Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category.

How and why I made a party game in a pandemic.

My new game, TBH, has now reached its minimum funding goal on Kickstarter!

We’re working on stretch goals now, to make the game even bigger and better. The campaign runs through the end of April, and I hope you’ll check it out!

If you visit the page, you’ll see my face halfway down, hosting a “How to Play TBH” video that I shot in my living room.

But otherwise, the campaign is run by a company called Cut. (I mean, truthfully it’s run by me behind the scenes, but I’m doing it for Cut.)

How and why I made a party game in a pandemic.

I started working on this game back in the summer of 2020. Cut is a YouTube channel, and they have a series called Lineup that’s all about guessing things about strangers.

I’ve been working with Cut for a while now, advising on their development of a merchandise arm, and TBH the game actually came out of a pitch for a Lineup episode.

It was sparked by the idea of having not just one guesser, but rather, having all the participants guess on each other.

How and why I made a party game in a pandemic.

From there, we started playtesting a serious version of the game, all about moral dilemmas. One player would pose a dilemma, and there would be conversation as everyone tried to figure out how the others would answer.

But… There’s a mechanic where the player gets to draw two prompt cards (“Dilemmas”), and then chooses which one to ask the group.

What we noticed rapidly was that players reliably chose the weirder option.

So, we decided to make the game weird.

How and why I made a party game in a pandemic.

The game works like this:

• One player draws the card and poses the dilemma to the group. They are the Dilemma Boss.

• The other players all ask clarifying questions about the dilemma. This is the fun part — where the Dilemma Boss gets to make up whatever answers they want.

• Once everyone’s satisfied that they know enough to answer the question, they secretly answer YES or NO for themselves.

• Everyone then guesses how the other players answered. You score points for guessing right!

(Here’s me saying all this in video form too.)

The scoring and guessing is fun, but the real joy is the questions, answers, and the group storytelling that results from it.

Every group takes the dilemmas in different directions. In-jokes are developed. Surprises occur.

In a time when we have been seeking new forms of connection — tired of the same old “how’s it going for you” conversations — it turns out we actually have lots to talk about, if we just start making stuff up.

And yet, somehow, by doing so, we find that the game uncovers real truth and honest conversations. It’s something of a magic trick.

And it’s really, really fun. We’ve been playing this game basically nonstop for months now, as we’ve been testing the prompts. It’s fun every single time.

I’ve been fortunate to assemble a crack team of creative superheroes to help with this game:

• Co-creator Nate Weisman, formerly of Funko games
• Graphic designer Alexandria Ferri Land
• Project manager & writer Sara McHenry
• Videographer & writer Zachary Sigelko
• Writers Maddie Downes, Lisa Wallen, Grace Freud, Daniel O’Connell, Billie Bullock, & Trin Garritano

You may or may not know those names, but rest assured they are a rogue’s gallery of greats. I couldn’t (wouldn’t!) do this by myself, and I sure haven’t this time.

If you like the weirdness of Wondermark, then I recommend checking out TBH.

Kickstarter copies of the game will be shipping out later this summer (just in time for party season to return, we hope), but also, we have an online version you can play via video chat right now! There’s a link to that on the Kickstarter page (look for “Play it Now”).

I’ll have even more on TBH soon. But here’s an account from Trin, one of the writers, which I loved to read:

I remember going to my first TBH writers meeting and thinking, “David Malki hand-picked the most interesting, talented weirdos from the internet to make a party game and somehow I am also here.”

And then after a while I realized on top of that, they’re also thoughtful and kind.

Thoughtfulness is uncommon in party games. I do not feel comfortable subjecting my friends to most of them.

We are making the game that we’d like to exist already. Quite frankly, it should exist already and I am offended that we have to do it ourselves.

Everybody on the team is fascinating.

Sara’s a kettlebell enthusiast who makes sweet comics about her cat, and has probably written your favorite Clickhole piece.

Grace is a powerful cryptid from an unknown realm.

I don’t know what Maddie’s deal is, but she should be in charge of all television.

Billie has an actual degree in computer science from a reputable institution, but decided to make jokes for a living instead.

So we have this crack team of Internet Goofs at your disposal. And our only goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to be hilarious.

We write a little seed of a story that, under your care, will one day grow into the most messed-up topiary. And I think that’s beautiful.

Essentially, your friends cast you in the starring role of a pocket universe, and then attempt to guess what exactly you would do next. That’s the beauty, and also the psychic horror, of the Reveal phase.

Truth or Drink [Cut’s last game] is a game about the embarrassing stuff you’ve done in your past.

But TBH is about who you are.

[ KICKSTARTER NOW FUNDING THROUGH APRIL 30 ]

I made a new game. It’s called TBH.

