Cyanide & Happiness

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Cyanide & Happiness
Author(s)Kris Wilson
Rob DenBleyker
Dave McElfatrick
Matt Melvin (until 2014)
Current status/scheduleDaily
Launch dateJanuary 25, 2005
Genre(s)Black comedy, satire, surreal humor, paronomasia, sketch comedy, adult animation, drama, tragedy, horror, suspense

Cyanide & Happiness (C&H), also known as Cyanide and Happiness, is a webcomic written and illustrated by Rob DenBleyker, Kris Wilson, Dave McElfatrick and formerly Matt Melvin,[1][2][3] published on their website It was created and started running daily on January 25, 2005. It has appeared on social networking sites such as Myspace, Quora, LiveJournal, and Facebook, where, in April 2006, it had generated more than a million visits per week.[4] The comic's authors attribute its success to its often controversial nature,[4][5] and the series is noted for its dark humor and sometimes surrealistic approach. Cyanide & Happiness characters were used in the television advertisements for Orange Mobile's Orange Wednesdays.[6]


Cyanide & Happiness began as a small series of comics drawn by Kris Wilson at the age of sixteen. Wilson was at home with strep throat and had doodled some stick figure comics.[7] On his DeviantArt profile page, he notes that he "created Cyanide & Happiness in 2004 because I can't help but draw stupid looking characters to spew out my stupid ideas."[8] He showcased his comics on his Comicaze website,[citation needed] and then on, "a website devoted to animations and games graphically depicting the violent deaths of stick figures", which was founded by Rob DenBleyker in 2004.[9]

Meanwhile, DenBleyker and Matt Melvin had been working on projects where they "made bad stick figure death movies together after posting their stuff at Newgrounds back in around 1999 and 2000." The forum's webmasters, including DenBleyker, Melvin, and Dave McElfatrick (who joined Sticksuicide) liked the format of Wilson's comics. Melvin said, "When we decided to branch off from just stick figure death movies and do something more with the site, we started Explosm and brought Kris on board."[10] Wilson and the webmasters then collaborated on the comics, where each person would contribute content. One of the earliest Cyanide & Happiness comics, #15, was posted by Wilson on on January 26, 2005.[7][a] A variant of the comic's title is first mentioned in #121, in which one character sells cotton candy, and explains that it is made of "Cyanide & Happyness" [sic], after which the other character replies: "Happyness!?!? Hot damn! I'll take 4".[b]


Rob DenBleyker and background artist Shawn Coss, Toronto, 2012


The cartoonists started out in different locations: In 2006, DenBleyker was a college student at University of Texas at Dallas.[4] Wilson lived in Fort Bridger, Wyoming,[note 1] Melvin in San Diego, California, and McElfatrick in Belfast, Northern Ireland.[5][11] They would also use Skype for occasional collaboration.[7] Melvin said, "We collaborate here and there on them, but the comics are most often individual efforts. The animated shorts, however, are big collaborative projects, often bringing in people from outside our little, core group."[12] Although they started working on the project in 2004, the authors did not meet each other face-to-face until the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con.[9]


The format of Cyanide & Happiness is typically a single page where the cartoonist would post his comic. The page can vary in length and number of panels. The drawings are done in Macromedia Flash.[4] Although generally static, some of the comics have animated panels.[13] Others break the fourth wall; for instance, in #375, one of the characters looks at the reader, and the other asks what he is looking at. He then looks out and says "Holy shit! It's a person!"[c] In #445, the panel catches on fire and the characters inside panic.[d] In #680, a character has fallen through a broken bottom border of the panel.[e]


Wilson and DenBleyker have mentioned the traditional comic The Far Side by Gary Larson and the webcomic The Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch as influences for the comic.[7] Wilson mentioned Don Hertzfeldt, Bill Hicks, White Ninja Comics, Monty Python, and David Wong as influences.[5] At a Davenport College panel, DenBleyker commented that he writes for up to ten hours a day and collaborates with friends,[9] however, in April 2013, he tweeted to replace "reading classic philosophy texts" with "sitting in my car crying".[14] McElfatrick was inspired by old English children's comics such as The Beano and The Dandy.[5] Melvin did not read comics as a kid, but enjoyed Larson's The Far Side and Matt Groening's Life in Hell; he preferred live-action sketch comedy shows such as The Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Mr. Show.[5]

