The webcomics blog about webcomics

Hey, Kraven, What’s Your Opinion Of Kate Beaton?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, but just in case:

Hark! A Vagrant, such as it is, is an archive website now. I didn’t think it would be when I stepped away to work on other projects, but (not to kill the light mood around here) 2016-2018 were very difficult years in a personal sense, and emerging on the other side, I feel like this is a project that has run its course. I am so very grateful for all that this comic and my readers have given me, they have given me a career, joy, and more than I ever dreamed.

It’s been no secret that Kate Beaton — pride of Nova Scotia, chronicler of history and literature’s most absurd since 2006 — has done less and less of the strips that made her famous over the past years. It’s hard work, digging deep into, say, the biography of a politician who fought for queer rights starting in the 1860s, a man that almost nobody has heard of, and distill down all you learn into 24 panels … oh, and they have to be funny on top of everything else.

Multiply that effort by roughly 400 strips¹, work that’s done for free (although there’s probably an excellent print collection on the back end) and anybody would start to taper off in favor of the sort of work that maybe pays rent and groceries a little more directly.

Still she gave us strips, and more when you count the family strips that showed up on social media. And if she worked still less on Hark! when Becky got sick, nobody could have expected her to keep entertaining us for free when there were more important things. She did two children’s books in that time, and she’s been working on an autobio story that would be painful to produce without all the other challenges she’s endured.

So I absolutely understand her decision that it’s time to call it: Hark!, as a project, is done. I absolutely understand the appreciation and praise that’s flowing her way today, as we all remind her what her work has meant to us. What I understand and maybe think is unnecessary is that so much of that discussion is being placed in the past tense. Hark! A Vagrant is still here.

Matthew Henson is still doing squats on the North Pole, Miyamoto Musashi is still forgetting you need two things for a duel, Top Gun is still a movie about beach volleyball, and fun is still awful. Those comics will be as much a part of the canon of great cartooning as Charlie Brown and the Kite-Eating tree or a rousing match of Calvinball².

More importantly — and I say this as a man who considers that Musashi strip to be the single greatest comic of my half-century on the planet — my favorite work of Kate Beaton’s is always what’s next. She’s got a lot of work in front of her, some Hark!ish, most not. It’s all, every last bit of it, going to make us laugh, make us cry, make us hurt, console us, make us think, and make us feel.

Hark! A Vagrant is dead; long live Hark! A Vagrant.

Spam of the day:

On today’s agenda… Drop 20-by October

As the rest of this spam is for a weight-loss product, I’m presuming they mean drop 20 pounds (or even kilograms) by October. It’s worth noting that this message was sent on 30 September, in which case their approach is likely to involve amputation.

¹ Yeah, okay, you also get Strong Female Characters and Tit Windows in there which pretty much write themselves, but most of them were a whole buncha work.

² Not to mention the half-arsed cake. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would trade every single comic in the San Diego Convention Center during Nerd Prom for comics about Kate’s mum and da.

Today Is Becky’s

Most of us never met you, but Kate shared you with us — stories of when you were young, and when you were well, and of these terrible past few years when you weren’t. She loved you, and we felt that love and so we came to love you, too; anybody that Kate would introduce us to, she’d have to be special.

Goodbye, Becky. I’m sorry I never got the chance to tell you how wonderful you must be, to make my friend love you so deeply.

Edit to add: Donations in Becky Beaton’s memory may be made to the Central Inverness Palliative Care Society. According to the most recent government numbers, CIPCS operates on less than CDN$50,000/year. They don’t have a website, but you can donate here.


Three things. One’s going to hurt.

  • Saturday! John Allison, your British friend if you don’t have another one, has reached a milestone that damn few creators have:

    On Saturday it’s 20 years, since I put my first comic online. I’ve written/written and drawn approx:
    1200pp Giant Days
    1200pp Bad Machinery
    1800pp assorted Scary Go Round/minis
    132pp By Night
    1000pp Bobbins

    They weren’t all winners but I’ve tried my best.

