This week, after five years of tickling mine and a whole bunch of other people’s fancy, my best friend Thomas Szewc’s wonderful webcomic Alone in a Crowd has been put on an indefinite hiatus. So I think this is as good an opportunity as ever for me to write a few words about this comic and how much it means to me.

Faith n' Hope

I have a fairly short list of creative works that have changed my life over the years; some films, some albums, a few comics. And right up there in the top area of this list is Alone in a Crowd.
I first became aware of AiaC back in 2008, via the creator of another of my favourite comics, Serenity Rose, by Mr. Aaron Alexovich.
Tom is also a huge fan of Serenity Rose, and Aaron’s website is indirectly responsible for introducing Tom and I to each other.

Y’see, in 2008 Aaron started doing art commissions. As soon as I found out about this I was like “Aaron A is doing commissions? Oh I am so gonna purchase one! In fact, I shall do so right away!”. And a brilliant drawing of Starla was soon sent my way. I love that drawing. It sits framed on the wall above my workstation (along with some other equally brilliant drawings of my characters by other people).
I was one of the very first people to purchase a commission from Aaron. And so was Tom.
A few weeks after my commission was completed Aaron put it up on his site in a blog post, along with one other commission, a drawing of Serenity using her magic to float little miss Faith from AiaC. It’s an adorable drawing! My curiosity was piqued. “Cool-looking character” I said to myself, “I should check out this Alone in a Crowd business”. So that’s what I proceeded to do, clicking on a handy link to Tom’s site that was provided in that blog post.

Alone in a Crowd hadn’t officially started up at that time. If I remember correctly there were a few comics and bits of art on Tom’s site (or maybe at that time they were only on his deviantART account), but there was enough material already there to get me into the comic, and I very quickly became smitten with it, its premise and characters; Hope’s daffy optimism, Faith’s demure amiability, Sara’s smouldering inner strength, Desirae’s muliebrous nurturance, Marty’s well-meaning geekery, Kayla’s no-nonsense candor, Sadia’s scattershot lasciviousness… they’re all really sweet, and their sweetness rapidly turned into endearment.
And AiaC is such a well-written work. Tom manages to capture a wide range of moods and emotions within his characters and the situations in which they find themselves. AiaC is often really funny, but it can also be poignant, charming, thrilling, and genuinely moving. And it’s always, above all else, engaging.
Initially though, it was Hope and Faith who drew me into the comic.
I was so enamoured with these two quirky kids that I decide that I simply had to do a drawing of them. I drew that picture before I’d even introduced myself to Tom. I then emailed it to him accompanied by a chunk of text enthusiastically praising his comic.

Tom soon responded, and read through what I’d done with Agents of the Endtimes up to that point in time, and he liked it. So we became mutual fans of each other’s comics, and friends.
We started chatting online via emails and then IM (later on graduating to blathering away to each other for hours via Skype calls), and it wasn’t long before Tom and I became good friends.
Tom’s an outstanding fellow, and the fact that he was doing a comic that I really admire, plus the fact that I have a great deal of respect for Tom’s abilities as a writer and artist, these things made it easy for me to open myself up and to get to know the guy. It’s always good for me to talk with fellow cartoonists and comic-makers, especially when — as is the case with Tom and I — the comic-maker and myself really understand where each other is coming from.

Unless one has had the experience of making a comic it’s impossible to fully appreciate just how much work is involved in producing one. I can appreciate how much work has gone into producing Alone in Crowd over the last five years. And I can certainly appreciate where Tom is coming from with his decision to put the brakes on AiaC for now. I myself have come close to burnout with Agents of the Endtimes a few times over the past couple of years. Indeed, I almost put AotE on a month-long hiatus early last year (little did I know that AotE would be forcibly put on hold for five weeks early this year, ho ho hooooo).

So yeah, coming up with story ideas, writing the dialogue, planning out the visuals for the comic pages, drawing them; it all takes time to do, and it sucks away at one’s life to a far greater extent than I think most non-comic makers truly realise.
Tom wants to try working on different things. Do some creative exploration. Expand his horizons. Things he’d be unable to do while still working on a two-pages-per-week comic series.
And one of these things he’ll now have far more time to do is work on Chelsea and Millie.

Which brings me to the crux of this post.
If it wasn’t for Alone in a Crowd I would never have met my best friend. I would never have met the person with whom I collaborate so well. And Chelsea and Millie would never have turned into a proper comic series, because there’s no way I could do C&M without Tom. Tom is a vital part of this whole Chelsea and Millie thing. He regularly comes up with awesome ideas and deftly written things for C&M. He really gets the characters. And in amongst all the silliness that he and I conjure up within C&M there is a hefty dollop of soul in the way Tom portrays the characters.

And I knew Tom was more than capable of pulling all this off, because I’d seen it in action within AiaC. That’s one of the main reasons why I asked Tom to come on board with C&M — I knew that he could write kids deftly, with a sort of verisimility that I like to refer to as “hyperverisimility” — as he has done with Hope and Faith and is now doing so outstandingly well with Chelsea and Millie.

And now, with Chelsea and Millie I’m creating some of the best comic-related stuff I’ve ever created. And with Alone in a Crowd I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of the coolest comics I’ve ever read.

From the bottom of my atramentous little heart, thank you so much Tom.

MV.

HopeRatburgers

Bonus material:
Here’s a selection of Alone in a Crowd fan-art and guest comics that I’ve done over the years:

The very first Hope and Faith drawing I did.
Chloé Kovac and Hope Avelina.
Another piccy of Faith and Hope, from 2010.
An innuendo-infused guest strip.
And another, considerably more colourful guest strip.