This is the official jump-point as far as I'm concerned. When this was published without any sort of "uhh... what are you doing, Helm?" from my publisher I knew I pretty much could get away with anything. If you read it back to back with The Collector below you'll see it's not too much of a change of pace, but it's decidedly not centered on being funny anymore. There are jokes but it doesn't end on a funny punchline like The Collector does and ultimately that sets the tone of the page. Things will only get more morose from here on end. The meta-hilarious thing will be when I'd feel guilty for doing downer comics in a 'DESIGNATED: FUNNY' newspaper space and then rush to do absurd funny comics to make up for it for a couple of weeks and then back to the maudlin. The rest of the material will stand between those two polarities, with a significant bias towards the darker side after a few months, when I slip into a slight case of depression.
This is - perhaps not completely accidentally - the first piece from the backlog that I seriously still like even today. I had and still have my concerns about whether I should allow myself to portray a person with a serious psychopathology with right conscience, and indeed digging for laughs in this respect is not what I'd consider decent in the abstract. What saves this from being exploitationish is that I believe the execution gives it a human quality. The actual effects of Katerina's illness are - as anyone with even a casual interest in psychology would tell you - a hodgepodge mixture of slight ADD a heavy dose of OCD that manifests in anxiety. It is a comic, after all, as ADD and OCD don't go together very much as far as I can tell, but I didn't feel it too much to discuss this issues anyway since most modern people - especially in urban areas - suffer from degrees of them, I certainly do not speak without some personal experience.
There is some heavy experimentation with paneling in this comic, and you'll see me carry this further with every week's new one. For those of you with an active interest in the craft, check 'behind' the panels, see where the borders darken. When the pathology is most acute, there's pitch black behind the panel. This sort of thing one could argue doesn't make much of a conscious impact and I would concur; where it does count is on the subconscious level, and it is there were the 'humanity' of a comic stands to grab the reader. In how a character grabs a coffee mug, in how a panel lacks vertical borders to signify a sort of surreal timelessness, when a panel crops out the eyes of a character uncomfortably... it's there that a comic is telling a story visually, in these sort of choices. Not when you just draw supermodel super-cool, super-blaze anime chicks with guns just being their super-cool selves from panel to panel.
Or maybe I just tell myself this to excuse my inability to draw like one of these amazing deviantart 19-year-old illustrators! "It's the story that matters, it's the story that matters!" heh.
The experimentation isn't without it's toll however. The trick with the pavement falling in the darkness just upsets reader flow from rightwards to downwards. It is not without some merit as it signifies the 'plunge' towards the sad ending of the comic, but at the cost of what, making the reader skip three panels, one of them the most important of the whole comic? Nonsense. Not a good bit of storytelling there. The 'towards a lonely, predetermined path' panel is the focus of the comic for me and whereas the text talks of a sad determinism, it is juxtaposed with a picture of rooftops and sky and with a wide, clear border signifying that perhaps that is not as sad a road that will follow (an expectation I upset with the ending). To make my reader skip that panel by mistake is just self-defeating, heh. Also looking back at it it would be best if that panel simply lacked a border completely, just was bordered by pure white.
Last panel is mirrored, I think the 'photoshop shortcut' here serves a valid artistic end, which is more than what I can say for a lot of strips I did after this where it was mostly a matter of tiredness or boredom!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one, if it's successful or not for you and what could be done to make it better. It might be old but it's one of these comics that I still am happy with so critique would still be timely.
Oh! I neglected a bit of Greekness to be explained here. She asks herself "did I enter with the left?". In Greece it's considered bad luck to enter a house with the left leg placing the first step. I have no idea why and I don't know if this occurs in other parts of the world, but there you have it.