The webcomics blog about webcomics

MICE? Nice

This weekend is the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, one of the increasingly-common, increasingly well-attended, increasingly relevant, free (or near-free) comics shows that goes by Expo or Festival. MICE, as always, will be held on the campus of Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, at University Hall, adjacent to the Porter Square T stop.

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Lesley; Cambridge is across the river from Boston, and as we all know, Boston isn’t a big college town.

MICE has done a nice job of attracting webcomickers and webcomicker-alikes, and this weekend you’ll be able to meet the likes of Vera Brosgol, Tillie Walden, Tony Cliff and Rosemary Mosco (all of whom are Special Guests and will be in the main atrium).

In the exhibit hall, you’ll find Abby Howard (H94), Alex Graudins (H88), Nate Powell (E128), Jean Wei (A42), John Green (E115), Blue Delliquanti (H95), Jon Chad (D09), Josh Neufeld (D19), KC Green (D16), Christine Larsen (B86), Wendy Xu (A57), Dan Nott (B65), Zack Giallongo (E117), , Dirk Tiede (E122), Eric Colossal (E139), and Anne and Jerzy Drozd (E118).

A few clarifications: Ben Hatke was scheduled to appear, but had to cancel; George O’Connor will be at table H102, not George O’Connor; Nicholas Offerman will be at table D20, not Nicholas Offerman; the Center For Cartoon Studies will be at table E137; Matt Lubchansky will be repping The Nib at table H89; and it is entirely possible that Lucy Bellwood will be lured away from table E116 by boats. Shelli Paroline would be a notable local absence, except for the part where she’s the co-director of the show, and thus has no time to promote herself; if you see her at rest for ten seconds, be sure to thank her.

By the way, tables starting with an A are in the atrium, B tables are in the Bechdel Room, D tables in the Doucet Hall, and H tables in the Hernandez Room, all on the upper floor. The lower level is where you’ll find the E tables in the Eisner Level, as well as the Cartoonarium (where artists will be doing demos all weekend). Panels are upstairs in the amphitheater, workshops downstairs in the Eliot and Lesley Rooms, with the schedule here.

MICE show hours are a nicely humane 10:00am to 6:00pm tomorrow, 20 October, and 11:00am to 5:00pm Sunday, 21 October. MICE is free and open to the public.

Spam of the day:

Find Love With a Beautiful Russian Woman

And yet, you advertise yourself as Ukraine Dating Agency, not recognizing that Ukrainians and Russians are not the same. Curious.

Going To Let The Art Do The Talking Today

Because honestly, what can I say? That Aud Koch does the most gorgeous, meticulously detailed work that you’re likely to see today? That whether it’s a cityscape, a setchbook study, or a doodle, every line is bursting with purpose and contributes to the whole? That it’s almost criminal that she’s at the beginning of a career and not four or five decades in? That I would kill to have handwriting as deliberately beautiful as hers?

Or maybe we should note that in a title page and two story pages for her new, Halloween season-celebrating story, there’s not a panel that isn’t fairly bursting with story hooks? Look at that second page, and tell me those skulls in the yard aren’t a year-round feature … and that they aren’t plastic. Tell me that the heterochromia in our human (actually, that’s possibly to be determined) protagonist (probably, but they may turn out to be a side character) doesn’t have a tale behind it … possibly involving those jars of eyes in the background. Or that there aren’t deliciously divergent narrative branches that depend on whether the single word Spider is the arachnid introducing itself, or addressing the person at the laptop by name.

Koch’s goal is to produce a page a day of Spider’s Kiss — so many possibilities in that title! — which means for the next month or so, we’ll see what happens unfold at a tantalizing pace. My advice is that you refresh her twitterfeed obsessively every hour that you’re awake until it’s done. In between hitting F5, you can scroll back through her posted art to fill the time.

Oh, and I guess maybe don’t if you don’t like spiders?

Spam of the day:

We’re so different & yet I’m attracted to you!

This came from, which is the most aggressively blatant domain name I’ve ever seen. Whoever bought that one woke up and considered having the smallest amount of subtlety possible according to quantum physics and decided Nah.

Not Webcomics; Don’t Care

Some things are bigger than webcomics and in this case, at nearly 2.5 meters tall, literally bigger.

