The webcomics blog about webcomics

Something Very Cool In The Offing And Also A Look Backwards

I don’t want to count any chickens before they hatch — actually, I can’t say that I want to count chickens ever, they’re monumentally stupid birds and counting them sounds really tedious — but I may be involved in something really cool in the next two weeks or so. Fingers crossed, and as so much that involves me and webcomics, if this happens it’ll be because Scot McCloud is in the habit of passing my name on when somebody’s looking for a comment on webcomickry and he’s busy. Your confidence in me is pretty much the greatest reward¹ I have for my sometimes tortured history of embloggenation.

Speaking of tortured history, I believe that I may have mentioned in the past that I’m not entire certain what day you could say Fleen went live. It was definitely December of 2005, and I’d been banking pieces to run on launch day, and I just neglected to pay any attention whatsoever; I’ve since decided to just split the difference and all it the middle of the month, which appears to be today-ish.

Some of what we did at launch (like the contributions of Jeff Lowrey and Nic Carey) have fallen by the wayside. Although it’s mostly been a one-man show, other contributors have popped up from time to time, like the inestimable Anne Thalheimer and the invaluable Pierre Lebeaupin. Some things I thought I would have an abiding interest have faded, while others (like my unholy love of parenthetical thoughts) have persisted².

This is, as near as I can tell, the 3340th post at Fleen in the eleven years since launch, with one more lost to the ages; somewhere close to 3000 of those were written by me. Individual posts range from about 200 words to near 4000; I’ll figure 500 on average and claim northwards of a million words, which is not bad for (mostly) frantic typing at lunchtime³.

Along the way, I’ve discovered on evil twin, found at least three retroactive weirdo best friends from high school, made no great enemies (except for James Ashby, but as history’s greatest villain, I like to think he’s everybody’s great enemy) and read more wonderful comics than I can recall. Most importantly, I’ve been able to tell you (all two thousand or so; honestly, I’m sometimes surprised at the influence people ascribe to me when Fleen’s readership is exceedingly modest) about work that I love and that I think you’d love, too (I think frequently on the speech about the discovery and defense of The New from the end of Ratatouille4).

Eleven years, more or less; new experiences still to come. It’s been a blast, and despite every day I despair of finding three sentences to string together, I find myself eager for the next story, the next deadline, the next couple hundred words. See you tomorrow for the start of Year Twelve.


Spam of the day:

My brother recommended I would possibly like this website. He was once entirely right. This publish truly made my day.

You and me both, spammer. You and me both.

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¹ Close second — being told by creators that a review found something in their work that others hadn’t.

² The footnotes came later. My love of Brad Guigar, the blog’s official Sexiest Man Alive, was always there (sorry, Ryan North).

³ Not to mention finding and formatting the screenshots and links, an unknown (but huge) number of which are now lost to rot.

4 If you haven’t burned it into your memory and need a refresher, click here .

Things That Caught My Eye Today

Evan Dahm started running illustrations from his forthcoming edition of Moby-Dick about 17 months back, and in that time he’s given us gorgeous art, styled like woodcut illos, heavy and dark and brooding, things of substance and weight. The white of the page is wrestled into submission, the slivers that exist here and there acting as contrast and accent rather than the space to contain the black. They’ve all been beautiful to look at (and you can see the full set at the Tumblr), but today’s art tops them all. No part of the book’s text that Dahm chose to accent with this drawing can be omitted and still give full context and power, so here it is:

Rising with his utmost velocity from the furthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms his entire bulk into the pure element of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling foam, shows his place to the distance of seven miles and more. In those moments, the torn, enraged waves he shakes off, seem his mane; in some cases, this breaching is his act of defiance.

“There she breaches! there she breaches!” was the cry, as in his immeasurable bravadoes the White Whale tossed himself salmon-like to Heaven. So suddenly seen in the blue plain of the sea, and relieved against the still bluer margin of the sky, the spray that he raised, for the moment, intolerably glittered and glared like a glacier; and stood there gradually fading and fading away from its first sparkling intensity, to the dim mistiness of an advancing shower in a vale.

“Aye, breach your last to the sun, Moby Dick!” cried Ahab, “thy hour and thy harpoon are at hand!—Down! down all of ye, but one man at the fore. The boats!—stand by!”

I want more than just an illustrated Moby-Dick from Dahm; somehow, somebody make is so that Patrick Stewart reads these textual excerpts as an audio accompaniment.

The other things I saw today were pretty good, too.

  • If you make your living by submitting invoices, then you should already know who Katie Lane is; she’s asking for information today, in the form of a brief, two question survey:

    If you have to invoice clients to get paid, I’d appreciate your feedback on two quick questions I have: https://katie240.typeform.com/to/xJyNM6

    The answers she gathers will be used to help construct a course she’ll be delivering come October, aimed at how to draft invoices that will make clients want to pay. I’m assuming this is more subtle than having the invoice stapled to a guy named Rocko The Knucklebreaker, but honestly I’m not sure what could be as effective as him. I guess we’ll have to give Lane her feedback, let her design the course to answer her audience’s most pressing concerns, and then attend to find out what’s to be done. I’ll keep Rocko on speed dial, just in case.

