Axadaisy Part 2: The Creators of Lackadaisy and Axe Cop Interview Each Other Some More

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This is the second part of a two-part interview between Tracy Butler, creator of Lackadaisy and me, Ethan Nicolle, co-creator of Axe Cop and creator of Bearmageddon. You can read the first part of the conversation here. When we left off, Tracy was about to go into the topic of Patreon. Patreon is a crowdfunding platform for creators who put out content on a regular basis. It’s a great way to support artists you believe in and know that you will buy whatever they put out.  If an artist can get enough fans to pledge monthly, they can live off of income that is coming directly from the people who love their work most. It sounds like something that could only happen in mystical magical fairy dreams, but Tracy has done it. This is her bullet point explanation for how she thinks she pulled it off. (note: the original format of this discussion was in very long, large, wall-of-text emails. We covered multiple topics and responded to multiple topics in each reply, so to make it more readable I pieced together our content by topic here. If it reads weird at times, that could have something to do with it.)

Tracy Butler: I’ve done a lot of thinking about what happened and why since I began supporting myself through Patreon in 2015.  Here are some theories and thoughts about it (that may or may not have some tenuous connection to reality):

Cats – Kind of a popular subject on the internet, as I’m sure you’ve noticed – right up there with zombies and comics about gaming, probably.  I didn’t set out to tap into the cat meme demographic, but I think Lackadaisy may have earned some of its support simply by virtue of featuring cats.

Furries – Similarly, I didn’t create Lackadaisy with furries in mind, but I certainly can see why my comic appeals to this audience.  As questionable as the furry community reputation has been, though, they’re a supportive group who really stand by the work they like and by the independent creators who produce it.  People who identify as furries have often been the first to suggest that I accept money for the artwork that I do…and then, furthermore, to insist that I take additional money from them because, by their standards, I’m under-charging.  People of this ilk have not infrequently shoved extra $5 or $20 bills into my hand for simple pencil sketches I was trying to charge a few bucks for.  This doesn’t seem to ever happen to me among other crowds.  I can go to a comic convention like SDCC or Wondercon and have people come by the table and complain that I’m not giving the t-shirts and pins away for free.  Then, I was invited as a guest to Anthrocon.  It has a fraction of the attendance of any of the major comic cons, but the amount of sales I made there were about ten-fold.

The short version:  I think a lot of my Patreon supporters are furries.


Ethan Nicolle: I can totally relate to stumbling upon something people love. People ask me all the time how to make a successful webcomic, and I always think “you should ask the Lackadaisy girl or the Dr. McNinja guy. It just happened to me. I had no idea how to be successful at it until it happened.” But the more I meet other creators, their experience is somewhat similar. Even if they didn’t have an overnight viral hit, they couldn’t have predicted that what they made would find such an audience.

Tracy Butler:  Yeah, the only really honest answer I have to that recurring ‘how do you make a successful webcomic?’ question amounts to a resounding shrug. Exactly what adds up to success is just as maddeningly inscrutable in the game industry.  We were always working with complicated analytics, gathering people up at shopping malls for play testing, surveying users and sorting through reams of data.  None of it ever got us any closer to being able to predict a success, spot a real pattern among top earners and most downloaded games, or to formulate a game that struck all the right chords.  I guess it would cease to be an art form if it didn’t involve some pursuit of the ineffable, though.

Side Comics/Shareable Stuff – Long-form storytelling can really be a hard sell.  It requires an investment of time and attention from readers and that tends to really limit the audience reach.  The top-earning comics on Patreon (and really, on the internet at large) all seem to be of the topical gag variety where the reader need only invest a minute or so in a one-off comic.  Then, if it makes them laugh, they can pass it around to their social media friends because it doesn’t require a whole backlog of story context to understand.  I’m sure you already know this, of course, but I think I may have stumbled upon a sort of happy medium by mixing one-off comics in among my updates.  They don’t really move the story along – they’re often just some goofy one-note nonsense, but these mini-comics get a lot more traction than my story based updates.  Like gag strips, they don’t really require context, but because they all feature Lackadaisy characters, they help steer passers-by toward the story comics.  I’ve also had a number of people tell me outright that they like looking at the art in the main story line, but they really stick around for the side comics.


