Frequently asked questions.

1. Why the limited publishing schedule?

A panel.

The strip has been, at various times, six days a week, and seven, and five, and two. And yes, right now, it's at three.

I'm very busy with things. I may go back up to five soon, if I can.

2. Where do you get your ideas?

The classic cartoonist question.

How does anyone think of anything at all? The best answer is that this strip is quite a bit like the experience of knowing me. (Yes, I really do talk like that.) So I just write down things I think about or things I find interesting.

The other thing is, the characters suggest storylines. This is more true in the newest strips than ever, because the more you get to know the characters the more you know instinctively what they're going to do. They suggest their own actions and dialogue. Character driven humor is one of the essentials of good writing in any medium that involves characters.

The thing is, after a while, writing strips just becomes a habit. Everything you say, everything other people say, everything that goes on around you, you find yourself asking "how could that be a comic strip?" You'd be surprised how many things can.

3. The look of the strip sure has changed over time, hasn't it?

Note how I take this frequently made observation and clumsily restate it as a question.

The look and feel of the strip are always changing. In the very beginning, they had a way of changing from strip to strip, which was maddening at the time, because I wanted to settle on a style and send a coherent submission in to the syndicates. Later, I had exactly the opposite problem. Once the easy changes were made, growth was very slow, moving forward by inches, over months and months of practice. In the early going, the look of the strip could completely transform itself over a month; these days, it might take a year for any measurable difference to appear.

Other than the very start, the biggest single change was in April 2000, when I took nearly a month off and reworked the character designs. Some of the changes were a bit arbitrary (blackening the tip of Millie's tail, eliminating the highlights in their pupils except in closeups), and some were probably ill-considered (giving Llewellyn wings, which I'm really only now learning how to draw well), and of course it meant leaping from a style I knew well into one that would take a long time to iron itself out.

That was the idea, though--giving myself space to grow. Artists are like hermit crabs that way. Or maybe I'm just speaking for myself.

A glimpse at how a certain character has evolved over time.

4. Do Ozy's dad and Millie's mom have first names?

I don't know what Ms. Mudd's first name is, but it seems to start with an "M." Llewellyn has only one name, like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Or Cher.

It was a long time before I gave Llewellyn a name at all--I always knew what it was, but as far as the strip was concerned he was just "Ozy's Dad," which was all the name he needed. The more he started getting out into the world, though, particularly in those flashbacks that put him at the scene of historical events (he's sort of like a scaly, intelligent Forrest Gump), the more it was necessary for him to have at least one. But that's all.

5. Are Ozy's dad and Millie's mom dating?

At this point I think it's safe to say yes to that question. I left it a little enigmatic in the beginning, but the truth is I like them together.

6. Why would you befoul such a nice strip by introducing politics?

Well, I happen to find politics funny. I don't use them all that much, and when I do, I've learned the hard way that it works best when I keep it pretty general and allegorical.

7. Why would you befoul such a sharp political strip with apolitical, character-based storylines?

There's just no pleasing you people.

8. What are your influences?

I've looked around and found that absolutely everybody claims to have been influenced by "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Bloom County."

But I'm afraid I have to add my name to the list. "Bloom County" is at the top of the list, though at the time I created this strip I think I was temporarily more under the Calvin and Hobbes spell. I also have to include "Doonesbury," "Pogo," and "Peanuts" to the list. Classics, all. If the influence of these strips isn't always obvious, it's certainly been profound.

Venturing off the traditional comics page, I also have to include "The Simpsons," which significantly shaped my early drawing style. Also of note, in various ways, are television shows "Black Adder," "Red Dwarf" and "The Daily Show;" political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow; and authors Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, J.K. Rowling, and Mark Leyner.

9. How did Ozy come to have a dragon for a father?

The adoption laws in their area are generous. I visited the blessed event in this storyline.

10. How did you learn to draw?

By doing it when I should have been doing something constructive. And by never stopping. I also did take a few art classes at various times in life, so I can't claim to be completely self-taught.

I used to think it was better to let a drawing style grow organically, and to some extent I think it has to. However, there has to be a certain amount of understanding of how real objects look and move through space as well. Cartooning ought to be based on at least a basic understanding of how to draw real objects. That's something I've been working on.

11. Why animals? Why not people?

Many reasons. First, animals are fun to draw. Second, it eliminates sticky human constructions like race, while still providing the opportunity to mirror human behavior in a less emotionally-charged way. People are less inclined to be offended by the honesty of cute animal characters than realistic human characters, even if the sentiment is exactly the same. It can be a way of coming in under people's radar screens and getting them to listen.

12. Have you considered putting this strip in the papers?

I'm trying, I'm trying. That isn't as easy as you would suspect from some of the crap that newspaper comics sections unabashedly make us look at every day.

13. Can I get these strips in book form?

Visit Plan 9 Publishing to order.

13. I want to be an internet cartoonist. Do you have any advice?

Draw what makes you happy. It's so much more rewarding than drawing what you think people will like. Someone out there does think like you do, and that's your audience.

I'm definitely the wrong person to ask about promotion. I started this strip when things were pretty different than they are now. Mention your work often on newsgroups. Maybe give keenspace a try, in terms of hosting. I know none of this is great advice. You might try some other cartoonists who have an iota of business sense.

Finally, it's not a great way to make money. But it can be a wonderfully free place to find a ready audience.

14. What drawing media do you use?

I use smooth-surface bristol board for paper, because that way the ink doesn't bleed. Much of the strip's organic, thick-lined quality is owing to the application of ink with a small (size 1) brush--actually just a watercolor brush dipped in India ink. The rest of the lines, including lettering, panel borders and many of the details, are applied with technical pens. I used to use Micron disposable tech pens, and those work well, but if you can spare $50 for a set of refillable Rapidograph technical pens, it's well worth it.

15. How long does it take you to draw a strip?

It varies, but usually between an hour and a half, and two and a half hours. It depends on whether I'm drawing characters, backgrounds or poses I don't usually draw; very familiar and static drawings take a lot less time.

Sunday strips, between the larger artwork and the detailed coloring, take me as much as six or seven hours all told, which is part of why I don't do them very often anymore.

16. How do you pronounce the names "Ozy," "Llewellyn," and "Isolde"?

OZZ-ee. (Which is short for Ozymandias, or oz-ee-MAN-dee-us.) loo-ELL-in. iz-OLD-eh.

17. What species is Ozy?

A small arctic fox. I'm not sure why he isn't white in winter. I used to think he was a wolf, but then a friend showed me some pictures of arctic fox kits which were absolute ringers for how I draw Ozy. This convinced me. It has also resulted in some confusion.

18. For that matter, what species is Stephan?

He's an aardvark. His full name is Stephan Aardvarke. He is not a pig. Although "aardvark" does mean "earth pig."

19. Any final thoughts?

No. Nothing ever ends.

Back to the start.