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I think good humour can be controversial: Rob DenBleyker

Rob DenBleyker of Cyanide and Happiness ditches cynical and turns candid at Comic Con.

Written by Pallavi Pundir |
Updated: December 5, 2015 6:23:34 am
Comic Con, Comic Con 2015, Rob DenBleyker, Rob DenBleyker at Comic Con 2015,Cyanide and Happiness, talk, indian express Rob DenBleyker

They are cynical, sometimes dark, but mostly abrasively hilarious. American illustrators Rob DenBleyker, Kris Wilson and Dave McElfatrick have built upon that style to create the hugely popular webcomic series, Cyanide and Happiness. In Delhi, DenBleyker, joins enthusiasts and cosplayers at the Comic Con India and talks about Cyanide and Happiness and more:

Were you aware of your fan base in India?
Honestly, I was surprised. On Facebook, I would see Indian names comment a lot on my comics but it never really sunk in how popular it was until I came to Bangalore last year. I saw these crazy lines with people who had come get the posters signed.

What informed your inclination towards cynical humour?
I grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, they’re two very cynical comics. I think those two informed my sense of humour as a kid, and also made me want to do comics when I grew up. When I was in middle school, I would draw comics on paper, give them to my friends or trade with them. Most of my cynicism comes from growing up on that kind of stuff.

Your work is abrasive about sensitive (sometimes even controversial) subjects. Recently, a strip of yours was taken down by Facebook for it appeared to be about Jesus. What do you think of censorship when it comes to humour?
I think that good humour can be controversial because when you joke with your friends, you’re not trying to censor yourself. That’s the philosophy with your comics. If it’s funny, don’t censor yourselves. You don’t have to appeal to editors. We try primarily to be funny and not be offensive. The offensiveness comes naturally because of who we are and how we think. As far as the Facebook incident is concerned, as it turns out, Facebook gets hundreds of thousands of reports every hour, so what happened to me was that so many people reported it that it went down automatically. No human being pulled the trigger; it was the algorithm. The report system is a good thing because Facebook tries to be a platform for family-friendly content, and my page just got caught up in it.

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Is there a reason behind your loyalty to stick figures?
It was never a conscious choice; it was just a style we fell into. We weren’t trying to flex our art skills. From the very early days, we were just trying to make silly jokes and be goofy and make each other laugh. And I think the quickest avenue for that were the little, expressive, whacky stick figures. They’ve changed over the years, but we have stuck with that because it works for us. It’s a good vessel for us to tell the kind of jokes we want.

Have you thought about contextualising your works to, say, India?
We try not to be referential to any place. We like to think that Cyanide and Happiness universe can exist anywhere. I think that’s probably why we are popular in India. The comics are relatable across cultures.

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