Slightly updated, June 2005. Most important news is the Doctor Fun Book, from Plan Nine Publishing. 128 pages, full color, all your favorite Doctor Fun cartoons. Already in its third printing!
The Doctor Fun Book from Plan Nine Publishing
Well, I promised to write it, and here it is, the story of Doctor Fun. It's not as finished as it ought to be, and I plan to add some stuff, sometime. It's been six or seven years since I wrote an FAQ, and the last one was sort of terse. Like all good procrastinators, I've worked on this right up to the last minute. Broken links, spelling and grammatical errors will be fixed as I find them.
All the best FAQs are written as long chatty mostly-text messages that you can print off (duplex to save paper, please) and take to the go-go bar to peruse between lap dances. I've kept links to other things to a minimum in this, although partly that's because this isn't quite finished yet. I've written answers to questions I think ought to be in an FAQ, and answers to questions people have actually asked me. I've made some notes where I intended to write more and ran out of time on this version. Ask me some more questions, and I'll write some more answers. Most of the FAQs I read have to do with CD-writers or how to read the stepping series on Intel chips. You know, useful stuff. I dunno what sort of useful stuff you'll find here.
Somewhere out there floating around in Internet Land is a sort-of FAQ I wrote in a shameless attempt to get some kind of prize for something shortly after Doctor Fun started. It used to be on Google, but I couldn't find it the last time I looked. I don't have a copy, but will post it here if I find one. It's probably a better record of what was on my mind when I started Doctor Fun than this will be.
The mini-FAQ on the main Doctor Fun page was written after I wrote most of this, and is shorter and funnier. This page is longer, and has more run-on sentences.
Now, before anything else, some acknowledgments. I write and draw Doctor Fun all by my lonesome, and like it that way, but these people have contributed a feature or two to the Doctor Fun page and deserve to get their name on the marquee. What they did is explained somewhere else in the FAQ. Paul Jones and the jolly crew at ibiblio, Nicholas Barnard, Mostafa Eldefrawy, Nick Kean, Jack Leblond, Mark Plaga, Ed Staszny, Keith Waclena, Dr. Bernhard L. Winkler, Australian Cybermalls, and whoever maintains the mirror at Manchester University (can't find your e-mail).
Doctor Fun is a cartoon, single-panel, with a wacky gag and colorful artwork. Not all Doctor Funs may be suitable for children and some childlike adults. There's a new Doctor Fun every weekday. What Doctor Fun is, for the literal-minded, is a 640 x 480 pixel 24-bit color JPEG file.
Is Doctor Fun an alternative comic?
Doctor Fun is something, but it's not an alternative comic. I made the mistake once of sending some Doctor Funs to some alternative newspapers.
Where and when did Doctor Fun start?
Doctor Fun first went live on the web on September 24, 1993 at the University of Chicago Library on a server called neuromancer.lib.uchicago.edu . For a brief time, Doctor Fun was also available on, of all things, a web server running under Windows for Workgroups on a machine called microserver.lib.uchicago.edu. Neither of these computers are now serving up Doctor Fun.
Is Doctor Fun the oldest comic on the Internet?
No. That would be "Where the Buffalo Roam" by Hans Bjordahl. "Where the Buffalo Roam" started in 1991, and had its own Usenet group long before Doctor Fun came along, and is still running on the web.
Was Doctor Fun the first cartoon on the World Wide Web?
There you go! You've got it - Doctor Fun was the first cartoon on the World Wide Web.
Here's the announcement from NCSA. (Of course, that link to the cartoon doesn't go anywhere now.)
Marc Andreesen noted that it was still running a month later. Marc also sent me the first e-mail about Doctor Fun, pointing out a typo in my links (historic e-mail I wish I could find now - whatever happened to my billion dollars?)
Who is the Godfather of Doctor Fun?
Keith Waclena first suggested I put Doctor Fun on this new "World Wide Web" thing, and gave me a space on his new "web server". Keith is the Godfather of Doctor Fun. Some say the guy with the ponytail in this cartoon is Keith, but it couldn't be Keith, because the character in the cartoon is wearing a tie, and Keith never wears ties. Keith says "Happy New Year", sends his regrets that he wasn't at the party, and asks you to decide.
So Doctor Fun didn't start out as a web cartoon?
The proto-version of Doctor Fun started out as a cartoon I was going to post to one of the binaries groups on Usenet. I spent an awful lot of time trying to balance quality while cramming down the size of the cartoon. Doctor Fun was posted to Usenet for many years, and there is still a mailing list that will send you the new Doctor Fun each weekday.
Here is a test drawing left over from when I was trying out different formats.
And here is the announcement of Doctor Fun dredged out of Deja.
An even more proto-version of Doctor Fun started out as a photocopied 'zine I was going to distribute myself here in Chicago before I even got on the Internet. I have that somewhere, and might scan it in someday, although most of the cartoons have already been re-used as early Doctor Funs. I don't think more than ten copies ever got passed out. Gosh, if you had one of those, that would be really valuable!
What is ibiblio?
ibiblio is the public's library and digital archive, and is physically located at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill. There are all sorts of interesting things on ibiblio. Why not check it out?
How did Doctor Fun end up on ibiblio? And what why did it move from SunSITE to metalab and then to ibiblio?
The short answer is, Doctor Fun never moved anywhere after it left the University of Chicago, SunSITE just became metalab which became ibiblio.
