The webcomics blog about webcomics

Big Round Number

[Editor’s note: Postings this week are going to be brief (as I prepare for) or absent entirely (as I travel to and attend) on account of Alaska Robotics Mini-Con on Saturday and the adjacent events. For that matter, you probably won’t get anything out of me next week as I’ll be away from network and/or traveling and/or recuperating. We thank you in advance for your patience.]

  • Evan Dahm’s latest Overside tale, Vattu, is reaching a point in the story that feels like the end game is approaching. The overall plot is at an inflection point — the emperor is dead, plots swirl around the succession, at least two communities of ex-pats are in various stages of revolt, and another of individual exiles is in upheaval — and there are arcs around the main characters to wrap up. What better time to release the 1000th page of the saga, as Dahm did yesterday?

    If you think that reading the whole damn thing to date (which is a very good use of your time, let me assure you) is too taxing via the website (I sympathize, I can’t read big story chunks online), I refer you to the two books that tell the first roughtly-half of the story (nearly six hundred pages worth!), and a third one is about to ship to Kickstarter backers. In the meantime, everybody congratulate Dahm, and I’ll see you in the depths of the Blue Age.

  • Less than three weeks out seems to be not the time to announce new special guests, but you are not TCAF, who add on until the very last moment before opening their doors. The newest tranche of guests from around the world includes Seth, Bessora, Margreet de Heer, Erica Henderson, Kid Koala, Rachel Lindsay, Jonathan Ng, Richard Marazano, Alex Norris, Émilie Plateau, Jérémie Royer, David Rubin, Hiromi Takashima, Typex, Jhonen Vasquez, and Chip Zdarsky¹.

    TCAF will happen in and around the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) on Saturday 11 May (9:00am to 5:00pm) and Sunday 12 May (10:00am to 5:00pm). Attendance is free, but some events will require tickets to control crowding.

Spam of the day:

Stop What You Are Doing And Look At This Very Good Offer !!

This Very Good Offer includes a coupon so I can advertise on Bing. I do not think you know what constitutes goodness with respect to offers.

¹ Who for once is at the end of the alphabet instead of that bastard Jim Zub².

² Jim Zub was kind enough to send a preview copy of issue #2 of his current comiXology series, Stone Star. As you may recall from launch day last month, issue #1 impressed me, and I can safely say that issue #2 builds on that framework and ramps up the narrative.

And, uh, looks like Zub’s now the last person to be mentioned in this post. Sorry, Chipster.

A Big Round Number For Christmas

Vattu #800.

That is all.

In Which 439 Is A Big Round Number

You wouldn’t think so, but it is — that’s the number of pieces in the latest Baffler! from Chris Yates, the 3000th in the series. Five layers deep, colors all but indistinguishable from layer to layer, it’s a work of art. Serious enquiries only, please.

Other Big Round Numbers to note:

  • If I’ve followed the news a’right, today marks the 4000th strip at Unshelved. That’s a lot of stories from the library (what, didn’t you know that every single Unshelved strip, including the most horrifying ones, are completely true and taken directly from writer Gene Ambaum’s life?). Congrats to the webcomics power duo of Ambaum and Bill Barnes, and here’s to another 4000.
  • Hey, know what’s almost the same as 4000 strips? 400. What? It’s only one digit different. Anyways, fans of the Greatest Superhero Ever will want to make a special effort to see what Wonderella’s up to on Saturday, as that will be strip #400. I bet she jumps hella high and also yells at Hitlerlla and maybe also teaches a lesson. It’s what superheroes do.

Not big round numbers:

Spam of the day:, with region cricket, a well known fact their co-workers may state in order to as well as bemoan within equivalent amounts.

I spend a tidy sum to spray for region crickets, so I’ll thank you not to imply we have them.

Yesterday Was Both A Blah Day Personally, And A Big Round Number

Guhhh, this bout of the Martian Death Flu apparently wanted to cram four or five days worth of feeling crappy into about twelve hours. I’m over the worst of it, and don’t actually feel bad, but I could use about ten hours of sleep. Thankfully, the snow appears to have stopped with less accumulation than would have required shoveling, so yay. Oh, yes, also webcomics.

