The webcomics blog about webcomics

Dunnn, Dunnn, Dun-Dun-Dun

Blast, meet past. From the mailbag:

Even though the Crown Commission website went offline late last year, and the domain expired in early February, the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge continues. Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 marked the 12th anniversary of this round of madness.

For the record, there are still two people in it: Michael H. “Daily Grind” Payne and Andrew “TRU-Life Adventures” Rothery.

That courtesy of Rothery himself, in a note misleadingly titled Minor webcomic milestone; for those too young to remember, once upon a time (before this page even launched), a whole damn bunch of webcomcikers — some of whom have become pretty damn famous — each kicked in US$20 in a bet to see who could update daily the longest without missing an update¹.

Almost immediately, people started dropping out; by the end of year one half the field was gone². After three years, three out of four competitors were done, and half of those were absent by the start of year five.

The ten year anniversary saw but two remaining (Brad Guigar’s update patterns changed around New Year’s Day 2015, making him the last competitor to finish out of the money), and so we stay to this day. Either Payne or Rothery will win this thing one day, taking home US$1120 (and eternal bragging rights); the other will take home the funds raised by advertising, last noted to be US$135 (and also the ignominy of being First Loser).

Should you come across either in the days and months to come, be sure to congratulate them, and understand that at this point neither will give up for any reason short of death. Fleen congratulates both Rothery and Payne, and assures you that whatever else you manage in life, this longevity in webcomicking will be in the first paragraph of your respective obituaries.

Spam of the day:

Women need to feel in control. So when they lack that feeling, they get NERVOUS. And that is exactly why they want this technique BANNED.

Okay, a) Your shitty MRA cheat code is not a free pass into the pants of ladies. To quote the indispensable Randy Milholland, no one owes you access to their body. And II) Your shitty MRA cheat code is not something that can be banned, exactly how stupid do you think the people you’re trying to sell this crap to are? Oh, wait, I think I just answered my own question.

¹ There were rules to determine what counted as an update, and what to do in case of site outage, and how many days could be missed based on your strip’s schedule.

² Including, in a shocker, cartooning machine Chris Crosby.

Does Toronto Have A Song I Can Reference?

I mean, I was going to title this We Stand On Guard, but that would refer to all of our Great Northern Neighbor, not just their premiere city. Anyway, stuff about Toronto coming up. The Toronto Comics Art Festival — TCAF, for those in the know — is coming up in about eight weeks time and I will continue my unfortunate streak of missing one of the great shows. This year it’s because I have a niece getting married the same weekend, and comics be damned, I love her more. But if you’re going, you can see some neat stuff.

  • On the official end of things, TCAF showrunner Chris Butcher recently announced a new partnership for TCAF that sounds intriguing:

    The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is proud to announce a brand new partnership with the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival (LICAF)! They are bringing a who’s-who group of the UK’s finest cartoonists to TCAF 2015, including Featured Guest Hunt Emerson!

    While TCAF has gone all over the world to promote and proselytize to folks about the amazing work being done by Canadian cartoonists (at events like the Kaigai Manga Festa in Japan, or the Angoulême Festival in France), this is the first time we are engaging in an honest-to-goodness cultural exchange. This year, LICAF are bringing seven fantastic cartoonists from the United Kingdom, with TCAF bringing our own cavalcade of Canadian creators to LICAF in October!

    TCAF have been instrumental in setting the pattern of public space-based, free, comics festivals, to the point that the CAF suffix tells you you’re looking at a show that’s probably worth your time¹. To see a formal partnership (possibly the first of many) just reinforces the value of TCAF and the likelihood of more good, local shows around the world. Well done Mr Butcher and the organizers of LICAF.

