The webcomics blog about webcomics

Who’s A Genius?

I was completely ready to hit the ground running after Thanksgiving weekend (it was very nice, thanks for asking — much pie was had) and jump back into the ol’ blogging game. The work travel I engaged in yesterday (Busiest travel day of the year? Check! Busiest airport in the world? Check!) was surprisingly easy, and everything was cruising along.

Guess who forgot to take the laptop’s power cord with him from the hotel this morning, necessitating a sudden midday errand and eating up (ha, ha) all the free time at lunch. Go on, guess. So you’re spared a couple hundred extra words as I have to be brief about things today.

  • Item! Randall Munroe’s Thing Explainer dropped last Tuesday (I have yet to pick up a copy), and when The Guardian asked him to do a piece for their weekend section in the form of a conversation with somebody interesting, Munroe chose the only former NASA employee more famous than he is: Chris Hadfield — astronaut, ISS commander, musician, popularizer of all things spacey, and moustache-haver of legendary renown. Turns out (unsurprisingly) that they are mutual fans of each others work, and their conversation is a delight¹. Go read it.
  • Item! Kate Beaton — as previously noted — is moving back to the Maritimes of Canada, and to help finance the move she’s holding a sale event. Next Thursday, 10 December, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm, you can get copies of her books (including a couple of French and Spanish editions). Get a copy of Hark! A Vagrant, Step Aside, Pops, or The Princess and the Pony signed to your favorite person for holiday gifting. And if your favorite person is you, that’s cool — gotta love yourself before you can love anybody else the way they deserve to be loved. The fun (and commerce) will take place at Beaton’s studio in the Kensington Market of Toronto — 156 Augusta Ave, to be precise.
  • Item! A new big round has been achieved over at the Chris Yates Baffler! foundry as puzzle #3700 rolls off the bespoke, artisanal assembly line, along with a series of other lovingly-crafted handmade wooden jigsaw puzzles. Those interested in maintaining some sort of state of grace when you shuffle off this mortal coil should be aware of the fact that Baffler! #3700 has been assembled by self-proclaimed horrible person Karla Pacheco, and her particular evil is on every piece. Every one. I know that for at least three of you, that’s a selling point.

Spam of the day:

Cremation Vs Burial – Learn-More

Geeze, what’s with assuming I’m old and about to die? Yes, my birthday was the other day, but don’t you think this is a bit excessive? What else you got?

Russian–Dating Sites, Find The Man You Have Been Looking For

Midlife crisis-y, and I’m not gay. Anything else?

Why Kathy Ireland looks so young….

Excellent genes, good personal habits, and the stolen lifeforce of every teenage dude when I was 16? But how about we give Ms Ireland props for parlaying a modeling career (and a squeaky-voiced acting career that landed her one headlining role on MST3K) into a business empire?

¹ The conversation is less about space, and more about geography and the notion of deep time.

Grab Bag Before The Holiday

We are heading towards the first pie-centered coma of the holiday season¹ and between the actual holiday, travel, and a day off to celebrate Rosenbergmas² on Friday, I’m giving you a bunch of stuff now and won’t guarantee any more posts before Monday.

Spam of the day:

See what secret gift did you got

Oh very nice, fake Victoria’s Secret you get a free gift spam — you put up a link that reads Report Spam in your email that goes to exactly the same address as the attempt to get me to click on whatever crapware you’re trying to install on my computer. That’s pure bloody evil.

¹ Yes, yes, I know that Our Friends To The North celebrated Thanksgiving six weeks ago, but we all know when Thanksgiving really happens.

² In addition to the usual disclaimer that Jon Rosenberg owns my actual soul, one must make an annual notification that he and I share a birthday, along with at a Song Dynasty Emperor, the guy who invented the proper temperature scale, the founder of Panasonic, a puppet wrangler, a martyr to democracy, a martial arts master, a guitar master, an Oscar-winning director, an actor mostly known by one of his character’s names, a Science Guy, a goddamn genius taken from us too soon, fuck cancer, the voice of Brak, at least four rap artists, another actor mostly known by one of his character’s names, two porn stars, and Kim Pine.

I guess people just like screwin’ in early February.

