I’m not sure why anyone would want to know more about me, but people have asked! Honest! What follows is my attempt to compile and systematically answer the various questions that have been shot at me over the months and years.

Q: Who the heck are you? What’s your background?


A: I hail from (and currently live near) Hamilton, which is a fair-sized city about an hour outside of Toronto. It’s one of those rough-and-tumble former steel towns; it’s only now starting to pull itself out of an economic slump. My comic is set in Hamilton, though I seldom mention the town by name.

I trained in classical animation at Sheridan College during the hand-drawn animation boom of the 90’s, when every studio and its neighbour tried to hop on the money train that had started with Little Mermaid. I sensed it was a bad decision in first year, though, and I bailed out of the program to get my BA in English literature at McMaster University. It turned out to be a decent decision because the animation market bottomed out at that time and most of the people in the animation program never got jobs in the field.

After undergrad, I got my B.Ed. and began teaching at the high school level. I’ve worked as a high school English teacher ever since and I’ve really enjoyed it. The kids are always fun to work with; I couldn’t ask for more in a day job.

Q: Why do you call yourself ElectricGecko? Why not your real name?

A: Professionally speaking, it’s much better for me to keep my creative pursuits and my teaching career entirely separate. To that end, I don’t share my comic endeavours with any students or fellow teachers. In fact, I go to great lengths to make sure that my students and co-workers remain totally unaware of Puck. Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of my comic and don’t think there’s anything seriously objectionable in the strip, but not all parents are reasonable, and it’s a conflict I’d like to avoid. To that end, I use a pseudonym.

As for the ElectricGecko thing, it’s … just sort of random. It came to me when I was stuck for a username one day and none of my usual options worked. Then I just stuck with it. It turns out there’s another ElectricGecko who’s a DJ in Germany. We’re not the same dude – though a European DJ gig would totally bump up my coolness factor, so maybe I SHOULD spread a rumour that we’re the same dude.

Q: What got you interested in creating webcomics?

A: My involvement in the world of comics predates the prefix ‘web’. I’d always been a lover of comics; I made and printed my own underground comic books in high school (shockingly bad superhero titles that are now best forgotten), but my first serious foray into strip comics came after another animation student showed me an anthology of Frank Cho’s University2 comic strip. That comic (which Cho had drawn during his time at the University of Maryland) cracked the possibilities wide open for me. I started to see that strip comics could be a versatile medium: they could be funny, irreverent, satirical, and even a little sexy. That was the kernel of inspiration that really started me on the comic path.

Q: How did Puck start, and why did you restart it?

A: Puck started shortly after I saw Cho’s book. That was 1998. At the time, I thought “Man, I’d love to do a comic strip just like that, but this stupid animation program keeps me too busy to take on a big project.” Then I dropped out of animation, and my first thought was “Wow! Now I can do my comic!” I didn’t enrol at McMaster University just so I could draw a comic for the student paper, but it was certainly a motivating factor. I even completed five or six strips before the school year started. I pitched the concept to the bemused head editor of the student paper, who duly informed me that there hadn’t been a comic strip in the McMaster Silhouette in over a decade. Still, he was a kindly soul and he let me have some page space despite his initial hesitation. That makes Puck over fifteen years old; it’s had a presence on the internet for most of those years. The original Puck website actually predates Google. It may not be the oldest webcomic in existence, but it’s probably close.

After university ended, I thought I was going to move on to bigger and better creative things. I was wrong. I initiated a number of projects (a comic book, an illustrated children’s book, a few novels and even a Flash-based edutainment game to teach literacy skills to high school kids), but none of them ever panned out. After ten years of working hard on things that never even saw the light of day, I longed for the days when I was working on Puck: the days when I made something that actually got seen by real human beings. A few years ago, I stumbled upon DeviantArt and I began to post some of my failed projects. I then posted a bunch of my old Puck comics on dA and the community was very supportive. People seemed to connect to Puck more than any of my other stuff. That really got the ball rolling for me; I saw that there was actually an audience for Puck somewhere out there. I restarted the strip in the spring of 2011 (exactly ten years after I ended the initial run) and I’ve been having a lot of fun ever since.

Q: Is the comic at all autobiographical? Are the characters based on real individuals? Can you give me Phoebe’s phone number?

