The webcomics blog about webcomics

Grab Bag Before The Holiday

We are heading towards the first pie-centered coma of the holiday season¹ and between the actual holiday, travel, and a day off to celebrate Rosenbergmas² on Friday, I’m giving you a bunch of stuff now and won’t guarantee any more posts before Monday.

Spam of the day:

See what secret gift did you got

Oh very nice, fake Victoria’s Secret you get a free gift spam — you put up a link that reads Report Spam in your email that goes to exactly the same address as the attempt to get me to click on whatever crapware you’re trying to install on my computer. That’s pure bloody evil.

¹ Yes, yes, I know that Our Friends To The North celebrated Thanksgiving six weeks ago, but we all know when Thanksgiving really happens.

² In addition to the usual disclaimer that Jon Rosenberg owns my actual soul, one must make an annual notification that he and I share a birthday, along with at a Song Dynasty Emperor, the guy who invented the proper temperature scale, the founder of Panasonic, a puppet wrangler, a martyr to democracy, a martial arts master, a guitar master, an Oscar-winning director, an actor mostly known by one of his character’s names, a Science Guy, a goddamn genius taken from us too soon, fuck cancer, the voice of Brak, at least four rap artists, another actor mostly known by one of his character’s names, two porn stars, and Kim Pine.

I guess people just like screwin’ in early February.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today’s a challenge, tomorrow likely moreso. Here’s what’s happening:

  • Saturday at 7:00pm, in the West Village (New York City, dontcha know) will be launching a speaking series (to run on the third Saturday of the month), and is kicking things off with Meredith Gran headlining what looks to be a fascinating evening on the theme of Identity.

    I wasn’t familiar with Carmine Street Comics, which is unsurprising as its site describes itself as the newest comic book store in the oldest part of New York City; it’s also described as being a combined shop/open comics studio, which sounds really neat. Those of you not getting the hell out of New York early for [American] Thanksgiving, I’d recommend this event highly.

  • It’s been about three months since the SyFy Network/Candle Cove deal was announced, and comes today the news that SyFy has committed to a pretty decent show order:

    Syfy Greenlights Two Seasons of Horror Anthology Series ‘Channel Zero’

    To be clear, Channel Zero will feature a different storyline each of those two seasons, and Candle Cove will only be the first season, but that’s still six episodes, which are slated to run in conjunction with Octoberween 2016. Start getting your Candle Cove-themed Twitter avatars ready, it’s gonna be a creepy ride.

  • I know that a lot of you don’t remember where you were 30 years ago today (I was a college freshman, so getting ready for finals in Calculus I, Chemistry I, Comedy¹, and Military History²), but on that day Calvin and Hobbes. Heck, a significant number of you may not remember where you were when C&H wrapped after ten years.

    Anyway, it was a magical time of comics, perhaps the high point of the form: Bloom County was still a couple of years from its decline and retirement; The Far Side was at its peak; even Peanuts was sharper and funnier than it had been for about 15 years. Much has been written of Bill Watterson and his most famous creation; it’s hard to think of a more influential example of pure strip cartooning on everybody engaged in [web]comics today.

    There are tributes everywhere you look, but the one I found most edifying is at Sketchd, by David Harper, with contributions from Kazu Kibuishi, Michael Cho, Skottie Young, and others. Read it, and maybe enjoy a nice tuna fish sandwich while you’re at it.

Spam of the day:

Nancys Desperate Fight to Cure Alzheimers disease over?

I think the Nancy they’re referring to is Nancy Reagan, in which case it appears that even paranoid nutjob Obama-disliking spammers are acknowledging that we had a symptomatic Alzheimer’s patient in the Oval Office for at least four years.

¹ As opposed to Tragedy; we started with Aristophanes and Plautus, lots of the ruder Shakespeare, took a detour through Moliere and Shaw and Feydeau, and ended up with Bringing Up Baby and Animal House. Big props to Dr Parshall, who really cemented my love of literature.

² My college weaseled out of requiring a phys ed class by instead requiring two ROTC courses (Military History, Organizational Leadership) that were each one credit and pretty much impossible not to get an A in. It also meant that every freshman was technically enrolled as a cadet in the US Army, which means I have a DoD personnel record somewhere.

