Todd and Penguin Turns Five!! A reflection on the first 5

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Todd and Penguin Turns Five!! A reflection on the first 5

Postby toddandpenguin on Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:26 pm

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.

A lot.

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.
Ever again.

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,
Dave


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.
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Postby Abe. on Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:44 pm

This was a fantastic read, Dave.

Let's not forget, who nudged you at the idea on how to get back to the original story :-P
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Postby toddandpenguin on Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:32 pm

Abe. wrote:This was a fantastic read, Dave.

Let's not forget, who nudged you at the idea on how to get back to the original story :-P

Abe has been very supportive of the site over the years and is one of the OGTAP.
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Postby Cheirdal on Sat Nov 19, 2005 12:06 am

Congrats on 5 years :). That was an interesting read.
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Postby Shadowydreamer on Sat Nov 19, 2005 1:12 pm

OGTAP? Original Groupies of Todd and Penguin? ;)

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Postby Philippe Gaboury on Sat Nov 19, 2005 10:31 pm

More than interesting, I find it inspiring as a newcomer on the field. Thanks Dave for setting an example that I (and hopefully many others) can follow and just do my own thing.

TaP really is about truthful feelings. That's probably why I was never compelled to go leaf through the archives. I didn't feel I needed to read 300 comics to get to know Penguin and Todd and the rest of the gang. Having read the above though, I now feel I have to go see what it was you went through.

And I will.
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Postby toddandpenguin on Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:15 am

Philippe Gaboury wrote:More than interesting, I find it inspiring as a newcomer on the field. Thanks Dave for setting an example that I (and hopefully many others) can follow and just do my own thing.

TaP really is about truthful feelings. That's probably why I was never compelled to go leaf through the archives. I didn't feel I needed to read 300 comics to get to know Penguin and Todd and the rest of the gang. Having read the above though, I now feel I have to go see what it was you went through.

And I will.

Well, dont take MY advice. I would follow the advice of someone who is making a fortune at this... this is just what is working for me. I'm glad I prompted you to go through the archives.

I don't usually read through archives and wonder if having so many of them is a deterent to people reading the strip--I even considered taking a chunk of them down, but so many people seem to enjoy reading them, I can't.

I have to say Todd and Penguin is best enjoyed reading a bunch at a time. If I read any of my comics as one single comic, I can do nothing but tear it apart and suggest how it should have been done differently, but when I read them as a whole, and just enjoy the experience and ideas, I really like it!
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Postby Rayndel on Mon Nov 21, 2005 8:26 am

Hey...I had to make an account so I could reply...

I just wanted you to know that I started reading your comic (actually, both of them) last night. I read the archive and I really enjoyed it. This does explain the awkwardness with when Todd suddenly turned up as a kid, but I was happy when he was older again. You're right, it just feels better.

I just wanted to tell you that you're doing a great job and I really like the innocence in Penguin. And you did get your smartass character. And he even meows.

~Rayndel (Rain-dell)
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Postby caffeinejunkie on Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:49 pm

Five years, eh? Congratulations are due, I believe.

My favourite storyline is the one which is the most contentious. I was probably one of the more, um, vocal supporters of Into The Void. While I tend to enjoy darker storylines in general, it was the particular style in which that story was told that made me sit up and notice - and to make me think. The concept of a near-death experience is a very difficult topic to work with, and I felt that it was done stunningly well - for a long time I wasn't certain whether you had planned it that way from the beginning, as it didn't feel as though it was the product of a brainstorming session.

Regarding the comic in general... I haven't been reading from the very beginning. I first came across it in the middle of 2003 (probably July/August but I can't be certain) on the Comics Sherpa service (see, it was good for something - extra readers) and already it was enough to hook me. It was the first webcomic I came across, and so it's pretty much thanks to Dave that I read any at all (and I do read a few nowadays, though the number has fluctuated somewhat recently). Although it was definitely good enough to hook me from the point where I started reading, I would say that since the reversion to the "older Todd" timeline - after the storyline referenced above - the quality of the comics has been even stronger, particularly with regard to the ongoing storyline. I also like the occasional surreal aside - Penguin's Fantastic Journey was exceptional, both in the quality of the artwork and in the content of the story told (or maybe I just love the idea of a graveyard for abandoned ideas... could be that).

In any case, congratulations, Dave. Here's to the next five years!

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Postby guidemd on Mon Nov 21, 2005 4:55 pm

Congrats on 5 years - I think I've been reading for at least 2, maybe 3. Can't even remember how I found you initially (maybe I googled "penguin"?) I eventually got my husband hooked as well, and he even commissioned Dave to design a logo for his volleyball team "Penguin Pounders" (penguins who pound, not penguins being pounded - don't want any confusion over that :wink: ).

