The webcomics blog about webcomics

Pro Tip!

If you get contacted by the Census Bureau to take part in their Household Pulse Survey, you should take that. After a bunch of questions about the topic of the week (mine were all about coronavirus, from employment and food security to plans put off and even depression), you get a free response field where you can type in whatever you want and they have to take notice of it.

After your name/demo details are stripped off, it becomes part of the data set and people can see what you were thinking! I don’t think that my response, above, was a surprise; I’m just sad that the display space given to the comment field wouldn’t hold my entire text block, but I think what you can see describes my feelings nicely.

In other news, merch:

There’s lots of other webcomics folk selling stuff — pretty much all of them — and they’re able to get you stuff at a distance thanks to the kindly services of the mail system. Do some holiday shopping, stay the hell away from malls, and support your favorite creators all at the same time.

Spam of the day:

Brain Molecule Contains Key To Terminate All Herpes Strains

Would this be the molecule that makes you not tell your partner that you’ve got herpes? That’s a shitty molecule.

¹ For those wondering, bears are land mammals, so they got the monkey side of the monkey/circus coin; whales are big like circuses, so they got the circus side. The yes/no coin was flipped a bunch of times just because it feels so good to flip it. Seriously, it’s a tactile pleasure.

Ups And Downs

I’m wondering if we’re starting to hit the end of Phase One of the coronavirus response. We still don’t have full distancing in all places (thanks, Republican governors!), and those of us that have been under restrictions for a couple weeks are hitting the it’s going to be how much longer? stage. Various notable people are being reported in critical condition or deceased because of COVID-19, new evidence how just how bad it’s going to get for the areas still in denial drop daily, and a concentrated, national response still hasn’t even started because of the insecure egotist in charge.

Things are about to get explosively bad in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia — and then everywhere else, hopefully not until we pass the peaks in the early-hit places. We’ll get there. We’ll find that what seems hard and isolating becomes doable (and those of us who’ve been doing it for a while will have it incumbent on us to help those that come behind). Practice helps (says the guy that had his first positive-screened patient over the weekend, and expects to get them regularly from here on out), but not as much as patience.

So. Deep breath. There’s some stuff here to take your mind off things for a bit, and an opportunity to help make something amazing, if it’s within your ability at the present time (which is absolutely not the ideal time). And, because we live in a crapsack reality, something that’s usually pretty bad has become downright terrible. Let’s start with that one and work our way up:

  • Diamond is a monopoly, and those are never a good idea. Having already decided it won’t receive/ship comics for the foreseeable future, it decided today that because it’s not got money coming in from comic stores — that would be the comic stores that Diamond’s already said won’t be getting the product they ordered — it’s not going to pay its suppliers for product they’ve already received and sold.

    It’s a neat tornado of shitty behavior: announce you’re not going to be sending stuff to your customers, which causes customers to not pay you to do nothing, which causes you to not have money coming in, so you decide to keep what money you’ve already got and not pay the vendors that supplied you in good faith. Whatever form the direct market takes when all of this is done, I sincerely hope this course of action is the death knell for the crappiest link in the comics chain and that multiple new companies arise and put Diamond in the dirt.

    Oh, yeah, they did the same to the games distribution vendors as well.

  • Couple weeks back we brought you news of Fredddave Kellett-Schroeder’s new interview series Kickstart, a project which got off to a comfortable start and then just sort of stalled. Don’t get me wrong — this funding curve would be great if it were depicting, say, a count of coronavirus infections¹, but it’s not where you want to be for a project funding. The FFF mk2 isn’t looking promising: US$64K-96K, with a goal of just under US$90K would be promising, except for one thing.

    The project was promoted to past backers of Stripped and other Kellett projects for 18 hours or so before the public reveal, and a good chunk of that day one total comes from the pre-announcement period. It’s a useful technique, but it throws off the funding formula, which relies on an organic launch. A better metric in this case would be the McDonald Ratio, which states that the first three days of funding equals one third of the total raised, or in this case about US$65K, well under goal. The dramatic dropoff from day two to day three, and the almost zero funding since² make this one a longshot.

    Which is a damn shame, because this series looks super interesting. There’s still time to turn things around, weirder things have happened, but it’s going to take a lot of people deciding they want this in the next nine days (days of uncertainty and economic stress nobody was considering back in early March). More likely, this is going to have to be shelved until a later time when people have spare money again. Just … if you have discretionary funds right now, give it some thought, okay?

  • Let’s end on some unalloyed good news. Aud Koch has shared her first week’s quarantine art, and it’s stunning. Go take a good long look and forget all of … this … for a while.

Spam of the day:
Got a call from “Mike” who claimed to be calling to reduce my electric bill, from a clearly audible boiler room. I told him You’re lying, you’re trying to steal from me while a plague is underway, and I hate you. Felt great.

¹ It bears a striking resemblance to the curve for South Korea, who have done everything in just about the complete opposite way that the US has. Never forget: both countries saw their first confirmed case on the same day. That being said, some of the worst-hit areas here in the US are starting to just maybe see a flattening in the curve and that’s good news. Don’t slack off now; hold the line and drive it down into the dirt.

