The webcomics blog about webcomics

FSFCPL With A Pénélope Bagieu Interview? Yes, Please!

Last week ended badly, post-wise (it ended worse for me and my students), but although I wasn’t able to come up for air in time to see it, Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin came through with a recap of a Pénélope Bagieu interview, which is absolutely worth your time. Today, we cede to him the pride of place of the last post of Fleen’s 14th year, as tomorrow is 15 December and the blog’s birthday. More on that tomorrow, let’s get to the news from European shores.

As part of the Twitch-hosted Pleine Page Festival , Bagieu spoke with host LiseF (en Franĉais), which most everybody reading this will not understand, but which you can now get the gist of. Let’s dive in.

_______________

After the introductions, the interview began with Bagieu recapping the genesis of her adaptation of The Witches for the benefit of those who missed it from previous coverage.

  • On the matter of the reception, she was worried about the British public, where Roald Dahl is sacred, more than about the US public. In the end it went well, not the least because it was well-supported marketing-wise, even though some aspects do not necessarily make that easy to do: for instance, the smoking habit of one of the main characters could have doomed this book to be placed out of the reach of children.
  • On the matter of her additions, she sums it up as changed a lot of things while keeping the original spirit. She added what she would have wanted to see at the time: while she had no trouble with the fate of the main character, she wanted to make it less sad if not less hard by him having a friend. So she inserted a girl character to that end, even if she felt such a character was missing at any rate. More generally she tried to make the setting somewhat more contemporaneous.
  • On the matter of the 2020 movie adaptation, she finds the trailer absolutely bonkers, which she expects from Robert Zemeckis, and appreciates the atmosphere similar to the children horror of the era of her childhood. She was eager for the private projection she was to receive two days later.
  • On the matter of further adaptations, she is not interested, while she appreciated the opportunity she does not want to make it an habit of making comics adaptations. Furthermore, the other books — she mentioned Mathilda in particular — tend have more of an associated imagery, especially since illustrator Quentin Blake was able to provide feedback to Dahl priori to publication, making him sort of a co-author.
  • On the matter of her Harvey award (for California Dreamin’) and Eisner award (for Brazen) having ever been a goal for her, she answered not really, or maybe only post-facto. She was already impressed of even having been nominated for her Eisner, and had even hesitated to show up to the ceremony since she didn’t think it was possible for her to win. Now don’t get her wrong, it’s a fantastic feeling and she couldn’t touch the ground the evening after the ceremony, but once that is past her life is not changed in any way. Later on in the interview, she mentioned misplacing the smoking pipe from the Harvey Awards statue.
  • On the matter of her work always publishing in France first, she told that when she lived in the US, she tried to make a book intended for the US market on the prodding of her editor, but there are many constraints, many codes: all edges must be filed away for instance, so she was always rethinking her project and it ended up being artificial. The initial spark is fragile to begin with, so if you add self-censorship to that … she got feedback on the order of that is quite French, so she realized she wasn’t that interested: why bother in the first place? Her creation process is selfish, she pleases herself first of all, then in the end considers everyone else. While for a US story, she took the example of a project meant for early teens which was to take place in a school setting, which she visualized as that from Saved By The Bell*, but she was told it wasn’t like that, and this matters: it ended up being a pain in her ass. She reminds us these kinds of projects are long-running, so it must be somewhat enjoyable for her not to burn out.
  • On the matter of her goals in life, she answers the main one is to make a living out of comics, and that is hard enough already that wishing for more is not obvious. She is already grateful to be able to make a living out of it, so her goal for now is to keep doing so.
  • On the matter of her making drawings at an early age, she answers she did, already with bubbles, first with animated cartoon characters, then her own characters but still involved in sports, influenced by Attacker You. She then did a drawn diary, which carried over to her blog. She did recently locate one of these notebooks, with liberally borrowed plots centered around rhythmic gymnastics.
  • On the matter of her participation to Inktober, she mentions hardly participating before, but this year, lacking any active book project, and her various activities being performed on iPad, she jumped on the occasion to draw on paper. Inspired by a Cindy Sherman expo she saw, she tried to feature artists that aren’t already known. Then, she was a jury member for a podcast award which led her to discover Légitime Violence, which ends on Abbé Pierre’s address on inaction in the face of injustice; as a result, she put her works up for sale for the benefit of his foundation. She had a hard time putting a price to them, and after she did she still had doubts, but in the end they sold out so quickly (around a few minutes) that she didn’t realize what happened. So she’s up to doing it again next year.
  • On the matter of it being a goal to contribute in this way, she answers it helps coping when working in such a way that aligns with her principles, a bit like taking a stroll when having pins and needles. It’s an outlet for her overflowing revolt. She hates comics being reduced to teaching tools, but she admits it can be useful to deliver a message, more so that a 5000-line pamphlet, as she did for Bloom). It’s a bit of the same process that has led a group of artists to draw portraits of shame of the French representatives who voted to approve the global security bill. If she had some other skills she would use them in a similar fashion: it’s a selfish process which evacuates her overflowing anger. Now she has to consider her audience and not over-solicit them, but also has to consider leveraging them when needed.
  • On the matter of her impostor syndrome, if any, she answers having it, of course; it never completely goes away for artists, and merely showing her creations results in a lifetime subscription, so she had to learn to live with it, to cope. How does she do it? It is important for her to remember past experiences. She can’t always shake doubts that her family and friends are sincere when they praise her for being talented, because of course they’d say that, but they are sincere. Every time she shows her work she feels like the student who has to show her exposé to the whole class. The same goes for her fans: of course they’d be nice to me”. Conversely, one hater can be enough to shatter the mood, while on the other hand she glosses over praise.
  • On the matter of her promotional activities on TV and radio, she reports being used to it by now: it is a machine so well-oiled with preparation that it’s not her work that is being put to the test. It ends up being always the same questions such that it’s like following a script. The first times, she was terrified of making a blunder; now she ends up being familiar with every show, so she’s in bring ’em on mode, for instance when a show contributor ends up attempting to mansplain life to her. However, she remains afraid of drawing with children: they have no inhibitions. But when it comes to doing the 50th promo show for her book, on the other hand …
  • On the matter of advice for handling that, she has a few. The biggest challenge is remaining calm: she mentions rewatching herself and being surprised at how angry she appeared. As a woman she’s not supposed to be angry: even the most violent retort she must deliver as a lady, even in front of a polemicist who is on the other hand allowed to make being angry his whole shtick. She thinks of it as being in the local bar, rather than on TV. She’s not looking to convince her opponent as much as the audience. And she keeps the option of saying I won’t come to be the token feminist and decline the invitation. While she may look preternaturally calm, inside she’s boiling with rage.
  • On the matter of unexpected questions, she mentions being taken by surprise by Augustin Trapenard asking her What is brazenness? In such a case, she can’t just drive on autopilot. But when she heard Céline Sciamma in the same situation and struggling as well, it helped reassure her that she wasn’t alone. And she does appreciate complex questions that make her think about it. For instance, she was asked whether the boy at the beginning of The Witches plays with toy cars because that is how his parents died, and she never thought of it that way! That kind of questions can make her rethink herself.
  • On the matter of whether she told these stories about women as a way to cure her impostor syndrome, she answers she didn’t see it that way, and it was always a personal project, but it couldn’t help but influence her in the end. Telling such stories of women who take their destiny into their own hands was bound to galvanize her and filled something in her, she absorbed it like a sponge. Furthermore, each one did it in their own way.
  • On the matter of whether female reader reactions make her feel she is helping them, she answers the ones who write her already belong to a favorable environment, with many having teacher parents for instance; she already belongs to their environment. She has a lot of appreciation for parents who prod their children into writing her letters, send these, etc. These motivate her to keep going. She keeps them in a box, and answers them on paper.
  • On the matter of her role in the Brazen animated series, she answers having had very little. She validated them of course, but when she first met the team she knew the project was in the right hands. Her main contribution was reviewing the scripts and pointing out when they had missed something which she felt important, but otherwise she did not have any reproach. She cried for each episode of the final product, especially when considering it was to air during children’s prime time.