  • I mention now (in accordance with longstanding blog policy) that Kate Beaton is the best, and point those of you that may not have had the occasion yet to experience her bestness in person towards a forthcoming event wherein you may sample some of her bestosity. The National Book Festival, put on by the Library of Congress, is kind of a big deal. And in keeping with a mission to bring the most interesting people in literature together regardless of petty distinctions like national origin, the NBF people have prevailed upon Beaton to leave Nova Scotia and travel to Washington DC to talk about King Baby on 24 September.

    The National Book Festival is free and open to the public (with the exception of some high-popularity events, which require ticketing, but still free), taking place at the Washington Convention Center; Beaton will be part of the Children programming track, from noon to 12:30pm, with a signing from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. Between that and SPX happening just a week before (the exhibitor list isn’t up yet, but given her history of being there and her Ignatz nomination this year, I’d say it’s a pretty good bet she’ll be there), the Mid-Atlantic region has never had a better chance to drink in the bestitivity.

  • Okay, so I know that Zach Weinersmith uses a repertory company approach to his characters, with certain designs in recurring roles (or, more precisely, to play certain types of roles; he’s like Tezuka that way). But how did it take me until today to realize that the big, philosophical (one might even say navel gazing) discussions always go to the same two kids? Way to make me see patterns in the world, Weinersmith!

    I really should have been able to predict it, given that the same system was used in the SMBC Theater shorts, where it was well established that James Ashby is the worst person ever. Thought you could make us forget by keeping a low profile, didn’t you, Ashby? Well forget it! We at Fleen know you are history’s greatest villain¹, and we will never let go our vigilance, so watch it.


Spam of the day:

You are like one of those “denialist”s. Your comments about the internet are so contradictory to what is happening in the real world that I feel sorry for you. The world is changing. I hope it changes so that there is less stealing in our world.

The link to this went to a Tumblr dedicated 100% to high quality photos of lingerie-clad women’s butts, so I don’t think he (of course it’s a dude) is actually mad at me for something I did here at the blog.

I will note that it appears said butt photos are not by the dude in question, but taken with minimal attribution from around the internet. Oh, irony.

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¹ Need proof? Google search for james ashby and all you get is a cop convicted of murder. Okay, he doesn’t look anything like the James Ashby we’re talking about, but that’s just what he wants you to think.

Big Damn Number

On his income taxes on the line where it says to enter your occupation, I hope that Jeffrey Rowland puts down internet merchandise mogul.

  • Speaking of moguls of all sorts, you know what they need to keep their air of dapper superciliousness? A Monocle. Know where you can get a supply of monocles? From Zach Weinersmith. As I write this, the campaign to bring single-use monocles to the world is fivehours old and less than US$100 from its goal. If you think that it’s a joke, well, that’s where you’re right, but if you think it’s a scam or fake, allow me to share proof with you that these exist. Thank you to Weinersmith et. al.¹ for gifting me with this indispensible bit of dapperment; I await only an occasion when I must exhibit extreme surprise to deploy it for its intended purpose.
  • Speaking of Kickstarters, I would like to mention that my very favorite webcomic for reading in book-length chunks — Gastrophobia — has launched its latest campaign for its latest book-lenth chunk (which is to say, a book). Gastrophobia volume 3: Best At Winning, Worst At Love has been fundraising over the weekend and currently sits at an inexplicably paltry 75 backers, although they have pushed creator David McGuire up to some 40% of goal. The strip is great fun, McGuire knows how to both build a damn good story and fulfill merch on a timely basis, and there’s nothing that should be keeping you from dropping the dough to pick up this book. Make with the clicky, already.
  • Never bet against Ryan Estrada. Whether it’s setting out to provide guest strips for every webcomic, teach the world to read Korean and Russian in fifteen minutes, or wrangle eighteen different creators to tell one story from six different viewpoints based on an experience from his time running an Indian call center, Estrada takes on seemingly impossible tasks with aplomb.

    The aplombed tasque du jour is the one about the call center, as he’s launched Broken Telephone launched today as his newest serialized webcomic at Broken-Telephone.com, and it launched with what I believe is the largest initial buffer on record. Namely, the full year-long story is queued and ready to go on a daily basis. Estrada was kind enough to send me a review copy, which I have only just begun to read; what I have seen, however, is really good and plays to the strengths of his various artists, so be sure to check it out.

  • It appears that the results of the SPX table lottery have gone out, and while there’s no list of who got in yet, there’s a lot of mention on the Twitters and such from people that didn’t. It’ll be interesting to compare the list of last year’s exhibitors (archived here) against the final list of who made it in. It looks like SPX has become a victim of its own success, with a desire to bring in new talent and meet demand for tables — but when your process is designed in such a way that it finds a way to not include such rarely seen on these shores talent as John Allison, it’s time to look at how well you’re balancing your priorities.