Since I am sitting here pretending real people are asking me these questions instead of my imaginary friends, a more interesting question is, how did Doctor Fun move to SunSITE to begin with? There was a collection of artists called SITO (I forget what it stands for) on SunSITE. SITO was maintained by somebody named Ed Staszny. Ed saw my cartoons and contacted me to ask if I'd like to move Doctor Fun to my own space on SunSITE. This was very kind of Ed, and for other reasons I had to get the cartoons off of neuromancer anyway, so everything worked out. Unfortunately, Doctor Fun sort of swamped SITO, so the SunSITE people decided to move me off to my own space all by myself. And I've been there ever since, and so have many of the people who were at SunSITE at the time, like Paul Jones, and Jonathan Magid.
What is the deal with the ibiblio, etc., name changes?
I didn't really know the answer, either, so I put the question to ibiblio's Director, Paul Jones, and he was kind enough to take the time to explain all.
"Here's the short: Pre-1992 we were a collection of projects including a bbs service called launchpad.unc.edu. In 1992 we received funding and support from Sun Microcomputing Systems for a joint project to be called sunsite.unc.edu or Sun Software, Information and Technology Exchange. In 1998 Sun decided to revisit our funding and support arrangement and we mutually decided that conditions were not favorable for continuing on as sunsite so we became Metalab to reflect our new collection of sponsors instead of one major one. In 2000 we entered into a partnership with the Center for the Public Domain (known as the Red Hat Center at that time). to highlight this major new involvement, we took a new name (at their suggestion) of ibiblio.org today that's who we are, but we still answer to sunsite.unc.edu and metalab.unc.edu."
Wait, there's more. Mike Molloy wrote in to remind me that "SITO" used to be called "OTIS", and they changed their name, too. I've still got an entry on their pages.
Why is there no Doctor Fun domain name?
I've thought about it, but I like ibiblio, and I like being associated with ibiblio. They're nice people. One day I hope to make a pilgrimage to the clean and well-lighted ibiblio offices.
Can you have advertisements on ibiblio?
No, but I'm not constrained from pursuing commercial opportunities for Doctor Fun, as long as it isn't taking place on ibiblio.
Is Doctor Fun copyright?
Yes. Feel free to link to Doctor Fun, send it to your friends, send it to your enemies, print it out and use it for toilet paper (use the glossy photo paper so you really clog the toilet) or tape it to your door. But anything beyond personal use I'd appreciate it if you'd contact me. You can use all those file names that never change to always link to the latest cartoon, the latest logo, the latest thumbnails, the latest week, and all that which has been made E-Z 4 U 2 link 2. Most people are pretty nice about asking, and in return, I'm pretty nice back. Otherwise...
Why don't you release Doctor Fun under the GNU General License or copyleft?
That's an interesting idea, but I don't think it works well for cartoons, or, at least, this sort of cartoon. I think I've been progressive enough about letting Doctor Fun go all over the Internet, but I still write it, and draw it, so the copyright stays with me. It's my precious! It's mine! It belongs to me!
Who pays for all that bandwidth, cartoon boy?
I don't know nuthin' about that! I just draw the cartoons.
Where can I get the latest Doctor Fun cartoon?
You can always get the latest Doctor Fun cartoon from this link.
You can always get a little thumbnail of (only the artwork) the latest cartoon from this link.
Where can I see the Doctor Fun cartoons from this week?
You can always see the latest Doctor Fun cartoons for this week from this link.
Are all of the old Doctor Fun cartoons and logos available?
All the old cartoons and logos can be browsed in the archive page, from this link.
Are there any other fun stuff on the Doctor Fun Page?
I've put a bunch of pre-Doctor Fun scanned cartoons online. I plan to add more as I have time. Usually I put "new" old material online when I take breaks.
You can get an old week of Doctor Fun, or maybe sometimes a page from the collection of older scanned cartoons, from this link.
Which cartoons get the most hits?
Here are some popular ones. This is the same list from the main page.
Which Doctor Fun cartoons do you like?
Here's another list. Some I like because I thought they were funny, and some like because I thought they were well-drawn. And some I like because I thought they were both funny and well-drawn. This is also the same list from the main page. Only here I've added at least brief annotations. I'd like to add a list of Doctor Funs I don't like, too. It's only fair.
What's the deal with the logo?
The explanation on the main page is funnier than this one. The logo started as an afterthought, and has just sort of stumbled on through the years. Remember, the original idea was to post the cartoons on Usenet. Thus, there was no reason for a logo. But when I started setting up the web page, I thought it needed something graphical, and the cartoon itself was a little too big. I wanted a page with a link to the daily cartoon, plus all the other stuff (archives, the faq I never wrote, etc.) So I came up with a little picture of a dog wearing a lab coat - voila! Doctor Fun. After a couple weeks I got bored looking at the first one, so I drew another one. Then I decided to keep changing it every couple weeks. Then it just kept getting fancier and fancier. There was a long period, starting around the United Media time, when the logo changed infrequently. When I started the cartoon after my long break, I decided to change it every two weeks, but I'm not locked into it - sometimes (not very often) it's sooner, sometimes it's later. The logos are fun because they can be kind of artsy and obscure without really having any punchline (some would claim the same about the cartoons).
One of the problems, or so editors and other cartoonists have told me, with single-panel gag cartoons like Doctor Fun, is that they have no central characters for people to somehow latch onto and "love", which would then make them want to buy things with the character on it. So there you go. Sadly, the logo gets the least amount of traffic compared to everything else, and the low number of hits on the smaller logo image means few readers actually access Doctor Fun through the main page.
I recall as I write this that the earliest web browsers had inline GIF support, but not inline JPEG support. The cartoon was a JPEG, so it originally popped up in an external viewer. The logos are now in JPEG, too.
Who is the dog in the logo?
