I noticed the front page isn't syncing to show my news post on it, so have an alert HERE about how I'll be at Anthrocon (table c3) in Pittsburgh, June 30-July 3. If you'll be there, stop by and say hello! (Also, the Precocious Store will be disabled until after I return from the convention and survey remaining stock.)
What's this comic about?
Precocious is a newspaper-style strip comic that follows an insular group of little (and destructive) geniuses who are too smart for their own good. They attend the combined 4th and 5th grade class at the Poppinstock Academy for Gifted Children. Sure, they are elitist jerks – but they're adorable in their crime! The format usually takes the form of short stories spanning from one week to however many are needed, using character-based humor.
Who the heck are you?
I'm Christopher J Paulsen, but you know that by now. (My name appears several times on every page!) I grew up wanting to be a cartoonist, but ended up taking a 15-year detour into the wonders of fine art before I actually drew the comic that was in my head. I like modernism, newspaper-style comics, sports, TV on DVD/Netflix and being around brilliant people. My birthday is March 24th. You are encouraged to give gifts! (I can *always* put gift cards from Amazon or JetPens to good use!)
Where are you from?
I hail from the Washington, DC area. My life has mostly been spent in Winchester, VA, which is not close enough to DC to make it fun. After a wonderful two-year stay in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, I've set up shop back in Virginia.
How often do you update?
Precocious updates every day! The side comic, Copper Road, updates when I have comics for it - the schedule varies, and extra updates can often be unlocked during fundraising events. The Copper Road archive (found on that page titled "Archive" - to answer another strangely frequent question) is updated with the previous month's incentives at the beginning of each month. I occasionally draw bonus comics/deleted scenes for the current Precocious storyline, which I present as vote incentives. A front page news post, or the (clickable) square graphic by the news section, will tell you the voting page for the current incentive.
I missed a bonus comic/deleted scene. Is there an archive for me to catch up on them, like with Copper Road?
Not online, but they do appear in the print collections! I can't insert comics into the existing archive without blowing up the content management system, and some are meant as interesting asides rather than solid comic canon anyway. I call them "bonus" for a reason! They are bonuses for those actively supporting Precocious by voting during the time they are an incentive, and later they're bonus content for those who buy the Precocious print collections! Yes, it means about a three-year wait, but they're worth it! If I decided a deleted scene isn't for a future print collection, I will embed it in a news post on the front page when its run as an incentive is over - so make sure you read the news!
Where did you get the idea for Precocious?
I loved newspaper comics as a kid, and young me eventually began to imagine what my ideal comic would be. Precocious emerged from me looking at my surroundings and using that as the base. I did attend a school for the gifted for a year, in a combined 3rd and 4th grade class. In 6th grade, when I began working on the Precocious idea, I again was in a gifted-only class. The layout of my 6th grade classroom is nearly identical to the Precocious classroom. (For those interested, I either I sat in the Xander/Ursula seat, or Kaitlyn's spot.) I spent my life in the honors bubble, and the warped outlook that came from it is reflected in my cast of smarty children.
When did you start?
Precocious was conceived of waaaaay back in the 1991-92 school year, when I first tried drawing a comic strip as a 6th grader. As for cartooning in general, I threw out all my fine art training in 2007, starting over at age 27, resurrected the Precocious idea and began to learn how to draw big-eyed creatures. (I regret nothing!) That year, I cut my cartooning teeth by creating a Precocious prequel, which dealt with Autumn's family touring the neighborhood as prospective homeowners. While doing that, I formulated the Gender Wars arc and began work on it. Precocious in its final form launched January 1st, 2009.
What was the 1991 version of Precocious like?
For one, the characters were human instead of cartoony stand-ins for humans. It was also called "Brats" then. (Ugh, that name.) The kid who would turn into Bud was a cartoony avatar of myself, who did things a goody-goody like me never would! (His name shifted a lot and I no longer remember if I ever settled on one.) His main friends were a sidekick name Jacob, a fiery redhead named Autumn and a space cadet named Tiffany. They attended a gifted school and lived in the Sapphire Lake community of Gemstone Estates. Aside from Bud's character being reworked, surprisingly little of that setup has changed over time.
Will we get to see the aforementioned Precocious prequel?