Spam of the day:

A friend of mine got off dialysis (stage 5 CKD) and healed his kidney.

You’re lying or fooling yourself. Go hang out with your flouride-decrying, homeopathy-loving, anti-vaxx friends, and keep your crackpottery out of here before I get some on my shoes.

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¹ Which group, regrettably, includes the nefarious James Ashby, aka History’s Greatest Monster. And he gets the girl to “accompany him to the opera” in the promotional film! Boo, hiss!

NYCC 2014 Recap

Yes, yes, this was meant to be up over the weekend; life got in the way.

In the (goodness, nine) years that I’ve been attending New York Comic Con — every show, from the first year with people huddling in the cold and fire marshals not letting vendors back onto the floor — it has changed a lot. The show essentially doubled in floorspace until it took up the entire Javits Center (although that was interrupted for about three years by constructions on the exhibit floor), and then continued to grow as it shifted Artist Alley into the northern annex of the JC two years ago. In essence, NYCC has only been in its final, evolved size for two or three years; with the spate of harassing behavior last year addressed by this year’s prominent Cosplay is not Consent policy, one could argue it’s only now found its final form.

And that form is a partially comics-realted (primarily in the Artists Alley, which is an excellent comics-only space), mostly pop-culture related, and doesn’t have much room for webcomics. There are holdouts here and there, but the years of major webcomics appearing at NYCC gave way to a contingent of local creators gave way to them really only showing up for signings. The next year or two will probably determine if that shift ever shifts back to when webcomickers were more likely to participate, but with SPX and APE in the weeks before NYCC, and Webcomics Rampage a month later, it may be that webcomics has decided to pursue shows that are more suited to their own sensibilities.

To the extent that independent creators persist at the show, it will probably be in the northern annex of the Javits, where the Artists Alley is (as previously noted) spacious, lacking in overwhelming booths and noise that lend claustrophia, and even features a view of the outside world at a couple of points. It’s where I ran into Karl Kerschl, Maki Naro, and Jim Zub, and they seemed to be having a good time of it.

  • I first met Karl Kerschl at NYCC about seven years ago, when The Abominable Charles Christopher was new and he couldn’t get people coming by his table to care. Yeah, yeah, great they muttered as they flipped through Flash pages, causing me to be wonder where their brains were. This year, it couldn’t have been more different — in the middle of the highly-publicized launch of Gotham Academy and a huge push from DC, Kerschl shared how the fans were coming to talk Charles Christopher and back that up with cash. That’s about all I’ve got left he said on Friday afternoon, pointing to about ten copies each of the two Charles Christopher softcover collections.

    He also let me know that the push to get ahead on Gotham Academy means that we won’t see him back on Charles Christopher until the first of the year or so — it’s the first real hiatus in seven years, but he’s got to find new work patterns as he does his first ongoing title since adding two toddlers to his family. He sees a way to get the production on GA to the point that stealing time for Charles Christopher won’t impact its quality — even when he’s working on comics that aren’t all his own, he doesn’t want to do less than the best job in the world. In the meantime, he’s tossing ideas around in his head, figuring he’s got maybe a year of updates needed to wrap up all the storylines in Charles Christopher, which will make for a nice, oversized volume three in 2016.

    Making me the world’s happiest Kerschl fan, he allowed that he’ll be coming back to my favorite storyline (Luga and Sissi Skunk’s underhanded dealings) early in the process, and he has ideas about how to wrap up other storylines — the owlet who went off with his crazy uncle, the bird just trying to be a good husband and father, and the rabbity romance that may be his favorite. Oh, and Charles Christopher, Gilgamesh, the malevolent spirit lion, and the end of the world, that too. The fact that the main storyline is just one of the threads speaks to the greatest advantage of Charles Christopher — the obvious love that Kerschl has for all of his characters and the desire to tell their stories properly.

  • Speaking of meeting people at the NYCC Artists Alley, I first met Maki Naro there last year, and I continue to find him an absolute delight. We traded accounts of officiating weddings (terrifying at first, then awesome), talked about what’s involved in working entirely for yourself for a year (a challenge), and what’s coming up (some work illustrating a story written by James Ashby, aka History’s Greatest Monster).
  • Pretty sure that the first time I met Jim Zub in person was at NYCC and if it wasn’t, I’m keeping with the theme so now it was. Having just wrapped up the Figment¹ limited series for Disney/Marvel, he’s just been announced for the tie-in comic for the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series. It’s not the sort of thing that Marvel usually goes in for (an explicitly for-kids comic), but it is the sort of thing that they go huge for over in Europe, so let’s hope that all the kids in Germany, France, and Italy love Zub’s work as much as we do, because they’re going to be a big part of the equation in keeping the series going.

