Ed Peterson, an adjunct professor at Stevens-Henager College in Provo, started the comic series “Backwash” as a simple idea at the beginning of 2012.
Peterson originally gained inspiration from the popular, long-running comic series “The Far Side” by Gary Larson.
“My kids used to give me the ‘Far Side’ tear-off calendars each year,” Peterson said. “So when it ended, I was just heartbroken but thought maybe I could do something like that.”
As a self-professed “idea man,” Peterson focused on taking a humorous look at historical figures and events, and no subject was off-limits, from Samson and Delilah and Achilles to Al Gore and Frankenstein.
“The concept behind (the comics) is to go back in time, look at situations and put a different spin on them,” Peterson said. “To figuratively ‘backwash’ and have something different come out.”
Once he had a few ideas, Peterson began looking for an artist. After placing an ad on the BYU employment website, he eventually found BYU student Kendall Hale.
“I wanted artwork that was very pronounced and recognizable in its own style,” Peterson said. “I wanted people to immediately recognize it as a ‘Backwash’ comic, and Kendall was able to provide that.”
Hale, a senior studying illustration, was excited at the prospect of illustrating the “Backwash” series.
“Growing up, I read the comics every day,” Hale said. “They were my favorite part of the newspaper. So, I was excited to create something that looks like it could fit in the comics section but still be different from ‘Peanuts’ or ‘Dennis the Menace.'”
To create “Backwash’s” signature look, Hale relies heavily on the use of contrasting black and white and a printing process known as Ben-Day dots to create the illusion of gray shading.
“Ed’s ideas give me a chance to really explore each caption’s visual options,”Hale said, “because the joke is only half of it — the image needs to relate to the punchline but still be funny on its own.”
Josh Wilson, a recent BYU graduate and friend of Hale, said Hale’s success lies in his dedication to his craft.
“Kendall is proof of hard work paying off,” Wilson said. “I’ve never seen an illustration student take their artwork so seriously, and because of that, people take him seriously as an artist.”
While Peterson and Hale’s ultimate goal for the comic series is to be in national syndication, Peterson believes at the end of the day the work is what matters most.
“If you can make people laugh or feel good about themselves, it’s doing a little service to someone and hopefully making their day a little bit better,” Peterson said.