The webcomics blog about webcomics

Weekend Miscellany

Hey, some stuff happened since I saw you last, we should talk about that.

  • The Ringo Awards took place at Baltimore Comic Con over the weekend, and there were some winners with relations to webcomics. We don’t talk about the Ringos a lot here at Fleen, they’ve got an odd jury+fan voting component that can lead to some … let us say mass responses to the ballot box.

    Am I going to say that comics on Webtoons or Tapas are unworthy of inclusion when considering for awards nominations? Heck, no. But do I believe that a single creator that posts only on those platforms and has work that is … let us say Tumblresque in nature should be considered as the best of the best in comics? Let us say, one last time, that such folks were perhaps over-represented in the ballot.

    All those sayings being said, the Best Comic Strip Or Panel went, as is right and proper, to onetime webcomicker Olivia Jaimes for Nancy, and Best Webcomic went to The Nib, who apart from the whole losing their financial backing thing are having a very good year. A full list of nominees and winners has yet to be posted at the Ringo site¹, but The Spurge has you covered.

  • I may have noted, on some several occasions how the New York Times appeared to be bending over backwards to not acknowledge the crucial place that Raina Telgemeier occupies in modern literature, and the culture at large. Today, they seem to be extending an olive branch, devoting a significant chunk of interactive space in their books reportage to Raina, and Guts, and her creative process.

    How Raina Telgemeier Faces Her Fear by Alexandra Alter, with production by Aliza Aufrichtig and Erica Ackerberg, is part interview, part behind-the-scenes look, and all stuffed with goodness for anybody that wants to see what the steps involved in creating a page of comics looks like. Just be sure to take your time scrolling; on my copy of Firefox, once a page went from thumbnails to pencils to inks to color, it didn’t go back. You can re-experience the transforms by refreshing the page.

  • And looking forward, Maris Wicks would like you to know that the New England Free Lecture Series continues this Thursday, 24 October, at 7:00pm, with a discussion of using comics for sci-comm presented by … Maris Wicks! From the NEA website:

    Registration is requested for all programs, which start at 7 p.m. in the Aquarium’s Simons IMAX® Theatre unless otherwise noted. Programs last approximately one hour. Most lectures are recorded and available for viewing on the lecture series archive page.

    Also on that page, the fact that there’s a cash bar from the time the doors open at 6:00pm until the start of the talk. You can register here, then make your way to 1 Central Wharf in Boston on Thursday. If you get there early, NEA’s a great aquarium that you should absolutely spend some time perusing. They got squid!

Spam of the day:

Hello! If you’re reading this then you’re living proof that advertising through contact forms works! We can send your ad message to people via their feedback form on their website.

You are sending me your crap through my contact form, and you expect me to immediately turn around and give you money so you can pester other people? No. Die alone and unmourned, you parasite.

¹ This is a proud tradition; I can’t think of a single comics award program that updates their own damn website in less than a week after handing out the awards. Get with it, peoples!

Fleen Book Corner: Superman Smashes The Klan

Okay, it’s not a book, or at least not yet — it’s about 75 pages in a square-bound format, part 1 of 3, that will undoubtedly be collected into a 200+ page proper book in the future. Doesn’t matter, we’re talking about it today.

And for once, I’m not sure that a spoiler warning is necessary, as Superman Smashes The Klan (words by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru, letters by Janice Chiang) is an adaptation of a radio serial that’s nearly 75 years old at this point. Heck, you can listen to the whole thing right now if you want to, and even the basic outline is well-known Superman lore. I’m pretty sure we’re past the statute of limitations on spoilers.

So: family moves from the Chinatown section of Metropolis to a white section, adults object to Dr Lee’s new position as a bacteriologist in the health department, kid objects to son Tommy’s success as a pitcher on the neighborhood baseball team, Klansmen burn crosses, plan tar-and-featherings, Superman saves the day. It’s what Yang adds to this well-known story that makes it stand out.

Firstly, he introduces a new POV character — Roberta, Tommy’s younger sister, who is upset and fearful about leaving the familiar environs of Chinatown, and who must overcome her fear to help Superman save her brother and everybody else threatened by white supremacist CHUDs. Tommy’s mother/Dr Lee’s wife is also given more to do, still more comfortable in Cantonese and using Chinese names, a more reluctant immigrant that her aggressively assimilated husband. He introduces a story arc that involves Superman’s first exposure to kryptonite¹ and allows him to reflect on his own immigrant experience and doubts about his own place in American society.

But the most important thing? The small, almost fleeting racism that the Lees face in passing. It’s easy to see the evil in the hearts of the robe-sporting klansmen, but what of everyday, ordinary people that wouldn’t consider themselves to be racist?

