On the Great Mistake that was Sexy Losers

EDIT: There are still people reading this post, so I thought I’d edit it a bit to be clear on some points. Edits appear in bold except for the paragraph headings.

People still ask me to continue Sexy Losers. Some are kind of nice about it, other people are just rude. In response to this, I will lay out why doing Sexy Losers was a huge failure both personally and professionally.

1) The strip can be used against me.

This is ancient history but back in 2001, I had dated a woman who knew about the comic back when it was the Thin H Line. We broke up, but she decided it would be fun to try and get me fired from my job, enlisting people anonymously on the web to harass me and my employer. Included in the information she gave people was my personal phone number, address, and the Thin H Line website. When I discovered this I took down the website and gave it a new name (Sexy Losers) but in the end I realized I needed a lot of personal distance between myself and the website lest it should ever be used against me again. The best way to do this was to not ever tell people in my personal life that I did this strip, and kept it a secret.

I guess I kind of gotten so tired of telling this story that I was too brief. I didn’t get fired, but she did get me investigated. They figured it out for themselves it was from a vengeful ex, but yeah, it was a horrible paranoia inducing experience.

Back home in Canada, a couple of people in my group of friends started spreading rumours about me, pointing to the comic as evidence for me being a terrible person, because a good person would not make a comic like that. When I came back to Canada, very few of my old friends would meet me, and would not tell me why exactly, but the comic did come up.

This was another horrible experience where people would tell me outright they hated me on public forums, telling me “you know what you did.” When I asked what it was that I did that was so terrible, I got “I have promised not to tell” responses, odd since if I did this thing I would know anyways. But instead of fighting it out, I backed off because it was just making me miserable. To this day I still don’t know, and in the end I had to turn my back on the last group of real life friends I had.

I guess in the end you could say that the comic, because of its content, was definitely much more of a personal liability than any kind of accomplishment.

2) It was difficult to advance professionally because of it.

The content of the strip was either a love-it or hate-it affair, and many people had strong feelings against it. Way back the comic was on Keenspace, and became the most popular comic on it (it had 15% of the traffic on it). There was also KeenSpot, which was a place where one could get more exposure, get paid for ads, and generally start to see some income and rise to professionalism. Sexy Losers did not graduate to KeenSpot despite its popularity, it was declined for the content. The content definitely made it difficult to find hosting and support.

This was uglier than it sounds. The emails that discussed why Sexy Losers was not accepted into Keenspot were leaked and I got to read what some of my peers candidly thought of me and my comic. It was not very kind about either the work or the kind of person who would make such a work. After reading that, well, I gave up all hope after that, and I had to leave Keenspace, the last online community I belonged to. So you can kind of see I was growing more and more isolated as time went on.

3) It was very unprofitable.

I don’t do this for the money, but because I want to live in society I have to do things for money, like have a job. Now wouldn’t it be great if I could draw comics and not have to worry about having an unrelated job (or two) to pay the bills? I could never cross this barrier with Sexy Losers. All the ads on the site barely paid for the hosting let alone enough money to think about quitting my job. I couldn’t merchandise or anything, because no one would have anything to do with it because of the content.

At one point, PayPal decided to close my account without a warning, citing the content of my website as the reason. I realized that because of this I was now cut off from a lot of ways to make income from the site, including selling artwork or merchandise. PayPal donations were cut off as well. Certainly there’s an argument that there are a number of alternatives to PayPal, but the problem is no one uses them. PayPal is the Visa/Mastercard/American Express of the internet and if one doesn’t have access to it, one is severely penalized for making transactions on the internet. For a budding artist, not being able to use PayPal will make it very difficult to create any income.

That’s not to say it wasn’t completely unprofitable. A number of people made money by putting ads on the site so I could get hosting. Just not me.

Ergh. Yeah, me doing the comic made some people fairly decent cash, while they insisted at the time that the hosting was barely breaking even. I found out later this was not the case. I was told that the ads from the comic helped one person who hosted me to pay for college. I really have myself to blame for being taken advantage of but it still hurt to know how naive I was.

4) It was depressing.

A big part of why I stopped updating regularly was depression. Not that Sexy Losers was the cause, but it contributed, for many of the reasons stated above. Finding the will to draw another strip for a comic that seemed more and more pointless as time went on became harder and harder.

Not to mention how isolating it had become. At first I was drawing the strip with real life friends, soon, sharing the strips in chat rooms, then just between a few friends on Aim, then finally, no one at all. Some of these were my choices but some were made for me. In 2007, after drawing a few strips that seemed to go by unnoticed, I decided to pack it in, first with the comic, then my life. And as I seen my friends slip away from me repeatedly, I honestly thought no one would even notice. This is how isolation can kill you… By making you believe that you are already gone.

