The webcomics blog about webcomics

Gamecomics? Comicgames!

Tie-ins, at the very least. Let’s see what’s up.

  • There have been numerous adaptations of Girl Genius (by Professor and Professoressa Foglio) into other media over the years — novelizations, radio dramas, card games — and they’ve expanded to a new frontier now with vidyagames. Girl Genius: Adventures In Castle Heterodyne takes its inspiration from the Castle Heterodyne mega-arc (running roughly from here to here, or about six years of comics), which gives a whole lotta room to play.

    The game itself is made by Rain Games of Norway, who appear to have a track record making games of this sort, but not crowdfunding — this is their first Kickstarter campaign. Goal is set at a reasonable US$200K, but they’ve got stretch goals reaching improbably as high as one million dollars which … I don’t think I’ve ever seen stretch goals go as high as five times base funding and actually be met.

    There’s a huge ask, so the FFF mk2 may not work so well — the trend held really steady for the first couple of days then dropped hard, giving a prediction of about US$135K-200K, which puts goal at the upper end of the range. The McDonald Ratio is predicting about US$150K total, which is worrisomely low.

    Again, this isn’t the sort of project that the predictions were trained on, so we’ll have to see, but with 6 days down and 24 to go, the project sits at 31% of goal at present, and video games are both notoriously expensive, and have a tendency to run over both time and budget. We’ll have to see.

  • By contrast, paper-based games are quicker and cheaper to develop, and oftentimes the creator of a comic is deep into a particular game, which helps. Enter: Jim Zub, who’s already got a dedicated Skullkickers“>Skullkickers tabletop game in development, but who also decided to mark the 10th anniversary of the comic by releasing the first new Skullkickers story in five years inside a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure book.

    Skullkickers: Caster Bastards And The Great Grotesque¹ will feature a 30 page story and 60 page adventure campaign, featuring new spells, game mechanics, magic items, and monsters, adaptable to whatever game you’re currently playing.

    As I may have mentioned previously, I haven’t played D&D since it was called Advanced D&D waaaay back in my college days — before 2nd edition was a thing — and I’m heartily tempted to get this because a) Skullkickers is hilarious, and b) the love that’s pouring out of the game portion of this book is apparent even through the distance of the internet.

    Zub’s been writing official D&D comics for a couple a’ years now, and went so far as to shave his head to better get into character for a live game last year. He’s mentioned multiple times that his course in life was irretrievably set from discovering D&D at the age of 8, so when he tells me that he’s picked out some top-notch game designers to make the playable part of this as good as it can be? It’s gonna be good.

    And, as an added incentive, the crowdfunding/fulfillment parts are being run by George, who mentioned casually he is approaching his 100th crowdfunding project managed, so I think he just might have a handle on how to keep everybody on track. Just a hunch. It’s a little early to apply the FFF mk2 math, but somewhere around a day in, they’re at 64% of the CA$22.3K (or US$16,843) goal with 23 days to go, so I think this one’s gonna fund. In case you were wondering, only one of the top tier reward (where, among other things, you appear as a wizard character in Caster Bastards) remains as of this writing.

Spam of the day:

Hello! I saw you the other day and I really liked you. I live in a neighboring yard, alone) let’s meet at my place?

This town’s ordinances don’t even allow dogs to live in yards, they have to have access to the house. Besides, I know my neighbors and none of them speak Russian like you do.

¹ I’m sure the similarity of that title to Hamster Huey And The Gooey Kablooie is mere coincidence.

SDCC@Home Thursday Panels Report

Excellent job with the product placement.

Web Comics: Saving the Entertainment Industy [sic], Four Panels at a TIme[sic]
So when I did the programming guide t’other day I typed in the session titles manually; I didn’t notice until just now when I got lazy and copy/pasted that the title of this session features two separate typos. Let’s just hope that this isn’t a metaphor for the panel itself.

[fires up the session]

Welp, that was … a thing. It’s a mere 26 minutes and 38 seconds long, starting out with the moderator reading the panel description verbatim before mentioning four-panel webcomics, not acknowledging anything else about the medium, presenting a thesis of OMG did you know there are comic strips on teh intarnetz??!! I made it to the 3:16 mark when the moderator told one webcomickers People weren’t coming within six feet of you even before [COVID] hit.

Sorry, but Ha ha, laugh chuckles, you’re a reclusive loser and people hate you is pure douchebaggery and not something I’m spending any brain on. I’d say that it’s a shame this panel wasn’t in person because the message of closing my notebook, putting away my pen, and standing up in the front row (where I typically do my panel reporting from) and leaving less than three and a half minutes into a session would have sent a message, but honestly? I only checked this one out because I didn’t have to walk across the convention center. The description was not promising and it was sadly accurate.

