The webcomics blog about webcomics

Yeah, Not Happening

Let’s just say Monday. It’ll be better on Monday.

Problems Persist, Presently Posting Probably Preposterous

Alliteration is the only thing keeping me sane right now.

Professional Problems, Possibly Protracted

Publishing postponed pending practicality.

Joyous News And FSFCPL? Too Good For A Monday

The ALA awards for children’s (and YA, and middle grades, and other variety of younger humans) literature were given out earlier today, and there’s a webcomics connection that we are happy to report. The first person I saw with the news was Colleen AF Venable¹, beating out even the reporter contingent from the School Library Journal: The Stonewall Book Award (for English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience) went to Little & Lion and The 57 Bus, but one of the two Honor Books was As The Crow Flies.

You remember ATCF? Collected from the webcomic by Melanie Gillman? Published by Iron Circus Comics via Kickstart, because C Spike Trotman has an eye for great literature? And a bit later, the Alex Award (for the 10 best adult books that appeal to a teen audience) included Malagash by Joey Comeau. Webcomics continues as a feeder (or perhaps a crucible) of talent and creators that are making themselves known in the polite world. Maybe now the New York Times will respond to the damn petition and reinstate the best seller list?

As if that wasn’t enough good news, here’s Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin with some thoughts on French comics festival practices and etiquette:

You may remember from my report of the 2017 edition of Lyon BD that sketches are free as a rule. But that is pretty much the only thing that is free in French comics festivals: entrance is paid, exhibitors sell their wares, etc. The point where all these concerns intersect is the table, which is more than the physical space the creator can work against²: it represents the support his host provides (line management in particular), and, conversely, the contribution the creator makes to the host’s presence.

The host can be the festival itself, in the case of invited creators, or is more typically the creator’s publisher; in some cases bookshops organize signings around a festival. And in all cases they hope to profit: the festival by attracting attendees, and the publisher or a bookshop by selling books. And in order to ensure that, publishers and bookshops will often require a book be purchased before you can get a sketch (though it need not necessarily be the one sketched in); and that will not guarantee getting one, you won’t if you come too late for instance, but this means sketches are free only to the extent the creator is not paid for it. For popular creators the lucky few who will get a sketch are even picked by chance draw, so as not to overwhelm the creator.

As for creators themselves, besides the inherent unfairness, there is also the more practical matter that, given the money incentive, the ecosystem grows around them to mine the seam³. This mean that creators both have to spend more time in more festivals, away from their living-earning activities and their families, and have to contend with longer and longer lines of people waiting for sketches (three-legged camping stools are a common sight in comics festivals), with the resulting entitlement issues you can expect … not that this prevents some of these sketches from ending up on eBay, anyway.

The result? While of course you shouldn’t take this strip too literally (this is autobio, after all), creators are often exhausted at the end of the day (full disclosure: I contributed to the exhaustion; unfortunately I did not encounter much else to report on in Paris Manga). And yes, I have witnessed for instance people trying to squeeze themselves at the end of the line even as the end of signing time was closing in … however, I haven’t been (un)lucky enough to witness that (fortunately exceptional) kind of case (French-only).

Can the situation be improved? Proposed leads to that end will be the subject of a later post.

Hey, my name is Richard!
I`m a professional writer and I`m going to change your lifes on?e and for all

Based on this sample, you’re a crappy writer, “Richard Diicks”.

¹ Once of Puff in Brooklyn note, more recently of book design fame, and always the bearer of the coolest calf tat in existence.

² Though in case of need a creator may be able to do [without even that (21st photo; full disclosure: that is my copy of Héro-ine-s Yan Le Pon is sketching in in this photo).

³ Most French comics festivals are run as non-profits (and that includes Angoulême), which moderates the expansion somewhat on that side, nevertheless they too benefit from growing bigger (they get more press, more attention from professionals, etc).