The reason why depression comix is so easy to do now is because I don’t have the content problem to worry about. Regardless of its themes that include self-harm and suicide, it is much easier to progress because of it. I can have PayPal without fear of losing the account, and that’s a big thing. People are more likely to share my work now. And maybe at some point, I’ll be okay with telling people in my real life about it. I won’t have to hide in the dark like I did with Sexy Losers.

So when people say I should get back to Sexy Losers, I cannot see a reason why. There is no personal advantage in doing a comic like Sexy Losers. It has been slowly dawning on me that it was a great personal failure and one that has derailed my dream of becoming a professional comic artist, a mistake I am trying to fix now (but is probably too late).

(As a side note, although I did lose a number of friends during that time I gained a few too and for that I am happy. Making those friends was not a mistake, but I wish there was a better way of meeting your acquaintance.)

A lot of people have told me since this post that they did enjoy the series. But this post is not about that. It’s about what I was going through. And if people enjoyed it, it was a world removed from where I was, friendless and broke. It’s great that people enjoyed the comic, but unfortunate that nothing positive came out of that.

In the end, I had a bad depressive day in 2011 and wondered, “what if I can draw this?” Now here I am drawing again, connected on Twitter, tumblr, and all these social networks and I’m not so isolated anymore. So this story does have a happy ending, I took my illness and made it into a strength. Recently I’ve been redoing some strips I did in 2011 and adding them to the sexy losers series, you can see these on my claycomix tumblr account. I’m up to #272 I think. Things have changed a bit. I’m still isolated, I have very few real life friends but I’m more connected. Who knows, you may see Mike, Shiunji, Mrs. Shibata, and that woman who always seems to get pregnant soon.

53 thoughts on “On the Great Mistake that was Sexy Losers

  1. I happily read it while it lasted and it did help a lot during a depressive phase. Thanks for that.

    But you are the author and SL is your baby – if it isn’t what you want to do anymore, no matter what the cause, it’s your decision to discontinue it. While I and others do not want it to be that way, it’s your decision. If you ever should decide to take it offline, I would love to get an archive or release it as a torrent or something similar.

    Best Luck!

    • It probably won’t be taken offline in the near future. I was considering making a cbr or a pdf of higher quality images and making it available for those who make a donation but the PayPal question came up again. Anything I do with Sexy Losers PayPal cannot be involved, which is really limiting.

          • As mentioned in the article, PayPal works but not with adult content. Bitcoin is hard to translate into actual money here, and western union is pretty complicated.

          • Yes. As I mentioned in the article above, PayPal put a hold on my account because of it. If PayPal doesn’t know they won’t hassle you about it, but it does say this in their terms of service.

          • I’m not sure what you’re saying, but this happened a long time ago, before I was using WordPress. But recently I was locked out of my account *again* for using the word “donation” on my site. I had to go through my site with an agent and change the wording. PayPal is strict, and they have your money.

          • I don’t know why I didn’t think of this… Patreon?

            Allows monthly or one time payments, it allows creators to share their content with an audience that is willing to offer support. As little as 1USD a month, and you can create early access content for your patrons…

            There are japanese creators on there, so I don’t think US is a limiting factor. And R rated isnt either…

            Have you looked into Patreon.com yet?

          • I don’t want to be flippant or anything here, but managing a Patreon is actually a lot of extra work. For depression comix I give previews and better resolutions of strips but I also have a free sketch contest. In order to run a successful Patreon campaign a monthly investment of time is necessary. I’ve been growing my depression comix Patreon for three years now, it took a lot of extra time to do. I don’t have the time to maintain that Patreon and start another from scratch. depression comix makes around $200/strip, it would be demotivating to do a sexy losers strip for $5 when sexy losers strips take a lot more time to do. It’s best for me to stick with the established strip at this point.

          • Not a problem. I didn’t know. I apologize if I seemed careless. I know this is a trigger button for you and do not mean to offend, in the least.

            I know how hard running a patreon can be.

            Would it be totally unreasonable to get SL followers to contribute to the existing patreon structure for depression comics? Fans are fans and if they want to support you can do so via any medium.

            And as someone who has enjoyed both strips would be happy to donate if I can, even if SL isn’t the primary “reward”. If your solvency leads to more SL, since you might be in a better place to provide content, how fans contribute should be moot, no?

