The webcomics blog about webcomics

[tap, tap] Is This Thing On?

Not quite back, but soon. Thanks for all of your support in what continues to be a challenging time. I also wanted to duck my head back in because if life had not interfered, I would have been running a review of Lucy Knisley’s Something New, which releases today. Short version then: it’s terrific (expectedly so, since it’s Knisley), and the entire book felt more real than real for me.

This is probably because even though I didn’t know it at the time, the story makes it clear that I know people who were at wedding that is the climax of the book¹; autobio has always felt a bit distant to me, learning what it’s like inside the life of somebody else who is not me and to whom I have only the connection of this story.

But being only a degree of separation away from the action, it becomes less life as story (which my brain is trained to read as fiction) and more a case of Did I tell you what happened at Lucy’s wedding? OMG it was so great which is immediately real. It doesn’t hurt that Knisley is such a personable presence, it’s like she’s telling somebody else the story about how what you did at her wedding was OMG so great. In conclusion, Lucy Knisley’s life journey keeps getting more interesting² and you should join her on it.

Spam of the day:

Pocket-Sized Wallet Holds 3 Dozen Cards, IDs, Money and More!

Part of what it holds is a malware warning for the advertised site. Anyway, I’ve already found the perfect low-profile wallet so eat it, spammers.

¹ Spoiler alert: they did.

² And given that her shop shows all shipments on hold for maternity leave, it’s going to be more so soon.

With Apologies For Brevity

Okay, so there’s a Family Emergency brewing, one that may necessitate my absence from El Blog for several days on little to no notice. This is to let you know that if I go silent for a bit, it was because of that and not anything you did, so don’t feel bad. It also means that while waiting for the proverbial shoe to fall, a lot of things are happening in Life, and my blogging time is limited. I thank you in advance for your understanding.

Today we are going to mention (briefly) a trio of Kickstarts.

  • Firstly, Ryan Estrada’s Big Data (cf: here) had gone up in an attempt to recoup Estrada’s expenses from making the audioplay (which will be released as a nine-part podcast, or all in one go if you back it). Now thing about this for a moment — Estrada’s already paid everybody associated with making Big Data, which means he’s taking a risk by putting up the campaign; if he doesn’t hit his goal of US$7500 (which will merely bring him back to a net loss of zero dollars), he gets nothing.

    The podcast is still done and paid for. It will release to the world whether he gets paid or not, and whether you pay him or not. The chief benefit of backing is you’ll get all nine hours in one go instead of listening week-to-week trying to solve the mystery like a chump. Okay, yeah, there are little bonuses where it can me implied that the whole mess of Big Data is your fault, but mostly it’s getting to listen early.

    And not cost Estrada a chunk o’ change. He could have put up a ten dollar goal and kept everything, even if it didn’t meet his outlay; instead, he’s putting a monumental amount of faith into the we like creative people community, willing to bet multiple thousands that you’ll come through. Make with the donating.

  • Secondly, Shaenon Garrity, Funk Queen of the East Bay and Yea, Even Unto The Far Antipodes, launched the Kickstart for the sixth (full color, this time) volume of Skin Horse. This one is gonna go by the numbers — launch one day, 150% funded the next, 39 days to go, you’ll get your stuff when she said because she is a goddamn professional and acts like one.
  • Thirdly, Irregular Webcomic. What the crap, man? Guy does a highly-loved comic for-friggin’-ever, finally get the ability to do a book, and with two and a half days left to do is just under 80% funded? This would be a damn good time for that end-of-campaign uptick to happen. If this falls short, the chance of ever getting other Irregular Webcomics volumes decreases by a nontrivial amount. Clutch time, people.

Spam of the day:

Reply to claim your FREE PANERA BREAD COUPONS worth
Let me stop you right there. Of all the corporate chain “food” that I won’t eat, I most won’t eat the utter garbage at Panera because their “bread” is a travesty. Fake, painted to look like it’s got color and crust, softer and blander than Wonder Bread; I’d literally rather eat the “bread” sticks from Olive frickin’ Garden. It’s in the name of your damn restaurant, it’s got to be not totally sucky and yet it is! Nooooo thank you.

Now With Added Me

Kind of all over the place today, from the serious and sincere to the … well, you’ll see in a moment.

  • Okay, real talk time. The Kickstart for the long-awaited first print collection of Irregular Webcomic followed a pretty standard steep start and long tail, but the tail has been lower than usual, and it’s starting to look like it’s going to be a near thing. 70% of the way there with about 72% of the campaign time gone means that the traditional spike upwards in the last week puts everything to rights, but creator David Morgan-Mar is unwilling to leave things to chance and is engaged in desperate measures: he’s added me as a backer reward.

