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Hey everyone, I hope you all had a nice Xmas holiday (if you celebrate it). To see out the year, here are the 10 most popular Zen Pencils comics of 2013. This list is based purely on page hits and traffic. Is your favourite comic here? Read on to find out!

10
A fantastic quote always makes my job a lot easier and this Leary quote does a lot of the work for me. I’m not sure if people got that I was paying respects to one of the fathers of the pscheydellic era by drawing those trippy images. Either way, those panels were a blast to draw.

9
A remarkable story that I just had to acknowledge and I was glad to bring attention to Malala to some people who weren’t aware of what happened to her. It’s my most violent and confronting comic – shame that it’s based on real events.

8
It was so cool that Chris Hadfield tweeted this comic from space! He loved it and has been very supportive of my work since. I pinch myself when the people I’m featuring acknowledge my work and sometimes even reach out to me. This was a great quote that resonated with a lot of students. If you would like more great astronaut advice, Chris’s autobiography An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth was released a few months ago.

7
Another very popular ‘life-advice’ strip. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from students or people just entering the work force from this comic and it’s always nice to hear when a Zen Pencils comic turn’s on a switch in someone’s head or makes them see life in a completely different way.

6
Some people were highly offended that I compared social media users to drug addicts. Oh well, I’ve learnt that I can’t please everyone with my adaptations. Judging from it’s popularity, it looks like most people agreed with my comparison, or at least got what I was trying to express. Marc Maron did see it (he retweeted it on Twitter) but I’m not sure what he thought of it. I hope that I at least turned a few new people onto his awesome podcast. This comic was adapted into a cool animated video by reader Jess the Dragoon.

5
This comic produced another ‘pinch myself’ moment as not only did John Green like the comic, he even got in touch with me and we had a very pleasant Skype chat. As if that wasn’t enough, he even offered to sell the poster version through his DFTBA online shop! What a guy. I really enjoyed trying to capture a steampunk look and I can’t wait to feature the little boy genius inventor again.

4
I knew I would adapt Carl Sagan’s most famous quote as soon as I thought of creating Zen Pencils. It took me over a year to be confident enough to finally do it. It’s one of my favourite quotes and I still get chills when I listen to Sagan recite it.

3
It was daunting trying to adapt this poem as Taylor Mali’s spoken word performance of it is already so powerful. That’s why I really tried to push the ‘cartooniness’ of this strip and use comic devices that could never be replicated in a real-life performance. Hence the steam coming out of Taylor’s ears, the snapping of the spoon and fork, the running over the table, the giant bully etc. It’s the ultimate compliment that Taylor now uses the images from the comic in a slideshow behind him while he’s reciting his poem. When he told me that, I just had to (you guessed it) pinch myself :). To add to the pinch factor, here’s a picture of Taylor with the poster hanging proudly in his office.

2
I’m honoured that this comic got shared so much as I’m definitely no expert on either women or love (as my wife would attest). It was probably not the most popular decision to end their relationship in last week’s comic. I’m eager to see what happens with the girl next. Will she find love again? Or will these two get back together? I have no idea.

1
I was blown away by how popular this comic was – I was honestly not expecting it. It was picked up by the HuffPost, Gawker and various other outlets. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely my most personal comic (well this and last year’s Advice for Beginners). Not only did I pay tribute to my cartooning hero and the comic strip that made a deep impression on my childhood, but the story of the man leaving his corporate job to start a more fulfilling career on his own is obviously very close to my own story and the creation of Zen Pencils. It’s hard to explain, but that all combined in a weird alchemy to produce a comic that a lot of people could connect with. I guess the struggle for the perfect work/life/passion/money balance is one we all share. That, and the fact that Calvin and Hobbes has millions of fans just like me around the world. It was also amusing that a lot of people not familiar with Zen Pencils thought Bill Watterson actually drew it!

I’M GOING ON VACATION
Well, that’s it, the best of 2013. Was your favourite here? If it wasn’t, share your fave comic in the comments. Zen Pencils will be taking a little break over the holiday season – I’m heading to Singapore and Burma for a couple of weeks. My heritage is Burmese, but my parents migrated to Australia in 1975 (I was born in ’82) and I’ve never visited. So I’m looking forward to ‘going back to my roots’ and have my parents show me where they grew up and what my life could have been like.

Zen Pencils will return in mid January. I’m not sure exactly when because I haven’t figured out what my next comic will be. I don’t have any comics done in advance – I wish I did, but I just can’t work that fast. I hope you have a safe and happy holidays and I will catch you in the new year!

– Gav