The webcomics blog about webcomics

Raina. Just Raina.

She had, in the hearts of her numerous fans, entered the territory of the mononymic, like Madonna or Bono or Frank¹, there is no doubt who you are talking about when it comes to superstars². And today there are things to mention regarding Raina [Editor’s note: okay, fine, Raina Telgemeier] that you should know about, at least if you’re out in the Bay Area.

Firstly, Ghosts is rapidly approaching release date, and that means release parties. Green Apple Books in San Francisco (that would be Raina’s hometown) will be hosting such a party at 6:00pm (reading at 7:00pm) on Tuesday, 13 September (that would be the release date), and while they don’t explicitly say that Raina’s going to be at the party, she is tweeting out the event announcement.

Update to add: It’s confirmed now.

In order to bring some order to what’s going to be a busy, busy night, Green Apple are pre-selling tickets which are good for a paperback copy of the book, and have shifted to a location with ample parking and space away from the main store. No doubt other bookstores will be holding their own events to meet reader demand; if you know of one, drop me a line and I’ll share it.

And in the meantime, whether you can get to the release party or not, there’s a display of original pages³ from Smile, Drama, and Sisters at the Berkeley (that would be just across the bay from Raina’s hometown) Public Library Central branch. They’ve even got five original pages from Ghosts, on view in the second floor through 26 August.

Central’s hours and address are at their webpage, and like all libraries it’s free and open to the public. Since it’s a proven scientific fact that you can never have too much Raina, I’d advise everybody in the area to make the trip and look at some pretty damn great pages while we all count down to the 13th. Given the fact that Ghosts is going to have a print run of 500,000 copies (pretty sure that’s a graphic novel record), you should be able to get a copy without too much difficulty, but I’d put in a pre-order, just in case.


[Media Alert] Behold the Instruments of Righteousness in Super Dung

What?

..eon Tactics!

Oh. Gotcha. Not a good place for the subject line to get truncated.

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¹ Okay, there is a little ambiguity here as to which Frank one might be mentioning: Frank as in Zappa, or as in Becky and.

² Also: George.

³ Hat tip: Mark V of Electric Puppet Theatre. Read his comic!

Okay, Is There At Least A Translation For “Clark Kent”?

Hey, you! Are you just sitting on the couch, wishing you knew what happened at Lyon BD? Of course you are, because Fleen readers have a deep and abiding appreciation for webcomics from all corners of the globe, but especially for those where Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin can provide us with insight and analysis. In which case, we’ve got a treat for you today.


French language comics festivals come in many sizes and shapes: in a huge convention center (though that is mostly the purview of anime cons) or in the premises of a business school, in the vicinity of Paris or many hours of travel away (to say nothing of those taking place outside Europe), centered around anime or around bandes dessinées (with sometimes some U.S. comics on the side), with excellent programming and exhibitions or with none at all, only creators, etc. Some of which I even went to since my last con report in Saint-Malo.

But Lyon BD is easily my favorite. They allow significant space for independent creators and publishers, treat attendees and exhibitors well (as well as hack webcomics pseudojournalists — yes, against all reason they again provided me with press credentials), have a good balance of scale and intimacy, feature very interesting exhibitions, etc. And it was a pleasure to come back after last year.

I do not have as much to report on this year, though: how can you beat the presence of Scott McCloud as a source of interest for Fleen readers? Still, I was able to gather a number of interesting tidbits.

  • The setup was improved from last year, with the tent on the place des Terreaux not only covering more surface (among other reasons because the fountain at the center of the plaza was no longer covered by scaffolding), but also having air conditioning! I know, not the most environmentally-friendly improvement, but when you’re wearing a Superman T-shirt, white shirt, and blue suit in order to cosplay Clark Kent, you selfishly welcome it.
  • Saturday morning had Pénélope Bagieu)¹ give a talk on her activities in the form of an interview in a small auditorium under the tent. Not much on what she’s currently working on except that it is for younger audiences than what she is used to, but she came back to Brazen, and one interesting tidbit is that she relied on written sources even for the women featured who are still alive today, and avoided going directly to them, so as to avoid making sort of “official biographies”; she has had some reactions from them now, especially after the English-language edition came out, mostly them being honored of being represented. However she had little choice when it came to Sonia Alizadeh given Bagieu had little information on her, so Bagieu contacted her to fill in the blanks; and as a result Bagieu did get some pushback on some aspects of the finished work, mostly how her mother is represented, and that Bagieu had to take into account.

    Later on, a member of the public asked if she had found what she was looking for in the U.S. (she has been living in Brooklyn for the last three years or so), and she answered that it had allowed her to get out of her routine and find renewed interest in her craft for instance; working on Brazen came naturally as soon as she was installed. She is also getting inspired by local architecture (including escape stairs), though whenever she comes back to France she does keep an appreciation for French architecture. Lastly, she is keeping contact with the local indie scene, which is widely more active than it is in France.

    After that interview, she was signing for most of the festival. You would think that with the last volume of Culottées having come out more than one year ago, and the omnibus in 2017, more than six months ago, pressure would have abated somewhat … but you would be wrong. Her line was packed with people clutching their copy of Culottées for most of the festival, with mostly women waiting in line, I must unfortunately report. Guys, if Gary and I enjoyed it, you can too.

  • An updated version of the Hero-ine-s exhibition was on display for the festival, now featuring pieces from international creators: it was updated and translated in English for the purposes of the Lakes Comic Art Festival in October 2018 (and will also show for the first time at Cumbria University in May). It was great to see an additional perspective on this matter, and I particularly appreciated some of the pieces; try and catch it if you’re remotely near the Cumbria area at that time. It will also remain all June in the Comédie Odéon in Lyon.

