Count Your Sheep

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Count Your Sheep
Author(s) Adrian Ramos
Website http://www.countyoursheep.com/
Current status / schedule Defunct
Launch date 2003-07-11[1]

Count Your Sheep is a webcomic written and illustrated by Adrian Ramos, generally known as Adis. It was launched in 2003 on the Keenspace hosting service and became part of Keenspot a year later. It is also part of the Quicksketch Comics collective. As of January 2006, it had a hair under 10,000 steady readers.[2] As of July 2007, the first comics are available in print in the first Count Your Sheep book titled Relatives and Sedatives. The last update to Count Your Sheep was on December 7, 2011, effectively making the strip defunct.

The characters[edit]

The comic focuses on Katie, a young child; Laurie, her single mother; and Ship, imaginary friend and counting sheep of both. Other minor characters appear only rarely; their speech bubbles almost always originate from outside the panels.

Laurie[edit]

Laurel Jane Dickinson ("Laurie"),[3] 27, is the young and struggling mother of Katie who seems a lot like a grown-up and worn-down version of her daughter. Although she is in her twenties, she still has enough imagination left for Ship to exist for her. While Laurie cares deeply for Katie (and Ship), she's often downcast and melancholy. Becoming a widow before her daughter was born hit her hard. She often deals with women's and single parent issues, such as her perceived aging, her perceived weight, her lack of money and her late husband, Marty. Laurie has been known to cope with her stress by crying, which is not unknown to both Katie and Ship.

There were some indications that Laurie's occupation is that of a piano teacher, since Katie has mentioned that her mom relies upon the piano for a living[4] and there are signs that Laurie can play the piano quite well.[5]

She is occasionally seen as a child herself in "Back in Time" comics, tougher and more aggressive than Katie. These are often used to advance the plot. She dreams of traveling the world, but has never had the money. Appliances apparently fear her 'single mom' powers.

Katie[edit]

Katherine ("Katie") Dickinson, 7, is whimsical, creative, the most hopeful and arguably the main character of Count Your Sheep. The comic most often centers on her antics, getting through childhood and trying to understand the world with her limited knowledge of how it works. Not having lived as long as Laurie, she has a child's optimistic view of life. Even so, she seems to have a good understanding of what is happening in the world, just not why. Something very important to Katie is music; she particularly enjoys punk and indie rock. She is also a huge fan of The Beatles, having been told at a young age by Ship that their music is actually her dead father communicating with her. She also enjoys soccer (to her football fanatic mother's chagrin).

Ship[edit]

Ship Shipperton,[6] N/A, is a counting sheep and the imaginary best friend of both Katie and Laurie who hails from the latter's childhood. He's the most level-headed character and forms a centerpiece to which both others express desires, frustrations and everyday thoughts. Playmate and guide to Katie, aide and moral support to Laurie, Ship is an inseparable part of the family. He's also the only sheep they need to count to fall asleep.[1] While his origins are unknown, it is implied that he has fairy origins.[7]

Even though he is imaginary, and both "real" characters admit to it, Ship has a completely different personality and is clearly able to manipulate physical objects. He often appears to be lazy, perhaps because he cannot actually do most things that "real" people can. Usually he contributes conversation and much of the humor. Ship has also broken the fourth wall several times. As it is seen in several strips, Ship seems to have a rather cynical and sarcastic sense of humor.

Ship's status in the real world isn't entirely defined. He's invisible to most people, no matter how hard he may try. He has answered the phone and talked to Laurie's mother, who even after 20 years screamed over the phone that he is not real.

Paradoxically, while Laurie's parents see and hear Ship but refuse to acknowledge his existence, Laurie's sister Karla, who Ship is fond of,[8] does believe he exists despite being unable to see or hear him.[9] It is unclear if this is merely meant as a source of humor or serves a deeper function of the plot.

A strip[10] has suggested that Ship has a life of his own and is able to exist outside of Katie's and Laurie's imagination. That same strip also implies that Ship can be seen by animals and is able to interact with them as well, throwing serious doubts to his status as an imaginary being.

Marty[edit]

Marty is the late husband of Laurie and father of Katie, an unseen character who until recently had never been seen or had spoken (except for one rare occasion where he answers the phone); a recent "Back in Time" comic showed his silhouette and in a new strip he had a long conversation with Ship. "Back in Time" also shows that "that boy Marty" fell in love at first sight and courted Laurie since the two were little children, teasing, asking her out, and doing favors[11] despite the young Laurie's emphatic and occasionally violent dislike that only very gradually turned to reciprocation.[12] Katie is convinced that Marty is talking to her through The Beatles,[13] and Laurie lives on with fond memories of Marty, like using one drop of the cologne he used at Valentine's Day every year.[14]

Marty must have shared in Katie and Laurie's unique imagination, as he could also talk to Ship.

