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Webcomic / Zen Pencils

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Zen Pencils: Cartoon quotes from inspirational folks is a Webcomic by Gavin Aung Than that takes inspirational quotes from famous people and adapts them into cartoons.

Launched in 2012, the artist takes an quote from someone famous (examples: Confucius, Albert Enstein, Rudyard Kipling, Carl Sagan, Marie Curie...) and creates a short cartoon (or comic) out of it. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, sometimes sad, always inspirational.


While the majority of the cartoons are unrelated, there are some "story arcs" who have one main character. These characters are:

  • The Shaolin monk: The mascot of the comic, a Shaolin monk who walks the Earth, fighting evil and doing good.
  • The dragonslayer: The adventures of a Dragon Slayer, who's also a Kid Hero.
  • The lovers: The ups and downs of a couple.
  • Rising Phoenix: The story of an wrestler Action Girl.
  • The stand-up comic: A young girl trying her luck at Stand-Up Comedy.
  • The inventor: A Child Prodigy / Gadgeteer Genius and his inventions.
  • The running man: The story of a man fighting his depression and his flaws through running.
  • Poetic Justice saga: The story of a bullying victim, his revenge, and the fallout of it.

Well-known and popular, this webcomic is often mentioned in newspapers and beloved by the people being quoted.


Zen Pencils provides examples of:

  • Art Shift: Some cartoons are just one big image. Others are full-blown comics.
  • Badass Teacher: Taylor Mali, 124th cartoon.
    You see, I have this policy about honesty and ass-kicking: if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.
  • "Billy Elliot" Plot: The 162nd cartoon. Subverted: When he discovers the truth, the father is completely supportive.
  • Executive Meddling: The 156th cartoon, where the Lovers, who left each other in the previous one, are reunited, is because Gavin's wife hated the break up.
    I did it so my wife would stop giving me the stink eye.
  • Forgiveness: The end of the 140th cartoon.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The 97th cartoon, Air and Light and Time and Space by Charles Bukowski, has been removed at the demand of Bukowksi's publisher. A good Google search (or just looking at the comments on the page of the cartoon), is enough to find it.
  • Advertisement:
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The 124th cartoon, What teachers make by Taylor Mali. A Jerkass spends an entire evening mocking and insulting teachers, saying they're good for nothing, even though one of his guests, Taylor himself, IS a teacher. Eventually he asks "Be honest. What do you make?". Taylor snaps and gives a huge rant, ending on this gem:
    (I make them understand that) If someone EVER tries to judge you by what you make, you give them THIS! [...] Teachers make a goddamn difference. Now what about you?


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