Ethan Nicolle: Yeah, I realized how unshareable my Bearmageddon pages are. Axe Cop was much more shareable. That is one reason I started creating bear news satire, which I got a little carried away with and created a website for it. But it has worked pretty well in getting subscribers and new people to check out my comic. But reading your words here have actually made me start thinking about Axe Cop as a comic strip. Like 1 to 6 panels at a time. Something doable. I put it on the backburner because I always think of it as big full-color pages that continue on in long stories, but Axe Cop went viral on one page. I love the character. I guess if I ever do this I will have to put a little credit somewhere thanking you for this idea and send you a cut of the huge profits I will surely reap.


Tracy Butler: I can only imagine Axe Cop would perform marvelously as a strip.  It’d probably go over well at a venue like Webtoons too.  Next, there’s…

Reader/Patron Interaction – I spend time answering questions from readers, usually through Tumblr.  Sometimes I even answer with a short comic or funny drawing.  I do live streams for Patrons too, and we all just casually chat for a few hours while I draw.  I also share little bits of my life with them outside of comic work.  I discovered the value in this last year when I inadvertently ended up hand-rearing a teeny-tiny, orphaned kitten.  She required so much of my attention and so much of my time for the first month or so that I fell behind on the comic work I was promising.  I dreaded having to make my excuses to Patrons – it all seemed very unprofessional – but when I explained and shared some short videos of the kitten with them, the opposite of what I expected happened.  Patrons loved the kitten update posts and many of them upped their patronage to help out with the emergency vet bills I was taking on.

I sort of accidentally humanized myself with my supporters, I guess, and perhaps if it’s easier for the readers to empathize, it’s easier for them to justify offering up some support.  It may also help for them to know that you aren’t living some aloof, glamorous lifestyle, flying in a private jet to red carpet events.  You’re just trying to keep your electricity and internet bills paid, traveling in coach (red-eye flights, even) and trying to get by like everyone else. (You, in particular, I would think, with a success like Axe Cop under your belt, may be in danger of being Assumed Wealthy.  Not many people know that the entertainment industry isn’t really interested in making comic artists rich.)

Ethan Nicolle: I have also noticed that it seems to really pay to be honest and open about your life to your fans. Every once in a while, I will post a blog about some personal story and I always get emails about it. But overall I feel like my fans don’t interact with me as much as they used to. I often wonder if that’s the price I’m paying for not interacting with them as much as I used to be able to during the crazier days of Axe Cop’s success and my move from being a single guy to a married guy with two instant kids and another soon to come. I feel like I am trying to re-earn their trust. On Patreon I get very little interaction. I don’t know if people just don’t get on there or what. I have considered starting a Facebook group for my patrons so that it’s easier to communicate with them since I assume most of them are on Facebook more often then Patreon.

Tracy Butler: How and where audiences will socialize and interact is a mystery. Online social behaviors ebb and flow and mutate and migrate and trend in ways that are hard to make sense of. I wonder when ‘Internet Anthropology’ will become a post-grad course of study. Maybe it already is.

I had a very active forum for a couple of years after I launched my comic, but it fizzled out rather suddenly.  For a time, I thought I had worn out my welcome and Lackadaisy was already in its decline, but my site traffic was still looking okay.  It was pretty confusing, but in retrospect, I think it happened around the time social media sites really started to become The Thing that the internet was all about, and discussion forums started seeming old fashioned.  I kind of refocused my efforts to communicate with readers on a Tumblr blog. It’s much less intimate, but it definitely has its advantages. I tried to get Twitter to work to similar effect, but I just don’t seem to hit the right notes there. I suspect I come across like a boring self-promotion robot because of the character limit, and that doesn’t play well.  It seems like you have to have an arsenal of quippy witticisms to do battle there.

Ethan Nicolle: That’s totally how I feel about Twitter. It seems like it’s just made for a certain kind of person I am not. I try, Lord I try.

Tracy Butler: Likewise, I find it’s a little difficult to get Patreon supporters to interact.  My posts do usually get comments, but it’s always the same small handful of people.  Engaging them in ways that call for input and participation tends to help, though.  I’ve seen creators like Dave and Liz Lillie (Dreamkeepers – they have a smallish following, but they are an insanely ardent bunch) and Der-shing Helmer (The Meek/Mare Internum) doing some things in that regard with seemingly strong results – contests, taking votes for what exclusive material gets shared that month, weekly chats and such.

