The webcomics blog about webcomics

The Nib Is Dead, Long Live The Nib

We at Fleen have talked a lot about The Nib, the Matt Bors-run editorial (mostly) cartooning subsite at Medium, from its inception to its recent folding-up. Things are happening rapidly over there, and if you haven’t been paying attention, it’s time you did.

Firstly, they launched a Kickstarter to publish a 300 page book containing the best of the 2000+ comics that were published there in the 1.5+ years of operation. And quite frankly, I’d be talking about Eat More Comics even if Bors had promised that every single one of those 300 pages would be filled with comics I hated by cartoonists whose work I despised¹ for a very simple reason, which was stated by onetime associate site editor Eleri Harris, starting about 45 seconds in on the Kickstarter video:

The money we’re asking for is for two things: Firstly, we’re going to compensate all our artists fairly for republishing their work again.

The thing about The Nib that I loved most of all — the reason that you should have loved The Nib when it was still a thing — is that they paid. Cartoonists got paid for the right to publish their work (or in many cases, re-publish work that had already appeared elsewhere); Bors had a budget and he wasn’t afraid to use it. And I don’t know what the contracts for running cartoons on The Nib looked like, but Bors, Harris, and onetime assistant site editor Matt Lubchansky are paying the creators again for the right to republish them in the book. Which led to the second money (so to speak) quote of the video, from Lubchansky, starting about the 1:10 mark:

If we blow past [the funding goal], we’re just gonna make more books and give the artists more money.

We all know that not a day goes by that somebody doesn’t try to get artists to work for free, or to under-pay them by offering crappy contracts that many (especially creators at the start of their careers) feel obligated to sign out of fear of missing out. The only response that a creator should ever have to such an overture is No, pay me.

Unless, that is, the creator is approached by whoever the hell this is arguing with Rachel from What Pumpkin² that they should get to use Homestuck without paying because (variously):

  • Other people aren’t asking for money!
  • We’re building a BRAND!
  • We’re all still young and have never done this before!
  • We don’t have any money!
  • But our Kickstarter!³

In which case, the appropriate response is Fuck you, pay me.

Getting back to the original point, I don’t think that Bors, Harris, and Lubchansky have ever heard Fuck you, pay me directed at them, and that is reason enough to support Eat More Comics.

The other reason will be that a good showing in the Kickstart will provide direct, measurable numbers on what the support for a site like The Nib is, and how much of those supporters are willing to part with actual money. That can only be helpful to Bors as he talks with other publishers with an eye towards reviving The Nib, seeing as how he’s left Medium. Here’s hoping we don’t have long to wait before cartoonists the web over once again have a site whose mission statement is Hey, can we run your cartoon? We pay.

Spam of the day:

Hmm it appears lile your blog aate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just suum it up what I haad written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.

No, your first comment was about gold farming in MMORPGs.

¹ Which do exist on The Nib, which is a point in Bors’s favor — if you’re running a cartooning site that’s mostly editorial and I love/agree with everything you publish, you’re doing a crappy job. Bors does not do crappy jobs.

² I have my suspicions, and there aren’t many Kickstarts going on now that would fit the pattern that the whiny person describes, but since Rachel’s anonymized it I’ll keep my speculations to myself.

³ Repeat after me: Kickstarter is not a magic money machine that you go to as rank newcomers to be discovered and made suddenly wealthy. It’s a way to measure the appeal of products to an audience that you already have. No audience going in means you’re going to receive some hard lessons coming out. Maybe you’ll be smart enough to absorb them, but I’m not overly optimistic.

So This Is Neat

I want to introduce you to Dr Leah Misemer, who is a postdoc at Georgia Tech¹ and assistant director of GT’s Communication Center. She researches comics, how they can be used by marginalized audiences to find community, and the use of comics in the fields of medicine and allied health. She teaches students about using comics as a mechanism for civic engagement, and to think about all the ways that comics reach audiences.

She’s had students in her Webcomics And Digital Culture course doing research on the structural nature of webocmics, and the niche they occupy in the online landscape. The resulting exhibition (which is, appropriately enough, online) is now up and running, and you may wish to check out Webcomics, Print, And Digital Culture: Speaking W/O Limit.