          • Ah, no problem. In fact, there are people who do just that unofficially. The money I receive from depression comix does pay for sexy losers hosting, and for the sketch gift sexy losers characters have been requested. Right now, I have been doing sexy losers strips for fun when I have extra time, and using my more sfw stuff to pay the bills.

          • have you taken a look at subscribestar? It was started by a lady speaking out against chinese tyranny who got censored off of patreon.

            Also, have you looked at any alternative social media websites? I know they get a bad rap, but it’s really just people like you who got censored for not being corp- I mean “family” friendly…

            PS: for what it’s worth, you and Unca Ghastly got me through some rough times. I just wanted you to know since I don’t imagine it was obvious back in the days before every website could easily have its own comment section…

            PS: I haven’t checked back in in a while, did you ever finish the Shiunji and the Suicide Girl Saga? that was one of my favorites, along with Mike’s Left hand, which I assume is more of looney tunes thing that an actual narrative…

          • Someone mentioned SubscribeStar to me a while back and they do not take PayPal. I think they do bank transfers, which is something I cannot do. Banks in Japan are particularly weird about international bank transfers and if I get over a certain amount I get a phone call and have to explain the transfer.

            I think it’s worth mentioning that it’s not the platform that is the problem here but the payment processor. Platforms generally start off accepting anything but the payment processor gets antsy and tells the platform what they can or cannot do. This happened with Patreon, this happened with OnlyFans, and it will happen again and again. At some point you get tired of being played whack-a-mole with and understand that no matter what you do, at some point you’re going to get deplatformed, lose a lot of money and try to start from scratch with another system that in a few years will decide that having you on isn’t worth the hassle from the payment processors.

            On the other hand, I can do other comics and get paid for it and not have a hassle as long as the clothes stay on. To me, it’s a no brainer, and I always go for the option that lets me spend more time drawing because that’s what I want to do, not fuck around with payment processors.

            Also, it’s a lot less hassle. Last week, a complete stranger on Reddit said that they wished I got cancer. No reason given. I mean, the primary reason I draw is for the pleasure of it, but SL has a different audience, and … well, there are parts of that audience I am not happy having, and they give me a lot of negativity I don’t really need for a comic that’s really about shits and giggles.

            The Shiunji saga was finished about 10 years ago, it should all be there.

      • “Right now, I have been doing sexy losers strips for fun when I have extra time, and using my more sfw stuff to pay the bills.”

        And that’s what counts no? People can support you because they love your art, irreverent sense of humor, complete honesty (new and old), and because they can relate to you.

        You get to do two things that matter. You promote the understanding of depression from the outside and the inside, which is relevant to your experience. And you get to do something super off kilter for fun on the side that people still appreciate, even if we are in some cases a minority, we are a very opinionated minority that love your SL strips very much.

        I will find you on Patreon and support you too.

        Thank you for being alive, and having this frank conversation with a half-unaware fan who was just trying to help without knowing all the details.

        Keep at it, and I wish you the very very best.

        • Thank you, and a few things:

          1) this post was originally written some time ago, before my Patreon for depression comix took off. It was during a time when I was still getting flack for doing depression comix instead of Sexy Losers. In the beginning there was a lot of resistance and I received a lot of angry mails about it. This post was really to answer why I wouldn’t dump depression comix and go back to doing Sexy Losers.

          2) I still try to keep it separate. There are no Sexy Losers links anywhere on the depression comix site. On the Patreon I do not comment about Sexy Losers that much, and I do not say anywhere that supporting depression comix affects Sexy Losers at all. Although Sexy Losers hosting is supported by depression comix, I do not pay extra for it, I am using the extra space and bandwidth that comes with the server that I pay for and don’t use. So I don’t want to say that supporting depression comix also supports a NSFW comic because it’s probably against Patreon policy (there are separate rules for NSFW comics).

          3) I’m happy for any support I get. Patreon support allows me to reduce my employment hours to focus on the comic.

  2. I know that Sexy Losers has been a liability to you… but I urge you not to consider it a failure. Plenty of people back in the day thought it was great work. Society’s general prudishness and closed-mindedness is not your fault. In fact, it speaks to your work’s importance and merit that it was so polarizing to people. Dude, SL/THL was and probably still is one of the funniest explicit comics I’ve ever read. I’d buy a print collection in a second, if you could find a way to get it out there.

    • It was a personal and professional failure for myself, but I understand that other people enjoyed it. After doing the comic as long as I did, I really hoped that something tangible would have come out of it, but nothing ever did. There might be a future where I can still make something tangible out of it, but for now, I have to accept that it didn’t progress me like I wanted it to.