Ethan Nicolle: By the way, I think you are totally right about people assuming I am wealthy. It’s not true, never has been. In the three years where Axe Cop did really well, I made about the yearly salary of a manager at Starbucks. That’s amazing money in comics because there IS NO MONEY in comics. Networks don’t pay big money for a 15-minute cartoon that airs at 1am. They know they are doing you a favor, and you take what you can get. I have seen people all over the net talking about my brother and I as if we became millionaires. Never happened. We were, and are very blessed by what DID happen, but viral success does not add up to monetary success. I have found this with a lot of “internet celebs” I’ve met since this whole journey started.

Tracy Butler: “No money in comics”, indeed.  Scott Kurtz said that exact thing to me a few months after I began publishing Lackadaisy online.  I mentioned to him that I worked in the game industry and although he had emailed me to say he kinda liked what I was doing, he told me not to quit my day job.  I’ve since seen at least a few fundraising efforts for bonafide comics legends who can’t afford their medical bills – the charity auction for Stan Sakai’s wife comes to mind.  It’s heartbreaking, really, but I have hope that the crowdsourcing scene is going to continue to do a lot to better the situation for independent creators. (back to the list…)

WebtoonThis one is new to me.  I can’t really vouch for it just yet, but it seems promising.  Webtoon (if you don’t already know) is a host/platform for mobile comic reading.  They’ve added a ‘Discover’ section to their catalog for comics that are already established titles (their ‘Featured’ section is for comics exclusively hosted on Webtoon).  They’ve got a pretty enormous worldwide audience, so it’s possible to reach people who haven’t otherwise heard of you, and they’ve just done some integrating with Patreon so that Discover comics can earn patronage bonuses based on viewership numbers.  They reached out to me about this, and so I’ve been busy reformatting all of my Lackadaisy comics from the beginning into a mobile-friendly format. I just launched there this past weekend.  I’ll have to wait and see what it yields.

Ethan Nicolle: I need to check that out. I have been working on getting my site in shape and my next plan is to start promoting my comic on sites like this. Thanks!

Tracy Butler: That about covers the possible reasons for patronage discrepancies I can think of just now.  I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on how-to-Patreon too, if you care to share.

Ethan Nicolle: I’m trying some new things with Patreon, so I can’t really say if they work yet or not. I am basically trying to consider Patreon my “profit” from those fans. So if you are paying me enough monthly, you get everything I make, or have made, free in digital format, and at my cost in print. I also post lots of things nobody sees like process art and my TV pitches and things like that. Currently I am sharing every pitch I have ever made and talking about how the pitch went and what I learned, and attaching the full PDF. This is stuff I don’t post publicly, so its exclusive. Then I try to promote these features to fans who are not Patrons, often but not too often. Right now it seems like I am getting a “trickling in” response. 1 to 3 pledge a day since I started really trying.

One of the TV pitches I shared on Patreon. This one was developed into a 35 page show bible, which only my Patreon subscribers get to see. Hey, it’s got a furry vibe. Now all it needs is cats!

So, to move on from this massive topic we could talk about forever, I’ll ask you this: do you make other stuff, or is Lackadaisy it for you? I am always making a bunch of stuff all at once and I kind of envy people who have their one thing they make and they just do it. Do you think you’ll keep making it until you retire, or do you have other projects you want to tackle some day?

Tracy Butler: Right now, Lackadaisy is the only thing I’m actively working on.  There are other things I’d really like to do someday (horror short stories has long been on my list), but they’re on a shelf for now.  Lackadaisy does have an end though, and with any luck, I’ll get there before retirement age (or, since there’s no retirement fund money in comics, before my hands curl up into grotesque, arthritic claw-hooks). I occasionally squeeze in some freelance work, but my comic and its ‘sub-projects’ are otherwise all consuming. I struggle a lot with feeling overwhelmed by what I’ve already undertaken and simply trying to keep up with reader expectations (or at least with what I think they expect from me).  I’m okay with that, though, because I still really love working on it.

Nevertheless, I have the opposite sort of envy (mixed with a sense of inadequacy, for good measure). I see creators out there updating two webcomics at once, contributing to anthologies and gallery shows, doing commissioned work, hitting five or ten conventions a year, and in some cases, even managing to raise families amidst it all…and it baffles and frustrates me.  I don’t know how anyone finds enough hours in the day.

If you aren’t bound by NDAs, what other projects are you working on these days?