New SSID: Virus-Ridden Contagion Box

I have obtained a new WiFi modem, and things appear to be better than they were for the past couple of days. I’m still nailing everything down and figuring out how to secure stuff. If, uh, you’re hanging around outside my house, please don’t steal my bandwidth, ‘kay?

  • We’re getting close to the release of Randal Munroe’s Thing Explainer and its attendant book tour. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the New York event on 24 November (EMS duty night; trying to swap nights during Thanksgiving week is pretty much impossible), so I’ll just offer him my congratulations now. Condolences also, as I see his next event will be Monday the 30th, which means he’ll be traveling during the single busiest travel weekend of the year¹.

    He’ll bounce down the left coast the first week of December, then do a vertical shot up the Central Time Zone (including a stop in Houston, where I hope he’ll get to visit the Christopher C Kraft Jr Mission Control Center, then a shift eastward to Toronto before heading home. It’ll be a whirlwind of fun, and with any luck, Munroe will manage to conduct himself for those two weeks using only the ten-hundred most common words in English. I understand that after about the first week of a book tour, longer words mostly go away on their own.

    In case that doesn’t make you want to buy his book/attend his tour, consider the video that Munroe made that explains how to be an astronaut (How To Go To Space), endorsed by no less a space-goer² than Commander Hadfield.

  • Shifting gears now, I’m looking over an email I got a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance to work into a post before now. That’s the way it is when stories break, other things get pushed back a day, then another, and so on. In this case, it’s from Douglas Wilson, Manchester animator and webcomicker, regarding a Kickstarter for a print collection of his comics.

    It’s not going well, with five days remaining out of a thirty day campaign, and about 8% raised. Not 8% to go, mind, but 8% total. And I’m not sure why that is.

    It appears that Wilson did everything he was supposed to — has the material already produced, set a modest goal (£3000, or about US$4600), he’s got existing sales channels which presumably produce sales, which means he has an audience. He’s pushed the Kickstarter on his own site, and sent out announcements to the likes of me³ (and it’s a better press release than I usually get). I think it’s just a matter of having people that read his strip, like it well enough, but it’s not their absolute favorite (or second, or third) and thus something they want to drop £15 to £30 on to get a book.

    And that’s okay.

    Kickstarter has produced so many successful projects in absolute terms that we forget that that average fail-to-fund rate is about 50% (if I recall correctly from the last time I saw Cindy Au, director of Community Relations for Kickstarter; I also recall it’s a little better than that for comics). Kickstarter’s not a guarantee, and that is actually a very good thing.

    Because in the years Before Kickstarter, your alternative was to scrape together a bunch of money, make your thing, and then hope to hell it sold because if it didn’t, you were out a bunch of time and money. I feel bad for Wilson that this project isn’t going to happen (at least, not at this time). I think I’d feel worse for him if he’d sunk that three grand into books and sold … looks like eleven print copies, and one more PDF.

    I don’t want to make this sound too rosy — five days from now is going to suck for Wilson, but that’s a lot better than sucks, plus the car doesn’t get fixed, and the thermostat stays lower all winter, and the shoes don’t get replaced.

    Failure is where we learn. Given the lack of psychotic whining one often sees from deluded would-be Kickstarter moguls whose dreams don’t pan out I’ve seen from Wilson, I think he’s taking a reality-based approach to this entire thing.

    Maybe he learns that this readers lied when they said they wanted a book. Maybe he learns that his sales don’t extrapolate. Maybe he learns that a different approach to monetizing his strip is necessary. Maybe he learns that it’s not going to monetize and that time/effort are better spent elsewhere. I’m pretty sure he learns something, and it’s not too expensive a lesson.

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out for him, but I’m not sorry that the costs of this failure are bearable. Here’s hoping it goes better next time.

Spam of the day:
Okay, this is a new one — I got a text message through an email relay, which consists solely of a picture of a business card. That card is for “NJ’s Largest Adult Entertainer”, which appears to be an agency that supplies bachelor parties with naked ladies. The card promises 23 Years Of Excellence, and the name on the card reads:

A/K/A Dr. Love

It’s … it’s beautiful.

