Most of the time, dead comics are just a project that didn’t work out. Collaborators part ways, inspiration evaporates, mental health ebbs and flows, and jobs place new demands on artists’ time. Generally people don’t get paid to put their webcomic online for us to read, so while it can be disappointing when our fave stops updating, hey, that’s life. But some comics die a death that stands as a cautionary tale – or a horror story – and not all readers are as laid-back about the comics they read as I am.
I’ll admit it: I was never that into Hanna is Not a Boy’s Name. Maybe I just wasn’t in the target audience (yaoi shippers, presumably) or maybe I’d read too many stories in the format of “incompetent freelancer has misadventures” to find the basic premise interesting. Or maybe I was just turned off by the gender essentialist title! Either way, I wasn’t around for its end, and actually only recently made the connection that it was created by the same person who now does Not Drunk Enough (a vastly better work, in my humble opinion).
HINABN follows Hanna Cross, a skinny white guy paranormal investigator with more enthusiasm than skill or common sense, and the ragtag band of misfit skinny white guys he accumulates while repeatedly fucking up jobs. (EDIT: an astute reader pointed out that Zombie, when he was alive, seemed to actually be Asian. My mistake!) Seriously, if you’re not into tepid sexual tension between a gaggle of skinny white guys I can’t imagine what appeal this comic could hold for you, because the plot and cast aren’t that original or interesting. The art is evocative and kinetic, and the panel layouts are something to admire, but the story itself is bland as a mayonaise sandwich, frankly a waste of Stone’s talents.
There are a couple of women in the cast, but they lack as much luster as everyone else: Adelaide, a treacherous and powerful vampire slash femme fatale, and Toni, who fulfills the comic’s diversity quota, and, predictably, is a werewolf. Seriously what is with this werewolves=brown people trope.
I don’t know why Stone stopped making Hanna, but I like to think he realized the countless beginner’s mistakes he made and knew that he could do better. We’re all embarassed by our early works, and it’s often a better move to let them die and move on to something better, learning from our mistakes instead of continuing a work that’s mired in them.
But craft mistakes can often be easier to see than choices that have social repercussions. Like I said, the people who loved this comic were by and large yaoi fans, and there are large elements of that subculture that, well… they go in hard. They get rabid about their ships, and will defend them unto death, so woe betide anyone who denies them – anyone remember the johndave-johnkat-davekat ship wars of 2013? And when Stone quit, well, that just wasn’t acceptable. Where were the updates? they demanded. Where was Tess? Was he in the hospital? Was he in jail? There were no other acceptable reasons, in their minds, as to why the comic would just stop. Answers were demanded. Theories and rumors were spread in a cringe-inducing fashion, with little regard for the author’s privacy. Hardcore fans often develop feelings of extreme entitlement to the media they enjoy, and in this case that manifested in a very ugly way.
So what’s the moral of this story? “Don’t court yaoi fans if you don’t want drama down the line”? May… maybe? “Don’t use your best artwork on your first comic because it’ll get popular before you decide to move onto something better”? I honestly don’t know. “Make sure you tell your fans you’re quitting so they don’t start a rumor mill”? No, I doubt that would have helped to be honest, and I don’t think creators have that sort of obligation to their readers.
So maybe there isn’t a clear moral. Sometimes nothing you can do will prevent awful fandoms from being awful – that’s like stopping a hurricane from ravaging a coastline, or an unknowable relentless bloodthirsty monster from attacking your campsite in the woods.
Or maybe the moral isn’t for creators at all; it’s for readers, and it’s simple: don’t be a dick. It’s just a comic. Relax a little. Write some fanfiction or something. Whatever your fave is now, there will be another one in time, so please don’t harass creators for not loving their labors of love anymore – in a few years you will feel like the asshole you are.
Final verdict: Bland and cliche, this comic never had that much to recommend it. But if you’re really into shipping dudes for the BL of it, you might enjoy perusing the archived pages.