    And because he works for so many different companies on so many different comics, Zub and I always — always — end up talking as we walk from one place to another; I’m not sure we could deal with each other if we had to stand still. He showed me some art for upcoming issues of Wayward and we talked about how Japan (as it is) often doesn’t get depicted in Western media (particularly comics) and how he’s looking forward to addressing some of that as the story unfolds. Keep an eye on this ambitious young go-getter; I think he might just have a future in comics.

Out on the main show floor, I was able to nod in the direction of Unca Lar and Unca Sohmer, but the crowd around their booth was a bit too thick to penetrate. Similarly, I was able to manage a quick minute or two at the Cyanide & Happiness booth, where Dave, Rob, and Kris never get a respite from their many fans.

  • The highlight of the center of the show floor was dropping by the :01 Books booth, where I met their new book designer. Colleen AF Venable was a big set of shoes to fill, but after checking out the portfolio of Danielle Ceccolini, I think she’ll do just fine. It’s got to be a challenge coming in to work on book series that have a look and feel already established², but on the other hand, there will be new books (like the series on teaching coding by Gene Yang and Mike Holmes) where she can make her own mark. Look for the work that Ceccolini’s doing now to appear on books about this time next year.
  • The bulk of my time was at the periphery of the show floor, where Holly Rowland of TopatoCo was reppin’ for Welcome to Night Vale and the commerce never entirely stopped. Watching people find Night Vale stuff and smile was a kick to watch; pointing out the sign that said The creators of Night Vale will be signing HERE from 2:00 — 4:00pm and seeing the happiness spread across their faces was a thrill.

    Actually watching the younger fans (and from my POV, y’all are youngsters) meet Cecil Baldwin and Dylan Marron and do involuntary jazz hands in front of their mouths while bouncing up and down — absolutely adorable. Baldwin and Marron were lovely gentlemen, taking the time to thank me for helping to wrangle the line until Rowland got more help and to encourage me to feel better (with respect to the cold that I was getting over)³. I”ll even confess that Night Vale isn’t a thing that I’m super into, but damn if the creators behind it aren’t super quality people.

  • On the cosplay front, I saw six different Kikis (which struck me as a little unusual, but they looked great), a Kate Bishop Hawkeye that had her arrows arranged so their tips (purple, of course) formed a heart shape in the air like a halo, a Prince Robot IV with a changing video loop, a Strong Bad with The Cheat (The Cheat was not grounded; Mr Strong explained that he was getting over a bad breakup, and so he was brought to the con to cheer up by making fun of nerds), and an astonishingly good Buttercup and Fezzik duo (she was maybe 4’10”, so he really did look like a giant next to her). But the best job of cosplay was absolutely the pair of Dr Girlfriend and Dr Mrs The Monarch. Bravo.

Spam of the day:

My relatives all the time say that I am killing my time here at net, except I know I am getting experience all the time by reading such good content.

Your relatives are idiots and you should ignore them. Wait, are any of them going to give you money? Maybe pay a little attention to them.

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¹ If you run into Zub at any time in the future, ask him to tell you the story about the enormous biker dude that brought the set of Figment issues to an appearance to get them signed. Everybody has something that takes them back their own personal childhood sense of wonder.

² Looking at side-by-side copies of George O’Connor’s first six Olympians books, the foil treatments (Zeus’s lightning bolt, Aphrodite’s golden apple, Persephone’s pomegranate, etc) really jump out.

³ No fever, no cough or sneezing, but I steadfastly refused to shake hands with anybody on the show floor; there may be con crud in the world, but I will not be Patient Zero.

Happy Boxing Day

Also, Happy Starpocalypse Release Day Plus One.

As promised the long-awaited SMBC project dropped yesterday; it’s got a would-be prophet, a would-be robosexual, the alternating triumphs of (thoroughly insane and perverse) God and (thoroughly disdainful of everything other than neuro-helmet induced orgasms) Science, and James Ashby¹ getting torn apart. It’s five episodes of a rudely hilarious sketch-comedy series thrown together to form a full season, complete with cliffhanger. Oh, and in and around the various perversities and transgressions, there’s the question of whether humanity should put its faith in anything blindly, whether the supernatural or the scientific².

If the effect look a little rough, keep in mind that it was done on a budget that wouldn’t cover a day’s craft services on a regular sci-fi movie or TV show, and in that context, they look damn good. I’d go so far as to say that I enjoyed all the FX, and was disappointed only in that there weren’t more effects of James getting destroyed in creative ways, but there’s always Season Two! Order it up for three measly dollars here, and enjoy the blasphemy.

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¹ History’s greatest villain.

² Although many of the scientific types are dicks, they also didn’t invent suffering and vengeful smiting like the malevolent alien pervert claiming to be God did. Potato, potato.

Beautiful Things

Understand as we get started here, today I get to share with you hints of things that make me very, very happy. You can assign any kind of assumptions of bias that you like, doesn’t matter. What I am about to share with you is truth.