Setting and characters[edit]

The cartoonists regularly make jokes on controversial topics including abortion, suicide, and AIDS.[9] Their characters rarely have names and are usually only distinguishable by the colors of their shirts. The male characters almost always have no hair, which became a joke in itself in #642.[f] Female characters are distinguishable by their long hair and chest size, often used to comedic effect. Jesus makes appearances, accompanied with religious puns.[g] Some recurring characters have names, such as "Obese Maurice" and the epileptic superhero "Seizure Man".[15] DenBleyker added that the stick figure style "makes the characters seem very transient, as if they only exist for a given comic. 'Cyanide and Happiness' prides itself on having no characters or themes. If we ever bring up a character, we usually retire it after its share of original jokes has run out."[4]


One of the cartoonists' strips would be featured on a single page for the day. Melvin says that they "keep a schedule of sorts, but it's nothing completely set in stone."[10] Wilson credits the comic's success to consistent output: "There are plenty of funny people creating content, but they're not consistent or reliable. The Internet has ADD, and if you're not constantly giving them something new, you're going to lose them."[7]


On occasion, the Cyanide & Happiness cartoonists have featured Depressing Comic Weeks, where they wrote depressing and/or upsetting comics. In an interview, Melvin said, "we'd made comics that were funny because of how dark they were. But now DCW is just about making really sad comics with no punchline whatsoever."[12] The December 30th episode of the Cyanide and Happiness Show featured the "depressing episode" - coinciding with the 8th depressing comic week at

Cyanide & Happiness has featured Guest Weeks, where readers submit entries, and some would be featured as daily comics over the course of the week.[citation needed]

On October 14, 2007, Wilson announced a desire for every comic in their archive to be translated into other languages. In a subsequent post, he reported a "phenomenal" 1300 replies with offers to translate into over 20 different languages.[citation needed]

In 2010, author Dave McElfatrick, a Northern Ireland native, started a petition for a visa into the United States, in order to be with the other writers to produce more animated shorts. The petition garnered over 132,000 signatures in less than three weeks.[16][better source needed] On September 1, 2010, it was officially announced that Dave qualified for the visa that would allow him to enter the United States to work on more comics and animated shorts with Wilson, DenBleyker, and Melvin.[citation needed] On August 31, 2014, Matt Melvin announced that he was no longer part of Cyanide and Happiness.[17]


John Hargrave of said that "Despite all this solo effort, the end product is coherent and strangely logical, as if the four creators were each viewing the peculiar world of C&H from a slightly different angle -- a world in which disembodied heads turn into seagulls, and Jesus is a designated driver."[7]

DenBleyker has mentioned that the comic's popularity grew from their sharing policy, "which encourages readers to repost and re-blog comics, effectively allowing anyone to spread Cyanide and Happiness' content."[9] In January 2006, the comic was getting about 20,000 unique visitors a day, but "we added a little box under each comic which allows people to post an Explosm-linked version of the comic, which brings a lot of traffic back to us. After we put that box up, the traffic started exploding." After a few days, the comic received about 300,000 unique visitors a day, which consisted of mostly traffic from MySpace and LiveJournal blog links.[4]

In response to the question regarding controversial topics, DenBleyker said that the authors have not received a huge amount of serious negative feedback and do not intend to tone down the edginess of their comics.[9] Melvin notes that some of the respondents have criticized them on one topic, but at the same time praised them for a different one.[12]



The first two books are released by Explosm through It Books, a division of HarperCollins. The third and fourth books are published by Boom! Box, an imprint of Boom! Studios. The first two volumes each feature 120 of the artists' favorite Cyanide & Happiness comics, and 30 previously unpublished comics. The third volume featured many Cyanide & Happiness comics from their Depressing Comic Weeks with 40 previously unpublished comics,[18] while the fourth is another compilation of the artists' favorites.

