The webcomics blog about webcomics

Doing Good Work

I think today is a beautiful day for stomping sharing with you the latest programming notes for the Cartoon Art Museum, who though they currently lack a home of their own, have not let that fact dissuade them from engaging in educational programs of their own, and in conjunction with other San Francisco cultural institutions. They’re basically unstoppable comics-and-culture machines.

They’ve got a return visit this time, as Ajuan Mance (previously a cartoonist-in-residence at CAM) is going to have a conversation with Shawn Taylor at part of SF Comics Fest. This particular discussion will cover Mance’s latest projects (cartooning, writing, illustration, professing English at Mills College, and is presented jointly by CAM, Black Comix Art Festival, and the Museum of the African Diaspora.

They should have plenty to talk about, what with Mance’s rise in profile of late (she was the Guest of Honor at the recent 2016 San Francisco Zine Fest) and her ongoing (nearly concluded, in fact) 1001 Black Men project. If you’d like to be a part of the conversation, it’ll run 6:30pm to 8:30pm on Wednesday, 2 November, at 685 Mission Street (at Third) in San Francisco. It’ll run you US$10, US$5 for students and seniors, or free if you’re a member of CAM or MOAD; admission will include access to MOAD’s exhibits and a brief reception with Mance after the public program.

Honestly, this is the best kind of work that CAM does — partnering with other institutions that don’t have comics as their main focus to broaden both constituencies. Popular perception of comics in America skews very white, and African-American culture has long been perceived to concentrate in certain areas (music, oral traditions, “outsider” art) to the point where contributions to areas like comics may not be fully appreciated.

By seeking out areas of intersection with underrepresented communities of creators (CAM has especially brought focus to queer creators and comics), they expand what all of us think about capital-a Art in general and the comic arts in particular. Good on them, and if you’re about the Bay Area next week, drop in and give a listen.

Spam of the day:

Adult dating, the best girls from your city


SEX DATING: Seeking a man to meet.

Curiously, these come from the exact same return address, and feature the exact same 24 – 27 year old “hot singles in your area that want to sex you”. Could it be that this is an exaggeration?

Sic Transit

18+ only, please. There's sexytimes inside.

The news broke as I started to figure out what to write about today — Jack Chick has died, which news will prompt one of two possible reaction paths:

  • Jack who?
  • The guy behind the crazy evangelical tract comics that hated everybody that wasn’t just like him? Wasn’t he dead already?

I honestly can’t think of anybody in comics that’s been seen as widely and yet been so unknown at the same time. There are places where Chick Tracts are ubiquitous — and where the worldview he espoused is celebrated uncritically — and yet the people who were probably most aware of the depth and breadth of his work are probably about as diametrically opposed to everything he believed in. Every cartoonist knew about Chick.

I never wound up on the harmful end of Chick’s message¹ but I’m still glad that he’s no longer cranking out more of it. Others will fill his place, but I doubt anybody else will be as good at it as he was, which I’m going to count as a rare tickmark in the GOOD column for 2016.

So he’s gone, and I never want to be the sort of person that rejoices in another’s death, so let’s look at things that are positive in life today. Things that should make just about anybody smile. At least one of which probably would have enraged ol’ Jack Chick for some reason or other. After all, if the world weren’t sinful and lacking morality (in his eyes, at least), what purpose would he have had?

  • Dogs! Dogs are the best and now I need to go act this one out with my cold-nosed waggy guy.
  • New Hark! A Vagrant update (Wuthering Heights, no less!), including links to comics about Kate Beaton’s King Baby tour of schools and bookstores.
  • New erotica Kickstarter from Iron Circus, this one being Letters For Lucardo, the first of a planned four books from Finnish creator Noora Heikkilä. It’s about an old man and an immortally young vampire, setting the stage for the series theme of the dangers of love between human and superhuman. Did I mention that the vampire is also a dude? You’re welcome, Jack.

Oh, and on a logistical note, I’m going to be on a reasonably strict client site later this week. My apologies in advance if any updates are late or skipped.

Spam of the day:


My best management technique is to not have diabetes. Works great.