Mystery No More

A question that has long puzzled me is why Rosemary Mosco has never had a collection of her comics work. Prints, sure — and they’re a delight — and a shirt or two are in her store, but no comprehensive collection of the past decade or so’s worth of delightful looks at the natural world. That puzzlement ends today:

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: I have a Bird and Moon collection coming out on April 17th through Andrews McMeel! I showed my advance copy to a discerning test reader and she described it as “delicious”. Preorder here: …

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game will be coming from Andrews McMeel (who more normally publish collections of comic strips¹, from Universal Press Syndicate, of which they’re a division) in April, and judging from the sample pages they’ve included², it’s going to be a fairly comprehensive gathering of her work. We’ll get the turkey vulture, and bird call mnemonics, of course, and I’d be astonished if we didn’t get misleading animal names.

And if Andrews McMeel knows what’s good for them, there will be a million posters printed with the instructions of what to do if you find a baby songbird out of the nest, which is simultaneously informative, delightful, and (thanks to the inclusion of the dromaeosaur) terrifying to Randall Munroe. That’s a win-win-win.

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game releases on 17 April, or you can pre-order it now. With any luck, Ms Mosco will make some signing appearances and we’ll all get to tell her how rad she is in person.

Spam of the day:
I thought about including a spam for mail-order brides and making a joke about Briding as a video game, but darn it, I’m all out. We’ll have to make do with this, instead:

We Have Detected Unusual Activity With Your Gmail Account on Your Computer
Login Has Occurred on 2/4/2018 @ 9:06 AM EST
From IP: Geo Location Found: Eastern Russia
If This Was Not You Please Call the Google Security Team
(Be at your computer)
1 855-739-7819

It would be a tremendous shame if a bunch of us were to call that number and point out to the bozos that answer that they are very bad people who are very bad at being scammers, and generally waste their time. I called to tell them that my dog’s breath smells like dog food and they didn’t like that at all.

¹ Notable exception: they publish Matt Inman’s Oatmeal collections.

² Including the table of contents, which shows just over 80 pages of comics, and Mosco’s got just about 85 strips in her Bird & Moon archive.

A Talk With Internet’s Becky And Frank

Anybody that follows this page know that my crusty, cynical exterior last only so long as I’m not in proximity or otherwise thinking about the work or actual persons of Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson. They do work that is lovely to look at, heartwarming to read, and just plain fun.

A couple of years back, their tribute to the spirit of Pokémon, Capture Creatures, morphed from painting series to art book to monthly comic, which hit a prolonged hiatus in the middle of the story. The delays have been resolved, though, and Capture Creatures Volume 1 is about to be published as a trade paperback. Getting everybody back in Capture Creatures mood brought Gibson to Fleen for a chat, and a bit of schedule-clearing made Dresistadt available as well.

Frank Gibson: Hey!! I got Becky with me too!

Fleen: Hang on, have to clear a couple of monsters from my stables.
FG: Do it! Send them away!

Fleen: Friggin’ gremlins, breeding under my nose. How are you guys?
FG: Dude we are so good. Working on comics again! It’s crazy!

Fleen: What are you working on besides Bustletown? Dare we expect more Capture Creatures?

FG: There will be new Capture Creatures this year!! I just wrote a mini!
Becky Dreistadt: I started thumbing it out yesterday! Actually immediately after this we’re going to be working on it a little more.

Fleen: A Capture Creatures mini, or something else?
FG: Capture Creatures mini. But I’ve started working away on the second part of the main story, just chipping away at it!

Fleen: So we get the long-awaited issue 5, or will this be a new story?
FG: Yeah, Issue 5 is going to be Issues 5-8 to get the intro story done. Then it’s graphic novels from there!

Fleen: The key question is: Who’s publishing issues 5 to 8?
BD: Us!
FG: I really like Capture Creatures, I’m open to other people putting it out, but since we did the Capture Creatures encyclopedia independently first I’ve realized I want a little more control of it than most of the books I write.

