Answer Pile 9: The Answering

I apologize if this blog falls rather comatose through the summer months.  I’m presently working on the end portions of Volume 2 and a related, sizable project I’ll talk more about later.  Here’s some more filler material and ask-box responses for the interim, though.

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Full size here.



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More text and stupid pictures after the break.

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Q.  Anonymous asked you:

I worry about Rocky’s mental health. What chance would he have of getting any psychiatric help in 1920s St Louis? I guess what therapy there was wouldn’t have been available to people of his social class. I feel like he might be able to function a lot better if he got a bit of help :(

A.  Well, the source of Rocky’s issues is arguable, I think, but without commenting on him specifically, psychiatric care would have been available at the time…just probably not the kind one would want.
Although the dismal prognostic attitude of the prior century (in which institutionalization was synonymous with a sort of life-long imprisonment and little or no hope for recovery) was shifting to one more focused on rehabilitation, diseases and disorders were even more stigmatized and poorly understood than they are today. Treatments were questionable, discharge rates were still low, and institutions were often overcrowded places where infectious disease could take hold and decimate a patient population.
Things weren’t entirely grim, though.  Say what you will about Freud and the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of psychoanalysis, but its broadening influence did at least shine some hopeful rays on approaching treatment with less overall pessimism in the early 20th century.  Day hospitals were also a new concept, basically opening up less profound neurological/psychological ailments to out-patient care and sometimes preventing the need for institutionalization. New methods like barbiturate therapy, insulin shock therapy and electro-shock therapy began emerging in the 20’s and 30’s for such things as “dementia praecox” (generally what we’d call schizophrenia today) and “manic-depressive psychosis” (what we’d call psychosis associated with bipolar disorder today).  Although such treatments are no longer considered valid or safe, with the semi-controversial exception of ECT, they were an assertive step toward alleviating patients of symptoms with an eye toward recovery.  Patients weren’t just lost causes anymore.
Of course, a lot of mental health issues would simply go unrecognized and/or untreated, resulting in penitentiary imprisonment for some, while leaving many to their own devices to exist in isolation or on the fringes of society - much like today, sadly.

And just because I love these old buildings, St. Louis’ major institutions through much of the 20th Century were St. Louis City Hospital, a complex of Georgian style buildings that served as infirmaries, sanitariums and asylums, and St. Vincent’s Institution (for the Insane), a veritable Kirkbride castle that once housed patients and the nuns who cared for them.  Both have been lately converted to condos and apartments.  (photo from builtstlouis.net)
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Hey, big fan of your work! You’re kind of an inspiration really. Which ties into my question. I too have started a comic that includes animal characters similar in form to yours. It’s little over 20 pages in. It’s a family-friendly adventure and none of my other work is explicit, but I still get plenty of people hounding(heh) me about the fact I’m using animal characters, thinking it’s some kind of unnecessary perversion. Assuming you get the same feedback, how does it make you feel?

A.  That’s very kind.  Thank you.
Their perception of it as a ‘perversion’ probably says more about them than it does about your work…and it makes me think their opinions are probably undeserving of further consideration.
No matter what you do, someone somewhere is going to want to crap on it, either because they have nothing better to do, because they feel better when other people feel worse, or perhaps because they’re letting reactionary, sensationalized internet groupthink determine their opinions for them.  Were the family-friendly talking animal cartoons they grew up on unnecessarily perverse?
It took me several rounds of feeling hurt and discouraged by such things to really get around to understanding and, more importantly, believing that not all feedback matters.   It takes too much effort and energy to produce a comic to waste any of it dodging and deflecting blanks, though, so it’s not only a prerogative to filter out the meaningless from the useful - it’s an imperative.
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Q.  mushroompuppy asked you:
So I was rereading the comic and the strip “Chit-Chat Time with Zib” one shot and I just have to ask one thing… What are the phrases you’re asking Zib implying? I felt stupid not knowing, so I looked it up on yahoo search, and all I found where links to Tea Party movements and random music videos. Is it being implied he’s doing some kind of drug?

