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On Writing & Editing Phoenix Down #4

On Writing & Editing Phoenix Down #4 published on No Comments on On Writing & Editing Phoenix Down #4

Real quick, here’s the original script for this comic strip. They almost always change a little bit, but today’s was a fairly extreme change, and I thought I’d share a bit about the process with you guys.

Here’s the original script:


See any problems? There’s a couple of pretty big ones. I did a write-up on the process over on Patreon. It’s free, so give it a read and if you find this interesting, you can have constant access to the scripts we use to make the comics by going here and subscribing, and you can find the full chapter one script (and see through the dread murk of time into the VERY FUTURE!) right here.

We want your opinion about where the funnies should go

We want your opinion about where the funnies should go published on 8 Comments on We want your opinion about where the funnies should go

Zach and I are of different minds about what to do with the funnies, and we’d love some reader input.

We both want to make them, so there’s no real danger that we’ll stop.

But we’re not sure if their place is necessarily on this site. Does the current set up work for you guys and make sense to you?

Submission to the Hiveworks, Coco Character Bio Update, and Moving Off of Commission Work

Submission to the Hiveworks, Coco Character Bio Update, and Moving Off of Commission Work published on No Comments on Submission to the Hiveworks, Coco Character Bio Update, and Moving Off of Commission Work

Oof. We’re all a little excited over here, and for multiple reasons.

The biggest one is that we’ve applied to have Ramen Empire published with Hiveworks.

I’ve been writing short fiction since I was 16 or so, so I’m very familiar–practically immune–to rejection from publishers, and usually not all that excited by submitting my work out there. But Ramen Empire is my baby in a way that none of my short fiction, published or otherwise, has ever managed to be, so I’m revisiting those primordial feelings of hopeful clashing with nervousness in the pit of my stomach. Wish us luck!

The other reason we’re excited is that we’re actually getting a lot more readers than normal. Zach and the others understand the analytics way better than I do, so my understanding is limited to “I’m writing at more than five of you.” Which is amazing enough that we’re going to kick the comic over into high gear. At first, this won’t be noticeable to you guys because, despite producing more comics, we’re going to maintain the Monday updates. This will let us build the coveted backlog so that we can actually attend conventions without missing updates, but it’ll also let us give more to our Patrons, since they’re going to have the ability to read ahead in some fashion or another.

More than that, though, it means we’re taking the gamble of stepping down from our Fiverr commissions and People-Per-Hour commissions and working to produce more content for our readers — Monday + Wednesday updates will be the inevitable result of having spent time on a backlog, but we’re also finally going to have time for the books we’ve been hand-sitting on. I’ll keep you guys in the loop right here with regular production updates.

Also, since Coco is taking a bit of a central role in Phoenix Down, I’ve updated the Cast page with her bio. Check it out and give us your thoughts!

Want to read ahead in Ramen Empire?

Want to read ahead in Ramen Empire? published on No Comments on Want to read ahead in Ramen Empire?

Now you can. We’re putting up the scripts for Ramen Empire one chapter in advance, the comic before we begin that chapter. This content will be available to our $5 per month subscribers, who will also get access to our collection e-book collections as we make them. Our ultimate goal is to let you guys read full comics ahead of schedule, but the sad truth is that we just can’t afford to work ahead and stay afloat at the same time. We do, however, write the scripts for Ramen Empire well in advance, and we’d love to share them with our biggest fans.

None of these scripts are locked in stone, either, so the other advantage our subscribers will get at the $5 tier is access to (possibly) changing the course of the comic. The comments on every chapter download will be open and we’re going to read and consider them all closely.

The scripts also tend to be quite a bit different from the final comics they informed. They are very much conversations between Zach and I, and if you’re interested in being able to later compare what made it into the comic and what didn’t, this is the patreon reward for you.

So if you’ve got 5 bucks to blow and want to support Ramen Empire and see where the comic’s headed, click here and go to the script for chapter one of Phoenix Down.

Wrapping up The Doll with The Tiger Teeth

Wrapping up The Doll with The Tiger Teeth published on 2 Comments on Wrapping up The Doll with The Tiger Teeth

Woof. We’ve finished our second big story. It’s really strange to be sitting here, writing this, and looking back at all the time that’s passed.

We only made it this far because of our readers, so I’d like to give a shout-out to our regular and semi-regular commenters. We don’t have great tools for gauging who is reading and who is leaving, and whenever you guys talk to us, it brings a strong sense of validation to our work, and helps us remember that we’re not posting comics into a void. You guys all rock and we’re really glad to have you.

I’d especially like to thank those of you who are supporting us on Patreon. We’re at about $70 per month at the time of writing this, and we appreciate every single penny. I know that it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s literally kept the lights on a few times over the summer. This drives home my absolute favorite thing about Ramen Empire – it’s my job. It’s part-time, for sure, and I’m not always sure entirely how to do it, but I adore it, and I’m always a little stunned that so many people have agreed to subscribe voluntarily to a free comic. You are all amazing, especially Phoole. (I missed your show last week because I’m awful. See you Friday!) Because Patreon usually goes to the electric bill, I can safely pun that you all have literally given us the energy to go on.

Moving Forward

We have the next book planned out for the most part. The Doll with the Tiger Teeth is done, and Zach and I are already dissecting what we liked and what we didn’t about it. That’s the nature doing creative things.

There are going to be some fairly substantive changes that, overall, we think will make a better comic.

We like our general approach to organizing larger stories into books, but…

We think that DTT highlighted how easily it is to get lost, both writing and reading this sort of story.

So while we’re going to keep telling bigger-picture stories that impact the entire crew of character, we’re going to put our focus more on letting every individual strip tell a story, and smaller collections of strips tell a whole story.