² Including three days of negative funding. Ouch.

Freddave Rides Again

Yesterday, we mentioned that fans of STRIPPED check their emails, on account of the hivemind known as Freddave KellettSchroeder had sent emails to Kickstarter backers of that fine movie (and it’s second Kickstart to finish production) to let them in on a secret: they apparently didn’t have enough travails in the four years or so it took to make the movie, so now they’re making a series:

Story/Line will be a love-letter to the art of cartooning, featuring in-depth, thoughtful interviews about the craft. These will be deep conversations, in the style of a PBS or BBC interview. Each will be beautifully shot in 4K, with one of the best crews in Los Angeles. Among our four Kickstarted interviews, we’ve already scheduled with Academy Award-winning Directors Chris Miller & Phil Lord (Spider-Verse, The Lego Movie, and every other great movie from the last decade), and Eisner-Award-Winning cartoonist Scott McCloud (The Sculptor, Understanding Comics, 24-Hour Comics Day).

So they’ll be channeling their inner Bill Moyers, or hopefully Graham Norton; Norton gets the absolute best out of his subjects via the simple expedient of boozing them up for the talk. Look into this, Freddave! They’ve got one interview in the can (and on their own dime) so far — Jake Parker of Inktober fame — and the campaign is to get another four interviews for general distribution to backers, with a secret additional interview mentioned.

Here’s where I think their rewards tiers are a little hecked up — to get that last, secret, interview, you have to be a backer at a high level; at present, it requires US$30 or more to get the Parker + four interview series, but US$85 to get the secret interview (or US$300 if you want a bunch of Sheldon e-books and an original comic to go along with ’em). That’s a pretty big jump from five interviews to five interviews, uncut footage, a poster, and the secret interview unless that secret interview is amazing.

Then again, they got Watterson on audio for STRIPPED and the Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett half of Freddave Schroeder-Kellett attends fancy industry parties with the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Taika Waititi, so who knows? I want to make it clear that I have no idea who the secret interview is and I think I just convinced myself to up my pledge after typing that last sentence. Well played, Freddave Kellett-Schroeder! Well played.

Update to add: Third interview announced. Raina.

Spam of the day:

justin l____ district manager at Primerica Financial Services would like to connect on LinkedIn.

This is actually from LinkedIn, which means it is definitely spam. I have no damn idea who Justin L____ is, and have had no relationship with Primerica except once more than 20 years ago when the local office called me in for an interview “for an executive position” that turned out to be a room full of people being encouraged to join and push penny stocks on cold-called dupes. Ever see The Wolf Of Wall Street? That.

I gave them about 20 minutes to get to the point then got up, said I was asked to come in for a job interview and instead you’re trying to get us to join some kind of Amway cult (which tremendously offended the woman at the front of the room) and walked out.

So yeah — get lost, Justin.

Hail To The Fallen

That would be two different fallen; the first would be Michael Payne of which more was said in the Breaking News Bulletin earlier today. The second would be the latest round of cancellations, of which there are two to mention at the moment:

  • You may have noticed that Matt Inman and his compatriots in the Exploding Kittens empire have been planning a boardgame convention in Portland, known as Burning Cat, for the weekend of 16-17 May. Lots of Inmanian weirdness planned — enormous cards to play EK with, a giant vending machine shaped like a fuzzy cat, a two-story tall firebreathing cat monster — and guests including Bill Amend and Sarah Andersen.

    Yeah, PDX, which is kind of right next to one or two of the (as of this writing, based on latest information) worst-hit hotspots of COVID-19&sup2. I didn’t see any estimates of attendance, but any large gathering that involves widespread travel at this point is probably a bad idea; this afternoon, Inman, et al, called it off and the first ever/second annual Burning Cat will be next year. Kudos to them to making it all simple — everybody is fully refunded, this year’s ticket holders will be contacted for early bird purchase next year, pretty much the same deal with exhibitors. That’s how you do it.

  • Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin dropped an update via comment after hours on Friday:

    Not sure that is worth a full correspondent dispatch, but as a complement I can report that Paris Manga, which was to take place this weekend, has simply been cancelled, among many other events in March. Indeed, I don’t know how the authorities are managing the situation on your side of the Atlantic, but on this side the French government has prohibited all events totaling more than 5000 people in a closed space. Application was swift, too: the decision was taken Saturday, February 29th, and as early as Sunday some events had to adapt (e.g. Japan Tours Festival only accepted attendees who had bought their tickets in advance, in order to ensure they would remain under the gauge), or in some cases simply not reopen on Sunday. It goes without saying many creators here are financially affected as well.

    The answer to how authorities are handling the novel coronavirus is, bluntly, not well. Cancellations are left to local discretion and I’ve not seen anything resembling a guidance as to permissible crowd size². Things are happening at the last minute, as a general rule. For example, my wife is in the final semester of her return to university and due to graduate in May; today we got a postcard talking about the time and location of the commencement ceremony, and I imagine literally nobody has any idea if it will actually happen.

