The webcomics blog about webcomics

Almost The Last Time I’ll Mention It

I’ve been on quite a tear about Jim Zub lately, because he’s an example of what this page concerns itself with — a creator that is focused on good work, and owning as much of it as possible. He’s also incredibly generous with the hard-won knowledge that he’s accumulated from a decade or more of struggling upwards to the point where he can seem like an overnight success. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a damn fine writer (and underutilized artist), and so when he’s got a project coming out, I am more than happy to pimp the crap out of it.

I’ve mentioned his upcoming creator-owned series, Wayward, and how it’s very, very good, and how it will arrive in about a month’s time. The last part is most important because — due to a detail in how comics are distributed — a key milestone will occur on Monday. Pretty much every comic is distributed through one company, Diamond¹, and they have something called final order cutoff whereby retails can adjust their orders 20 days before shipping; for Wayward, FOC is on Monday.

What this means is, if you are interested in Zub’s work, if you want to give Wayward a shot, you should tell your local comic shop this weekend, so they can adjust their order by Monday’s deadline. Publishers that subscribe to FOC will adjust their print runs based on these numbers, meaning an under-anticipated title may be difficult to find, and may even not make sufficient sales to be continued despite demand.

Off the top of my head, Lumberjanes, Midas Flesh, and Figment — all from the past year, and all with webcomicker-heavy creative teams– were under-ordered and people had difficulty finding them when they launched; fortunately, they seem to have rallied and went back to press as necessary². For Wayward, first issue sales (and the drop — or hopefully rise — between first and second issue sales) will be critical in determining if it continues or maybe just gets one story arc before wrapping up.

So it’s be-counted time; if you like creators being able to make their own stuff — and ten minutes discussion with any creator will reveal that it’s the stories and characters they create for (and own!) themselves that they value over any work-for-hire gigs, no matter how high-profile and prestigious — you can help perpetuate that by not just resolving to buy a comic, but by letting a retailer know that you want to buy a comic.

That one action will help to keep Zub’s creator-owned work viable, which in turn will make creator-owned work from other creators look like a good risk to the publishers, retailers, and market in general. It’s a small thing, but it’s got a multiplicative effect.

Spam of the day:

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¹ The wisdom of having an entire industry of independent shops dependent on just one company is a topic best left for another time but damn, there needs to be competition in this business again. Case in point: there’s an alternate distributor out there that pretty much handles self-published books only, which means my local shop is now offering a number of books by Brad Guigar, and is starting to pick up the Evil, Inc collections. However, it’s a small minority of shops that work with these alternate channels.

² As it turns out, they are all also limited series, so it wasn’t as likely they would be canceled due to low initial sales; however, an underprinted issue is the same as leaving money on the table, for both publisher and creative team.

Spam of the day:

Roadtrips And Fundings And Fantasy Castings, Oh My

You always wonder if the aftermath of a big show is going to be a dead time, news-wise, but somehow webcomicdom always comes up with fresh stuff. It’s amazing, really. Oh, and the mention I made ‘tother day about Colleen AF Venable leaving :01 Books for an art director gig elsewhere? There’s a job posting up if you’re in New York and are a design pro.

  • No word yet if Bill Barnes has had to turn around from the front seat and tell his kids If you don’t settle down I swear I’m turning this thirteen month long roadtrip around, but given there’s still twelve months and twenty-nine days to go, I’d bet that the odds of it happening at least once are pretty good. You can keep track of his dispatches from the road (either to try to catch up to him or to get out of Dodge before he arrives), and if you want to book him to speak at your venue (he travels to libraries around the world), that can be arranged, too.
  • Wonderella’s temporary hiatus to prep for a volume three Kickstarter continues, but the latest (and possibly last) preview of KS-related swag is up now in advance of the campaign launch on Friday. In case the cover, this print, and this print aren’t enough, how about the chance for a piece of personalized art? Specifically, Wonderella chronicler Justin Pierce will draw you as a mermaid or centaur and that may be the best thing ever.
  • Well, maybe the second best thing ever. KB “Otter” Spangler of A Girl And Her Fed and the Rachel Peng novel series was setting up a Patreon when it went live-ish about two hours ago, placeholders and all. One quick cleanup later, the campaign is actually live and it features one of the best rewards I’ve ever seen:

    Dick jokes. Not necessarily unclean dick jokes, delivered to your email box every weekday, for US$5/month:

    This joke might be NSFW. Or it might be a regular old knock-knock joke as told by a hang-gliding penis. Or it could feature my new stick figure characters, Richard Dickerson the Third and Martha Von Vagerton (of the Connecticut Von Vagertons).

