The webcomics blog about webcomics

Whooboy, Long Day

Let’s just assume I wrote something cool and erudite about each of these.

  • Stand Still, Stay Still print drive went live yesterday, and you can get a copy of SSSS in beautiful hardcover (judging from my copy of A Red Tail’s Dream) for US$55, shipped anywhere in the world. The usual premiums apply for signed bookplates/sketches (cats only, but cats are very important in SSSS), and what the heck — full color, hardcover, nearly 300 pages, and Minna Sundberg has proven her ability to ship and deliver. Get in on this before the IndieGoGo campaign closes on 21 October.
  • My evil twin is celebrating 10 years as a self-employed cartoonist with an AMA on one of the less scum-and-villainy-oriented corners of Reddit tomorrow. I’ll be working, so somebody ask him if Howard ever feels the urge to be the good twin for a while.
  • So matter of fact as to almost be missed over at Questionable Content:

    I am launching a new comic this Thursday

    Presumably, this is the new comic promised in the third milestone goal of Jeph Jacques’s Patreon and holy crap he’s on the verge of achieving the fifth milestone goal. Good for you, Jeph, and can’t wait to see the new strip.

  • New Dresden Codak, the first in two months. Aaron Diaz has been pretty absent from social media for some weeks now, and he tells us why:

    Sorry for the radio silence for so long. I’d been kind of not dealing with anxiety and depression for the better part of a year, and it reached a breaking point last month. I’m doing well now, but all this has necessitated a limited use of the internet for a while. For the next few months I won’t be available much through social media, so if you need to contact me, please email me at dresdencodak [at] gmail [dottity-dot] com. If you don’t follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, you won’t notice any difference, as I’ll still be updating the comic as always! I’ll also be posting sketches and little content updates on the Patreon blog.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — depression sucks the life right out of you and good for Diaz finding a way to deal with it; it appears that Diaz’s coping mechanisms must including lots and lots of drawing, because he hadn’t shared much of his usual in-process drawings when he went dark some weeks back. Oh, and as you may have noticed from the quote above, he’s opened up a Patreon, so check that out.

Spam of the day:

Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr … well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

Yeah, that sucks. Also, nice spam links.

Quiet Day

Maybe it’s everybody getting back into the swing of things after SPX and XOXO Fest last weekend. Maybe it’s everybody trekking to Austin for MondoCon¹ (where one may find Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott C, and Becky & Frank) or to Portland (they just had XOXO last weekend) for Rose City Comic Con (where one may find Scott Kurtz, Dylan Meconis, Erika Moen, Ethan Nicolle, and the ubiquitous Jim Zub).

Or, to be more precise, those people listed around Rose City are merely the webcomickers who are special guests of the show. Wecomicky exhibitors will also include Christopher Baldwin, Jennie Breeden, Evan Dahm, Sam Logan, Tavis Maiden, Kel McDonald, Bill Mudron, and the various members of Periscope Studio. No doubt others are attending but not listed by their individual names, what with both Dark Horse and Oni being local to Portland, and the Pacific Northwest in general having such an embarrassment of riches in the depth of its cartooning talent.

  • Speaking of Dylan Meconis, did you see that today’s update of Family Man was the last page of Chapter 3 and consequently the last page of what will be the second print collection? My copy of the first volume has been sitting lonely on my shelf for four years, and it is thus thrilling news to me that Meconis took the opportunity to announce:

    [M]y traditional short break from page updates to start pulling together the print volume. In the meantime, I’ll update with notes on past pages every Friday. If you’d like to know more about something in particular, comment here and I’ll add it to my list!

    I hope to return to page updates in six weeks; you can follow the Facebook page or my Twitter account for alerts.

    Six weeks. Print volume pulled together in six weeks, then the Kickstart and/or preorders, then print time and shipping … I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.

    None of which should take away from just how lovely today’s page is — a cut crystal glass breaking on floor by candlelight. It’s part of a violent moment, but it strikes me as oddly quiet and contemplative — if this were a movie, it would suddenly run in slow motion and the soundtrack would drop low for emphasis. Brava.

  • In contrast to the quiet, how about something loud? How about potentially the loudest thing ever associated with webcomics, namely the use of David Malki !’s greatest creation, the Piranhamoose, as a decorative element on a demolition derby² car. When said derbysters wrote to Malki ! to ask permission to include his design, he answered in the only way possible:

    I’m dismayed that you have not already completed said car so I can see it. This sounds like the best idea I have ever heard of.

    Click through to the before-and-after pictures. They are — in the literal sense — amazing.

Spam of the day:

September patch adds new levels and gameplay to Steam early access; terrifying new vision of Pac Man now available

That is the greatest subject line ever.

