I think it’s fair to say that no artist has ever perfectly realized their vision. You might argue such a statement is pessimistic or perhaps a case of sour grapes, but everyone I’ve ever personally known in the creative arts can point out the flaws in their own work and is never truly 100 percent satisfied with the final product, be it prose, poetry, sculpture, dance, or any other medium of expression. I can certainly picture Michaelangelo looking at his statue of David and thinking, “Well crap, I botched that bit. Hopefully no one notices.” Meanwhile a significant chunk of humanity is in awe to this day of what he accomplished.

And there’s a significant chunk of humanity that don’t care (ignorant or not), and I’m sure even a chunk of humanity who consider that sculpture to be an overrated piece of junk. The other side of the equation is the audience, where even if an artist theoretically considered his work to be perfection (like, I suppose, Kanye West might?), the viewer or reader can still be entirely unmoved, or moved in a way the creator didn’t intend. Paul McCartney might have conceived the song “Helter Skelter” because he “liked noise“, but I’m sure he was as horrified as anyone else when Charles Manson was inspired to do some very nasty things while listening to it.

Does that lack of connection or unintended reaction make the art in question a failure? Good question. Does Fifty Shades of Grey selling millions of copies make it a success? What about works that go unrecognized or even reviled at the time they’re first published or put on display, only to later be inducted into the ranks of the all-time classics every schoolchild gets subjected to?

There’s no easy answer to this, which is why I feel that from a creator standpoint it’s a trap to create things that you think will appeal to the masses rather than something you personally are passionate about. On the one hand, it’s easier to handle the idea of flawed work or unmet expectations if you don’t really care about what you’re doing. On the other, it seems like a pretty hollow exercise. That’s probably why a lot of Hollywood or Triple A gaming output leaves me cold, since they’re usually conceived first and foremost as something focus groups or statistics say will work and make money. When you encounter the rare exception where the people involved were excited about what they were doing and believed in it enough to take risks, you can just about feel that joy and effort shining through— and then it becomes a success and everyone rushes to copy it and try to cash in, meanwhile making excuses on why they passed it up and making more excuses when their soulless retreads fail.

In most cases, the more money and overhead and people involved, the less risks will be tolerated. And that’s why the wild world of webcomics continues to be an exciting thing, because with few exceptions, they’re all passion projects of their creators that don’t need a big bankroll for production and distribution. That’s far from saying we present uncompromised visions, mind you. Certainly I don’t consider Zombie Ranch to be a flawless product, and there have been many times where our reach has exceeded our grasp, or at least where my grandiose intentions have exceeded my artist’s time and patience. But we continue to try. To do otherwise wouldn’t be very passionate at all, and if we didn’t care, there’s no excuse for expecting you to.