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!

Ongoing Kickstarts Of Note

I missed the launches of a couple of campaigns while I was at the conference last week, but I’ve since caught up and made some pledges, and figured you might want to as well. But before I do that, an addendum to the note about Raina Telgemeier’s new book announcements from t’other day, because I didn’t specifically call out this detail:

Her April release, Share Your Smile, a how-to guide to telling your own stories, will have an initial print run of 500,000, which will equal the first printing of Ghosts. Her September release, the new autobio Raina story, Guts?

One. Million. Copies.

They’ll sell ’em, too. I’m gonna make a bet, the Toby Ziegler bet, that Graphix already knows when they’ll need to go back to press, and I’ll give you a 50/50 chance it’s before January 2020.

Which is beautiful, if only because the Comicsgater toesuckers whining about the girl-cooties on their manly-man comics can’t conceive of how irrelevant they are. That the comics they want to be the way they always were¹ are a rounding error in the face of the most significant creator of words+pictures, and that the industry has already left them behind. It’s delicious.

  • Kickstart! You are probably familiar with the works of one Christopher “Doctor” Hastings, and with the works of one Branson “Not Brandon, dammit” Reese. They’re comedy guys, they’re comics guys, they sport some awesome facial hair², and they’re collaborating on an original graphic novel that you can get in on now:

    DRACULAGATE is an all new 130-page graphic novel about a bumbling team of U.S. diplomats opening up international relations with Transylvania, sovereign nation of monsters and undead. It’s like HBO’s VEEP, but with skeletons and ghosts and stuff.

    Which, quite frankly, is exactly the story I wanted from these two fine gentlemen and didn’t even realize it. The Kickstarter video’s a hoot, too. Inexplicably, the funder is a week in and they’re not quite at 40%; in a just world, this would be somewhere around 112% already.

    This book features a diplomatic crisis kicked off by Dracula’s nephew³ killing a beloved Canadian former child star, which I can guaran-damn-tee you is not a combination of words that has ever been conceived of before Reese and Hastings got their brains together. Back this project now because if this one doesn’t fund and I don’t get to read the next 125 pages, the peasants will suffer.

  • Kickstart! David Malki !, who has been messing with us re: sick elephants since the end of July (and who has put together the seeds of a nuke-from-orbit delivery of who knows how damn many more in the newest strip4), has taken some time away from the world’s longest, most convoluted dad joke to put together the first Wondermark collection in years.

    No sick elephants (or sea lions) in this one, but the origin of eating Cheetos with chopsticks will be in it. It will also be among the most handsome books on your shelf, and the stretch goals are all pretty much identical: more comics, bigger book. With a little more than three weeks to go, Wondermark: Friends You Can Ride On is just under 80% funded, and the presumed success of the campaign on 2 November will leave Malki ! plenty of time to bash together the 2019 calendar refills, which he claims will not be 12 months of sick elephants, but who knows.

  • Kickstart! Zach Weinersmith’s in one of his abridging moods — having previously tackled The Bible and All Of Science, he’s now reduced all of Shakespeares sonnets about being very horny down to individual rhyming couplets. Apparently, a lot of them are about Shakespeare getting mad that a dude he was horny for was gettin’ with a lady that Shakespeare was also horny for? That can’t be right, because the Republican Party told me bein’ horny was invented by degenerate hippies at Woodstock and nobody was ever horny except within the bounds of white people matrimony for having babies before then.

    Only one way to find out — get the pocket version of the sonnets, and ace your next high school English test on Shakespearean verse! ANd if that’s not enough to convince you, Weinersmith has also constructed an SMBC collection of strips on the theme of love (mirroring the strip collections on religion and science, which were released in conjunction with the prior abridged volumes), which you can get either with or without the pocket sonnets. I’m not going to say that they’ll make great Valentine’s Day gifts5, but they are due to be shipped in February.


Spam of the day:

Take Your Vacation to the Next Level with Private Yacht Charters

You apparently think that I am of a very different socioeconomic tendency than I actually am. We all tell ourselves that the naturally belong on a perfect yacht, on perfect seas, with super hot people of our preferred gender(s) who are perfectly into us, but let’s face it — most of us would be hard pressed to live up to the expectation of yacht rock, much less yacht life. You can’t just make yourself into an Instagram-friendly Russian oligarch’s kid.

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¹ Hint: they never were.

² Rad ‘stache, Branson.

³ Jeremy. His name is Jeremy Dracula.

4 Apparently, seven.

5 They will totally make the best Valentine’s Day gifts, and practically guarantee that whoever you are horny for (and are not a big ol’ creeper towards) will likewise be inspired to reciprocal horniness, oh yeah.

A Less-Disturbing Encore

I think I speak for all of us when I say that yesterday’s post from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin was a tough read. Along the same lines, I invite you to consider how much more difficult it must have been for FSFCPL to research and write it; as such, I think we’ve all earned a palate-cleanser. Please enjoy the following submission from Our Man In France on the intersection of two media that seem to have a lot of overlap these days.

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On the menu: using comics to promote a video game, using a video game to promote comics, and having a comics creator illustrate and tell the story for a video game … using comics of course.

  • While it has been known for some time that webcartoonists Thorn and Meredith Gran have been working on their respective point-and-click adventure games, you might not have known illustrator Pins has been working on his own called tiny and Tall: Gleipnir, which is now out.

    The story? Fenrir, the wolf son of Loki, is devouring everything on its path and the Gods of Asgard have to react before it ends up devouring the whole world; however, no chains have proved capable of keeping Fenrir down, so they commission two blacksmiths, the titular tiny and Tall, to come up with restraints that can restrain the unrestrainable. Easy. Follows a number of hijinks as the protagonists have to first locate the recipe, then the improbable ingredients necessary to accomplish this quest.

    The game works like the point and click adventure games of old, with you needing to solve various puzzles using found objects and your wits. And if you get stuck, no matter: clicking your partner will provide you with information necessary to proceed. But where the game shines is with its humor, especially in its writing: overenthusiastic tiny contrasts well with fatalistic Tall, desperate of ever seeing the project to completion (but duty-bound to try, at least).

    Pins even felt the need to introduce us to the characters ahead of the game’s release through comic strips released online … we can now safely say that the promotional effort went slightly out of hand, as not only did he do more than 200 strips (this is strip 81 of the second book), but he even managed to release a collection of the 130 first strips, published by Lapin, before the game even came out; and his humor hits home just as well in comics as it does in the game.

    tiny and Tall: Gleipnir Part One is available through Steam on PC and Mac for 14.99€; this review is based on the Mac version of the game.

  • Raphaël Beuchot, on the other hand, first set out to create strips around music in a project called Medley; and it is in order to promote the recently-released collection that he came up with an online game called Backstage.