¹ Whose Guests page is a beautiful piece of design, featuring logos and signatures that turn into actual names when you mouse over ‘em — but it’s a pain to determine who’s coming.

² Note for non-American readers: demolition derby is the most American possible of entertainments, where automobiles are purposely driven into each other at speed with the intention of damaging them to the point of no longer being able to be driven. It is loud, stupid, potentially dangerous to all involved, and requires a surprisingly high degree of both engineering and driving skills.

Upliftin’ Frolic And Cavortment

SPX is done for another year, and it’s pretty safe to say that everybody who attended is looking forward to next year with the most baited of breath. It’s a show that’s just the right size, in that you can see everything in a few hours, but also spend the entire weekend in deep dives if that’s what you want. I didn’t have the entire weekend, alas, but I did manage to see the show floor on Saturday and have no regret except not being able to spend more time with everybody¹. Thoughts as they occur to me:

  • Congratulations to the Ignatz Award winners², and may I note that unlike every other awards program of the year, I have a good record picking Ignatz winners. Particular congrats to Evan Dahm, Meredith Gran, Sophie Goldstein, Robert Kirby, and Jason Shiga, who appeared on my ballot³, as well as all the other winners.
  • Speaking of Evan Dahm, he tells me that he’ll be launching his illustrated Oz book on Kickstarter in the near term, near enough to have the printer order submitted by end of the year. My only desire for this is that he offer a two-book bundle reward tier, as I need a copy, and I have a niece and nephew who will also need one.
  • I spoke to both KC Green and Anthony Clark, and somehow managed to completely space on talking about BACK, which makes me an idiot because I love BACK. I did manage to talk to Christopher Hastings about how his involvement in improv and sketch comedy is improving his comic writing and vice versa, but neglected to ask if he has any more major comic book writing gigs coming out soon, given that he’s become Marvel’s go-to guy for the slightly wacky story niche. In each case, I choose to blame the fact that I didn’t want to block the table from people that wanted to talk to these fine gentlemen and buy their wares. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.
  • Speaking of Green, and similar to Dahm’s Oz project, did you see that he (Green) launched an adaptation of Pinocchio today? That is to say, the original story by Carlo Collodi, not the Disney version. In case you’ve never been exposed to the original version, The Talking Cricket (il Grillo Parlante) tries to advise Pinocchio and is squished for his troubles, returning as an advice-spewing ghost, whereas his American counterpart Jiminy not only lived all the way through, he got the good song. Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio runs M-W-F, with Gunshow shifting to T-Th for the duration. Five days a week of KC Green comics is like a fairytale.
  • Speaking of il Grillo Parlante, that’s been the name of the current story arc over at Skin Horse, where a series of guest artists have filled in for most of the summer for new mom/Radness Queen of Webcomics Shaenon Garrity. Garrity’s returned today to wrap up the last week of the arc, which gives me hope that we may also see the return of Monster of the Week.

Right, SPX. Got distracted for a minute there.

  • Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson are super excited for their Capture Creatures series, coming in November from BOOM!
  • Dean Trippe tells me that the print version of Something Terrible is with the book designer as we speak.
  • Tom McHenry, whom I’d never met in person before, is a far more normal person that I would expect to ask people what they named their horses and get excited when I ‘fessed up that my horse was named Buttplumber.
  • Carla Speed McNeil viciously underprices her original pages. I came home with three — two of them from the just-released Third World collection, which I have been obsessively reading and re-reading for the ten days or so since I picked it up — and I seriously considered taking out a second mortgage in order to buy the entire bin she had on her table. If you are not reading FINDER you are missing out.
  • SPX remains a readers con, with multiple creators (among them Dahm, Jon Rosenberg, and Spike) expressing delight on social media at how much less stock they took home than they brought. Spike, in particular, was essentially sold out on Saturday, some hours after she promised me that she’s getting back to Templar this month, dammit.
  • Power couples: Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya are maybe the living embodiment of Zen patience. Ota’s well-documented wrist difficulties4 are keeping her from drawing (or even signing!) at present, but they are dealing with the situation with admirable calm and equanimity. They shared booth space with Tom Siddell and Magnolia Porter, both of whom are presently doing the best work of their respective careers, and the latter of which was presented with a fan-made, near life-size plush of her character Rixis.

    They were directly across the aisle from Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, who are gearing up for the Princeton Book Festival next Saturday. Telgemeier was sporting a wrist brace which she assured me was precautionary: the last time she went on book tour (as she is now), she went to the National Book Festival (as she just did) and signed about a thousand books in a short period of time and blew out her wrist and then had to go home and draw a book (which became Sisters). Here’s hoping the precautions work, but at least for now she and Ota get to be wrist-brace superhero buddies.

