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Joseph Scarbrough launched what he called "The Scarblog" as a way of cataloging his work over the years, as well as going into greater detail of things on his mind (known as "Unfinished Thoughts").

Sunday, April 3, 2022

15 Years of Scarbrough

2022 marks 15 years of Scarbrough! Hopefully, if all goes well, we'll be seeing new content dropping in the months to come, including videos, cartoons, and a featured called THE SUMMER OF SCARBROUGH, which will be a (semi) weekly vlog looking back on the past 15 years. Oh yeah, and maybe, maybe, we'll also be seeing some merchandise . . . that's right, merchandise! Probably won't be anything to get too excited about, though.

Hope you'll be celebrating along with us this year!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

VAMPIRE GIRL: The 10th Anniversary

Here it is, ten years after the fact. VAMPIRE GIRL was certainly one of my more peculiar and often overlooked (more on that later) creations, and the story of how it came to be is also a rather peculiar one . . . it all started with a song from one of rock-and-roll's quirkiest and most eccentric artists, that eventually lead to a web comic mini-series that really had hardly anything to do with the actual song itself, other than bearing the same name.

The Inspiration
It was October 2011, and Comcast's (now xfinity) Sounds of the Season Music Choice channel featured a playlist of Halloween music - just right for the occasion. In all honesty, I had never really heard much Halloween music before, and while there were a few songs featured in the playlist I had certainly heard before under other circumstances ("Witch Doctor" by David Seville, "Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley, "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr., "Headless Horseman" by Bing Crosby, "Tain't No Sin," "Devil Went Down to Georgia," just to name a few), there were a lot of songs that were completely new to my ears, and have since become just as much of a tradition to listen to every October as, well, Christmas music every December.

You ever get a song so stuck in your head, that it's almost impossible to get it out? That's what happened to me during this particular time (and it wasn't just Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" or "Here Comes the Bride (of Frankenstein)" by Elvira and The B-52s): a really catchy, toe-tapping, almost rockabilly-esque song by Modern Lovers' Jonathan Richman.

Needless to say, this song wasn't just stuck in my head - it was practically etched and seared into my brain like no other song had been before . . . I had to do something about it!

The Development
Levana's evolution
during development,
from something of a
chibi-esque little girl to
an older twenty-
something-esque young
The strange thing is VAMPIRE GIRL didn't originate as a web comic; given how catchy and fun the song is, my thinking was it needed to be set to some kind of production number . . . in fact, I'll even go as far as to say it seemed like it would have made for a great number on THE MUPPET SHOW, that's how much I felt like the song was so fun. With that in mind, I envisioned such a production number with Steve D'Monster and Bethany Crystal, with Bethany in the part of the titular Vampire Girl, and Steve as the de-facto admirer of said Vampire Girl. However, at the time, I had other projects with Steve in the works (including planning a multi-part Christmas Eve special that never got made), so I considered that option off the table.

Still, I really needed to find some kind of a creative outlet for my own cathartic purposes from having this song stuck in my head so badly, and eventually, I began doodling vampire girls. After a few doodles and sketches, I eventually settled on a design that I liked particularly well, and decided that this design needed to be turned into an actual character . . . first thing's first, she needed a name, but I couldn't think of one. Ordinarily, I like to give my characters names that either fit their appearance or personality, or names that you don't hear very often (especially for fictional characters). A few different suggestions were pitched to me, including one from an artist friend of mine, Kimmi Guerrero, that just felt right: Levana. In Hebrew, "Levana" means "moon." In Latin, "Levana" means "to lift," or "raise up." In Roman mythology, "Levana" is a fertility goddess who protects newborns. In this case, "Levana" just seemed like a perfect name for a vampire! Now, I just needed to actually do something with her.