A: The strip isn’t autobiographical in any true sense. I take inspiration from real events and situations, of course, and there are a number of parallels between my life and the world of Puck. Colin and I, for instance, share certain similarities: he looks sort of like a blond version of me; he’s a high school English teacher, like me; he plays too many video games, like me. My wife, meanwhile, bears more than a passing physical resemblance to Puck; she and Puck share the same fashion sense; they both possess a strong dislike for stupid pop culture.

That said, I am not Colin, nor is my wife Puck. I actually met my wife AFTER I started the comic, so any resemblance between the two is sort of but not quite entirely coincidental. (The real story? A mutual friend set me up with my wife in part because she looked like Puck. The friend knew my type, I guess. My type is tall, thin, pretty girls with freckles. If you have to have a type, I think it’s a good type to have.)

All in all, I’m happy to report that I’m (marginally) more responsible than Colin. My wife is gentle and kind-hearted, unlike Puck. We have adopted no furry children. We’re both employed, live far from the city’s industrial slum, and do not threaten each other with violence on a weekly basis.

For the record, Phoebe is an entirely fictional creation that I modelled loosely on the girls who were in the interior design program at Sheridan. (They were all airheads, most of them were strikingly beautiful and they wore clothing that was patently ridiculous: Phoebe to a ‘T’.)

Q: Why is Puck called Puck? Why is she sometimes referred to as Robin Goodfellow? Is there any relation between this Puck and the Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

A: My Puck is vaguely (make that VERY vaguely) based upon the character from Shakespeare, which was, in turn, based upon a traditional European folk figure. In English folklore, Puck was a mischievous spirit who went by various names including ‘Hobgoblin’ and ‘Robin Goodfellow’. I took the latter as Puck’s legal name in the comic.

In the original tales, Puck was always male, though he could assume a different shape or sex when he wanted to. In my comic, Puck is female and reports that she used to have short hair, so everyone mistakenly thought she was a dude back then. (Even though most dudes back then had long hair. Go fig.)

When I first started the comic, I was planning on making more of the Shakespearean connection – perhaps by incorporating other fairy characters – but I eventually abandoned that. As it stands right now, the comic really has absolutely nothing to do with the Shakespearean source.

Q: If Puck is 631+ years old, why hasn’t she done more with her life?

A: Within the framework of the comic, the first 600 years really don’t count. Puck almost never mentions her past, so for all intents and purposes she functions as a standard thirty-something mortal. There are lots of great story concepts that might stem from Puck’s obscure and storied past, but I don’t really want to go there. The comic has become a demented slice-of-life comedy – not a thoughtful exploration of an immortal’s experiences in a mortal world. I’ll leave that crap to Anne Rice. For that reason, I never make a big deal about Puck’s age.

Q: What’s your creative process? How are the strips made?

A: My process involves me largely coming up with the strip concept in my head, then immediately jumping to the pencils stage. I map out the layout of the four panels on a little mini-template, and then start the real drawings. The comic is drawn the old-fashioned way (with Col-Erase light blue pencils) and inked (with Pigma Micron felt-tips) on real, honest-to-goodness paper. The actual individual panel drawings are 4.5″ by 6″ — rather small by comic standards.

Once I’ve inked the images, I then scan them and trace the resulting bitmaps into a vector file using CorelDraw. I use CorelDraw (similar to Adobe Illustrator, but Canadian and thus far better) to do all the colouring and speech bubbles. I don’t know anyone else who works with a method similar to mine. Few comic people seem to work in vector; digital paint rules the roost these days. Also, there are few people actually using pen and ink on paper anymore. Most everyone I know draws on a tablet, but that wouldn’t really work for me. I do my drawings when I can, where I can: on lunch hours, while my kids are watching television, etc. As it is, I have my clipboard and I’m ready to draw anywhere. I like that.

Q: What’s your least favourite part of the creative process? What’s your favourite?

A: My least favourite part of the creative process is usually whatever part I’m currently working on. The drawing part is difficult because the image can go wrong in so many ways; the inking part is tedious; the colouring part tends to take too long. I most prefer the final stages of the process, when I’m just putting in the finishing touches. That’s satisfying because I can see the fruits of my labour.