    I was even able to catch writer JC Deveney, creator of the exhibition, between two events, and while nothing more is confirmed yet, he told me the plans that are afoot in this area. Oh, yes, Plans Are Afoot.

  • In a meetup with Guillaume Long, who has been creating a blog BD about cooking called A Boire et à Manger that now has three collections published and a fourth one coming, not to mention a few spinoffs, I learned that his book will come out in English; it will be called, surprisingly enough To Drink And To Eat, but it will also have an all-new cover, which I unfortunately cannot show you … but I have seen it, and it is great. I do not know the publisher, but I would not be surprised for it to be First Second. We at Fleen will be sure to keep you informed.
  • Sunday morning, it was Boulet’s turn to be interviewed (this time by Paul Satis) in the auditorium about his numerous projects. First, the latest tome of Notes, numbered 11, which came out pretty much because he had reached the required number of pages published on the blog … except he miscounted, so once he realized he scrambled to fill in the 50 or so missing pages, allowing him to cement the theme of the blog: his brain is an asshole. Which in turn allowed him to expand on themes such as neurosciences, etc. He remarked that while most people, including artists, are frustrated artists (of another art when it comes to artists, obviously), he considers himself a frustrated scientist; he could very well have followed STEM studies, but that would have meant no longer studying drawing so that was a dealbreaker for him.

    Satis asked him about the Inside-Out-like people living in his head, and Boulet related they had saved his bottom on multiple occasions. In fact, his mishap in Your Comment Here did not receive the standard “autobio dramatization” process, it happened pretty much as is (with some details changed), and he finds the process fascinating.

    Another aspect of the notes that are now on paper that was raised is his adventures in Los Angeles, in which he now lives part of the year to be with his girlfriend, who works for Disney. Interestingly (particularly in parallel with Bagieu’s talk), while in France he lives at odd hours, with him rising after noon, and crashing sometimes as late as 4 AM, in Los Angeles he plays the perfect homemaker, taking breakfast with his girlfriend and waving her as She goes to work, and then, since he’s up, he might as well be working, so he does. But he’s always eager to come back to France.

    He went on to mention his other projects: Infinity 8 (synopsis by Lewis Trondheim, remainder of the writing and drawings by him), Bolchoi Arena (written by him, drawn by Aseyn), his Instagram monsters, which he generally draws live on his Twitch channel and where he also answers questions from the audience during the process, and the Octopus collection he edits, with the last book from the initially announced lineup having come out just a few weeks earlier.

  • By the time the festival ended, I was able to catch up with online comics creators Janine, creator of said book, Marc Dubuisson, Pins, Paka, Shyle Zalewsky, and Karensac.

    And just like last year, the festival ended with the sight of Boulet’s mile-long signing line. Shetty Shet, fellow blog BD aficionado on Twitter, was courageous enough to wait in this line, but I wasn’t, so I left, though not without waving her good luck, confident that the Lyon BD people and I will meet back next year …

P.S.: In related news, Bagieu, Boulet, and Cy are present in this year’s edition of the nearby Annecy animation festival this week, the latter two to provide comics coverage of the event, just like last year, and the former both for the animated version of the Culottées and as a jury member for the end of studies shorts awards.


Spam of the day:

Club Access LocalMILFsMHP Ad-Partner

This email purports to be from a 23 year old woman. We are on the cusp of MILF and Barely Legal converging into the same state.

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¹ Who, by the way, drew the poster for this year’s edition; it was not only all over town, but got declined into a bunch of exceedingly cute merch.

Camp 2018, Part Four

Sunday at Comics Camp always means one thing: in the morning, newcomers discover that last night’s dinner — sandwiches and such — were just for convenience. Jeste is bringing the tasty at full speed with heaps of sliced fruit, oatmeal, stuff to put in oatmeal, sticky buns, and an enormous hotel pan of migas; breakfast will not lack for tasty eggs and it’s just going to get more impressive as she takes the measure of her helpers.

There’s a split in the first programming block, with each of the two sessions having an upper limit due to materials constraints; on the one hand, you can learn to do accordion binding and build a notebook (Erika Moen does one that’s an absolutely gorgeous tribute to her beetlings), on the other hand, you can learn Ravenstail weaving. Having come to Camp determined to learn to knit (a decision I made last year and am only now acting on), I opt for the weaving.

Lily Hope is a Tlingit weaver, who learned from her mother, who learned in turn from one of a handful of surviving master weavers; there are a dozen or two people in the world that can do what she does, which is to make the warp and weft threads dance and to tease the geometric, always-symmetric designs from wool. She sets up a standing loom that contains the starting portion of a ceremonial shawl (as she describes it, it’s sort of a shoulder throw or shawl, and good thing too or it might never be finished), the result of three months hard work. An accomplished weaver, she tells us, can do about one square inch of design in three hours.

She sets us up with key rings tied with warp bundles and a pair of weft threads strung about them as starters, and two sets of instructions (one written, one visual) before walking us through the basics: tie two threads together, one in front of the warps (always an even number), one behind. Drop the behind weft, thread the front weft behind the next bundle of warps, bring the behind thread in front. Repeat across the warps and tie it as best you can at the right side (Ravenstail weaving is always left-to-right, and the design always rides on the front of the piece only). Repeat with the next pair of wefts; don’t let the warps tangle, don’t let the wefts slip, don’t miscount, don’t tie off too tight or too loose, don’t let the tails get in a snarl.

We move our fingers clumsily, slowly improving as she talks about the differences between Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving (Chilkat is adapted from the aesthetics of formline carvings found in house screens and totems), about the traditions of gifting across clan boundaries, and the meaning in the work. Human figures in the weaving are never shown with five-fingered hands, because it ties the work to a particular person, she says; the intent isn’t to say I was here, but instead to say A person made this, and who is less important than the people that person came from.