Shaenon Garrity In Conversation With Andrew Farago
Now that’s more like it. Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum, went above and beyond in preparing for conducting a Special Guest Spotlight interview with Shaenon Garrity — he’s spent every day of quarantine living with his subject, which makes sense given that they’ve been a couple forever. It provided an advantage that most every other session won’t have, in that it’s not a thing for Garrity and Farago to sit next to each other on the couch and have a face-to-face conversation¹.

And despite the fact that there’s literally nothing Farago wouldn’t know about Garrity’s work and career², he’s a skilled enough interviewer to ask the questions that prompt answers that will both satisfy Garrity’s longtime fans and also people not really familiar with her work. The conversation ranged from the challenges of monetization — what happens when your bandwidth costs exceed what you make from ad revenues? — to the shift from webcomics portals and collectives to scrapping for eyeballs on social media giants of today.

Garrity’s known and worked with so many people over her career, people that have gone on to be key contributors everywhere from King Features to :01 Books that Farago remarked that comics only exists today because of her and Joey Manley; while Garrity put most of the credit towards Manley, I would note that this page has for years noted that Garrity is a Nexus Of All Webcomics Realities³ (and Tiki Queen of the Greater Bay Area). She sits at the center of so many people, who connect other people, who connect other people. If you have anything to do with comics, you’ve probably got as many different connecting paths to Garrity as Kevin Bacon has to … let’s say Kermit The Frog4, 5.

All in all, Garrity and Farago offer the superior choice if you’re looking for a webcomics-focused discussion, as I don’t see any others on the schedule until you get to the Keenspot panel on Sunday, and even that appears to be more about how one of Bobby Crosby’s stories got picked up and adapted to a movie that may or may not ever happen what with everything going on.

Back with more tomorrow.

Spam of the day:

Are you tired of struggling to get Instagram followers and engagement?

As I do not, have never, and never will have a Facebook/Instagram account, I’ma say the answer to that one is no.

¹ Or, more properly, both half-facing each other but mostly facing the camera.

² Literally within two minutes of talking about her post-college cartooning start, Garrity talked about how webcomics circa 2000 were unique in that they might be inspired by comic strips, but would feature long plotlines and story arcs that would never fly in newspapers, which put her several million up on the guy in the earlier, allegedly webcomics-centric session.

³ The others being Ryan North and George.

4 Although the Bacon Oracle should list Mr The Frog’s Bacon number as 2 — there are a whole bunch of people in The Muppet Movie with Bacon numbers of 1, such as Charles Durning, Steve Martin, Elliott Gould, Austin Pendleton, and Bruce Kirby.

5 Which puts me in mind of the Erdős-Bacon number, whereby a small number of scientists and actors have connections to both Kevin Bacon and prolific mathematician Paul Erdős. I’m guessing there’s some number of cartoonists that can site their connections to both Bacon and Garrity, but if there’s a chain from Garrity to Harvey Pekar you won’t need two separate connections, as Pekar had a Bacon number of 2.

Looks Like It’s Time To Formalize A New Standard In The Fleen Manual Of Style

Bet you didn’t know I had one of those, did you? Granted, it’s mostly in my head, but it determines things like when to go to an aside in em-dashes — like this one — and when it’s time for a parenthetical (I’m big on those), not to mention the absolute necessity of Oxford commas. Footnotes speak for themselves¹. Semicolons are our friend; we have a habit of using italics for both emphasis and direct quotes³, with only the direst of emphases elevated to bold face, bold italics, or larger text sizes. Oh, and print comic names are also italicized; webcomic names are not. Title text always capitalizes articles and other “minor” words, unless there’s a specific artistic reason not to.

Creators are referred to by full name on first usage, and by family name thereafter, unless it’s getting tedious and switching it up will make the flow better. There are exceptions to this policy, persons that are referred to primarily by first name because they earned it — George and Raina come to mind — but even this has limits. Ryan North is The Toronto Man-Mountain. Shaenon Garrity is Tiki Queen Of The Greater Bay Area. Jon Rosenberg is my co-birthdayist, and Howard Tayler my evil twin. Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett knows what he did.

It is actually naming that brings us here today, and a situation that has actually occurred before, but which has now become prominent enough to warrant formalization. Namely, what to do with persons who change their pronouns, gender, or name?

I mean, obviously we at Fleen honor that because we’re not monsters. I’m talking about past references to before the announced change (or the time when we at Fleen became aware of the change, as oft-times people don’t tell everybody in the world simultaneously). I thought about instituting a policy of going back through the archives to make the change everywhere I could find it, and ultimately decided against it. Not because — as has been noted on numerous occasions over the past forever — I am a lazy, lazy man. I actually have a good reason to do thing that requires less effort this time.

It’s because this page forms a part of the historical record, and knowing that people can — and have — changed their pronouns, gender, or name is important to remember. If somebody were to bring to my attention that they had recently decided to share one of those changes with the world, and would I mind editing a post that went up today, I’m not adverse to that. But I won’t go back five or ten years to a post that far predates and change it, mostly because it would inevitably lead to a scrambled record, some under one identity and others under a different one, interleaved in time. I will of course not deadname anybody, and endeavour to note when linking back into the archives that at the time, the person referenced was known differently.