Dammit TopatoCo, Stop Introducing Cool Items

Or at least introduce them all at once so I can put together an order and split the shipping costs. I mean, I know that’s basically what you do — introduce cool items, as recounted by the profile you recently earned in Take magazine, issue #3, but sheesh … slow down a little. I no sooner get my notification about one cool thing shipping than you come out with another. First it was the Judge John Hodgman tea towels, then the Fat Pony plush, and now the most perfect deconstruction of insane culture ever.

For those of you not familiar, Chick tracts are terrible little pamphlets that a fellow named Jack Chick has written for decades now (and either drawn himself, or had artists draw for him — their identities are not well known). They are meant to promote a particularly mean-spirited version of evangelical Christianity, and his followers buy them by the kilo to give away, leave in public places, or stuff under your car’s windshield wipers. In case you ever wondered how not making kids recite The Lord’s Prayer in public schools inevitably leads to fascist witches hauling good Christians away to death camps, Jack’s got you covered.

Sithrak is the asshole god from Oglaf [NSFanything], who doesn’t have any laws or commandments for you to follow — he doesn’t care, he’s going to torture you for all infinity no matter what you do¹. So please stay healthy as long as you can to avoid that fate as long as you can, and you may as well have that threesome because you’re getting punished whether you like it or not. And wouldn’t you know it, Sithrak’s got his own evangelists spreading the word that you can’t prove isn’t made up.

So if you believe in the god that hates you unreservedly, what better way to spread the word than by giving away, leaving in public places, or stuff under somebody’s car’s windshield wipers some brand new Sithrak tracts? It’s the very best in blasphemy, just in time for the holiday season. Order ’em today! Or don’t! It doesn’t fundamentally matter either way! But I’ll bet that somebody’s got a Trumpalo uncle coming for some holiday or other who desperately needs to find one of these in his luggage when he gets home, just sayin’.

Spam of the day:

82 Y.O. Electrician, Humiliates — Power Companies

I’m not even going to try to parse out that nightmare of punctuation you got there. Instead I’ll just point out that you’re trying to convince me that Stirling engines are secret, suppressed technology that runs for free “on thin air” when a) they’re used all over the place, and b) they require a transfer of heat from the outside². Maybe next time don’t try sending that crap to an electrical engineer who didn’t much like his thermodynamics class but still remembers it?

¹ According to his followers. Sithrak himself has a different view on things.

² Meaning small ones can work off of solar power, but likely it’ll require some focused concentration. To get the amount of work out of it the spammer is describing, you’re gonna have to burn some fuel to produce some heat, when then has to be removed on the other side of the engine, meaning more energy to run some kind of cooling unit on account of passive radiation ain’t going to provide the differential needed. Second Law, bitches.

Five Six

  • Since … call it September first of last year … Raina Telgemeier has gone from having two books on the New York Times Best Seller List (graphic novels, paperback) — namely Smile and Sisters — to three (as Drama returned), then four (the first Baby Sitters Club color re-release), five (second BSC), then back to four for a bit.

    Screw that, she’s not got a supermajority of the list with six books on the list now that there’s a third BSC re-release with one more book to go. You thought I was kidding when I suggested Telgemeier could have as many as eight books on the list? I wasn’t. All hail.

  • In fact, Raina’s triumph is almost enough to make up for the fact that Noelle Stevenson somehow was not win the National Book Award (YA category) for Nimona t’other night. Nimona was only the fourth graphic novel to be so nominated (two of the others were by Gene Luen Yang, the remaining book by David Small), so it’s honestly not a line of crap to say it was an honor just to make the list of finalists. I still think that I’M A SHARK AAAAHH would be the best acceptance speech ever.

    Thing is, Nimona is essentially a first book; it is entirely in the realm of plausibility to say that Stevenson will likely be back on the finalists list and going up to the podium with her thank-yous some year down the line.

  • For anybody that wants to understand intellectual property better — because they have some, or want to be sure that they’re using somebody else’s properly — there’s a very good long read on the topic over at Medium by Will Frank. Frank is a lawyer specializing in IP law, and is the sort of person that hangs out on social media with author/artist types, mostly as an excuse to make terrible, terrible puns¹. Seriously, never allow Will Frank and Brad Guigar to meet in person unless you’re trying to bring about The Punularity.