    Meanwhile, creator duo Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline — so well known for their collaborations with Ryan North — have the time now that Midas Flesh has wrapped to put together their own story and series pitches. With any luck, in a year or so we may see something that they’ve written as well as drawn, and in the meantime they remain busy. Busy’s good.

  • Kel McDonald is having a blast working with Dark Horse on the Misfits of Avalon print collections (the first of which is out next month), and remains her usual, unflappable, hyperorganized self. How organized? She won’t be putting up the Kickstarter for the next Cautionary Fables anthology until the end of 2015, and she’s already got her contributors on lockdown more than a year in advance. Somebody come up with a planning calendar app and get McDonald to endorse it.
  • Tony Breed, by all accounts, KILLED it in the DJ booth at the SPX post-Ignatz dance party/prom. I’d never met him before and he struck me as an amazing nice guy. I picked up a copy of his mini of recipes in comic form, which makes me wish that Recipe Comix was still a thing oh wait look, it is. Also amazingly nice: Jess Fink, who in a just world would be in the midst of a bidding war from competing publishers for the soon-to-finish Chester XYV 5000: Isabelle and George. I am an entirely straight dude, and yet I had to tell Fink how thrilled I am to see that those two dudes are about to get down to some serious gettin’ it on. I think it’s my innate desire for George and Robert to get a happy ending, so to speak.
  • I know I’m forgetting people; mea maxima culpa.
  • New To Be or Not To Be artist signatures obtained count: 25.

Spam of the day:

Nuthin’ good. Sorry.

¹ That, and I completely lost track of time and missed Raina Telgemeier’s spotlight panel.

² I was already driving home by the time the awards got underway, so Heidi Mac’s writeup was invaluable to me.

³ To be clear, I voted for Shiga for Outstanding Series (which he won) and not for Outstanding Online Comic (which Dahm took), and I voted for Goldsteinn for both Outstanding Minicomic (which she won) and also Outstanding Artist (which went to Sam Bosma, which you can’t really argue with). Likewise, while I backed Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints for Outstanding Graphic Novel, you can’t really get upset with that one being won by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki for This One Summer.

4 Taking advantage of the fact that I am totally ordained, I attempted a faith healing of Ota’s wrist. I don’t think it worked, despite invoking the spirits of Kirby and Herriman.

Still Waiting On The Official Site

This just in: my dog is ridiculous. Dude was just napping like that all afternoon until the sleep wore him out and he flopped his legs over onto the floor without otherwise moving. I’m not entirely sure, but I think he might have modeled for the Spider-Woman cover that everybody finds ridiculous.

  • The Harvey Awards have always been the comics awards that are the most insider-basebally, what with the voting being restricted to the pool of comics professionals. For whatever reason, they’ve also had an an occasional tendency to be somewhat lackadaisical about distributing information once the ballots are in — they were given out over the weekend at Baltimore Comic Con and there still isn’t an update at the Harveys official website to indicate winners¹. As such, I’m basing my information on that supplied by Heidi Mac on Saturday night.

    Best Online Comics Work went to Mike Norton for Battlepug, which he also won last year², in addition to the Eisner in 2012; although I would have given the nod to Gunnerkrigg Court, it appears that Norton’s peers regard him highly. Either that, or webcomickers don’t vote in the Harveys.

    There was also a run of Canadian webcomics (or webcomics-adjacent) winners, as Ryan “Muscles” North took the Special Award for Humor in Comics for Adventure Time, which book was also the winner for Best Original Graphic Publication For Younger Readers (which it also won last year), and Chort Zubaz was recognized as Most Promising New Talent³, as well as being co-recipient of the award for Best New Series on Sex Criminals.

    Adding in the Humor in Comics recognition for Kate Beaton in 2012, and for Bryan Lee O’Malley in 2010, there’s a strong argument to be made that the category should in future years just be renamed Funny Person That’s Essentially From Toronto4 (a distinction that would preserve Jim Zub‘s shot at the trophy next year). Fleen congratulates all the winners.

  • Fleen also reminds all attendees of SPX this coming weekend that they get to vote on the Ignatzes (Ignatzen?). Since it looks like I’ll be driving down for the day, I’m throwing my vote for Outstanding Online Comic to Evan Dahm, Outstanding Graphic Novel to Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang, Outstanding Story to Meredith Gran for Brownout Biscuit. Those were some tough decisions, what with the likes of Jason Shiga’s Demon, and This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki and more.
  • In other news: It’s official now, can’t go back on it, The Sculptor is on its way and nothing short of the destruction of all life on Earth will prevent it from ending up in my hands, dammit.

