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


..eon Tactics!

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

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!

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:


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.

Huh, I Already Used An Evening Of Uplifting Frolic And Cavortment Like Ten And A Half Years Ago

It’s been a long time coming but the Cartoon Art Museum is back, baby. Oh, sure, they’ve been open in their new home on San Francisco’s famed Fisherman’s Wharf since October, but big institutions like this haven’t really made a change until they have a party. Gala grand opening celebration time, y’all:

Cartoon Art Museum
Grand Opening Celebration
Saturday, January 20, 2018

Hellboy Tribute Signing: 6pm to 7pm
Reception: 7pm to 9pm

Tickets: $10 – $100, free admission for CAM members

Join the Cartoon Art Museum as we celebrate our new location at 781 Beach Street, near Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park and the Cable Car Terminus. After a two-year hiatus, the museum is thrilled to be open to the public again with our first round of exhibitions.

This party also serves as the closing reception for our Tribute to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, which concludes Monday, January 29th. Several artists featured in the Hellboy tribute will be on hand to sign the Cartoon Art Museum’s limited exhibition catalogs. Special guests include Gary Amaro, Mark Badger, Lee Ballard, Nick Dragotta, Steve Purcell, Ben Seto, and Jon Way$hak.

The opening exhibitions (which went live on 28 October, CAM’s relaunch date) are A Tribute to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy (through 29 January), Smile! The Comics of Raina Telgemeier (through 19 March), and Emerging Artist Showcase: Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina (through 12 February). Ticket available at Guestlist.

Hey, you know who would definitely attend the CAM Grand Opening Celebration if he were on the correct continent? David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc). Alas, as far as I am from CAM being on the wrong side of North America, Morgan-Mar is not only on the wrong continent, not only in the wrong hemisphere twice, he’s not even in the correct season.

But he’s got other things to keep busy with; in this case, he’s trying to drive contributions to the collaborative webcomic Lightning Made Of Owls (which last updated … hmmm, 27 October 2017, the day before CAM reopened, which I find to be suspiciously coincidental), and he’s offering cold hard cash. Key points:

In 2018, we’re running a comic contest. With prizes! Prizes are for the best comics published in 2018, as determined by our readers:

First prize: AU$500
Second prize: AU$200
Third prize: AU$100¹

Send us your comic! Follow all the rules below under “How to Contribute”. Pay particular attention to the Characters and Copyright sections.

  • You may enter multiple times. If you submit multiple comics in a very short time, we reserve the right to space them out (e.g. one per month) so other submitters get a chance.
  • At the end of 2018, a nomination and voting system of contributors and readers will be used to determine the winning comics. (Details to be determined.)
  • If practical, we will seek to collect the 2018 contest comics into a printed book collection, funded by Kickstarter, with all profits donated to The Jane Goodall Institute (an internationally registered charity).

You can send your your comic, chosen author name, and a text transcript to Morgan-Mar, also known as dmm, who may be found at a site dedicated to the memory of semibeloved cartoon character dangermouse, dot net. And presuming the planet continues to spin on its axis, Morgan-Mar indicates that the same will happen in 2019. Get crackin’.

Spam of the day:

Canvas Prints – Limited Time Offer, Up to 81% off!

You seem to have mistaken me for somebody that wishes to have art on his walls that isn’t on animation celluloid or Bristol paper. Good day, sir!

I said, Good day!

¹ For those curious, the prizes are approximately US$392, 157, and 78 respectively (at current exchange rates). Canadian dollar amounts are 492, 197, and 98; Euros are 328, 131, and 66; pounds sterling are 290, 116, and 58; you can figure out any other units on your own.

Continuing The Brief Items

The countdown to pie is go, repeat, GO.

Kickstarter Alert #1: The folks at Cloudscape Comics (including but by no means limited to my favorite comicking engineer¹) do regular print anthologies of the best of British Columbia cartoonists. They’re great! But the latest anthology, on the topic of music, meant to be the 10th anniversary anthology, is lagging a bit in its funding. As of today, they’re at about the 23% mark, and not quite halfway through the funding period. Don’t sleep on this one, and if you don’t believe me, listen to your Auntie Spike. Pledge!

Kickstarter Alert #2: Just launched on the Kicker, Habibi: A Muslim Love Story Anthology. This one looks seriously interesting, and from a POV that’s broadly underrepresented in comics at the moment. The names of the contributors aren’t familiar to me, but that’s kind of great? There’s nothing like an anthology for getting exposed to a bunch of creators you wouldn’t otherwise see, and a couple of them will be great and your new favorites. For US$15 (early bird) or US$20 (regular), you can’t miss the discovery value. The anthology is being based on an extremely modest estimate of 350 copies in the first print run, so this is likely your one shot at getting a copy.

Once In A Long Damn Time Alert: I don’t recall ever seeing Raina Telgemeier put original art up for sale previously, but she’s done so now to support the Southern Poverty Law Center. Seventeen pieces are now up at eBay, with the auctions running another eight days. Want a complete set of Raina, her parents, and her sister Amara? Maybe Cat, Maya, Carlos, and Uncle Jose from Ghosts? Five members of the Baby-Sitters Club? The cast and crew of Drama? This is your shot.