I came out of "Cartoon
Retirement" to tell Levana's
Given that Levana was a cartoon character, doing a comic strip about her seemed like the most logical thing to do. Once upon a time, I dabbled in cartoons, comics, and even a little bit of animation, as it was always something I enjoyed doing, and seemed like something I would like to do as a career . . . but I had been doing such almost non-stop from 1999 into 2007 . . . quite frankly, I was getting very tired of it, and ended up suffering from burn-out . . . I didn't want to do it anymore, because puppetry had taken over as my one true passion, and that was what I wanted to focus more of my energy on. But for Levana, I was willing to come out of my "Cartoon Retirement" and do a comic about her: even if it was a short subject, like a mini-series or something that wouldn't run for too long . . . all I needed to do was figure out a story for her. Even though such characters always appeal to me, I was especially interested in developing somewhat subversive characters at the time, such as Ella the Elf, who was conceived shortly after Levana was (unlike traditional Christmas elves who are cheerful, jolly, and sugary sweet, Ella is snarky, cynical, and cold . . . no pun intended), so the idea came to me that Levana was a vampire . . . who didn't want to be a vampire. The life of a vampire had so many limitations, as so many things ordinary people take for granted can kill her: she can only travel by night to avoid sunlight, her diet is extremely limited to avoid things like garlic, and even she is disgusted by her thirst for blood. This is what lead to the comic's tagline: "She lives a life of irony."

Just your friendly, neighborhood
vampire hunters.
That became the main plot line of the story: Levana's journey to finding a way to make her a mortal girl. But, there still needed to be more to it than that; like every story, there needed to be conflict. This is where the comic's antagonists came in: upon learning about her mere existence, a pair of modern-day vampire hunters (named simply Vampire Hunter and Goofy Idiot Sidekick) attempt to hunt her down and destroy her.

Get high with a little help
from your friends.
There were still other details that needed to be filled in as well, and (dark) fantasy was a genre I had never really worked with before - but another artist friend of mine, Marie Kerns, was totally into that world; so after consulting with her, and bouncing around other ideas, all of the other little voids were filled in, such as Levana having befriended a hospital employee (CNA Laura) who would sneak her some human blood whenever she has urges from withdrawals or relapses, and figuring out how, exactly, she would eventually get to become mortal (with the aid of a cranky old wizard, and a very handsome doctor), the whole story was set into place.

For nearly an entire month, I worked almost non-stop (things slowed down because of Thanksgiving, obviously) putting the comic together, until it was finally completed and ready to be published.

The Inaugural Run
Original Smack Jeeves
cover art
On Thursday, December 8, 2011, VAMPIRE GIRL debuted. Originally hosted on Smack Jeeves, the comic ran weekly until March 29, 2012 for a total of seventeen strips (I had originally planned it for about thirteen, but the story ended up running a little longer than I thought it would) . . . and nobody read it.

There were certainly a number of factors at play as to why the comic went virtually unnoticed during its initial run: I think the biggest problem was it was a couple of months too late . . . granted, the comic wasn't necessarily Halloween-themed, but vampires are traditionally associated with Halloween, so the timing was way off.

Another factor was probably due to the fact that the whole mainstream vampire craze - while still very popular at the time - was kind of fizzling out and losing quite a bit of steam just the same . . . so again, with that in mind, VAMPIRE GIRL kind of felt like it missed the bandwagon and ended up tailing way far behind.

But as it turned out, one major factor was VAMPIRE GIRL, evidently, did not fall into the zeitgeist. During its initial run each week, I would take a peak at whatever the most popular web comics were that were generating a lot of traffic, and I came to notice that there were three particular categories of comics that seemed to dominate Smack Jeeves (and I presume other hosts at the time): Westernized Manga, stolen video game sprites, and LGBT. Not a lot of room for originality it seems, but then again, so is the internet (YouTube has been having similar problems ever since Google bought it out).

As a stunt one week, I took a particularly suggestive verse from Jonathan Richman's song and used it to advertise the comic in an attempt to lure in visitors and readers: "Is she in Heaven? Is she in Hell? Is she a sex industry professional?" Obviously, it didn't work . . . but, in a way, it was a fun little tribute to Jim Henson trying to get THE MUPPET SHOW sold under the title SEX AND VIOLENCE. Still, VAMPIRE GIRL ran for seventeen weeks, and aside from a few friends following it (out of politeness, I'm sure), nary a soul gave it a glance.