Fleen: If you’re publishing what’s the sales channel? How do peeps give you money for awesome comics?
FG: It’s back to basics I think. We may have to visit old Uncle Kickstarter and shake him down. It’s been awhile. We’re considering a lot of options, we want to keep the team of [inker] Kelly Bastow, [letterer] Britt Wilson, and [colorist] Katy Farina intact.

They’re amazing, they’re really busy but we want to try make it happen. Also I want to fairly compensate who we work with, which makes funding projects tricky. Maybe Patreon? Maybe it’s time.

Fleen: What’s the time frame for 5 – 8, and then graphic novels? The first four issues appeared pretty regularly, then a hiatus of what? Three years now?
BD: Right now we don’t have a set time frame, we’re hoping to start releasing stuff this year. Since I’m working full-time at Disney its tricky to set hard dates. Also we’ve got Bustletown and a couple brand new kids books in the pipeline too.
FG: Yeah the hiatus wasn’t something that anyone wanted, it did give us time to get Bustletown fired up which is a silver lining. In the end the first issue did amazing and subsequent issues did not for a variety of reasons outside of our control. The direct market is hard.

Surprisingly we had a huge amount of free promo from Diamond and that really contributed to having great early sales. There’s also this huge problem where kids don’t go to comic stores, unless it’s like Telegraph or Beguiling or SHQ.
BD: My father is afraid to go to comic stores and he used to draw comics.
Fleen: Why’s your father afraid, Becky?
BD: He thinks nerds are gonna be mean to him. He’s scared of nerds.
Fleen: He’s met Frank, right?
FG: He thinks I’m all right. [winky emoji]

Fleen: So for those that came in late, want to do a quick recap on Capture Creatures?
BD: So after a cataclysmic event all the wild animals in this particular corner of the world have disappeared, but on an island off the coast it appears the creatures have returned but with strange unexplained powers.

It’s a story about Tamzen, a young girl who wants to protect the creatures from a shadowy group of people who are trying to capture them and use them for their own nefarious purposes!
Fleen: Tamzen annnnd?
Frank: A character who looks suspiciously like 2015 Frank except he is a child. I can’t believe Becky did this to me.
Fleen: You love it.
FG: I have become more ok with it as time has gone on.
BD: Also Teddy who is a grown up boy-scout. (Park ranger but with cute outfit).

Fleen: So after you finish the Capture Creatures intro story, it’s graphic novels. What’s the plan there?
FG: World-building! There’s so much fun you can have in a world where essentially dogs can breathe fire! I want to send these kids everywhere!
BD: More creatures! Cute moments!

Fleen: What kinds of stories do you get to tell in Capture Creatures that you can’t in Bustletown, and vice versa?
FG: Bustletown is more about everyday problems that people face and they’re solved with levity. It’s really light and fun and small. Capture Creatures is going to be much more dense.

Fleen: And what about them side dishes? And by side dishes, I mean kids books.
Becky: One is called My Pet King, about a kid who gets a king as a pet but the king is very small and lives in a hamster cage. The other is Animal Cake Party, it’s about a kitten named Sprinkle who wants to hang out with the cool wild animals in the woods.
FG: The latter is a subject matter we are very comfortable with. Animals and cakes.
Fleen: These sound suspiciously like Golden Books.

BD: We haven’t got far along with to publisher pitch, I’d love to have an official Golden Book one day!
FG: One day!

Fleen: So with all of the Disney work that Becky’s got, how much of Capture Creatures plus Bustletown plus side dishes plus manage a chunk of Kickstart and/or Patreon gets done in 2018?
BD: I’ve started roughing out the fourth part of Bustletown, so that’s on it’s way.
FG: We’re starting slow with Capture Creatures, trying to wrap up this mini pretty quick. Focusing on making sure Volume 1 gets the attention it deserves.
BD: Animal Cake Party only has about five pages left to pencil, then I have to do a couple paintings for it before it’s ready to go out as a pitch. It’s a tricky balance but it’s happening!
FG: I think what makes Capture Creatures a little easier is we have a team. On the mini Becky will be inking it, the style is going to be a little different, but we want to get Kelly back as soon as she’s available for Volume 2.

