I suppose it is. In February 2019, my partner and I launched a successful campaign to fund the first printing of Paint the Town Red (Volume 1). It wasn’t complete until a few months later, but I feel like this is a good start date for it, as PTTR isn’t like a webcomic that was posted online on a specific day. It came into existence through a Kickstarter first, printed first, so I think this anniversary is fitting.

Anyway… what have I learned in those 5 years, while making this comic? My first big webcomic, Sanity Circus, also turns 10 this year. I think that’s cute they line up like that, and I never realized it before. Anyway, I’ve learned a lot, I think. And a lot of different things than SanCirc, too, as PTTR is a very different comic than SanCirc. Almost a completely new vibe entirely, honestly! It was also the first real big project I started collaborating with my partner, Winter, so this story has always belonged to both of us. Therefore the process for this comic was also new–hard to believe now, honestly, with how much we work on stuff together, and how the process has become so seamless for us, but this was where we really figured it all out!

Where did it begin?

So, we’re starting off personal here. Winter and I began our relationship long distance, and it was like that for two years. Our work schedules made it hard for us to visit, so we’d only see each other maybe once or twice a year. So, of course, most of our communication was online. And we were both big storytellers, both big on making characters, and Winter was big on text roleplay, and sucked me in. What I’m saying here is that… well, Paint the Town Red really began as a text RP!

Rolling back a bit, you could say it really began with Delilah. She was a character I made before PTTR existed at all, and was just a fun character with no story attached that I would draw often. I toyed with a few story ideas for her, but none of them felt right. Finally, after coming home from a visit to see Winter, I made Vic.

Things… spiralled from there. I started shipping her with Delilah, of course. Then I decided I needed a werewolf, and that’s where Winny came in. (Looking at this early art, I find it funny how their personalities seem to have swapped for the actual comic.)

I was forming some little story with this trio, but it was more like just ideas and less a concrete thing. Winter was enthralled with them, and started making their own characters in this vibe–more vampires and werewolves–like Em, Ophelia and Jin. That bled into turning these characters into a little text RP, to have fun with them, and ship them around to our heart’s content.

See, in a way, Winter and I used these characters to get closer. We were long distance, and being the type of people we are, shipping around some characters we had was a way we could bond and explore our relationship, while we were on opposite ends of the country.

It was also a big factor in exploring our queerness, in general. Both of us were still pretty “new” in our queer identities, and still coming to terms to what that meant for us. PTTR was very unabashedly gay, especially in the sapphic sense, which is how the both of us identified at the time. While our stories before weren’t not queer, this was meant to be just plain gay as hell. We’re making those ladies kiss each other. All of them. It was the first time we really let loose in that regard.

Eventually we grew to love the characters and story, and naturally we wanted to turn it into a comic. It was our first real project we worked on together (barring A Tempo, which was a short one-off). Volume One was done entirely by a new process for the both of us: in a new program, Clip Studio, and in Winter’s case, the first time they inked a comic digitally. We eventually streamlined this in future volumes, working split ways between Procreate and Clip Studio.

The struggle of converting a text RP into a story is that there’s a lot you can get away with in an RP, but not so much in a story. There were a lot of changes we had to make–characters cut, storylines rearranged. Many of that we’re still doing as the story goes on, and it evolves with it. Winter and I’s relationship with our queerness has also evolved since we began this story, and the novelty of having a story with a purely queer cast has gone away as we made more stories with also fully queer casts.

What PTTR once represented to us has moved on, in a way. I’ve found in my years of doing comics, that making comics for a long time is hard. Because you’re always growing and changing, and a story you might have enjoyed the idea of years ago is lost on you later. I’ve struggled with this with SanCirc, and I’ve also struggled heavily with this with PTTR. This is something I have a hard time admitting, because I think to others it comes off that I no longer like the comic, or don’t wish to make it anymore, which isn’t true. It’s just that sometimes, it feels difficult to look back at what you have and continue forward. The benefit with PTTR, though, is that it’s a joint operation. I’m not doing this alone, and Winter is always there to drag me down kicking and screa–okay okay not like that. But they do help keep me motivated for this story, because it’s not just mine. It’s always been me and Winter’s.

PTTR is a weird beast, but that’s okay. I’m learning long comics are just always going to be like that. They’re gonna warp and bend and be strange, because they grow with you. Maybe the way they start isn’t the way they end. And honestly… that’s okay too. All this to say, I’m very optimistic about the future of PTTR. I’m enjoying what Winter and I have planned for it, and I’m excited to show everyone.

So, here’s to five years, and many more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *