This was hard to write – this send-off, this last chapter, every chapter, every little bit – and it was towards an ending, a “death”, that I could clearly see approaching and yet drew out as long as I could until Zack IMed me the final page at work. A few minutes later, I was in the bathroom sobbing, the complex emotions I was feeling suddenly too much because it was really here – Unlife, a story about living on past death, had concluded (the irony is not lost on me). My eyes were so teary and red, I ended up wearing sunglasses the rest of the day like a goon, lying to my co-workers that my other glasses broke or that my allergies were acting up. The lies were easier than telling them the long-winded truth.
Unlife has been such an integral part of my life, both externally and internally. Though I would write the scripts in advance, I remained involved in it every Monday and Wednesday, always finding something to rewrite in the midst of the chapter despite an earlier promise to myself that it would remain a part-time project. In the end, and to the end, I was unable to tear myself away until the very last moments of the comic. Perhaps it’s because Unlife is both the safest and most intense project I have ever been a part of. The stories felt close and personal to Zack and to me, both of us using our art to reflect our fears and our feels. And I lived with these characters, in my life, in my head, on the page and on the web, for so long that I don’t know what I’ll do now that their journey has closed.
It was also the first time I worked with a collaborator as long as Zack and I did. Art had always been so intensely personal for me, and I can’t describe what the experience was like sharing it with someone else. When Zack pitched the idea and his hopes for the series, and gave me free reign and trusted in my vision, I still approached the project as something masturbatory. I wasn’t prepared to watch it transform under Zack’s pen and watch it grow into its own independent thing that we shared with each other. It became something I couldn’t imagine. It became Unlife.
8 years is a long time – I am a different person than I was when I started writing this. And now at the end, looking back on who I was when I started, both in terms of who I was as an artist or as a person, I feel… resurrected. Like I have moved on from a past that’s buried, but not forgotten, and not gone. And Unlife helped me escape that unrelenting dark hole, helping me dig my way out, as I hope it did for others. And what I’ll do with my life now is… beyond unknown. I really don’t know what’s next, because the most important thing to me, for years, was finishing.
I always wanted, needed, to finish a comic. Too many projects have remained stuck in a drawer or unable to escape that initial draft. I think the desire started with Fenix Gear, wanting to tell this sprawling opera, drawn out and as epic in scope as Dragon Ball Z. And now, after 700+ pages of Unlife, here we are, my childhood dream come true. It’s a complete story. It’s beautiful. It means the world to me. What else can I ask for? Maybe for it not to end? For it not to die?
But it’s not death. Unlife will always be there – now is the time to live for the next thing.
I want to thank a few people before we close, most importantly Jena. Jena has been the unofficial editor of Unlife – she read and edited every line of dialog, and Unlife would not be anywhere close to as streamlined if not for her. Her care and compassion to both Zack and me through all of this, even when it was difficult, demonstrates the strength of her character and the enormity of her heart. I love you with all of mine.
Another unsung hero is Pat – I have known Pat since college, when he was a cheerleader for Fenix Gear. After college, he became the inspiration for another creation of mine, Peril and Perish. He has been invaluable to this strip as a fan I can both talk to and and rely on for critical story advice and creative inspiration. I can’t describe how much you helped me.
I also want to think others who helped read my scripts and aided me in the creation of this comic – Michael, Chas, Emma, Carrie, Anders, Seth, David, Petrina, Peter, Katie, Carolyn, Tom, and everyone else who helped shape it. This story also wouldn’t be here without the love and support of my family – Gwen, Randy, Michael, Aly, Max, Emily, Paul, Jo Ann, and Radar’s inspiration – Pippin. Especially, I want to thank Zaidy – I had lost him before I started this comic, and Unlife helped me find him again.
And, the audience – I have had a complicated relationship with you, and yet, I wouldn’t be here without you. I hope you enjoyed Unlife, and even if you didn’t, thanks for hanging on this long – it always meant a lot to me.
And most of all, I have to thank Zack, because he brought this into my life. Zack has been a dedicated artist and kept going, even when it was hard. I have watched both as he and his art grew and matured into something truly special. I hope I get the chance to work with him again and watch him keep pushing forward. I love you, and would write a million pages just to work on one more with you.