The exhibition is built around a series of collections, each examining a central theme:

  • looks at everything from how audiences congregate in forums to how the societally disadvantaged can find places to congregate without fear or judgment.
  • Online Identity looks at how authors can express themselves through their creations, particularly via autobio comics.
  • Digital Affordances looks at the unique capabilities of online vs print; alt-text, animation, the sheer scope of Homestuck are all present, but so is the bit where you can change Dinosaur Comics to alternate forms by messing with the URL.
  • Digital Vs Print is exactly what it says on the tin; it might be a superset of the other themes, in fact.
  • Global Reach is probably the collection you should read first, in that we here at Fleen have (by necessity of language if nothing else) a clear tendency towards English-language webcomics in general, and North American webcomics in particular (the efforts of FSFCPL notwithstanding). Even accounting for that, there’s a whole dang world out there making webcomics, and we don’t really talk about them except for when The Nib introduces us again to somebody doing great work in yet another corner of the world.
  • Diversity Of Purpose looks at how webcomics can always find a niche. A webcomic can be about depression or transition or cancer, or it can be about wacky things that happen in a library, or even (in a few cases, at least I’ve heard of such) about a coupla’ guys on a couch playing videogames. It’s all fair game.
  • Case Study: xkcd, which was chosen because it exemplifies all of the other themes in one handy combo platter of stick figures. So, so many stick figures.

There will be interpretations you don’t agree with², there will be stuff that leaves you scratching your head³, but I can pretty much promise it’ll make you consider aspects of this weird, wonderful world o’ webcomics that had never occurred to you before. And ten internet points to anybody that can produce arguments for which of the theme criteria Fleen meets.

Spam of the day:

I’ d tried everything to beat my E.D… But when I injected Thai street drugs directly into my penis… Let’ s just say, things went too far. They nearly amputated my ” Johnson” with a scalpel…

This email, in case you were wondering, features the subject line Secrets to perfect female satisfaction, but appears to have completely forgotten the clitoris. So, yeah.

¹ It is not known if she is a ramblin’ wreck.

² I found the Digital Vs Print and Digital Affordances sections to be overlapping substantially, and would have personally combined them into one collection, adding in a collection examining how webcomics typically are creator-owned and do away with editorial/corporate control over material. A webcomic’s audience is the reader, where a corporate comic’s audience is the editor or publisher. This idea is, to be fair, addressed to a degree in the Diversity Of Purpose collection.

³ For example, whoever described Girls With Slingshots as The webcomic follows a group of friends who are all members of the LGBTQ community and their day-to-day experiences seems to have overlooked a raft of characters (Maureen, Clarice, Candy, Hazel’s mom, Jameson, Melody, Chris, Zach) and especially how Hazel — who is arguably the closest stand-in for the creator — is sometimes uncomfortable with her best friend’s queerness.

There’s also a description of Scenes From A Multiverse using few digital affordances, which overlooks the polling feature that SFAM was originally designed around. I get it, students at GT are in demanding majors and this is a humanities elective; they don’t necessarily have time to go back through a decade or more of archive. But I will never understand how anybody described Homestuck as convenient while keeping a straight face.

Three Weekends Of Comics

NNnnnnnnokay, I think I can get through this post without reminding you about the Alaska Robotic Mini-Con, which will take place on Saturday, 27 April (plus lead-up events) in Juneau Alaska. Probably. Let’s see what’s up at our friend, the Cartoon Art Museum, instead.

  • This Saturday, 20 April, CAM hosts Rob Rogers as he talks about his editorial cartoon collection, Enemy Of The People, and how he got fired for not being willing to be Ben Garrison-lite. The talk (and signing to follow) is free, and starts at 2:00pm at CAM, 781 Beach Street in San Francisco.
  • The following Saturday and Sunday (that would be the 27th and 28th¹), the Queer Comics Expo will take place at the museum, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, including the announcement of the 2019 Prism Award nominees. Maia Kobabe (who has a current Artist Showcase in advance of the release of Gender Queer: A Memoir, coming this summer from Lion Forge) will be the featured guest. QCE doesn’t have a dedicated site, per se, so check them Facebook or Twitter for info on exhibitors and programming. Tickets run from free (for CAM members) to US$10/day at the door.
  • The Saturday after that is, of course, Free Comic Book Day, and CAM is getting in on the fun. By spending the day visiting comics-oriented shops up and down the Bay, you can get fabulous stuff in addition to the requisite free comic books:

    The Comic Shop Hop is a comic book store scavenger hunt throughout the entire Bay Area. Participants will go from store to store filling up their passport as they go along, tracking their progress from store to store.