    There’s a decent chance that Dick and Martha’s relationship will deteriorate into daily knife fights.

    So just like The Lockhorns, then.

    To ease you into the type of thing you can expect from the Daily Dick Joke package¹ please enjoy these two samples that Spangler has made public: Dick and Martha (their mutual psychosexual loathing is already apaprent), and a rather cheerful penis making a dad joke. It appears that as of this writing, every one of Spangler’s Patreon backers is opting for dick jokes or better (we’ve all got an inner 13 year old), so I’m hoping that Spangler eventually collects these for print; at an estimated 250 jokes per year, this could make an interesting annual project.

  • The AV Club is featuring a lot of comics content this week, and one of their primary articles today concerns who they would cast in movie versions of various comic strips; along with the usual syndicated strips your parents have heard of, they dropped in two of the best webcomics running today. For Meredith Gran’s Ocotpus Pie they suggest Brenda Song and Greta Gerwig for Eve and Hannah², respectively. For Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona, they offer up Felicia Day, Robert Downey, Jr, and Michael Fassbender as Nimona, Lord Ballister Blackheart, and Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin.

    Those three are the only characters of note in Nimona, but Octopie has a large and varied cast (nearly all of whom have had POV chapters devoted to them), so the question is open: who would play Marek, Will, and Marigold? What about Puget Sean, Jane, Olly, and Eve’s mom? Clearly Eff-Nocka should be played by his real-life inspiration, and I’m pretty sure Rudy Guiliani isn’t doing anything too important to make a cameo, so that just leaves two critical casting decisions4. Any ideas? Drop ‘em in the comments.

Spam of the day:

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¹ So to speak.

² Who is incorrectly identified as selling pot; as we all know, Hanna bakes pastries while 100% high for for years³, supplying high-end shops throughout New York City.

³ Fun math fact: the 61,320 hours that Hanna cited in that strip corresponds to exactly seven years, but that strip ran in December of 2011, meaning she’s likely up to 84,528 hours as of today.

4 Victor and America Jones .

I wish I could get that sparkly effect to work in-line with the rest of the text, but oh well.

No Time, Have To Get To The Airport

I just want to update my incomplete impressions of Seconds from yesterday, then I can start the mad dash of work and travel that will end sometime tomorrow morning when I fall exhausted into my bed.

  • Firstly, it was a deeply, deeply satisfying read. There was an obvious — almost trite — approach to a story about changing your own life that Bryan Lee O’Malley could have taken, and he didn’t. He produced a story that was genuine and moving but not maudlin, and he got there honestly. I will be reading it at least twice more in my immediate travels — and I suspect I will find more to like on each reading.
  • Secondsly, I neglected to fully mention O’Malley’s creative team, due to not having the book handy. Jason Fischer assisted on the art, Nathan Fairbairn handled colors, and the previously-mentioned Dustin Harbin lettered. They were all at the top of their respective games.

Okay, gotta bounce; irregular posting schedule for the next week-plus, as I navigate SDCC ’14.

Lull Before The Nerdstorm

Did I use that title before? I feel like I may have but also don’t feel like checking. There are things happening in comics that, oddly, do not involve the imminent San Diego Comic Con.