I’ve spent the past six months making a new party game.

[ IT’S ON KICKSTARTER RIGHT NOW ]

I said a bit more about it on Twitter too, starting here.

(And on Patreon.)

I made a new game. It's called TBH.

I made a new game. It's called TBH.

2019 Errata

Embed from Getty Images

Whoopsie dinkles! It’s time, once again, to look at the year gone past, and issue corrections for any errors we discovered in comics published in 2019.

#1520; In which Armageddon awaits
In the interim, it has been conclusively proven that our society can, in fact, agree on one thing: sea shanties sung collaboratively on social media are great.

#1524–1600
Forgot to make or post these, whoopser dongles! Been a heck of a year, friends.

Wondermark regrets the errors.

(Previous years’ errata.)

Downloadable Wondermark 2021 calendar!

Downloadable Wondermark 2021 calendar!

I don’t have an all-new 2021 calendar, this year. Time was short, and also, shipping is such a mess this year that I didn’t make a big merchandise push.

If you’ve ordered something from me recently, rest assured that it’s on its way…but packages in the hands of the post office have been taking very unpredictable paths to their destinations lately. We can only cross our fingers and do our best.

That said — I do have a new calendar, of a sort!

I have just posted A Forlorn Collection of Whimsical Tales as a downloadable-and-printable PDF.

It was originally released as a 2010 calendar. But guess what — 2010 and 2021 have the same dates!

So it was clear to me that once again, its time to shine has come. No updating was required for it to be pressed into service.

(Although this calendar, being one of my older ones, features weeks that are arrayed to start on Monday. I left that in, for true vintage flavor.)

I have also updated my four other downloadable calendars to feature 2021 dates. They’re all ready for you now. Those all have weeks that start on Sunday, if you prefer that.

(Also, psst: Folks who’re subscribed to Patreon just got all five downloads for free.)

The 2010 calendar was originally a hand-printed product, featuring 12 individual cards in an easel, as pictured above.

I looked back at my posts from the time and I’m still charmed by this multi-part blog series about the making of the 2010 edition! It talks about the writing, design, and production that went into that style of handmade, 12-page calendar, which I created in small batches for five years (2008–2012).

I ended up scanning around 60 different images and playing around with them in various configurations, combining and re-combining them in different ways, trying to see what scenarios and stories they suggested.

The way I work is different from many artists, and certainly many cartoonists. While I do often compose the comic’s images to match a previously-written script, I also have great fun at times simply building scenes like a puzzle, not knowing what’s going on until the very end of the process — and sometimes, in the case of the comics, occasionally not knowing what’s going on until I’ve actually written most of the dialogue! I like seeing where it goes and the directions that it takes by itself, and it’s almost more like sculpting with clay, adding pieces and taking them away, than drawing or painting… [Continued]

In 2013, I switched to making biweekly “progressive” calendars, which involved more writing and design work, but less physical production. This is the first time I’ve reissued one of the early editions as a printable.


Nonetheless, if you prefer your calendars pre-printed, may I refer you to these fine models from my good friends in Alaska?

Pat from the Alaska Robotics gallery in Juneau makes a good pitch, I think:

I endorse these bears! And whales! There are whales, too. If you don’t believe me, take Lucy’s word for it.

[ BEAR AND WHALE CALENDARS FROM ALASKA ]

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

I’ve been reading Garfield comics with my son this week.

He’s too young to really follow the narratives — after every strip he pauses, asks what happened, and then says, slowly and calmly, “Why” — but he’s already very fond of the drawings and characters.

We’ve been reading specifically late-80’s strips, since those are the books we have handy. Honestly, I consider this period the creative zenith of the strip; it’s the sensibility that led directly to the Saturday-morning cartoon, which in my opinion still holds up.

I’d read and loved these particular strips as a kid, but haven’t revisited them much in the many years since. Reading them again now, I came to notice things I had never noticed before.

I posted all about it on Twitter yesterday, and thought I would record my thoughts here, too, for the record.

One thing Garfield doesn’t get enough recognition for is truly bonkers, impressionistic color choices. This sidewalk is pink and yellow. Jon wears purple pants. Every panel is like an Easter basket. (Click any image for a closer look.)

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

On, Twitter, Jim here replied with an observation that the current version of this strip in the Garfield online archive features different coloring:

I find this fascinating — it means that someone, at some point, recolored it.

It makes me curious to know how this strip looked in the paper in ’87. A quick search of instances of the word “corset” in newspapers on September 20, 1987, gives us a clue:

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

This is a low-resolution image from newspaperarchive.com. I can’t see the full image because I don’t have a paid subscription — because back when I did, I didn’t get anything else done.