    The premise? You’re running a concert hall, and you need to raise its standing enough that celebrity DJ Acier Fulgur (Steel Lightning) will consent to producing himself in it. But that will only happen if you successfully manage your concert hall day after day after day … and here, success entails satisfying the needs of the bands that produce themselves in your hall: their scene equipment needs, their food and drink needs, but also their (legal) drug needs or smoking implement needs. All that on a deadline. And that is even without mentioning the occasional agitator to dispatch with security, or the occasional inebriated person to put in a lateral security position….

    The gameplay does not have a lot of depth (though is not necessarily a bad thing), and you can complete the game in about one hour, but what I find most interesting with Backstage is that, while it is not a music game, its gameplay is well integrated with the theme of the musical scene: the bands you get at first are hesitant to ask for food when they do so, then quickly you will get requests that turn out to need nothing, nevermind, until in the late game where these prestigious bands complain that they even need to request that seafood be brought to them.

    And new elements are introduced in a piecemeal fashion, but you can’t help but notice that French singers get introduced at the same time as the folk guitar gets added to your available scene instruments … and as Xanax gets added to your pharma kit. In short, the gameplay builds on the theme to keep you on your toes (I once got a request from a punk band to give their dog four bottles of beer!), which prevents the game from feeling repetitive, and helps give sense to the game … well, except for that one band where the instruments included both autotune and accordion. I’m still scratching my head over that one.

    That is very consistent with the strips of Medley, which don’t always deal with music per se, but always at least refer to it while using it to comment on critics, journalists, campaigning political parties, or just music consumers.

    Backstage is available for free (with ads inserted for Medley at appropriate times) and is playable directly on your browser, including mobile ones; it was reviewed on Safari on the Mac¹.

  • Finally, it is time for me to swap my French correspondent hat for my Apple devices correspondent hat to bring you the news of Factory Hiro, with art and story by KC Green. What makes this (more) relevant for Fleen is that part of that story is told as in-game comics cutscenes, in which we learn that the titular Hiro is responsible for an assembly line, the gameplay being to manually manage routing of incoming components and combination of these components to create finished products. Can you run your assembly line fast enough to make your quota in time for the end of the work day, without screwing up and loading the delivery truck with garbage?

    What does that have to do with my Apple devices correspondent hat? Factory Hiro is actually a remake of a classic 90s Mac game called Factory: The Industrial Devolution which finally makes it available on modern platforms, including tablets where its point and click — now touch — interface really shines. Make sure to give it a try.

    Factory Hiro is available on PC and Mac through Steam, and on iOS and Android through their respective app stores (I got it for 3.49€ on the French iOS App Store; pricing will depend on your region); it was reviewed on an iPad Air 2 running iOS 11.4.1.


Spam of the day:

Im Regina, im single with no kid….I am a great self-sufficient lady who has achieved a lot in her life. I am a starting swimsuit designer which is taking the time to get second education. I am studying interior design. I love working on myself, and self-improvement. I spend most of my time in the USA, and came to visit my family in ontairo states for a few months every year. My documents have been figured out. I am looking for pure love, and beautiful relationship.

Regina, I think that just maybe you’re trying a little too hard here.

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¹ FSFCPL sent along a clarification that Backstage is only available in French, but you don’t need a lot of vocabulary to successfully play it. This may or may not be a comment on the language skills of musicians.

Back In The Saddle

Wow, that was a busy week. I’ve got pretty much no idea what’s been happening in [web]comics across the last seven days (except for the news that Raina Telgemeier announced her next two books, because that got reported everywhere).

Enter the secret weapon of the beleaguered webcomics opinionmonger and any right-thinking blogger’s best friend: Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, who dropped a reminder of my impending mortality and a thoughtful piece about an (at best) unsavory happening in French comics on the same day. The former is linked in the last sentence, the latter begins below.

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Before I begin, I must mention there is a language warning for explicit sexual language in this post. Onwards …

Is it possible to be so disgusted with a creator’s behavior that you’re considering foregoing their creations entirely, even those without relationship to the matter at hand? [Editor’s note: Yes. This was definitely answered by Cerebus #186 when Dave Sim went batshit insane, and has only repeatedly doubled down on his misogyny ever since. He is one of the most creative letterers that’s ever lived, and it is impossible to separate the creator — pre-batshittery or not — from the work.]

I have recently been made aware of a new release from Bastien Vivès (who you may remember from Last Man): it is a comic book called Petit Paul which is pornographic, explicitly so even: prominent warning on the cover, in a collection called Porn’pop dedicated to pornographic content, etc. This by itself would not be cause for alarm or even disapproval in the Fleenplex — if it were, we would never have made mention of Slipshine or Smut Peddler, for instance.

The issue (and the reason I have been made aware of that work), however, is that the eponymous protagonist is depicted to be about ten years old.

Let us take aspects one at a time. First, is it actually pornographic, or is the pornography warning just a way to avoid issues down the line for the publisher; and in a related matter, can we distinguish this from pedopornography trial cases where we can’t even know whether this is innocent child nudity? We can answer both questions thanks to Actualitté, who describes the depicted acts¹: not only does the titular Paul have an enormous penis, but he is in erection for most of the book, and he is shown ejaculating on multiple occasions; moreover at some point his female teacher is inflicting a [sic] cunnilingus upon him, for the next sequence Paul’s pants are torn open under pressure from his erection. To hide Paul, only one solution: penetration. Once again without really consulting him, and later on more sexual acts, all involving little Paul.

Nevertheless, that still leaves open possibilities for defense, and some have attempted: what if this is so ludicrous that this ends up being purely parody? But the creator himself has weakened if not foreclosed on these avenues in an interview with the Huffington Post where he is quoted as stating:

Le HuffPost: So you think that comic can be arousing?

Bastien Vivès: I made do with kinks that arouse me personally. […] If it is not arousing, I hope readers will at least get a laugh out of it.

This quote, regardless of the contents of the book, is what caused general reactions of disgust; in particular, Tanx, keeping on her theme of skepticism as to whether the artist can be separated from his creation (the bubbles read: You must separate the artist from the person, erm, well, but then … along which way do you cut?), wrote a reaction to clearly state her stance, which is that she is not invoking state censorship, but rather expressing disgust as to Vivés’ attitude, and that vile ideas can and should be fought with criticism; and that such criticism, even widespread and vigorous, is not censorship. Many creators found Tanx’s words to express their position better than they themselves could.

