The webcomics blog about webcomics

Busy Weekend

You know, what with two different sets of comics awards being given out, nominally from different coasts but practically speaking all from the confines of cyberspace.

  • On the delayed hand, you had NCSFest handing out the various NCS Division Awards, along with the Reuben¹. In the Online Comics categories, you had wins by Alec Longstreth (Long Form) and Jim Benton (Short Form); the latter wouldn’t have been my votegetter if I had a vote, but I can’t say it’s undeserving; I can say it was probably the most familiar work for the membership who, as previously noted, notoriously skew old.

    Which might explain why The Reuben itself went to the oldest nominee, one with a career stretching back four decades. A’course, the oldest nominee is the deeply subversive living legend Lynda Barry, whose work is most definitely not what I’d have expected the older members to vote for. It’s hard argue with the choice, and easy to argue that there might not have been a Raina Telgemeier if not for Lynda Barry’s deeply personal, memoirlike work (which started in print when Raina was about 2 years old) blazing the way. So no complaints here — Raina’s mantlepiece is getting a bit crowded anyway — and I suspect every one of the other nominees up for the top prize agreed that Barry was the right choice.

    As a side note, I see that Joe Wos — once a recurring name on this page during his years of directing Pittsburgh’s now-folded Toonseum — was given the division award for Variety Entertainment for his Mazetoons. Congrats, Joe.

  • And on schedule (although distanced), the Ignatzen were also presented on Saturday, and managed a simultaneous best-and-worst outcome in the same category. Do a quick refresh on the dilemma that the Ignatz Awards found themselves in this year and you’ll understand. Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is a creator whose work I deeply admire and, I daresay, a friend. The work for which she was nominated as Outstanding Artist, the short story collection Don’t Go Without Me, is magnificent and entirely worthy of the brick.

    But Valero-O’Connell was also on the jury. And while I stand second to no person in my love of and evangelical fervor for her work, and I recognize the accomplishment of being only the second person to win Outstanding Artist twice² and the only one to repeat in back-to-back years, I wish that it hadn’t happened. I do think that this situation has lessened the credibility of the Ignatz Awards, and I really, really hope that they write some ground rules to ensure that this appearance of a conflict of interest cannot happen again.

    Looking at other winners, Ebony Flowers has had nearly as good a year on the awards circuit as Valero-O’Connell; last year she took the Promising New Talent brick for the short story Hot Comb and this year for the expanded print collection incorporating it (also titled Hot Comb), she’s recognized for Outstanding Graphic Novel. Ariel Ries received bricks for Outstanding Online Comic (for Witchy) and Outstanding Comic (for Cry Wolf Girl); if you weren’t following her work before, you really should be.

    Outstanding Anthology went to Be Gay, Do Comics by the various contributors of The Nib. Look, you know that on a daily basis, it’s the most wide-ranging source of original editorial and nonfiction comics around, with a list of contributors that kicks every ass. Curating their best work on a theme is something that Matt Bors, Eleri Harris, and Matt Lubchansky were going to throw themselves into, and produce something terrific.

    Speaking of The Nib, Whit Taylor’s contributions there have always impressed the hell out of me (as well as everyplace else her work runs), and today she must take some solace in the fact that after two years of utter bullshit being inflicted on her in the form of a baseless lawsuit³, her Fizzle took the Ignatz for Oustanding Series and nobody can remember that other guy’s name. Seriously, I had to look him up, whereas members of The Eleven keep getting recognized for their work. It was a long, expensive, pointless road, but I have to imagine that the heft of that brick is gonna feel really good in Taylor’s hands.


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¹ Yes, yes, common parlance refers to all of these awards as Reubens, but the term proper applies only to the Cartoonist Of The Year, the one chosen by the entirety of the NCS membership rather than those of a particular area. It’s the COTY that gets the fancy Rube Goldbergian trophy, where the division winners get a (admittedly, handsome and heavy) plaque.

² The first being Jaime Hernandez in 2007 and 2012.

³ Which resolved after tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees and the plaintiff not getting his US$2.5 million, which is apparently the going rate for butthurt in the first degree.

Appropriately Distanced Celebrations Of Comics

Just under ten years ago, David “Damn You” Willis launched his rebooted Walkyverse¹ comic, Dumbing Of Age. In the 9 years, 11 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days since then, the story has progressed from college move-in day through about … eight weeks of story. Up to midterms or so, a rate of about 5 days of story time per real-world year.