    I will be in New York City on Saturday 18 June this year. With this reward you and one partner/friend can meet me over lunch, talk comics or whatever, and get some spur-of-the-moment hand scribbled comic art by me! I’ll also bring along some random physical goodies related to my comics to give to you! This reward is an approximately 2-hour lunch meeting, and you also get a printed copy of the book, a PDF copy, an MP3 of “It’s Quite Irregular”, and a set of postcards.

    Two backers plus two friends plus me makes 5 for lunch, and also joining us will be webcomic blogger Gary Tyrrell of [emphasis mine]

    There’s already a pledge to meet up with Morgan-Mar in London later this year and I’ll be crushed — crushed! — to think that I’m not an equal draw. Also, it’s no secret that I want this campaign to succeed, but any rumo[u]rs going around that I will be engaging in “favors” for the pledgers are probably overblown. Probably. Only one way to find out!

  • For those who’ve been waiting patiently since January for the opportunity to join iPhone-havers and play Exploding Kittens on your Android phones, wait no more. Seemingly in dual celebration over this release and yesterday’s announcement of an Eisner nomination (his third or fourth, I think), Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman has been crushing all rivals in EK matches today.

    You probably can’t beat him (he’s been playing the game since long before anybody else in the world, remember), but if you want to try watch his twitterfeed for announcements of when he’s playing and the game code. Good luck (you won’t win).

  • Speaking of Eisner nominations, Iron Circus Comics President For Life¹ Spike Trotman has declared a day of jubilee to celebrate the fact that her very first solo artist project — EK Weaver’s TJ and Amal omnibus reprint — took a nomination for Best Graphic Album — Reprint. You can get the TJ and Amal omnibus from the Iron Circus shop for 15% off with the coupon code EISNERFYEAH. Go cash in, you lucky people.
  • Lastly, the sort of thing that I like to see because it has the potential to make people better, more thoughtful creators: KB Spangler of A Girl And Her Fed² has posted a piece on how she approached writing a character that started out minor and became a major part of her story mythos, and how she’s changed her approach after realizing that she was Doing It Wrong. Specifically, Spangler’s take on Rachel Peng’s arguably defining characteristic — her blindness — was initially done without (in retrospect, and certainly not from a point of malice) insufficient consideration of what being blind actually means.

    And before a theoretical subset of you start screaming about PC goons forcing a creator to change her story — honestly, if that’s your first thought, the door’s over there and don’t let it hit you — it’s not in response to anybody yelling at Spangler other than Spangler. It’s about having the honesty to assess when you have sufficient experience in a community/culture to represent it properly, and when you have to shift your approach because you realize you didn’t. As Spangler repeatedly states:

    I’m an asshole but I’m trying to do better

    The first part of that statement is a filthy lie, but the second part you can take to the bank. Even if you’re inadvertently an asshole (or not an asshole at all), you can always do better if you’re willing to admit there’s better to be done. Go read it and think about how to do better yourself; and if there’s better I can be doing, please let me know.

Spam of the day:

Join our professional network

No name for this professional network? Nice try, LinkedIn, but you ain’t getting your hooks in me!

¹ And co-founder of Creators For Creators; application info coming in ten days.

² AKA my buddy Otter.

Oh Glob, No

Tom Siddell, you perfect bastard, how could you do this to us?

Let me back up. Siddell has done three print side-stories to Gunnerkrigg Court’s main story — Annie In The Forest: Part One, Annie In The Forest: Part Two, and Traveller: A Story From Beyond The Walls — the first two of which have for some time also been available for free viewing online.

Today, Traveller joined the Annies, in both English and Galician¹, at the Extras page.

Okay, no spoilers, but it’s a heartbreaker and Tom Siddell is bad and mean and bad some moreyou made Paz cry, you son of a bitch.

(Siddell is actually a very nice guy without a mean bone in his body and the story both works on multiple levels and is structured well; I bear him no ill will, but damn it’s dusty in here.)

With that preparation, please read and enjoy Traveller² and if you like it, please remember that he’s given you something for free that other people paid for, and maybe drop him a few bob? And if you need something cheerier after having your guts ripped out and stomped on the pavement (>ahem<), maybe enjoy this fine Nedroid Comic shared earlier today by Anthony Clark; it ends on a positive note!³ Now get outside and enjoy the weekend.


Spam of the day:

And they passed the night in a crockery-jar who had a little curl this ball was her favorite plaything

I received this from Glenda. I ain’t want to go out and be Glenda’s acid guide! On the plus side, Achewood is back with the first Fuck You Friday of 2016.