As for me, I tend to agree with Tanx. In particular, I remained unconvinced by other defenses of Vivès: Gilles Juan for Slate, for instance, sees a double standard between the reaction to the obviously illegal sexual acts depicted there and that for other illegal acts such as murders depicted in movies and comics, for which we do not even bat an eye; but beyond the initial objections (it is much harder to shoot a sex scene without actually performing it than it is to shoot a murder scene without actually performing it, so the distance in case of a depicted sex scene is necessarily reduced by a lot), there is the major objection that, through his ambiguous attitude, Vivés is allowing vile people to gather, and potentially organize themselves, around his work.

As far as I am concerned, this is the criterion for my utter disapproval; it is not a matter of needing writing talent in order to cover “edgy” subjects (though that may help), or even a matter of this work making it more likely for pedophiles to act out on their impulses, this is a matter of making sure the work cannot realistically be (mis)interpreted as validating ideas that must not come back to the surface; and Vivès has completely failed this part of his responsibilities as a creator.

But I am willing to hear everyone’s good faith takes on the matter.

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Fleen thanks FSFCPL for spending more time on this than we would ever have asked.


Spam of the day:

20,000 Anime Fans Want to See You

Nnnnnooooope.

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¹ Which is fortunate as I sure as heck was not going to fork over any money to find out for myself.

Serial: Not Just A Great Podcast

[Editor’s note: As in the past, these panel recaps are based on notes typed during the session; all discussion is the nearest possible paraphrase, except for direct quotes which will be italicized.]

That is, there are special challenges in doing book series, and Dr Rose Brock of Sam Houston State University in Texas wanted to tease out those challenges with the help of Jenni and Matt Holm, Raina Telgemeier, and Traci Todd, head of children’s publication at Workman; the latter had invaluable insights to offer on the production end of things.

It’s a huge topic, and discussion ranged from What made you want to collaborate? (directed at the Holm siblings; Jenni’s answer: I didn’t have to pay him. Matt’s answer: The [prose] book she was working on featured an older brother who communicated with a younger sister via comics he drew, and I created those cartoons; it wasn’t published until years after the Babymouse series debuted.) to the challenges of starting new series (Jenni again: We were up against a lot of hurdles in 2000, 2001, going to publishers, children’s imprints, trying to convince them to do a comic when they didn’t have an art pipeline, they didn’t know if girls would read them, they didn’t know if bookstores and libraries would buy them.)

Sticking with Team Holm, there was discussion of collaboration (Matt: Jenni does the story in storyboard form, I’ll revise and do thumbnails and send them to Jenni, and she’ll lay them out, figure out how the comic will look. She was a video editor before an author, so it’s like that — I’m shooting raw footage, she’s editing.) and the amount of time it takes to finish a project (Matt: For a traditional graphic novel about 100 pages long, it’s about a year from start to finish, from Jenni starts writing to I turn in the last of the art. We’re almost always working on other projects at the same time. There’s a lot of back and forth. One of the things you learn on a series is you have a lot of organization, we’ve got due dates in 2020, 2021.), a topic which others had perspectives on.

Raina wishes she had a collaborator to trade off with: I write a script in thumbnail, it’s all there but really rough. It can take from a month to two years to get through that stage, especially with autobio — I look through old photos, ask friends and family if they remember specific aspects of what we went through. And then we edit my life. They’ll tell me “Well, we don’t really like the character’s motivation here and I’m like “Well….”.

For those wondering, Raina estimates Smile is about 95% true and Sisters is about 90% true, mostly because dates got changed and cousins excised to keep the story flowing. Her next book, bee tee dubs, [I]s also a memoir, it’ll be a sort of prequel to Smile, which I haven’t really announced before. Then I draw for however long and send it off to my colorist. Scholastic would like it to be a very regular process, but it can take two years, it can take five years.

Keep those production timelines in mind, because Matt noted that the first Babymouse took two years before anybody not named Holm or their editor saw it, so the work was very much in a vacuum. The later volumes, there was some expectation about how things would go, but the first was a tabula rasa. By contrast, Raina started in minicomics and webcomics, where the feedback is fairly immediate; once she started working on Smile, it would be years of working without that feedback process.

It was also a time of having to set reasonable expectations; Scholastic launched their Graphix imprint with BONE by Jeff Smith, a nine-volume epic that was done, all it needed was coloring. Some in Scholastic’s hierarchy took that to mean that any graphic novel series could be produced on a six-month cycle and Raina had to point out that no, adapting the Baby Sitters Club books would take considerably longer, and her original works longer still. It seems obvious to us, but this was a new area for the publisher at the time; as it was, she wound up doing four books on a yearly basis, which is insanely fast.

Speaking of new areas, Raina pretty much invented (as noted by Mark Siegel a couple days ago) the area of middle grade memoir (and I’ll go further and say graphic novel memoir in general), so that led to new questions: How do you determine what you’re willing to tell about your life? As Raina noted, There’s always going to be a limit of this thing will make this other person really uncomfortable. With Smile, my editors looked at the webcomic and said There are too many characters here and for a story about having no friends you have too many friends. She tried to stick as close as possible to the emotional core, and if I have to swap out who actually betrayed me, well, everybody betrays everybody in middle school.

Since editors were brought up, Brock asked Traci Todd about being an editor, and she talked it up with enthusiasm: Being an editor was not a job I realized I could have until I was an editor, so if you feel you can’t be an author or illustrator, it’s quite gratifying. Editors acquire stories they are quite passionate about; they are just as invested as the team creating the book and when you see those pieces start to fall in place, you’re all on the same page, you just know the readers are going to connect with the imagery and the text. Even better, asked her favorite series to work on, she said I haven’t had it yet. I loved the things I worked on [which to date is licensed work] but I’m still waiting for my favorite. That’s the answer of somebody profoundly committed to making the next comic the best that’s ever been.

Quick questions followed, starting with Advice to yourself as a baby creator?¹
Jenni: Don’t do four books the first year.
Matt: Yeah. Desperately try to get regular schedule, don’t stay up too late working, it’s always better to stop and come back. Self-care is huge, thank goodness I had a dog and I had to chop firewood to keep the house heated.
Jenni: It took us years to realize that every book is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and then the series is a megamarathon.
Matt: Say No more often.
Raina: Be a curious person and have interests and make friends with your fellow creators. If you’re a person who is interested in science or the outdoors or politics or society, you won’t burn out all your inspiration after six books. Don’t lock yourself in your room all the time.
Traci: Be brave. As an author I had a book I’d worked on over a decade I was too afraid to share but then I did and now it’s going to be published. Related: be open to feedback and be gracious about the feedback you receive. Anybody giving you feedback wants the best for you and wants your work to be incredible.
Matt: Talking to humans is feedback. Talking on Twitter or Facebook is torture.