    Aside from that 132 pages of By Night (available one Wednesday a month from BOOM! Studios, courtesy of your favorite local comic shop), that’s about 5200 pages of delightful weirdness in the Tackleverse, a single, sprawling story matched only by the most dedicated veterans (8700 pages of Lone Wolf And Cub over 28 volumes; I’m guessing about 5500 pages of its spiritual successor, Usagi Yojimbo), the most insane (6000 pages of Cerebus over 300 issues), or David Willis (I’m not sure even he knows how many pages of Walkyverse comics there are).

    More importantly: Allison is one of about three creators¹ that continually gets better; issue after issue, I love Giant Days more and more. Give By Night more than its intended 12-issue run and I’m certain I’d say the same. Even more importantly, the vast majority of those stories are free for you to read, right now. If you start now, you can probably be jussst caught up in time for the shindig on Saturday, if you don’t eat, sleep, or attend to other bodily imperatives. Get crackin’.

  • Before long, there’s likely going to be a fourth name on the always gets better list, and you’ll know who it is from three words:

    Sluggo is lit.

    The news hit like a cannonball yesterday: Olivia Jaimes is coming to CXC next weekend, and we have Tom “The Spurge” Spurgeon to thank for it:

    Jaimes will participate in one public panel on Sunday at 3:30 PM, and a pair of non-public events designed to mark the historical moment of the cartoonist’s initial success. Cell phones and recording devices will be collected at the door of Jaimes’ Sunday event and returned to their owners afterwards.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such subterfuge, or perhaps skullduggery in comics before. Exciting! Do give Ms Jaimes my regards, and remember: whoever decides to blow her anonymity will go to the Special Hell.

  • It was not quite two years ago that Kate Beaton first shared the news with us: her sister Becky, a year older and fixture in Kate’s entire life, had cancer. She fought, and she got better, until she didn’t. She fought the metastasis, fought for life, and until the end she fought the indifference and disregard of the medical establishment.

    With her sisters and Becky’s fiance, Kate’s written a remembrance of Becky that will make you furious. It details the delays she had in her initial diagnosis, delays that cost her time, delays that cost her options. Even worse, as an immediately-post-treatment patient when things started not feeling right, her oncologists disregarded her reports² and delayed recognizing that her cancer had spread; I’m no doctor, but I’m absolutely willing to believe that between the first set of doctors and the second, they cost Becky her life.

    Becky’s plan for the rest of her life was to advocate for cancer patients, to teach them how to manage doctors that disregard them, to share her hard-won knowledge; thanks to doctors that don’t listen to patients — particularly women, particularly young, seemingly healthy women — she never got the chance. So Kate, and her sisters, and Becky’s fiance have done this bit of it for her. I won’t be surprised to see more of it in the future.

    Becky’s beyond all but our memory, but let that memory drive you. She can’t advocate for patients to their doctors, but it’s something we can do for her. I hope you never have to, that an ugly diagnosis and a painful fight never comes for your and yours. But should it come, think of Becky, dig down deep, and let those doctors know that you aren’t going to allow them to be indifferent.

Spam of the day:
Spammers don’t get to share the page with Becky.

¹ Ryan North on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is another, and while Meredith Gran isn’t doing a regular strip now, she definitely falls into the category.

For reference, Stan Sakai is not one of the three, because there is no better he can get. He’s reached the pinnacle of the form.

² I have never wanted to slap another living human as much as when I read Becky’s first doctor was so bad, a year later their medical license was suspended, and that she was never able to obtain her records from that time.

Then, a scant six paragraphs later, when she was trying to get her oncologists to pay attention to a leg swollen with what would prove to be more cancer, one of them added a note in her file: Rebecca continues to be paranoid. I hope those words hang on the conscience of that dismissive alleged professional for the rest of their life.

All The Feels

Today, I bring you news that the Becky Beaton cancer fundraiser has cleared CDN$126,000, which is friggin’ amazing; I’m certain that the entire Beaton family thanks you. For some added context about what a bastard this particular cancer is, Kate shared the story of a friend of Becky’s with the same diagnosis at the same time and about the same age. Becky’s still with us, and if 2474 donors (and counting) have anything to say about it, she will be for some time.