  3. sorry to necro this, but every few years I get the urge to see if THL/SexyLosers came back. I started reading back at the end of 1999, and it really helped me deal with depression and other issues back then. I just wanted to say thanks. Some of the best laughs ever in my life were from SL.

    I’m sorry to hear that you consider it a failure. SL had a big impact on a lot of people, even if it was unsuccessful for you. If only we could pay you back adequately somehow.

  4. Sexy losers was one the best explicit comic around :-).The majority of people doesnt understand when someone has a different sense of humor or different way of thinking.SL gave me lots and lots of smiles..I hope everything works out for you and maybe in the future when you will be in a better position you continue this comic and make a lot of people happy.Life is hard but you got to keep moving and do you own dance.

    P.s. Mrs shibata ftw.

  5. My wife and I used to read SL religiously. It was one of the few comics at the time that explored (however humorously) a number of different fetishes/kinks and both upheld and subverted a variety of different cultural and sexual stereotypes. I’m sorry that it caused you so much grief, but if nothing else, at least some of us think of it fondly and revisit it from time to time. I’m not going to compare it to Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes given the very different nature of the work, but like them, I wish SL would come back.

    On a side note, I wonder if the current environment in 2016 is better or worse suited for this kind of thing. On the one hand, you have a variety of “adult” artists and writers making an accepted space for themselves on the internet. Lots make a living through Patreon or subscriptions. Entire sites are dedicated to adult comics or comics with adult themes. On the other hand, you have a variety of people more willing to hound and bully artists across social media for real or perceived offences.

    In any case, if you ever post, I’ll be happy to read (as I’m currently reading DepCom). :)

  6. Always been a fan of you work, me and at least one close friend really enjoyed it. I am a little jealous that you got to move to Japan before me (although I did mange to visit, and I’m just kidding about the jealousy, I find your story inspiring), and sorry you had such struggles (to put it mildly).

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and regardless of what you do, hope it becomes even more enjoyable, life for you.

  7. You know Sexy Losers was my dark little secret. My own dark weird corner of the internet, and the only Web Comic I read not just once but many times, referred to friends in day to day conversation because in some cases I found it related to my life.

    It was irreverent, and made fun of things most people felt would not be safe to touch. I respected that about you. At the time I read the series the first few times, I was in my own dark little hell, my own fight with depression, and had no money to show support of any kind. But it brought me some relief and helped me laugh when I felt like killing myself most of the time.

    When I went back to look for the series a few years ago I couldnt find it, and that made me very sad. It was such a strong memory…. I still refer people to the goth love cycle comic, I did so tonight in fact when I went back and was surprised to see the comic site was back!

    I am also an artist, and created my own comic book series. Its dark and I tried to keep myself anonymous from it, unlike you, fearing backlash etc… sad thing is… I’ve made 0 money from it… well 20 bucks or so, total.. after 4 full issues. That doesn’t even cover the website fees I had to pay to get my site up and running. So I get your pain… and after 4 issues… I just.. kind of stopped. I spent months and months killing myself alongside my day job, but only 4 people give a shit about my comic. Because its dark and fucked up and twisted. Like Sexy Losers.

    I do wonder if I was more up front about being the creator, would that change anything? Positively? Or will it make everything else worse and not bring me any money anyway?

    But Sexy loser was part of the inspiration to enable me to make the comic book in the first place. And I enjoyed the process even if it was, apparently, just for me. :)

    Thanks for being alive, and making this comic. It helped me survive some of my darkest years. If nothing else, I am grateful for that.

  8. I’m sorry your comic apparently resulted in you being targeted by unstable people. I found Sexy Losers to be creative, funny, edgy, sometimes sweet and always entertaining. Thank you for making it. For what it’s worth, it brightened my life.

  9. SexyLosers is amazing. It always seemed to represent how I always felt – that comic sense of humor even in dark times. I have always been someone who turns to humor when things go bad. Most people see it as inappropriate. Few people understand it is just how some people show grief or anger etc..

    I will always give thanks for finding it and the acceptance of myself that it gave me.