While those early strips are so terrible they should never see the light of day, the story was resurrected and rewritten as a bonus arc in the first Precocious book. Go buy a copy and see!
Is this a furry comic?
Not to me. Technically, it's a "funny animal" comic - meaning they act like, and should be treated as, humans... just in cuter forms. They have hands, not paws, and they identify themselves as people, not specific species. The comic would read the same if they were animal-shaped, regular humans, little horned demons, aliens, whatever. Still, I'm ok with labeling the comic as furry. Loaded term or not, I have no control over perception anyway. I won't turn away that potential reader base, especially since they've been very kind to me over the years! I'm sad that some people shy away from a comic because of this look, because they're missing out on something meant to be for all audiences.
Why did you choose animal forms?
I thought it would be cuter! I thought most people would be drawn to it! I felt animal forms were more pleasing to the eye, as I'd always gravitated towards 'philosophizing animal' comics myself. Also, when I created Precocious, I wanted to build a unique world with my own rules, and I felt animal forms would create the separation from harsh reality I wanted. From an artistic standpoint, I was looking to try a new drawing style. I'd never tried creating animal-form people, so it was a neat adventure in learning something different. In summary: I had no idea what I was getting into with what I thought was a minor design choice. I apparently broke The Rules doing what I did, but I'm having fun anyway!
Why only dogs and cats?
Precocious characters are limited to forms taken from the canidae and felidae families because adding more and more animal types suddenly makes the comic ABOUT the animal types. That's not interesting to me at all, and it raises some biology thoughts that break my brain. If I felt confident enough to draw variety in the family, Precocious would have been all-cat or all-dog, but I felt my simple style wouldn't allow the needed flexibility. So you get kitties and doggies. All their forms really mean is that cats and dogs are not meant to be romantically compatible, since I don't like "shipping" at all, especially regarding minors. (This explains why most major male/female pairs are 'mixed.' It never stops anyone from shipping, but I tried.)
What do you think about furry fandom?
I love it! It's flattering to get such wonderful attention. I want all types of people loving my work! I often sell my work at furry conventions because it's so refreshing to have a fandom that wants art from an artist specifically for that artist's style, and it has been the nicest fandom I've encountered on the convention circuit. Any annoyance with the term is directed at those insecure people who try to make it a slur. Precocious was made with a newspaper comic mentality, which means it should be a fun treat that appeals to many groups, and attempting to scare a large group of potential readers away goes against what I stand for!
What exactly *are* your characters?
They are all highly-cartoonified designs based on doggies or kitties. (I'm not particularly interested in super-accurate animal biology. I just wanted cuteness and variety.) Bud is a cat with Scottish fold ears. Autumn is a red fox. Tiffany is a simplified calico cat. Jacob is a floppy-eared mutt. Suzette is a spaniel. Dionne is a cheetah-mix. Max is a wolf. Roddy is a tuxedo cat. Kaitlyn is a Siamese cat. Quincy is a German shepherd. Vincent is a crazy mix of doggies, including keeshond and side-striped jackal (I decided that after the fact, because people kept asking). Ursula is a husky. Phew, that's enough for now.
How old are the kids?
Of the Poppinstock class, Bud, Autumn, Dionne, Max, Roddy, Kaitlyn, Quincy, Xander and Ursula are 10. Jacob, Tiffany, Suzette, Vincent and Yvette are 9. For the kids' siblings, Casey Oven is 18, Michelangelo Et is 6, Frida Et is 4, the Et twins are 2 and Wen Hu is 8. (This is not a complete list of every sibling of the children in the main class.)
How old are the adults?
Joseph Oven is 42. Sydney Oven is 40. Soren and Ivy Pingo are both 35. Harvey Linkletter is 37. Deirdre Linkletter is 36. Gene Et is 33. Sky Et is 29. Bette Monster is 29. I haven't bothered setting exact ages for much of the supporting adult cast.
Do the characters age?
Nope. This is a sliding continuity. (Like in The Simpsons, or Calvin and Hobbes.) Situations may change, but everyone always stays the same age. We still get birthday plots, but the kids go from 10 to 10! How? IT'S A PROUD COMIC TRADITION! DON'T QUESTION IT!
But that time-looping is confusing! Why do that?
