WoW Insider: For keeping us laughing with The Daily Blink, you guys have obviously added up a lot more than 15 minutes of fame under your own steam. How did The Daily Blink come to wink into existence?
Chris Hanel: The idea of The Daily Blink grew out of this because I'd opened up my screenshots directory to Photoshop a wallpaper for my guild and spotted a shot I'd taken of Katrana Prestor standing next to Prince Wrynn, and started mentally writing an Onion article-type joke in my head. I ended up doing that instead of the guild wallpaper, made a couple more, and then started posting them on the blog. I posted four, left the blog shortly after due to lack of time, and then quickly forgot about the idea for a few years. It was an idea without a home.
The strip actually became what it is now in January 2010, when I finally got back on the horse and decided to give it a full and earnest shot as a regular webcomic. I had a coworker, CP, who worked with me on it as a cowriter for that first year before our company closed and we parted ways. That was also right about the time I met Mike.
Main character Whitehaven, blood elf mage
Guild Deeps More Deeping
Realm Stormreaver (US-Horde)
Main character Zebrakk, orc warrior
Guild Deeps More Deeping
Realm Stormreaver (US-Horde)
Let's dip backward a bit and talk about how you came to love WoW in the first place.
Chris Hanel: I started I think right around the end of the first year of vanilla. My coworkers at the time all started picking up the game, including one of my bosses who encouraged me to pick up a copy. They all gave it up a couple months later, but I was hooked and kept playing. I used to be solely a PvE player, doing 40-man MC up through all of Burning Crusade, but around Wrath I became (and still am) a much more all-around (and not so hardcore) player due to real life taking precedent, and also because that was right around then the strip started in earnest.
Mike Owen: I started playing WoW at launch, due largely to my deep love of the Warcraft series. I haven't actually set foot in the game for some time, mostly due to being occupied with finishing up my training in San Diego and the ridiculously nice weather in San Diego. When I am in game, I like to murder Alliance. That's pretty much all I do. I've leveled a few characters purely through PvP. There was a time, back in Wrath, where a friend and I were leveling a DK and a hunter together, and some Alliance players would log off if they saw the two of us in any of the 60-70 bracket BGs. That was pretty great.
How did the two of you connect as a creative team?
Mike: I was literally harassing Chris with jokes I thought would work well in the strip until he caved and started putting some of them in.
Chris: Mike is politely leaving out the rest of that weird story, but I'm game to share. We were both part of this multinational gaming group that took itself way too seriously in how it was managed and organized, and nobody trusted each other, so nothing ever got done. I think we connected due to the fact that we shared the experience of saying, "Holy crap, these people are crazy," and we tended to be in the minority of people willing to say that openly. We struck up a friendship because of it, found out we both played WoW, and after that I asked him to help me write the strip, and that's been the arrangement since. (The gaming group was abandoned soon after.)
How would you describe the comic?
Mike: The Daily Blink is about Blizzard as much as it is about WoW and the successes and failures of the company, the game, and ourselves as players, distorted as is necessary to get a laugh. We try to keep as current as possible with what's going on in game while we do that.
Mike: The art is 99.9% Chris. Every once in a while I give a suggestion or Chris asks me to look at something so he can get some feedback, but I can barely draw a happy face in Paint. I have, however, done some comedy writing, some stand-up, and really -- as anyone who knows me personally will tell you -- spend a tremendous amount of time making fun of things out loud, so my job is not just writing, but when Chris has an idea, to try and add in my own brand of humor. It has been our experience that the two of us working together are much funnier than either one is alone, and I think the best of our strips reflect that.
Chris: Sometimes Mike comes up with a pretty fully formed idea and we run with it, sometimes it's me, sometimes it's completely a collaborative exercise. Then I stay up late doing the art and post it online and obsessively check our Facebook and Twitter interactions before realizing I'm insane and go to bed before the sun comes up.
We almost never have a buffer or backlog of strips. Everything gets written and made the night before. I could say that it's to keep the content extremely topical (and that's a great side effect no doubt), but really, we've never had time to take a few days and try to get ahead of schedule.
I'm a bit of a journeyman. I've done filmmaking, visual effects, web design, worked for an online poker company for a stretch. Probably the most recognized thing I've done outside of The Daily Blink was co-writing and VFX supervising Return of Pink Five.
And what about your day jobs?
Chris: I've now been in the gaming industry for about five years now as an artist and designer. Right now I work for Carbine Studios as their cinematics designer.
Mike: I am a fire controlman in the United States Navy, stationed in San Diego.
Walk us through the creative process, from the idea and deadline stage to publication. What's the general flow of each comic?
Mike: Hahahahahahahahahhahahahahaha ...
Chris Hanel (23:07): WHY DO WE ALWAYS WAIT UNTIL NOW TO DO THIS
Michael Owen (23:08): WE MUST HAVE SOME KIND OF LEARNING DISORDER FUCK
Chris: Yeah, I'd say that's accurate for every Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday night.