Maybe spam of the day:

Out of curiosity, where would you get medical grade superglue? I’ve used the normal stuff in a pinch before, I’d be more comfortable with something designed for the purpose. Is there a store you’d recommend getting it at?

It got caught in the moderation filters, but on the other hand it’s not trying to sell anything, is rather specific to something I wrote, and reads like it was written by a human, so I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt.

I didn’t have any medical grade superglue, since it’s a by-prescription device, so I had the sticky stuff applied by the Emergency Department of my local hospital. Also, given that the medical device in question is prescribed, I’d trust any place that’s offering it for sale about as much as I’d trust places selling boner pills.

¹ For that matter, the list of Previous Awards & Nominees stops in 2011; there’s nothing listed for 2012, and while the ballot for 2013 is present, no list of winner will be found there.

² The Harveys have a habit of repeat winners in the category, with Perry Bible Fellowship winning in 2007 and 2008, and Hark! A Vagrant in 2011 and 2012.

³ Despite not being new to the game at all, what with having his own convention and all. Odd award, that one.

4 For the current decade, Toronto has apparently been the locus of funny comics, with a quick detour to New Zealand/UK for Roger Langridge in 2011. Apparently, in the modern world, comics spells humor with an extra “u”.

Fleen Book Corner: Amulet Book Six

But first, Randall Munroe continues to pop up on the radar, what with being the guest on last night’s Colbert Report and all. Also, did everybody see that Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes have teamed up to do a new :01 Books series to teach kids to code? Dang, Holmes, all that time I saw you at SDCC and then for drinks at my bar and you didn’t let even a hint of this out. Well done.

Right. Amulet Book Six. Kazu Kibuishi’s tale has, as they say, grown in the telling; originally slated to be a three book series, it was extended to five, and then ten volumes, meaning that what might have been a much briefer, tighter narrative has been given more room.

Rather than becoming overstuffed or padded, the story of Emily and Navin, and their struggles in the underground world to break an ancient power’s corrupting influence, have instead been given more room to breathe. Background characters get promoted to speaking roles, the backstory that only Kibuishi knew got to be featured on the page. The result is a story that is far more organic, a world that feels far more lived in than it would otherwise. Give Kibuishi as many books as he wants to tell his story, there will always be another corner of Alledia for him to explore.

So how does this volume, subtitled Escape From Lucien, stand on its own? Particularly given the lengthy delays associated with Kibuishi’s severe illness in 2012 and prolonged recovery in 2013? Unsurprisingly, the answer is pretty damn well.

By now the outline of the story — mystical force corrupts the guardians of the world, conquering army headed by suborned (not to mention dead) king must be opposed — and the characters are familiar to us. We aren’t getting this is what happened before and here’s who this person is any longer; it feels like all the major players are in place and moving towards their respective destinies. As a result, this is the first book in the Amulet series that really feels like it concentrates purely on story advancement via what’s happening right now — and that sense of right now is at it’s right nowiest, given that the bulk of the action takes place over maybe a day or two.

Furthermore, the scope of the story has expanded to the point that entire swaths of characters are half a continent away from the main events of this story, and it only feels natural. If you’re going to have a struggle that unites multiple countries of people together to remove the blight from all the lands, it doesn’t make sense that all the action and all the important personages will be in the same place at the same time. Most of them, though, are in the vicinity of the title city of Lucien, where one adversary will fall, another behind him will be revealed, and a onetime enemy stands revealed as perhaps the most crucial of several prophesied saviors.

While the impromptu Guardian Council of Stonekeepers try to determine who — or what — the voice behind the Stones is and how to stand against it, the non-supernatural characters are engaged in critical missions of tactical significance and trying to keep the unarmed away from the worst of the fight. Terrible things are massing, and as much as the Elf King’s armies are what prosecuted the war, it’s the things that exist in the interface between the seen world and the unseen that are the real enemy.

With three books left to go, it’s clear that the conflicts now in place are where we’re going to be spending the rest of Amulet; fittingly, this is the first book in the series that doesn’t start or end at a narrative resting point — it picks up immediately after the end of Book Five and ends with all the major characters in motion. Forces are converging, characters are in the middle of life-or-death situations, and we’re going to lose some of these people we care about before things are done. To protect as many as possible, the Chosen Ones are going to have to sacrifice between now and the ending — themselves or each other, maybe banishing the mystic powers from the world (both the malevolent and the protective), or perhaps merely shattering the evil into bits small enough, scattered enough to deal with by less extreme means.