Some people think he's an aardvark, but he isn't. If people really press me about it, I tell them he's a Charlie, because he's loosely based on my parent's dog, Charlie. Charlie isn't around anymore. He lived to be 17 and died a couple years ago. Here's a picture of Charlie. Charlie appeared in at least one of the break messages, and even made it into the logo.
The new dog is Maddie.
Aren't there a bunch of references to a variety of things in the logos?
Sure - that's the fun part: movies, musicians, books, beer, you-name-it. Some are overt, some are not. Some took a lot of work, and some were slapped together late at night.
I was going to list all the references, but I think for now I'll just drop in clues for the music ones: Björk, Scott Joplin, Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Lloyd Cole, B-52s, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Smiths, The Beatles, U2, maybe more.
Some themes have been parodied more than once, but I follow the "Royko Rule" and retire a logo theme once it's been around twice (I'll probably break it, eventually, for Björk).
You can always get the latest logo from this link.
You can get the smaller version, too.
And a thumbnail.
Can I search Doctor Fun?
You can search the Doctor Fun captions two different ways:
Jack Leblond at Net Smart Incorporated, has kindly provided a mirror for Doctor Fun in the form of a search engine. You can also get a random Doctor Fun cartoon at Jack's page. Have fun.
Mark Plaga has created another Doctor Fun search page. Mark's page will display a slide show of cartoons after you make your search. Have more fun.
It would be great if I could search more than the captions.
Yes. It would be great, and it's all my fault that it's not greater. Mark already did a lot of work on it, and it's up to me to get some of the info in there. I'd like to add metadata someday to the html pages so anyone can extra info if they want to.
I thought I saw some Doctor Fun postcards. Are there Doctor Fun postcards?
There might be. Recycled Paper Products bought some one-off licenses to print some Doctor Fun cartoons on postcards a couple years ago. They may still be selling them; I used to see them in one card shop in Water Tower Place in Chicago, but haven't looked for quite awhile. RPP and I didn't continue with this because I wasn't really interested in selling them off on a one-time basis, and they didn't see it as worth anything more than that. I don't make any money off of them, but that shouldn't keep you from buying them if you find some.
I thought I saw some Doctor Fun electronic postcards. Are there Doctor Fun electronic postcards?
You can send a smaller version of a selected number of Doctor Fun cartoons as an electronic postcard at Toonogram, sponsored by Cyber Loft.
Toonogram is provided courtesy of Mostafa Eldefrawy, who did all of the work. Mostafa was also kind enough to give me the code to turn any Doctor Fun into a Toonogram, which I will do someday.
Is there a Doctor Fun mailing list?
You can receive the latest Doctor Fun cartoon in your e-mail by joining Nicholas Barnard's Doctor Fun Mailing List.
Are there other Doctor Fun mirror sites?
These Doctor Fun mirrors might be closer to you than ibiblio. This list is new and improved because the cartoons on these sites actually update. There used to be more mirrors. If you know of a mirror that isn't on this list, or want to be a mirror, drop me a line.
If you want to mirror Doctor Fun, mirror as much, or as little, as you want. All I ask is that you give proper credit, and not reformat or edit the cartoons.
How can I get in touch with you?
You can reach me at email@example.com.
How many people read Doctor Fun?
A lot. Hardly anybody. I don't have an exact answer because I only get statistics from ibiblio. Lots of people look at Doctor Fun, or hardly anybody looks at Doctor Fun, depending on how you look at the stats. There were a little over a million downloads of the daily cartoon last year and the year before from ibiblio. Over long periods of time readership is slowly going up, but it's inconsistent from month to month. On the average, it works out to about 4,000 daily readers on ibiblio. In slightly more detail, there were a little over 12 million hits total on the Doctor Fun pages in 2001. Of those 12 million hits, about 7 million were for the thumbnail images. Discounting the million downloads from latest cartoon itself, that leaves about 4 million leftover hits, a good bulk of which are downloads of older cartoons in the archives. It's hard to get a handle on total readership, since some people only look at the thumbnails, and the mirrors are just out there somewhere doing their thing. Overall traffic simply grows the more cartoons I add. There is a lot of crawling through the archives. Some of it is robots, but not all of it. Looking at the randomness of the numbers, it seems that someone, somewhere looks at every cartoon in the archive every week.
There a surprising amount (to me, anyway) of traffic in the older scanned cartoons.
That doesn't sound so bad. It's fun to tell people millions, if they ever ask, or even if they don't. Doesn't a million sound good? But I don't have anything else to compare it to, so it's hard to tell what's good. Every other cartoon I've heard about on the Internet supposedly gets hundreds of thousands of hits a day, so Doctor Fun may actually be the most unpopular cartoon out there.
Has Doctor Fun ever been slashdotted?
A couple times, but never as the main story. Going by the last time it happened, being mentioned on slashdot adds about 10,000 hits for the day.
Here's a recent mention.
Why do most of the files end in .htm and a few end in .html?
A question recently sent in by an actual reader like you! Most of the files are in .htm because I used to write and test the whole site on a DOS box first, which only allowed three-letter file extensions. The .html files were created with symbolic links or edited on what is now ibiblio. None of this matters anymore, but things remain the way they are because that's how they are.
What kind of people read Doctor Fun?
Based on the e-mail I get, people my age, and mostly in the same kinds of work. But I also get a disproportionate amount of e-mail from nurses wanting to use the cartoons ("laughter, the best medicine...")
Who is the Greatest Doctor Fun Fan?
A sad story. There actually is someone I crowned the Greatest Doctor Fun Fan, after they e-mailed me that they had downloaded something like two years worth of cartoons over a 14.4K modem. Unfortunately I can't find the e-mail or the old pages. I do know they were at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario. If you were that person, e-mail me, and claim your rightful title on this page.