    All participants who visit two or more comic shops and submit their passport to the Comic Shop Hop Google Form will be entered into a Free Comic Book Day prize raffle.

    Anybody visiting two or more locations for passport stamps gets entered for the lowest tier prize, the mid-tier is open to those that get stamped in five ore more locations (or visit two to four and purchase in at least two of them), and the top tier is for those that get stamps in ten or more locations (or visit five to nine and purchase in at least five of them).

    Passports are available in any of the participating shops or CAM; hours vary from location to location, so click on the location names in that map to see who’s open when. More information is available by calling (415) 227-8666 or emailing either membership or education at

Spam of the day:

We have sent you a message
An email containing confidential personal information was sent to you

Yes, because the US Postal Service (who are the fake senders of this spam) are famous for providing delivery of electronic mail and not physical mail.

¹ For those of you not going to Juneau … dammit!

MoCCA 2019, Part Four

They mostly weren’t art directors, actually.

That is to say, the most interesting panel from the perspective of creators that happened at MoCCA was at the end of Saturday, when Viktor Koen (in association with SVA’s Continuing Education program) spoke with Emma Allen of The New Yorker (she says she’s more on an editor), Matt Lubchansky of The Nib (artist and editor), Will Varner of formerly Buzzfeed (and illustration editor), and Alexandra Zsigmond (actually an art director, formerly full time and now part time with New York Times).

Regardless of what they might call themselves on their business cards, their job is to find creators to make pictures (maybe with words, maybe not) for money. You want to know what they’re looking for, so that you become what they’re looking for, and they want to give you money. So many of you wanted to know what they’re looking for, the room was SRO with possibly more people standing in the margins than sitting.

  • Starting from the very broad What are you looking for?, the answers were extremely varied. Allen started off with maybe the one piece of common advice: Be really good at what you do and then we’ll buy it, but there was a lilting, jokey tone to her voice. It’s not enough to be really good if you don’t have a unique way to express it; don’t bother emulating Roz Chast down to the molecular level, since she’s already got Roz Chast.

    Zsigmond isn’t looking for cartoons at all — she wants single images that capture the concept of a potentially long story. Lubchansky is looking for everything from gag panels to pure political cartoons to satire and longform reporting, but in each case it has to be a comic for a reason. Varner was more likely to look for visual essays for longform, but short pieces and humor comics were chosen as much for virality potential as anything.

  • Where they find creators is likewise all over the place, but all would agree that having a findable portfolio with your name and email on it, showing enough of your work to get an idea of what you can execute, is key. Social media presence is helpful (Varner, Lubchansky), but your personal audience there won’t substitute for art chops. Zsigmond spends a lot of time trawling sites and print anthologies on art and design, and looking for who artists link to — having a network of people whose work you enjoy/talk about is a good indication of worth.

    Allen is in the unique position of inheriting a job from somebody that had it for 20+ years, in a magazine with a very set style for 90. Her goal of preserving the traditions can run up against finding new voices, but she’s managed to move into longform comics. Her most important question is Who are you excited about?, using creators to find creators.

  • Getting the job is just the first task; if you don’t ever get brought back, you don’t have a career. Lubchansky emphasized that people who do good work and are easy to work with (good communication, accepting feedback and direction) will be reused over mad geniuses that disappear at random. Got problems with the gig? Talk to your editor, don’t let it be a surprise.

    Allen countered that overcommunication is also an issue — don’t bury your editor’s email, don’t require handholding every half-step. Zsigmond added that it’s a bad idea to drop surprises — you’ve been through sketch approval with your editor/AD, don’t produce a final piece just before press deadline that’s radically different than what was agreed upon. Varner just doesn’t want you to save all your problems and questions for 6:30 on Friday evening. Space ’em out!

  • Asked what makes somebody ready to turn pro, the answers were pretty uniform: be organized, consistent, and able to ask for money with a straight face (Varner). Have confidence in your work, as shown by a body of good work (Lubchansky). Be able to deal with people in a professional manner as you make connections (Zsigmond). Have enough ego and hustle to get out there and sell yourself, be able to deal with rejection and silence, but keep all the ego in check (Allen). Or, as she elaborated, A small group of neurotic sociopaths are really good at it, and I’m lucky to work with them!
  • The counter is when does an artist not get work, what are the sins that will keep you in the reject pile? Lubchansky needs to see consistency in your portfolio, that it indicates you can execute on the kind of work you’re pitching. Varner needs to see what you’re good at and doesn’t care where/what form that is (countering the narrative that You Have To Be On Instagram).