  10. Wow. I gotta say, I was a fan and regular reader of The Thin H Line back in the early 2000’s when I was still in high school. Also read A Heart Made Of Glass back when you first released it and loved it. Followed you on LiveJournal for awhile back when that was still a thing, but then life happened and I went to college and kind of forgot all about your works until just today when I saw someone post an image from The Thin H Line on Facebook, so nostalgia dictated that I just had to Google search and see if you were still around and what you were doing, when I came across this post. And I gotta say, it really bummed me out. Not because you’ve decided to stop THL/Sexy Losers, but because I never really knew much about your life or your story… and it’s sad. It’s sad that someone should be so ostracized, that their dreams and career aspirations should be sabotaged, solely because they’ve produced sexually themed works. Especially because I feel like there are plenty of people who do, and I guess I’ve never really heard of anyone that does being treated like such a pariah, both professionally and personally. But society likes to do that to the little guys, to the people struggling to succeed and be recognized for their talents, doesn’t it? And sure likes to demonize sex, especially the more ‘fringe’ aspects of it. And it’s really sad to me, especially when people’s lives are affected so negatively simply because of the unfair judgements of narrow-minded puritan types. Just wanted to say that I’m still a fan, and it’s really sad to me to see someone I respect and idolize be treated like an outcast for doing what they love. Good luck with everything, really hope things are working out for the better.

  11. I found sexy losers only recently and really enjoyed all of it. People can suck so fucking hard..sorry you feel so isolated. Damn I wanna see what kentas mom does in the shower drunk an full of puke

  12. ” pointing to the comic as evidence for me being a terrible person, because a good person would not make a comic like that.”
    That is one of the most closed minded bullshit society has to offer. I understand your sentiments, but please do not consider Sexy Losers failure, it is incredibly funny and clever and it has helped me cheer up many times during my life. I wish you well Clay.

    • Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad you enjoyed it, but it’s still a failure for me on a personal and professional level, and I’ve lost much more than I gained from it. There is no other way I can see this.

  13. I thought you might want to know, whenever I tell anyone about my favorite online comics. Sexy Losers is definitely mentioned. I love all the taboo topics and dark humor that lead to comedically awkward situations. I’ve read the entire series a few times and busted a gut laughing each time. In fact, I came across this thread because I felt like reading it again. During my search I thought I’d try to see what else you’ve been up to. Here I find this….shell of a humour artist that had life kick the crap out of him.

    Love your work. Going to see if I can find a pdf or a real book I can purchase. Due to that paypal issue of yours I’ll probably use a credit card or whatever we can hash out that will work.

    Don’t quit me now.

    • Thanks, but as I’ve said before if there are people who enjoyed it that’s great, but it doesn’t change anything on my end. The whole thing was a profoundly negative experience nearly right from the start and despite my initial belief that it could actually be something it fizzled and became a black hole of money and time. People enjoyed it, wow, wonderful, I spent a good deal of time during it depressed and contemplating ending it all.

      Which leads me to your comment about “shell of a humour artist” .. I found that ironic considering that’s pretty much who I was during the entire run. I was an angry, depressed human being, difficult to be around, without optimism or hope. Wondering why the hell my work was being ignored or mocked, and seeing the years vanish with nothing to show for it. THAT person was an empty shell. That’s the person who designed a schedule for his last two months he thought he’d be on earth, so he could get everything done and leave those who found him with as little left as possible to clean up.

      These days I’m working on comics that bring in income and are read weekly by over 20 thousand people. I haven’t missed a weekly update in over 6 years. I have a better job, a family, a house, a car, and a real drive to become better at what I do. I’m honestly content with my life, and a part of me reaching that was to get rid of things in my life that were dragging me down.

      All I can say is if you think I’m an empty shell now, you should have known me when I was doing Sexy Losers. You would have hated me. A lot of people did.

  14. Dude, sucks you had to go through such hardship for your art. FWIW I thought your comics were hilarious and gloriously fucked-up. Rock on fella.

  15. aw, found this looking to see if there was a book for Sexy Losers… maybe launch a Kickstarter (or whoever is the most liberal?) to see if there would be interest in one? and maybe reach out to the Subverse guys to see if you can maybe advertise it on their discord? i’m sure there’s overlap in humor and tastes between the two groups? my Oglaf book needs a naughty friend to sit beside on my bookshelf…

  16. I just want to say I’m sorry you went through all that, but that I wouldn’t consider the comic to be a “personal failure” on your behalf. You didn’t fail at all; the only person, or people in this case, that failed in any sense were all the people around you. Your friends, your peers, etc.

    They failed not only you, by being detestable backstabbers, but also the entire art world and society as a whole for enforcing these prudish concepts of censorship and moral righteousness. The notion that an artist’s work represents their actual values is absurd, and it’s depressing that we push further into a world where people have to withhold the full artistic value and expression of their content.

    I absolutely believe you did the right thing by backing out of it all, as painful as it is to say, because ultimately we have to consider our own needs first and foremost. It’s just sad you even had to make such a call in the first place.

    I really hope you’re doing well and Depression Comix is netting you solid income, because after the disheartening experiences you had, you absolutely deserve it.

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