As we’ve seen since the earliest volumes, there are bargains and choices that have been made, and these things have their costs. Sorrow awaits, because nothing worth fighting for is going to be earned cheaply. This theme has been there from the beginning¹, and if it’s heady stuff for a children’s series, it’s also a sign of the supreme respect that Kibuishi has for both his story and his readers; there will be no cheats to make everything turn out well for everybody we like while roundly defeating the villains.

That’s Disney, and as we’ve observed before, Kibuishi is a latter-day Miyazaki, in full Nausicaä or Mononoke or The Wind Rises mode. The world is fantastic, but the consequences of faltering are real — Emily knows that even the best possible outcome will be bittersweet and she chooses to fight on not because it’s her capital-D Destiny, but because if she doesn’t the price of her abstention is suffering on a grand scale.

Her choice is to do what’s necessary because it’s right, and that resolve is what inspires her brother as well her impromptu family to do the same. It’s more empowering than any Patronus, and yet far more fragile. The characters of Escape From Lucien barely have time to process more than their immediate situation, but we can absorb Kibuishi’s message at our leisure: Be as brave as possible, stick by your friends, protect as many as you can. It’s a message that we all need to hear, and it’s presented so naturally as to be inarguable. Give this book to everybody you know that needs to be reminded that things can be better in equal measure to what we choose to do.

Spam of the day:

From: Raina Telgemeier <hannu>

Hello Gary,
[link that no way I'm clicking on]

That’s new — using a name that frequently shows up in my writing² as the fake sender of crappy spam emails. How unfortunate for you, spammers, that I have a low and suspicious nature and highly doubt that Raina would be sending me links for off-brand who knows what³.

¹ As opposed to, say, the Harry Potter series, which started out as a much more light-hearted romp and didn’t really turn serious until the end of Goblet of Fire when the deaths of good guys start to happen in front of us. Kibuishi is likely second to none in his appreciation for JK Rowling’s work, but to my eye there’s a fundamental difference to how the hero appeals to readers: Harry is somebody we want to be because we know he’ll prevail; Emily is somebody we admire but her Chosen Oneness looks a lot less fun than Harry’s.

² Already anticipating the spam email I’ll get tomorrow from “Kazu”.

³ Footnote because I really don’t want her name to be near the words boner pills on account of that would cause some weird search results in the future.

Fleen Book Corner: Sisters

But first, a quick note that Randall Munroe is feeling creative again, and on a day when my scrolling wrist is feeling a little carpal-tunnely. Make sure you’re set to allow Javascript, and see how far you can dive in before the madness takes you.

Right. Sisters. If you’ve spent any time on this page at all, you suspect strongly what I’m about to say: it’s a masterwork, and Raina Telgemeier is going to be remembered as not just one of the great comics storytellers of our century, but one of the great storytellers, period.

But as I was reading (and re-reading) Sisters, I found myself wondering why I like some of Telgemeier’s books better than others¹.

Smile just grabbed me more than Drama, but Sisters I enjoyed as much as Smile. The scope of the stories is similar — middle school girls are the protagonists and the stories center around their interactions with family and friends — the conflicts and problems are not of the earthshaking variety, but are obviously important in a personal sense. There’s a sense of growth suffused in each book, and the technical skills (both words and pictures) are beyond reproach.

I don’t think it’s because I feel a disconnect with the topic matter, as I’m at a remove from the main thrust of all three books: I never had braces, nor was I involved in drama club or had my relationship with a too-similar sister define the first half of my life. I don’t think it’s because of the self-contained nature of some of the stories — Smile and Drama come to clear conclusions, despite the sense that the characters will continue to grow and change after the last page — versus the relatively open sense of but what about? at the end of Sisters.

And in the end, I think it comes down to the fact that Smile and Sisters are autobiographical; not simply because Drama is fictional, where the other two aren’t, but because the Smile/Sisters stories are specifically taken from Telgemeier’s life.

This flies in the face of the McCloudian notion of being able to identify with a simpler character (and what can be less simple than a messy, actual, human life?) where specificity keeps us at a distance as an observer. Call it appreciation of the honesty that has to go into telling your story vs the fiction that goes into making up a story, call it empathy in knowing that sharing some hurts from her adolescence must have challenged Telgemeier in ways that putting the fictional Callie through heartbreak would not (indeed, could not).

