Short Version

If you think I represented you in a comic page without notifying you, then the representation is not deliberately of you.

Long Version

While I grew up, fan art was not the lucrative-if-questionably-legal business model it is today. Fan art was a personal reflection of what an artist loved, and a way for an artist to start learning to draw, but that was it. Professional artists were expected to make their own original creations, unless specifically hired by intellectual property owners to portray the property on behalf of its owners. Sure, some people made money creating and selling replicas and knock-offs, but that was generally frowned upon by society, not the standard practice it has become within the last 10-15 years.

Also, while growing up, my art exploration was primarily a solitary process. I sometimes shared my work with others, but mostly did not. I longed for a group of fellow artists with whom I could share work (and I still long for that today), but did not know anyone else who drew and wrote (or never knew that I knew anyone). My first opportunity to share with like-minded creators was in college, when I found ElfQuest holts online.

ElfQuest holts are collectives of hobbyist writers and artists who make their own characters based on ElfQuest. Holts follow the rules of the ElfQuest world (or their own modified versions of it), but characters are non-canon fan creations. Participating was like playing a very slow role-playing game. We wrote stories and drew art in which our characters interacted with each other and within the holt's rules, and we shared our creations with each other. One rule of my first holt was the very reasonable, "Do not harm another character without the owner's permission."

One member wrote a story in which his "anti-hero" character and my character were kidnapped. He wrote that my character was brutally tortured -- including repeated rape -- nearly to death, until his character heroically freed himself and rescued her. This story was printed in the holt's 'zine with no input from me. I objected to the creator and the editor, and was told, "It's no big deal; the holt has healers."

Very early in Deer Me's existence, a man wrote me two fan letters. With his first, he used one name. With his second, he had adopted Thomas's name and identity as his own. I noted the change, but did not complain. Soon after, I learned he was stealing my posted images of Thomas, falsely claiming they were commissions of his character. Years later, a person asked me what had caused my falling out with this fake Thomas, informing me that the fake Thomas claimed he helped create and write Deer Me and I never gave him any credit. This "fan" wrote me twice, stole my work, and lied that I was a thief.

I tell you all this so you can understand that I care intensely about giving credit where credit is due, and about respecting other creators' wishes.

Recently, I learned that another creator (whose work I admired) saw some of my comic pages, incorrectly assumed that the pages were intended as an unflattering representation of this other creator, and ghosted me for my alleged cruelty. The pages were not about the other creator. Any resemblance was due to sheer coincidence, not the deliberate malice credited to me.

Yes, I incorporate real life into my work. Deer Me is a slice-of-life comic, with its stories based on (or at least grounded in) reality. Sometimes, someone says or does something so funny that I feel it must be shared. However, no character -- in Deer Me, Sharpclaw, or anything else I do -- is based directly on any one person. Even recurring characters Shan and Zeal of Deer Me are jokes, rather than accurate representations. My characters are chimeras of real people, fictional characters from other works, and whatever I need for my stories.

Along with taking influence from real life, I reference other creator's works. As I said, characters might include aspects of characters from other fiction. I may recycle a joke someone else did if I feel it fits well within my work, especially if it lets me pay homage to the original source. Sharpclaw makes very deliberate use of (and reference to) fairy tales, folklore, and nursery rhymes.

When I deliberately portray another person's creation, I make sure to tell the creator. Such instances are rare, generally only when I want to fill a large crowd scene. Deer Me has included a few cameo appearances over its 17 years of existence. Sharpclaw definitely shall in the future, but has had none as of this writing.

Also, I tend to write years in advance of a comic actually getting drawn and posted. Sharpclaw results from twenty years of on-and-off writing, with a heavily concerted effort to write, read, and finalize about five years ago. I am currently working off a "finished" script ("finished" in quotes because I always allow myself room to review and tweak). Deer Me is more flexible and fluid, adapting as I go, but the recent big arc that spanned multiple chapters had been mostly written six or seven years prior... again, allowing for tweaks as needed.

All this is to say that I take respecting other people's creations and efforts seriously, and I take my comics seriously. My own work has been stolen and disrespected, and I feel uncomfortable with the current (highly successful) business model of replicating copyrighted characters for personal gain. I like making in-jokes and cameos when I can, but I strive for doing so with respect and friendliness.

If you believe that I attacked you within my work, then I regret that you feel hurt... but my work is not about you.

Prejudiced Version

Increasingly, reality and facts do not influence opinion. For those who prefer to view me as a spiteful bully, just frame my above discussion in this way:

"I do not care enough about you to compromise my own comics."