Since Sunday, the story has wordlessly jumped forward three whole months, saving us about 15 years of daily reading. Given that Thursday is the actual tenth anniversary, I expect we’ll get one more timeskip update tomorrow, and we’ll finally reach second semester on Thursday. Which means that in four strips, Willis has shifted the rate of story time:real time up to ten years per sememster, meaning we’ll see graduation sometime in 2090 instead of 2170 at the old rate.

Given that comic strips have a long history of being passed down to third and even fourth generation creative teams, I have no doubt that Dumbing Of Age will still be running when graduation comes in, whenever that may be. In any event, congratulations to Willis on ten years of DOA and 23 years of continuous webcomicking. That’s a damn big round number.

In other news:

  • We’re down to the wire on the Ignatz voting, with votes due before 9 September, which means you have until 11:59pm EDT to get yours in. The bricks will be awarded on Saturday the 12th, which is actually a very leisurely turnaround time for the Ignatzen, with the tallies normally taking between close of the exhibit hall and 9:30pm the same day.

    For reference, given the poor situation that the Ignatzes have found themselves in, I voted Michael DeForge for Outstanding Artist rather than personal fave Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. In the Outstanding Onnline Comic category, I had a dilemma because the work is all very good. But what do you do when end up with a short editorial comic like I Exist (by Breena Nuñez) up against a words+pictures poem like Like The Tide (by Isabella Rotman), an Insta account of single-panel gags (by Gabby Schulz), and a long-stretches-silent, page-a-week updater like Superpose (by Seosamh & Anka). I tossed my vote to Witchy (by Ariel Ries) because I dig the story. Good luck to all of the nominees.

  • Know what else is happening this weekend, virtually? NCSFest. I lost track of it in the lockdown, but I got an email today that it’s going on this weekend, including the Reuben Awards, which will be broken up into six separate programs (the programming page doesn’t have hard start times, but the day’s programming starts at 10:00am EDT).

    I wasn’t involved in the process this year, so I couldn’t tell you anything about the webcomic awards beyond what’s been publicly shared. The Online Comics — Long Form nominees are Steven Conley for The Middle Age, Maaria Laurinen for Phantomland, and Alec Longstreth for Isle Of Elsi. The most interesting thing there is that Phantomland is on Tapas, which is about three revolutions in comicking beyond what a large part of the NCS membership is aware of.

    The nominees for Online Comics — Short Form are Jim Benton, Christopher Grady, and Emma Hunsinger. The short forms don’t have specific titles to go with the creators, but I’ll wager that Hunsinger is on the list because of How To Draw A Horse as much as anything else. That’s magnificent work, but so is Grady’s Lunarbaboon. Benton’s a one-man IP factory, but I think he’s outclassed by the other two.

    But the Reubens news that has me most curious isn’t in the Online categories, it’s the Big Award Of The Night, the Cartoonist Of The Year, the one that’s gone to folks like Schulz, Johnston, Watterson, Larson, Trudeau, Amend, Thompson, Guisewite, and other legends of cartooning. The nominees are:

    That’s three solid practitioners of the comic strip and one living legend in Lynda Barry. Also, four nominees where normally there are only three². Also, three women. And … wait, I’m being told that there’s a fifth nominee:

    Okay, the NCS almost never nominates somebody whose work is outside the newsprint mode — comic strips, editorial comics, magazine work, all periodicals is my point — and the last one to win Cartoonist Of The Year from outside that world was Matt Groening back in 2002³. I don’t think they’ve ever recognized a graphic novelist, and certainly not anybody whose medium is middle grade autobio aimed at girls.

    That sound you hear is the industry coming to grips with the fact that the literal Old Boys Club is fading from existence and getting replaced by those damn Millennials. Gonna have to figure out when that broadcast is and pay some damn attention to it.

Edit to add: The NCSFest schedule page now has start times for sessions, instead of just durations.


Spam of the day:

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¹ So named because a series of related comics — Roomies!, It’s Walky!, Joyce And Walky!, and Shortpacked! — had one David “Walky” Walkerton as a central character, to whom all of the others could trace relationships. The Walkyverse itself debuted 13 years to the day before DOA.

² I mean, since Pastis broke his Susan Lucci streak last year, may as well open it up. [shrugmoji]

³ Okay, Glen Keane, animator, won a couple of years ago, but being the son of Bil Keane of The Family Circus means he’s part of that world. The only others I can think of are Sergio Aragonés and Will Eisner, the latter of whom won in 1998 — well past his creative peak, and clearly as a lifetime achievement.

