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The Genesis of the Boatcrash Chronicles

The Boatcrash Chronicles is a wildly-fictionalized semi-biographical comic about a video game fanatic, his supportive wife, and his podcast cohorts. Sounds pretty normal, doesn't it?

 

Chronicles started as a comic I posted in the blog section on CheapAssGamer.com in Spring 2010, but its evolution began a long time before then.

 

 

 

The character of Boatcrash is based on "Shipwreck", co-host of the popular video game podcast The CAGcast, and game review editor at the fore-mentioned CheapAssGamer website. In 2007, he was writing up weekly forum posts, detailing the new game releases and any deals that came with them. By the middle of the year, Shipwreck and his wife (with the extravagantly creative pseudonym "Mrs. Shipwreck") began a podcast to accompany these posts. This life-changing podcast was called "CAG Foreplay".

 

At that time, I was a casual listener of the CAGcast. I enjoyed it, but I probably missed as many shows as I listened to. I didn't even notice the CAG Foreplay podcast was a thing until they had 2 or 3 episodes in the bag. When I finally did, it instantly clicked with me.

 

The show wasn't especially slick and definitely did not suffer from the annoying burden of being over-produced. It was just a husband and wife, sharing a microphone, talking about new releases. Their chemistry together was unmatched, and their stories of gaming and shopping (Shipwreck's game shopping habits are legendary) were endlessly entertaining. Their banter was undeniably endearing , even if at times worrisome (One episode featured an unplanned cutaway, and upon returning, Ship announced his wife had been mysteriously called into work...which  just happened to be mere minutes after he surprised her during the broadcast with the  fact that he just spontaneously bought a Playstation 3). Their understanding, yet teasing relationship came across as something I was striving for with my barely-gaming girlfriend at the time, and it struck a chord with me. I was hooked.

 

I had drawn webcomics before, but it had been years since I posted anything. What little cartooning skills I had were rather faded. This new podcast had inspired me to pick up my pencil once again. I doodled some quick little cartoons as I listened to the show. They featured the hosts in situations inspired by the stories they told. I emailed the sketches to Shipwreck, and he even posted them alongside the show notes, sort of like a proud parent displaying their kid's "good efforts" on the refrigerator door. He probably thought they were the work of a young schoolkid, when in fact I was actually much older than that.

 

My enjoyment of their show, along with Shipwreck's polite acceptance of my fanart, inspired me to start creating full webcomics again. I started drawing Those Games We Play as a way to combine my love of video games and webcomics. While the two main characters are not based on the physical appearance of the CAG Foreplay hosts (I can not deny that the two secondary characters in that strip have a passing resemblance to the CAGcast hosts), their core concepts are the same: a married couple with a passion for gaming, with a loving, yet sometimes bickering relationship.

 

Whether it was Ship's gigglefits whenever his wife went on a grumpy tirade, or Mrs. Ship teasing him about his gaming choices... every episode of CAG Foreplay seemed to inspire me to create comics, even if the influence was as indirect as just keeping in a good mood.

 

I don't remember which stopped updating first, Those Games We Play or CAG Foreplay.

 

I can't really say it was devastating that the Shipwrecks' show ended, but that's only because it didn't come to a sudden conclusion, or even fade away. Instead it sputtered a bit. Now and again, a few weeks would go by without a new show. Life happens, after all. But it always seemed to come back. Sometimes, the CAGcast co-host extrodinaire, Wombat would sit in with Shipwreck to record a show when his wife couldn't make it. That blossoming friendship would be a sign of things to come.

 

Over the course of about two years, the Shipwrecks produced 64 episodes of CAG Foreplay, before it just went away. As a veteran of the webcomics world, I am quite familiar with the unexplained, unexpected indefinite hiatus. The only definitive mark of finality for the show was when Shipwreck went on to join the CAGcast as a permanent co-host. Even though Shipwreck had teased a time or two about making another Foreplay episode, I doubt he would have time to make two shows a week (Although, Wombat does it on a regular basis... so I guess I really don't know what Ship's excuse is).

 

I would love to sit the Shipwrecks down in front of a video camera for an in-depth feature-length interview/documentary about what really happened to CAG Foreplay.

 

 

 

By mid-2009, there was no more CAG Foreplay for me to listen to, and my interest in making Those Games We Play had wandered off. I still had the CAGcast to listen to and keep me entertained. I had grown to like the show quite a lot, even before Shipwreck joined the crew, thanks mainly by Wombat's many appearances on Ship's podcast. In early 2010, in what probably was brought on by sleep-deprived delirium (on workdays, I usually only got about 2 hours of sleep in the afternoon, and maybe another two hour nap at night), I decided I wanted to make a new webcomic. This time, it wouldn't be inspired by Shipwreck & his wife's show... it would be ABOUT them!