At this point Lise fetched question from the chat log:

  • On the matter of sharing her first works, she answers they look like run of the mill children drawings.
  • On the matter of advice for beginners, she advises showing your work often first of all, even if it’s the hardest thing in the process, and paradoxically not take too much into account any feedback, which is not necessarily constructive. Indeed, it’s important to show in order to get into the habit early.
  • On the matter of her selection process for comics project ideas, she answers she is always having sprouts of a book idea, and she waits and sees which ones stick and keep obsessing her: either she gets bored with the idea eventually, or she keeps following it.
  • On the matter of the lockdown hampering her artistically, she confirms being completely blocked on all fronts, and ended up doing nothing but eat. At the beginning she put pressure on herself to use this opportunity, and in the end nothing came out of it, including after the lockdown by inertia of the block. She has zero remorse, as this is a difficult time.
  • On the matter of finding her style between Pénélope Jolicoeur and The Witches, she answers you do not so much find your style as having one already and refining it. There is not secret about it, you have to draw a lot, and thank God she did improve on the technical front. It’s important to copy first, it’s OK, and then keep drawing and it will affirm itself.
  • On the matter of the indispensable comic book according to her, she points towards her Instagram recommendations, then all of Anne Simon published by Misma, for having a complex universe, incredible characters, and stunning artwork; they can be read in any order. And of course her reviews on MadmoiZelle.
  • On the matter of her current book projects, nothing, as discussed. But despite the unfavorable context, she does have an idea that is eating at her, so it will end up having to be done.
  • On the matter of a feel-good podcast recommendation, she answers the Distorsion podcast, made by people from Québec, so their accent is surprising at first but she got used to it after one episode.

_______________

As always, we at Fleen thank FSFCPL for his efforts to share what’s going on in the world of Eurocomics. We’d literally have had no idea about this interview without his hard work translating and summarizing.


Spam of the day:

CAREDOGBEST™ – Personalized Dog Harness. All sizes from XS to XXL. Easy ON/OFF in just 2 seconds. LIFETIME WARRANTY.

Got a harness, and Martingale collars. And a thing I learned recently: the French word for greyhound is levrette and that position de levrette is the French term for doggy style. Fun fact!

And A Few Concluding Remarks On The Pleine Page Festival

It’s been pretty much all Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, all the time this week. Below find his general thoughts on a standout comics festival in the plague year, and we’ll see him the next time something catches his eye and he puts up the FSFCPL Signal.

_______________

?Comic book festivals always leave me physically exhausted at the end, but not the Pleine Page Festival (well, except for my fingers). After France went back in lockdown October 30th, Lise and her accomplices set up this virtual festival on her Twitch channel to compensate for the festivals that couldn’t take place in 2020, and while it can’t replace a proper festival, take a look at this lineup! When it comes to programming, the quality is on par with the best festivals, with additionally a large focus on matters of interest to this blog. As a result, you can now enjoy on Fleen the transcripts of:

But that doesn’t mean the other events were uninteresting! For instance, in a traditional festival I always check what’s next for me about 5-10 minutes before the end of an event so I can get to the next one in time, if necessary. Well, even if this time I was in front of my tablet I ended up doing the same, even though that was going to be the next thing on the channel anyway, because I was eager to see what was next.

So I also followed with interest her interviews with Cyril Pedrosa and Mathieu Bablet. Thankfully for my fingers, the programming alternated these with more contemplative events where artists would draw, either competitively, or cooperatively, or as a reward for lottery winners, or just as a drawing lesson.