  • Firstly, Christopher Hastings is going to be remembered by history as one of the the great writer/artists of comics. His story sense is amazingly solid, his art is clear and concise, and he’s a professional when he’s working for others. He would rather die than blow a commitment he’s made to somebody else (and if that means that his own stuff gets delayed so that he can make good to an employer, so be it). Oh, and he’s friggin’ hilarious, which is just kind of unfair when you add it to his other good qualities¹.

    For the past month, his Marvel-published miniseries, Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe, has been dialing up the absurdity and mayhem in equal measures, but is only with today’s release of issue #3 that you get to see Hastings at his best. Because today is when you get to see Sad Future Magneto leaving increasingly pathetic voicemails for Charles Xavier. Hastings gave me a rundown on these back at SDCC and no lie, I was rolling. As an added bonus, I’ve been imagining that someday, somehow, real-life besties Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart might be enticed to re-enact what Hastings has written. It would be the best thing.

  • For two years now (longer, even), something has kept me going in bad times. One particular thought has sustained me when all seems bleak. And lo, in this season of miracles, the Day of Jubilee has arrived, and on Christmas Day no less, we will all get to see History’s Greatest Monster blow up in space.

    James Ashby, I’m looking at you.

    It’s been a long time since the money was raised, the equipment obtained, occasionally-shirtless James was filmed, all in preparation for Starpocalypse!. Back when the project was first announced, Zach Weiner confirmed for me that the time and funding that would be required for Starpocalypse would all be worth it given the many different was they would get to explode James. In space. Now we are a mere three weeks away from the realization of that dream, and it’s so beautiful.

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¹ Also: impeccable food- and drink-producing skills, and his dog is ridiculous.

Small World

Yesterday was the day that I discovered that porn starlet Tera Patrick (who is apparently a cousin by marriage to a guy I ride EMS with) is signing on the show floor. Go Team Central Jersey.

  • Speaking of porn, Smut Peddler impressario Spike confirmed for me that there will be a new edition of the sexytime comics anthology next year, possibly in the spring, maybe in the summer. After that, it looks like alternating porn and not-porn anthologies, with the next not-porn project in 2015, probably on the theme of fantasy, and much like The Sleep of Reason will be restricted to no cliches: TSoR said no vampires, no werewolves, no zombies, and Untitled Fantasy Anthology will say no elves, no dwarves, no Tolkien analogs. In a decade or so of alternating anthologies, we should be able to finally quantify how much people like porn compared to other entertainments.
  • Speaking of forthcoming print projects, I got to speak to Evan Dahm about his first Vattu collection, The Name and the Mark; Dahm’s happy to report that the book is at the printers, and well on the way to release in October. In fact, he’ll have a limited number of books to debut at SPX alongside his Midnight Monsters collaboration with Yuko Ota, The Exquisite Beast. SPX is a good book-buying crowd, and having debuts ought to drive a lot of commerce for Dahm, so that’s all right.
  • Speaking of Yuko, she and Ananth Panagariya got a nice mention at the Adventure Time Comics panel, seeing as how their Candy Capers miniseries launched last week; BOOM! editor Shannon Watters gave us a some advance details of the next couple of issues, as Peppermint Butler pairs up characters as the new heroes of the Candy Kingdom in Finn & Jake’s absence. The next issue will feature Tree Trunks and Marceline as partners, and the issue after that will partner up Lumpy Space Princess (!) and Lemongrab (!!).

    The bulk of the panel was a discussion of the creative process of Braden Lamb, Shellie Paroline, Ryan North, and Meredith Gran, their approaches to all-ages comics, and their best jobs at doing the voices in live readings. North, Paroline, and Lamb were of course fresh off their Eisner win, so it’s no surprise that in a room that allowed 500, there were few empty seats, and the audience was predominantly there for the current panel, not squatting in the room for some later panel; the wealth of cosplay (especially on younger kids) was proof of this.

    Watters also let us know that there will be another Adventure Time graphic novel penned by Danielle Corsetto and drawn by Zach Sterling; the theme of the series is pretty quickly becoming princesses go on adventures, as the new book will feature LSP facing trials (maybe) and tribulations (possibly) and saving the world (probably not). But hey — one of the messages of Adventure Time is that we can all be more than we appear initially, even spoiled princesses from Lumpy Space.

    In the main Adventure Time comics, the next issue will wrap up the current story arc (it features Jake stuck in a dream existence with a stretchy-powers Finn!), and the one after that will be a Princess Bubblegum-centered story. Peebles stories often feature her need to control and manage everything (from her kingdom to the fundamental forces of physics) and how her messing with Things That Should Not Be Messed With have consequences, but they aren’t usually taken past the end of the episode.

    Prubs is a genius, but she also pretty damn irresponsible with her mad science and her creations are idiotically dangerous as often as they’re helpful. In this new story, PB goes off the rails and actually has to deal with one of these things that she’s responsible for rather than foisting it off on Finn and Jake.

