Q: How did Trollface come to be?
*Whynne: Originally, Trollface was an accurate representation of how some individuals, when engaging in a community known for having a large presence of trolls, use the pretense of trolling to excuse themselves from poor reasoning. Often times, this takes the form of two members engaging in a debate, where one, upon the realization that his arguments no longer hold up, claims that he was merely trolling you for his amusement. Trolling had essentially become the ultimate cop-out and the new Godwin’s law for Internet debate.
The original comic was a humorous way to make it easier for people to understand and deal with these kinds of situations, and I think the overwhelmingly positive response showed that it was effective. Any time that same situation played out, it was pretty much guaranteed that my comic would get posted, and people could laugh about it and leave the thread without being frustrated.
This rise in visibility led to the comic getting edited and reposted. People were particularly fond of the grinning face which, at the time, had no name. It eventually became a separate entity and has since come to represent the humorous and mischievous side of trolling.
Q: What's the best way to get in the spirit of Trollface?
*Whynne: It’s hard to say. It means a lot of different things in various contexts, but the common theme among them is that people naturally enjoy toying with each other and looking for a certain response. Sometimes it can be funny, sometimes it can be downright frustrating, but the important thing to keep in mind is to learn to recognize it when it happens and laugh at it in hindsight. It's just the Internet, after all, and there’s really only so much a troll can do. I hope that didn’t sound like a public safety announcement.
Q: Did you ever imagine that Trollface would take off the way it has?
*Whynne: Definitely not in the way that is has now. It’s far from what I'd call a sensation, but it's safe to say that it has become a rather popular joke with Internet goers. Most of the time it shows up, I’m not credited, which is a mixed bag. On one hand, you really want people to know you made it, but on the other, there’s no way to do it without seeming overly-possessive and self-important. After all, it wasn’t a significant effort on my part. It was ultimately the userbase that made it popular, so in that sense, it belongs to everyone.
Q: How does it feel to continue to see Trollface re-imagined in various forms?
*Whynne: It’s pretty validating to see the people I look up to find something I made worthy of re-rendering. Most recently, I saw The Incredible Hulk making a little Trollface on a recent issue of Deadpool, and prior to that, Edmund McMillen made a Trollface planet as his "Teh Internets" map select screen and title card in Super Meat Boy.
Q: Where did the "U MAD?" and "Problem?" catchphrases come from? Were you involved in their creation?
*Whynne: I can't really say where the former came from, though I'm pretty sure its origins aren’t traceable to any one specific post or picture. "Problem?" on the other hand was from the "coolface" comic edit. I obviously wasn't involved, but I can say that those catchphrases are definitely better fits for the face when it's taken out of its original context.