Student draws explosive web comic

November 6, 2006

Phill Johnson

Rob DenBleyker works on his comic

Media Credit: Phill Johnson

Rob DenBleyker works on his comic “Cyanide and Happiness” March 15. The strip is drawn in Macromedia Flash.

At more than a million visits per week, the website Explosm.net is growing larger each day. Robert DenBleyker, art & technology sophomore, produces a web comic from the confines of his Waterview Park apartment every other day, contributing to the website’s success.

DenBleyker’s web comic, “Cyanide and Happiness,” is hosted on Explosm.net, which features the daily web comic co-written by DenBleyker and Kris Wilson, in addition to flash movies created by the owners and an active forum. “Cyanide and Happiness” received 20,000 unique visitors per day until mid-January.

“In January, we added a little box under each comic which allows people to post an Explosm-linked version of the comic, which brings a lot of traffic back to us. After we put that box up, the traffic started exploding,” DenBleyker said.

Days after adding the link, the traffic to DenBleyker’s web comic jumped to nearly 300,000 unique visitors per day.

Most of the traffic doesn’t come from people directly visiting the site, rather from the comics being directly linked from blogs like MySpace and LiveJournal.

“Unlike most webcomics, we encourage people to leech off our servers and post our comics in their blogs. About a fifth of our traffic comes from MySpace alone,” DenBleyker said.

DenBleyker first started making comics in the fourth grade, where he created them using only notebook paper and pencils. Years later, he got his first start making actual web comics on TotalFark – a forum hosted at http://www.fark.com for subscribing users.

After receiving a substantial amount of support from readers, he joined with others he had met via the internet to create Explosm.net.

He works with Wilson from Wyoming, California-based Matt Melvin and Dave McElfatrick from Ireland. The four now come together to produce the daily web comic, which prides itself on its sharp humor and quick jokes.

“Some of the comics are kind of edgy, really not the kind of comics you would forward to your sweet little grandmother on a Sunday morning. Then again, that’s probably the reason they appeal to the young crowd,” DenBleyker said.

While “Cyanide and Happiness” is primarily a stick figure-based web comic, DenBleyker said he uses that to his advantage.

“It makes the characters seem very transient, as if they only exist for a given comic. ‘Cyanide and Happiness’ prides itself on having no characters of themes. If we ever bring up a character, we usually retire it after its share of original jokes has run out,” DenBleyker said.

“Most web comics have constant story development and character-driven humor. That is, jokes that are only really funny if you know the character well,” he added.

With the growing success of both “Cyanide and Happiness” and Explosm.net, DenBleyker said he and the other comic artists intend to continue with a daily comic strip providing edgy jokes for as long as they can.

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