  • If you read my review of the print collection Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell and thought Dang, I’ve got to get me that book!, I’ve got good news for you. Creators Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan are having a book launch This Saturday, 19 July, at the highly-regarded Bergen Street Comics in Darwin’s own borough of Brooklyn. To add to the fun, they’re teaming up with fellow creator Jon Chad, who will be celebrating the launch of The Bad-ventures of Bobo Sadsack from Adhouse Books. The celebratin’ and launchin’ starts at 7:00pm, is free to attend, will have plenty of books for purchase and signing, and (based on past events at Bergen Street) may even feature snacks and drinks.
  • Speaking of drinks, there’s a new educated booze-up session from winemistress Kristen Siebecker for those that will be in New York City rather than San Diego, but it’s waitlisted. Lucky for you she’s got a second one coming up a month later, with an emphasis on organic and biodynamic wines that will complement the paleo diet. As usual, Siebecker has provided us with a discount code — EMAIL10 — for 10% off the costs of the class(es).
  • August is going to be celebratory at Portland’s own Excalibur Books & Comics, which will be celebrating 40 years in the funnybooks biz. There’s a sidewalk sale the weekend of 1 August, signings — featuring a slate of local comics talent, including about half of Periscope Studio, as well as webcomics types Mike Russell and Bill Mudron (who collaborated on the anniversary poster) — on Wednesdays the 6th, 13th, and 20th, a party on the 27th complete with cake, and a 50% off sale the weekend of the 29th. Lots of events, so lots can change in the meantime; check the link above for latest updates.
  • The Harvey Awards ballot for 2014 has been announced, and there are some names of note on it. Webcomics and webcomics-adjacent nominees include Steve Wands (Adventure Time) and Britt Wilson (Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake), both up for Best Letterer, Ryan North (Adventure Time) and Jim Zub (Skullkickers) for the Special Award for Humo[u]r in Comics, and Adventure Time for Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers. In the actual category for Best Online Comics Work you’ve got Mike Norton (Battlepug, which took the Eisner in 2012), Laura Innes (The Dreamer — also nominated in this category last year), Tom Siddell (Gunnerkrigg Court), Yale Stewart (JL8), and Scott Kurtz, Steve Hamaker, and Brian Hurtt (Table Titans).

    Also I should probably mention that serial reprobate (and thus webcomicky enough) Chip Zdarsky got tabbed for Most Promising New Talent for Sex Criminals, which also was nominated as Best New Series. Votes (from comics industry professionals) are due by 18 August, and the awards will be given out at Baltimore Comic-Con on Saturday, 6 September.

  • Okay, I lied — one bit about San Diego Comic Con. Pat Race of Alaska Robotics likes running, and he’d like some company, so the somethingth annual SDCC Completely Unofficial Fun 5K will be taking place at some point during the con. Tentatively, the plan is to start at 10:00am on Saturday morning on the bay side of the convention center, but if people want to finish (and shower) before the show opens, it may be started earlier. Check in with AKRobotics at booth 1134 to confirm time and location.

Spam of the day:

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The irony of that quote being about punctuation is giving me a stroke.

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 to 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.

One Done, Many Ongoing

The sun set on one Jim Zub project today, as the reboot of Makeshift Miracle (story, as always, by Zub, with redone art by Shun Hong Chan) reached its conclusion today. Now that the entire story is there, I hope that Zub will put the original back up, so we can compare the two versions, page by page. Zub may not like his original (and ten years less-assured) artwork for Makeshift Miracle, but I thought it had some real charm. An authentic this is coming from a singular POV and it different from other stories character, if you will.

Regardless, this is the Hardest Working Man In Comics, so he can’t wrap up a project (even one where most of the lifting was already done) without having new ones to take up every moment of his waking life. In addition to Skullkickers rampaging towards its fifth-arc conclusion¹, and Samurai Jack has been extended again², and nobody³ can find an issue of Figment #2, Zub will be launching another creator-owned series next month.

Here’s the deal: Zub has become a damn hot writer (for more different publishers than I can count) on all kinds of different stories (fantasy humor; all ages; character studies; licensed characters) and achieved some pretty broad name recognition over the past couple of years. He got there because he’s been working his ass off for the past decade, and honing his craft every. single. day.

Not everything he writes is to my liking4, but he has become a writer for whom it is always appropriate to give the benefit of the doubt. I will read at least issue #1 of anything Zub writes, and so far I’ve got about an 80% conversion rate to being an ongoing reader of whatever comes after #1. I didn’t need to be told that Wayward is getting compared to Buffy to make a mental note to put it on my pull list; the magic words were Written by Jim Zub.