Don't I know the feeling. What looks like 100% unicorns and sunshine from the outside takes a lot of hard work. What have you found most challenging about producing The Daily Blink?
Mike: Honestly, I feel bad sometimes that there isn't more I can contribute as far as the art goes. Sadly, feeling bad about it doesn't change the fact that I am terrible at it. We also tend to have some difficulties when the news slows down; the less there is going on in the game, the less we have to poke fun at, and then we ending up making stuff up out of whole cloth. While I personally enjoy that just as much, it's usually not as popular with the readers.
Chris: I think for me the most challenging thing is that while I have definitely grown as an artist and writer, I have realized that I have a lot to learn on the business side. We've never been that good at the traditional webcomics business model. A strip of our size, we should have, what, 25 T-shirts on sale or something? Unfortunately, Robert Khoo doesn't exist inside a glass box labeled "BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF WEBCOMIC." As our traffic goes up, so goes our bandwidth bill, so we have to get better at it.
Well, your readers obviously think you're hitting the mark! What's been most popular with readers? What would you consider your smash hit?
Chris: I think historically, strips where there's something for everyone -- like strips where we compare all the different classes tend to be the most popular, because everyone can identify with their own aspect of the joke or are more eager to share it with others. The strip we did about the systems design team just having levers for every class to nerf or buff them, I think that's been one of our most popular ever.
Mike: Also, this strip. I mean, how do you not laugh at that?
Chris: Mike was giggling over Skype hours after it got written, I was afraid I was going to have to send a medic over... Weirdo.
Anything you tried that just didn't take off?
Chris: The success of a given strip tends to be inversely proportional to how many words we put in it. I am guilty of being okay with lots and lots of words. One of my biggest pet peeves to this day is people that say "TL;DR" as a point of feedback, but it doesn't mean that it isn't worth paying attention to. Nevertheless, I will still defend our Shakespearean homage to vanilla-style Alterac Valley until my dying breath.
What about Blizzard? Has there been much of a reaction to The Daily Blink from Big Blue?
Chris: We've had a really great rapport with Blizzard, especially over the past year. I live just a few minutes away from the Blizzard offices, and Mike lives in San Diego, so we've had a chance to tour the studio, meet a lot of developers, look behind the curtain, and develop a great relationship with the c community team.
It's always been really important to me that while we can definitely poke fun at WoW and some of the decisions that go into it, in the end it's because we're massive fans and we respect their work. Employees like Bashiok and Ghostcrawler are featured constantly, but the characters that grew out of those have pretty much become their own unique entities. Anyone that reads our strip and thinks that our goal is to cheapen their efforts is, to put it politely as I can, projecting a bit.
Mike: Zahrym is my internet boyfriend, and one day we're going to raise Ghostcrawler's ponies together.
Well, I'm not quite sure about ponies, but obviously a lot of players want to raise some characters with you in the Daily Blink fan guild. Do you guys hang out with or play with
Mike: Chris does! And I used to! And I will again! I'm about to head out on a deployment, so I'm trying not to make any commitments as I'm going to be gone for a good long while.
Chris: Yeah, we're just starting that back up. I gotta admit, we launched the guild once before and it didn't succeed, not because there weren't people participating but because we were still filling the GM role ourselves and we weren't around enough to be leaders.
This time around, we have an independent GM (who rocks), a dedicated raid leader (also rocks), and plan on finding a third person to be the chief PvP organizer (application requirements: must rock). Mike will sadly be out at sea for the first part of Mists, but I definitely try and be online when I can -- and I have to be anyways to get the screenshots I need for some strips.
What would you look back on as your biggest Daily Blink-related success so far?
Mike: Getting to visit Blizzard and meeting some of the people responsible for this game and this culture we enjoy so much was a huge deal for me. Chris works in the industry so I don't know if he felt the same way, but for me that was the first real, tangible sign that we'd created something pretty great, that these guys that we make fun of pretty regularly thought we did it well enough to show us around and make us feel like part of the broader community.
Chris: No, trust me, that was still a big deal for me, too. This is a company and a franchise that I've been a fan of now for decades, and to be acknowledged for our small contribution definitely put a pretty permanent smile on my face.
And what's ahead? Any Mists-era projects in the works that you can preview for readers?
Mike: I think the biggest thing for us as we move forward, beyond finding a way to keep The Blink running when it's one Mike down, is to continue to find ways to make our comic bigger and better. I don't mean that in the cheesy marketing way; but if you look at some of the first strips and then look at our more recent stuff, the comic is literally larger. There's a lot more going on. We try to include at least three jokes in each one -- I want to keep evolving in that direction.
Chris: Easy for him to say. He's not the one who has to do all the extra panels.
Seriously, though, it's going to be really important for me to keep the quality of the strip up without Mike here and also to be able to offer all the secondary things that people usually expect with webcomics. It's always been a huge goal of ours to be able to justify having a table at a convention and interact with readers, but that doesn't happen without doing some heavy lifting and keeping the comic funny.
Read The Daily Blink on the web, or find it in WoW Insider's Sunday Morning Funnies.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.