The webcomics blog about webcomics

From France, But Weirdly Without FSFCPL

To be fair, he’s waiting on a previously-announced thing to happen so he can tell us about it. Hopefully soon, because a day without Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin is a day without sunshine¹.

  • But we shall persevere, particularly when we have wisdom (cloaked by humor) from Boulet. It’s not the latest English-language post at Bouletcorp, but rather (at the time of this writing) the third most recent. It’s about who comics creators are, and why they do what they do, and neatly encapsulates the French tendency of webcomics towards autobio², as Boulet contrasts his own work with that of colleagues Zviane and Lewis Trondheim.

    From there it becomes nothing less than a meditation on the nature of creativity (and the importance of random, dumb circumstance above technical skill, education, hard work, and pretty much every other conventional wisdom indicator of success) and concludes that comics artists (quoting here) are all freaking platypuses. As with everything from Boulet, it’s a delight.

  • Book Corner time: coming next month (20 June, to be precise) from :01 Books is a delightful young-readers-plus-their-parents book from Benjamin Renner, The Big Bad Fox. Pre-order it now. The story is simple enough: a fox who can’t ever manage to snag a chicken (his friends the rabbit and the pig slip him turnips so he doesn’t starve) is convinced by a wolf to steal some eggs and raise chicks to adulthood for an easy meal. Genius!

    Until the chicks aren’t afraid of the Big, Bad Fox, because he’s mom. And the fox (who isn’t really big or bad) gets to like (love, even) his surrogate children. Hilarity ensues. The entire thing reads like a Chuck Jones cartoon (Renner, an animator, took an Academy Award as one of the three directors of Ernest & Celestine), with a style to match. The dog, charged with protecting the farmyard, looks a bit like a heavy-lidded Question Hound at his This Is Finest as he does the absolute least possible to manage the drama around him. The wolf is menacing in a slouchy way, and the fox is …

    Okay, the original French title, Le Grand Méchant Renard, is suggested by Google Translate as The Great Evil Fox. But that key word — méchant — has several meanings listed: bad meaning wicked, mischievous, nasty, evil. But also bad meaning mediocre, incompetent. Bingo. The fox is Wile E Coyote: rangy, mangy, prone to failure the more elaborate his schemes get, motivated more by hunger than malice, but ready to find a spark of empathy and take the hard way out (a pretty savage beating by the chickens, trained to ninja-like lethality) if it means sparing “his” children distress (or a noshing by the wolf).

    It’s charming, funny, and turns more than one expectation on its head³. Many thanks to Gina Gagliano at :01 for the review copy, and even more thanks to :01 for continuing to bring the best of French comics to these shores.

Spam of the day:

Beat Insomnia: The Fastest Way To FallSleep

I close my eyes and then I sleep.

¹ Which, coincidentally, it is here. Overcast, spitty rain, which is thankfully predicted to clear for the holiday weekend. Oh, yeah, Monday’s a holiday, probably no post then.

² As previously explained by FSFCPL; we just can’t quit him.

³ By the end, the fox and his kids play “Fox and Chicken”. He plays the big mean chicken, they play terrified foxes, fleeing for their lives.

Time For A Little Old-Fashioned Ballot Box Stuffing

In case you hadn’t seen it, NPR Books is compiling a summer reading list, with an emphasis on comics and graphic novels, and they want our¹ input! Even better, they acknowledge the existence of webcomics

What can you nominate?

Long-running series comics: Choose a distinct story arc or a well-known run by a particular writer or artist. So, rather than just nominating The X-Men, pick something like the Dark Phoenix Saga. Or if you like Matt Fraction (and who doesn’t?) you could nominate his run on Hawkeye.

Single issues: Because we know someone’s gonna be mad if we leave out Action Comics #1

Graphic novels and trade paperbacks: Persepolis, The Invisibles vol. 2, Blankets, a single volume of your favorite manga — if it’s available in a standalone form, have at it!

Newspaper comics: May be nominated as a whole. Get your Bloom County on!

Webcomics: May also be nominated as a whole. [emphasis mine]

But don’t go totally crazy; they ask that you limit yourself to five choices, which is gonna be hard. For me, I think I’m going to go with Drive by Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett, Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran, Motor Girl volume 1 by Terry Moore, Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier, and … argh. Vattu? American Born Chinese? The Last Halloween? Hark! A Vagrant? Finder: Third World? Usagi Yojimbo: Daisho? Starman Omnibus volume 6? Be a complete dick and suggest the entirety of Homestuck, but especially Sweet Bro & Hella Jeff?