  • Dr Jennings, one of Dr Lee’s colleagues, at a housewarming attributes all of Lee’s success to luck, mocks Mrs Lee’s English ability, and assures that the pie he brought is apple, not dog².
  • A cop on duty in front of the Lee’s home, insisting to Roberta: This city is very, very safe, especially for people like you. Metropolis goes out of its way for you, giving you houses and jobs and promotions you don’t even have to earn.
  • Dr Lee attempting to chase off three black men that stop to put of the fire, afraid that attracting more attention will make it worse: You! Nobody asked you to come here! We don’t want any more trouble! Get out of here!, prompting one of the men to exclaim: They don’t want us around, not even when their house is on fire!

    One of the three is Metropolis PD inspector Henderson who has to bring it back into perspective: They got a burning cross on their lawn, don’t they? For tonight, at least, they are us. Even if they don’t want to admit it.

  • But the one that really sticks? Tommy, recounting to his new friends that he wasn’t scared: Then they lit that fire! But believe me, these wontons don’t fry up that easy!

See, Tommy’s the one that makes friends easily. But Tommy’s even further along than his father in trying to prove to the world that he’s just another American, yessiree, and that takes the form of denying who he is.

We’ve seen Tommy before, only then he was called Jin and there were no klansman, just the everyday, low-level racism that acted like background noise to be overcome. Jin (uhhh, spoilers ahead for a different book) denied himself so hard, he became Danny — blonde, all-American, definitely not Chinese and especially not anything like Cousin Chin-Kee. Tommy’s not there yet, but he could be if he doesn’t learn the dark side of the lesson Jin learned: It’s easy to become anything you wish … so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.

When I wrote about American Born Chinese, I described Jin’s story as not quite autobiographical, and not quite fictional; it was a good deal less than fictional than I’d realized. Yang’s afterword, about what Superman means to him, tells the story of seventh-grade Gene, and the white kid that refused to high-five him while casually dropping a slur. Yang attempted to transform himself like Jin did, wearing the clothes and adopting the style that he hoped would protect him from the disdain of the broad-shouldered, the hazel-eyed, the athletic.

I do not believe it is coincidence that Yang chooses, in this story, to refer to his classmate as Danny.

There’s a lot for Superman to do in the two forthcoming volumes; there’s a Klan to smash³, kids indoctrinated into the Klan’s ways to deprogram, and a brother and sister to help navigate their way into their new home. Roberta needs to not be afraid of who she is, Tommy needs to not deny who he is.

I suspect that he’ll do that less by means of an inspiring heart-to-heart, and more by example; he needs to figure out what the green crystal was, figure out why he feels strangely affected and is having visions of alien creatures speaking in a different language. At this point in his heroic journey, nobody knows where he came from, and especially the public doesn’t know he’s an alien.

I guarantee that the klansmen regard Superman as one of them; by revealing his own immigrant story, I think a lot of prejudices and self-misconceptions will have to be confronted. And because Yang is the opposite of a trite storyteller, I suspect it won’t be a magically smooth journey for any of the characters involved. Some of those in the robes will stop chanting One race! One color! One religion! and others will start chanting One species! One planet!

And five bucks says Dr Jennings spends the rest of his life snidely talking behind Dr Lee’s back and muttering that Superman’s not a real hero.

Yang knows — and trusts his readers enough to realize — that those small, everyday, background noises require just as much work to disrupt as knocking klansmen’s heads together (work that is ultimately almost as satisfying as the head-knocking; Superman not only would punch a Nazi, he spends the opening pages doing just that).

Superman Smashes The Klan is available in comic shops and bookstores everywhere. It’s full of old-school radio serial-style goodness, and is gorgeous to look at4. If you give it to a kid, make sure they read Yang’s essay at the back.

Spam of the day:

Hi, I’m senior Graphic designing & 3D Artist and a professional online marketing Designer. I’m having more than 5 years of experience in this field and have done several projects. These days I’m looking for a new project to work on so that’s why I’m contacting you. I’m sure you would love my portfolio. Here are few projects listed i have worked on

This appears to actually be from the person list in the return address, and it includes a link (that I went to by roundabout means because no way I’m clicking a link in a cold-call email) to a portfolio that actually has some good work. But this is not the way to drum up work. If you want to sell your skills, you have to know who you’re selling to and what they might want.

¹ Introduced in the radio serial across two stories in 1945 and early 1946, six months prior to Clan Of The Fiery Cross. And since I didn’t mention it, this is the original Superman — black background on the shield, can leap but can’t fly, changes in phone booths (there are phone booths everywhere in 1946), and runs along power lines to get around town so as not to disrupt traffic.