What are some of your favorite books that people haven’t discovered?
Jenni: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. [all agree]
Matt: The problem is when do we have a chance to read?
RT: Sci-Fu by Yehudi Mercado. A kid DJ in Brooklyn is abducted by aliens and has to defeat them in DJ battle. Gale Galligan used to be my assistant and has taken on the Baby Sitters Club series. She’s very manga influenced, it can be so shoujo, so good.
Traci: There’s a new series I’ve heard of, about a little girl that can see a T-Rex nobody else can see, like Calvin & Hobbes. [Editor’s note: I’ve not been able to identify this series; if you recognize it, please let us know in the comments.]
Raina: The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag and its sequel, The Hidden Witch.
Jenni: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka.

Questions from the floor followed. Asked what jobs they wanted when they were kids, the panelists replied:

Jenni: Ballerina, but I got fired from the ballet when I was about four years old.
Matt: I wanted to do this, but this didn’t exist when I was a kid. I wanted to make those books of comics, the collections of daily strips that I didn’t know until I was 10 or 11 that comic strips were out every day.
Raina: I wanted to be trapeze artist, then a farmer. I knew I would wear overalls and a hat; I grew up in the city and I think the thought of having space outdoors was the most exciting thing ever. Then at nine years old I decided to be a comic strip artist. I’ve had zero career aspirations since except to be a cartoonist.
Traci: I wanted to be a writer and thought the only way was to be a journalist, so went to journalism school and hated it.

When you’re writing books and you want to put in people you know, do you have to ask permission?
Matt: Change all the names. When we did Sunny Side Up, it’s fictionalized, it didn’t happen on that timeline, we eliminated two brothers from the family.
Jenni: We changed it a lot. Babymouse, I mean I am Babymouse, he’s Wilson Weasel. Felicia the mean girl is based on a real person but we’ll never say her real name. Make her a cat and she’ll never catch on.
Raina: I wish I had talked to you guys before I started this. I use real names and I make people look like they are and my dad likes to argue with me about that’s not how that happened, that’s not the order it was in. I have both the good side and the bad side about writing about my life, mostly good.
Matt: Don’t put real people’s names in, dedicate it to them.

Are you making more Sunny books?
Jenni: Matt will start drawing the third next week, it’ll be out Fall 2019: Sunny Rolls The Dice.

How do you keep yourselves organized?
Jenni: I scribble out chapters as I go along and keep it on the wall. I use a MacGyvered storyboard; I use Scrivener in my novels, but it’s overkill in graphic novels.
Matt: For Sunny, it’s set in the summer of 1976, so I had to do a ton of visual research — cars, the airport, the clothes, it’s all a giant folder of stuff for me and for our colorist. In terms of series, as we do twenty Babymouse books, I have to go back and make sure I’m doing characters right. I’m constantly going back to my old stuff. I have PDFs of every book when I’m on the road.
Raina: The minute I’m drawing, I lose details. I have blueprints of things like a classroom from all angles, where each kid sits, I’ve been looking at that for six months. I write outlines before thumbnailing, but it gets updated pretty constantly.
Jenni: It’s fun to remember when you see something from the ’70s, like seeing Sunny in the front seat with no seatbelt.
Matt: Photo reference was shocking. I didn’t remember how many people wore plaid pants, everybody all wearing jeans, no girls in dresses …
Traci: I think that’s one of the things an editor has to watch for; I’m constantly making sure kids are wearing bike helmets, seat belts. Memoir’s one thing, but in fiction we want to make sure we aren’t setting a bad example. We have a duty and obligation to readers of the book.

I love that line — a duty and obligation to readers of the book. Readers, all of these people not only want to tell the best story they can, they want you to be the best you can be. That’s why comics (especially middle grade/YA, where so much of the best work is being done) is so great.

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¹ That is, a creator in the baby stage of their career, not somebody who makes baby humans.

The New Mainstream

There may be nobody in comics and graphic novels more able to predict where it’s headed than Mark Siegel of :01 Books, if only because of the talent that he has fostered: entire imprints are being established around :01 alumni like Gina Gagliano and Collen AF Venable. It was :01 that brought comics into the world of literary awards, it’s :01 that is the sole publisher that cuts across all age ranges (picture books, kids, middle grade, teen/YA, adult) and all topics; the only limitation is that it’s going to be a comic.

So how did we (the expansive we of the entire world o’ comics, not the royal we embodying Siegel alone) get here? I’ve got my own theories, and one of them is that a good deal of :01’s success is predicated on the fact that Siegel takes time for people; he’s never been too busy to talk to me, and if he’s not absolutely delighted to see me, he’s done a damn good job acting like it. During our quick chat before the start of his (rather under-attended) talk at SDCC, we ranged from the tragedy of Last Man getting cut for lack of sales¹ to the dangers of projecting the laptop before verifying what’s visible on the screen². Although the focus was on :01’s place in the evolution of the graphic novel, he did take about a minute to talk about his own creative work — including a quick animated clip promoing the 5 Worlds series that he co-writes; think Miyazaki crossed with Jansson and you won’t be far from the mark.

As you might expect, he talked about the milestones that :01 has been through — starting just as manga was peaking, and as the comics-buying demographic went from 85% male (mostly aging) to 65% female, American Born Chinese getting a National Book Award nomination and the Printz honor (the first comic work for both) in the first year of operation, ramping up from ~20 books a year to ~50 — but also looked at the industry as a whole:

Raina Telgemeier and Scholastic Graphix released Smile and literally started a revolution; middle grade memoir is now the single most successful category in comics. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home runs on Broadway. Nimona is found in the Library of Congress, was also nominated for the National Book Award, will be a feature film, and Noelle Stevenson is now showrunning the She-Ra reboot. This One Summer became the first book to take both the Printz and the Caldecott honors and was the most banned book of 2016³. The March trilogy took every honor under the sun, and the concluding volume won the National Book Award. Spinning is the latest runaway cross-audience hit (hello Eisner award, 2018).

It’s not coincidental that most of those who created the works cited above? Women. There is in any given :01 season a roughly 50-50 split in creators along gender lines, not because :01 is looking specifically for women, but because they’re creating the most interesting work these days, from high-brow to pulpy, young to old, ambitious to goofy, for comics and non-comics readers — by great new voices, and a worldwide talent pool as Siegel put it. The American graphic novel is now doing what Japan did in the 70s, what France did in the 80s and 90s: it’s about any topic, designed for any age, being treated as any other book would be.