I think it’s gonna have to be The Great Outdoor Fight. What do you think people should be reading this summer from the world of web/indie comics? NPR will only take the top 100 suggestions for the official list, but we can suggest any damn thing we want to amongst ourselves; drop your comments at the link below.

Spam of the day:

1 Weird Trick I Wish My Ex-Boyfriend Knew (Uncensored)

This is gonna be something with goji berries and açai, isn’t it?

¹ In the sense of anybody that can fill out an online form; Fleen readers aren’t, in this case at least, special.

Usually Thursday Is Miscellaneous Day. Weird.

Let’s see what some folks are up to, yeah?

  • Magnolia Porter is one of the people you really should know. Her comics are great, and she’s just the nicest, most adorable person ever. Nobody doesn’t love her and if they do, screw them. I was a bit bummed to see that Monster Pulse is on hiatus this week — but not excessively, she doesn’t work for me, I will accept her offer of free entertainment at whatever schedule she finds appropriate — but then she turned around and more than made up for it with a new comic, a whole chapter’s worth dropped all at once.

    Sensitive Soul is, not to put too fine a point on it, manga. The heroine ranges wildly between sweetness & light and white-hot fury. The mysteriously hunky stranger is instantly loathed, then she decides he his the titular sensitive soul and must be redeemed/pursued. It’s only a matter of time before Dottie (the main character) starts going gooey over the fact that Cal-sempai smiled at her.

    None of this is meant as critique. Porter is clearly having the time of her life telling her story in well-established patterns, and it’s a hoot¹. She’ll release Sensitive Soul in chunks as she’s able, which will be made easier if you care to download the chapters on a pay-what-you-want basis (minimum: one measly buck).

  • The pay-what-you-want model is definitely attractive to creators whose revenues in advertising aren’t pulling in what they used to (so many ad blockers, so many reposts to Reddit or Imgur or Tumblr or other mis-spelled services), and can’t ride out the considerable wait between books and the chance to recoup some living expenses. There’s a nice explication of the whole changing model for pro webcomickers presented by Chris Hallbeck on Twitter today:

    Back when I first started making comics on the internet everyone came to my website to see them. Now people read my comics in many different ways. Instagram, tumblr, twitter, Facebook, mobile apps and many others I probably haven’t heard about yet. I think this is great! I want as many people as possible to read my comics the way they want. The only hitch is this is my full time job and the way I support my family. My main source of income is through the ads displayed on my websites. Now that people’s reading habits are changing, my ability to buy food and pay bills is shrinking.

    That’s the text for the first four panels, in case you’re disinclined to click the link. The last two panels introduce Hallbeck’s fans to the other mainstay of income in a world of reader casualness and ad blockage — Patreon. Hallbeck’s hardly the first webcomicker to try to get his reader base (which is incredibly variable — a widely retumbled comic could hit 40 or 50 thousand eyeballs, but few of those could be called regular readers), but he’s probably the first to have this note on his Patreon:

    Want more now? If you become a patron to Chris Hallbeck, you’ll immediately get access to as many as 714 patron-only posts.

    Seven hundred and fourteen? That’s crazy. And if even 1% of those Tumblrinos decides to kick a buck a month to Hallbeck (and that’s a pretty crappy return rate), he’ll more than replace declining ad revenue. Here’s hoping for a pretty crappy return rate instead of an extremely crappy one.

  • Ryan North announced a new comics project, but I think I’ma give this one a pass; it’ll take the form of a 2-page backup story in a limited run series that I really don’t care about, but hopefully they’ll sell the completed story in some form down the line.

    It sounds really good, though, so Marvel came pretty close to getting me to spring for five issues about Inhumans, but four bucks an issue is too much to ask when I’m only there for two pages. Inhumans: Once And Future Kings starts in August, and if it’s the sort of thing you might be interested in, North’s backups featuring LOCKJAW, canine master of time and space! [emphasis original] ought to push you over the edge.

    Seriously, though — make this a one-shot with some of Hannah Blumenreich’s Spidey stories and I’ll pay cash money so fast it’ll make your head spin.

Spam of the day:

Grace Jones [incomprehensible Cyrillic text]

Yeah, don’t think that Grace Jones — the most fabulous person alive — is spamming me in Russian. Try harder.

¹ Also a hoot: a hidden Achewood gag, which I hope Porter turns into a habit. That golden action is so crunchy.