I SAID NOT TO QUESTION IT! Anyway, I set out to draw a comic about kids at that perfect age when they have developed personalities, enough freedom and skill to do fun stuff, but are still innocent in regards to many adult things. (For example: They are not afraid of breaking the law, but will fall in line if you threaten to give them a bad grade in school. That's what matters to them!) It's meant to be pure and refreshing, and if I let them age it would destroy everything after a year. The class would split up, characters would dramatically change with age and it would soon be a comic I wouldn't want to write.
In sliding continuity like this, you can imagine it's like the comic shifts to an alternate universe every year (or as needed for plot purposes) in which characters are the same age but have memories of past events. (I think I say this elsewhere in the FAQ too, but if I want to retcon things, the current time frame is to be considered canon. The continuity slides to where I want it!)
In what state does Precocious take place?
Chaos! Heh. I'm deliberately vague on this, but you might as well assume it's in the northern part of Virginia, as it's pretty much the only area I've ever known! ("The City" in the comic is clearly based on Washington, DC - but it'll always be The City. This is my own little reality to play with, and I don't want to bog it down too much with real-life references. They often sneak in, but it's not my standard approach.)
What's with all the goofy names?
It's one of my vices as a cartoonist – silly names! Here're some examples of my naming methods:
Bud Oven - When I resurrected Precocious, I felt I needed to overhaul his character. At the time, I was working on a short story with a character named, you guessed it, Bud Oven. He was a spoiled brat who stayed in an apartment building owned by his mother. I had a dumb joke about how they had to take the generic name of "Sunshine Apartments" because naming it the "Oven Apartments" was right out. A lot of the short story Bud was adopted into Precocious Bud. So, no, his name has nothing to do with marijuana, darn it! I'm so pure it didn't occur to me until certain commenters showed up. Drugs are gross and stay away from them, OK?
Bette Monster – Her first name is a reference to the class she teaches – the first and last names of the 13 students cover all 26 letters of the alphabet! (Jacob's last name of Linkletter is also a reference to this.) For the Monster part, I think it's funny that the "pretty" character has such a cruel name. It's also a nice adversarial name for one who foils these kids regularly.
Kaitlyn Hu – Why, yes, I did create a character for one puntacular strip! I'm not above naming a character for one cheap joke!
Why does the archive jump between black & white comics and color comic?
When Precocious was first launched, I wanted to test my limits to see what I could pull off on a daily basis. My intention was to run a newspaper-style black and white strip, with standalone color Sundays, but I wanted to give coloring dailies a shot for fun. I didn't have fun coloring then, so I went back to black and white. Later, guest colorists took up the task here and there. (Bless them!) Finally, I gave in to the pressure and resumed coloring the strips again myself. (I'm much better and faster at it now, thanks to practice.)
What are your influences?
I grew up fueled by newspaper-style comics. Precocious' biggest influence is definitely Charles Schulz's Peanuts, with heavy doses of Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, Fox Trot and Ozy and Millie (among many others) mixed in.
Can I suggest a storyline?
Please don't. While I enjoy hearing from readers, I don't accept story or character ideas. I'm a control freak and I like Precocious to be from my twisted brain alone! If you try and suggest ideas, all you're doing is ensuring I won't ever use them. (It's maddening when someone submits a vague and obvious idea, like "they do book reports!" and then try to claim credit if the class is assigned book reports in a later story.) If you want to tell that story, you can fanfic. I do not read fancomics or fanfiction, because I don't want to risk any idea bleed, so DON'T send them to me. No fanfiction will get my endorsement. I don't like fanfiction, and I also don't have any desire to do or see role-playing as/with my characters.
And, to be clear, fancomics are a different beast than solicited Precocious guest comics. In the case of guest comics, I still come to you before you come to me. If I am not clearly asking for a submission, do not send one to me. Even if I am, I usually set up strict guidelines first. Follow them or I will hate you.
Will we see more of the supporting kids' families? (What about those characters I liked from that one story?)
Anything's possible, but I don't like introducing character just to introduce more characters. There needs to be a good reason for a non-main family member to appear. I think I have enough characters as is! That statement also means supporting characters who are fun can go a long time between appearances. It's a delicate balance to keep the gigantic cast from overwhelming a reader (especially a new reader), and the core group must take priority.
