Q & A

Here are the answers to a lot of questions you may or may not have about my comic. Hope you find them enlightening.


Where did you get the idea for the title “Abby and Norma”?

From the word “abnormal,” of course. Specifically, from Igor’s misreading of that word in the movie “Young Frankenstein.”


Is “Abby and Norma” intended for children?

Not really. It’s true that there’s virtually no swearing in the comic (I think Abby says “damned” in one strip, but it’s in the phrase “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”). However, the characters’ conversations do often touch on things like sex, violence, ethical philosophy, religious interpretation, quantum physics, and other stuff the average kid– or the average adult, for that matter– won’t really relate to. The target audience, I guess, is eccentric twenty-somethings like me (well, OK, I’m not in my twenties anymore, but I was when I started this comic). If I had to give “Abby and Norma” a movie-type rating, I’d choose PG-13… though it’s certainly tame compared to many PG-13 movies.


Which one is Abby and which one is Norma?

Norma is the one with the shortish blond hair and the red V-neck shirt. Abby is the one with the long brown hair and glasses, usually portrayed in an orange shirt. She’s a bit more nerdy than Norma, with a language obsession and a penchant for making awful puns. She’s usually the one who comes up with bizarre insights about life when the two of them are sitting at their table together.


Does Abby have autism?

Abby has Asperger’s Syndrome, like me. It’s considered to be on the autism spectrum, but not everyone calls it autism. Her Asperger’s is pretty much like mine: social ineptitude combined with strong academic skills and a gift for thinking outside the box. It’s because of people like her that Asperger’s is called “the nerd syndrome.”


Does Norma have autism?

I think of Norma as an autism ally. She’s not diagnosed with anything; maybe she could get diagnosed if she wanted to, or maybe she couldn’t. She’s never had problems severe enough to try for a diagnosis. But she’s definitely a geek, and she’s sympathetic to the concerns of the autism spectrum.


How old are they?

They’re college seniors. They will probably be college seniors forever; things are very convenient that way in comic strips.


Is Abby based on you?

Pretty much. Abby is what I was like in college, except she’s a little better at coming up with witty comments on the spot. Her appearance is also closely based on what I looked like when I started doing this comic. (Someone told me she looks like Daria, but I’d never heard of Daria when I started Abby and Norma, and pretty much every nerdy girl in comics and cartoons looks basically like that. Probably because a lot of us real-life nerdy girls look that way. Brown hair and glasses are both pretty common features, and nerds are probably the least likely to wear contacts and dye our hair.)


Are all of Abby’s opinions your opinions?

No. Some of them are my opinions, and some of them are opinions I used to have, but others are just in there because I thought they’d make good comic material.


Is Norma based on anyone?

No, but I would have loved to have a friend like her when I was in college.


Who’s Cathy?

Cathy is the one with the big blond hair and the pink low-necked top. She doesn’t like Abby and Norma, and the feeling is mutual. To Abby’s dismay, she and Cathy both have part-time jobs at the same bookstore.


Is Abby’s job based on your job?

No. When I do or say something funny at my job, I occasionally adapt it for use in an “Abby and Norma” strip, but Abby’s job itself is nothing like mine. I did work at a bookstore when I was in college, though.


Is Cathy based on anyone?

Cathy is a combination of all the traits I didn’t like seeing in other students. She’s obsessed with her appearance, her social life, and looking and acting normal. (Strangely enough, though, she does show the occasional flash of intelligence, and she spends more time talking with Abby and Norma than you’d expect. Maybe, deep down, she’s a closet nerd.)


Who are Hans and Ron?

They are friends of Abby and Norma. Hans is an uber-geek whose insane parents have rejected him for not being one hundred percent antisocial. Ron is a Star Trek fan who speaks only in palindromes. If they were inspired by actual people, I would probably be living in a different universe.


Why aren’t Abby and Norma dating Hans and Ron?

Aw, come on. I didn’t have anyone to date when I was in college; why should they be having more fun than me?


Who are Sharon and Karen?

They’re Abby’s seven-year-old twin cousins. Sharon is the one with the pigtails and the fascination with wordplay. Karen is the one with the bun and the fascination with weird logic. Needless to say, Abby loves hanging out with both of them.


Are Sharon and Karen based on anyone?

No. I have lots of fun little cousins, but none of them are really like Sharon and Karen. Sharon and Karen are what I’d want to be like if I were someone’s little cousin.


Is Abby’s mom based on your mom?

No. Mostly, Abby’s mom embodies the annoying things about moms, very few of which actually apply to my own mom. She’s not a representation of anyone, more just a warning of what not to do if you’re a mom.


What about Sharon and Karen’s mom?