¹ The story concerns Paz and her visit home from the Court, and Galician is her native tongue; I’m told it’s linguistically sort of midway between Castilian (that is to say, formal) Spanish and Portuguese.

² Enjoy may not be the most accurate word, but you get the idea.

³ Or at least as positive as Reginald is going to manage.

Monday Briefing

Multiple things to point you towards today; let’s get right to it.

  • So when I met Rosemary Valero-O’Connell last weekend at MoCCA Fest she told me that she was working on captial-S Stuff that wasn’t announced yet so she couldn’t talk about it. Fair enough, I figured it would be a couple months before we heard, at least not until she was closer to done with the Lumberjanes/Gotham Central crossover.

    Nope! Friday, word came down that she’s going to be illustrating a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki for :01 Books, so that’s basically the best of everything in one bundle. It won’t be until 2018 that we get to see Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, but Valero-O’Connell was kind enough to share two pages on Twitter today. Note to self: do not die or become blind before this book releases.

  • John Allison has hinted that part of the reason for running neoBobbins strips for the next couple of months is time management; what with writing Giant Days and daily cartooning and working up new pages for the Bad Machinery books, he’s got to be pretty busy. He’s just added a fourth channel to get his cartooning goodness, this time for people that weren’t likely to have seen him other places — GoComics:

    From today, Bad Machinery is running at @gocomics – I think about 1/4 of the pages running there will be new to you.

    Which is to say, he puts a lot of redrawn/bridging art into the books (check out his tweets on the subject of prepping book 6, The Case Of The Fire Inside), so if you’ve not given him money for those, you get to see the new art now. You’re welcome.

  • A month ago we saw the nominees for the 2016 Cartoonist Studio Prize (a joint effort of the Center for Cartoon Studies and Slate magazine), and today we see that the winners have been announced. As in prior years, there are two categories: Best Print Comic and Best Web Comic, ten nominees per category, and lots of strong work in both.

    The winners get US$1000 cash money, and presumably a nice card, which will be inscribed with the names of (respectively) Carol Tyler (for Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father; Fantagraphics) and Boulet (for I Want To Believe). Fun fact: Boulet has been nominated all four years of the CSP’s existence, but considering the past winners were Winston Rowntree, Noelle Stevenson, and Emily Carroll, he’s in damn good company.

  • From the twitterfeed of Melanie Gillman, word of a new anthology looking for submissions:

    Here’s a comics anthology about bad online dating experiences that’s looking for submissions:

    The application is here, and I’m extremely grateful that I’ve been married since before online dating was a thing, just saying.

  • A little exercise in visualization because math. Personally, I prefer The Dot And The Line if only because it ends on an exquisitely terrible pun.

Spam of the day:

From Dr. David Katz

Sorry, bud. There’s only room for one Dr Katz in my life.

Never Knew I’d Care About Image Expo

Because while I buy a couple of their books, it’s not like I have a vested emotional interest in the publisher. But a whole bunch of webcomics types had things to say at their industry announce-fest yesterday, and that’s hard to ignore.

  • First up: the team that revived Batgirl for DC (Brendan Fletcher, Babs Tarr, and Sin Titulo creator Cameron Stewart) wrapped up their contributions to DC with issue #50 yesterday. About the time it was hitting the shelves, they were announcing that the band was not breaking up, but rather jumping to a label that will let them be them. Thus: Motor Crush, a balls-out action SF story with the requisite murky secrets.
  • Next: Karl Kerschl recently wrapped up art duties on Gotham Academy, but he’ll be teaming up with lifelong friend Brendan Fletcher to produce Isola, set in a fantasy world with intrigue and revenge and plans within plans¹. Interestingly, Stewart & Kerschl are old studiomates, coming off Bat-books, and both cited DC not letting them engage in all their artistic tendencies as a reason to go to Image, with its creator-driven ethos. Seeing these two incredibly skilled creators (with creative partners that they click with) is going to be a kick.
  • Jim Zub is the epitome of a busy guy, and with Skullkickers wrapped up and Wayward between story arcs for the moment, and with his takes on Thunderbolts and Ravenloft not due for a couple weeks, I guess he’s got a spare minute in his day because he also announced a new creator-owned series. Glitterbomb will be an exploration of fame and how it works, through the lens of otherworldly, demonic horrors.

    The entire famous-for-being-famous industry is fundamentally parasitic, so it’s not a huge leap for supernatural beasties to want to get in on the whole scam; this is the first horror project I can recall from Zub, and should do nicely to replace Rachel Rising on my pull list, seeing as how it’s about to wrap up.