Fleen: So people that want to be up to date on new Capture Creatures can go back and read issues 1-4, which are getting released as a trade paperback. Why get the book instead of prowling the single-issue bins?
FG: It’s the first half of the Capture Creatures story. Honestly I think it’s the best looking monthly comic. Our team did an amazing job on it especially considering the time constraints. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve been given the time to go back, edit, fix up little mistakes we made through the process.

It’s a really beautiful book and I thought going back and re-reading it after two years I’d just see every flaw and … I loved it. I still love Capture Creatures and working on this book made me excited for its future.
BD: It’s out by the end of the month! Direct market pre-orders are over, but you can get it online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, even Target. We also have a signing at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA on March 3rd!

Fleen: And where else will people be able to see you in the next couple of months? ECCC, MoCCA, TCAF?
FG: It’s the first ECCC we’re missing in years!!!! Our first convention of the year is TCAF. Then it’s on to SDCC and SPX! Something had to give so we could make comics again. Turns out doing 8-15 conventions a year isn’t compatible with producing a pile of comics.

Fleen: And I’m guessing that people can see you streaming PUBG pretty regularly?
FG: Haha oh boy. Yeah I didn’t think that being a game stream boy was going to be a part of my life, but here I am. I hadn’t played a shooter since I was a kid really. But hanging out with pals playing this game has been a blast.
BD: We also do a stream where we play Kingdom Hearts with our friends! I’m going to start streaming more art and other games too.
FG: It’s been cool, new people are finding our work. Some people just think I’m a PUBG streamer which is super weird, I’m not even particularly good at it. They’re surprised when they find out I make comics and work on cartoons.

Fleen: Sounds like you’ve found a new niche
FG: My life is just niche after niche. Maybe they’ll all add up to one thing eventually. Wrestling, comics, vintage kids books, cats, weird video games.
BD: Candy.
Fleen: Booze.
FG: Still love it!

We at Fleen thank Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson for their time. Capture Creatures Volume 1 is available everywhere on 27 February.

Spam of the day:

Up to $950 Off Sakai Rammers!

Dunno, don’t want to know, and I’m fairly certain this has nothing to do with Usagi Yojimbo.

Festivals And Other Things

It’s an unusually busy Wednesday. Let’s see what’s doing.

  • The annual SPX table lottery hits next week, although there appears to be some confusion. Nothing on the SPX page, but their Twitter account has retweeted people saying the lottery opens on February 12th and runs through the 26th. Last year, the Official Deal About The Lottery went up five days in advance, which means we should have this year’s iteration up, but don’t. If you want to get a table for 2018, I’d check the SPX site daily between now and Monday. Those who make it past the curation/lottery process will be in Bethedsa, Maryland, on 15-16 September.
  • Meanwhile, the MoCCA Festival is coming 7-8 April in Manhattan, and details are firming up. Nothing specific on programming yet, and the exhibitors list looks like it might still be for 2018 (it’s missing names of people I know will be there, and there’s a future reference to a book debuting in 2017), but I’d expect all of that to be updated in the next two-three weeks.
  • And TCAF, perennial favorite of everybody that’s ever been, comes up quickly after on 12-13 May in Toronto, and they’ve just done their first announcements for this year’s festival. Show posters (by Fiona Smyth and Ho Che Anderson) and featured guests (Anderson and Smyth are joined by fellow Canadians Cecil Castellucci, Michael DeForge, Michael Comeau¹, and Hartley Lin, as well as Eddie Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger, and Ron Wimberly). Given past years, expect the guest list to expand by a factor of three or more, with many more international (especially Japanese) creators to come.
  • Not a festival, but still cool: Nick Park, clay animator extraordinaire, will be visiting the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco this Sunday, 11 February, in conjunction with his new movie, Early Man². It’s his first solo directorial effort on a feature-length film, and while there appears to be neither Wallace³ nor Gromit in sight, there will surely be plenty of oversized hands and teeth, and a surfeit of increasingly-elaborate sight gags.