All the while, the event went smoothly, or as smoothly as can be expected for a pandemic-era virtual event: Lise was never any less professional than a mainstream newscaster in the face of trouble, even though I had pegged her more as a wordsmith; I guess I failed to account for her video activities on YouTube and Twitch. For instance, when it turned out Cyril Pedrosa would be unable to be present at the programmed time, she arranged to record the interview the previous day, and except for the disclaimer at the beginning that we would be unable to ask questions because of that, that was integrated as seamlessly as possible in the event.

The success of this event shows Lise has got the best rolodex of any of us in this beat, and the team to organize anything. So congratulations to her, Fernandez (co-host and provider of drawings for the lottery), Fanny (who handled backstage activities such as the video feeds), and a Matthias who could be seen passing books to Lise while she was on stage. I hope this was only the first of many such events to come.

_______________

For those keeping track at home, that’s about 8000 words from FSFCPL, which is a frankly unreasonable number of words to crank out at this most soul-crushingly hectic magical time of year. As always, our thanks to him, and a sincere hope for a restful remainder of the year. Personally, I’m thinking that he earned the Odinsleep.


Spam of the day:

We..have..a..surprise..for_UPS_Customer

Is that supposed to be UPS as in United Parcel Service, or as in uninterruptible power supply. Because I’m probably about a year from having to replace the battery in the UPS, and I order most of my stuff specifically asking for Postal Service delivery because the postal service is awesome.

More From The Pleine Page Festival With FSFCPL

Heya. If you read yesterday’s blogiversary victory lap, you know that I read some emails out of order, and thus on Monday we had Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin’s recap of Pénélope Bagieu’s interview, but not the initial framing post about the online festival it was a part of. We’re continuing today with highlights from the festival, and we’ll run a summary post with the overview later rather than try to insert it in the past. I mean, if I’ve got the ability to go back and do things in the past I’m not wasting that on fixing a blog post sequence error, not when there’s Powerball jackpots to win. We at Fleen, as always, than FSFCPL for his ceaseless efforts to bring us the news of bandes dessiné3ss web.

_______________

The panel was titled Is Being Known A Prerequisite To Being Published?, and began with introductions: in particular Marie Spénale is known for Heidi In Spring and Wonder Pony, and Cy for Real Sex From Real Life, Radium Girls, etc.

[Festival host]Lise: Do they think being known is a prerequisite to being published?

Spénale: No, she wasn’t know at the time of Heidi so she veers towards no: the prerequisite to her is building a file for the project to present to a publisher, no need for subscribers, as far as she can tell.

Lise: So could being known influence the process?

Spénale: It can be brought up as a strength point, a bonus, so it can be useful, but not a prerequisite.

Cy: It can be a double-edged sword; first, she agrees that it is not a prerequisite, subscribers mean nothing when it comes to sales in the end. And when she submitted the file she built for Radium Girls, her editor when forwarding to the publisher mentioned she made YouTube videos, to which the the latter allegedly reacted Ah, another book from a female YouTuber. In the end he opened the file and the project was made, but it could have started better.

Spénale: She once was introduced in an article as blogger Marie Spénale, which may not necessarily be flattering.

Lise: As for Sita, she started making a name for herself with her YouTube channel, then Instagram account; did that help getting to make webtoons?

Sita: No, it can help, be brought up to strengthen the case, but what’s really important is knowing the field and having the right contacts. The contacts she made when she made YouTube videos in turn led to knowing the editors and publishers to contact.

Lise: All three of them have an Instagram account, does a creator have to have one?

Cy: Have to would be presumptuous; there are no hard rules, each creator can employ different means. She no longer has any portfolio proper, as Instagram has taken up that role for her, more specifically her Instagram feed (as opposed to stories, which she uses for food pictures, etc.)

Sita: She has two accounts, one for drawings and one for book reviews. It takes a lot of time to do right, as well as energy, so it must be accounted for rather than put all your energy to it to the detriment of working on your files, universes, etc. It did earn her commissions, some of them for communication campaigns.

Spénale: She sees her Instagram account more as a display window for readers than as a professional tool.

Lise: And all three also have a YouTube channel, why?

Sita: That originally was for book reviews, everyone had a blog already and she felt it was the right time to get into YouTube; then for her own drawings on top of that. She wanted to create things she appreciated herself, and be able to better reach English-speaking audiences. Oh, and receive book recommendations herself. At the time she did not intend to create books, she had only begun to get back into drawing and was a developer by trade, creation only came later.

Cy: She was getting tired of answering always the same questions, so the intent was being able to send a link for an answer; her first video was on crayons. Then she started publishing speed drawing videos, captured using an iPad in suspension. It can be a versatile medium, with many possible formats, so she published animated GIF, vlogs, explanations for the general public, ad debunking, etc. Community management is a job in itself, so it can take time. She’s having fun, if that weren’t the case she’d stop. There is something of a disdain towards YouTube creators, such as EnjoyPhoenix even though it requires a significant skillset. At some point making a comic book was in fashion with YouTubers, and not all of it was good, as would be the case for any such category in accordance with Sturgeon’s Law, but the negative branding of YouTuber comic book remained.

Sita: Which intersects with the disdain towards comics for children and licensed comics.

Spénale: The main interest for her was experimenting, in particular with longform content which she couldn’t do as well on the blog she already had. Then she worked on her Instagram with short formats, if not instant. She’d like to go back to longform, but it takes time.

Cy: It does take a lot of headspace, and must be done as a batch, instead of answers which can be done as bite-sized work items as questions come.

Spénale: Yes, it does take a lot of time; she did it on the influence of Cy. She did have to invest on it when Wonder Pony, meant for children, was to be released: the publisher hardly promoted it, so she had to take that into her own hands.

Lise: What about Twitch, then?