Ethan Nicolle: I’ve been exploring the word of children’s books a bit. Axe Cop had an effect on the kind of stuff I want to make. Most people don’t know I started Bearmageddon before Axe Cop. Since Axe Cop I have experienced making things kids and parents can enjoy together and I’m hooked. Adding to this, reading bedtime stories to my kids has become one of my favorite things to do. We’ve gone through all sorts of classics. The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Grimm’s, The Hobbit, Narnia, Roald Dahl… the experience of enjoying a good book together is something much more profound and lasting than reading a comic alone. It made me really want to make books that have that effect on people.

So for the last year I have been working on my first chapter book. It’s a very Roald Dahl inspired book about a scared boy who gets turned into a possum by this awful creature called a Glortch, a witch/ogre/goblin. It’s a scary and funny story, and it’s currently my favorite thing I’ve ever made. I’ve done over 200 illustrations for it ranging from little silhouettes to big full page drawings. My Patreon members have been able to see some art (update, I recently released the entire book to them for free). The text and art are all done, I just finished both and will begin piecing it all together this weekend. I have no idea what will come of it. Nonetheless I’m very excited about it. I read every chapter to my kids, and any time a chapter didn’t go over well I rewrote it. I did 10 drafts, all pretty big rewrites. It was intense. But I really like the medium. I want to do more books like this. I love the more intimate storytelling of a novel as opposed to comics, which tend to be more like storyboards. In a book I can draw all the images I am really excited to draw and leave all the other stuff to the imagination.

My job for the last three years has been very steady, writing on the VeggieTales series for Dreamworks. But I’m coming to the end of that job soon and will be looking for work. This is one reason I have been trying so hard to crack Patreon. I long to make the stuff I love. I’ll go write for another reboot TV show if I must, but I like to hold onto hope that somehow, some way I can make enough money on my own stuff that I don’t have to.

I just finished a small book called Dickinson Killdeer’s Guide to Bears of the Apocalypse, a bestiary featuring about 40 different mutant bears and detailed descriptions of their eating, sleeping and murdering habits. I have another kid’s book outlined as soon as I get my possum book totally done. I also recently did illustrations for Nick Offerman’s new book entitled Good Clean Fun.


Well, this has been really fun. I didn’t expect our responses to be huge essays! Thanks so much for all of your time and advice. Is there anything else you would like me to mention or would like to say?

Tracy Butler: As a fan of all things Roald Dahl (and, really, any material that can manage to appeal to both adults and children in equal parts spooky and charming), your possum book sounds fabulous.  Congratulations on completing the content for that.  I’ll be certain to grab a copy, wherever you decide to release it…and maybe one for my niece and nephew too.

I do hope that Patreon can keep you financially afloat going ahead so that you’re free to do your thing.  I like the idea of a world in which creators can be independently in such direct contact with their fans and supporters that middlemen distributors, publishers, retail chains, agents and everyone else who’s long been partaking of the artist’s pie can henceforth be optional invites to the table.
Anyway, I’ve been pretty long winded with this, so I’ll end here.  Thanks again for reaching out.  This was fun!

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Making Axe Cop Chapter 1: Offerman, the Oinkster and eHarmony

Today I begin my tale. I’m starting right in the middle and going from there. I have no idea if I possess the skills for such non-chronological writing, but this is free and I can always edit it later. I give you…

Chapter 1:

Offerman, the Oinkster and eHarmony

I find parking near the Oinkster, a pastrami and burger place in Eagle Rock. I am meeting someone here and it hasn’t really yet sunk in that this is actually happening. Not just that I am about to have lunch with a celebrity, but all of it.

The week before, I had gone on my first date with a woman who I knew in my gut I would marry. My 30 years of loneliness were over, I just needed to convince her. Tonight was going to be the second date, and I was like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. I could not wait to get out to Claremont and see her again.

That was enough to make that day an interesting one, but that was later. Where we’re at right now in the story is earlier that day. I’m standing in front of the Oinkster. I’m meeting someone fairly famous here, especially to this crowd. I suggested it as a meeting place because my friends and I frequented it and my buddy, who knows everything about every movie and TV show, knew that this particular actor was a fan of the Oinkster, which is why I suggested it.

