Doc Rat first appeared on Monday, June 26th 2006. I am proud to have continued to bring a strip to my readers five times a week since then. Almost without a break. There are some occasions in that span when for technical, personal or other reasons there has been a break of some weeks, but apart from those minor gaps I have worked strenuously to keep the show on the road.
We are now well past the two-and-a half thousand mark. For the first 500, I drew them on paper. These works, in centimetres, were of the dimensions 24 x 7 – a wry joke I set for myself to remind me of the amount of my life this project threatened to claim (or at least once I added my Doc Rat duties to my main duties as a full-time doctor). The subsequent strips have been created on a Wacom tablet, running Corel Painter. My goal with going electronic was to preserve the hand-drawn feeling, so that a reader would be hard-put to tell whether what they were seeing had been crafted with ink on paper or digital ink on a screen. Certainly, though, going electronic allowed me a lot more flexibility to correct and clean up my lines, resize heads, redraw without erasing the life out of paper, and of course type in the text instead of having to letter by hand. I originally thought I would be able to create strips faster on the tablet. As it turned out, I am doing them better, but sadly not any faster than before.
Time and practice has made Doc Rat much better, actually. Even though the first strips still hold up well enough, they are necessarily early works of a person with ten years less experience.
Which brings me to the archive. Since the web site’s program was reincarnated in WordPress a few years ago, it has been a long-term goal of mine to restock the ten years of archives. The admirable Wolf Bylsma has done a lot of this, but there is still more to be done. I’m working on it.
The fannish discussion site, The Cross Time Cafe, took Doc Rat on board as one of its works for ongoing conversation. I recommend you give it a look.
The form of Doc Rat grew as the characters developed more complete lives of their own. Small story arcs became larger story arcs, and there were stretches of serious drama in amongst the usual minefield of funny jokes. That’s just how it turned out. Life is laughter and tears. My goal has been that if I am to tell a joke, I tell best joke I can. If a story, the best story I can.
Ben has gone from a single man to engaged, married and a father. Daniella and he have faced peril and death, as have many of their friends. Societal change has been on the agenda, as it is still. It’s a case of healing the small things and the big things.
I hope you have enjoyed Doc Rat for as long as you’ve been reading it, up to a decade. Now, prepare yourself for Ben’s big surprise. (Note: as the 26th will be a Sunday, the surprise will have to be revealed on Friday 24th. Okay?)