Ask Me Anything:

Ask anything your heart desires. I'll try to be as honest in my answer as the question warrants. I won't be responding to every single question, but that shouldn't stop you from asking.

Despite the title of your most excellent comic telling me "Don't Hit Save," I did it. I hit save. Now my boss knows that I can accomplish work and he wants more of it. How can I correct this evil?

-Paul | 2017-08-16

Paul, you had one job: don’t do your job. Unfortunately, you didn’t do your job of not doing your job the moment you did your job.

Now the job that you did is the job they expect you to do, which is the opposite of the job I didn’t expect you to do (this is, of course, not to be confused with the job my title implied you should do by doing your job of not doing your job).

Doing the job of not doing your job while at your job is no longer your job. Your job is now to do the job you’re expected to do at your job and not to do the job of not doing your job as I expected.

Sadly, it's my job to inform you that doing your job is now your job for as long as you hold this job. Nice job.

Will you ever have a YouTube show like Molly Beans? Hypothetically, what would be on it?

-John | 2017-08-15

I’ve often considered exactly what I’d do if I started a YouTube channel. To be honest, it’s something that I’m very excited about. I’ve watched a lot of fellow webcomics like Molly Beans make the transition to YouTube, and I want to do the same. 

In the last few months, I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I have oh so many ideas.  I’ve even run some pre-production tests that I’d love to share right here and now.

But that’s not what you asked.  You wanted to know if I’d have a show like Molly Beans and then asked what would be on it.  Well, a show like Molly Beans would have content exactly like Molly Beans (duh). 

I probably wouldn’t do that, though.  I’d probably do a show related to MY comic in some way.

Hypothetically speaking, if someone, who isn't me, were to steal your beard and wear it as a face trophy, what powers would they gain?...Hypothetically speaking.

-Josh Davenport | 2017-06-14

Hypothetically speaking, the primary effect you would notice is the power of handsomeness from your nose to neck. This power is not to be abused, so please wield it responsibly.

As a secondary power, the beard will give you the ability to collect various bits of cereal and breadcrumbs to store for use at a later date. But be aware that using this ability will cause your handsomeness to peak into dangerous levels, and people may start to shake their head at you in disgust.

How do you create an online comic that is consistently funnier than 99.999994999% of all other material available in the physical realm?
Asking for a friend.

-Matt | 2017-06-08

Congratulations on having a friend. I’ve heard of such a concept, even seen them on TV, but as a computer owner with lots of single-player games, I don’t see the need for friends.

Tell your friend that it takes hard work, constant observation, and living a life worth writing about. That sounds good, right? Like I’m doing something important? It’s a complete lie, but the reality is somewhat less exciting...

As everyone knows, 99.999994998% of all material in the universe is either owned by or somehow leased through Apple. Since they’re too cool to be funny, there simply isn’t that much competition for me to worry about.

How would you improve the Internet?

-Mishimi | 2017-06-06

If I had a good answer to that, I’d be counting my money instead of making comics.

With that being said, I think the number one way the internet can be improved is with greater access for all.

There are still large portions of the world without access to the internet. These are people who can’t participate in global conversations, people who are limited in their ability to contribute, learn from, or share ideas with those of us lucky enough to live in an age where such a thing exists.

Additionally, we need to be sure that such access is protected.

Here in the US, we are dependent on this technology. The ability to browse the internet is a requirement for education, jobs, navigation, medical records, and online comics.

Unfortunately, the internet is treated by our regulators like a privilege, a premium service, instead of a utility. Net neutrality is dying a fast death here. I believe this is due to two things: 1) legislators not fully understanding the technology and 2) a revolving door that exists between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and members of the telecom industry. Our access can be legally monitored, interrupted with ads, capped for bandwidth, and slowed down.

The phrase, “Pay-to-play” has always somewhat applied to access to the internet, but I am fearful and annoyed that current and future levels of access may soon be sold as a premium service. If we continue down the road to killing net neutrality, I fully believe it will slow progress, hinder innovation, and hamper creative, thoughtful discussion.