I also bring news that Shing Yin Khor’s Small Stories collection (which I tweeted about here, and I stand by every word), containing the superlative Desert Walk and nine other stories of feelings, arrived today. I think I’ll be spending a lot of time on this one. It’s a good time to feel what it’s like to be somebody else. More on this one tomorrow.

The world is kind of terrible, so let’s do our best to not make it worse.

Spam of the day:


Then there’s these assholes, trying to get my attention by trafficking mail-order brides. Did you not see my heartfelt plea about not making things worse? Sheesh.


There’s something about the depths of winter, the short days, that makes us seek out family; for some it’s a matter of travel, for some the journey is longer. For nearly all of us, it’s where our strength and hope reside.

  • Longtime readers of this page may recall that Brian Warmoth¹ and Rick Marshall² were a couple of guys that Megan Fox Tits Wolverine magazine put on the webomics beat back when they still had a magazine and weren’t busy screwing up their business of comics conventions with penny-ante grifting. Instead, MFTW just criminally underpaid a bunch of writers (of whom Warmoth and Marshall were the most prolific) to build up the magazine’s web presence and then fired them unceremoniously, taking down their stories in the process.

    Both Marshall and Warmoth landed on their feet, though, and have done well for themselves in the intervening years. In Warmoth’s case, very well as of this weekend, as he and his wife, Julia, welcomed their first child into the world — an act of profound optimism in the best of times — at their home in the Bay Area.

    Brian’s one of the sweetest, most genuine guys you’ll ever meet, and the rarest of things in the digital media age: a damned skilled editor who can bring out the best words from his writers, while building up audiences in niche media. I’ve seen the photos and while they aren’t mine to share (nor are the specific details), take it from me that Young Master Warmoth is adorable, and will undoubtedly grow to make his parents proud. Fleen congratulates the newly-expanded family, and wishes them all the best (along with a few uninterrupted nights of sleep).

  • But when anybody in webcomics mentions the word family, it’s pretty likely that one idea springs to mind: Kate Beaton is visiting her parents, and at least some of her sisters will be there with their families, and the Best Comics Ever will come about as a result. And that’s pretty much what happened from yesterday, as Beaton made her way to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia from her writerly stomping grounds in Newfoundland. There’s Mom, and Da, and Agnes, of course. Everybody loves Agnes.

    And then Kate shared something more; it was low key and undramatic, as befits the folk of Cape Breton who (one would believe from Beaton’s comics) hate more than anything else the possibility of Making A Fuss. Kate’s sister Becky warned her to be ready, and she reached up and removed her hair. It’s not hair, you realize, it’s a wig and she’s bald underneath. She’s chemo bald and that means … oh, no.

    Here’s the thing — we don’t know Becky; Kate has been extraordinarily generous in sharing her life, and all the Beatons have been willing to be part of that sharing. I can’t imagine that Kate would have done that without Becky’s express permission and it feels real even though we don’t know them because Kate’s always made them feel like they’re right there, we can touch them they’re so close.

    And I don’t know you, Becky Beaton, or Kate’s other sisters, or her parents, or Agnes, or any of the extended clan in Cape Breton³, but I wish I did. I want you to know that everybody that reads Kate’s comics (especially the silly, ordinary family comics) considers every Beaton to be The Best. Love and strength to you, and your family, and laughter too, because that’s pretty much what all the comics since have been about. When there’s laughter in the Beaton household, there’s no room for Fuss.

Spam of the day:

Why Your Soreness is Caused by “Dry Joints”

Are you talking about the solder thing, because that would be the best spam logic leap ever.

¹ Shown here, right.

² Will, and Holly, shown here, center right in khaki.

³ Well, except for her relative Jeff Smith.

Good News (With A Side Of Turnips)

It’s been an up and down couple of years for Kate Beaton and family — for every book or wedding, there were setbacks in Becky’s fight against cancer. But even amid grief there’s new hope, and sometimes very, very good news:

My dad just had open heart surgery, and he is through and doing good! Phew. Truly, no one else could keep me in my place.