    Zsigmond wants to see a dozen or more completed pieces to get a feel for what you do. Allen repeated her emphasis on tone, originality, culture fit. Failing to meet these requirements, or running counter to them, is what keeps you from getting the call back.

Getting the idea that there’s no one path or way to success, and you have to apply yourself to the job you want? That you have to decide how much time you spend on the business of being a working artist, and how much on the creative end? As Allen says, If you’re not making any money, your taxes are easy!, but money comes in handy for those of you that want to pay for things like food and shelter.

Some of the panel are, or have been freelancers, they know that not everybody has the metabolism for that life, but no one part of your career¹ is better or more noble than another. So pay attention to the key takeaways — don’t make people you want to hire you have to Google you; read the guidelines and pitch for things the venue will actually publish; keep your communications (especially follow-ups) professional and brief; buddy up, start an anthology, work your craft and be visible. Or, as moderator Koen concluded: Less bitching, more pitching.

Go get ’em.

Spam of the day:

I Will Promote Your Business Very Efficiently All Over The World And In All Niches for your

Only somebody that hates spam as much as me would buy the services of a spammer, is that it? Get lost.

¹ And keep in mind that your career is not going to be that of the ’60s cartoonist, who showed up in the city on Tuesday with a portfolio of comics, starting at the outlet with the best rates, then the one with the best donuts, and by the end of the day had sold everything and got on the train home to Bridgeport.

The Best Named Rooms In Comics Programming

Okay, I know it’s not because of the folks at the Society of Illustrators behind MoCCA Fest; it’s because of the history of that corner of New York that the Ink48 hotel has meeting rooms named Garamond and Helvetica. Y’see, the hotel is in a corner of the city where newspapers and other print operations were once plentiful; the building itself was once as print house. So what better place to hold the MoCCA program tracks, a block and a half from the Metropolitan West event space where the show floor will be hopping.

As in past years, the programming at MoCCA is simple: two rooms, programs run with adequate intervals to get back and forth, seven events per day. This year, my eye lingered on:

Cartooning For Peace, 12:00pm, Helvetica
About 15 blocks from UN headquarters, with Liza Donnelly, Ann Telnaes and other editorial cartoonists, and a paired exhibit on the show floor.

Keith Knight: Red, White, Black And Blue, 1:30pm, Garamond
Keith Knight has been one of the most direct and unmistakable voices in cartooning forever now; he’ll be presenting his slideshow/lecture, Red, White, Black And Blue: Why America Keeps Punching Itself In The Face When It Comes To Race.

The Personal And The Political, 3:00pm, Helvetica
Mike Dawson, Sarah Glidden, and James Sturm join Jonathan Gray of the John Jay College-City University Of New York to talk about how much “political” has seeped into everyday life, at least for those that had the gift of ignoring politics on a daily basis in the Before Times.

Professional Development 101: Art Directors’ Roundtable, 4:30pm, Garamond
Look, there’s a bunch of great artists with strong, singular visions out there. Why do some keep getting hired and others languish? I’m not an art director, but I’ll be being professional and easy to work with¹ are right at the top of the list. Find out if I’m right with ADs Emma Allen (The New Yorker), Matt Lubchansky (The Nib), Will Varner (formerly Buzzfeed), and Alexandra Zsigmond (formerly The New York Times). This one is co-presented with the continuing education folks at SVA.

Narratives Of Motherhood, 1:30pm, Helvetica
Oh man, how great would Lucy Knisley be on this panel? Okay, the topic is motherhood, not pregnancy — give her a couple of years, I bet the next book could support a great discussion. But I’ll bet you that it’ll also be a great discussion from Emily Flake, Sacha Mardou, and Lauren Weinstein, with MUTHA Magazine editor and Publishers Weekly graphic novels review editor Meg Lemke.

Comics And The Teaching Artist, 3:00pm, Helvetica
It takes a lot to master a craft; it takes even more to figure out how to master a craft and convey that knowledge to others. Just remembering what you didn’t know once upon a time, to put yourself in the shoes of students that similarly don’t know (and don’t know what they don’t know) is a challenge. How the learnin’ sausage gets made will be discussed by comics scholar Tahneer Oksman (Marymount Manhattan College), Ivan Brunetti (Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice and Comics: Easy as ABC!), Sequential Arts Workshop founder Tom Hart, and Center For Cartoon Studies founder James Sturm.

