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I’m proud of Out of the Box, on a whole, but here are some of my favorite panels.. with a little explanation as to why:

It took me a few weeks to get into the groove with this character, in every way (drawing, personality, mood of the comic), and while the tone was set from the beginning, this is the first time I really felt comfortable with him.  This panel also introduces some interesting elements: the fact that he can bleed, the visual cartoon sound effects of his punches, and the fact that his hair strand can be seen in a 3D space.

All of that dialogue is real, too.. even when it’s no longer legible.

Directly following the comic above, this panel took a visual shift, letting the box actually represent the emotion of the comic, instead of just being a literal box.  Doing something like this, just 10 weeks into the comic, made me a bit hesitant, but I was very happy with the results.. and it helped keep me free of constraint in terms of what I would let myself get away with, too.

Not all of my favorites are deep and emotional.  This one… this one just makes me laugh :).

While I love what he has to say, here, it’s just as much HOW he is saying it that puts it on my list of favorites.  His back is turned, he’s quietly at work, and I just really like the whole setup.

It’s a simple image, but a powerful one.  There is a certain ambiguity to it.. the way he’s looking at it, it’s almost as if the box has created this noose for him and he’s facing it for the first time.  That’s not the case, of course, but for having nothing but a pair of eyes, I love his expression in this panel – that’s what really sells the whole thing.

This one means a lot to me.  The tone and depth of this comic was heavily inspired by another comic, xkcd.  This panel is an homage to the very first entry, “Barrel – Part 1”.  The 5-part Barrel series is absolutely wonderful, and it’s exactly the sort of beauty and recurring-concept idea that I strive for with parts of my own comic (see The Ball Series, below).  The fact that he’s facing away from us, taking a moment of personal reflection, makes me love it all the more.

I enjoy that the stickman is aware of what’s going on in the world, and this reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the “We are the 99%” slogan makes me chuckle :).

Once again, it’s another simple little moment with the stickman, in which he’s dishing out some poignant commentary on life.

I love this one, because for all of his knowledge of the world, the stickman doesn’t know everything.. and I think this one’s just adorable :).

I don’t get to play around with visual elements too often, usually keeping things pretty straightforward, but I really liked being able to switch the dialogue bubbles.  I just think it’s a really visually interesting panel.

Not every idea I have plays out well, though most of them do.  This one, though, really exceeded my intentions, and I think it’s a great looking panel that made a clever reference to pop culture (The Hunger Games) within the scope of current events (the 2012 Olympics).

I once described this character as “a simple little stick figure, who just so happens to be stuffed with the entire breadth of human emotion.”  This panel didn’t come from a personally dark or deep place, either… but the Duplicate’s sorrowful expression is definitely representative of how I feel when reading this.  It’s a sad dream because it’s just so direct and matter-of-fact.

This panel is in response to the 2012 Presidential election, but it was created before the results came through.. so the political commentary is actually different than you might expect.  It’s mostly just a humorous/pop-culture take on the “Don’t blame me, I voted for ___” line, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also in reference to the fact that Ron Paul was no longer in the running.

I hope that the concept of this being the stickman’s duplicate is never lost on the audience, so I have entries like this that reference their singularity.  When he says, here, that he sent “himself” a present, he means his duplicate… who is, in turn, a version of himself.  It’s all very Christopher Nolan-esque ;).

This is absolutely my favorite looking panel I’ve yet done for this comic.  It’s a powerful moment, for sure, and it’s the beginning of a storyline I’ve actually had in mind since before Duplicate even made his first appearance, so I’m happy with it for all of those reasons… but I think it’s just darn beautiful, to boot.

I love how eloquently phrased his condemnation is, but I especially love the visual of the blast.  The red-on-yellow at its genesis looks like a classic comic book explosion to me, and the ray was a lot of fun (sporadically erasing blue lines over an orange background).

If you look closely, you can see faint versions of the oncoming Blue, Red, and Yellow stickmen in the white blast area, too.

Originally, the blast was just going to create primary color versions (RYB or RGB, couldn’t decide), but then I realized it should be the full spectrum.  The idea of Indigo/Violet appearing as double-headed made me laugh hard (since they’re usually difficult to distinguish in most rainbows), and sealed the deal on which way to go.

I realize that this marks the 3rd sequential favorite from this period, but the only reason it’s here is because of Orange and Duplicate.  Their simple little exchange just might be the most adorable thing I’ve ever drawn :).

You can also take note that Indigo/Violet is a different color than he was previously.  This marks the beginning of an ongoing visual joke, in which they shift color every other week to better fit their dualistic namesake.

I originally conceived this idea with it containing some sort of dialogue, but the visualization of the drawing turned out so well that it was too perfect to not leave as is.  This particular entry also garnered a comment of appreciation by a stranger (a very rare thing for Out of the Box), which endears it to me all the more.

This one is here because it’s a fun in-joke… my old AIM screen name was themushman144 – so on comic #144, I thought it would good fun to reference that in some way, and I laughed when I discovered just how to do it.

From Duplicaet’s fatherly “how do I approach this” face, to Red’s enthusiastic Miley Cyrus interpretation, to Orange’s very concerned expression at Red’s gyration… this one just really makes me laugh.

