Thirteen years is a long time for me to be doing anything. Thirteen years doing a cut & paste strip about the computer industry is a ridiculously long time in my book. Some of my current readers who are just entering college were four or five years old when I started doing this on a copy of Novell Presentations running in a Win32 session on my beloved OS/2 Warp 3 machine. I was 24 when I started and I’m turning 38 in July. For some reason all this adds up to making me feel old. And despite occasional flashes of paranoia, where I imagine there are a bunch of young webcartoonists waiting in the shadows for this dodgy old guy to give up and start doing something else so they can remake the world of webcomics in their new, shiny, well-drawn image,1 all in all it’s been a pretty satisfying run so far.
Of course as Help Desk enters its teenage years, I fully expect it to go through a number of awkward changes, which will make it feel terribly self-conscious and awkward in public, and prompt it to do any number of damn-fool things in order to prove to itself that it doesn’t feel self-conscious and awkward in public. It will also, I expect, start to mumble and slouch, talk back to me as it tests its boundaries, and eventually start listening to punk rock music.2
As the years progress my attempts to communicate with my webcomic will become more and more strained as it begins to associate with other webcomics I just don’t approve of,3 and finally, after repeated failed attempts at counseling, I’ll lose my temper and shout at it “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!” Of course that’s when it will reply that I’m so out of touch with reality that I’m pathetic, jump on its Harley45
The next day it will call asking me to bail it out of jail.6
Our battles will be legendary. Eventually I’ll kick it out of the house and change the locks, but it’ll break in and take my instruments, pawning them off in order to support it’s GIMP color reduction habit. Finally it’ll call me in desperation after living destitute on the streets for a month, and our eventual reconciliation will be turned into a TV movie special featuring Alex sitting at his desk, not moving for the entire two hours as the whole story is told in voice-overs.
And you’ll all be along for the ride.
- A moment of serious reflection dispels this foolish hallucination, because a) none of the new guys care about tech comics except for xkcd, and b) I don’t attract enough of an audience to be a threat to their new world vision, and c) as far as I know there isn’t really a new world vision. But if the Internet is about anything, it’s about reveling in your imagined persecution. And also porn.
- Until it realizes that not only do I listen to punk I’m also a punk musician, at which point it will realize, to its horror, that it is not rebelling so much as it’s conforming. A brief flurry of research into my musical tastes will ultimately cause it to develop a taste for the marches of John Philip Souza. Kids these days.
- Which will be just about all of them, not because I hate webcomics but because we all know that web cartoonists are all unrepentant villains, ne’er-do-wells, scoundrels and mountebanks. I mean, really. I’m speaking from personal experience here.
- Its first inclination will be a Harley, but after learning that I actually like motorcycles it will instead settle on something more like this and ride off into the sunset.
- While I like motorcycles quite a bit I don’t actually ride one. Riding a motorcycle requires a level of environmental awareness far above the standard level required to drive a car, and if I rode a bike I’d probably wind up being so wrapped up in the moment I’d also wind up being wrapped up in a tree. Or a lamp post. Or the side of a building.
- (When I get there it will ask me “Do you think you can spring for User Friendly, General Protection Fault and Sluggy Freelance too?”