Cy: She was already a consumer of Twitch livestreams, such as Boulet’s, and opened hers on the prodding of Gauvain Manhattan (who since stopped doing so). She has done a lot of them in the last two years; it allowed her to survive when doing Radium Girls because she’s a hermit, and draws traditionally which means she has to work on her drawing table, so streaming allowed her to exchange with people. It allowed her to have feedback on her work. Now she sometimes feels up to it, sometimes not: it requires some concentration for instance. She does it with her mobile phone using the Twitch app. At the beginning she was uploading with her 4G connection and had to closely watch her credit, now it’s OK.

Sita: Same, she started hitting the ground running, this summer, she wanted to livestream as a fundraiser for BLM/George Floyd, she had no hardware and had to improvise. She appreciated the Twitch community and kept doing so with her phone used as a webcam which wasn’t great, but she kept doing so in the same way so as to survive during the tunnel where she is doing nothing else but draw and starts hating it. And obviously, she never streams client work.

Spénale: Not yet, she has all the necessary hardware, obviously she wouldn’t stream client work either. But wouldn’t spoilers be an issue?

Cy: On the other hand, it would be hard to spoil Radium Girls [Author’s Note: a book telling the story of women who painted clock figures with radium-laced paint so these would be visible in the dark. Without any precaution to speak of]. Anyway, the speech bubbles are done later, and in the end the plates are done over such a long stretch of time that it would be hard to follow that way, not to mention she’s only ever had 80 viewers maximum.

Spénale: So yes, one of these days, though YouTube does consume a lot of her time already.

Lise: So Twitch is more of a community building tool than a portfolio, as Instagram on the other hand appears to be?

Cy: Maybe, but also a very selfish one, it allows a more intimate bubble than Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram allow. There is indeed more of a community feeling, of direct feedback: she feels less on a pedestal to her viewers there. Though of course pests exist there too.

Sita: Artist Twitch is different from the remainder of Twitch, especially in the French-speaking sphere where this is still niche.

Lise: Does it take time away from the job?

Cy: Oh yes.

Spénale: it does take time, but is it time away from her job as a creator? It’s a leisure activity in the end, as if she’d taken up pottery.

Sita: She creates a Webtoon, on a platform which is not really a publisher, so she does a bit of her own outreach, and uses Instagram for that: she schedules posts as a community manager would. And she did a whole campaign when her work came out.

Cy: It is part of the background of her work, and couldn’t tell how much time it takes her. There is no community management to speak of when publishing a comic book in the French-Belgian tradition, and she isn’t paid for that part of the work. She does not fault her publisher for Radium Girls, but for Real Sex From Real Life she invested in her social networks, which amounts to unpaid work. So it’s disheartening when there is no online followup when a comic book comes out.

Spénale: She did start her own channel to make up for the shortcomings of her publisher, so being known was a double-edged sword: her publisher was expecting her to come up with content for promotion on her Instagram, even though that is not her job, fundamentally.

Cy: She got Why don’t you put it on your Instagram? for commission work. And the same goes for some media outlets: when she gets begged to retweet e.g. interviews of her, then who’s promoting whom, exactly?

Spénale: There is the more general issue of not all books being well-supported marketing-wise, because of the general strategy to flood the market, so publishers tend to offload that to the creator if they are known.

Lise: So creators need to do their own communication and community management?

Sita: it’s a role we add to our activities if we are already present on social networks. Some creators are content not doing any of that and more power to them.

Cy: It depends on more than social network activity, even for those already “famous” there: the reader demographics matter a lot. So for books targeting the 12-30 years old range, of course it matters, but readers of history-based comic books are not reachable through social networks. Of course for Real Sex From Real Life the social networks were squarely the target market. Don’t expect an Instagram account to be the key to fame: it’s frustrating and you end up begging for reshares. Nothing happens in a day: she has been on Instagram for 10 years, and found her public there.

Spénale: The matter of the pubic reached is interesting, we do bring a certain public, for instance when signing she sees young women who are less traditionally present on festivals.

Cy: When she signed in a very cool library led by three women, they were impressed: You got women coming to signings!” Cy: Don’t they read comics? Them: Yes, but they don’t come to signings.

Spénale: There is an interest in shifting the balance of power with publishers, it brings new points to the table, she can point to her own community and tell she doesn’t need them as much as she would if she didn’t have it.

Sita: Which is why she wanted to publish on the web first. It’s hard to get published, unless you’re willing to accept pathetic terms, having a public bring some weight when negotiating.

Lise: Does Cy agree?

Cy: She agrees, but it has to be made into a strength, to be brought up on the negotiating table: I bet as much on you as you do on me, and I see our relation as teamwork, rather than the publisher doing her a favor by publishing her. She would like for her promotional work to be properly accounted for by having the publisher pay her for it, but she has been unsuccessful so far.

Spénale: They’re already underpaid when published, with the reasoning being that the publisher brings them fame and the symbolic value of being published, but when any of their YouTube videos accrue many more views, this reasoning from the publishers loses a lot of its value.

At this point Lise fetched questions from the chat log:

  • How do they balance these additional efforts with their core creator job?

    Spénale: You have to realize that, and bring it up with the publisher. Given Cy’s reach, she’d better use it as a negotiation point to help her position.

    Cy: To change the relationship you have to stop being passive in front of contracts, so unravel them, even if that’s complicated. She has a good relationship with her editor, but her contractual relationship is with her publisher, with the contracted rights going for 75 years after her death. If all creators start negotiating to add clauses accounting for the value they add when promoting, things are bound to change.

  • Are social networks a way to diversify revenues?

    Sita: She doesn’t earn anything from social networks.

    Cy: YouTube money exists, but doesn’t even begin to compare with the time load. Twitch may be more substantial, but only if you become a Twitch partner, and then it becomes closer to mini-patronage. But you can have the occasional benefit.

