About the book

The characters

First problem. Design some characters to appear in the drawings. Except that for me, this wasn't the first problem. The first problem was deciding on a drawing style that would distinguish my drawings from those of professional artists that I've looked up to. For starters, how should I draw eyes? Jim Davis draws big, round, close together eyes that are full of expression. Gary Larson draws very simple eyes, often just a straight line, that can still convey a mountain of apathy and disinterest in their owner.

Some early ideas. It was important from the outset that none of the characters even vaguely  resemble another cartoonist's work, although as this stage some of them do..
Some early ideas. It was important from the outset that none of the characters even vaguely resemble another cartoonist's work, although as this stage some of them do..

Take this problem and apply it to every facial feature of a person, every part of their body, and every piece of scenery that will appear with them, and you're getting close to how complicated this got for me. The number of random sketches I did on bits of paper just trying to decide on a drawing style... well, there's a lot of them. It took some time.

Some more early sketches. The style is beginning now to more resemble the finished product.
Some more early sketches. The style is beginning now to more resemble the finished product.

Nic's ideas were great, and he already knew what he wanted. A really bad manager who can demonstrate exactly how not to do things, in extreme and potentially funny ways, to a set of worried and nervous co-workers. First off, the boss character.

Edgar

Edgar's the guy in charge. Nic wanted him to be fit, reasonably good looking, and every senior manager's ideal lower level manager. The grin was the critical part. It conveys his complete obliviousness to the carnage and disaster that often takes place around him. Coming up with drawings where he could still be grinning despite everything was tough, but Nic and Ed soon warmed to the concept.

Edgar as he 'evolved'. Note the transition from pencil to ink - far easier to work with and much clearer when scanned.
Edgar as he 'evolved'. Note the transition from pencil to ink - far easier to work with and much clearer when scanned.

Because Edgar is always grinning with his eyes shut, he looks about the same in every picture. You might be thinking that drawing him would therefore be easy, especially since I got a lot of practice. It wasn't. The number of times I'd draw a perfect grin and then mess up the angle of his jaw in relation to his cheeks was in the hundreds. There are significantly less trees in the world now, thanks to me.

More development drawings of Edgar can be found here.

Tim/Phil/Erwin

The characters don't really need names in the drawings, which was just as well, as Tim had several name changes over the course of the year. I liked Tim, though, and I'm writing this paragraph, so Tim it is. Ah, the power.

As you can see, Tim started out far from the nervous office junior that he eventually became.
As you can see, Tim started out far from the nervous office junior that he eventually became.

The idea of Tim was basically some nervous twenty-something that we could use as an effective punching bag for Edgar's mis-management. Any time a character needed to be beaten up, fired, or otherwise dismembered, Tim would be our guy. In practice the punishment was dealt out fairly evenly among the staff, but Tim always seems to look the most worried by it.

More development drawings of Tim can be found here.

Sherman

Sherman was designed as the resident valuable member of staff, the key member of the office who knows how to do things and can work minor miracles. As he developed (from originally being a quite tomboy-ish woman) he became something of a technical person, which is why he is often portrayed building things.

Sherman's development again highlights the problem of working with pencil compared to ink. Reproducing a shaded pencil drawing in black in the actual book would have been impossible.
Sherman's development again highlights the problem of working with pencil compared to ink. Reproducing a shaded pencil drawing in black in the actual book would have been impossible.

Admittedly, I had some fairly good inspiration for Sherman. Nic and I used to work with someone who rapidly became the basis for the character, right down to the hair and the ability to make explosives from sherbert. He's quite flattered by the parallels, which is just as well. Thanks, Hutch.

John

We needed an older character too, someone who would be more of a rival to Edgar in terms of knowing how and how not to manage people. It has been said that John was also based on someone I work with, which is actually untrue. Any similarity to any person is entirely coincidental. He needed to be older and a bit cynical, so I drew a skinny bald guy with a frown. John was one of the few characters I drew first time and was happy with, although he did develop as time went on.

John

Marsha

Marsha was a challenge. Firstly, because Nic wanted a woman, and secondly, because she had to be of different ethnic origins to the rest of the characters. Tricky. How to draw a character like that without offending more than half the world's population, including a number of my friends and family...

Marsha

Surprisingly, Marsha developed quite quickly. Beginning as a man, then becoming something of a sensibly dressed and practical woman (with the addition of a necklace from Nic) we were there in just a few days. My main problem with Marsha then became that I kept drawing her head too big in relation to the size of her body. I'd get down to her neck and then try to draw a slim figure that would often dwindle into a child sized body. With practice, I mostly avoided this problem.

More development drawings of Marsha can be found here.

Samantha

Samantha was a nightmare. She was supposed to be a sort of mini-Edgar, a steathily unpleasant woman who would use her incredible good looks to charm her way past any inadequacies she might have as a person. In the end I gave up on Samantha. I just couldn't draw her quite right. Like Marsha, I had immense difficulty in drawing a good looking female body (research into such areas could easily be frowned upon), never mind an attractive face. I had a vague concept of high cheekbones but after that I was a bit lost. She appears in one picture, although she was originally written into a lot more.

Sam

Other characters

We needed another few characters to make up a number of the drawings. Hugo, the army of cloned security guards that Edgar deploys against his staff in a number of pictures, was perhaps the easiest and certainly the first of them. I enjoyed drawing Hugo mainly because he was easy to do.

Next up came the window cleaner, who appears in at least two pictures (plus a few we discarded). I followed the style of Hugo for the window cleaner, eyes hidden beneath a hat to remove more of the facial expression to make him as indifferent to the world around him as possible.

Ed had a great idea for a number of pictures that led to the development of the next characters. The admin support monkeys, cheap labour hired by Edgar despite the insanity of employing wild animals as staff. The admin support monkeys were great to draw, I think I got them in the second or third attempt. They're basically a goofy expression and a lot of hair in a shirt and tie.

A few other minor characters appeared in some drawings, including Edgar's boss, a salesman, a lawyer, a military general and a charred customer of the Ace Fire Alarm. I had to rely on stereotypes for most of these, but would like to point out that I've never met much in the way of senior management, lawyers, customers or generals. I've heard some stories about salesmen that would make your head spin though...