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Europe And Rather Too Many Em Dashes

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: Uncle George, and we discover that although Ray dug down deep to find he truly was Blood of Champion, he was ready to bribe his way out of the Fight the minute it became necessary (or at least attempt to). Ray contains multitudes.

We’re heading east today, to the continent of universal health care — that would be most of the rest of the world, Gary — and borderless borders — a contradiction in terms! — and ancient wines, beers, and cheeses¹. Europe!

  • Our first stop is in France, cradle of so many of the arts (comics not the least of them) and home of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin. One may recall that about a month ago I mentioned that Stela — the new mobile comics delivery platform — was getting a lot of attention and precisely zero release on Android, so I wasn’t able to offer up anything resembling a review.

    But! FSFCPL is in the iDevice fold, and Stela has recently released a French version, and he’s shared some thoughts on it for you. Key takeaway points:

    [O]nce you use it it becomes clear Stela’s purpose is to publish comics that embrace the 5 centimeters (that’s about 2 inches, for the metrically-challenged) width of today’s smartphone screens.

    That’s good, but Lebeaupin notes that Stela is really designed for handsets; viewing comics on an iPad means the comics are just scaled up, which makes for funnily huge lettering.

    These are comics that are native to that world: the panels are only as wide as the screen (nary a vertical gutter in sight) and can only extend vertically, but they can do so as much as desired because they are read by vertical scrolling. A panel may not necessarily fit on a screen (at least on an iPhone 5/5S/SE; I haven’t checked on the larger models)! An iPhone 5 screenful is a common size, but most of these comics have widely varying panels sizes, and anyway have conversations for instance that extend over multiple screenfuls: they don’t follow a pattern of identically-sized pages. The result is a very fluid flow and a reading experience that is meant to be fast. [emphasis mine]

    Bolded because I think that’s probably the most important selling point of Stela, however it should be balanced against another discovery:

    [I]mages are loaded dynamically and present a spinner if your scroll too fast before they have had time to load, as is traditional in iPhone apps: prioritize the flow, even if that means betraying some implementation realitie

    And some of the decisions (both technical and economic) are a bit bewildering:

    The comics are updated chapter by chapter (which make for checkpoints as well); the economic model is that the first chapter of each story is free, and you can get a subscription (using Apple’s in-app subscription system) to read after that. It is a single subscription global to the app, not per-series, so it works a bit like an anthology series. Comics are always loaded from the network, which bothers me a little: there is no way to preload while on WiFi to avoid eating into your phone data allotment, and no way to read at all if you are off the network. iPod Touches exist, you know. [emphasis mine]

    And depending on your inclination, those might be the dealbreakers right there — let your subscription lapse and you have nothing to show for it — as you’re only given access to what you’re reading right now. Stela is less a comics app than a comics rental platform; those that like to own their media (digital or otherwise), take note. And as always, thanks to FSFCPL for his review.

  • A bit futher east and north then, to the land of sauna and tango and linguistic anomalies — I’m speaking naturally of Finland — and Minna Sundberg. We at Fleen have been big fans of Ms Sundberg’s since we saw the crowdfunding campaign for the very pretty book of her first comic, and that regard has only grown since she launched her ongoing magnum opus, Stand Still, Stay Silent. Readers of this page will recall the fact that SSSS took the NCS Division Award for Online Comics — Long Form last May.

    And she’s been cranking out between three and five full pages a week (along with the odd interchapter hiatus of ten days or so) 879 days since November of 2013 — 500 pages in total as of today — making her one of the most productive cartoonists working right now. A page of comics written, penciled, inked, colored, and lettered in less than two days for nearly two and a half years? Sundberg is an unstoppable comics machine, and shows every sign of reaching Sergio Aragonés levels of speed and skill while still in her mid-20s. I can’t wait to see what she’s like in another decade.

    Happy Big Round Number Day, Ms Sundberg. Your work is great and you should feel great.

Spam of the day:


Damn it, I told you people I neither need nor want breast implants!

Dental Implants You Can Afford

Oh. I’d say Never mind but I don’t need dental implants either. Gots all ma teeths, don’t need fangs or tusks or anything like that.

¹ Now we’re talking.

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