Beaton’s burying the lede in that tweet just a little, as the accompanying cartoon made clear. She and husband Morgan Murray are expecting a child, her mom is over the moon (as we knew she would be), Da always has a unique perspective on things, and pregnancy is serious overrated.

Anybody that loves Kate’s cartoons (that would be everybody, near as I can tell) is filled with happiness — not only because she and her family are overdue for some joy, but also because this is going to result in many, many moments of hilarity large and small, some of which will be shared with us and the majority of which will be held close to the hearts of those that were there at the time. Some will likely involve turnips.

Congratulations and love, Kate and Morgan and little one to be named later. We’re all thrilled for you.

Spam of the day:

NOTE: In return for the FREE CONTENT/ARTICLE that I will be providing you, I would expect just a favor of a backlink from within the main body of the article.

Oh please, tell me what topics you have on hand that are appropriate for a blog that deals 99.47% with webcomics, a topic that pretty much nobody else cares to write about.

Family Redux

Yes, yes, I know, toutes les bandes dessineés is buzzing about the new Patreon-alike from Kickstarter, and how it’s going to both compete and compliment other funding platforms, and early adopters, and how it will change everything or maybe nothing¹. It’s very important. But it’s not the most important story today; it’s not even the second most important.

  • This page has, for years beyond reckoning², been in the bag for Kate Beaton and her uniquely hilarious/touching look at … well, everything. Literature, history, ponies, personal biography, and family. To paraphrase Rich Stevens, there’s only one place in the world that bakes the perfect little cookie that is a Beatonesque comic, and that’s Kate’s brain. Nobody else is like her. Except that’s not quite true.

    As her comics starring her family (especially her mom, which makes them momics) show, Beaton is very much the product of her upbringing — the particular place (Nova Scotia) and the particular people (all of whom exhibit not exactly her sensibilities and personality, but were clearly made according to the same rules). Kate’s Mom, Kate’s Dad, and her sisters have been featured in so many quick and delightful comics, they feel like we know them.

    We don’t, of course. But Kate’s made those scraps of paper and jittery lines feel like we grew up with them, know how they’ll react in a given situation, breathe and live and laugh next to us. Which is why when Kate (and by her explicit assent, Becky) shared the news last Christmas, for those of us that followed the Beatons from a distance, it was a punch in the gut.

    But Becky got better. Until she didn’t.

    Hello my friends. There is no easy way to put this out there. This is my sister Becky. Since two years ago, everything has changed in our family. We are asking for help now, we love her more than I could ever tell you. …

    Remission became recurrence, and she’s reached the limit of what chemo and radiation can safely do; the medical term for this is incurable. Because the Beatons have the good fortune to live in Canada, getting to this stage has not bankrupted them. There are clinical trials and experimental treatments to explore, but they are predominantly in the United States, which means that the family is facing a daunting charge for the privilege of participating in treatments that are still experimental and which may afford the possibility of not dying. The first estimate is CDN$150,000.

    The Maritimes breed hardy souls — self-reliant, sturdy, people that stand on their own two feet with pride. It can’t have been easy for Kate to consider making something as intimate as her sister’s mortality public, to ask for our help. But the Maritimes breed something else, and that’s community; in a place where everybody knows everybody for the past half-dozen generations, you wouldn’t need to ask for help because it would be offered without hesitation.

    We don’t know Kate and her family, not really … but sometimes, the internet approximation is almost as good. Since the appeal went out yesterday, Becky’s Rally Against Cancer has raised nearly ninety-five thousand goddamned dollars. It’s not a cure, it’s not a guarantee, but it’s enough to allow for a fighting chance, and that’s all any Nova Scotian ever needed to move the world.

    Over the next while, I am going to be telling you about her a bit every day. So that you know who you are helping.

    That’s what Kate told us after she asked for help; we don’t know Becky, not really, but we’re going to get the chance to. There are cartoons, remembrances, photos, funny stories, little moments that Kate’s carried with her of the sister she’s known all her life.