A couple weeks before I turned two years old, the world was introduced to Big Bird; he has been an invaluable part of the fabric of our lives ever since. In the 49 years since, Big Bird has been portrayed by Caroll Spinney, who is retiring after a half-century of delighting everybody that encounters him. It’s literally a set of big shoes to fill¹, and one not undertaken lightly — Matt Vogel has been Spinney’s apprentice on Big Bird for 22 years².

Let us not forget:

  • Spinney was responsible for the most important aspect of Big Bird’s character — he is perpetually six years old.
  • Spinney drew the portrait of Mr Hooper that adorns the Sesame Street set to this day. Want to see anybody who grew up in the ’70s cry? Bust out Sesame Street episode 1839.
  • Spinney was supposed to be the first non-astronaut in space; when the logistics of sending the Big Bird suit up on the Shuttle turned out to be too complex, the plan was revised into the Teacher In Space Project. This implies — aside from the the horrifying thought that we might have lost Big Bird and Spinney on Challenger — that Spinney must have practiced portraying Big Bird in zero gravity. I desperately want to see whatever recordings exist of that.
  • Spinney also plays the other significant child-behavior-exhibiting Muppet, Oscar The Grouch; I can not think of any other performer that has played two such polar opposite roles simultaneously for even a short run, much less for decades.
  • I saw him once, at a booth on the show floor at NYCC, and couldn’t bring myself to walk over and talk to him; I didn’t trust myself enough to retain my composure. Do not be like this. When you have the opportunity to meet somebody like Caroll Spinney, jump on it and let your fears be damned³.

So I declare that today is Spinney’s, and Big Bird’s, and Oscar’s. Between them, they’ve made so many of us better than we would have otherwise been. Thank you.

Spam of the day:
None. Spammers don’t get to share the day with Caroll Spinney.

¹ Not to mention physically demanding — the Big Bird costume requires one arm to be held straight up while simultaneously looking down at a video monitor strapped to the performer’s chest, a circumstance that has left the 84 year old Spinney with dystonia, reducing him to vocal performance for the past few years.

² Vogel has, since last year, been the performer for Mr The Frog, meaning that he got to perform the literal face of the Muppets before being judged ready to take over Big Bird.

³ Okay, at one point, from about ten feet away, we happened to catch each other’s eyes. I gave him a small salute and nodded; he smiled and nodded in response. I still regret my hesitancy.

Tuesday Miscellany

Howard Tayler¹ has launched a Kickstarter for two — two! — books and has inadvertently run a sociological experiment. The campaign is for the 14th and 15th story arcs/print collections of Schlock Mercenary, Broken Wind and Delegates And Delegation respectively. Schlock Mercenary is famously One Big Story, and so a question occurred to me:

Given that the campaign is for two separate books, and that Tayler’s readers would logically want to read both of them before book 16 releases sometime next year, would anybody opt for just one book?

As of this writing (some eight hours after launch and 64% of funding goal achieved), the answer appears to be a resounding now. Out of 398 backers, exactly zero have backed either the tier for your choice of one book (PDF form) or your choice of one book (print form). There’s three people backing at the US$1 tier, which gets you nothing² but nobody wants just one. That’s some reader buy-in right there.

Tayler’s also done something very smart with this campaign. There have been lots of Kickstarts where early birds get the same reward at a lesser price as a reward for backing at the start of the campaign; Tayler — or more likely, his wife Sandra, who wrangles fulfillment — has inverted the idea by offering tiers of rewards spread out over a period of months. PDFs get sent in December, unsketched books in February, and sketched books in three batches of 400 each, in March, April, and May.

Tayler’s dealt with the possibility of damaging his drawing hand by sketching too many books in too short a time by a) limiting how many books may require sketches, and b) spreading them out; fifteen sketches a day over three months is a hell of a lot more reasonable than trying to do a thousand in a single burst of shipping over two weekends or so. Smartly done, Mrs & Mr Evil Twin! Smartly done.