But is it not possible that there could be more than one Greatest Doctor Fun Fan? Why not, I say? If you have performed a feat of strength involving Doctor Fun that doesn't cause you or anyone else physical or (much) mental distress, send me the details, and I will consider you, and the story of your feat of strength, for an ever-growing list of Doctor Fun's Pantheon of Immortals, to be added here. There are no rules, other than what I just said. Pictures would be good, too. These stunts will not involve me.
Curiously, Australian Cybermalls seems to have their own list already, but I'm not sure what it's all about.
Where do people read Doctor Fun?
There are readers everywhere english is the primary language, and some places where it isn't. Doctor Fun seems to be very popular in Scandanavia, and also Germany. None of this information was collected very scientifically.
Do any famous people read Doctor Fun?
Not that I know of, except when somebody I know showed it to someone famous. Hugh Hefner saw it. (Peggy Wilkins showed it to him.) Bill Gates received a Doctor Fun cake (not in the face), of all things, one time, but I hardly had anything to do with it. If you are famous, and you read Doctor Fun, let me know and I'll start a list here.
Are you famous?
I am not famous. Most people never heard of Doctor Fun and wouldn't read it if they did. My brief brush with fame was about a year after the cartoon started when I was invited down to UIUC to give a lecture (about Doctor Fun!) to the local chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery. (For those you who are confused, the ACM is people who work with computing machinery, not a bunch of computing machinery that formed an association.) They gave me a t-shirt and a chinese dinner. Later I found out they tried to get Scott Adams first, but he wanted a wad of money, hookers and booze (I'm lying about two of those things). I'm a cheap date (boring, too - plus I smell bad, also I don't have a car).
I don't do much of anything interesting, other than draw this cartoon. I've thought that it would work well if I could get some famous person to pose as the author of Doctor Fun. Suddenly the cartoon would have an entirely new dimension, without either me or the famous person having to do anything.
Has Doctor Fun gotten any publicity?
Doctor Fun was mentioned in the New York Times once, and in Wired (I think). I once saw a logo flashed on the screen during an Internet story on the local NBC affiliate. (I sent them an e-mail, but they never wrote back.) It was mentioned in a bunch of magazines in languages I can't read, but which people were kind enough to send me a copy.
Do you get a lot of e-mail?
A steady amount, but not too much at once. I get so much work-related e-mail, and spam, that the Doctor Fun stuff sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, but I try to answer it all. It's mostly been nice e-mail.
I sent you an e-mail and you never answered it.
Probably I never got it, or I got it and lost it, or it was something obnoxious, and you weren't expecting an answer anyway. If it wasn't the latter, why don't you send it again?
The older cartoons have your e-mail address listed at tezcat.com. I sent you mail there and it bounced. What is tezcat.com?
Tezcat.com was a good local Internet service provider in Chicago. Unfortunately, it is no more.
Here is their RIP.
The other addresses on the older cartoons probably still work, but I'd prefer firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's the most frequent e-mail question?
Are there any Doctor Fun books?
Why, yes. The first Doctor Fun book is available from Plan Nine Publishing. 128 colorful pages of all the very best Doctor Fun cartoons, which means the ones you asked for, and the ones that get the most traffic and attention.
Who bought the first copy?
A deranged fan.
What kind of weird questions do you get?
Well, other than that question, for awhile once I was getting lots of questions about body piercing. I think somebody had a link to a Doctor Fun cartoon on a body piercing web site, but I never got to the bottom of it. (I don't have any body piercings - sorry.) There was an exchange once that started to sound like the person writing me had an actual human head in a jar, but it turned out to be simple confusion.
People sometimes seem to think I have a large staff that produces these things. It's just me, except for good people at ibiblio who run the servers, and the people who have chipped in with the mailing list, search engine, and mirrors.
Some people seem to think these cartoons are produced by a large staff, who work for me.
Do you get any hate mail?
Not much. Most of it is short and to the point. "You're no Gary Larsen" is another perennial favorite. (I agree that I am no Gary Larsen. Most of those people tend to go on quite a bit about money, as if I was getting a lot of it.) It used to be that all the hate mail I got invariably came from people on WebTV, so I began to think that everybody with WebTV hated me for some reason, and my heart sank. But I also got some nice e-mails from WebTV people. I guess everybody on WebTV didn't hate me, and my heart soared. I trend I've noticed lately is that people who don't like the cartoon always send me e-mails from bogus addresses, so I couldn't reply even if I wanted to. (I am always curious about people who send my nasty e-mails, and look for them on google, deja, interpol, etc.) Really though, if people don't like the cartoon they just don't read it, and everybody's happy. It's not like it's sitting there on the comics page, goading them into canceling their internet subscription.
Speaking of hate mail, what's the deal with Doctor Fun and the Far Side?
I've got all those old Far Side collections, and whenever I need more ideas, I just pull them out and start copying. They've never caught me yet - oops! I think the Far Side is one of the funniest things ever, and was certainly an inspiration, but comparisons to the Far Side are a non-event. If you draw any kind of wacky one-panel comic, and anybody laughs at it, then somebody brings up the Far Side. You could go through a couple years of The New Yorker, pick out all the most Larsenesque cartoons, and create your own pseudo-Far Side collection. It is a certain flavor of humor. Gary Larsen made it his own, and kept it up longer and better than anybody else. I took a cartooning class once where one of the students drew nothing but ogres swinging decapitated babies around. The instructor thought this was wacky stuff, and kept exclaiming that Decapitron or whatever the guy called himself, was the next Gary Larsen. Go figure - that was the judgement of a bona fide New Yorker cartoonist. If you pushed me, I would say Jim Unger was a bigger influence. I was reading Herman for years before I ever saw the Far Side. Gary Larsen is the next Gary Larsen, if he would ever start drawing again.
