Pictures for Sad Children

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Pictures for Sad Children
Author(s)John Campbell
Current status/scheduleStopped
Launch date2007
End date2014
Genre(s)Absurdist humor, black humor, Comedy

Pictures for Sad Children is a 2007 webcomic, created by an artist who was credited as John Campbell. The webcomic, about a ghost named Paul, featured a spare and minimalist black-and-white artstyle and depressive, nihilistic themes. In 2012, Campbell launched a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to publish a print collection of the webcomic. However, Campbell was not able to ship all of the copies to backers, and emails from fans asking when their book would arrive eventually led Campbell to burn a portion of the remaining books. After Pictures for Sad Children was taken offline in 2014, a fan community rose up to share pages and other content from the webcomic.


Campbell had posted comics online for some time before the 2007 launch of Pictures for Sad Children, including hourly comics and also longer stories, such as "Stevie Might Be a Bear Maybe" (published as a mini-comic by Loose Teeth Press[1]) and "X-Ninja."

Pictures for Sad Children is considered a simple webcomic, featuring only occasional plotlines and few recurring characters. CBS Chicago described Campbell's black-and-white work as "rooted in nihilism, apathy, and frustration," though notes that these feelings are "prodded gently, and with love."[2] The webcomic is centered around a ghost named Paul, who had nothing better to do with its afterlife than to simply return to doing its dayjob.[3] Comics Alliance stated that Pictures for Sad Children is "defined by its spare, minimalist drawing [and] a deep, pervading sense of ineluctable sadness that lingers long after you've finished the comic."[4]

In 2010, Campbell held an art exhibition, featuring depressing installations in the style of the webcomic.[4]

Kickstarter campaign[edit]

In 2012, Campbell held a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised $51,615 USD to create a print version of Pictures for Sad Children, far exceeding the crowdfunding goal of $8,000 USD.[5] However, in August, a few months after the campaign had concluded, the artist published a lengthy post on the Kickstarter page in which they[Note 1] claim that they had been pretending to be depressed in order to gain a profit. According to the post, their biggest regret was that they made it easier for what they described as "borderline people" to trick themselves into thinking that they are depressed as well. In the post, Campbell also stated that they expected that the book would be finished and delivered before the end of 2012.[7]

In February 2014, Campbell published a new blog post in which they confirmed that they were able to ship around 75% of the Kickstarter rewards to their backers, but was unable to ship any more copies because they ran out of money. The post was accompanied with a video that shows Campbell burning over a hundred copies of the book, with an attached threat to burn even more. According to, Campbell spent $30,000 USD producing the 200-page hardcover book and even more to include a plastic-wrapped dead wasp in each copy, leaving little money for actual shipping.[5][8]


The webcomic was taken offline in 2014 and is no longer available. The URL is still active, though now unrelated to the original content. As Pictures for Sad Children was taken offline, Kickstarter backer Jacob Weiss suggested that he would send his copy of the book to anyone who was not able to read it, as he had already finished reading it himself. Within a week, there were over 100 people asking for the book, and Weiss decided to send it to one of them along with $15 so that they could send it to someone else. Along with this process of sending the book to different interested parties came offers from other people who were also interested in sending books around or uploading PDF versions. Some users shared screenshots of Campbell's blog, audio interviews Campbell had done, and so on. Meanwhile, Campbell had expressed a desire for a diminished internet presence and did not want their work to be publicly hosted or reposted, turning Weiss' "Book Club" into a more private gathering. Weiss wanted to take the Google Drive with all the Pictures for Sad Children content down in late 2014, but felt unable to do so at the time.[3]


Pictures for Sad Children was a finalist in the 2008 Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards in the "Outstanding Newcomer" category, losing to Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie.[9]

Starting January 1, 2006, John Campbell began drawing hourly autobiographical comics. Campbell then recruited several other cartoonists to spend February 1st doing the same. The resulting "Hourly Comics Day" grew in popularity, inspiring webcomic artists such as Kate Beaton and John Allison to create 24-hour comics of their own. The Hourly Comics Day continues to be celebrated worldwide on February 1 each year, though it is no longer organized by Campbell.[10]

In 2013, Campbell published DMT, a color comic in PDF format about the psychoactive drug dimethyltryptamine.[11] One year later, fans noticed a website that purported to be the official site of the 2014 film Birdman, but contained an assortment of stories and comics by John Campbell about the film's star Michael Keaton.[12]


  1. ^ John Campbell's gender identity has become unclear.[3][6]


  1. ^ "Stevie Might Be A Bear, Maybe by John Campbell". Loose Teeth Press.
  2. ^ Morgridge, Dan (2012-09-14). "Five Fall Reads For Chicagoans". CBS Chicago.
  3. ^ a b c Fries, Daniel (2015-07-01). "How to Disappear Completely From the Internet". Kill Screen.
  4. ^ a b Hudson, Laura (2010-08-16). "'Pictures for Sad Children' Webcomic Creator Holds Equally Depressing Art Show". Comics Alliance.
  5. ^ a b Johnston, Rich (2014-02-28). "Kickstarter Fail: John Campbell Burns Comics Rather Than Sending Them To Donors". Bleeding Cool.
  6. ^ Campbell, John (2014-02-27). "IT'S OVER". Kickstarter. Archived from the original on 2014-03-02.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) archived by WebCite
  7. ^ Martinez, Fidel (2012-09-20). "Artist's confession of faked depression draws mixed reactions on Kickstarter". The Daily Dot.
  8. ^ Daileda, Colin (2014-03-06). "Comic Artist Raises $50K for Books, Then Just Burns Them". Mashable.
  9. ^ "Here are the 2008 WCCA Winners!". Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  10. ^ Hudson, Laura (2010-02-04). "Webcomic Creators Take Time for Hourly Comics Day". Comics Alliance.
  11. ^ "DMT by John Campbell". Destroy The Cyborg!. Aug 2, 2013. Retrieved Sep 10, 2017.
  12. ^ Sims, Chris (2014-12-23). "The 'Birdman' Website's Michael Keaton Bio Comics Are The Weirdest Things You'll Read Today And Possibly Ever". Comics Alliance.

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