Of Course, It’s Portland

Lotta signing creators going to be happening at the end of the week/start of next, mostly in conjunction with the NCS Awards weekend extravaganza, this year touching down in Stumptown, USA. I can’t recall a similar event happening at NCS gatherings in the past, but Portland is a pretty comics-intensive town so if this were going to be introduced, it makes sense to do it this time out.

Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett will be repping webcomics at the big signing event on Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm at the Hilton Portland, ‘long with other independent creators like Andrew Farago of the Cartoon Art Museum, Scott Kurtz, and Shannon Wheeler. The fact that most of the signers will be syndication types shouldn’t keep you from going if you’re in town; I met a lot of them the year I went to the Reubens Weekend and they are almost exclusively really funny and cool people¹.

Along the same lines, Meredith Gran will be signing on Friday evening, at Portland’s Books With Pictures, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. Gran, one may recall, lived and worked in Portland for a couple of years some time back, and also happens to be nominated in the Reubens for Online Comics — Long Form (along with Kathleen Jacques and Ngozi Ukazu). Speaking of which, today’s Octopus Pie appears to open the possibility that the imminent conclusion of the strip will end with the earth swallowing all the main characters. Perhaps Eve will become monarch of Brooklyn Below? I’d be cool with that.

And bringing things back around to the start, LArDK is also appearing in Portland in conjunction with his own nomination for Online Comics — Short Form (along with Sarah Andersen and Ruben Bolling²). Best of luck to all the nominees, and have fun in Portland. Tell everybody I said hi.

Spam of the day:

Discover the Lowest Rates for Burial Coverage

Pffft. I’m gettin’ shot out of a cannon and covering a wide area in my essence. REVEL IN IT, PEASANTS.

¹ Pretty sure the one guy who was a dick to Jon Rosenberg is dead now.

² Who may have an unfair advantage vis-a-vis his name.

Fleen Book Corner: We Have No Idea

It’s a good time for nonfiction books written by webcomickers — Kelly and Zach Weinersmith have Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything coming out, uh, soon-ish. Ryan North has something he’s working on along these lines that I can’t talk about yet. And Jorge Cham beat them all to the punch by partnering with actual particle physicist Daniel Whiteson to produce We Have No Idea: A Guide To The Unknown Universe, out now.

Cham asked me if I wanted a copy for review and it showed up at my doorstep about 47 hours later; Cham and Whiteson may claim to not now about the wider universe, but heck if they haven’t mastered negative-time shipping. I’ve been digging through WHNI since I received it and it is one hell of a sticky book¹. It’s also weirdly encouraging, as I’ve never felt so energized by accepting how little I know.

There’s a hell of a lot of mystery out there, from the smallest subatomic particles (Why are there as many as there are? Why do some appear not to be used for anything? Are there smaller particles inside them?) to the grandest cosmic scale (Dark matter: What is it? Why does it not interact with us? Why is there so much more Dark energy than dark matter, and in turn much more dark matter than ordinary matter like we’re familiar with?). Each gets explored in turn, laying out the limits of what we know and how much more we don’t².

Even better are the really weird questions that make you think Whiteson and Cham are just messing with us. For example, What is space? Hint: it’s not just the lack of stuff; best guess is that space is, itself, stuff, but not stuff as we know it. Lack of stuff doesn’t bend, or stretch, or wobble like space does; if you’re starting to get a headache³, just take a look at Cham’s cartoon that analogizes space as being sorta-kinda like Jell-O (they call it “space goo”, perhaps to avoid any unpleasant trademark issues4), it helps.

All of the cartoons help, in fact — key concepts can be gotten across remarkably quickly with a scribble or two in ways that pages of explanation (or mathematical formulae) just don’t get at. They’re funnier, too. It’s been a while since I read as broad a general-interest science book that I felt goat both the details (as required) and the big picture (without losing scope) as right as this one. It’s probably my favorite since A Brief History of Time, which had about 100% fewer cartoons and terrible puns.

It’s also more hopeful; no matter how much I enjoyed ABHOT, you can’t get past the point it’s by Stephen Freaking Hawking, Smartest Guy In History, and when he talks about mysteries and unknowns, the immediate reaction is Welp, we’ll never know.

Cham and Whiteson are clearly super smart (and between them, have at least two more PhDs than I ever finished), but their approach is infinitely playful, leaving the reader with an optimistic outlook of Sure, we don’t know now, but look how much we’ve figured out in basically an eyeblink of human history and if these two goofballs can explain it to me, imagine what all the really smart people in the world can determine!

Go get We Have No Idea, and catch the book tour if you possibly can. It’s the most uplifting description of ignorance ever, because now we (the humanity-wide we) realize how much is left to discover. Discovery’s the fun part; it’s like playtime for your brain.