In other news:

  • Stand Still, Stay Silent is still on hiatus, but has a teaser image up for the start of the second adventure, and the first three pages will post on Monday.
  • Johnny Wander is back with the start of Barbarous Chapter 4!
  • Christopher Hastings and Branson Reese have been getting asked everything about Draculagate. It’s a hoot.
  • The ongoing and continuous fetishization of Harley Quinn doesn’t really make sense to me³. Okay, maybe the only original character of the past three decades that’s really stuck around in comics and bled into the broader culture, but still don’t entirely get it. However, I do trust the fairly unerring instincts of Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago, and he’s seen fit to write up a book on the art and history of Dr Quinzel, and CAM’s having a reception/talk about the same.

    It’s next Tuesday, the 23rd, from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. CAM members get in free, US$10 for nonmembers, but a 50% discount if you come in costume. The Cartoon Art Museum, in case you’d forgotten, is at 781 Beach Street, part of Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.

Spam of the day:

Prepare for a Hurricane Browse Portable Generator Choices

Got one after Irene, thanks. But that photo you’re running is of a power output panel of a generator that’s “portable” in the sense that it’s permanently mounted to its own trailer bed along with a 2000 liter diesel fuel tank. I ain’t trying to run an office building over here.

¹ Evil twin, etc.

² But gets you in on the eventual Backerkit add-ons … which includes all previous books in the series.

³ Which is not to say that I didn’t laugh out loud back in ’92 in her debut episode when The Joker, lamenting that finally killing a guy he’d been tormenting meant he’d need to find a new hobby, prompted Harley to chirp Macramé’s nice.

Shifts, Seismic And Otherwise

This page is on the record as holding the opinion that Gina Gagliano is one of the most important people in comics. Her being tapped to head up Random House’s move into graphic novels — less than six months ago! — was a no-brainer, and prompted me to write the following:

Every publishing house in the English-speaking world is mentally re-evaluating how well they’ve treated their key people; when Gina gets to hiring, you’re going to see the absolute best in the business go to work for her.

Likewise, I imagine every graphic novel imprint is frantically looking at their most lucrative creators, wondering if they can sneak in a contract extension a year early; when Gina gets to signing talent, you’re going to see some seismic shifts.

Hold that in the back of your mind for the moment; that’s Thing One. Thing Two involved some speculation on my part at SDCC this year:

Consider: a major publishing conglomerate does not start a new imprint on a whim, or without planning, approval, and confidence at the executive level. More to the point: Random House sought [Gagliano] out to head up this new direction.

Gagliano’s looking to accomplish huge things — at :01 Books she was part of a publishing schedule of 20 books per year, that ran up to more than double that over a period of less than two years; look for Random House Graphic to want to jump into this space with both feet and leverage her past proven abilities, with a publishing schedule at least that ambitious.

And since we’re talking about a massive corporation, they’ll want to see revenue as soon as practical given the lead times in production and printing[²] if there’s stuff in the production cycle now, 2020 would just barely be possible for first releases (and honestly, I’d think 2021 far more reasonable, given that she’s starting from scratch and getting ready to put together a marketing plan for books that won’t exist for at least 18 months, lacking a staffed-up office).

[As an aside, the footnote referred to speculation that a trade war with China could disrupt printing and release schedules, which is still to be determined.]

If you’ve been paying attention to Gagliano’s twitterfeed, you’ve noticed that she’s attacked Thing Two head on, with announcements about multi-book acquisitions for release starting in 2020. And she’s also hit Thing One, as one of those acquisitions is a five-book deal — including a trilogy of autobio graphic novels and two childrens books — with Lucy Knisley.

Who is just finishing up a trilogy of autobio graphic novels at :01 Books. Where Gagliano used to work.

I’d have put money on Knisley being one of the :01 lifers. Ben Hatke, Gene Yang, Faith Erin Hicks … there’s a bunch of folks over at :01 that have been with the imprint since the early days and who I figured would never leave¹, but with Knisley taking her next five books elsewhere, I’d say very nearly every bet is off. Between the books that were already at some part of Penguin Random House² (just not gathered under one guiding vision) and those that Gagliano is bringing in, it’s a new game going forward.

Which is not to say that blood feuds are going to break out and people are dead to each other. I mean, Colleen AF Venable only designed the first 100+ books from :01 before heading up the most creative art department in publishing over at Workman, and now is part of the founding trio of folks at Macmillan’s nonfiction kids publisher, and she’s got a book coming out in March from … :01. It’s a collegial industry is what I’m saying, and having this many skilled shepherds is only making the output better.

