By now, most of you should’ve got your rewards. I hope you’re happy with them. A lot of love and sweat went into those items. Hey, I never designed a whole book before! What a ride that was. I learned a lot in the process. Getting the quotes from Joe and Mike in the final hours before sending to print really was the icing on the cake. Make sure to check those out on the back of the book. I’ve yet to finish the PDF. Basically it’ll be the book plus sketches and stuff. It’ll be ready any day now…
Signing and posting books and stickers and posters and T-shirts to all corners of the world (USA, Canada, Abu Dhabi, Taiwan, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland etc.) was a time consuming and costly exercise, but fun.
If you didn’t pledge at the “get the book” level or above, but since then you’ve come to realize just how awesome this is and now you’ve built up this huge craving for the book, here’s your chance: I’m now selling the remaining books through The Pacifiers Store. Limited edition, so don’t wait too long. And please help spread the word! I spent a lot of my own money to get this project finished, so every sold book will aid me in my financial convalescence. The Pacifiers: Pacify The Bullies! is the perfect gift for a friend or family member!
Two backers didn’t provide me with their addresses, and one never claimed his reward at the post office, so it was returned to me. I’ve e-mailed the three of you and hope you’ll get back to me eventually. Your goods is waiting for you!
I wanted to conclude this crazy one year journey by trying to summarize what The Pacifiers mean to me.
What is The Pacifiers?
Well, to me they’re actually a lot of things. Here are some of them:
Reacting to the world
Artistic expression is usually a reaction to something. The Pacifiers could be said to be my reaction to a depressing contemporary world. For the last 15 years or so we’ve gone from hope for progress to hope for survival, on a global scale. When I started developing The Pacifiers back in 2011, the Arab spring was in full swing. I fantasized about deploying these peace troops in The Middle East, having them deal with the dictators of the Arab world.
They way things have turned since then, perhaps there are others today that need to be pacified more urgently: populists, far right people, macho men in politics, war mongers, weapons manufacturers, proponents of warrior ideologies, internet trolls etc. With The Pacifiers I’ve created a lethal weapon that I could use against anything and anyone I don’t like (and they are many). It’s a weapon that will strip the violent of their violence, the angry of their aggression, the ignorant of sharing their faeces and so on. BUT, these lofty goals must never be top priority. One of Jimmy’s greatest contributions to The Pacifiers was: “Yes, your ambitions are great, but let’s boil them down to something simple that will make people smile”. So that’s what we did, together.
Learning to have fun again
Back in 2010 I was fed up with cartooning. I was stuck in a way of drawing that simply wasn’t fun. And drawing is supposed to be fun, right? First I took a course in 3D character animation, hoping I’d never have to touch a pencil again. The course was great, and I proved to myself that someone like me (a technical illiterate person) could actually learn to do decent 3D animation in a few months. As time passed however, I realized I was sitting on a winning lottery ticket: drawing. I should use drawing to my advantage, rather than trying to compete with the hordes of talented 3D people out there who grew up on 3D like it’s the most natural thing. But not all of them can draw.
In 2011 I stumbled upon a book in my local art store. It was Joe Murray’s Creating Animated Cartoons with Character. It inspired me to such an extent that I signed up for his summer course in 2011. That’s when I started to develop The Pacifiers. Joe’s method in short: start with the characters, then build a world around them, and from there extract stories. Joe emphasized joy and having fun. The starting point should be a bunch of characters you actually like drawing. From the get go I had fun with these babies, and that feeling is still there whenever I draw the Pacifiers. I learned to have fun at my drawing board again, and that’s maybe the greatest achievement with this project, to me personally. Some early sketches of Abe, 2011:
The style of The Pacifiers was also a kind of final showdown with my previous 10 years of cartooning. Strict design rules, meticulous constructing, restricted acting and expressions, pretty lines, solid 3-dimensional characters, naturalistic-ish backgrounds and objects, naturalistic-ish colors (tree trunks are brown, rock is grey, grass is green). With The Pacifiers, I wanted to break away from all that. Go to extremes, exaggerate, flatten, stylize, caricature, abstract, go nuts. Like they did in the 50s and 60s in animated and editorial cartoons. Learn the rules, then break them, without mercy.
But it’s not about copying stylistic clichés, it has more to do with certain principles. One of the best compliments I got was: “You can tell from where you got your influences, but you made something uniquely your own out of it.” Another one I got from a highly respected cartoonist colleague: “It looks sloppy.” That might not sound like a compliment to you, but to me it was, a big one. It confirmed that I finally managed to break up with my own goddamn perfectionism, my biggest enemy.
What if I could be big?