  • The most significant thing, though, was not about a book being launched; it was about a new initiative to groom talent in the comics industry, with both a monetary grant and mentoring from established, successful comics folk. It’s called Creators For Creators and the founding personnel are named near the bottom of the page; it’s an A-list of Image talent and one creator that (to my knowledge) hasn’t worked with Image²: C Spike Trotman, whose cartooning is less frequent than it was because she’s too busy running her own publishing company and facilitating careers for other creators.

    It makes perfect sense to see Spike on that list; there’s probably nobody in webcomics that’s provided as much direct payment to as many different creators as she has. It’s also no surprise that Iron Circus is presented as the equal of Image Comics in one critical benefit of the CFC grant:

    The recipient has total control over how and where they choose to publish their work once it is completed, whether they choose to submit it to a creator-owned publisher or release it themselves in any format. Iron Circus Comics and Image Comics have both pledged to support the recipient by publishing their work, if the recipient so chooses. No matter their choice, the recipient retains all rights to their work.

    The full criteria for the CFC grant will be released on 1 May, along with applications for the first grant cycle; the page doesn’t indicate how often the application process will open up (given that the US30,000 grant is meant to support a creator to make an original work³ over the course of a year, I’d guess annually) or how the grant will sustain its funding for future years, but then again the entire endeavour is only about 24 hours old at this point. All I know is if they’re taking contributions for the grant, I’d be willing to kick in; I hope to see a CFC corner at the Image booth at shows with a donation jar set up.

  • And one last item that has nothing to do with Image: Irregular Webcomic creator David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc) will be doing a Reddit AMA in /r/comics “tomorrow”; I put that in quotes because it may not be Friday depending on where you live. It’ll be 11:00pm GMT, 7:00pm EDT, and 9:00am on Saturday for Morgan-Mar himself, home in sunny Sydney, New South Wales, Straya. Be sure to ask him about the Kickstarter campaign for the first IW print collection (just shy of 50% funded, with just shy of three weeks to go).

  • Spam of the day:

    4 Ways to Avoid Running Out of Money During Retirement

    I’m going to guess — and this is only a guess — that the chief way that the investment advisor who sent this would recommend is to not spend all your money on frivolous things like food and shelter and healthcare. Die when you are no longer contributory to society, elder scum!

    ¹ Bonus: one of the characters gets turned into a tiger, meaning Kerschl will be drawing animals in motion, at rest, and in conflict. It’s not Charles Christopher, but it’ll do.

    ² To be perfectly clear, the name list also included the invaluable David Brothers; he’s written extensively on comics and works for Image as a branding manager, but isn’t a creator himself. I’d guess that he did a significant amount of the logistics and coordination work around setting up CFC.

    ³ I am already anticipating the whiny ragetears of newbies who are offended that the CFC jury couldn’t perceive the obvious genius of their new concept, The Adventures of EscherGirl in Slutland.

Mostly MoCCA, Part Three

Good news for indy and webcomics creators, as TopatoCon 2016 will be free to attend and the NCS Division Awards released their nominations. Two of the three nominations for Comic Books are Giant Days (Max Sarin, although the image that they’re using is a Lissa Tremain cover) and Squirrel Girl (Erica Henderson), and the two online categories are full of excellent choices. Namely, Drive (Dave Kellett), The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo (Drew Weing), and Octopus Pie (Meredith Gran, her second nod) for Long Form, and Bouletcorp (Boulet), Kevin and Kell (Bill Holbrook), and Sheldon (Dave Kellett, again) for Short Form. Gonna be some tough choices to make as the NCS membership looks over their ballots.

The rest of this post is about one person I met at MoCCA Fest, and how you’ll want to keep your eye on her work.

At the start, it was the earrings¹. Large, white, vaguely dangerous-looking at first glance. Definitely lethal at second glance, and nervous-making despite the endlessly cheerful demeanor of the wearer. I asked what they were, and she told me — perhaps a little too cheerfully — Bobcat jaws! Like, actual fang-sporting jaws of actual bobcats, the better to destroy her enemies if she has any, which I seriously doubt.

Since I was there I glanced over her table, and as I mentioned before, I stopped when I looked at an open minicomic, the pages of which I immediately recognized. It was If Only Once, If Only For A Little While, open to the second and third pages. I remembered it because at the time I thought the character designs were reminiscent of Adachi Mitsuru’s Cross Game or (dating myself here) Matsumoto Izumi’s Kimagure Orange Road (which, coincidentally, is now finally being translated into English).

I always found their faces to be expressive with an absolute minimum of detail, and the same strengths showed here; it’s like the artist found that diagram in Understanding Comics that shows the continuum of faces, from photorealistic to circle/dots/line and picked out a spot just over the line into the cartoony end and said Here. These are the faces that suit this story.