I’m mentioning this because even though Zub’s got the magic touch, it’s possible to get caught short. Marvel is scrambling to take Figment back to press because the demand was far greater than retailers figured (cf: I can’t find a copy), and I have a feeling the same thing could happen to Wayward. If you like good comics, if you’re willing to bet the cost of one moderately fancy drink at Starbucks that it’ll be worth your while, now is the time to tell your local comic shop. New titles rarely get generously ordered (cf: once more, Figment), and the more demand that’s seen now, in advance of release, the greater chance we have of a) all getting a copy; b) Image sees the value in a creator-owned title, the economics of which are fraught with risk and fear.

I don’t ask y’all for much, and this is really for your benefit as much as it is for one of the most frighteningly-skilled writers in comics today. Check the previews and read what people who’ve seen advance copies have to say. Decide whether your money is better spent on yet another renumbering or line-wide crossover that will change everything (until next month) or something new. Then tell your local shop, I need a copy of Wayward when it launches. Do it for the children.

And just maybe, if Wayward hits big and Figment continues to grow and Samurai Jack becomes an ongoing, and skulls continue to be kicked … maybe Zub will let himself take a day off.


Spam of the day:

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You may be a spammer trying to con people into buying counterfeit boner pills, but if you know statistics you’re still my people.

¹ And I can’t find the recently-released #28 anywhere, dammit.

² Remember, it was originally going to be a five-issue miniseries; it’s now going to at least issue #20.

³ Including me, again dammit. I’m not even entirely sure which nostalgic Disney property it’s based on, I’m buying this because Zub got me hooked and I want to see where it goes.

4 But that goes for all of the comics creators I follow, with the exceptions of Jeff Smith, Terry Moore, and Raina Telgemeier. Everything they write I love.

We’re All Just Trying Our Best

We need rituals in our lives; for example, on the 4th of July, my rituals include the reading of the Declaration of Independence on Morning Edition, a viewing of 1776, and a reflection on what it means to be a part of this marvelous, contentious mess we call America. Each ideal we fall short of, each step backwards has (at least so far, and I hope will continue to) pushed us to try be better.

Which was pretty parallel to what I was thinking as I read the print collection of Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell (a review copy of which was kindly gifted to me by creators Jenn Jordan and Sophie Goldstein).

Darwin’s world is a Brooklyn where the melting pot didn’t stop with people in the human sense — gods, angels, demons, fantastic beings of all sorts have joined in the great migrations from their homelands because when the old ways stop working for you, what else are you going to do? No more labyrinth to inhabit? Patrick the minotaur is the super of Darwin’s building. Maybe the worshippers forget to provide you milk on holy days? Ganesh works at the diner down the corner. Spent the last 2000 years buddying it up with the great and notable? Skittle the manticore knows who needs a friend in life, and he latched onto Darwin early. Angels become stoners (mostly to kill time), muses latch onto conceptual artists (but I’m betting that Koons and Hirst never met one), and atheists have it tough in a world where actual gods live down the street, but they still try.

And it’s that thought that you have to still try that sits at the heart of the story. Darwin¹ was momentarily careless once, years ago, and he accidentally harmed the just-reincarnated Dalai Lama. Look, these things just happen, like the thunderstorm last night knocked a piece of my neighbor’s roof off and it hit my wife’s car. We live in a world where you deal with that by exchanging insurance information; Darwin lives a world where that completely non-intentional act has earned him a karmic debt so deep, a lifetime of good deeds won’t make up for it. Whether it’s just or not, he will suffer eternally.

So it’s understandable that he’s a bit mopey, especially considering his best friend is blessed by fortune (she inherited an immense amount of karma from her parents and so life just works out for her), his sidekick is perpetually innocent, his roommate is a complete douchebag, and the karma police arrest him regularly. But he’s trying.

The angels that won’t move out of his living room want him to pick up a soul, only the guy wants to live past his suicide attempt and Darwin takes him to the hospital; the guy lives, but the angels inform him that he disobyed the word of God, and God hates that. The Dalai Lama comes to New York and Darwin goes to apologize, but DL’s security goons (enormous monks in saffron robes with radio watches and earpieces) rough him up. Unicorns stab the hell out his butt as they race get to a virgin². He meets a young woman (made of snow) that falls for him and promptly melts from his warmth. Nothing quite works out for him no matter how hard he tries.