Averted Crisis Alert: John Allison told us back in April that he was wrapping up Tackleford and all the comics that take place there. Over the summer at SDCC, he told me that it would happen at the end of the year. If not all-Desmond, all the time, it looked at the very least like we’d be getting some Robert Cop and that’s all right. But plans sometimes take a backseat; when your brain wants to stay on its current course, you listen, and thus there’s an announcement at the top of the page over at Bad Machinery:

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Scary Go Round has been un-cancelled. Stories will now continue in 2018. Danger averted.

For the record, I have zero problem with this.

Spam of the day:

This guy reveals how to get a ?rock hard? boner in less than two weeks

Really? I can usually manage in no more than 3-4 hours. This is not to brag

¹ Sorry Keen Soo, Jorge Cham, and Dante Shepherd. Y’all are great, but Angela’s got swords, corgis, and moustaches.

A Long-Expected Party

No hobbits, though. At least, I don’t think so.

On Saturday, 28 October (that would be this coming Saturday, the day after the day after tomorrow), after two years vagabonding in the wilderness, the Cartoon Art Museum will open the doors of its new home:

The Cartoon Art Museum will be open for business on Saturday morning, October 28, from 11am to 5pm!

That new home will be 781 Beach Street, on the famed Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. And what better way to reopen a San Francisco institution than by holding a retrospective of another San Francisco institution?

The new @cartoonart Museum re-opens this weekend with a retrospective of my work! San Francisco, we are so lucky to have this institution!

Raina Telgemeier retrospective, muthascratchers! And not just Raina, but also a tribute to Mike Freakin’ Mignola’s Hellboy, and an art showcase of another Bay Area stalwart, Nidhi Chanani¹. Raina’s already had a walkthrough and looks really happy with how things turned out.

Not that that’s any surprise, to be frank. Curator Andrew Farago has been guiding CAM’s programs for the past decade or so, and even in the two years that it lacked any space to call its own, he was producing compelling events in conjunction with plenty of other cultural institutions in San Francisco. I would find it difficult to believe that he would choose now to put forth anything other than the very best that CAM can muster.

And CAM’s very best is very, very good, y’all. Anybody in the Bay Area that doesn’t check this out, you’re dead to me. And anybody that loves cartoons, do me a solid and consider dropping CAM a few bucks, yeah? They’ve earned it.

Spam of the day:


Yes, incomprehensible block of Cyrillic letters, I completely believe that you are an important notice about my Visa card. Totally.

¹ Who will be in Seattle in support of her new book, Pashmina. Pretty sure she’ll hop over to CAM as soon as she’s home to see her stuff all blowed up on the walls, though. No idea if Mignola will be around.

It’s Never Too Pink

The parenthetical was Raina’s doing. When the pitch came to do a panel called Read Like A Girl: Middle-Grade Fiction For Girls, she wasn’t having any of the gendering of stories. Why is it that girls are expected to bea ble to read and enjoy books with boys as protagonists, but books with a girl in the lead are only for girls? She insisted that that title incorporate boys, and that the topic of the panel not be stories for girls.

Read Like A Girl: Middle-Grade Fiction For Girls (And Boys) took place in the Shiley Special Events Suite on the top floor of the San Diego Central Library; Brigid Alverson (of many, many things), my fellow pixel-stained wretch, was moderating.

Raina Telgemeier (queen of the fourth grade), Victoria Jamieson (Rollergirl, the forthcoming All’s Faire In Middle School), Molly Ostertag (Strong Female Protagonist, the forthcoming The Witch Boy), Nidhi Chanani (the forthcoming Pashmina), and Jenni Holm (Babymouse, Sunny) were the panel. The optics of having all women at the front of the room talking about girls reading was quickly and efficiently squashed — as Chanani put it later, It’s a book, it doesn’t have a gender.

[Editor’s note on presentation: italics like that last line represent as direct a quote as I was able to manage while transcribing in real time; plain text indicates that I am expressing the gist of what the speaker said, but it’s a paraphrase.)

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself; that discussion actually came up in the middle of the hour, but the all-genders inclusive nature of the panel was apparent from the beginning, so I’ve brought it forward. Let’s rewind to the start. Alverson opened by talking about growing up partially in the UK; the chief difference being that in the US, there were no comics for girls¹ but in the UK there were. Furthermore, all the best comics being done now are by (and if you have to assign a gender, for) women. So what did the panelists grow up reading?

Raina:² It was comic strips, all by dudes, then For Better Or For Worse leapt off the page and grabbed me.
Jamieson: Same as Raina; I didn’t read a comics as a kid, but I read a lot of books; I was missing realistic stories in comics, but I found those kinds of stories in prose. I read a lot of Ramona.
Ostertag: I didn’t know about comics other than strips, but I read so many books; the fantasy genre had a lot of female authors and characters that didn’t exist in comics. I felt like Superhero comics are not for girls, there’s not good female representation, I should not go there.

Chanani: It was all newspaper comics. The Garfield books were the most used books in the house.
Holm: I’m the middle of five kids, all the others are boys, so there were a lot of comics in our house. Dad had old collections of Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, there were all the Peanuts collections. I also read a lot of classic superhero Marvel and DC; growing up house of all boys, I figured I could do everything they could do, but in comics there was no female equivalent of Peter Parker who had clothes on. I couldn’t find characters I could relate to.