Spam of the day:

Better than_Viagra? Tell-us-Where-to-Send your_Bottle!

Your product is called Phallyx? For real? Little on the nose there, don’t you think?

¹ I’d plowed through the first 120 or so pages when my neck began to hurt from hunching over it at a table with poor ergonomics; it took a couple hours to realize it.

² And that’s just the stuff we know we don’t know, never mind everything that we don’t even know we don’t know. Nevertheless, it’s as stirring a call to explore and discover and learn as I’ve read in a long damn time.

³ Alternately, reaching for your weed card and getting ready to gesture wildly and mutter Whoa.

4 An avoidance noticeably absent in their cavalier use of Lego and Legos in early chapters, thus potentially angering the international corporation most interested in ensuring that their trademarked term not ever become generic.

When the Danish assassins come, Cham and Whiteson and their copy editor will realize too late they should have referred to LEGO bricks (possibly with a few dozen ® and ™ trailing along).

Improvement, Sort Of

So that was fast. Tapa* backpedaled with great speed, although I have to say that their rationale for the change doesn’t pass the smell test:

The purpose of the Right of First Refusal is not to take any rights away or steal your content. The purpose is to help you. We’ve witnessed multiple creators on Tapas accept unfair, uncompetitive deals and sign away their rights for far less than their work is worth. Creators who should have been paid 10x what they were offered agreeing to terrible deals because they either did not know their market value or did not have any competing offers.

We have connections in traditional publishing, merchandising, tv, and film. Our intention is to work with creators to bring additional offers to the table, and to create competition in the market so individuals get the best deal possible.

Go back and read that again, and then explain to me why a completely benevolent — caretaking, even! — change to the TOS was put through without any explanation, highlighting, or prior notice. Not buying it. So they put their TOS back to what it was before the change — we think; they’ve excluded that page from Internet Archive gathering, so there’s no independent way to confirm — but that in and of itself reveals a weakness. As always, one should listen to George

[long thread prior to this point … go read it]
They make an offer, if it doesn’t involve 6+ figures per exploitation right, decline. Then you’re in the clear. Kind of.

“Kind of” because Tapas can, at any time, change the ToS again and screw you over. You consent to that as item 2 in the ToS. [emphasis mine]

Yep, it’s right there in the TOS:

Although we will attempt to notify you when major changes are made to these Terms of Service, you should periodically review the most up to date version (found at Tapas Media may, in its sole discretion, modify or revise these Terms of Service at any time. Modifications and revisions will take effect 5 days after they have been posted. Nothing in these Terms of Service shall be deemed to confer any third party rights. [emphasis mine]

Unilaterally creating a new claim on your IP seems like a major change, and to my eye Tapa* didn’t make any kind of effort to notify anybody, nor are they committing to any such notification in the future. Want to get back something like a measure of trust, Tapa*? Unilaterally change the TOS one mo’ gin to amend item 2 for the last time under the current rules.

Hold yourself to a requirement of proper notification and with a decent interval before changes take effect (30 days, minimum), and maybe you won’t get the stinkeye from the community any more. Short of that, you’re screwed as far as any creators who are serious about earning from their creations are concerned.

But, that ain’t happening, I don’t think, and Tapa* will pay the price. Nothing like finishing the week on a positive note. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m told that my copies of Wasted Talent books 4 and 5 have arrived, and I need to affix some bookplates. If you’re at VanCAF this weekend and see Angela Melick, toss her the engineer’s gang sign for me.

Spam of the day:

Record Thieves Around Your Office Wirelessly

Only thief around my office has four legs, a pointy nose and long tail, and sleeps with his eyes open until I’m sufficiently distracted that he can strike with silent quickness. Don’t think I need wireless capability to determine who stole my lunch that one time.

Well, This Is Some Straight-Up Bullshit x 2

Before we get to said bullshit, how about a little positivity? VanCAF (one of the standoout *CAF free comics festivals that has come about in the mode of TCAF¹) is this weekend, and every expectation is that the show made great by (founding showrunner) Shannon Campbell and (incoming showrunner) Andrea Demonakos will continue its trajectory of awesomeness.

Webcomickers expected in Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre include Abby Howard, Alina Pete, Becky Dreistadt & Frank Gibson, Blue Delliquanti, Ed Brisson, Evan Dahm, Angela Melick, Jakface, Jeph Jacques, Kathleen Jacques (no relation), Katie Shanahan, Kean Soo, Kel McDonald, Kelly Tindall, Kory Bing, Lucy Bellwood (adventure cartoonist!), Sam Logan, Sarah Becan, Der-Shing Helmer, Steve LeCouilliard, Tony Cliff, and Tyson Hesse, along with featured guests C Spike Trotman, Chip Zdarsky, and Faith Erin Hicks.