  • Also unknown: MoCCA Fest, 4-5 April at Metropolitan West in Manhattan. While the bulk of confirmed cases in New York have been in Westchester County and associated with a single individual, and Manhattan is (as of this writing, etc) sporting approximately 1 confirmed case per half million residents, you never know what could happen in the four weeks. Until we at Fleen hear that it’s nixed, we’re going to report on planned goings-on, including guests and exhibitors, in the coming weeks.

    Just one caveat — last year’s exhibitor list was severely underpopulated, as it turned out the exhibitors had to supply info directly and many apparently didn’t know. If you’ve got a table, be sure supply your info so we can find you.

  • Helping to mitigate even in the face of events getting called off: C Spike Trotman has declared a virtual event will take place with everybody at home, where you can touch your own face (wash your hands first) or shake hands with your roomies (wash your hands first) to your heart’s content. PajamaCon:³

    We’re planning three days of livestreams on the Pajama Con Twitch channel March 13th–15th, 12pm–6pm CST. The livestreams will be like a talk show or live podcast where we feature creators who also had to cancel their ECCC appearances. Joining us so far will be Steve Leiber, Chris Roberson, Lin Visel, Genue Revuelta, C Spike Trotman, Kate Leth, and we’d love to invite more. We’ll also be promoting on the Iron Circus Twitter account using the #pajamacon2020 hashtag, and will update this page with more information as our plans come together.

    We plan to announce a schedule by Wednesday, March 11th, so that is the due-date to apply!

    So, get on that. And, as Spike points out, there are other convention-alternatives, including #VVSN Very Very Shopping Network and Oni Press #ECCC2020 Pop Up Store, plus I’ve seen a guerrilla PDX comics get-together distributed event planned for this weekend, with creators taking four-hour blocks at retailers around town. No fees for exhibitors or attendees to PDX Pop Up Con, but get your application in by end of day tomorrow for possible inclusion on 14-15 March.

  • Finally, if you’re a friend of Freddave Kellett-Schroeder, you should be checking your email. Just sayin’.

Spam of the day:

I don’t want to scare you….
But I do want to wake you up to the fact that corona could be the most dangerous epidemic this country has seen since it started.

Fuck on off out of here with that shit. You don’t care about a godsdamned thing except separating fearful people from their money. Also, you apparently have never heard of smallpox, you fucking parasitoid.

¹ Namely, Seattle and San Francisco. Of course, it’s likely that everywhere has far more cases that have been reported due to the slow rollout and insufficient numbers of tests.

At this point we’re probably better off skipping testing for anybody that’s not symptomatic except for healthcare workers (don’t want to spread it, but don’t want to require self-quarantine and removal from duty on the basis of a casual contact that didn’t take) and so we may never know the true extent.

I’ll tell you this, though — it’s at least two orders of magnitude of diagnosable cases than the approximately 600 that have been test-confirmed in the country so far.

² And as an EMT, I’m getting guidances from both the CDC and the New Jersey state Department of Health, in addition to that of the local hospitals we deal with.

³ Originally announced as ComfyCon, but it was pointed out that’s not a generic term, but rather a specific name used by Danielle Corsetto and her convention wife Randy Milholland for their con-from-home, and has been since 2014. Spike immediately and graciously apologized for the “con” fusion and rebranded.

Doggos, Lottie, And Somebody Needs To Smack Jeeves

There are few people that crank out comics to the same degree as Rich Stevens; based on the very simple counter method he uses to name his strips, there are 940 strips in the current iteration of DS, and an even 4000 before the site redesign. That 940th strip is a little unusual, though, since it’s from yesterday and no new 941st has appeared yet. Stevens has certainly taken a step back from M-F to M-W-F updates when he’s under crunch time and/or vacation¹, but he generally lets us know what’s up.

Then again, considering what’s up, I’m inclined to give him a pass:

i want to name her “baby yoda” but i think i’m going to get outvoted

she’s six months old. rescued out of a hoarder situation. very sweet. other doggy has to learn to be with her, but we’re optimistic. this might be her first blanket. name pending.

Olive AKA Doctor Olivia AKA Princess Tapenade

thunder was anxious at first, but right now they are both mangling balls in sight of each other. thunder actually PLAYED WITH HER in the snow!

Thunder has never successfully made a dog friend to play with before today. This is a Cyber Monday MIRACLE.

Dogs are the best. That is all.

  • I had already started writing this post when the news broke; ordinarily, this would have been the top story, but I was too lazy to shift Rich’s dog down here to the unnumbered list zone, so I’ll make it up by using this one for the picture up top. New John Allison comic series, y’all! Paired up with Max Sarin again! The return of Charlotte Grote:

    In March 2020, Boom! Studios debuts Wicked Things, a limited series starring teen detective Charlotte “Lottie” Grote, now an adult navigating a twisty new crime plot.

    That from the inestimable Oliver Sava at The AV Club, along with an interview with Allison and Sarin, which I advise you to place directly into your veins at the first available opportunity. When Allison, et al, wrapped Giant Days, there was a possibility that some day he would revisit Tackleford and its denizens, but I hadn’t expected it quite so soon, nor to feature my favorite character of his.