The internet is far from perfect, you can read any comments area for evidence of this. But with greater access, I feel we can hear more voices on the subject. Maybe, with more people generating ideas, we can make bigger and better improvements. Maybe someone will even come up with a way to improve webcomics, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

Jeff, you've mentioned that you don't eat pastrami and like to eat a lot of carbs. Are you a vegan?

-Anonymous | 2017-04-14

I wish. I love rubbing my good habits in people’s faces.

I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism twice, and I think it’s a good thing to do for a variety of reasons. However, I was too picky an eater to keep it up for more than a couple years. I’ll eat birds these days, but I try to keep it to no more than once or twice a week.

Although I find myself too weak willed to avoid eating creatures at the moment, it sure would make me feel better if someone could perfect a healthy and inexpensive lab-grown meat.

Where was Mr. Battles in yesterday's comic???

-Anonymous | 2017-04-14

I didn’t write a comic yesterday. I have no idea what you’re—ooooooh, you wrote this a few days ago.

Life is short. Even action figures can’t spend ALL of their time in front of the computer.

Chunky or smooth peanut butter?

-Ben | 2017-03-12

Smooth when added to a sandwich or celery, chunky when eating by the spoonful, and NEVER EVER as a flavoring in my breakfast cereal.

Jeff, I have been thinking about starting my own online comic. Do you have any advice for us newbies?

-rdo9596 | 2017-03-12

I could go on for days, so I’m going to try to summarize. Whether you’re creating the comic for fame, fortune, or bragging rights (I’m still working on that last one), my best advice can be boiled down to the following:

Posting consistently > Writing > Artwork

(If it's been a while since your last math class, > is the "greater than" symbol)

The single most important thing you can do for your comic is post on time. This helps you grow an audience, build your skills, and gives you an air of professionalism. This also takes planning. I know you don't have a comic yet, but you need to ensure you can clear enough time in your current life to regularly draw, write, and post each one. It doesn't matter what your posting schedule is—monthly, weekly, or hourly. Whatever you decide, be sure that you meet those deadlines (even when you don’t feel like it). You can have the most beautifully painted comic art in the universe, but nothing disperses an audience faster than inconsistent posts.

Waaaay less important than that, is the writing.

You can be as funny or as serious as you want, entirely visual or extremely verbose, gag-a-day or continuous story- it’s up to you. But, in my opinion, a comic's writing should always be more ranked higher than the art. Not only the speech bubbles, but the idea or concept of each strip. There are thousands of webcomics out there with stunning art, but they’re 100% forgettable without the right words. An occasional comic might be shared due to its illustrations, but a funny joke, personal tale, interesting story, or a relatable moment will be shared a hell of a lot more. Your scripts don't have to be brilliant, but take the time to make sure the dialogue flows and makes sense. Go over your words, be sure to spellcheck, and don't worry about being perfect. Worry about your deadlines.

Lastly comes the art. The unique combination of words and art are why people remember you. Odds are, you're a better artist than me. In the off chance you stink at drawing, just tell everyone that those amorphous blobs are your "style". There are a lot of highly successful webcomic artists that can barely hold a pencil. As someone who copies and pastes my artwork in every comic, trust me-- artwork is not that important. I'm not saying you shouldn’t crank out quality drawings. The right artwork can make a good comic great, and for many people, drawing is their favorite step. But I do what I can to fit my weekly schedule, and you should too.

For tools of the trade, I recommend Clip Studio Paint Pro ($50ish, with frequent sales on their site) if you have a drawing tablet. I use a Sharpie on paper and Adobe Illustrator myself, but I'm trying to move away from Adobe and other subscription-based products. I love Clip Studio Paint and have used it on a bunch of projects. Regardless of what tools you choose, be sure you're creating your original artwork at a super high resolution (4000+ pixels wide), in case you want to print these later. For your website, it's probably best to go with the crowd and download ComicPress for Wordpress (it's free, but dependent of donations). I'm happy with the website I made from scratch, but it took waaaay too many hours that should've been devoted to the comic. You can always change your site later.

