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Fleen Book Corner: LDV1

Lord, I loves me some Little Dee. Chris Baldwin does a sweet (but not treacly), sharply funny (but not mean-spirited) (except for Vachel) strip that my youngest nieces and nephews can enjoy right along with evil-hearted ol’ me. And now his first collection of Little Dee comics is out (temporarily sold out, in fact). It covers the full run of the strip from inception to the 3 month hiatus that Baldwin took at the end of last year. It’s just as good in dead-tree form as day-by-day (maybe better, because your mouse finger won’t cramp up clicking “next” all the time). The printing is crisp and beautiful (really deep ink saturation on the beautifully-colored front and back covers, too). So if we all just accept that the book is wonderful, isn’t this review superfluous? No, because two things about LDv1 raise interesting questions:

  1. Baldwin has included the guest strips that ran in May last year; kudos for taking the time to make the necessary arrangements with his fellow creators. One of the unique things about webcomics — maybe the most unique thing — is the tradition of Guest Week. With the exception of Rhymes With Orange and Funky Winkerbean , I’m not aware that any newspaper comic has ever tried this (and RWO doesn’t really have characters or storylines). Webcomic guest strips lead to hilarious and memorable takes on familiar characters as highly creative people get to play in each others sandboxes. So why aren’t more of them included in reprint collections? Oftentimes, you don’t even get both halves of a crossover printed when a collection goes to press. Am I the only one that wishes this was different?
  2. Like most authors, Baldwin has asked what he hopes is an impressive person to provide a blurb for the back cover. This one gets quoted verbatim:

    Christopher is dedicated, knowledgeable and talented in both the business and art of the daily comic strip, and Little Dee is a solid example of his expertise.

    That was written by one John Glynn, who is listed as Acquisitions Editor for Universal Press Syndicate. Pardon my bluntness, but this is a prime example of corporatespeak; it’s superficially laudatory, but ultimately noncommital. It places the business of comics before the art, and the best compliment it can render is that Little Dee is a solid example. Where I come from, that’s called “faint praise”.

    Regular readers of this space will know that we at Fleen (okay, “I at Fleen”, happy?) have a bug up our (my) butts (butt) about the state of syndicated comics. The fact that the guy who’s presumably in charge of deciding what gets syndicated by UPS (such as Ann Coulter, Dear Abby’s idiot daughter, and James Dobson) is using such mild language instead of I want to see Little Dee in every paper in the country and any of my competitors that thinks different is a moron is pretty indicative of the state of smarts at the syndicates. But I promised you questions, so here you go:

    Why a quote from a syndicate suit? You got an annoucement for us, Chris? Do I have to start writing to the features editor of my paper? Is there actually a syndicate with an eye for talent out there, and Johnny’s just playing his cards close to his vest? Enquiring minds want to know.

I just got my copy yesterday (finished last night, of course) and I thought the exact same thing: why the hell would you put that quote on the back? If you want a good quote, just grab a line from anytime that Little Dee’s been reviewed; I don’t think it’s ever been panned. Or had anything other than “OMFG! Go read this now!” said about it. And they got that quote? Maybe you’re right, maybe it’s a coded message. If so, well, there’s better places for coded messages than the back of your book, that’s for sure…

[…] In addition to his bold experiment in fan-driven marketing (have other webcomics tried this? I can’t recall any), Brazelton has heeded our cry to include guest strips in his book. A case of two people coincidentally coming up with the same good idea, or a shameless attempt to suck up to us for free press? Either way, it worked. […]

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