¹ As a straight white male, I was on his good side; my atheism makes me lost but I always got the impression that my failure to believe as he did was somehow less bad in his eyes than people who actively believed differently than he did (Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus, Wiccans, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses … let’s just say almost everybody).

What I’m saying is that his ministry — such as it was — was probably more of the cajoling type when addressed at me, and less of the bludgeoning condemnation that so many other people received.

Number Five

So an interesting thing happened today. The five top-funded Kickstarter comics projects prior to about an hour ago were:

  1. The Order of The Stick Reprint Drive (2012; US$1.1254 million, 14.9K backers, 2171% of goal)
  2. The Ctrl-Alt-Del Box Set (2015; US$666K, 5.6K backers, 443% of goal)
  3. Dresden Codak Volume 1 (2013; US$535K, 7.6K backers, 1783% of goal)
  4. Penny Arcade’s ad-kill campaign (2012; US$528K, 9.1K backers, 211% of goal)
  5. Girl Genius Volume 12 & back catalogue reprint (2013; US$389K, 4.4K backers, 707% of goal)

All long-running projects with zillions of readers, deep archives, and well-established creators. All the hallmarks of success under the general rules of engagement that we’ve been working under for the past decade or so. Yeah, those rules just got re-written because as of now, the new number five goes to a Tumblr-hosted, irregularly-running comic about gay college hockey players that’s only been around a couple of years:

  1. Check, Please Year Two (2016; US$399K, 5.1K backers, 1226% of goal)

Which prompts one to consider what lessons may be learned.

Lesson: Much in the way that New York is not a city (it’s a collection of 900 different neighborhoods that happen to have a common political structure and very little else in common), captial-w Webcomics is not a medium, it’s not a delivery mechanism, it’s a collection of niches. Whatever your niche, there’s people out there that will respond to it.

Lesson: The more underserved the niche (or niches that intersect in non-obvious ways), the bigger the pent-up demand for the story you’re telling.

Lesson: The necessity of regular scheduling (even in a potentially post-RSS world) may be dead; a compelling story and characters that you care about will carry your readership over irregular updates.

Lesson: The US$75K that Ngozi Ukazu raised a year and a half ago for her first reprint wasn’t a fluke; it was a warmup.

Reminder: Webcomics has always been defined by what’s next; what delivery channel, what payment mechanism, what project. Smart creators are thinking two or three steps down the line at all times.

Reminder: Check, Please! is presently part-way through the third year of a story that will cover four academic years; the ending is closer than the beginning.

Conclusion: Ukazu is likely already planning for whatever will fill her time after Bitty, Shitty, Jack, Ransom, Holster, Lardo, and the rest hang up their skates. Smart publishers should be making offers to her now. She managed to raise nearly half a million damn dollars¹ on her first two projects with very little infrastructure behind her the first time out². If she’s forward-looking and ambitious (and has a decent lawyer), there’s no limit to how far she can go.

Spam of the day:

Getting help is easy with Tech Support Pro

You want me to subscribe to a support service from Verizon? That’s hilarious. No, wait, what’s the other thing?


¹ At just under US$400K for Year Two, the FFF mk2 overestimated the funding (prediction: US$600-900K), as the big first-day surge was likely to. The McDonald Ratio would have pegged funding at US$620K, at the low end of the FFF mk2. This isn’t the first project where a huge Day One response skewed the prediction up by 50% or so, but still not enough data to predict what the limits of a Day One response to trigger the reduction would be. Data, man. It’s weird.

² She coordinated the production of Year One while still a student, with Amplifier handling the fulfillment. Year Two, she’s brought in Breadpig for logistical support, along with a designer and production specialist.

Born On This Day

We’re coming up on one of those parts of the year where a lot of webcomicker birthdays coincide¹; some people see the inevitability of duplicate birthdays where there’s a large enough group of people², others just see belated evidence that certain members of older generations found certain times of year better for sexytimes. Today, the lucky co-birthdayists are John Allison (happy 40th!), Ryan North (happy 36th!), and the handsome man up there, who is peripherally related to webcomics.