    Questionable use of modern communications aside, Frank knows his stuff and knows how to explain it. Take half an hour and really read what he’s got to say. I was going to quote a particularly good bit here (Fair Use!), but I can’t find a single bit that’s particularly better than the rest because the entire thing is damn good. Go. Read. Learn.

Spam of the day:

See how she lost 17lbs with this Dr. Oz Method

Dr Oz is a serial promoter of charlatans and pseudoscience. Pass.

¹ A significant fraction of his twitterfeed consists of people helplessly sending him the same two-word message: Will, no. Hasn’t worked yet.

Because Travel And Work

Here are some things I can type from my phone while in motion:

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today’s a challenge, tomorrow likely moreso. Here’s what’s happening:

  • Saturday at 7:00pm, in the West Village (New York City, dontcha know) will be launching a speaking series (to run on the third Saturday of the month), and is kicking things off with Meredith Gran headlining what looks to be a fascinating evening on the theme of Identity.

    I wasn’t familiar with Carmine Street Comics, which is unsurprising as its site describes itself as the newest comic book store in the oldest part of New York City; it’s also described as being a combined shop/open comics studio, which sounds really neat. Those of you not getting the hell out of New York early for [American] Thanksgiving, I’d recommend this event highly.

  • It’s been about three months since the SyFy Network/Candle Cove deal was announced, and comes today the news that SyFy has committed to a pretty decent show order:

    Syfy Greenlights Two Seasons of Horror Anthology Series ‘Channel Zero’

    To be clear, Channel Zero will feature a different storyline each of those two seasons, and Candle Cove will only be the first season, but that’s still six episodes, which are slated to run in conjunction with Octoberween 2016. Start getting your Candle Cove-themed Twitter avatars ready, it’s gonna be a creepy ride.

  • I know that a lot of you don’t remember where you were 30 years ago today (I was a college freshman, so getting ready for finals in Calculus I, Chemistry I, Comedy¹, and Military History²), but on that day Calvin and Hobbes. Heck, a significant number of you may not remember where you were when C&H wrapped after ten years.

    Anyway, it was a magical time of comics, perhaps the high point of the form: Bloom County was still a couple of years from its decline and retirement; The Far Side was at its peak; even Peanuts was sharper and funnier than it had been for about 15 years. Much has been written of Bill Watterson and his most famous creation; it’s hard to think of a more influential example of pure strip cartooning on everybody engaged in [web]comics today.

    There are tributes everywhere you look, but the one I found most edifying is at Sketchd, by David Harper, with contributions from Kazu Kibuishi, Michael Cho, Skottie Young, and others. Read it, and maybe enjoy a nice tuna fish sandwich while you’re at it.

Spam of the day:

Nancys Desperate Fight to Cure Alzheimers disease over?

I think the Nancy they’re referring to is Nancy Reagan, in which case it appears that even paranoid nutjob Obama-disliking spammers are acknowledging that we had a symptomatic Alzheimer’s patient in the Oval Office for at least four years.

¹ As opposed to Tragedy; we started with Aristophanes and Plautus, lots of the ruder Shakespeare, took a detour through Moliere and Shaw and Feydeau, and ended up with Bringing Up Baby and Animal House. Big props to Dr Parshall, who really cemented my love of literature.

² My college weaseled out of requiring a phys ed class by instead requiring two ROTC courses (Military History, Organizational Leadership) that were each one credit and pretty much impossible not to get an A in. It also meant that every freshman was technically enrolled as a cadet in the US Army, which means I have a DoD personnel record somewhere.

Welcome Return And Awesome Books

Some things are just unforgivable, Blake. Good thing Ted, Dee, and Vachel love you. PS: Welcome back, I will enjoy reading your new adventures twice a week.

On the three-fold Kickstarter path:

  • The new Cautionary Tales anthology from Kel McDonald is kicking; as noted in the past, each CT volume takes a continent as its source of inspiration, and for volume 3 we’ve made it to Asia. I knew this one was coming sooner rather than later, as Carla Speed McNeil mentioned her contribution when I spoke to her at NYCC.

    That, naturally, makes me think of the NYCC three years back when McDonald first shared the idea for Cautionary Tales and we speculated on what volume 7 — Antarctica — would be like. It’ll be a few years before we see it, though, so in the meantime enjoy the creators joining McDonald and McNeil, like Meredith McClaren, Randy McMilholland & Andrew McSides, EK McWeaver, Gene McYang¹, Blue McDelliquanti, Nina McMatsumoto, and Mcmany Mcmore. These anthologies are always a treat, so jump on that.