It took me a second to realize they were walking right toward me. One face I had only seen on Facebook, the other on TV. One guy is tall and skinny, glasses and goatee. That’s Martin. He’s a writer, softspoken has a kindhearted smile. The guy next to him is shorter, has broad shoulders, is wearing the kind of flannel a lumberjack would wear (a legit lumberjack, not a Silverlake lumber-sexual), on his face, big dark aviators rest on a button nose and his head is covered in a knitted beanie. A strange outfit for a typically hot day in Eagle Rock. This, I assumed, was his “out in public” disguise. But the glasses could not hide the thick, intense eyebrows, one raised slightly higher than the other, nor would they even come close to covering the dense mustache that flowed like amber waves of grain from one cheek to the other, creating something so recognizable it was like a celebrity with a second celebrity attached to his upper lip. He put his hand out to shake.

“Nick Offerman,” he said.


Three years earlier I’m on my first eHarmony date at Universal Citywalk. I meet her under the giant guitar and we go get sushi. Then we walk around. When we get to the magnet store full of magnets covered with crass and tacky jokes on them, my date reads them aloud to me one by one. The more terrible they are, the hard she laughs at them, and the harder I try to fake a chuckle. So begins my journey to find love in Southern California.

I had moved here in a late 90’s model two door Toyota Tercel, which I had packed every last inch of space with whatever belongings I could fit, then sent everything else I owned off to the dump or Goodwill. I spent all day packing, then I left Oregon City, Oregon, where I lived in a small attic, to pursue my Hollywood dreams. My younger brother Isaiah (six years younger to be exact) helped me pack. He was renting a room in the same house, which was owned by two brothers. We cleverly called it the house of brothers.

I liked driving at night. I was a night owl, which can sometimes mean a lonely person who doesn’t like to face people and account for their rapidly growing obesity and lack of any sort of career. In this case it did mean that. I hugged my brother goodbye and got in the car to drive off. Of course I forgot something a few minutes later and had to run back in. I don’t remember what the thing was, but I’ll never forget walking back in and finding Isaiah crying harder than I had ever seen. He had impressively held those tears back when we hugged goodbye. I gave him another hug and said goodbye again, this time it was a bit harder, but I didn’t cry.

I was in a sort of shock. I hadn’t let it sink in that I was moving a lot farther away than anyone in my family ever had, and that I really had no idea what I was going to do with myself. I hadn’t considered the possibility that I would really be missed by anyone. I was headed for the unknown. My only plan was to make it to the small bedroom I rented near San Fernando that I found on Craigslist, owned by some people I had never met but seemed nice enough. Beyond that I had no idea what I would do.

I put my iPod (yes, pod) on shuffle and Randy Travis’s Three Wooden Crosses came on. (Yes, Randy Travis) Sometimes a sappy country song with the cheesiest of analogies is just what the soul needs. I had never really listened to the lyrics of that song, but that night I did, and they were stupid yet wonderful as expected. Then around verse three there comes a plot twist in the story of the song about a prostitute who finds Jesus, which has nothing to do at all with my situation even a little (at least I hope not), but, regardless, I cry my eyes out all the way to Corvallis. The hamfisted lyric makes it all hits me at once. I’m heading to Los Angeles, leaving that little attic and the house of brothers behind. Realizing how much I am going to miss my brother, and mad at myself that I had been so blind to how he looked up to me, that it would affect him so much when I left, that the pitch that got optioned happened to be something we made together, but a move to California wasn’t in the cards for him, and that making something together had meant so much to him. I didn’t see that coming. All I ever assumed was that everyone was fine without me, and if I rotted in my little attic that would be just fine.

I made a few stops over the next couple days to see family and friends in Eugene, Coos Bay, Lakeside and Langlois as I headed down the coast. I remember the morning I left Langlois to make my final drive to California, the song that came on my iPod was Bonnie Tyler’s “Faster Than the Speed of Night” (yes, Bonnie Tyler). Again, it had nothing to do with what was actually happening in my life, but it just felt right.

I headed down highway 101, all along the majestic sea cliffs until the trees got massive and red. It felt perfect. The weather was amazing and the scenery was so glorious it helped me believe the world was made by a God who thought things through and wasn’t just doing a Jackson Pollock with scrambled space feces. But did he have a plan for me?