I speak, naturally, of the late Jerry Orbach: actor, singer, and current artistic muse to Brandon Bird, whose latest Kickstarter successfully concluded yesterday (what would have been the last day of Orbach’s 80th year), meaning that the Jerry Orbach Memorial Art Car will be a thing. It was a near thing, with last-minute funding pulling the campaign over goal, but I’m glad to see something this full of love, this unanticipated, this weird has caught the imagination of a sufficient number of people to be made.

Bird hasn’t mentioned this idea, and I don’t know if it’s feasible, but it literally just occurred to me that the one indispensable thing that you need on a Jerry Orbach art car is a horn that makes the Law & Order doink-doink sound.

Spam of the day:

Please see the statement attached. File Access Credentials: qMRwgAxe7

Wow, that’s not shady at all.

¹ For example, Jon Rosenberg not only browbeat me into launching the blog, he and I share a birthday each year around [American] Thanksgiving.

² As in the classic statistic demonstration, where there’s a 50-50 chance that two students will have the same birthday in a group of 23 people; the odds only go up from there.

Whoops, Time Got Away From Me

And you know what? I’m not apologizing at all. I’m finally (mostly) over that bug that felled me earlier in the week, and one of my favorite creators surprised me with a new draft of her next book, and a trip to IKEA means that a long-delayed plan for the house — like since we moved in twelve and a half years ago delayed — is finally underway.

So you get two short bits today, and then I can start figuring out how to put some IKEA stuff together.

Thing The First: Bears vs Babies is as we speak pushing US$978,000 in funding and more than 26,000 backers. At this point in its campaign, Exploding Kittens was closer to US$2 million but you know what? Matthew Inman and Elan Lee have had a year and a half of Kicktstarter hacking experience. Forget setting records, this is one to watch to see what kind of mischief they get up to. It’s a case study¹.

Thing The Second: Howard Tayler — evil twin to the stars — has announced his latest challenge coin is open for pre-orders. No color, no enamel, no epoxy, just a hunk of brass that will get worn from a lifetime of wear in your pocket, and some wisdom (both that which is inscribed originally, and that earned as it gets said wear). To wit:

Maxim 70: Failure is not an option. It is mandatory. The option is whether or not to let failure be the last thing you do.

Rest in peace, Kaff Tagon; I don’t think Howard’s gonna reboot the universe to un-kill you a second time.

Spam of the day:

I hope that someone find the same sociable as I am. Be sure to answer. Are always here site

Well, that’s a step up from the usual level of English in Russian pornsite spam; usually, it’s so far off English that it’s Portuguese.

¹ First thing to learn: how far off are the Fleen Funding Formula (Mark II) and the McDonald Ratio when you’ve got such a motherscratching oversized response? The FFF mk2 has BvB predicted at US$3.75 +/- 0.75 million dollars, which is a hell of a margin of error.

Game Day

Whooo, not 100% but feeling much better than yesterday. I credit sixteen hours sleep and the invaluable healing powers of Roberto, courtesy of the equally invaluable Helen Rosner. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

  • Games seem to be the recurring theme today, with the Exploding Kittens crew launching a new game on the Kickstarter a few hours back, and sitting on (as of this writing, but rapidly changing so I’ll revisit just before I hit publish) about 8600 backers and US$315,000 in pledges so far.

    Not only that, but today Amazon delivered something I’d forgotten I’d ordered — the first Exploding Kittens expansion set, Imploding Kittens, which has some new cards, some new play mechanics, and a human-sized Cone of Shame that you have to wear if you forget whose turn it is next. Whatever Elan Lee, Matt Inman, and Shane Small are drinking, I want some.

  • Continuing, yesterday saw the launch on Steam of Rose Of Winter, a visual novel written by Monster Pulse creator Magnolia Porter. Visual Novels aren’t my thing — I think it’s generational as much as anything — but if they were I’d be all over this, because Porter’s one hell of a writer. Given that the reviews all mention story/characters/writing (not to mention the fact that they’re 100% positive), I’ma go out on a limb and say that my confidence is well-placed.
  • Continuing again, today saw Howard Tayler¹ finding some of his words incorporated into a game — namely the highly-anticipated sixth installment in the Civilization series — as the illustrative quote for the Mercenaries achievement in the tech tree, as read by Sean Bean. I’ve been trying to keep my distance from news about Civ VI, largely out of a sense of self-preservation (I have spent way too many hours playing every installment, and also the excellent Alpha Centauri), but now I’m all in.