    The Q&A section had time for ten questions, and the first was from a boy maybe ten years old that wanted to know if Ryan knew about a webcomic called Homestuck and does he use it for inspiration?, particularly because of one Homestuck-referencing quote that North snuck into a recent issue. He was apparently unaware that Ryan and Andrew Hussie are credit card bros, and Ryan told the young gentleman that Everything I write is Homestuck fan-fiction. The seriousness of the exchange was honestly charming, as was the number of kids in the audience that had brought binders full of their Adventure Time-themed drawings, eager to show them to the comics creators.

    After the session I got a chance to chat with Braden Lamb, where we immediately fell to talking about Kitty Hawk, his long-hiatused adventure webcomic project with Vincent LaBate. On the one hand, Lamb would love to get back to Kitty Hawk, on the other other, BOOM! projects keep him busy to the point that an ongoing webcomic isn’t practical. A complete story might be a possiblity, but with the releases of stories like Delilah Dirk and Lady Sabre, the market may be a bit crowded, even for a story that predated the others.

    We also spoke about the challenges that Lamb and Paroline had producing the Choose Your Own Adventure Time issue that North penned a while back, making the choices easy for kids to follow, but not so obvious that you could cheat your way to the desired outcome; it probably helped a lot that North has some experience writing such stories, but the best contributor to the success of that issue was probably Lamb’s choice to do some color-coding. Future artists/writers of such stories, take note.

  • Speaking of Andrew Hussie, I saw the initial start of the ShiftyLook panel referenced yesterday, and I owe the SDCC showrunners an apology. I very much doubted that the maximum capacity of 170 in room 28DE would be sufficient for the presumed crowd o’ Homestucks that would descend upon Hussie like unto a tsunami, and it turned out that they fit just fine; there was a minimal line outside the room prior to the panel, but a pretty healthy population of fantrolls were already in there for the prior panel¹.

    The panel discussed the Zach Weinersmith²/Dave Shabet collaboration (interactive DigDug), the previously-announced Andrew Hussie-penned MMO (NAMCO High, available pre-holiday, 2015), and the Kris Straub/Scott Kurtz Mappy series (first episode goes live tomorrow).

  • Speaking of room 28DE, it would later host the STRIPPED panel, which managed to fill the room despite being scheduled at the late hour of 7:00pm, against large media screenings, ramp-up to industry parties, and pre-Masquerade prep. I have nearly 1500 words of notes that need to be whipped into shape, so let’s put that off for another post. But speaking of STRIPPED, yesterday I learned that co-director Fred Schroeder’s agent is from my town, despite his currently agenting in the nearly polar opposite of LA. Go Team Central Jersey.

Below the cut, the best cosplay photos of the day: Simon Petrikov and Hello Randy.

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If You Don’t Hear From Me On Monday, Rest Assured It’s Only Because Of Stormaggedon¹

Seriously, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy is looking to be pretty damn unpleasant come Monday. Stay safe, all in the way of the storm track.

  • Speaking of disasters of one form or another, everybody’s red-haired pal (no, not Jimmy Olsen) Zach Weinersmith dropped some good news on us last night via Twitter:

    Presenting, a “Starpocalypse” Teaser, from SMBC Theater, written by James Ashby http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=…

    Warning: shirtless James, who, as previously established, is History’s Greatest Villain, primarily for the whole shirtless thing.

    Anyhoo, a trailer to finally showcase last year’s Kickstarted project that exists in large part to write circumstances where James is blown up in space. But more than just destroying James, Starpocalypse will feature a very balls-intensive FSM, orgasm hats, pointless despair, hot lady aliens or androids or something with purple hair and weird eyes whatever, and big-ass space battles. And hopefully a lot of destroying James.

  • Via Chris Hastings:

    NEW BOOK NEW BOOK NEW BOOK

    I might be reading too much into this, but it appears that Hastings may have a new book. Release is set just prior to whichever winter solstice-adjacent holiday you prefer, so best pre-order it if you want to make somebody’s Decemberween joyous.

One last thing, if I may be serious for a moment — wherever the storm hits (and despite the fact that I have people that I like a great deal or even love throughout that probability cone, I am wishing as hard as I can that Sandy veers towards any of them instead of me because I am almost as great a villain as James), take care and be aware that you may have to care for yourselves for a while.

In particular, ambulances cannot go out when winds are high, because they are all great big top-heavy boxes on wheels that will roll over until they smash into something if the gusts hit just right. If you’re in the path of high winds, count on EMS response being delayed/suspended during the worst of the storm, and even after there may be significant obstructions. Stay indoors, don’t get hurt, and with any luck we’ll all see each other on Monday.²

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¹ For the record, I chose this title early yesterday after getting my third advance prep briefing for emergency ops in re: Hurricane Sandy. Then Rick Marshall up and uses the same name in tweets and links it to Doctor Who before I can. Damn you, Willenholly, for stepping on my gag! Daaaaaamn yooooooou!

