The Making Of StickManStickMan

Why stickmen?

I am by no means limited to stickmen; when the mood takes me, I can draw just fine. But there are a bunch of reasons why I decided not to for this comic.

Firstly it's because it's quicker. (It's not as quick as you might think, however. On average, it'll take me about five minutes staring at the piece of paper before I can work out what comic I'm going to draw next. Then it takes a minute or two to draw it in biro. Then there's printing time, then I spend anything up to ten minutes carefully drawing and lettering the neat comics into the squares. Then I have to scan, tidy up, crop, save and upload. Altogether it takes me about two hours to think up, draw and upload a page of eight comics.) If I was doing anything other than stickmen, drawing would take donkeys' years longer. When I'm doing serious drawing, sometimes I can spend two hours just drawing a single person to my own satisfaction in pencil. If had to draw, say, six people in one comic AND ink and colour them too, plus backgrounds, I'd have given up by now because finding the time to do that every day is just impossible. Those people who somehow always manage to meet their deadlines impress me.

Another advantage of the short drawing time is that I have a vast buffer of comics, making the comic almost immune to the effects of me being lazy, sick, busy or on holiday. Even if I died today, you'd still be getting new daily comics until August 2004. Cool, eh?

Secondly, the quality of humour and story and characterisation is far from high. I'd find it very difficult to spend so long every day drawing a complex comic just for a dumb exploding computer gag. It's kind of a waste. Mac Hall disappoints me in that way. The artwork is jaw-dropping, yet the comics really aren't doing it justice. I couldn't do that kind of thing unless I was very confident about the quality of my work, which I'm not.

Thirdly, I wanted to show everybody that a comic doesn't have to be drawn incredibly well to be entertaining. A gag comic doesn't need vast backgrounds to make you giggle. What I think a lot of people forget is that all you really need is the gag. The art is just a mechanism for getting the gag to the reader, and my stickmen are merely the most streamlined possible form for doing that.

Fourthly I wanted to show that not all stickman comics suck. There are a bunch of other comics out there that are based on stickmen. Most of these are appallingly bad. They have bad humour, bad settings (I won't say "plot") and, believe it or not, bad ART. Stickmen drawn using MS Paint look appalling and actually take longer to do. I know, I've tried. Having stickmen is no excuse for poor quality in other areas. It actually means you have to try HARDER in those areas to make up for it. And that includes site layout. I see so many comics with lousy HTML it makes me weep.

Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to show the world that a stickman is by no means as limited as many people think. You can do anything with them. Make them show any emotion. Make them do martial arts, ice-skate, tap-dance, wield big guns. They don't have to stand there, arms limp, in the same copy-and-paste position every day.


How the comic is created

Firstly I spend a good long while staring at an open, blank Notepad document, trying to come up with teh funnay. Here, I figure out vague plot lines and roughly what everybody is going to be saying and doing in each of the three panels. Previously I used to draw rough comics but this took longer.

Usually I come up with a whole bunch of comics before I move on to the next phase, which is printing out some sheets of squares on blank paper. Then I get a narrow drawing pen and hand-draw (and hand-letter) the comics one by one, signing with my SH "rattlesnake" mini-signature, and putting the comic number alongside it.

Comics are usually created in batches of at least two dozen.

Once this is done I've got a bundle of comics which typically have errors in them - some of which I spot and flag, some of which I don't. At this point I move over to my scanner and scan them in, a page of eight comics at a time, at high resolution.

I edit out the errors I spot as carefully as I can, in MS Paint or Paint Shop Pro. Then the pages of eight are divided into individual comics, given a date, and uploaded.

Click here to see a rough page of comics with annotations.