    And, lest we forget, Giant Days started as a six-issue miniseries, expanded to twelve, and then to more than 50; Wicked Things is described as a six issue limited series, and while I will absolutely demand nothing, I can’t help but notice the parallels. Lottie was last seen in June of 2018², her last year at Griswalds Grammar School destroy by Mildred’s meddling in Things That Should Not Be Meddled With. Now she’s 19, university in her sights, and off to further mysteries. I am 100% here for it, and encourage you all to join me on what is sure to be a wild ride.

  • Longterm readers of this page may recall that despite the rise of webcomics portals, we at Fleen are strong proponents of having your own website that you control. You never know when a site you don’t control will decided that every damn image in the universe is porn, pooch up its terms of service, or break everything. Every. thing:

    the smackjeeves update has landed. everyone please go to and laugh hysterically

    Note that as of this writing, that article is showing an error; presumably, they’ve yanked it down because of issues such as:

    no button for “first” or “most recent” page. html stripped from page captions. no comic title at the top of the page. soulless design. no redirect to the new site from its original smackjeeves url. no easy link to the “about” section, which is crammed in a corner. hideous archive

    just uses the comic cover for every page in the archive rather than a thumb of the page itself. literally no way to link outside of smackjeeves. literally nothing on the author bio other than your name and a link to your comic.

    no mass editing of pages :) all previous page captions changed to comments rather than captions :)

    figured out what happened to the page captions – if you had written it in the “author comment” section, it became a regular comment. if you had added alt text to the page, that is now the page caption. also captions are now max 400 characters

    max width for pages seems to now be 690px

    new page captions also wont allow for new lines

    Y I K E S. Let this serve as your periodic reminder that nobody will ever care about your stuff more than you care about your stuff, and that the best thing you can go is — I love this — do yourself a small favour if you can and host your comic like it’s 2006 again THEN cut it up and mirror it elsewhere.

    And hey, not for nothing, but 2006 is probably a bit early. Pretend it’s 2012, that’s still before Google Reader was unceremoniously killed and we slipped into the worst timeline.

Spam of the day:

We buy homes 4 Cash

First, stay the hell away from my home, you freak. Second, Gmail assured me that this message was in Japanese, and when I translated, heck if cheesy clipart of a home and a stack of money being offered up in open palms didn’t appear. Weird.

¹ I’m not sure he distinguishes between the two states.

² The final Bad Machinery story, Wen-Tack/The Great Unboxing, is only found at Wayback Machine; Allison hasn’t included it on his main site.

Camp 2019, Every Creator Needs That Reassurance

So there’s still some of #ComicsCamp Monday to discuss, and it all fits a theme, even if it didn’t all happen at the same time.

Kazu Kibuishi spoke about making a living at comics, and while he spoke about work process in terms similar to his public session on Saturday, it was more a conversation about finding what works for you. Remember the contrast between Kibuishi and Tillie Walden’s work styles? Let’s add a contradiction — in all that formal process, Kibuishi finds it helpful to draw at the speed that somebody would read the page.

Pages that are meant to make you linger and consider carefully? More time on that puppy. Middle of a fast action scene, flipping breathlessly? Speed it up. I’m tempted to call this a variation of Scott McCloud’s observation that manga panels have varying levels of detail to draw your eye to what’s important now (Understanding Comics, page 44 in my 25 year old copy).

Apart from that, Kibuishi shared that he’s putting more thought into character designs for future series, with an eye to make cosplay cooler and easier to build¹. Oh, and there was a great digression about the benefits of drawing to Dick Dale instrumentals, both because they’re super awesome, but also because of the wealth and breadth of inspirations behind them — Dale made surf guitar standards out of the Lebanese folksongs that his family taught him.

But if there was one thing that lay under Kibuishi’s talk (and multiple others) it’s that while he can discuss what works for him (process, satisfaction, definition of success), it’s different for everybody. Remember the session back on Sunday about financial stability? After that one, posterboard-sized sheets started appearing in the main lodge, each bearing an anonymous pie chart indicating sources of income. Some of them look vaguely similar, some have scant resemblance to most others, a few are gonzo-unique outliers. But no two are the same, and arguably no one is better than any other, even if each creator who shared their experience probably wants to change some things about their balance.

Let’s get back to that commonality thought for a moment — everybody’s experience is in some ways similar, and in other ways utterly unique. The act of working, for most cartoonists, in isolation can make it seem even more unique, especially when the doubts kick in. But when you look at the experiences of peers, and near-peers, and will-be-peers, the journeys to finding that unique set of success conditions start to look familiar. And during the secret session, that point was made again.

I’m being coy, so forgive me. You may recall that Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett made a film about comic strips, and the transition from the newspaper page to webcomics. It’s pretty neat. That movie is about 90 minutes long, and it’s built from about 300 hours of interviews, including with some of the biggest names of comic strips that you love with all your heart. There’s exabytes of stuff that didn’t make it into the film, and LArDK shared some of it. I’m not mentioning names because while it was judged that this likely wouldn’t cause the creator in question any distress, it’s also not meant for mass consumption. But I will share this:

Every creator, no matter how famous, also needs to hear from time to time that their work had an impact on readers. Every creator, no matter how successful, needs that reassurance that they’re doing good work.