² Except James, unless he puts on a damn shirt.

To Be Posted When I Reach Ground

Jon, remember one thing, I said. The Reuben Awards dinner was done, the last bits of dessert being passed around the table, the ceremony getting ready to begin. If you win, you give me the manly hug and you kiss Amy, not the other way around. Jon Rosenberg’s wife has heard me, and behind Jon’s back she begins to choke on the bit of chocolate she’d been nibbling at.

Oh, I don’t know, says Jon, stroking his chin and staring at me. You’ve got the moustache, I’ve got the goatee, I wonder what that feels like on bare skin. Behind him, Amy begins choking all over again and I’m pretty sure something dessertish is about to come out her nose. Jon’s nervous, convinced he’s going to lose, happy to see that the On-Line Comic Strips division award is the first on the list, so that at least it’ll be over soon. He steps outside for his 87th smoke break and I apologize to Amy for timing my remarks while she was trying to eat. She’s shaking her head, prouder of Jon than I’ve ever seen, so happy that she could be here to share this with him.

Mike Krahulik is one table away with his wife, Kara, along with Robert Khoo and onetime PAX-wrangler Amber Fechko. She’s getting close to finishing medical school and her PhD, hoping to stay in Seattle for her neurosurgery residency. In about ten or twelve years, if you need somebody to cut into your brain to fix something that’s gone horribly wrong, hers is the face that you will want to see before the surgical mask goes on. In fifteen or twenty years, hers might be the first face you see, period, as she perfects her research into neuro implants to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and spider-sense to the wannabe angsty superheroes.

The last time I saw Kara she was pregnant with a boy who is now nearly two years old. She’s done the dress-up thing with Mike many times for Child’s Play, for the TIME 100, but it’s clear that each time she’s thrilled for him. The geeky guy with scribbly cartoons she’d met all those years ago is a key part of a small media empire, endlessly creative, able to spend loads of time with their sons, and dang does he clean up well.

Robert is Robert.¹

Mike hasn’t noticed yet that his award nomination is up first; he’d been hoping to hear an acceptance or two, have some idea what to say if he should find himself at the front of the room. It’s quickly decided: thank the NCS, say something on behalf of Jerry², thank Robert, extra-thank Kara. He’s pretty damn happy to be in the room, and later he’ll tell me Stephen Silver said I’m an inspiration to a generation and Jim Davis knew who I was and said he liked my work. That’s a pretty good night. Mike and Jon wish each other good luck.

I’ve lost track of Matthew Inman since the end of the pre-dinner cocktail reception³; he’d only arrived in Las Vegas a few hours earlier, and his first introduction to the NCS is a room full of people he doesn’t know. We shake hands and I’m glad that he’s so young, since it means that I’m no longer one of the ten youngest people in the room. Okay, there are kids of members here, and a delightful pair of students from SCAD4 that I’d met on Friday, but I’m definitely on the young end of the age spectrum. We talk about SQL coding for a bit with his girlfriend, Kyoko.

Matthew asks if I know anybody, and I nod towards where Jon, Mike, et. al. are having a drink with Bill Amend. I mention some of the people I’ve met during the weekend, but it’s a dozen or so out of the couple hundred in the room and we share that sense of disorientation that comes from standing on the periphery. Matthew surveys the room, taking in the membership and says to me, This is only my opinion, but I’m wondering why Zach Weiner isn’t here. They need to invite him! I mean, I do like one comic a week, and he’s putting great stuff up every day! We spend the rest of our talk discussing how awesome Zach and his creative collaborators5 are.


The time is getting close — there were various program bits, honors, and an intermission before the division awards, and people are coming back to the ballroom with fresh drinks. Amy tells me that Jon’s parents, who are watching their three kids back in New York, have forwarded a question from their daughter: Did Daddy get his reward yet?

The lights go down, and Dave Kellett and I wonder who will present this first recognition of webcomics. Bill Amend (a Cartoonist of the Year laureate) is announced and he’s brimming with energy as he leans towards the microphone to read the names of The nominees for On-Line Comic Strips, and it’s about fucking time. Sample strips are projected onto huge screens in the ballroom as each name is read to applause.

Amy gets her kiss. I get my manly embrace. While Jon is waylaid by photos and well-wishes on his way back from the stage I hug Amy and feel stray tears on her cheek. Jon makes it back to the table, not quite convinced any of this is actually happening. He ducks out once more, this time to call his parents. In the back of my mind, I imagine that somewhere in the extended clan, there’s an elderly relative or two that will finally stop wondering when that boy will get a real job.


If I have the timing correct, as I write this Jon and Amy are a thousand kilometers behind me and 10 kilometers straight down, waiting to fly home to their kids. They have with them a carryon bag with a heavy, impressive plaque next to two neatly folded notecards. One has four names on it, and the smaller one simply says


Jon Rosenberg
Scenes From A Multiverse

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¹ It might be appropriate to abbreviate that further: Robert is.

