“Random” Comics Drawn With Code, Since The 80’s

August 13, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

John Pound, the artist who helped create Garbage Pail Kids, has been toiling away in relative obscurity, building randomized, computer generated comic strips since the 1980s. After purchasing his first computer, Pound became fascinated with digital art, and learned the programming language PostScript, which he still uses to create his works today. Wired writes:

He coaxed PostScript to draw some rudimentary scenes. They were just a few shapes against a horizon line at that point, but the artist found the results fascinating nonetheless. While plenty of artists were using computers to create impressive abstract visuals, he hadn’t really seen anyone else trying to create representative, figural works. “I just became intrigued,” he says. “I thought, ‘man, this is fun. I want to see what else I can draw with code.’”

His initial programs, called “Ran Dum Comics,” used traditional comic panel structure with self-generated content. In the last few years, he’s strayed into single panel, one page comics, which he collects into sketchbooks all created by the same version of his program.

For these, Pound will set his program on a certain path, have it generate one or two hundred works, and send the resulting PDF to an on-demand printing service to create a physical document of the work. He makes one copy of each, for himself. He’s currently working on sketchbook number thirty.

The vast majority of his work has never been seen by the public, though he does keep a Tumblr called Code Computing. For work’s created with code, Pound’s comics can be melancholy, disturbing and even profound. Pound is clear that the “randomness” of his comics is a bit of a misnomer. “I’ve found I have to do extensive editing and revision on each page’s program until what it creates with randomness has clarity, mystery, humor, and feeling,” he told Wired. Recently, he’s also been experimenting with animation, to hypnotizing, psychedelic effect. (Images: John Pound)