All of which is to say, by 20142015, Real Life had gotten increasingly sporadic, and then it went away for a couple of years. 20182019 kept a fairly regular schedule until partway through the year. Things resumed this month and continued from where it left off, wrapping up a storyline last Friday.

And today, everything changed. Or, more precisely, today everything in the strip Real Life is starting to catch up with actual Real Life:

Well, it’s live. So, it’s official: I’m out.

Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Mae, the creator and cartoonist for Real Life Comics, which I started back in 1999 when I was just 18.

Over the next 3 weeks, I’ve got a storyline running about my journey.


Welcome to the world of webcomics creators, Maelyn Dean; we’re glad to meet you. I have a feeling that somewhere in this storyline, Cartoon Greg (as he still is) will be leaning out of the last panel to edit that copyright credit and embark on a very different, and hopefully far more joyous life.

Spam of the day:

Hidden technology leaks from NASA

One of the most significant things about NASA is that they literally document and release everything. Once data comes into their possession, they have a ridiculously short number of hours before they have to release it, or their Public Information Officers get fired and/or pulled up in front of Congressional committees. There was a whole sub-plot in The Martian about it. So fuck on outta here with this bullshit.

¹ Namely, whenever there’s a long enough explainer that it would break the flow of the paragraph(s) in the body text, were it to be included there. Or just for a joke, particularly one involving Brad Guigar². And footnotes themselves go inside the punctuation at the end of a clause or sentence.

² He’s dreamy.

³ The distinction between which should be self-evident in the text.

Apropos Of Nothing …

… but I need to mention again that Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan are a godsdamned delight and I don’t know anybody else that could start a comic with anxiety over the looming menace of COVID-19 and immediately transition to butt toys. Read their comic and buy their books, you cowards.

In other, non-buttcentric news:

It’s been a while since we talked about folks that don’t do webcomics, but who do do independent creations on the internet, and it’s time the reset the counter. The Doubleclicks (siblings Aubrey Turner and Laser Malena-Webber) make wonderfully nerdy music and Kickstart equally wonderful projects. When not Kickstarting, they still make nerdy projects to keep in touch with their audience and they’ve got a doozy on both the wonderful and nerdy scales for the Isolation Times:

We made a new music video. Together! In one place!

For our song DIMETRODON. From a thousand miles away — we went to a museum, danced in a square … all in the video game Animal Crossing.

It was a ton of fun. And we are debuting it RIGHT NOW!!!

Now, on the off chance you’re not familiar with Dimetrodon, understand that the original music video for the song was pretty damn amazing, so there are some big, clawfooted shoes to fill here, but the new one does just great. But yeah, buncha folks have made cute videos in Animal Crossing, so is there more?

Oh, but of course there is:

Speaking of Animal Crossing… our incredible friend Jules just opened up a queer bookshop and cafe inside this video game (WILD) and invited us to do a concert there.

So on THURSDAY — at 3pm Pacific/6pm Eastern — we are performing live, inside Animal Crossing, and streaming it on YouTube — with our friend Molly Lewis! The whole thing is free to watch, and we’ll be encouraging donations to a charity that supports trans folx in financial need.

The concert will be here, and I remind you of a crucial piece of math: anything involving Molly Lewis is automatically 38% cooler than it would be ordinarily.

Are we done yet? Not yet, Sparky:

PPS — if you play Animal Crossing and have reliable internet, you can be maybe in the studio audience for our show! reply to this email and let me know if you’re interested!!

I’m not gonna share that email address, as it goes to those that have subscribed to Doubleclick emails (via purchases, Kickstart backing, or merely signing up) and it wouldn’t be right for those folks to maybe get crowded out. Guess you should sign up in advance of the next cool thing that they do, huh?

Finally, I would like you to know one more thing:

You may know that Laser is a Kickstarter coach. We wanted to let you know that they made a FOURTEEN WEEK How-To-Crowdfund class and they’re launching it RIGHT NOW!

Here are three pieces of information.

  1. Laser has raised $1 million for independent artists, consulted for folks including Jonathan Coulton and the Presidents of the United States of America, and worked on book, music, game, and film projects.
  2. Crowdfunding pledges are NOT GOING DOWN during this time — and crowdfunding is just the goshdarn best way to get your art made and connect with your audience. (half of that is opinion, but it is TRUE OPINION).
  3. You can get 50% off (yeah, that’s half) of Laser’s step-by-step audience-building and crowdfunding class until May 31, because you are a doubleclicks email list person. the code is THANKYOU

Okay, that’s a separate email, but it seemed like at least some of you might benefit from it; unlike the first communication, this one explicitly included permission to share the discount code, so go nuts. Laser’s super smart and you can only get better at your next crowdfunding unless you’re like, George or Spike¹.