² Roberta thinks Dr Jennings is a creep and he’s sneering like he’ll be back as a more clear-cut villain. I think that he won’t, though. I think he’s there to show that even the well-it’s-not-like-he’s-a-real-racist types are just as poisonous as the ones that wear stupid robes and burn crosses. I thoroughly hate him.

³ It’s right there in the title!

4 I mean, it’s Gurihiru. Obviously, their work is heavily tilted to the slightly cartoony, cute/adorable end of the scale, but it’s more than that. Gurihiru’s work is effortless to read.

Each page layout, each character pose (or sense of motion, really, because nobody’s ever stiff or static), each use of color is designed to focus your eye exactly where it needs to be to convey the thoughts and mood of whoever’s on the page, and to move the story in the direction it needs to go. It’s not just that their art is beautiful, it’s that it’s perfectly suited to storytelling.

And hoo boy do the colors pop. Superman’s baby blues have been waiting all this time for their definitive depiction.

Chiang’s lettering is exactly the same sort of effortless, disappearing until it’s time to make itself known. But with 30+ years of experience, that’s to be expected.

Well, Heck

Received this morning in my email:

To Whom It May Concern:

The United States Library of Congress has selected your website for inclusion in the historic collection of Internet materials related to the Comics Literature and Criticism Web Archive. We consider your website to be an important part of this collection and the historical record.

Gotta say, that perked me right the hell up, especially considering that I started the day with a dentist appointment¹. It’s been two-plus years since the LOC incorporated whole webcomic archives into their digital collections, and at the time it was noted Megan Halsband, reference librarian in the LOC’s Serial and Government Publications Division, was hoping:

to develop a literature and criticism web archive collection at some point, she said, as well as looking at other aspects of both webcomics and web culture — “looking at fandom and cosplay and other areas that are of interest to folklorists and popular culture historians and enthusiasts … because I think there’s a lot of potential overlap there.”

I did not for a second think that they would ever refer to we at Fleen in that statement. But it is a legitimate thrill that this weird little hobby of hack webcomics pseudojournalism and opinionmongering is actually seen as of use. The LOC Web Archiving Program informs me:

With your permission, the Library of Congress or its agent will engage in the collection of content from your website at regular intervals over time and may include it in future collections.

The Library will make this collection available to researchers at Library facilities and by special arrangement. The Library may also make the collection available more broadly by hosting the collection on the Library’s public access website no earlier than one year after our archiving has been completed.

So after I sent an email to the LOC folks via their website to confirm that this was not an elaborate practical joke or phishing attempt², I followed their link to the requisite form and granted the permission. I suppose this means I have to go back and try to clean up 14 years of link rot³ and possibly moderate my language so as not to scandalize future researchers4. I suppose it means that when I (or Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin) make the case for press badges at some future event, this will make the case just a little bit stronger.

But mostly it’s given me a little bit of a kick in the pants, a desire to make sure that what I do here is worth it. For that, thanks to the LOC staff, thanks to all your readers for sticking with us, and especially thanks to all the creators, who are the reason we’re living in a New Golden Age of comics. We’ll be back tomorrow with more of what we do.

Spam of the day:
Yeah, I’m in too good a mood to go digging in the spam filters.

¹ My teeth are in good shape, thanks for asking.

² And may I say? They got back to me in a little more than two hours, which is pretty damn impressive.

³ I will not be doing this. If you ever get a bad link to somewhere offsite, sorry. If you ever get a bad link to a page on the site, try replacing the part of the URL with I edit those whenever I come across them, but I’m not messing with 4000+ posts worth of unstructured data and hoping I don’t mess anything up.

4 Yeah, won’t be doing that either. Hello, serious academics! We at Fleen have, at times, gotten colorful with our idioms. Deal.

Fall In San Francisco

It’s been a while since we checked in on the Cartoon Art Museum, the pride of San Francisco, and the many, many events that they have going on. Let’s see what you can participate in if you find yourself in the Bay Area in the next few weeks.

  • To start, this Saturday, 19 October, will see a workshop and signing by Pixar vet/animation story expert Matthew Luhn. The workshop will take place from 1:00pm to 2:30pm in the Drawing Room of the museum, and is free with purchase of one of the How To Draw Cartoons supply kits by Luhn and General Pencil. To register your place and browse the range of HTDC offerings, see the Guestlist event; the signing follows at 2:30 in the lobby and is free to the public.
  • A week later on Saturday the 26th, it’s time for Halloween at CAM, with workshops during the day, family activities in the lobby, and a reception that night. Lobby events and trick or treating is free and open to the public, workshops require registration (but include same-day admission to the museum’s galleries). Details:

    Workshop! Family Cartooning: Monster Manual (12:30pm to 2:00pm) will have kids and their grownups create their own books of the creatures they dream up. Tickets are US$15 per kid, US$20 per adult, with no more than two kids per adult, please; museum member discounts apply. Registration is first-come first-serve, and must be made no later than 5:00pm the day before.