When You Have To Quote Richard, Things Have Gone Sideways

Sometimes, things can happen for entirely innocent reasons and still make you say, in the immortal words of Richard Strong, This is not good.

A little history, which is at this point so historical I barely remembered it. A buncha years ago, before this blog got off the ground, the Ignatz Awards came in for some controversy because one of the panel of judges nominated himself for awards and wound up on the ballot. It was Frank Cho, and if my memory serves, he was kind of a dick about it when it was pointed out that such behavior doesn’t pass the smell test. Paraphrasing, his argument was Well, I think my work was the best of the year, so why shouldn’t I be a part of putting myself on the ballot? which just … yeesh. To his credit, he’s reportedly seen his conduct then as a mistake.

The bigger mistake? Not writing rules into the Ignatz process to prevent that from ever happening again. As readers of this page know, I am very much in favor of Rosemary Vallero-O’Connell’s work, and given the enormous number of awards she’s taken over the past year, it seems I’m not alone. Furthermore, I think she’s just a neat person, and I don’t believe that she’s got a malicious or selfish bone in her body. The fact that she’s nominated in the Ignatzen this year for Outstanding Artist is entirely merited.

Except this year, she’s on the nominating jury. I’m going to say that there’s, mathematically speaking, a zero percent chance that she nominated herself, but I can’t believe that there’s no rule about recusal/ineligibility¹/whatever you want to call it. It just doesn’t look good, and it’s caught up somebody that doesn’t deserve to be mired in controversy. For everybody’s sake, Ignatz coordinators, make sure this doesn’t happen again, please.

Ultimately, who gets the bricks is in the hands of the voters now, and as mentioned recently, that could include you. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but please — don’t vote for Valero-O’Connell, because I’m pretty sure this is a circumstance where winning would be worse than losing. We’ve had enough comics awards fuckery this year, we don’t need any more.

Thoughts on this year’s nominees to come, particularly after I receive my ballot (they should have been distributed starting yesterday, but I won’t get nervous for another couple of days).

Oh, and reminder — the free graphic novel giveaway is still going on. Tell your friends.


Spam of the day:

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¹ Want to know the gold standard for this? Dog shows. You can have problems with the idea of breeding dogs for physical conformation instead of health or temperament, but there’s something they do very right — judges are almost always themselves competitive breeders, but when they’re picked to judge at a big show?

They stop competing for a year or more in advance so that there’s zero chance that one of their dogs might conceivably win or lose against a dog they’d have to judge later, just so there is no circumstance where bias could be credible.

COVID Or No, We Should Recognize Good Work

One of the casualties of the pandemic, event-wise, was the annual Queer Comics Expo, which is sponsored by the good folks at the Cartoon Art Museum. It should have taken place back in May but you know, everything. One of the features of the QCE is the annual Prism Awards, which are now being presented virtually and open to all and sundry:

Prism Comics, Queer Comics Expo and the Cartoon Art Museum are excited to announce that the 2020 Prism Awards will be held virtually as a two-day livestream celebration event free and open to everyone online. Held Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th from 2:00pm — 5:00pm Pacific time, the event will feature panels with the finalists and judges leading up to the awards ceremony!

Details on how to tune in will be released soon. For updates on the September 19 & 20 celebration RSVP through cartoonart.org/calendar/2020prismawards to receive reminders and the information to join. You do not need to RSVP to attend. How to watch will be shared by all three entities, Prism Comics, Queer Comics Expo and the Cartoon Art Museum, through social media and press.

That from the email that CAM sent me, which also included a list of the Prism Awards finalists. Some names that you will surely recognize are to be found there:

  • The Webcomic nominees are The Girl that Can’t Get a Girlfriend by Mieri Hiranishi, Cafe Suada by Jade Sarson, and Magical Boy by The Kao; the fact that two of the three nominees are on aggregator sites (Webtoons and Tapas) says something about the shifting nature of webcomics as a whole, I think.
  • The Short Form nominees are In Search of Absent Pigments by Alex Assan and Lin Darrow [Editor’s note: the nomination only lists Assan, but Assan’s own site credits Darrow, so I’ve included them here], Pseudo Slut Transmission by Emma Jayne, and One Day Out by Ina Bestari.
  • Longer form individual stories are broken up by the size of the publisher’s reach, so there are two groupings. Small/Midsize Press nominees are Trans Girls Hit The Town by Emma Jayne (a 2019 Ignatz winner), Lemonade Summer by Gabi Mendez, and Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman. The categories are a little fuzzy, as Pseudo Slut Transmission is only about six pages shorter than Trans Girls Hit The Town, which was counted as a minicomic for the purposes of Ignatz categories.
  • The Mainstream Press nominees were certainly spoiled for choice this year, but ultimately settled on Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T Crenshaw.
  • Finally, the Anthology category consists of Come Together edited by Tab Kimpton and Alex Assan, Heartwood edited by Joamette Gil, and Shout Out edited by Steven Andrews.

