June 11th, 2003: A new webcomic quietly appears on the scene. The first comic featured 4 panels showing a young girl in bed who counts a single sheep to fall asleep. The pallet is entirely composed of white, black, and shades of blue. It’s cute.
"I can't sleep. Maybe I should count sheep. One." (falls asleep)
"Boy, I'm good."
From these humble beginnings, Count Your Sheep was born. It would grow to attract thousands of readers, and win 7 Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards in 2004 and 2005: Outstanding Comic, Outstanding Newcomer, Outstanding New Character Design, Outstanding Character (Writing), Outstanding Short Form Comic and Outstanding Fantasy Comic. It was also nominated for Outstanding Use of Color, Outstanding Comedic Comic, and Outstanding Story Concept.
The author of this wonderful comic is Adrian Ramos, but you may know him as Adis!
"Let's go to the kitchen. Just let me grab a few things first."
"There. I'm ready."
"... And a banjo. A banjo?"
"I prefer the term 'security blanket'."
CYS may have began as a simple, cute comic, but it quickly grew into something much more. The two main characters are Katie (the little girl), and Ship (the sheep): her imaginary friend. Another important character is Katie’s mother, Laurie. It turns out that Ship is Laurie’s imaginary friend, too.
Katie (Katherine Dickinson) is an upbeat and optimistic kid who regularly buoys the comic up from getting too dark. She loves music, especially The Beatles, and occasionally offers the sort of insight into a situation that only a child can have.
"This my favourite dress."
"Isn't it too big?"
"Just because it only fits the future me, doesn't mean it can't be my favourite already."
Ship is the lovable imaginary friend and counting-sheep of the strip. He seems the most rational of the group, despite having questionable existence. Laurie’s sister can’t hear or see him, but acknowledges him, while Laurie’s mother emphatically denies he is anything but a figment of Laurie's imagination.
Laurie is an emotional single parent (her husband/Katie’s father, Marty, died before Katie was born) who makes a living by teaching piano. Every once in a while, CYS does a Back in Time strip (in shades of purple instead of blue) with Laurie as a kid, about Katie’s age. Laurie was a spunky child; she often does or says things at that age that Katie would never do.
"Welcome to CYS: Back in Time. I'm your host, Ship the Sheep. Today, a special episode from twenty years ago."
"Laurie, what happened to your lunchbox?"
"Oh, I hit a boy on the head with it."
"Why? Was he mean? Did he call you names?"
"Worse. He said he loves me!"
Marty is the much-missed father of Katie. He never really appears in the strip, but he’s always present in the undertone of the story. In the Back in Time strips, we learn that he fell hard for Laurie at a young age, despite her obvious dislike of him, and only wooed her over after years of hard work. But it’s obvious that in the end Laurie really loved him.
Adis has mentioned getting inspiration from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch and the strip has often been compared to Calvin and Hobbes. Is that comparison justified? Well, yes, in the way that it's a comic about a kid and his/her not-quite-imaginary friend. They also share a lot of the same playfulness, but in my opinion CYS has much more sadness and serious matter, while C&H hosts a less innocent protagonist.
Somehow, CYS manages to be cute and quietly humorous while maintaining a melancholy tone (often because of Marty’s death). It’s often interpreted as just “cute”, when the storyline goes much deeper than that. Thus, the More Than Cute Campaign began. On January 9th, 2006, Adis revamped the site and changed the advertising to reflect being “more than cute”. One of them has Ship in a very charming hat.
I definitely recommend that if you like webcomics, go read CYS now. And if you don’t, well, go read it and change your mind. It’s one of those comics where each strip can be enjoyed by itself, but it’s even better if you take the time to read through the archives and see the characters develop.
"I had a terrible day."
"Than why are you smiling?"
"Because the day is over, and I'm still here... and that means I won!"
www.countyoursheep.com: More than cute. (And if you like that, check out Adis’s other comic: No Room for Magic)
Now go to bed!
Sources (accessed November 5th, 2006):
Count Your Sheep (countyoursheep.com)
Count Your Sheep - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Count_Your_Sheep)