That idea isn’t always easy to get across; she’s had commissions from people that love the blankets and robes she produces and insist on the making designs as authentic and traditional as possible. She has to explain that the most authentic work must reside with the clan; to make a piece that’s appropriate for ceremony but that won’t be used in ceremony, that will hang on the wall of a collector in the Lower 48, can’t be done. If they want authentic, they need to talk about donating the piece to a clan that will make use of it; if they want to keep it, she’ll put in elements that are meaningful (representations of her family and her children), but which are not traditional designs. It’s a conversation about what makes your culture special and gives it meaning, and how far that meaning can be transported to other places and people.

She watches as we make our way through work that can be frustrating; I’m pretty good at the right-side knotting, but my warps keep tangling. My mind drifts to ideas of how I could add mechanical aids to the process (just a small bit of weight at the bottom of the warp would be helpful; I’ve seen it done by weavers of everything from Bruges lace to Shinto shrine decorations). I also consider that getting frustrated at a difficult task that takes a lifetime to master after about 20 minutes is also not a good look¹; she takes that time to tell us that we’re all doing very well and we’re really focusing on task much better than her usual students. Then again, her usual students are fourth graders, so….

The 90 minutes goes by and I’ve got about ten rows done; I’m keeping my elbows in close like I’m told, and I’ll spend much of the rest of the day completing this one small set of black and white chevrons with yellow accents. It’s still in my lap as we head back to the main lodge for the best-attended session of Camp. Lily’s husband, Ishmael, is going to talk about how indigenous stories and traditions can be brought into modern contexts without losing their meaning.

Ishmael is a poet, storyteller, writer, videogame producer, and steeped in the tales of his Tlingit and Inupiaq heritage. He talks about how a culture can’t be window dressing in a story, a game, a movie — the concerns of the people that live it must be given primacy if there’s to be the authenticity that the outsiders (who asked for input, after all) claim to want. He tells the story of a young boy taken by the Salmon People to learn the value of the food that he turned his nose up at; his storyteller rhythms are hypnotic, lulling; his voice conjures images in your mind. At night around a fire, the shadows would dance into shapes to illustrate his words.

There’s a lilting musicality to his story that fades as he speaks prose again; I’ve not woven a thread in an hour, but the design appears to be more recognizable than it was before.

Georgina Hayns teaches soft sculpture — two pieces of fabric, a design drawn in mirror image on them, representing the front and back of character, which will be stitched together and stuffed into a flat pillow shape. Whales, horses, blobfish, T-Rex (one guess who made that one), and a Scott C nightmare rabbit are among the designs that are painted, then stitched up and eventually stuffed. I watch, but have no character that I want to create; I continue weaving as the pillowcritters take shape (most of which will be finished over the next day; the paints need to dry, after all).

After lunch, Vera Brosgol teaches fabric arts for the homicidal: needle felting! You take a pile of wool over here, mush it up into a rough shape over there, and then you stab stab stab stab stab with a special barbed needle until it compresses and sculpts into the desired shape. More stabs allow you to connect different bundles of wool together. If you’re smart, Brosgol says, you stab not against a pile of wool held in your hand, but one that’s resting on a dense sponge; she asks casually if we’re up to date on our tetanus shots, but does not ask if we’re smart. In the end, only two people stab themselves and only one draws blood, so yay.

The Stabatorium is filled with aggression release as most of us make mushrooms (a relatively simple beginner project); Ryan North makes a small head that’s meant to be David Malki ! and Nikki Rice Malki’s year-old son. Jeremy Spake makes a little guy that looks remarkably like the old Henson coffee advertising Muppets, Wilkins and/or Wontkins. I decide that a pile of red wool will make a nice Amanita, the deadly mushroom genus responsible for more deaths than any other; I mention that Amanita‘s mycotoxin works by melting your liver, which would ordinarily be responsible for removing the toxin from your system. Sneaky buggers, them shrooms.

I do my turn in the kitchen on dinner prep — many veg are cut, salmon in a green curry sauce is prepped with a multi-veg slaw; it’s terrific, and I see how improvisational Jeste’s cooking is; she knew the salmon was going to be the centerpiece, but the rest of the meal came together over the 90 minutes or so that we were at work. She asks Georgia Patton, my fellow kitchen helper, if she’s ever worked in a professional kitchen before. You’re competent, Jeste says; this is high praise from any chef.

After dinner, the Pacific Order of Onomatopoeia Professionals reconvenes for the first time since last year’s First Annual Regional Terminology Summit. When POoOP president Tony Cliff announced that this year’s meeting would in fact take place, I spent the best part of a week trying to come up with an appropriate backronym for the event. Then Raina Telgemeier casually dropped the perfect label: Number Two.

I may have come up with a winner with the sound of people making out with tongues: le kiss. The results will be compiled by the estimable Mr Cliff soon enough, and as with last year’s FARTS, will be binding. Cliff, by the way, brought two copies of his soon-to-be-released third Delilah Dirk book, and there was not a single time that either of them was not being read. He’s pretty great at creating comics, and has lots of impressive onomatopoeia inside (even more impressive, I just spelled that word correctly on the first attempt for the first time in my life).

My weaving is done, some five hours of work in total; I’m surprised at my dive into the work of fabric, then surprised that I’m surprised. Over the past couple of years I’ve realized that the very male realms of engineering (in general) and making (in particular) greatly undervalue the textile arts. The draping of a garment from a 2D pattern to a 3D person, with a soft medium that changes with temperature, humidity, wind, and gravity, that behaves differently depending on how it’s cut and constructed — fashion is the most hardcore materials engineering discipline there is.