    Sita: Yes, not so much the social networks proper than people coming with offers.

    Spénale: Social network revenue is insignificant in her experience.

    Cy: However when selling original works the buyers do come from her Instagram audience.

_______________

For the record, this is nearly 5000 words from FSFCPL in the space of two posts. I really have to buy him a drink sometime.


Spam of the day:

%title – You must stop spam – Black Friday – Get 70% off

Okay, ignore that complete amateur hackjob subject line, and let me note that this spam came from Chastity Goodchild, who sounds like a Pilgrim trying to sound like a Bond girl. Amazing.

It’s Fleensday

Iced 15th Birthday cake with burning number candles over a pink background with copyspace for your greeting and wishes

Today is 15 December. And while through inattention and writing some posts that were queued up before this page was announced the actual day that this site went live is not known, today is the day that the blogiversary is celebrated. Sort of like how the Queen of England has an official birthday, or all thoroughbred horses are considered to be born on 1 January.

It’s been 15 years, 4293 posts (including this one), 3940 written by me (again, including this one). Lot’s happened in that time. Wrote some good stuff. Wrote some hard stuff. Made some mistakes¹. Made some of the best friends of my life. Rough estimate is that we’ve raised north of US$12,000 for worthy causes in the past four years through the Fleen Fight For Fungible Futures Fund. I’m not sure how long this page will continue (nobody’s certain of anything in the depths of a pandemic that has been grievously and intentionally mismanaged), but as long as I’ve got opinions — and, like T-rex, I got opinions — I’ll be here to share them with you.

If you like what we at Fleen have done here, head over to Jon Rosenberg’s store or Patreon and support him, since he’s the one that basically browbeat me into doing it. Sincerely, thanks for that, Jon. I’m a better person because of it.

Happy fifteenth Fleensday. Stay safe, read good comics, we’ll do it all again in Year 16.


Spam of the day:

You should add website protection from unwanted messages As we’ve had contact with you in the past, I think your website is not protected from spam, you have to protect it

You’re spamming me to say that you want to protect me from spam? Kind of undermining your own message there, Slappy.

_______________
¹ Case in point: Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin sent several posts worth of info regarding the Twitch-hosted BD festival that occurred recently in France, and because I was short on time and read them out of order, I posted yesterday’s Pénélope Bagieu interview without the context that would have been provided by what should have been the first post. We’ll sort that out, promise.

In A Functional World, There Would Be A Book Review Today

Specifically, of the second :01 Second collection of Check, Please (subtitled Stick & Scones). This wraps up Bitty’s four years at Samwell, and presumably resolves the cliffhanger that Year Four, Chapter 22 (posted at noon today) has left us on. Unfortunately, the incompetent, malicious grifter in the White House has ensured that this is not a functional world, everything is disorganized, and review copies haven’t made it out to everybody on :01’s list because — and let me clear, this is important — people not dying is more important that me having an ARC to write about today.

So when I’m able to get a copy of Ngozi Ukazu’s sure-to-be triumphant conclusion, I’ll let you know. Until then, you can read very nearly the entire story online, and as a special treat we have Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin here to tell you about what’s going on Europe-ways.

_______________

I have news from the civilian zone, and news from the front.

On the civilian zone, the #coronamaison has become really big. How big, you ask?

And now for the front lines. I mentioned Solange Baudo, aka Soskuld, a few times here. She is a nurse’s aide but also chronicles her work in a comics blog, starting way back from her studies. However, about five years ago she quit the hospital to get a formal training in illustration and comics with the aim to work on that full time, which she has now been doing for the past year.

Until last week. Now it’s part time.

Because last week, she has again donned the safety gear and started working in a clinic for 12 hours shifts after volunteering on MedGo, as she relates in a riveting testimonial (French-only, sorry). Yes, in a COVID service near Paris, an area hard hit at the time of this writing.

Solange, we at Fleen salute you, and you can be assured that, the next time we meet, I’ll have something for you. I’m thinking a cake. A big one. But the best support I can give you right now is for me to stay at home.

_______________

As always, we at Fleen are grateful for FSFCPL’s observations from the heart of Europe. Rester en sécurité, mon ami.


Spam of the day:

Doctors can’t explain why this insane method passes every lab test …

Let me stop you right there. It’s because you’re full of shit and there are no lab tests. Fuck off.

Really Only One Story Today

And we’ll get to that in a moment. In the meantime, I trust you’ve seen that MICE has postponed its exhibitor registration, to be re-evaluated in June, that BOOM! Studios has made Hope Larson’s first Goldie Vance graphic novel free to read, and Diamond (a blight on comics in general) has announced it’s not going to be doing anything for a while. Having a monopoly on distribution in the comics direct market is an awesome idea, you guys.

That one story today, thought? We lost a giant in the world of comics. Albert Uderzo, illustrator and co-creator (with René Goscinny¹) of Astérix, died at the age of 92. It was unrelated to the current global crisis, not that there’s a good time or way to die, but reports are that he died in his sleep of a heart attack after feeling tired for a couple weeks. In the grand scheme of things, I’d be happy to have that one. Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeapin is working on a suitable remembrance, which we will have in the next day or two.

But while Uderzo’s death was unexpected, the ongoing effects of the novel coronavirus are not, and FSFCPL has some words from our European desk about how the [web]comics scene over there is reacting.

_______________

In these times of lockdown it seems that publishers left and right are dropping digital comics to read for free, but in that they are merely following in the footsteps of webcartoonists, who have already moved on from that to the next thing: creating works where you can contribute. Yes, you.