Congratulations to Gagliano, to Knisley, and to everybody else in graphic novel publishing. Y’all are good people.

¹ In fact, Yang used those exact words to me once.

² Including, ironically, the Five Worlds series which is co-created by Mark Siegel, the head of :01.

Building Interest

We at Fleen have, on more than once occasion, taken note of newly-launched webcomics and made recommendations regarding the same; it’s rare for us to point readers at new new work without a track record from the creator (cf: Skin Horse was recommended on Day One, pretty much sight unseen, because Shaenon Garrity is very good at webcomics¹). You gotta have at least a couple weeks in the archive so we can see where the story’s going.

Sometimes creators launch and run one strip a day; sometimes, it’s less often. Mostly, they’re full of ideas and running each update as soon as it’s drawn and then they miss a day … and another. Like I once got quoted in an academic treatise for saying, there’s a million webcomics, and maybe one in ten will ever update more than a handful of times².

The smart creators get a couple dozen strips in the archive to start, but most of them release that entire chunk at launch, so you can see where the story’s going and that’s great, but it can be a challenge (particularly in this post-RSS world) to go from read a bunch of strips all at once to accept a much slower pace when I got used to reading a bunch of strips all at once.

Sophie Yanow has taken another approach. You may recall her work from longform contributions to Retrofit or reportage via The Nib (the most recent of which ran yesterday, a reprinting of her contribution to the Death issue, which was really damn good), and her online work goes back nearly ten years.

What she hasn’t done in that time is a serialized webcomic story, and that changed this week with the launch of The Contradictions, which is an autobiographically-inspired story about a 20ish queer person learning to navigate — lots, really. Themselves, the world, adulthood, all of it.

The art is full of bold, chunky, black-and-white contrasts (it reminds me a bit of European alternative comics creators like Joost Swarte) and the story is unfolding via an introspective narration. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m disparaging her earlier work, but this feels so much more polished and assured than what I’ve seen from her previously; it’s really good.

The Contradictions is intended for weekly updates, but the first bunch of pages are running over 30 consecutive days; since launch two days ago, five pages have gone up, which means by the time Yanow settles down to her weekly schedule, we may have somewhere upwards of 80 or 90 pages to get us good and hooked. Note also that she said updates will occur weekly (until the story is done), each of which I suspect will comprise multiple pages.

No indication how long a story The Contradictions will be, but I suspect that over the next six? twelve? months, we’ll get the equivalent of a graphic novel, the sort that’s already reading like the kind that gets recognized by the Ignatz or Cartoonist Studio Prize juries. And yeah, five pages and three days is really damn early for a recommendation to read, but that should tell you how much promise The Contradictions is showing already. Dive in.

Spam of the day:

End Years of Toenail Fungus With This Simple Solution

I’m actually curious if they mean solution as in the means to eliminate a problem or as in a mixture of a solvent and a solute. I’m really hoping it’s the latter.

¹ Also Radness Queen of the tiki-intensive corners of the Bay Area, and one third of the Nexus Of All Webcomics.

² Of those that do, maybe one in ten will ever be read by more than the immediate friends and family of the creator; of those that do, maybe one in ten will continue regularly and develop art/story as they progress; of those that do, maybe one in ten will ever make their creator more than beer money. That’s 100 or so left over that are making their living, which seems about right.

Ongoing Kickstarts Of Note

I missed the launches of a couple of campaigns while I was at the conference last week, but I’ve since caught up and made some pledges, and figured you might want to as well. But before I do that, an addendum to the note about Raina Telgemeier’s new book announcements from t’other day, because I didn’t specifically call out this detail:

Her April release, Share Your Smile, a how-to guide to telling your own stories, will have an initial print run of 500,000, which will equal the first printing of Ghosts. Her September release, the new autobio Raina story, Guts?

One. Million. Copies.

They’ll sell ’em, too. I’m gonna make a bet, the Toby Ziegler bet, that Graphix already knows when they’ll need to go back to press, and I’ll give you a 50/50 chance it’s before January 2020.

