The webcomics blog about webcomics

The Common Thread? Homestar*Runner

But Gary, I hear you cry, if you’re talking about Homestar*Runner, why do you have a picture of Grover at the top of the post? Bear with me. It will all relate by the end.

  • Readers of this page will recall that I have, at various times, declared Homestar*Runner to be a webcomic, originally in the context of a discussion I was privileged to lead at Comics Camp this past April. Said discussion and declaration were sketchnoted by Jason Alderman.

    Alderman’s on my brain because of a tweet I saw earlier today; if you are lucky enough to be in Pittsburgh now-ish, and lucky enough to work (as does Alderman) in the support and design of museums, then you (like he) might just be attending the Museum Computer Network 2017 conference. And just maybe you were lucky enough to attend Alderman’s presentation (recently wrapped up as I write this) on how to make sketchnotes.

    It’s something that I want him to teach me someday, something that I think would make a really cool 27-part series here at Fleen, just as soon as I can convince him to create something so extensive for free. Or maybe one of the times he does one of these talks, I’ll get him to record it and post a link.

  • But getting back to H*R, my point was that webcomics need not be ink on paper (or pixels on tablet), it can be anything that tells a story with a point of view, a direct relationship between creator(s) and audience, and the likelihood of collaboration. It can have sound and motion¹, but it has to have them for a reason; the creepy-ass blinky eyes of late-era FOOB² aren’t a reason. But used correctly, they can set a mood and serve a story, and that’s the other part of what I wanted to point you at today.

    I met Mike Grover at Comics Camp, and today he’s released the first chapter of a new limited-animation, looping soundtrack comic called Deeply Dave, and damn if it doesn’t do all the things you can do with webcomics that you can’t do with just comics. Grover provides the option to read it without the AV enhancements, and it’ll be a book eventually.

    For now, the repetitive motion brings more than a bit of depth³ and atmosphere to the story (especially considering the use of red and blue accents, reminiscent of the colors decoded by old style 3D glasses), making each panel appear to have far more going on that it would otherwise.

    The jittery images (think Squigglevision™) add a sense of menace to the presumptive Big Bad (the white circle eyes and heavy silhouette body remind me of the God Warriors from Nausicaä). The music is echoing, and distant — exactly the mood you want to convey the enormity of an ocean that does not care about you and could kill you at any time. Turn it down to just above the level of audibility for maximum effect.

    Grover may only be using the animation and music as a means of promotion, but I hope that he has the time to keep at it through each of the subsequent chapters. They’re super effective.

There you go: Camp, sketchnotes, Homestar*Runner, Gover, it all ties together. Now go forth and find your own weird coincidences in the world.

Spam of the day:

Today only: something SCARY GOOD

For the record, this spam did not get sent on Halloween Day, but rather five days after. Considering it purported to be a Pandora ad (although not from anything resembling for spooky Halloween music, they really pooched this attempt to get me to click on totally innocuous links.

¹ As opposed to Sound And Motion

² Which may not show up in the linked strip, but trust me — they were a horrorshow.

³ That is such a great joke and you don’t even get it unless you read the comic, so go read it already.

Joy In Comics

At the end of show hours I thought this was going to be a short post, but … well, you’ll see.

Saturday was commerce, commerce, and more commerce, to the point that I didn’t really get off the floor and and only had one good (albeit brief) circuit away from the booth. The Cards Against Humanity folks that have shared the Dumbrella booth have nearly sold their stock through and during the days closeout told us they want Andy and Rich to expand beyond their half of the booth so that they (CAH) can point their (CAH again) customers at their (Rich & Andy this time) stuff and hopefully sell a lot of it.

At the end of a show that is grinding and tiring, to take an approach other than Welp, guess we can pack up early and beat the rush, bye! is fundamentally generous; the game may be self-described as for horrible people but the people behind it are stellar. Thank you, Trin, Tom, Julia, Joe, and I know I’m forgetting other names because it’s early and I was up late.