  • Many creators have posted the inked layer for comics plates or illustrations, for everyone to color; not particularly unexpected, but this is a classic exercise and is worth a mention. We can report that Riad Sattouf, Pénélope Bagieu, Marie Boiseau, Norbert, Thorn (twice), Fabien Lambert, Marion Barraud, Timothy Hannem (where you can also look for the hidden 20 cats), Alice Des where you can also look for some objects — instructions only in French, sorry), Marion Poinsot, Julie Gore et Eric Wantiez, Aurélien Fernandez, and Sandrine Deloffre are doing so (careful, some of these links may expire shortly).
  • Let us stay with Deloffre a bit longer: those are taken from her book called Les Cartes de Désavoeux, which I will roughly translate as Ill-Wishing Cards. Kind of a mirror universe Hallmark or American Greetings, though omitting any IP, thankfully. And she has posted the instructions on how you can do your own, which I will translate as best as I can manage:
    1. Trace a round shape with a round object (e.g. glass, soccer ball, the cap of a Pringles can, swimming pool, …)
    2. Define a goal: to whom? Why? How much do you care about this person? Do you have means of defense in the event of an aggression?
    3. Settle on a pattern an apply it on the outer surface of the previously traced round shape (e.g. flowers, stars, golden statues representing Vercingétorix, penis wearing a sombrero …)
    4. Settle on a message combining subtlety and realism and inscribe it upon the center of the circle while applying yourself. Don’t hesitate to overdo it.
    5. Gift the ill-wishing card to someone who deserves it. (e.g. nobody, because nobody deserves this card, because everyone walks in isolation in this long putrid and foul-smelling sewer we call life, we walk alone and we will die alone, eaten up by our cats, except if we’re allergic).
  • On the initiative of Bagieu, an idea by Oscar Barda, critical contributions by Deloffre, and a template by Hannem, the Coronamaison (translated hastag #coronahome was suggested by Moemai, should you need one) was born. The prompt: you draw the house floor along with its decoration/companions/pets/food/windows where you would want to be locked down, ideally.

    It kind of exploded, with #coronamaison having now thousands of hits on Instagram, though I think they are best seen on Twitter, where they remain (mostly) uncropped; alternately, Hammen is retweeting pretty much all of them. Of particular notice to your correspondent are Obion’s), Boulet’s, Luppi’s, Moemai’s, Maitre et Talons’, Jakuboy’s, Margaux Saltel’s, and of course Bagieu’s, Deloffre’s, Hannem’s, and Barda’s.

  • Meanwhile, Maliki offers a dialogue-free version of her latest strip, for you to represent what your timeline is looking like in these days of lockdown (and yes, Animal Crossing vs Doom has already been done).
  • Every day, Lewis Trondheim proposes a challenge where he posts the first three panels of a strip he just created, to see if you can guess the punchline in the fourth panel; the challenge being that your response must be in the form of a drawn panel, even badly. Be sure to follow him closely, as some have managed to find the solution in 10 mere minutes.
  • Meanwhile, Boulet proposes a game he co-created with his goddaughter Maya, where the game is mostly a pretext to draw hybrids; many creations can be seen in response to his tweet. Note that they need not be as elaborate as his barbarian Slowbro.
  • And Erwann Surcouf, on his side, proposes the randomized comic story generator he created for Spirou magazine a while back; no English version of the instructions appears to be available, unfortunately.
  • We complete by a digression though French law Twitter, where Solinette proposes we liven up the form where we French must attest for ourselves the business we have for going outside our home (e.g. buy basic necessity goods or bring out the pet), and that many of us (your correspondent included) have to fully copy by hand, for lack of a printer at home. Every day: they’re dated. Yes, it’s France, of course we have to have bureaucracy even between one and oneself.
  • Still in French law Twitter, Maitre et Talons encourages children to draw in support of healthcare professionals to thank them like she or Deloffre do. She also wants you to send her photos so she can draw herself in them.

And remember: wash your hands, sneeze and cough in your elbow pit, practice social distancing, and for the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s sake, stay at home. You have more than enough to keep yourself busy now.

______________

Fleen, as always, thanks M Lebeapin for his reportage.


Spam of the day:

It looks like you’ve misspelled the word “remeniscences” on your website. I thought you would like to know :)

Nobody tell her.

_______________
¹ Who died more than 40 years ago. For that matter, Uderzo retired nearly a decade ago, turning over writing and art to Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, respectively.

Lyon BD 2019: Day Three

[Editor’s note: Today, Fleen concludes the recap of last week’s bandes dessinées festival in Lyon, courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin.

_______________

Lyon BD has always been an international festival, but it was particularly visible this year with the presence, hot off their appearance in NCSFest, of Charlie Adlard, Bill Morrison, and Steve and Luke McGarry, the latter of which was responsible for this edition’s poster. Their lines were packed whenever they were signing, unfortunately precluding me from meeting these big names, but I was able to meet other international creators such as Ariel Vittori and Natalie Nourigat on Sunday; I was especially interested in the latter’s I Moved To Los Angeles To Work In Animation (which I ate up on the trip back, very interesting even though I has little relationship with my trade of software engineering, you should check it out), and we were able to chat and discuss differences between the Euro and North American comics signing systems, since she has experience with both. I also had Jim Jourdane sign his Fieldwork Fail: while not an international creator, his book is available in English, though it seems you’ll have to catch him to get a copy after his online store had to close.

Another Sunday highlight was the Badass (sic) exhibition: Sandrine Garage, who has been helping organize Lyon BD for some time already, took it upon herself to see whether there were now enough comic book heroines to be worth showcasing, 6 years after the first Héro-ïne-s exhibition, and there were. Rather than commission imaginary covers, she was able to showcase 10 actual, published comic book heroines that have in common that they don’t conform to stereotypes, including that of the strong female character: instead, they do what they want to do; one may be bold, while also being empathetic (and they made sure to display the pages showing that), while another heroine may be friendly to everyone while having a tendency to take responsibility to solve every single problem in the valley. Akissi and Aster were featured, but also Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl and Cece Bell’s El Deafo, giving it a worldwide scope. In between the various heroines, pages of Miron Malle’s comic book on feminism concepts, The League Of Super Feminists, were featured. However, they did solicit visitors in creating their own badass heroines, and they obliged.