Having said all that: Every cartoonist's fear is to open the paper and find that they've drawn somebody else's idea. Back when Doctor Fun was just getting started, Gary Larsen was still drawing the Far Side. I opened the paper one day to find a Far Side cartoon virtually identical to something I had drawn but hadn't posted yet. (At that time, I was drawing a pool of cartoons, and then picking from them to set up the cartoons for each week.) I don't have the Larsen cartoon to show you for comparison, but here's the one I had to pull. And here's one that was a little too similar to a Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon (same exact situation). Now I just don't read the comics in the paper anymore.
Here are two other cartoons I pulled, both because I thought they were in bad taste at the time. My tastes have changed, I just think they're too dumb to run now.
At last, after all these years I've finally managed to sneak all four of those lame duck cartoons online!
What software and hardware do you use to draw Doctor Fun?
Right now, Adobe Photoshop 6.0. In the past I've used Aldus PhotoPaint, and earlier versions of Photoshop. I've tried other software, like Fractal Design Painter, and the GIMP, but I always go back to Photoshop. My computer right now is a Sony LX-910 PenTablet, which I bought solely because of the drawing table/screen combination. It works great (for drawing, and everything else I do - as far as raw computing goes, it's not exactly the kind of thing you'd write into MaximumPC about). I'm willing to spend a reasonable amount of money to get the right tools, as long as I'm actually going to use them.
Update: Sony discontinued the entire PenTablet line. Only loser Internet cartoonists were buying it. But if you are a loser Internet cartoonist and missed getting your Sony PenTablet computer on eBay, Wacom sells a similar tablet now.
Update Update: The Sony is long gone, and has been replaced with a teeny-tiny Fujitsu Lifebook and a Wacom Intuos. Did anybody really notice? And now we're up to Photoshop CS2 (9.0).
What kind of software and hardware did you use when you started drawing Doctor Fun?
I had a 33 Mhz 486 with 32 Mbytes of RAM, a CalComp Wiz drawing tablet (no pressure, and the pen was attached by a cord - can you imagine such a thing?), and an Epson flatbed scanner. I only used the computer to color the cartoons. I started the cartoons as drawings on paper and scanned them into Aldus PhotoStyler. It's been a shoestring operation, as far as hardware goes, until recently.
Why a Windows box? Why don't you use a Mac?
A good question. I like Macs. They were ferociously expensive when I first got interested in the idea of combining computers and cartoons (long before Doctor Fun started) and since I used Windows almost all the time at my day jobs, I decided to just go with that. If Apple had a Mac that did what this Sony does with the screen, I probably would have bought one this time around.
And the ugly truth is, political issues aside, properly configured, Windows can work pretty well. Since my day job is supporting Windows, I can provide myself with Kwality Technical Support at home (except that time I installed OS/2...)
Why don't you used Linux or BSD and the GIMP?
Another good question. I like the GIMP, too, but I don't see it as being where Photoshop is right now. I keep an eye on it, though.
Why don't you use...
Another great question. I like all computers, all operating systems, and all software. It's all great!
Now I want to send you hate mail because you use Microsoft and Adobe products.
How are the cartoons drawn in Photoshop?
If you've ever seen cartoon animation cels for sale, and had a chance to look at them close up, Doctor Fun isn't that much different. There is usually a minimum of three layers, not physical layers to the cartoon while I'm drawing it. These are not physical layers, but rather computerized layers managed by Photoshop, that stack on top of one another. One layer is just the black and white drawing itself. Another layer is the background. And the last layer is the actual coloring of the action in the foreground. While I'm working on a cartoon, the number of layers usually expands, as I'll want to draw things and keep them separated until it's time to put the whole thing together. The artwork is kept in a separate file, and I pop it into the template and add the caption, date, and all the other text as the last step. (The file I upload only has one layer.) There are a number of techniques I like that I usually use on every cartoon, and some that I only use to solve a particular problem. Over the years I've learned that simpler is better. Something that gives the appearance of having been worked on for hours is sometimes the same as something that actually took hours.
The cartoons are 640 x 480 pixels, which is vanilla VGA resolution. Hardly anybody runs their display at that resolution anymore, but it's still a good default. The actual artwork is 515 x 380 pixels. That leaves enough space around the rest of the frame for the title, copyright notice, and a caption. The font used in the cartoons is GillSans (and sometimes a GillSans knock-off when I didn't have Adobe Type Manager available).
Some people have asked for a step-by-step explanation with screenshots, but there's not enough time in the world for that right now. Maybe someday. Here's a screenshot just for you.
Early Doctor Funs were done in Aldus PhotoStyler and didn't use layers. I colored right over a copy of the line art, destroying it in the process, and then pasted another copy over top when the coloring was finished.
According to the cartoons in the archive, I switched from Aldus PhotoStyler to Adobe Photoshop starting August 31, 1995, and I switched to drawing the cartoons from scratch on the computer using a tablet (a CalComp, I think) on October 13, 1997.
Here, for your amusement, and at no extra charge, are some cartoons from Ye Ancient Days, that I drew with a mouse using DeluxePaint II Enhanced. So you know, I was working on this a long time before 1993...
Where do you get the backgrounds and textures that sometimes show up in the cartoons?