¹ So will I; the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I get to fly on the busiest travel day of the year to the busiest airport in the world. Yay.

² Also a noted moustache-haver.

³ I’m not sure how many people ran those announcements, and honestly I’m not sure that running those makes a huge difference.

Finding New Things

Lots of stuff going on today. What shall we go to first?

  • Thought Bubble is one of those comics festivals that I really need to get to some day; events have been happening around Leeds for the week, and the creators-meet-fans part happens this weekend. Guests include Kate Beaton (who, according to the Twitter machine, is presently hanging about historical Viking sites, and may never leave them), Noelle Stevenson, John Allison (possessor of the greatest show banner of all time; unobstructed view of the image here), Gemma Correll, Darryl Cunningham, Nicholas Gurewitch, and Kate Leth.

    Exhibitors are listed in a fashion I’ve not seen before: by physical location (TB splits its exhibitors up across several venues), and then by a small image representative of a creator’s work, by property name (not all of which are spelled out). Thus, one may see that the New Dock Hall has an image for Gunnerkrigg Court (captioned, in case you didn’t recognize Coyote), and one may presume Tom Siddell will be there (along with Phillipa Rice and Retrofit Comics).

    This method has a lot of browsability — rather than look for names one is familiar with, you look for art that appeals and then figure out who it may be that creates it. It’s a little less helpful if the display image is atypical for a creator’s work, or if you want to quickly determine who will be there, but for promoting serendipity, it’s pretty great. But it means that I have a harder time recommending specific creators, so maybe next year TB could also provide the traditional alphabetical list? In any event, the creators to be found at the Royal Armouries Hall include Monica Gallagher, Isabel Melançon & Megan Lavey-Heaton; over at the TB Marquee you’ll find Emma Vieceli and Elaine Will.

    Two final thoughts: One, there are many more creators in each of those venues; two, I find it interesting that having to click on art samples that appealed and knowing nothing of the creators until I did, I appear to have discovered almost exclusively the work of women. Dudes, you got to up your game.

  • Speaking of Gemma Correll, I now have in my hands the very handsome Eat More Comics, with cover by Correll. I expect that I’m going to love about 80% of what’s inside, loathe about 7%, and like the remainder well enough. That’s actually what I thought was the chief strength of The Nib — editor Matt Bors didn’t seek to have just one point of view. By casting his net wide, I found stuff I never would have otherwise, including stuff I found horrible. It was an anechoic chamber for editorial opinion.

Spam of the day:

F3CkBuddyAlert my username is Volup2us Kisees :)

I’m not sure what kisees means, but I think it costs and extra fifty.

I Am Running Around Like A Rodent On Meth Today

So this is gonna have to be brief.

  • Speaking of crazed rodents, Ryan North and Erika Henderson’s Squirrel Girl continues to charm all and sundry (including me, and I loathe those brush-tailed little terrorists), and to push into every corner of the popular consciousness. Case in point: a statistics assignment being offered up today. I can’t recall ever getting a statistics test/homework problem that mentioned Squirrel Girl, Chipmunk Hunk, and Koi Boi, so point to Stephen Davidson from The Internet for making life a little more absurd for his students.
  • Speaking of statistics, Matt Nolan is back with the complete Numberwang on Oh Joy, Sex Toy’s second Kickstart. I realize that not all creators are comfortable with sharing data like this and some actively object to the notion that they should; I would never advocate that it be required, but man I love digging into numbers, and the value to the next crop of creators in planning their own crowdfunding efforts is impossible to overstate. Many thanks to Nolan for providing the data and the learning opportunity; more thanks to Nolan and Erika Moen for making sweet, sweet love to the internet every week with OJST.
  • Speaking of nothing in particular, turns out I’m not the only one that’s having problems getting San Diego Comic Con to issue press credentials with anything approaching functionality. For the record, I still haven’t heard back from the inquiry I made to SDCC press reg email last month, nor have I received any replies on the process I began a year ago to get credentialed for 2015. I have received an offer from another comics news outlet that believes it will be able to provide me with access (they bring stringers each year, so this is legit), for which I am grateful. We pixel-stained wretches helping each other out doesn’t change the fact that the SDCC press reg process is broken, and the people running it are bad at their jobs.