In retrospect, the tactile crafting going on this first day (Jason Alderman decided to attempt a full stuffed animal rather than a 2D+ pillow form; I saw him sketching out gussets), a buffer from the real world before we get into the deeper feelings in another day. Andy Runton and I catch up on years of not seeing each other; he’s been too absent from the new releases list for too long and his return will be welcomed by many, not the least me (my youngest nieces and nephews all got the Owly books; now the oldest are having their own kids, and I’m just saying that a new edition of them would be well received over the next couple of years, publishing industry).

Yarn, thread, needles, wool, books, stories — the tangible (and the made tangible by force of words) have stitched us together on this first full day.

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Pictures:

    Lily Hope is one of maybe ten, maybe fifteen people in the world that can do what you see here, and it took her three months. The little baby socks keeping the bundles of warp threads organized are a nice touch. The pattern that we’re weaving can be seen in the pixelized design maps; I really cannot overstate the degree of concentration that was required to make progress.

    George’s horse looked great! Everybody else was a day or so away from their ravens, whales, T-Rexes, blobfish, and scary-ass rabbits. Felting, by contrast, is simple; just stab stab stab until things come together and then you have a pile of mushrooms and also Young Master Malki !.

    Balloting for new official terms would continue for approximately 30 hours; you can’t quite read what the candidates are, but Cliff should be releasing the results in a week or two, and we’ll share them then. In the meantime, here’s last year’s again.

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    ¹ Then again, she casually mentions that if any of us are engineers who can design her a loom that can collapse in a connected fashion instead of having to be completely disassembled when she wants to move it to a different place, she’d be grateful. Tradition and technical advancements can be compatible.

    Camp 2018, Part Three

    I feel I should say that one of the neatest things that Pat Race did with respect to the Mini-Con this year was to have his little logo bear redrawn by an indigenous artist in a traditional style; it’s a small thing, but it’s meaningful. Not sure it would have fit on the cookies, though.

    I also feel I should say that if you can start your day (a very busy one, packing up your hotel room an delivering them to a U-Haul; setting up, conducting, and tearing down a convention; traveling to a campsite) by having tea and yogurt parfaits with a pair of very skilled (and colorfully coiffed) creators, you should do it; it even better if one of them can tell you all about power tools and her plans to construct a killer Halloween haunted house.

    Thus fortified for the day, we made our way to the Juneau Arts & Culture Center on a somewhat overcast, somewhat brisk day. The weather was fortunate — last year Mini-Con feel on the first really gorgeous day of the year, sending a large portion of Juneauites into the Great Outdoors for recreation; a slightly blah day increased the turnout in our corner of the Great Indoors.

    Speaking of which, if you ever get the chance to exhibit at Mini-Con, take it; the JACC features a nice green room away from the con floor for when you’re feeling like you need a break or a snack. If you really need isolation for a little while, there’s even a recording studio, so there’s a place that completely soundproof to hide from the hurly burly. Setup ran smoothly (it is, after all, a small space), and the Snack Castle rose once again under the watchful stewardship of Jason Alderman.

    It occurs to me I didn’t mention Snack Castle last year, and neglected to take any pictures of it either year … Alderman, tasked with running the snack sales, built a castle out of scrap cardboard. It had turrets, battlements, crenelations, murder holes, and a working drawbridge. This year, there was talk of converting it to a Snack Mastaba¹, in honor of the Egyptian pyramid precursor that Spike taught us about the prior night at the library. Alderman kept all who would have sacked the Snack Castle at bay and oversaw peaceful trade, save for when he was sketchnoting (more on that below).

    In addition to the vendors on the floor and the regular signings at the Alaska Robotics table, there was a steady stream of programming across the road in the meeting rooms of public broadcaster KTOO. Jon Klassen, Michaela Goade, and Andy Runton spoke about making children’s books; Ben Hatke and Lucy Bellwood argued over whether longbows (bows!) or tall ships (boats!) are better²; Molly Ostertag, Spike, and Ryan North talked about achieving social change in (and via) comics.

    Raina Telgemeier and Vera Brosgol talked about their autobio comics; Georgina Hayns and Jeremy Spake talked about puppet fabrication; Dik Pose and Tony Cliff MacGuyvered together a Mac, a webcam, and a chair to make a stop-motion animation rig; Molly Lewis lead a uke jam session; unstructured hangout sessions were held where attendees drew (with Ostertag and Dylan Meconis), talked publishing (with Spike David Malki !, and Anne Bean), wrote songs (with Seth Boyer and Marian Call), drew some more (with Hatke and Scott C), and talked writing (with North and Molly Muldoon). What I’m saying is, if there was some aspect of creativity that struck your fancy, you either got to listen to very accomplished people talk about it, or got to hang with them and do it; it’s a very street-level kind of convention.

    And in the middle of it all, a platter magically appeared in the green room, filled with local jerky and salmon spread and crab dip. And lo, the cartoonists did descend upon it, scooping great swaths up into their hungry maws. Weirdly, the amount of crab dip never seemed to diminish, but instead fed them all. And they left the green room saying A miracle occurred here.

    Okay, probably not and I don’t really like crab, but I’m assured that the dip was delicious.

    Back on the floor, Raina spent well over her allotted hour doing portrait sketches in support of a local bookstore on Independent Bookstore Day; her line eventually was cleared, and a bunch of kids went home with pictures of themselves all Raina-style. Dylan Meconis was doing watercolors of pets and OCs, because she’s been that kid wandering the con floor, working up the nerve to approach a creator, and will always pay back the kindness she was shown. Story times were held in the local branch of the library, with Klassen, C, and Brosgol reading from their books to assembled families.