I’ve mentioned Jason Alderman on this page before, and not only is he an enthusiastic, wonderful guy, he’s local. When he says So there’s this really good place that’ll take us a little while to walk to but we won’t have to cross with the nerd herd coming out of the convention center and we’ll probably get great food in us while the rest of the showgoers are still an hour from being seated at The Cheesecake Factory, you listen to him. There was a great meal and I’m not telling you where or everybody will get wise to his insider’s knowledge.

But as I approached the counter to give my order, the young woman looked at my collar and saw the Mutant Pride pin that I’ve been wearing this week on my shirt’s right collar¹. Her eyes lit up, then welled up just a little and she told me how much she loved it and wanted to know where to I got it. I pointed at Rich and said He designed it and started to mention his site and then figured it was still early on a Saturday night, she’s in the middle of nightly rush, she’ll never remember a URL or lose anything I might scribble a barely legible reference on and what the crap, there are still hundreds of them back in the booth.

So I unpinned it and handed it to her and her hands flew to her mouth and I legit thought she was going to faint. An entire silent story played out on her face, about what both halves of that pin meant to her personally; she’d been through her own version of hated and despised by a world that fears her, and one day she discovered mutants and they made her feel less alone.

Now she was in the shadow of the building where a tribute to the medium that made her feel a bit more whole was going on and she’s working a restaurant job that probably doesn’t allow her time to actually make the brief journey into the convention center and a skinny middle aged dude with a ridiculous moustache is giving her a badge that represents her. She told me it was the greatest day of her life; I believed her². I pulled Rich up the her register and I know he had more of his Pride stuff in his pockets that made its way across the order counter.

There it is — beyond the hassle and the scope and the seeming focus on everything except comics, a connection got made³ and somebody’s day got better. It’s tempting to read too much into this one brief experience, but it honestly reminded me that my view on capital-l Life is pretty incrementalist in nature; small changes and individual effort, when there’s enough of them and over a long enough period of time, make big differences.

I’d rather rely on ten (or a thousand or a million) people doing one small good thing than hope that a single powerful person does something big and good, if only because it’s harder to lose the hearts of ten (or a thousand or a million) people than it is to be disappointed by one4. Here’s hoping I’m still holding onto this sunny weltanschauung at the end of the day.

Things To See On Sunday: I’m about to head to the convention center, hook up with Pat Race, and check out the Art Of Steven Universe panel at 10:00. Find your own way there, I don’t want to get squeezed out.

Stuff To Get: Whatever’s on sale. But I have to tell you about what’s in the image up top. On the left is the Scott C triceratops pin, and on the right is further proof that I have the best friends in known space. Andy Bell has a new line of blind-boxed keychain danglers, little food characters. He opened up most of a case to find the one he based on me so he could give it to me. I’ve shown up in comics before, but this is the first time an artist has rendered me in 3D form. That little moustache-sporting toast is the coolest thing ever.

Cosplay: Bob and Linda remain popular (this guy had H Jon Benjamin’s habit of starting Bob’s sentences with Uh down to a science), Snape was excellent, and Larry & Gert from Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland were killing it (for every possible value of it; I’m pretty sure there was a trail of corpses). The best photo I got all day was of our own Ferocious J with Wendy-as-Harley Quinn (he has a passion for Wendy’s), but that was not the best cosplay of the day.

I didn’t get a photo, but there was a group of five people dressed up as The Avengers done as fast food mascots, and it was glorious. Fortunately, J did hand me his phone, so I present to you Hashtag McVengers. Seriously, follow the hashtag, because no detail was too small. The wings on the side of Captain KFC’s helmet were chicken wings. The Mighty Ronald’s McMjölnir was a thing of beauty. Black Wendy told me they’d been a group of Mr Meeseeks on Friday and couldn’t get ten feet without being stopped; on Saturday, they couldn’t get five. Today, they’re supposed to be an Archer group and I wager it will be top notch.

