J.L. Westover, creator of the popular webcomic Mr. Lovenstein, has published a collection of the work, titled Mr. Lovenstein Presents: Failure, which is available in comic shops and bookstores now.
As always, the comics in the book are quick hits of adorable characters contrasted against dark humor, playing with modern themes of self-esteem, defeatism, and more. Westover recently took some time out to give us a behind-the-scenes set of anecdotes about three of the comics in the books (which you can find below in their original format, minus the bonus panels that Westover created for each piece in the book).
J.L. WESTOVER on new collection, MR. LOVENSTEIN PRESENTS: FAILURE
Westover on Fridge of Shame: This might be the oldest comic in the book. I drew it about twelve years ago. Let’s be honest…children’s drawings are objectively terrible. So I thought it would be funny to flip “putting it on the fridge” as a harsh critique instead of praise. The true crux of the joke is her dower expression in the third panel. It’s not the reception you’re expecting after earning a spot on the coveted fridge door. The dad going so far out of his way to exhibit her failures is really funny to me. Parents are so quick to applaud their kid’s efforts, so it was fun to turn that on its head.
On Live Audience: This comic was actually a rewrite (see the original below). The original starts with the guy telling his friend that he hired a studio audience to laugh at his wacky antics, but the second he walks through his door they start booing. He starts crying as the booing intensifies. The joke didn’t quite work for me so I thought what if the audience was always there against his will. Every day he comes home and has to endure the booing just for existing. It’s gone on for so long he’s become numb to it. This version felt more realistic, visceral, and humorous to me. That’s just how life feels sometimes when you’re going through a rough patch. It feels like the whole world doesn’t like anything you’re doing, but you push on anyway. At the very least, I gave it a wholesome twist in the secret panel by revealing the audience are ghosts that love his antics after all.
On Sad Koala: This was the main inspiration for the book as a whole. Right off the bat, it starts with a resolute declaration of failure. This is also the first appearance of the sad koala which went on to star in many more depressing comics. This comic is a bitter rebuke of every excuse people dole out in the face of failure. Sometimes you fail so hard you just want to wallow in it for a while. Koala is being totally honest with themselves. Koala knows it was their fault, and knows they aren’t going to try again. No amount of encouragement will change that. We rarely afford ourselves absolute resignation, which I think makes this quite cathartic. I can’t put my finger on why that makes this funny. Maybe it’s the absurdity of completely owning your failure, and perhaps deep down, secretly wishing you could afford yourself the same luxury.
J.L. Westover’s Mr. Lovenstein Presents: Failure is available now from Skybound/Image in comic shops and bookstores.