When Drowemos first announced he was stepping down from the writing duties for the fantasy gender-bender webcomic Exiern, I was tempted to send in a submission to write for the comic. Ultimately I decided against doing so as I barely have time for my own reviews and writing, and I realized I wouldn’t stay true to the spirit central to the comic. This is perhaps amusing as the new writer, Chemiclord (aka Thomas Knapp), has definitely taken the comic in a direction different from what I suspect Drowemos would have gone; this is not a bad thing, however, and in doing so I believe Chemiclord is helping to relaunch the comic with a renewed purpose and story that will draw in more readers.
Looking back at Drowemos’ tenure as writer (and artist for a bit) of Exiern, I’m left with the impression he was trying hard to satisfy his audience’s desires in the hopes that this would build his readership (and increase the funds coming in so he could afford to update the comic). While in theory this seems like a good idea, it is almost always destined for failure. Stories that pander to fans inevitably fail to satisfy most everyone involved. Ultimately, there needs to be a degree of separation between the fans and the creators. This isn’t to say that creators can just do whatever they want, mind you; if they’re not careful they can easily alienate readers and drive off audiences in the name of artistic integrity. But as the saying goes, too many chefs spoil the broth.
Unfortunately, Chemiclord entered in the middle of an existing storyline which may have blunted his writing initially. Add in Drowemos’ continued role as the comic’s consultant and the end result was a hybrid storytelling that contained a lot of Drowemos’ plots even as Chemiclord expanded upon them. With the conclusion of Ctyx and Mira’s story (for the time being) and King Urtica’s plot to try and marry the barbarian protagonist Tiffany, it feels like Chemiclord is finally coming into his own as the comic’s storyteller. There has been a shift away from needless cheesecake and pointless nudity and toward a richer story which now includes an expansion of Tiffany’s own past as she heads north to confront her brother who tried to get her killed off.
What’s more, Tiffany herself has changed. It’s subtle, and may be related to the previous storyline where Tiffany had to come to terms with being a woman, but I’ve gotten the feeling she’s no longer obsessed with regaining her former gender (a quest that has in turn cursed a growing number of men with gender-transformation syndrome). This is actually a welcome change to me, and if it is Chemiclord’s doing, I applaud him for taking this path. For a while there, Drowemos had hinted at a rather rich and fascinating world in which Exiern was set. Hopefully Chemiclord will expand on these hints and fulfill the promise evident in those early comics.