Spam of the day:

Find vehicle tracking devices

I think they’re offering me a device that finds other devices that in turn track vehicles.

¹ I’ve been wearing last year’s Pride Of The Resistance pin on my fleece for the past year, but for Con I’ve worn it on the left collar.

² Thinking back on it, that statement is both wonderful and awful.

³ And later, walking back to the hotel through the Gaslamp waaaay too late, another one got made. This involved helping a weaving-hard couple out for Party Times across the street when they lost forward momentum. He was dressed sharp and had slicked-back hair and Erik Estrada teeth. She had heels too tall for her current state and a dress that left little to the imagination. They were both maybe 25, 26.

She said I was cute5 and I asked But isn’t your boyfriend jealous now? She shot him a look and said He hasn’t locked it down yet, showing a ringless left hand. I shot him a look and said Dude. He protested She’s been listening to that Rihanna song too much!

A heartbeat’s pause, then I asked her Did he just say Rihanna? and she Mmm-hmmed me. I said You can do better and she Mmm-hmmed me again. I removed his arm from her shoulder, put her arm on mine for balance and told him Sorry, I have to help her find somebody that knows the difference between Rihanna and Beyonce. He shouted Wait, I meant Beyonce! How do you [middle aged guy, all looking like a Ben Folds fan] know about Beyonce? I looked at her and said He didn’t and she Mmm-hmmed a third time. There on the streetcorner we made him promise that the ring would be obtained this week and I showed him the proper technique for getting down on one knee.

They aren’t all super deep and meaningful and probably neither of them remember it this morning, but this particular connection was friggin’ hilarious for at least two of us. I really hope Supertight Minidress Lady and Perfect Smile Dude make it work. Those crazy kids deserve it.

4 Case in point: I’m going to make you wait longer for the writeup of the Read Like A Girl panel on Friday because it’s not bashed into shape yet.

5 She was very drunk, but possibly she’s just spent the last couple days binging on Dream Daddy for the previous couple of days. What the heck, I’m dad age. Actually, that would be perfect reason for her otherwise inexplicable compliment, on account of I was talking with Dream Daddy director/lead developer Tyler Hutchison earlier that day about the wave of Tumblrteen hate directed at his team for making them wait a whole six days to get a game that had only been announced a month ago. OMG, they’ve waited forevvvvv-her-her-her it’s so unfair.

Hey, Tumblrteens, that was me mocking your distress. Hutchison was actually very appreciative that you were so passionate about his game.

Comics Camp: Sunday

I’ll be honest; Sunday started a bit stressfully for me; Pat Race had asked me to give a presentation on the history of webcomics, and I was in absolute terror it would devolve immediately into uselessness:

Hey, Ryan North? Remember when you pranked Wikipedia about chickens? That was great. And Kate Beaton, you did a comic where a duck said “Aw yiss”. That was great, too.

And to be honest, I have to this day little memory of what I actually said. I have notes, mind you, that say things like The first webcomics are about as easily identified as the first jazz or punk songs and (double-underlined) Algonquin Roundtablesque!!

I remember my main thesis being that webcomics (aside from being a useless term, but we haven’t come up with a better one yet) is less a medium of distribution and more of an attitude: creator ownership, minimal gatekeeping, merchandising on the back end for scrappy entrepreneurship. It’s an attitude whose technical and business rules are constantly changing, and whose only constant is the ease of collaboration. Not just between cartoonists, either; I remember this bit:

So one day I leave my offices at Bryant Park in Manhattan, and as I walk by the southern end of Times Square, I noticed a full-sized billboard advertising W00tstock 2.0; it’s portraits of a former child actor/writer, an SFX goofball that blows things up for science, a pair of internet musicians/pirate fetishists, and it’s all been done 8-bit style by a quasireclusive pixelsmith.