This means that going forward into book three, it should be easier to immediately get what’s going on in the story, and easier to find the beginnings of arcs. Overall, there will be less of a need for new readers to do an entire archive dive before being able to follow along, and less of a need for people who missed a ton of updates to have to click back one page at a time until they maybe find where they were. The chapter back buttons will take people to the starts of arcs, which will have something like 6-10 comics in them, rather than flailing between collections of 40 and 80 comics.

We think that this will solve my primary regret with DTT – which is that the ending let Skyler down. In trying to subvert and engage Noir tropes, we think that we denied Skyler a voice and a role of power in the final few scenes of the story. Shorter arcs connected together would have let us have her spike and ending in different places, and she wouldn’t be fighting for screen time with Mei Li, and sadly, despite my best effort, being a color character getting drowned out by white voices. (Art mimics life, I guess.)

Lastly, We’re changing up the work-flow a bit. I’ll be taking over flatting the images, and I’ll do the lettering at the same time. This will give Zach a break between inking and rendering, and an opportunity to spread the workload around his week in a more efficient way. Ultimately, the look of the comic shouldn’t change – if you can tell which of the few DTT comics I flatted, I’ll give you $20 – but what will change is that we’ll start working toward our ambition of having a Dumbing Of Age-esque buffer, which will give us the time we need to create special content that’s just for Patreon subscribers, and other content still that we can take with us to cons or, god forfend, sell in a bookstore.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. If you’ve got thoughts or input, leave a comment or reach out to us on Twitter over @RamenEmpire. We’ve love to hear from you!

See you Monday with the start of the next arc.

“Make America Great Again” is Newspeak.

“Make America Great Again” is Newspeak. published on 2 Comments on “Make America Great Again” is Newspeak.

You’ve seen the clip from The Newsroom. Or maybe you haven’t. Here.



It’s a good speech, but there’s an insidious implication behind it, and it’s the same implication behind the phrase “Make America Great Again,” or MAGA, as the nationalists over on /r/the_donald put it.

At the heart of what makes the phrase problematic is this question: in what decade was America great?

Was it the 00s, when the Patriot Act started us down a road toward becoming a police state?

Was it the 90s, when the mass incarceration of blacks picked up in serious?

The 80s, with the failed experiment of Reagonomics and the cold war?

Go down decade by decade and you find more of the building blocks that got us to our present situation. So when someone says they want to “Make America Great Again,” what are they actually saying? If we’re looking at reddit’s Trump supporters, then we’ve got to accept that this population is mostly a migration from 4chan, and that it’s inherited those racist undertones. And overtones. And midtones. Great America was segregated America and Slave America to those folks, but their opinion doesn’t matter. There are non-racist Trump supporters who also fling MAGA around. (There are almost certainly no anti-racist Trump supporters, but rather, Trump supporters who have no vested interest that they’re aware of in actively participating in racial oppression.)

So what greatness are the people who aren’t actually saying MAGA as a way of saying “Make America White Again” hoping to return America to? There’s a rosy-eyed view of the decades sandwiching World War II as a beacon of freedom, but that deliberately ignores that the good things included a massive tax rate on US corporations, that there was a goddamn reason people called Reagan “the Teflon president,” and that we had a sorry propensity to assassinate leaders that threatened the every entrenching establishment.

There was never an overall American golden age. Claiming that there was gives power to historical revisionists who have vested interests in lopsided distributions of power.

So what does MAGA mean?

Nothing. It’s crowdsourced Orwellian newspeak that locks people onto the highly charged emotional raillines that make supporting Donald Trump feel good. “Great” has no real definition, and “again” refers to no concrete point in time. The call to action itself is even devoid of meaning; “make” in the imperative voice here asks people to return to a time that didn’t exist and to perform an empty set. This is the actual definition of newspeak. It is blackwhite designed to trigger bellyfeel.

We’ve got a book!

We’ve got a book! published on No Comments on We’ve got a book!

And now that I’ve gone through and read it, I’m a little proud of it. Reading my own comic back in a PDF that lets me scroll through instead of having to click back and forth was an enjoyable experience. It all reads like a cohesive story and I was honest-to-God afraid it would do anything but that when it wasn’t presented in a weekly format.  And honestly, I think book collections are just a better way to read comics. If you’re supporting us on Patreon at any level, then the book is yours already and you can download it here as a PDF or EPUB.

If monthly support isn’t your bag, though, we’ve got the book up on Amazon for $2.99, which is the price the Amazon’s tiny robot people assure me works the best.

Do you want the book for absolutely free? I’m down. Here’s what we want in exchange:


1) – A screenshot of you sharing Ramen Empire to your friends in any form. For the sarcastic among you, yes, giving a pirated version of the book will count for these purposes. It will be a very strange exercise, but I’ll do it with you.

2) – Your word that you voted for Bernie Sanders in the US Democratic Primary, or your open intent to support Jeremy Corbyn in the next UK election. Maybe you didn’t do any of those things. Maybe you hate those guys. Or maybe you’re filled with regret for not supporting them sooner. Or maybe you’re lying because you want a free book. That’s cool. I’m not too judgmental. Really, I just want people to have copies of the damn thing.

Tweet to me over @RamenEmpire (is that pronounced ‘At Ramen Empire’ or did I need to write ‘at @RamenEmpire?’ Internet grammar is getting mysterious.) and I’ll make sure to wing a copy at your head.

Offer ends when I forget I posted this, and your tweet in 2024 fills me with confusion.

We’re only dealing in the ephemeral stuff of e-books for now, until we get this thing color-corrected for CYMK.

book cover

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