Some of the material is from clip art collections that come with software I've purchased, some of it is from photos I've taken myself, and some it is created wholly from scratch. I'm a sucker for those "2000 Textures for $2.95!" CD-ROMs you see in OfficeDepot. Whatever works. If I'm spending a lot of time on the background and textures, then I am probably spending too much time.
How long does it take to draw a Doctor Fun?
I do them in batches by working on the drawings themselves, and then picking out a batch that I'll work on for specific dates. And then creating the backgrounds for each cartoon, and then doing the coloring of the foreground parts of the cartoon. The coloring part takes the longest. If I did each one one-by-one (which is how I did them when I started), it would take much longer. If you absolutely must have a number, I'd say each cartoon takes about an hour to an hour and a half.
Why don't you draw the cartoons in higher resolution?
640 x 480 is the lowest common denominator, and some people still run their screens at that resolution, believe it or not. If you are running your display at a lower resolution, the cartoon will appear bigger. If you are running your display at a higher resolution, the cartoon will appear smaller. I think Doctor Fun looks fine both ways. (I run my display at work at 1280x1024, not that I'm ever looking at cartoons at work.) I'd also like consistency through the entire run of the cartoon, however long that might be.
Also, the computer I mentioned above that I'm using with the drawing tablet built into the screen runs at a maximum resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. Although I've run other computers with a separate tablet and display at higher resolutions, I get the best response on the Sony working on pictures at a 1:1 ratio. So, in order to keep all the other palettes and stuff on the screen, the smaller image size still works well. I'm aware that other cartoonists don't work this way, and all way-cool people use vectors and fancy-fancy stuff, but Doctor Fun is more doodlely-oodly than all that.
For people who want some high resolution, here's a really big logo.
What other software do you use besides Adobe Photoshop?
I use Cerious Software's ThumbsPlus for browsing and doing various handy things to images.
I use Paul Lutus's Arachnophilia for editing my web pages (and emacs, poorly, if I happen to need to edit stuff at the unix prompt).
I usually use Ed Hamrick's excellent Vuescan for scanning stuff.
Why JPEG for the Doctor Fun cartoons?
It's the least worst situation. GIF throws out too much color information (and there's that whole proprietary format thing). PNG in 24-bit color is not small enough, and PNG support is still iffy. The drawback with JPEG is that it futzes up some of the line art and text, but I'll put up with that to keep it in 24-bit color. I know there are other technologies, I've even experimented with them, but nothing is as universal as JPEG.
The master copies of all the files I keep are mostly PNG.
How have the drawings changed over the years?
I spent a lot of time looking at the older cartoons during my long break and decided that the major problem with many of them was that they were overdone and hard to read. The focus of cartoons didn't stand out well enough from the backgrounds, and many of them used all sorts of silly effects that didn't add anything to the joke. All that aside, Doctor Fun has a certain "look" to it that was something more than pen and ink. So I decided to make a real effort to keep all the colorful stuff, but also keep the focus on the joke. So the backgrounds are now usually blown out and faded in order to make the line art stand out, and I go easier on the fancy effects.
On the other hand, like most cartoonists, I'm hypercritical about my own work and would probably pull most of it off if I wasn't self-aware enough to keep a lid on it. I drew cartoons for years and threw them in a drawer (or only showed them to a couple friends) because I didn't think they were any good. There hasn't been any time when I've been drawing Doctor Fun that I didn't think I was doing the best I could do with what I had available. My tastes have changed, though.
Drawing the cartoons has gotten faster, and actually more fun now that I've eliminated the hand/eye coordination thing with a separate tablet and monitor, and I'm drawing right on the screen. A lot of people have trouble learning to draw with a tablet while looking at a monitor. It took me a long time of trying until I felt I was drawing good enough to stop using paper. Now that I can draw on the screen, I'm happy to forget all about that.
Where do you get your ideas?
I don't know how many other cartoonists work. My methods may be unprofessional. I keep a little notebook, and try to sit quietly in a corner somewhere every day for a couple minutes and jot some ideas down. I try to read as much as I can find the time - mostly on the Internet while I'm supposed to be working. When it's time to draw some cartoons, I go through my notebook and pick out what still sounds funny and possibly easy to draw. Where do the ideas actually come from? Who really knows. That's the answer that annoys the people who ask this questions. I can say that my ideas always pop into my head fully-formed, the drawing, and the punch line together. Most ideas come from something I've read, or something I saw, or something - they don't just come from nowhere. I've been working this way ever since I started.
Why are there some recurring themes in Doctor Fun?
I've been told that sea cucumbers, heads in jars, and bums in alleys are some of many recurring themes. I think people think I work these themes more often than I actually do. If I had to pick a theme, I'd say chickens and squirrels have popped up a lot, and peeps at Easter.
Are you buying or using ideas for Doctor Fun?
Not interested. Writing the cartoon is half the fun for me.
If you have ideas for cartoons, check out a copy of "The Writers Market" - they may have listings for people who want to buy your cartoon ideas. Or draw a cartoon yourself. Even if you don't draw, you can always try. And if you keep drawing, you'll get better.
I'm sending you these ideas anyway. You don't even have to pay me if you use them. We can be collaborators. All that I ask is...
Go the fuck away! No, thanks.
I didn't understand Doctor Fun today. Whatever shall I do?
You can always e-mail me. It's no trouble for me to explain my cartoons since I drew them, and I'm not all famous and full of myself yet. But if you'd rather have a bunch of other people explain Doctor Fun, you can also send the cartoon into Bill Bickel's "Comics I Don't Understand Page" and let other people explain the cartoon for you. Bill's got some weird thing going where he doesn't think it's proper to let the actual cartoonist explain their cartoons, so you won't see me there (but I do read it).