So thanks for all the good memories and laughs and things to think about, Dave. I say keep the archives - what's life if on a bad day I can't look up Penguin dancing (http://toddandpenguin.com/d/20040714.html), or Penguin singing about his balloon (http://toddandpenguin.com/d/20030506.html), or Penguin's ill-fated lemonade stand (http://toddandpenguin.com/d/20020607.html), to cheer up?

(I appreciate the more serious ones too...)
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Postby yirmumah on Mon Nov 21, 2005 7:12 pm

Hey duder! I would have never lied to you pal!

Man, I totally forgot about all those people saying I was ripping off the Jetsons or some such.... I guess I should send those people off to Kris's new "space" strip--- hahahaha....

Anywho, Dave, CONGRATS on such a long running title. I wish I could say the same thing for one of my own creations....
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Congrats!

Postby skinnypanda on Tue Nov 22, 2005 3:47 am

Hey, Dave, that was a very inspiring post.

Congratulations on the big T&P anniversary. The strip really had come a long way and looks great.

Here's to the next five years,
Phil

(p.s. Thanks for the news post on Comixpedia!)
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Postby amrlion on Tue Nov 22, 2005 5:49 am

congrats on the milestone, and in particular for ultimately deciding to make the comic what YOU wanted it to be, rather than what you thought would make it easier to sell.
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Postby caffeinejunkie on Tue Nov 22, 2005 3:51 pm

I don't usually read through archives and wonder if having so many of them is a deterent to people reading the strip--I even considered taking a chunk of them down, but so many people seem to enjoy reading them, I can't


Missed this when I posted initially.

I have read through every comic in the archives of each comic I read (I even caught Melonpool about a week before Troop took the archives offline). I read the archives before I add a comic to my trawls.

In the archives of T&P, regardless of what you think of the art, there can be no doubt that they are very well written.

Then again, the T&P archives didn't just hook me to one comic, they are the reason I read any of them at all, so of course I would defend them. Also, don't you get paid for advertising for people browsing through the archives? It might be better to find the ideal spot if you're worried about the size of them and link directly to that as a good place to start if people don't want to read the full archives - I think a few webcomic authors did that (Howard Tayler and Maritza Campos, off the top of my head, but I have seen others)
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Postby toddandpenguin on Tue Nov 22, 2005 10:17 pm

Thanks everyone, I appreciate you all taking the time to tell me how you feel.

You all are the reason I do this. Believe me, if I (or pretty much any webcartoonist other than the big three or four) put this much time into any other job in the world I would get a ton more money than I get from this. It is the interaction and reader enjoyment that makes this all worth it.
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Postby trilaemasu on Fri Nov 25, 2005 12:17 am

I can't remember how I stumbled upon your comic, but it was only at the end of 2004 that it happened.

I won't tell you lies that your art is "stunningly incredible" or that the comic is "the funniest thing I've ever seen." Because that wouldn't be doing your efforts right.

But I don't read comics for their art or their humor. I read comics because they come from the pure effort and creativity from someone trying to express themselves. I saw that immediately from TAP, and that's what had me reading the entire archive of strips during my free time.

Anyway, I'm pretty much posting here to say that your honest attempt at your comic will keep it in my favorite comic list for as long as it runs.

I hope you keep up the good work, and that it brings what you wish for.

-tril
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Postby Cookie on Mon Dec 05, 2005 6:45 am

*ahem*

A very belated Happy anniversary from me too, David! I've been meaning to draw you fanart in quite a while, and I guess this is the perfect occasion.

Image
Image Image
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Postby Philippe Gaboury on Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:28 pm

What a great idea! This place is crying out for a fan art thread.
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Postby toddandpenguin on Mon Dec 05, 2005 10:44 pm

Cookie wrote:*ahem*

A very belated Happy anniversary from me too, David! I've been meaning to draw you fanart in quite a while, and I guess this is the perfect occasion.

Image


THAT IS AWESOME!!!! THANKS!!
I will link to it from my site later in the week!

thanks again!
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Postby babeena on Fri Dec 16, 2005 2:00 am

dave! it's been a long time since i've read TaP...and i'm glad i picked it up again. i love this strip because--like someone said earlier, it's truthful about feelings. it's very real--jessika's rants and loneliness, penguin's ignorant bliss and sweetness, todd's fears and doubts... you've come a long way, and it's all been worth it. happy 5th bday TaP!

P.S. am i part of the OGTAP?? :P
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Postby thePOTS on Wed Dec 21, 2005 5:50 am

David,

I just wanted to let you know that I had not checked out your comic before, and I find myself with 4 years worth of catch up on it =). The good news there is that you totally give me something to read everyday when I'm at work, probably for the next month =).

Anyway, I heard there's a dramatic change in the newest strips, and while it would be a bold change from what I'm seeing currently (since I'm only up to the July 2001 archives), when I catch up, I'm sure I'll really like the new move, as it will keep the story new and fresh.

Thanks for stopping by my comic, because I've now found yours, and am hooked...

All this, and I wanted to call you Todd...hehe.
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