The webcomics blog about webcomics

Deep Bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spam of the day:

Confirmation Needed: $100 Kroger Gifts Inside

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

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

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

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

Too Much Going On Today

Tuesday as busy day? Very odd.

  • We start, as we have done with increasing frequency over the past five months or so, with TopatoCon, on account of they keep announcing stuff. Today it’s fact that ticket sales are now live and the preliminary programing schedule is now up.

    There are some unfortunate conflicts in the schedule, such as Saturday afternoon when the Let’s Drink About It guys will be talking cocktails (oooh!) at the same time that Christopher Hastings will be leading a workshop on writing sketch comedy. This is tragic, because Hastings is a creative mixer of drinks and would greatly enjoy the LDAI session, but one can’t have everything (I’ll go there on your behalf, Chris, promise).

    It’s also ironic that on Sunday afternoon, there will be discussion with Wes Citti and Tony Wilson about how to Play Nice With Others at the same time that David Malki !, Spike, Kate Leth, and Randy Milholland will be talking about how Internet People are basically dicks who’ve forgotten how to Play Nice With Others.

  • Speaking of small conventions heavy with indie-type creators, SPX have announced the Ignatz Award Nominations for 2015, and there are a couple of names that stand out. Specifically, Jillian Tamaki is all over the damn thing (and deservedly so), with nominations for Outstanding Artist, Outstanding Anthology or Collection (both for SuperMutant Magic Academy), and Outstanding Story (“Sex Coven”, from Frontier #7).

    Other webcomics types include Emily Carroll for Outstanding Artist (Through the Woods), Sophie Goldstein¹ for Outstanding Graphic Novel and Outstanding Comic (both for The Oven), and Box Brown for Outstanding Anthology or Collection (An Entity Observes All Things). The category of Outstanding Online Comic itself has nominees

    Best of luck to all the nominees. The Ignatz Awards will be presented at SPX, 19 September, in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Speaking of longtime webcomickers who are looking to spend more time making webcomics and less time at the day job (okay, we weren’t, but work with me), David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc) is about to join your ranks. Having spent more than a dozen years making more than a dozen comics with literally an infinite number of updates, Morgan-Mar has decided that the drudgery and unrewarding nature of the day job² is less fun that making comics and other creative things, and you can help make it possible:

    News: Hey folks, I have good news! I have talked with my manager and HR department at work, and confirmed that I can reduce my working hours to 9 days per fortnight. That means I could spend one full day every two weeks making more creative stuff!

    But I have a mortgage and bills to pay, and am very risk averse. So I have posted a goal of raising US$750 a month on Patreon to partly offset my resulting loss in income. If I can reach this goal, I will make this move and dedicate a day every fortnight to making more comics, books, podcasts, videos, and other cool stuff. This will include raising the number of new Irregular Webcomic! strips to 4 per week.

    And if I can get to the dream goal of $1500 a month, I can quit my day job one day per week, and Irregular Webcomic! will return to a full 7 new strips per week. Spread the word! And please consider supporting my Patreon. Thank you to all of you

    For reference, Morgan-Mar is presently at just under US$450/month, or 60% of the way to goal. And honestly, if there’s anybody that should be able to be a full-time creative, it’s Morgan-Mar. The dude’s got more ideas per cm³ than anybody else on the planet. I can’t wait to see what he can come up with when he can spend full days on his ideas instead of a stolen hour or two.

  • Kickstarts? Kickstarts! Alina Pete is doing a card game based on the concept of the tarot, sitting about 18.5% of goal as she comes into the back third of the campaign time. This one needs a big bump if it’s gonna get made. On the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Sohmer is looking to make three books of Least I Could Do and is about 35% of the way to goal since launching yesterday. The Fleen Funding Formula (mk II) doesn’t apply to either project due to the low backer counts, where predicted results and actual results diverge violently.
  • I have serious problems with Lenovo these days due to their terrible, terrible decisions re: privacy-invading design decisions in their consumer line of laptops, so they are very lucky that Ryan North is a likable dude with an adorable dog and he’s willing to promote their ThinkPad line4. I am sorry to say that I don’t trust the company you are promoting, but we are still cool, Ryan.

Spam of the day:

Do you have any tips for rookie blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

Footnotes, man. Readers dig footnotes.

¹ Goldstein is also listed as a member of the Jury, but please note two things about the Ignatz rules: the Jury is anonymous, even to the other members, during the nomination process, and while Jury members may not nominate their own work, there is no prohibition from one Juror’s work being nominated for an award by his or her fellow Jurors. I trust that Ms Goldstein recused herself from any decision that would have resulted in her own nominations.

² Working on image-processing for a corporate research arm and helping to set the ISO standards for image definitions. Such boring and unappreciated scut-work! Might as well work retail.

