If you are one of those people who finds it difficult to say if the glass is half full or half empty, you might have a new term to describe yourself—Optipess. It's a word made up out of two contrasting mental attitudes—optimism and pessimism—that can actually coexist in the universe of this Norwegian comic artist, Kristian Nygård. And the result is entertaining comics that are sometimes funny and silly, sometimes sad, and hit us right in the feels. The artist's name might ring a bell for any pandas who have been around a while, because we first featured Nygård's webcomics that explain depression over 5 years ago. Fast-forward to today—he's still turning his random ideas into witty comics drawn in his own distinct style. His topics range from mental health and social issues to pop culture and gaming, so everyone can find something they will enjoy and relate to.
"I wanted the name of my comic to somewhat describe the content, so the word Optipess is a combination of the words optimism and pessimism and I hope the comics will feel like juxtapositions of the two terms. The resulting comics are then hopefully sometimes silly and sometimes dark, or with elements of both," Nygård told Bored Panda.
Nygård started creating Optipess in 2007 and a year later, he put his first comic online in English.
"I started doing them to have a creative outlet and now, over 12 years later (!) I wouldn't really know how to stop," Nygård told Bored Panda. "Usually I try to hone in on whatever is on my mind and make it into a comic. (Then, if I'm lucky, I won't have to think about the particular topic anymore!)"
We asked Nygård about his inspirations.
"My favorite moment of inspiration is right before I fall asleep! Which can be treacherous if I don’t force myself to write down whatever I start thinking about. Also, ideas come from being intensely interested in a subject, then being intensely bored so you’re forced to process the information in another way. Don't underestimate boredom!" Write that down, bored pandas.
Here's how the artist describes his comics on his Patreon page: "It’s a comic which is sometimes sad, sometimes silly, but hopefully always entertaining. Optipess is usually about most things between romance and Cthulhu."
The artist says his webcomics are "devoid of continuity, character development, story arcs, logic, and wit," which is a very humble way to describe artwork with a unique sense of humor liked by thousands of people across social media.
However, you can spot a recurring character in Nygård's comics who is based on him and calls him "somewhat of a punching bag in a particular strip." The artist says that the main reason he sticks to the same character in non-character-driven comics is that it makes the drawing process much easier and the comics more recognizable for readers.
The artist admits he is an avid movie, video game, and music fan on "moderate, passionate, and obsessive levels, respectively," which reflects in his comics. Various pop culture characters such as Batman and villains from horror classics such as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Frankenstein's monster (by the way, learn the difference between Frankenstein and the actual monster in one of the comics) make an occasional cameo in Nygård's humorous comics with dark undertones.
"I’ve always been a sucker for dark humor and I like to play with the notion that every situation, no matter how happy and cheerful it might be, it also has an alternate darker side when seen from another perspective. This also goes for the other way around, a dark and hopeless situation for one part might be completely joyous for someone else, and in the intersection between cheerfulness and despair, there’s room for a lot of hilarity."
Although it looks like Kristian Nygård puts his funny random thoughts into well-drawn strips of comics, some of them are deeper than they might seem. He often uses humor to cleverly speak his mind and struggles about serious topics such as mental health, technology, LGBTQ+ rights, politics, and other things that are wrong with our society.
Nygård shared the most challenging and rewarding things about creating comics: "The writing is by far the most challenging, and I have to keep pushing myself to try to go the extra mile when coming up with gags. It’s all too easy to settle for the first and easiest punchline, so the times when I’ve managed to push a concept to the most logical and hopefully best conclusion are the most rewarding."
Nygård previously told Bored Panda: "I’ve discovered that by succeeding in sharing something genuine—presented in a true and honest way—it will inevitably always resonate with someone, somewhere." Being online for over ten years and having made over 1000 comics, he seems to know a thing or two about creating honest and relatable content as he now has 149k followers on Instagram and over 16k followers on Facebook.
"The reactions I get are usually all over the place, so I try not to get too caught up in what people are saying. Of course, I love it if people have positive reactions, but if someone says the comics are 'too dark' I can totally see that, but I choose not to let it affect me in any way."
The artist hopes that he's able to convey his worldview through his comics and that his voice is recognizable even if the comic is drawn in a different style and features different characters.
"First and foremost, I hope people are amused by them in some way," Nygård said about the effect on people he wants his comics to evoke. "But in addition, I hope I can expose and articulate a truth the reader already knew but wasn’t aware of—even if the particular comic might be a poop joke."
So far, the proudest moment in Nygård's career was an Optipess book released in late 2019 in Norway.
"I’m super proud of that, but I’m hoping to top that at some point. The comic has also been in print in various publications over the years (it’s currently in the Norwegian Nemi magazine!) and I always get a kick out of seeing my comics in any kind of physical form."
Drawing comics is not the artist's full-time job, but he says he would love to dedicate more time to it, and you can actually be a part of this wish! Consider supporting Optipess on Patreon as it "truly means the world" to Nygård.
To wrap up, Nygård shared his recipe for overcoming creative block and a piece of motivation for upcoming artists who would like to succeed online!
"Keeping up motivation, especially these days, can be hard, but I firmly believe the alternative of NOT having a creative outlet would feel even worse. So whenever I feel blocked and can’t really come up with anything I’m excited about, a way out is to just to finish something even if it’s probably not perfect. A half-decent to OK comic is better than no comic at all, and usually, it helps me to jumpstart into the next comic. Related to that, for upcoming artists, the best thing is to just start and finish something. Chances are it is probably not amazing (of course, it CAN be!), but at least it’s done. Rinse and repeat, and along the way, people might fall in love with you."
For more funny comics with unexpected twists, you might want to check out some of the recent comics by great artists featured on Bored Panda. Here are cute comics by Ryan Pagelow that become not-so-cute when you reach the twisted ending; Tony esp ends his comics in a weird and unexpected way; Cameron Spires, known as goattoself, draws completely absurd, but hilarious strips; and Super Combo Deluxe creates random and offbeat comics you might also like. Enjoy!