ExtraLife: Looking back, looking forward

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Unless you are brand new, or have been on strung out on the H, you will have noticed me experimenting a little bit with longer story lines in the comic. While this is not the first time I’ve done this, it does hold some special significance. Before I get into that, lets take a walk back in time, shall we? Tons of stuff and images after the link…

Back in June of 2001, ExtraLife was launched. While technically not my first webcomic, it was going to be the thing that I stuck to like glue. I was going to do it no matter how big or small the audience might be. I was going to do it for the love of doing it.

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From June of that year until August of 2002, the comic was a four panel format, with random people (ie no regular characters), dealing mostly with video game jokes minus the occasional tech or general geekery subtext. This served me pretty well.

However, things were about to change. I like to call what came next my “Gary Larson Phase”. I moved to a single panel format, changed things up a bit in terms of size, writing style, and moved to even more general topics, the majority of which remained video game related. Oh sure, there were multi-panel comics thrown in once or twice a month, but you get the idea. This was a reflection of my changing interests as well. I was living in a world where I could do less wall to wall video game playing, and the comic definitely changed accordingly. One thing remained the same: No regular characters, nothing but random faces.

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The nice part is the fan base continued to evolve right along with me, and I was glad at the idea that they were willing to let me stretch, try new things, shake up the usual, etc. And keep in mind, this whole thing originally started out simply as a way to keep me drawing every day, and trying new things and methods is all part of that process. I was having a great time.

It was during this period that I did a few comics that have come back to bite me in 2006 and 2007, like this one.

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Sure enough, I have had 5 or 6 emails, one even this week complaining about the bad taste of this comic in light of the death of Steve Irwin. As if I somehow could predict the future back on August 27th, 2003. You get the point. Moving on…

During that year, I saw a decent jump in regular traffic due mostly to continued growth of the comic, but I also started ELR before there was such a thing as podcasting. It only lasted 12 shows, simply because of bandwidth issues, and no really good way of distributing the content, but we were on to something. Would be another year and a half before that would make sense again. But this combined with other factors will helping the site and the comic become more than just a hobby for me.

It was also at this time that I launched a second strip called Crudstone. I wanted to try my hand at the whole regular character thing, and this was my chance. Here are but a few published Crudstone comics…

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But, in the end, like all over-committers like me, something had to give and I had to sideline Crudstone to give my full focus back to the bread and butter that was ExtraLife. But the experiment had its benefits and would later prove invaluable.

Right around this same time, I fiddled about with some things that are a little darker, a little weirder than the normal EL fair. I called them “Shorts by Scott”, and the following is an example of what that was all about.

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So you get the idea. Dark, poetic, sad, strange, etc. At some point I will probably get all this stuff back up on the site somewhere, but I just need to find the time. :) I won’t even get into “The Feeler” here.

As time went on, leading up to now, the site got bigger and bigger, the audience got larger, and I started adding things like a regular blog, forums, mailing lists, radio shows, etc. All the while, cranking out three comics a week. Throughout the 6 year history of the site, there have been many stabs at story lines, and even a few regular characters that come and go.

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They include Fred and Can, RANDY the robot, and various other times where I fiddle about with the idea, and stretch a story out to 5 or 6 days. (RANDY’s quest for Half Life 2 was a personal favorite.)

Why am I typing all of this? Why do I care about any of it? Well, I have a couple reasons. Foremost is my sudden desire today to go back and evaluate where I am, and what has come before. It’s also fun to look back on work you did and forgot about, and realize that there are some gems in there. It’s good to be removed from your own work so you can see it the way others might, and I really have enjoyed doing that. It’s important for one to take stock now and again, especially due to what I am about to do with this professionally. (Secret for now.)

The other major reason is to thank you guys…thank you for being here, many of you, from the very beginning. But I want to even thank the guy who just got here yesterday, and the dude that might be reading this the first time. I appreciate the years and years of praise, of constructive criticism, the friendship, and the lasting education this all has been. Oh, there have been a fare share of trolls here and there, but they were / are still the overwhelming minority.

Moving forward, I am working hard to make this the best comic I can, and I will be doing lots with my current cast of characters. I’m starting to love them, and I like the idea of delving into that even more.

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For those of you that want wall-to-wall comics about situational Mario humor, or references to the latest PS3 game, you will probably be disappointed. While games will often be the backdrop here, just like in times past, they will not be the sole focus. They can’t be. There are a million other gaming focused webcomics out there for you. I intend to tell my own stories in my own way, game related or not. This is really not news, as I’ve been doing this for the whole life of the comic, but I felt like it needed stating for the record.

I have goals in 2008 that make my own head spin, and I am just glad to have you guys here for the ride. I hope you continue to enjoy what I put out for a long time to come. The fact that you’re here and reading this makes all the difference. :)

In short, the name ExtraLife used to be a basic reference to the 1up / extra dude / etc you get in video games. But as you can see, it has become something much deeper for me. It is literally my extra life.