So when the forces of destruction (all of them, from all the religions) try to bring about the Apocalypse with Darwin as its harbinger (just after finding a girlfriend he really clicks with, naturally), you’d think he’d be willing to say screw it and bring about the end of all things. But he’s trying.

Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell is a complete story; there’s a beginning, and callbacks to the bits before the beginning, and the characters squabble and make up and love each other, and in the end we are well and truly caught up in learning if just trying is enough. Goldstein and Jordan have put a complex and subtle message behind a lightweight and deeply silly facade³; it’s variously cheery, melancholy, bright, dark, full of characters that you want to hang with and sometimes want to smack, and always deeply, deeply human. Darwin’s struggle against his fate is a fascinating story; squeeze into the handbasket and take the ride along with him.

Spam of the day:

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Wow, I’ve heard the RIAA compared to the Mafia before, but Camorra is a deep cut. Kudos.

¹ And let me just note that that is the perfect name for a character that desperately wishes for a world with a little more clockwork operation and fewer supernatural realities.

² And coincidentally, we discover that unicorns are way creepy about their attraction to virgins (Check out the maidenhead on her! Man, I bet that hymen is like steel!), and will smack-talk the crap out of each other’s owners (I bet my owner’s had waaaay less temptation than her. Pssht, your girl? She’s like the wet slut double penetration queen of virgins.). Quite frankly, they’re all kind of dicks, especially the one that’s inspired by Kate Beaton’s fat pony, who is the chosen steed of the Whore of Babylon.

³ Especially when Patrick hits on a mermaid at a party, and ends up drunkenly sleeping with her sister. He was hoping for the hot redhead with enormous breasts, and wound up with the reverse mermaid: fish on top, human on the bottom. He will never be permitted to live that one down.


Today just seems to be chock-full of further references to things we spoke about earlier in the week. Weird how that happens sometimes.

  • I hate to keep flogging the :01 Books is awesome horse¹, but they keep cropping up in my daily life. Today it’s because the mail brought a review copy of Farel Dalrymple’s forthcoming graphic novel, The Wrenchies². Look for a review a little closer to the September release.
  • Scott C persists in his scruffy, charming ways — so much so that the jaded, flinty-eyed tastemakers at The AV Club noticed, lavishing some well-deserved praise on The Great Showdowns.
  • Thanks to the Spam of the day, this week also saw mention of Angela Melick and her prodigious skill in both engineering and autobio comics. Word is today is her birthday, which should be marked on my calendar of significant births in engineering history. Oh, you doubt I have a calendar that features the birthdays of famous engineers³? Check it — annotated version for your viewing pleasure.

    As long as we’re on the topic of birthdays, it is also the birthday of Lore Sjöberg, whose website presence is less these days than it has been sometimes. Nevertheless, there’s still a significant amount of his old Brunching Shuttlecocks work available, including Lore Brand Comics and the greatest use of Flash animation in history. I am pretty secure in my atheism, but every day I thank the possibility of God that I was born into a world featuring the phrase depleted uranium Beholder statue.

Weekend now. Enjoy the crap out of it, and I’ll see you on Monday.

Spam of the day:

After a three month long research project, I’ve been able to conclude that how to change your minecraft name doesn’t negatively effect the environment at all.

That is exactly what I’d expect a shill for Big Change Your Minecraft Name to say. Don’t believe the “official” story! Stand up against those who would despoil our natural world by changing Minecraft names!

¹ Not true; I’ll tell you that :01 Books is awesome every day and twice on Sundays.

² Book design by Colleen AF Venable, natch.

³ Okay, technically it’s a calendar with the birthdates of significant electrical engineers. With all the circuit-building and Arduino-wrangling that Melick does these days, I’m declaring her one of us in spirit.

Larger Than Life

About the time I was getting all excited about Colleen AF Venable’s book announcement yesterday, USA Today and Heidi Mac were showing off the long-awaited cover to Scott McCloud&rqsquo;s new graphic novel, The Sculptor. It’s been more than five years since the book was first announced; it was originally due for release in 2013 but the tale (as they say) grew in the telling — every time I spoke to McCloud those first couple of years after the announcement, the estimated number of pages (for what was still an untitled book) bumped up by 50 to 100.