Which is beautiful, if only because the Comicsgater toesuckers whining about the girl-cooties on their manly-man comics can’t conceive of how irrelevant they are. That the comics they want to be the way they always were¹ are a rounding error in the face of the most significant creator of words+pictures, and that the industry has already left them behind. It’s delicious.

  • Kickstart! You are probably familiar with the works of one Christopher “Doctor” Hastings, and with the works of one Branson “Not Brandon, dammit” Reese. They’re comedy guys, they’re comics guys, they sport some awesome facial hair², and they’re collaborating on an original graphic novel that you can get in on now:

    DRACULAGATE is an all new 130-page graphic novel about a bumbling team of U.S. diplomats opening up international relations with Transylvania, sovereign nation of monsters and undead. It’s like HBO’s VEEP, but with skeletons and ghosts and stuff.

    Which, quite frankly, is exactly the story I wanted from these two fine gentlemen and didn’t even realize it. The Kickstarter video’s a hoot, too. Inexplicably, the funder is a week in and they’re not quite at 40%; in a just world, this would be somewhere around 112% already.

    This book features a diplomatic crisis kicked off by Dracula’s nephew³ killing a beloved Canadian former child star, which I can guaran-damn-tee you is not a combination of words that has ever been conceived of before Reese and Hastings got their brains together. Back this project now because if this one doesn’t fund and I don’t get to read the next 125 pages, the peasants will suffer.

  • Kickstart! David Malki !, who has been messing with us re: sick elephants since the end of July (and who has put together the seeds of a nuke-from-orbit delivery of who knows how damn many more in the newest strip4), has taken some time away from the world’s longest, most convoluted dad joke to put together the first Wondermark collection in years.

    No sick elephants (or sea lions) in this one, but the origin of eating Cheetos with chopsticks will be in it. It will also be among the most handsome books on your shelf, and the stretch goals are all pretty much identical: more comics, bigger book. With a little more than three weeks to go, Wondermark: Friends You Can Ride On is just under 80% funded, and the presumed success of the campaign on 2 November will leave Malki ! plenty of time to bash together the 2019 calendar refills, which he claims will not be 12 months of sick elephants, but who knows.

  • Kickstart! Zach Weinersmith’s in one of his abridging moods — having previously tackled The Bible and All Of Science, he’s now reduced all of Shakespeares sonnets about being very horny down to individual rhyming couplets. Apparently, a lot of them are about Shakespeare getting mad that a dude he was horny for was gettin’ with a lady that Shakespeare was also horny for? That can’t be right, because the Republican Party told me bein’ horny was invented by degenerate hippies at Woodstock and nobody was ever horny except within the bounds of white people matrimony for having babies before then.

    Only one way to find out — get the pocket version of the sonnets, and ace your next high school English test on Shakespearean verse! ANd if that’s not enough to convince you, Weinersmith has also constructed an SMBC collection of strips on the theme of love (mirroring the strip collections on religion and science, which were released in conjunction with the prior abridged volumes), which you can get either with or without the pocket sonnets. I’m not going to say that they’ll make great Valentine’s Day gifts5, but they are due to be shipped in February.

Spam of the day:

Take Your Vacation to the Next Level with Private Yacht Charters

You apparently think that I am of a very different socioeconomic tendency than I actually am. We all tell ourselves that the naturally belong on a perfect yacht, on perfect seas, with super hot people of our preferred gender(s) who are perfectly into us, but let’s face it — most of us would be hard pressed to live up to the expectation of yacht rock, much less yacht life. You can’t just make yourself into an Instagram-friendly Russian oligarch’s kid.

¹ Hint: they never were.

² Rad ‘stache, Branson.

³ Jeremy. His name is Jeremy Dracula.

4 Apparently, seven.

5 They will totally make the best Valentine’s Day gifts, and practically guarantee that whoever you are horny for (and are not a big ol’ creeper towards) will likewise be inspired to reciprocal horniness, oh yeah.

Hey, Kraven, What’s Your Opinion Of Kate Beaton?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, but just in case:

Hark! A Vagrant, such as it is, is an archive website now. I didn’t think it would be when I stepped away to work on other projects, but (not to kill the light mood around here) 2016-2018 were very difficult years in a personal sense, and emerging on the other side, I feel like this is a project that has run its course. I am so very grateful for all that this comic and my readers have given me, they have given me a career, joy, and more than I ever dreamed.