I think that gets to the heart of it — in all of her work, Telgemeier avoids the trap of making her characters too sympathetic; Callie and Raina can both be moody (or cranky), and they can be blind to the situations beyond an immediate focus on themselves. But putting those flaws into somebody you created in your brain is not the same thing as finding those flaws in yourself and saying This was — this is — me, these are my failings. It’s an incredibly intimate act of sharing, as Telgemeier invites us to live the highs and lows of Raina’s life along with her. It’s a razor-thin line that she walks, between sharing all and pruning out that that doesn’t serve story, between maintaining honesty and honoring dignity of her family by not delving too deep.

And in the end, she pulls off that balancing act, and weaves us into her story in a way that makes us live it along with her. Set primarily in a concentrated couple of weeks of tension (involving days cooped up in a VW minibus with no A/C with mom and siblings, driving from San Francisco to Colorado and back) with flashbacks to recount the highlights (lowlights?) of her relationship with her sister up to that time, we follow the story of Raina and Amara² as they confront challenges in different ways: different tastes in nearly everything, jealousy and envy, realizing that you don’t fit in and reacting to that in diametrically-opposed ways, recognizing cracks in their parents marriage, and finding that one thing that might bring them closer together — drawing! — is also a wedge between them.

By the conclusion of the story, Raina finds that five years younger Amara is more perceptive than she gave her credit for, and about that time there seems to be a realization dawning in her that one of her lifelong assumptions was wrong. You see, Raina wanted a baby sister from the time she was little because it was going to be awesome and they’d be best friends but that didn’t happen and what is wrong with Amara why can’t she be the way she’s supposed to be instead of so different from me? The epiphany is that relationships don’t come pre-packaged, that they require give and take and work from both ends, and you get the sense is that Raina will be approaching a lot of things in that more conscious fashion from now on.

But that’s only a sense, because that’s where things wrap up. No montage to show that Raina and Amara became Best Sisters Forever and can’t go two days without talking to each other. No indication if their parents found themselves drifting further apart or pulling back to each other. No neat little and it all turned out happily in the end, because that’s not the story Telgemeier was telling. Smile was the story of Raina through the lens of four-plus years of corrective dentistry; Drama was the story of Callie through the lens of the Spring musical. Sisters is the story of Raina coming to a realization over two weeks about her life to that point, with few clues as to exactly when it occurs in the broader story of her life³.

It’s simultaneously a smaller and larger story than Smile, and if Telgemeier never shares the answers to those dangling questions, we’ll get by. We’ve seen — stepped into, really — a critical time in her life, one where she made a choice about what kind of person she wanted to be. There may be other inflection points in her life that are as important to Telgemeier as this one, but we’ll have to wait and see Because even though the events of Sisters led to a choice that led to becoming the Raina Telgemeier that could share her story with us, “Raina Telgemeier” is as open and unfinished as Raina the character. She’ll share more with us when she’s ready, and it will be wonderful.

Spam of the day:

Do you need your website to be successful to maintain your business? Do you need targeted visitors who are interested in the services and products you offer? Are looking for exposure, to increase sales, and to quickly develop awareness for your website?

In order: No, no, and no. Thanks for asking!

¹ Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she’s got a bad book in her; we’re talking about the difference between two things that are excellent — one of which you prefer to the other — either of which is far beyond almost all other things of a similar nature.

² And to a lesser degree, that of their parents and younger brother, Will.

³ Telgemeier avoids drawing teeth in Raina’s mouth throughout the book, but the back cover shows a smile with braces. We also see Raina with a shirt referencing her junior high school, and at one point she mentions starting high school in two weeks, so we’re just before the time that she takes another huge leap in becoming a whole person: cutting off the why am I friends with these people again? crowd that had grown increasingly mean towards her.

Fleen Book Corner: Books On Tour

It’s shaping up to be a week of Fleen Book Corners; let’s start with data and numbers before we get to reviews.

  • I was lucky enough to pick up Sisters by Raina Telgemeier and Amulet Book Six: Escape From Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi over the weekend, and reviews are forthcoming, but I need to work in a few more readings of each, first. There’s a lot of depth and quality work in both books, which by the way made their debuts at #6 and #5, respectively, at the New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels (paperback). That struck me as unrealistically low until I saw what’s in the top four slots: a Walking Dead collection, Maus, and two editions of Persepolis, and considered how the list is compiled.

    First things first: although the list is dated 7 September, it reflects sales for the week ending 23 August, or three days before Amulet 6 and Sisters went on sale; it incorporates pre-orders and stores stocking up, but does not include actual kids went to the store and plunked down money, necessitating restock orders. You also have to consider that the zombie book comes as summer convention season drained stocks, requiring reorders at the distributor level, and the others occur as college bookstores stock up on mandatory reading lists, a place where both Persepolis and Maus have been found for a decade or more. Look for both to bump up next week, and to hang around for a good long time¹.