If Dorthy Parker got drunk with fewer writers and more sculptors, aviatrixes, and telegraphers you’d approximate the degree of cross-media collaboration you have going on now. Instead, you’ve got Marian [Call] including NASA mission controllers in her shows and Molly Lewis gets hired by quasi-respectable party game designers to write a Christmas song about a Hawai’ian goddess with a flying vagina¹ because why the hell not.

Shortly after that, I shifted away from talking and turned it into a discussion session, getting people to share what they saw webcomics as, where they started, what their experiences were; considering that the room contained the likes of Kazu Kibuishi and Ryan North, it seemed a pretty good course to follow. Fortunately, the invaluable Jason Alderman did his thing and sketch-noted the session²; if you follow his twitter, you’ve seen these before when he attends sessions at various conferences. He doesn’t just take notes, he renders the speakers and finds their key points in real time, turning them into the most beautiful recaps imaginable. When you meet him, demand to look through his notebook, because you will very quickly get smarter on a wide variety of topics.

It was a good time; people went out of their way to thank me for the discussion later, and having the first time slot meant I was able to relax for the remainder of Camp … thanks, Pat! Even better, I got to see the next session, where Jeremy Spake and Georgina Hayns (mentioned yesterday) brought out the puppets and armature they’d shown at the Mini-Con, and really got down to details with us. For 90 glorious minutes we learned about fabrication, the CNC and 3D printing techniques used to construct the puppets³, and had our minds blown by the intricate details. Much more about this down in the photos section. Let me just leave you with a quick thought, though — when the stop-motion needs to look especially smooth, there are variant puppets with multiple limbs or whatever so that, say, an arm can be in multiple places at the same time. It’s the stop-motion equivalent of smear animation.

At lunch, I learned just how different life in Alaska can be; Sarah told me about living on an island approximately 100 km west of Juneau, where a fortunate quirk of geography allows a straight line of sight to a cell tower that provides enough internet to permit a freelancer’s life. She consults on land use and conservation policy, mixed with teaching art and movement. The nearest neighbors are 5 km away, and overwintering is a matter of personal choice and preparation. If the apocalypse ever comes, I want to convince her that I’d somehow be useful to her because she represents my best chance at survival.

Figure drawing took up a chunk of the afternoon, as did various project noodlings. Alderman brought along a little hand-cranked music box mechanism and a set of paper sheets that could be punched with holes to specify what notes would be played; think a very small player piano4. Call punched one of her songs into a strip and then wondered if it was possible to turn that into a Moebius song. Turns out it was, and the very quiet music became nicely amplified if the mechanism was held firmly against the body of one of the many camp ukuleles. Did I mention that there were 40 ukes delivered to Camp, leading many to take up the instrument? Because that happened.

Raina Telgemeier taught about how to present and get paid to do so; Tony Cliff showed how to snazz up those presentations with fancy flying transitions. Dinner featured the most nutritious cut of steak, and my turn at clean-up meant I missed much of the most significant session of the weekend as Cliff convened the Pacific Order of Onomatopoeia Professionals’ First Annual Regional Terminology Summit5 to decide once and for all how to spell certain sounds in comics. Suggestions were gathered, voting was conducted6, and Cliff released the final results [PDF] a couple of days ago. Comics creators, please note that the results linked to are definitive, official, and must be used as shown on pain of looking very foolish.

The last program of the night was the most insanely creative thing I’ve ever been involved in, but I’m going to be purposefully vague; as I mentioned at the start of these recaps, some things that took place at Comics Camp can — should? may? — only exist in the context of the time and place they took place. To delve into them too deeply is to rob them of meaning.

So it was as we gathered to create a musical — a main character was brainstormed, the introductory, “I Want”, villain, and emotional turning point songs were outlined, and we broke into four groups to actually write the damn things. I will show you in the photos section some wisdom from Marian Call, who shared her process for getting that first line of a song written; I think her technique applies to nearly any creative endeavour. Ultimately, I contributed two titles7 and one good line8.