Pretty much the same, except she deals with an earlier phase of motherhood.


Why all this emphasis on bad parents?

Aw, the negative side of life is just so much funnier than the positive side! Seriously, though– every comic in the newspaper seems to be focused on good parents dealing with badly behaved kids. That’s awfully discriminatory, and I just wanted to turn the tables on them a little.


How often do you post “Abby and Norma”?

Every Saturday and Sunday at 1:01 a.m. The exact time used to vary a lot, because I wrote all my own HTML, so I couldn’t set it up to post automatically. Now, however, I have it on a WordPress site, so I can upload eight strips at once and schedule one to post on each weekend day for a month. Yay content managers!


You used to post it more often, right?

Right. When I first started posting “Abby and Norma,” I posted it whenever I came up with a new strip. Sometimes it was three or four strips at once; sometimes I didn’t post for weeks. Then I got more organized and started posting every other Friday, and then every Friday. Then it was every Monday and Friday, and after the hundredth strip, I started posting every day from Monday through Friday. Now, due to some other projects taking up my time, I’ve reduced it back to twice a week. A survey of my readers indicated I should post those strips on weekends, when there tends to be a shortage of newly-posted webcomics to read.


What happened to the old Abby and Norma website?

Until October 2007, I didn’t really know how to use a content manager, and I posted each strip manually, making individual HTML pages for them by hand. Eventually, though, I got sick of that, especially since I was busy and found myself missing updates all the time. I started posting it with Nucleus, a content management system designed for blogging. Strips after #76 were posted on a Nucleus page, and all earlier strips stayed on their original HTML pages.

Now, both the Nucleus page and the HTML pages have been replaced, because I’ve switched everything over to this WordPress site, after some difficulties I had with Nucleus.

I had to repost all the comics here individually, listing the date on each one as the date it posted on the original site. I’ve edited the blog texts slightly to fix errors and broken links, but for the most part I hope these archives will be an accurate record of Abby and Norma postings throughout history.


Why is the text of the comic written below the comic?

I want people to be able to find “Abby and Norma” by using a search engine to look for words and phrases that are in the strips. Obviously a search engine won’t find words that are part of a picture, so the words have to be in text form somewhere. And if you hide the text so that a search engine can find it but it’s not visible to the viewer, the search engines have ways of noticing that you’ve done that, and they’ll list your page as a spam page and block it. Besides, I don’t want to hide it; I want people to be able to see the text, and copy and paste it somewhere if it interests them.


Copy and paste it? So is “Abby and Norma” completely open to the public? Don’t you have a copyright?

I’m okay with people copying “Abby and Norma” as long as they give me credit. I have a job that pays the bills, more or less, and I have a published book and speeches that bring in a bit of extra money. “Abby and Norma” isn’t for profit, it’s for getting ideas out there.


Is there a printed book of “Abby and Norma”?

I printed a collection of the first 100 strips a few years ago. Now it’s been replaced with a new print collection of Abby and Norma, titled Everything Happens for a Reason (but nothing happens for a GOOD reason), which is a reference to this strip.

It is bigger, better and more beautiful than the earlier version, and has 500 of my selected favorite comics between #0 and #1067. They’re still black-and-white (they’d cost way too much to print otherwise) but each strip takes up one page, unlike the older book where longer strips were split onto multiple pages. (For the longest strips, this means the text is very small, but still legible.) The mouseover text and blog posts are included (sometimes shortened, but also sometimes improved). For the earliest strips, which had no alt text or blog posts to begin with, I have added it specially for the book. The first few strips, which were drawn in a very unprofessional style, have been redrawn for the book.

There are plenty of extras like behind-the-scenes photos and screenshots, copying-and-pasting bloopers, a foreword by the author, the extra 2 story arcs from the first book, and even some real drawings I did with real pencils, including a full-color cover, and six pages featuring detailed pencil art of the characters Abby, Norma, Hans, Ron and the costumes they wore for Halloween in 2009.


Where do I get an Abby and Norma T-shirt?

I’ve got plenty of Abby and Norma merchandise for sale.


How do you come up with your ideas?

I carry a notebook with me everywhere. Whenever something funny happens (either in the real world or inside my head) I write it down as a possible “Abby and Norma” idea. I have a whole lot of strips waiting to be drawn and posted.


How do you draw the strips?

I use Gimp. I used to use Appleworks Paint, but I’m moving up.


Do you draw the strip from scratch every day or do you just put together pieces you’ve already drawn?

I have a dozen Gimp documents full of characters, body parts, props, backgrounds and speaking balloons. I paste them together as needed.


I’ve looked at the rest of your art, and I know you can draw better than that.

Yes, I can, but not on demand every week. Besides, that’s not a question.


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