In 2004 it became clear to both Howard and I that he had to leave his corporate employment and try to make a go of cartooning full time. The span of time between our decision and his final day of work was only a few days because his employer said there was no point in holding him to two week’s notice. I felt so calm during those days, Howard was pretty scared and stressed. Then he came home with boxes of personal belongings from his office space and we switched who was stressed. I remember laying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, and feeling the responsibility for house and kids as if it were a physical weight on my body.
Obviously the switch to cartooning worked out, because we’ve spent the intervening sixteen years fully supporting that house and the four kids. About four years ago, we started knowing that Schlock Mercenary needed an end rather than letting it continue endlessly. By last year we knew that 2020 would be the year it ended. I spent a lot of last year actively afraid for what ending the comic would mean for our finances. We turned the corner into this year and I felt calm. It was time, and I was excited to see what new things we would do. When Howard got sick, I started actively looking forward to the end of the comic because he could barely keep up with the pressure of the daily update. I arrived at this week feeling anticipation that the end is so close.
Today Howard scripted the final comics and began to draw them. He tweeted about it, and his replies were flooded with people for whom reading the comic has been a daily ritual for 5, 10, 20 years of their lives. Today my emotions are all over the place instead of calm. I feel badly that this tiny piece of enjoyment in their lives is coming to an end. I feel glad that Howard will have space to figure out his health. I’m excited to see what new patterns my family gets when we don’t have to bend everything around a daily update. I’m nervous about our finances in the next few years. I’m happy about Howard’s scripts for the final comics. I’m looking forward to the other Schlock Mercenary stories we’ll get to create in a format other than a daily update. I feel sad that fans won’t have the daily laugh anymore. Yet all of it feels more like a beginning than an ending to me. We’ll see if all of those feelings shift when the final comic is done and posted.
It has been such a privilege and a joy to be part of the 20-year-long project Schlock Mercenary. I love the characters. I love the stories. I love the books we got to make. I love that it is a vast universe with so much room in it for more stories. I’ll carry that privilege, joy, and love with me into whatever comes next.