Just about an hour from the start of the exercise, The Doubleclicks started playing the first song and the others followed as quickly as one musician could sit down and the next stand up. I am being completely honest with you when I tell you that more than one of them has been rattling around in my brain near continuously ever since; they are legitimately that sticky. Surprising everybody and nobody, there was a Hamilton-style rap from Pat Race.

I called it early that night, and so it wasn’t until the next morning I learned the anticipated northern lights were thwarted by cloud cover, but Ben Hatke mitigated the disappointment by teaching people how to breathe fire. In case you ever wondered what mineral oil tastes like, about half the Campers can tell you.


  • Along with everything else, Jason Alderman’s handwriting is extraordinarily neat. Sketchnotes of my talk on the history of modern [web]comics.
  • To start our deep dive in the Laika’s finest, let me note that it’s possible to take a photo where just about everybody’s eyes are closed. From left: Jeremy, Kubo, Kubo’s internal armature, Beetle, George, Monkey, Sarah, Kazu.
  • The puppets all start with an internal armature; here you have a full-dressed Kubo and his internal structure. You can’t see it but it’s got tensioning screws for each and every joint except for the fingers and the jaw. The fingers don’t have metal inside (too small), but are fully poseable. The jaw isn’t jointed, but implied by the shape of the face plates.
  • Okay: faces. They each consist of an upper half and a lower half; they allow for different mouth positions and expressions, and they pop right off. High strength miniature magnets hold the plates in place, and each piece is inscribed with a unique serial number describing exactly what it is. Popping off just the upper face gives access to the eyes and eyelids, which can be individually positioned however you like. Here’s a better shot of the upper and lower eyelids.
  • With the face plates in place, seams are still potentially visible — as here, in the bridge of Kubo’s nose — which are removed digitally. George mentioned that on Coraline, Henry Selick argued strongly to leave the seams in, as an acknowledgment of the physical nature of the stop motion creative process.
  • The models themselves hide access points for tensioning their armatures, and connection sockets for when the model must be supported externally due to posing; in Kubo or Monkey, it’s under clothing or fur. In Beetle, there are little pop-off panels and bits of cloth where joints meet. Monkey’s fur is made from a four-way stretch fabric which has been impregnated with a silicone; it stays where you pose it. Kubo’s hair is human hair, likewise laced with silicone for posing.
  • I’ve over-lit this shot so you can get a good look at the clothing; Hayns said that cloth is a particular challenge because it doesn’t look right at scale without significant effort.
  • Everything on these models is poseable. Beetle’s six limbs can move widely enough to draw his bow, for instance. It’s not a different model or a different bow. We were all very careful in positioning the models, despite the fact that they’re meant to stand up to significant wear and rough handling. There’s just so much care in their construction, we couldn’t treat them cavalierly; they are legitimate works of art and the highest craftsmanship.
  • Figure drawing; the fellow providing that rock-solid five minute pose (!) is Khail Ballard, and you should read his stuff. Ballard also played the lead in that night’s musical.
  • You thought I was kidding about the ukes, didn’t you?
  • Voting underway in the wake of the POoOP FARTS debate.
  • How to get to that first line, by Marian Call. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot.

¹ The fact that I got to nod at Molly Lewis while saying that last part is a highlight of my life.

² Bonus: preliminary sketches of the library kickoff show!

³ Of which there are potentially dozens of each character — and each animator has a precise preference about how much tension there is in the articulation, which presents design challenges you can scarcely conceive of.

4 A discussion of which led to me holding forth on one of my favorite topics — how Hedy Lamarr used player-piano rolls to defeat the Axis in World War II and at the same time invented frequency-hopping spread spectrum, which makes your cell phone possible.