Do you make any money from Doctor Fun?
I sometimes get small fees when people want to reprint one of my cartoons. I got a small advance when I was associated with United Media, which they screamed bloody murder about. That's about it.
Are you a professional cartoonist? Do you want to make money from Doctor Fun?
I was once going to be interviewed via e-mail for some high school newspaper, but after a couple preliminary questions, they decided I wasn't really a cartoonist, and they had to find somebody else.
A tough question. I used to say yes. Then, for awhile, I said no. But now I say yes again. For situations where any other cartoonist would be asking a fee, I ask for one, too. First of all, I like getting money. Second of all, I don't want to horn in on the territory of people who work hard drawing cartoons for a living by giving away freebies. (I work hard drawing these cartoons, too.) So when I deal in situations where a professional cartoonist would expect money for something, I ask for the same fees, including reprint fees for Doctor Fun where any other cartoonist would charge money. Most of the time this results in no money, but what the heck.
I go around and around trying to explain to people sometimes how, yes, I think money could be made off of Doctor Fun, but no, it has not really made any money to date, and no, I'm not going to bag the way it's done now in hopes of making money later. So when people have come to me with their ideas since the United Media debacle, my take on it has been, what's in it for me? Usually there isn't much in it at all, except a chance "to get my cartoons published" (they are already published) or a chance to drop everything I'm doing now to do things the way someone else thinks I should do it. I still haven't found what I'm looking for. I sometimes find myself in conversation with people who believe that by making money I'll somehow validate what I'm doing, which seems to me the best argument in the world to keep doing things the way I'm doing them. I do have a real job, after all. I'm not interested in being a cartoon star.
Do you ever do other work on the web?
If it's worth my time, sure. I used get offers to do quite a bit of work, usually for good money, right after I started Doctor Fun. Much of the work had nothing to do with cartooning, so I would usually just do the stuff that seemed related to what I was already doing. I think I got this work only because Doctor Fun was popping up whenever people tried to do a search for anything related to web graphics. The situation has changed since 1993.
What's the story with Doctor Fun and United Media?
Doctor Fun was licensed to United Media for slightly less than a year starting in May, 1995.
I still haven't figured out what the deal was with United Media. The kindest thing I can say about the experience was that United Media decided to jump into the Internet without really knowing what they wanted to do, wanted some cool Internet stuff, and I was handy. Once they found that they could do quite well with the cartoons they already syndicated to newspapers, my association with them was pretty pointless, since they didn't plan to take Doctor Fun into print, and the couple thousand readers I brought in really didn't stack up to much compared to how many people read even their most obscure features in the papers. I am speculating, I never got a straight answer from anybody United Media about why they acted the way they did, and sometimes got answers from the same person in the same conversation that were completely contradictory. United Media never did anything with Doctor Fun. A year went by and UM dawdled on even moving the daily cartoon over to their web server (I had a page at United Media, but there was never anything there except the logo and a cartoon that was usually out of date by weeks, sometimes months). I finally opted out of my contract and decided to continue with things on ibiblio (which was then called SunSITE). In fact, the cartoon never moved off of SunSITE the whole time I was with United Media - we had an agreement that it would stay there until they were updating it on their web page. The whole thing was like some kind of weird bad dream.
Having learned nothing, I later had a short association with Tribune Media Services. I think it lasted until they actually looked at the cartoons.
Have you ever been published?
In the 80s I worked really hard at getting my cartoons into magazines, and was moderately successful. My two biggest customers were the unlikely combination of "Spy" magazine and "Campus Life". "Campus Life" still prints some Doctor Funs every now and then (the ones that are appropriate for "Campus Life"). I've had some stuff appear in King Features "The New Breed", and at least one in "Punch" (right before they folded). I did some ghost writing for another strip, but didn't find it to be particularly fun.
Spy didn't publish cartoons.
They published mine. I'll scan them and put them up here someday. They still owe me $200.
Were they those cartoons that were all drawn with dots?
No. That was Drew Friedman.
Have you ever sent stuff to The New Yorker?
Sure. Everybody sends stuff to The New Yorker, but it's the biggest joke in the world because they only publish cartoons of maybe, 20 cartoonists, who have all been drawing for them for decades. Since everybody gets the same little yellow slip back, it becomes a big deal just to get some indication that some living person even looked at your cartoons. I once got a note from Lee Lorenz on the rejection slip that said "Sorry" and felt truly blessed.
Who are you?
I grew up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I graduated from Carlisle High School in 1981. I attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for two years, studying engineering, and then transferred to Millersville University in Pennsylvania, graduating with a degree in music. I studied pipe organ but I don't play anymore. I had no talent for engineering or music, but somehow managed to finish the music degree. I moved to New York City, discovered that knowing something about personal computers made me employable, and did all sorts of interesting and not-so-interesting jobs for awhile while I drew cartoons and tried to sell them. I worked in the World Trade Center for two years, and then did the temp thing for a couple years. About ten years ago I moved to Chicago, and have been here ever since. I used to be married.
My parents were teachers (now retired) and still live in Pennsylvania, although they are no longer in Carlisle. I have one sister, one brother, and two nieces. Aren't they cute? My sister is an engineer and my brother is a writer. I don't personally have a dog, but between everybody else we have five dogs, unless my sister's dogs ran away again.
Did you study art or writing?
Not really - I have no qualifications to draw or write, and should probably stop. I took some painting classes when I was in high school. I took some drawing and design courses in college. I took a cartooning course at Parsons School of Design when I was living in New York and some writing courses at The New School. (I had ambitions of getting into stand-up comedy at one time, but as soon as I got into it, I decided to get back out of it.) I took a sculpture class a couple years ago in Chicago. Any art instruction I've had has been pretty random and sporadic.