    Speaking of Tayler and games, the equally highly-anticipated Schlock Mercenary role playing game is into content crunch time, and the somewhat delayed print collection of the in-universe 70 Maxims Of Highly Effective Mercenaries has finally got a release date.

    A big chunk of the delay was Tayler thinking that the visuals were not up to snuff, but having seen the high-res PDF of the book released to backers this week, I’ma go out on a second limb and say that his concerns were unfounded. Not only does it look good, but the extra layer of story and character that it reveals is hugely satisfying to longtime readers². Once the delivery of physical books is made to backers of the Kickstart, pick one up.

Update: approximately 11,800 backers, US$435,000. It’s changing as I’m typing.

Spam of the day:

32???autiful Girls Riding Bikes You’d Want To Own

The construction of that particular subject line doesn’t make it clear if the implication is I’d like to own the bikes or the girls. In either case, ew.

¹ My evil twin, and the best one you could ever hope to have.

² It appears that the first time I wrote about Tayler was sometime in the first month of updates of this website, more than a decade back.

Bleah. Sick Day.

Congrats to Maki Naro for his recognition by the geek community of Philadelphia, and now I’m going back to bed.

I’m Just Know I’m Going To Use That One Point Three Expression In Real Life At Some Point

But first, for all of you creators and readers in the Pacific Northwest, please stay safe as the murderstorm bears down on you.

  • Sad news to start: Amanda Lafrenais lost her brother, Chris Volesky, at the start of the week. Just 27 years old, he died in his sleep. Sudden expenses can damage any family’s economic standing; when it’s for a funeral, the gut-punch is even harder to bear. You can help out at the GoFundMe page that Lafrenais set up.
  • It appears that I’ve managed to not mention Cartoon Crossroads Columbus at all this year¹, although I’m pretty sure I mentioned it when The Spurge was announced his intentions to debut last year, following his move to the Columbus area. The goal of CXC is ambitious: to do a stateside version of Angouleme, presumably without the incredibly sexist and moronic executive director (hi, Franck!)

    You’ve got a cluster of super-talented folks up there (Jeff Smith not the least), not to mention Ohio University and the Jenny Robb-curated Billy Ireland collection therein, where a triannual gathering of comics luminaries sets the stage for getting Big Name Folks to drop in. My mistake, too late to urge you to go (unless you’re local), and I’ll try to do better next year.

  • We’re down to the final six days of the Check, Please! Year Two print collection Kickstart and Ngozi Ukazu is sitting on more than US$312,000 in pledges, with Kicktraq projecting just about US$400K as a final total. I suspect that a last-minute fan rush (and there are some seriously serious fans of the hell of cute hockey boys, some of whom are also hell of gay) will push it beyond, but we shall see.
  • Holy crap, Matt Bors has an actual entertainment industry development deal for The Nib, which is as free-wheeling and unsafe an environment for the notoriously risk-averse Hollywood machine to find itself in as could possibly exist. I can’t wait to see what may (or, given that it’s Hollywood, may not) come of this deal. But either way — Bors has put something important together, and has been noted on this page in the past, he pays his contributors. On that last score alone, I consider this to be nothing less than a karmic reward.
  • Oh, yeah, and Chris Onstad made me actually laugh out loud at Roast Beef’s latest blogpost and the description of children whose number two is more like a one-point-three. Holy crap (phrasing), that’s a perfect, perfect, completely gross and still perfect turn of phrase. Bravo.
  • Finally, some very skilled people are taking the entire piss out of Cheeto Jesus and you can either purchase a copy, or get one for free with a donation to defeat what he and his Trumpaloompas² stand for. Be sure to listen to the audiobook, too.

Spam of the day:


My dream bathroom idea is pretty much that the stuff I don’t want goes away without fail. Beyond that, I’m pretty easy.

¹ Thanks to alert reader Ben Cordes for calling me on it.