    And then it was time to break down, load up, and head out to the Camp; there were intros, and kids (both Ben & Anna Hatke and David and Nikki Rice Malki ! brought offspring, who were both remarkably even-tempered and delightful for being 3 and 1 years of age, respectively), and dogs (many skritches were had by Pippin and Brio and Nova). Gear was packed out to cabins, a light dinner was had, and Camp chef de cuisine Jeste Burton³ let us all know that she had a requirement — about which more later. The last bits of structure for the evening involved the Science Fair — people formed into impromptu groups, and then giving a topic on which to produce an informative poster. Don’t call it an icebreaker, don’t call it a teambuilding exercise, call it an excuse to get weird with new friends and very possibly the contents of the booze table.

    Come to think of it, the act of physically creating things outside the typical comics wheelhouse would become a theme for the weekend, with a heavy dive into the fabric arts to start. But we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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    Pictures:

      The JACC main hall is not very large; think the combo auditorium/gym in a typical elementary school. The meeting rooms at KTOO for panel talks (Childrens Books with Goade, Klassen, Runton from left; Lucy “Boats” Bellwood and Ben “Bows” Hatke locked in intellectual combat) and hangouts (Malki ! and Spike on publishing) were very comfortable.

      The exodus of exhibitors made their way to the U-Haul to move stuff to Camp; this was a considerable improvement on last year’s transport, where the last 5-6 rows of the bus were taken up with luggage and people were crammed in. Look at the spacious luxury! A mere 45 minutes later these smiling folks would be taking stuff to their cabins and deciding what to do in the coming days.

      Did you want to learn about shoes? Or perhaps the duct tape that might hold shoes together? How about berries, or the door that leads to the stairs that leads to underground. Sure some of those other projects might have had “better composition” or “prettier art” or “actual facts”, but did any of them have rats running around on a corpse in a murder hole that’s populated by godsdamned mole people? I think we all know which one was best.

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      ¹ Just a big ol’ pile of cardboard, with the actual for-sale snacks buried in a secret chamber far underneath; customers would be forced to plunder the sugary tomb.

      ² Hire these two to liven up any panel discussion. They play off each other beautifully.

      ³ Who managed approximately 1000 meals with a dozen different dietary restrictions and preferences, and the help of two or three civilians on any particular prep or cleanup; the woman is a marvel. And I would commit actual crimes to get pan full of the sticky buns she made for breakfast.

      Camp 2018, Part Two

      Friday is a busy day for comics types in Juneau; Pat Race, Aaron Suring, and the other Alaska Robotics folks have been in contact with schools across the region, and there will be fifty assemblies and class talks that take place today. Consensus best one: The Toronto Man-Mountain went to a junior high class that’s been intensively studying Shakespeare and his choose-your-own books are a hit. They got all the jokes and smutty bits Willy S hid in iambic pentameter!

      In the time before, after, and between their visits, a steady stream of creators passes between the lobby of the Juneau hotel where most are staying, and the aforementioned Rookery for coffee, tea, snacks, lunch, and good times. I was talking with Erika Moen¹ (force of nature and Beetmistress General) and Molly Ostertag (creator of my favorite book of 2017) in the lobby and we wandered into The Rookery for hot beverages.

      This was where Georgina Hayns — late of Laika Studio, now taking time off before deciding on the next stage of her professional life — found us with a box that claimed to contain … I want to say a medium-sized florescent light fixture, but maybe it was a smallish set of blinds? Anyway, about the length of a box of aluminum foil, with a 50% larger cross section. Do you want to see ParaNorman? she asked, as if people say no.

      This, she explained, was her own puppet (gifted to her by one of the animators), and she let us get our grubby hands all over it. Having had the opportunity to play with multiple puppets from Kubo And The Two Strings last year, I knew that Norman’s face would pop off and proceeded to do so immediately; it’s possible that Ostertag and Moen thought I’d just mutilated Hayns’s priceless possession, but any trepidation quickly gave way to fascination with the puppet.

      Here’s the thing — the Laika animation puppets defy that simple word. They are perfectly designed objects that are both practical and aesthetic at the same time. There are few things that blend function and form so well, I told Hayns — the Zippo lighter, the Fender Strat, the Swiss Army Officer’s Knife — but ParaNorman (and Coraline, and Beetle, and Eggs, and all the other stars of Laika’s movies) falls squarely into the category. I appreciate the artistry, and the engineering in equal measure. Plus, check out the wardrobe. Somebody had to reproduce the scuffs and tears in Norman’s clothing across dozens of iterations of the puppet.

      Friday evening is given over to a public show at the Juneau Public Library; Seth Boyer, Marian Call, and Molly Lewis sing songs and play comics folks on with appropriate snippets (Raina Telgemeier enters to her name being sung to the tune of My Girl²; Molly Ostertag gets Concerning Hobbits from Howard Shore’s Lord Of The Rings soundtrack) as they each spend five minutes on something interesting. Raina does a reading from Smile, and Ryan North reads his recently-announced children’s book How To Be A T-Rex³.

      Ostertag talks about how to run a D&D game; Andy Runton shares an Owly short; Vera Brosgol shares the research that went into her stellar Be Prepared (a book she shared the beginning pages of here last year). Ben Hatke talked about why drawing Wolverine in nonstandard costumes (ex: Vampirella) and saying Bub is always funny; Jon Klassen did a reading accompanied by Boyer on guitar — Can you make it sound like Zorba The Greek? asked Klassen. As it turned out, Boyer could.

      Shing Yin Khor shared her love of roadside America’s greatest public art series, the giant fiberglass muffler man in all his infinite variations; Dylan Meconis shared a story-in-a-story from her forthcoming Queen Of The Sea, and C Spike Trotman talked about why everybody who thinks aliens built the pyramids of Egypt is an idiot who doesn’t know their history. Lucy Bellwood spoke about, oddly, not boats, but the process of creating 100 Demon Dialogues and the attendant little jerk; Scott C closed things out with a discussion of his past career and how one comes to do a painting of Jeff Goldblums or Carl Sagans or whatever strikes your fancy. How many Carl Sagans are there, you guys? Can science answer this for us? Maybe.