I don’t think that there’s a world-builder of alien¹ environments and characters² that’s more accomplished, more thorough, more in tune with the totality of what’s being dreamed up and then deposited on the page³ for you to read than Evan Dahm. We’re conditioned by years — decades — of entertainment to think of not human as human, but slightly taller/shorter with different ears/nose/forehead, possibly a vocal tic, and entirely analogous to one particular culture, but Dahm’s creatures and characters and architecture and scripts and, and, and spring from a place that isn’t merely the familiar with a smear of paint and some prosthetics.

Case in point: Overside.

I’ve lost count of how many cultures and species and languages and geographies and histories Dahm has created to populate this place that feels organically4 real, and for each of those that he shares with us, there are hints about many more just around the corner. Junti becomes the most curious and inventive Surin in history and takes to the skies and it is exhilarating … but around each of those corners and alleys surrounding the Chapterhouse enclave there’s a debate, a haggle, an argument, a conspiracy taking place, because the city of Sahta is more than just the scene that’s being depicted now — it’s someplace that Dahm has made breathe since the first time we glimpsed it.

By the way, we spent 200 pages building up the story of Vattu, whose world can’t conceive of such a city. And as of yesterday, he’s spent another 300 pages building up the experience of Vattu (and Junti, and other captives, exiles, citizens, and rulers, highborn and low) in that city, and bringing us along for the ride. We’ve learned bits of culture, society, religious thought, calendrical structure, climate, politics, economy, and natural philosophy5, never laid out explicitly, always sneaking in at the periphery of whatever’s happening on the main stage.

So there we are, 500 pages of the current Overside story, rendered in glorious color, and we might be approaching the 40% mark of the story. There’s much more ahead of us than we have behind, and there are many more eras and lands in Overside still to share their secrets6. Given that Dahm’s about to be able to ship the first volume of Vattu, this would be a good time to catch up on at least one of those stories (there are others), and luxuriate in all the world-building. You’ll be glad you did.

¹ In the sense of not like that which is familiar rather than the sense of outer space monsters.

² I should probably say people instead.

³ Or screen; work with me here.

4 Free-range, even. Locally-sourced.

5 I almost said science, but I think that Junti is the first Surin to approach unweight — and life, possibly — with the critical, systemic approach that demarcates the line between natural philosophers and scientists. She’s going to spark the Sahtan equivalent of the Enlightenment, that girl is.

6 Not to mention what he’s doing with L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dear glob, that’s going to be beautiful.

Didn’t He Just Have A Big Round Number?

Back in April, Chris Yates (this blog’s favorite Tintin¹ with a scrollsaw) celebrated nine years making Baffler!s, for a total of 2222 of the handmade wooden mental torture devices, making an average of just under 250 Baffler!s per year, or about one puzzle every day and a half. You’d naturally be curious what Mr Yates was up to in the time since.

How about producing puzzles at more than twice the usual rate, despite having weeks lost to conventions and travel?

Yesterday saw the release of Baffler!s #2499 through #2511, making 289 more puzzles in less than five months. Okay, granted, some are pretty similar and pretty simple², but some of those puzzles are fiendishly clever and complex, more than making up for the simpler ones.

Best of all, Yates was so heads-down in work mode that he didn’t realize that a Big Round Number was coming up, meaning that #2500 was not one of his usual insane anniversary pieces, but rather something pretty appropriate for a guy that runs in comics circles.

That’s a lot of damn puzzles, and no sign of a slowdown in sight. Here’s hoping that Mr Yates keeps all his fingers and that his puzzlecutting imagination continues without pause for as long as he finds this mode of creative expression to be remunerative and to his liking.

¹ Tintin himself makes an appearance in #2499.

² Bonus points to Yates for titling these Baffler!s — and four others — with a reference to Warhol.

Big Round Numbers

I can't find the picture I really wanted to run, of Ryan Sohmer's personal Red Bull stash in the BFE offices. Instead, please enjoy a shot of idyllic White River Junction, VT, home of the Center for Cartoon Studies.