I almost said all of that with a straight face. Next time for sure!

³ That’s a “power of three”, or cubic centimeter, not a footnote.

4 Which line doesn’t seem to have been affected by Lenovo’s terrible, terrible decisions — which is actually even worse, because the ThinkPads are mostly aimed at corporate customers that are best able to detect and mitigate such terrible, terrible decisions. The consumer-grade laptops that Lenovo sold pre-compromised are hitting the demographic least able to defend themselves. Never buying another Lenovo product, but man, Chompsky’s cute.

Less To Complain About Than You’d Think

Welp, the Eisner Award nominations are out, and the thing that jumped out at me is how thoroughly web-/indy comics creators have entered the mainstream; they are competing head-to-head against some of the most revered creators of traditional publishers, and against some of the most well-known creations. Let’s go down the list.

First and foremost would be Bandette, which aside from a nod in the Best Digital/Web Comic category (about which more in a bit), was also nominated for Best Continuing Series (going head to head against the likes of Saga and Hawkeye), and artist Colleen Coover’s nomination for Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art). Similarly, Emily Carroll’s as-yet online-only When the Darkness Presses is up for Best Short Story against works featuring these obscure guys named “Bat-man” and “Su-per-man”; Carroll also took a nomination for Through the Woods as Best Graphic Album — Reprint. It happens a little more each year: an online work competes directly against print comics, and it’s an encouraging trend.

The other multiple nominee I wanted to mention is Lumberjanes (newly ensconced on the New York Times bestseller list for their first collected edition, by the bye) for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17), with LJ co-writer Noelle Stevenson also nominated for Best Digital/Web Comic for Nimona. And since that’s two of the webcomics nominees listed, let’s continue and acknowledge the rest:

As in past years, the category is a bit of a mish-mash, with The Private Eye and Bandette being comic-booky where Failing Sky, Last Mechanical Monster, and Nimona release page-at-time; Bandette is sold via comiXology, the others release on their own websites. There’s not much overlap between format or genre, with all five being united solely by dint of the fact they release online first. Maybe that’s good, maybe that’s bad, but it’s still restricted to whatever the judges decide counts as long form work, and that maybe should be reconsidered. Regardless, all strong work in the category this year.

That being said, it wouldn’t be the Eisners without a What the hell? moment or two, and for me that came when I noticed a complete lack of webcomics in the Best Humor Publication (where they are often represented) and a lack of both Sisters and Amulet in any of the younger readers categories. In the case of the former, it’s hard to argue when you do get nominations for Cul de Sac and Groo; in the latter, Raina Telgemeier was nominated as Best Writer/Artist, which is arguably better. There are still people out there that regard works for younger readers as somehow lesser; that’s a garbage argument, but to the extent that some perceive it as a ghetto, Telgemeier isn’t being pigeonholed. She’s competing against the best across the entire swathe of comics, including grand masters like Stan Sakai and Sergio Aragonés. Still nothing for Kazu Kibuishi, so I’ve got that to complain about.

But let us finish up on a happy note: Gene Luen Yang is up for Best Writer, both for his Avatar tie-in comic at Dark Horse, and his own The Shadow Hero, and the Tamaki cousins were recognized for This One Summer as Best Graphic Album — New; collectively they’ll be facing competition including Jules Feiffer, Brian K Vaughn, Kelly Sue DeConnick, G Willow Wilson, and Grant Morrison. Webcomics creators (and webcomics veterans) aren’t just being compared to each other, they’re being compared to the best alive. It’s a good year for the community.

The Eisner Awards will be given out Friday, 10 July, at San Diego Comic Con; best of luck to all the nominees.

Spam of the day:

1. Don’t continue putting off your lifestyle change.

Let’s see — wife, dog, house, volunteer work, and the opportunity to opinion-mong on a regular basis? My lifestyle’s jammin’, Sparky.

Y’all Sure Are Upholding Roddenberry’s Vision Of A Better Society, Good Job

That's the problem with past representations of the future -- they rarely age well.

Apart from the garbage people coming up from out of the floorboards to tell Jon Rosenberg that he’s a blasphemer, heretic, apostate, and filthy SJW¹ for his extremely mild jab at Star Trek, is it a good day to for good news about webcomics creators? I believe that yes, yes it is.

  • For starters, the invaluable Jim Zub has posted another in his series of studies of the economics of creator-owned comics; the key takeaway from this one is how much the market has changed in the couple of years that he’s been sharing data. Zub’s gracious enough to talk about the work that Image (his publisher for creator-owned work) has put into building up the market, identifying it as the second of six key factors for the relatively greater success of Wayward over Skullkickers.