When will the cast page be updated? Some new characters don't have entries!
This is a time thing. And money thing. Cartoonists make very little, and I do this as my full-time job. There's rarely time left for me to do bonus work that not many will look at. I'm embarrassed to have a page so outdated, but this is the grim reality of doing this on my own. The best way to get that page fixed up is to take the initiative yourself. If you build up the Precocious Wiki to something big and special, then I can point readers there! Readers taking initiative helps us all! (Provided they are sane.)
I read your comic on my phone. Can't you make it so I can see the hover text on the comics?
Sorta the same answer as above. I used to have a way around this problem, but it was lost during my site upgrade years ago. I'm sure I'll have a solution one day, but it's a time and money thing. I can't hire assistants for tech help or mailing or publishing until the comic earns enough to allow me that luxury. Reader support has to build me up so I can keep supporting the readers!
Followup: Apparently you can download the "gReader" app from Google to your phone, and if you view the site through it, you can get hover text to show by pressing down on the image. I haven't tested this myself yet, and it sounds a little complicated, but it's better than nothing!
Will we get to see what happened when _____?
Probably not. I think some things are funnier when you have to imagine what crazy stuff went down yourself! I don't like having to hold readers' hands all the time, and I encourage you all to use your imagination to connect the dots in clever ways! Yes, I know that not everyone's brains are programmed for this, and I apologize if this can cause frustration, but I still want to challenge the general readership to test their imaginations. It's a hot button topic for me. I want to get more people working out their creative thinking muscles - plus, I like to encourage discussion in the comments sections about what might have happened!
What's Rule #4?
"No dynamite." Often referenced in the comments sections, Rule #4 comes from this strip. (And, yes, it applies to all explosives. Not just dynamite. Rule #24 reinforces that. As you read through the archive and the books, you can find many of the "25 Rules for Smarty Kids." (Not all have been released... yet.)
What is that weird symbol that keeps appearing in the comics?
It's called a triskelion. The meaning can vary due to the culture using it, but a constant theme for it is enduring renewal. I adopted it long ago, as the symbol is a synthesis of my initials. I sometimes use the symbol in place of my signature for smaller artwork, and I splash it into the comic for fun. Sometime's it's just decoration, but I also use it as the Chrispco symbol!
Pronounced Chrisp-Co (not Chris-py-Co). It began as a joke of mine, as the name of a huge, multinational corporation that should exist to do my evil bidding. In Precocious, Chrispco is that ever-present company, which produces a lot of products - the most visible being Chrisp-Cola.
How do I post images in the comments section?
First you need to find a place to host your images. There are several free hosts out there. Next, you use standard html to post your image, like below:
Why did you decide to do Copper Road?
I designed all 13 kids in the Precocious class, but I knew the strip would be way overloaded with characters if I constantly crammed them all into a story. I try to find a balance that focuses on the main group of four, with regular check-ins from the supporting class. (I'm fond of stories that give each classmate a comic in the spotlight. It's helpful for reminding new and old readers about their personalities.) I had joked for a long time that Kaitlyn was like the central character of a second strip, so it was easy to take that idea and run with it. Turning it into a vote incentive meant I could share a second comic and use it to bring new readers to Precocious!
Copper Road allows me to tell different types of jokes. While Precocious is largely a series of short stories and character-based humor, Copper Road is mostly standalone jokes. The characters are intentionally broader than with Precocious, because it leaves them open to adapt to what is needed for observational humor. A lot of Copper Road jokes are taken from my own life experience.
Did you know some comics contradict each other?
Sometimes it's intentional. Sometimes it's not. A lot has changed since I started Precocious, and as time goes by I may want to update some stuff to fit my current world vision better. If two strips contradict each other, the rule is accept the newer strip as the current canon. I reserve the right to update my universe when needed. (Such as changing a character's coloration so it's more accurate or more visually effective.) Often, though, I just forget what I wrote years before. It happens. It should also be noted that I value a good joke first, and sticking to continuity second. If it's funny, I'll play loose with the rules.
