Colin: Those of you who have binged our backlog might recognize today’s comic. It’s a re-do of “Handbook of Heroes #1”. The art style has changed just a bit since those halcyon days. For example, shadows now exist. Lumberjack Explosion has knees this time. And as our as our equine avenger so rightly points out, Fighter’s face is slightly less stupid.

Since the subject of today’s comic is art, I think it’s only right that the illustrator gets a chance to speak. Before Laurel takes the mic though, I’d like to point out that an RPG campaign is like any other creative endeavor. If you stress too hard about making things perfect—if you psych yourself out or compare yourself too much to others—you’ll never work up the courage to go out and make something cool. We learn by doing. It’s hard work, but it’s the only way to improve.

Laurel: I have a love/hate relationship with the idea of art growth, especially in webcomics–on the one hand, I love being able to see an artist progress and improve over time, it’s really amazing to witness!  On the other, I feel this ugly desire to prevent others from seeing that I was ever less practiced than I am at this current moment, and struggle to allow older comics to continue to see the light of day.  I really hate that one of our first comics uses what I feel is our best joke (the “Never Split the Party” bathtub scene remains my favorite, but god do I ever want a second shot at it). I spent a decade drawing Chorus of the Neverborn and now quietly hope that no one ever goes to it after they read Handbook of Heroes. The fact that you can still buy my graphic novel on Amazon and see how painfully amateur it looks is humiliating. I feel this shame about them that is wholly unfounded, because I can also acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with having improved–it’s a good thing, and I’m proud of the work that I’ve put in!  I just also want to hide that work away from other people.

This isn’t just online. I have kept every sketchbook I’ve ever drawn, going back to my earliest comic attempts in elementary school. I would never want to deprive myself of the record of my journey as an artist, and I really like being able to look back and see old concepts that I can now revisit and improve upon now that I’m more skilled. I just also feel like I might have to stipulate in my will that these should all be burned before anyone so much as cracks open the first page so that no one else ever sees 13-year-old me’s embarrassing Sailor Moon OCs.

I think most creative people suffer from at least a little bit of Impostor Syndrome.  We see people more talented than ourselves and feel as though our own efforts aren’t good enough, and having old work available for others to judge can amplify these feelings.  It’s hard, but I resist the urge to take these things down, because I don’t want other people to feel this way about themselves, too. There’s a very obvious record out there of how long it took me to get where I am, and how much I struggled along the way, and I think it’s important to not pretend that it was easy, or that there weren’t times when I sucked.

All that being said, it felt pretty good today to prove to myself that I can redraw Handbook #1 and see exactly how much I’ve changed.  Hopefully in five more years I can be super embarrassed about this version and produce a third copy that’s miles beyond what I can do now.


THIS COMIC SUCKS! IT NEEDS MORE [INSERT OPINION HERE] Is your favorite class missing from the Handbook of Heroes? Maybe you want to see more dragonborn or aarakocra? Then check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. You’ll become part of the monthly vote to see which elements get featured in the comic next!