No. Title Date Length ISBN
1Cyanide & HappinessOctober 29, 2009[19]160ppISBN 978-0061914799
2Ice Cream & Sadness: More Comics from Cyanide & HappinessOctober 5, 2010[20][21]176ppISBN 978-0062046222
-[note 2]The Cyanide & Happiness Depressing Comic BookDecember 2012[18]89ppISBN 978-1939355003
3Punching ZooDecember 2013[22]89ppISBN 978-1608864737
4Stab FactoryNovember 17, 2015[23]192ppISBN 978-1608867691


A variety of Cyanide and Happiness merchandise being sold at Fan Expo Canada 2012.

In addition to creating Cyanide & Happiness comic strips, the cartoonists have done animations drawn in a similar stick figure style. As of July 2017, there have been three full seasons of The Cyanide and Happiness Show (for a total of 31 episodes), and shorter cartoons continue to be produced weekly (and sometimes more often than that). The animations are in Adobe Flash format and are typically voiced by the cartoonists.[24] Chase Suddarth contributes occasionally to the shorts. DenBleyker made a series called Joe Zombie, which lasted six episodes, and left fans to anticipate a seventh, where he stated "will come out eventually".[25]

Other media[edit]

Explosm has worked on other webcomics, animation shorts and projects. McElfatrick wrote Die Romantic - A Look At Aiden, which scathingly critiques goth punk band Aiden.[citation needed] After leaving the Cyanide and Happiness team in November 2014, Melvin started a new webcomic, titled The Last Nerds on Earth.[26]

Explosm released a Cyanide & Happiness app for mobile devices in 2013.[27] The free "Lite" version allows the user to access the last 30 days of the archive.[28] The Cyanide and Happiness team offer a selection of merchandise, including T-shirts, toys, novelties, housewares, and school supplies.[29] The Explosm website also sells signed prints.[13]

On February 9, 2016, Explosm started a Kickstarter project for a Cyanide & Happiness card game titled Joking Hazard, in which cards represent panels of a 3-panel comic and the players must attempt to form a humorous combination. The project's funding finished on March 10, 2016, with over $3.2 million USD in backings. Joking Hazard is currently the second most funded card game in Kickstarter history, after Exploding Kittens.[30][31][32]

On September 5, 2017, Explosm began another Kickstarter for a Cyanide and Happiness video game with a goal of $300,000, earning over $575,000. The game is described to borrow elements from games such as South Park: The Stick of Truth, and throughout backing players could pledge to put themselves in the game via different ways, such as a "memorial wall", a permanent school record, a grave stone or even become an actual NPC. The game was slated to be released near the end of 2018 but has now been pushed to 2019.[33]

On June 8, 2019, another Kickstarter campaign for a card game project was announced, developed in collaboration with Skybound Entertainment, titled "Trial By Trolley." An adaptation of the Trolley problem where a player must choose a track to send an out of control trolley down, the campaign concluded on August 7, 2019, reaching a total of over $3.5 million USD in backings. [34]


  1. ^ According to his DeviantArt page, Wilson has since moved to Fort Collins, Colorado.
  2. ^ Depressing Comic Book was not a numbered volume.


Comics references[edit]

  1. ^ Wilson, Kris (January 26, 2005). "Cyanide & Happiness #15". Cyanide & Happiness.
  2. ^ Wilson, Kris (April 15, 2005). "Cyanide & Happiness #121". Cyanide & Happiness.
  3. ^ DenBleyker, Rob (November 21, 2005). "Cyanide & Happiness #375". Cyanide & Happiness. Retrieved January 11, 2013. What are you looking at? ... Holy shit it's a person!
  4. ^ DenBleyker, Rob (February 17, 2006). "Cyanide & Happiness #445". Cyanide & Happiness. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  5. ^ Wilson, Kris (October 6, 2006). "Cyanide & Happiness #680". Cyanide & Happiness. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  6. ^ DenBleyker, Rob (August 28, 2006). "Cyanide & Happiness #642". Cyanide & Happiness. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  7. ^ McElfatrick, Dave (September 15, 2005). "Cyanide & Happiness #312". Cyanide & Happiness. Retrieved June 10, 2010.