    In fact, if we take the ordering of his factors as significant, he cites Image as being more important than his own efforts in three areas: his higher career profile, retailer outreach, and press outreach. I think he’s being too modest here, as even the best company — and by all indicators Zub clearly thinks of Image as being a near-ideal fit for him — will never care about your career success more than you do. Choosing to work with Image is one of many things that Zub has done right, and I am hammering on this point because I don’t want (and I suspect strong that Zub doesn’t either) anybody to read his piece and conclude The secret to success is getting in at Image.

    It’s not. The secret to success is hard work, improving skills, becoming a known quantity (not the least, becoming known for meeting deadlines and publication dates), and a hell of a lot of luck. If the secret to success was landing at Image, we’d have seen issue #2 of Nonplayer by now. The success of Zub in comics is 90% attributable to Zub; or as he puts it for those who read the entire thing:

    In the end, I think that’s what creator-owned comics are all about – charting your own destiny and growing creatively with each new project.

  • Speaking of building success on past success, Spike is doing well with her plan to turn Iron Circus Comics from the company that publishes her comics and the anthologies that she leads into a publisher of other creators. Case in point: the Kickstarter for ICC’s first non-Spike project, an omnibus edition of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by EK Weaver, has been … well, let’s let Spike tell us in real time:

    the TJ & A omnibus Kickstarter project will launch in five minutes! Just putting in the media credits.

    Jesus Christ Whisper Grass [a 20-backer limited reward at the US$75 level] didn’t last FIVE MINTUES

    Jesus it’s at over 5k and I haven’t even told tumblr yet


    Four backer levels sold out within a half-hour of a Kickstarter’s launch” is a new record for me.

    50% funded in an hour good lord

    This Kickstarter is funding faster than the original Smut Peddler KS!


    Please note: this campaign launched at midnight East Coast time, and funded entirely by 6:00am; a lot of people went to bed before funding launched and woke up to find it already over goal. As of this writing, some 13 hours after launch, the omnibus is sitting at a hair under US$29K (call it 156% of goal) and 565 backers. Yeah, it’s not going to be the next Exploding Kittens², but come back tomorrow and we’ll see what the Fleen Funding Formula (mark 2)³ has to say.

  • How about a simple story, something with no math or numbers? The Bram Stoker Awards (from the Horror Writers Association) have announced their nominees for 2014, and in the comics category (or more officially, Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel) we find one web/indy creator competing against the likes of Joe Hill and Paul Tobin. I speak, naturally, of Emily Carroll, recognized for Through The Woods, described on this site as the most frightening book I’ve ever read, and for good reason, too.

    Here’s hoping that the HWA members are diligent about reading the nominated works and here’s hoping that Carroll wins, because if there’s something out there more spooktastic than Through The Woods I’m not sure I want to know about it. We’ll find out on Saturday, 9 May, when the Bram Stoker Awards are handed out in conjunction with the World Horror Convention in Atlanta. Try to remain calm until then, and remember — there are things that lurk under the bed, in the closet, and behind the walls.

Spam of the day:

This is the place where I started out also it would have been a great start for you as well.

Yes! All my efforts have come to fruition, people are starting here and then going out into the world to spread my word.

¹ Social Jew Warrior.

² That already launched today: the new version of the Pebble Watch, which is at $4.5million (or #8 most-funded of all time) and climbing a few hours in. In a month, we seem certain to have a new #1, although the relatively high price of entry means it probably won’t displace the Kittens from most-backed.

³ Which, because I just realized I never followed up on my prediction for funding: Exploding Kittens closed with US$8.782 million in funding, just inside the range of US$6 to 9 million that the FFFmk2 gave us. As a reminder, the FFFmk2 states you take the Predicted Value of a project at the 24-30 hour mark from Kicktraq and call that PV. The range at close will be PV/4 +/- PV/20, but has only shown to be valid for project with at least 200 backers at calculation time.

Yes, something like Exploding Kittens produces a fairly wide range, but US$7.5 million +/- US$1.5 million is as tight as we can make it with current Day One technology.

In A Mad Rush

Holidays of all sorts — Alliday, even — are bearing down upon us with all rapidity. Let this, then, serve as your notice that until after the New Year, there may not be updates five days a week, as a dearth of news and family time occur in equal measure. So before we let you all get to all the last-minute tasks, let’s do a roundup.

  • New Emily Carroll comic, for the Christmas season! And in case you were wondering if the season would perhaps prompt something jolly, or even cheerful, let me quote from a perfectly ordinary young lady right at the beginning:

    My grandpa says they used to tell ghost stories before Christmas. I’d much prefer a scary story than a bunch of grown-ups standing around…. One with lots of blood! Or maybe a murderer, or sounds coming up from the cellar….

