Tas Mukanik

The Sanity Circus: 8 Years Later

May 22, 2022, marks the eighth birthday of my webcomic, the Sanity Circus (or as I like to just call SanCirc). EIGHT whole years. I never imagined myself working on the same project for eight years, and I remember distinctly being baffled by manga creators, who inspired me in my teens, that would work on the same story for decades. Now I… get it. Not to say that SanCirc is entirely comparable to that, but the years just kinda slip by you at some point.

SanCirc was originally posted May 22, 2014, on a little website some friends of mine made called SSP Comics. It also would end up mirroring it on Tapastic for a while, until I was accepted into Hiveworks, where it still lives now.

It’s hard to say exactly what inspired me to create it—I had a few weird dreams that stirred some creative inspo, and I was heavily into D.Gray-Man at the time, a manga I read a lot in highschool and rediscovered again. I remember having a pretty strange time creatively, then. I had another webcomic I was working on, but I was struggling to get it off the ground, with only a handful of pages done in a year. It was a bad time for my mental health and struggling to figure out what I wanted to do for my future. Then SanCirc plopped into my brain, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Some early concept art/promo

Something about SanCirc just clicked for me. Brainstorming it was easy, drawing it was easy, it was just pure fun. I was drawing so much art for it, and it wasn’t long before that developed into pages. My comic process then was extremely scattered… no thumbnails, sometimes not even a script—I just winged it. Although I’m much more structured now, sometimes I really miss that just unfiltered creativity I had in the first few chapters, no stopping to think—just go. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recreate that again.

Various thank-you images for reaching milestones on Tapastic, as well as just in general.

I was really moved by how much people enjoyed it, when I first started posting it. I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but the reception was great, and pushed me forward. Through all this, I began to realize what exactly I wanted to do, and it was comics. I just knew my heart lied here, and could never let go. Working on SanCirc really cemented what I wanted to do, in some way, with my life.

Some favourite pages.

I always loved creating characters, it was—and remains—my favourite part of the creation process. SanCirc also really cemented that for me. Attley, the main character, was actually one of the last characters I finalized. Originally I had her marked down for a male character, but when I thought of making her a girl I clung to the idea. Of course, early on a common misconception I would get was “I thought Attley was a boy”, because of her fairly androgynous look (which, in hindsight now, is honestly pretty tame in my opinion). I would say in some way Attley was a little bit of an outlet for my own gender expression, which I was juuuust dipping my toes into at the time, and didn’t take the full plunge into until… 2020 (I am very slow with these things). Is that to say, if I made SanCirc now, that Attley would be non-binary? Which is… unanswerable, because ultimately SanCirc was made by 2014 me, not 2022 me, so who knows. Attley could be non-binary now, even. It’s just a interesting kinda insight into someone working through their identity, before they even realize it.

A bunch o’ illustrations.

Speaking of that, SanCirc has definitely changed a lot since its inception. I feel like that just happens for any webcomic, the goalposts shift and new ideas come and suddenly your ending is completely different. Posey pining for Attley was not in the very first rendition, it was meant to be more platonic. But then, you see, I figured out I was not very straight, and here I had two female characters with a tragic past, with one trying to reconnect with the other desperately. It was the first time I ever connected my own sexual orientation to my main characters, and I, uh, had fun:

Man, I had it bad.

Things in my life have shifted since then, though. I mean, eight years is enough for that to happen. I’ve had a lot of big life changes throughout SanCirc—including, thanks to this silly comic, being introduced to my fiance, who I now live and make comics with. SanCirc has brought a lot of good to my life, and for that I am always thankful. But it goes without saying that a comic that’s been around since you were a teen, when you’re now almost 30, brings its own kind of baggage.

I find I can be very hard on myself, and this comic is no exception. As of now, it hasn’t really had any proper comic page updates since late 2018 (yikes!). I’ve been having a really bad struggle with it in the last few years, brought on by both internal and external things. As the years go on I can only see more and more flaws, which seem to only grow bigger and bigger. I know these flaws, which can be as simple as a misplaced speech bubble, and wobbly line, a plain background; over to a strained plot point, a weird characterization, an odd piece of dialogue—they are all things I need to forgive myself for. Nothing’s perfect, as they say, and certainly not a silly webcomic started by a teen that involves instrument people and clowns.

The other struggle is shifting interests. A lot of the things that inspired SanCirc I’m not as into any more, and as I played with and have become more comfortable in my gender and sexuality, SanCirc can feel so plain in comparison. I think it’s natural for one’s interests to stray over the years, it’s very hard to stay committed to one story for so long… well, for me, anyway, who’s always bursting with ideas. I can no longer engage with SanCirc like I did when I first started it, and sometimes that makes me really sad. Some part of it feels like SanCirc represents all my immaturity, and I need to distance myself if I want to continue to mature and grow. Like an anchor weighing me down, holding me back.

The thing is, though… I can’t seem to let SanCirc go. Even after the wrench 2020 threw at me, which derailed almost everything for SanCirc… I didn’t have it in my heart to just leave it there. As much as I struggle with it and pick at it and try to run from it, the good it did for me is overwhelming, and I can’t forget that. I can’t forget all the good times I had drawing pages; the excitement I had posting a page with a huge moment, and seeing readers’ reactions; the fanart people drew; the joy it brought me; the direction it took me. SanCirc kinda changed my life, in a goofy weird way. This weird, messy, strange comic about magic circuses and weird Scarecrow monsters and seagull boys.

Even through the mess of 2020-2021, I managed to script the last few chapters of SanCirc, and right now I’m back to drawing pages again. It’s a little like riding a bike again after years of not touching it—I still know how to do it, yet nervous all the same. But I’m optimistic. I would like to end the comic before I hit 10 years with it, but hey, I’m not gonna pressure myself. It’ll happen when it’ll happen. But I think the least I could do for this comic, and myself, is bring it to its conclusion.

I hope to see you there, too.

If you’ve read this silly comic of mine at any point, even if it was just a chapter, or a page, I’m very thankful. Support the comics you like, especially little indie webcomics, because there’s a lot of heart and soul in there that I don’t think should be snuffed out.

Cheers to eight years!

4 thoughts on “The Sanity Circus: 8 Years Later

  1. Werwa

    I’m so happy to hear this comic had such a positive impact on you. I remember I went to a comicon at some point and ended up buying a physical copy and couldn’t stop myself from giving it to friends for them to read! (I’m still sharing it online with friends today, they seem to enjoy it just as much!)

    Thank you for all your hard work.

  2. Mark H.

    It’s always neat getting these little retrospective behind-the-scenes peeks at the ideas and feelings and controlled bouts of the best kind of madness that go into creative projects like SanCirc — I’m just glad it wasn’t a postmortem!

    I definitely feel for a lot of what you talked about here, especially with regards to the train wreck that was the last two years and the effects it’s had on you as a creator, and I very much appreciate that candor; too often, artists and authors try to disguise their struggles, but sometimes it’s good to know that hey, even folks who do this for a living feel that same exhaustion and struggle with the same things that you do.

    (My own creative efforts hit the skids pretty badly over the past year, honestly — nothing worth really putting out there, but even though it’s been years in the making, I struggled to maintain the energy or the mental fortitude to work on it, even when I had the time. Still, it means as much to me as SanCirc does to you… and in another weird synchronicity, it’s also part of how I met my BF, so maybe there’s something about passion projects that lead us to people we’re passionate for.)

    Anyway, sorry to ramble, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing — both this retrospective, and the mad, wonderful roller coaster that got me through the worst of 2021. You can count on me to be ringside for the grand finale!

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