A.  “I” was using all sorts of old-timey euphemisms to ask him if he was on all the drugs, and he wasn’t paying any attention to what I was asking because he thought he was hallucinating me.  I got at least some of the phraseology from transcripts of Louis Armstrong interviews (he had a zillion different and highly amusing descriptors for marijuana, as I recall)  and I had to dig around quite a bit in slang dictionaries and other places for some of the rest, alluding to cocaine and opiates.  I figured even if no one got the specific references, though, the drift of it wouldn’t be too hard to catch.  Sounds like you caught it.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
What would Rocky do if he knew Mitzi called him a ‘silly, addle-brained boy’? Cry? Set something on fire? Both at once?

A. image
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Hello! I was wondering what your personal policies on people using your art are? I really enjoy Lackadaisy and was hoping to use a cropped panel as my Tumblr icon (with credit); is that okay with you? Thanks! :)

A.  I’m generally fine with anything I draw being cropped down for personal (non-commercial) small icon or avatar use, so feel free.  I’m honored you like it enough to use it as an icon, and thanks for asking first!
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Isn’t Rocky a bit young to have done all that he has?

A.  Is he?  He learned to play the violin.  The rest of what he’s done amounts to spending his adolescence semi-transient, frequently and fleetingly employed.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Out of curiousity what is Viktor the most afraid of? (not that I have any ulterior motives)

A.  Doing further damage of a sort on the one hand, and on the other, being stuck with himself in his own personal little hell with little to do but brood and deteriorate.  It’s roughly an either-or situation for him, to his perpetual frowniness.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Does Victor have any living family? What about Mordecai?

A.  They both do.  Viktor’s family has been mentioned in the canon comic.  Mordecai’s hasn’t, but there’s a childhood picture here (bottom right).
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Q.  cookiespecialist asked you:
hi, i just finished reading your comic up to the point that it is at right now and i think that it’s really incredible. the art and writing is amazing, i love how well developed all the characters personalities are, and i am really enjoying the story so far. i was wondering about the latest panel where ivy is dreaming, do you think you could possibly explain what some of the things shown in her dream symbolize?

A.  Thank you!  I’m glad you like it.
As much as it might seem like an explicit explanation of the dream would be satisfying, I think something would be lost in the telling.  It’s more about..hmm..using the visuals and context to intuit a meaning, if it’s not too pretentious to say so.  It’d defeat the point if I did that for you.  In preceding pages taking place at the funeral home, there’s dialogue that relates directly to the dream, though, which might provide some basis for understanding.  Lackadaisy forum members were able to derive meaning from the bulk of it, so I have hope that it’s not completely inscrutable.  (If you’re interested, you could read what they had to say about it, mostly in this forum thread.)
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Hi! I was wondering, how did Rocky learn to play the fiddle? I have a hard time imagining he had the attention span to take lessons.

A.  Initially, he learned from his mother, and though he’s fidgety as a frog on a griddle, she had a way with him, and so did the music.  He picked it up again in late teenagerhood when, by happenstance, he ended up with a fiddle, time to kill and empty space to fill.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
If you haven’t gotten this question a million times already—how do you write Rocky’s poetry? Do you make it up? Do you ever write poetry on your own? Where did you learn from? Who are your favorite poets? Question mark?????

A. 
Step 1.  Write bad poetry.
Step 2.  Blame it on Rocky.

I like a lot of poets, but they’re such standards, it hardly seems worth specifying.  Declaring a liking for Poe, Plath, T.S. Elliot, Yeats, Blake and such seems akin to declaring, ‘I like sandwiches.’  I haven’t traveled far off the beaten path in the poetry department, that is.  I’m open to suggestions.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Does Mitzi feel at all bad about the things she asks Rocky to do, specifically? I know he volunteers for them, and I don’t mean to absolve him of responsibility for his situation - but he’s not exactly of sound mind. Does she have any qualms about putting someone so young, and so obviously mentally unstable, in life-threatening situations for her own ends? (I think Mitzi is a brilliant character and your comic is the best, btw)