Spam of the day:

Hey – I’m working with a company that is looking for sites that have content relating to clothing and I came across yours. Any chance you’d be open to hearing about a way you could link to a merchant and make money in the case someone clicks on the link and purchases something?

Is that a dig at webcomics creators being nothing but t-shirt sellers? You’re about a dozen years late with that shit, Rob A if that is your name.

¹ All the best crowdfunders have single names.

Postcard From The Edge (Of The Continent)

There’s nothing like getting an unexpected letter to raise your spirits¹. During the Alaska Robotics Camp @ Home event at the end of April, I hosted a session of the ever-popular Talk About Whatever You Want For Five Minutes; there were quick presentations on Mastodon, food manga, English paper piecing, marble sports, and more. I led off with a quick five minutes on cocktail making², mixing along as I spoke into Zoom, then enjoying the fruits of my labors for the rest of the hour.

Lee Post was watching. Something you need to know about Post is that he sketchnotes, much like fellow Camp alum Jason Alderman. He mentioned he enjoyed my talk, and then I got a Post-card (I’m so sorry) in the mail yesterday with six panel version of my five minute talk and I am in a good mood as a result. Let’s see what’s going on in the world today, if we can’t maybe elevate your mood as well.

  • I almost picked a different image for the top of the post today, because how could I not love Erika Moen talking about ordering a Small, Flat 7-Up, No Ice, Two Inches High, for $19? [CW: boobs] She regrets nothing, and she’s gonna write it off on her taxes because she is a boss. Also, she is a woman who not only owns an axe, but will use it if necessary to stop the beeping of her hideous CO detector. [CW: dying appliance battery and ensuing madness]
  • Now live: Ru Xu’s Saint For Rent, Volume 1 Kickstarter. We’re about a day in and about 25% of the way to goal, which bodes well; there was a contraction of Kickstarter spending for a bit there (not the least evidence being the layoffs at Kickstarter; thankfully their union negotiated one hell of a decent severance package), but I think we’re going to see a bit of a bounce-back, particularly for projects that result in a tangible reward (i.e.: a book, whether print or PDF) at a reasonable pledge level (i.e.: US$25 or under).

    Note that Xu³ has done something very smart, given the determination of Screamy Orange Racist Grandpa to kill the USPS — the pledge levels for physical rewards are only for the items; shipping will be calculated later, closer to actual dispatch time. Given that postal rates may be all over the place or we as a nation will be in an Unconstitutional, postal service-less state, this is the only way to guarantee not taking a bath and losing money hand over fist with a successful campaign.

  • Hey, remember Pizza Island, the studio of amazing cartoonists in Brooklyn? Where you could find in one room Meredith Gran, Julia Wertz, Kate Beaton, Domitille Collardey, Lisa Hanawalt, and Sarah Glidden? They closed up shop near a decade ago, and have gone on to do amazing work. Of late, they’ve halfway gotten the band back together, starting up a WordPress blog under the PI name and letting us know what they’re up to — Gran, Wertz, Beaton, Collardy, Hanawalt, and Glidden are all listed as participating, along with Karen Sneider. As Beaton says, it’s been a heck of eight years
  • Hey, did you know that VanCAF is running online programs this week, in conjunction with TCAF, Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival (aka DCAF), Festival DB de Montréal (aka MCAF), and Quebec BD under the collective identity of #CanCAF? It’s true! Yesterday there were interviews with Gene Luen Yang, Sloane Leong, Leslie Hung, and Matt Fraction, today there are YouTube sessions with Karensac, Aron Steinke, Steenz, and more.

    Rest of the week will see podcasts, demos, and conversations with everybody from Michael DeForge to Junko Mizuno. Of particular interest are the Publishing Comics With Kickstarter panel (YouTube, 16 May 11:00am presumably PDT) with Jeff Ellis, Lucy Bellwood, Hannako Lambert, and Haley Boros, and the Webcomics panel (also YouTube, 17 May at 3:00pm pPDT) with Alina Pete, Kory Bing, Sam Logan, Angela Melick, and Jephy McJacquesface. Check out the programming page, and keep an eye on the hashtag to see what else the Canadian CAFs have in store for us.

Spam of the day:

1 Bathroom Trick That Kills Diabetes

No, no, that’s not how it works. Bathroom tricks are always about how to clean grime and soap scum out of tile grout, not diabetes. Get with the program.

¹ In a minute, you’ll be mad at me for that pun.

² I called it Three Drinks In Five Minutes and based it around the idea you need to balance the key flavor components: sweet, sour, and bitter, with your preferred booze in the center. I started from the classic Negroni (1:1:1 gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari), noting that you could sub in other liquors (bourbon makes it a Boulevardier; applejack makes in an Avenue A) or liqueurs (Aperol is distinct from Campari) for a wide variety.