General references[edit]

  1. ^ "Contact". Archived from the original on 2014-03-07. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ "Contact". Archived from the original on 2014-03-14. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ "I am No Longer Part of Cyanide and Happiness". August 31, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, Phill (January 2, 2010). "Student draws explosive web comic". The Mercury - University of Texas Dallas. Archived from the original on February 24, 2010. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e O'Shea, Tim (March 29, 2010). "Talking Comics with Tim: Cyanide & Happiness' Kris, Matt & Dave". Robot 6 : Talking Comics with tim. Comic Book Resources.
  6. ^ Woods, Sarah (July 18, 2006). "Orange unveils cartoon stick man print campaign". Brand Republic. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Hargrave, John (March 5, 2010). "Kris Wilson is the Picasso of Exploding Stick Figures". Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ Wilson, Kris. "kris-wilson on DeviantArt". Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Medina-Tayac, Sebastian (October 16, 2012). "Cyanide and Happiness founder talks web humor". Yale Daily News.
  10. ^ a b Xerexes, Xaviar (December 17, 2007). "Get Happy! An Interview with Matt Melvin". Archived from the original on January 28, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ Katz, Farley (February 18, 2009). "Interview - Cyanide and Happiness". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Flux, Elizabeth (June 6, 2012). "Q & A WITH MATT MELVIN FROM CYANIDE AND HAPPINESS". Subterraean Death Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Melvin, Matt (December 6, 2012). "Even MORE signed prints!". Explosm blog. Retrieved January 11, 2013. (Print obviously not animated, but how cool would that be?)
  14. ^ Rob DenBleyker [@RobDenBleyker] (April 20, 2013). "C&H wiki wrongly says I write comics by "reading classic philosophy texts", someone pls replace with "sitting in my car crying". Source: me" (Tweet). Retrieved May 9, 2013 – via Twitter.
  15. ^ Chivers, Tom (2009-11-06). "The 10 best webcomics, from Achewood to XKCD".
  16. ^ "Hey guys, REALLY need your help! - The Explosm Fora". Archived from the original on 2 August 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ "I am No Longer Part of Cyanide and Happiness".
  18. ^ a b "Depressing Comic Book". Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  19. ^ "Cyanide and Happiness". Google Books. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  20. ^ "Ice Cream & Sadness: More Comics from Cyanide & Happiness (Google eBook)". Google Books. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  21. ^ "Ice cream & sadness : cyanide & happiness". Library of Congress Catalog Record. Library of Congress. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  22. ^ "Punching Zoo". Retrieved January 28, 2014.
  23. ^ "Stab Factory". Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  24. ^ "List of Flash Movies". Archived from the original on 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2009-04-01. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  25. ^ "Yes, another Joe zombie question... - The Explosm Fora". Retrieved 2012-10-22.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Leblanc, Jane R. (2014-11-10). "Cyanide & Happiness Show Premieres Live This Wednesday at Alamo Drafthouse". Dallas Observer.
  27. ^ "The Explosm Store - Mobile Apps". Explosm Store. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  28. ^ "Cyanide and Happiness Lite". iTunes. Apple. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  29. ^ "Fourth Castle Signs "Cyanide & Happiness"". Advanstar Communications. March 24, 2012. Archived from the original on February 20, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  30. ^ Monroe, Nick (2016-03-04). "Cards Against Hilarity - Small Parts of Joking Hazard". The Escapist. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  31. ^ Hurst, Samantha (2016-03-12). "Cyanide & Happiness' Joking Hazard Named Second Most Funded Card Game on Kickstarter". Crowdfund Insider. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  32. ^ "Update 29: THANK YOU!! · Joking Hazard". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2016-03-22.
  33. ^ "Update 35: THE WORLD IS ENDING BUT DEVELOPMENT ISN'T! · The Cyanide & Happiness Adventure Game". Kickstarter.
  34. ^ "Trial By Trolley Kickstarter Page".

External links[edit]