Spam of the day:

Stephanie’s 145-Pound Weight Loss

If I get on Stephanie’s miracle diet, I will mass negative six kilos. Pass.

Welcome Returns

Must be the incipient Halloween, when the dead walk, but we’ve got some revivals to mention today.

Let us note that a new A Softer World may be found today, on the topic of Halloween. Second, the Cartoon Art Museum (which, as we noted recently, is not so much gone as couch-surfing until it finds its own place again) announced that it will be at a new Disney fan event, Mouse-Con, on 15 November in Concord, CA.

But the big news is twofold.

Firstly, the long-hiatused Achewood sees a return of sorts today. Specifically, the Achewood in-character blogs, which have been on hiatus more than two years¹, see a new post from Peter “Nice Pete” Cropes². It is a meditation on life, death, the passage of time, Meyer lemon curd, and gluten-free pastry. It is the best thing that you could possibly read today, unless you scrolled down through Nice Pete’s archives to rediscover his thoughts on the topic of Rachael Ray.

And secondly, that Homestar Runner’s annual Halloween cartoon is out and — as usual — the costumes are excellent as well as being deep cuts. I’d say my favorite is probably Homestar himself as [spoiler — see below the cut], The Cheat as [spoiler], or The Poopsmith as [spoiler].

Happy Halloween (early), don’t forget to turn your clocks back this weekend (USA only) and remember to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. See you all on Monday.

Spam of the day:

Dear Sir/Ma, September 2015 Invoice is yet to be paid and we are sending you a reminder. Attached is September Invoice #7446-483 kindly review and have this settled.

That’s odd, I don’t remember doing business with an anonymous company in Lithuania. Let me just click on this completely innocuous document link so I can clear this up!

¹ Last strip update: 7 April 2014. Last blog updates: Emeril, 12 May 2006; Lil’ Nephew and Lyle, 4 May 2008; Molly, 29 July 2008; Ray, 12 December 2008; Cornelius Bear, 4 April 2009; Pat, 6 April 2009; Téodor, 16 July 2012; Roast Beef, 25 October 2013.

² Nice Pete last updated on 6 October 2013.


Books, Art, And A Disturbing Mental Image

Lots of book news today at Fleen Central. Let’s get stuck in.

  • Okay, big disclaimer up front: KB Spangler is a great friend of mine, I did the foreword for the first collection of her comic, and I’ve been an alpha reader of each of her novels, so take what I’m about to say with however large a grain of salt as you think it deserves.

    Her latest novel, Greek Key releases today in paperback and various electronic formats, and it is friggin’ fantastic — hardly a surprise, given her prodigious skills as a professional editor. She’s got a sharp way with words, the ability to make sudden plot twists look obvious in retrospect, and a completely new take on the myth of Helen of Troy that took my breath away¹.

    If you read her webcomic, this story will fill in bits of the underlying mythology in ways that you will appreciate; if you don’t read her webcomic², everything you need to know will be recapped for you in a natural way and you’ll enjoy a damn good story on its own. Get on this one now.

  • Not released, but well into the print pipeline, Ananth Hirsh was kind enough to share pages from the proofs of Lucky Penny over on his Tumblr. There’s cover shots, under the dustjacket of the hardcover shots, interior pages with new shading shots, and even some wet proof shots. This is gonna be one prettybook.
  • Just starting its journey to print, the new edition of Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell (known these days for her work on the comic of Jem & the Holograms) is now Kickstarting under the auspices of Iron Circus Comics, aka kicker-of-all-asses [C] Spike [Trotman]. Slave Labor Graphics published an earlier edition way back in 2010, but this one will be nearly twice as long and in color, so even those that are familiar with the story will likely want to check it out with an eye towards ordering.

    This’ll be the third Kickstart of the year³ for Spike and the fourth of the past year (Poorcraft: Wish You Were Here wrapped in mid-December 2014), with two more due before the end of the the year. That’s a level of work that would kill most people, but Spike is not most people — she’s the people that was always told that she couldn’t make comics the way she was, and couldn’t make a living doing the things she was doing, and decided to the best way to get the naysayers to shut the hell up forever would be to work hard and just friggin’ do those things.