Speaking of universality, after dinner on Monday night the question came up — in the same vein as the pie charts indicating proportions of income sources, could there be a report on the ranges of income? A bit of brainstorming among LArDK, David Malki !, and Ryan North determined there could be an income band axis, a years as a cartoonist axis, and some color coding to determine satisfaction². Brio supervised from the couch.

The survey sheet remained up until after breakfast on Tuesday morning, and people added their input. In some respects, no surprises — people at comics as career for a short period of time reported income clustered at the bottom of the range, and the top end was reserved for long-time vets. After about five years, the entire range of income was represented, and after ten years the satisfaction score was mostly positive — either because regardless of income, people found ways of working they enjoyed³, or those who weren’t satisfied with comics as a career mostly self-selected out before spending a decade of their life at it.

I suspect that if you put the easel up with the same income survey today and magically gathered all the same Campers to add their responses, there would be differences up and down the sheet, of only because much of the response came as the booze table was being steadily worked down so there would be less to pack up on the morrow. For my part, I did my traditional Create A Camp-Commemorating Cocktail duty, and came up with a tasty concoction that was eventually named for Brio:

2 oz Laird’s applejack
0.5 oz Aperol
0.25 oz simple syrup
0.25 oz St Germaine
dash aromatic bitters
dash citrus bitters
dash ginger bitters

Muddle one wedge of lemon and one wedge of lime to liquid ingredients. Shake over ice, strain, and drink carefully, musing on how we’re all figuring out our way in the world.

Even if you can’t see all the writing, you can probably see no two pie charts are quite like each other. Bonus views of the dioramas from Saturday night.

Income vs time vs satisfaction, with about 55% of Campers responding. Still not enough for real statistical significance, but enough to get the idea — you’re not the only one trying to figure this shit out.

¹ The result, he said, of seeing an Amulet cosplayer with an intricate, complicated, difficult build of a costume and realizing that if he’d made the character a bit more work on his end, it would have made things much easier for the fan.

² I helped with the layout a little, and because I’m a stickler for such things, I asked if the income numbers were constant dollars and if they should account for US/Canadian exchange rates. However, I did not contribute data to either the income survey or the pie chart collection. For starters, my pie chart would look like a circle with one color for DAY JOB.

³ Plus, not everybody is trying to make comics their sole gig.

Camp 2019, A Bit Of Physicality

So what, I hear you cry, actually happens at #ComicsCamp, Gary? And that’s an excellent question, since to the outside world it looks like a bunch of creators go off-grid for about three days, and everybody knows as soon as you get more than two creators together, 90% of their time is spent figuring out where to go for dinner and exactly how many people are in the group and can you get them all to show up at the same time¹. But with actual ample time, and the dinner plans questions off the table, other things must be found to fill the hours.

Thus, a slate of activities designed to share skills/provide guidance and context to careers, as well as time to play (or invent) games, skip rocks on the water, sketch, hike, paint, play outside like you haven’t since you were a kid, or just kick back and do blessed nothing for the first time in forever. Just show up on time for your shift prepping or cleaning up a meal, and all is cool.

Since most of us can imagine what it’s like to do most of those things (although, and I can’t stress this enough, you are probably not accounting for the deeply majestic beauty of the Alaskan semiwilderness), I’m going to share mostly about the programming.

Last year, almost by accident, most of the first day’s programming involved craft-type sessions (Ravenstail weaving, painted pillow-making, wool felting, bookbinding, and more), and this year continued the tradition by design. There was going to be heavier stuff a bit later, and a bit of physicality would cleanse the mental and emotional palate so that heavy lifting could be approached fresh.

Thus, the Sunday schedule looked like:

10:00 am Artifact Drawing w/ Amber Rankin Knitting & Crocheting w/ Nikki Rice Sketchbook Construction w/ Tess Olympia
11:30 am Friendship Bracelets w/ Cat Farris Printmaking w/ Jim Heumann Travel Watercolor Kits w/ Shing Yin Khor
2:00 pm Tlingit Language & History w/ X’unei Financial Stability w/ Rebecca Martinez Shrinky Dinks w/ Lee Pace
3:30 pm Comedy Writing w/ Ryan North Puzzle Making w/ Chris Yates Podcasting w/ Alison Wilgus

The only thing to note about scheduling is that it quickly becomes impossible to not put cool things up against each other, so decisions had to be made.

  • 10:00am Amber Rankin is an animator with a background in artifact documentation for an archeology company; she brought some artifacts and talked about how drawing them isn’t quite like other still life subjects. Not being much of a draw-er, I left that to folks who would benefit from learning another way to interpret the stuff in front of them.

    Tess Olympia (as she prefers) is a program manager with Sealaska in early education. While I’m a sucker for notebooks and would love to learn how to construct my own, I didn’t want to take up limited materials and keep somebody who would actually use a sketchbook for sketching from being able to participate. So a handful of us broke out needles and hooks and messed with fibers — some for the first time, some at a high level.