  • While you’re at TCAF, you might pick up a copy of an anthology where the unifying theme — you might even say the central character — is the city of Toronto itself. The first Toronto Comics Anthology released last year, with a dozen stories about the city from some reasonably unheralded creators (the only one that I recognized was Christopher Bird of Al’Rashad, who wrote five pieces, some of which can be seen here and here). The new volume will launch at TCAF, with twenty new stories; several titles have already caught my eye, including Welcome to Turdberg and The Toronto Patty Wars of 1985. If you’re going to TCAF, pick it up and tell me if I’m misplaced in my interest (I’m not).
  • Via Heidi Mac at The Beat, news of this year’s Cartoonist Studio Prize nominees, presented by Slate and The Center for Cartoon Studies. As noted in prior years (this is the third), the CSP is unique in that it’s got two categories — one for graphic novels, one for webcomics — and that’s all. Winners in each category get US$1000, and there’s an intriguing blend of familiar and new works on both sides of the aisle.

    Part of what I like best about the shortlist is the variety of work on the webcomics side; there’s everything from the weekly Oh Joy, Sex Toy to investigative cartooning to shortform personal experience to the obligatory Emily Carroll. Special congrats to Jillian Tamaki for being nominated in both categories for This One Summer and SuperMutant Magic Academy. Winners will be announced on 6 April.

  • Man, I went and had dinner with Brad Guigar last night and I didn’t notice that he’d been recently bounced from the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge, now going on for ten freakin’ years? I suck. Also, apropos of nothing, that author’s pic of Guigar on the DGIC page is terrible. He’s much more handsome than that, as anybody who actually tore their eyes away from the photo up top can attest. Somebody get on that².

Spam of the day:
Seu fotógrafo privado irá acompanhá-lo em sua próxima turnê.
Yeah, no. This is one of those deals where the “private photographer” ends up selling everything to one of those revenge porn sites. I ain’t falling for that again.

¹ For now at least; if it becomes as widespread and genericized as “Comic[-]Con”, it may not mean much.

² Get on supplying a new pic to the Daily Grind thing, not get on Brad. Jeez, people, get your minds out of the gutter.

Years Go By

Sometimes things pop into your head out of nowhere; for example, last night I suddenly and inexplicably found myself wondering, How’s that Iron Man thing going? Time, flies, arrow, banana, etc.

  • For those youngsters out there, The Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge is one of the enduring traditions of webcomics; launched nearly a full year before this here blog, it sought to answer the question How long can a webcomic creator go without missing a regular update? Those looking for bragging rights ponied up an entrance fee of US$20, and last creator standing gets the pot, minus contributions to the CBLDF and the HERO Initiative (originally the ACTOR Comic Fund). 56 creators entered (including such longrunners as Jennie Breeden, Chris Cosby, and Scott Kurtz, as well as superstars like Natasha Allegri).

    Three (maybe four; there was a question about 18 months back about a possible disqualification that doesn’t seem to have been resolved) competitors — including Brad Guigar, who doesn’t even look like his official competitor portrait anymore¹ — remain in the running, more than five hundred weeks and 2500 updates² after the start of the competition. I’d ordinarily suggest maybe the remaining three (four?) Iron Men declare a mutual satisfaction and walk away splitting the money, but anybody that’s managed a minimum of five updates a week with no skips for almost ten years (mark your calendars for the week of 9 February, it’s gonna be awesome) isn’t going to take split the pot like gentlemen as an option.

  • Never part of the TDGIMC (as near as I can tell), Ryan Estrada nevertheless has reason to contemplate the passage of years today, as it’s his birthday. I note that his latest creative endeavour — Poorcraft: Wish You Were Here — has passed the two-thirds funding mark over on Kickstarter. Maybe we get there by the start of next week, Spike reveals some of the (as yet secret) stretch goals? Yeah, it’s a little shameless, launching a Kickstart the same week two of the principals have birthdays, thus making it easier to prey on your emotions. That’s life in webcomics, and neither Estrada nor Spike are above using every trick at their disposal to make a project succeed. May as well give ’em the five bucks, they’ll wear you down eventually anyway³.