There’s also the staging of those two pages (seriously, go look at them), particularly with the coiled dragon mural and that one, mostly black panel on page three. They draw your eye in and make you visually circle around that central bit of text: An awful truth is still the truth.

Combined with the bit dialogue at the end of page two (Nothing that exciting would ever happen here), the reader is entirely engaged in the story and primed for — perhaps dreading — the revelations to come. And that’s before you notice the POV shifts and camera angles and distances in the individual panels, each serving exactly the purpose needed in establishing mood and story. Did I mention the skill at which she draws the drape and folds of clothing? Because she gets how cloth works on human bodies. I’ve seen this before, but I know I haven’t given you money for it I said; We need to fix that.

And that was when I met Rosemary Valero-O’Connell.

Details came up quickly — she’s a student at MCAD, getting ready to graduate in the coming weeks; she’s been doing comics for about three years, and oh yeah — she’s also working on her comic book debut, which just so happens to be the much-anticipated Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover. I asked how on earth she’d scored that gig as her first comic book work and with all the sincerity in the world she said I got really lucky.

And that was when I decided I needed to know Rosemary Valero-O’Connell much better.

As I mentioned, I saw a lot of student work at MoCCA, and talked to a fair number of students; some were reticent, some outgoing, all were starry-eyed and optimistic about their forthcoming fabulous careers in comics, except one. Valero-O’Connell was cautious and hopeful and well aware that the comics business is not a meritocracy or even particularly fair. She knows that the deadlines and page rates may border on science fiction², she knows that the business end is capricious and even cruel. She’s ridiculously grounded and ready to do a huge amount of grinding work to establish herself.

And that was when I resolved to follow Rosemary Valero-O’Connell very closely.

It shouldn’t be too hard; in addition to LJ/GA³, I noticed that she did the cover to the new Steven Universe original graphic novel that releases today (co-written by show producer Ian Jones-Quartey, no less). She mentioned that she has projects in the pipeline that she can’t talk about just yet. She is, I hope, working on stories of her own, because I want to read them and see them where they belong — on the shelves of stores, gathering the sorts of notice and acclaim that Raina Telgemeier and Hope Larson and Noelle Stevenson are getting.

And that is why you want to pay attention to Rosemary Valero-O’Connell; she’s seriously skilled today, and she’s only going to get better.

Spam of the day:

The Gene Simmons Company

Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope. Gene Simmons achieved permanent Garbage Person status on 4 February 2002.

¹ I should note that the earrings had competition for coolest jewelry of the show; not long after entering the hall I noticed a black, metallic, sculptural necklace on a woman and complimented her on it. The more I looked at it (with her permission, don’t want to be creepy) the more it looked familiar. That looks like a benzene ring I said, indicating the central element, but I don’t know what the things hanging off it are. It’s dopamine she told me, so at least I can still identify benzene. Pretty sure this was it if you want one of your own.

² At one point I begged her to spend some time this week reading everything Katie Lane has written on work made for hire, and to please never undervalue her skills. She knows, and thankfully she’s got an agent looking out for her. And hell if she didn’t luck into the Impossible Thing with this LJ/GA gig — an underpaid (it’s mostly Boom! wrangling the story, so it’s definitely underpaid) WMFH gig where the exposure (reminder, kids: people die of exposure) is actually significantly valuable. This story is going to put her on a lot of people’s radar.

³ To be honest, I’d planned on dropping both Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy because I found the original creative teams to be more to my tastes than the current creative teams; I’ll be holding out at least through the six issues now.

News On A Tuesday

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: No strip; after the booze and pizza and crazy bread, Beef and Ray make the long trip home from Wasco to 62 Achewood Court. After getting zero (Beef) or a minor fraction of 8.504 lbs (Ray) of solids across three days in the Acres, I imagine Our Heroes gorged themselves heartily. I would guess that decision was pretty contributory to Beef’s ultimate reflection on what The Fight meant¹.

Things are happening today, my friends. Things!

  • Firstly, and I expect that you all know this by now but I would be remiss, but Homestuck updated for the first time since July last night. Woo!
  • Secondly, the much-anticipated Kickstart for Irregular Webcomic’s first print collection hit in the early-morning hours (if you’re in the Western hemisphere, at least). Some twelve hours later it’s just shy of 19% of the way to goal, with 29 and a half days to go. One notable thing to point out is that although IW creator David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc and semi-pro Mr Bean impersonator) is Australian, the book is being handled by the folks at Make That Thing in *hampton, MA, USA, which leads to the ironically awful situation that Morgan-Mar needs to charge some $31 (Australian) to ship books to his fans across town.