It’s been no secret that Kate Beaton — pride of Nova Scotia, chronicler of history and literature’s most absurd since 2006 — has done less and less of the strips that made her famous over the past years. It’s hard work, digging deep into, say, the biography of a politician who fought for queer rights starting in the 1860s, a man that almost nobody has heard of, and distill down all you learn into 24 panels … oh, and they have to be funny on top of everything else.

Multiply that effort by roughly 400 strips¹, work that’s done for free (although there’s probably an excellent print collection on the back end) and anybody would start to taper off in favor of the sort of work that maybe pays rent and groceries a little more directly.

Still she gave us strips, and more when you count the family strips that showed up on social media. And if she worked still less on Hark! when Becky got sick, nobody could have expected her to keep entertaining us for free when there were more important things. She did two children’s books in that time, and she’s been working on an autobio story that would be painful to produce without all the other challenges she’s endured.

So I absolutely understand her decision that it’s time to call it: Hark!, as a project, is done. I absolutely understand the appreciation and praise that’s flowing her way today, as we all remind her what her work has meant to us. What I understand and maybe think is unnecessary is that so much of that discussion is being placed in the past tense. Hark! A Vagrant is still here.

Matthew Henson is still doing squats on the North Pole, Miyamoto Musashi is still forgetting you need two things for a duel, Top Gun is still a movie about beach volleyball, and fun is still awful. Those comics will be as much a part of the canon of great cartooning as Charlie Brown and the Kite-Eating tree or a rousing match of Calvinball².

More importantly — and I say this as a man who considers that Musashi strip to be the single greatest comic of my half-century on the planet — my favorite work of Kate Beaton’s is always what’s next. She’s got a lot of work in front of her, some Hark!ish, most not. It’s all, every last bit of it, going to make us laugh, make us cry, make us hurt, console us, make us think, and make us feel.

Hark! A Vagrant is dead; long live Hark! A Vagrant.

Spam of the day:

On today’s agenda… Drop 20-by October

As the rest of this spam is for a weight-loss product, I’m presuming they mean drop 20 pounds (or even kilograms) by October. It’s worth noting that this message was sent on 30 September, in which case their approach is likely to involve amputation.

¹ Yeah, okay, you also get Strong Female Characters and Tit Windows in there which pretty much write themselves, but most of them were a whole buncha work.

² Not to mention the half-arsed cake. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would trade every single comic in the San Diego Convention Center during Nerd Prom for comics about Kate’s mum and da.

A Less-Disturbing Encore

I think I speak for all of us when I say that yesterday’s post from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin was a tough read. Along the same lines, I invite you to consider how much more difficult it must have been for FSFCPL to research and write it; as such, I think we’ve all earned a palate-cleanser. Please enjoy the following submission from Our Man In France on the intersection of two media that seem to have a lot of overlap these days.


On the menu: using comics to promote a video game, using a video game to promote comics, and having a comics creator illustrate and tell the story for a video game … using comics of course.

  • While it has been known for some time that webcartoonists Thorn and Meredith Gran have been working on their respective point-and-click adventure games, you might not have known illustrator Pins has been working on his own called tiny and Tall: Gleipnir, which is now out.

    The story? Fenrir, the wolf son of Loki, is devouring everything on its path and the Gods of Asgard have to react before it ends up devouring the whole world; however, no chains have proved capable of keeping Fenrir down, so they commission two blacksmiths, the titular tiny and Tall, to come up with restraints that can restrain the unrestrainable. Easy. Follows a number of hijinks as the protagonists have to first locate the recipe, then the improbable ingredients necessary to accomplish this quest.

    The game works like the point and click adventure games of old, with you needing to solve various puzzles using found objects and your wits. And if you get stuck, no matter: clicking your partner will provide you with information necessary to proceed. But where the game shines is with its humor, especially in its writing: overenthusiastic tiny contrasts well with fatalistic Tall, desperate of ever seeing the project to completion (but duty-bound to try, at least).