Marty's exact cause of death is unknown, but several strips has hinted towards him dying in a hospital after a long fight against an unknown disease and a recent strip confirmed this.[15] Before his death, Marty wrote a number of letters and entrusted them to Ship to give to Laurie and Katie at appropriate times.[16][17]

Karla[edit]

Karla is Laurie's older sister,[18] and the only character besides Laurie, Katie and Ship to actually appear in the comic.[19] Originally, she was unable to see or hear Ship,[20] but this changed when Karla admitted to Laurie that she was pregnant with a child of her own (Ship commented this by saying that he was certain his existence was "hormonal"). Karla dropped out of college at a young age to pursue a life of adventure in Europe,[8] something she through 20 years seems to have accomplished.[21] She recently moved to the same town as Laurie and Katie.[22]

Karla is also Ship's love interest,[23] an interest that he still seems to pursue[22] but that has yet to yield any results.

The father of Karla's child is currently unknown, but some hints (however vague) have been given.[18][24]

Setting[edit]

Although the city the strip is set in is never named, a number of clues to the location are given. The celebrated holidays, and Laurie's love of football indicate they are in the United States. A new years strip[25] reveals they are six timezones from Amsterdam, along with frequent winter snow suggests they are in the north east. Because Katie has never been to the beach, coastal cities or those bordering the great lakes are also unlikely. There is no indication as to how big the city they live in is, only that it has bus service. It would seem that they live somewhere in New England, indicated when Laurie was seen wearing jerseys that were clearly intended to replicate those of the New England Patriots (more specifically, those of Tom Brady) before and after the Colts vs. Patriots game during the 2007 NFL Playoffs.[26][27][28]

If we are willing to accept the phone system in the strip works as it does in reality, the phone number Katie has written on her stomach gives further clues.[29] The 617 area code is for Boston, which is an unlikely home to someone who has never been to the beach and has no 532 prefix. Eliminating cell phones, the 617-5xxx numbers in each area code apply to the following New England cities: Rochester, NY, Rome, NY, Perkasie, PA, and Philadelphia, PA. It also exists in the following Midwestern cities within the proper time zone: Trinity, OH, Independence, OH, Girard, OH, Zanesville, OH, Ridgeway, OH, Sebewaing, MI, and Grand Rapids, MI.

Most of the strips set in the present take place inside Laurie's house. Other common settings are Katie's school, the local playground, and riding the city bus. Most of the Back in Time strips are in or near Laurie's parents' house.

The Artwork[edit]

The comic draws inspiration from Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, possibly due to the similar set-ups of both comics, as well as the fondness for unconventional panel structures. Its coloring style, a palette of soft blues, is one of the peculiarities for which its fans enjoy it. In contrast, Back in Time strips that depict Laurie as a little girl use a palette of soft purples instead of blues. The blue coloring may have been added to enhance the fact that most strips early on took place at night, and that the color was supposed to be a natural effect (in the strip.) In the recently released Count Your Sheep collection, Relatives and Sedatives, it was revealed that one of Adis's starting rules was that all strips were to take place at night; although the coloring has been kept with the addition of daytime strips.

The comic originally appeared in two formats: four panel full strips (which are similar in size to the comics found in daily newspapers) and semi-strips composed of a single panel with text. After Adis got a drawing tablet, the layout of the strip became more inventive.

The Feel[edit]

Katie's innocent cheerfulness combines with Laurie's tragic past to make Count Your Sheep a strange mix of humor and melancholy accentuated by the blue colors. The strip is characterized by "quiet humor" that often involves discussions of the nature of childhood, life lessons, and the misunderstandings that occur between grownups and children. Because of this, it is most often compared to Calvin and Hobbes, Mutts and Peanuts. Ramos has also referenced the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch as an influence.

Although it is primarily a humorous comic there are some plot-points that are alluded to, most often involving Katie's father and the characters' struggles as a single-parent family.

As mentioned before, the comic draws from Calvin and Hobbes, but in a complementary way. The "quiet humor" of the strip strongly contrasts Calvin and Hobbes' rough and tumble nature. Katie and Ship would talk at home and have discussions while eating cookies, or carry potted plants, while Calvin and Hobbes had their red wagon, the sled, the tree fort and Calvinball (not to say that CYS isn't active at times). Calvin's parents were generic middle class parents who seem to be little more than boundaries to compare to Calvin's youthful nature. Laurie is a young, financially struggling, single mother, and the fact that she can still see Ship (who often is the most adult of the three) reflects just how different she is from Calvin's parents.

Awards[edit]

2004 Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards

Winner of

  • Outstanding Comic
  • Outstanding Newcomer
  • Outstanding New Character Design
  • Outstanding Character (Writing)
  • Outstanding Short Form Comic
  • Outstanding Fantasy Comic

Nominated for

  • Outstanding Use of Color
  • Outstanding Comedic Comic
  • Outstanding Story Concept

2005 Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards

Winner of

  • Outstanding Story Concept

References[edit]

External links[edit]