On to crappier things.

  • Apparently, about seven days ago, Tapas (formerly Taptastic, the wecomic-hosting solution) changed its terms and services. The first person I saw that actually looked at the new T&S is webcomics superfan Michael Kinyon, who noted that there’s now a Right of First Refusal clause. This could be very, very bad or potentially not that bad.

    As the aforementioned and omnipresent Spike notes, First Refusal means you have to tell Taptastic/Tapas if you want to do anything with the stuff you host with them, and they have the first crack at making you an offer. She lays out a scenario where you could be prevented from doing stuff with your stuff, potentially forever.

    But, and this is why lawyers exist, the terminology doesn’t say that Tapa* has an absolute lock on future deals, just that you have to negotiate with them for at least 30 days. If you can’t come to an agreement “in good faith” in that time, they missed their chance.

    Of course, what constitutes “good faith”, or what constitutes you wanting to (quoting now) sell, license, exercise or otherwise dispose of, indirectly or directly, any rights or any interest in any content posted on the Platform is subject to all kinds of interpretation because (to my eye, at least) the clause is super-broad.

    But I am not a lawyer, so let’s hear from one, subject to the mandatory disclaimer:

    FYI, I do this type of legal work. Happy to give some general advice (none of you are my clients, & retain & consult a lawyer …

    me or s/o else, before relying on this (I’d do some actual research before giving official advice :), but here’s my “from top of head” take:

    Akiva Cohen’s read is that it’s really broad, but that right of first negotiation does not constitute an ongoing right to make counteroffers forever, and that the chief cost to you is time. He also notes a lack of specificity as to when you have to provide notice, and this next bit is pretty brilliant:

    Here’s where you get the benefit of someone thinking like a lawyer ;): The clause puts no parameters on WHEN you can give notice

    So, theoretically, you could provide notice, the day you sign up with them, that you “desire to sell, license, etc.” ALL content you have or

    will place on their platform, and offer them a 30 day period to negotiate for any rights to that.

    Result: either they give you a good enough offer before you post comic number 31 (if you’re a daily) that you want to take it, or

    their right of first refusal has been satisfied and you are free, 2 months, 1 year, or 5 years later, to take the work to market w/o …

    providing them any further notice or exclusive negotiating period

    Questions? Cohen put his email in the thread for anybody that wants to have a more detailed discussion, but remember — he is not your lawyer until you have a formal agreement for him to represent you. Which, he says, he’s willing to do at a preferred rate on on behalf of groups. Read the whole thing.

    My take: it’s not terrible, but I hate, hate, hate it when companies changes their T&S and force you to agree or discontinue use — if you don’t agree to Tapa*’s new rules, you have to delete your account (they don’t give a timeframe for acceptance), which definitely puts them in a position of imposing on their users. Also, Tapa* is clearly not taking the Katie Lane² approach of trying to find a mutually-beneficial solution for all, they’re trying to maximize their potential payouts in the quickest, least-defined way possible³.

    This all leads back to a few rules we would all be well served to remember:

    • If a service is helpful and free, you are being monetized somehow.
    • Nobody will care about your ability to make a living from your work as much as you.
    • Read the damn contract and then have a lawyer read it; unless an actual lawyer with experience in contracts has told you on multiple occasions that you’re good at contracts and unlikely to get screwed acting on your own, you are not good at contracts and are likely to get screwed by acting on your own.

    Tattoo ’em on the insides of your eyelids.

  • It gets worse, if you can believe it. Word broke yesterday that a webcomic had been hacked and deleted for the purposes of attacking the creator, for whom it was a main source of income. The creator, Sophie Labelle, was subject to coordinated harassment, threats, and doxing in the lead up, for the crime of being trans and making a comic that dealt with trans and non-binary issues. The website of Assigned Male [no link, about to explain] is presently down, which is actually an improvement as it was previously spewing Nazi imagery.

    Way to prove your innate superiority, Nazis, you’ve completely won me over with your impeccable logic and moral argument! Engaging in your righteous and in no way assholic behavior on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia was surely an unfortunate coincidence! Oh, and since there are such things as Tumblr and print copies, you didn’t actually manage to go back in time and erase Labelle or Assigned Male from ever existing. Way to accomplish nothing, you ineffectual, fragile, yet curiously convinced of your own genetic destiny dipshits!