Professional Development 102: Artists’ Roundtable, 4:30pm, Garamond
The second half o SVA’s continuing ed offerings looks at things from the perspective of artists, and what it takes to maintain a career. Josh Bayer, Fran Meneses, Julia Rothman, and Andrea Tsurumi in conversation with artist and art director Kristen Radtke.

Spam of the day:

I thought that our service may be of interest to you. More people means more national exposure for your business.

You thought wrong.

¹ Alternately, being a hack contrarian shitlord seems to work for Michael Ramirez and Ben Garrison.

Hey, Lookit That, Webcomics Division Nominees From The NCS

The National Cartoonists Society is a venerable organization, founded on the principle that cartoonists ought to get together and have a big ol’ drink-up. Oh, and promoting the art and craft of cartooning, and later endowing scholarships, doing USO visits, public outreach, but mostly? Cartoonists like to hang out and party.

In the past, they’ve spread the partying around (case in point: I got to dress up in a damn tuxedo and gamble like I was James Frickin’ Bond one year), but this year and going forward, it’ll be Huntington Beach and a public, Euro-style festival that hosts the (members and guests only) Reuben Awards.

(Requisite disclaimer: I have been a member of the advisory jury for every iteration of webcomics awards the NCS has presented, from 2012 to present; I will not discuss the details of my participation or the process by which the jury made its determinations.)

This year, the nominees for Online Comics — Short Form are Cat And Girl by Dorothy Gambrell, bacön by Lonnie Milsap, and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith. The nominees for Online Comics — Long Form are Untold Tales Of Bigfoot by Vince Dorse, Kill Six Billion Demons by Tom Parkinson-Morgan, and Barbarous by Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh.

Webcomickers and adjacent folks in other categories include Pia Guerra (who tears it up at The Nib) for Gag Cartoons and John Allison (and let’s acknowledge the rest of the Giant Days team: Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Jim Campbell, Whitney Cogar) for Comic Books.

With respect to my disclaimer above, my thoughts:

  • All of the nominees in both categories have that je ne sais webcomiques that says this is something that could only exist on the internet, it would never work in the paper, with the exception of bacön, which could have been slotted into the Gag Cartoons category.
  • As previously stated, the categories have undergone a several years refinement process, both in developing an eye as for what makes webcomics webcomics, and in seeking out a wide variety of nominees¹ that wouldn’t ordinarily fall into the orbit of the average NCS member.
  • Due to the nature of webcomics and the fact that the term itself is terribly imprecise, there will possibly never be a slate of nominees that entirely satisfies the sort of person that cares about this sort of thing² which makes these categories par for the course in comics awards. That being said, I think this year’s nominees represent well the breadth of webcomics.
  • Having previously won, I think Dorse won’t win Long Form this year.
  • It’s weird that the revived Nancy did not get nominated for newspaper strip, but since Olivia Jaimes took over in the middle of the nomination period, maybe it’s to avoid confusion. But if Nancy stays as good as it has been (a virtual certainty) and isn’t nominated next year, the pier at Huntington Beach may see riots.
  • All three nominees for Feature Animation are recognized for their work on Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, which is only right and proper. Well done, Shiyoon Kim (character animation), Peter Ramsay (director), and Justin K Thompson (production design). It must have been terribly difficult to single out only three names, and I suspect whichever wins will declare that the recognition belongs to everybody that worked on the movie.
  • I don’t know who won; until the public announcement, I didn’t know who the final nominees were.
  • I have and will continue to have opinions.

The various awards will be presented on 18 May in Huntington Beach, California. Best of luck to all the nominees, but if I had to express one preference? I think it would be awesome if the NCS gave an award to a story about a sorority girl, a genderqueer angel, and a demon fanfic author pulling off a heist from an infinite fractal vault in Hell, if only because a bunch of old dudes that didn’t like dames or beatniks or minorities even appearing in comics (much less making them) would turn in their graves, giving us a perpetual source of clean energy.

Spam of the day:

You are rewarded with clean and healthy feet with japanese fungus code


¹ Including Jon Rosenberg’s Scenes From A Multiverse (won), Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie, Danielle Corsetto’s Girls With Slingshots (won), Minna Sundberg’s Stand Still, Stay Silent (won), Ngozi Ukazu’s Check Please (won), Drew Weing’s The Creepy Casefiles Of Margo Maloo (won), Boulet’s Bouletcorp, and Allison’s Bad Machinery (won).