How big?

  • How about 10? Real Life hit the ten year mark yesterday, and celebrated with a rare Sunday posting. Creator Greg Dean promises that the week will be following the Inside the Comic Studio with James Lipton theme in celebration.
  • Okay, okay, how does 500 sound? A Softer World rolled over its 500th update over the weekend, with a particularly wacked-out triptych of existential horror (starring Meredith Gran).
  • Okay, if those don’t do it for you, let’s try … 5. Blind Ferret Supremo (or humble shopkeep? only his mother knows for sure) Ryan Sohmer had a damn interesting announcement on Friday afternoon:

    I have always been vocal about my beliefs regarding a career in webcomics. It takes a great deal of work and dedication, a greater deal of luck and a myriad of other ingredients to make it work, but it CAN work. A career in this field is a viable option. Like anything else however, an education would provide a huge leg up.

    Because of that, and our desire to help others break through, we have decided to create The Rayne Summers Webcomic Scholarship, at The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont.

    Beginning in the fall of ’10, we will be covering the full tuition for the selected applicant. The applicant who, I might add, is working towards a career in webcomics. Over the course of the next 5 years, we plan on adding 1 student per year, thus by 2015, the Scholarship will be putting 5 students through the program per year.

    Let’s put that in concrete terms: for the current academic year (2009 – ’10), tuition at CCS is $16,000; given the economics of higher education, the absolute best case is that next year (when the scholarship starts) it will be only slightly more. In five years, with five students? Very little chance that will come to less than $100,000 per annum that BFE are ponying up to help create the next generation of webcomickers.

    And here’s the thing: every time I talk to Sohmer — every. damn. time. — I come away with two impressions:

    1. He’s funny, personable, and I like him
    2. He is completely, but cheerfully, mercenary in his outlook to a degree that would make any self-respecting Ferengi blush

    By that second point, I mean that all all times he has a monomaniacal focus on what will continue to maintain and grow his business; he approaches that end of the creative game like nobody else this side of Robert Khoo. He has his eyes on his audience, their disposable incomes, and potential competitors for that pool of money, and doesn’t waver in giving them his full attention because he knows that Daddy’s supply of Red Bull isn’t going to pay for itself (actually, given the amount that fans bring him at conventions, it just might … but work with me here).

    And by this scholarship, what Sohmer’s doing is creating potential competitors for himself, “because he can”. Ladies and gentlemen, that is either the act of a clueless, hubristic fool, or a careful, calculating (potentially evil?) genius. My money’s on the latter.

  • One last BRN for the day: 1. Doesn’t sound very big, or very round. It’s the number of strips so far in a brand-new webcomic called Max vs. Max, and normally a new-out-of-the-gate effort wouldn’t get press here. But this one is from Wes Molebash, of the now-folded You’ll Have That, so I’m pretty confident that this one will do okay. Get in on the ground floor.

Also, I’m Obsessively Reading This One Book¹

Know what? It’s my birthday. More than that, it’s a Big Round Number birthday. I’ma take the day off. See y’all tomorrow.

Spam of the day:

Strongest Charging Cables Ever

Fancy-ass cables with magnets and such? Does it protect against Goddamn Martians?

¹ Book Two of Strong Female Protagonist, which will presumably be added to the store soon enough. SFP is a comic I can only read in big chunks, so every one of these pages is new to me. And, because I only read it in big chunks, I pulled down Book One to refresh myself. I may have spent more than a few hours that I should have been sleeping. More on this in another day or two.

It’ll Probably Be A Sparse Week

What with it being American Thanksgiving this week, making for an abbreviated work week, in which a full tranche of work must be done, in addition to plans for the big meal om Thursday. Cranberries must be cooked down, birds brined, bread baked, and pies prepared. Pies, people. Let’s do this.