  • Randall Munroe’s What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, which I will be obtaining at the first opportunity, is releasing today (at least, in the US/Canada in print and audio editions). In two days it will hit in the UK and Commonwealth countries, next week in German, next month in Brazilian Portugese and Dutch, and in November in Czech and Spanish. Not content to stop with that fairly impressive percentage of the world’s readers², future editions will be released in Japanese, French, Russian, Hungarian, Chinese, Polish, Greek, Turkish, and Korean, a total of 18 editions in 16 languages (counting English as one language, but simplified and complex Chinese as two), for a reach of approximately 4.75 billion readers out of 7.05 billion, or 100% of the people on the planet, using Munroe’s beloved Fermi estimates.

    Furthermore, assuming all the foreign editions have the same dimensions as the US edition³, stacking those 7.05 billion copies up in a tower will produce a stack 232,650 km high. Naturally, the weight of the tower (some 5.77 billion kg, or about equal to the mass of enough uranium to fill the Rose Bowl4) will compress the lower levels to be thinner (not to mention the ground beneath it), but 85% of the tower will be beyond the geostationary height (some 36,000 km due up), thus making the real challenge keeping the damn thing anchored to the ground and not allowing it to fling out into space.

    In conclusion, WI?:SSAtAHQ has the potential to end all life on Earth and any other planet that is unlucky enough for the stack to fall onto it. Something tells me that thought secretly pleases Munroe. Before our inevitable doom, however, Munroe will be making a series of book tour stops between now and Sunday, 14 September, where he will likely sign your copy, and maybe apologize for dooming us all.

  • And since we’re talking about book tour events, Scott C’s Hug Machine continues with the fun and hugs. The latest announcement is that the official launch party will take place at Books of Wonder in New York City on Tuesday, 16 September, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

Spam of the day:

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Although my Japanese is both narrow and rusty, I can still work out katakana. I mean, bonus points for the attempt, but this is not really the venue to try to entice people into buying expensive Italian purses.

¹ Similar to how, say, Telgemeier’s Smile has sat on the list for 115 weeks of the 239 weeks since its release more than four years ago.

² Remember, and Commonwealth countries includes India, population more than 1.2 billion.

³ 23.1 x 18.3 x 3.3 centimeters.

4 The inadvisability of gathering that much uranium into one place is a discussion for another day, but no doubt Munroe could tell you how long such a collection could last before runaway nuclear reactions dispersed it, along with a goodly chunk of Southern California.

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.

Don’t Ask How I Know What Size Shirt My Dog Wears

It’s a quiet time in Webcomicstan, possibly related to the imminent long weekend (with its attendant influx of creators to opposite ends of the continent, what with PAX Prime and Dragon Con kicking off tomorrow), along with a dash of end of summer doldrums. Nothing deep today, just some quick bits to amuse on a Thursday afternoon.

  • We’ve mentioned Evan Dahm’s illustrated The Wonderful Wizard of Oz project a number of times since he launched it about a year ago; it’s not ready for print, but he may be getting close, seeing as how he’s noodling around with cover ideas. We’ve seen a good number of Winkieland illustrations of late, and if my memory of the original book serves, after returning from Winkieland, Dorothy et. al. made a trip down south (I forget if that’s the land of the Gilikins or the Quadlings), so maybe we’ll get to see another color scheme after Winkie yellow and Munchkin blue. In any event, I want this book.
  • Sometimes, you can only respond to bad times with a deeply stupid (to the point of brilliance) idea:

    It has been a shitty month, so I’m making a #BUTTS t-shirt for fun. Blame Candice!

    One week run, ends Sept. 5.

    From Rich Stevens, as if there could be any doubt. If he actually makes a canine version (you just have to move the design to the back so it’s visible), I am so getting one for my hound (who, as it turns out, can wear a human t-shirt in the medium-large size range, just saying).

  • A final comment on the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story recently won by Randall Munroe for the xkcd creation¹ entitled Time was offered up by the son and former scion of nominees Phil & Kaja Foglio²:

    Aw, don’t worry Mom & Dad — if you had to lose to somebody at least you know it was somebody better than you!

    Ouch. I have met Young Master Foglio³ and I didn’t know he had this level of snark in him. Naturally, I also know Somewhat Older Master Foglio and I entirely believe he has this level of snark in him:

    You are now out of the will, me laddo.

    Tough break, kid. Maybe Munroe will adopt you?

Spam of the day:

In that case, you might have ‘introduced’ Henry’s bar towards the reader from the gunman’s eyes –- it could be new to him and you’ll be able to bet he can be looking around pretty carefully.

Congratulations, this is the single least sensical blogspammer text I’ve yet encountered. You can pick up your trophy in Hell.

