After years of having fans begging them for the chance to be drawn in the style of their Cyanide and Happiness characters, the creators of the immensely popular online comic and animated shorts have unveiled an app that allows anyone to do just that. I spoke with Dave McElfatrick, one of the crazy talents behind “C&H”, about this milestone achievement, the inspirations behind their cutting-edge style and the possibility of a Cyanide and Happiness movie.
Jackson Murphy: More than a dozen years after you and your core team began “Cyanide and Happiness” you finally have an App. “Cyanide and Happiness Emojis” is out right now. How does it feel?
Dave McElfatrick: Feels pretty awesome, man. This is something that I’ve kind of wanted to do for a few years now, and we’ve been so busy on animation work and stuff like that – that I’ve kind of been sitting on it. And then the opportunity was presented to me, and I jumped at the chance. I thought maybe we could do an Avatar creator, and maybe we could do all this other stuff with it. It’s a breath of air for me. It’s something off my chest. We’ve finally done it, and I’m very pleased with it – and very excited.
JM: And with this App, you can customize your own “C&H” Avatar, and there are plenty of emojis and filters to use for them. How long had fans been asking if they could turn themselves into “C&H” characters?
DM: Oh, since the beginning. We’ve been getting emails for the last 12 years asking us to draw them “Cyanide and Happiness” style”, and this App is really the best way to do it these days. I might start using it myself for the cartoons.
JM: And what is so amazing is that you can not only use these characters in the App, but in text messages and on your Social Media as well.
DM: That was part of the emoji thing that was brought to us as an opportunity. And yeah, we jumped at the gun. It just seemed like such a great feature – such a unique, modern feature. So I thought, “Yeah, let’s go for it. If this is how kids are doing it these days – more power to them. Let’s do this!”
JM: Would you say creating this App was one of the bigger challenges of the “C&H” existence?
DM: I don’t think so. It was very natural. We were working with a great company. I was able to just give them my ideas, and they implemented them – no problem whatsoever. So I would say this was pretty smooth sailing as far as an App goes. Certainly as far as how a “C&H” project goes.
JM: For those who aren’t very familiar with “Cyanide and Happiness”, could you say what you’ve created is the online, adult version of “Peanuts”?
DM: Yes, that’s exactly how I would describe it, though it’s more like “Garfield” and “Cathy” really. All of those comics are inspirations. You can see it there in every comic.
JM: Is there any topic or situation that’s off-limits?
DM: Nope. Hell no. Everything is on-limit. Everyone gets made fun of equally. I think that’s the democratic way to do it.
JM: You’ve got to have some “go-to” themes on days when the ideas just aren’t flowing – or do you never have any of those kind of days?
DM: We always kind of have those days. Yes, absolutely. We’re not organized. We usually sit-up, anxiety-ridden, the night before the comic is due to go up, kind of thinking “What should I be drawing? What should I draw? What should I do?” We’re never a week ahead or anything like that. Usually it’s just a panic and…hair-ripping, screaming-fest trying to figure out the idea. And it happens – it works. It works every time. So, if you want to be a comic artist, pull out your hair, start screaming, and the good ideas will begin to flow.
JM: And that anxiety must be the part that still excites you about this whole experience.
DM: I think it says something, in that we still deeply care for everything that we do.
JM: Your fan base is absolutely incredible: nearly 7 million subscribers for the Explosm Entertainment YouTube channel [it’s also the website that posts the videos and comics]. At what point did you initially realize that what you created was an internet phenomenon?
DM: The first time I ever kind of experienced that – I’m from a small town in Ireland, so I didn’t actually know many people knew the comic. It was 2007 when I was given the opportunity to go to San Diego Comic-Con. That was the first time I met the other guys actually, and that was 3 or 4 years after the comics started. And to experience real fans – real, physical people – coming up and getting excited about our work and saying how great it is to meet us: that was something else. That was a huge turning point for me.
JM: In 2010, you put out a petition online asking fans to sign and support you getting a visa to come to the United States – and it worked. You got one. That must’ve been, like Comic-Con, an unbelievable chapter of your life.
DM: Completely life-changing experience. I attempted to enter the United States in 2010 accidentally – because I had the wrong paperwork. So they sent me right back home. That was very upsetting because Rob [DenBleyker, co-creator of “C&H”] and I were planning to start an animation studio. So what we did was we appealed to the Immigration Service.
They said, “Well, we recognize the comic, but we don’t think it’s world-famous, so we don’t think you’re deserving of this particular visa that we were applying for. And in a last-stage attempt, we put up an online petition, so we could prove to them. And we got something like 150,000 signatures in around a week. And we emailed that off to them, hard copy, and they granted it immediately. That’s insane! That’s absolutely crazy!
JM: And one of the other amazing “C&H” stories is about your 2016 card game, Joking Hazard. You did a Kickstarter campaign with a 30-day goal of $10,000, and you raised $3.25 million.
DM: Isn’t that insane?
JM: Yeah, that is insane. How long did it take to get to that $10,000?
DM: Roughly about 25 minutes.
DM: We kinda set it at $10,000 maybe expecting it to go a little over. But we weren’t expecting that by any means whatsoever. We were up all night watching the number go up – sweating – wondering what to do and going, “AAAHHH!” Again, more screaming and hair-pulling: recommended if you’re a business owner.
JM: Do fans submit you ideas for storylines or concepts for the videos and comics?
DM: All the time. Yeah, all the time. I think that’s part of the “C&H” appeal: it’s very easy to draw. It’s very easy for people to try their own hand at it. And it’s all about the idea. I’ve seen kids doing “C&H”-esque animations. I’ve seen countless comics. It’s always flattering to me. Anyone can try it.
JM: And anyone can certainly try it with this new app.
JM: Would you ever consider a “Cyanide and Happiness” movie?
DM: Movie? Yes! Absolutely. That’s something we’ve been talking about for a while. Definitely. We’re working on other stuff. Currently we’re looking into various types of video games. We’re all big video game nerds, so we’re very excited to eventually produce one of our own. I can’t give any details yet, but it’s all very exciting.
The “Cyanide and Happiness” app is free and available for IOS and Android.
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