This is the saddest thing I’ve ever drawn, and I had a really difficult time doing it.  I knew where I wanted the story to go from here, and I knew the choices I’d have to make to get there, but this one broke my heart.  It was especially hard because, of course, to drive home the impact all the more, it had to be the sweetest, most innocent character in there – and nobody was as endearing as the silent Orange.  This panel takes place mere seconds after the one before it, which to me also plays up the idea of time slowing down in these sort of tragic moments.

I won’t say that the conversation the two are having in the background is a literal transcript of one I’ve had in the past… but it’s certainly close ;). I just really like how this one turned out, both in content and visually. Also, this marked the second week of Yellow’s mourning and contemplation… which led to his suicide the week after this.

For the first time in months, the comic was back to nothing but black and white… which I found both jarring and comforting, all at once. It was sad to lose the little guys, but also happy to welcome home the original. I was glad to have a simpler drawing task, but also missed the added visual complexity of the colors. This mix of emotions that his return-to-form brought me is why it’s one of my favorites.

Also, Duplicate’s face makes me giggle :).

This is most certainly a Doctor Who reference, and I knew that I was going to use this line to wrap up this storyline before Duplicate even appeared. This panel is also the SECOND saddest thing I’ve ever drawn. Visually, I don’t think it could have turned out any better, and I think it’s a really solemn, tragic, and powerful image.

Duplicate first appeared in #63, and the whirlwind relationship between these two ends up coming to a conclusion in a moment of genuine affection and sorrow. The stickman is literally losing himself, and I think it’s hard to watch happen.

This is certainly one of the most saddening entries I’ve ever had to put together, only because every single one of those headlines and article segments were pulled directly from recent real-life news.  I altered a few to remove the names of people or cities, in an effort to create a more universal feel, but this was the current state of the world at the time of this post.  Instead of being a depressing panel, though, I hoped that it would illuminate how we view our own struggles — not as insignificant, but perhaps not as dire as they can seem when we lose our perspective on the world around us.

This isn’t necessarily my favorite panel of all time, but the fact that it’s the one in which he finally has a name is something special.  The fact that this occurred in comic #200 was part of the plan, but until the week that I published this, I had no idea what his name would be.  All of those things he mentioned are true: I did try using foreign languages and anagrams, but nothing worked for me.  Then, by sheer luck, I wrote a deeply personal blog entry about my struggles with depression, and it all just made perfect sense to name him after me.

I love this one because it cracks me up, yes, but also because it delves into the idea that this guy really is just existing in this box day in and day out.

And the joke works all the more because this was the first time I posted this comic on a Friday… and it was also the last.

The Doctor Who-referencing title, the simple cuteness of the panel, and what it of course leads to, makes this one a real winner for me.

While I think the following week’s panel is actually better, this is a favorite just because it’s so darn wonderful 🙂 .  Dog had finally arrived in the comic, a story element that I’d been waiting to bring about since Out of the Box first started, and I think the joy of the moment (both the characters’ and the artist’s) really comes across very well.

Being able to reference Dr. Seuss is, of course, a very welcome treat, but I think this one really turned out even better than I first imagined.  The rhyme is simple but great, Jr.’s expression makes me laugh, and the whole panel just really works for me.

A reference to the big news story about Russian hackers infiltrating the U.S. government through an email phishing link, what I really love about this panel is that they’re actually speaking Russian.  A native-speaker might be able to point out inaccuracies (I used an online translator), but it’s just the kinda detail that really entertains me.

The fact that they’re speaking Russian IS the joke, but in case you’d like to know, Jr. is saying, “Dog clicked on a phishing link,” to which Dog of course responds, “Arf!”

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the elusive triple reference!  This panel was in response to my prior blog entry about starting therapy, but then merges the classic Peanuts Lucy-as-therapist scenario with Doctor Who‘s Matt Smith version of The Doctor.  It’s referenception! (OMG, another reference!)

Plus, I just really like how Dog’s ear sticks out from the side of his hat.  Tee-hee!

When I first thought of this panel, it was just going to be a quick joke about him checking the list, but then I realized that it could be something more.  To imagine that so many people have had profiles on a website that is dedicated solely to facilitating extramarital affairs is a very sad idea, so I wanted to let the visual of this staggering number be my commentary.  I think it worked very well.

It was just too-perfect of an opportunity… National Dog Day falling on the same day of the week that my comic, which features a dog named Dog, is published?

And look at that face!  It’s the most stinkin’ adorable thing I’ve ever seen 🙂 .

For a comic about a single stick-figure trapped inside a box, there has sure been a lot of death.  This was my tribute to characters-past, but it was actually a bit emotional for me to have to draw those guys again – especially Orange, who is standing there smiling, with Duplicate’s arm on his shoulder.  Right in the feels, it got me… right in the darn feels.

I am not only thrilled to have been able to take part in this April Fool’s Day joke that web-comic artists everywhere took on (all creating the same comic), but I really love that I managed to pull off converting it into a single-panel version that still works great!

I also shared this on Reddit and it garnered the at-the-time highest visitor count I’ve had… over 2,500 in a day.  My viewership for Out of the Box subsequently increased, and that’s just another reason I love this one.

The Ball Series
In what started as an obvious reference to the movie, The Great Escape, the stickman’s bouncing ball has become a recurring theme.. and I’m always really happy when it makes its way into the week’s comic.  It’s not a gag I use lightly, and I hope that lining the panels up that do use it better shows its storytelling purpose.


2 Responses to Favorites

  1. Pingback: The New Out Of The Box Page! | www.MarkMushakian.com

  2. These are fabulous!!

    Liked by 1 person

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