I love you all so much. Thank you for reading Unlife.
There’s nothing more amazing than turning something fantastic into something mundane. Or turning something mundane into something fantastic. It’s one of my favorite things to do with storytelling. Here’s this everyday character who’s been turned into a zombie, a mundane character turned into something out of a fantasy… who’s still working in a library, which is incredibly mundane. That was the beginning. This however, is the end.
It’s been just under a decade for this incarnation. But I’ve been on this since 2007.
In 2007, I was working at a Gamestop, was dating someone, and was pretty “happy” with my life, although I was also dealing with anxiety, or at least recovering from it at the time. By the end of that year, I was held up at gunpoint at my job, lost my grandfather, and my relationship broke up. I was pretty broken. A friend of mine told me, hey, I’m doing an anthology, why not make a short for it… I went overboard. The only thing I could think of was channeling my frustrations, grief and other emotions into a comic. The original Unlife short was born.
I’m writing this, May 27th 2019. The day I would queue up the last handful of pages. Josh has written his goodbye, and it’ll be just above this. So like usual I’m taking a few cues from his post.
Unlife for me has always been a way for me to play with my art, get a deeper emotion into a character. Give them real soul. Be funny in a sneaky way. It was a big part of who I was when I started. As Josh and I live and changed, that affected the comic as well, through almost 800 pages.
Over the past several years, Josh and I have been working on this comic. Bumping heads, learning how to be better partners, learning to trust one another, making our two seperate visions for this dramedy become one. In this time, I moved out of New York, I lost two dogs, and more recently lost my grandmother, just as I was about to finish Unlife. And, like I usually handle loss, I put my nose to the grindstone, and put my feelings into every comic page. And on May 25th, 2019, I finished Unlife. There is not a lot of feeling to ending this comic for me, at least at the moment. To tell the truth, I’m still pretty numb. And these characters are never gone for me. They live in my head, they live on the internet. They live on the pages I keep in my closet in a plastic bag so the original Unlife pilot doesn’t get damaged. They’re going to live on: James is going to complain about stuff, Karrie is going to slug him in the arm about it. It’s just not our adventure with them right now.
The sun is setting on Unlife, but on the horizon, something new is dawning in the distance. Is it a comic? Probably. A game? Sometimes? Animation, for sure. I’ve been looking forward to playing again. Unshelving Jump, for the first time in years. Having a rollicking space adventure with Malibu Blue, and to my own beat. No more 12 hour days twice a week. I want to tell fantastic stories, build new worlds.
I need to thank my family; while they never were super involved, or read the comic, they’ve always supported me in making it. I want to thank my friends, especially Night, who was my work companion and kept my head level, usually keeping me smiling through it. I need to thank all of the guest artists who help me keep my sanity when I truly needed a break: Fussy, Veronica, Night (again), Phonsie, Rinzley, Keevs, Morr, D.J, Kristal, Molly, and more.
I need to thank Josh, for being my friend, my writer, my partner. I need to thank him for being patient with me. Despite me working on a page for 14 hours and having very little patience to give. Despite him also working a full time job and still giving me feedback. Despite him being a little nitpicky at times ;). But he knows me, he knows I’m tenacious, I don’t give up. I want to thank him for being a friend, who often noticed my frustrations, even in text form when we couldn’t talk. Who would tell me go rest for a bit. I love the guy. He’s a good people. And hopefully we’ll work together again… just after a little bit, okay?
I want to thank you, the reader. For a long time, you guys have been on this adventure with us. And for a while you guys were even commenting on almost every page. I was so excited to wake up every day after Unlife updated, and to read your comments. There was always this one commenter, who was always confused about what was going on, and without fail there was a comment from them. Thank you. You’d flavor my day with a little laughter. Thanks for hanging on, reader.
And to you, reader from after the comic has ended. I’m not entirely sure how long the web page will stay up. Not indefinitely. If you’ve soldiered through the ENTIRE comic: Woah! Thank you!
I can’t not express my gratitude enough. So hear me and Josh scream at each other and to you.