Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Web Artist Wednesday: The Petri Dish interview

Mac wishes they had invented iBall! Creator John Sutton introduces us to Dr. Euphemism, B.O.B, iBall, and the rest of the crew of his webcomic The Petri Dish!

1. For the poor souls not already reading, please give a brief synopsis of your comic.

The Petri Dish is about an enthusiastic -- albeit inept -- genetic engineer who works at a medical sciences company called "Clones R Us". He is assisted by his two biomechanical robots, Bob and iBall ... two of his few successful innovations.

2. What materials and/or software do you use?

I draw each character and element of the strip separately on white paper using a pencil and a sharpie, and scan them into the computer. I then use Adobe Fireworks to position and resize those elements on each panel of the comic strip, and export the final product to a JPEG.

3. Are there any books, movies, toys, artists, or authors that have inspired or continue to inspire your comic?

I was very inspired by the humour and art of Berke Breathed of Bloom County. Doctor Euphemism's character was loosely inspired by the nerdy character Oliver Wendell Jones in Bloom County. Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side were also very inspirational. When I'm looking for inspiration for comic strip ideas, I usually take a look at an issue of popular science or some science blogs. Often everyday conversations with friends and co-workers will inspire comic strip ideas that aren't science related.

4. Are any of your characters based on real people in your life?

Some of the side characters are based on my co-workers such as Dr. Andrew Wong the psychologist and Naomi the bike courrier -- but those aren't their jobs in real life. Some elements of Doctor Euphemism's life are similar to my life -- to give me some basis to write about -- but otherwise he is a complete fabrication.

5. Are there any actors you know you would want to play or voice certain characters in a movie of your comic?

I think Billy Crystal would make a good voice for Doctor Euphemism, and Bill Murray would be excellent for Bob. I hear Jack McBrayer's voice in my head ('Kenneth' the page boy from 30 Rock) whenever I draw iBall.

6. What songs would you like in a soundtrack of your comic?

"She Blinded me with science" by Thomas Dolby

7. What is your overall goal for your comic?

For a long time I've been looking for a creative outlet that wouldn't break the bank or take up too much room in the house. I love to laugh and be silly, and make other people laugh ... so I guess the overall goal is to make at least one person smile, even if it's just me. :-)

8. How has managing a comic impacted your life?

When doing my research, I heard many artists recommend setting a reasonable posting schedule and sticking to it, no matter what. I decided to set up a posting schedule that I could reasonably stick to, and so far I haven't missed a deadline. I talk about the comic strip to many people, and I get some interesting reactions.

9. What do you do to advertise your work?

Right now I have a Facebook Fan Page for The Petri Dish, and I have done a little advertising with Facebook. I try to connect with other well-established artists to submit fan art and guest strips. I have listed my comic strip with several indexing sites, such as Comic Rocket, Top Web Comics and Ink Outbreak. I've had a lot of success with a new index site called 'Just the First Frame', which posts the first frame of hundreds of comic strips each time they post a strip. And of course I talk about The Petri Dish with anyone who will listen. Most people are happy to support my hobby by dropping by to give it a read.

10. Web comics can be very time consuming and sometimes expensive to keep up. Often there is little reward in regards to money and sometimes public attention. Why do you do it?

Honestly, apart from the cost of the web-hosting and domain name, a few bucks for pencils and pens and paper, the strip doesn't cost me much. I've set a reasonable posting schedule of two days a week, and I made sure to get about a 30-strip buffer drawn before I started posting so the time requirement wouldn't be overwhelming. It's rewarding when I show someone a comic strip and they can't suppress a smile or a chuckle or an all out guffaw. But the biggest reward comes from pure creation and seeing my drawing and humour improve over time.

11. Got any other projects we should know about?

I've done some preliminary drawings and character sketches on another weekly comic strip about an IT support firm set in the future on the other side of the galaxy, but I haven't started drawing any comic strips for it yet. I'll let you know when I start posting them.

12. What advice would you give to aspiring creators?

It's really tempting to compare yourself to other established artists and think "Aww, my stuff is crap!!" Understand that the well established artists do that too. Never give up. Draw as often as you can. Talk to everyone about your project and most important, have fun.  

Thanks for taking the time John! Now I am going to have "She Blinded Me With Science" stuck in my head all day. But that's a good thing!

If you dig The Petri Dish you can show your love by up-voting the submission for this interview at Reddit Webcomics. Up-voting keeps The Petri Dish on the front page of the webcomic category longer which means more people get to see it!

Thanks for reading. Give us your opinion with a comment below. Then split your genes and your sides over at The Petri Dish!


If you would like to be interviewed about your web-comic send an email to titled "interview" with a link to your comic.


  1. John is an extremely talented, funny guy. EVERYONE should be reading The Petri Dish!!!

  2. I concur with the comment above from Crubbish. I would also like to add that he is a great guy overall, and has that he has an affinity for bewbs. That s all.

  3. I concur. Great guy! The Petri Dish is one of those strips that's one of those wonderful distractions in the week. Well, twice in the week. :)