 

Well, mostly about Shipwreck, anyway. Even though the physical appearance of Boatcrash was designed from the many goofy pictures that Shipwreck has posted on the CAG site over the years, the design of Lady Boatcrash was not based on a picture at all. In fact, the look of Lady B was mostly influenced by Mrs. Shipwreck's Xbox Avatar. It has shoulder-length brunette hair, and now so does Lady Boatcrash. Mrs. Ship's avatar also has a mole on her right cheek, but I didn't trust the Xbox's limited mole-placement options to be accurate enough, so I decided not to include a mole in the design at all. I sure didn't want to be so invasive (or creepy) as to ask her to email me a picture... I was already planning to make highly speculative decisions regarding characterization, I didn't want to be turned away before I even began.

 

I had actually seen one picture of both Shipwrecks before I began drawing my comic strip; Ship had posted a wedding portrait sometime during the duration of CAG Foreplay. I had considered the notion of attiring Lady Boatcrash solely in a wedding dress for the entirety of the comic, but I decided I should at least attempt some subtlety with the absurdity I put in the strip. Plus, I couldn't find that photo when I went looking for design inspiration. Lady B instead became clad almost-exclusively in scrubs, to reflect her work as a veterinarian and the long hours she puts into it (it's easier for her to just not change out of her work clothes). Her hair is always pulled (mostly) back in a ponytail, because that seems doctor-ish.

 

As for the design of Boatcrash, the red hair was a given. Couldn't do the comic if it was just  grayscale. Just wouldn't work (there are a few comics in the archive without any coloring, and they look odd). The short bangs were taken directly from photos Ship posted, and his sideburns were flared out in more of a cartoony manner. The way Boatcrash's hair sticks up in the back is a trait I gave him based my own rebellious follicles. BC's triangular eyebrows were directly influenced by a picture of Shipwreck, but also greatly embody Boatcrash's personality. Whenever I draw Boatcrash in an angry pose, it just doesn't look right. He does not have angry eyebrows at all. He's such a goofy, light-hearted guy that he can't pull off true rage.

 

So, add some big googly eyeballs to the mix, and slap them on my standard (yet still evolving) cartoony attempt at human anatomy, and the characters were set. I quickly drew up a couple of the strip ideas as they came to me, and emailed them to Shipwreck, asking his permission to turn his life into a silly work of comedic semi-fiction. Being such a benevolent man, Shipwreck immediately approved the idea, though I did get the sense that he felt kind of embarrassed about having somebody draw a comic about him. Maybe that was him just being humble, maybe it was him just being embarrassed about the quality of the work. But it's really in the same wheelhouse as any type of corporate sponsorship that celebrities of all levels get. Instead of using his likeness to sell ravioli, I was using it to sell goofy humor. Shipwreck just happened to be at the entry-level of celebrity where they still read their own email and don't have a lawyer on staff to auto-reply with Cease & Desist letters.

 

Shipwreck did have one request before I begin posting my new webcomic for public consumption: change the title. I've always been pretty bad at coming up with great titles for my work. "Those Games We Play" is a good example of me settling on a generic title when all other brainstorming attempts fail. The comics I submitted for Shipwreck's approval were slapped with the god-awful "Video Game Review King" as a placeholder for a real title. I had no intention of using that name, and yet I had nothing better at the time. I was waiting for inspiration to hit.

 

Relistening to recent CAGcast to get ideas for more comics, I came across an episode where Wombat had asked his Twitter followers for alternative nicknames to call Shipwreck. While most of the suggestions were just vulgar insults or remarks about his redheaded-ness, one really stood out.

 

Boatcrash.

 

 It was just a substitution of the words already in his chosen moniker, but its simplicity was perfect. And with this new name for the characters, I wouldn't have to worry about iffy copyright issues since Shipwreck chose his nickname based on his love of G.I. Joe characters. Sadly, Wombat did not say who suggested the nickname to him, so I may never know who to thank for the idea. It's now just another mystery of the internet.

 

I had originally planned for the main characters to remain unnamed in the comic. It was to be posted on my blog at the CheapAssGamer website, so all those who saw it really should know who it was about anyway.  In the strip, I'd just have the husband and wife not to address each other by anything other than pet names (something that I've continued, often stretching the idea to painful lengths), and trivial characters could just call them "Hey you". I'm quite glad I changed my mind, because I enjoy the running gag of people blundering his name. That joke probably wouldn't work as well in a PG-comic if I had called him Shipwreck.

 

So, with Boatcrash's true name in place, I assumed his wife would just be Mrs. Boatcrash. It wasn't until I wrote a strip where Wombat sarcastically mocked her calling her "Lady Boatcrash" that I realized what a much more fitting name that would be. That comic never actually made it to completion, but I sure am glad the name stuck.