It’s hard to tell, but it looks like Jon’s shirt is darker than his pants in the newspaper version — which means it’s more likely to have been colored like the version from my 1989 book, rather than the recolored online version.

It’s been noted before by other commentators that the rooms in the Arbuckle house are never any specific consistent color. The switching colors contributes to the ping-pong effect of the rhythm of the dialogue. The final panel here keeps the rhythm going while not being at all logical! Yet it works.

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

I’m being serious: it takes chutzpah to have, as a creative ethos, the theory “it doesn’t matter what color anything is, as long as it’s from the Cadbury brand palette.”

Below: is the house purple or yellow? Yes. Is the entryway green or pink (compared to the mailman strip above)? Yes.

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

The ping-pong walls don’t appear when color is an important part of some other part of the strip. The static choices are still zany, though: yellow floors, pink baseboards:

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

(Side note: I need more of Gwen, stat.)

Here’s this Gwen strip from above as it appears now on GoComics. The colors are different, but decisions are still being made to make them as bold as possible.

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

The green of Gwen’s outfit, as seen here, can only exist online — which is to say, in RGB colorspace.

The gray in this graphic shows all the out-of-print-gamut colors (colors that wouldn’t be available on a standard printing press):

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

This is that strip converted to print-safe CMYK color, meaning, a version that would print just fine:

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

It still looks just as interesting, and is actually less abrasive to the eye.

Yet, someone at PAWS HQ (or somewhere) is deliberately coloring Garfield strips with super-bright colors such as R122 G255 B0:

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

It’s just one of the many enormously bright colors in the comic — a color that won’t translate into print, and is much brighter than I think most people would choose to use for any sort of illustration (comics or anything else).

All the online Garfs from this era use these ultra-bright colors:

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

If you know the Garfield archive colorist, please buy them a drink. They probably need it.

Interestingly, newer comics don’t share this palette! It appears to be only the archives.

There seems to be a shift in style around the year 2000. The 1999 comics are all as bright as the above. The 2001 comics all look pretty “normal,” with a lot more prevalence of muted, darker, and/or desaturated colors.

2000 is a bit of a transitional year in the archive. The start of 2000 looks a lot like the archives, but by the end of 2000, things are looking more like the future. (Though there is still no consistency from comic to comic about the color of, say, Jon’s phone.)

This timeframe coincides roughly to the era when digital coloring began to become the norm, and cartoonists were beginning to submit daily strips already pre-colored to their syndicates (rather than letting individual papers color them via manual means).

So it’s more likely that color versions were already complete and backed up from that point forward, whereas the older black & white comics likely had to be colored from scratch (or recolored, in the case of Sundays) if they wanted to present an entire archive that was in color.

Back to the 1989 book: this dog is one of the very few white (uncolored) things in the whole book.

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

Note how the concrete is brown, though — a weird choice.

I suspect the entire book was colored from B&W art separately from how they appeared in papers. The whole book is probably colored from the same 20 swatches.

The notion that a strip might have been colored differently from paper to paper opens up a whole new world of imagination:

For the online version, they fixed the color of the cement in the dog strip, but made some other, very curious, choices, such as a profusion of bright pinks:

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

Preliminary research suggests that the version of the strip that ran in (at least some) papers was probably closer to the book version. Note how dark the cement looks, even in this preview:

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

(I found this page in the archive by assuming, correctly it seems, that it would be one of the only places the word “sucker” would appear in most newspapers on October 4, 1987.)

The part of all this that fascinates me the most is that, when the decision was made to color the comics for the online archive, someone seems to have considered — and then answered in the negative! — the question of whether or not to look back at the previous versions for reference.

One thing I never specifically noticed until now is that the little Garfield books collect the longer Sunday strips, complete with the first two “throwaway” panels.

They’re not colored at all, and you can see how they suffer visually compared to the strips intended to print as B&W (full of spot blacks & halftones):

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

The color book, however, which is a collection of all Sunday strips, omits the throwaway panels of all the strips — when you’d think that a book would want to present the complete material, not truncated versions.

This is curious to me, because it implies a priority other than presenting absolutely every bit of the content.

My big takeaway from all this for cartoonists is that your work doesn’t necessarily have to have an “official, canonical” version. The same work can be presented in different ways depending on the context.

I suspect that newspaper cartoonists who knew that 1/3 of their strip might get lopped off, or the panels reshuffled, from paper to paper may have a more inherent understanding of the work itself as being modular.

One final observation here is that perhaps I have been far too conservative in coloring Wondermark, when I have made color versions of the strips for my own books.

Here is comic #378 as it appeared in a book, colored by Philip Obermarck, which is lovely — but here is ALSO a proposed version that I did not publish (submitted by Erica Franzmann):

On the bonkers color palette of Garfield comics

This could be a whole new horizon for Wondermark!