      There was an afterparty in a house designed for large groups of people to mix easily and comfortably; there was amazing ice cream (charred coconut and wild blueberry) and chili and cornbread and far too little sleep. The morning would require packing up, packing in, running a convention, packing out, and heading to Camp. Juneau was behind us, and a long road ahead.

      _______________

      Pictures:

        Not so many this time, since I was running A/V for the Library show. But you still get to see Norman, the incredible detail in his clothing, and what he looks like without a face.

        Here’s a fun game: how many famous cartoonists can you find in this picture? For reference, that room at the Juneau Library was entirely set up, populated, entertained for two hours, and cleaned up again in about three and a half hours; much of that was down to the well-organized MCing of Pat Race, who kept things humming.

        Seth Boyer and Andy Runton were the only performer and presenter I managed to get pics of. Like I said, I was busy.

        _______________
        ¹ Who did not get murdered by a serial killer. It’s not my story to tell, but if you know her IRL, ask her.

        ² Taaalllkin’ ’bout Raaaainnnna, Raina!

        ³ Best part of this book? It’s got multiple places where whoever is reading (or reading along) gets to ROAR, which makes kids really happy.

        Hey. You. You’re Doing Okay.

        Today’s post is brought to you by the idea that it’s gonna be okay. There is so much hate and stupidity in the world, but on Saturday I met a six week old kid that was absolutely adorable while I was riding in an elevator and he doesn’t know that there is all that hate and stupidity. With luck, we’ll make it a good deal less so by the time he can tell the difference.

        • On the list of difference makers: George Rohac, or as he is known in these parts, George. Not many people get to be mononymic — your Madonnas, your Barbras, your Beyoncés — and her at Fleen only two people have earned that status¹, and only one of them could post a tweet to a survey that asked for my real name, address, birthday, and a whole squatload more info, and I’d fill it out.

          It’s part brand research, part effort to understand people better, part feedback on how he (that would be George) can be a better person. It caused a lot of thinking on my part, and I don’t doubt it will do the same for you. Give George some info, you know he’ll do something amazing with it. It’s the least you can do — it’s his birthday².

        • One of the most important things that George ever did, bee-tee-dubs, was share a video about his challenges with mental illness; it’s not available any longer, but you can read what I wrote about it at the time. It was a hell of a lot less common, five-plus years ago, to make these kinds of public declarations. It let a lot of people know that they aren’t alone; this message is particularly important in the creative community, which seems to have more than its share of people shouting down the lies that their brains tell them.

          Every share of this nature — and here’s the latest I’ve seen — increases the chances that somebody else gets the help they need³. Help can mean a lot of things, and the webcomics community does an inordinate job of helping the creators they follow. Whether it’s sticking with creators during involuntary hiatuses, or readers coming together to increase support so that creators can take care of their families, I think there’s another benefit at play.

          For each person that we know (or “know”, in the sense that we know their work) and help, the thought pattern grows — why just these people? Why not everybody? It’s making the selfish and exploitative stand out as outliers as we do what we can. It’s a hopeful thing, to think we can turn that desire to help into permanent, structural mechanisms that will keep health crises from bankrupting entire families. I’m usually far more cynical than this, so enjoy it while it lasts.

        • And in case you’re worried about what your future brings, young people, Matt Boyd and Ian McConville have a thought for you today. And if it’s still a dread day for you, consider: after doing far better in his surgery last November than expected, Jon Rosenberg’s son Alec was told he didn’t need followup surgery the day before his birthday no less, and his dad is able to get comickin’ again. New SFAM, folks, with Jon at his Jonnest. If his curmudgeonly ways don’t make you smile today, wait until the next strip. He’ll definitely get you then.

        Spam of the day:

        My Name is Mr.Thomas Phaahla and I am writing to Introduce you and your Company to the Asia Pacific Investment Pte Ltd.(APIP) Debt/Loan Funding Platform.

        Dude, you managed to spell your purported name three different ways. Try harder.

        _______________
        ¹ After first reference so that any newbies have context. The other is Raina Telgemeier

        ² Just in case you were worried, George is the person least likely to demand a birthday present that turns him into a twisted shell of himself, warped by greed and evil, and tied up in the doom of the world. Second lest likely would be, I dunno, Mr Rogers or Dolly Parton.

        ³ Not to mention the very key effect of normalizing treatment. As a tweet I saw over the weekend said, If you don’t have enough artisinal, handmade neurotransmitters, store-bought is fine.

        Equal Parts Exhilarating And Traumatizing

        That was :01 Books executive editor Callista Brill on working with … well, I’ll tell you some day. It was pretty damn hilarious at the time.

        The time being the 2018 MoCCA Festival, where many things happened. I’m going to discuss them in no particular order, as befits my state of mind when overwhelmed by many, many excellent comics.

        • Thing: There were multiple schools boothing on the floor, but this is the first year I recall see a high school program. You can tell that they don’t really know what stories they want to tell yet, since it was mostly tracings of Yuri On Ice or Scott Pilgrim, but you can also sense the potential. Some of them will be good.

          Some are out of high school and finding their voices — a young lady named Tara Sunil Thomas had small clay figures in terraria, and they reminded me so much of some of Andy Bell’s work that I mentioned it to her. She hadn’t heard of him, but loved his stuff when we Googled it. Making connections is where it’s at.