Spam of the day:

Following that, the President and Prime Minister joined the First Lady and Vice President in a St Patrick’s Day Reception at the White House for the one year anniversary of vintage shop Byronesque

I must be tired — I read that as the vintage shop Bronyesque and then I shuddered.


¹ Brad, update your competitor’s bio picture, please. You’re so much more handsome than you were. Then again, a Google Image Search for “similar pictures” lists a portrait of Jack Kirby as the first match so maybe just keep it? Then again, when you search for “Brad Guigar on GIS, you don’t see that Kirbyesque bit, but you do see pictures like this, to which I can only say Yowza.

² For reference, I wrote about the competitors reaching 200 weeks and 1000 updates in 2008.

³ All hail our new international leaders.

That’ll Do, Cartoonist. That’ll Do.

More than 3500 comics and still a few to go.

There are certain habits you have to have to keep up with as many webcomics as I keep up with¹ — some things get read when the RSS updates, some you wait for the trade (more often because it’s a story that reads better that way), and some you drop in on from time to time to see what’s going on, since you know they’ll be there for a good long time.

Case in point: Arthur, King of Time and Space by Paul Gadzikowski. Launched with a plan to run daily for 25 years² (which wound up being reduced considerably, but still planned to run from 2004 to 2017, which is a damn healthy run), reaching the 75% mark in the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge³ (having outlasted the likes of Dean Trippe, John Campbell, Scott Kurtz, Greg Dean, Phil McAndrew, Chris Crosby (!), Natasha Allegri, Steve Troop, Tom McHenry, and Jennie Breeden), AKOTAS was just going to always be there.

Except it’s not anymore; thanks to lazugod for the link to Tuesday’s strip:

[transcribed from the comic]

The Monday before Thanksgiving it was announced in this space that the hiatus period that’s been going on would end at the first of the year. Perhaps you didn’t notice that it didn’t actually say anything was going to follow.

[M]y wife and I have been going through a major life transition since, in retrospect, August.

The time and effort of producing a daily webcomic of any quality in one’s off hours effectively constitutes having a second part-time job. I’ve reached a time when I don’t know whether I can do that again; when, unfortunately but importantly, I don’t want to do that again.

But I’m not going to allow AKOTAS to go out on hiatus format cartoons. There’s about a week’s proper cartoons coming to wrap things up.

Life transition is perhaps too kind a term; were I Gadzikowski and his wife I’d be using words like fuck cancer, but it’s evident that they have both far more poise than I would in this situation, undoubtedly a side effect of having far more experience in this situation than I would wish on anybody. Given the choice: a second part-time job, done for free, to entertain strangers on the internet vs help my wife deal with tumors that have metastasized to her lungs and brain?

That is not even a choice. Which is why the last bit of the explanation from Tuesday reveals exactly what a class act Gadzikowski is:

Sorry about the mess. Thanks for reading.

Never apologize to us, Paul. Thanks for letting us read. At whatever point in time it doesn’t impact the well-being of your family and the muse strikes you, we’ll be here to read whatever you might share with us.

¹ The first being, recognizing that you will never read more than a bare fraction of what’s out there.

² A plan so broad in scope that it’s really only matched by Dave Sim announcing at the very beginning that Cerebus would run for 300 issues, which is exactly what wound up happening. Please note, however, that Sim is batshit insane whereas Gadzikowski seems to offend people about as often as Mr Rogers.

³ Which, by the way, has now been running for 3231 days.

Some Day I Really Ought To Figure Out The Actual Launch Day

So it’s approximately the Fleeniversary ’round these parts; the official announcement of my entrée into semi-abusive opinion-mongering occurred in the old Goats forums on 22 December 2005, but I’d been banking postings as far back as 5 December, and was really into the daily posting routine (even though nobody was reading yet) around the 15th or so. Which is a long way of saying — today is as close to seven years of what the masthead calls The webcomics blog about webcomics as you’re gonna get.