    This is such a terrible thing that he’s actually set the shipping costs for “rest of the world” (basically everyplace that isn’t US/Canada) to AU$28, meaning he’s going to take a loss of AU$3 (about US$2.25) for each order back to his own country. To make up for this, he’s introduced a special backer tier for US/Canada fans only (about 80% of his readership) that adds one slim Aussie Fun Buck to the regular price of the book reward:

    THE BOOK+POSTAGE GOODWILL (US/Canada only): A copy of the print collection book + a PDF digital copy. The extra dollar is your goodwill to help offset postage costs for non-North American buyers.

    I’m pleased to note that as of this writing, 22 US/Canada backers have opted to kick in the extra Australian dollar (about 75 cents, US; 1 buck, Canada) to help subsidize purchasers elsewhere. Nicely done, all.

  • Thirdly, today is the launch day for the first two of First Second’s new line of educational graphic novels, namely Science Comics: Dinsoaurs, Fossils and Feathers and Science Comics: Coral Reefs, Cities of the Ocean. When I got my review copies in the mail a while back (the usual voluminous thanks to Gina Gagliano at :01 Books), the attached info sheet said they would be releasing in April, but that was subsequently moved up and caught me by surprise.

    Thus I’ve not read Coral Reefs to the degree that would allow a proper review, but I can talk about it generally. It’s by Maris Wicks, and it’s about marine biology (which happens to be her day job and all) and it’s got the same effortlessly informative style as her previous Primates and the recent Human Body Theater. It’s great.

    But of course I’ve read Dinosaurs more thoroughly. It’s about dinosaurs, people, and I firmly adhere to Charlie It’s always a good day for dinosaur news! Pierce’s dictum regarding the terrible lizards: Dinosaurs existed then to make us happy today.

    It’s by MK Reed and Joe Flood, who previously collaborated on :01’s The Cute Girl Network (which was about dating in Brooklyn among the underemployed and undermotivated — it’s a hoot and a half). It’s pitched directly at kids just starting their serious independent learning about dinosaurs (say, 10 years old), and as such there were a few things that may need to be explained to the younger reader to avoid confusion.

    1. Nonlinearity; kids may not be aware of the device that says Oh hey, that thing we told you before? Not so much in telling a story. There are end notes (without indications in the text that notes exist, which actually simplifies things — they can go back and re-read the sections that get elaborated on) and a recurring motif that works well after you notice it: every once in a while there’s a page that talks about what was known at a particular point in time from the POV of that point in time². It’s really neat, but kids may need some coaching to put themselves not just in somebody else’s brain, but at a different point in history to appreciate what’s being presented.
    2. Editing oversights; at one point, the classic explanation of the two divisions of dinosaurs by hip type — the “bird hipped” ornithischians and the “lizard hipped” saurischians — is illustrated in classic fashion by pointing out the pubis bone pointing backwards (ornithischians) or downwards (saurischians). To make it clearer, a sample pelvis is shown, with the pubis in yellow for the saurischia and green for the ornithischia.

      Then, on the next page, the bones are drawn in place on a variety of dinosaurs with the colors reversed. The ornithischians suddenly get a yellow pubis and the saurischians green, which caused me to stop reading to figure out why I was confused. There’s also a bit of text late in the book that’s supposed to say that dinosaurs lived 250 – 65 million years ago, but actually says 25,065 million years ago. Whoops.

    3. Art trumping facts; The very first page of the book contains the caption For 165 million years, dinosaurs walked the Earth, with herds of ceratopsians, hadrosaurs, some non-specific sauropods, and a couple of large carnosaurs out looking for snacks. Overhead, some pterosaurs float lazily. So far, so good.

      The next two pages are the splash pages, with captions that read And flew. And swam., with a very active scene of aerial and aquatic beasties. There’s pterosaurs, archelons, plesiosaurs, icthyosaurs, mosasaurs, none of which are dinosaurs, argh (look ’em up).

      Yes, this is me being pedantic, and yes, they walk back and let the reader known that long dead + reptile-looking does not always equal dinosaur, and yes, the overall theme of the book is about how we have spent a few hundred years learning what dinosaurs were by replacing earlier conceptions with newer ideas.

      But if you’re going to be working in an educational context, you can’t make this big a mischaracterization in the opening pages because the kids will eat you alive for this kind of mistake³.

    All of which just means you’ll have to explain literary devices and editing and artistic choices to the kids that read this book. They’ll get it, kids are smart. Use it as a way to bring up the fact that we’re constantly learning and correcting ourselves, such as when we all had to learn that there were no Brontosaurs, only Apatosaurs. Except for this note on the last story page of the book:

    A lengthy reexamination of the different species of Apatosaurus lead researchers to conclude that there were enough differences to make Brontosaurus its own genus again, weeks before this book was due at the printer.