In the case of backgrounds and environments, I prefer to keep things flexible. The field behind Sapphire Lake bounces around. Doors pop up when needed, and can even shift to new walls between stories. Window change shape to fit in a panel. I'd rather shift Bud's kitchen around than draw an accurate panel that makes it hard to position the characters. (I learned quickly that my realistic layout of Bud's Clubhouse made 2D comic panels extremely difficult to arrange, which means I don't use it as much as I'd like to.) Wall colors will change as I hone my palette or other needs arise. Just assume the kids cause so much damage that the whole Precocious universe needs to constantly repair and rebuild itself. New furniture is needed, old furniture is moved, remodeling happens and walls need repainting on a weekly basis!
I see a character from another comic! Does that mean...?
Cameos are a great way to give a shout out to another cartoonist, and sometimes they're just a convenient ready-made design to use when a background character is needed. As fun as the idea might be to you, no, everyone's comic universes aren't related. (Even if there are joking parallels in crossovers, the continuities aren't connected.) Consider it more an amazing coincidence that someone who looks like a character elsewhere showed up... even if they have the same name and act like that character! I've had fun in the past dropping Precocized versions of characters from other creators in for special story roles - such as recasting the crew of Namir Deiter into a restaurant staff, or doing a bizarre and silly extended thing with Ginger from Ginger's Bread. Enjoy it as a treat, but don't take it too seriously.
Why don't the characters wear shoes?
It's a stylistic choice in drawing. I draw them with big feet (I worry they'd fall over without them!) and the idea of wrapping shoes around them felt awkward. Lack of shoes isn't a hard rule - it's just one of those, "It's a comic, go with it," things. For me, it's a visual quirk along the lines of them having oversized heads and tiny necks, yet they somehow can easily put on their shirts and no one has severe neck trauma. You'll be much happier if you look at the characters as humans with a cute veneer than as animals doing human things. Better yet, think of them as cartoon characters. If they're fun, accept it and let yourself enjoy things. This is along the lines of people worrying that a canine ate chocolate, yet being totally cool with it acting like a human in all other aspects. It's a weird place to draw the line.
When will we see a book?
Did you know there's a typo in a book?
*grumble* It happens. Each print edition brings more corrections. Feel free to write to me if you see an error, because I've seen those comics and words so many times that I can't recognize mistakes easily due to my brain filling in what I expect to see. I don't go back and read my own books, so I must rely on my editors and reader feedback.
Why do you use American terms?/Why did you split that infinitive?
Precocious is an American comic, written by an American, that uses conversational language. That means American terms, references and slang, lots of "um" and "ah" and "so..." and imperfect language usage. Sometimes I fail at typing and the words get messed up, in which case you should email me so I can fix it, but often the characters talk as people talk in casual situations. I'll fix *my* mistakes, but not my character's language mistakes - if that makes sense. And if the American nature of the comic offends you, please don't whine in the comments. It's OK if you don't get an American reference. The world isn't revolving around you today, and you should probably take it in stride and avoid acting like not pandering directly to you is somehow wrong. It doesn't matter if you (or I) approve or not, I was raised with this frame of reference. I was raised with this language/dialect, and that's how I write. I won't start using terms from your country to make you feel more at ease. That is ridiculous.
Why is Autumn eating chocolate if she doesn't like it?
You should take her initial statement on chocolate as more accurate than the one she shouts when fighting with Bud. Sweet is sweet, and dessert is yummy, but she prefers other types of sweet. In my case, I'm not a big fan of mint chocolate ("Blasphemy!"), but I'll still devour it if that's what you have to offer. While I think better things can be done with chocolate, sweet is sweet and I'll enjoy it. Complaining about dessert is like a San Diego resident complaining that there are TWO clouds in the sky, so it's not clear and perfect as usual!!
Why do you make comics I don't understand?
As this is, sadly, a frequently asked question, so here you go: I write this comic using my experiences and not yours. I have to amuse myself before anyone else. I get very little financial compensation for what I do, so I have to love what I'm doing to keep going. I rarely base a whole strip on a cultural reference anyway, but it happens. Sometimes you don't know it due to lack of life experience. Sometimes it's a cultural or language barrier thing when a non-American reads my American jokes. Those jokes aren't bad when this happens, they're just not for you. Treat it as a learning opportunity and go to Google! Most of my references are written to be understood if you'd take 10 seconds to look up the term. If you can't find what you need via search (do that first), you can wait for the next day's update to come and amuse your, or ask politely in the comments. People should respond nicely with the answer. (If they don't, that's not cool.)