Five categories and fifteen nominated works means that a two-day virtual event can give great, huge gobs of time to each of the nominees. If you weren’t familiar with a particular work, by the end of the weekend you surely will be. Oh, and take a gander at the announcement and scroll down to the bottom, where you’ll find a list of all 27 judges plus the organizing committee; there’s lots of great people involved.


Spam of the day:

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Eisners 2020 Post 1

The Eisner awards presentation went up last night, with Phil LaMarr doing a nice job of providing context and hopefully making all the nominees and winners feel like this is significant thing, even with the distance required.

It was a nice touch that the Hall Of Fame inductees (near the end of the program) were given the opportunity to make video acceptance speeches; I’m wondering if the Eisners will reach out to the winners of the 32 regular categories and give them the same opportunity.

Of the six inductees voted in (Nell Brinkley and E Simms Campbell were the historic inductees chosen by the jury), Alison Bechdel, Stan Sakai, and Louise Simonson spoke on their own behalf; Maggie Thompson accepted for herself, but also her late husband Don; Howard Cruse died last year and his award was accepted by Ed Sedarbaum, his husband. Bill Watterson declined to send an acceptance, but honestly — if you had the chance to have an award accepted on your behalf by Sergio Aragonés instead of public speaking, you’d probably do so, too.

Of the 32 regular categories, I called a couple closely-contested decisions, including Ebony Flowers (Hot Comb) for Best Short Story and The Way Of The Househusband, vol 1 as Best Humor Publication. I never did get around to looking at the digital/web nominees (on account of … yeah, everything), but we should acknowledge Chip Zdarsky and Jason Loo (Afterlift) as Best Digital Comic, and Erica Eng (Fried Rice Comic) as Best Webcomic¹.

But let’s talk about some Fleen favorites from last year:

  • Raina Telgemeier took both her nominated categories — Best Publication For Kids and Best Writer/Artist for Guts.
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me touched three awards, with Mariko Tamaki getting the Best Writer nod (which included other works for the year), as well as Best Publication For Teens and Best Penciller/Inker for Rosemary Valero-O’Connell.
  • Tillie Walden was up for three awards, and lost out on the lettering award to Stan Sakai² (who’s literally been winning Eisners since before Walden was born) and the writer/artist award to Raina, so no shame in either of those. But I imagine that’s made up for the fact that Are You Listening? took Best Graphic Album — New, marking at as the best, single new graphic novel of the year which … damn.

Kindly consider that of the 32 categories and 43 named winners³, 23 were women (25 men and 28 women if you count the Hall Of Famers). Black women, queer women, young women, old women, women going back to the dawn of cartooning are the major force in the creation of comics, and the people that make them — including the people that make cape comics that can only recycle storylines and try to maintain sales with endless reboots, variant covers, and line-wide crossovers — recognize them as the best in the medium.

And given that Walden and Valero-O’Connell are still in their mid-20s and getting better — not to mention teaching and inspiring the creators of tomorrow — none of that is changing anytime soon. That keening sound you hear in the distance is the increasingly-irrelevant cohort of manchildren that want comics to be their boys-only club that never changes, and their tears are delicious.

Weirdly, they didn’t announce the Spirit Of Comics Retailer Award in the video, but just as weirdly, they only announced the short list a couple of days ago; the website does mention that Sergio López of Nostromo Sevilla in Seville, Spain was recognized. That makes two years in a row for shops from Spanish-speaking countries, which is just another change for the better — comics is a worldwide artform, and the more people from different backgrounds about, the better it is for all of us.


Spam of the day:
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¹ As a reminder, Best Digital Comic appears online in comic book format, and Best Webcomic is a longform work created for viewing online, neither of which necessarily describe a lot of the best work being done on the web, which is why Matt Inman keeps getting nominated for Best Short Story, I guess.

² Who had a very good virtual night; Sakai also took the award Best Archival Collection/Project — Comic Books, for the hardcover/slipcased edition of the complete Grasscutter story from Usagi Yojimbo.

³ I’m omitting translators in this count.

What’s This? More Kickstarts?