² Tip o’ the hat to Charlie Pierce, whose formulation I like slightly better than Ken White’s Trumpalos, primarily for its mental invocation of orangeness.

Nightmare World

Dear, oh dear, oh dearie dear, the news today is quite distressing, with terrible people acting terribly, determined to the last to drag the rest of us down into their own dark version of what the world is (and can be). And yet there is hope, in a place darker still.

I speak, naturally, of the return of The Last Halloween by Abby Howard after too long an absence while she works to get the print collection of Book 1 together (the PDFs of which have already gone out to backers).

Today’s update is the last of four strips (1, 2, 3) that shift away from Mona and her band of semi-determined world-savers, jumping forward in time¹ and an unknown distance in place to a pair of new young people (sister/brother team Libby and Malcom) struggling against the monster world any way they can.

Namely, by blowing shit up and stealing stuff, including a small (and seemingly harmless) monster named Chips. Who appears to be the monster equivalent of the computer-literate fanboy complete with little workplace collector-grade action figures. Who wears tightie-whities. And who is now impromptuishy (and perhaps temporarily) teamed up with Libby and Mal to find that which is killing monsterkind² … but to defeat it or to join up with it?

Fortunately, we shouldn’t have too long to wonder, as we’re back to regular updates from next week, barring unforeseen circumstances. Then again, in a world of monsters and worse, what circumstances aren’t unseen?

And, for that matter, which world am I talking about?

Spam of the day:

View Photos of Single Seniors

How many times do I have to tell you bozos, I AM NOT A SENIOR CITIZEN YET.

¹ Months, we knew, but the monster-in-charge mentions his team working together for a matter of years; could it have been that long since the Last Halloween?

² Is the Monstlaughterer Mona? Is she now a badass teen instead of a badass preteen? Libby and Mal’s clothing looks reasonably new, but there’s been at least one time jump so who the hell knows.

Hither, Tither, Yon

We’re going to be going in several different directions today; best strap in now while you can.

  • This has been a stinker of a year, top to bottom (and I fear we haven’t hit bottom yet), so I think we all deserve a little cheering up. Today marks the release of the King Baby Plush, based on Kate Beaton’s book of the same name. Just lookit that chubby face and try to keep a bad mood — it’s basically not possible.
  • Motionographer, which dedicates itself to issues of interest to designers, animators, and storytellers of all stripes (at least, according to their About page) has a nice Q&A up today with Katie Lane (lawyer to the indie comics community and possibly also you) on the topic of protecting your work from being ripped off. She starts off damn smart in delineating the situation we’re in:

    I don’t think that every use of visual art on social media is a misuse, though, at least not in terms of copyright law. But because of the way social media has enhanced our ability to communicate visually, when we start creating art, we’re doing so with those social media skills as part of our vocabulary.

    And because on social media we use art, it’s understandable that some of us use art when we create. For me “using” is different from “referencing”. When we “use” art, we keep it largely intact; details might change, but the art is still recognizable in what we create. When we “reference” art, the art influences and informs how we create; a transformation takes place so that the original and our work are different.

    I think how we communicate on social media is part of why you see the rise in swiping, but I don’t think it’s the cause.

    The cause, in my opinion, is not being mindful of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

    and gets altogether smarter from there. Want to know about when the drop the legal hammer? Or what to consider before filing a DMCA takedown? Or even how to prevent rip-offs in the first place? Read it.

  • For those going to Thought Bubble in a few weeks, I wish to share the session that you most want to see:

    OFFICIALLY CROWNED! Come see me talk to @ryanqnorth and @EricaFails on Sunday afternoon at @ThoughtBubbleUK

    Details here, that’s John Allison talking with Erica Henderson and Ryan North about Squirrel Girl on Sunday 6 November in the News Room, Royal Armouries (Fourth Floor), from 1:10pm to 2:00pm.

Spam of the day:

Sure makes you thankful when your house is behaving itself though right? It doesn’t take a lot for problems to occur that’s for sure.

Sorry, spammer, nothing left to do on my house right now that doesn’t involve spackle. Not enough broken for you to try to scam me on it.