A.  (Thank you!)
She learned some bad tricks from her husband and I’m sure, in a way, she’s come to believe she’s doing Rocky a sort of favor because that’s what he reflects back at her.  I suppose it’s also easy to lose a little perspective or to rationalize when the society you keep operates with and is governed by the same maxims of ambiguous morality (…or unambiguous immorality).  The whole business of bootleg liquor was contingent on getting impetuous people to do dangerous, criminal things, after all.  Under the pressure she’s feeling, she’s probably lacking some clarity too.  Perhaps if she could momentarily detach from it all and analyze it at a different angle (from sideways, sprawled on the sidewalk like Zib, for example) she’d find the situation even more reprehensible than she already knows it is.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
You always say really mean, mocking things about Rocky which on the one hand are very funny and true but on the other make me feel really sad for him. Could you possibly say something nice about him? What do you think are his good qualities? (Sorry for being over-invested in the non-existent feelings of a fictional cartoon cat. Your characters just feel like real people to me at this point!)

A.  Well, he’s pretty creative.  He’s pretty okay as a musician too.  He might even be a little eloquent if he reined in the nonsense and torrents of purple prose.  He’s got a lot of…energy.  He’s pretty attuned to emotional undercurrents with other characters too, even if he’s using those powers for evil (and even though his gauge for more superficial social cues, like ‘how likely you are to be punched in the face at this moment’’, is clearly on the fritz).  And his whackadoo expressions often make him the most fun character among the cast to draw, if that counts for anything.
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Q.  kingsdungeon asked you:
I don’t know if you’ve been asked this but will we be seeing other types of cats in Lackadaisy like Lions, Cheetahs, or panthers?

A.  None of the characters are really a specific breed or species.  They’re predominantly made up of domestic cat features with bits and pieces of lions and lynxes and such mixed in, but no one *is* a lion, a lynx or what have you.  They’re just personalities represented with patchwork conglomerations of cartoony feline parts.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
You’re probably entirely too busy or this, but at some point, if you can, could you give us another pile of human Mordecai drawings? You said you weren’t completely satisfied with the one you posted.

A.  At some point, perhaps.  I should probably get around to some of the other characters first, though.
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Q.  cblue08 asked you:
I’m probably way off base by asking this, but I read somewhere that sociopaths are mostly characterized as extreme narcissists nowadays, so given that would you consider Mordecai to be such? It’s hard to imagine him being completely selfish, especially when it comes to his family (although so far we haven’t seen what kind of relationship he has with them since childhood) but…

A.  It’s not off base - it’s a good question!  I really need to leave it to a reader to interpret the character, but as an aside, I would say that narcissism probably couldn’t be ruled out so easily.  The appearance of selflessness is sometimes intrinsic to narcissistic behavior. 
Disordered levels of narcissism don’t really leave room for empathy, compassion, giving of oneself, or establishing connections with other people (how it intersects with sociopathy, I suppose), but it does involve appearing to do those things to whatever extent that it serves to uphold appearances.  So, someone who (superficially) seems eligible for some sort of sainthood - say, an activist who exhibits tireless concern about the environment or social justice - could be a narcissist just the same as any corporate shill.  If this is something they invest in only so long as they think someone is watching; because they’re not genuinely passionate about saving something so much as they are passionate about being perceived as a savior, that’s narcissism in practice.
Of course, mix violence with the perception of other people as though they’re just props in a play about you or extensions of your ego rather than fully fledged human beings, and things tend to become imminently more atrocious.  It’ll sometimes come by surprise - spree killings, honor killings, murder-suicides - because narcissists can do a convincing job of projecting some other identity.

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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
So I was wondering: Does Rocky drink coffee and, if so, do its effects differ from those of pancakes?

A.  He takes his coffee with syrup in it…so, no.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
In both his character page art and your latest piece Rocky is drawn with a moon behind his head. Does this signify something? Like madness or… something…?

A.  It’s just something I associate with his character for a variety of reasons - the lunatic evenings of his present occupation among them.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Does Rocky know that Zib and Mitzi used to be together? Is this common knowledge around the Lackadaisy?