Then I introduced the idea of adding one part citrus (lime would do well if it were gin based, especially if you changed the Campari to something like Suze), and finally kicked it up another notch by mentioning egg whites. Three master recipes, and I got to call James Bond an idiot for insisting on martinis being shaken. It was fun times.

³ Or possibly George, who manages Xu’s business. Smart guy about the Kickstarts, that George.

Of Course She Is

So I trust that you’ve seen that Heidi Mac over The Beat way has combined the responses from her people-in-comics survey (cf: yesterday) to determine the most important industry people of the year (Dav Pilkey and Tom Spurgeon), and also the most significant person of the past decade.

If you read through the survey, there’s no doubt as to the consensus: it’s Raina¹, and who among us can disagree?

Well, technically I did. I’ve marked down Raina as the most important person in comics in pretty much every one of The Beat’s surveys since I’ve been invited to participate, and anybody that’s been reading this page for a hot minute knows that I don’t ever shut up about her central importance to the industry. So what was I thinking? Allow me to quote myself:

Uncharacteristically, I’m not going to say Raina/SMILE, because the past decade in comics nearly completely coincides with the work done by Mark Siegel and the people he’s nurtured at First Second.

It’s because I took a view of the entire system of comics. Raina is key, she kicked off an explosion of new readers, and there will be untold new creators of comics — new Rainas if you will — from her fanbase. But because of Mark Siegel, those new Rainas will have publishers, plural, to partner with. Siegel not only oversaw the creation of :01 Books into a powerhouse publisher, he has seen members of his team go on to found other imprints at other publishers. There’s a view of comics that he has (quoting again):

[H]ow broad comics can be — everything from board books to treatises on immigration policy — is now de facto editorial policy across the publishing industry.

Raina is the superstar that was necessary to jumpstart an industry out of doldrums. Siegel built the infrastructure that ensures Raina isn’t a one-off. If you’ll allow me to indulge in a sports metaphor — something I probably wouldn’t have ever done had I not gotten to talk to Gene Yang² about his process of discovering a love of basketball — no superstar can play the game solo. There’s an ongoing infrastructure of coaching, finding talent and developing them, building a team that ebbs and flows and spreads its influence and enables that superstar to be the best ever.

So: Raina is Megan Rapinoe, Siegel is the entire structure of women’s soccer, from college up to the pros, only without being institutionally exploitative and sexist. Shit, this probably would have worked better as LeBron/the NBA, but I really like Rapinoe.

One last quote, promise:

Literary awards, widespread adoption by libraries, growing acceptance in classrooms, the explosion of nonfiction and educational comics, creators headlining book festivals, new title announcement exclusives in major newspapers and magazines, the odd genius grant or ambassadorship — all of these would have happened without First Second, but they happened a hell of a lot sooner with First Second.

And that’s why I broke with my own precedent, despite the fact that Raina is a dear friend of mine and an absolute marvel of a human being, and coincidentally why I don’t mind in the least that I was far, far outvoted. We need the superstars and the league both, but one is too large and diffuse for us to properly appreciate all it does.

And on that note, let me point out that we are two weeks away from the release of the first title from Gina Gagliano’s Random House Graphic, The Runaway Princess, which is going to be the start of a damn interesting 2020. Forward to the new decade.

Spam of the day:

I made a screenshot of adult sites on which you’re having fun (you know what this is, right?). After that I made screenshots as you quite unusual satisfy themselves (using your device’s camera) and glue them.

Would that be the camera that I don’t have (desktop), or the camera that has a physical shutter across it (laptop)? Also, since you only gave me 48 hours from the reading of your email threat to send you five hundo in bitcoins and that was back on 19 Dec, can I assume all my friends and family have now been sent completely black pictures that I’m supposed to be embarrassed about?

¹ The Fleen Style Guide states that a full name should be used on first reference, followed by family name only on subsequent references, unless the presence of duplicated family names would cause confusion. Exceptions exist for longtime established nicknames, and for the two persons who are known on this page solely by mononyms: Raina and George.

² Do I need to say that Yang’s past decade is inextricably linked with Siegel’s?

Miscellaneous Miscellany

Well, goodness, a whole bunch of stuff has occurred since last we spoke. Let’s look at just a few things, ‘kay?

  • This past Saturday saw the Harvey Awards handed out at New York Comic Con; you may recall that this year’s nomination slate was really very strong. While the official page hasn’t updated with the winners list yet, you can find the laureates around the web, say at Newsarama.

    The three categories that I was most invested in — the three categories where there really couldn’t be a bad choice to receive the statue — were Book Of The Year (Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J Krosoczka), Digital Book Of The Year (Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu), and Best Children’s Or Young Adult Book¹ (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell). The last of them, particularly, is going to run out of room on the cover for stickers proclaiming the Harvey and Ignatz wins, especially if it’s keeping some space for next year’s Eisners.

