Way back in the forgotten time of 2009-ish, when I was still a squirming young college toddler, I had an idea for a web series - a collection of YouTube shorts starring three young men hopelessly trudging through the everyday horrors of the retail world. Mike, Koji, and Jarnell were each a very different slice of my own personality, and their experiences were to draw heavily on my own years of penance served working as a retail peon.
However, it became more and more evident that the resources needed to actually bring this particular series together were too far beyond my immediate reach, so I turned to the one skill I had at the time: writing. The attempted novelization of All Your Base was nothing short of disastrous. One chapter in, and I realized that to part these characters, their world, and their brand of humor from the visible realm was rather a disservice. They needed to be seen.
And so, the story was shelved yet again, collecting dust in well-worn notebooks and the many cluttered nooks of my rattling mind. It wasn't until late in 2013, after a year of solid drawing practice, that it resurfaced. With new-found skills, I finally felt comfortable trying to bring these characters to life. The only glaring issue was their general... humanness. Virtually all my ability lay in drawing animals, and so I made the (somewhat rash) decision to just play my strengths. Thus, All Your Base evolved to its current and final furry form.
Keen-eyed observers will note the tragic absence of a certain red fox in all this. Tessa was initially written as more of a recurring support character or perhaps (to the dismay of women the world over) as a simple love interest. But the more I grew as an author, the more her character developed, and the more she kept finding ways to sneak into every chapter that I wrote. It slowly dawned on me her necessity to the story - not only was the balance that she brought a powerful cohesive element, but she always seemed to draw out unique traits in other characters, as well. I knew that relegating her to anything shy of a main character would be a disservice to the comic as a whole.
It is, and always has been my biggest hope that any charm this comic and its ragtag band of characters may possess will shine through the simplicity of its premise - that even one soul can find a connection there, and a smile. If you walk away with a little extra sunshine in your day, then I've done what I set out to do.
As the comic grows, so does its cast of eccentrics, but there are four friends (collectively, "the gang") around whom the story revolves. They tackle life and all its oddities each in their own way. They find their common ground in mutual suffering, banded together by the everyday drudgery of stupid customers, stupid games, and their potentially stupid decision to be friends in the first place.
A bit of a jitterbug, Mike tries (though often unsuccessfully) to mask his worrisome heart with nonchalance. Despite his timid nature, he is the lead cashier and most experienced employee at The Other Castle. Rarely seen playing any game other than Tetris, he has developed an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. He approaches conflict cautiously, preferring to wait out problems with his usual, mellow Koalatude.
The only member of the gang with dreams (or at least employment) beyond retail, Tessa was born into old money and has spent a lifetime trying to distance herself from old money values. Her playful wit has a tendency to overshadow her generous soul, but any dog, cat, or koala would be hard-pressed to find a better friend. With a dash of personality from each of the boys, she brings a much-needed balance to an otherwise chaotic friendship.
Far from the ideal employee, Koji meets life head-on with the feisty temperament of an alley stray - and for good reason. Abandoned at birth and raised as a runt in a succession of foster homes, he's learned to fight for the life he wants, even if it means fighting customers. Always with a snide remark handy, it's rumored that the only reason Koji's kept his job at The Other Castle for so long is his alleged mob connections.
The newest member of Team TOC, J.J. is all things fun and bubbly. There are few things in life that can break his optimistic smile, and fewer still that can resist it. Energetic and loyal to a fault, J.J.'s doggish enthusiasm often finds him holding the short end of the stick. And he couldn't be happier. Whether or not the rest of the world wants it, knows it, or cares, J.J. is laughing his way through life. Because he's a dog, and dogs can play with any end of the stick.
I live a rather simple life, all things considered. And that's precisely how I'd wish it to be. I'm sure there's much I could tell you about myself that would veer off into the vast wilderness of the inconsequential. So, I'll keep this short and pertinent.
I graduated from Columbia College of Chicago in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Screenwriting. Careful observers will note the specific absence of any formal art training. I took basic high school art, and a single extracurricular drawing course around the same time. Hopefully, that explains any "quality issues" one might find with the comic's visuals.
I've always had a thirst for the creative arts, doodling and writing on a hobbyist level since I was barely out of diapers. There's nothing I love more than the euphoric sense of artistic creation. Storytelling is my passion, and comics have quickly become my favorite tool. I (like most, I assume) can imagine few greater joys than to do what I love for a living.
But my career was not always such a bed of roses. As I've mentioned above, I worked in various retail jobs for numerous years, the longest (and certainly least of all evils) was a five-year stint at a local Barnes & Noble. Surprisingly, I never actually held a job at a video game retailer, though certainly not for a lack of trying. But after so much time mired in the killing fields of abusive customers and corporate buffoonery, I had to call it quits. I've hopped from job to job, played the starving artist, and crawled my way here in search of a better life. And I do believe - here in this cozy place, with my friends and family and readers huddled close - that I have found just such a thing.