Kill your clone? Nah, light it on fire.

How an early-2000’s actor helped me define my approach to everything…

Welcome to EFFIGIES, a weekly newsletter offering actionable insights from my journey through reading and writing comics, designed to inspire you towards building a better life. To become our best selves, we must burn away who we are today.

What’s Inside:

  • Actor Ethan Suplee’s transformation and the concept of Killing Your Clone.
  • My first year writing comics and the strategy that kept me focused.
  • The Effigies Framework — how to genuinely improve at anything.

Reflecting on the best version of myself has been a focal point for me, especially in recent years. In my mind, I have a rough sketch of who that person is. Though the target occasionally shifts, one truth remains:

I want to be better. Not just a better comic book writer, but a better person, too.

Who doesn’t, though? And easier said than done, right? That’s what I thought until I read about Ethan Suplee and his clones.


Maybe you’ve never heard of Ethan Suplee, but you’ve probably seen his work from the early 2000s. He’s had roles in the brilliant TV series My Name is Earl, as well as movies like Remember the Titans and The Butterfly Effect. Maybe a picture will help jog your memory:

The image is a screengrab from the movie Remember the Titans showing a younger Ethan Suplee when we was extremely obese.

Today, you probably wouldn’t recognize him, though.

The image shows Ethan Suplee in 2024, when he is much fitter and more muscular than he was in the early-2000's.

Near the height of his acting career in 2002, Suplee weighed 536 pounds. I’m not here to pass judgment on anyone’s body, but Suplee felt he needed to make a change. Today, he’s 250 pounds and 9% body fat. He literally shrunk himself by half. I couldn’t even fathom that level of self-transformation, but I needed to know his secret.

After digging around, I found an Instagram post from Suplee that deeply resonated with me and encapsulated the insight I was seeking:

Every night you will meet. Just you and your clone. And you will fight to the death. The only difference between you and your clone is the work you’ve done in the past 24 hours. What have you done today? KILL YOUR CLONE.

Stop and think about that for a second.

At the end of every day, there are two versions of yourself: who you started the day as and who you became. Only one version gets to live. Did a better version of you survive?

That’s a pretty powerful metaphor, and it helped me remember some things and realize others.

365 X’s.

I’ve wanted to write comics since I was 16 years old. Over the years, I had talked a lot about wanting to be a comic book writer but never did much in the way of actually writing comics. Worse, I was pretty dishonest with myself about that. There was always an excuse or an empty promise to start on Monday or on the 1st of the month.

Even if you’ve never written a single page of comics, maybe you can relate.

Then, in 2016, I got serious about comics. I took classes, studied the greats, and made time to do the actual writing.

What changed?

Honestly, I reached a fish-or-cut-bait moment. I got tired of lying to myself. Either I was going to do the damn comics thing, or I wasn’t, but I wouldn’t lie to myself anymore.

So, I made what I called The 2% Commitment.

At least once a day, I would do something to make myself a better comic book writer for 30 minutes. If I couldn’t set aside half an hour (2% of the day) for what I was allegedly passionate about, I’d never make it my life.

Then, at the end of every day, I asked myself: Did I do the work today — Yes or No? I printed out a calendar and every day the answer was Yes, I drew an X through that day.

I made that commitment on April 4, 2016. Exactly one year to the day, the Kickstarter for my first comic project, GRIEF, launched.

There were 365 X’s on the calendar.

Framework: Effigies

Initially, I had reflected on Suplee’s clone-killing metaphor to find a strategy, a framework for success. But after thinking about my early days writing comics, I realized I already knew the takeaway. I’d even used the strategy, but hadn’t formalized it into any kind of clear and repeatable process.

Something you’ll see me write about again and again is the quality of the questions we ask ourselves. When we ask good questions, we get good answers.

Suplee’s Clone-Killing metaphor asks What have you done today? Back in 2016, I ask myself Did I do the work today?

It’s the same question.

And from that simple, yet powerful, question, a framework emerged. Not just a framework, but my central framework for growth and the one this newsletter gets its name from.

The image outlines the three steps of the Effigies framework: 

1. Work - Each day, do one thing that moves you closer to your goal. 
2. Evaluate - At the end of the day, ask yourself if you honored that commitment. 
3. Acknowledge - If you did, perform a simple reinforcing ritual to acknowledge that effort and growth.

The Effigies framework is three steps:

  1. Do one thing every day that will make you a better X.
  2. At the end of the day, evaluate yourself honestly. Did you do the work?
  3. If you did, perform a simple, reinforcing ritual — acknowledge your growth.

In 2016, I committed to 30 minutes a day studying and writing comics. At the end of each day, I stepped outside of myself, almost like a manager, to assess whether I’d honored that commitment. And when I wrote that X on the calendar each night, it felt like I had burned away the old, lesser me in effigy, and a new, better me crawled out of those ashes.

The image is graphic showing the different between doing work and not doing it. When you do work, you improve. When you do not, you stay the same.

Wanting something is not enough. Self-accountability and celebrating success keep your efforts sustainable.

It isn’t just limited to the comics part of my life, either. It’s a kind of universal operating system for improvement. Whether you’re trying to change the world or just want to get a six-pack before summer hits, it all comes down to a single question: Did you do the work today?

Growth Chronicle.

Effigies has become the central framework not just for how I approach writing comics, but also for living my life. Each day, each week, each month, and each year, I am getting a bit better. This newsletter is a chronicle of that process and a ritual, an effigy, to acknowledge that growth.

Like a flame, my approach to writing this each week will be fluid, as I refine the vision. You can count on this, though: I will be writing about becoming a better comic book writer, about living a better life, and about how each informs the other.

If you love comics but also think that a better version of yourself is possible, this is the newsletter for you. Join me each week as I burn down the old me and become the best comic writer, and person, I can be.

The image is a headshot of comic book writer Frank Gogol. He appears in black and while against an orange background.

I’m Frank Gogol, writer of comics such as Dead End Kids, No Heroine, Unborn, Power Rangers, and more. If this newsletter was interesting / helpful / entertaining…

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