The adventures of my favourite flea and dustmite started back in 2000. Around this time, I had befriended an artistic family: the mother designed postcards and two of the three kids are now professional artists. As a fan of comics, I'd been making them for years. But the drawing was hard for me: my top speed of 6 simple images per hour kept me from making many. My friends were nevertheless very supportive. "You could even make a comic with nothing but dots and still be entertaining!" the father said. Hey... there was an idea! [i]Punt en Punt[/i], dot and dot, were then put on the scene. For one episode only. It didn't work since the creatures weren't really living, alive. They had to have a name and be a member of a species.
The flea was easily picked. His companion had to be something else, but what? Eventually I settled for the dustmite, but I wasn't all that happy with him: a dustmite would be considerably smaller than a flea.
The flea was initially called Vincent, to alliterate with the Dutch word for flea, but when a certain real-life Vincent fell out of grace, he was renamed Victor. The dustmite was called Harrie early on.
Harrie and Victor's early repertoire consisted of little more than tried-and-true gags. Early comics show humour and art style that resembles that of Spekkie Big, a Dutch sloppily drawn pig whose jokes are extremely silly. Recurring themes in the few original Harrie and Victor comics were jokes about their names, and playing games.
The little blue friends just stuck. Every agenda I had would invariably contain a few pages with the two bouncing buddies and their antics. Themes evolved to the Great Questions Of Life. But it wasn't until the 100 Theme Challenge that the lads truly got a personality.
The 100 Theme comics really have four characters. Two of them are unseen: the creator, Bonnz, and the audience. Fred and Derek often address the readers and truly manage to break the fourth wall in the Under comic. With the constant self-referral, it was inevitable for the bugs to grow their own characters along the way. First off, their positions were finally fixed. Initially it didn't seem right to set Derek and Fred to the same positions each time, but it was necessary to be able to tell them apart.
Fred, on the left, has a radiant personality. He loves the world and all its residents. His lust for life causes him to know a lot about everything he sees and cherishes. Whether it's physics, history or language, he has studied it. Fred's love for everything causes him to get distracted a lot, making him a bit absent-minded. He can forget his topic in the middle of a sentence. His general disposition may be cheery, but he has a dark side. He is a bit touchy and can get emotional whenever he feels he's being attacked, which might be a left-over from having been bullied with the crack in his back. It has made him rather insecure about his jokes: although they're not much different from Derek's tomfoolery, he is constantly worried that his material will fail. Derek's remarks on how bad his jokes are, make the problem worse.
Derek sees the world more as a comedy, where everything could be a build-up to a punch line. He is very artistic, even a bit of a snob perhaps. In his youth he was a keen ballet dancer, but he had to give it up. He is very bitter about his art: possibly his acquaintances would continuously call him gay because of his dancing. Whether that is the reason or not, Derek is not one to hide his love for females. No matter what he does, he does it with a twist. It might be all the coffee he's drinking, or perhaps his artistic values try to escape. It's the same values that make him sensitive about art he considers inferior, like musicals.
Fred and Derek are both very friendly bugs. If ever one calls names, they'll apologise immediately and will then forget all about it. They rarely argue. Both seem to be very conversant with popular culture: particularly Derek who enjoys spying on people. Although they're not the same species as humans, they both seem to enjoy the ladies, particularly Derek. It's not clear why any grown woman would start a relationship with a creature she cannot see with the naked eye, but a dustmite can dream!
One thing that sets off Fred and Derek from other comedy comics, is they are very genre-savvy. They'll laugh at each other's jokes, grunt at bad jokes, laugh too loud at their own jokes, or stare at each other when they come to a realisation or are at a loss for words.In the 100 Theme Challenge, they are continuously aware that they are being drawn and appear before an audience. They will do their best to entertain and make contact with the audience.
Fred and Derek's style is reminiscent of the Talking Heads-sketches in Alas Smith And Jones. Although in some cases the characters might leave the panel, get a different appearance or wear a cape, or even some attributes might be added, the discussion is the only thing that really matters.My analysis of Fred and Derek has already taken considerably more time than it takes me to draw an average F&D comic. It's why I love them!