    You know, SCARY.

    This being an Emily Carroll story, one should be very careful what one wishes for, particularly when one realizes that of the two young ladies in this tale (the one asking for the story, and the one telling it) is somebody we’ve met before. Go pull your copy of Through The Woods off the shelf — and if you don’t have a copy, what’s wrong wit you go get one right goddamn now — and check out the last story. The Nesting Place was, for me, the most disturbing of the five stories in TTW, for reasons given at that last link, and it’s retroactively become even spookier now that we see in All Along The Wall just how the creepy things (even in modern times) are willing to play the long game and be patient.

    Very patient. Build up that Yule fire nice and high, and hope that the scuttling things don’t like the light.

  • Along with all the heartache going on in Bedford, Texas one must note that today is significant over at Something*Positive for other reasons. Thirteen years ago, Randy Milholland launched with a strip that implied the humor of cruelty would be a major motif, and very nearly immediately settled into a somewhat more restrained sarcasm.

    But within a few months (perhaps about the time that Choo-Choo Bear first showed up) the first stirrings of heart and deep character were making themselves known. The strip that ran a year on was as far removed from the first as could be imagined and that was it — Something*Positive as we knew it was in full force. Happy Strippiversary, Randy; here’s to many more.

  • Not sure how I missed this until less than two days before it finalizes, but there’s a Kickstarter campaign to make action figures out of old, old, old superheroes¹, including The Green Turtle, the public-domain hero that provided the inspiration and protagonist for Gene Luen Yang and Sonny liew’s The Shadow Hero. As of this writing, they are US$150 from goal, so if this appeals to you even a little now’s your proverbial one chance.
  • Speaking of Gene Luen Yang, one quick note: he’s returning to the Avatar: The Last Airbender comic-writing game for a one-shot to be released by Dark Horse on Free Comic Book Day, illustrated by the incomparable Carla Speed McNeil. That’s five wonderful things all mixed up together, so start making plans to snag a copy today.

Spam of the day:

But even in the event you don’t, the truth is, these 5 keys are essential for your survival.

Oh sure, start off like that and then don’t tell me what the keys are. Guess I won’t be surviving. Dicks.

¹ Also, as a stretch goal, Mike Allred’s Madman, who I’m pretty sure had an action figure about 15 years ago, in the same wave as Matt Wagner’s Grendel and Kevin Matchstick. Time flies.

Supernatural And/Or Spooky

It is the Friday before a long weekend and I have far to travel. Let’s do this.

  • I read Wayward #1 by Jim Zub and Steve Cummings yesterday; my thoughts on the story were shared here last month, as Zub was kind enough to send me a preview PDF, so I’ll just add one thought. Namely, reading this story on paper makes it even better. Yeah, yeah, digital distribution is the future of comics and it would solve my bookshelf space problem, but some things you just need to have the sensation of flipping pages. I look forward to many months of traditional Japanese monsters getting their asses kicked by teen girls.
  • Also mentioned last month; Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods, which it took me forever to find a copy of. It was worth every bit of the wait, however, as Carroll weaves five tales of … I know the usual word there is terror, but that’s not quite the right word. Terror jumps out at you and screams boogedy-boogedy, jumps up your heart rate and makes you scream, but relies on that suddenness, that shock to gets its scares. Carroll’s stories are instead built on a foundation of unsettlement, as things seem a little wrong, then a little more, and pretty soon you can’t tell when things weren’t wrong and just the act of trying to get back to where they are un-wrong seems impossible and futile.

    And that’s a more scarifying, a more legitimately I have to put this book down right now or I will never sleep again-inducing way of telling stories than any attempt by mere terror. Carroll starts firmly in the pre-industrial past, where the wrong things are safely in the deep dark woods, feared by the primitive and ignorant, and nobody today could fall afoul of such imaginary beasties, ha ha. But with each story, the clothes are little less simple, the homes a little less anachronistic, the language a little more modern and holy crap the last story is all the way in the 20th century and there are cars and doctors and flappers and shit, shit, shit those beasties and haunts have persisted until the present day and that means they could be

    right here

    in the room



    That’s why Through The Woods is the most frightening book I’ve ever read, the delicious kind of scares that settle into your brain and take up housekeeping, the ones that make you reflect on your life and resolve to be a much better person because none of the protagonists of her five stories was horrible (okay, the guy who killed his brother in a jealous fit) and look how they ended up. If I’m good enough that won’t happen to me.


  • Good news that doesn’t involve existential dread! Noelle Stevenson’s Lumberjanes is described in the house ads of this week’s BOOM! Studios comics as no longer being an eight-issue limited series, but rather an ongoing series. Well done, Team Lumberjanes!
  • Your semiregular reminder: Ryan North never forgets. NEVER.