For the best experience reading that headline, adopt the accent and vocal patterns of the faux German baker¹ in the old Pillsbury Toaster Strudel commercial: Strudel … zum toasten? And yes, there are new Kickstarts of which you should be informed.

  • Sam Logan cannot be accused of thinking small. He’s been drawing Sam and Fuzzy for just about eighteen damn years, through four distinct eras, wrapping up the last arc after more than 1700 pages and ten years. He took time for a little introspection, and some shorter stories that won’t turn into the behemoths he’s been known for (probably).

    Along the way, he published books, including five great big tomes for the final arc, ranging between 368 and 606 (!) pages each. A’course, the fifth book only contained the story up to the October/November 2015 time frame, meaning four solid years of story remained unpublished in dead tree form.

    For now:

    After 17 years, the Sam and Fuzzy saga’s epic, hilarious, earth-shattering conclusion has finally arrived. And this grand finale is so big, it took two books to contain it all: Volume 6 and 7: Race to the Bottom Part 1 and 2!

    Race to the Bottom is the two-part conclusion to the series, and is jam-packed with over 1100 pages of surprises and mayhem.

    US$45 gets you the two new volumes in softcover, which is a ridiculous value in terms of per-page costs. US$65 upgrades you to hardcover (ditto), and you can get all seven volumes for US$159 (softcover) or US$175 (hardcover). If you’re an obsessive completist and have about a linear meter of bookshelf space, you can get the print versions of the earlier three eras (pre-2009 or so) as well as all seven modern books for US$195 (softcover) or US$229 (hardcover). The bundles also come with a suitable amount of bonuses — pins, bookplates, everything in PDF, etc.

    Impressively, even the largest of those instant libraries doesn’t appear to charge more than about US$25 for shipping (to the US, at least), which makes me wonder it it arrives via freight. The whole thing is under the Make That Thing umbrella, so you know it’ll get done on time and reach you when promised, subject to the possible complete destruction of the US Postal Service to meet the whims of a narcissistic sociopath. In that eventuality, I’m pretty sure the MTT magical elves will find a way to get it to you about three weeks later, possibly by unicorn.

    Anyhoo, as of this writing the campaign is a little under US$24.6K of a US$37.5K goal, which is pretty damn good for a project that launched earlier today. Look for this one to fund out by a more than comfortable margin.

  • Speaking of comfortable margins, you’ve seen Madi: Once Upon A Time In The Future, right? Launched yesterday, presently 378% of its US$50K goal, the third part of Duncan Jones’s distopian trilogy (the first two parts being the films Moon and Mute, co-written with Alex de Campi (for my money, the most broadly capable writer in comics today), with sections of the story drawn by a murderer’s row of artistic talent? No? Well, here’s the first 19 pages available for you to download now.

    Artists include two of my absolute favorites, Pia Guerra and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, mixed in with a few names you might recognize: Stokoe, Fabry, Bisley, Fegredo, and more. The artistic contributors are paid their full asking rate² and will receive royalties. These 260 pages (and various bonus pages in the fancier form factors) will be done on paper period. To quote the campaign, No digital version of MADI will be made available at this time, or indeed maybe ever.

    This book is going to sweep a lot of awards. The free preview has its hooks deep into my brain, and I cannot wait to get my copy come November. Check this one out at the first opportunity.


Spam of the day:

Metformin and 3 other big selling diabetes drugs are under secret review.

Let me know when they’re under double secret review. Until then, you’re full of crap.

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¹ This introductory paragraph is dedicated to my old college co-conspirator John Costain “Thrice” Knight III, with whom I would occasionally lock eyes and intone Strudel knowing that he would always reply zum toasten?

He also barfed over the counter in Hardee’s one post-midnight Saturday night, because when you’ve been drinking after exam week and need food at that hour no other place is open. Eventually he became responsible for standing watches to ensure that the nuclear reactor on the John C Stennis (CVN-74) did not melt down despite the fact that he was part of the pre-commissioning crew and the reactor was not yet loaded with fissile material. I’d chalk it up to weird-ass military thinking but it honestly just kind of made sense for Thrice.

² I’m now remembering some tweets from Jones, maybe end of last year, asking how much he should expect to pay for the art for a graphic novel of ~ 200 pages, because he didn’t want to be an exploitative jerk and underpay people. He didn’t know, he asked, and he didn’t pitch a fit when large numbers were quoted at him. I made a mental note of Jones’s approach then, and I’m excited to see what comics can do when a writer of expansive vision partners with a writer super skilled in the medium, with and with visual artists of supreme ability, and nobody’s getting screwed.