The way we got here — where graphic novels form what Siegel calls The New Mainstream — was entirely dependent upon the building blocks of the past. It works like this:

(2006: The New Mainstream)
(2000: The Manga Invasion =====)
(1986: The Graphic Novel ==========)
(1970s: Indy Comics =================)
(1960s: Underground Comics ===============)
(1960: The Silver Age ========================)
(1938: The Golden Age ===========================)

It was much nicer in Siegel’s slide deck, but you get the idea; we can’t get to where we are without having had each of the previous eras. The kids that read Golden Age comics grew up to create the Silver Age. The reaction to mainstream comics and the Comics Code Authority was the genesis of Underground and the Indies, where if you wanted to make a comic you could just make it yourself. The Graphic Novel served those that had read all of the previous stages and wanted something more. The Manga era, coupled with the example of Graphic Novels brought us to the current stage, where librarians and booksellers are as important as individual readers, for a catalog that’s author-driven, not dependent on a single genre or visual style.

At the same time there’s an element not in the diagram, but which Siegel made sure to discuss: webcomics is what indies and zines used to be — a proving ground and place to develop your talent, and spans all the time frames from the birth of the Graphic Novel to today. Take a look at the milestones section above, and realize that pretty much all of those creators came up through webcomics.

But even with this historical confluence, there’s things you have to do to make it all work, and Siegel admitted there is a secret recipe:

  1. Brilliant, talented, skilled creators (he used both words, drawing a distinction I think is often lost between talent and skill)
  2. Belief in editorial care (editing is not meddling, it’s a support to good storytelling; Siegel described how :01 uses a “story trust”, where people workshop stories, with a shot of Skype call of himself, Gene Yang, and Sam Bosma, working with Vera Brosgol on Be Prepared)
  3. Bridging fields, ages, genres, nations (the creators of The Dam Keeper came from Pixar and said We only want to be in the house of Gene Yang; Scott Westerfeld, an established YA writer, got paired up with Alex Puvilland to The Spill Zone; Nidhi Chanani did illustration work before Pashmina; webcomics creators like Gigi DG, Ngozi Ukazu, and Evan Dahm are getting approached to either reprint with :01 or do new originals works)
  4. Pushing up, broadening, exploring the medium (the Science Comics will be branching to a history line and a maker line, featuring topics like knitting (!), baking, and car repair)
  5. Librarians

This is too large for a parenthetical. Librarians are champions of graphic novels, and they’ve been instrumental in giving them legitimacy. They’ve spent money, they’ve gone from a single shelf to graphic novel sections in each age-specific area in their libraries. I’ve seen the changes since the SPLAT! symposium back in 2008 (cough, largely organized by Gina Gagliano, cough), where libraries had a programming track, maybe the first time that had happened at a comics event, and where the conversations were centered on How can I justify this in my budget? These days it’s about justification, it’s about figuring out how many copies to order to satisfy the waitlist and how long they’ll last before falling apart from use.

That’s it! Simple! Just spend a bunch of time in publishing, a bunch of time in comics, a bunch of time editing, a bunch of time building up your skills and credibility, then figure out all the budgets and promotion and logistics, whether this book is going to have a print run of under 10,000 or over 100,000 … okay, not simple, but not magic either. It’s all about respect for the medium, respect for the creators, respect for the readers.

And librarians. They rock.

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¹ Right at the time of an amazing cliffhanger, too; Siegel says he was convinced that committing to six volumes would have built an audience, but alas, it wasn’t to happen. Then again, they say that Robert Kirkman’s a fan, so maybe some day we’ll get it back.

² A fair amount of my teaching is driven by presentation from my laptop, and I’ve come damn close to having confidential emails shared to my students. There was a very oblique reference to something that Siegel’s been working on nearly as long as :01’s been a company that showed for about two seconds and you’ll not hear the story from me until it’s well and truly announced, but take the lesson, kids: double check everything before screen sharing.

³ Which, Siegel notes, is great for sales because it keeps the books on the radar of buyers. For that matter, those foil stickers on the covers that say PRINTZ or CALDECOTT on them? They mean that about 80,000 librarians will order that book every two years forever. As Siegel noted later, graphic novels can have a slow burn. Unlike monthly comics having to establish high sales immediately or get cancelled (or movies depending largely on opening weekend), graphic novels can ride out a long tail.

Closing Time

Sunday is always when the madness strikes; a Sunday afternoon at SDCC inspired Dylan Meconis to create The Long Con (the first issue of which is out tomorrow). People seek to make purchases, to see that which they have not seen in the preceding days. Small secrets are revealed, like who has run out of socks, or what word you cannot use in Marvel comics, or the fact that Ryan North knows Velma¹. There are still panels to see (and to write up; I owe you four at this point), and a world to gradually reintroduce oneself to, and after teardown is complete, there is Thai food to consume.

There are small grace notes to be had, such as walking with Raina Telgemeier to see the panel on webcomics that went viral and/or memeish, and being paused so that she and Jen Wang can have a quick conversation. Pausing in the exact spot that Nichelle Nichols is passing through, seemingly unnoticed by anybody around her; she was using a wheelchair to travel a distance that would have been difficult to walk, and nobody lowered their gaze to see who was in the chair. In her presence, I found myself standing straighter and looked her in the eye and said Ms Nichols, thank you for all you did for NASA, because for about 20 years she was a one-woman whirlwind, recruiting promising women and people of color to apply to the astronaut corps (for about 20 years there, if you became and astronaut and didn’t have military flight wings, it was probably because she pushed you). She smiled and took two seconds to very graciously acknowledge and thank me, and then she was gone, whisked to her next appearance. If she means that much to me, a white guy engineer, I can only imagine what she meant to generations who didn’t have my advantages. Go safely, Ms Nichols. People have soared beyond the sky because of you.

Cosplay of the day included a gentleman who admitted he considered carrying an apple pie as part of his costume², a woman who asked if it was okay to browse the pins in front of the register and smiled when I said sure, it’s not like I’m her supervisor³, a fellow with an overly green thumb, and a damn good Meg and Hades. I also either saw a really good instance of McElroy brother cosplay, or an actual McElroy brother having a rough day. There was also a suitably hairy guy in full Zardoz getup, but I didn’t get a shot of him.

Final haul included prints (the left one here and this one) and a dinosaur pin from Scott C, an original Terry Moore pencil drawing (I love Jet and Earl), an ARC copy of Jarrett Krosoczka’s upcoming Hey, Kiddo, some pins from Eisner winner Shing Yin Khor, and some blind LEGO minifigs because why not.

More in the coming days.

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¹ I was talking with North earlier in the show when a voice called Ryan, Ryan, Ryan! and a woman cosplaying as Velma waved frantically. I didn’t know you knew Velma, I remarked. I do, apparently replied North.

He would later tell me that Velma was the first costume that particular woman had worn at SDCC, that the second was Squirrel Girl, and that, oh by the way, she was in fact Milana Vayntrub, the actress who will be portraying Squirrel Girl on TV, and that her costume was not the actual one from the show but one she made herself because she loves Doreen Green that much.