² AKA all of you.

Because There’s An Akira Visual Homage That Does More Than Just Look Hell Of Cool

We all recognize it — about 1.5 seconds of animation that is one of the most spectacularly recognizable bits of animation of the last 30 years.

We’ll recognize Kaneda’s bike slide from Akira for as long as animation exists, and it’s spawned a host of tributes for no other reason that it looks hell of cool, doing as much to establish the bleeding-edge aesthetic of Neo-Tokyo¹ as any part of the movie.

And yet, it’s maybe not the most arresting image in the Akira canon. There’s one image, from the original manga, of the title character, small atop an oversized, ruined throne, an empty dictator of a ruined empire.

It speaks of a desperate attempt to maintain the façade of order amidst destruction. It’s ice-cold, chilling down to the marrow². Even if you don’t know the context (and it comes more than 1000 pages into story), you can tell everything that image is conveying. It’s powerful. And because it’s not there just to be hell of cool, it hasn’t had a plethora of pastiches and tributes.

Until today.

Over at The Nib, Omar Khouri and Yazan Al-Saadi, who live and work in Lebanon, have produced a primer on the state of Syria after nearly a decade of civil war. And to bookend the piece, there sits Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, small atop an oversized, ruined throne, an empty dictator of a ruined empire.

He’s less figurehead than Akira of the Great Tokyo Empire, but the image is no less arresting or powerful. It’s viscerally disturbing, given that what’s happened to Syria is not the result of insane psychics, but rather the hatreds and love of power of ordinary men, who would rather destroy that which they cannot control.

Eight Years Of Unrest In Syria is a sad, necessary piece of journalism. It’s too small to contain a full accounting of the horrors that the people of Syria have suffered, but it’s a damn good introduction. And it reminds us that just as Akira is the story of how one destruction of [Neo-]Tokyo inevitably scatters the seeds that will lead to the next, if the underlying causes remain unaddressed and truth, accountability, and justice are absent. Without a reconciliation process, there can be no real rebuilding.

Kudos to Al-Saadi and Khouri for their reportage — not least because running stories critical of the Assad regime is not a safe activity — and to The Nib for bringing us voices and stories from around the world³ that would otherwise likely go unseen on these shores.

And if you haven’t yet, go read Akira — it’s a much larger, more nuanced story than the movie (which, let’s be clear, is a masterpiece). There’s a lot there that has particular resonance today, even before you consider that the story features the 2020 Olympics taking place in Tokyo; while there don’t appear to be murderous biker gangs and telekinetic children running around the Olympics site causing catastrophic destruction, these days nothing surprises me.

Spam of the day:

The Free Energy Device That Might Scare Trump To Death

Why? Unless it can be explained in small words by Tucker Carlson or works by stealing his hamburders, he’ll neither understand nor care.

¹ It occurs almost exactly five minutes into the film.

² More than a little appropriate for Akira.

³ Also running today, a reflection on the New Zealand shooting republished from The Spinoff in Auckland


By rights I should have talked about this yesterday, but then when would we have discussed Too Boat, Too Boner? So today it is.

:01 Books is not resting after two years of transition from a 20-titles-per-year publisher to a 50-titles-per-year publisher; particularly in the wake of Gina Gagliano’s shift to Random House — which I’m sure everybody at :01 would agree is actually a win for the industry, although I’m sure they feel the sting of her absence — they have been expanding not only in volume, but also in focus.

Recall that they are not only the only graphic novel publisher that addresses every age range, as well as one of the few that are actively bringing European comics to American readers¹. They have launched thematic lines of graphic novels — Science Comics, Maker Comics — while also staking their reputation on supporting authors of distinctive voice. It’s not obvious what niche they’ve left unserved.

And now we know: civic education and engagement:

That’s the goal of a slate of new graphic novels from World Citizen Comics, which aim to excite and inform readers about how they can fight corruption in elections, blast fake news with truth-telling, and even battle would-be dictators both near and far through a better understanding of constitutions and the rule of law.

It’s significant that the new sub-imprint was announced in Entertainment Weekly, who tell us that there will be seven books initially, starting in Spring of next year (just in time for a major exercise of the political process here in the US). It’s a new enough endeavour that the :01 and Macmillan websites (as well as that of Roaring Brook Press, of which :01 is an imprint … the lines of hierarchy can get kind of scrambled) haven’t caught up to the news yet. But given the enormous impact of the March trilogy (certainly to be matched by the forthcoming sequel, Run), it appears that it’s a niche that can match up ideas and minds with the intention of doing some good.

