Welcome to spring, everyone. It’s always crazy to resurface and realized it’s been over half a year since we updated on our site here. I’ve been slightly better about the Kickstarter updates but not by much. So I’m finally sitting down to write a letter to our readers that I’ve been trying to write for years. I’m going to talk about three things: First, what happened to keep MSF stalled for so long. What is the comic’s future. And then also what we are up to right now.

Just to be clear, this is Dusty speaking. To put things in perspective, I’m more or less the business end of Scuttlebutt Ink. JD and I write MSF together and then I thumbnail/storyboard it. Then JD polishes up my concepts and does the line and inks, then I tackle the color. Aside from the actual art, I take care of most of the business — that is, dealing with the web site, the social media, the sales, the organizing and designing of merchandise, etc. Now that is not to belittle JD’s contribution to our collaboration, JD has PLENTY of work to deal with just producing the art that is way out of my league. But it puts in perspective how things can easily stall if I decide to take on more than I’m able to deal with.

The short answer of why Shounen FIGHT has been cooling on the backburner and off the radar is that I’ve been very sick. And sicker than I realized, for quite a while. The honest to goodness truth is that I’ve always been physically ill, dealing with a life-threatening overactive thyroid by age 12 and surgery+many irritating complications and new diagnoses along the way for the next 20 years. I’m really not fond of talking about the several health problems, both physical and mental, that I deal with and have spent my life telling myself if I just work and try and believe hard enough that I’ll be able to make it through and have a normal life. Even with an early start, it is very hard and takes a very long time when someone has to accept that it doesn’t work that way.

As we made MSF we had a lot of false starts, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of periods of silence. There were many times I thought I had it all in hand, that I’d made it through the worst and was gaining the upper hand on my stubborn body. When my enthusiasm to get going again brought me to my knees, I used every bit of energy I had trying to believe I’d wake up a day next week and would take on the world again.

Possibly the most crushing part of this all has been that I always told myself that no matter what happened, even if I lost my health, I would never lose touch with our comic’s fans. You are simply among the most important people in my life and have been one of the few things that have helped me through these times because there’s nothing more rewarding to me than sharing my creative stuff with the world.

There’s an unfortunate number of web comics particularly that have gone unfinished, sometimes without communication to the fans. When we started making MSF we were baffled and appalled by this, unable to comprehend how a creator would let that happen. It’s difficult to become the thing you once looked down on.

I know that there’s been speculation about the money we’ve collected to produce books and merchandise and if we just took it and ran. All I can say is I am apologetic and ashamed that things got this far, particularly with the people who put down money for the sake of both our and our comic’s future. I want you all to know that this is not at all the case and even though it’s been a miserably slow process, we are a breath away from having all of the Kickstarter merchandise in hand so we can finally begin shipping.

As far as why we made so much merchandise, it certainly wasn’t about the money. Believe me, after all is said and done, we’re not pocketing anything from the Kickstarter. It’s encouraging that we have some overflow product from that like the Teacup plushes and the charms, but honestly the profit on those sort of items even if they DO sell is not exactly something to pay the bills. My point in this topic though is that our motivation was enthusiasm. In the past I’ve been a packaging and product designer. I love making merchandise. And it’s a super fun way for us to connect with you guys. We should have considered more how that would affect our ability to actually continue making the comic, particularly when we didn’t have chapter 5 completely in the bag and we committed to tons of extra art, comics and novels for the trade book. It was short sighted and something I really regret. But all I can do is finally wrap things up, move on and try to learn from those mistakes. (Not gonna lie though, in spite of all the stress over the YEARS it’s taken to finish the Kickstarter project, I had so much fun putting the print version of our comic together and making delightfully cute things to go with it. JD and I are both pretty proud of the stickers that we are finishing right now, made in our home studio.)

Even though I hate all this personal stuff, I should take a moment to assure you that I’m not going to die. I’m just finally learning that I, just like any of us, have to find a lifestyle that won’t MAKE me die. But I refuse to let that stop me from continuing to share my art, especially not after more than a decade of support from incredible people who have kept me going.

That said, Shounen Fight isn’t going to die either. But there will be changes — probably what WON’T change the most is our slow production. We’re dedicated to continuing to make the comic but we’ve got to break the cycle and simply can’t work on the grueling schedule that most web comic creators somehow manage to maintain. So we will be instead working on what timeline we can manage with our restrictions and instead of releasing a page at a time, Shounen FIGHT will be released in chapters once the chapter is complete. We’ll also be changing some things about the art style to help us achieve a better production speed.

My hope is that we can come up with a chapter a year, maybe a little more if things go well. It’s important for us to not commit to a deadline but I want you to know that MSF is always on our minds and we have never given up on it. The best way to keep up with when we are able to release new content is to join our mailing list which is up in the top left corner of the MSF page. Any other announcements will be on the MSF site or our Facebook page.

What are we up to right now? Well almost all of 2015 was dedicated to a gigantic move where we relocated from the SF Bay Area to a farm property way out in the country in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. We share the place with both JD’s parents AND my mother (and all our adorable dogs.) It’s a truly incredible and inspiring place that we’ve come to in the attempt to center ourselves and to focus on not only regaining but MAINTAINING physical and mental health in whatever way that requires.

As far as Shounen FIGHT right now, every bit of energy is spent (as it has been for years now) finishing up the Kickstarter rewards. I’ve had some really frustrating learning experiences in the process of making all this stupid merch but it’s all but in the bag. After that is done, continuing production of the comic is in my hands. We’ve got things planned out but as I said, the thumbnailing is my task so I have to take the first step. I’m looking forward to this change in process, especially now with my experience in book production, to tackle a chapter a little more thoughtfully, as a whole to create something more cohesive than doing page after page over the course of years. MSF is planned to be 3 volumes of 5 chapters each.

We’re still struggling to pay the bills but are still managing to make it out to Kawaii Kon this weekend! We retired from the fan art circuit but outside of MSF we’ve been working on original fun merchandise in the attempt to keep afloat — cute caricatures of our dog and D&D inspired silliness. We’ve also upcycled a small number of our remaining fan badges into magnets which are in our online store for a few days and the remainder will be sold at the Kon. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

It’s been a very rough road and we’re determined to continue on. Thank you all for helping us keep going and hopefully we talk again soon.