² He told me that after a panel when Neil Degrasse Tyson was being hustled away, Tyson saw him and demanded Are you dresed as Carl Sagan?, and insisted on stopping to talk to him. I showed him a photo of (a much younger) me and Tyson and added the kicker — the photo was taken by Buzz Aldrin (which Tyson asked him to do, I never would have had the nerve).

³ I thought she looked familiar but couldn’t place her until she said she hadn’t had much time to see stuff on the floor due to spending each day in a large cosplay group. You were with the McVengers! I shouted and indeed, she’d been Black Wendow. Small world.

The Long And Short Of It

So Saturday had some stuff going on, huh? The Steven Universe movie announcement (cough, cough, scoop here) caught everybody by surprise; I think there’s been more leaks from the Mueller investigation than there were around the movie news. The day started with the Eisner news from the the night before and ended with the news from the Prism Awards¹. The folks at Prism are presumably enjoyed a well-deserved sleep-in today as their website isn’t yet updated with the winners, but Andrew Farago of the Cartoon Art Museum tweeted a list of winners, which included Molly Ostertag’s The Witch Boy for Mainstream Comics and Graphic Novels, and Blue Delliquanti’s O Human Star³ for Webcomic.

In between, you had things like Scott McCloud talking about the twenty-fifth anniversary of Understanding Comics, which means there’s a significant number of significant talents in comics (say, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, who I got to catch up with, and who remains a delight) who not only don’t remember a world without Understanding Comics, they’ve never lived in a world where it didn’t exist. As you might expect, that discussion involved a lot of pictures and words and will take a while to write up². It’ll be worth it, I promise. I’m also working on a recap of the presentation given by Mark Siegel of :01 Books on how comics and graphic novels came to be what he terms The New Mainstream. Good stuff.

Oh, yes, and Shing Yin Khor now has the best challenge in comics and/or power tools history in front of her: how to disassemble an Eisner award trophy³. It was pretty easy to take apart the brick that represented the Ignatz Award for the Elements anthology and distribute the pieces to the many contributors; scroll through Khor’s Twitter and I believe you’ll find pictures of her with the sledgehammer used. But the Eisner will take some planning and possibly a Dremel. I think the coolest approach would be to take slices from the globe, leaving a Death Star II effect, but I’m certain we’ll get to see the end result soon enough.

Speaking of Khor, on the occasion of a Comics Camp mini-reunion last night, I fulfilled one of my impromptu goals for the week and captured a photo of that included both the Sawdust Bear and the Toronto Man-Mountain. The original photo is up top, but using extremely high-tech, computer, zoom in on sector 7 and enhancement, we at Fleen have extrapolated what the remainder of the scene may have looked like, which you may find here.

Cosplay included some deep cuts; the most mainstream was San from Princess Mononoke, and I also caught Assassin Bug (look him up, kids; all the *pool characters owe a narrative debt to AB), and this one pleasant fellow with a moustache (yes!) who talked to us a bit about the importance of sunscreen and left his card when he moved on. Nice guy.

Panels to keep an eye on today include:
1, 2, 3, . . . 20?! How To Create (And Survive) A Successful Graphic Novel Series with Jennifer and Matthew Holm, Raina Telgemeier, Molly Ostertag, and Dr Rose Brock of Sam Houston State University. Room 11 at 1:00.

Comics Of The Internet: The Memes, The Myths, The Legends with Matt Kolowski and Kiersten Wing from comiXology, Hope Nicholson, Megan Kearney, Nick Franco, and David Malki !. I suspect this will heavily reference the one comiXology title that got announced t’other day about webcomics gone viral. Room 29AB at 2:00pm — 3:00pm.

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¹ Which shares its name with way too many awards — in photonics, PR strategy and campaigns, Greater Boston-area building trades, medical-surgical nursing, Colorado social impact, and paranormal romance writing are just on the first page of the Google search.

² Much like McCloud describes his next book, as having to research a very long book so I can write a short book, I suspect that I will have to come up with a lot of words to condense down to a readable length. Might not happen until the flight home, but then again I’ll probably spend it catching up on sleep and my knitting.

³ Which, bee-tee-dubs, McCloud confirmed a suspicion of mine: the globe of the trophy is based on page 3 of Understanding Comics.

Superstars

There should be a picture here, but it was all blurry so, oh well.

[Editor’s note: As in the past, these panel recaps are based on notes typed during the session; all discussion is the nearest possible paraphrase, except for direct quotes which will be italicized.]

Here’s the thing about panels — lineups change. Things get in the way, or you realize that you agreed to do about three more sessions than a reasonable person could wrangle this week, and maybe you need to step back from two of them. With a good moderator, though, you’d never guess and the panel on Superstars In Children’s Graphic Novels picked up a substitute moderator who is top notch. Or maybe they just didn’t want the world to know that Raina Telgemeier would be slinging the questions, so that kids would come to see the other folks on the panel? Either way, it was a great piece of expectation-management, and a great way to ensure a smooth experience for all¹.

And a good thing, too, because kids? Kids are utterly fearless about what they love. There were two in line who their dad said were normally shy around adults, but they peppered me with questions, wanting to know what I was, why I was coming the panel for, who my favorites were, and do I know ______ ? I’m pretty sure they hit everybody on the dais for autographs and photos afterwards. Those folks (all of whom are published by Scholastic) were, in addition to Raina:

Gale Galligan (who is continuing the Baby Sitters Club graphic novels), Ian Boothby (Eisner winner and contributor to Bongo comics), Molly Ostertag (creator of my favorite book of 2017), Aron Steinke (Eisner winner and 2nd grade teacher), and Jarrett Krosoczka (author and/or illustrator of 25+ books including the Jedi Academy and Lunch Lady series). It was some star power, is what I’m saying.

Raina opened with a two-part question to the entire panel, then tended to follow up ideas with particular creators, and finished her part with a Lightning Round before moving onto Q&A. That two parter was to ask the panelists about books from their own childhoods that had an emotional impact, or made them laugh. There was a general agreement on newspaper comic strips among the panelists (IB: Peanuts, GG: Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side; JK: I’d read the comics page and pretend to understand why some were funny. Yeah, lasagna’s awesome and I hate Mondays too.; MO: I didn’t understand all of The Far Side, but I loved the absurd way that Larson would draw a cow with a face and glasses) regarding laughter, but the emotional impact books ranged all over: Ostertag loved the His Dark Materials series and remembered listening to audiobooks and sobbing w/emotion, happy to be sad. Boothby also found emotion in Peanuts, where all the kids seems to be having a rough time, it was funny but also the kid was bummed out, talked about all his problems, quoted a bible verse, and spoiled Citizen Kane. Linus would bust out a bible verse, but he worshiped the Great Pumpkin.

