13-192

1st Jan 2022, 11:00 AM in chapter 13

Author Notes:

c_rberus 1st Jan 2022, 11:00 AM edit delete
[page description & captions]

[lick touches dusty's base to their nose. the solar tendril spirals in toward them, but never able to touch them.
lick: "your darkest hour wasn't in vain. let's live between the lines, forever."]
[smoke from the solar tendril drifts off the bottom of the page. in the midst of the wisps, the outline of a tiger's eye and some stripes are apparent.
the final text of the comic reads:
and thus ends the story of the tiger, and the sun.]

-

this is it. catlamp is finally done. it’s been in the drawing phase for 3 years since october 2018; i started the writing phase 4 years ago, and the brainstorming phase what must’ve been nearly 8 years ago at this point. i really felt like i was shooting for the moon drawing the original character concepts for lick and dusty in 2013. i never thought i’d be able to make an entire webcomic, especially when i struggled for a long time just to write a story for the setting. i tried occasionally to come back and do visual development and concept art, making a demo panel or two and a world map, but nothing substantial about it came to me until about 2017-ish.

for a long time, i worried about my ability to write a story that was cohesive and i focused a lot on it “making sense”. i developed schizophrenia in high school, which if you don't know, can kinda scramble your ability to string concepts together. i played around some with more physically accurate takes on the setting, where maybe the sun had literally physically gone out and lick would’ve had a limited amount of time left before temperatures dropped and oxygen depleted from the planet. i thought about what societies might live in a world like this, and how lick and dusty would encounter them. when i was talking with my oldest friend about this all those years ago, we originally envisioned it as a monster-of-the-week episodic comic, or maybe even a video game. and catlamp might've made for a cool game, but i didn’t have the patience for that--and anyway, i eventually realized that a weird story could still “make sense” to people. the “logic” of the world doesn’t necessarily need to be detailed and justified like sci-fi or fantasy, as long as it feels consistent. i didn’t need sprawling societies or really any society at all. i just needed something that was meaningful. and so, i based catlamp heavily on my experiences wrestling with traumagenic schizophrenia, adult onset of chronic disability, and societal expectations of recovery. in a way, i wasn’t ready to write catlamp until i had evolved from my experiences enough to have a grasp on these concepts. making catlamp was a massive exercise in letting go of the shame around telling not just a story that i liked, but a story with themes, characters, and events that i personally found fulfilling and meaningful, that drew in a respectful way from my own psychotic thought patterns and built on that logic that many people with psychosis exist with. it’s a way different realm for me than being judged for my illustration or formline design. of course, that doesn’t mean the story had no implied worldbuilding or history; i really enjoyed weaving those mysteries into the overarching theme of the comic as well.

it's as difficult for me as it was back when i started writing catlamp to talk about schizophrenia in a frank way. though i think more people are realizing how egregious "insane serial killer" tropes are, there's still as serious a lack of sympathetic portrayals of and conversations about psychosis as there were a few years ago, and this makes me feel like i'm shattering a silence just by saying and owning that i am schizophrenic. this makes stories that are empathetically imbued with themes of psychosis or feature characters with psychosis incredibly valuable to me, and that's partially what i set out to make with catlamp. though there are no explicit mentions of psychosis or schizophrenia in the comic, my experiences with it are steeped into its body.

another huge inspiration for the motifs of catlamp was ursula k. le guin, and the ways her writing was thoughtfully and meaningfully symbolic. her strong sense of metaphor and imagery made me fall back in love with prose writing after i had my first schizophrenic break, and made me feel more assured in relying on those things for a compelling story. i think sometimes the “no he wasn’t depressed, his curtains are just blue” lines made me afraid of coming off pretentious or lofty, like a story that isn’t told with a plain progression of events is snobby--but seeing significance in images and inferred narratives is a fundamental part of my emotional, spiritual relation to the world (whether for better or worse depending on the current state of my health), and the production of catlamp was a reflection of my journey in reclaiming those concepts.

i found that part of the challenge of writing a story based on mental health is that as you age, you may shun those original emotions that created the urge to make the art in the first place. there were a few times while editing and drawing where i felt like i didn’t recognize my ideas in the comic anymore. or, even that i felt repulsed, because it reminded me of a time where i struggled--a lot. catlamp, despite having a partly light disposition, came from a difficult place. but i knew that i owed it to myself to finish this project; to give up because i didn’t want to go back to that place was (in my case) effectively shunning my younger self. as i got to about 60 pages out from the ending, i stopped struggling with this as much. i relearned how to love the story; i recognized the comic again. i was excited to get to the end, and kind of sad that within a few months, it would all be over.

so, if you read catlamp while it was updating, or you stumble on this comic in the future sometime--t’oyaxsut nüün. thank you. this is 8 years of my life. not of constantly working on this (except for the last 3), but of at least living with this world inside my head, growing and cultivating and eventually coming to life. and now it’s yours too. let me know if you have any thoughts about it, even when the sun has gone nova and we are all shadows between the photons.

i'll end with some bonus content i'd like to share:

1) i have a playlist of music that would help me get in the mindset to write or draw catlamp, and i thought it would be fun to make it public and share it. sorry it’s kinda all over the place--there’s dark electronica, experimental indie and pop, tracks from game OSTs/other mediums (ahem), EDM, alt rock, grunge… but it’s all really good! here it is on youtube; please enjoy. https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3BhFrwnaTfhspgZ-PXT_n81WxHhCPxke


2) i still have all my old concept art of catlamp spanning multiple years of revisits; i thought it would be really fun to share, so i've added an extra chapter after this one featuring it all--just click through to the next pages to see! :)
YellowSaffronCitrine 1st Jan 2022, 12:26 PM edit delete reply
YellowSaffronCitrine
This story has been incredible to read through. Thank you :)
c_rberus 2nd Jan 2022, 2:56 AM edit delete reply
c_rberus
much gratitude for reading! <3
I'd read any animal comic 4th Jan 2022, 7:53 AM edit delete reply
Will you be making another comic?
c_rberus 4th Jan 2022, 5:44 PM edit delete reply
c_rberus
i'm not sure! i don't have immediate plans for one, but i'm always coming up with new stories and wouldn't mind turning them into comics at some point as well