Spam of the day:

Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Losangeles|California}! I’m {bored to tears|bored to death|bored} at work so I decided to {check out|browse} your {site|website|blog} on my iphone during lunch break. Just wanted to {tell you|mention|say} keep up the {fantastic|excellent|great|good} {job|work}!

This is excellent — somebody forgot to run the script that turns a Mad Libs-style template into a pseudo-unique blogspam message, and sent the entire damn thing to me. It’s 2800 words long and totally not suspicious in the least!

¹ You see the book credited everywhere as “Jim Zub’s Wayward“, but Zub is a classy guy and insists that we acknowledge artist Cummings’s contributions, to the point of calling him his co-creator.

Dropping Today

For more on the Pitch Drop Experiment, please refer to Maki Naro's comics. Photo by Flickr user Jamie Allen, used under a Creative Commons licsense  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

So much good stuff coming out today (and soon), you guys.

  • The Shadow Hero drops today; I’m away from home without my review copy (thoughtfully provided by :01 Books) because I am a genius, so this is from memory. It’s partly a story set in the 1930s, and partly an exploration of an actual public domain character called The Green Turtle and what he could have been.

    The Green Turtle was probably the first Asian-American superhero; he appeared for a few issues during World War II, created by comics artist Chu Hing, whose publisher was adamant that the hero was Not Asian. So despite running around in China, fighting Japanese invaders, with an Asian boy sidekick (sigh, “Burma Boy”), The Green Turtle’s skin was always printed in a bright, garish, we-told-you-he-wasn’t-Asian pink, to make it clear just how Not Asian (i.e.: white) this character was. Writer Gene Luen Yang has rescued some of The Greet Turtle’s dignity, giving him a name (never revealed in the comic, thus Not Asian), a history, and even a reason for that super-pink Not Asian skin.

    Hank Chu doesn’t want to be a superhero in his pre-WWII west coast Chinatown; he doesn’t hear the call to destiny (well, he does eventually), he isn’t granted amazing powers by a fantastic being (okay, that happens too), but rather he is propelled into the hero biz by something bigger than himself, something that cannot be ignored or avoided. Namely, his mom.

    She’s decided Hank is going to be a hero, and she makes him a costume, thinks up a codename, drives him out at night to fight criminals, and goes around shoving him into handy chemical spills hoping to provoke powers. The only thing provoked is his skin reacts to moisture by turning bright pink, which actually serves to disguise him as he moves among the native and immigrant Chinese population. When his father is murdered by criminal gangs, he inherits the sponsorship of one of the great gods of ancient China and gains one very particular power, although it doesn’t prevent him from getting the crap kicked out of him.

    Hank’s enemies are the gangs, but also the systemic racism that keeps his family and community from full participation in society. It fits in well with Yang’s earlier examinations of what it means to be Chinese and Chinese-American; the art by Sonny Liew doesn’t look like Yang’s work on American Born Chinese or last year’s masterful Boxers & Saints, but it has a loose-limbed, somewhat goofy approach to character that Yang’s work is too restrained to achieve. If Yang is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — all clean lines and everything perfectly composed and gorgeous — Liew is Kung Fu Hustle, all frenetic energy and over the top action. Together they’ve created a marvelous story that resonates for all the right reasons.

  • Today’s also the launch of Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, both of which I will be obtaining at the first opportunity.
  • Not actually dropping for some weeks is Jim Zub’s Wayward, but he was kind enough to send me a review copy, and if there’s one thing you never have to ask me to do twice, it’s tear into a Zub-penned issue #1 despite the fact I know it will be frustrating as hell. Not because the story won’t be good, but because the man knows how to hook a reader, bring things to a proper level of excitement, and then stop the goddamn thing because he’s hit page count right on a point of high tension and now I’m going arrgh and counting the days until issue #2.

    For the record, Wayward #1 did all of that more efficiently than usual, because Zub not only created an initial set of characters, set up major plot points, and hinted at the major conflict of the series; he did do against a background of modern Tokyo in a way that deeply affected me. Flight to Narita followed train to city followed subway to neighborhood is trip I’ve taken, and the feeling you get when you finally reach that last kilometer of your journey, where the idea of Tokyo becomes the reality of Tokyo — Zub paces the slog of travel leading to the reveal masterfully, and he’s partnered with artists that can portray it.

    Combine that with something that often gets lots in Western comics set in Japan (in general) and Tokyo (in particular): the fact that the country and city are a place of contrasts. The highest-tech, most modern 22nd century district can suddenly turn to quiet local neighborhood of traditional shops and homes in the space of five minutes walk. The skyscrapers covered in LEDs have alcoves almost too narrow to stand in between them, where a rock draped in garlands sits. The rock is the home of a kami, it’s always been the home of a kami, people revere that kami and its rock, and the skyscrapers will just have to be built around them because the kami ain’t moving. This is the feel that Zub imbues in his Tokyo in Wayward and it’s pulled me in.