If I’ve got all my dates right, at this time seven years ago Jon Rosenberg¹ was not yet staring down 40 and had never changed a diaper. Seven years ago, people were somewhat more justified in thinking that Yuko Ota was in her early teens. Seven years ago, Jeff Rowland had proved himself unkillable by mere killer spiders and had started the great and vast TopatoCo Empire, even tangling with weird t-shirt company perverts.

So many of the tools and services we take for granted in webcomics were missing; at that time, there was no Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Kickstarter, Project Wonderful, or :01 Books. Seven years ago, George Rohac had not yet sprung fully formed from the forehead of Zeus.

Return to Sender had only been on hiatus for a year, TCAF had only started to conquer the world, Commissioner James Gordon Hastings had not been whelped, the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge had been going for less than a year, we had only just met Dan McNinja’s moustache, and the Great Outdoor Fight was still a month away from its stealthy beginnings, and further from its legendary majesty.

Rich Stevens was exactly the same, endless and unchanging, save only he is now married and likes dogs.

They say seven years in is when you get tired of things, but I have to say, I still enjoy the heck out all of this, so I hope you’ll join me as I start Year Eight of working out my thoughts on various matters — mostly webcomics, but no promises — where you can hear them. Also, if you happen to be in north/central New Jersey tomorrow, do drop by to see the webcomickers at Wild Pig Comics from noon to 4:00pm, won’t you?

¹ Who, Svengali-like, planted the seeds in my head and made them bear the desired brainfruit that I should be writing all of this stuff.

Phone Tethering: Awesome

Slow, but awesome. We’ll just put a few things here and call it good.

Long Weekend, Woo!

I’m gonna make this quick, because it’s a holiday weekend starting. Gonna get me some prime cuts of meat from my favorite restarauteurs, do some damn grilling¹. Don’t expect an update on Monday, I’ll be doing the parade thing with my EMT cohorts.

In the meantime, one tiny little followup for you, one that I’m slightly surprised by. I tossed out an idea for a Machine of Death 2 story, and I’ve gotten feedback that cracks are being taken at it, including from one of the five remaining contestants in the Daily Grind Ironman Challenge. I am very much looking forward to reading anything that y’all come up with, and positively giddy that something developed from my little brainbomb might (probably not, let’s be realistic, there’s a lot of entrants) make it into MoD2.

And with that, I’m outta here. Enjoy the long weekend, everybody!

¹ Lump charcoal 4 lyfe, yo.

The Kids Table Is Always More Fun Anyway

This is a week later than I expected the story to break, but that’s life. Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge grim survivor contestant Michael Payne happens to be a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, which give out this little thing called the Nebula Award that you may have heard of. Payne is, in particular, a member of the jury for the Andre Norton for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, given out annually by the SFWA for the best YA SF/fantasy novel of the year. In addition to the open nominations voting process, the collective members of the jury can add up to three titles to the nominations list, and:

[T]his year I asked Amulet Books to send around copies of Barry Deutsch‘s Hereville ’cause it’s been one of my favorite comics since he started posting it at Girlamatic all those years ago. After reading all the books submitted to us, the jury agreed on two titles to add to the Norton ballot, and one of them was indeed Hereville.

Hereville‘s not on Girlamatic anymore, but you can still find the original 57 page story online. Consensus is that this is the first time a graphic story has been nominated for a Norton (and perhaps the second time for any of the Nebula categories), but I’m more interested in the fact that this appears to be the first Nebula (which is a rather respected literary award) nomination for what’s ultimately a webcomic.

This page has opined in the past about the declining difference in meaning between “webcomics” and “just comics”, and Deutsch’s work underscores this, I think. The Nebulas don’t have a separate category for comics, much less webcomics — Hereville is being judged the peer of works in different presentations and forms, and we’ll see more of this in the future. Not because [web]comics are getting better (although certainly some of them are, and some of them are crap, and some in past were masterworks that were overlooked), but just because more people (like Payne) in the future will have had experience of them, and not think it odd to say, Hey, we should consider this, it’s really good.