  • Speaking of Kickstarter, Evan Dahm launched the Kickstarter for the second volume of Vattu (Vattu 2? Vatutu?), The Sword and the Sacrament. There may be no better mythology-heavy storyteller in webcomics than Dahm, and the history of Vattu and her adventures in the wide world (in ways both within out out of her control) keeps getting broader, deeper, and more satisfying. Almost any of the side characters could be the lead in another series², and Dahm’s physical books have a tangible beauty that match the story. Get in on this one immediately.
  • Last 24 hours for the Kickstarter of Zach Weinersmith’s religion-themed comics. It looks like it might fund under my prediction, which means it will merely be in the US$350K range and be his second-highest-funded project. I’m sure he’s crying all the way to self-publishing success.

Spam of the day:

Your husband has it all until now (the only guide to build anything from wood)

Curiously for a spam-filtered communiqué, this is describing actual wood and concerns itself with carpentry. It’s not about the sort of wood that you might be concerned your husband has had until now and presently is presumably lacking.

¹ A Monkey King story!

² I’d love to see Junti’s story, showing her intersections with Vattu from her POV. Or Shezek and his brother, or Emperor Arrius as a young hothead, or the War-Man, or, or, or.

Posting Will Be Erratic This Week

Lots of air travel, lots of client-site work. I’ll do what I can.

In the meantime, please enjoy this very important clarification from Rembrand Le Compte of Black Tea Comics (previously known as, who points out something I meant to say with respect to the How To Go To Space video: namely, the video was about/inspired by Randall Munroe’s Thing Explainer, but was actually made by the folks at the Minute Physics YouTube channel. I knew that, I meant to say that, I got it wrong. Thanks, Rembrand!

New SSID: Virus-Ridden Contagion Box

I have obtained a new WiFi modem, and things appear to be better than they were for the past couple of days. I’m still nailing everything down and figuring out how to secure stuff. If, uh, you’re hanging around outside my house, please don’t steal my bandwidth, ‘kay?

  • We’re getting close to the release of Randal Munroe’s Thing Explainer and its attendant book tour. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the New York event on 24 November (EMS duty night; trying to swap nights during Thanksgiving week is pretty much impossible), so I’ll just offer him my congratulations now. Condolences also, as I see his next event will be Monday the 30th, which means he’ll be traveling during the single busiest travel weekend of the year¹.

    He’ll bounce down the left coast the first week of December, then do a vertical shot up the Central Time Zone (including a stop in Houston, where I hope he’ll get to visit the Christopher C Kraft Jr Mission Control Center, then a shift eastward to Toronto before heading home. It’ll be a whirlwind of fun, and with any luck, Munroe will manage to conduct himself for those two weeks using only the ten-hundred most common words in English. I understand that after about the first week of a book tour, longer words mostly go away on their own.

    In case that doesn’t make you want to buy his book/attend his tour, consider the video that Munroe made that explains how to be an astronaut (How To Go To Space), endorsed by no less a space-goer² than Commander Hadfield.

  • Shifting gears now, I’m looking over an email I got a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance to work into a post before now. That’s the way it is when stories break, other things get pushed back a day, then another, and so on. In this case, it’s from Douglas Wilson, Manchester animator and webcomicker, regarding a Kickstarter for a print collection of his comics.

    It’s not going well, with five days remaining out of a thirty day campaign, and about 8% raised. Not 8% to go, mind, but 8% total. And I’m not sure why that is.

    It appears that Wilson did everything he was supposed to — has the material already produced, set a modest goal (£3000, or about US$4600), he’s got existing sales channels which presumably produce sales, which means he has an audience. He’s pushed the Kickstarter on his own site, and sent out announcements to the likes of me³ (and it’s a better press release than I usually get). I think it’s just a matter of having people that read his strip, like it well enough, but it’s not their absolute favorite (or second, or third) and thus something they want to drop £15 to £30 on to get a book.

    And that’s okay.

    Kickstarter has produced so many successful projects in absolute terms that we forget that that average fail-to-fund rate is about 50% (if I recall correctly from the last time I saw Cindy Au, director of Community Relations for Kickstarter; I also recall it’s a little better than that for comics). Kickstarter’s not a guarantee, and that is actually a very good thing.

