I apologize to those of you who are not fans of the CTS. I know he’s not for everyone. Honestly I think he’s mostly for Tycho and I. He represents an opportunity to do something very different from our normal routine. I think of the CTS as a vacation from Penny Arcade that we try to give ourselves once or twice a year. We decided to pull him out for our Holiday special and to make it a little bit more interesting I’m going to try and provide some "directors commentary" regarding the entire life of the character. With each new page of the storyline I’ll cover a bit more of the history of the character as well as try and provide some insight into the creation of the current strip. If you don’t like the CTS I recommend quitting here. The standard Penny Arcade warning is in full effect today… This is not for critics.
The tube first appeared back in October of 2002. I had honestly found a very sturdy cardboard tube in the dumpster near my apartment and then used it to beat the shit out of Tycho. The incident spawned this comic strip and would eventually lead to the creation of what is easily our most popular character. The tube made a couple more appearances by itself and then a few weeks later the CTS made his first appearance.
The Very first appearance of Gabe as the CTS was in this comic strip.
We had the tube laying around at this point and I can remember the two of us discussing how funny it was that whenever someone picks up a cardboard tube the first thing they do is pretend it’s a sword. It doesn’t matter how old they are, that’s just what you do. Then we imagined Gabe constructing an elaborate fantasy world where he was constantly under attack by ninjas and monsters, his tube his only defense.
This comic also introduced a way of telling the CTS stories that we have continued to this day. It’s the idea of showing the moments directly preceding a fight or immediately after rather than the fight itself. It’s an old storytelling device and one that we are absolutely fucking hooked on. Nearly every CTS strip since has incorporated this concept.
The next CTS comic was "Chronicle of Cardboard Tube Samurai". This is an important one since it actually introduces a few elements that would pop up in every CTS comic after it.
First of all it breaks from the standard three panel layout we use for Penny Arcade. Second I tried to experiment with the art in some way. I try to look at the CTS comics as a chance to try new styles and experiment with different techniques. In this comic I was trying to color directly over my pencil sketches. I also wanted to make the CTS strips more elaborate. Where a normal comic might take me two hours I would spend double or even triple that on a CTS comic. In fact his very next appearance is a perfect example of that.
The "Cardboard and Steel" storyline is a huge six part piece that defined the look of the character and moved us from a guy holding a tube to an honest to God samurai epic. With this project I actually inked the entire thing by hand with pens and brushes. Each page was drawn and inked on a large piece of Bristol board then scanned and colored in Photoshop. What’s funny is I couldn’t figure out how to make a grey scale comic so I actually colored the entire project and then converted it to grey scale.
Eventually we released the colored pages as gifts to members of Club PA. The other interesting thing about Cardboard and Steel is that it’s actually the end of the characters story. It illustrates the final battle with the Shadow lord and the culmination of countless years of fighting. This period of struggle was given a name here, "The Wandering Age - when every stand of cherry trees held deadly assassins". You might have noticed that every CTS comic strip after this has "Wandering Age" in the title. That’s because each one is essentially a flash back to this time of constant danger.
Today’s comic "The Hawk And The Hare" is our latest Wandering Age story. For this project I wanted to try "painting" the backgrounds. I found some Photoshop brushes online designed to mimic the look of watercolors and I spent pretty much all day trying to teach myself how to use them.
You can actually see the brushwork better in these true resolution detail shots.
I wanted the look of crisp inked components laid on top of watercolor paintings.
You’ll see this style carried out through the rest of the pages.
The requests for Wallpapers had already flooded my mailbox when I woke up and checked it this morning. I had a feeling that might be the case so I made these in advance.