It’s not about agendas or secret campaigns or undue influence, it’s about familiarity. We may have turned a corner, this funny little subniche of a popular-yet-marginalized artform, and it’s possibly one of those corners you don’t turn back from. Like it or not, the best of [web]comics is going to have a seat at more tables in the future.

Time To Open Up The Ol’ Mailbag

Anybody else remember the Henry Mancini-penned “Viewer Mail” theme that Letterman had back on NBC? I once saw the Red Army Chorus sing it with awesome Russian accents. That was great.

  • Gingerbread Houses, by Alexander Danner and Edward J. Grug III reached the end of its story. Two years and nearly 100 updates in the making, it’s a modern twist on the Hansel & Gretel story, with a particular focus on the question, Okay, we’re back home with parents that tried to kill us — now what? One may note that both Danner and Grugg are webcomics vets, and a two year story is kind of like a warmup for them; Danner’s got plenty of comics work on his website and Grug came within a half-dozen guys of winning the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge, racking up more than five years of longevity in the ultimate contest of Man and Machine. No, wait, that’s the Indianapolis 500. The DGIMC is the ultimate contest of Cartoonist and Internet. Anyway, congrats to Grug and Danner, and don’t forget that if you liked Gingerbread Houses, mini comics (three so far, fourth and final coming soon) are available for your purchase. Any chance of a collected volume, guys?
  • Discovered recently: Death At Your Door; it’s been running since last May, but I only heard about it via an email from creator Rod Salm recently. It’s interesting in that it almost entirely reminds me of other things, yet manages to appeal on its own merits. The art is reminiscent of early Chex-N mixed with (really dating myself here) Angst Technology and a soupçon of Larry Marder’s Beanworld. The main plot point — that Death (that’s capital-D death, and no perky Goth girls here) gets to live in the ‘burbs with housemates — reminds me of the situation with Mort over at Chris Eilopolous’ (perhaps permanently hiatused) Misery Loves Sherman. But somehow DAYD feels fresh.

    I think the likeliest candidate for that fresh feeling became pretty apparent on Monday. DAYD has a sense of place; it’s firmly set in Manitoba and while it doesn’t go out of its way to beat you over the head with that fact, it does show up just enough from time to time to root the strip in a way that lots of comics don’t. They could take place anywhere, but that just means that they aren’t really taking place anywhere. DAYD might have brought up Louis Riel Day, but that’s just the icing on the Prairie Provinces cake. Much like Octopus Pie‘s Brooklyn, or Alien Loves Predator‘s Manhattan, DAYD’s Manitoba is almost a part of the cast.

  • Finally, I got an email from a gentleman (presumably) that signed himself (presumably) as -3-. Not the most obvious moniker, but hey — internet. Mister (presumably) -3- pointed me towards a webcomic known as eMT, which name immediately caught my eye and which (somewhat disappointingly) turns out to stand for experiMental Theatre.

    Pretty wacky stuff, sometimes verging on wacky for the sake of being wacky, but there’s something grabbing me. It’s like how a lot of people that work with aggressively experimental or alternative forms, it’s quickly clear that that’s all they can do? By contrast, -3-‘s work gives hints that there’s much more craft and technical skill lurking underneath. The bio page bears this out, revealing that -3- worked on a mess o’ videogames, can work in lots of different styles, and colored a now-concluded webcomic that I quite liked, La Muse. So we’ll see — as long as I keep getting glimpses of structure behind the experiment (after all, the scientific method teaches that experiments require rigor and formal structure), I’ll keep looking back from time to time.

It’s Scientific!

Multiple disciplines suggest themselves in today’s stories; it’s like an Ig Nobel in miniature around here.