    Me, I learned one knit stitch — the titular knit stitch, as in knit one, purl two — at Camp last year, and since then I’ve been playing with the math of knitting, seeing what happens if I do this, or try that. I have a ball of garbage yarn that I use to experiment and when I get an effect I like, I move it to a nicer project. The very nice, been-knitting-longer-than-I’ve-been-alive ladies at the local knit shop tell me I do everything wrong, but I do it consistently and get interesting results, so they have no complaints. I used the time to finish off a project² that’s taken my time on airplanes since last June or so. Catch me in person and I’ll tell you about it.

  • 11:30am Jim Heumann is a printmaker from Juneau, and he brought the supplies for cutting linoleum sheets for relief printing. Shing Yin Khor brought a stack of tins like you’d get Altoids in, a big bag of little square trays, about 1cm on side, and a couple dozen tubes of concentrated watercolor paints. Paint in little trays, trays in tin, and with a water supply and brush, you’ve got a travel painting kit. Again, I left those to the actual artists, to consume neither limited materials, nor time on equipment.

    But you know what was never a thing at any of the camps I attended as a kid? Friendship bracelets. Maybe the Boy Scouts though they weren’t masculine enough. But once you learn a pattern for knotting and have embroidery floss in front of you, all it takes is patience, leaving time to talk and get to know people Cat Farris and I had spent some time already bonding over our respective greyhounds, and this one was a no-brainer. I actually gave the bracelet I made to a friend at Camp, because hey, it’s there in the name!

  • 2:00pm Man, I haven’t seen Shrinky Dinks since I was a kid, and I saw that Lee Post got some really nice ones produced. I would have absolutely done the session on finances with Rebecca Martinez — having worked corporate for a couple of decades and thus been exposed to the idea of financial planning, I felt that I could probably contribute — but it was up against the session on Tlingit Language and History.

    After last year’s sessions by Lily and Ishmael Hope on Tlingit traditions, I wanted to know more. I wasn’t alone, either; offhand, I’d say it was the best-attended session of Camp, apart from the all-hands opening and closings. It was also very information-dense and I’m still going through the four pages of notes that I took³, so that will get its own writeup later.

  • 3:30pm Chris Yates and Alison Wilgus know puzzlemaking and podcasting, respectively, like few others. But being the rare white guy that doesn’t think he should have a podcast, and not having a wood shop at home, I opted to hear what Ryan North had to say about comedy (or, if you prefer, humour) writing.

    It was substantially similar to a session he did two years ago with Kate Beaton (who couldn’t attend this year for the best of reasons), a session that challenged me on one of my core beliefs in life: that Ryan North (and Kate Beaton as well) is effortlessly funny, when the core message of the workshop was no, this is a learned skill like any other.

    Which, okay, yes, to write something and put it into the world and have it be funny, that’s a skill to learn and practice and perfect. But it’s also true that Beaton (and North), in casual conversation and completely off-the-cuff, will leave me laughing because of all the funny that is spontaneously produced. Learning to write funny things is not the same skill as having perfect timing or an ideal, dry intonation that makes everything you say funnier. So I’m half conceding on my core belief, but an acknowledgment that their creative work is funny because they’ve spent years practicing their craft, which is learnable.

    Case in point: North provided us with two pages from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (art by Erica Henderson with inking assists from Tom Fowler) with the dialogue stripped out, and had us fill in our own. It was a tough exercise, trying to come up with words that fit an already-set situation, and in only about ten minutes. I felt my contribution was about three hours from being serviceable, but when read out anonymously by Ryan it got spontaneous laughs, which was maybe the best feeling in the world. I still think it could be much tighter (or maybe work better with a different page of art), but it’s still a sense of accomplishment.

    Even more importantly? Of the twenty or so pages that Ryan read out (again, all anonymous), none of them wasn’t funny, and all of them were substantially different gags. One starting situation, twenty different directions, one common result. Your approach for success, North observed, doesn’t have to be the same as anybody else’s to be real and valid. As I mentioned previously and will again, that was a recurring theme to Camp, and one that all creators should take to heart.

    Oh, and Brio the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel spent most of Ryan’s session gently snoring on a giant beanbag chair. That dog got some serious love over the weekend.

One of my favorite parts of Camp each year is when people present for five minutes on a topic that they’re passionate about. Ever wonder about why the Middle East is so screwed up? Let Beth Barnett tell you all about the Sykes-Picot Agreement! Were you curious about how new commercial flowers are produced? Jessi Jordan has hand-fertilized hibiscus until it produced colorful new mutations! Tiny things on YouTube! #twentyninezine! Carnivorous plants! Thermochromic pigments! Retired racing greyhound adoption! Everybody has passions beside comics (at least, I hope they do), and it’s great to share.

Geez, there are just no pictures pertaining to this day that are landscape and would make a good header, you know that? Way to plan things out, Past Gary.

Brio snoozin’ on the bean. That bean bag chair, btw, was large enough to accommodate 3-4 Campers or one very small dog. There was also a giant stuffed bone-in ham pillow.

