Photo: Crocker Art Museum

It’s only ever at the end of the year when I look back and see not only how much I accomplished, but I’ve consistently seen how much more I accomplish each year. While much of the Long John development has been behind the scenes, the growth and promise have been noticeable and much more public than before and promise good tidings for Long John fans in 2020.


This year’s Crocker Con was huge for me this year. I don’t simply mean that with regard to sales––this year the show itself was surrounded by a whirlwind of opportunity and exposure and community that really made me proud to not only be an independent comic creator, but specifically a Sacramento independent comic creator.

From getting to hang original Long John pages in a wing of the Crocker Art Museum to getting the chance to participate in the promotion of the show on Good Day Sacramento, I never have had my art on as full a display as I did in this concentrated period of time between July and September at the Crocker.

I don’t take commissions often, but I also couldn’t turn down the opportunity to draw the poster for the 2019 show (especially once I came upon an idea I liked) and I was actually quite pleased with the final result.

The poster for the 2019 Crocker Con.

This exposure brought with it the chance to sit and talk with the folks at the Crocker, who published a thorough and thoughtful interview, and those conversations really embodied the thing I love about Crocker Con––building the bridge between high and popular art and the chance to be an ideological docent at that meeting point.

As ever––but especially this year––this wonderful show (curated by good friend, Eben Burgoon) was one of the highlights of the year.


This year marked an earnest push on my part to widen the net of Long John‘s audience, if even only by a bit. That came with going to more shows than ever and, more importantly, going to new shows outside of the ring of protection and familiarity that Sacramento provides.

The farthest I had ventured before this was the dearly departed Alternative Press Expo in San Jose and, more regularly, StocktonCon (in Stockton, of course). This year, I put some new pins in the map and it paid off generously.

First, I had an incredibly good time at this year’s OroCon in Oroville, CA. It was, without a doubt, one of the heaviest trafficked one-day shows I’ve ever been to and the people who attended were incredibly invested in local indie comics, which was heartening to see.

The end of the year brought a show I was quite excited about––the first annual Reno Pop Culture Con. The three-day show in Reno, Nevada proved to be as educational as it was fun (and exhausting). Being multiple days, the biggest surprise was to have the people who bought the books on one day come back the next telling me they already tore through all three of them and loved them. That kind of feedback is so rare, especially for a comicker who works primarily on the internet, that it hit me quite hard (and it made me really wish I had Chapter 4 with me to sell to them).

Luckily, both of these shows were bolstered by the stalwarts in my conventioning pocket––Stocktoncon Winter (where I had the honor of sharing a table with fellow comicker and Con Artists co-host, Kyrun Silva of Taurus Comics), Empire’s Comics Vault’s Free Comic Book Day Mini-Con (where I debuted new prints and the new Long John coasters!), and (as stated above) Crocker Con––and they proved to be as emboldening as ever.

Exhibiting at shows is as exhausting as it is rewarding, but the memories alone are worth going back for another run around the bases in 2020.

Long John––an Academic Text

A drawing of Hellrider Jackie in honor of the talk I gave to Dr. Fanetti’s class at CSU, Sacramento in April.

Perhaps the most personally rewarding aspect of this year was the honor of having Long John, Volume 1 included as part of the reading list for an upper-division graphic novels as literature course at California State University, Sacramento.

It’s weird to know that a class of about forty people read Long John. It’s weirder to know that a class talked about the book––its characters, themes, and plot––on a literary critical level for about 90 minutes. It’s weirdest to know that people probably wrote papers about Long John. And it’s most weird to know that I wasn’t any part of that.

As an under-the-radar independent comic book, the discourse and identity around Long John has been completely under my control up until this point. While that certainly brings a sense of calm (to a degree), as an academic I subscribe to the idea that works don’t become complete until they have an audience.

Of course, Long John, had an audience before now, but this is almost a concentrated experiment, testing a hypothesis to see if this story falls apart or holds together in the hands and minds of others. And it did. I’m not going to say that this made Long John “art”, but it certainly made it something more than just my own.

Where it all hit critical mass was when I was asked to come speak to the class, delivering a talk followed by a Q & A.

I view my life right now as a journey walking with each foot in a different lane: academics and comicking. I work hard to make sure I’m always moving forward, but I have to hope that they’re leading in the same direction. As stressful and exciting as this nexus between the two worlds was, the best part was that––for a split second––my two roads merged for a stretch.


Despite my promises for the book to be delivered in December, it did not come to pass, sadly. I’ve been plagued by life, grading, and even a nice dash of technical difficulties (I had to entirely recolor three pages recently). But coloring is moving forward––shading, specifically.

Even though the book didn’t drop this year, the milestone that this book hit that no previous Long John chapter had hit before was the speed at which it was created. For the first time, I drew, inked, and finalized an entire chapter over, basically, the summer––a rate at which I had never gone from page 1 to page done before. This speaks well of upcoming chapters and, if things go well, they will only get to the website and to you faster and sooner.

As it now stands, the pencils, inks, lettering, and flat colors are done for the book. All I’m doing now is shading/rendering and waiting for a few other special pieces to come together for this book to happen.

Since it’s the start of the next half of the story, I want this specific volume to be special, and that requires trying to coordinate a few spinning plates. As it is now, it looks to be not only loaded with a wonderful (if I do say so myself) new chapter, but it will also be chock full of interesting and very cool extra content. That––combined with the roadblocks mentioned earlier––are why the book is not out yet AND why the site has been quite quiet for the last month or so.

The cover to Chapter 4: Dead Words.

However, it has not been quiet behind the scenes, and you should look forward to Long John, Volume 4: Dead Words to be updating on the site sooner rather than later, with the print version available shortly thereafter.

It’s been a busy year with much more to come in 2020. I’m excited to share with you everything that I’ve been working on here in the coming year, so please keep checking in and a big thank you for all the support in 2019!

Happy new year,

-D. Bethel