The CTS and my sanity
Lots of times people ask me if I ever get tired or drawing Penny Arcade. It’s true that Penny Arcade will be turning five years old in a few months. For two guys in their mid twenties, five years is a long time to have been doing anything. Now that I think about it, this is the longest I’ve ever held a job. Honestly I think I probably would get bored with it if I didn’t feel like I could do stuff like today’s CTS comic strip whenever I wanted.
The CTS is a fun character for us. For a long time I wasn’t sure if anyone else really liked him. You see for the most part I only get mail when people don’t like something. The vocal minority so to speak. This makes it extremely hard to gauge the popularity of something like the CTS. That is of course until we started going to conventions. That’s when I started seeing people bringing tubes for us to sign and even going so far as to actually dress up like the CTS. It was nice to find out that he was liked because I really feel like I need him to keep the comic fresh.
I get mail all the time from webcomic creators just starting out asking how I developed my style. Just take a trip back through the archive. I have been drawing constantly for the past five years. You can not help but improve some degree under those kinds of conditions. I certainly did not start out with a very distinctive style. And honestly I don’t know that I’ve necessarily found my style yet. I know that I have improved and that I feel much more confident about my abilities, but I’m only 26. I’m not ready to say “this is my style. This is how I will draw for ever!” I like to experiment and while I feel like I can do that to some degree in the regular comics, it’s the CTS strips that really let me break out of the mold.
Today’s comic is a great example. I’ve never done a black and white comic strip with this sort of inking before. It is obviously a little homage to Stan Sakai, but more than that it was a lesson for me. Like I said I’ve never drawn this way before and so it was a learning experience. Do I think it turned out great? Hmmm, I think it’s alright. I think for my first stab at this style it’s passable. For me though the finished product is not the important thing here. What I learned about shading and line weight and panel composition, that’s the important thing about this comic strip for me. Does that mean I nailed all those things in this comic strip? God no. But it’s the stuff I fucked up in this comic that I can learn the most from. For example, the hand reaching for the tube in the first panel doesn’t read very well. This makes the jump to the second panel jarring and confusing. I do this with every comic strip we make and it’s some of the best advice I can give to other webcomic artists. Look at your comic strip when you’re done with it and learn form it. Learn from every single comic strip you make. If you can do that and you can do it consistently over a period of time like a few years you will notice a marked improvement in your work.
So no, I don’t get bored drawing Penny Arcade. As long as you guys continue to support our fanciful ideas about samurai and tubes and Hong Kong action movies, I can’t see how I could ever get bored with it. God only knows the kind of shit we will throw at you in the next five years.