5 I’ll wait.

6 While I did not make any spelling suggestions, I did exercise my voting rights.

7 The “I Want” song, Proof, and the villain song, Sweet, Sweet Untraceable Cash.

8 Near the end of the first verse of Proof; the music for that song was all Marian Call, the remainder of the lyrics were by her, North, Telgemeier, and Hollis Kitchin, who runs the best bra shop in Juneau. Other groups were headed up by the Webber sisters, Lewis, and Seth Boyer.

Comics Camp: The Juneau Community

The thing about Pat Race is, he’s been bringing creators to Juneau to meet local fans and generally be available in a place not on the general tour circuit for years; the oldest story I’ve written on the topic was from April of 2013, and I’m pretty sure he was well into the habit by then. Small wonder, then that Friday of Camp Weekend would feature all of the invited guests (and anybody else with a clever enough hook — Jason Alderman wound up teaching kids how to make pop-ups from bits of paper and glue) heading out into the public schools to bring their insights to students.

It was an all-day affair, with creators being driven all over, from start of day until end, averaging two different sessions each. As a result, it was possible to run into people pretty much all day long, either waiting to make their way to a school, or coming back from one, or in some other in-between state. I wound up having breakfast with a rotating cast of creative types¹ and then hanging about the AK Robotics offices with Katie Lane — who had some contracts to work on, which for her is a legitimately fun morning — for a bit before grabbing a nap. Lunch meant tacos and then an impromptu vibe settled among the Camp folks in downtown — there’s a glacier in Juneau, and by gum we were going to see it.

Eventually, three taxiloads (taxis-load?) of us were deposited in the parking lot of the Visitors Center of the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest and we started out for the big hunk of ice across the sandy beach. Here’s the thing about Mendenhall, because I’ve been there before: you have no idea how far away it is. There’s no scale, and after walking for 30 or 45 or 60 minutes, you may have come significantly closer to, say, a waterfall on the way, but the glacier itself is no closer and no larger. It is still impossibly far away, and it’s getting time to head back to town (some of us had obligations to help with prep for the library event that night), and anyway, what are those tracks in the sand?

Bear. Definitely bear, except for the ones that were clearly wolf. They probably don’t feel like coming out in daylight, and there’s a good 300-400 meters of clear land in all directions so nothing can sneak up on you², but still … finding bear tracks is an excellent way to focus your mind on the general topic of being elsewhere.

The library event would involve all of the musicians, and ten or so of the comics folks, each getting five or ten minutes to play, or tell a story, or demonstrate an aspect of their work; I was asked to help make sure each knew when to make their way to the microphone, and to ensure that their presentations (if any) were loaded. It was a terrific success, with the standouts being Jason Caffoe’s demonstration of exactly how much his colors add to Kazu Kibuishi’s inks³, Ben Hatke’s reading of Nobody Likes A Goblin with all the voices, and Lucas Elliott’s series of mer-men portraits, ending with a loving tribute to Pat Race and Aaron Suring.

Breakdown was followed by a trip to Fred Meyer for camp essentials like earplugs, cocoa, and hand warmers, and then back to downtown where Race had arranged a party at Juneau’s about-to-open distillery (about two weeks from the time of this writing) for Moscow Mules and much good conversation. If you get into Juneau, it’s right across the street from the Baranof Hotel, and the wallpaper is both distractingly random and oddly beautiful. It’s going to be the PDX carpet of southeastern Alaska.

The gin, by the bye, is excellent and hasn’t been proofed yet, so on the night it was somewhat north of Navy Strength; the distillers are passionate about their craft and attentive to detail (I walked by four days later and they noticed me, grinning and waving), and they are going to be making some excellent stuff. But four time zones and strong gin make for a tired Gary, with an early start to the mini-con the next day.


