About DerekMah.com

You asked for it, so here you go


This site was originally going to be all about the sketches and development work, and it still is, but people kept asking to see the finished bits, so here we are.

Derek Mah comic illustration rough sketch

Sketchcomics is how I describe works in progress that have to do with visual storytelling. It could be fiction, non-fiction, advertising, instructional, static, or animated as long as it’s visually communicating some sort of narrative.

In what we might refer to as my normal life, I work primarily in strategic communications, which is the trendy way to refer to the current state of marketing that encompasses both passive and active elements of client outreach. You’re bored already, right? To delve more into this side of my work, please proceed to LinkedIn.

Derek Mah comics sketchIt is always interesting looking at sketchbooks, hearing about process, what made it into the final, what did not. Development sketches illuminate the ideas and curious meanderings that helped grow and refine the finished product. Like a secret peek backstage, or a tour of a master kitchen, it is a glimpse into that dimension where creativity and craft combine.

This website is a way for me to share with you some of that backstage stuff.

I hope you like it,

Derek Mah Muhammad Ali sketchDerek Mah Muhammad Ali sketchDerek Mah illustration Muhammad Ali




Meaningless Drivel for the Truly Curious

In which I drone on and on about stuff which may or may not have impacted my life or this website

A Not-So-Brief History

Hello again!

Attoboy began with comic books. I’d always read them and, like many fans, felt inspired to try my hand at creating them. The problem in 1993 was that there was a substantial production hurdle. In those days a zero-budget comic was produced with pen and paper and printed in a photocopier with generally raw and erratic results. It was a frustrating time for someone accustomed to the quality of large-scale printing.

Early that spring a buddy (Matt – you scoundrel!) loaned me a Mac Classic and I spent several happy months churning out scripts and learning how to use page layout software. It was the first time I’d returned to serious computer use since packing up the old Franklin Ace 1000 several years earlier and it was an eye-opening experience. The Mac changed everything. It provided the tools to flatten the hurdle. Within a year I’d gone out and purchased my very own LC475.

LC475 was so pretty!

By 1995 things were coming together. A chance introduction had connected me with an amazing writer named Jerry Auld and we produced a handful of small stories together. Armed with the LC, I knew we could make something that, although lacking colour, would stand up well to what we were seeing on the newstand. The only thing missing was an indicia.

Several names came and went before I settled on Attoboy. It had a good rhythm and the right sort of bounce. I liked the way it made a technical term fun. The design came together quickly and before we knew it our comic debuted at Comic Legends in Calgary (thanks Dale!).

Jerry Auld’s wonderful tale of life and love.

And there it sat. It turns out that in the 10k run that is comics publishing, producing the comic amounts to about 1/2k. You’d think a designer working in advertising would appreciate that folks can become interested in something only if they know it exists.

Fortunately the LC provided a means to that end, too. I slapped on a Global Village 56k modem and learned about this thing called the internet that was showing mainstream promise. Six months later the first Attoboy website was born into a single user folder at start-up host Cadvision. Things started rolling. I was getting offers to do other independent comics and made connections with other producers that endure to this day.

We never did sell many of that first comic, but we were making our mark and having fun. The website was getting some nice attention. As 1996 came to a close Attoboy had grown into a full fledged site under its own domain.

Trampled by My Own Horses

Attoboy.com v1.0 *sigh*

Attoboy generated some positive attention from the web-celestia of the day and was responsible for attracting a fair run of gigs from 1996 through 2002. The funny thing was that I was getting as many offers to make websites as I was to make comics. Soon the website offers were far out-distancing the comics offers. Before I knew it, I was working on the Petro-Canada intranet. Soon after that I was Director of Graphic Design for a company called Clarity where I’d go on to build interfaces for AT&T, Suncor and a pile of other companies who all paid better than the comics industry. It was exciting to be a part of something so new and groundbreaking.

The trouble was that the success of that busy time also prevented me from updating my own website (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) for almost four years. Attoboy entered the twenty-first century gamely clinging to the same old content like a pair of tattered Sperry Topsiders.

Attoboy.com v2, the dark blue one.

Sometime in late 2000 (right around the time Telus completed its buyout of Cadvision) I moved the site to a new host and rebuilt it with the dark blue Client Access frontpage. This short lived version of Attoboy was a client-only site containing restricted access development materials and website prototypes. My oh-so-clever idea was that with no publicly accessible content, there would be no obligation to update. Needless to say, the concept hit the ground like a bag of wet cement.

So I decided to retool Attoboy for content. Surely it wouldn’t take more than a weekend or two. Sixty weekends later, Attoboy v2 was born. It featured a broader cross section of work than any previous iteration of the site and was better organized. It had some interesting technical underpinnings such as php and was, for the first time, totally standards compliant.

One notable change was that the comics content, once center-stage, was now pushed out to the fringes. I never felt really good about that, but there was a lot more corporate work to show than comics work. It seemed that comics would continue to be relegated to hobby status. And that’s exactly what happened for another four years.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

Attoboy.com v3

As 2009 rolled around it felt like a good time to change things up. I’d been working at extracting myself from the more corporate side of things and trying to be more active in the entertainment side of the industry. Attoboy v3 benefited from ever-advancing technologies such as video and commonplace broadband connectivity. Sophisticated site-building tools made easy work of once-complex architectures. Ironically, this version of the site was simpler than before. Gone were the fly-out menus and floating divs. Gone were the processing forks and crazy css hacks to make everything work. All was good and Attoboy.com could cruise along for the foreseeable future.

The Right Touch

Which brings us to Attoboy v4, the multi-hardware site. Not much to say about what was, at the time, a contentious issue, except that Attoboy.com will look nice on your desktop, laptop and mobile devices. Yep, responsive websites were once something people debated were a passing fad.

There were big plans for that site, but I never really got around to keeping it current. A few years later, social media came around and the idea of putting all your eggs in one website basket started to seem a little simplistic.

One Last Thing

So here we are. DerekMah.com v1.0 with a fully themed site. We’ve come a long way, baby, from hand-coding, to building our own CMSes, to customizing other systems, developing and integrating disparate online components, and working all the granular bits. But the more complicated things got, the simpler they got, too. Simple is good.  I hope you like this site and enjoy the pictures and thoughts strewn about.

Thanks for coming by!