I hope this helps. You'll notice I didn't mention anything about comic concepts, how to write, etc. Those fall into the "whatever works for you" category. Write a handful of scripts, draw a few out, and then publish it! Ideas are worthless if they stay in your head. Don't be afraid to experiment, and don't be afraid to fail. Now quit reading and go make your comic!!!

How do you pronounce the word "gif" - with a soft J, like "Jeff", or a hard G, like "Geoff"?

-Asking The Important Things | 2017-02-17

I pronounce it exactly as it’s spelled: jeff

("Geoff" is not a word).

Why does cherry chocolate beer exist and what possessed me to not only buy it but consume an entire bottle? Will I become addicted to this brewed candy concoction?

-Paul, the man, the myth, the legend | 2017-02-14

How many questions is this? I’m going to have to break this up a bit…

“Why does cherry chocolate beer exist?”

Widely regarded as even more romantic than asparagus beer, cherry chocolate beer was invented by mediocre brewers as a way to market and offload a watered-down product. The disgusting combination of sugar and alcohol exists solely to drain your wallet around Valentine’s Day.

“What possessed me to not only buy it but consume an entire bottle?”

You purchased it reluctantly, most likely when browsing aimlessly in a store you were dragged to by a spouse or coworker. You picked the bottle up, innocently intending to only show it to your friend for a laugh. But when your friend saw the beer, there was no laugh. They thought you were serious. “Oh, yeah, you should get that.” they said. And there’s no standing up to peer pressure like that.

You brought the bottle to your home. It sat on the refrigerator shelf for a couple weeks, until curiosity got the better of you. Once night, while watching some sort of TV crime drama, you headed to the fridge. You decided that was the night to break out the beer… “just to try it.”

Your first sip was mostly disgusting (far too sweet), but it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought.

You drank more and more, ticking yourself into thinking that you actually enjoyed it. The crime drama continued. There was an arrest, maybe someone got shot, but you kept sipping as the show unfolded. Your stomach pleaded with you to stop, but your tongue’s insatiable need for sugar told you otherwise. The interrogation room scene was particularly thrilling, so you had to sip even more. By the time the criminal confessed, it was all over. You had emptied your drink without even noticing.

You craved more.

“Will I become addicted to this brewed candy concoction?”

I am sad to report that one bottle is enough to hook you for life. The craving will never cease. You will not “become addicted” as you asked because you are already fully in the clutches of the chocolate cherry beer industry.

With all the problems life is capable of throwing at you, this isn’t so bad. All you have to deal with is a constant unending need for a highly addictive substance. Think of it as your medicine. Sure, it’ll destroy your relationships with friends, family, and coworkers, but I’m certain you’ll be fine. You didn’t need them anyway. Enjoy your new life!

Oh, and if it turns out that the particular brand you purchased is seasonal, fear not! You can always make your own with rubbing alcohol, grenadine, and M&M chocolate candies.*

*Note: Do not actually do this. M&Ms are revolting.

What do you typically eat for lunch?

-Steve | 2017-02-13

Carbs. Oh so many carbs.

Although I occasionally mix things up with leftovers or aloo palak (Indian food: spinach potatoes), odds are most days you'll find me gobbling down some sort of pasta.

How are you at wrestling?

-Anonymous | 2017-02-13

Top-heavy and awkward, with very long limbs that I use to wave for help.

How much time does it take to bake a cake in a web comic?

-Rene | 2017-02-09

Trick question. Everyone knows an action like that would occur between panels, outside of time and space.

Hey Jeff! I'd like to ask for your advice on managing time. You've obviously got your job and you draw these comics. Where do you find the balance between time for creativity and time for work?

-@Theeshades | 2017-02-08

Work/Creativity comes easy to me. Work/Life? Not so much. I work full time, then come home and work on apps. I also hang out with my wife, require downtime, and pretend to have a social life. Twice a week, I slap together a comic. I have a very busy week, but it’s not all work all the time.