So if you’re wondering why you haven’t had the book for a year and a half already, that’s why — you’re getting much, much more book. In fact, I’m pretty sure that McCloud would still be adding pages were it not for some insistent calls from New York to please just send them what was done, it will be brilliant, a situation that is not without precedent among treasured creators of geek entertainments¹.

But I digress.

The important thing is, McCloud’s first work of fiction in about forever (the ZOT! Omnibus was 2008; The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln was 1998) will be out the first week of February; the cover design is done (and who designed the cover? Ms AF Venable, that’s who, so yesterday really was a case of everything coming up Colleen), which means that the logistics of printing and assembly and transport and customs and distribution and every other thing that needs to happen to deliver a physical artifact is in progress. There’s no stopping it now.

  • Know what else is larger than life, or eventually might be? The Bartkira Project. It’s been more than a year since we first heard tell of the attempt to get more than 450 artists to each render five pages from Otomo Katsuhiro’s epic, six-volume Akira, rendering all the characters in the style of specific counterparts from The Simpsons.

    In the meantime, the project has somehow managed to not run afoul of copyright enforcers at Fox, Random House, Tokyo Movie Shinsha, Toho, Kodansha, Warner Brothers, Bongo Comics Group, and Krustylu Studios, any or all of whom may have copyright interests in one or the other aspects of this particular mashup. And hoping that that particular streak of luck holds, the project honchos have launched the first print content associated with TBP.

    Bartkira is not a first volume of the full story; rather, it’s a curated exhibition of pages from the project, in advance of (it is presently planned) the release of the serial story online. It will feature 80 pages from TBP, 16 color pages in a gallery section, and contain work from 19 artists (not including Otomo or Matt Groening). It’s being published by Floating World Comics of Portland, and will set you back US$15, and is a non-profit enterprise:

    Proceeds from this exhibition book are being split between two charities, Naka-Kon (a charity for Katsuhiro Otomo’s home prefecture of Miyagi, which was decimated during the 2011 Tohuko tsunami) and Save the Children (a charity of choice from Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon).

    If this goes through without any angry cease-and-desist letters, I’d expect the full narrative project to get through at least the first volume; if the lawyers get involved, I’m guessing the 2300+ pages won’t see the light of day.

  • Also larger than life, despite being tragically cut short? The boundless skill and lauded career of Richard Thompson. A lot of money has been raised by a lot of cartoonists in support of research into Parkinson’s Disease, including via the Team Cul de Sac book and the forthcoming auction of those Bill Watterson guest strips from Pearls Before Swine.

    To that, we can add one more:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the brilliant and hilarious cartoonist Richard Thompson, who’s career was robbed by Parkinson’s. His strip Cul de Sac is amazing, with such a unique writing style and energetic, scratchy line.

    So! I made this DRIVE watercolor specifically for eBay. It’s the first full-cast watercolor I’ve ever done for DRIVE. And here’s the kicker: Whatever it raises, I’m gonna double to give to Parkinson’s research under the Team Cul de Sac banner.

    Everybody catch that? The more this piece goes for, the more you’re going to cost Dave Kellett, since he’s going to match the selling price. As of this writing, it’s going for a paltry US$305, but there are more than six days to go. Let’s make Kellett dig deep into his wallet on this one; if you can’t afford to bid, you could offer to add to Kellett’s donation. It’s simple, you just say something like, I, [your name], will match the selling price of Dave’s piece as a donation to Team Cul de Sac up to US$____ and then do that once the auction ends. I’ll start it out:

    I, Gary Tyrrell, will match the selling price of Dave’s piece as a donation to Team Cul de Sac up to US$500

    There. It’s on the internet, and that means y’all get to hold me to it. Who’s with me?

Spam of the day:

Fantastic post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Many thanks!

I don’t normally respond to requests in this fashion, but since the post in question was about the latest Wasted Talent book I will write a litte [sic] more: Angela Melick is awesome and her comics are awesome and you should read them and buy her stuff. And by buy her stuff I mean that you should purchase the items that she makes, not that you should purchase things for her.