    Workshop! Cartooning Basics: Costume & Character (3:00pm to 5:00pm) will teach you how to create costumed characters, with an intended audience of older teens and adults. Tickets are US$35 a pop, member discounts apply, and again — register before 5:00pm day before.

    Reception! for the new museum exhibition, Pre-Code Horror: Scary Stories And Ghastly Graphics (6:30pm to 8:30pm) combined with the CAM Halloween Party in the galleries. Tickets five bucks, but free for museum members and those in costume. Get dressed up and save! The exhibition, by the way, will run until 1 March 2020, so plenty of time to check out the creepy stuff if you don’t get to see it all during the party.

  • And a week later (but Sunday this time, so 3 November) it’ll be time for the latest in CAM’s Toon Talk series; the free and open to the public presentation and signing will run from 1:00pm to 3:00pm, and feature writer Mat Heagerty. His latest, Unplugged And Unpopular, released yesterday from Oni Press, with pictures by Tintin Pantoja (her stuff’s great) and colors from Mike Amante (not familiar with his work, but that cover looks great).

The Cartoon Art Museum is at 781 Beach Street in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, around the corner from a world-class restaurant, and about a block from the north end of the Powell/Hyde cable car line [PDF].

Spam of the day:

I regularly order from your shop, But I have a question, i see a lot of products in this store [redacted] that you also sell in your shop.

Gosh, I feel compelled to click on your link and see who it is that is undercutting my prices on all the merch I don’t sell. Ass.

The Correct Reaction Is Thank You, Take Your Time

Hey, remember this time last year when we talked about how Aud Koch would be doing a spooky Halloween story called Spider Kisses? And how it turned out to be the most beautiful thing ever? For those that don’t, allow me to acquaint you with the most gorgeous light-and-shadow work you’re going to see in forever, and then implore you to stay for the equivalent of a magical girl transformation sequence applied to a straw hat, three panels that practically dance before your eyes.

It was planned to be 32 or so pages. It wasn’t promised to update daily, what with Koch having professional deadlines and all. It made it to page 22 by Thanksgiving week and then it went on pause — look, rent and food are more important than doing drawings for us for free with the possibility of maybe a book down the line¹.

And then …

And then, yesterday, it started up again. And, because Koch, is no fool, it came with some disclaimers:

1. I will not be posting a page a day this time. I’ll post pages as I finish them, but I’m also working on THE FLICKER IN THE TOWER right now, so my time is getting split.
2. AS A WARNING: I’m not sure I’ll finish SPIDER KISSES this year, either. This will likely be …

… a project that I chip away at, in chunks and flakes, every October, so it’ll take another year or two to complete this story.
3. You maaay notice that I am no longer claiming that this comic is going to be 32 pages long. It is not going to be 32 pages long. More like 50.

Also also!
I just posted all of SPIDER KISSES to my public Patreon, so if you prefer that platform, you can follow this comic over there:

To which the correct reaction is … well, I don’t need to repeat myself, do I? Camp out on the Twitterthread or at Koch’s Patreon, breathe deep in the most intricate art you’re ever likely to see for free, and resolve to exchange money for some form of it when the story is complete. Comics simply don’t get any better than this.

Spam of the day:

Dominate your SERPs with our cheap and effective SEO plan

Whatever SERPs are, I’m not dominating anything unless there’s been a thorough discussion of wants, soft and hard limits, safewords, and consent boundaries. You mention none of that, so I must tell you to get away from me.

¹ Please, please, please let there be a book.

New Arrivals And An Unexpected Departure

If you’re not in the mood for heavy news, maybe stop after the first two items, ‘kay?

  • Steve Conley would like you to know that he has a Kickstart launching today, although given that he’s already reached 60% of his goal, it’s pretty much assured to fund at some point in the next 30 days. Those who’ve kept up with this page for the past coupla years know that Conley’s main project these days is The Middle Age, which is replete with comic adventures, derring-do, laugh-chuckles, and language-based puns¹ for days.

    The first hardcover collection of TMA having been published crowdfunded last year (and final, straggling orders shipped earlier this year), it’s time to check in again on Sir Quimp of Grawlix, Maledicta the curséd sword, and a mischievous duck². Considering that the book will contain more than 100 pages of full-color story in hardcover, US$25 seems like a steal (US$35 signed, US$50 doodled), but go check it out yourself.