        • Thing: That photo up top is an idea so brilliant that I’m surprised I’ve never seen it done before — a Moebius comic, a continuous infinite story told by Pain Pals¹. There was also a second amazing physical comic, a sort of folded-paper fortune teller, except this ones was a continuously-rotatable torus (similar to this but not quite) that was a comic of a food chain — small water critters (rotate inside out) eaten by fish (rotate) eaten by bear (rotate) dying and decomposing and running back into water. I was beautiful, delicate, and I saw it and then never could find it again on the floor. If you know what I’m talking about, please point me in the correct direction.
        • Thing: Speaking of unusual presentations, that’s one of the forms that gets recognized in the MoCCA Awards; the jury this year included Ananth Hirsh, and we talked about the immense pool of submissions that he had to consider careful. He linked the winners of the four awards categories (Single Image, Short Form, Long Form, Special Format) in his twitterfeed today, which also serves as a primer of neat work from neat creators.
        • Thing: It’s amazing the connections that exist in cartooning. I made a point of seeking out Alisa Harris, who after my preview list was published I discovered would be attending Comics Camp this year. Turns out that she went to school with Raina Telgemeier and is friends with Rebecca Mock who in turn was one of my cabinmates at Camp last year. Small damn world.

          While wandering by to talk to Mock about the postcards at her booth², I ran into her, Hirsh, Kazu Kibuishi (who was wandering the floor for a few hours), Amy Kim Kibuishi (whom I’d never met before), and Ayo (who we congratulated for being hated by all the right non-entities in comics).

          It was also at this time that I discovered that at one point at Camp, while asleep, Kibuishi dislodged a spider that was apparently descending towards my face, knocking it to the floor, where Mock stepped on it. I had no idea! I’m not especially arachnophobic, but now I owe Mock a spider-stepping.

        And that brings us back around to the first point and connections again. There’s much more to tell, but we’ll tell it in the coming days.


        Spam of the day:

        Brain Zone Date

        You’re trying to get me to give you money for the privilege of traveling to a quote-conference-unquote about the blockchain that is unironically describing as quote-celebrity keynote speakers-unquote John McAfee (onetime computing pioneer gone batshit paranoid conspiracy theorist) and Frank Abagnale (onetime federal prisoner famed for his widespread forgery and con games, upon whom the movie Catch Me If You Can was based).

        On second thought, Abagnale is probably the perfect face for this event. Hint: if you can’t decide who the sucker is….

        _______________
        ¹ The question remains as to how one is meant to display/keep such a thing. Darryl Ayo suggested hanging it from the ceiling and I’m not sure there’s a better solution.

        ² She supplied pre-stamped postcards, pens, a place to write, and issues of political interest; showgoers wrote out messages to elected officials & Mock mailed ’em en masse because civic engagement is to be encouraged.

        Hot Diggity, Data

        It’s the happiest day of the year for a numbers nerd like me who is fond of being proved right. Start, if you will by taking a look at something we talked about last year, and in years before that. Those posts refer to the annual numbers that Brian Hibbs (hero LCS owner) compiles for Heidi Mac at The Beat on what graphic novels sell according to Bookscan’s numbers. Data, baby!

        Obligatory reminder: Bookscan doesn’t reach into comic shops, libraries, or book fairs. That’ll be important later, as we remind ourselves of something else:

        Raina Telgemeier remains the most important person in comics.

        In calendar year 2017, when she did not have a new book, she sold (and this doesn’t count libraries, or comics shops, or school book fairs) at least US$11.6 million dollars worth of graphic novels, at least 487,000 copies of her original graphic novels, at least one million books when you include her Baby Sitters Club efforts.

        Want to see something more impressive? I’m going to look at Sisters, because I kept numbers for 2014, and 2016 from those earlier posts. In 2014, when Sisters was new, she sold 176,197 copies (in four months, because it wasn’t released until the end of August). In 2016, when it was two years old, she sold 166,124 copies. In 2017, three years old, she sold 147,889 copies. That’s scarcely any taper off! Comics shop owners will tell you the drop from issue #1 of a series to issue #2 is minimum 40%. Over three years later, she’s selling fully 84% as much as when it was new!

        Let’s look at the other numbers for her original work, 2014, 2016, 2017:

        • Smile: 150K, 188K, 160K
        • Drama: 94K, 213K, 178K
        • Ghosts: (not released), 213K (four months only), 180K

        I like that bump in Drama; new book means new readers who are discovering her older work. And should I mention that Smile was released in 2010? These books are never going to go out of print. Never.

        This is why she broke the New York Times Best Seller List so hard that they stopped reporting on graphic novels rather than just rename it for her. This is why every neckbeard that whines about “diversity” ruining comics doesn’t know shit. Comics purchases are dominated by younger readers, all-ages topics, bound books. The first floppy comic book that shows up on the list for 2017 is Saga (which is great, mind you), and it sold … 45K. It’s in 29th place on the list¹.

        It’s basically a rounding error in Raina’s sales because guess where Saga isn’t selling? The Scholastic book fairs held in elementary schools across the country. Guess where book fair coordinators are ordering Raina’s books by the case. And guess what’s not included in the Bookscan numbers.

        This is why she owns six of the top twenty slots by dollar total. It’s why she owns eight of the top twenty slots by copies sold. It’s why the entire top twenty list is dominated by women, and why other top twenty books are Raina-alike stories (which is to say, following the same growing up travails stories that she pioneered in the GN space).

        And this is why I whould like to humbly remind Raina that when she bestrides the worlds of comics publishing, YA publishing, and whatever the hell else she feels like bestriding, that some of us were behind her from the very beginning and would serve well in her new, benevolent regime.

        All hail.


        Spam of the day:

        You probably don’t remember me, but I know you and have something to show you.

        Somebody I don’t remember wants to give me secret information worth US$250,000! Is it because I’ve got an inside track on the new regime? I bet that’s why.