Krosoczka cited The Mouse And The Motorcycle in particular, and all of Beverly Cleary’s books in general (he revisited them with his daughter last year, and was relieved they still hold up). I had a hamster, always thought he could learn to ride a motorcycle, but he never did. Galligan was a huge fan of the Animorphs series, which started out about teens that can turn into animals and ends up being a story about the horrors of war and I would just sob. Steinke loved Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories series, particularly the illustrations — so creepy, they’re challenged and banned in some places. Ostertag chimed in that she loved reading those stories, but was afraid to touch the illustrations afraid they’d come off in her hand.

The second general question was why each of the authors writes for children, and what makes the audience distinctive. Boothby challenged the validity of the question, emphatic that he doesn’t write for kids. I write a story and if I put a swear word in I take it out. He asked if stories like Ratatouille, is for kids, or just all-ages safe and kids jump into the parts that they don’t quite understand yet. As kids, part of your job is to learn and you want things you don’t get; I try to write for all ages, kids are so open, will try something new. Galligan added that Diana Wynne Jones said “I like writing for kids because they’re used to figuring thing out everyday.” For adults, I have to explain it four times for them to get it.

Krosoczka countered that his writing for kids is more driven by the art than the writing — he likes to draw pictures, and books for kids have a lot of pictures. When I was 17 my high school art teacher brought in two picture books, which were beautifully illustrated, and he takes that as the start of his inspiration. Kids are so more ready to accept the reality of this crazy world you create” like having a wacky lunch lady that fights crime with stuff in the elementary cafeteria; the adults, he said, wanted to know how the Lunch Lady’s superhero gadgets worked logically, as if fighting with utensil-based nunchucks could have a logical basis. Steinke cited his love of teaching and reading literature for that age cohort, as well as the idea that stories for that age are short and he can’t see himself working to novel length.

Raina followed up to ask if Steinke’s character Mr Wolf, a 2nd grade teacher, is the character he identifies with, or it’s more the students. Answer: Mr Wolf is 95% me. Obviously, I’m not a wolf, and I don’t wear a tie. I actually got voted at one school “Most likely to dress like a student”. In previous work, Steinke had done an autobio comic strip, but as his work becomes longer in form, the short things that he did as autobio don’t apply as much. But he allows that a lot of things that happen in his books happened to him as a child.

The next question was to Krosoczka whose latest book (Hey, Kiddo), which is pure memoir; it’s a raw story, about growing up with alcoholic grandparents because your mom’s an opioid addict. It means writing for older readers, a switch from the wacky stuff, and getting to spend time loved ones. But there were days when he didn’t want to write or draw another page, comparing it to Harry Potter writing lines that scarred his hand (Right there with you, Jarrett. I feel like we need a support group)

Ostertag was asked about revisiting her characters for a sequel, and how it felt to return to their story. She replied that it gave her the opportunity to let the characters grow, to do more with those that didn’t get enough time in the first book. Characters are seen in discrete moments, but with a sequel or series, those moments all happen at different stages of their lives. Also, I realized I never gave Aster a last name.

The next question went to Boothby, about Sparks, which is dedicated to the real Charlie and August. Do you really have two cats that fight crime in a dog suit? Boothby claims yes — Charlie is very much a dog, comes when called, plays and acts like a dog. August was always a rebel who kept to herself; she was a feral cat rescued from a house fire, very afraid, spent a lot of time under the bed. He dodged the bit about whether or not the brave cat and the scaredy cat actually have a robotic dog suit for crime fighting, but we all got the impression they do. Ostertag observed that she loves basing characterss on pets because they’ve got simpler personalities and when you say this character is based on my cat, my cat won’t get mad at me.

A general question was posed about the differences between licensed and original work, or writing characters you didn’t create. Galligan said the big challenge is that the base level of expectation and trust is different. Nobody can tell me I’ve got the wrong take on characters I invented. Boothby noted the advantages of writing Simpsons comics because everybody reads along in Homer’s voice and they know exactly what to expect from the character. The flip side is that the show is really funny, so you have to create to the same level.

Ostertag’s licensed work hasn’t released yet, but she appreciates getting the room to shape the world in her own stories that she doesn’t have when playing with somebody else’s toys. Krosoczka enjoys the freedom of the Jedi Academy series because they’re not canon; somebody decided in the made-up world of Star Wars, some things are real, and his stuff isn’t. I get to draw and write lines for Yoda which is amazing, but all the others are characters I get to invent. I made a droid that’s on Wookieepedia now!

Galligan got the last of the directed questions, asking about how her relationship with the BSC books changed since she read them herself as a young person. Galligan said the biggest change was she read them originally from the POV of the kid characters, but now that I’m older and grumpier and have paid a bill, she relates to all the chars more wholly, but still has fond memories from childhood. Raina noted that her run on BSC was her only adapted work, and found the process required throwing yourself into somebody else’s head (in this case, Ann M Martin, not a fictional character).

And with that, it was time for the Lightning Round.
Hardest thing to draw!
Krosoczka: Cars.
Steinke: Bikes
Ostertag: Crowds.
Boothby: Horses. Horses driving cars.

Favorite junk food!
Galligan: Shrimp chips.
Boothby: Oreo Double-Stuf, but you take two and make it a Quad-Stuf.
Ostertag: Wonder Bread that you toast and smother in too much butter and cinnamon and have ten of them for breakfast.
Steinke: I use to make this Bisquick dough and other stuff in a bowl in the micro, called it bowl pizza.
Krosoczka: I used to make bread balls, little balls of mushed up Wonder Bread.

Comic character you most want to walk the SDCC floor with!
Krosoczka: Lunch Lady! No, someone dressed as me!
Steinke: Spider-Man.
Ostertag: The flying carpet from Aladdin.
Boothby: Ant Man, so he can shrink all the stuff you buy so it’s easier to carry around. Also, Dr Strange? His cape is basically that carpet from Aladdin.
Galligan: The Flash, so you get Point A, Point B, done.

Most memorable fan interaction!
Galligan: The kind of kid that hands you a book and it’s clearly very lovingly read through.
Boothby: Kids that read in the line, but don’t want to talk to me because they want to keep reading, and I take the book and it’s annoying to them because I sign and draw so they can’t read it during that time. Then they plunk down to keep reading.
Ostertag: There’s a camp in the Bay Area that studies The Witch Boy as part of their curriculum.
Steinke: I met a girl that was going to see the new Jurassic Park movie but started reading my book and came to see me instead.
Krosoczka: In the Fall of 2002, I was just getting started and had a signing at bookstore with nobody there. This kid comes up and slowly reaches up towards me, towards my face, then reached past me to pull Captain Underpants books of the shelf by my head.