The comic page blank up top (click to embiggen, naturally) featured one of my favorite submissions, where Tony Stark only said I’m Tony Stark, over and over again. It was tough to get a clear enough photo of my effort to read the dialogue because my phone camera’s face recognition kept picking out Tony Stark heads as areas of interest and letting the other bits go slightly out of focus. My absolute favorite submission used this template, involved Tony Stark talking about how often he eats candy off the ground/out of the garbage, and the computer voice sadly intoning Oh, Tony. No. North’s version of those pages can be found in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe which is great and you should read.

Five Minute Talks by Beth, Alison, Jessi, Cat and me, Kerstin, Molly, Tony, Inari, Maarta, Leila, Ana, Cleo, Allison, and Haley.

¹ Answers: The eighteenth place suggested, four more than the final count everybody agreed upon, and no.

² A lot of which was me adding a few zillions lengths of fringe to edges. Rather than take the time to bury stray bits of yarn from the start and end, I spent literally hundreds of times more effort to hide them in a forest of similar yarn. Genius!

³ Including some very sincere discussion about how much the Tlingit language is intrinsically tied to the Tlingit people, leaving me with some thinking to do on how much I should share rather than just pointing you to resources presented by Tlingit speakers.

It’s like when Lily Hope told us last year about art collectors that try to commission her to weave traditional robes and she tells them she can only accept the commissions if the finished pieces stay with the clan. If you want something to hang on your wall and congratulate yourself on your refined taste, she can make you stuff that is of her own design and meaningful to her, but decidedly not traditional.

I’m thinking of it as being the difference between something made or shared by a Tlingit person, and something that is of the Tlingit people. In New Jersey, we learn about the people that originally resided here in fourth grade (or at least, I did way back when), but it’s abstract — there haven’t been any Lenape people here in generations and collectively we who live here now aren’t required to confront what happened. Some of the indigenous Alaskan peoples, though, they experienced first contact with settlers in living memory. The absolute least that I can do is to really think about how to approach this topic with the respect it deserves.

Thursday Things

Hey, how’s it going? I’ve taken to keeping a half-full bottle of gin on my desk¹. On the theory that it may help your day to get better, here’s some things to examine and/or plan for!

  • Today! Kevin Sonney is a magnificent dude; programmer and Linuxbender extraordinaire, tatted and bekilted con security heavyweight, and certified Disney Princess to whom critters flock. He’s also a persistent podcaster, mostly with wife Ursula Vernon — they cohost Kevin And Ursula Eat Cheap and consume things no mortal should; he is the voice of Reverend Mord on The Hidden Almanac.

    Right now, though, we’re focusing on Productivity Alchemy, which is about — stripped to its most basic — Getting Your Shit Together And Getting Shit Done. It is, ironically, the sort of thing that would paralyze me, as I am definitely the sort of person that would hopscotch from solution to solution, method to method, tool to tool, and obsessively chase achievement badges. My productivity works in fits and starts, and a lot of it looks like Ignoring The Issue At Hand from a distance, but it works for me². Which is to say, Sonney’s probably a lot smarter than me on every aspect of productivity as he’s put a hell of a lot of thought into it, and I’m more intuitive and decidedly nonanalytical about my methods.

    But sometimes I have to beak my own rule to see what’s on Sonney’s mind, and today is one of those days. He’s talking to Howard Tayler — my evil twin — about his approach to keeping life together, and dropping refs to the likes of Jennie Breeden’s The Devil’s Panties, KB SPangler’s A Girl And Her Fed, and Randy Milholland’s Something*Positive. It’s a fun, informative listen and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

  • Future! For those whose personal productivity includes future planning, and who also live in the Bay Area, the Cartoon Art Museum wants to help you sort out what to do with the kids this summer:

    Cartoon Camp is filled with active creative engagement for older kids and teens who are avid artists enjoying drawing and are looking to build skills. All materials are provided. Find discounts, details and sign up opportunities for museum members on the registration links. Register before camp sessions fill up!

    Classes are designed for the 10-15 year old set with a bit of experience under their belts, with a choice of three week-long sessions. You can do skill-building in the mornings with Mark Simmons, afternoons of group work and studio time with Ellis Kim, or full days to experience both (bring lunch, it’s not provided). There’s also a couple of drawing excursions to local scenic spots.

    Sessions run the week of 17 to 21 June, 24 ot 28 June, or 29 July to 2 August.; morning sessions run 9:00am to 12:30pm and afternoons 1:45pm to 5:15pm. CAM members get 10% off the US$300 tuition (full days are US$550); reserve now before slots fill up.

Spam of the day:

View live security camera feed from your phone

This is advance notice: If I ever give any indication that I have allowed any Internet Of Things™ or “Smart” appliances into my home, that is a sure sign that I have been replace by a pod person, and you should set “me” on fire at the first opportunity.

¹ Okay, it’s one of those airline bottles on account of my exit-row seat home from Dallas t’other night entitled me to a free drink and that was all I wanted at the time. But still! Hard bitten journalising going on here!

² All the seeming off-goofing is my brain arranging itself into a Cave so I can hit the Zone. Lots of people achieve their Zone via external tools, but mine are on the inside.