Alverson: The others read newspaper strips, but Jenni you and I read comics.
Holm: The person I most related to was Swamp Thing: not a boy, not a girl, just a swamp.
Ostertag: Looking at comic books, I felt even as a kid it was not for me. It was all very male gazey and put me off wanting to be involved. It wasn’t aggressive, there was just nothing there for me.

Alverson then asked why the panelists are all making comics (when they had little good representation to tell them that they could), rather than writing prose.
Raina: I don’t know how to words. [laughter] I started making comics when I was ten; I started reading them at nine, then my fingers wouldn’t stop. I don’t know how to make stories without pictures. We didn’t have emoji when I was growing up, we had to find ways to express things in pictures.
Chanani: I’m not closed to writing prose sometimes, but comics works for what I want to make. I make art, I grew up reading prose, maybe I’ll do an illustrated book.

Holm: I think I’m the only one on the panel that can’t draw. I suckered my brother into drawing for me and that’s how you make comics. [laughter]
Jamieson: I’m here because of Raina; until I read Smile I never said yes this is something I could do, these are the stories I could tell. It gave me the permission to do things.
Raina: When I first saw your comics I wondered how have we not known each other our entire lives.
Ostertag: Comics are so wonderful to create; you can just flip it open and the heart of the story is there. When I got into it, I didn’t consider the industry, I just wanted to make them.

There was a great followup to Jamieson’s point at this time; the kinds of stories the panelists create didn’t exist for girls when they were each growing; they didn’t exist for boys until recently either.
Alverson: Raina, you’re kind of the prototype. How did you come up with Smile, what was your Smile?

Raina: For Better Or For Worse, BONE, Lynda Barry, the Optic Nerve comics by Adrian Tomine … all these different sources, but it led me to making something that was entirely me. I just knew I had this story, I needed to tell it, I’m a cartoonist, I’m doing this. I thought I was just going to run short stories on Girlamatic, but I decided to do a page a week and tell this longform story. I was telling a story about my dental work, but my readers were really interested in my friends, my relationship with my parents, and their interests really informed the direction of the story. The relationships are what make the kids relate to the story. I think all of us on the panel are writing about relationships.

Alverson: That’s something that did exist in prose, but not comics. All the good comics right now, the interesting ones, are by and for women. That raises the question in the title [Editor’s note — told you we’d get back to it], what about the boys? The cliche is that boys won’t read comics about girls, is that true?

Raina: There’s so much discrimination about what boys will read and what girls will read.
Jamieson: You asked where are the comics for boys, but they’re here. I have boys read the books, I know boys read the books, I go to school visits and they tell me they love them. Much like Calvin And Hobbes was about a boy but not for boys, I think our stuff is the same. Parents have the stereotype that you put a girl on the cover my son won’t read it but as soon as the kid gets their hands on it, they read it.

Chanani: It’s a book, it doesn’t have a gender, so why are we assigning a gender to something that doesn’t need it? Let the kids pick what they want to read. The gatekeepers have to step away, the kids don’t care.
Holm: Babymouse is very pink. What happened was we created Babymouse specifically for girls, but this was 2005, so we were boldly going for the girls, and our own prejudices assumed it was too much pink for the boys, but the boys do not care. I think sometimes the parents have problems, but I think Babymouse is pretty genderbendy; she sometimes sees herself as a boy mouse.
Ostertag: When I made [The Witch Boy], I made it about a boy wants to do what all the women in his family do: he wants to be a witch. I think girls have a lot of role models that tell them they can cross gender norms, be tomboyish, but I don’t think boys get to be more feminine, kind, emotionally aware. I think we need more books about sensitive boys and to destigmatize that.

Alverson: One of the things about children’s books is there are themes you see over and over again, but you each bring something different to it. There’s always a tension between the universal theme and what makes it specific. Can you talk about what sets your book apart?

Ostertag: It gets down the characters, who they end up being. I love to make stories with a point, then you develop it and the characters become more than somebody there to illustrate a point. It becomes a place you want to go and stay in.
Alverson: So basically making a really cool world.
Jamieson: That’s maybe where I start too. I was playing roller derby and loved it, wanted to share that. Same with the new book; I worked the Renaissance Faire in high school, and I wanted to create a world that readers would want to be in and never leave.

Raina: I do the exact opposite. It started with Oh braces, that sucks, but then kids know they suck and it becomes about finding ways to show kids they’re not alone.
Holm: I’m very nostalgic, and wanted to show the nostalgia for my 70s childhood, but also wanted to hang out with people I love. So the grandfather in Sunnys Side Up is based on my grandfather and the book is about having the best summer vacation hanging out in the retirement community in Florida with all old people. I’ve always been obsessed with that approach.

Chanani: I grew up with a variety of information and influences about India; I was born there, but came here when I was four months old. I wanted to put in all the ideas and history and culture of the India I wish I’d grown up in. Growing up here I internalized all those Feed The Children ads and everybody in them is malnourished and everything is terrible. In reality it’s all of those things, the good and bad. In the color pages I put all the things I love about India.

Alverson: Some of the books I loved when I was growing up, the Little House books for example, haven’t held up at all. How do you add a visual aspect to keep things universal, or do you care somebody will read this in 30 years and it’ll be dated?