World Citizen will feature :01 vets like Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb (on Breaking (The) News by Jennifer Pozner, on modern media culture) and George O’Connor² (on Un-Rig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy by Dan Newman, on the influence of dark money on politics and policy). They’ll also bringing new folks into the fold, like Kasia Babis (on Re-Constitution by Beka Feathers, about resisting authoritarianism and buttressing the rule of law), who’s been killing it at The Nib.

I’m expecting the tone of the imprint will be something similar to Josh Neufeld’s The Influencing Machine, which is one of the best, densest, but easy-to-read primers on How The World Really Works. As for the future, it’s not like the world will be getting any less complex (or the challenges facing us any easier) after the initial tranche of books is done; we seem to be more open-eyed about the resurgence of authoritarianism around the world than we have been in the past³, but the generations that didn’t live through the last antidemocratic period need to learn history — a history that those in charge may not want them to learn. A line of books made for a general audience (as opposed to political junkies), especially one that’s at least partially pitched at younger readers, will be welcome.

And hey, maybe they look at what Zach Weinersmith is doing in the same sphere (his comic series on the American political system with his political scientist brother, his forthcoming book in favor of open immigration with a prominent Libertarian economist) and we get more of his work in book-sized chunks incisively determining what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it, but with dick jokes. If you’re going to tackle something as serious as the defense of democracy itself, you gotta lighten the mood at least a little.

Spam of the day:

The gun that was meant to end his suffering led him to the biggest breakthrough in tinnitus treatment.

Fact: I have had a lifelong sensitivity to pressure and temperature changes, which manifests (primarily at night) as a mild case of tinnitus.
Fact: Stay the fuck away from me with a gun. Thank you.

¹ Even though not enough of you bought Last Man and the series stalled on the most devastating cliffhanger imaginable, damn you all.

² Gotta have a project lined up for when Olympians ends, which will simultaneously be a magnificent accomplishment and a very sad day.

³ Which is damn good, because the last time you had so many aspiring strongmen in so many places, it led to 50 million or so dead people and multiple continents in ruins.

Now That’s A Dilly Of A Pickle

I’m going to call it a quirk of the category definitions rather than some inability to determine what a thing is.

Wait, let me back up..

For years now (seven, if my count is correct), Slate and the Center For Cartoon Studies have offered the Cartoonist Studio Prize, with one thousand American smackeroos going to the winners of the two categories: Print Comic and Web Comic [sic]. Ten nominees on the final ballot in each category. Simple, straightforward, a history of high quality nominees representing all genres and formats, and nice as a brick or statue may be, cash money is something many cartoonists can really use.

This year’s nominees are out in the wild, and there’s an anomaly. An unusual occurrence. A weirdness.

As is entirely right and proper, Nancy is nominated … as a webcomic.

Okay, on the one hand, I get it, Nancy has a website and updates there daily. But it’s a syndicated comic that originated in the newspapers, one that is owned by that syndicate, one that can replace artist and/or writer at will — which is how we got Olivia Jaimes on the gig in the first place.

And I get that the print collection is really for things that are self-contained in the form of minis and graphic novels, and Nancy is only now getting to the point where you could get a print collection of the Jaimes era. But it’s in print, literally every day. The corporate ownership and multiple layers of editorial control are the antithesis of webcomics. But Jaimes, as we are told, is a webcomicker.

I get the dilemma that the judges panel must have struggled with, as there’s no way you can’t acknowledge Nancy — it’s simply too good — but that it doesn’t fall neatly into either category and despite the seeming contradiction, it is more similar to the other Web Comic nominees than it is to the Print Comic nominees (especially considering the category also considers This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow, once found in alternative weekly newspapers, now at The Nib, and two contenders that ran at The New Yorker).

All of which is to say, pretty much every comic — at least, those not initially sold as bound floppy magazines or as an original graphic novel — is a webcomic. Good luck Olivia Jaimes, good luck everybody else, and the Cartoonist Studio Prize will be awarded on 12 April.

Spam of the day:

You have a website, right? Of course you do. I found today. It gets traffic every day – that you’re probably spending $2 / $4 / $10 or more a click to get.

Yeah, you utterly do not get how we do things here at Fleen.

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.