Geekz appears on 2Laugh.com every week and is written and drawn by UK artist Chaz Wood. It features tech customer support humor and the successes and failures of those who respond to our email when our computers have revolted. Chaz agreed to give Freethunk an exclusive comic strip for the holidays which you see to the left concerning questionable Secret Santa gifts.
FREETHUNK: With all the geeky characters throughout comic strip history, why Geekz? What’s the inspiration?
CHAZ: I always said that my decision to start a comic strip about an email-based tech support desk was in no way due to my day job, where I work on an email-based tech support desk… (laugh) So I guess the inspiration comes from day-to-day work. I actually remember saying to a buddy one day, a couple of years ago, after some particularly surreal or laugh-inducing moment: “I think I should draw a comic strip about an email IT desk.” He just looked at me, grinned and said: “Do it.” So I scribbled down some ideas and a couple of sketches, but it wasn’t ’til over a year later I started to take it seriously, and actively seek ideas and storylines. I thought it had potential as I hadn’t seen anyone else try an email-based strip before. The full title is really: “IT’s all Geek to Me”, which is a bit of a laboured pun (on IT=”it” and G(r)eek) – “Geekz” is maybe more generic, but snappier.
FREETHUNK: Your characters seem very flawed. What are their names and a brief description?
CHAZ: Generally I always like to write for flawed characters – how boring would perfection be?
Arnie’s the star, though kind of the ‘Charlie Brown’ archetype. The perennial loser. He thinks he’s amazing due to his “cyberpunk credentials”, but mostly everyone else just thinks he’s a bit of a dork. He’s probably bi-polar, as he tends to swing easily between total arrogance and complete dejection.
Mungo is supposed to be the floor supervisor, but is never seen doing any work and always hangs out by the ‘Kool-Boi’ water cooler. It’s debatable whether his distended belly is due to fast food and long nights of geekdom, or several dozen gallons of un-processed water still sloshing around inside.
Gabriel is the boss and the founder of the technical helpdesk. Generally a decent guy, he also has a slightly disturbing dark side to him.
Mary is the bombshell admin assistant, who’s actually more geeky than everybody else put together. As a kid, she probably dismantled her Speak & Spell and reprogrammed the thing to teach Japanese.
Tomasz is the typical anti-social creep, so tech-obsessed that’s he forgotten how to speak and can communicate only through a keyboard. One of the ‘rules’ of the strip is that Tomasz is never seen to speak, or be anywhere other than at his desk, zoning out in front of the screen and swapping sarcastic replies with awkward customers.
FREETHUNK: In particular you have a character named Garth who doesn’t look like he should be stuck at a computer. Apparently he’s the President of “The Outlaw Motorcyclists for God”?
CHAZ: Garth’s the oldest guy on the desk, and a biker, heavy rocker etc.
(and “OMFG” of course also stands for something else…) He’s a genuinely nice guy who will help anyone who comes his way – even evil spammers. He probably ended up with this day job out of his desire to be helpful, and pay for his new Harley.
FREETHUNK: And then recently, you have Arnie who thinks a date involves playing chess? Are you a chess player yourself?
CHAZ: I used to, when I was very young. I was in my junior school chess team but I stopped playing after age 12. The idea of ‘Geekz’ was that it wouldn’t just cover IT-support geekdom, but find it in other areas as well, such as video games, TV shows, music and such.
FREETHUNK: I hear your co-workers read these comic strips which could be dangerous if you ever use them as a basis for a gag. …Care to note if any of the characters are influenced by your co-workers?
CHAZ: I don’t think anyone in the strip is inspired by real-life counterparts. Arnie was a character I originally created for a Cyberpunk role-playing game back in about 1992, so he’s been a part of me for a long time. Because he was such an irritating dork, it took a long time to find the right place for him.
Garth was originally supposed to be a black dude but I could never draw him right without making him look like an awful stereotype, so I limited the black to his clothing and beard.
Tomasz grew out of one of my original doodles that I did when I first hit on the idea, a very simple profile shot of a typical unwashed, greasy propellor head, and that’s how he remained.
Generally speaking, one or two scenarios might grow out of some comment that I overhear or something that somebody writes in an email. I’ve not ruled out the possibility of a deliberate ‘in joke’ of having a brief cameo by some real individual in the future, though.
FREETHUNK: For those geeks stuck in customer service hell, why should they read Geekz?
CHAZ: There is humour even in hell. I guess it’s something like being in the army – you just have to get on with it, no matter how stupid the orders are, or how frequently they change the rules and don’t bother to tell you.
We’re all in the same boat and need to stick together to get through each day – it’s not about doing the will of the higher-ups, it’s about looking out for your buddies and the guy beside you. If I succeed in helping to brighten up even one person’s day in the office, then I’ve succeeded.
FREETHUNK: Anything new for Geekz in 2011 as you continue drawing the strip?
CHAZ: The soap-opera style subplots will unfold, and relationships start to get a bit frayed. There’s definitely tension and conflict on the way, which I guess is the element of all good drama (and comedy). Garth is currently being tempted over to the ‘dark side’ by black hat hackers, the Scarecrew; Arnie’s relationship (or lack of) with Mary spirals out of control. I have plenty of ideas. Possibly a new character at some point, too, if I can find the time. I recently played around with the idea of a set of Geekz ‘top trumps’-style playing cards – probably more of an advertising gimmick than a real game. I actually finished a couple, so may work some more on that idea too.
FREETHUNK: Any final comments?
CHAZ: “There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.” This strip is dedicated to the former…