² Sadly, Mike’s Penny Arcade co-creator Jerry Holkins and his wife Brenna were unable to attend and were missed.

³ Catching up later, he told me he was seated at the Table of Late Registrants, halfway across the room from Webcomics Corner.

4 Specifically, Sarah Miller, who is finishing her junior year, and Ashley Mercer, who is preparing to graduate and start an internship as a Disney Imagineer. When I met them on Friday Ms Miller neglected to mention that she was this year’s Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship winner. She has a style that tends toward Cthonic horror, and Ms Mercer has an interest in children’s books. I suggested they collaborate, and when I ran into them in the ballroom, they told me that they had been excitedly kicking ideas back and forth the night before. Watch these two names — they’re going to be huge.

5 With the exception of James Ashby, who has been previously established as history’s greatest villain.

Take That, Content Filtering!

I am slowly expanding the list of Officially Suspect sites, which now includes The Onion¹ but not The AV Club. Also, Twitter is not blocked, but any attempt to click through to a particular tweet or image results in a “that page doesn’t exist” error. In the meantime, I am working around the filters by various means because I am crafty. Okay, mostly it means surfing the Officially Suspect sites from the hotel and being behind the times, but whatever works.

  • SMBC Thee-ah-tuh finished up the funding for their second DVD massively over goal, which means they’ll have to make good on their promise to do weekly sketches (instead of the monthly schedule in preparation for their web series in which they destroy James Ashby² in space). Comparing to their earlier effort, it now seems like a given that SMBC projects will hit 500% of goal funding in everything they do. Wow.
  • Santa plus Dinosaurs in comics form from the mind of Ryan North over at Comics Alliance on Mondays and Wednesdays until Christmas, complete with all the vocal rhythms³ you’ve come to expect from The Toronto Man-Mountain. Speaking of Ryan North, there is now a form of plush T-Rex that looks large even next to a Ryan-sized man, which appears to be both the highest-priced item ever procured via TopatoCo, and limited (as of this writing) to only 37 more examples. If I had space in my living room for one of this things, it would freak my dog the heck out. Also unwary visitors.
  • An instructive tale regarding a blatant piece of design theft, via David Malki ! popped up yesterday. Background: Malki ! endeared himself to my professional tribe with a piece of pithy wisdom that became a shirt featuring explosions. A catalog nominally associated with public broadcasting appropriated the idea (which, given the laws regarding slogans and short phrases, is permissible, if lazy) and implemented a hideously ugly design of their own for a dollar more than Malki !’s version; we’ll let him pick up the story from there:

    I wrote them an email. The reason I’m sharing this story — when I usually don’t bother to bring up situations like this, and give attention to entities that deserve to die in obscurity — is because I thought my approach might be instructive.

    The knee-jerk response is “Cease and desist! Sue! Call a lawyer!” This implies that (a) the issue cannot be solved through more amicable means, and (b) I have a lot of time and money to throw at this kind of problem. The latter is not true, and I like to at least allow for the chance that the former isn’t either. There’s a lot of double negatives in that sequence, so I’ll restate: Being aggressive puts people on the defensive. Being friendly gets people to help you.

    Also, always give the party in the wrong the ability to back off gracefully.

    Learning this is one of the biggest things that has helped me in life: avoid putting people on the defensive. Sometimes it is necessary to be firm, or to express dissatisfaction, or to press for remedy of a situation. But I have never found yelling and shouting to be the easiest way to that end — at least, not as an opener. [emphasis original]

    The email that Malki ! sent is a marvel of firm, yet utterly courteous, assertion of one’s rights; you should go read the excerpt that he posted right now. The practical upshot is that Signals will be carrying Malki !’s version of the shirt from Spring (at a horrible royalty rate, but one which is greater than the Nothing he was making before, and whoever ripped his design will no longer get that horrible rate), with the bonus that the incredibly ugly, lazy design (seriously, that rounded, noodly-looking typeface is as far from anything that evokes “engineering” or “explosions” or even “loud” as anything I’ve ever seen) will fall back into the obscurity it so richly deserves.

    It might not be an optimal win (that would be one where Signals apologized and gave all their ill-gotten gains to Malki !, along with the heart of the “designer” who shat out such a weak interpretation of the slogan), but the net result was a decrease in Total Ugliness instead of a screaming match that would have increased it. Now in addition to his varied skills in film production, podcasting, improv, rapping, design, printmaking, metal fabrication, editing, publishing, heavier-than-air piloting, and freelance firearms special services, we should recognize Malki ! as webcomics’ premiere corporate communications liaison and kick-ass demand letter drafter.

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¹ For violence, not sexual content [link NSFW].

² History’s greatest monster.

³ We get it, Ryan, you like the compound plural. iPads 2, jeezum crow.