    Fact: Brontosaurus is now MK and Joe’s least favorite dinosaur.

    None of which is any reason not to run out and get this book immediately. It gives props to a series of early dinoscholars who have traditionally been overlooked (especially women), rightly notes that Richard Own was a complete dick to everybody, and handles the frankly hilarious topic of dinopoops with exactly the dignity and gravity they deserve.

    Plus feathers everywhere. Cool.

Spam of the day:

Science Proves Biblical-Cure – Atheists Stunned

This particular atheist will be stunned when the Bible gets the value of pi more accurate than three. No wonder Solomon had to import architects from Tyre to build his palace.

¹ I ain’t pooped in five days. Excuse a man.

² I’ll have to quote some to make it clear:

In the year 1800 …
The Earth is 6006 years old.
Dinosaurs are known as monsters.
They lived a few thousand years ago.
They disappeared because of Noah’s flood.
There are no examples of dinosaurs living at this time.
We are certain about all of this.

In the year 1854 …
The Earth is 400,000 years old.
Dinosaurs are known as extinct reptiles.
They lived a hundreds of thousands years ago.
They disappeared for unknown reasons.
There are no examples of dinosaurs living today.
We are certain about all of this.

In the year 1920 …
The Earth is as much as 400 million years old.
Dinosaurs are known as extinct reptiles.
They lived 3 million years ago.
They disappeared because they lost the survival of the fittest.
There are no examples of dinosaurs living today.
We are certain about all this.

³ I still remember standing in the dinosaur halls of the Royal Ontario Museum close to 25 years ago when a small girl came tearing around the corner and stopped dead to look at a model looming over us. She was maybe six years old, absolutely adorable, and her mother asked What’s that one, honey? Is it a plant eater?

She shot back with all the conviction in the world Mom, it’s a Parasaurolophus. She was right, and her pronunciation was dead on. If today she’s reading Dinosuars to her six year old, she’s going to stop on pages 2 and 3 and have the same argh moment I did.

Review, Preview, Recap, And Commerce

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: I think it rests in the heart of every person — some deeply, some closer to the surface — the desire (if not always the opportunity, or the inclination) to make the metals kiss and the fuel turn lively. This time it is Ray that has the plan, and he has set Beef down and pointed him in the direction of victory.

  • There’s probably no indie creator with as recognizable a style that can be put to as many different contexts as Sophie Goldstein. Her artwork is slightly cartoony, and in the bright, colorful expression that you had in Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell you got the world’s cutest Apocalypse with a subtle, existential melancholy underneath. The environmental degradation of The Oven made use of her tendencies towards stark iamges.

    Her sense of blocky color is at its most Kochalkaesque in The Good Wife, providing a startling contrast with the body horror of the plot. Comics as different as Strands and Coyote clearly come from the same artist — and the very cynical undercurrent of the stories from the same writer — but have very different feels. Everything she does is at once the same and different.

    And most same and different of them all is House of Women, the first part of which garnered Goldstein an Ignatz Award in 2014, and the second part of which has been recently released in Goldstein’s store She was kind enough to send me a PDF copy recently and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

    Because that same style — that simple, clear style, no more lines than are absolutely necessary — is working overtime in House of Women, tackling such themes as colonization, homogenization, appropriation, gender (the males we see may as well be separate species from their corresponding females), and the breakdown of a sororal religious order as women lose the roles they chose for themselves (maiden, mother, and crone are there, but so is a fourth, a combination of the other three) and find themselves at odds.

    At first it seems to have a dim view of the titular Women — they land on a planet with the express purpose of capital-c Civilizing the poor, benighted, unenlightened, stupid natives for the benefit of their Empire — blundering about, sure of the rightness of their cause. The local advance agent — a male from Back Home, but alien in his own way — seems to be more in tune with the local planet and its natives, but he’s exploitative in his own way.

    The Women, in turn, are motivated by such noble impulses as Seeking Knowledge, Duty, Sacrifice, and Kindness, but not all those impulses turn out to be benevolent. Meanwhile, their notions of What Is Right clash against the implacable reality of biology on their alien world to tragic ends.

    Everybody’s convinced that they’re doing the best most sensible thing possible in whatever circumstances present themselves, and that’s the cause of all the troubles — nobody’s asking Do you need help? when Here’s what you need to do is available as an alternative. There’s greater tragedy coming in Part III, no doubt, and while some of it is beyond anybody’s control, a great deal is down to thinking that frontiers and other cultures are things to be messed about with. It’s an affecting, lingering read.