 

Boatcrash's name was set, I just had to put it in stone by incorporating it into the comic's desperately-needed new title. "The Boatcrash Chronicles" came pretty quickly, if I remember correctly. After all, it was my attempt at re-telling Shipwreck's life as it happened (with plenty of wacky side-missions, of course). I know I tossed around lesser titles such as "Life With Boatcrash", "Boatcrash's World", and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Boatcrash". I even considered sticking with a nautical theme and going with "Boatcrash's Shanty". But I kept going back to Boatcrash Chronicles. I liked it.  I even wrote a wandering minstrel-type theme song (or was it more of a drunken Irish pub song?) to go with it, but that didn't make it to completion either.

 

In early April 2010, with all the essential pieces finally coming together, I began posting the comic on my blog. I received encouraging feedback, with the exception of being yelled at for the obnoxiously giant sizes of the first few comics. It even received an occasional  mention on the CAGcast, though never brought up by Shipwreck himself; the topic of the comic was only ever initiated by Cheapy or Wombat. Shipwreck always was a bit quiet when it concerned my comic. I assume it wasn't his cup of tea, but he's way too nice of a person to say anything disparaging about somebody's hard work. Or it could just be more of a stunned bewilderment that somebody would want to base a comic on him. Or maybe he has so many comics made about him that he keeps forgetting which one this "Boatcrash Chronicles" is. Regardless, he was quietly supportive of my efforts, and the comic went along as well as my random updating schedule could provide.

 

In the beginning, it was suggested that I have Cheapy & Wombat make appearances in the comic. I was against the idea, seeing how the comic was designed as more indirect retelling of Shipwreck's life. That conceit went quickly out the window, and I added C&W to the main cast within the first couple months. At first, I attempted some level of reality, with Cheapy only interacting with the others via computers because he lives in Japan (and yet, I had no issue with putting Boatcrash & Wombat in the same room together. Because it's really such a quick jaunt between New York and Ohio). That, too, was quickly brushed aside. Comic-Cheapy can be anywhere without explanation (other than the vague, "He's so rich, he's got a fleet of jets at his disposal) and it works best for the strip.

 

 

 

I've always felt a little bit uneasy about how I portray the characters and the true-life events that are mirrored in the comic. It's a tricky thing to make a biographical comic about a living person, especially with liberal use of artistic license. It might be easier to do if you know the person personally, as many people who make autobiographical comics include direct interpretations of their friends and family (which I've seen turn ugly). But that puts you in close contact with private moments that you probably shouldn't share, but the storyteller in you is screaming to use it. At least with a non-personal relationship with my subject, the only personal information I can use is the stuff he's already decided to share on his podcast or on his Twitter feed. But then there's a gap to fill, which gets loaded with stuff from my own brain. And that could become a problem if readers assume I'm being wholly accurate in my depiction.

 

I often portray Boatcrash as a goofball that often obliviously floats through life and most everything goes his way. He does dumb things, but not that he's stupid; he just get caught up in his passion and lets his child-like eagerness drive him. A lot of the humor in the comic is directed at the crazy things he does, but it is never mean-spirited in nature. There is no malice in my writing of this comic. Under the right circumstances, I would personally do a lot of the things Boatcrash does, just perhaps not to such an exaggerated degree.

 

Lady Boatcrash, while having quirks and obsessions of her own, is often portrayed as the straight man in the series. While she's usually used to Boatcrash's eccentricities, she's often left to clean up his messes, or to nip them in the bud before they begin. Does the real Mrs. Shipwreck taser her husband on a regular basis? I can't say for sure, but probably not. That just fits with the over-the-top nature of the comic. I just have to trust my readership to recognize that the balance between fiction and reality isn't always the same from strip-to-strip.

 

While Boatcrash & Lady B's characterizations were initially seeded with their perceived personalities, I was a bit looser with my characterizations of Cheapy & Wombat. A lot of this has to do with turning their R-rated podcast shenanigans into PG-rated comic fodder. Since I have to adjust their speech to take out the profanity, I might as well tweak their personality to a more appropriate cartoony level. While real-Wombat can be the most belligerent critic of things he doesn't like, he's also the most vocal about caring for friends and family. So, while comic-Wombat also cares for his friends, he has no problem using them for his own means while he's at it (I call him the super villain of the strip, but he's too busy or lazy for real domination). And real-Cheapy makes a good living from his website while being a bit detatched from his stateside counterparts' goings-ons, so fake-Cheapy is eccentrically stupid-rich and often bewildered by his cohorts' lives.