  • Speaking of webcomics longtime creators with a new collection, C Spike Trotman would like you to know that Sylvan Migdal is finally going to have a comprehensive printing of the very sexy, very adult Curvy, which started online more than a decade ago and finally wrapped two years back. Migdal’s done a whole bunch of comics — for a while there, seemed like a new one every time you turned around — but there’s always somebody that’s discovering them for the first time.

    But you’re here for the smut, so:

    The Complete Curvy features pink-n-cyan colorization, a spot-gloss cover, refined and remastered panels and dialogue, and the whole story in one mighty, 520-page tome!

    It’s officially on sale everywhere November 19th, but you can get your copy before everyone else by pre-ordering from our online store. There will be no Kickstarter for this project, because the books are finished, ready, and waiting.

    Pre-orders of The Complete Curvy ship on November 4th and quantities are limited.

    PDF is US$25, softcover is US$50.

  • Okay. This story isn’t as informative as I’d like (for reasons that will shortly become clear), and it’s not a happy occasion. Readers of this page will recall that we at Fleen are a somewhat rare kind of person (in so many ways, yes), in that we are a casual reader of Erfworld.

    Rob Balder’s sprawling, detailed, pun-charged epic started about a year after this blog launched, and immediately attracted a fanbase that reveled in the deep lore and minutia of the comic. The comments that greeted a new page attracted a level of scrutiny and discussion that would prompt Talmudic scholars to say, Okay gang, let’s take it down a notch, huh?³

    He spent a significant amount of that going-on-decade-and-a-half trying to figure out how to make a living while also providing for his artists and the people that kept the infrastructure running; he was determined to do so in a manner that didn’t take advantage of his readers. When interruptions to the story came, he had to deal with the expectations of people who were shelling out money to support the comic — and the even higher expectations of those who were reading for free. When his wife was diagnosed with a cancer that had truly dreadful statistical outcomes, he tried to balance those needs, delivering story as he could.

    To paraphrase Hamilton, Balder seemed to be frantically searching for a method that would let him get the whole story in his head, all of it, all the twists and turns and worldbuilding, out into the world and be done with it. The burden of producing something so large must have been enormous, and the desire to get it done so people would stop demanding to know when everything would turn out just like they wanted it to, give it to me faster almost overwhelming.

    When it looked like odds might have been beat after all and remission — even a long-term resolution — was in sight, he was grateful, but he hinted at other imminent tragedies in his life, a sense of shoes waiting to drop. So when I browsed by the Erfworld site and saw the announcement, it became clear that an entire cobbler’s shop had been upended:

    Because of horrific and unbearable events in our personal lives, Erfworld is permanently discontinued as a webcomic.

    The statement is signed Rob and Linda Balder, so at least my initial fear that the cancer had won was misplaced. But that means that something worse — perhaps somethings worse — than staring down cancer had happened. Whatever happened to Rob and Linda, I’m certain that a Google search would reveal details, but I’m not going to do that; if they’d wanted us to know more (and they may share more in future), they’d have said so. The barely-subtext is that whatever’s happened makes it impossible to balance dealing with life and the comic, and in that situation the comic isn’t going to win.

    Nor should it.

    Erfworld may come back. It may never come back. The first chapter, which had long been hosted at Rich Burlew’s Giant In The Playground site (which is where Erfworld launched) has been removed at Balder’s request. The full archives are still available (minus, it appears, the comments, which … good). The store appears to have technical issues at the moment, but Balder says it will remain. I imagine some portion of all of this changes, as the immediate tragedy begins to fade. Or not.

    In times like these, you have to take care of yourself first. I hope that Rob and Linda can find the space to heal, and I thank them — and everybody associated with the production of Erfworld over the years — for entertaining me all this time. The link will remain over on the right side of this page because there’s some damn good story there, told in a bunch of different interlocking ways, and nobody should ever look on it and feel like they’re owed any more. Thank you.

Spam of the day:

It is boring one houses Let’s talk. Pass free registration and find best girls. Only men are more senior than 20 years!

I think they’re trying to say that their site is full of teens? Which, ewww.

¹ But Gary, I hear you cry, all puns are language-based! Yes, yes, you’re very clever, and we all know the failure mode of clever, right? The puns in question are about language and words, and not just puns made in a language.

² Well before the current interest in poorly-behaved waterfowl.

³ I base this assessment on the many, lengthy discussions I have had over the years with a friend/colleague who is a Java programmer, jazz trumpeter, mohel, cantor, and Hasidic rabbi. A casual question like Wait, you said that beer you bought was kosher and I’ve never heard of such a thing. What about every beer we’ve had before now? would lead to a argument (median duration: three hours) on the intricacies of Jewish Law, commentaries on the law, commentaries on the commentaries, and teachings of sages down the millenia.