    Because in the years Before Kickstarter, your alternative was to scrape together a bunch of money, make your thing, and then hope to hell it sold because if it didn’t, you were out a bunch of time and money. I feel bad for Wilson that this project isn’t going to happen (at least, not at this time). I think I’d feel worse for him if he’d sunk that three grand into books and sold … looks like eleven print copies, and one more PDF.

    I don’t want to make this sound too rosy — five days from now is going to suck for Wilson, but that’s a lot better than sucks, plus the car doesn’t get fixed, and the thermostat stays lower all winter, and the shoes don’t get replaced.

    Failure is where we learn. Given the lack of psychotic whining one often sees from deluded would-be Kickstarter moguls whose dreams don’t pan out I’ve seen from Wilson, I think he’s taking a reality-based approach to this entire thing.

    Maybe he learns that this readers lied when they said they wanted a book. Maybe he learns that his sales don’t extrapolate. Maybe he learns that a different approach to monetizing his strip is necessary. Maybe he learns that it’s not going to monetize and that time/effort are better spent elsewhere. I’m pretty sure he learns something, and it’s not too expensive a lesson.

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out for him, but I’m not sorry that the costs of this failure are bearable. Here’s hoping it goes better next time.

Spam of the day:
Okay, this is a new one — I got a text message through an email relay, which consists solely of a picture of a business card. That card is for “NJ’s Largest Adult Entertainer”, which appears to be an agency that supplies bachelor parties with naked ladies. The card promises 23 Years Of Excellence, and the name on the card reads:

A/K/A Dr. Love

It’s … it’s beautiful.

¹ So will I; the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I get to fly on the busiest travel day of the year to the busiest airport in the world. Yay.

² Also a noted moustache-haver.

³ I’m not sure how many people ran those announcements, and honestly I’m not sure that running those makes a huge difference.

Finding New Things

Lots of stuff going on today. What shall we go to first?

  • Thought Bubble is one of those comics festivals that I really need to get to some day; events have been happening around Leeds for the week, and the creators-meet-fans part happens this weekend. Guests include Kate Beaton (who, according to the Twitter machine, is presently hanging about historical Viking sites, and may never leave them), Noelle Stevenson, John Allison (possessor of the greatest show banner of all time; unobstructed view of the image here), Gemma Correll, Darryl Cunningham, Nicholas Gurewitch, and Kate Leth.

    Exhibitors are listed in a fashion I’ve not seen before: by physical location (TB splits its exhibitors up across several venues), and then by a small image representative of a creator’s work, by property name (not all of which are spelled out). Thus, one may see that the New Dock Hall has an image for Gunnerkrigg Court (captioned, in case you didn’t recognize Coyote), and one may presume Tom Siddell will be there (along with Phillipa Rice and Retrofit Comics).

    This method has a lot of browsability — rather than look for names one is familiar with, you look for art that appeals and then figure out who it may be that creates it. It’s a little less helpful if the display image is atypical for a creator’s work, or if you want to quickly determine who will be there, but for promoting serendipity, it’s pretty great. But it means that I have a harder time recommending specific creators, so maybe next year TB could also provide the traditional alphabetical list? In any event, the creators to be found at the Royal Armouries Hall include Monica Gallagher, Isabel Melançon & Megan Lavey-Heaton; over at the TB Marquee you’ll find Emma Vieceli and Elaine Will.

    Two final thoughts: One, there are many more creators in each of those venues; two, I find it interesting that having to click on art samples that appealed and knowing nothing of the creators until I did, I appear to have discovered almost exclusively the work of women. Dudes, you got to up your game.

  • Speaking of Gemma Correll, I now have in my hands the very handsome Eat More Comics, with cover by Correll. I expect that I’m going to love about 80% of what’s inside, loathe about 7%, and like the remainder well enough. That’s actually what I thought was the chief strength of The Nib — editor Matt Bors didn’t seek to have just one point of view. By casting his net wide, I found stuff I never would have otherwise, including stuff I found horrible. It was an anechoic chamber for editorial opinion.

Spam of the day:

F3CkBuddyAlert my username is Volup2us Kisees :)

I’m not sure what kisees means, but I think it costs and extra fifty.