Local boys write comics to break up monotonous workday and find Instagram fame
By day, David Michaels and Eric Nelson are two well-mannered, local blokes with wives and jobs. The former’s a millwright ; the latter, a business owner.
At night, however, this dynamic duo is the comedic minds behind Koat Tales, a web tune that has over 7,000 followers on Instagram, and growing.
Their comics are single frame jokes with either a pun or wordplay at the heart of their punch lines.
And their followers are from all over the planet, they told The Signal Star in a recent interview.
“That is the amazing thing,” Nelson said. “Somebody from Australia could be following us, and they do!”
The two have adopted pen names not only to protect their identities but to keep their cartoons separate from their daily lives.
The comics, both agreed, provide something of a respite for the two during their workdays, which can be monotonous at times. They sneak off to the bathroom, brainstorm comics and text message each other their ideas.
“And it’s funny, when we get together we very rarely talk about the comic. It’s mainly through text messaging,” said Michaels. “I kind of like it that way, too. I find when you get an idea if you don’t get it down you’re going to forget it.”
Nelson said they are not precious with their ideas either. Some are going to work; others won’t. In the end, it’s all about trying to make the most cohesive and humorous cartoon they can, he said.
“I’m more about quality. We got more of them now that we have a base set up so I’d rather be about quality over just cranking them out. That’s not to say we’re not to crank out some crappy ones,” said Nelson.
As of this writing they have 222 cartoons on their Instagram account. And they try to produce a new comic every week.
Their partnership -- as well as the germ that would become Koat Tales -- goes back over 20 years.
“We were just teenagers at the time,” said Michaels. “And I was just in my room hanging out and [ Nelson] came in, and I had ‘The Far Side Comics,’ and he said ‘Oh, I have an idea for a Far Side comic.’ And I just quickly drew something up,” said Michaels.
It was a single frame cartoon of a youth holding a cat and a knife while the child’s mother stands behind him. The mother says, what are you doing? Child replies, I wanted to see how it worked. Caption reads, curiosity killed the cat.
They both now admit it was pretty morbid, but as teenagers they thought it funny. After the cartoon was finished, Michaels stashed it in his dresser drawer where it sat until 2013.
Michaels, who is a native of Dungannon, said, “I’m kind of a pack rat.”
“The stuff in that drawer I would be scared to see,” retorted Nelson.
Bored one night and jonesing for some of those social media hits, Michaels rummaged through his old drawings for something to post.
“And I found this one thing and I posted it to Erik saying, ‘ Hey, remember this?’ And instantly it was the most popular post I’d ever done. And I kind of went, ‘Oh! Hey, maybe there is something there,’ ”
Growing up, the two were both comic book fans, so when they saw the reaction to their teenage comic strip, they started text messaging each other ideas for new jokes, and before they knew it they had an arsenal of several hundred, “but probably about two good ones,” said Michaels.
“We’ve always been cards,” said Nelson.
From there, they looked for an artist to pen the drawings to no avail. Michaels then went out and bought a tablet and taught himself to draw.
What followed, he said, was “a good hellish period of three of four months” where they polished some of their ideas for publication.
They published their first comic to Instagram on Aug. 17, 2014.
For Michaels, the goal now is to publish.
“It’s kind of funny when you start out you have this lofty ideas and I think the first batch we pitched to some syndicates or whatever and it was fun. I collected all the rejection letters because you learn a lot. So that was always our goal, almost from the beginning to work on syndication,” he said.
However, Nelson sees it differently.
“Maybe [publishing’s] his dream. I view it more as an outlet because with our jobs, it is monotonous. You can think about something else while at work,” he said.
And it is possibly the differences in perspective that they each have that make them a good team, said Nelson.
“David has always been a little left of centre, but that’s what I like about him because he thinks outside of the box. And, I don’t know, I might be a bit more mainstream with my comedy. You can take his weirdness and my mainstream and I feel that’s how it works,” said Nelson.
Michaels agrees, saying that they work well together, checking each other to make sure the comics stay on point.
“I think it’s the benefit of having a partner,” he said. “It’s good to get someone outside to weigh in on it too. So, we’ll send ideas to each other. Sometimes I will draw an entire cartoon and send it to him, [and he’ll say] ‘Ah, no. We’re not doing that. That’s garbage.’ Or he’ll send mean idea and I’ ll be, ‘Okay, that’s not funny.”
They have always had a good, working relationship, added Michaels, with the two always being able to bounce ideas off one another.
“It’s kind of like I toss an idea, he can toss it back to me and it gets a little funnier, a little funnier, a little funnier, and eventually you get something that, I found, was genuinely good,” he said.
To follow Nelson and Michael’s comics, search Instagramfor Koat_Tales.
Koat Tales by local cartoonists David Michaels, left, and Eric Nelson has over 7,000 followers on Instagram, and counting. Pictured here in a drawing, the comedic duo want to keep their identities a secret as the comic is a way for them to take brief escapes from their so-called monotonous jobs as a millwright and a business owner.