The trick is pacing myself. I know when I work most efficiently, I know my limits, and I know my wife’s schedule. I also know I need sleep, food, and TV time.

In general, I have a few rules that I try to follow: Weekends are not for working, no coding between dinner and 9pm, and get up early rather than stay up late. Errands, chores, and life can throw that off balance, but that’s how I try to divvy up my week. I know when I can be productive and when I can’t.

Getting up early is difficult for me. I don’t do it all the time, but I'm at my best with a rested brain. My most productive hours are 4am-7am, and I despise that fact. It’s quiet, my mind is not cluttered with stress, and because I’m forcing myself to get up that early, I won’t allow myself to surf the web. 30 minutes’ worth of work in the morning is equal to three hours of work late at night.

If I have a huge deadline or want to finish a project, I might be on the computer around the clock for a few days, sleeping only a couple hours each night (like I did when making this website). But I have to be careful about that. The time gained by losing sleep is far less than the time it takes to recover.

So when do I find time to be creative? During all of this.

I listen to and write down the random, spontaneous thoughts that flow into my mind throughout the day. Am I doing the dishes? Taking a shower? Waiting in line at the grocery store? Nope, I’m thinking about the comic (I’m not saying I’m doing the comic INSTEAD of these tasks, I’m saying I do them both at the same time). I let my mind wander, and I take notes. The only problem is that letting your mind wander is the opposite of focusing on the task at hand. If you have to code or spend time with your family, be creative at your own risk.

I have hundreds, possibly thousands, of little notes stored in my phone. App ideas, domain names, funny dialogue, things I should draw, pet names, food I should make, etc. I record good ideas as well as bad. Sometimes, I’ll write a dozen notes during a single afternoon, other times, I’ll write nothing for a week. The important part is, whenever I need to do creative writing, I already have a searchable list of ideas ready to go.

I don’t do everything all at once. I do a little bit each day, and that adds up over time.

Why don't you have any kids? What kind of grown man has a beard and no kids??

-Nadav | 2017-02-08

Kids are too difficult to draw.

Why are you doing this?

-@DanSacharow | 2017-02-07

Because it's more fun than not doing it and only slightly harder.

Soda or Pop?

-Gumby | 2017-02-07

As tempting as it to write “sodapop” (and believe me, it is tempting), I will give you a real answer. For those who are not familiar, different parts of the United States refer to colas and other carbonated sugar drinks using different terms. Most areas use the word “soda”, but a few pockets out there say “pop.”

I was born in a pop region, but moved to a soda area at age 11. This caused a lot of awkward moments between me and my new community, as the soda/pop cold war was fully raging at the time. To avoid identifying myself and my family, I would order carbonated beverages by brand name. I kept this up for several months, until one day I was at a birthday party serving generic cola.

Like most preteens, I was drinking soda by the 2-liter bottle. Like most parties for preteens, the cups were teenie tiny teaspoon sized waxy cardboard. After half a sip, there was no way to avoid asking a parent for a refill. With everyone within earshot and no brand name to use, I took the coward’s route and let the word “soda” slip out of my mouth.

And you know what? It felt gooooood. It felt right.

It was like discovering a new swear word. When I came home to my parents’ house, I told them I drank soda. Rather than send me to my room, my mother said something along the lines of, “I hope you drank both liters of soda, I’d hate to think it went to waste.” She knew what she had said, I knew what she had said. It felt great to be open and honest about carbonated liquid candy bars. All this time, we had been hiding who we really were. From that point on, no one in my family would use the word “pop” ever again.

Soda is your answer. Soda.

Will we be seeing any more cameos from past action figures?

-Donnie | 2017-02-07

I have no idea what the future may hold. But if I did, I would say, "probably."

What are you wearing?

As a tall, lanky man, I have trouble finding clothes that fit. Eddie Bauer is one of the few stores that caters to the large/tall statuesque figures like myself. Almost all of my wardrobe comes from them.