Q: Which body part do you hate drawing the most?

A: Eyes. I hate drawing eyes. There’re so many ways to get them wrong, and if you get them wrong, they totally ruin the image forever. (Stupid, f#$%ing eyes…)

Q: Do you cut any corners?

A: I shamelessly reuse backgrounds all the time. Shading backgrounds in vector is a painful process, so if I can reuse a pre-coloured background image, it saves time. I do like including detailed backgrounds in the comic, though – even if they’re reused. Many webcomics make do with a simple color field, but I try to avoid that where possible.

That said, I never, EVER reuse drawings of characters. Every panel features a fresh draw of each character, even if the character barely moves from one panel to another. I feel canned images of characters are not effective in a character-based comic. The expression on Puck’s face needs to match the exact words she’s saying in that particular panel. I can’t get that effect with a pre-drawn image.

Q: Why the coloured speech bubbles?

A: When the strip made the transition to colour, I felt it was a serious crime to take up half of every panel with white space, so I decided to colour-code my speech bubbles. For those who haven’t figured out the pattern, ANY character can possibly have a white bubble, but each character has his or her unique alternate shade: Puck’s bubbles are green, Colin’s are yellow, Daphne’s are purple, Phoebe’s are pink, Tyler’s are orange, Satan’s are red, and most other secondary characters’ are blue. I feel it helps to differentiate the speakers. Also, I can intensify the colour for intense moments of dialogue.

Q: What advice would you give to other webcomic artists?

A: I’m no authority on anything – at all – but a fair number of comic types have asked me for advice (don’t really know why), so I’ll share the few things I’ve learned about running a webcomic. First, the generally accepted golden rule of webcomics is this: make consistent deadlines and meet them. If you don’t set up a regular schedule for your updates, no one will read your comic. Sad but true.

My second piece of advice? Put some care into the creation of your comic. There are WAY too many slapdash, poorly executed comics out there, and the real heartbreak is that some of them contain really good ideas, characters and humour. Your comic doesn’t need to look like a million bucks, but it does need to look vaguely finished. Spelling errors and sketchy images are the enemy. We don’t live in a world where people regularly listen to demo tapes and watch storyboard animatics at the cinema. Thus, finishing and polishing your webcomic is a must.

The third morsel of advice I have is this: promote yourself. Artists are a modest bunch so we often fall down on this front, but promotion really is critical. You need to get on Project Wonderful and advertise; it’ll cost money, but it’s a good way to gain readers. Many artists I know will respond to this advice by saying “I’m a poor artist! I can’t afford advertising!” Then they go out and buy some fancy coffee at Starbucks. The price of that coffee could have possibly obtained you a few hundred new readers. I call that a deal too good to pass up.

In terms of aggregates and portal sites, Top Web Comics has been pretty good to me. I’d recommend paying attention to your ranking on TWC. To that end, voting incentives are a useful thing. My readership is (comparatively) small, but my voting incentives have ensured that I always remain in the top 100. There are other sites, of course, but you can’t focus on all of them.

The bottom line is this: I know too many really talented comic artists who are underappreciated. Who wants to be underappreciated? I’ve made it my life’s goal to be totally overappreciated. You know those talentless hacks that get a million pageviews a day? I want to be one of them.

Q: If I told you to draw something, would you draw it? What if I paid you? What if I have a webcomic and I’m looking for an artist to partner with? Are you game?

A: Short answer? No. Long answer? I’d really love to be doing stuff that extends beyond Puck, but the comic occupies all the free time I have right now. I’m a working dad of two kids with a full-time job and a mortgage. As it is, I operate on about four to six hours of sleep every night just so I can fit everything in. At the moment, I don’t have time to pursue other interests. If something changes, though, I’ll be the first to let you know.

Q: Is Puck available in book format? Where do I buy it?

A: Yes. RIGHT HERE.

Q: What cons do you go to? Can I check out your booth?

A: At the moment, I go to no conventions. I have actually never been to a comic convention of any type in my life. I am a con virgin, as it were. If this changes, I’ll let everyone know.

Q: Last question. Are you really as funny, charming and handsome as I imagine you to be in my mind’s eye?

A: Yes. Yes I am.