A Young Woman Chases Her Dreams and a Hot Guitarist – Stick N Poke

Max Dlabick and Tobi Rose are best friends based out of Kansas City. They graduated from the KCAI Illustration Program in 2016 and since have been making illustrations and comics, both separately and together. They especially have fun working on stories together, which is how the comic Stick N Poke came to be!

Synopsis: Mal Hassan is just a girl living on her mom’s farm, but when she is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with her favorite band, she drops everything to follow them on tour. How could she pass up her one chance to hook up with that hot guitarist? Is this a dream come true or a disaster waiting to happen?

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
Both of us went to the Kansas City Art Institute and graduated with BFAs in Illustration in 2016.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Stick N Poke is a romance! We’re both drawn to characters who have a hard time fitting into the world, or who feel out of place or unaccepted by society for one reason or another. The relationship between two people with their own distinct struggles, and the way people like that connect, is much more appealing to us than a conventional, safe romance.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Though Stick N Poke is a romance, it’s also a story about figuring yourself out: who you are, what you want, and how to fit yourself into the world around you. Mal, our main girl, has big ambitions and tends to bite off more than she can chew, wanting to make big things happen for herself.

What was your inspiration for the story?
We’ve been talking about Frasier and Mal for two years, and eventually it evolved organically into a story that we decided we wanted to tell! Even if we weren’t making a comic out of it, the story would live on between us, haha.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Our biggest influences are just the communities we exist in. Between our fellow art students pushing each other in critique, watching other illustrators online, and consuming media, eventually you’re able to figure out what it is you do and don’t like, and what direction you want to push yourself. We don’t look at specific things and go ‘I want to be like that’, we exist in creative communities and everyone making work together excites everyone else to better themselves!

How long does it take you to complete one page?
From thumbnail to finished page, it usually takes a week, which is how we update on a weekly schedule. The script and thumbs have been done for a while, and some pages are much quicker than others.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
Stick N Poke is a really interesting collaboration, because we talk about the story and work it out together. Tobi then takes our synopsis and works it into a script, does thumbnails for it, and then Max draws the page out. Tobi then tones the page, adds text, and we post it! When Chapter 1 ends and Chapter 2 begins, we’ll swap jobs so that Max is writing the script, toning, and doing text, and Tobi is doing the art. We both work on promo art and other miscellany for the comic, and both of us use iPads and Procreate for the bulk of the artwork.

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
Not yet! We have a full idea of what the story looks like, so we know how things will go and it has a definite end. We don’t know how long it’ll take for us to get there, but we work hard and try to update every single week to get the story moving along!

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
We’ve been talking about this story for two years, and have been drawing the characters and making mini comics for about that long as well. Both characters were initially created for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, with Tobi playing Frasier and Max playing Mal!

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
The biggest piece of advice is just to do it. Don’t wait until you feel ready, because you won’t ever feel fully ready. Just make the comic, and allow yourself to have good days and bad days. Some drawings are gonna come out killer and some drawings are gonna make you cringe when you look back on them. You just have to make it happen, don’t get discouraged, and press on! Let your drive to tell your story move you forward even when you don’t feel like working.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
The day we post a page is probably the best, because we get to see it done, all shiny and ready to publish, and then we get to read all the comments! This can also backfire though, like the day we revealed Frasier and everyone just insulted him at first. That was a bit hard to swallow, and was pretty discouraging.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Probably the most difficult part of comic-making is everything outside of the actual comic-making. Making time to sit down and draw, drawing when you’re stressed out about other things, telling yourself that this is worth it even though it’s not paying any bills and you’re panicking about how you’re going to make rent… Not that the comic itself is easy, but life circumstances definitely affect productivity and how well you can work.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Tobi: My favorite characters to write for are always characters who are really rude. Ones that stick out are Winnie and another character that hasn’t been properly introduced yet. Winnie is the band manager and is definitely putting Mal through the wringer.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Tobi: Writing sincere moments between established loved ones like family members can be hard. I always have to go through scenes with Mal and her mom a couple times. I think it’s easy to make emotional and sentimental moments come off as cringey.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Max: I love to draw Mal… She’s my baby.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Max: I struggle with drawing men, actually, which is challenging, because the main love interest happens to be a man…. I think I do a decent job of pretending to know how to draw him though!

Where can we find you?
Stick N Poke:
Tobi’s Twitter is @kingfatkat and Max’s is @mdlabick.