About Mark A. Cooper (and my comic)

As the bio of my digital counterpart states, I'm a transplanted Englishman (born 1971) who came to the USA for good in 2005, moving to Connecticut from just outside Doncaster, South Yorkshire. And I did get divorced in October 2008 - very amicably.

I am a nerd, as well as being shy and socially awkward (though being the former doesn't instantly mean the latter in most cases, it must be said). I've been into computers since the mid-Eighties, so I've had plenty of time to cultivate both my typing speed and my nerdiness.

In a previous customer-service job, I created a sort of larger-than-life version of myself, which I "step into" when working. It seems to work pretty well, since I get a lot of compliments from customers about my cheerful disposition, even when I'm feeling like I just want to go home and curl up into the foetal position.

When I'm not drawing the strips, I like to play all sorts of games on my computer, collect dice, write poetry (had a couple published, too), read, cook, watch DVDs, listen to music, and do cross-stitch. Quite a few men cross-stitch, thank you very much.

And I really do want world peace...

About the comic

I've been doodling and cartooning in a very amateurish way a few times over the years, but I wasn't very happy with my lack of drawing ability. What changed my mind was seeing a couple of web comics with rather more... basic cartooning than I was doing, so I figured I'd give it a shot and see what people think.


Paper or Plastic? didn't actually start out as a web comic. Around the latter part of 2008, I was at home, bored out of my tiny mind, and so I began to draw cartoons centered on a fictional Target store (I work for Target - at the moment...). Naming the strip Targetoons, I showed them to a few of my co-workers, and they went down really well.

However, my efforts to see if I could get them published in Target's national staff magazine didn't come to fruition, so it was suggested by my friend "Pencil" (a codename to protect the innocent) that I should rework the strip to remove all Target-specific references, and try them out with the public at large. "Pencil" suggested sending them to the New Yorker magazine, but I thought it might be worth putting the strips out as a web comic - that way, rather than having a restricted national audience, they'd have a potential worldwide audience, instead. Never let it be said I don't aim high... ;)

There have been gains and losses as a consequence of switching to a fictional chain store. For one thing, one group of characters had to be ditched because the reference was company-specific - a shame, because I quite liked them. On the other hand, the redraw enabled me to improve the look of the characters: they now have shoulders... though given my abilities, they sometimes look like football players or Eighties' soap stars. I also don't need to worry any more about having to clear strips with the upper echelon of Target, so I'm pretty unrestricted in the terms of the content I can use.

Speaking of which, there are some things which you won't find in these strips, mainly because I want to keep the tone light, and hopefully fun. For starters, I don't intend to use any controversial topics: I'd rather leave biting social commentary in the hands of those better equipped with the right tools for the job. And you definitely won't find the bitter rantings of a disaffected employee: there are some aspects of retail work I actually like, and I'd also feel as if I was putting down my co-workers, with whom I've gotten along really well for the most part. Also, the strips I've been doing have been enjoyed without having to resort to using them as a soapbox, so I see no reason to risk alienating those who already like my work. So if you came to this strip hoping to see "edgy" ranting and raving, you'll have to go elsewhere, I'm afraid.

The creation process

In case there's anyone reading this who's even remotely interested in the creation of the strips, here's a quickish description:

Paint.NET is a pretty decent program to use for editing. I tried GIMP, but the interface was way too confusing (though I plan to give it another chance at some point). Sure, Paint.NET is no Photoshop, but then it's free - which is a nice word, so long as customers don't use it on cashiers! I use version 3.36, though, rather than 3.5.5: although there are performance improvements claimed in the newer version, the flood fill function has become ridiculously slow, so I'd rather put up with sacrificing the cool new bits in order not to have to grow old waiting for even a small fill to complete.


My major source of inspiration for wanting to be some sort of cartoonist is my best friend John Croucher. We met in school at the age of 9, and found we shared the same off-the-wall sense of humour. He is, in my humble opinion, a phenomenal cartoonist - fast, detailed and funny. So why isn't John the one doing this comic instead of me? Good question. Maybe he'll get the chance (and the time) to come up with a web comic of his own. And doing this keeps me off the streets.

My "web-comic heroes", who unwittingly started me off on this venture, are:

I've provided links to these three excellent cartoonists on my Links page - though hopefully you'll remember to come back to look at my strip!

Also, I've been finding that, since beginning Paper or Plastic?, there have been quite a few situations which have seemed "cartoon-worthy", which I found quite surprising. I've taken to carrying a little notebook around with me, just in case something new crops up (and because my memory has always been terrible in some regards). Some situations, though, seem to be just too "huge" to put into cartoon form, like the ones which occurred while working for Staples in both the UK and the US:

Why use American English in the strips if I'm British?

I did ponder for a little bit on which form of English to use before settling on American English in the strips. Thing is, my initial audience for the Targetoons strips was American, so using their idiom seemed most logical. Hopefully, it won't be too jarring for those who put an extra U in "color", and outside the strip, I'm intending to use UK English (just to keep you on your toes!). At least you're not hearing me speak - since moving here, my pronunciation is all over the place (though my accent seems to have held up). The differences between UK and US English have provided fodder for a strip, although given the nature of web comics, I've had to rely on visual humour regarding my accent, rather than vocal...


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