    In fact, given that a lot of people hadn’t heard of Assigned Male before yesterday, I’m going to call this a pretty good example of the Streisand Effect. Patreon doesn’t show timelines of support (at least, not to random nosy-pants like me), but I’m willing to bet that you’ve driven the count of Labelle’s supporters up and raised her profile. People that didn’t have an opinion on trans issues have decided where they stand, and they’ve decided against hate.

    Assuming that anybody reading this page falls into that category4, do me a personal favor and take a peek at her work, maybe toss a few bucks to her Paypal to help with the sudden expense of having to move on account of Nazis are sending death threats and publicizing her address.

    Not too long ago, this sort of evil was ordinary; then things started to get better, and now the evil fuckers are trying to drag us back to when they could pull this shit and not be met with condemnation for it. Don’t let them get away with it.

Spam of the day:

Consolidate Debt — Shark Tank Star’s Recommendation

Is it that one obnoxious guy that thought he could be Prime Minister of Canada on the basis of he’s rich? I wouldn’t take advice from that guy if I was on fire and he was suggesting a dip in the pool.

¹ Indeed, it’s now produced in partnership with TCAF.

² Light-ning LAW-yer!

³ To be fair, they can’t renegotiate with all their users individually. They could, however, set a date for the new T&S to take effect, and offer tools to migrate content away from their platform for any users that don’t want to accept the new T&S. Even my credit card companies — as rapacious and evil an industry as exists with respect to one-sided contracts — gives me 30 days to accept new contract terms or to close an account.

4 And on the off chance that you don’t — that you think that what happened to Labelle was fine, or all in good fun, or what your deity of choice requires — kindly do me favor and fuck off. You’re not welcome in my house. The rest of you can come over and hang out.

Rad Ladies

There’s days when I have a lot to say, and there’s days when stories speak for themselves; today we’re in the latter category.

  • First up, Erika Moen — cartoonist, force of nature, hell of awesome — dropped some news on us yesterday [the story is SFW, but the side panel ads are probably not] … she’s headed to Sweden:

    Oh my gosh, I’m making my first trip out to Sweden!!! If you’re in the neighborhood, please come say hi to me at the Stockholm International Comics Festival this May 20 – 21!!!!

    Or the Stockholms Internationella Seriefestival; if you speak Swedish, hit up the link. If not, here’s the translation, which links to bits about the festival’s Small Press Expo (described as the “official sibling” of the annual event in Maryland), and details on the international guests.

    If I’m reading everything correctly, the SIS will take place at Stockholm’s Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, in Sweden’s only specialist library for comics, Serieteket (here, for those of you that like maps). Free admission, and I think the times are 11:00am to 5:00pm (CET, or GMT+2), on Saturday and Sunday (20 & 21 May).

  • On my way back from Comics Camp (start here, if you’ve forgotten, and work forward) I had a layover in Minneapolis, and thus was able to visit with Rosemary Vallero-O’Connell, about whom I’ve written lots over the past year or so. She mentioned that in addition to all the work she’s been doing since graduating last May, she’d been in talks with VICE News to do an interview about work/life balance and the financial end of a creative career. Turns out that it happened, and now you can see it.

    It’s a huge topic (things dealing with money — peripherally or directly — took up many hours at Camp), and not one where all the subtleties can be done in a few minutes. Heck if they didn’t do a damn good job laying out the boundaries of the issues, though.

    I found the most compelling part to be Vallero-O’Connell’s frank recognition that there’s a very fine line to tread, with both too many and too few jobs offering risks. Don’t have enough gigs, you don’t make money and you can’t pay your bills. Accept too many¹ and you risk spreading yourself too thin² or injury — meaning you can’t sustain the money and can’t pay your bills³.

    There’s no grand solution offered — not that there could be — but just acknowledging the challenges is tremendously valuable. Vallero-O’Connell is starting to get a handle on what the career looks like (not just for now, but as a sustainable effort over many years), and seeing her present the quandries and puzzle them out is going to help others find their balance quicker than they would otherwise. Give it a look.

Spam of the day:

KOHL’s: Antiquated Dept. Store…

Are … are you trying to get me to click on your fake KOHL’s gift card by negging them?

¹ A constant temptation for freelancers, particularly those new to the game.

² Leading to substandard work or burnout.

³ Unspoken in the four minute run time: even if you accept the exact right amount of work, you can’t guarantee you actually get paid what you’re due on a prompt basis, meaning you can’t pay your bills. I’m sensing a theme to the freelancer’s life.

