A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — actually, to be honest, it was 2012, and in this particular galaxy — a very gifted writer, artist, and illustrator named Patrick Désilets introduced the world to Sysadminotaur: an original comic strip created exclusively for the Devolutions community that takes a hilarious look at real life in the IT world, from onboarding new hires, to fun with job titles, and of course, who can forget the legendary look at password security that inspired a phenomenal animated short.
Well, here we are near the end of 2020, and Patrick just published the 100TH SYSADMINOTAUR COMIC! Click right here to read the new adventure of you favorite characters in Sysadminotaur # 100 called Utopia!
To celebrate this milestone, I recently had a chat with Patrick to learn more about his journey and experience so far, and what he plans on doing in the future. My questions are in bold, followed by Patrick’s answers:
When and how did you start creating comics?
I started to really enjoy drawing around age 5, and at age 10 I self-published a very naive little fanzine. I took a pile of comic pages to a print shop and stapled photocopies together, and sold them to relatives and at school. People were supportive because I was pretty young to be doing that on my own, so the first issue sold a few copies, but the third issue was a flop! So, I retired at age 12.
What software or app do you use to create the comics?
Mostly Photoshop, but I'm starting to look into Clip Studio Paint, which is more explicitly designed for comics. The thing is, I've used Photoshop extensively for so long that it's basically all muscle memory now, and so any other software seems unproductive in comparison. Clip Studio is apparently worth the learning curve though, so I'll give it a chance, but it'll be a while before I actually use it in production.
Other software I use includes Adobe Animate and Toonboom Harmony for animation, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for loose doodles, Adobe Illustrator for the occasional promotional item that requires vector art, and After Effects for animation compositing. I also like to draw on my phone, and Infinite Painter is by far my favorite drawing app. It's similar to the universally acclaimed iPad app Procreate, but it's for Android.
What is the most difficult part of creating a comic?
Writing jokes and keeping them funny until they're finished. An idea can be generally humorous, or funny when you tell it, but it doesn't always translate well into comic form. Even outside of a strict Setup and Punchline structure, there always has to be some kind of buildup, tension, and release, as well as some unpredictability. There's always this storytelling aspect to it. Lots of ideas end up never being used for that reason, because some things are funny in real life or as an anecdote, but not in fiction or in writing. So that's part one.
In addition, even if you have a good idea that works as a comic, there are tons of tiny decisions involved in the process of drawing it that can either make it funnier — or kill the joke. Reactions, facial expressions, acting, pacing, staging, and so on, all have an effect on the humor of it, and the process of drawing it is quite long, so it's easy to lose track of those details.
Which comic is your all-time favorite?
I have a few favorites for different reasons. Visually, the later ones are more polished, but I especially like #75 Ding and #60 Sysadmin Day, which was the first "sysadmin day special" we did. In terms of writing, #2 The Shortcut is still my favorite!
What’s your favorite Easter Egg you’ve hidden in a comic?
I don't think anyone ever noticed it, but in #76 OCD Vacation, in the first panel there's a little Ralph Wiggum sticker on Max's laptop. The reason I like it so much is because it sort of foreshadows Maurice in the last panel. If you go back and read it, you can't un-hear Ralph's voice. I even drew Maurice with the Simpsons rounded teeth. My second favorite would have to be in #94 Special Request. It's a comic about May the 4th, and Mel has a Kurasawa calendar.
How do you feel about creating the 100th Sysadminotaur comic?
Proud and a little surprised! Sysadminotaur was originally a relatively impromptu project. When starting a project, comic, or otherwise, it's easy to get caught up in overthinking every little thing and having expectations for the distant future, but this was very spontaneous. We simply came up with a few characters, a few situations, an unusual title, and off we went. It was meant as an extra something for the Devolutions forum users to enjoy, and the original art style sort of reflects that looseness and spontaneity. The users liked it, and everyone involved allowed it to grow. I'm very grateful for that opportunity, and to still be given room for it to evolve.
Did you do anything different for the 100th Sysadminotaur comic?
I put a little extra pressure on myself for this one, because we wanted it to be special — not like an anniversary special or anything like that, but I wanted to find a way to set it apart. Our Graphic Designer Stacy suggested that it could be set 100 years in the future, and I loved the idea. My spare-time doodles often revolve around sci-fi, and so episode 100 was a good excuse to go there.
When making a new comic, I always come up with a bunch of different jokes — the first idea is rarely the best — but this time I also had to think of the setting and tone and how it would look, and that sort of influenced the writing. A comic set in the future will inevitably involve a certain sci-fi influence, which we've always sort of had in the comics with the frequent Star Wars references and such, but I wanted to set that apart too so I tried to mix up my inspirations a little.
How did you come up with the idea for the 100th comic?
In terms of tone and portrayal of the future, things can go in many different directions: dark, hopeful, stylish, efficient, gritty, and so on. And whether you have an optimistic or a pessimistic outlook, it can easily turn into this social commentary, or sound preachy, which is not the intent. Sysadminotaur is a workplace sitcom, and though it's a little bit caustic sometimes, we try to keep it mostly light-hearted, pretty down-to-earth, and of course the subject matter has to remain IT-related and fit within IT culture.
So, I had to remember to keep it simple, and in the end it's a fairly regular comic, but just in a different setting. Another idea I had for #100 was to show how Maurice came up with the name Sysadminotaur, his old game server username. But we'll keep that for later!
How do you see the next 100 comics?
I’m constantly pushing for the comics to be better, but it's very incremental and sort of embedded in the process. There isn’t a set objective — and that's actually one of the things I really like about it. I can let it evolve as it goes. Not all projects allow for that. So, the plan is to just keep trying to do better every step of the way.
A lot of what has improved so far was in regard to the visuals, but I think the next thing would be to expand their world a little by adding characters, diversity, and more depth to the existing characters, and so on, as much as the format allows. Also, I'd like to see more end-users. Like, I’m thinking that maybe Maurice could do more in-person tech support, or even house calls.
Got a Question for Patrick?
You can ask Patrick anything you’d like about Sysadminotaur or anything else regarding his background, approach, tools, etc. Please share your comments and questions below. Here’s to 100 amazing episodes of Sysadminotaur — and we can’t wait to enjoy the next 100!