Executive Summary: This strip will eventually end. The end's been written, but it will not happen for quite some time. And now – the details.
With a considerable degree of surprise, a week ago I found myself doodling the very last THIS IS ME strip into my sketchbook. That's "the very last" as in "the final strip" – the one after which there can not be any more strips.
That was quite an odd experience. While I sketched out the panels, I was quite aware of the punch line I was aiming for, but only after I had finished putting it to paper did I realize that it would have to be the final strip.
I looked down at the paper, grinned to myself and realized three of things at once. First, that I had a ways to go before producing the actual strip. Second, I realized that I had not just one but two stories to tell before reaching that final curtain. That in turn made me aware that third, I had stories to tell, which also came as quite a surprise.
THIS IS ME has never been about long-term narrative. In fact, I don't really care too much for ongoing story lines in comic strips: They tend to drag things down and the medium doesn't really lend itself to serial storytelling. There are a few artists which can pull it off, but most can't (no, no names). Once you get into the dark waters of continuity, it becomes harder and harder to offer a satisfying pay-off in every single strip.
That's something the ill-timed introduction of Andrew taught me: At this comic's current pace of three strips a week, it's impossible to stretch one obscure gag through all three strips. (I can't change the pace because I have a day job. If you want more strips, you'd have to sponsor me.) So watch out for the tell-tale signs of change: In the near future, additional characters will appear and evolve. Yes, evolve as in "move from one state to another".
Let me explain the difference between the current characters and the ones to come. Andrew is in the strip because I think he is hilarious. My wife is in the strip because, well, I have a wife in real life and THIS IS ME definitely needs somebody with a positive outlook. The impending new characters will be rather different, however. They are also based on real people, but they have an agenda, a goal. Eventually, that goal will be reached and a bit later, the strip will come to a conclusion.
Something I regret about many comic strips and series is that they overstay their welcome. They have a message, then they keep repeating the same notes over and over, sullying their former greatness. There was a time when I loved "Dilbert", "Garfield" and "Sluggy Freelance". Then, they got either too depressing, too predictable or way too hard to follow.
Don't fret: This strip still has a long way to go before winding down. I just wanted you to know that last week, I found out that the strip has an ending, that it is an ending worth aiming for and that there is a chain of events which has to be set in motion before THIS IS ME will reach that point.
There is no countdown. I am in no rush whatsoever to end the strip. I have a plethora of undrawn ideas in my sketchbooks. And I have two plot lines I haven't even hinted at until just now.
If you are one of the two fans of this strip, I guess you won't care much for this announcement. Please be certain in the knowledge that I empathize. As a fan, I had several instances where stuff ended where I really, really wished it shouldn't have. "Bloom County" was one of them. There also were instances where stories ended precisely at the right point, such as "Calvin and Hobbes". I've also followed series which should have ended in a more satisfying way. Yes, "Babylon 5", I'm looking at you.
Now that I have an ending in mind, the really big challenge will be not to botch it. That thought fills me with a certain degree of anxiety. However, I have written down a rough roadmap and it seems achievable. Suddenly seeing a goal ahead feels great. I certainly hope that my ebullience will translate into the strip and improve it. I feel no such doubts about my anxieties – they always seem come through loud and clear.
As always, I appreciate your feedback. You can e-mail me at <me AT thisisme-comic DOT com>.