The Scrapped Second Season
"Vampress" Concept Art
Even though Levana's character and story arc were completely wrapped up in those seventeen strips, I played with the idea of a continuation of her story into something of a second season . . . something that not only would have shown how much she was embracing her new life as a mortal, but also showing what kind of consequences she may have faced for forsaking her vampish lifestyle. The idea I had was that Levana was now working at the same hospital as Laura and Dr. Charmin, where she was something of an orderly, mainly taking care of children (I guess they put in a good word for her and used her babysitting experience to help her get the job), little knowing that somewhere out there, an evil vampire empress (a "vampress" if you will), had discovered that one of her own has basically thrown away her birthright, and must be punished severely for it. Clearly, this would have been a lot darker and more along the lines of an actual horror-comedy than the initial comic was.

Incomplete rough draft of a
Season 2 strip, showing Levana's
new position as a hospital
orderly, reading to a sick kid.

I got as far doing some design work for such a second season, and even started making plans on how this continuation of the story could play out, but ultimately, I decided against it, for two main reasons: 1) As I said previously, Levana's arc was already wrapped up in those initial seventeen strips, and although it's a trend that Disney's been real hot about in the past couple of decades, I wasn't sure if we really needed to explore what happens after "happily ever after." 2) Again, nobody even read the comic during its original run, and the archive saw very, very little activity in the years afterward, so why continue another season of strips of a comic that nobody was even reading to begin with? In the end, I just left it as it was, and never pressed forward with any continuation of the story - I will admit, I sometimes still feel curious about how, exactly, such a continuation could possibly play out.

Other Random Thoughts
I never really had intentions of wanting to see VAMPIRE GIRL adapted into animation, however, every now and then, what few people have looked at it (mostly friends) have asked me who would I consider providing the voices of the characters . . . I do think about that from time to time, and I do believe I have in mind what my ideal voice cast would be:

Nika Futterman as Levana
Kat Cressida as Laura
Michael Dorn as Vampire Hunter
Rob Paulsen as Goofy Idiot Sidekick
John Byner as The Wizard
Tom Kane as Dr. Charmin
(Although Tom Kane has since endured a stroke and unable to do voice work anymore)

That being said, I have had thoughts about it being adapted into a live action short - maybe even with Steve D'Monster serving as the storyteller . . . although I have absolutely no idea who would be ideal to play each of the characters, the app Artbreeder has actually given me a pretty interesting idea of what a live action Levana could possibly look like, which blows me away.

Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic was really peaking during its first wave, particularly in the U.S. where it was treated more like a political opinion than an actual threat to people's health and safety, I ended up utilizing the cast of characters in a couple of P.S.A. comics as it were, and although I had no intentions of actually rebooting the comic as a whole, I did have a few other brief little set-ups, gags, and jokes pop into my mind at the time as well, which resulted in these few little random strips I did, samples of which you can see here:
The Crossover That Nobody Asked For
Positive Negative
It's All About the Vitamins
Hang in There, Baby

So, there you have it: the story behind VAMPIRE GIRL on this day of its 10th anniversary. I would welcome you to browse the archive of the comic, but you can't do that anymore: As of late 2019,  Smack Jeeves has been bought out by another company, and basically, their entire server has been completely overhauled and redesigned, which has effectively killed the web comics that were being hosted on their server, including VAMPIRE GIRL, so I decided to just completely delete the comic altogether, so it's no longer online or available for viewing.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

A Complete Creative Breakdown: Why I've Canceled MORON LEAGUE 4

I really do hate this, because this seems to happen far more often than it really should, and I get so frustrated when I have to frequently inform people that a project that I've been working on and they've been looking forward to will not see the light of day after all - but what's especially bothersome is that this wasn't just any project I was working on, this was a huge project that's already been over three years in the making, and one that I was hoping would achieve more beyond its expectations . . . I'm speaking of, of course, MORON LEAGUE 4: the biggest, most elaborate, and most spectacular entry in the series to date.

What was supposed to be so spectacular about MORON LEAGUE 4? Well, if you've seen the previous MORON LEAGUE entries, you'll note how incredibly shoddy and cheesy they were . . . now, don't get me wrong, of course MORON LEAGUE 4 was still going to be incredibly cheesy - after all, this isn't exactly cinematic gold or anything (not to mention the inspirational material that MORON LEAGUE pays homage to), but part of the reason why the previous entries were cheesy and shoddy was because of such limited tools I had to work with at the time. The first two were shot in a linear manner on videotape with hardly much editing involved in post-production at all, since it's not entirely easy to edit videotape footage on a computer with only a less-than-basic program like Windows Movie Maker to work with; MORON LEAGUE 3 was shot digitally, albeit with a basic consumer digital camera that had a function for shooting video in standard definition. Since then, I have been able to obtain much better tools to work with, namely an HD camera for filming, and Adobe Premiere for editing, so technically speaking, MORON LEAGUE 4 was certainly going to be a step up from previous entries; I had every intention of making MORON LEAGUE 4 as visually interesting as possible.