    Naturally, those people now all bitch and moan that she’s somehow cheating, because it’s obvious that you can’t possibly succeed the way she has. Here’s a quick note for the bitchers and moaner — keep it up. Spike finds your anguish to be absolutely delicious.

    Anyway, Shadoweyes is just shy of 50% of the way to goal just shy of 23 hours after launch; the early bird rewards are all gone, but there’s plenty of comic goodness still to be had.

  • The greatest art hunt in comics kicks off on Monday, taking place across a week, 19 cities, and five countries as Scott C celebrates the debut of the latest Great Showdowns collection by hiding (or arranging the hiding of) small paintings inspired by popular films in locations where the films took place, starting Monday 2 November and ending Sunday 8 November.

    Announcements as to which scenes are depicted (and thus which location to search) will be made on io9 on Monday, Slashfilm the rest of the week, as well as at Great Showdowns (and presumably C’s twitterfeed). Keep your eyes on the sites and then get searching!

Spam of the day:

The Best of: Sexy Fish

Thought I’d left something out from the headline, didn’t you?

¹ She’s also big into footnotes. I’m telling you, she’s the whole package.

² Also, what the hell is wrong with you?

³ Following TJ & Amal omnibus (now nearing the end of fulfillment) and New World (which suffered from the bane of anthologies — late submissions — but will be shipping in the coming weeks).

Shining Through On A Rainy Wednesday

It’s got to be the hardest thing in the world to be a museum without a physical space to have a mission to preserve, study, and celebrate a field of endeavour and have no place of your own to do those things. And while display and conservation might be necessarily taking a back seat due to being between actual galleries for the nonce, the Cartoon Art Museum won’t ever give up on the celebration and eduction aspects of its mission:

After a brief hiatus, the Cartoon Art Museum is proud to announce the return of its Saturday Cartooning Class! The Museum will host classes from its temporary office location in the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center at 275 5th Street, San Francisco on November 14, 2015 and December 12, 2015. [emphasis original]

That would be the temporary office space that CAM has arranged as it works towards obtaining and configuring gallery space; as educational coordinator Nina Taylor Kester puts it, We have access to spaces for multiple private lessons and an expanded and updated main classroom. And if you’ve got classroom space and a desire to not fade from the pubic eye, then a popular classroom series is really a no-brainer.

As in previous iterations, the cartooning classes are aimed at 8 – 14 year olds, and will feature skills from character design to story-boarding, leading to the creation of full mini comics. Classes are two hours long, 1:30pm to 3:30pm, and cost US$5 for CAM members/US$10 for non-members, including supplies. Reservations for the November class are open now, and space is limited; more information (including some pretty important logistics around the new location’s security policy) can be found at CAM’s website. And if that’s not enough to perk up an otherwise dreary day, I don’t know what is.

Spam of the day:

Do you know that you can copy posts from other sites and make them 96% unique in seconds and re-post them on as yours.

You mean I’ve been spending my time writing a couple hundred words a day like a chump just so other people can copy them and now you’ll tell me how to be a low-life bottom-feeding content thief? Yes, please!

I Am Never Going To Get Clear Of This Classroom

That guy? Don't be that guy.
And when I do, I have two Turnpikes (Pennsylvania and New Jersey) to deal with on a Friday afternoon. That’s it, never seeing home again, I had a good run. In the meantime, consider the following:

  • The Joe Shuster Awards get respect ’round these parts for consistently having a strong slate of candidates, and being restricted to very few categories. The 2015 iteration was posted on Sunday but it’s only in the past 24 hours or so that the comics press has noticed on account of they were given out at the Forest City Comicon of London, Ontario and it appears to have been lightly attended by said press. Collectively, we suck.

    There were three honorees from the world of (approximately) webcomics this time around, with Outstanding Cartoonist / Auteur going to Bryan Lee O’Malley for Seconds, Outstanding Webcomics Creator / Créateur de Bandes Dessinées Web to Nicole Chartrand for Fey Winds, and This One Summer continuing its romp through awards season with Outstanding Writer / Scénariste going to Mariko Tamaki. Congratulations to all the winners.

