About the S.O.N.A.I.S. Webcomic

You may also want to take a look at the character overview page,
or the storyline index page.

What's It About

S.O.N.A.I.S. is a quite geeky comic about a small start-up company specialised in A.I. related solutions. This is just a setting I am somewhat familiar with, to have something to work with and which fits the stories I have planned—don't expect endless in-deep discussions about A.I. development, the topics will be much more varied.
The comic is meant to alternate between being funny(1), adventurous, educational, and sometimes even maybe mildly critical about certain things. Opinions expressed by the characters may or may not correspond to the author's. In the end, the main goal is to have fun—don't take this too seriously.

(1): disclaimer: degree of funniness may depend on how much of a geek/nerd the reader is.

If you're new the comic and want to jump right in with a minimum of background, there is a page with an overview of the main characters. Of course, the best way to learn to know the characters and the general setting of the comic, is to start reading from the first strip. If you want to freshen up your memory, the storyline index page may be helpful.

Display / Navigation Options

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The current plan is to publish 2 strips each week, one on Tuesday and one on Friday. Publish time is around noon (12:00h) in Europe/Brussels timezone, with DST offset when in effect, in other words either CET or CEST.
No guarantees. There may be interruptions, and I may decide to cut it down to 1 strip a week, or who knows, perhaps crank it up to 3, but we'll see. There may be breaks (which will be announced in advance), and extras outside of the regular schedule on special occasions. At this time, the rate of 2 strips per week and deliberately sticking to a rather simple drawing style, seems perfect to avoid this becoming stressful.
As for how long I'll keep this up in the long term, there is no plan to stop at any specific point.

PAQ: Possibly Asked Questions

Why this comic?

It's quite simple, I make this mostly for my own sanity. It could be considered therapy, see below. As with practically everything else on this website, I put the result online so others can enjoy it, but that's not really the main goal.
Before I started writing and drawing these strips, I was in an endless spiral of lack of goals to look forward to, and wasting my time on online videos and games. The more I indulged in watching videos, even when many of them were somewhat educative, the more I got the feeling that my brain was rotting away. Then I suddenly got the idea to go back to my roots of drawing comics as I already did from the age of 8 on, but this time tied to everything I have learnt since then. Somehow this has freed me from the spiral of mental meltdown.

Can I be notified when a new strip is available?

Yes! I have sacrificed some of my sanity on implementing a web push message system. If your browser and device are compatible, this should be the most convenient option, although it does have quite a few pitfalls, especially if you're using iOS.

Given the comic's regular update interval, a simple repeating reminder in your agenda will also work fine except for the sporadic extras or when I take a break. See the update schedule above for the dates and times you should set up.

Another option is to follow me or the #sonais hashtag on Mastodon, although currently the strip updates there are a manual affair. Until I fully automate them, I cannot guarantee that every new strip will be reliably announced there.

You can also use the RSS feed. RSS is a standard way of obtaining updates from news sources or other websites, and is entirely pull-based. The main reason why the RSS feed is provided, is that it's an integral part of the publishing system anyhow (an upgraded version of what I used for Garfield Sans). Hence I might as well provide it, especially because it fits within the spirit of making this comic reminiscent of the internet around the start of the millennium.
So, if you want to get truly old-school: find an RSS reader app, which will fetch the RSS file whenever you see fit or at regular intervals, and it will notify you of updates.

What does S.O.N.A.I.S. or SONAIS stand for?

This can be seen in the very first strip: “Solutions for Optimized Novel Artificial Intelligence Systems.” It's the name of the fictive company in which the main characters work. (It is intended to be such an outrageous collection of buzzwords that no real company should consider using it.)

Is this based on something, what are inspirations?

If there is one comic that could be considered the spiritual predecessor of SONAIS, it is User Friendly. The moment I found out that it had disappeared from the internet, was pretty much the moment I got the idea to start my own comic to keep its legacy alive. This does not mean this will be a UF clone though, it will be different.
There are some other influences, like GPF, Hackles, Sequential Art, and perhaps a bit of Dilbert from when it had not yet turned sour. Without any doubt there are also influences from all the comics that every Belgian kid inevitably reads as a kid—maybe you'll find an occasional hint of Tintin as well.

Is there a specific target audience?

Sort of, and the above should already give it away: this comic aims to bring back a bit of the atmosphere of how the internet used to be in its earlier days. I have zero ambitions to force myself to make this comic appealing to current teenagers by chasing trends.
One could say the main target audience for S.O.N.A.I.S. consists of those who have some affinity with IT or are at least a bit nerdy in some other way, and have spent their youth in the last decennia of the 20th century and the first years of the new millennium. I know that's a pretty niche audience and from a commercial point-of-view it makes no sense, but again: making money with this comic is not a goal of mine.
The quirkiness of this target audience choice does not imply others won't also be able to enjoy this comic. As with UF, strips may sometimes refer to technical things, some of which very niche, and some of the jokes may require a bit of research for the uninitiated to understand. However, there will also be story arcs with a more adventurous nature that should appeal to a wide audience.

Is this a family-friendly comic?

That depends on your definition of “family-friendly.” There will be no nudity. There may be some scary things, violence, and depiction of weapons, but always in a cartoonish context—this is a cartoon after all. There may sometimes be strong language. The subject matter will likely not appeal to small children anyhow.
If I need to give a movie-like rating, it would be PG-13, but my idea about what kinds of sensitivities persons of certain ages have, might not correspond to yours.

Is any A.I. involved in the creating of this comic that sort of revolves around A.I.?

