22 March 2023
We jump into the world of remixing webcomics with Rob DenBleyker

The internet. We’ve all been there. For those who have been there a long time they might remember the world before social media and smartphone became the major way of engaging with it. Before that there were lots of websites where people were working out what the internet was for. This was long before the advent of easily streamed video, although it was the heyday of music ‘piracy’. Everyone knew it was going to kill all print, especially newspapers (that’s gone well so far hasn’t it?) and so looked at that for inspiration. It was just how people understood what the ‘content’ of the internet would look like.
But it was vaguely anarchic, as much as anything can be sitting down in an office chair in front of a keyboard. Websites like NewGrounds made a portal for people (read: teenagers, children and underdeveloped adults) to share Flash games (flash was an animation tool, partly killed off by Adobe and Apple in the 2010s and finally sunset for good in 2021), and others were hustling to make their little dreams seen by others. That was the promise of the internet, although we didn’t know how it would end up, that you could communicate with everyone – without any barriers.

And so the world of webcomics appeared. Usually daily, these short handful of panels would be one of the places people of a certain vintage looking for something to look at on the internet would click around to. They were mostly made by bored teenagers and young people who wanted to make jokes for their friends. Often they would be crudely drawn, or using the same panels with different written content each day. It was a bit experimental and a bit homespun, but it was as legitimate as anything that could be made at the time.

And so we come to Cyanide & Happiness, a long running attempt at finding the humour in daily life and off-colour jokes. Explosm, the company formed around the comic once it took off has now also released two games. The first Joking Hazard is a ‘remix the comics’ style game where individual panels from the comic are used to make the best/worst jokes, depending on your sense of good taste. The later, Master Dater is a dating sim game where players are mixing and matching their character and then arguing about who should get to go on the date. It’s not quite Blind Date, but it’s blind-date-with-a-bit-of-arguing. 

We spoke to Rob DenBleyker, the creator of Cyanide & Happiness about making these comics, the games and even asked the team to put together an exclusive comics just for us.

Hello! Can you introduce yourself for our readers?
I’m Rob DenBleyker, one of the creators of Cyanide & Happiness.

And what is Cyanide & Happiness?
Cyanide & Happiness is a daily webcomic and weekly animation series that started way back in 2005.

For the old people at the front and the very young people at the back, could you explain the whole webcomics culture that appeared in the 2000s? Where did this explosion come from?
Webcomics emerged in the late 90s and early 2000s. Basically as soon as you could upload JPGs to the internet, people started posting cartoons. Without the hassle of editors or newspaper syndicates, anyone could start a webcomic, and a ton of great strips that could never appear in a newspaper began appearing.

While it is a comic strip, it’s not for kids, what’s it like approaching bigger subjects (or mocking them) in this medium?
Without the inherent censorship that comes with newspaper standards, webcomics for adults became fairly common, Cyanide & Happiness being one of the largest. I don’t think we were trying to be edgy or dark with our humor, we just happened to be cartoonists with screwed up senses of humor, finally able to connect with an audience via the internet. Another benefit of webcomics is we could post them as animated GIFs. Can’t do that in a newspaper!

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Tell us then about Joking Hazard? Where did the remix idea come from?
In 2015 we launched a feature on our website called the Random Comic Generator, which created a random three panel comic from hundreds of pre-drawn panels. There were over 20 million combinations. The Random Comic Generator became a huge hit, and one day we just decided to print out the hundreds of panels and see if it was as much fun to play with on a table. Joking Hazard very quickly emerged. After about a year of testing and balancing, we launched it on Kickstarter.

What kind of gamer is it for?
Joking Hazard is for Cyanide & Happiness fans, and also anyone who enjoys creative storytelling with a dark sense of humour. The game is more open-ended than other “impress the judge” party games because instead of just pairing a question & answer, you’re creating a tiny 3-panel story. Sometimes the funniest punchline wins, sometimes the saddest one wins, and no two games are alike.

And what about Master Dater?
Master Dater is a bit different than Joking Hazard, and puts the creativity even moreso in the hands of the player. It’s a game about combining a head and a body to create a perfect date, and arguing your way toward winning three very specific interest cards (or as many of the three as you can). It’s a game that involves extreme pandering, creative arguing, and a lot of completely absurd conversations.

Can you give us some examples of extremely niche dates that might go ahead?
One of the most recent winning dates was “Batman Peeing on a Cat”. The player managed to win all three interest cards, which were “I need someone who can lend me a couple bucks”, “I’m interested in listening to sad music in the dark” and “I have 27 cats and could use some help”. No other player could compete.

You’ve got other games coming up, what should we be on the lookout for?
We have a few games in development, but it’s too early to announce what they are. We’re very excited to show more when the time is right!

What’s next for C&H and Explosm?
We’ve got a weekly animated series on YouTube, the sequel to our 2021 video game on the horizon, and a lot more animated stuff on the way. We hope to continue putting weird stuff on the internet as long as we can!



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