Ha, Ha - Just Serious

Ciaran "Februa" Benson

I'm a desktop publishing and quality assurance wonk, specializing in Japanese product localization and globalization. I've been in the industry since '91 and have worked for Japanese, British, and American companies.

I was on the Japanese and English R&D teams for LaserMaster working on the Unity 800, 1000, 1200, and 1800 dpi printer lines, the DisplayMaker "Big Ink" color printers, the chemical free PressMate 2400 dpi imagesetter, the ColorServer, and other printers that helped invent the desktop printing industry. I helped design and create the software and network infrastructure that makes Wam!Net work. And I was one of the very few, very blessed, individuals who have had the honor of working on the QA and Support teams for BBEdit, TextWrangler, and Super Get Info. Have you tried Youjimbo yet? It is a zero-learning-curve junkdrawer for your Macintosh that will change your life--without changing the way you work.

Although I rarely get out of my house, you'll sometimes see me in the Developer Pavilion at MacWorld with the Bare Bones Software folks, and I try to get to SGMS every year. I'm the old guy with the cat ears who always has a question.

For a while back in the 90's I worked in Tokyo, and got to take my daily commute on the Yamanote Line. In no time at all I became rabidly addicted to the phone-book sized weekly manga, especially Afternoon.

Embedded in the print industry as I was, and constantly surrounded by the art and story of brilliant works like ああっ女神さまっ it took no time at all for me to realize that I wanted to express myself through drawing too.

So, I set out to learn how to draw.

Drawing from my background in cartography, I focused on the works of my favorite artists and started making pretty, but entirely derivative, drawings of my own. After a while I reached a point where I was winning fan awards both locally and internationally for my fanart, and a few of my drawings were even used in print ads in Canada. And so I created PervyToons to serve as my online portfolio.

"PervyToons" is a name that needs some explaining. Quite simply, it is my attempt to capture a Japanese expression that I once saw on a banner over the street in Gotanda; "Game Reality Is Pretty".

In my favorite manga and anime there is an almost inexpressible sensual energy that fills me with hope and longing, but without lust. A preadolescent or platonic sense of joy and elation that is both more powerful, and more expressive and embracing, than mere sex or lust. A burning sense of potential that can not be grasped or understood, and can only be expressed tangentially.

I think that the joyful declaration "Boobies!" in the right context and by the right bouncy person sometimes comes close to expressing the same thing, but if not done very carefully can be demeaning, however unintentionally.

I think many others feel this sense of elation when they see well done manga or anime as well, but as is so eloquently illustrated by much fan art and doujinshi this ellusive quality is too quickly reinterpreted as sexual lust or mere horniness, and the joy and limitless potential of the piece is squandered.

Now - don't get me wrong - there is some AWESOME doujinshi out there, and some incredible fan art that manages to maintain the pure unrestrained and unadulterated energy of the original while also embracing the physical expression of love. [A clear example of this would be Excel Saga, especially where Rikudou Koushi himself is the artist, parodying his own work.]

Some examples of manga and anime where I feel the expression of "Game Reality Is Pretty" is most pure and powerful are Aa, Megamisama, Nadia, Ranma, and Tenchi Muyo. They all have found their own precious balance of unrestrained sensuality without falling over the edge into overt sexuality. They are each alluring in their own boundless and indefatigable way.

Although I have not yet been able to accept that my art, as Erik and Scott remind me, truly IS erotic - at least without blushing - I have at least been able to accept that my work tends toward the erotic. At the same time I have no interest in drawing obscene or explicit works. Instead I want to explore the highly energetic and impalpable space of "Game Reality Is Pretty", to see how far I can go along that joyous and elusive line of frisky innocence and wonder, teasing the very edge of infinity without falling off.

And that's why I chose the word "PervyToons" to describe my own art.

Around 1999 I reached a plateau with my pin-up drawings, and struggled to find a way to move beyond it.

I know now that I should have gone to MCAD and signed up for some live drawing classes, but at the time I was clueless and struggled to find a path.

I studied the histories of my favorite artists, and noticed that many of them had reached a similar plateau early in their careers, at just about the time they started drawing their first manga, then as their manga progressed so did their ability to draw virtually anything.

So, I created UberCyberCats in the hope that it would help me learn how to draw.

It did.

It also taught me to go to MCAD and sign up for live drawing classes.

Since then, I feel like I've found my "voice" with a pencil. Although I still feel like a hack and am utterly convinced that every single thing I draw is embarassing, pointless, and crap, through the brilliant help of some incredibly generous and patient artists I have learned that continuing to draw despite perpetual self doubt is just a part of the process.

Whether I like it or not, I have grown "a look" to my own art that is different from, yet still reminiscent of, the work of those who inspired me. No matter how hard I try to escape it or grow beyond it, my stuff looks like my stuff.

And even though I hate myself for drawing and I hate what I create, I know I am going to express myself and my stories in drawing, and there isn't anything I can do about it except to keep drawing, because along with learning how to draw I accidentally stumbled upon the why - the reason behind my desire to express myself through images.

In the last few years I've been honored to be able to meet and study under Scott McCloud, sometimes for a whole week at a time. Thanks to his classes at MCAD and his many wonderful books, I have discovered a deep love of story-telling, and am convinced that comics are the right media for me.

So, I hope to now turn my pencil to telling a story that has been working itself out in my mind since I was five years old.

I still have a day job that sucks away most of my time, but each day I try to spend at least a little time writing short stories for my universe, "Rikon", practicing drawing pin-up art, or working on my comic adaptation of the Rikon stories.

I know my output is abysmal and my continuity nonexistent, but I will keep working on it and hopefully over time, without really knowing which way it lies, I will reach my chimerical goal.

My eternal gratitude goes out to all of you who are travelling with me on this journey, and especially to all of you who have helped, and continue to shepherd me, along the way.

Thank you for reading my bio, and never forget -- Keep Game Reality Pretty.

Ciaran, 2007.