  • Friday started out foggy; view of downtown Juneau from my hotel room.
  • Ravens act like they own the place, but tell me that spread of feathers isn’t gorgeous.
  • The Mendenhall Glacier, I’m told, is significantly smaller than in the past. But after 45 minutes of walking, it is still impossibly large, impossibly far away.
  • Probably just a cub, but still further across than my size 8.5 shoes.
  • Lucy Bellwood (adventure cartoonist!) and Lucas Elliott illustrate the welcome sign. Fun fact, Pat Race’s mom has been a librarian in the Juneau system for decades, and parents bring their kids to storytime with her because she’s the one that read to them when they were kids.
  • The library crowd required the back wall of the room to be retracted (the track is where the green section of the side wall ends) in order to set up all the chairs necessary.
  • Ben Hatke, when there is enough room, ends readings by doing backflips. Sadly, there wasn’t enough room.
  • Jason Caffoe with a fairly finished set of Amulet inks, and the corresponding colored image. There weren’t really any inks to speak of to guide him in this skyscape. The degree to which he is a full partner in Kibuishi’s work cannot be overstated.
  • Lucas Elliott with his rendition of MerAaron and MerPat. It’s a thing of beauty.

¹ Including a lengthy discussion with Ryan North as to whether or not a complex document like a college thesis could be written entirely in emoji. I contended you could, drawing an analogy to Chinese ideograms. He argued that emoji don’t necessarily have specific agreed-upon word meanings. I countered that ideograms could change meaning or pronunciation depending on context.

He landed the decisive blow in pointing out that different vendors draw different symbols with the same Unicode address, so you don’t have the uniformity necessary. We both agreed that it’s simultaneously a tragedy and awesome that Unicode’s language specification is never going to be finished at least in part because it has to deal with petitions for inclusion from the likes of the Klingon Language Institute. Ryan’s always a rad dude to talk to.

² Except ravens.

³ To the extent that sometimes he’s given a two-page spread with the instruction Give me a floating city in the sky or Make this mountain look treacherous and not much else. Sometimes it comes together in a single image, sometimes there’s multiple revisions to get exactly what both of them want.

Comics Camp: Prelude

The word started filtering back to me about a year ago; the Comics Camp that Pat Race, Aaron Suring, and the rest of the Alaska Robotics crew staged had been invigorating — even life changing — for those that had attended. When Pat was kind enough to extend an invitation to attend the second iteration of Comics Camp, I filed it away for future recall. When he emailed me after the application form went live and prodded me with a polite No, really, we want you to come, my course was set.

When he sent the list of guests and camp attendees — some 20% of whom I knew personally, another 15% or so from their work, but for the most part intriguingly-described strangers — I began to suspect I’d made a very good decision. I was pretty certain about the time I wandered off my Newark-Seattle flight and realized that my Seattle-Juneau flight would be the same plane and hunkered down for the layover.

About half an hour later, while wandering somewhat aimlessly, I was tackled from the side by Lucy Bellwood calling Gary, Gary, Gary!¹ followed by a high-speed drag-over to where a crew of camp-bound folks had assembled; a time zone away from Juneau, I was already meeting people for the first time (Jason Caffoe, Jeremy Spake, Andy McMillan) and renewing acquaintances (Kazu Kibuishi, Vera Brosgol²). Queuing up on the jetway, I noticed a tell-tale shock of hair and a shoulder-slung ukulele, and introduced myself to Molly Lewis, who in turn introduced me to Ben Solieu. Coming off the plane in Juneau, I received a text from Jason Alderman, who excitedly³ informed me he’d just figured out I was on his flight and he’d be along shortly.

Pat and Aaron and various local helpers with cars met us at baggage claim. Rides were sorted out4, plans were made for the remainder of the day; it was not quite 1:00pm (plus four time zones difference) and the afternoon was free for several hours. Alderman and I made plans with Kibuishi and Caffoe to grab lunch after checking into the hotel and calling our various families. We had Indian food and extensive conversation about the state of primary education in America and why Speed Racer is the most underrated film of the past twenty years5. Alderman and I peeled off for a mini-con volunteers meeting at the Alaska Robotics shop6, and eventually made our way out to dinner.