  • Saturday was also 24 Hour Comic Day, and while there are literally too many excellent works to point out, I would be remiss if I didn’t share a modern fairy tale by Melanie Gillman. A young woman feleing unloved in an arranged betrothal finds herself beseeching the Goddess Of Mishaps for help, and it’s damn near perfect.
  • Heidi Mac spent the morning at the ICv2 2019 Conference, held adjacent to NYCCC. You can find her livetweets via this search, but the one you want to pay attention to is this:

    The slide that shocked ComicsPRO showing size of manga and kids genres.
    #nycc2019 #icv22019 #nycc

    In case you don’t feel like zooming in, more than two-thirds of all comics sold fell into one of two categories: Juvenile Fiction (41%, think Raina and similar) and Manga (28%). Superheros were the third-largest market category, but they account for one comic sold out of every ten. This is why C Spike Trotman has been most vocal about the YA offerings from Iron Circus.

  • Finally, especially for those that perhaps over-indulged in 24HrCD or maybe are pushing it too hard for Inktober? Stretch.

Spam of the day:

15 Military Discounts Only Available To Those That Served Our Country

While it is true that I have, probably in the depths of the US Army Cadet Command at Fort Knox, a form 139-R from 1985 (enrolling me in ROTC so I could take two mandatory, 1-credit classes, which my college required instead of physical education), complete with an X in the box labeled I decline to state that I am not an conscientious objector and a strikethrough in the loyalty oath section, I cannot say that I served in any meaningful fashion as that concept is generally understood. But given that your email came from Hesse, Germany (from a domain registration that has existed for a whole 12 days), I’m going to doubly say that no, I haven’t served “our” country.

¹ Okay, one complaint — there’s a world of distance between children’s books and young adult books, leading to YA books that are distinctly at the upper end of the age range like Laura Dean, Hey, Kiddo, and On A Sunbeam contending with books intended for a much younger audience like Mr Wolf’s Class #2: Mystery Club (7-10) and New Kid (8-12). Yes, the over-proliferation of categories is, but maybe split this one into pre-teen and teens-plus?

SPX 2019, Now With Extra Solidarity And Also Mutant Balloon Animals

SPX was pretty excellent this year, everybody. I saw too many wonderful folks (and forgot to include some on the list while I was waiting for a burger, like Jamie Noguchi, Boum, MK Reed, Patrick Lay, Lucy Knisley, Maia Kobabe, Britt Sabo, Lauren Davis, Kori Bing, Blue Delliquanti, Kori Michele Handwerker, and Melanie Gillman, plus I hadn’t run into George, Raina Telgemeier, and Andy Runton yet), a side effect of the concentrated nature of excellence:space that the North Bethesda Marriott engenders.

But the trip took on an actual reporting task, as the common perception of Kickstarter’s actions last week skewed nearly 100% to They’re unionbusting. The near-universal consensus of everybody I spoke to hit several repeated points:

  • Kickstarter’s upper management does not reflect the community-interface folks, who were spoken of with warmth and support. It was pointed out that the Kickstarter representatives as the show were, themselves, involved in the unionization efforts.
  • Creators indicated that they’ll be looking to the Kickstarter Union folks for guidance and will follow their lead. Boycotting right now has not been requested, and would very likely be counterproductive.
  • Several acknowledged the difficulty of finding a platform that could serve to replace Kickstarter if the Union calls for a boycott.
  • There’s a willingness to lend voices of support to the unionization effort, to the extent that personal involvement with Kickstarter might hold any moral authority or ability to sway management’s decisions.

Speaking of the second and fourth points above, Taylor Moore (one of those ousted last week) is currently tweeting a call to action, asking creators to sign on to a petition to Kickstarter management. Not being a project creator myself I am not the intended signatory, but I’ve noticed more than a few webcomics folks retweeting and stating they’ve signed, so maybe take a look.

Specific responses when I asked if there were comments about the situation for the record:

Sara McHenry, Make That Thing asskicker at large and creative project manager, on unalloyed support while not forgetting point #3 above — I think every workplace should be unionized, and if I only did business with unionized workplaces I would starve.

Matt Lubchansky, cartoonist and editorial force at The Nib, on how Kickstarter’s actions are ultimately self-defeating — Unionbusting is bad for Kickstarter, it’s bad for the industry, and I’m looking forward to hearing [from the Kickstarter Union] what we can do to support them.

Matt Bors, temporarily doing way too much to keep The Nib running — The Nib is planning on using Kickstarter for our upcoming projects. It appears they fired people for trying to organize a union, which I’m pretty sure is illegal? I support the organizers’ efforts and look to them for direction.

Shing Yin Khor, Kickstarter 2019 Thought Leader and creator of mutant-horrorshow balloon doggies¹ — [Silently looks me square in the eye, grasps the ribbon that tethers the KICKSTARTER-branded mylar balloon floating above her table and pulls it down. Writes UNIONIZE in Sharpie on the balloon² and lets it float free, never breaking her gaze.]