But Sunday was most interesting for its interviews, beginning with that of Pénélope Bagieu. Of particular interest were these bits:

  • While she has to focus on one project at a time, she likes to alternate between personal projects and boring ones, the latter of which to allow her to recharge and remind her why she sets out to plunge on multi-year personal projects. In fact, at the end of a project she tends to be unable to work on much, trying to start new stories but failing, though by no mean remaining unoccupied as she devolves some time to the promotion of the just completed project (book tours, etc.), until such time as the sparks strikes again and she dives back in a new project.
  • No one has so far managed to publish Brazen in Arabic; the only publisher who was interested started demanding a long list of absurd changes which she gave up on reading halfway through, such as not showing women who smoke, at which point she told them she might as well remove all women and avoiding them the trouble of publishing the book. She did mention breasts having to be covered and the story of Phulan Devi having to be removed from the U.S. edition, explaining to the audience the particularity of the young adult positioning of the book in the U.S., in no small reason because comics books are still thought as being for children there and are hard to sell to adults, relating feedback such as I bought it for my daughter, and couldn’t believe I was enjoying it myself. But she was proud to mention she successfully fought back more meaningful censorship, such as when the Polish publisher wanted to remove any mention of abortion, while she refused, and she won as it ended up being published there without any cut in that regard. Ironically even when censorship happens there is no mention of it: the only disclaimer that was added to the U.S. version was a warning that elements in the books should not all be taken literally, due to the duality in the U.S. market of fiction/non-fiction and Brazen being sold as non-fiction, and the fear of fact-checkers coming e.g. for the campus restaurant background gag in Agnodice’s story. On the other hand while there was less censorship there Russia made sure to physically slap the book with a forbidden to minors badge, due to the references to homosexuality.
  • She is currently working on a comic book adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, which she is very excited about: she takes it to be the best Roald Dahl book. The idea of a comic adaptation of a Roald Dahl book came from Dahl’s estate, which proposed it to Gallimard, their French publisher, and that is how she was proposed the job. However, Gallimard initially proposed adapting Matilda, and while she loves the book, its relative lack of action did not strike her as making it particularly suited for a comics adaptation (that, and people’s idea of the universe tend to be shaped by the 1996 movie, not to mention Quentin Blake’s illustrations), so she made a counter-proposal to Gallimard of adapting The Witches, which the Dahl estate accepted. It will simultaneously come out in French and English beginning of 2020, which means she’s glad it is going to beat the Zemeckis movie to market and not be taken to be the book of the movie.

Then later in the afternoon, as the last event of the day, it was Boulet’s turn to be interviewed in a similar setup, and … wait, what are these people queueing in the stairs for? Oh, come on, it can’t be for the room where the Boulet interview will take place, it’s too far!? Well, turns out that is what it was for that. I swear, I never intended for the Lyon BD festival to conclude with the sight of Boulet’s mile-long line to be a running gag, but here we are; except that in the case of a panel/interview/etc., it’s not that you have to wait hours for your turn, it’s that the room is full before you have a chance to enter. So I am unfortunately unable to report on anything that happened there. I’m going to have to start showing up 15 minutes early whenever Boulet is involved from now on …
[Editor’s note: Nobody tell him about the Hall H camp-out lines in San Diego.]


Spam of the day:

It’s 2019 and yes! you can now burn fat without exercising!

I do that all the time, unless you count trying to put out a grease flash on my stovetop as exercise.

Lyon BD 2019: Day Two

Editor’s note: Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin continues his reporting of the French comics festival scene.

_______________

Setting up a festival of the scale of Lyon BD is never an easy task, but this year they had their work cut out for them. For instance, terror level in France as a whole has abated somewhat since 2017, when I first went; but the explosion of an abandoned package which wounded about a dozen people (they’re all out of the hospital by now) in the center of Lyon mere weeks before the event was undoubtedly responsible for heightened security: mainly, the need to show an ID before entering the main festival spaces on Saturday, and the need for tickets to be nominative, which was completely unplanned. As a result, at the ticket booth vendors had to manually write down the name of the attendee on the tickets, slowing down the sales process and lengthening the lines.¹

Given that context, my Saturday went remarkably well. I took advantage of the lack of panels in the morning to check out local creator Phiip and his Lapin crew (Marc Dubuisson, Cy, Tim, etc.), and catch up on their latest releases. Same with Thom Pico (who I met for the first time on this occasion, allowing me to congratulate him for not talking down to kids in his writing, and he was glad I noticed that) and Karensac, whose Aster is slated to be released in English by Random House in 2020.

[Editor’s note: I’d been wondering when another imprint would challenge the essentially free reign :01 Books has had with grabbing the pick of Franco-Belgian comics for re-release in the US; it’s not surprising that it’s Gina Gagliano that’s taken up the banner.]

Then the afternoon was the occasion to get to the LGBTI+ comics event (the second edition, meaning the first wasn’t a one-off), where I bought a zine from Anna Lkiss and Holly Rectum, where each of them tells how they found out they were non-binary. Then a number of panels and events on Chilean comics (including a zine created by women, the latest edition of which they made wordless, in order to present their work abroad), on migrants entering France through the Roya valley north of Nice, and on making the invisible visible, where creators of a “hobo mom” story, of a story of a Roma family tricked into emigrating to France then getting trapped into debt by the human traffickers, and of a story of emigration from Africa to Europe, exchanged on their processes for bringing these stories to life. For instance, Christian Lax, creator of the latter story, told he took advantage of a partnership with a museum and mixed that with a migration theme to create the story of a man saving an African art artifact from Muslim fanatics by taking it with him in Europe.