¹ To call it an update feels too limiting.

² Cheyenne Wright was also part of the nominated team, but as he lacks a familial relationship to the young man in question, he is the immediate subject of this discussion).

³ It occurs to me that I don’t know if his parents have referred to him by name on the wild interwubs, and so I’m omitting that detail here. He’s pretty easy to spot though — find the Girl Genius booth at a show, look for the young’un that looks exactly like Phil Foglio must have looked at age 12 or so, and that’s him.


It didn’t finish where it started (or maybe it did, and wandered in the middle), but “Hurricane” Erika Moen went into deep Twitter musing mode last night, touching on the practical question of how much you can keep in print, and the more philosophical question of what it’s like to have your work visible. The former started simply:

Looking over the inventory we have left of the DAR! books, just down to several boxes of each.

I think I’m gunna have a final “get ‘em while you can!” sale and then discontinue selling them online, sell the remaining copies at cons.

Ideally I’d like to collect everything into one giant uber book, but I’ve got so much going on that I don’t know when I can make it happen.

Stick around long enough, that’s a question you’re always going to have to ponder: when to let things go out of print? Ask Mr Kellett or Mr Guigar about their ever-growing sets of books and how much fun it is to keep them all in inventory and truck ‘em to a show. After all, if you’ve got books 4 – 8, who’s going to buy them if they don’t already have books 1 – 3?¹ Heck, Mr Kurtz put together one enormous digest and let all the constituent books go out of print years ago. But then Moen’s musings took a turn:

If 20-year-old me could have seen that 31-year-old me would still be selling actual BOOKS with ISBN #s of my inane journal scribblings…

The first thing cartoonists always ask me is how to get a bigger audience, how to get people reading their stuff.

It’s like DUDE, enjoy your anonymity while you have it! Get all your stupid and bad comics out of your system now while no one’s watching!

Enjoy figuring
out how you tell tell stories. Make totally pointless, self-indulgent work. Find your voice while no one’s paying attention.

Because then
when people do notice you, you’re not given any leeway. You’ve got standards you have to live up to, judgement to shoulder.

Once people start paying attention and ripping you to shreds for every single word and line you make, creating is not so spontaneous anymore

You don’t
just BAM make a comic, you’ve gotta analyze every possible angle it could get attacked from & decide in advance if it’s worth it.

Heady stuff for the early morning hours, and it shifted again to a monologue on how permanent work should be:

I don’t know where I’m going with this. 20yo me just never imagined that people would buy collections of my angsty scribbles a decade later.

I guess that’s why I’m ok with letting the DAR! books go out of print for a while. My work is so intentional and thought-out now, …

…but back then I was just farting out comics without any forethought at all. Just: BAM! I had a thought? MAKE IT A COMIC.

It’s kind of a relief to think that the 20yo version of myself can go in hibernation for a while and just let me be a 31yo for a while.

The nice
thing about keeping a journal webcomic is that you have this specific time of your life frozen in amber.
The bad thing about keeping a journal webcomic is that YOUR DUMBASS KID SELF IS FOREVER PRESERVED IN AMBER FOR ALL TO SEE 4 EVER.

But she brought it back around to the starting point and stuck the landing:

Anyway, so I guess this is my unplanned, soft announcement that I’m discontinuing online DAR! book sales Sept 30th

So go get your DAR! books while you can. And for the record, I like Moen’s thought-out work as well as what she considers (I don’t) to be “farted out”. Oh, and if you weren’t smart enough to get in on the Oh Joy Sex Toy Book-Kicker, she’ll have those up for regular purchase soon. In the meantime, check out her advice for gettin’ you a threeway. If anybody manages that because of Moen’s advice, she will be my hero even more than she already is.

Oh, and for those heading to suburban Maryland next month for SPX, they’ve announced their programming; as usual, it’s a highly-curated, quality-over-quantity slate (one program at a time, at hourly intervals, for thirteen total presentations), with a Q&A spotlight on Raina Telgemeier on Saturday at 1:00pm. If I make it down there, I want to ask Raina if her publishers buy her an ice cream cone for each week one of her books sits on the Times graphic novel bestseller lists. If they don’t, they damn well should.

Spam of the day:

There are numerous other varieties of business letters with each possessing its significance and relevance within the association held between diverse parties.

That’s … that’s almost recognizable English. Good job, blogspammer(s)!

¹ I despair to think of what Professor[essa]s Foglio will do, what with more than a dozen Girl Genius books in print, and the story only about halfway done. They’ve made comments about starting over again from Book #1 for the second half of the story so as not to scare away customers.