Kickstarts. Must Be Tuesday

Things are racing to their logical conclusions (i.e.: overfunding) all over the damn place. Let’s have a looksee, shall we?

  • Howard Tayler¹ has been grinding out a hell of a complicated Kickstart for just about two years now. The fact that it’s about a year overdue on much of its deliverables² would ordinarily make the prospect of launching another Kickstart suicidal; crowdfunding backers will turn on you when they don’t get what they want. And yet, that appears to not be the case.

    For starters, Tayler and his production team have been communicating with their backers on a regular basis, identifying where work is being done, advising early about hiccups, delays, and the reality of scheduling. In the two years since the Planet Mercenary role-playing game campaign wrapped, there have been 55 updates (call it every other week) to keep backers in the loop. That honest outreach buys a hell of a lot of goodwill.

    The update four days ago let backers know that non-paper items needed for fulfillment are either on hand or arriving within the week, and paper items would be going to print. This puts reward assembly in the late June timeframe, and shipping completion (by my estimates, there are about 3300 backers that still need stuff shipped to them) in July.

    Expectation. Communication. Modified expectation. Happy backers. ‘Taint rocket surgery.

    And that’s why the same day that We’ve gone to print was shared (that would be yesterday), Tayler, et. al., were able to launch a second Kickstarter campaign, for a game master’s screen. This one hasn’t been buried by a host of Oh, this one’ll be a year late too for an important reason beyond the accumulated goodwill: it’s limited. Much like the challenge coin campaign, it’s for a single item, designwork done, limited reward tiers, simple stretch goals, and nearly immediate shipping — in this case, the screens will be shipped in July (possibly concurrent with the PM fulfillment; I can see a lot of backers of the game wanting the screen), and backers will have ’em in time for GenCon.

    And it’s working; we’re in Day Two of the 19 day campaign, with 85% of the US$19.4K goal in hand. More interestingly, as of this writing there’s a significant phenomenon in the reward tiers: 438 people have backed an early bird tier that gets you three big things and three little things (details aren’t important, work with me here) for US$20; 10 people have backed the non-early bird equivalent tier that gets you three big things and one little thing for US$25.

    Either Tayler’s backers aren’t good at reading (which is not characteristic of his demographic) or ten people just wanted to give him more money. That can’t be explained by short campaign lengths, simple reward structures, or short fulfillment times. That’s entirely down to goodwill, and it’s worth more than any six-figure campaign of the past³ or future4.

  • I’ve lost track of how many Kickstarts C Spike Trotman has run by now5, but in a lot of ways she runs hers the opposite of how Tayler runs his — there’s a template there, one that she follows every time, tinkering around the edges but not messing with success6. The latest project to get the Spike treatment went live last night, and about sixteen hours later is closing in on US$10K of its US$25K goal.

    As The Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman is about a queer, black teenage girl at an otherwise all-white Christian summer camp; if you’ve not read it, you can get a flavor of it from an autobio piece Gillman did in The Nib last year about her own experiences at Christian summer camp.

    It’s the sort of story that it’s hard to imagine finding a foothold at a publisher other than Iron Circus; queer themes, POC protagonist questioning faith, cast dominantly made up of teen girls, but no magical destiny or powers or adventure? All done in colored pencils, with whole pages given over to wordless (sometimes characterless) landscapes, as many as it takes to set the mood? It’s a damn good story, one that deserves to find an audience, and thanks to Gillman and Spike now it will.

    As The Crow Flies: Volume One will collect the first 270 pages of story (Gillman’s on page #286 now), which constitute approximately the first half of the story’s weeklong structure. Backers can get physical and PDF books, signed bookplates, and for the ridiculously low price of US$100, original story pages. There were commissions available, but they’re gone; but if you’re looking for a speaker, US$1000 (plus travel and lodging) gets you a visit from Gillman, a full day of instruction, and 20 copies of ATCFv1. At US$30K (only US$5K over goal), Gillman adds a side story to the book.

    That’s it — simple, straightforward, the material is all produced and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the book layout is all done and just waiting for a number to be attached to the print run. Oh, and one other thing — this is only the second Iron Circus Kickstart of 2017; Spike’s gonna have plenty more for us before the year’s out.

Spam of the day:

Get up to $15,000 Overnight!

Yes, “ZippyLoan”, borrowing fifteen large from unknown persons in Nevada is absolutely something that does not make me think I’ll end up owing The Mob an extortionate interest rate and possibly a kneecap.