    There will be more, and even after all of them we won’t really know Becky — not really — but we’ll be closer. Kate’s sharing her sister’s life with us; we’re all going to share the joy and the hurt in return. We haven’t met her, most of us never will, but I think we can all trust Kate will tell her for us, Becky, because we know the Beatons are no strangers to colorful idiom: fuck cancer. We love you.

  • And yet, in this strange, sometimes wondrous, sometimes broken family called webcomics, we must make time to welcome another who has seen fit to join us:

    Introducing Quentin Malcolm Gruver Sung, born 11/13/17 (the first three two-digit primes). Baby and mom are happy and healthy; I’ve already changed 5+ diapers and am therefore ready to handle ANYTHING

    Also he met some Snoopies

    I’ve been asked about Quentin’s stats, sorry to neglect this vital info:

    Weight: 6lb 13oz
    Length: 20.67″
    Sign: Scorpio with knife
    Alignment: Neutral good
    Warp field output: 5.01 kilocochranes

    That from Jon “Ferocious J” Sung, as fine a man as ever has been and I’ll fight anybody that says different. Young Quentin will know the joys and embarrassments of growing up with an ubernerd for a father, who will surely never let him forget every late-night feeding and how many diapers barely contained warp core breaches.

    You’ve gone and done something amazing by being born, Q³ — you’ve engaged in an act of supreme optimism, joining us here in a world that’s frequently stupid and determinedly so. We’ll try to make it better by the time you’re old enough to notice; if we fail, I have every faith that you’ll pick up from us and see the job done. With your lineage, I know you’ll settle for nothing less than the establishment of a post-scarcity, egalitarian, technological, spacefaring utopia. Quentin, you have the conn.

No spam today. They aren’t family.

¹ One thing I haven’t seen mentioned — Kickstarter has a more global footprint than other services, so I wonder if this becomes a more global alternative to Patreon.

² It’s about ten years. Sorry for the hyperbole.

³ I see what you did there, J.

San Diego Looms

So, yeah, probably a regular post tomorrow (I’ve got a late flight) but for a solid week after that? Irregular as heck. Let’s clear a few backlog items before the madness descends.

  • I’m three days late on this, but I wasn’t going to let it go: buried in at the end of a discussion of Canadian literature being developed for broadcast is a line that could almost be overlooked:

    FGF is also mid-production on a number of other screen adaptations of Canadian books, most notably Kate Beaton’s picture book The Princess And The Pony and Jeff Lemire’s graphica trilogy, Essex County.

    I’m not sure what’s more charming — the thought of Kate Beaton’s wonderful story about believing in yourself (and also farts) arriving on the small screen (I’m figuring 30 minute animated special), or that identification of The Princess And The Pony as a Canadian book. Mark my words, Beaton will be regarded in the Great Northern Pantheon alongside Atwood, Davies, and Mowat. Everybody feel good for Kate!

  • Second, after too long a time¹ away from their many fans, Becky [Dreistadt] and Frank [Gibson] have returned to the webcomics game with Bustletown. Let’s run down the criteria for Becky&Frankness:

    The first sixteen pages of Bustletown are up now, with the next chunk of story dropping after SDCC; no word yet on how often it’ll be released, or if there will be an RSS feed, but if you find you want to keep up with Bustletown, it’s now listed over to the right in the link library. Everybody feel good for Becky and Frank!

  • It’s been more than two years since Girls With Slingshots wrapped, since it started over again as [re-]colored strips with commentary. Creator Danielle Corsetto spent some time getting the final two print volumes produced & distributed, and she’s been teasing us with the eventual color omnibus edition².

    And, quietly (or at least as quiet as you can be when you’re trying to keep things on the downlow amongst 1300+ Patreon supporters), she’s been doing some marvelously revelatory autobio comics under the title 32³. There’s everything there, from the ordinary to the deeply personal (although if you follow Corsetto’s twitterfeed, you know that she’s genetically designed for #TMITuesday, so personal is not really a problem).

    Anyway, Corsetto has just opened up the formerly Patreon-only strips to public view, and they are excellent. The dozen in the archive so far (with updates approximately weekly) range from multi-page college flashbacks to four panels on the logistics of groinal grooming; they’re all pretty damn hilarious, and any day with Danielle Corsetto telling a story from her life is automatically a better day than it would have been otherwise. Bookmark and read, and everybody feel good for Danielle!