  • The Creators For Creators grant was announced in April 2016, with applications open for about six months that year, and was first awarded this past March. It looks like the timing of the 2018 grant is going to be a little different, as applications just went live and will run until 31 March 2018. No word yet on when the decision will be made, but one thing’s for sure: it’s worth US$30,000 for a creator or writer/artist team to make a graphic novel. Details at the site.
  • Speaking of just went live: Minna Sundberg and Hiveworks launched the Kickstarter for book 2 of Stand Still, Stay Silent around midnight EST and cleared goal around ten hours later. In fact, the nearly 640 backers (as of this writing) are rapidly approaching stretch goal #2, at the US$50,000 mark. We’ll give this until tomorrow morning and see what the FFF mk2 has to say, but for now it appears that come May, I’ll have a handsome hardcover matching book 1 on my shelves.
  • And while it technically happened yesterday, it was pretty darn recent, so speaking of it also: Chris Yates has emerged from his madness place with the four-friggin’-thousandth of his Baffler! puzzle series. 958 pieces, eight levels, difficulty level 9.95¹, it can be yours for a cool US$2695 and honestly? It’s worth every.



    All of Yates’s previous Big Round Number Baffler!s has been snatched up by one of his dedicated puzzle-collecting fans, and I suspect that #4000 will be gone in short order. In the meantime, enjoy the photos of what it took to construct the 5.4 kg behemoth².

Spam of the day:

The world’s top influencers in media, technology, and finance use Nuzzel to save time and stay informed. Nuzzel Media Intelligence uses data from thousands of influencers to show you what important people in your industry are talking about, in real time.

You named your very serious company Nuzzel? That’s not the name of a media intelligence company (whatever that is), that’s the name of a tissue, or a fabric softener, or maybe a tissue infused with fabric softener to make it even softer for all your tender bits.

¹ Yates once told me that the difficulty scale is logarithmic.

² Shown here with a life-sized Yates for comparison.

August Already? That’s Unpossible!

Well, I guess time continues forward at a rate of one minute per minute after all. Today being the first of the month, let me remind you that you have until 11:59pm EDT tomorrow, 2 August 2017, to email me a copy of your donation receipt to The Trevor Project, which I will match. Last time we raised US$500 in matching funds (rounded up from US$305) and I’d like to exceed that if at all possible this time around.

As of now, we’re at US$360 in receipts sent. If I could make a suggestion? All of the super cool Kickstarts that you’re backing right now? Pick one, and donate an amount equal to just the shipping charge. If just one out of every ten of you did that, we’d be into the thousands of dollars and my budget for the next month will be happily blown. I know that Fleen readers are, in general, the sort of people that would make Mr Rogers proud and happy. I know you’ve got this.

  • I didn’t know how much I wanted a Jess Fink guest comic at Oh Joy, Sex Toy until I saw it. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled as broadly as when I got to the panel that said, quote, SO you want to draw DOWNTOWN KISSES, followed by art tips to make oral sexytimes look better. Thanks, Jess, Erika, and Matt!
  • I confess, Chris Yates not boothing with Dumbrella for the comics shows the past couple of years means that I haven’t kept as close an eye on his Baffler! puzzles as I should. He just released a tranche of new ones, bringing the total number of brain-numbers up to three thousand, nine hundred and thirty-six. As Big Round Numbers tend to bring out Yates’s most extravagant work, look for the imminent Baffler! #4000 to feature about a dozen levels, multiple sub-puzzles, and a solving time measured in fortnights.
  • TCAF remains one of the very best shows on the continent, and it’s never too early to start planning for May 2018. News went out today by means of the Twitter machine that applications will be open starting Monday, 14 August, until the end of October. My experience? Lots more people want to exhibit than the Toronto Reference Library can accommodate, so get your applications in early is my advice. Sign up for their newsletter if you need a reminder to check out the process rules come Monday after next.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have to make a bookstore run to pick up Abby Howard’s new dinosaur book, Dinosaur Empire!, which releases today. Heck, yeah.

Spam of the day:

Can’t see tiny buttons? Get a senior phone

I’ma tell you exactly what I told the Medicaid scammer that called yesterday, thinking me much older than I am: I can see a church by daylight. Besides, aren’t there enlarged button dialer apps for all the phones now?

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.