    A presentation on the making of Early Man (featuring the animation leads) runs from 5:00pm to 6:00pm, followed by a conversation between Park and Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out) from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Admission is free for CAM members, US$25 for the rest.

  • New PBF! Take that, people who insist RSS is dead!
  • Oh glob, this is entirely me. Randall Munroe has been spying on me, I can tell.

Spam of the day:

Of One whose heart for sinners broke: had a great deal more in it than a Gallery of Palaeontology;

This is, to be honest, more interesting than your subject line’s claim of free, live sex chat. Tell me more about the dinosaurs.

¹ Not to be confused with also-Canadian Joey Comeau.

² Opening on the 16th; if every showing of Black Panther is sold out, you can still enjoy a trip to the movies!

³ Rest in peace, Peter Sallis.

A Super Rush Job

It’s rare that a Hope Larson project gets by under the radar, and it should be doubly rare that Larson working on a high-profile project like a Madeleine L’Engle story would escape anybody’s notice. But damn if it pretty much didn’t happen.

Intergalactic P.S. 3, out today! Words by @MadeleineLEngle, pictures by me!

For those not familiar (and an hour ago, I counted myself in your ranks), Intergalactic PS 3 was a short story that L’Engle wrote in 1970, and adjunct to 1960’s A Wrinkle In Time and its sequels (A Wind In The Door in 1973, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet in 1978; I never much got into the later 80s entries, or the second-generation stories featuring Meg & Calvin’s kids). It’s presented here as a chapter book rather than a full-bore graphic novel, and covers many of the same themes as the yet-to-be-written A Wind In The Door.

Regardless of provenance, it’s new L’Engle for almost everybody, illustrated by Larson, and having it drop by surprise just means I wasn’t fretting with anticipation for months on end. For those wondering what it’s about:

Charles Wallace Murry is old enough to start school, but his sister, Meg, and their friend Calvin know he isn’t cut out for school on Earth — Meg worries that he’ll be more misunderstood than ever. Luckily, with the help of the three celestial creatures Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which, there is another place where Charles Wallace can get his education: Intergalactic P.S. 3, a public school in a completely different galaxy. The three children travel through time and space to reach the school, but for them all to make it home safely, Meg must undergo a test that will challenge her inner strength, her perspective, and her ability to protect the ones she loves.

And for those who can’t make it to a bookstore today, publisher Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux has an excerpt at the book’s info page.

Spam of the day:

Courses for Medical Billing and Coding

Medical billing is the job that Davan and Kharisma had in first-half Something*Positive, and it made them miserable, hateful people. Hard pass.

Ramping Up To The Week

Let’s take it nice and easy to start this week, this month, this everything.

  • Katie Lane¹, legal counsel to the independent arts community, just can’t help helping. In response to an innocent bit of remarking how awesome she is from Steve Lieber, Lane has decided the appropriate action is to be awesomer still:

    Seems like maybe a couple people are curious about how creative contracts work. Sooooo…this week I’ll be sharing helpful info abt contracts on my Instagram stories.

    Make no mistake — this is Lane teaching people how to read contracts, skills that they might otherwise have to pay her to perform (and she likes reading contracts, so it’s a double-win for her when you do). She believes that all are better off when artists can do the simple stuff themselves (and for free), calling her (or her non-union Mexican equivalent) for the more challenging stuff only. Did I mention she’s awesome? Keep an eye on her Instagram this week for helpful tips.

  • Speaking of helpful, Katie Lane would like to be helpful and show you how to do stuff in person, and people on both coasts will have opportunities to do so. In Boston, she’ll be at the How Design Live conference in May, and West Coasters can see her in San Francisco at Bond in March.

    Bond is a new conference for internet-living-makers, partially organized by Andy McMillan of XOXO renown. It looks to be a good one, with time set aside for attendees to meet up and work through what they learned in the programming, a breathing space too often absent from conferences. And hey! Jesse Thorn is gonna be there.