Good To Know That Some Things Are Constant In This Inconstant World

Today’s example: the Cartoonist Studio Prize, presented as a joint endeavour of Slate magazine’s book review and the Center For Cartoon Studies, currently in its eighth iteration. Year after year, they put together a really strong slate¹ of ten nominees in the category of print, and ten more in web; the shortlists serve as an effective You Should Read This To Keep Up list, and each winner gets one thousand American dollars cash². Folks that you see written about on this page are frequently seen on either list.

This year’s nominees for Best Print Comic are:

Part of what I love about the CSP is its utter disregard for length, subject, or genre; if it’s in print and it’s good, it’s on the list.

This year’s nominees for Best Web Comic are:

Again — there’s ongoing series, there’s one-shot autobio/nonfiction, and there’s everything in between. I was a little surprised to see the web version of Unhealthy on the list; not because it’s unworthy — it’s an excellent read — but because it’s only Abby Howard’s half of the longer print version that was a joint project with Sarah Winifred Searle.

If I were part of the jury (and let me stress that I am not), I’d be pulling for Unhealthy, and Laura Dean, which were two of the best things I read last year. But there’s great creators up and down both lists, and as is typical for the CSP, there’s not a name in sight that would annoy me for winning. Congratulations to all the shortlistketeers; the winners will be announced a few weeks.


Spam of the day:

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I didn’t think it was possible to be more pissed off at these bottom-feeding fuckers, but then I noticed the return address on this piece of shit. It was spoofed to appear to come from info (an address that doesn’t exist) at fleen.com.

Like I was going to suddenly give credence to an email claiming to come from a domain I control. That’s just weaksauce.

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¹ I’m so sorry.

² Or about 1.66667 times class money.

Hey. Sorry I’m Late. Had To Do Some Impromptu Coronavirus Education.

Namely, wash your hands a lot (hot water, plenty of soap and water), don’t touch your face, cover your coughs and sneezes. You know, all the stuff you’re supposed to do in cold season, flu season, and every other season because we are trying to have a godsdamned society you filthy animals.

Yes, I was talking to you. As long as I ride on an ambulance for free, I get to remind y’all to please do your part to not spread the contagion that may kill me. Also, I write about webcomics and have some things to point you towards:

  • The Herblock Foundation, which celebrates and promotes the work of the legendary political cartoonist, has announced the winner and finalist of their annual prize for excellence in editorial cartooning. The winner was Michael de Adder of New Brunswick, Canada, who you may recall was entirely coincidentally laid off about two days after running this cartoon.

    The finalist was webcomics’ own Matt Lubchansky, whose work is frequently seen at The Nib, where they are the associate editor and an integral part of the process of producing the finest in nonfiction cartooning today. As a side note, Chef José Andrés was chosen to present a lecture on behalf of the Foundation. Curiously, all three of the honorees are famously willing to get up the nose of Screamy Orange Grandpa, and good on them for it.

  • As long as we’re speaking of presidential politics, there’s an opportunity to mix some primo art acquisition with political action. Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, who we at Fleen may have mentioned on some few occasions, is offering up original pencil pages from Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (we at Fleen love that book), with all proceeds going to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

    Full disclosure: unless she drops out, I’m supporting Elizabeth Warren; as far as platforms go, hers and Bernie’s are distinguishable only in degree, and more similar than any other that have been proposed. In terms of what they can actually get accomplished, I think the ultimate legislation that either can expect to enact (with Bernie starting further along and inevitably having to negotiate towards the middle, and Warren starting closer to where either would end up anyway) would be pretty much indistinguishable.

    I’m supporting Warren because I think she has a better chance of executing on her plans¹, but if she decides to drop out I’ll vote for Sanders gladly². I’ve given money to Warren and likely will again, I don’t feel that also giving to Bernie is a contradiction. It’s not like I’ll have any chance to really affect the nomination, seeing as how New Jersey is in the last tranche of states to vote, on 2 June.

    Now grab your copy of Laura Dean, pick out your favorite page(s), and don’t you dare pick any that I did.


Spam of the day:

Solar fountain pump with 4 Nozzle Spray settings to create a relaxing environment.

Is this a bidet thing? If so, I’m curious about the solar aspect.

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¹ Not to be confused with executing Mike Bloomberg’s aspirations which was totally sweet to watch.

² If neither Sanders nor Warren gets the nomination, I’ll do what I’ve done in very nearly every presidential election of my life and vote against instead of voting for.