Ostertag: I read very old books when I was a kid, things that were not contemporary, and they still resonated for me. Comics you can read quickly, but still go back and read for detail. I put a fidget spinner in my book and it’ll be dated before it’s out but I don’t care.
Raina: Kids don’t write, adults do. The book is already a generation or two removed from the reader. The feelings people have don’t change over generations. As far as the look of a graphic novel, will the look be dated, well, I’m writing memoir, and this is what it was like.

Jamieson: Hopefully, that won’t distract them too much, the truth of the characters will be what they focus on.
Ostertag: Kids read a lot of fantasy, and reading that they have to acclimate to a world that’s not what they grew up in. It’s the same for looking at things from another time.
Chanani: The idea that you can make something truly timeless is impossible, something will always stick out. Better to just focus on the characters.

Alverson: Lightning Round! What are you reading now that you really like for children?
Raina: Archie is like therapy.
Jamieson: Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.
Ostertag: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore.
Chanani: Ghost by Jason Reynolds.
Holm: I’m totally inappropriate, I read romance.
Ostertag: Do you read a lot of things outside the genre? Me too.
Raina: Wolf In The Snow by Matthew Cordell.

Alverson: When I was a kid, books all came in series. When you look at your books, do you think about what the next book is going to be, do you want to move in a new direction, or do you want to stay with the characters for three books?
Chanani: The only thing that gets me through the art is that next book. Writing that next book in my head gets me through the painful moments of drawing. It’s a really nice escape, and gives me a lot of time to live with those characters.
Ostertag: I do an ongoing webcomic, so that’s a really long story, it’s going to take a long time to get to the end. Having a self-contained story in a book is a nice break for me.

Jamieson: I feel like when I’m writing a book I’m in it for twelve hours a day and when I’m done I have this awful empty void in me. It’s really hard to move on to the next book. I’m reticent to do sequels right away, but maybe in the future.
Raina: People just immediately wanted Smile 2³, but I don’t have another braces story, then I realized what they wanted was the characters of me and family. I really can’t go past the age of 14, 15, 16, so it’s hard to go back to that period again and again and reiterate again.

From the floor: In your own lives, how do you try to flip the script and get out of the one note of gender cliche?
Ostertag: I try to be hyperaware of tropes; gender and fiction is something I’m really aware of, and I try to constantly examine why you choose to gender a character a certain way, then I flip it. The reader can’t expect that if a character is visually feminine they should act feminine. You can make a book where people come away with a more nuanced view of gender.
Chanani: I was committed to making all these strong women in my book, I did all this pre-writing that won’t make it into the book, all their backstories, all this detail. But what I failed to do was to write anything about the men in the book and my editor said it might be nice if one of them was kind of nice and had something to balance their flaws. Because I absorbed so many one-dimesional characters that were women and I was fighting that, I had to be told I was doing that to the men.

From the floor: Do you have any advice about helping students create their own things that resonate with them? Any really vivid spark moments ?
Holm: I think kids are very visual now. Writers get writers block, so what I’ve started to do is look at my kids and their book reports, and I say let’s doodle it out, anything you want, just stick figures, sit with that for a little bit. When you can visually see the beginning, middle, and end, it helps you write and takes some of the pressure off from where they want every word to be perfect. Just give them scrap paper.
Ostertag: I started with a message and moral, scenes and settings I wanted to draw, then built the story around that. There’s an incredible amount of creativity in fanfiction, you can find inspiration anywhere.
Jamieson: As an exercise in schools, we sent a two minute timer and I wrote I REMEMBER at the top of a sheet of paper, and they just call out anything. After a couple of those, you have ideas you can start.
Raina: I do the same thing, prompt them with WHAT’S THE WEIRDEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?

From the floor: When you set out to write these books are they geared to middle grades? When you write them is that the intent or getting the story out and then seeing if it fits?
Jamieson: It’s easy for me because I have a four year old and an eleven year old. I can think as an eleven year old, how I was as an eleven year old.
Holm: Don’t worry about the words, just write it, they can look it up. There’s this thing called a dictionary.

[Editor’s note: Like I said when listing out the panels for the show there was a lot of smart in this room. Oh, and because it would have taken too long to put the entire context in, you get one completely contextless quote from Jenni Holm that brought the room down: I think it’s strep, maybe!]

¹ Alverson and I are not that far apart in age; had she been of reading age a decade earlier, she would have found comics aimed at girls. Remember that folks like Kirby did romance comics until they started dying off and thus he had to reinvent the superhero genre to keep working.

² And a reminder about the Fleen Manual Of Style: when referred to by one name, Raina Telgemeier is styled Raina, not Telgemeier.

³ Smile 2: Smile Harder?

Friday Miscellany And The Eisners

Let’s just jump to the big news, yeah? Big Awards went to Ryan North and Erica Henderson for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Best Publication For Teens), to Chip Zdarsky and Henderson / North and Derek Charm for Jughead (Best Humor Publication, which I am retitling Best Humour Publication in honor of Zdarsky and North), and to Raina Telgemeier for Ghosts (Best Publication For Kids 9-12).

