So, the goal was to make a webcomic. My pre-existing characters, Penny Dreadful and Johnny Latex, were refashioned. Scripts were written. Supporting characters were designed, and my mythos was established. Penelope Dreadful – Penny to those brave or masochistic enough to be her friends – was born.

Whereupon she promptly sat on the shelf for about six years.

There’d been problems, and I’d never exerted the effort to properly solve them. The series relating Penny’s origin was lackluster. Worse, while my versions of Penny and Little Johnny Latex were passable (I’d settled in on a happy chibi-manga representation for the strip; see below), most of the supporting characters were grossly lacking in coherence. Bob, for example, looked way too much like his real-life inspiration, Bob, and far less like he belonged in the strip as Penny’s boss. I gave up in defeat.

Shift forward. Playing with my kids earlier this year, elbow-deep in our most recent fifty-pound acquisition of LEGO bricks from eBay, I threw together a quick server rack and a couple servers, replete with KVM tray and display. This quickly grew into an entire minifig-scale data center, nerd that I am, and an idea germinated. What if I did the strip using LEGO bricks! That would be the coolest, most innovative, geek-festive approach imaginable! Perfect for the tone of the strip!

Bob became the Bobs, and the Bobs became minifig Series 1 clowns – refined to the very archetype of managerial nincompoopery. Other characters were rapidly designed, and the research began.

And stopped.

There were already several brick-based webcomics, I found. Many of them very good, with great writing, brilliant set design, and competent build technique. So much for distinguishing myself! It’s always been a failing of mine that I get really good ideas, but too late – and find out that someone else has beaten me to the goal.

As I was discovering this, my investigations of the non-brick webcomic landscape revealed something else. Strips of every conceivable sort, on every imaginable topic. There were lots of them – drawn by artists far, far better than me. I can draw (ish), but I’m no Adam Hughes. Did I really have what it took to create the next PvP or Penny Arcade? Probably not.

There were even tons of 3D-generated webcomics, I soon found. 3D artwork is another hobby and/or passion of mine. Has been for over a decade, though I haven’t done much in the past few years. Thing is, though, the vast majority of the 3D webcomics I found were really pedestrian work, based on wooden Poser figures and even more pedestrian writing. I could do better than that, I thought…

I could do better than that! So, somehow the melting pot of my brain poured out a congealed tangle of ideas, and I dropped the cow once more.

Penny Dreadful lived again, in 3D-rendered brick format.

Somehow, it all just seemed right. And about six months after starting, I’m still having fun with it – a record for me, with my short attention span issues. As a celebration of sorts, here is a pictorial retrospective some of the versions of Penelope and Johnny through the years, since the mid-90’s. She’s been around a long time, in many stories, versions, and guises – but they were all mere shadows of the new, brickly Dreadful Penny we now know and fear.

Maybe I’ll even get brave and post the scripts for the unfinished comic and novels she’s been star of…

(Click images for large view)

The first Penny, 1994

The “Vale of Rest” version, 2000

Drop the Cow! #2, 2000

Ha’Penny, for the Vale of Rest

Early 3D Penny, 2003

Vale of Rest, Page 6 (pencils)

Penny, sketch for “The Engine” (unfinished novel)

Manga-Penny, for first draft of the strip

Little Johnny Latex, ca. 2000