    Pins even felt the need to introduce us to the characters ahead of the game’s release through comic strips released online … we can now safely say that the promotional effort went slightly out of hand, as not only did he do more than 200 strips (this is strip 81 of the second book), but he even managed to release a collection of the 130 first strips, published by Lapin, before the game even came out; and his humor hits home just as well in comics as it does in the game.

    tiny and Tall: Gleipnir Part One is available through Steam on PC and Mac for 14.99€; this review is based on the Mac version of the game.

  • Raphaël Beuchot, on the other hand, first set out to create strips around music in a project called Medley; and it is in order to promote the recently-released collection that he came up with an online game called Backstage.

    The premise? You’re running a concert hall, and you need to raise its standing enough that celebrity DJ Acier Fulgur (Steel Lightning) will consent to producing himself in it. But that will only happen if you successfully manage your concert hall day after day after day … and here, success entails satisfying the needs of the bands that produce themselves in your hall: their scene equipment needs, their food and drink needs, but also their (legal) drug needs or smoking implement needs. All that on a deadline. And that is even without mentioning the occasional agitator to dispatch with security, or the occasional inebriated person to put in a lateral security position….

    The gameplay does not have a lot of depth (though is not necessarily a bad thing), and you can complete the game in about one hour, but what I find most interesting with Backstage is that, while it is not a music game, its gameplay is well integrated with the theme of the musical scene: the bands you get at first are hesitant to ask for food when they do so, then quickly you will get requests that turn out to need nothing, nevermind, until in the late game where these prestigious bands complain that they even need to request that seafood be brought to them.

    And new elements are introduced in a piecemeal fashion, but you can’t help but notice that French singers get introduced at the same time as the folk guitar gets added to your available scene instruments … and as Xanax gets added to your pharma kit. In short, the gameplay builds on the theme to keep you on your toes (I once got a request from a punk band to give their dog four bottles of beer!), which prevents the game from feeling repetitive, and helps give sense to the game … well, except for that one band where the instruments included both autotune and accordion. I’m still scratching my head over that one.

    That is very consistent with the strips of Medley, which don’t always deal with music per se, but always at least refer to it while using it to comment on critics, journalists, campaigning political parties, or just music consumers.

    Backstage is available for free (with ads inserted for Medley at appropriate times) and is playable directly on your browser, including mobile ones; it was reviewed on Safari on the Mac¹.

  • Finally, it is time for me to swap my French correspondent hat for my Apple devices correspondent hat to bring you the news of Factory Hiro, with art and story by KC Green. What makes this (more) relevant for Fleen is that part of that story is told as in-game comics cutscenes, in which we learn that the titular Hiro is responsible for an assembly line, the gameplay being to manually manage routing of incoming components and combination of these components to create finished products. Can you run your assembly line fast enough to make your quota in time for the end of the work day, without screwing up and loading the delivery truck with garbage?

    What does that have to do with my Apple devices correspondent hat? Factory Hiro is actually a remake of a classic 90s Mac game called Factory: The Industrial Devolution which finally makes it available on modern platforms, including tablets where its point and click — now touch — interface really shines. Make sure to give it a try.

    Factory Hiro is available on PC and Mac through Steam, and on iOS and Android through their respective app stores (I got it for 3.49€ on the French iOS App Store; pricing will depend on your region); it was reviewed on an iPad Air 2 running iOS 11.4.1.

Spam of the day:

Im Regina, im single with no kid….I am a great self-sufficient lady who has achieved a lot in her life. I am a starting swimsuit designer which is taking the time to get second education. I am studying interior design. I love working on myself, and self-improvement. I spend most of my time in the USA, and came to visit my family in ontairo states for a few months every year. My documents have been figured out. I am looking for pure love, and beautiful relationship.

Regina, I think that just maybe you’re trying a little too hard here.

¹ FSFCPL sent along a clarification that Backstage is only available in French, but you don’t need a lot of vocabulary to successfully play it. This may or may not be a comment on the language skills of musicians.

Back In The Saddle

Wow, that was a busy week. I’ve got pretty much no idea what’s been happening in [web]comics across the last seven days (except for the news that Raina Telgemeier announced her next two books, because that got reported everywhere).