Additionally, Jason Shiga’s Demon took the Best Graphic Album-Reprint award, and the somewhat confusing split between Best Digital Comic and Best Webcomic were decided in favor (respectively) of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover for Bandette and Anne Szabla for Bird Boy, which are strong choices. I’m pretty sure that everybody except Charm and Szabla has taken the spinny globe trophy before, but it’s still got to be a hell of a thrill to be told whose company you are in. Some relevant photos here.

  • But that was all at the end of a long day; it started with the cash drawer in the Dumbrella register sitting just a little to high and preventing the drawer from opening, for a period of about 20 minutes at the start of the show. While the number of transactions requiring cash is way down compared to prior years, it’s still something you’ve got to be able to do. It was eventually resolved with the aid of two people, one multitool, a screwdriver, a pair of scissors, and gravity. The offender was found to be — oh, betrayal so foul! — a Sharpie. Worse, one of those fake-ass retractable finetip Sharpies. It was removed (and, I believe, ritually destroyed) and then all was well again.
  • The floor didn’t have much hold on me yesterday; I was out to the San Diego Central Library to catch the Read Like A Girl: Middle-Grade Fiction For Girls (And Boys), about which much more later when I have time¹; it’s probably going to be as long as the editing panel writeup, and that was damn near 2700 words.

    From the panel, I made my way straight into the Gaslamp, where Marian Call picked me up in her cross-country tourmobile so that we could make our way out to Santee, where I was providing light assistance (mostly merch-monkeying) for her show with Seth Boyer. The venue was a long, low, sprawling Unitarian-Universalist fellowship, where I’m told that Call’s Something Fierce has been played on Sunday mornings to give the members an idea of what the show would be like.

    I am being completely truthful here: if the Methodists had played Marian Call on Sunday mornings when I was a kid, I might still believe in the Abrahamic god.

    The audience were mostly from the fellowship, and were uniformly polite, earnest, courteous, humble, and filled with gentility. They’re Unitarians, so there were defiant prints in the foyer, the We The People series by Shepard Fairey and We The Resilient by Ernesto Yerena; like many churches, the members skewed older. They were enthusiastic, and have had Call and Boyer play for them before, and will again. Since the show last night was like number four out of seventy², there’s an excellent chance you will be able to catch her between now and November, when she finally returns home to a well-deserved rest.

  • We returned back to the Con precincts and met up with a crowd that had taken over a fire pit at the Marriott — Pat Race and Aaron Suring, others from Juneau who were down to see the nerds, Scott C hung out for a while. But the highlight of the night — maybe of the show — came as I was getting a drink at a bar inside. I happened to glance to my left and see a graying³, ponytailed dude drawing.

    I recognized the style and without thinking said Adam Warren? He startled slightly and said Yes? Then I told him I’d been reading his stuff since 1988 and always liked it, and that my only problem with his work on Empowered is that it doesn’t come out often enough. He thanked me, I told him I wouldn’t take up any more of his time, and then I bought his next drink because godsdammit, he’s earned it.

  • Oh, and my wife texted me from the East Coast to say that Raina and Mark Siegel were featured in a story on this morning’s Weekend Edition; audio will be posted later today, but for now just check out the fourth grade teacher that simply states The queen of my classroom is Raina Telgemeier.

Things To See On Saturday:
The BOOM panel with John Allison is at 12:30 in Room 24ABC, and Cartoon Art Musuem curator Andrew Farago talks to the likes of Gemma Correll and Melanie Gillman at 1:30 in Room 8. Box Brown’s undoubtedly wrestling-heavy spotlight is at 3:00 in Room 4.

Stuff To Get:
Man, I dunno. I could kind of go for a sandwich.

I saw this Batgirl and told her I was going to send it to Hope Larson and she squealed. Larson texted, and I quote, Yesss! She looks great. There were a lot of Bob-and-Linda combos on the floor, these being the best two I saw; Cards Against Humanity consigliere Trin was, coincidentally, dressed as Tina and was at the booth at the right time for one group photo (she also mentioned that her own parents were coming to the show dressed as Bob and Linda and I cannot wait to see those photos). And on the Crystal Gem front, there was a really good first-look Pearl, although she and I agreed we need to see more leather jacket wearing badass Pearl cosplay.

Spam of the day:

Unique True Wireless Earbuds With Amazing Sound

Man, I can’t keep buds in when they’ve got cords on them. This is a blatant attempt to get me to have an earbud subscription.

¹ My rough transcript of the panel discussion runs 117 lines and I’ve got an early start today after a very late night.

² Maybe more? Email Call and tell her you can get a dozen people together and she’ll pretty much add a show within an hour or two of wherever you live if it’s at all practical.

³ We are actually about the same age and I have no illusions about what is happening upstairs.

Behind The Scenes

You should know these names: Butcher, Siegel, Watters, Pelham, Hererra.

Something about my engineer’s view of the world makes me fascinated by all the things you don’t see on the surface of things; I want to know how things are constructed and how all the construction fits together. Thus, Pat Race and I made our way up to the panel rooms for the Editing Comics panel moderated by Chris Butcher. You may recall that about a month ago (that is, long after the panel was set for inclusion at the show) Butcher left his longtime position running The Beguiling and took a new job with VIZ as an editor, which made for an interesting (if initially unanticipated) dynamic at the front of the the room; he would have the opportunity to ask some of the best editors in the history of comics how they do their work such that (and I’m quoting here), I will take all your best information and then crush you.