  • For those of you that missed the news, the newest Girl Genius book collection — The City of Lightning¹ — has gone up for pre-order on Kickstarter; as of this writing, more than 800 backers have contributed in the past three days, bringing the project to bout 75% of its US$70,000 goal. Which, granted, it a heck of a lot of money, but Kaja & Phil Foglio put together heck of beautiful books, on heavy paper, with eye-popping color (by Cheyenne Wright) on every page, and plenty of extras. Given that they historically see 3000-4000 backers, expect this one to go to the 2.5x to 3x funding level over the next three weeks.

    And look, this is the fifteenth Girl Genius collection², plus all the other print collections that the Foglios have done over the past couple decades, so they know this game. The art will be done (the strips in question ran from January to November of last year), the production work will be submitted on time, and the finished product will be in your (my) hands on time in July. The only reason not to pledge now is because you expect to see Professoressa & Professor Foglio some time after July and want the visceral thrill of handing them money in person. Me, my luggage is gonna be full enough at San Diego, so I’m pledgin’ now.m There, I just pledged.

  • If I were to name one person that I never would have met but for this blog, one person who I cannot imagine at this date being absent from my life, it would be KB “Otter” Spangler of A Girl And Her Fed. I discovered her strip in the summer of 2006 and got hooked pretty instantly; one AGAHF collection³, four tie-in novels, multiple minicomics, several terroristic threats against my person and sanity, numerous Thin Mints, and one trampling by her bear-sized dog later, Spangler and I are great friends.

    Oh yeah, her comic and her novels are stronger than ever. So there’s nothing for it but a retrospective:

    The comic will be ten years old in April! What better time to start releasing the archives on tumblr with occasional snide remarks?

    Keep in mind that Spangler’s art has come a long way in ten years, and that she’s done multiple passes at old strips to improve the art from its original state, but that her redos stop just shy of 100 strips in so pretty quickly we’ll be back to the no-eyes style that I still think of fondly (albeit with occasional snide remarks of my own). S’gonna be fun.

  • Oh, and did I mention up top that it’s Sophie Goldstein’s birthday today? And that to celebrate, she’s letting original pages from The Oven go for US$85 each, domestic shipping included? It’s her first sale of originals in years, so check out what’s still up for grabs before you miss out.

Spam of the day:

While we don’t know what the smitten Instagram star will wear on her big day

I know, I know, context is for the weak, but trust me — that sentence made absolutely zero additional sense in context.

¹ You didn’t think sparks were going to stop at mere Light, did you?

² In fact, there is a backer level that will get you all fifteen books if you’ve slacked off until now.

³ Disclaimer: I wrote the foreword.

Weekend Calling

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: No strip, leading to the mother of all pregnant pauses.

And with it, the possibility of friggin’ snow. Let’s just do this while we still have the illusion of an approaching spring.

  • From Nilah Magruder, an eagle-eyed catch of a chance for webcomickers to get some notice in the broader pop culture:

    Hey webcomic creators send your webcomics to @RichcBarrett so he can review them for Mental Floss.

    In reference to a plea from the comics writer for Mental Floss:

    I wish more people would send me links to the cool webcomics they make so I can write about them. I’ve gotten bad about finding them myself.

    Webcomic creators just don’t do as much PR as they should I guess.

    I’m getting lots of great responses about this. Lots of webcomics to check out. Keep them coming.

    Tweeted last night that I wish webcomic creators would promote their comics to me so I can write about them. Woke up to a deluge of links.

    I used to be good at seeking out webcomics myself but it gets hard finding time as I’m getting tons of other types of comics sent my way.

    Webcomics are such a deep and varied world of comics. It’s hard even for me, much less a casual reader, to know where to even look.

    Thanks for kickstarting the response, Ms Magruder! You can see her next weekend at WonderCon in LA, Artists Alley table G-26.

  • Speaking of Kickstarting, two new webcomics fundraisers went up earlier to today: Tony Breed is looking to fund the first collection of Muddler’s Beat (it’s so good you guys) with the assistance of the fine folks at Make That Thing, and Brad Guigar is funding the ninth Evil, Inc collection (if my math is correct, he’ll have another three to go before he hits the recent reboot, so keep room clear on your shelves).

    They’re both just into the low tens of backers and about 10% to the their respective goals, but please note that Breed is only granting himself a two week window to fundraise, so there’s a bit more urgency there. Put ’em over the top, won’t you?

Spam of the day:


Are you saying I’ve got one of those alien implants? Cause I sure don’t have any other kind.