I arrived at 2:00am. The drive had taken longer than expected, either that or I just hadn’t done the math. I met my new landlords/roommates when my arrival prompted their two little squeaky dogs, Chuck and Gypsy to yap at me with throat splitting ferocity in the wee hours of the night. Here I stood before this short little jewish couple, a six foot tall stranger with a big red goatee, weighing in somewhere in the range of 340 pounds. Those were the days I avoided the scale so I didn’t have to find out how bad it had gotten. I was the heaviest I’ve ever been, probably outweighing Chuck, Gypsy and my new landlords combined. Despite my threatening appearance, they let me into their home.

The bedroom was probably about 10×10. It had a day bed, which was perfect for me because that was when I usually slept, though my feet had to hang off of the back end, poked through the bars surrounding the bed due to its small size.  I came in and crashed on the little bed and when I woke up I realized that I lived in California now. In a little town called Kagel Canyon. Maybe the town’s awkwardly feminine name was a sign. Maybe I would find the woman of my dreams. I started unpacking the Tercel. I was moving in.


We find a table in the back patio area of the crowded Oinkster. It’s one of those tables that purports to be two tables, but are so close to each other we might as well be sitting with the table next to us. Nick slides into his seat and I see the guys next to us nearly choke on their pastrami when he takes off his sunglasses.

This meeting is happening for the simple reason that everyone has been telling Nick he should be Axe Cop, and everyone has been telling me Nick Offerman is Axe Cop. Neither of us knew the other’s work very well before that. But Nick had fallen in love with Axe Cop when his writing partner, Martin, had introduced him to it. He spent the entire lunch speaking of two things: Axe Cop and his wood shop. It was clear the man loved his woodshop and for him there was a connection. As Axe Cop has been known to carry a reader to a place where you feel like a kid again, where the rules and cynicism of the universe need not apply and all you care about is being awesome, that is what the wood shop is to Nick Offerman. It brings out his kid-like glee. It is everything  Hollywood is not. It’s real, and the joy in it is real.

Somewhere in the proceedings, Nick Offerman spills a container of mustard on his pant leg. I don’t remember how it happens, only that I have the stupid and obvious realization that even famous dudes with perfect mustaches sometimes spill mustard all over their pants. Something we should all know without needing to actually witness it firsthand.*

And yet, at the forefront of my mind was my date tonight. I was texting her, she was texting me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my lunch with Offerman. It was a huge deal. But I’d experienced forms of recognition and success related to Axe Cop for the past year or so at that point. I’d had little to no success in the realm of dating and looking for love. Finding it was making me realize that success in the realm of romance was something I longed for, and had deadened my belief in so much that it had outweighed any kind of desire for success in comics or TV shows.


I had moved to Southern California because I had pitched a TV show created by Isaiah and me called Snub Nose and Pug, and it had gotten unexpectedly optioned by Cartoon Network. (I will be posting the entire pitch on my Patreon page for $2+ patrons this week) Though I was warned that an option can mean very little, I took it as a sign that I needed to make the jump. I had known for years that I would need to move down to southern California if I ever wanted to do the kind of stuff I like to do for a living. This opened a door. I had management now, I had a TV show optioned and an open door at most of the networks to pitch ideas.  


Upon moving to California, I began pitching more TV show ideas and going on eHarmony dates. For a time, I was using both eHarmony and Match, but I found I had better luck with eHarmony because I knew that I was not looking for a hook up, I was determined to find a wife, and eHarmony is the place for people who are looking for marriage. Between hollywood pitch meetings and online dating, both exploits felt extremely similar. All the imagined romance of either was lost in the process. When you imagine your first date with someone, or yourself going into a pitch room at Cartoon Network and pitching your TV show, the image you have of what it will be like is so much more fantastic than it ever actually is. Instead of feeling like I had reached some high point of success or achieved something or had made it to some place, some new level in a video game I had always longed to arrive at, it felt like I had come to the bottom floor of a very crowded building with one small elevator and very little chance of moving up. A place you might be stuck in forever and if that was the case, it was crowded and lonely at the same time.

I went on date after date and pitch after pitch. Lunch with execs and lunch with eHarmony matches. I wore the same outfits to both, prepared for both in the same way, and felt the same way at both. I felt like I was one in a sea of a million options. I could see in the eyes of the person across from me that they did not see in me anything amazing or unique, but that I was one in a line of many, many choices who stacked up well in some areas and pretty bad in others, averaging out what I had to provide to a level of mediocrity not apt to inspire any real excitement in potential mates or showrunners. My first dates felt like job interviews and I began to wonder if it was even possible to find love this way. Could romance even find its way into such a robotic process?