[Self-editor’s note: when I italicize a passage of text like that, it’s as direct a quote as I was able to type in realtime; when left plain, I am paraphrasing the gist of what the speaker said.]

Fleen extends its condolences to the future crushees, people with distinguished careers to this point, who will shortly find themselves bereft of all they once held dear in their careers. In the meantime, though, they were awfully collegial and welcoming towards Butcher; they brought examples of their work and processes, and were generous in sharing how they approach their jobs. From right to left in the photo above, they are:

  • Robin Hererra, Oni Press
  • Cassandra Pehlham, Graphix/Scholastic
  • Shannon Watters, BOOM
  • Mark Siegel, :01 Books

… all of whom came to editing via different routes. Hererra interned at Oni for a summer, then was an administrative assistant for a year before joining the editorial ranks; Oni is the only place she’s worked. Pelham worked a summer fellowship with Scholastic for three years that shifted towards graphic work in the third year. Siegel founded :01 in 2005 (within the much larger environment of Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan/Holtzbrink) to be a publishing house for authors rather than franchises¹, with broad themes and age categories. Watters started at BOOM in 2010 as an assistant editor, ran the KABOOM (licensed) line for a time, and now runs the creator-owned BOOM Box imprint.

They spoke for a while on the camaraderie in comics; Butcher noted that he’s friends with lots of folks, but now that he’s going to be in an editing role and competing with the to a degree, was worried that would have to end. It was nice to learn that wasn’t the case, everybody’s been very nice and welcoming in the community so far. He threw out an invitation to talk about the network editors have with each other:

Watters: There’s a special relationship, you understand this very specific thing you do that most people in comics don’t understand.
Pelham: It’s a small community, and we’re competitive but also supportive of each other. We’re cheering for others because a win for one of your books is a win for comics in general, for reading, and for kids. The most competition is at an auction, when you might be bidding against each other to acquire a book that’s been offered to several houses.
Herrera: But it’s a solitary kind of work. The most I’ve been able to talk to other editors is when I go to SCAD on Editor’s Day for portfolio review. At the end of the day you get out exhausted, but we talk. And they hold it at this old mansion with a giant porch, and there’s bourbon …

Butcher had each of them choose several books they’ve worked on and talk about how they edited each; the key takeaway from this discussion is that no two books, no two creators need to be handled the same way. Herrera opened with three books that featured three entirely different processes, and noted at Oni there are just editors, not story editors or copy editors, or other kinds of specialization; any project could require any of the kinds of skill.

She edited Space Battle Lunchtime (and continues to do so) from its pitch, ran all edits from start to finish, and gets to nudge creator Natalie Reiss in needed directions from time to time, relying on a very experienced creator’s abilities. By contrast, Ted Naifeh pitched Night’s Dominion with two issues already done; it’s a very different process when there’s little to no development of concept, story arc, and so forth. Finally, Oyster War by Ben Towle came in fully complete; Hererra made a few specific changes, then thorough copy edit, but a penciled-and-inked book is too late to do major structural changes on. Since SBL was the book that went through the most development with Herrera, she showed a lot of process: cover treatments, thumbnailed scripts and pages, Reiss’s writing style that lacks the cinematic approach many take in comic writing (but it works for her).

Butcher interrupted to ask the panel about an observation he’d had. Creators are reading fewer comics themselves these days, and does this translate to editors? Do they read fewer due to time or to avoid accidental influences? The answer was a pretty solid no, as the panelists are all enthusiastic (and wide-ranging) readers.

Siegel: I read fewer comics and more prose, but things pop up that I’ll get enthused about.
Watters: I read graphic novels more than single issues (there was a lot of head-nodding at this point).
Herrera: Since starting at Oni, I read more manga which we don’t publish; there’s no chance I’ll ever work with that creator, which lets me read and admire the work.
Siegel: Younger creators, I often try to get them to read wider than their favorite zone. I’ll recommend a book on writing, or nonfiction relevant to their project. A lot of times, they’re still moving out of being fans and into being authors, and I don’t think you can be both. I think you have to leave fan behind to be a creator. And of course they can have blind spots, so I’ll say Try some Stephen King to learn about pacing ….

Returning to process, Pelham talked about editing not just different projects differently, but different creators with different approaches. For example, the different approaches she takes with Raina Telgemeier and Kazu Kibuishi have less to do with their subject matter and more to do with how each does their best work. Raina tends to do full thumbnails, Kazu works straight to final art with little drafting or sketching.

Butcher’s next discussion point had to do with the craft of editing: when comics and graphic novels started breaking out of the direct market and into the traditional publishing houses, people didn’t know how to edit comics as comics. He noted some of earliest editors at the major houses were from children’s books, because they had a history of working with had words and art. Pelham noted that she did start editing in prose, but realized comics were my passion, that I wanted to lean into. During her third summer fellowship she moved to the Graphix end of Scholastic; like many, in college she read first graphic novel (Persepolis) and found it life-changing. Part of what was surprising in learning about editing comics was how my title was an editor-track job title, but I found myself also learning to be an art director.