¹ I was commissioned by Pan Books in England to write up the series in book form, and after a lot of procrastination and hiding and inventing excuses and having baths, I managed to get about two-thirds of it done. At this point they said, very pleasantly and politely, that I had already passed ten deadlines, so would I please just finish the page I was on and let them have the damn thing. — Douglas Adams

That’s from the introduction to the Omnibus Edition of The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, published 1983 by Harmony Books. I am not suggesting for a moment that McCloud took too many baths or blew ten deadlines; as noted above, The Sculptor got longer from its initial contracted form, as opposed the the truncation of the first Hitchhiker’s novel.

A Guaranteed Good Mood

There are few things in this mortal coil that are going to put me in as good a mood as getting to talk about (or, preferably, with) Colleen AF Venable. Onetime photowebcomicker¹, Eisner-nominated kids book author (with Stephanie Yue), and integral part of :01 Books. How integral? Well, she’s designed more than 100 books for them over the past few years, she was the visual reference for a main character in one of their best books of last year, and she’s the latest proof that :01 knows that sometimes, the best talent is right under your nose³.

Because :01 just picked Venable’s YA graphic novel, Kiss Number Eight, for publication in 2016:

I wanted to write a hopeful book about growing up queer in a conservative community — both in the present day but also in the past —- inspired partially by my older sister’s coming out and the reaction of my very Catholic family, both good and bad. (How Catholic you may ask? Let’s just say it includes multiple nuns … who wound up being incredibly supportive.) There’s this obsession to box things in: Blue on this side. Pink on this side. But gender lines are much more fluid. Love is love, and if we had any control over it the world would be a lot less interesting.

I may have mentioned in the past that my secret to Not Dying is to pick out some piece of culture that I must have, that either isn’t released or isn’t finished yet; I then make the command decision that obviously I have to live until _____ comes out. Kiss Number Eight just became my newest mortality-avoiding goal, because I cannot wait to see what Venable (a one-woman cheerfulness factory) does with a topic that requires an acknowledgment that those you love the most can very much hurt you. Venable’s light, humane touch with characters will well serve a story that could (in lesser hands) turn into a cloying, mawkish, clumsy after school special4.

The art will be supplied by Leela Wagner, and it looks fabulous; in fact, the preview pages are such confident work5 that it makes it hard to believe that this will be Wagner’s first book. My guess is that by the end of the week, she’s getting serious inquiries for future work. In the meantime, let’s just hope that Wagner and :01 Books release more sample pages because waiting two years is going to hurt.

Spam of the day:

????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????
Woman ???? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????

There are so many things this could be trying to say, I am hard pressed to come up with just one interpretation.

  • A fedora-laden comment on the unknowability of the female mind as compared to that of the putatively logical Man?
  • A keyboard with an overly-aggressive repeat-press sensor?
  • Deleted dialogue from that one Next Generation episode with the aliens that didn’t have genders but Riker still got laid?

The mind boggles.

¹ Rejecting traditional notions of drawing, Venable’s photocomic found common ground with Bernie Hou’s Alien Loves Predator, David Malki !’s Wondermark, Chris Yates’s Reprographics, Chris Dlugosz’s Pixel, and Steve Hogan’s Acid Keg², collectively known as the Playground Ghosts, which engendered much loyalty in their readers and still has some discussion in its old forum.

² Which bucked the trend by not being a pixel, montage, or photocomic.

³ There’s precedent, as :01 published editorial honcho Mark Siegel’s hauntingly beautiful Sailor Twain. As there’s really just four people that make :01 Books work, this means that once Callista Brill and Gina Gagliano get books out from :01, they can change their motto to Remember, we’re not only the publishers of the best graphic novels in the business. We’re also creators.

Yeah, it’s a little longer than By Art We Live, but it’s got that certain je ne sais quoi that just screams classy.

4 Alternately, a Very Special Episode of Blossom.

5 It reminds me variously of Jillian Tamaki on This One Summer, Jen Wang on Koko Be Good, and Boulet on Darkness. Hey, :01 Books, get Boulet to do a graphic novel!