It's February 7th, 2023, I'm mariano gg, and this is burrowtape #1.
The burrowtapes are a series of recordings where I'll take you behind the scenes of my webcomic: burrowmates! Woo!
I'll talk a little bit about my process for it, and at the end I'll answer some questions.
I stopped updating the original comic in late 2018, so going back to burrowmates after almost 4 years in 2022 I wanted the new Autumn season to be both a continuation, and a fresh start.
I wanted new readers to be able to jump right in, but I also wanted to keep enough continuity for them to go back if they were curious enough.
The new art style is supposed to reflect this, in a way.
I decided to use lines this time --in the old comic I used, like, a lineless art style, and I painted every page.
I simplified the design rules for everything --for backgrounds and characters; and I kept the color palette even more limited than before.
All of this was in order to work faster, but I also really wanted to focus more on character expressions, and just in general borrow more from animation and storyboarding principles.
The first storyline works as a starting point for Metzi and Grace, specifically.
As the title may suggest, the storyline was originally supposed to be two separate episodes: Book Fair and MMMORPG... Grace. MMORPGrace. Okay, I had never said that out loud before.
So, the first story was about Metzi and Xochy going to a book fair at the café where Metzi works, where Metzi meets a famous writer she admires, whom I called Madeleine Fox.
So, this idea came from my experience at comics and animation events, like conventions and conferences and stuff.
Many times, I've been in close proximity to someone I really admire, and that I would like to ask questions to, but in the end sometimes I let my insexurities ruin my chances at a conversation, or even just saying hi. Even that feels like too much.
I wanted there to be a build-up of Metzi's insecurities since the beginning of the story.
First, her cool coworker Kay minimizes the importance of the situation. They're like "oh, it's not a big deal, she comes here every year."
Then she sees Lina, the lizard character, possibly doing better than her at what she wants to do. Like, she actually has writing she's showing people and she's, like, putting herself out there.
So, Metzi starts to feel completely unprepared for this encounter.
Then, Xochy encourages her to talk to Madeleine, but all she can think of is how she deletes everything she ever writes, and how she basically has nothing to show.
And this leads to an anti-climax, which I didn't realize was sort of a bold choice before-- like, until I was deep into production and I couldn't really rethink it.
But I stand by it, because that's life sometimes. This is a slice-of-life story, so it really speaks to Metzi's personality that she ends up not meeting her hero after all.
She doesn't really get anything out of the book fair, except reading Lina's zine, which she finds that she likes.
So this is the starting point for her. Sometimes you start by... failing, I guess.
Will she get over her writer's block? What's even causing it? I guess we'll find out later.
I turned the Grace episode into the B-plot, because I realized there wasn't much that happened in it, and I didn't really feel like making it longer just for the sake of it.
The original premise for the episode was just: Grace plays an online game with her long-distance internet friend.
She gets too absorbed in it, she starts, like, avoiding her real life and just thinking of leveling up in the game. And then, her internet friend helps her value IRL more and appreciate her burrowmates and stuff.
And, while I was rewriting for the new webcomic, when I was reworking everything in 2022, I realized that I didn't really want Grace to have that realization so early and so easily.
Because the reason that she's so absorbed in the game is the emotional aftermath of her breakup, which is what drives her for most of the story I have planned, I guess.
We haven't even seen her breakup, but it's really defining how she behaves in this comic.
In case you haven't read it, the Summer season finale is Grace finally cutting ties with her ex-girlfriend, and I really wanted the Autumn season to be the consequence of that --both positive and negative; and I decided to start with sort of the negative, I guess.
Because, you know, like, when autumn starts --I don't know about you, but-- maybe this is just a me thing, but I tend to get a little depressed around September, and I tend to become a little bit of a hermit; even more than I am normally.
So I guess Grace's story is kind of drawing from that.
Even though she found a new much needed support system in her new burrowmates at the end of the summer, she's still really hurt and she's gonna return to her old habits in order to cope sometimes.
I wanted the online game world to be kind of bland.
I wanted to communicate that it's not healthy for Grace to spend all day there, so I really wanted it to have, like, muted colours.
I mean, it's green because all of Grace's videogame stuff is gonna be green, but it's also a really, like, boring shade of green.
I wanted it to be, like... it almost reminds you of an office or something.
In the end, I think I might've been a little bit too successful in making it look boring, so maybe it doesn't really look like a fun game, but I think it gets the message across, so I decided to leave it be.
For Grace's online friend, I really wanted a positive character that was different from the way Xochy is positive, for example.
She's just playing the game for fun, she doesn't really care about leveling up, and she doesn't really have a filter the way Xochy does.
She's not really thinking about what's going through Grace's head when she's just, like, expressing how much fun she wants to have, and how much fun Grace could be having.
So Grace finally snapped, and logs out, and now she's gonna have to find another way to deal with the pain.
Xochy's kind of in the sideline at this point, but she kind of links the two stories together.
She appears at the beginning asking Grace if she wants to go to the book fair, and then she encourages Metzi to talk to Madeleine, and she's the reason Metzi gets to read the zine.