    As I write this, I’m sitting in an office building directly across the street from the Transamerica Pyramid, which I recently saw on fire after being punched by giant monsters in the new Godzilla. I require very little from such movies to be entertained — giant monsters need to punch each other and things need to get knocked down and that is deeply satisfying.

    Likewise, Zub has provided a fight scene here with one of Japan’s traditional monsters and he’s laid out the struggle in a way that’s easy to follow and perhaps more importantly, emphasizes the nonhuman nature of the monster. These are not just people with a strange shape and odd mannerisms; they carry themselves with an attitude that they are different from humans, better than humans, they saw the first humans pull themselves out of the muck and have little regard for humans. They are kappa¹ and kappa are better than humans and that characterization is as deeply satisfying as watching stompy monsters flatten a city. Also, Zub’s chosen to describe these particular kappa as distinctly ninja turtle-like, and thus it is hilarious when they get their asses handed to them by a pair of teen girls.

    What I am saying here is that Zub wrote this comic pretty much exactly for me, but it is crafted with his usual skill and flair, so you do not need to be me to find it well worth your time and money. Pre-order it today, read it next month, and share in my arrgh until we all get to read #2 together.

Spam of the day:

Nothing good today. I’ve been buried for a couple weeks, and today it’s nothing but long strings of question marks. Borrrrr-ing.

¹ I have a soft spot in my heart for kappa, as they were the first of Japan’s traditional yokai that I learned about. They are turtle-like, they must keep water in the bowl-like indentation on their foreheads or they will die, and they will drown humans to eat the inside of their rectum. However, they can be bribed with cucumbers, and if you get one to return your bow, their forhead-water will spill out and they will be helpless. There’s menace there, but ways to deal with the menace if you’re clever or prepared.

The Only Story That Matters Today

To quote The Spurge, who tweeted last evening:

emily carroll emily carroll emily carroll

Spurge’s tweet led to a Tumblr that led to Zainab Akhtar’s blog that’s got images and info — a full preview, honestly — of Emily Carroll’s first print collection.

Due in July 2014 in a 200+ page hardcover, Through The Woods looks to be exactly what anybody that’s read Carroll’s comics will want — fairy- and folk-tale influenced, deeply unsettling stories, including a reconfigured-for-print version of her breakout story, His Face All Red. Akhtar asserts that this is one of the books that most comics fans are looking forward to and I’m gonna go out on a limb and agree; at least for me, this may be my most-anticipated book since, jeeze, I dunno? Anya’s Ghost? Boxers & Saints? Darkness? Just head over to Akhtar’s site and drink in the beauty.

Okay, one other story that matters: you’re coming up on your last chances to get in on a pair of webcomics Kickstarts.

  • You’ve got 10 hours to get in on Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan’s Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell campaign (which, sitting at about 180% of goal, is definitely going to be made, but you won’t get your copy any quicker than on the KS). DCIGTH is charming, comforting, and a complete story, so this is it — your chance to support Jordan and Goldstein for the free comics they supplied you.
  • And since I last wrote about it a week ago, the Broken Telephone campaign has seen a resurgence, sitting at about 91% with three days to do. Kicktraq has the latest iteration of Ryan Estrada’s The Whole Story series finishing at 104% of goal (which is loads better than the heartbreaking 96% it was predicting last week), but nothing counts until it crosses that 100% threshold. There’s an armful of creators who stand to get paid with actual, real money, but only if a little less that US$2200 of more pledges show up. Time’s running out, don’t let this one stumble.

Things That Stretch The Definition Of Comics

And, in case you’re new here, that’s an entirely positive development.

  • You gotta hand it to Ryan Estrada, things just sort of happen to him. It’s an open question if he naturally intuits situations where things are more likely to happen, or if (as I’ve always maintained) he is some form of natural chaos generator function, causing weird situations to coalesce about him in places where they ordinarily would not occur.

    As far as the Estradian Weirdness scale goes, hiking in the woods in Korea and coming across an art installation/comic book you can wander inside is pretty low scoring, but neat nonetheless:

    In just 9 pages, it tells of the war, the refugees building the city, the locals thriving by embracing nature, and gentrification taking that away.

    But this story takes @scottmccloud‘s lessons about the real story happening in the space between panels to the extreme.

    Because here, the space between panels is an actual hike through the very nature that brings the characters joy, with glimpses through the trees of the very village it takes place in.

    I have never seen anything like it and I am so happy to have stumbled upon it.