Recommend one comic for young readers!
Krosoczka: The Witch Boy!
Ostertag: That’s cheating!
Galligan: Awkward and Brave by Svetlana Chmakova.
Boothby: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol.
Steinke: You stole mine.
Ostertag: The adaptation of Speak by Emily Carroll. It’s not for kids, it’s older.
Raina: Yotsuba.

Q&A time²! From a kid: What job would you do if you were not an author?
Steinke: I’m a teacher. I’d still be drawing no matter what.
Ostertag: Maybe a chef.
Raina: I’d want to produce you on Food TV.
Boothby: Improv.
Krosoczka: Teaching.
Gale: Working in an office, I’m good with Excel.

At what stage of the creative process do you figure out the audience — will this be for kids, YA, does it develop as you do the story?
Ostertag: When I made The Witch Boy, I thought it would be YA (12+), but my editor determined it was actually a Middle Grade book (8+). They have criteria, and the fact that it’s family oriented and has no romance makes it MG. She suggested aging down the chars a little.
Steinke: It’s important to share the story, don’t keep it to yourself, your friends and family will give the feedback, they’ll tell you where the book goes.

From a kid: What’s your favorite character in one of your books?
Galligan: Claudia. I get to go wild with clothes and style.
Boothby: The narrator of Sparks is a talking litter box, a fancy butler you poop in.
Ostertag: Charlie is not like me, and she’s fun to draw because she’s always making big gestures.
Steinke: Randy is a cat, wears cowboy boots, has a funny personality, and dominates the room.
Krosoczka: My newest book is autobio, so my favorite is my grandmother who cursed like a truck driver who used to be a sailor and smoked two packs a day.

The last question, from a kid, was the old standard about where you get your ideas, but Boothby came up with both a unique answer I’d never heard before, and one that a kid would appreciate: Look at an animal and ask what it would never do, then find a way to make it do that. Well done, Ian Boothby.

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¹ Also well done: the panel room for this session did a great job of scheduling topics that would not necessarily have audience overlap from one to the next, ensuring a good turnover of seats. Not many people hung around after an academic look at Mary Shelley’s work, and not many children’s graphic novel fans stuck around to see Shannon Wheeler talk about Too Much Coffee Man.

² It took some time to get some questions; as I noted, multiple kids in the room had their noses buried in books and didn’t look like they wanted to be interrupted. Awesome.

Ramping Up

If Thursday had one thing that everybody seemed to agree on, it was that the day was pretty steady. No huge swells, no long dead periods, nothing crazy. Pretty calm so far, hope it stays like this a security guy in the vicinity of Hall H told me. Nice and easy today a facilities worker by the food trucks said. The view from the booth even had the omnipresent line for Snoopy exclusives in a reasonbly-wrangled state¹ (as opposed to Preview Night, when multiple attendees tried to scam an alternate line when the real one got capped, and security came as close to yanking badges as I’ve ever seen).

I mean, that’s weird, right? I’ve never heard of such a thing; the closest equivalent I can think of was the fire marshals stopping people from entering the first New York Comic Con due to overcrowding. But it wasn’t the weirdest thing of the day.

The weirdest thing of the day was a guy in a head-to-toe Spider-Man suit with a single zipper that ran up the back and ended between his shoulder blades. I watched him walk into the men’s room, approach a urinal, and then just stop, trying to figure out his next move. I hope every superhero — especially the ones with armor and pouches and everything — has thought ahead to what happens when they need to take a leak when they designed their costume. As I left Spidey wondering how he was going to take care of bidness, I passed a guy who appeared to be changing into costume, pulling stuff out of a large shopping bag. He appeared to be going to He-Man, as he already had a furry, diaperesque pair of underpants on. You don’t get photos of those dudes because come on, it was the bathroom.

Cosplay started in earnest; early in the day I met an authentically great Squirrel Girl and got her photo; I asked if she’d been to see Ryan North yet and her face lit up — He’s here? I walked her over to the TopatoCo booth and watched the magic happen. Surprisingly, I only saw one King T’Challa, but he exuded great dignity. Less surprisingly, I also only saw one person try to channel Inner Goldbluminity to play The Grandmaster, with a suitably why do I put up with this crap looking companion as Topaz. The best cosplay was probably that of Pepper, a chihuahua who did an amazing job cosplaying as a greyhound².

The day ended improbably, at the top of the Marriott Gaslamp, looking down on Petco Park, at a party sponsored by Webtoon; I ran into Jamie Noguchi and we chatted a bit about Danielle Corsetto³ (we wished she was there), the potential return of Yellow Peril (gotta balance the paying jobs, some of which are ridiculous), our dislike of companies running “contests” for talent searches (as we accepted offers from the plates of sliders and other foods being passed), and how there’s a great comic to be made about the gig economy (which is pretty damn close to both freelancing — the subject of Yellow Peril — and webcomics). We also played who’s actually in comics and who’s invited because they’re very, very pretty and make the party sexier and determined the giveaway was the shoes. Strappy, shiny, elevated shoes that cost as much as 100 Copic markers? Not in comics.

Panels to attend today include:
The Power Of Nonfiction Graphic Novels with Thi Bui, Alex Irvine, Clifford Johnson, Peter Tomasi, Travis Langley, and Abby Howard (who I met yesterday and she’s delightful). Room 32AB at 10:00.

Graphic Novels: From Eisner To Explosion!, which overlaps, but which features Scott McCloud, Jeff Smith, Emil Ferris, and Paul Levitz. Room 24ABC at 10:30.

Autobiography In Graphic Novels with Raina Telgemeier, Jarrett J Krosoczka, and Tillie Walden; coincidentally, I saw all three of these folks on panels yesterday, and they’re great. Lots of writeups to do, may take a while to get them posted. Shiley Special Events Suite, San Diego Central Library at 3:00.

LGBTQ Graphic Novels with Aminder Dhaliwal, Molly Ostertag, and Ivy Noelle Weir. Shiley Special Events Suite, San Diego Central Library at 4:00.

Handling Challenges: Bans And Challenges To Comics with Gina Gagliano, Judd Winick, Charles Kochman, Candice Mack, and David Saylor. Shiley Special Events Suite, San Diego Central Library at 5:00.

I’ve got about 3500 words of rush transcripts from yesterday’s panels to edit down, so look for those sometime today, as time permits.

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¹ There is an exception to every rule; I heard one toy-related merch booth a few dozen aisles to the south managed its exclusives so poorly, creating uncontrollable crowd hazards, and was shut down for the day by the showrunners. That’s gotta put a dent in your budget.

² Okay, okay, she was a real greyhound, but a small one. And she was a good girl.

³ Whose new comic, Boo! It’s Sex, is on Webtoon, so it all ties together.