Wow, I missed my own birthday.
November 12, 2000 is the official first day that Todd and Penguin appeared on the ole' internets. (everything up until the first comic on the KeenSpot site is in limbo) I'm posting this on the weekend when the comic is not live and the boards are deader than usual, but I wanted to post this tonight while I have time to write about it.
A bit about the origins for those who don't know.
As I state in every single interview I've done, Todd and Penguin was my attempt to fill the void left by Watterson leaving. I wanted to create the feeling that that comic made me feel in other people. It was magical to me and I have done my best to try for that without making my comic a clone of C&H. (although the live Mr. Bear did flirt with it a few times)
At the time I didn't realize I couldn't draw, though, luckily for me. If I knew I was as bad as I was, the comic would have ended with week one. The comic's art is still not the best in the world, but it is a far cry better than it started.
I had absolutely no plan when I started the comic. I liked penguins and my best friend, Todd, had died a few years prior to the comic. Todd was the person that turned me onto Calvin and Hobbes, so it was somewhat fitting that I name the main character after him.
The original Todd and Penguin comic was Todd coming home finding Penguin wasting his day in front of the TV and lecturing him. Penguin's reaction, and very first words were "Oh crap, I'm out of chips" completely ignoring Todd.
Penguin was going to be a smartass bird, but something else happened. He changed, as if on his own, to become the child-like little guy he is today. That change occured with the next comic where Penguin found Mr. Bear on the sidewalk.
Immediately Penguin and Mr. Bear formed a fast friendship, and the two played cards together and hung out. Todd would do the responsible thing, though, and suggest to Penguin that they put out some flyers saying they found a bear. Penguin did not want to lose this friend he just made, but Todd convinced him, wouldn't you want someone to return your bear to you if you lost it?
With that, I saw the vulnerability of Penguin, and immediately I knew he was not a smartass character.
Though Penguin agreed to put the flyer out, that didn't stop him from trying to run away with Mr. Bear. when Todd found the owner, Sally, the neighbor girl. However, Penguin gave in and gave Mr. Bear back, with many tears.
Sally would surprise him by giving him the bear back, saying her mom got her a pony. I left it vague as to the nature of the pony, be it real or another stuffed animal, but the idea was that something so valued to Penguin was easily given up by a growing kid. I sorta' regret the ease in which she gave up Mr. Bear and would write that differently now.
In 2000, the comic was one of the first webcomics to do a megacrossover event. After falling on his head while reaching for a cookie jar, he had a monthlong VERY ambitious (particularly since I couldn't yet draw) journey to other comics on KeenSpace/Spot.
He was "Lost in KeenSpace" my first foray into weird storylines. The comic allowed me to ape the styles of other artists, as I put Penguin into their worlds- including Boxjam, and Yirmumah's own D.J. Coffman, who at the time was doing a space strip called Gravity. There was some criticism (even then of Coffman) that he was ripping off the Jetsons, so I made that an inside joke in the comic where Penguin was 'visiting' the comic, and D.J. was kind enough to lie to me and tell me it was great. Lies like that helped keep me in the dark to my lack of talent, and for that, I thank the artists who were nice enough to not destroy me.
As I said, I didn't start Todd and Penguin with any plans whatsoever. It has been like that from the start. No idea what will happen next. Along the way, I sort of wished I could go back and start over. I realized that I SHOULD have framed the comic as a family strip. So what did I do? I "RESET" the comic. Ended it as it was and started over with a young Todd. Part of the reason, I was at Comics Sherpa, and I wanted the syndicate to see a different side of the comic, a perhaps TAP would become a strip that would actually SELL.
I was selling out.
While I did like the new version, it felt fake to me. It felt like I had just cheated the audience, taken something they'd come to accept as REAL, something they take into their hearts as characters they identify with and said, "Hey, guess what--forget everything you knew, that wasn't real. THIS is the real story."
That was cheap and I didn't feel comfortable with the idea at all. This thing has become very real to me. The characters are with me day and night, for 5 years now, you just don't CHANGE things like that. So I had to figure out what I could do.
I had sorta' kept the door open a bit, on purpose just in case, but not wide enough to really go back...so I brainstormed.
How could I get this comic back to where I want it and not have it come off as me changing my mind again? More importantly, I knew that to change the comic back would be the kiss of death to any chance of it getting picked up by the syndicate. I was told there were people watching it. Not sure if that was just talk, or they really had eyes for the comic, but part of me knew that to go back on the reset would make the comic look unstable. Would make me look like I didn't know what I wanted from the comic, and would end any shot I had to get signed.
I sweated this out very anxiously for a while, not knowing what to do and then in a fit of determined energy said "screw it' I don't care about the syndicate anymore.
The story is the story and I will not be untrue to it.
With that I went into the most controversial story of the comic's life, with the "Into the Void" storyline which allowed me to not only bring the comic back to where I wanted, but more importantly allowed me the chance to wax poetic on the feelings I had not yet resolved over my best friend's death and life unlived. Regret plays a large role in the comic over time. I borrowed some elements from a book I've been working on since 1988 to make the story work.
The comic was not funny for a whole month. (though some might argue it hasn't been funny for 5 years). Part of me actually considered killing Todd off in a fit of life meets art, but I did not.
That storyline brought me more grief than any previous ones, but it also showed me something else. People were reading. People cared about something I had created.
While I did not achieve Watterson-like success, I made people feel.
That has guided me since.
While the comic is never fall down funny, and doesn't follow the traditional story patterns all the time, (I sometimes bring back things days or weeks after introducing them or do occasional drop in's on what characters are doing while not setting up things each and every time) it is all quite real.
The story is everything now. Whether a syndicate picks it up or not, the story will be the story and it will remain very real. Since that decision, my readership has only climbed higher and higher (big thanks again to Eric Burns at Websnark for making people aware) and now the comic is on KeenSpot, which was my first dream host for the comic.
I occupy a strange world between syndicate friendly and reality based which might not be the perfect recipe for success in either the syndicate or online world, but it is what it is, and shall continue to be....
As always, thank you all for reading,
What storylines did you all like? Post 'em here or email me. I'd like to know what you all think so far.
Last edited by toddandpenguin
on Sat Nov 19, 2005 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.