I wasn’t bullied as a kid. Sure, I was often teased, especially by the older kids in school. For some reason I provoked them, maybe because I was good at drawing, I don’t know. But then again I was sometimes the one who teased those smaller than me. I was by no means an angel. The schoolyard can be a rough place. As I moved into my teenage years I realized I would never be one of the cool guys. I tried to for a while, but it wasn’t for me.
When my peers started drinking and going to clubs and having girl friends and all that, I hung out with my partners in nerdery, Pato and Johan, playing games and making weird films and hiking on small islands. We were quite a trio. One Swedish-Yemeni, one Chilean, one German-Swedish. Pretty different personalities, but united by our nerdy interests. It didn’t occur to me then, but looking back I can see that I always gravitated towards people with a somewhat different background. My best friend during earlier childhood was from Thailand.
Johan and Pato in a snow cottage a.k.a. The Spaceship, ca. 1990.
I particularly remember one episode from high school where this cocky little guy, a couple of years older than us, tried to pick a fight with Johan. Johan was the most safe and secure and non aggressive teenager you could imagine. He wasn’t interested in fighting. This pissed of the cocky guy. He was probably one head shorter than Johan. The reason he dared to attack Johan was he had his two huge friends behind him. He pushed Johan into the lockers saying “don’t look at me”. Johan said he wasn’t looking at him. The guy kept on pushing, saying “don’t look at me”. Johan did not swallow the bait. Eventually the guy realized he wouldn’t get his fight, so he and his friends left. I don’t think Johan was as scared as I was. I was trembling. Someone tried to hurt my friend, and I was too chicken to interfere. What if I could be big…?
That what-if is key in The Pacifiers, empowering those who want to but don’t dare. And perhaps a kind of Revenge of the Nerds type of story. “So you think you were cool when you were 15 and dated the prettiest girl in school and got drunk and went out to town on Friday nights to fight? Well now you’re sitting there in your suburban house with your beer belly and watch sports and play on internet casinos. You’re the looser and we’re the cool ones.”
THE REAL PACIFIERS: Andreas (Abraham), Patricio (Rodriguez), Johan (Svendemar)
Finally, The Pacifiers is a celebration of the magic of childhood. I had a good childhood. It was a complex mix of good experiences and bad, like life in general, but the bright memories are the ones you tend to remember. My Mum created room for me to play and make friends and dive deep into the things I was interested in. For that I’m eternally grateful. The Pacifiers is full of the things I loved as a kid: friends, comics, TV, film, action figures, games, drawing, creativity, adventure. If you look at it you’ll find references to various 70s and 80s franchises. Jimmy understood this element of nostalgia perfectly and emphasized it in his scripts, without letting it take predominance. Funny and exciting stories was top priority. There’s a playfulness there that felt just right for what I wanted to create. The Pacifiers is all about playing and having fun. And people I like. Just look at all the cameos by friends and family who so dearly and generously supported this project. I love you all!
Sloth and Mama Fratelli read Pacifiers at Scifiworld, Gothemburg. Photo: Jimmy Wallin.
A note on gender
I fully understand if someone questions The Pacifiers on a gender basis. Why are they all boys? In fact, the whole nursery is full of potential Pacifiers. The kids populating it are based on persons I knew as a kid, from school mostly. From the beginning I imagined all kinds of different Pacifiers, girls and boys. A kind of Masters of the Universe toy-line with babies who when they transform get special abilities based on their personalities. However, when I started developing The Pacifiers through Joe’s course I chose to base the main trio on my best friends. Since I know them the best, there’s an endless well of material there to pour from. I love this trio and I care deeply about them. That’s key in a silly set up like this. No matter what ridiculous things I expose them to, I need to be 100% serious about it.
I’m not ruling out the possibility of lifting others from the nursery to become future Pacifiers. Again, there’s an endless well of possibilities there with all those whacky personalities. For now though, it’s Abe, Rod and Sven. And if you take off the gender glasses for a while you’ll see there’s a diversity there, for instance in their ethnic backgrounds. But that’s not a statement, that’s just who we happened to be. And if you look closely, these guys are everything but macho. Being big with muscles is really just a gimmick, it has no function, except it looks kind of weird and funny. The main thing is to empower these little guys, having them battle all the bad guys out there. Not with violence, but with pacifiers. Kindness. Friendship. Peace and love. What the world needs.
From an article about me and the muscle babies in Hallå Lund! Photo: Luigi Zito.
And with that, on behalf of Jimmy and Alfred and myself, I say thank you. A big and heartfelt one. YOU made this happen. Together we Kickstarted The Pacifiers. There WILL be a continuation, but presently I don’t know when or in what form. But whenever things start rolling again, you’ll be notified. Who knows, maybe I’ll be insane enough to do another Kickstarter?
Take care and be nice to each other.