  • It’s been said a lot that being a webcomic creator means that you have 10,000 bosses that would need to fire you in order to lose your job, but also that having one superfan who’s willing to buy your stuff is more important than a thousand of them. I can only imagine what having a billionaire fan means, although I suppose we could ask Matt Inman about his buddy Elon, and today it appears that Randall Munroe has a fan named Bill.

    Bill Gates, that is. Never hurts when the actual richest guy in the world name checks you:

    I’m a fan of Randall Munroe, the guy behind the Web comic XKCD and the book What If?. I’m also a big supporter of the effort to end polio. So anything that combines Randall and polio eradication is great in my book.

    Here’s a strip Randall drew for us in honor of World Polio Day. I got a kick out of it and thought I’d share it with you.

    Sometime in the recent past, Gates passed the threshold where he has not been in charge of Microsoft longer than he was in charge of it, and I for one am thrilled, given that his free time these days is spent on things such as eradicating polio. At some point in the future people will forget how Gates made his money and only marvel at how much of it he gave away; I can’t think of a better thing to spend it on that causing this particular extinction, and if the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is looking for another pernicious evil that needs extirpation, may I suggest squirrels? Okay, fine, not as icky as, say, ticks, but that’s part of their evil — they look all innocent and fuzzy and then BAM! Murder city.

  • I was listening to NPR this morning and heard a story about how the United Autoworkers basically started with a strike in Flint, Michigan that involved the National Guard and improvised weapons. Here’s hoping the grad students at the University of Missouri highlighted in today’s PhD have a listen to that story and find a way to accomplish the same. Not sure they’re going to set up industrial-strength slingshots and wang door hinges at riot cops, but they have other weapons. Like, say, if the riot cops all submit essay tests and the grad students mark ’em up with extra red ink.

    Kidding aside, the grad students (and adjunct faculty) are the only thing holding together the college educational system in a lot of schools, and they’ve had the crap exploited out of them for far too long. I hope they light an organizational fire that resolves at least some of their legit grievances.

Spam of the day:

Too bad we must return them.

Yeah, but what are you going to do with five gallon of ticks?

All This And Brad Guigar

Multiple things happening in the Wide World o’ Webcomics, and I get to have dinner with Brad Guigar? My cup runneth over.

  • Fastest moving story of the day: Zach Weinersmith has launched a new book Kickstarter and celebrated by making today a three comic day. Three comics, three alt-texts, three voteys, it’s a weinersmithapalooza! And, surprising nobody, the new collection in question (of the best of SMBC religion comics) launched about four hours ago (as of this writing) and is sitting at 376% of goal, presumably because people want to get their hands on a copy of the Bible, as abridged by Weinersmith to make it relevant to the modern world. My theory: it just has one page that says Stop doing that¹.
  • Speaking of Kickstarter: I got my backer survey today for the previously-mentioned customizable sketchbooks, so it appears that I will get my personal philosophy encapsulating notebook after all. Hooray for Book Block!
  • Most academically important story of the day: Charlotte Something, aka Charlotte Herbert (a UK-based model and Suicide Girl), is somebody you should be paying attention to today. Not for the fact that she is willing to (as the British would say) get her kit off in a fairly public manner, but because she’s working on her dissertation and needs your help:

    COMIC CON ATTENDEES!! I’m conducting this survey for my dissertation, if you can complete it, I’ll love you forever.

    The survey is brief, and somewhat telling in the questions it seeks to answer vis-a-vis comics conventions, particularly with respect to number nine:

    9. Do you read Graphic Novels/Comic Books?
    Not yet, but I plan to.

    State of the modern comics show, everybody. Take a minute and fill it out, see if your responses in the freeform questions (what’s changed about these shows, what to you like/dislike about them) can prompt somebody down the line to make comics shows about, oh, comics.

Spam of the day:

Grab 12,000 shed plans inside… (open now)

Amazingly, not a euphemism. Somebody really likes sheds and is eager for you to also really like sheds.

¹ Given that none of the sample comics on the Kickstarter page feature Islam, but do feature Christianity and atheism² the countdown to somebody frothing on Reddit about it begins … now!

² Also Buddhism, but you don’t find that many mouth-frothy Buddhist determined to scream at you until you achieve inner peace.