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Today I Learned …

It’s a day for learning things, including the fact that today is Repeal Day¹, the anniversary of the day when the United States ended one of the most stupid experiments in law and social policy in all of human history. The other things I learned all involve comics.

  • First thing I learned: Really never underestimate David Malki ! We spoke not long ago about not ignoring his boundless font of creativity, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, honestly. See, I had gotten it into my head that with all that Malki ! had taken on this year, including the logistics of shipping something like a million collated cards², he might give the Wondermark calendar a year off. After all, it’s less than three weeks from Christmas and thus less than four until the new year, when the calendar is most needed.

    Nope. In fact, he’s upped the proverbial ante by also offering a book of the art and verse from the 2008 — 2012 iterations of the calendar, and original art from last year’s Gaxian travelogue edition. As in past years, the calendar is in a limited edition of 250, and there are but 29 pieces of original art from last year’s calendar. The book may or may not be available after the calendars sell out, but for now I’m guessing there’s only 250 copies of that as well. Best jump on that soon if you want in.

  • Second thing I learned: The good folks at :01 Books are successful out of all proportion to their size³. Seriously, there’s something like four people involved in the entire acquisitions/editing/production end at the imprint, and they gather accolades for a hefty percentage of their output every year. Latest proof: NPR’s year-end guide to the best of 2013 books has a category for graphic novels & comics, and :01 garnered a full 25% of the recognition.

    It’s worth noting that the :01 Spring and Fall catalogs contain a total of 14 books (I can’t find a copy of their Winter catalog right now, but I’m confident in putting their total releases for the year in the vicinity of 20). There are publishers that drop more graphic novels than that in a month, but it’s all about the quality, not the quantity.

    Oh, and it looks like next year will be just as fun. I just want to publicly thank the :01 crew: Callista, Colleen, Gina, Mark, and anybody else I might be overlooking at the scrappiest, most thoughtful, best damn imprint in the New York publishing scene. Y’all rock.

  • Third thing I learned: If I’m reading this announcement correctly, the folks behind the Making Comics podcast are getting ready to launch a repository of comics-making online courses. They’re talking about live courses to start with, aimed at the 10 — 12 year old range to begin with … but if those lessons remain on YouTube, does it matter how old you are if you want to watch ‘em?

    As a thing, the Massive Open Online Course is still rapidly changing, and I’m not sure that any number of pre-recorded lessons can replace the experience of working with a skilled instructor who also knows the material inside-out4, but this does have the potential of spreading the basics of comics-making far more widely that it has been in the past. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

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¹ Actually, I knew that, but I did learn that heavily Mormon Utah was the state that provided the clinching vote to repeal the 18th Amendment so thanks for that one, Utah! Oddly, my own state of New Jersey provided the last vote in favor of ratification of Prohibition, but not until 1922, more than three years after the 18th Amendment was approved and more than two years after the Volstead Act came into force.

² Which logistics, by the way, also involves the container ship developing mechanical problems and having to return to the far side of the Pacific Ocean.

³ Okay, I knew that one, too.

4 As some of you know, my day job is teaching for a technology company. For the past decade, an increasing percentage of my course load has been delivered from my home office in a virtual classroom rather than in-person. The advantages to students are numerous — no travel costs being paramount — but there are challenges as well; most important from my perspective is the lack of immediate feedback to me as to how well the students are getting it during lecture.

There are dozens of small cues that an instructor picks up from a student sitting right over there that convey clearly — they understand or I need to do that last bit over in another way — that are severely attenuated over a net connection. There are other logistical concerns as well, especially of the show me what you’re doing right now variety. Those challenges are compounded when the session isn’t live, but pre-recorded. However, any form of instruction is a step up from struggling on your own to the point that you decide I can’t do this.

I learned about Repeal Day from cartoonist-but-not-usually-webcomicker John “The Whelk” Leavitt, who posted an appropriately alcoholic comic at the-toast.net, How to Make an Aviation: A Cartoon About Booze. (The Toast is not usually an alcoholic site despite the one meaning of its name; it’s logo is essentially a piece of burnt toasted bread)

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