I'm not sure why anyone would want to know more about me, but people have asked! Honest! What follows is my attempt to compile and systematically answer the various questions that have been shot at me over the months and years.
A: I hail from (and currently live near) Hamilton, which is a fair-sized city about an hour outside of Toronto. It's one of those rough-and-tumble former steel towns; it's only now starting to pull itself out of an economic slump. My comic is set in Hamilton, though I never really mention the town by name.
Q: Why do you call yourself ElectricGecko? Why not your real name?
A: Professionally speaking, it's much better for me to keep my creative pursuits and my teaching career entirely separate. To that end, I don't share my comic endeavours with any students or fellow teachers. In fact, I go to great lengths to make sure that my students and co-workers remain totally unaware of Puck. Don't get me wrong: I'm proud of my comic and don't think there's anything seriously objectionable in the strip, but not all parents are reasonable, and it's a conflict I'd like to avoid. To that end, I use a pseudonym.
Q: What got you interested in creating webcomics?
A: My involvement in the world of comics predates the prefix 'web'. I'd always been a lover of comics; I made and printed my own underground comic books in high school (shockingly bad superhero titles that are now best forgotten), but my first serious foray into strip comics came after another animation student showed me an anthology of Frank Cho's University2 comic strip. That comic (which Cho had drawn during his time at the University of Maryland) cracked the possibilities wide open for me. I started to see that strip comics could be a versatile medium: they could be funny, irreverent, satirical, and even a little sexy. That was the kernel of inspiration that really started me on the comic path.
Q: How did Puck start, and why did you restart it?
Q: How did Puck start, and why did you restart it?
A: Puck started shortly after I saw Cho's book. That was 1998. At the time, I thought "Man, I'd love to do a comic strip just like that, but this stupid animation program keeps me too busy to take on a big project." Then I dropped out of animation, and my first thought was "Wow! Now I can do my comic!" I didn't enrol at McMaster University just so I could draw a comic for the student paper, but it was certainly a motivating factor. I even completed five or six strips before the school year started. I pitched the concept to the bemused head editor of the student paper, who duly informed me that there hadn't been a comic strip in the McMaster Silhouette in over a decade. Still, he was a kindly soul and he let me have some page space despite his initial hesitation. That makes Puck almost fifteen years old; it's had a presence on the internet for fourteen of those years. The original Puck website actually predates Google. It may not be the oldest webcomic in existence, but it's probably close.
Q: Is the comic at all autobiographical? Are the characters based on real individuals? Can you give me Phoebe's phone number?
A: The strip isn't autobiographical in any true sense. I take inspiration from real events and situations, of course, and there are a number of parallels between my life and the world of Puck.
Colin and I, for instance, share certain similarities: he looks sort of like a blond version of me; he's a high school English teacher, like me; he plays too many video games, like me. My wife, meanwhile, bears more than a passing physical resemblance to Puck; she and Puck share the same fashion sense; they both possess a strong dislike for stupid pop culture.
Q: Why is Puck called Puck? Why is she sometimes referred to as Robin Goodfellow? Is there any relation between this Puck and the Puck from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?
A: My Puck is vaguely (make that VERY vaguely) based upon the character from Shakespeare, which was, in turn, based upon a traditional European folk figure. In English folklore, Puck was a mischievous spirit who went by various names including 'Hobgoblin' and 'Robin Goodfellow'. I took the latter as Puck's legal name in the comic.
Q: If Puck is 631+ years old, why hasn't she done more with her life?
A: Within the framework of the comic, the first 600 years really don't count. Puck almost never mentions her past, so for all intents and purposes she functions as a standard thirty-something mortal. There are lots of great story concepts that might stem from Puck's obscure and storied past, but I don't really want to go there. The comic has become a demented slice-of-life comedy - not a thoughtful exploration of an immortal's experiences in a mortal world. I'll leave that crap to Anne Rice. For that reason, I never make a big deal about Puck's age.
Q: What's your creative process? How are the strips made?
A: My process involves me largely coming up with the strip concept in my head, then immediately jumping to the pencils stage. I map out the layout of the four panels on a little mini-template, and then start the real drawings. The comic is drawn the old-fashioned way (with Col-Erase light blue pencils) and inked (with Pigma Micron felt-tips) on real, honest-to-goodness paper. The actual individual panel drawings are 4.5" by 6" rather small by comic standards.
Q: What's your least favourite part of the creative process? What's your favourite?
A: My least favourite part of the creative process is usually whatever part I'm currently working on. The drawing part is difficult because the image can go wrong in so many ways; the inking part is tedious; the colouring part tends to take too long. I most prefer the final stages of the process, when I'm just putting in the finishing touches. That's satisfying because I can see the fruits of my labour.
Q: Which body part do you hate drawing the most?
A: Eyes. I hate drawing eyes. There're so many ways to get them wrong, and if you get them wrong, they totally ruin the image forever. (Stupid, f#$%ing eyes...)
Q: Do you cut any corners?
A: I shamelessly reuse backgrounds all the time. Shading backgrounds in vector is a painful process, so if I can reuse a pre-coloured background image, it saves time. I do like including detailed backgrounds in the comic, though - even if they're reused. Many webcomics make due with a simple color field, but I try to avoid that where possible.
Q: Why the coloured speech bubbles?
A: When the strip made the transition to colour, I felt it was a serious crime to take up half of every panel with white space, so I decided to colour-code my speech bubbles. For those who haven't figured out the pattern, ANY character can possibly have a white bubble, but each character has his or her unique alternate shade: Puck's bubbles are green, Colin's are yellow, Daphne's are purple, Phoebe's are pink, Tyler's are orange, Satan's are red, and most other secondary characters' are blue. I feel it helps to differentiate the speakers. Also, I can intensify the colour for intense moments of dialogue.
Q: What advice would you give to other webcomic artists?
A: I'm no authority on anything - at all - but a fair number of comic types have asked me for advice (don't really know why), so I'll share the few things I've learned about running a webcomic. First, the generally accepted golden rule of webcomics is this: make consistent deadlines and meet them. If you don't set up a regular schedule for your updates, no one will read your comic. Sad but true.
Q: If I told you to draw something, would you draw it? What if I paid you? What if I have a webcomic and I'm looking for an artist to partner with? Are you game?
A: Short answer? No. Long answer? I'd really love to be doing stuff that extends beyond Puck, but the comic occupies all the free time I have right now. I'm a working dad of two kids with a full-time job and a mortgage. As it is, I operate on about four to six hours of sleep every night just so I can fit everything in. At the moment, I don't have time to pursue other interests. If something changes, though, I'll be the first to let you know.
Q: Is Puck available in book format? Where do I buy it?
A: I haven't published an anthology ... yet. My plan it to wait until I feel I have enough strips to make a real, solid collection, so after strip 200 I'll start looking into publishing options. Stay tuned.
Q: What cons do you go to? Can I check out your booth?
A: At the moment, I go to no conventions. I have actually never been to a comic convention of any type in my life. I am a con virgin, as it were. If this changes, I'll let everyone know.
Q: Last question. Are you really as funny, charming and handsome as I imagine you to be in my mind's eye?
A: Yes. Yes I am.