A.  Rocky doesn’t know the details like the rest of the band does, but it’s pretty much understood around the speakeasy that they have some history.
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Q.  katalustalrius asked you:
Hi! Half-comment, half-question here from a new fan, both about the same subject: Dr. Quackenbush. The comment is that I love the Marx Brothers reference, especially since it’s to ‘Day at the Races.’ So, kudos. Now, the question, which I feel a little silly for asking: will we be seeing any more of the feline Groucho expy?

A.  I have plans for him to be back.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
What would you say if doing Lackadaisy as a full time job actually became realistic? Would you even want to commit to it on tat particular level?

A.  Absolutely I would, if it was realistic.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
are you able to make a good living off of these comics? i hope the question isn’t intrusive. i know every artist is different, but there is nowhere that gives a good idea on how well webcomic artists are doing especially in the US where it seems that comics aren’t as big as say, japan (manga). anyway i wish you luck and you are very very talented. it’s cool that you have your own style too. i can see your stuff anywhere and know it’s you who did it. may u have more success!!

A.  I don’t make a living off my comics.  I have a full time job and squeeze the comics in around that and my other obligations, not always successfully.  I know some creators are able to support themselves with their webcomics, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what that means in terms of earnings.  I’m sure it varies pretty dramatically.
Sorry I don’t have more helpful information about that, but thanks for the good wishes.
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Q.  cherrystarlight asked you:
would it be far fetched for rocky to have an irish accent of some degree?

A.  He doesn’t have one.  He does mix playful, stereotypical Irish-isms into his speech, though, and you can assume it’s done with an over the top impression of a brogue.  All this in affectionate parody of the Irish side of his family, of course.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Has Freckle ever had a girlfriend before? Or has he always been this shy?

A.  He’s always been shy.  It hasn’t precluded a crush or flirtation here and there, but Ivy and her modern impudence are a whole new level of terrifying for someone who’d have to muster everything he’s got to hold a girl’s hand.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Is it canon that Rocky shot his own ear?

A.  Yes.  Although the incident is only depicted in very early development art that is too old and embarrassing to link to, it’s safe to assume that, in the canon comic, it’s at least one of the reasons Mitzi and Zib discourage him from wielding a gun.
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Q.  sincerely-the-management asked you:
This is going to be very blunt, I’m sorry…. But were you ever, like, bad at art? ;o; Did it take a lot of practice to become this good, or were you just born a picasso? And what age did you start really being interested in drawing and the like? I’m sorry, you’re just a huge role model of mine, I hope I didn’t offend you <3

A.  I’m very honored, and your question is not offensive at all.  Of course I was bad at art.  I wasn’t born a Picasso. I was born a dumb baby, with all the limitations of motor ability, attention span, and spatial intelligence that entails.  I got better (and there’s still endless amounts of better to try to get) but I don’t think it’s because I came with any innate ability.  I don’t think most artists do.  Probably the only artistic advantage I had was the persisting interest.  I began drawing around age 4 or so, and soon after bought some real estate in that scrawling La-la Crayonscape on my paper, apparently having decided never to depart.  If by grade school I appeared to have any more artistic talent than most of my classmates, it was probably just that I was more practiced. 
That’s all “talent” is, I suspect - more a result than a gift.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
I am a bit curious, but what type of pencils do you use when you draw?

A. image

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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Did Mitzi cheat on Zib with Atlas or did she end the one relationship before starting the other? You said in a response to an earlier question that neither Mitzi nor Atlas took their dalliance all that seriously at first. If she wasn’t even all that into Atlas to start with why would she leave Zib for him? Was their relationship already on the rocks? Was she involved with both of them for a time before deciding to drop Zib completely? I NEED THE DEETS

A.  They didn’t take their dalliance very seriously because, at the time, it was a traveling band and Mitzi didn’t expect to be in St. Louis for the long term.  She wasn’t exactly cheating on Zib either - they had always been and off again, on again, not-entirely-official sort of pair, and she and Atlas were in plain view.  I don’t want to give much away here, but Zib made something of a bad judgment call, inadvertently gave Atlas the opportunity for a grand gesture that changed the nature of his relationship with Mitzi, and that was checkmate.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Hello! I find myself wondering about the music in Lackadaisy, especially considering three of the main cast are musicians. More specifically, I wonder about their voice parts since I am a weirdo with too much time. I imagine Mitzi as a mezzo soprano, Zib a baritone, and Rocky as either nails-on-chalkboard or a passable tenor. Are these close to what you think of how they sound?

