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Dan Smolinski: The Comic Book Man

By in Culture

Madison Taylor
Culture Editor

Dan Smolinski is something of a jack-of-all-trades — dabbling in art, comedy, quack wizardry (we’ll get back to that) and as of July 25, publishing.

The All-Knowing Wizard Rob!: A Collection of Fuck! By Dan, is a compilation of comics based around an eccentric, recreational drug using wizard named Rob with no apparent magical abilities to speak of. Rob is an adventurer, a shit-disturber, an amateur liquor distiller and let’s face it — a bit of an asshole. But at the same time, he manages to be a likeable and strangely empathetic character.

Despite all of the hijinks and drug-hazed chaos he gets his buddy Dan (who as you may have guessed is loosely based around the author) into, Rob tries his best to be a good friend. This is the inspiration behind all of Smolinski’s comics — tomfoolery, friendship and of course, making your friends laugh.

“My friends and I would always draw comics to make each other laugh ever since we were in elementary school,” Smolinski said. “We made our own characters and things like that and left them on the fridge for other people the next day.”

Smolinski has been drawing comics for the Sheaf for over two years now, submitting strips that document the strange, delinquent lives of Rob, Dan and an array of their random co-stars. However, the idea for Fuck! By Dan was not created solely for the Sheaf. Smolinski had been brainstorming and drawing comics long before he decided he wanted to publish them.

“I used to read the Sheaf every week and look at the comics and think that I could do better. Maybe I could do a cartoon and just drop it off, but I was too shy,” Smolinski said. “Raisa [Pezderic] was the photo editor and she was the first one to say, ‘That cartoon’s funny, you should put it in the Sheaf.’ So it just sort of snowballed from there.”

Smolinski’s contribution to the Sheaf revived the humour section from a long-term comedic coma.

“Our comics section wasn’t publishing anything from a local artist at the time. We were printing whichever internet comics gave us permission to publish their stuff,” said Kevin Menz, former Editor-in-Chief of the Sheaf, in the foreword for The All-Knowing Wizard Rob. “I was ready to publish anything in the paper. The fact that Dan’s comic was funny was just a bonus.”

Fuck! By Dan has since become a staple comic in the Sheaf, allowing readers to keep up-to-date with the crazy antics of Wizard Rob. Whether he is buying weird drugs from Daryl the mutant tree louse, contracting a rather nasty case of chlamydia or brewing some homemade moonshine in the forest, Rob never ceases to be hilarious in the silliest and most nonsensical of ways.

The best part though? Rob is based on a real, living and breathing human being who is actually friends with Smolinski. Whether he is really a wizard — or a raging stoner — remains a mystery, but he was certainly interesting and influential enough in Smolinski’s life to be turned into a comic book character.

“My cartoon providence is rooted in making my friends laugh, so we’ll sketch something out and be like ‘This is you!’ One day I was like, ‘This is you, Rob!’ and everybody loved it,” Smolinski said. “I had already had the Dan character who was based loosely around myself, and I thought maybe I could put the Rob character in a few cartoons — then he obviously stole the show.”

Rob and Dan are not the only characters based on real people. Daryl the mutant tree louse who only says “Flurn?” exists outside of Smolinski’s mind as well.

“I grew up drawing ninja-turtles, and if you look at [Daryl] his bandana is the same and he’s got a big round nose just like a ninja-turtle,” Smolinski said. “My good friend’s dad is named Daryl and spelled that way too, so I was like ‘Daryl’s a funny name, I can work with that.’”

Despite the obviously unique array of people in Smolinski’s life that he draws inspiration from, he tends to go to the drawing board blindfolded.

“My creative process uses a type of cartoon called a free-wheeling cartoon, so I never have an idea going in, ever. That way the strip takes on more of an organic sort of feeling,” Smolinski said.

Though he may go into the process with a blank slate, Smolinksi always manages to whip up a joke or a ridiculous scenario for Rob and comic book Dan to find themselves in.

In the spirit of the free-wheeling organic cartoon, Smolinski never uses pencils to draw his comics, which means the final product and the first draft are often one in the same. If it were done any other way Fuck! By Dan wouldn’t have that absurd and random humour that makes it so likeable in the first place.

“I never pencil any of my stuff because I hate erasing the pencil after, it makes the cartoon look bland and kills the ink on it,” Smolinski said. “Then all the mistakes I make in ink will turn into the joke and you would never know it unless I pointed it out.”

A perfect example of this accidental punch-line is the comic in which Rob pops one too many quaaludes and transforms into a parrot.

“I had just started experimenting with one panel cartoons and I had never drawn Rob with his arms crossed before,” Smolinski said. “And I was like ‘Oh my god this looks so bad, it doesn’t even look like arms. It looks like wings or something.’ Okay, now they’re wings. Now Rob’s a cockatiel. And he’s high. And that’s the joke.”

Going off the cuff seems to work wonders for Smolinski, as he has written and drawn enough material now to fill an entire book. Printed at XL Print and Design — located in the Memorial Union Building on the University of Saskatchewan campus — The All-Knowing Wizard Rob seems to be only the starting-off point for Smolinski’s publishing career.

“There’s some 10-11 page comic book style stories in the works, so if you compile all that stuff that’s almost half-way to another book,” Smolinski said. “I hope to make a bigger book in another two years or so.”

So what does the future hold for Fuck! By Dan?

“I really don’t know. Right now I’m not set up to do it as much as possible — like I still draw on my kitchen floor because my place is so small,” Smolinski said. “It’s very much a recreational thing for me. I’m just more than happy to entertain people in this medium.”

In the meantime Smolinski is still a faithful contributor to the Sheaf’s comic section and has been published in another university newspaper, the Capilano Courier.

Thankfully, it seems the loveable stoner Wizard Rob and his shenanigans will live on. Whether published in print or on the web in the future, Fuck! By Dan continues to be a delightfully silly read that reminds us not to take life — or our insane friends — too seriously.

You can pick up a copy of The All-Knowing Wizard Rob at Unreal City on 2nd Avenue. Follow Smolinski on Instagram at @dansmolinski to keep up with his latest comics.

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