The unfortunate thing is MORON LEAGUE 4 was a troubled production from the start, and for a multitude of different reasons. . . .

Archive photo of partial set for the "new" Moron
Headquarters inside an old, abandoned
convenience store.
For starters, unlike previous entries which only had some incredibly simplistic sets (or, in the case of the original, no sets whatsoever), MORON LEAGUE 4 had some rather elaborate and intricate sets . . . and therein laid one of the problems. The sets had to be constructed in such a way that they could be dismantled into pieces to allow for changes in camera positions and set-ups as dictated by the script - that wasn't the problem so much as it was that these sets were small scale, which made it incredible difficult to adequately and efficiently puppeteer the figures and characters within the confines of these tiny little sets - not to mention the smallness of the sets were also incredibly challenging to frame in ways to make them look good on camera - this is where the cheesy factor was coming into play, regardless of how well the sets looked to the human eye, somehow the HD camera only emphasized how cheesy they looked. This is also another reason why canceling MORON LEAGUE 4 is hurting so much . . . believe it or not, I ended up spending a lot of money out of pocket on constructing these sets: over $200! Yes, between materials needed to actually construct the sets, as well as procuring necessary items and props for set decorating, it all ended up running over $200, making this, without a doubt, my most expensive production to date . . . so, to cancel it feels essentially like I just threw that money out the window. It also didn't help that because of how poorly the economy had been doing for the past several years, I would keep running out of money at various points during pre-production, so that accounts for one of the reasons why the entire process of the production was being prolonged, delayed, and interrupted.

Delays and interruptions also brings us to another reason why this seemed to be a doomed production from the start: because this particular entry had a number of characters appearing within, this one was going to require the addition of other voice actors to play the characters . . . and certain voice actors I'd bring on would eventually drop out of the project altogether, putting me in the difficult position of having to find replacements; at least some would have the courtesy of providing me with notice as to why they would be bowing out the project, but others not so much. This was, perhaps, one of the biggest headaches of this production - it's not that I couldn't do all of the voices myself like I had previously, it's just that after a while, all of my voices start sounding the same, so I really wanted to avoid it again this time around . . . I would still be voicing each of the Nerdlucks, but the other characters would be voiced by other actors.

There were also other complications that arose making this such a troubling production, including what has been, perhaps, the most perplexing problem, and that was location scouting for exterior filming. Again, with this being an HD production, and this being the biggest MORON LEAGUE entry yet, I really wanted this to be such a visual improvement over previous entries, and since the script called for certain scenes to take place outdoors, I would go location scouting to try to find a most adequate spot where such filming could take place . . . unfortunately, this is where Google Maps would fail me. I would use Google Maps to scout out certain locations that looked as though they would provide the perfect backdrop for the exterior shooting, and then I would physically visit these locations to figure out where I could set the stage, so-to-speak, how I could position it within the location to look good on camera, and even figure out what would be the best time to film based on the position of the sun in the sky for adequate lighting. Alas, because Google Maps would not have recent updates for these locations in their Street View, I would be unaware that the locations I would scout would turn out to have been fenced off, have new structures added, or be inundated with Private Property and No Trespassing signs since Google Maps had last photographed these locations until I physically visited the locations myself. You're probably thinking if I had already spent so much time, effort, and money constructing miniature interior sets for the production, why couldn't I just construct such an exterior set that would suit my needs for filming? Well, I could have . . . but again, with this being an HD production and a step above previous MORON LEAGUE entries, I wanted to bring a certain amount of cinematic scope to the production.