Holy Crap, Watterson

We are going to talk about some cool things today, but could anything be cooler than watching Bill Freakin’ Watterson return to the Sunday comics page, even just for one day? We’ve seen him draw in the slightly recent past with the poster for STRIPPED, but to see Calvin again, to see Watterson dinosaurs again, to see something even better than the legendary Tyrannosaurus Rexes in F-14s¹ ², and to see him playing with Opus the gosh-danged penguin.

With a Trump joke.

Look, if it turns out that Breathed just got Watterson to okay the use of Calvin, but that he didn’t draw the lil’ guy again, don’t tell me. Breathed’s done C&H references for a couple of April Foolses now, but the earlier ones didn’t have that spark, that hint of Wattersonian goodness. We all need to find joy where we can.

  • Speaking of finding joy, please enjoy Pénélope Bagieu on the effect of a participation trophy that she didn’t know was a participation trophy, leading to a lifetime of assuming she could do stuff. Which means, naturally, that she can.

    The Teddy Bear Effect is a pure delight. Go read it in anticipation of meeting Ms Bagieu at MoCCA this weekend and telling her how hard she rocks³.

  • On any other day, this photo would be up top, but you know how it goes. Just a few books that have shown up here at the Fleenplex — Lucy Bellwood’s 100 Demon Dialogues is a delight through and through, and I’ll have to work up proper reviews for the tenth (!) book in The Olympians by George O’Connor (I say this every time, but this one’s my new favorite) and the first graphic novel from Vera Brosgol since Anya’s Ghost (thanks to :01 Books for the latter two books).

    Suffice it to say that I’ll be carting Brosgol’s and Bellwood’s books (I, uh, got five copies of 100DD so I could give ’em away to people that need them) out to Juneau and Comics Camp later this month, so I can get them signed. I’ll be coming home with more copies of Be Prepared as well, as I’ve got nieces who will love it and they can’t have my copy, it’s mine.

    But what’s the large book taking up all the space? Oh, nothing, just the first college text ever to talk about the entire history of illustration from cave paintings to Cintiqs. Years ago, the lead editor went looking for somebody to write 500 words on webcomics and Scott McCloud sent her my way.

    It was remarkably hard to get down that far, not lose sight of what a big topic was being addressed, and still sound like me (special thanks to KB Spangler, who smacked me upside the head about the latter point; that’s why she’s an excellent editor and you should hire her). But there it is, years later. My essay got split up and folded into a series of digital illustration topics, and my name might have gotten left off the contributor’s list, but it’s totally in the errata and will be in the next edition!

    Look, like I said above, we need to find joy, etc, and I personally look forward to a job interview in the unspecified future and some tech recruiter asks about the line on my CV that says I contributed to History Of Illustration. This is completely a thing and I’m taking joy from it.

Spam of the day:

Is Your Husband Getting Calls Day and Night?


¹ Leading to an excitable kid to exclaim This is so cool and a jaded tiger to mutter This is so stupid.

² None of which, as far as I know, were T-Rex, in that they didn’t appear to be shouting Frig! Frig! I don’t know how to fly! Friiiiiiiig!

³ Correct answer: So hard.

I Think That Went Well

The Drive hardcover Kickstart has wrapped, and Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett has come up about eight bucks shy of 300% funding¹, which means we all get fancy endpapers, ribbon bookmarks, spot gloss, dust covers, a stack of e-books, and a download of STRIPPED along with our comics. Yikes, givin’ away the store, LArDK!

When the campaign launched, I noted that Kellett’s trick of giving the heads-up to his Patreon supporters (giving them first crack at limited rewards — very smart) skewed the first-day numbers, preventing my usual analysis with the Fleen Funding Formula (Mark II). Now that it’s all said and done, I’m going to see what the FFF mk2 would have predicted and compare against the actual finish.

To reiterate: the FFF mk2 looks at the Kicktraq projection at the 24-30 hour mark and divides that value by 4 for the midpoint of the projection. That midpoint is further divided by 5 to get the margin of error². That gives Drive a predicted finish of US$110K +/- 22K, or a range of US$88K to US$132K. Actual finish: US$104.7K, or pretty damn close to the midpoint. For contrast, the McDonald Ratio³ predicts US$97K, also well within the margin of error (and likely more accurate for lower-backer-count campaigns). This is the first head-to-head comparison I’ve had for the two tools, and I’m tentatively convinced (ask me again after another dozen trials) that they’re equally useful.

Now starts the long wait for printing and shipping and setting up Gumroad with all the digital downloads; the books should go out around February, by which time we’ll have built up another two or three Tales From The Drive guest stories, and who knows how much more details of the Pilot’s War and the Second Spanish Empire. Can’t wait to see where it all leads.

Spam of the day:

Strathmore Professional — Congratulations! You’ve been selected to Join Strathmore’s Who’s Who Network

Damn, I thought somebody was going to offer me Strathmore paper that I could give to an artist friend. Stupid spammers.

¹ It’s actually closer to three hundo, but eight bucks sounds funnier.

² Futher, the FFF mk2 is only used for campaigns that have at least 200 backers in that initial period.

³ From Kel McDonald’s observation that the first three days equals one third of the final total