfworld has faced, and coldly consider how the comic is in this position once again in spite of having believed lessons were learned.
More than anything Rob, I love Erfworld and I want it to continue. And if it's irregular and fraught with recurring issues, I'll still keep coming back. But I'm starting to believe that those issues could be mitigated if the project was managed better.
I think it might be time to go full text.
To be honest I much prefer the text updates anyway because frankly, much much more happens per update. Book 2 suffered from pacing issues primarily because the need to have art was dragging the already poor pacing of the story arc down to a crawl. Even the most recent comic update consisted of 6 lines of dialogue, where a text update with maybe panel 6 as an illustration would have sufficed. Then, perhaps, we could have covered the next three comic updates worth of dialogue in a single update, and move on to one of the other three plotlines we're juggling at the moment.
More and more webcomics are falling into the "art trap" where webcomic creators are under the mistaken impression that people are reading them for the art and not the story, and the later is constantly sacrificed for the former.
However, if you're going to continue to pursue this route I might as well suggest trying to contact Reza: http://aribuwana.deviantart.com/
He did two color pages a week for Drowtales' path to power interactive game for something like 4 years before the writer shut down the project, so I don't see him as likely to flake out.