Murray Ball, the cartoonist behind Footrot Flats, has passed away. Footrot Flats is my favourite newspaper comic of all time, narrowly nudging Peanuts into the number two spot. Murray Ball made me want to draw backgrounds in pictures instead of leaving them blank expanses of white nothingness, and indeed, as a kid I learned to draw many of the plants that I saw in Footrot Flats. I used them in fantasy landscapes, since they weren’t plants I’d ever seen; the first time I went to New Zealand my eyes bugged out of my head, because all of a sudden I was surrounded by the fantasy plants I’d been drawing.
Rest in peace, Murray Ball. You’re with Horse now.
Today’s comic was a little later than usual, just because we had to do something for events that unfolded today – the death of Bill Leak. You know, the guy who compared queer people to the Nazis (who, as you may recall, were a group that actually rounded up and mass murdered us queer people). His justification for it was, naturally, exactly the same as Martin’s in panel three of today’s strip.
Last year, I said that 2017 had better do something to make up for the celebrity deaths in 2016. Well, it’s delivering.
Happy birthday, the comic I draw! Now, obviously I didn’t get the first strip tattooed on my arm; that’s just a photoshop. But I did get the panel template tattooed on my right outer forearm (I draw right-handed). Did you know that we haven’t altered the dimensions of the panels at all since the comic first started? The width of the exported jpeg has changed once, from being 1000 pixels wide to being 974 pixels wide – simply because when the site went from being an ugly piece of shit I kludged together myself to the rad looking place Andrew designed that you see before you, it was easier to change the image export size than it was to change the middle section of the site – but the actual ratios of width, height, border weight and space between panels and boundary edge have always stayed the same. I’ve gotten very used to fitting drawings to them, so why change something that isn’t broken?
I’m so psyched to have worked on the same project consistently for five years. To some people, that might sound dreary – to have been churning out the same thing for such a period of time. But it’s been a journey of improvement for me, both in drawing skills and joke-writing technique; I drew joke cartoons for fun in school (usually with Robert, even) and university, but it was only when Robert and I started making Zunfa Comics that I actually began trying to learn how to draw.
Have I ever mentioned where the name “Zunfa Comics” actually came from? When I registered a domain name, I didn’t know what I wanted to put on a website, so I decided to choose a nonsense word that looked and sounded like it should actually mean something. But I am not good at inventing nonsense words (that’s Robert’s jam; all the Faeries in Ephemeris were named by him in about four seconds apiece). At the time (maybe around 2010?), I was a regular poster on 4chan’s /toy/ board*, where we all used tripcodes: after your posting name, you entered two hash keys and a password, which would render as two exclamation points after your name followed by a string of consistent gibberish so that you could prove you were the same poster. My password resulted in the gibberish “zunfa” followed by a long string of numbers. It fit the bill, it wasn’t already registered, so I just used it. When Robert and I decided to put a comic on the website, “Zunfa Comics” seemed like the logical option after ten seconds of thought.
So I guess, indirectly, moot named our comic strip.
Zunfa Comics used to be the main thing I did – along with Ephemeris - and while they still are, they’ve opened up a whole range of other things that Robert and I would never have gotten to do without them. I’m now a part of Squishface Studio, Robert and I have both got individual novels in the works, we’ve made one printed comic book and are working on a second, and I’ve been making a lot of printed zines and comics that I need to figure out how to bring to the internet – especially my current series, a fantasy-comedy called Quest Scrombatia: The West Scrombatia Quest. Making comics with my best friend used to be a weird little side hobby that we did, but now it’s the taco shell that surrounds everything else that I have going on.
Robert and I have been best friends for over half our lives now, and it seems weird to think that there was once a time when we didn’t write Zunfa Comics together. Here’s to the remainder, and to whatever weird shit we decide to produce in it.
* Which was actually a decent place, weirdly enough, between 2008 until around 2012, and I’m still friends with a lot of the people I met on there. Now, of course, it has descended into another wretched hive of scum and villainy; it is 4chan, after all.