Spam of the day:

Do you need to find a DNA lab for immigration?

No … and if I did, I don’t think I’d use a lab that looks (from its advert) like it should be called Akbar & Jeff’s DNA Hut.

¹ Including a suspiciously incomplete Capture Creatures print comic series; hey, BOOM!, since you’re obviously uninterested in completing the series, hows about releasing rights that you’re apparently squatting on and letting Becky and Frank complete it elsewhere? Or is the money that it would take to negotiate a fair rights reversion earmarked instead for giving away 1000 drinks at SDCC?

² Which, for once, I probably won’t get. I’ve got the 10 original collections, most signed-and-sketched, and I’d hate to give them up. No room for both on the shelf, so I’m keeping the softcovers.

³ No, she’s not 32, she’s 36 as of this writing. Explanation for the title here and here

One Day To Go And Finding The Good Where We Can

We live, damn it all, at a time of great transition; things are ending and other … things … are starting. As it turns out, such is occurring in Webomicstan as well.

  • It’s been a long time coming, more than eleven and a half years since we first met Dr McNinja, as written & pencilled by Christopher Hastings and inked by Kent Archer. In the decade-plus since, color duties have been assumed by (briefly) Carly Monardo and Anthony Clark, and Doc has been written/drawn by everybody from Benito Cereno & Les McClane to Kate Beaton to Becky & Frank.

    A good 18 months back, Hastings warned us that Dr McNinja would be ending sooner rather than later; he warned us as well that there were no guarantees which characters would survive (spoiler warning, it’s all bad guys that died; it looked like Gordito might but he got better and thankfully Gary The Barber appeared to never be in danger).

    Since the announcement, Hastings has only increased his comic book writing, having graduated from miniseries (various humor-tinged 3- or 4-issue runs at Marvel) to ongoing (Adventure Time, and being the originating writer/person most responsible for shaping Gwenpool). He’s got lots of irons in lots of fires, and when things finish up — as is imminent — it will be with the knowledge that damn, this was completely a thing¹.

    You done good, Doc (both docs, Hastings and McNinja). The world will be a bit less radical and insanely fun next week, but you’ve taken us on a hell of a ride in the meantime. Thank you.

  • Announced today: the imminent start of an administration that has no truck with capital-s Science will not stop Zach Weinersmith from promoting a love of knowledge and critical thought. Namely, the latest iteration of BAH!Fest will take place at the hallowed Kresge Auditorium on the campus of MIT. The call for submissions is now open, and this show will have an open theme — any bad ad-hoc hypothesis, on any topic, is fair game.

    The most exciting part? The keynote will be delivered by Marc Abrahams, co-founder and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research and founder of the Ig Nobel Prize. It’s probably fair to say that there’s no inspiration for BAH!Fest that Abrahams hasn’t had a hand in², so this is very exciting … there’s pretty much a straight line from the seminal A Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown (Seim, 1956) to BAH!Fest, so if you’re anywhere near MIT on 23 April 2017, 7:00pm-ish³, tell Zach & the rest they’re doing great things.

  • Speaking of great things, we’re down to the waning hours of the Fleen Fight For Fungible Futures Fund, which will cease its activities at noon EST tomorrow as Barrack Obama leaves the office of President of the United States and glob help us all. The next while is going to be a struggle (genteel for some of us, existential for far too many), so the Six-F will be matching any donations you make from Election Day to Inauguration Day to:

    American Civil Liberties Union
    Brennan Center for Justice
    Campaign Zero
    Electronic Frontier Foundation
    International Rescue Committee
    NAACP Legal Defense Fund
    National Resources Defense Council
    Planned Parenthood
    Pro Publica
    Sacred Stone Camp’s GoFundMe
    Syrian Civil Defense aka The White Helmets
    The Trevor Project

    As of this writing, you have approximately 19 hours to send me (that would be gary) a receipt at the address of this website right here (which is a dot-com). I’ll match it. And as needs require (and I am able) between now and the end of the retrograde nightmare about to break upon us, I’ll repeat this exercise.