 

As far as incorporating real life situations into the comic, there is somewhat of a balancing act, but for the most part the situation decides for itself. If I can't find a humorous way to address the situation, it probably won't present itself in the comic. I have addressed issues that affected the character's real-life counterparts, such as Shipwreck's skin cancer scare and the tsunami that hit Japan. And although the strips are comedy, it's never making light of the serious situation. It's the characters being their silly selves, even in the face of this drama. It's purely about the indomitable human spirit, and the character's refusal to let life get them down.

 

I also try to write storylines the incorporate Shipwreck's travels, whether it's to a convention or it's a vacation in Japan. But one storyline I didn't use was about Boatcrash going to his grandmother's funeral. He was going to give a long speech about how much his grandmother meant to him, about how she got him his first game console and really set him on his course in life. Then the camera would pull back to reveal they were in line for the buffet at a memorial dinner, and the guy behind him would ask, "What's that got to do with you taking all the meatballs?" And Boatcrash replies, "My Nana would have wanted me to have them."

 

I never completed that comic because I wasn't sure how that would be received. Boatcrash would display genuine emotion about his love for his grandma, but would it be disrespectful to "cash in" her passing by making a comic strip out of it? In some sense, I am a documentarian, recording Shipwreck's life story as it happens... with a giant portion of whipped fiction on top. Anybody filming a documentary wouldn't hesitate to include such life events if they occurred during their production. Then again, there are a lot of aspects of Shipwreck's life I don't bother to include. I had considered asking Shipwreck himself if the topic was okay to use; I had emailed him about specific concerns a time or two before. But for one, since I write pretty much as things happen, he was probably too close to the event at the time that the last thing he needed to deal with was me making a comic of it. And two, as I've stated before, Shipwreck comes off as too well-mannered to discourage other people's hard work, so I'm not sure I could have counted on him giving an honest answer about how he feels about the subject.

 

Luckily, I don't have to wrestle with such moral dilemmas too often. Most events that Shipwreck shares publicly are things he's amused by. So, most of the time, my job is to eschew the circumstances that led to his joke and hopefully add a new layer of oddball context.

 

 

I never really stopped making the Boatcrash Chronicles, but, for whatever reason, I stopped posting them on my CAG blog around mid-2012. I had drawn several stand-alone strips, but I never got around to finishing a series of an E3-based storyline so I didn't want to post things out of order. As time went on, it got harder to remember what was going on with those E3 comics, and other ideas were piling up to the point where I didn't want to deal with the stress of trying to catch up.

 

In early 2013, the Cheap Ass Gamer website went through a rather brutal renovation. Features of the site went offline, and slowly got reintroduced into the new structure. One of these displaced features were the blogs. They had been an easily accessed feature, with entries from all users  displayed chronologically for convenient reading. The front page of CAG even used to display the title of the latest blog entries, as well as show the number of entries made since the viewer's last visit. When the big CAG 3.0 changes were implemented, all that ease of access, all that community feel of the blog system... it was all gone.

 

I don't even know when the blogs came back, or if they were even really gone. But they're hidden now. Buried so deep in the system that you have to know where to look just to find them. And that means readership is limited to those who make the unnecessarily extraneous effort to go digging for them. No casual visitor to the site is going to stumble upon them. And while it makes sense that a video game deal website would purely focus on just those deals, that doesn't help a struggling artist trying to get a modicum of exposure. By the time I discovered that blogs were in fact still alive, I had already decided I needed a new website. A real archive for all the comics I produced over the last few years.

 

Where to go was a no-brainer. Comicfury has always provided a tremendously wonderful hosting experience. Their straightforward hosting designed specifically  for comics is great, and the freedom & ease of customization is almost too good to be true. Ever since I came to this site to begin my Drettaville comic, I've not wanted to go anywhere else.

 

I began the process of organizing everything I had to post, I also started thinking about fully retiring the comic. I had been working on plans to draw full-length comic book sized adventures with the characters, focused on comedy & action, leaving behind the interpreting of Shipwreck's real life events. I decided that I should at least complete all the unfinished comics I had in partial form from the past few months. It would be the comic's swan song, a reason for those who enjoyed the comic over the years to come back one last time for something new.

 

Yet, as I worked on these strips, my love of the characters, my joy of drawing their wacky misadventures.. it all came rushing back. I kept coming up with a new strip idea as fast as I was finishing old ones. The creative spark had reignited And even now, after months of working to catch up, I'm eager to do more.

 

So there's the story, and that's where I stand now. January 2014, the new website BoatcrashComics.com is active. I plan to update it regularly, though not on a set schedule. I'm shooting for at least one new comic a week, but a lot of that is purely reliant on Shipwreck doing things to inspire silly comics. I think I can count on him to come through in that regard.