Con Ternura Indeed

There’s something that I learned years ago, somewhere between my college radio days and my job teaching, and that’s as much as you fill the space around you with words, nothing you say has as much power

as silence.

Which thought came back to me last night in the venerable Bluestockings bookstore/cafe/activist space on the Lower East Side, which was hosting the first of a monthly series of comics readings. Comics don’t get anywhere enough readings, not like books do, and that’s a shame — with the right sense of timing and a clear enough image projected, there’s real power there. The events folks at Bluestockings kicked things off with a trifecta of work by and about queer people, featuring Bee Kahn, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Beatrix Urkowitz; this page is famously in the tank for Ms Valero-O’Connell and I wasn’t familiar with the work of the other two, so let’s start with them.

Bee Kahn brought an introductory section of a story that was self-published and debuted at FlameCon a while back; now it’s getting a slick reissue from a publisher (they can’t say who yet) later this year. Renegade Rule is the story of four women on a pro gamer team, trying to reach the finals for VR shooter league play. It’s hard to tell where the story will go from the excerpt Kahn was able to share (enough to drop the reader into the VR experience and introduce the main characters and their personalities), but it was more than enough to say this:

Kahn’s comic book caption game is strong. You’d have to get Matt Fraction on his best day to come up with captions that land with the same impact and humor. Remember what I said up above about timing? The text in the word balloons and captions in Renegade was mostly too small to read from the audience, but having to click through to add each balloon and box to the image forced Kahn to delay just a bit and it made each bit of dialogue and especially the captions land with impact. I’m going to be keeping my eye out for this one in the fall.

Beatrix Urkowitz brought four short stories, three of which were about the same character, and which displayed a visual sensibility reminiscent of Tom Hart’s Hutch Owen (maybe a splash of Sylvan Migdal thrown in), with a KC Green-like ability to take a premise, run it as far as you possibly can, and then take it even further. The fourth story Urkowitz shared was about the annoying person we all know, and it was good. The first three were about the lover of everyone in the world.

Specifically, and introduction to TLOEITW and how she feels, followed by a story about the lovers of TLOEITW (ie: all seven point whatever billion of us) and how they (we) feel about the situation, and a third story entitled Everyone Breaks Up With The Lover Of Everyone In The World, where all of us form a gestalt entity to deliver a break-up speech to TLOEITW, who concludes that she’ll go get drunk, but literally everywhere she goes is now populated exclusively with her exes. It was a trip.

Rosemary Valero-O’Connell read one of the three stories from her just-arriving-in-the-mail-to-backers-from-Shortbox collection, Don’t Go Without Me (if you weren’t in on the Kickstart, you’ll be able to order a copy next month). The first story in the collection is the title piece, about a date to a parallel universe where telling stories robs you of your memories. It’s haunting and echoes every mythological tale of not understanding the rules of a place, from Persephone’s pomegranate to those who stay overlong in Faerie. You can read an excerpt of it here.

The second story is What Is Left, previously released as a minicomic; I got a copy at MoCCA and loved it, but reading its sci-fi take on a doomed spaceship propelled by a memory-fueled engine changed by reading in alongside Don’t Go. The former is about finding refuge — literally, in this case — in memories, and the latter about diminution from sharing, and while the stories contrast with each other, they also sharpen and strengthen each other. You can read and excerpt of What Is Left here.

The third story, the one Valero-O’Connell read last night, is Con Temor, Con Ternura, or With Fear, With Tenderness; it asks the question What would you do on the last night of the world? Valero-O’Connell, in the making of booklet that’s a Kickstarter accompaniment to the collection, describes her first comics work as dialogueless, narrated visual poetry, and Con Temor is a return to that form. As the questions posed by the story got more pointed, as the reality that a Proverbial It was building, Valero-O’Connell got steadily quieter, and the room more hushed, the audience almost holding its collective breath.

The conclusion, a cliffhanger following a countdown from three¹, slowed its pace and the silence held as everybody sought their own answers to that question, while the screen was a-whirl with swooping curves and scarcely a straight line in sight. There’s an organic life to her work, one that focuses on things that live rather than things that are built, and it lends a vitality to the visuals that’s all but unmatched. Don’t even get me started on what she does with hair; it’s so good, it makes me angry.

Silences break eventually. The applause for each of the readers was well earned.

It’s like I told Roo², we’re in an age of comics like the current age of television, where it is not possible to keep up with all the good work that’s being made³. But for one night a month, Bluestockings is going to do its best to show you some work you might have missed otherwise, and for that we can all be thankful.