Siegel dug the most into how the graphic novel sausage is made; given the :01 doesn’t do single issues, he focused on whole books as the unit of production and story, and the traditional publishing process starting from the pitch. He had a pretty detailed discussion about how a lot of people try to pitch graphic novels that come from Hollywood or animation, and are used to doing in-person presentational pitches, trying to sell a project on personal charisma, and that’s not how books work. They’ll say, we want to set up a meeting and I say no, I’d rather not meet you at all. It doesn’t matter what happens in that the pitch meeting, all that matters is what’s on the page. In the book world, you need to send a presentation and it either works on the page or it doesn’t.

To that end, Siegel also tries to be very open about the process; People outside the business have a hard time seeing what actually goes on in the publishing world; it’s not what you see in the bookstore. Authors really have no idea what we do. With :01, we try to open the curtain and reveal what happens. [Marketing director] Gina [Gagliano] posts a lot of stuff on our blog, a lot that seems obvious, so creators understand what we do in publishing and marketing. … It helps them to understand so we’re partnered … with us, your agent, the designer, the production people are all your allies in making that book.

Back to pitches: sometimes they’re a few pages typed up, describing story, characters, what the book is going to accomplish, and then editor and writer can find an artist to pair up on the project. Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor came in as a presentation package, almost the Hollywood-style approach that Siegel said to avoid (McCloud is an unusual case, he said in an understated manner). Normally, it’s a few finished pages, character description, some script, enough to have the shape of the project and have a conversation with creator.

The next stage is scripting. He shared a sample of a Gene Yang book (looked like Boxers to me) which featured the traditional typed dialog and page thumbnails. Siegel pointed out that this approach shows the creator is Thinking in both words & pictures at the same time. Sometimes you get something that works or doesn’t in words, then the art comes in and it doesn’t work or it does.. The thumbs let the editor see in a very small size — each page about the size of a postage stamp — how a scene will play out, meaning you can sometimes spot a problem and fix it before the art progresses too far, but mostly it’s at the pencils stage that you fix problems with story or scene setting.

Butcher added that he always thought these stamp sized thumbnails were just about proving to the editor that you were working, but Siegel has the opinion that the thumbnail stage is the the hardest mental work, because it’s where you’re pulling out the story. The execution (pencils, inks, color) is actually simpler (but naturally, more labor intensive and time-consuming). Watters described thumbs as the skeleton you’re throwing the meat on, and Siegel as the first conversation with the creator. You’re not talking about dialog, it’s about the large structure of the story.

He demonstrated that by showing scribbled-up thumbs from Nidhi Chanani’s forthcoming Pashmina and remarked that he’d get on Skype and have a conversation about how the story is structured.
Watters: I like doing dialog passes on Skype.
Siegel: It’s good testing dialog out loud.
Butcher: It’s not like how people imagine comics with the old Marvel bullpen, everybody in one room. You could be working with people across the country or across the world.

Pencils and inks follow, which are a monumental amount of work, so you have to catch problems early before all that work goes in; the worst thing is having to make corrections at the end of the process. Siegel noted that one issue of people working on long graphic novels is that of stamina, mental fatigue, mental breakdowns, there’s a much higher casualty rate than working in prose. For that reason, I’ve evolved a process and become a better editor for it, as soon as we pass the architectural stage, I invite the authors to send in small batches. I don’t keep them waiting [for feedback/direction], it does marvels for morale.

Watters brought a series of different projects with different approaches, noting that at BOOM Box things come to in differently — Backstagers came to as a full idea but Goldie Vance was a completely different process. I hit up Hope [Larson], and said I really want to to a teen detective book, I know you have time in your schedule, it’s already greenlit because I trust you. You own it, let’s work together to develop something. Sometimes the pitch is complete, sometimes I develop the pitch with them. It’s produceresque.

Butcher had one last big question of his own before opening to the floor: when you acquire a project, when you start that process, do you represent the creator’s interest to the publisher or vice versa. Whose side are you on? Siegel asked if he could start the response² and then was pretty emphatic: Both. You’re the punching bag in the middle, and you can get bashed from both sides [all nodding in agreement]
Pelham: Even if it’s not an editorial issue!
Siegel: You’re kind of forced at times into a diplomatic relationship. Sometimes you’re forced to choose and that puts an editor to the test. Sometimes the pressure’s from great big corporations, you have to make a decision and it’s hard. But something I learned from an editor I respect a lot [Self-editor’s note: I didn’t catch the name, sorry], is that if you have to choose between the company and the author, you try to go with the author.

From the floor: I’m freelancing as an editor now. How do I make editing a full time job?
Pelham: Have a website.
Watters: Communicate with others and have relationships.
Hererra: Edit pitches as well as whole projects.
Butcher: Sometimes houses will have a pitch they don’t have editors to manage and will go looking for freelancers.
Watters: Sometimes creators have editors they want to work with, and will bring you in on their project.

From the floor: I took a prose editing class last semester, how do I practice comics editing?
Butcher: Read a lot of comics.
Hererra: Read manga; it’s read in reverse and that actually teaches a lot about story structure.
Watters: I took McCloud’s Understanding Comics and read it with comics I liked and thought worked, and figured out why they worked.
Butcher: I worked with creators with great editors, so I could see the process.