Gary! I heard from the street, and found a grinning Raina Telgemeier walking towards us. She’d heard about a larger group of folks who’d just gotten in and were gathered nearby; Alderman and I altered course to join her, and found ourselves enjoying excellent fare with just about everybody from earlier, along with Kate Beaton, Dylan Meconis, Katie Lane, and others I’d not yet met. I was on about hour 22 since I’d gotten up in New Jersey to start my travels and fading fast.

Fortunately, unlike most everybody else at the table, I’d have Friday mostly free while they visited school assemblies and classrooms (if memory serves, nearly three dozen visits took place, in every public school in Juneau). For me, things would kick in again at a welcome party at the main branch of the Juneau Library. It was going to be a hell of a weekend.

Normally, I scale down photos for compactness, but I’m keeping all of these at original resolution. Embiggen to get the full effect.

  • Juneau is a very vertical city; the alleyways between buildings and side streets (in this case, next to the hotel) would end in staircases going up the hillside. This was not the tallest of them.
  • The Alaska Robotics Gallery is part very well curated comics shop, part game store, part music store, part fine arts space. I got the feeling it’s really a center of the community. A pair of girls, about 11-12 years old came in during the volunteers meeting and suddenly perked up hearing Kibuishi’s name. Is he here? Is he coming to [I forget the name of the school]? He signed my book last year and we drew with him! Race and company have made a concerted effort to bring artists and creators to this very isolated corner of the country, and as a result they’ve become key to its artistic life.
  • Ravens, man. This guy was just walking down the center of the street like he owned it. I tried to get closer to get a good shot, but he’d just wait until I was about five feet away and sidestep around me; the car should give you an idea of size, and this was far from the largest I saw. His body posture clearly said I don’t feel like dealing with you right now but if you decide to start something, I’m finishing it Chumpo.
  • Dinner. Visible from the near left side going clockwise you have Jason Alderman, Vera Brosgol, Kate Beaton, Morgan Murray, Kazu Kibuishi, Jason Caffoe, Katie Lane, Dylan Meconis, a hack webcomics pseudojournalist, Lee Post. Not visible but if memory serves, Lucy Bellwood, Andy McMillan, Alex Bates, and Lucas Elliott were there as well; pretty sure Lucas was the one I handed my camera to.

Spam of the day:
On hiatus while I talk about Camp.

¹ She may describe it as a polite hello, but the enthusiasms of Lucy Bellwood are such that even simple greetings arrive with the force of F5 weather events.

² She looked at me slyly and asked Do you remember me? as if anybody could forget. For the record, the last time I saw Brosgol in person, I had just dropped her off at the SPX Sunday-afternoon softball game (when that was still a thing) having given her a lift in a car that I haven’t owned for seven and a half years now. So, fair question.

³ Jason does everything excitedly; small yip-yip dogs with quad espressos look calm next to Jason when you offer him a project that strikes his fancy.

4 In my case, courtesy of Rob Roys, Alaskan abstract artist. A query about seeing bald eagles evoked a snort from Roys, the essence of which was: Want to see bald eagles? We’ll be driving by the dump, they’re all there. Trash birds. Now the ravens, they’re cool and very smart. Don’t piss them off, because the particular raven that you piss off will remember your face and attack you later.

His opinions on both eagles and ravens were corroborated by other Juneauans — Juneauites? Junevers? what’s the demonym for Juneau, anyway? — on multiple occasions, and I got close enough to some ravens to decide that they is damn big birds and I would not be pissing any off. More about them when we get to camp.

5 If you ever get the chance to talk movies with Kibuishi, bring your A-game because I can promise you he’s thought more about the structure and symbolism of film than you have. It was an education.

6 Where Jason was thrilled to hear he’d been placed in charge of setting up the snack table; he ultimately led the construction a friggin’ castle made out of cardboard, complete with portcullis, gatehouse, murder holes, arrow slits, and cannon. I, foolishly, did not get any pictures of it.
Update to add: But another camper did. Enjoy.