Spam of the day:

As an Airbnb host, you can meet interesting new people and learn about diverse cultures without even having to leave the house.

Weird. I thought the purpose of Airbnb was to scam people and deplete stocks of housing in cities around the world, driving up rents and exacerbating the problem of homelessness.

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¹ One that looks to the reader to fill in the ending, more than any story I’ve read except maybe John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider.

² You may recall that MxRoo named the Fleen Fight For Fungible Futures Fund, and that we seem to run into each other randomly. Okay, a comics reading might not be the weirdest place to bump into a longtime reader of Fleen, but on the day that Jon Rosenberg’s son got his life back via surgery? I was in Manhattan on a work gig and walking on the street to lunch when I head somebody call my name. It was Roo, with the news that Jon had just posted that the surgery had gone well. We got a history of being together for awesome things is what I’m saying.

³ Which makes it even more baffling that there’s a cohort of miserable assholes out there who have seemingly devoted their lives to shitting on people making comics they don’t like — comics they think shouldn’t be allowed to exist because they’re about things/people other than the precise interests of said miserable assholes — instead of just reading what they like. They are literally denying themselves the time to read all the stuff they do like in order to try to destroy stuff other people like. Petard-hoisters, the lot of ’em.

What The Mail Brought

That’s a big book haul. The photo was going to include a lounging greyhound for scale, some somedog decided she had better things to do than get her picture took, hmph! Starting from the top:

  • Don’t Go Without Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, in fulfillment of the recent Kickstart from ShortBox.
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang; I’ve spoken with him briefly about this one, where Yang’s chronicling of Chinese culture and the immigrant experience meets Raina-style memoir. Likely to be a monster hit this year.
  • Go With The Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann; want to be this Kids In The Hall character? You need this book which is designed to give young uterus-havers the lowdown on what’s happening with their bodies, and everybody else an appreciation for what they go through. I actually had fairly good public-school sex education starting in 5th grade, and I still expect to learn a ton. Also, a measure of how good :01 Books is — this isn’t an advanced review copy, it’s the regular release of a book that went on sale yesterday.
  • Kairos by Ulysse Malassagne; one of the great services that :01 has done for comics in the US is find great work in French and bring it over. There is such a huge pool of comics and creators that are just starting to become known over here.
  • Maker Comics: Grow A Garden! by Alexis Frederick-Frost; my beans have been okay for the past coupla’ years, and I hope this helps be improve them somewhat.
  • Science Comics: Crows by Kyla Vanderklugt; corvids are scary smart and you should always seek to make friends with them. Never annoy a crow, raven, jay, jackdaw, or rook.
  • The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown; girl haunted by the ghost of her conjoined twin? Sounds like the best ghost story since Anya had ghost trubs.
  • Astronauts by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks; the story of women that have been to space, by a team that’s done some of my favorite scienceoriented comics for years now. Also, Ottaviani is a fabulous person to talk to, and this remains one of my favorite interviews ever.
  • Snapdragon by Kat Leyh; ever wonder what would happen if there were a witch in town, like a real witch, and you decided to make friends? Leyh has, and we get to follow along.

To be clear, it’s a coincidence that Don’t Go Without Me arrived on the same day as the trove of books from :01, but now I get to take it with me to the reading next week. I’ll be working my way through the pile as quickly as I can while still absorbing enough to give proper reviews; it’ll probably be Astronauts and Dragon Hoops first, so watch for reviews in the coming weeks

Oh, and I saw this on the tweetmachine today; it’s from October, but it’s very possibly new to you as it was for me. Eight tight pages, an unreliable narrator who is not having any more of this street harassment shit that we get to see past, and a satisfying gut punch of a finish. Words by Julio Anta, pictures by Katherine Lobo, letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, and if these folks aren’t planning a collection of similar stories, that would be very unfortunate.


Spam of the day:

How a Clorox Wipe Made my Herpes Disappear

Jesus tapdancingdo not rub Clorox wipes on your junk, godsdammit.

Look, there are these sanitary wipes that we used on the ambulance for decontamination. You know what’s on the top of the can? The international do not use on babies or other sensitive things symbol, that’s what. Know what’s not even in most of these babykiller wipes? Bleach. Use bleach wipes on hard, non-porous surfaces only and keep them the hell off of your joybits, genius.

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¹ No promises for the future; prostate cancer is basically the escape clause that says individuals like me will not live forever. If nothing else gets you, that walnut-sized gland will.