  • Chemistry
    Back in my college days (ah, nerd school) we had a simple test to determine what items went in which department — things that fell down were Civil Engineering, things that moved around and made noise were Mechanical Engineering, things that made your hair stand on end were Electrical Engineering, and things that smelled funky were Chemistry¹.

    Years later, I found myself doing a week’s work at a manufacturing facility of a flavoring and fragrances company and I was struck by the near total absence of any scents whatsoever — like the magic of chemistry had sucked out all of the olfactory noise that would prevent testers from judging tastes and scents on an isolated, objective basis. I wonder if Kaja Foglio knows what I’m talking about.

    This isn’t some idle speculation — Professora Foglio likely has experienced the odor equivalent of a sensory-deprivation chamber because she’s recently wrapped up the development of ZOMG Smells (noted geeks perfumers) development of a line of Girl Genius perfumes. Whether you want to smell like a Jägermonster, a madboy Spark! I meant Spark!, or the aftermath of the Nuremberg Pudding Incident (not to be confused with the Noodle Incident), ZOMG Smells (and shortly, the Studio Foglio online store and con booth) have you covered.

    If anybody knows of another webcomic that’s inspired a line of perfume, let me know. Since we’ve had songs recorded by/about webcomic characters (cf: Deathmøle, Dinosaur Comics: The Opera), interactive animations (cf: MS Paint Adventures, Dinosaur Comics again), recipes inspired by webcomics (cf: Webcomics: What’s Cooking?) and now perfume, I guess the only sense left to tie in would be touch. How long before we see a line of Girls With Slingshots sex toys?

  • Economics (it’s sort of a science)
    Speaking of Girls With Slingshots, one may note that Danielle Corsetto has a brand-new design to her website, complete with spankin’ new RSS feed, blog capability, twitterfeed, con schedule, alt text, and the works. If you didn’t read Corsetto’s intro to the new design (and kudos to Tyler Martin for his work — it looks great) you might be confused by the list of conventions for 2011 where she notes she’ll be at the Blind Ferrett booth. If you did read the posting, you may have noticed that GWS has joined up with Blind Ferret — hosting, storefront, merchandise fulfillment, book publishing, handy excuse to head to Montréal every few weeks for “business meetings” (and absolutely not to enjoy a fabulous city full of comickin’ people).

    This is a big deal for Corsetto, and possibly a bigger one for Blind Ferret, who are now branching out into the sort of webcomics services-for-hire that this page has called for (and international/binlingual in scope, too); between the seeing-impaired mustelids and the toxic sentient solanid, those top-tier webcomickers that need business services appear to be better supplied than ever. Exciting times.

  • Temporal Mechanics (okay, it might be Star Trek science, but it’s at least sciencey, right?)
    Michael Payne wrote to point out something important is happening next Friday, besides the expected post-American Thanksgiving tryptophan coma: the Daily Grind Ironman Challenge will cross 1500 updates. There are still six of the original 56 contestants duking it out for the status of Last Webcomicker Standing and the fabulous prize of $1120. How long is that, really?

    Long enough that most of the Final Six are actually approaching 2000 to 3000 updates in their comics, since they were merely hopping into the contest with whatever comic was actually running at the time. Long enough for contestants like Dean Trippe, John Campbell, Brian Fukushima, and Natasha Allegri (to name but a few) to build careers since they got knocked out, careers so notable that it’s a surprise to look down the list and say, “Crap, they were in that contest five years ago?” Long enough that the contest had already seen its field winnowed by half before I started my hack webcomics pseduo-journalism.

    Heck, it’s even been long enough for Brad Guigar to grow a sweet moustache/chinbeard combo and get a pair of contacts (compare/contrast). So to all of the remaining Iron Men, we at Fleen say well done and geez, are you gonna make us wait another 1500 days to see who wins this thing. Just bow out together and split the money.

¹ In large quantities, things that smelled funky qualified as Chemical Engineering.