It was in my second year in California that I quit eHarmony, pitching and shelved the graphic novel I had been working on about a crime fighting rock band. I had spent a whole year on it and I hated it. But a new idea had struck me for a comic called Bearmageddon, so I started writing that.

About a year later I was in the thick of Axe Cop going viral. (There’s a big gap there which I will fill in later.) I decided to try eHarmony again. It was like round two. I had been hurled into a world where I was doing pitch meetings multiple times a week. Suddenly everyone wanted a meeting with the Axe Cop guy. They wanted to meet me, though they didn’t really want anything to do with Axe Cop. They just wanted to see if I could apply the same viral magic to whatever they were making. No. Of course not. Still the pitches and the dates felt the same. I was still just another guy who, to the execs in Hollywood was the hot thing this week and to the girls from eHarmony just another match to sift through.


Offerman did his best to wipe the yellow gunk off his leg with a stack of napkins, and continued to speak about woodworking and Axe Cop. The fumble didn’t make him miss a beat. His enthusiasm was unstoppable. He was in the midst of his own recent success with Parks and Rec and he told me he had learned how important it is to just be you. He said that throughout his non-successful years in Hollywood, they had said he was too intense looking, they didn’t like how he came off. But it was these same attributes that eventually became what people loved about him and landed him the role as Ron Swanson. I think he liked Axe Cop because it was me and my brother just being us, not trying to get noticed, not a TV show pitch, it was as real as crisp, curly, hand-planed wood shavings.

We did not know at that point what would become of that meeting, only that we were interested in working together on something involving Axe Cop. Martin was going to work up some kind of pitch and we would go from there. I felt like I had found someone who actually wanted to make Axe Cop because they loved it and not to cash in on its online success. We shook hands and said our goodbyes, and I got into my car. I was now driving a green 2005 Toyota Camry. Four door. I’d just experienced proof that a Hollywood meeting can be full of genuine excitement about something real and doesn’t always have to feel like an eHarmony date.

My date that night went even better than expected. Neither of us wanted it to end. We walked all over Claremont, ate Mexican food and had a good time poking fun at a pretentious art gallery. The guy running the gallery recognized me as the creator of Axe Cop and Bearmageddon, which made me look pretty famous. This has only happened to me a handful of times in my life. I was crazy in love and had found the woman I would marry. I went home that night shocked to find that not all eHarmony dates have to feel like hollywood meetings.

Next time: The Day We Played Axe Cop

*I had said this was beer in an earlier version of this post, but Martin read this and reminded me that it was mustard. Now I wonder what other details have been altered in my memory.


Ethan Nicolle is the co-creator of Axe Cop, writer/artist of Bearmageddon, animation writer and maker of children’s books.

5 Years Later!

It was five years ago today that I was watching the State of the Union address with Doug TenNapel and my little cell phone started to go crazy with emails and twitter notifications because I had just posted a couple days earlier and somehow it had gone viral.  It was pretty wild.

I was living in a small bedroom which I was renting in Los Angeles, single and recently laid off from two jobs.  It’s been a crazy five years.  I am sorry that it has led to a place where I can’t draw Axe Cop every day like I used to.  But we have six volumes published, and the second season of the TV show is now in production!  I just got word from FOX/ADHD that Season 2 will be premiering on FXX on April 16th, 2015.  Mark your calendars because these are the best episodes yet.

Besides getting a TV show and a sweet job at Dreamworks working with some of my best friends on the new VeggieTales series, as many of you know if you have been following, I got married.  And now it has come to this:  Little Eliza Jean Nicolle, born November 22nd.  Who knows, maybe we’ll make comics together some day.


For now, between workin’ hard and raising our newborn along with our older kids, life is quite full.  I’m trying to chip away at Bearmageddon as well, and had no plans to do any Axe Cop stuff, but when I realized we had hit the 5 year anniversarry, I had to do something.  I’d been chatting with other writers about old notes I had from Malachai sessions and there was this unfinished story about the Moon Warriors and Telescope Gun Cop I had always wanted to flesh out more.  Since that may not happen, I decided to give it to you in this format.  Ask Axe Cop #101.

Thanks so much for the years of support and for being such a kind and generous reading audience.  It’s been a crazy five years. Malachai is now 10.  He will be 11 in March.  Oh, how time flies.