Spam of the day:

McDonalds Breakfast wants you to try all day breakfast – Free on us!

Not even if it was McBonalds.

¹ Reminder: I met Hastings for the first time at an Andy Bell art show, where he was wearing a Great Outdoor Fight t-shirt. I would, by coincidence, be standing next to him at the Great Outdoor Fight signing in Brooklyn, when he and Onstad met. It was an entirely appropriate bookending.

² The other likely inspiration: the Journal of Irreproducible Results (which I was very fond of reading back in college), which Abrahams edited for a time before leaving and founding AIR. Alas, the JIR is not what it once was.

³ It’s doubtful I’ll be able to be there, as I’m applying for the Alaska Robotics Minicon Camp in Juneau that same weekend.

Okay, Weird

Something’s going on with WordPress where I lose connection to the back end and editing functions, but the front end continues to show the site. And then it comes back without doing anything! So let’s be quick about this, and I hope you will appreciate how much work went into this one.

See, I owe Amazon an apology, as I was complaining t’other day about my copy of Romeo And/Or Juliet not being here on day of release, and now I’ve got it. Thanks, Amazon! It’s wacky and wonderful, and features many, many terrific artists and story ending illustrations. Author Ryan North’s sense of both complete absurdism and Shakespearean drama are intact, as he takes us through multiple plots, multiple story styles (I’m presently following along a noir pastische), and pulls in multiple plays for inspiration (said pastiche stars Rosalind from As You Like It, and there are short versions of Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even Midsummer’s play-in-a-play, Pyramus and Thisbe). There’s time travel, giant robots, sex-having, sweet fights, record-setting one-rep weightlifting, a cookie recipe, and even a nod to Back To The Future¹.

Sadly, the best thing we saw in To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure — where those illustrations were full page with the minor text associated with the story ending (usually grisly death) — is modified somewhat; the illos are mostly 1/3 page in size, with a continuous stream of text-illustration-next story point. As a result, RAOJ doesn’t have page numbers, it has passage numbers — a passage being a node in the story, ranging from a line or two to more than a page. Additionally, instead of the full-color glossy illustrations from TBONTBTITA, the papr stock is matte and the pictures are all combinations of black, white, and red. The changes do make the book less of a bicep-building than TBONTBTITA, though … that was one seriously heavy book.

But despite all of the good points, Romeo And/Or Juliet has one stunning flaw, one shared with To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure, namely: the index of artists in the back of the book contains only an alphabetical listing, not a listing by passage (or page, in the earlier book) number. So when I came across a stunningly beautiful (or funny, or disturbing … ) illustration in my read-through, I’d sometimes recognize the artist by style, but more often not. Then I had to scan the index, looking for the passage (or page) number, to find it who it was.

Well, no more! Ryan North, I am calling you out for having a defective book, and furthermore I am doing something about it. Specifically, I have painstakingly transcribed the passage numbers and artist names and compiled them into a table (below the cut) that you may print and stick in your copy of RAOJ. I trust Mr North will prevail on his publishers to include information in future printings; with a clear typeface, you might be able to fit it on a promotional bookmark, but at the least you could “tip in” some pages in this and future North/Shakespeare collaborations.

It’s a minor thing, though — don’t let the lack of reverse-lookup prevent you from picking up Romeo And Or Juliet; it’s a brilliant job from a brilliant writer and nearly 100 brilliant artists. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to decide what to do in this game of rock-paper-scissors I seem to have found myself in.

Spam of the day:

Identity Issue PP-658-119-347

I believe that you are the PayPal Review Department exactly as much as I believe the South Asian-accented man who called himself Steve Martin on the phone yesterday really was calling from the Treasury Department².

¹ Or at least North’s obsession with the novelization of the movie.

² I called him to point out he is very bad at being a thief and he hung up on me. So I called back and got him again and continued my spiel. After five further discussions (sample statement from me: I can do this all day), he apparently decided he had to take a break and a woman picked up in his place. She said I was very rude and not to call their scam operation again or I would be in trouble. That was fun.