So, she's kind of in the background, like, trying to keep both her friends afloat, so she's not really focusing on herself, and that's where she's starting now.
But I'll talk more about her on burrowtape #2!
And now, here's some questions from patrons.
If you'd like to support the comic and my other indie projects, you can go to patreon.com/themarianogg, and for two American dollars a month you'll have access to the latest burrowmates pages months before they come out. There's also concept art, bonus pages, works in progress, other fun stuff, and you get most of it for the two dollars, so think about it!
Anyway, Lor asks: How did you choose each burrowmate animal, and how did you choose the colours for each character?
So, Xochy and Metzi are based on two stuffed animals I had as a kid, so it's like I chose their personalities based on their animals more than the other way around.
A cheerful bunny and a deadpan raccoon just made sense to me, I really liked how different they were.
And I created Grace later on when I first made comics about them, when I was like 11.
Her thing used to be that she was really unlucky, like, she was kind of a shy nerd who was really unlucky. So I made her a black cat because it was, like, an obvious joke. And I guess I just wanted to draw a cat.
She became dark green when I was planning the webcomic back in 2016, because I really wanted the main cast to be more colorful, and since her eyes were already green, I just made all of her green. And I like the way she looks.
Metzi used to be grey like a real raccoon, but I made her like a greyish purple, so it would be a colder contrast to Xochy. I think she's the least saturated of the three of them, so it's almost grey but it's purple. Sometimes I make it more saturated just for fun.
And Xochy has always been pink, but for the comic I try to make her a really specific shade of pink because it reminds me of bubblegum.
These next ones are from [REDACTED], who'd like to keep his privacy, so I'll bleep that.
The first one says: I've heard it said that a good burrowmate keeps to themself without being asocial. Would you say Grace is a good burrowmate?
Going by that metric, Grace is an excellent burrowmate; or at least she was during the summer, because she's being pretty asocial at the moment.
The second one says: A platypus? ZÖE the platypus?
Yeah, she's a semi-aquatic egg-laying GAMER of action... and she'll be back... sooner than you think.
The third question says: As somebody currently in Xochy's shoes --in the "you should go talk to her" scene-- it's difficult to walk the line between being understanding when a friend like Metzi hesitates and on the other hand enabling inaction. It's commendable that Xochy can toe this line, but how much of it is her carefully applied empathy, and how much of it is simply Xochy's bubbly personality making her perceive life in more straighforward terms than Metzi?
Well, this is is one of those things that's really open to interpretation, but here's what was on my mind when I was working on it:
The thing that I try to convey in every Xochy and Metzi scene is that they've been friends for a really long time, like, since childhood.
So they know everything about each other, basically, and as beautiful as that can be, they can also really enable each other without thinking about it.
So, answering the question, it's not really that Xochy lives life in a more simple way, it's more that she's gonna root for Metzi no matter what, and Metzi knows this.
So while this is a strong foundation for their friendship, it also means that Metzi can basically act like a coward, like, just not do what she's set out to do; and Xochy's gonna be like "good job! You did your best!"
And sometimes you need that, that's --that can be really good, but you know. I guess they're gonna have to ask themselves if this is what they need.
Finally, Francisco asks: when are you gonna make an episode about the raccoons that were living in the vents of the Acapulco town council?
Such a local reference, so at first I wasn't sure how to reply, but what I will say is that you'll meet Metzi's family pretty soon, like, when we're closer to winter.
So... that's what I'll answer to that.
And now, some more questions from readers!
Sofía asks: what character was the first one you created?
Xochy, but Metzi came soon after.
Rachel asks: how did you choose your colour palette?
I always try to make it really simple and as monochromatic as possible.
Like I said, this is to save time, but I also... I just think it looks cute, and I really want the characters to stand out, so...
For example, in Summer, when they were inside the burrow it was, like, browns and beiges, and when they were outside it was greens.
And now, because it's Autumn, it's mostly like browns and oranges, even when they're outside.
So yeah, I try to make the characters a little bit more saturated so they stand out, and this time I'm making all their outfits the same hue as their fur, just so it's simpler. And I like it, I like a minimalist approach.
Julio asks: did you purposefuly draw the characters to be androgynous?
Not really, but I think it's fun when people perceive them that way, because, you know, what's androgynous in cartoons?
And he also asks: what are your thoughts on gender coding? For example, eyelashes for female characters.
I mean, I could talk about this all day, like I could do a whole episode about this, but basically I think it's pretty arbitrary.
You get more interesting results when you don't follow it that rigidly. Because really, like, as a person who was socialized male and has really long eyelashes, I've never understood the eyelash thing.
Xochy has visible eyelashes, but it's because it matches her personality, not because she's a girl. Think of Spongebob, for example.
But yeah, that's the gist of it.
Thanks for listening. This was an experiment, so let me know what you think. Did you hate it? Did you like it? Should I do it differently? You know, anything is good.
I'm themarianogg everywhere that matters, and my website is marianogg.net
Thank you for reading burrowmates, and I'll see you next week for the next storyline.