When I once commented that he’d been through half an hour of legalistic loopholes to justify why, under certain circumstances, doing this thing was permitted on the Sabbath whereas under very slightly different circumstances it was forbidden, he smiled and said You can’t be stupid and practice my religion. If you can talk the rabbi into it, you’re good.

Yakov would have felt right at home among the canon-keepers and clue-seekers of the Erfworld fora, only I don’t think he ever spent hours in a flamewar declaring that God was a hack who obviously was screwing up the narrative.

Where Will You Be Next April?

Because I’ve got a suggestion:

#comicscamp update, we’re aiming to open applications by mid-November. If you’re on our mailing list we’ll ping you when it’s ready. Dates are April 23-28, 2020.

That from Pat Race, half of the Pat & Aaron superduo, purveyors of the finest comic shop/art gallery in Alaska and possibly the Pacific Rim. Impressarios of the Alaska Robotics Mini-Con and #ComicsCamp about which I have had occasion to wax poetic for 35,000 or so words.

Pat is a good guy, is what I’m trying to convey.

Attendance at #ComicsCamp is by application and subject to a selection process, but Pat, Aaron, and the many folks that help out with the organization for a big chunk of the year have done a magnificent job of curating an attendance list that spans the entire range of backgrounds and experience levels, not to mention the entire range of adult human heights.

The location is stunningly beautiful, the camaraderie cannot be beat, the food is magnificent, and there’s usually a couple of dogs hanging about. Beards are plentiful. Juneau, Alaska itself features spectacular ice cream, amazing restaurants, and is secretly run by ravens.

If you’re a maker of comics, or otherwise involved in creativity on the internet¹, you should apply. With any luck, I’ll see you there. Now go enjoy the weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Spam of the day:

Would you like thousands of visitors flocking to your website this week? People will come to your website from MAJOR online publications in your niche.

Hate to break it to you, Jason G, but I pretty much am the MAJOR online publication in my niche.

¹ Or an abettor of same, like the creative community legal services provided by Katie Lane², or my pseudojournalistic endeavours (which, let’s face it, are secondary to the fact that I can keep you alive if you run afoul of a bear) (I have not had to do this yet, but I totally could if it was required).

² Light-ning Law-yer!!

Because We At Fleen Love Numbers

Alert readers may recall that last just ’bout ten months back, we looked at the educational comics of Julia Evans, aka the funnest way to learn programming¹. Longtime Fleen reader Mark V (who was also the one to tip us off to the programming comics in the first place) has pointed out that Evans has shared some numbers on the sales/licensing of her zines, and it’s fascinating reading.

The bottom line is one that should be familiar to webcomics folks — if you have a niche that nobody else is addressing, and you fulfill a need with a quality comic? There’s money to be made there:

This adds up to $87,858 USD for 2019 so far, which (depending on what I release in the rest of this year) is on track to be similar to revenue for 2018 ($101,558).

Until quite recently I’d been writing zines in my spare time, and now I’m taking a year to focus on it.

The most obvious thing in that monthly revenue graph above is that 2 months (September and March) have way more revenue than all the others. This is because I released new zines (Bite Size Networking and HTTP: Learn Your Browser’s Language) in those months.

Key metric? 15% of the revenue was from corporate licenses, which is something I don’t usually see creators focus on. Granted, if you’re doing a gag strip, it doesn’t really lend itself to such a use², but if you’re doing anything vaguely instructive? It’s likely that what you’re charging is a fraction of what one day-long “team-building” exercise with Myers-Briggs toting scam artists would charge.

Something Evans doesn’t say: those big jumps indicate that she’s developed an audience of people that trust her work and jump to buy the new thing because all their previous purchases lived up to (and likely exceeded) expectations. That simple act of doing quality work is the most important thing to keep in mind.

The other thing that jumped out at me was Evans’s choice to do a pay-forward BOGO of certain zines, giving away one copy for every copy sold. If you can’t afford US$12 for the HTTP zine, there’s copies up for grabs because other people bought it. If those skills helped you develop professional skills, I trust you’ll pay it forward. I’ll bet you anything that every giveaway copy more than makes up for its lost revenue in subsequent sales.

So if you want to mine some data (or some inspiration), go check out what Evans is doing³. Find something that you’re good at that a bunch of other people need to know, and maybe you can take a year off to do just that, too.

Spam of the day:

Not too long ago I have come across one post which I assume you might find helpful. Somebody may take a steaming dump all over it, however it clarified some of my questions.