Ironically: no, none at all—also see the first April fool's strip regarding this question.
This comic is created in an utterly traditional fashion, with pencils and drawing pens on paper. The strips are then scanned, and post-processed and shaded in the GIMP.
I will never use ‘A.I.’ unless for some reason I would become so incapacitated that it is the only way to continue making these strips (and then I would only use a model trained on the existing strips, not someone else's).
All the ideas and scripts come out of the mushy organic neural networks of my own brain. The only real task of my computer during this process, is to play music. I may occasionally look up images on the web or set up some 3D models in Blender if I need a reference for drawing something unusual, but otherwise the drawing of these strips is a moment of totally analogue sanctuary in this sometimes annoyingly digital world.

Will this become full colour, are there high-resolution strips?

The regular strips are greyscale; it is part of the style—take it or leave it. Colour accents may appear at special occasions. Occasionally, there will be a ‘deluxe’ double-size strip in full colour (example), but these are very sporadic. I'd love to make more frequent colour strips, but they take a lot more time, and this conflicts with the fact that I can only work on this comic in my spare time.
For each strip, next to the regular size I do make a high-resolution version, and I plan to make these available in the not too distant future.

In what country is the comic situated?

This is deliberately left unspecified. You can imagine it being anywhere you like.

What font is being used?

The font is custom. Following the spirit of the comic, it was created in the nerdiest of ways, by wrestling FontForge with Potrace (for extra masochism, in Mac OS which tries to make it increasingly painful to run open source apps) and writing a Perl script to manipulate kerning pairs. The font is currently not publicly available, because it is still under development. When I feel it is sufficiently stable, I might make it available.

I have trouble reading text in the images, are there transcripts?

Yes, every strip is followed by a transcript in the HTML pages, which I hope will be usable with screen readers. It contains dialogue and important context. The transcripts all have the transcript CSS class, which has a display:none property in the regular stylesheet to hide it by default. You can override this in a custom stylesheet to make the transcripts visible.
I don't know if there is a standard way to provide transcriptions for comics. If there is, or you'd like to have a toggle to make the transcripts visible by default, then I'd like to be informed about it.

Is there a plan to provide translations?

Not from my part. Translations might be problematic. The very first strip, and the very name of the comic itself, already relies on an English language pun, and more will follow. If nevertheless anyone wants to have a go at a translation in their language, I would welcome it, but please contact me first.

Is it OK to scrape and publish the new strips on an aggregator page?

No. You may detect changes in the main page and announce anywhere you want when a new strip is available, but it should link to the actual official comic page and not display the strip itself.

I have very specific ideas about how a webcomic should be made, can I try to impose them?

No. This is my comic, as explained above, it is first and foremost a hobby project that got a bit out of hand, and I do with it what I want. You can either enjoy the ride or just disembark if you don't like it, but please don't bother the driver.

Why don't you include a [insert token minority group here] character in the comic?

See the previous answer. In a nutshell, I firmly believe that such gestures, as well as replacing certain words with others, does absolutely nothing to improve a bad situation. On the contrary, it may give the false impression that enough effort has been spent hence nothing truly substantial needs to be undertaken anymore.
I will introduce characters whenever they fit the story at hand, not because it is trendy. As you may see, the set of characters as it is, is already quite diverse, but the main reason for this is that it offers more ways for interesting interactions between them.

Does this have anything in common with the comics you drew as a kid?

Aside from the fact that things are being drawn on paper, no. Pretty much everything has changed, and I'm pretty sure for the better. More details about how I somehow managed to produce a few finished books back then, can be found here.

What's up with the weird brand names?

Brand names in the comic are parodies of their real-world counterparts, both for comical effect, and to avoid potential copyright issues. A list of all the comic universe brand names and their real-world counterparts can be found on the character page.
Next to this, there will also be fictitious company names. I try my best to come up with names that don't currently exist, but it is of course possible that a real company gets founded using a name that previously only existed in this (or other) comic(s). In that case, I might avoid using the name in future strips, but I will not change it in existing ones.

Why isn't my face being stuffed with ads and silly cookie consent dialogs?

Because currently there are none on the comic pages. Putting ads on one's site is increasingly turning into a chore of following regulations and implementing the annoying consent pop-ups. I will see whether this comic becomes popular enough that it makes sense to jump through all those hoops to cover possibly increasing hosting costs caused by the popularity. If not, I'd rather preserve the “old Internet experience” of being able to open a webpage and viewing it without additional fuss.
If you appreciate the lack of ads but you still somehow want to support the author, even just a small donation is worth way more than hundreds of ‘ad impressions’ anyhow.

As explained above, changing the display/navigation/comment options will place cookies in your browser, but they won't be used anywhere else than in scripts running inside your browser. I may convert this to rely on LocalStorage. The only other thing that may place cookies, is a Google Analytics instance on the main page which is used for statistics. (I might also drop this and rely on my own trusty stats counter instead, to make the SONAIS pages entirely cookie-free.)

Will there be a Patreon or similar, to support the author?

Not for the time being. Again, I don't do this for the money. Moreover, if I would set up something like Patreon, the tax authorities in my country might consider it an extra source of income, which would make my financial situation way more complicated and probably less advantageous overall unless I would earn a lot from this extra source, which I don't see happening.
Therefore if you really want to send me some kind of reward, the best option is to do it as a “gift” or donation, which is exempt from taxes. (There you go, a small taste of the mess that is the Belgian tax system.)

Is there something like a community forum for this comic?

Not at this time. I am hesitant to host something like that myself due to the increased regulatory boilerplate concerning anything involving user accounts these days, and I don't want to spend time on low-level forum maintenance. If anyone knows a suitable place to launch something like that with low effort, I'm all ears.

©2023-2024 Alexander Thomas

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