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Three Things Today

So on the one hand, the majority of my work is done from home these days, so I’m practically in self-quarantine away from the big, bad COVID; on the other hand, I teach a lot of classes where the exercises are group projects and the chances that the student will succeed in exercises drops when they aren’t there in the room together. Seeing as how a) the success rate can be mitigated if they’ll just communicate with each other¹, 2) I get paid whether they play nice with each or not, and π) I get to pet my dog during the day, I’m okay with it. Everybody who has to leave the house/put on pants more than three times a week, stay safe.

  • Speaking of petting my dog, one of the best things that happened at SPX last year was running into the altogether excellent Jeffrey Rowland and having some time to talk to him. Although he’s been preoccupied with running TopatoCo to the exclusion of almost everything else², he expressed a desire to get back to regular cartooning.

    Which he’s done, and which has hit the point of regularity that I feel pointing it out to you will not bring unfortune upon his head, like unto the gods striking down a mortal for the sin of hubris. There was a strip back in September, and then a half-dozen since mid-February, so I’m a say he’s in the groove.

    Mulder Lessons (also found mixed into Rowland’s twitterfeed or on the Grams), is a two-character, four-panel affair. Rowland’s dogs, Mulder and Howard, discuss life with an existential fatalism not seen since Charlie Brown and Linus got into it. Suitably, the strip is drawn entirely from the POV of these two small dogs; people are shown from the knees down and are as mysterious as Charlie Brown’s teacher with the wah-wah trumpet voice. Check back regularly for wisdom on squirrels, planes, the nanny state, and How Things Work. Much like the real Mulder, who I got to pet at SPX, Mulder Lessons is delightful.

  • Speaking of delightful, Chris Hallbeck decided to channel his inner Ryan North with a Choose Your Own Comic today over at Minimumble. It’s got cowboys, and a showdown, and love with presumably smooching. Hooray!
  • Finally, a word about Snapdragon, the new graphic novel from Kat Leyh. It’s a charming story about growing up and finding yourself (the titular Snap discovers she’s at least a bit of a witch; her neighbor Louis begins transitioning to Lulu), growing as a person (Snap’s mom is working — probably as a bartender, and in college, and something else we’ll get to a minute), and finding out who has your back (Lu’s older brothers are rowdy and obnoxious, but never question or belittle the transition). Oh, and most of the characters are people of color, which is badly needed representation. But mostly I want to talk about small details.

    See, there’s a witch in the woods; she collects roadkill and sends the spirits of the forgotten animals on their way, and then articulates the skeletons because people on the internet will pay big money for those. Nobody’s fool, old Jacks the witch, as she lovingly reconstructs those skeletons, which are nicely accurate. Leyh could have easily fudged details, but she’s got more respect for her readers than that (also, at least one of them will be into vertebrate anatomy, guarantee it).

    The degree to which Leyh pays attention to the details hit me when it’s first hinted that Snap’s mom, Violet³, is going to fight fires. There’s an offhand reference to dropping by the station for training that’s not explained, but in that scene (and a couple others), Vi’s wearing a job shirt.

    A job shirt is a quarter-zip pullover with reinforced collar and elbows, handwarmer pockets, and others for radios, pens, and assorted gear; they’re common duty wear in the fire service and EMS. They’re comfy as hell, durable, and instantly identify emergency services to each other even if you can’t see a Maltese Cross or Star of Life embroidered on the left breast, or patches on the shoulders.

    Over the next 100 pages, it gets revealed that yes, Vi is one of those crazy people that will run into buildings on fire, but Leyh trusts her readers to put together the context as it’s presented. It’s emblematic of the degree to which Leyh constructed her story to show everything that needed to be shown, but not hit her readers over the head with it.

    I caught it immediately, somebody with a parent or older family member or friend that does the lights-and-sirens gig gets a little high-five for figuring out the context before the f-word gets used, and everybody has it revealed by the end. There’s other places where the little details reveal what’s going on, but spoilers. Read it for yourself and see how many you can find.

Spam of the day:

The law could change anytime, get your concealed carry certification

Have I ever mentioned how very glad I am to live in New Jersey, a state that makes it difficult to carry a weapon under nearly any circumstances, and not because you have Dirty Harry revenge fantasies about killing brown people? I am very glad that you have to keep your murdertoys out of my state, you constantly-referenced upstanding law-abiding gun owner, you.

¹ They absolutely refuse to do this.

² Good for all the creators that get paid as a result, but stressful for Rowland.

³ The family has one tradition — girls are named after their mom’s favorite flower.

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