        _______________
        ¹ And this is great: the anti-diversity CHUDs are very fond of claiming that Marvel’s sales are down because too many of their books feature characters that aren’t straight, white, manly mens, and first Marvel title on the list is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther, the first three volumes of which add up to a total of 55K copies sold. It’s a triple shot of schadenfreude — superheroes don’t sell, the best seller is as far from what the CHUDs want as you can get, and the numbers are from before the movie released and will only be higher next year.

        Smiles All The Way

        If there is anybody more universally beloved in [web]comics than Raina Telgemeier, I don’t know who that would be. Like, maybe the reincarnation of Mr Rogers was magically soul-bound to Caroll Spinney and then spent a couple of decades mentoring Malala Yousafzi in panel composition and storytelling, you be getting close … and Raina would be cheerleading her the whole way. She’s pretty awesome is what I’m saying, and may have said so one or two times in the past.

        I’m not alone in that opinion, as anybody that’s seen one of her public events can attest. She’ll be having a meet and greet at the Cartoon Art Museum, in conjunction with the closing of the months-long retrospective exhibit of her work at CAM (the exhibit that, in fact, was chosen to spearhead the relaunch of CAM after two years without their own gallery space).

        Things start at 4:00pm on Saturday, 10 March, with a presentation and discussion of the exhibit, followed by a Q&A, then informal time to mingle and interact. To maximize the time for fans to get chat and get photos, there won’t be any signing (that keeps her stuck behind a table), but I bet she’d be fine with you holding up your copy of a favorite book in photos (signed copies will be available via advanced ticketing), or seeing your fanart.

        As you might expect, demand will be pretty high for this event, even in her hometown of San Francisco; advance tickets are available at Guestlist for the immensely reasonable price of US$10 for adults, and US$4 (four bucks!) per kid. You can reserve your signed copies of her books on the same page.

        And then two weeks later, SF fans will very possibly see her again, as she takes part in the San Francisco portion of the KidLit Marches For Kids. An outgrowth of the March For Our Lives/Never Again movement being led by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the YA community is participating in the national day of demonstrations in favor of gun control. Details about the various marches can be found on Facebook.

        This is what happens when you realize that some of the students that have (very quickly, with sorrowful determination) become activists were your readers just a few years ago.

        This is what happens when you can’t escape the fact that some of their fallen friends were.

        This is what happens when you don’t want that to happen ever again.

        So keep an eye out for a local march and let kids worry about when the next book from their favorite author comes out, instead of how to stay alive on a Wednesday. Raina will thank you for it; she’s polite that way.


        Spam of the day:

        80% Off PANDORA Jewelry. So get, like, 60.

        There is a certain logic to your position, but it does not resemble our Earth logic.

        An Act Of Optimism

        Something great happened in 2011; the folks behind Toronto’s The Beguiling (one of the great comic book shops in the English-speaking world) opened an extension store next door. It was, as far as anybody can tell, the first comic shop dedicated to children and likely remained so for the rest of its existence. Little Island Comics was an act of pure optimism; optimism that the comics industry could produce enough material suitable for kids to sustain a store in one of the priciest cities in the world.

        Comics may not be for kids, as the now-cliche headline would tell us, but vast swathes of them haven’t been entirely appropriate for young readers for some time. Grimdarkgrittypouchcape comics were pretty dominant for a couple of decades there, but the big publishers manage to produce some stuff suitable for all ages, and the graphic novel trade has fallen over itself to provide more and more books each year¹. Damn good thing, too, or where will the grimdarkgrittypouchcape comics get their readers in the future, if kids don’t develop the habit today?

        And it worked. Little Island was successful until it fell prey not to neglect, or disinterest, or lack of product; it was a casualty to gentrification that tore up a chunk of now-valuable Toronto real estate. The Beguiling managed to find new digs, but Little Island was lost.

        Until now.

        The Beguiling is pleased to announce the re-opening of Little Island Comics, the world’s first and only children’s comic shop! Offering the widest possible array of graphic novels, manga, and comics for people 12 years old and younger, Little Island celebrates its Grand Re-Opening during March Break 2018 with a slate of creator appearances, refreshments and activities.

        Whoa, cool shop returns and refreshments? Give me the deets!

        Little Island Comics re-opens in March next door to its parent shop The Beguiling’s newly expanded location at the top of Toronto’s vibrant Kensington Market neighborhood. As The Beguiling enters its fourth decade as North America’s premier comic book retailer, the move to College Street has allowed it to add a gallery and events space, which Little Island will share.

        • Next door to the Beguiling again? Check
        • Gallery and event space, so that LI’s famed comic-making classes, launches, and events can continue? Check
        • Same staff that previously served the all-ages comics lovers of Toronto and beyond? Check

        Anything else we should know?

        Little Island will offer a 20% discount on all in-print kids comics, picture books, and graphic novels throughout March Break (March 10-18, 2018) to encourage families to dig into graphic novels! The week will culminate in a Grand Re-Opening Party on Saturday, March 17th, with refreshments, drop-in activities, story time, and appearances by such creators as:

        Scott Chantler, Naseem Hrab, Brian McLachlan, Ryan North, Kean Soo, Britt Wilson, Tory Woollcott, and more!

        Times for the Grand Reopening to come, but I’d keep an eye on their website, Twitterfeed, and on Facebook.

        Here’s to many more years on the Little Island; if you’re in (or visiting) Toronto, drop by and tell them we say hi, and wish them every success.


        Spam of the day:

        CANADA GOOSE FOR MEN’S

        While I appreciate the Canadian content, spammers, this “men’s” doesn’t believe that you will actually be able to get me industrial-strength parkas that normally run near US$950 for US$140. Call me skeptical.

        _______________
        ¹ Note to Marvel, DC, etc: they do this because they like money. Releasing a new Kazu Kibuishi or Raina Telgemeier book is a license to print money because kids love comics if you just give them a chance to.