A.  That’s pretty close to how I imagine it - Mitzi on the low end of the soprano range, Zib straddling tenor and baritone, depending, and Rocky with a pretty solidly tenor singing voice (although his speaking voice dips and rises all over the place).
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Q.  dan-bear asked you:
Hey Tracy, I’ve been a big fan of your work for the longest time, and I was wondering how it is you got your jump in popularity? As in, when did people start noticing your work? As an aspiring artist, I feel a bit intimidated when I draw because I don’t know when people will take notice to my art or story, so I’d really love to hear the “secret”, so to speak, from a professional artist. Thank you (:

A.  I don’t think there has ever been a point at which I *suddenly* found myself with an audience.  I don’t have any marketing or promotion secrets beyond just posting my work online either - I’ve just been doing it for a while. I published my first (awful) web site around 1998.  The accumulation of watchers and readers since then has been verrryyy gradual, and even after all these years, I’m not popular in the grand scheme…or even the regular scheme.   Among all of the topical, general interest, gag-a-day stuff out there that’s instantaneously gratifying and relatable, long form fiction is a tough sell.  Although knowing that there are some people who take an interest in your work can be very rewarding, I wouldn’t advise doing anything for the express purpose of being noticed - you’ll only drive yourself nuts.  If that’s your foremost goal, I don’t know…draw lots of fan art of popular things, I guess.
On the other hand, if you’re out in the hinterlands with some personal project or portfolio, pouring your heart and soul all over it, people will tend to notice that too, eventually…slowly but surely.  My advice would be to just start putting your beloved out there piece by piece; use social media to make it easy to find; instead of making them overriding motivations, let notice and recognition be side effects of the nurturing and honing of your work; and don’t let the sound of crickets chirping discourage you.  Be patient - everyone starts out that way.

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Q. Anonymous asked you:
Let me start by saying I am a huge fan. This is by far and away the my favorite web comic. The problem is this has been my favorite new webcomic since 2006. Eight years. In that time we’ve seen what I can imagine is a very limited part of the story and I am concerned I am emotionally invested in a work of art that may never actually see a conclusion. Any projections for when you want to see Lackadaisy see it’s deserved conclusion?

A.  I can’t reliably project when the next update will be ready…so I could guess, but I’d be wrong.
For a while there I held out hope that I’d be able to work on it full time allowing me to speed things along with faster, more regular updates, but I haven’t found a way to make that happen…so, I’m really very happy you enjoy it, but if you’re going to stick with it, I’m afraid it has to be on an  ‘as it comes’ basis.  I have absolutely no intention of stopping before it’s done - I have a nagging sense of urgency about finishing it, in fact -  but I don’t know when that will be (a few years out, at least) and I can’t predict what life circumstances could come along and interrupt it.  I’m sorry.  I wish I could do better than that, but I can’t presently conjure up more time or energy to give to it and I don’t possess the divinations skills to know exactly when and how it’ll play out.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
How many people works on the comic?

A.  Just me.

However, to be fair, I must credit Jay, because he’s the reason my web site functions at all, Eric, my very hardworking publisher, Heather, the graphic designer who has done a great deal to make Lackadaisy books, calendars and convention booth decor look good, Mike, who has sent me countless bits of reference material, and the various friends who’ve talked me down from jabbing my eyes out with pencils in fits of artistic frustration.
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Q.  Anonymous asked you:
Hi, Tracy! Ivy will have problems because of nocturnal visit Rocky?

A.  Hehe.  Well, if nocturnal visit Rocky is any portent, it’s a fair bet that she’ll be affected by whatever trouble corporeal Rocky has in store.

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