  • Speaking of events full of cool people, Zach Weinersmith announced dates for the latest iterations of BAH! Fest today. Houston on 17 February (with Rob Den Bleyker), London on 17 March (with Boulet), and MIT on 22 April (with Max Tegmark). Tickets and/or idea submissions available/open now.

Spam of the day:

Plunge And Twist To Clean Paws

Okay, this is actually kind of clever. If only I didn’t have a dog that’s kind of an idiot about having his feet manipulated (which I attribute to racing track PTSD, screw you greyhound racing industry). Your URL isn’t a mass of unintelligible gibberish, but I’m still not clicking on any links. I’ll look for it in the pet store, though.

¹ Light-ning Law-yer!!

Happy News And A Slight Exaggeration Of Our Cultural State

Hey, you know what today is, besides Saint Groundhog’s Day? Yes, yes, it’s Friday, but it’s also a very special Friday for a couple of reasons:

  • Ryan Qwantz North, the Toronto Man-Mountain himself, marks fifteen years¹ of moving words around T-Rex, Dromiceiomimus, Utahraptor, a Tiny Woman, and various others (sinister raccoons, sinisterer cephalopods, God, The Devil, Professor Science, Mr Tusks, etc) and thus constructing the world’s most formalist webcomic², Dinosaur Comics. North noted the occasion by, as is his wont, talking about Batman. This also marks the one time you can find a long-running webcomic and say Wow, the art on Day One was just as good as today!
  • Two of the key players in the past decade-plus of great comics (and great comics creators) getting a wide audience and critical notice were, themselves, recognized and rewarded for their excellent work. :01 Books announced that Calista Brill and Gina Gagliano have been promoted to (respectively) Editorial Director and Associate Director, Marketing & Publicity.

    For much of the dozen years of :01’s existence, Brill has been the person that made sure the book made sense³ and Gagliano’s been the person that made sure you and I knew about them. It’s well-earned on both their parts, and I’m sure neither of them knew where that little four-person shop would be a decade later.

  • Less of a happy vibe, but perhaps more of a timely one — Jim Zub writes just about every kind of comic you can imagine, but none has anticipated where the culture would be just before it got there as Glitterbomb.

    When it launched I was seeing the story as a parable of how fame and the pursuit of it corrupts the soul; now that two (of a planned three) arcs are done, it’s clear the book is even more about The Machine that seeks to feed that need for fame: those that crave being famous, and those that want to see others be famous (so they can love them until it’s time to hate them instead). It’s a Machine that particularly abuses and chews up women, and it’s a message that’s become particularly resonant since just about the time the first arc launched in Summer 2016.

    The collected trade of Glitterbomb‘s second arc (subtitled The Fame Game) goes on sale in four weeks, and I think you ought to strongly consider picking it up. The first book was about one person on her way out of the Machine’s notice; the second is about grabbing up somebody new to replace her, which makes the cold-bloodedness of the entire enterprise all the more apparent. No idea where Zub (and stellar artist Djibril Morissette-Phan) will go with the third and final arc, but if past scheduling holds, we’ll find out around August/September.

Spam of the day:

People ask me “Please, Sinister, I need your professional help” and I always accept the request, `cause I know, that only I can solve all their problems!

This comes from somebody calling themselves Frank Sinister (probably no relation to Simon Bar Sinister, staple of my childhood afternoon cartoon-watching), who claims to be a professional writer. Trust me when I say that the rest of his spam posting read even worse than the snippet I’ve included here.

¹ Okay, technically it was yesterday, but North doesn’t update on Thursdays. I think we all feel the same way about Thursdays.

² Seriously, North sets himself more rules than a Chuck Jones Road Runner cartoon.

³ And yes, I’ve had some nits to pick with :01 editorial flubs — some minor, some more important — but overall, the quality of :01’s offerings have been top-notch, and some misses are inevitable (especially considering the fact that these books were likely in production while Brill was out on maternity leave and/or in the midst of ramping up from ~20 books per year to ~40 whilst simultaneously onboarding new editors).