This is a great example of trying to use colloquial English and not quite getting it. Keep trying, overseas scammer!

¹ Although there is a challenger in the form of Code This Game! by Meg Ray and Keith Zoo, a copy of which was sent to me by the fine folks at Macmillan and which I’ve been working my way through in odd bits of free time here and there. In addition to being highly visual (although not what you’d call comics), it offers a structured walkthrough a defined project — we’re building a game! then we’re gonna break it and make it better! — along with access to downloadable art assets.

If you want to learn Python, it’s a damn good introduction to the practical end of programming, and features a unique built-in easel back, so it stands up while you’re working at the keyboard. Odd Dot design supremo Colleen AF Venable credits the design to one of her team, and I’ve begged her to share it with the cookbook division of Macmillan because it’s a friggin’ game changer.

² Although folks like Zach Weinersmith and Jorge Cham have been known to license comics for textbooks.

³ Particularly on this page, where she tackles SQL query optimization and execution, topics near and dear to my heart.

Must Be Something In The Water

Something that makes comics folk so damn good.

  • Firstly, you’ve got the 49th issue¹ of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, written by The Toronto Man-Mountain (and Nexus Of All Webcomics Realities, Northern Division) himself, Ryan North (with art, it should be noted, by Erica Henderson, Derek Charm, and various guest contributors, colors by Rico Renzi, letters by Travis Lanham, and edits by Wil Moss).

    This brings us to nearly the end of a period of time at Marvel that comics could be a) fun, b) all-ages appealing, and c) infused with a genuine originality that transcends the usual cape comic. All because a one-note joke character started rattling around North’s noggin’ and he decided to see what happens if you made the ability to listen and turn villains into not-villains a superpower.

    Also punching. And computer science. And the ability to talk with squirrels. But mostly the listening.

    All while inspiring a legion of kids to pick up comics, and especially girls to see that they can be the one that saves the day. Without spoilers, Squirrel Girl — Doreen Green — is having the worst day of her superheroic career, but she’s still unbeatable because he’s got friends, and only the most unredeemable wouldn’t want to help her. She’s selfless and self-sacrificing to the end, and if it seems like she’s going to be beaten, well, there’s a couple of friends she made along the way² that have yet to show up.

    I halfway don’t want to read issue #50 so that it never ends. On the other hand, North’s built up such a strong characterization for Doreen & friends, so much flawless storytelling, that whoever might do their own take on Squirrel Girl in the future, they won’t dare retcon or change things overly much. Squirrel Girl turns enemies into friends will be as iron-clad a rule as Uncle Ben stays dead. While I suspect I won’t ever love any of those Squirrels Girl in the future as much as North’s, the world will be better off having the character pop up again from time to time to eat nuts and kick butts.

  • Secondly, if you’re in Toronto tomorrow evening, say around 6:00pm at the Toronto Reference Library, you can watch a piece of trans-Atlantic culture happening. Specifically, the French Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, will honour (the Canadian spelling feels appropriate on this occasion) Christopher Butcher, founder and showrunner of TCAF, for his promotion of comics (in general) and bandes dessinées (in particular), and for spreading knowledge of French comics to the world.

    Specifically, Butcher will be invested as a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, in the presence of the Tudor Alexis, Consul General in Toronto, and Kareen Rispal, French Ambassador to Canada. The Order recognizes significant contributions to the enrichment of French cultural heritage, and is limited to no more than 200 chevaliers each year (along with up to 80 higher-ranking commandeurs and officiers), the vast majority of them French citizens.

    Foreign recipients include the likes of TS Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges, Stevie Wonder, Nadine Gordimer, Seamus Heaney, Frederica von Stade, Dexter Gordon, Katsuhiro Otomo, Margaret Atwood, Isao Takahata, William S Burroughs, Rudolf Nureyev, Elton John, Roger Corman, Akira Toriyama, and David Bowie. Note the presence on the list of the occasional Nobel laureate, or The Muppet Show guest star.

    I am reliably informed by Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin that, due to that whole Egalité thing, Chevalier Butcher should not be addressed as Sir, but all the same: on Friday, I’d advise Butcher to avoid Agincourt, as that place is not welcoming to those but yesterday dubb’d knights.

    In all other matters, we at Fleen congratulate Butcher, and recognize that all his work so far — and all the work yet to come — was all done not in hopes of honour, but for the love of comics³.

Spam of the day:

Capitals take on their mastery of the Bruins

This continues for another … thirteen … fourteen … fifteen paragraphs of hockey, with every link’s URL removed and replaced with a Ukrainian mail-order bride site. Okay?