Becky Dreistadt, artist, animator, and woman who gave Steven Universe his neckThe reason we [indicating her partner Frank Gibson] both have healthcare is I’m in the animator’s union. Unions are good.

Frank Gibson, the writerly half behind Becky And Frank’s work, including Capture Creatures, Tigerbuttah, Tiny Kitten Teeth, and Bustletown — The stability of my upbringing is because of the New Zealand teacher’s union.

George, official Kickstarter Expert and guy who knows what Public Benefit Corporations are supposed to be like[A long stream of pro-union statements made while I didn’t have my notebook close to hand, but while George was holding the brick he accepted on behalf of Ngozi Ukazu at the Ignatz Awards just prior, while offering to both email me a pro-union statement for the record, and also expressing an understanding of why rioters grab bricks, because the feel of them makes you want to chuck it for great justice.]

I’ll just end on a couple of personal notes: I had a couple of people come up to me on Saturday to thank me for this page³, and one woman who told me that she took a photo of me at MoCCA 2018 to use as reference for a painting, which she showed me on her phone (and which she’ll be emailing to me soon, I hope; I’ll share it when I get it). Thanks very much, Susan, John, and Qu.

Congratulations to Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T Crenshaw, who found out this morning that Kiss Number 8 is longlisted for a National Book Award.

And congratulations to Rosemary Valero-O’Connell on your three (!) Ignatzen for Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. I told her when I met her that her already-strong work was going to become world-class; I told her on Saturday to make room in her luggage for three bricks. So far I’m two-for-two. Back her Kickstarter, which I guess brings us full circle.

Spam of the day:

Every my part are getting hot when I see you

I am a sexy, sexy man, it’s true.

¹ They had a bunch of balloons and I saw similar critters on half the tables on the show floor. They were … yeah.

That’s mine in the picture up top. I call him Bob The Unsettling. He lives on the shelf above my computer, with my Stupid, Stupid Rat Creature. The Rat Creature has a quiche as an accessory!

² I noticed later that Evan Dahm similarly editorialized on the balloon at his table.

Oh, and that’s not a silver wang in the background, pervs. SPX has helium balloon letters of the alphabet floating above each table pod, and that’s Pod J, listing to the side.

³ One added it had been their homepage when I was in high school, which I took as a tremendous compliment. There’s all kinds of things you fixate on at that age, and a hack webcomics pseudojournalist wouldn’t make the top 1000 most popular online topics among highschoolers. Thanks for that, and for the mini — it’s good work.

Looks Like I’m Headed To Bethesda

This was decided a few hours prior to the news breaking about Kickstarter firing three people in the space of eight days, who all were involved in the unionization effort there. But since that happened, my trip will now be a dual-purpose wallow in some comics and awesome people trip mixed with commit some godsdammned journalism overtones.

For those that haven’t seen all of the brewing shitstorm: Clarissa Redwine asserts that she exceeded all her employment performance metrics for Q2, but Kickstarter told her she was fired for performance deficiencies. Taylor Moore says he was offered no explanations as to his termination. I’ve not seen a public identification of the third employee yet. Both Redwine and Moore have said their severance was contingent on signing an NDA/non-disparagement agreement which is both common and totally weaksauce¹.

Kickstarter, for its part, put out a statement that no employee has or will be fired for union organizing. It’s … not being received well, possibly because it reads like it was crafted in a sterile legal environment to stay on the right side of perjury laws rather than the right side of the community they’ve built.

Some webcomics (and webcomics-adjacent) folk have chimed in already, the two most significant of which are probably Andy Baio (one half of The Andys behind XOXO and the attempt to re-engineer Drip, not to mention pre-launch board member and onetime CTO of Kickstarter; Andy McMillan is the other) and George (who is probably more closely associated with Kickstarts than anybody else in the web/indie comics world).

I have some emails out to people closely associated with Kickstarter asking if they are willing to go on the record with their thoughts; one response indicates they will specifically not say anything until certain direct discussions take place, which is entirely fair. A bunch of people that have tied their business models to Kickstarter will be at SPX this weekend (including some Thought Leaders), and I’m going to ask as many of them as I can what they think, then I’m going to tell you what they said.

In advance, please do not impute motives to anybody that isn’t named in the quotes, or that you are certain you have figured out from an off-the-record comment. Just don’t. You may be very pissed at Kickstarter right now² and ready to burn them to the ground, but there is a mountain of difference between choosing to not contribute to Kickstarter campaigns, and having to suddenly figure out how — or if it’s even possible — to no longer use them as a creator platform while meeting rent. It will be difficult for more than a few of them to navigate a course between what they want to do ethically and what they are required to do practically.

Spam of the day:

Do you know that you are able to earn more than 1200 euros per day? Hurry up to be one of the first to use this method before it becomes widespread.

Take your fucking pyramid scheme somewhere else, please.

¹ How fucking insecure do you have to be as a corporation that you can’t tolerate people you fired complaining about it? Bitching about current/past employers is an inalienable fucking right.