From the floor: I’m a freelance editor, I have a script I want produced. Do I go to company with script, script and a few pages, or the whole thing drawn?
Watters: Put together a pitch document.
Hererra: Have a few pages to look at.
Floor: Not a whole book?
Seigel: Right, unless you’re the greatest creator ever, you can’t bring in a complete book.

From the floor: How do I give notes on the whole story arc, not just details?
Siegel: You can practice that, but there is a craft. It’s still Is a character shallow, is this cliche? There’s nothing wrong with starting from a cliche, but it’s bad to land on one.
Pelham: Break it down: character, plot, theme, story; see if it all works before the art gets added.
Butcher: It’s macro/micro — the whole project works, then break it down. Story works, then thumbnails, then pages, then panels. Don’t start at the smallest scale and work up.

From the floor: We have a pitch, I’m an artist, I have a writer, I’m trying to understand the relationship with the editor because I think I need one. Can I expect a publisher to help me out with others … finding inkers, colorists, can an editor help me with that?
Watters: Yeah, that’s production, if they buy the project at the stage you have it at, they’ll help you finish it. It’s all about expectations with the project at the acquisition stage.

[Self-editor’s note: And what none of them said but which is probably self-evident, you need an editor. Trust me, it’s an almost-impossible chore to editor yourself.]

¹ See our coverage of the :01 tenth anniversary panel last year for more on that theme; Siegel has succeeded at that goal admirably.

² One of the delights of this panel is that the panelists were considerate of each other — not speaking over, looking to others to prompt their input.

Deep Bench

Did I just accidentally use a softball term? I think I did.

  • One may recall that, oh, two months back or so, NPR Books asked for input as to what comics people should be reading as part of a summer reading list. More than 7000 entries were submitted, and an expert panel¹ (revealed yesterday to include webcomics own Spike) broke that mass down to a list of 100 comics. Not the best, not the most well-known², but a wide list of comics works; having a familiarity with a good chunk of them means that you’ve got a handle on the art from (although dominantly as expressed by American/Canadian creators; there were not a huge number of manga on the list, and even fewer Eurocomics).

    And, as noted a couple months back, they gave webcomics a seat at the table — nineteen of the even 100 entries on the list are explicitly identified as webcomics, with more items listed in other categories that originated as webcomics, or are created by people that came up from webcomics, or which are web/indie in their essential nature. Here, then, are the webcomics (and webcomics-alikes) that mass agreement and expert opinion think you ought to be reading:

    John Allison’s Tackleverse comics, the editorial stylings of The Nib, Wondermark, Hark! A Vagrant, Homestuck, As The Crow Flies, Oh Joy, Sex Toy (!), Stand Still, Stay Silent, Check, Please!, Gunnerkrigg Court, Kill Six Billion Demons, O Human Star, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ And Amal, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Vattu. It would be hard to disagree with any of them.

    Originally (at least partly) webcomics, but tagged under different categories, you’ve got Nimona, Through The Woods, Megahex (Graphic Novels); Finder³ (Series Comics); Dykes To Watch Out For (Newspaper Strips, although it’s at least as much a webcomic); American Born Chinese (All Ages — not that age appropriateness alters the ability of a story to fall in one of the genre/topic categories). You also had once-and-future webcomickers Raina Telgemeier (Ghosts), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), and Ryan North (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). In all, better than a quarter of this stab at a canon is webcomics or webcomics-releated.

    There will be plenty to disagree with, naturally (no Achewood, Octopus Pie, or Drive?), but that’s why canons exist — to be argued over, refined, resolved, agreed upon, and rejected all over again. It’s a good start, though, and there’s almost certainly plenty for you to discover (on a fast skim, I appear to have read 53 of the 100 suggestions).

  • Also not on the list, for the piddling reason that it’s not technically published yet: a print collection of 100 Demon Dialogues by Lucy Bellwood (Adventure Cartoonist!), which project wrapped up about two hours ago (as of this writing), and which Kickstarter launched shortly after.

    It’s been a terrific project to watch over the past three months or so — Bellwood has been dealing with the voice in her head (he’s a jerk) that tells her what she can’t do by forcing the little bugger into conversation. We’ve all got that demon, reminding us of our failures and telling us not to bother, and remembering that fact is a pretty good way to rob them of the power they have over us.

    The book is going to be gorgeous, the demon plushes are going to be great, and you want to get in on this. At the (again, as I write this) 1 hour 45 minute mark, Bellwood’s at just under 38% of goal, but kindly do not sleep on this. The campaign will run less than three weeks, and if you miss it your little jerk demon will certainly tell you that you screwed up.

    And if nothing else, the video is priceless. I need to know who does the demon voice because it’s perfect.

Spam of the day:

Confirmation Needed: $100 Kroger Gifts Inside

I don’t believe there is a Kroger (or as we said in my Midwestern college days, kro-zhay, ’cause it’s obviously French) grocery store within a 5-6 hour drive. Maybe next time try to bait me with a fake coupon that wouldn’t be essentially impossible for me to use?

¹ Somewhere, heads are exploding over the fact that four of the panelists are women. Sources close to the explosions were quoted as saying Girls are icky and get their cooties on my funnybooks.

² But which inevitably includes Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Persepolis, Maus, Jimmy Corrigan, A Contract With God, and Action Comics #1

³ Finder’s been both, so this one is arguable.