I’m currently wearing straight fit jeans, a classic fit white and gray plaid button-up shirt, and a t-shirt that reads “San Juan Islands,” all from Eddie Bauer. Shoes are Aesics Gel-Venture 5 (gray, graphite, and red color), size 15 US. As for my socks and undies: a lady never tells.

Eddie Bauer does not sponsor this comic or my answers.

How do you keep your beard so expertly groomed?

-@joshgdavenport | 2017-02-07

Scissors, electric razor, and a dash of delousing powder. I'm just glad no one asked me WHY I keep it so expertly groomed. The world is not ready for that kind of knowledge.

Do you listen to anything when you code and art? Certain genres of music? Podcasts? Commentary of a Let's Play of a game you know well?

-@gCrusher | 2017-02-07

When I’m arting, I can pretty much listen to whatever I want. Podcasts, movie commentaries, and TV shows I’ve seen a dozen times are often on in the background. My go-to TV shows are “30 Rock”, “Archer”, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. My favorite game stream at the moment is “Previously Recorded” from the good people at Redlettermedia.

If I’m writing or coding, I rarely listen to anything with words. Techno music and epic movie scores do wonders to drown out the outside world, but silence is preferred if I’m doing work that requires creativity or deep concentration.

What's the deal with pastrami?

-Shad T. | 2017-02-07

Pastrami is a cured, seasoned, and smoked form of beef. It was originally developed as a way to preserve meat prior to the invention of refrigeration, and is frequently eaten on sandwiches today. Although I have never tried pastrami, I have little interest in doing so.

To answer your question, my local grocer is not currently offering any “deals” or specials on pastrami. If you were to visit, you would be required to pay full price.

Jeff, how long does it take from idea to creation of a comic?

-rdo9596 | 2017-02-07

It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few months. Artwork is easy, ideas are easy, turning my incoherent thoughts into semi-funny dialogue is the hard part.

Within ten seconds of having an idea, I type it into my phone. This is usually a line or two of dialogue or a topic I want to cover. I have an absolutely terrible memory, and if I don’t write the idea down, it will be gone forever. Once recorded, I focus on forgetting the words as much as I can. It helps to view the scripts from a different perspective, and forgetting what I even wrote in the first place is a fantastic way of doing that. I’m great at forgetting.

For hours, days, or weeks, I’ll pull out the phone and glance at my notes as though they were someone else’s words, adding little bits of dialogue as I go. Sometimes, it’s perfect right from the start, but most comics sit in my queue for a couple months. At any given moment, I’ll have about 100 rambling ideas and notes… of which maybe 3 are anywhere close to a joke.

If I’m lucky, I’ll have a viable script or two when it comes time to publish a comic. If not, I’ll force myself think of something on the spot. Sometimes I can do this in a few minutes, but that’s rare. The “fresh” ideas are either great or horrible, but rarely in between.

Once I have a script, it merely a matter of copying and pasting the artwork. My files are set up with layers for mouths, eyebrows, arms, etc. All I have to do is turn on what I need and copy/paste. This process takes about 10-20 minutes.

All told, the average comic takes between 20 minutes and 5 hours to make, spread out over several months.

What is your favorite software for drawing eyebrows?

-Rene | 2017-02-07

On strangers or in the comic? Because I use a sharpie for both.

For the comic, nearly all artwork is crudely drawn on paper (or transparency paper) and scanned in. From there, I convert the artwork to vector graphics inside Adobe Illustrator where I color everything in. If I was in a bind and paper wasn’t available, I’d use Clip Studio Paint Pro for all my eyebrow drawing needs.

Jeff, we all know you're an amazingly handsome and hilarious comic artist. Our love for you is only exceeded by our awe of your incredible talents. Since I am a random person asking the first question, and definitely not secretly you, I have to ask: Will you be writing all of these questions yourself?

-Anonymous | 2017-02-07

I'd better not be.

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