¹ Evil twin, etc.

² A major component, the 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries books, has shipped, albeit about nine months late.

³ The challenge coins funded at US$155K, the PM RPG at US$349K.

4 By the FFF mk2, the game screens are heading for US$40K +/- 8K.

5 Eleven as of about 9:00pm EDT last night; number twelve is now live.

6 And for five measly bucks, she’ll tell you how to do it, too.


Endings and beginnings today, my friends. Let’s see what’s up.

  • It has been some time since we checked in on PostScript, the webcomics that asks what happens after Happily Ever After?, by brothers Graham and Neal Moogk-Soulis. Wonder what’s going on over there …

    We are proud to present Testing Day. Testing Day is simultaneously the final PostScript story we are posting here online, and the first of the larger PostScript stories we will tell.

    Testing Day is but a taste of our future plans. You can expect further projects with greater narrative and visual complexity than the online strip format allows. They will not all be in the PostScript universe, they will not all be comics or picture books, and they will not all be funny, but they will be stories we hope you will enjoy. We know we will enjoy them.

    Sounds like it’s time for an archive binge; there’s only about eight years worth of stories there, you can knock that out in a day or two¹. Coincidentally, that’s just enough time to get prepped up, as Testing Day starts this Wednesday, 17 May, and runs weekdays until 1 June. After it wraps, The Brothers Moogk-Soulis will keep the site up, and you can follow news of their projects at PostScript, their twitterfeeds, and various other soshmeeds.

  • Molly Ostertag is making quite the lot of comics these days, what with her art contributions to Shattered Warrior, due out tomorrow from :01², and her ongoing at duties on Strong Female Protagonist and her day job at Disney animation. All that life surely explains the delays on the second volume of SFP, which was supposed to Kickstart last summer, but you know what? I’ll take comics that are done and good looking at whose production isn’t grinding the life out of their creators over comics that are delivered according to my preferences.

    And the wait has paid off: Book Two, y’all. The campaign’s actually been running since I was in Alaska, but it’s still got ten days to go, which means you still have ten days to get in on this. Book One ended on an emotional turning point; Book Two is only going to get deeper into that particular narrative well; even better, this volume will feature Ostertag’s art in full color, which was always necessary to let her bring life to Brennan Lee Mulligan’s words. And if you’re like me and can only read SFP in big, chapter-sized chunks, getting this book will be a particular treat.

  • Hey, you know what today is? The first day of Octopus Pie’s eleventh year. Yep, yesterday marked ten years of Everest “Eve” Ning’s evolution from moderately adrift twentysomething to reluctant adult; ten years of watching characters grow (up and together and apart again) and change, never in a contrived way, every last damn strip better than the one before it.

    And the strippiversary is just in time for the big wrap-up and whatever Meredith Gran has cooking in her brain for the next project. I loved Octopus Pie from the first strip, and considering how much better it’s gotten in the past decade, I can only imagine how good future comics from Gran will be, but that’s for later. For now, send her some good wishes if you haven’t already.

  • And, because in any list of [web]comickers Jim Zub always comes last³ what might otherwise be the lead story today: Zub’s Wayward — although he’ll be mad at me if I refer to it as solely his, what with the contributions of artist Steven Cummings, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, letterer Marshall Dillon, and cultural commentators Zack Davisson and Ann O’Regan — has been optioned for TV.

    We’ve mentioned the rules of options here at Fleen before … this doesn’t mean that Zub is suddenly fabulously wealthy, or that anything will happen on a set schedule. Manga Entertainment gets the right to try to develop a series (live action or animated, it appears to not yet be determined) for Japanese TV; they may or may not accomplish this.

    What is unusual about this announcement is that Zub and Cummings are specifically named as creative consultants on the project, including development of the initial story treatment along with character and creature designs. That doesn’t happen so often, and say that Manga Entertainment may be more concrete in their plans than many option deals turn out to be.

    Congrats to Zub, Cummings, and the rest of the Wayward crew; it’s always great to see good work recognized, but it’s even better to see good creators rewarded with cash money.

Spam of the day:

Extra 70% Off Ends Soon

Curiously, I am not much in the market for women’s casual wear from Polo Ralph Lauren.

¹ Assuming you don’t sleep or go to work, that is.

² Short review: it’s good; writer Sharon Shinn has done something pretty amazing in making you understand what leads an ordinary person to become a revolutionary (or, depending on your point of view, a terrorist), as well as making the point that entitled PUA Nice Guys™ aren’t restricted to the human male.

³ Damn you, alphabetic norms!