Usually it takes less time to look up the reference than to compose a complaint, buuuuut... At a certain age, some kids really believe they are the center of the universe, and can act hilariously demanding because of it. (And some internet-frequenting adults never seem to grow out of that entitled haze.) Don't be one of those kids, because no matter how much fun it is to mock that behavior, it's not fun to read it. Ignorance is forgivable, as it's merely the lack of knowledge and easily fixed. Arrogant, entitled ignorance will make a very nice and civil group of lovely commenters slap you around.
And, this is so weird that I have to bring this up, but I again have to note that if something doesn't apply to you directly, it's not wrong. If you find yourself confused that a character who is very different from you would react in a different manner than you to a certain plot element, maybe... uh... I don't know a polite way to end this sentence.
Why do I keep getting downvoted in the comments section for correcting people?
Ideally, we're all eloquent and smart and correct all the time, but that's not reality. People make mistakes. They slip through. It's OK. Some people are dysgraphic. Some don't speak English as their first language. We're in an age of Autocorrect slaughtering our best sentences if we're not careful. It's annoying when common typos happen, but as long as we understand the statement we should let it slide. With the IntenseDebate comment system, once a comment is replied to it can no longer be edited, so all you're doing is shaming a person and ensuring there's no way to fix it. If you can't help yourself and compulsively must correct people even when told not to, I will have to step in, as that character flaw is a big indicator of a bad commenter. The community is better without you.
Side note on the Karma voting: The numbers don't really mean anything. Lots of times people +1 every comment. Other times someone gives EVERYONE a -1. You can try to take something from it, but even then only look at the daily number. Registered users automatically get a +1, which means the reputation score (which I have disabled since first writing this FAQ response) is nothing more than "I've been here a long time." Big numbers by people's names are meaningless, so don't pay attention to them.
To spin off on the correcting idea, if someone gets a character wrong, or confuses comic continuity, you can correct them - include a link to the appropriate comic in the archive, if applicable - but ALWAYS be respectful. (Here's a hint: No correction that starts with a condescending "Um..." or "Actually..." is ever that respectful.) Everyone is at a different stage of familiarity with Precocious. Characters that seem impossibly different to a long-time reader can be confused by someone still learning who everyone in this large cast is, and no one is expected to remember a throwaway gag from comic #252 (or whatever) off the top of their head. (Usually the cartoonist has forgotten it as well.) It's a big archive, with lots of tidbits to take in. Don't pick on people for missing stuff. Give them a reason to go back and re-read the archive instead!
Why did this FAQ suddenly get so snarky?
It's the unfortunate nature of how one or two rotten apples can ruin things for everyone. The vast majority of people are so amazing and I love the community that has been built, but one out-of-control dingdong means I have to put up rules and potentially make other people uncomfortable. The most frustrating aspect is that those who are valuable might get self-conscious about posting, when they are so needed, while the guy the rules apply to usually continues on obliviously. If you consciously think about your words when posting, you've likely already passed the test. You're a good commenter and we need your voice added to the mix! I doubt the people I'm trying to reach will ever read this FAQ entry. All those who see this should send those guys here if you see them acting up in the comments!
How can I be a better commenter?
Be respectful and try to enhance the discussion with every post you make. Respectful goes towards both your fellow commenters and the cartoonist. As noted above, don't nitpick each other. Don't always make things entirely about you. Don't force your interpretations on others, as varied speculation makes for entertaining reading. Don't get super serious - this isn't a place to debate politics or religion. Try to make people smile. Don't be intimidated and end up trying too hard! You can be snarky without being cruel. Complexity isn't needed in commenting. The cartoonist ADORES to see people's immediate reaction to the comics, as it shows people are invested in the story. A single "Squee!" post could end up making his day! The comments are meant to enhance the strip they are attached to. Make the place fun and inviting enough to inspire more voices to join in! It is vital to a comic's health that new commenters appear, even if all they are saying is "I'm enjoying this!"
Have a question about a topic not covered here? Drop me an email! I'll try to keep this page updated as questions/suggestions roll in. Also, for minor or purely Chrispy-related questions, don't be afraid to ask me anything over on my Tumblr account!