Come back soon for coverage of the third day, including U.S. and English creators, Pénélope Bagieu, and Boulet.


Spam of the day:

This revolutionary lightbulb camera is driving home security companies out of business

Yeah, under no circumstances am I putting an unvetted wi-fi attached camera on my home so that you assholes can either stripmine the video for your own purposes, or leave it exposed to the world. Bugger off.

_______________
¹ Oh, and the Lyon city hall was searched by police mere days before the festival following an inquiry involving the mayor, though I have no idea whether that affected festival activities.

For A First-Year Event, This Is Damn Impressive

Okay, so you know that the National Cartoonists Society has a big to-do every year, right? Different city every year, give out the Reubens, very fancy, I went to it once. It’s also pretty insular, by cartoonists and for cartoonists, no real public component to keep people excited about cartooning, either as consumers or the next generation of creators.

Which is why the NCS is doing a damn near 180 turn and going full Euro-style festival this year: NCSFest will be held in Huntington Beach, California, 17-19 May, and the vast majority of it will be a) in public, and b) free. This is not going to be a fill-the-convention-center type event, it’s going to be on the beach, on the pier, in the Arts Center, occupying a significant portion of common space.

Now we all know that first year events are rough, but NCSFest is getting advice from show partners Lakes International Comic Art Festival in the UK, and LyonBD Festival in France. Their consultation must have been great — did you see the guest list they have lined up for this one? Keep in mind that all of the newspaper creators, they aren’t used to the idea of tabling and meeting the public and sales and such, and they’re going to be able to learn from the comic book and webcomics folk, who are all over this in droves. If you’re in SoCal the weekend after TCAF, you’ll be able to see a frankly astonishing array (I’m going to link to the NCSFest bios instead of websites, because it will feature their appearances).

On the legit superstars list, you’ve got Boulet, Jaime Hernandez, Pénélope Bagieu, Sergio Aragonés, and Lewis Trondheim. From the world of museums, you’ve got Andrew Farago (of the Cartoon Art Museum, and Joe Wos (is it a coincidence without him as a driving force, Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum has closed shop?). Speaking of Pittsburgh, you’ve got Rob Rogers, who was a staff editorial cartoonist that was fired by a Trumpalo publisher for being too tough on Cheeto Mussolini and Shaenon Garrity, who is Yinzer by upbringing¹.

The Nib regulars Ann Telnaes and Gemma Correll will be side by side with indie/webcomickers Carolyn Belefski, Lucas Turnbloom, Brad Guigar (who noted that he is listed as a podcaster rather than cartoonist … be sure to ask him when you see him!), and Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett. Newspaper editor Tea Fougner will represent along with the likes of Patrick McDonnell², Lalo Alcaraz, and a bunch of others whose work makes regular appearances over at The Comics Curmudgeon³.

And that’s before you get to Mary Fleener. Everybody doing off the wall, let’s push the boundaries of weirdness and see how they stretch comics for the past couple of decades owes a debt to Mary Fleener. They’re putting her out in public where she can freak out the tourists and I love it.

Note that some events (seminars, workshops, meet-and-greets) are ticketed, and are predominantly being held in conference rooms at the Hyatt Regency. Details are available on the Tickets page.


Spam of the day:

Request: even if you are not interested in this property please click on the link and click on the “Go to the platform,” I’ll be very blogodaren is my bread

Don’t ask, don’t ask, no possible good will come of asking.

_______________
¹ Today, she brings her sensibilities of Pittsburgh-area linguistic tradition and upbringing to her new roles as Funk Queen Of The Bay Area And Surrounding Environs, Tiki Ambassadrix At Large, and Nexus Of All Webcomics Realities (West Coast division).

² Who lives one town over; sometimes I bump into him on Main Street, and we chose our vet based on his recommendation.

³ Including Jerry van Amergongen, who wrote a gag strip when I was in high school that I still recall with perfect clarity.

Three Points Makes A Line

As mentioned last week, there have been two updates to The Abominable Charles Christopher a week’s interval. It had been years since the strip updated regularly, and we at Fleen were only cautiously optimistic that a change was in the offing.

Welp, today is update three, and furthermore the first we’ve seen of the titular protagonist in two and a half years. I know that Karl Kerschl’s work on Isola¹ may make this return irregular, but I believe we’re likely past the sometimes years-long breaks in the story.

Now if we just get Luga back, then everything will be right in the world. No pressure, Karl.

_______________

For those with next Monday open, a reminder that the American Library Association is holding its annual midwinter conference in Seattle, starting this Friday (25 January) and concluding next Tuesday (29 January). A highlight of ALA Midwinter is the announcements of the Youth Media Awards, including the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, winners of which have been known to overlap with the list of Great Graphic Novels For Teens put out by ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association.

This year’s GGNFT list includes Birding Is My Favorite Video Game by Rosemary Mosco, Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu, Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen, All Summer Long by Hope Larson, Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, Check Please!: Book One, #Hockey, various collected Giant Days by John Allison/Max Sarin/Liz Fleming, The Hidden Witch by Molly Ostertag, and On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. Look, I’m not saying one or more of these folks are going to get to describe themselves as Printz Award winners, but I’m not not saying it.

Anyway, the Youth Media Awards will be announced from 8:00am PST via live webcast. You should check ’em out.


Spam of the day:

for me it was a game changer when I found Rockwall and started investing with them my passive income started to grow much faster than before

I’m guessing you and I regard rock walls as very different things.

_______________
¹ Which is so good — beautiful, lush, willing to tell its story in its own time and to leave bits of plot and lore mysterious rather than to firehose all of it at us. It reminds me of Miyazaki’s Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, a story which took twelve years of fits and starts to reach a conclusion, and which left more unsaid than said.