I have had a love-hate relationship with the webcomic Elf Life (click here for outdated Wikipedia entry, and here for a fan-produced official guide to the series) for years now. The story is rock-solid, the art is beautiful, and the characters are more than just three-dimensional. They’re real, and they grow and change and affect each other and the plot in intricate ways. Elf Life is a grand undertaking that deserves every minute of the time Carson Fire puts into it. More than that, even.
At the same time, I have been put off by many things. The website’s design is constantly in flux, making it difficult to navigate. Updates tend to come in clumps, then fizzle and die off for weeks (or months). And then there has been the issue of Carson’s methods of fundraising, which upset me so much that I made this post. Given the fact that this is a tagboard that was embedded elsewhere, it’s difficult to determine the context of what I was writing. I don’t feel like going into it too much, but basically Carson was posting on the front page about how he didn’t know what to do, because he couldn’t pay the bills. He kept listing options. Finally, he grew so desperate that he stated that he would delete portions of the Elf Life archives from Keenspot if he didn’t meet fundraising goals. In order to give people something for what they paid in, he offered sketches at exorbitant prices.
My argument was not that he didn’t have the right to do this. It’s his content. He can do with it whatever he wants. My argument was that this is offputting. It’s bad PR. Instead of making people sympathetic to his cause, it makes him seem like a greedy whiner who’s going to take his ball and go home…especially given the fact that so many of his promises were broken.
If he needed to take his content offline and have people pay for access to it, that would have been acceptable. A lot of webcomics are doing that now. I’m not sure that would be the wisest thing for Carson to do, given how it’s really the story of Elf Life that sells the webcomic, and that story is drawn out gradually over time. But it wouldn’t have pissed people off.
Today there is a new announcement on the front page of Elf Life.
Quick update: Computer go BRRZZT! Updates resume shortly.
In the meantime, please scroll down and consider donating to Elf Life. So far the vote of confidence is leaning against us; please tell us you want to keep Elf Life going!
This month’s donations so far have gone towards keeping the electricity on; the computer upkeep budget is nil (as is the budget for doing just about anything else related to the series), which is why stuff like this keeps happening. And instead of spending premium time working on the comic and other new content (not to mention site upkeep), I’m still spending a lot of time trying to find other ways to make money to support *Elf Life*. I’m not a white collar pro working a tech job on the side, but a blue collar 40-year-old with a broken back and bad eyes; apart from an intermittent temp job, I’m not in demand even for minimum-wage jobs these days (I was turned down for a warehouse job last week that I shouldn’t even be taking because of my back). And so I have to spend a *lot* of time trying to make up the difference between the high hours/low revenue of Elf Life, for not much in the way of positive results.
I’m nervous about posting this more blatant appeal, because I have been attacked and berated and embarrassed at every turn in the past for trying to raise the funds to keep Elf Life going. But nothing has changed; some individual support for Elf Life is extremely strong; but overall, support is very weak. Many people have vocally supported Elf Life, too, and I thank them for that. It is only a small number of voices who happen to have very large soapboxes that manage to misconstrue and mischaracterize efforts to keep this series going. Before these people go back to their websites and loudly denounce me for trying so hard to raise funds — and failing miserably — let them spend some time criticizing their own friends who run similar donation drives and succeed wildly. I am getting tired of being kicked in the ribs by people who do not know me, do not know my family, and do not know what I have had to overcome to get even this far.
Anyway, with support this weak, Elf Life will always have a hard time staying on a consistent schedule; funding to complete the book will continue to be non-existent (that comes back to the computer); no major Elf Life projects will ever be finished. Please help us turn this around!
Not even any false modesty this time: Elf Life is incredibly unique, with odd but better-than-average art and a story as big as a novel. The comics may seem to go slow sometimes, but that’s the trade-off for examining the characters as closely as we do, making them real individuals (the real magic of the series) instead of simply familiar stereotypes.
We also aim to bring a classical element back to comics, and create a work that could stand on par with Don Quixote, The Decameron, Tom Jones; great literature, ever eternal, yet each flawed in their own special way, like great shining gems; great works of humanity that make the intangible tangible by using language and imagery to express thoughts and story precisely, bucking the trend of comics to simply be pop, hip, and intellectual.
This is what your donation to Elf Life goes to support. I apologize for this lengthy harangue, but the future of this series (as always) is on the line.
It has now become obvious to me that Carson Fire has no business savvy whatsoever. Most of what he said there serves no purpose, and could be interpreted as self-pity and vanity.
But you know, not everyone is business savvy.
Not everyone knows how to schmooze.
What Carson Fire does know how to do is make damn good comics. And if nothing else, this announcement of his has drawn my attention directly to the fact that he does need help. This is not a case that can be solved by Carson swallowing his pride and pulling himself up by his bootstraps. He’s been trying to do that for years.
In a perfect world, Carson wouldn’t have to try to sell his comic. He sucks at selling his comic. In a perfect world, all Carson would have to do is produce it. And he wouldn’t have to take jobs that ruin his health (like data entry or warehouse positions) to afford to do so, either.
Elf Life deserves to be made. Carson Fire deserves the chance to create it. And the series merits the funding it would require to allow Carson to do just that.
What Elf Life really needs is a business manager–much as Gabe and Tycho at Penny Arcade needed Robert, and lucked out when he came on board for free a few years ago. Carson needs someone to take care of his books, to create a PR campaign for his comic, to tell him what he shouldn’t say, to nail the site design down as something clean and simple to navigate, and to determine alternate ways for Carson’s art and storytelling skills to make money.
But all most of us can do at this point is toss a few coins in the tip jar.
And so I’d like to make my own appeal. Go to Elf Life. Read a few strips. Hell, check out the entire archives; they’re still there, and they’re still free. And if you agree with me that this thing is great, that there is something there that deserves to be continued, then please…donate.
(I made that banner myself. Ain’t it purty? …yes, we are all wondering why I have an art internship. ;P)