    In case you don’t have your copy of Understanding Comics handy, it’s chapter 3 (Blood In The Gutter, p60 in my 1994 Harper reprinting of the Kitchen Sink edition) where McCloud talks about how much story happens in the gutters, and the various kinds of transitions that take you from one panel to the next¹. It’s a terrifyingly creative way to tell the story of a place, and I’m glad that the artist was found by Estrada’s wife, Kim Hyung Sook, and that she could be told of how much enjoyment her work brought to Estrada’s followers.

  • While I’m not sure if Estrada is a catalyst for weirdness or merely wanders into it at a greater than normal rate, I have no such illusions regarding Shing Yin Khor; they don’t wait to find or provoke weirdness, they seek it out and when necessary, create it. Consider the multiple road trips in search of muffler men, or the dragging of the Center For Otherworld Science into our reality via a multimedia AR mystery, or perhaps just deciding to give the 12 foot Home Depot skeleton they brought home a proper axe for Halloween. For Khor, that’s just a random Wednesday.

    So I am very excited that Khor has decided to team up with game designer Jeeyon Shim to create … let’s just quote the whole thing:

    [Sparkles] ANNOUNCEMENT! [Sparkles]²

    Shing Yin Khor (@sawdustbear) and I are co-designing The Field Guide To Memory, an interactive journaling game about legacy, wonder, and cryptids. Launching on KS this winter!

    Keep an eye on the hashtag #FieldGuideToMemory and follow our accounts for more!

    The weirdness creator cannot be stopped by pandemic or quarantine, they only become stronger. But is it, as I implied in the title, a thing that stretches the definition of comics, or something merely wildly creative and somewhat comics-adjacent? Given that the story panels will in some cases be 3D objects and the gutters human emotion and experience, I’m gonna call it comics. If it’s not, maybe we need to expand the definition.

Spam of the day:

Hi, I was just taking a look at your site and filled out your feedback form. The feedback page on your site sends you these messages via email which is why you’re reading my message right now right? That’s half the battle with any type of online ad, making people actually READ your message and I did that just now with you! If you have something you would like to promote to millions of websites via their contact forms in the US or to any country worldwide send me a quick note now, I can even focus on particular niches and my pricing is super low.

So you want me to pay you to annoy other people the same way you’re annoying me right now by abusing the site that I provide? No. Fuck off.

¹ Given Estrada’s description, I’d say it was mostly Type 4, scene-to-scene transitions. Which, given McCloud’s analysis, is more likely to occur in Asian comics than Western comics.

² That’s how it showed up in my copy of the tweet’s text. Okay, I added the brackets, but it really did say Sparkles to represent the emoji.

Camp 2018, Part Five

The Egg Situation at Breakfast on Monday is off the hook; it’s a scramble/caprese deal, more delicate and loved that even Ray Smuckles would manage.

The structure of the programming has loosened; yesterday, a considerable number of games were conducted, role-playing and otherwise, and space in the schedule is being made so that people can improvise. Scott C talks about how to find inspiration while Sophie Lager (a local artist and musician, and all-around awesome lady) shows me how to cast yarn onto needles. I spend the rest of Camp adding knit stitches into something that nothing in particular, letting the physical work allow my mind to drift¹. I suspect Scott C’s journey through art and artists that inspire him will always come to mind when I have needles in my hands.

When I first mentioned to Dylan Meconis at last year’s Camp that I wanted to learn to knit, she immediately declared that I’d be great at it. It’s all just math, Gary she told me. Now I can see the geometry of the yarn hangs together, and I’m reminded of ropework that I’ve practiced in my habit of rock climbing. I’ll eventually abandon the mutant first project (Meconis told me to pick a skein of wool in a color I didn’t care about, so I wouldn’t be precious about unraveling as needed) and start a second practice work: 20 stitches wide, careful counting, uniform slack. It’s got about 1000 stitches in and I haven’t picked it up for nearly two weeks, but I’ve got flights for work next week and I suspect it’ll be in my carry-on. Eventually, I may even learn a second stitch.

I learn a bit later that as long as I keep my hands within my peripheral vision, I can knit and use language; brains are funny things — I learned from a decade of work commuting that I can’t listen to podcasts or music and talk or read or fill in a crossword, but I can do sudoku. Likewise, knitting and conversation flow together when Lucy Bellwood hosts a conversation on how to sustain a [creative] career. Bellwood’s rightly known for her large personality and adventurous nature, but she’s also the perfect moderator of a discussion that deals with smaller, quieter issues — emotional stability, worries about money, confidence in your work and place. The leap she took in sharing her little jerk and speaking about him honestly has made her a center in this quirky culture.