Enter the secret weapon of the beleaguered webcomics opinionmonger and any right-thinking blogger’s best friend: Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, who dropped a reminder of my impending mortality and a thoughtful piece about an (at best) unsavory happening in French comics on the same day. The former is linked in the last sentence, the latter begins below.


Before I begin, I must mention there is a language warning for explicit sexual language in this post. Onwards …

Is it possible to be so disgusted with a creator’s behavior that you’re considering foregoing their creations entirely, even those without relationship to the matter at hand? [Editor’s note: Yes. This was definitely answered by Cerebus #186 when Dave Sim went batshit insane, and has only repeatedly doubled down on his misogyny ever since. He is one of the most creative letterers that’s ever lived, and it is impossible to separate the creator — pre-batshittery or not — from the work.]

I have recently been made aware of a new release from Bastien Vivès (who you may remember from Last Man): it is a comic book called Petit Paul which is pornographic, explicitly so even: prominent warning on the cover, in a collection called Porn’pop dedicated to pornographic content, etc. This by itself would not be cause for alarm or even disapproval in the Fleenplex — if it were, we would never have made mention of Slipshine or Smut Peddler, for instance.

The issue (and the reason I have been made aware of that work), however, is that the eponymous protagonist is depicted to be about ten years old.

Let us take aspects one at a time. First, is it actually pornographic, or is the pornography warning just a way to avoid issues down the line for the publisher; and in a related matter, can we distinguish this from pedopornography trial cases where we can’t even know whether this is innocent child nudity? We can answer both questions thanks to Actualitté, who describes the depicted acts¹: not only does the titular Paul have an enormous penis, but he is in erection for most of the book, and he is shown ejaculating on multiple occasions; moreover at some point his female teacher is inflicting a [sic] cunnilingus upon him, for the next sequence Paul’s pants are torn open under pressure from his erection. To hide Paul, only one solution: penetration. Once again without really consulting him, and later on more sexual acts, all involving little Paul.

Nevertheless, that still leaves open possibilities for defense, and some have attempted: what if this is so ludicrous that this ends up being purely parody? But the creator himself has weakened if not foreclosed on these avenues in an interview with the Huffington Post where he is quoted as stating:

Le HuffPost: So you think that comic can be arousing?

Bastien Vivès: I made do with kinks that arouse me personally. […] If it is not arousing, I hope readers will at least get a laugh out of it.

This quote, regardless of the contents of the book, is what caused general reactions of disgust; in particular, Tanx, keeping on her theme of skepticism as to whether the artist can be separated from his creation (the bubbles read: You must separate the artist from the person, erm, well, but then … along which way do you cut?), wrote a reaction to clearly state her stance, which is that she is not invoking state censorship, but rather expressing disgust as to Vivés’ attitude, and that vile ideas can and should be fought with criticism; and that such criticism, even widespread and vigorous, is not censorship. Many creators found Tanx’s words to express their position better than they themselves could.

As for me, I tend to agree with Tanx. In particular, I remained unconvinced by other defenses of Vivès: Gilles Juan for Slate, for instance, sees a double standard between the reaction to the obviously illegal sexual acts depicted there and that for other illegal acts such as murders depicted in movies and comics, for which we do not even bat an eye; but beyond the initial objections (it is much harder to shoot a sex scene without actually performing it than it is to shoot a murder scene without actually performing it, so the distance in case of a depicted sex scene is necessarily reduced by a lot), there is the major objection that, through his ambiguous attitude, Vivés is allowing vile people to gather, and potentially organize themselves, around his work.

As far as I am concerned, this is the criterion for my utter disapproval; it is not a matter of needing writing talent in order to cover “edgy” subjects (though that may help), or even a matter of this work making it more likely for pedophiles to act out on their impulses, this is a matter of making sure the work cannot realistically be (mis)interpreted as validating ideas that must not come back to the surface; and Vivès has completely failed this part of his responsibilities as a creator.

But I am willing to hear everyone’s good faith takes on the matter.


Fleen thanks FSFCPL for spending more time on this than we would ever have asked.

Spam of the day:

20,000 Anime Fans Want to See You


¹ Which is fortunate as I sure as heck was not going to fork over any money to find out for myself.