¹ I refuse to use the nut-themed pun in the word that means “one before the end” that ends in -ultimate, sorry Ryan.

² And North is dropping references to things that happened waaay back in the first issue, which means either he’s skilled enough to play a years-long game, or he’s skilled enough to make it seem like he’s playing a years-long game. Good job, either way.

³ Manga, too, in case somebody in the Decoration Bureau of the Cabinet Office feels like bestowing the Order of the Rising Sun.

Anniversaries, Appearances, And Actions

Alliteration, too. Let’s jump in.

  • I first started reading Jennie Breeden’s non-Satanic, non-porn autobio strip, The Devil’s Panties, way the hell in the past. Maybe 2002? 2003? I’d been a reader for years before she tipped me off to A Girl And Her Fed¹, and that was 2006 so somewhere in there. I’ve followed a post-college career, time working in a comic shop², dating, pirates, breakups, marriage, family, a cross-country move, kilt-blowing, and now pregnancy and imminent childbirth (the real life corresponding event being some two years in the past by now).

    Although she exited the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge after about two years (and let’s not forget that the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge site itself is no longer operational, but that the last two contestants continue on, 14.5 years on from the start), she’s been putting strips up like clockwork since.

    As of today, for eighteen damn years:

    Guys… guys, my comic is 18 today. It needs to move out or start paying rent.

    The start was understated, and today’s strip takes approximately zero time to acknowledge the strip’s birthday. That’s just the way it is with daily autobio — no time to gloat, tomorrow’s strip is due. Happy Strippiversary, Jennie, Obby, Devil Girl, Angel Girl, Pretty Pretty Princess, and Small Child To Be Named Later.

  • Hey, whatcha doing tomorrow? If you’re around Boston, you could be seeing science-comics types in conversation at Porter Square Books in Cambridge:

    We interrupt these Inktober posts with an important announcement: I’ll be doing another awesome Science Comics event with @toonyballoony @Zackules and @jasonviola at @PorterSqBooks this Wednesday October 9th 7 PM!!

    That from Maris Wicks, who’s done books on coral reefs and the human body, and paired up with Jim Ottaviani for books on women on the leading edge of primate research, and women on the leading edge of space exploration (the latter coming in February). Oh, and she’s also done nature cartoons from the middle of the sea, the edge of a frozen continent, and the heart of the city.

    Alex Graudins illustrated a book about Reginald Barkley and also the human brain, and an upcoming book on the Great Chicago Fire (due next June). Zack Giallongo and Jason Viola teamed up to teach us about polar bears, and Viola has also chosen a manatee and an amoeba as stars of other comics. They’re all there because of their association with the :01 Books Science Comics line, which remains an excellent way to spend your time and money. The talk starts at 7:00pm, next to the Porter Square stop on the MTA.

  • Finally, the latest from Kickstarter United, ways that you can help their efforts to make Kickstarter see the sense of recognizing the union:

    Make your opinion heard:

    • email Kickstarter’s senior leadership:
    • kickstarter-sot[at]
    • post your support using #RecognizeKSRU
    • post a picture showing your solidarity and tag @ksr_united
    • download a version of our logo to use as your icon on Kickstarter, Twitter, and anywhere else
    • back projects that show solidarity with Kickstarter United
    • have another idea? get in touch!

    Show solidarity on your project page:

    • add #RecognizeKSRU to your project title or subtitle
    • include a note of solidarity at the top of your campaign text
    • download a solidarity badge to add to your project image
    • post a project update to rally your backers

    For reference? While both logos are nice and eye-catching if somebody is looking at your Kickstarter profile page, the white one is easier to read if it’s showing as an avatar, say on a comments page³. Just sayin’.

Spam of the day:

Senior Discounts|The Complete List Of Senior Citizen Discounts nice senior

I am, despite my desire for you durn kids to stay off my lawn, not yet a senior citizen. And I can assure you that when I become one, I will not be a nice senior.

¹ When I did the foreword for the first AGAHF collection, I mentioned coming to the comic via Ms Breeden, and Otter gave me crap about pimping another comic in her book. So we’re square now, right?

² Oxford, which is a very good shop that I make sure to visit whenever I’m in Atlanta.

³ Oh, and while it’s nothing to do with webcomics, please look at that project page for ceratopsian action figures and pledge up the total to somewhere around US$450K in the next week, please. It has to hit that funding level to unlock the full-size Triceratops horridus (stretch goal #20). I have the sub-adult trike figure pledged, along with a Zunicertaops christopheri (each of which is approximately the size of my BONE Stupid Rat Creature, if you disregard the tail), but I need that full size critter (approximately the size of Kingdok, again neglecting the tail) if at all possible. Thank you.