Promotional poster noting
MORON LEAGUE 4's release date
as being July 23, 2021 - a week
after the release of SPACE JAM 2:
MORON LEAGUE 4 was, perhaps, going to be my first production that was almost like an actual movie . . . and in hindsight, I think I may have bitten off more than I could chew with it. I first began the project in 2017 when it was announced that the SPACE JAM sequel, which was previously rumored to only be an elaborate hoax (which MORON LEAGUE 3 was taking a jab at), was indeed real and happening, and when it was announced that it would be released in 2021, that's when I had planned of having MORON LEAGUE 4 completed and ready to release - preferably at least within a week of the release of SPACE JAM 2: A NEW LEGACY, because I just knew that the timing of the release would help generate a much-needed boost in traffic to my YouTube channel (and I can see, based on my current channel analytics that previous MORON LEAGUE entries have seen spikes in clicks and views). That's a period of time spanning over three years, so surely I would have been able to actually complete the project within that amount of time with a lot of breathing room, wouldn't I? Well, you'd think. I first wrote the script sometime in 2017, and the fragmented production first began in the fall of 2018 . . . during that time, MORON LEAGUE 4 gradually dropped down my priority list, mostly due to the above-mentioned complications (running out of money, losing voice actors, location scouting difficulties, the challenges in camera set-ups, etc.), but also partly due to the fact that given the expansive window of time, other projects would crop up that would divert my attention away from the production of MORON LEAGUE 4 . . . and, if I'm being perfectly honestly, whenever these new projects would crop up, my interest in MORON LEAGUE 4 would drop considerably. 

Meme imitating art
imitating life
What can I say? I have commitment issues with my own work: I find I can't work on the same project for too long because I eventually lose interest altogether in the project because of the extended length of time it ends up taking to try to complete the project . . . so much work with very little results over a long period of time - this is exactly why, after I dabbled in animation for a couple of years, I realized it was a medium that was not for me (which is why I also maintain the highest respect for animators who have the willpower and patience to stick with it out their very passion for it). All of this and more is what lead to my final decision to cancel the production altogether: I ended up finally suffering from a complete creative breakdown . . . after working on this one single project for over three years, producing minimal results each time, and just how frustrating, complicated, and difficult the actual filming process was, I just finally broke down - I just couldn't go on with it any longer. I actually trashed the specific set I was still filming in at the time of my breakdown (which, admittedly, wasn't a total loss, because the script called for this particular set to be trashed anyway with Blanko flying the Moron Airship directly into it). As I said, in hindsight, I believe I ended up biting off way more than I could chew . . . this was probably going to be an entire half-hour production produced from a 30-page script with well over 140 different shots and cuts . . . I know that doesn't seem like much from a major production perspective, but for just one person, it was overwhelming, and I just didn't have the drive, stamina, or energy to go on any further - especially after I had already missed my July 23, 2021 deadline anyway.

Now, that's not to say that I'm just throwing out all that I have already accomplished with MORON LEAGUE 4 altogether (especially not the sets that I spent so much time, energy, and money on constructing); everything is being meticulously archived for safekeeping, from the sets that were constructed, to the actual camera footage that's been shot (nearly half of the script had been filmed), and even a blooper reel that was being compiled. Does this mean there may be a glimmer of hope that maybe, one day, I may change my mind and try to resume completing the project one day in the future? Sure, there's hope, but I would not hold my breath . . . still, that doesn't necessarily mean my mind may not be changed. After all, once upon a time, I was enthusiastic about the project, and wanted to see it towards its completion - even in spite of my breakdown, I felt compelled to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back up on the horse and try to push through and still finish this thing before the year is over . . . unfortunately, that enthusiasm fizzled out over the period of time it was taking to produce this, thanks largely in part to all of the complications and stumbling blocks that arose. What can I say? I certainly suffer for my art.

Spoiler alert: Bupkus got a promotion in

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

YouTube Puppets Have Cabin Fever

During this corona-virus pandemic, it's important to do your part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible, including staying at home and sheltering in place . . . of course, that's not to say that doing such isn't without its cons and downsides as well - namely, when cabin fever starts setting in, as our YouTube puppet pals have become all too familiar with in a brand-new sing-along!

In addition to Steve, you can always check out his other puppet pals on their respective YouTube channels as well!

A Company of Fools (by Tai Jackson):

The Vaudeville Puppets (by Peter A. Cancilla):

Muley the Mule (by Kevin L. Williams):

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Crossover That Nobody Asked For

The last thing a girl who doesn't want to be a vampire needs is to spend time with a girl who does want to be a vampire.