A few years ago I visited the Pictures for Sad Children webcomic probably more than any other. Its creator John Campbell is uniquely skilled in the art of representing, often hilariously, some of the drudgery of not only our modern world, but just being alive. There were existential ghosts, office drones, languishing art majors, and a number of suicidal characters. It was an absurdist adventure that sometimes gave me some comfort or insight and always left me entertained or amused. The topics could go very dark, but somehow without pulling me under.



<image removed in accordance with DMCA claim by John Campbell>

At some point I stopped viewing webcomics so often (probably cause I was galloping down other rabbit holes,) but in 2012, I came across some Tumblr posts about drama with a John Campbell Kickstarter campaign. She (John came out as transgender last year) had published a book of her first 200 comics rather successfully in 2009, and had started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of a second book, to be called Sad Pictures for Children. For one of the updates on the project, John published a satire piece entitled “I’ve Been Pretending to Have Depression for Profit and I’m Sorry.” The only problem is that it was sort of difficult to tell if it was really a joke or not, and a lot of people got upset. It probably would have been regarded with less confusion if it had been published in The Onion, or the Shouts and Murmurs section of The New Yorker, but using it as an update for the project sent some mixed signals.

<image removed in accordance with DMCA claim by John Campbell>

After much hullabaloo, John followed up with a post entitled “I’ve Been Pretending To Be Pretending to Have Depression for Profit and I’m Sorry.” She said she’d spent years living off of little money and writing melancholy comics on the internet in an effort to connect with other people and not have to work the office jobs that made her suicidal. She expressed acknowledgment that depressed people tend to think of the worst scenario, so it made sense that people she had built connections to over the years would still assume she was being sincere with her satire about faking depression. “It would be funny if a mental illness caused someone to write the previous update in a sincere way,” she wrote in conclusion. “It would be funny if a mental illness caused me to write the previous update in an “insincere” way. It would be funny if the mental illness you have makes you interpret these words in this order in the way that you do.”

The next day she followed up with “It Is Impossible to Pretend to do or Say Anything and my Comics Have Never Been About Depression” where she talks in circles about negatives feelings. She finishes off with a riddle of sorts about being stuck.

Last night I was curious about the current status of PFSC, and discovered that by 2013 the books were finally printed, and the backers had contributed over $50,000. John wanted to devise her payment tier structure to reward those who contributed the least out of a disdain for capitalism, but this sort of structure didn’t result in a sound foundation. By February 2014 about 25% of the books had not gone out, and in response to those asking for their books she made a shocking update to her Kickstarter project. John posted a video of herself burning 127 of the books still waiting to go out along with a long, rambling rant railing against capitalism, the idea of money, and even her backers for asking about the status of their books. She said that the 127 books represented 127 emails and messages she had received asking for their books, and for every additional message she got, she would burn another book.

Although the rant’s main focus was to argue that money itself was a “joke,” she asked for someone to give her money to pay for her rent and food without receiving anything in return. She seemed exasperated by her fans’ expectations that she continue making comics in order to receive sustenance to live. She also lambasted those who contributed at a higher level – $75 – for daring to expect to receive books in return for their money (the $25 level books had been sent out first.)

Some of the ideas expressed in the rant were solid socialist arguments, but there was a breakdown when she asked for money in exchange for nothing. Money, which is representation of value and support, had been exchanged as part of an agreement that the art the backers supported would be produced and delivered to them. Regardless of a person’s opinions about capitalism or socialism, any sort of economic system doesn’t work when trust is broken and contracts are not honored. That being said, it was obvious this was less about economic systems and more about John possibly having some sort of breakdown and lashing out after feeling pushed against a wall, even if it was she was the one who pushed her there.

<image removed in accordance with DMCA claim by John Campbell>


To make matters worse, almost all traces of John’s brilliant webcomic have been swept from the web. There are only a few stray comics, ghosts if you will, lingering around. This, along with the destruction of already printed books, is a huge loss. These comics helped a great many people and had potential to help so many more. They helped some get through the day, and probably even saved a few lives. Many of those people were more than willing to support her and pay her rent (albeit by the capitalist system she decries) by continuing to visit her site and load her ads, and buying hers books, T-Shirts, and other products.

In May Max Temkin, a designer and backer of the project, stepped in to help send out the remaining books. There have been no more internet peeps from John, but hopefully she’ll be able to move on from this debacle, get some help, and continue communicating.


  • rogerogeroger

    I had no idea about any of this. Thanks for writing about it.

  • Nick Stone

    Although you are trying to summarize the post, which was discouraged, I thank you kindly for being understanding. Her actions were not in vain.

    • lynncinnamon

      As for the “discouraged summary,” I’m sorry, but I’m not taking instructions from John Campbell for how to talk about John’s public work and information. I, like many, are interested in John’s story, and that’s why I wrote this. John’s very talented, and I hope John feels better and starts creating again.

  • A guy with a zip drive

    I have a digital copy of his comic, has most if not all of them if you are looking.

    • Alex

      Hey man, please upload it somewhere 🙂

    • kilahmaze

      im looking! 4a29d368 @ opayq . c o m (just a discus email) i loved pfsc 🙁

    • Uthor

      I have a copy of the archive that was eventually sent out along with the Kickstarter rewards, but it feels weird to share the works when the artist specifically asked for that not to happen.

      Hell, it feels weird even reading the works in private, which I haven’t done since I got the book.

      I should burn it, but hate the idea of destroying books, art, and information even more. 😐

      • I get that you don’t want to share it, but destroying it would take some really nice art out of the world. Please don’t do it.

  • Aid Muslims

    I’ve seen what purport to be complete collections of the comics, including everything from the web site and blog, on bittorrent search engines. Where I, of course, only go to find the latest sexy particle physics data sets.

  • Pretty judgmental recap. Sounds like you really hate John.

    • No hate. I don’t agree with some of John’s actions, but I understand that they stem from John going through very difficult things.

      • nathanialwcook

        Wow … I didn’t get “hate” from any of it. Thanks for writing this. I hope there will be updates, soon. I actually bought original comic art from John at one point, and still have it.

  • Thanks for sharing this information! Wish they had the option to donate $1 a month or even $5, but hope it works out for them.

  • Welp, Basic Income Please blocked me on Twitter after I shared this with my followers bc I won’t take this post down. Basic Income Please has also recently asked Wikipedia to take their article down, which they decided not to do.

    • Uthor