The sense of community is more powerful than I recall from last year, maybe because this year I’m a little more in control of my impostor syndrome. It’s revivifying to be around people who are insanely creative, innately good-hearted, willing to let down their hard-earned defenses (remember, most of them make their living in large part on the friggin’ internet, and a majority of this year’s attendees are women), to talk honestly about their ambitions and their own little jerks.

I’ll tell you that this discussion took place, for this block of time on Monday afternoon and throughout the rest of the weekend. That’s all I’ll tell you. But I will urge you — if you haven’t already — to find a similar intentional community within your own geographic/professional/whatever circles and to allow yourselves the same sort of discussions. I said it more than once to friends since I first attended, but I’ll say it now for public consumption: for me, attending Comics Camp is better than a year’s therapy.

Part of that is because Pat Race (and he’s far from the only person that makes Comics Camp run, but he’s the heart and soul of it) is very, very aggressive about soliciting and acting on feedback. He wants to know about how we’ve experienced the logistics and arrangements, the activities and scheduling, both before and during Camp. He talked about how school the visits worked, about how after three years the students finding continuity; he asks our opinions on the Library show and the involvement of the community at all stages. It’s universally agreed that everybody loved what Lily and Ishmael Hope shared with us, and would like to see more exposure to local culture in future.

Maybe it’s because it’s the last day, but the main lodge seems to hold more people than any time since arrival; our banner is hoisted, POoOP Number Two voting continues, people circulate in ever-changing swirls. After dinner, there’s a rundown of how Tuesday morning will go — breakfast, followed by cleanup, and a bus departure for those on the cartoonist-heavy flight to Seattle at lunchtime. And there’s a special presentation to Jeste. You may recall that when introduced to us, Jeste announced she had a requirement. You’re all cartoonists, she declared, and nobody’s drawn me yet.

Well. Let it not be said that cartoonists are not up to a challenge.

Over the weekend the Jeste Shrine takes form; from the high altarpiece — it reads Our Lady Of Dank Snax — which lights up to the many, many portraits, it continuously grows and changes. Each time I take a picture, it has a new representation of Jeste that needs to find room for inclusion. I think my favorite is by Vera Brosgol, who’s drawn Jeste like one of the summer camp kitchen ladies in Be Prepared. She’s a bomb-ass chef, she fed us better than anybody would expect from a summer camp kitchen, and she is beloved.

Tuesday morning passes quickly, but not before a drizzly group photo; my flight isn’t until stupid early on Wednesday; others will be around until late afternoon or evening. Those of us not on the early bus spend a little extra time cleaning the lodge and kitchen, before making our way back to town. Shing Yin Khor and I have Mexican, then are called over to the local distillery for delicious gin drinks by Marian Call.

That night, I end up going to see The Avengers: Infinity War with Call, Race, and some of the other local Juneau folks, a reintroduction to the machinery of mass culture after days of being away. I’d started tapering off my email checking and Twitter habit before heading into the woods, and the lack of cell signal means I went into the movie entirely devoid of spoilers. The trip home and the days following will see me slowly reintroduce my regular life.

I love Camp, I love the people there, I love Juneau. I couldn’t live there, partly because I’ve made my home in the place that feels like home, but partly because living in Juneau would make the place start to feel ordinary. It’s where I can go to reset, to spend some time (never enough) with an intentional community of my people, to take what I learn from them home. I know that’s sounding distinctly Campbellian, and I’m no journeying hero².

Juneau gets to be my Rivendell because it’s a journey away; the people I meet there are sometimes in my neck of the woods, and their welcome in my home is perpetual. It’s not for everybody, particularly in this very cynical age³, but if it’s in your means, I urge to you visit the Mini-Con as you are able, or apply to attend the Comics Camp, or to build your own intentional (if intermittent) community in a similar vein. It’s not a time or a place, it’s a process and a commitment to each other. Join ours, or build your own, but in a world that seems out of control, take a step back and seek out a bit of re-creation.

One final thing before we go: Aud Koch (who I’d not met before, and who was a fellow inhabitant of my very polite cabin) has shared some pieces from her sketchbook. They’re really pretty.



    Pack out always has a bit of confusion, cartoonists love doggos, and Amalga Distillery has the Portland International Airport carpet of wallpaper.

    ¹ Which may explain that what started as a 15-stitch wide swath of yarn eventually turns into a 28-stitch wide swath of yarn. I’m not sure how I managed to make things wider (or why I didn’t notice earlier), but Sophie assures me it’s an advanced technique that I’ve stumbled on to.

    ² Mostly because the hero doesn’t get to return to the land of wisdom and peace on a yearly basis, as I plan to.

    ³ And I am a very cynical man, but Comics Camp is enough to make me declare my allegiance to sincerity.