² I certainly am, and this is what I’ve decided: I am prepared to suspend my support of future campaigns if the Kickstarter Union calls for that, which they are not presently doing. If that changes, I’ll make my intentions public.

Regardless of the requests of Kickstarter United, I will not be canceling any present pledges, because taking back money that creators expect, money that I pledged prior to this douchebaggery, isn’t fair to those creators.

All of this is subject to revision pending what I learn this weekend, and from further verified information (including statements from Kickstarter or KRSU) in the future.

Everybody Come Down Bethesda Way

One of the things I love about the SPX exhibitor listing is that it’s geographic in nature rather than alphabetical by name. You can see who’s near who, and plan out which of the blobby pods you want to hit first (even though the floor is small enough that you can see everybody pretty easily). Here, then are the folks we at Fleen noticed on the 650+ deep exhibitor list, which was due for final update today.

Pod A
Britt Sabo (A5B), Collen AF Venable (A9), and onetime Fleen scribe Anne Thalheimer (A11B).

Pod B
Kevin Czap and the associated Czap Books folks (B4B), Ananth Hirsch and Yuko Ota along with George Rohac (B9; I wonder who they had to bribe to get that table spot).

Pod C
Lauren Davis (C3); I’m not saying Pod C is a bad place, just that I didn’t recognize names.

Pod D
D1 Ben Sears (D1), Eric Colossal and Jess Fink (D2), Megan Rose Gedris (D4A), Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson (D9), and Gigi DG (D12A).

Pod E
Keith Knight (also the Ignatz MC, E1), Beth Barnett (E4A), Mike Holmes (E5B), Ben Passmore (E10B), Darryl Ayo Brathwaite (E10B), Ronald Wimberly (E12A)

Pod F
MK Reed (F1), Paulina and Savanna Ganucheau (F8), and Bianca Xunise (F12A).

Pod G
NBM Graphic Novels, including Jessica Abel (G1-2).

Pod H
Sara and Tom McHenry (H12), and Evan Dahm (H14).

Pod I
Shing Yin Khor (I4A), Julia Gfröer (I5B), Sarah Horrocks (I6A), Katie Skelly (I6B), Tony Breed (I7A), Monica Gallagher (I8), Penina Gal and Radiator Comics (I9), and Carta Monir and Diskette Press (I14).

Pod J
Maia Kobabe (J4B), Emi Gennis (J5B), and Kory Bing (J10).

Pod K
Carla Speed McNeil (K1), Gemma Correll (K2), Audrey and Jamie Noguchi (K9), and Drew Weing (K10-11).

Pod L
Retrofit Comics (L2), Danielle Corsetto (L8), Eleri Harris, Matt Bors, Matt Lubchansky, and Sarah Mirk, which is to say, The Nib (L9).

Pod M
Annie Koyama and Koyama Press, including Connor Willumsen, Daniel Nishio, Ed Kanerva, and Emily Carroll (M1-2).

Pod N
Dustin Harbin but not his bike (N2), and Secret Acres (N3-4).

Left Side Wall
Drawn & Quarterly including Ebony Flowers, Eleanor Davis, Kevin Huizenga, and Sylvia Nickerson (W1-4), Jessica Trevino (W7A), ShortBox (W8), Carey Pietsch (W9A), Cathy G Johnson (W9B), and Meredith Gran (W10A).

Back Wall
Hope Nicholson (W19), Self Made Hero including Sam Humphrey (W23-24), Mari Naomi (W27A), Box Brown (W27B), Kori Michele Handwerker and Melanie Gillman (W30), TopatoCo featuring Abby Howard, Chris Yates, Elliot Jasper, Holly Rowland, KC Green, and Tom Siddell (W31-33), Out Of Step Arts featuring Rebecca Kirby, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Venesa Del Ray (W38-39).

Right Side Wall
Alison Wilgus (W41), and Fantagraphics featuring Jaime Hernandez (W50-54).

Front Wall
Top Shelf including James Kochalka, Kim Dwinell, Leigh Walton, and MK Reed (W56-59), Ru Xu (W60A), Natalie Riess (W60B), a contingent of Danish comic book artists (W68-69), Steenz (W71A), Blue Delliquanti (W71B), Iron Circus including Amanda Lafrenais and C Spike Trotman (W72-73), Lucy Knisley (W75), and the CBLDF including Alex Cox, Chris Ware, and Raina Telgemeier (W80-83).

As always, I very possibly missed you or your favorite; drop us an email and we’ll update.

The Small Press Expo runs Saturday, 14 September (11:00am-7:00pm) and Sunday, 15 September (noon-6:00pm) at the Bethesda Marriott North in Bethesda, Maryland.

Spam of the day:
Your very own portable oxygen concentrator
I do not suffer from CHF or other respiratory conditions, and besides, I can get the pure stuff in the green cylinders. It’s good for hangovers.