Sometimes I've done art-like stuff on the computer to practice techniques. Here's a series of manipulations I did to a photo (of me!) many years ago using Aldus PhotoStyler.
If that didn't grab you, here's a study in bad compositing.
Here's another image. The trick here is that all the effects you see in the image were generated from the black and white image of the skull. Now that's tricky!
These days, if I think of something arty, it goes into the cartoon or (more likely) the logo.
What cartoons did you read when you were little?
Now comes the tiresome list of sophisticated or cool-in-a-postmodern-ironic-way cartoons that cartoonists always say they read when they were little. Other than Herman (see above) lots of Pogo and Peanuts. I never saw either actually as a strip in the newspaper, so I only read them in books. Pogo was the best because I read the books and liked them when I was little just because of the way it was drawn and how the characters talked, and then when I was older I read them again and suddenly understood all the political stuff that went over my head when I was younger. Some other comics I remember reading over and over were the Carl Bark's Scrooge McDuck adventures (particularly the one where they get lost in the asteroid belt), Toonerville Trolley, and Classics Illustrated. I never much got into superhero type comic books. Notice not much of this is anything like Doctor Fun, is it? Two that I liked that maybe do have a connection are Herman and Hatlo's They'll Do It Everytime. For awhile I liked political cartoons more than anything else. And, I would go through anything that had panel cartoons, New Yorker, National Lampoon, Punch, etc. I read lots of other stuff that wasn't cartoons, and I had a ViewMaster, too.
I don't spend much time looking at other cartoons these days. I do sometimes look at this one, and this one.
Are you really a doctor?
I'm not a doctor of any sort. Nor am I Doctor Fun.
What do you do for a living?
I work for the University of Chicago Library. I manage the desktop support group, officially known as Administrative and Desktop Systems. I've been at the library for almost ten years. It's a great job working with nice people (who might read this).
What else do you do?
I like to run. Here are some races I did. I've run many other races, but I sort of lost interest in taking pictures. Whenever I decide I'm "running too much" and cut back, my pants mysteriously begin to get too tight (probably washed them in hot water by accident) and then I do more races - it's a vicious cycle. I used to be in a running club but I had to leave because I wasn't tall enough.
When did you start drawing cartoons?
I started drawing the kinds of cartoons I draw now back in the summer of 1984. True but tedious story: I was taking summer courses at Millersville, and got stuck in principles of accounting at 7:30 in the morning. Death. Even the BigGulp coffee from 7-11 didn't help. I doodled little cartoony pictures to stay awake. Ok, to be fair, I always doodled little cartoony pictures, but this was doodling with a grim purpose. One day I realized that something I'd doodled was a cartoon with a joke and everything, just like real cartoons. (I have that cartoon somewhere - when I find it I'll scan it in.) I had never occurred to me before that I could do that. I wondered if I could draw more "real" cartoons so I tried to think up some ideas. I thought of lots of ideas - doodled a bunch of them down, and then showed them to some of my friends a couple days later back home. They all laughed, so I kept drawing and started sending them off to magazines. The magazine editors weren't as easily entertained as my friends, but I kept drawing, and eventually sold some.
I also drew some comic strip-type cartoons in high school mostly involving the supposed adventures of certain people we all knew, but these were juvenile and poorly-drawn and not at all worth further mention here. (I have those cartoons somewhere, too, but they are not getting scanned in.)
Why do you draw Doctor Fun?
People read it, so I keep drawing it. I always think it could be better, and maybe someday I'll get it right. For years, I drew cartoons and threw them in a drawer, and nobody ever read them. Or I sent them to magazines, and most of them got sent back. So this is an improvement. When I started drawing Doctor Fun, it was a bigger deal to create a cartoon on a computer than it is now.
Why did you take a long break in 1998?
I was getting divorced. It was an unpleasant time, and I finally decided to take a break for the duration. I'm only explaining this because concerned people have written to me thinking I was ill, or had some other crisis. (But thanks for your concern, those who wrote.) It may have been a mistake to keep the cartoon dark for so long - I'm still getting e-mails from people who didn't know it was running again. I could have started Doctor Fun back up again sooner than I did. By the time all the bad stuff was over, I was working on a semi-mindless project I knew would never get done (scanning all my old cartoons) if I started drawing Doctor Fun again, so I decided to put it off until I was all done with that. My ex-wife drew this chipmunk which used to be on the old faq page.
When will Doctor Fun end?
I hope to be allowed to continue Doctor Fun after the superintelligent robots have taken over and made us all their slaves.
Hopefully before I go crazy or get run over by a bus, or go crazy and get run over by a bus, or get run over by a bus, and then go crazy, or... I would like it not to end, but I don't know. It's not a career right now, and circumstances can change. It could turn into something else. It could turn into a career. It's what I'm doing now. If it continues the way it is, I'd like to draw ten year's worth of Doctor Fun, meaning 520 weeks. Even if I take some breaks, the goal is 520 weeks of Doctor Fun. You can see where I am now if you look at the files in the archive page. There is a long way to go, but we're more than halfway there. So, what happens after 520 weeks? I will probably take a break and think about what I want to do next. I'll be in my forties. There's a thing out there somewhere called a social life. Of course, what I'll probably do if I make it that far, is just keep going, because there will be nothing else for me to do.
One possibility I've considered for post-520 weeks is to continue Doctor Fun as a black-and-white daily, and have a color cartoon every weekend.
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