The webcomics blog about webcomics

Y’all Sure Are Upholding Roddenberry’s Vision Of A Better Society, Good Job

That's the problem with past representations of the future -- they rarely age well.

Apart from the garbage people coming up from out of the floorboards to tell Jon Rosenberg that he’s a blasphemer, heretic, apostate, and filthy SJW¹ for his extremely mild jab at Star Trek, is it a good day to for good news about webcomics creators? I believe that yes, yes it is.

  • For starters, the invaluable Jim Zub has posted another in his series of studies of the economics of creator-owned comics; the key takeaway from this one is how much the market has changed in the couple of years that he’s been sharing data. Zub’s gracious enough to talk about the work that Image (his publisher for creator-owned work) has put into building up the market, identifying it as the second of six key factors for the relatively greater success of Wayward over Skullkickers.

    In fact, if we take the ordering of his factors as significant, he cites Image as being more important than his own efforts in three areas: his higher career profile, retailer outreach, and press outreach. I think he’s being too modest here, as even the best company — and by all indicators Zub clearly thinks of Image as being a near-ideal fit for him — will never care about your career success more than you do. Choosing to work with Image is one of many things that Zub has done right, and I am hammering on this point because I don’t want (and I suspect strong that Zub doesn’t either) anybody to read his piece and conclude The secret to success is getting in at Image.

    It’s not. The secret to success is hard work, improving skills, becoming a known quantity (not the least, becoming known for meeting deadlines and publication dates), and a hell of a lot of luck. If the secret to success was landing at Image, we’d have seen issue #2 of Nonplayer by now. The success of Zub in comics is 90% attributable to Zub; or as he puts it for those who read the entire thing:

    In the end, I think that’s what creator-owned comics are all about – charting your own destiny and growing creatively with each new project.

  • Speaking of building success on past success, Spike is doing well with her plan to turn Iron Circus Comics from the company that publishes her comics and the anthologies that she leads into a publisher of other creators. Case in point: the Kickstarter for ICC’s first non-Spike project, an omnibus edition of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by EK Weaver, has been … well, let’s let Spike tell us in real time:

    the TJ & A omnibus Kickstarter project will launch in five minutes! Just putting in the media credits.

    Jesus Christ Whisper Grass [a 20-backer limited reward at the US$75 level] didn’t last FIVE MINTUES

    Jesus it’s at over 5k and I haven’t even told tumblr yet


    Four backer levels sold out within a half-hour of a Kickstarter’s launch” is a new record for me.

    50% funded in an hour good lord

    This Kickstarter is funding faster than the original Smut Peddler KS!


    Please note: this campaign launched at midnight East Coast time, and funded entirely by 6:00am; a lot of people went to bed before funding launched and woke up to find it already over goal. As of this writing, some 13 hours after launch, the omnibus is sitting at a hair under US$29K (call it 156% of goal) and 565 backers. Yeah, it’s not going to be the next Exploding Kittens², but come back tomorrow and we’ll see what the Fleen Funding Formula (mark 2)³ has to say.

  • How about a simple story, something with no math or numbers? The Bram Stoker Awards (from the Horror Writers Association) have announced their nominees for 2014, and in the comics category (or more officially, Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel) we find one web/indy creator competing against the likes of Joe Hill and Paul Tobin. I speak, naturally, of Emily Carroll, recognized for Through The Woods, described on this site as the most frightening book I’ve ever read, and for good reason, too.

    Here’s hoping that the HWA members are diligent about reading the nominated works and here’s hoping that Carroll wins, because if there’s something out there more spooktastic than Through The Woods I’m not sure I want to know about it. We’ll find out on Saturday, 9 May, when the Bram Stoker Awards are handed out in conjunction with the World Horror Convention in Atlanta. Try to remain calm until then, and remember — there are things that lurk under the bed, in the closet, and behind the walls.

Spam of the day:

This is the place where I started out also it would have been a great start for you as well.

Yes! All my efforts have come to fruition, people are starting here and then going out into the world to spread my word.

¹ Social Jew Warrior.

² That already launched today: the new version of the Pebble Watch, which is at $4.5million (or #8 most-funded of all time) and climbing a few hours in. In a month, we seem certain to have a new #1, although the relatively high price of entry means it probably won’t displace the Kittens from most-backed.

³ Which, because I just realized I never followed up on my prediction for funding: Exploding Kittens closed with US$8.782 million in funding, just inside the range of US$6 to 9 million that the FFFmk2 gave us. As a reminder, the FFFmk2 states you take the Predicted Value of a project at the 24-30 hour mark from Kicktraq and call that PV. The range at close will be PV/4 +/- PV/20, but has only shown to be valid for project with at least 200 backers at calculation time.

Yes, something like Exploding Kittens produces a fairly wide range, but US$7.5 million +/- US$1.5 million is as tight as we can make it with current Day One technology.

The Solution For Technical Problems? Guigar

So what you don’t know is that yesterday, Fleen’s back end was acting the hell up. Some combination of MySQL and WordPress decided it just really didn’t like the post I was working on, and it fought me at every turn. And by fought me I mean ten minutes to save a draft and spontaneously stop responding and lose all the changes. Today, by contrast, is running perfectly smooth and normal, which I can only attribute to the prevalence of Brad Guigar in today’s post; around Brad, comics spontaneously behave.

Brad! We’re a couple of days late, but we at Fleen would be remiss if we didn’t note that this past weekend, Brad Guigar marked his fifteenth anniversary of daily cartooning, having produced a total of:

1,471 Greystone Inn comic strips, 2,943* Evil Incs 410 Courting Disasters and 95 Phables. (And 163* Tales from the Con comics, which I write for Emerald City Comicon.) (emphasis original)

Or a bit more than 5000, if you’re into aggregates. Oh also three books on cartooning, an Eisner nomination, and a couple hundred hours of at least four different podcasts, a school full of students that will kill and destroy in his name revere him as a mentor, and the most infamous laugh in history. Not bad for such a young guy.

Brad! So where do you go after accomplishing all that? You go to the place where you launch two more comics, because of course you do. Previously available only to supporters of his Patreon (who still get first dibs), everybody can now read Arch Bros (based on his sons, one of whom thinks he’s a superhero, and the other thinks he’s a supervillain) and single-panel gag comics/sketches at the revamped, which also serves as your source for All Things Brad.

Brad! Guigar’s also a tastemaker and trendsetter. Case in point — his new colorist Alex Heberling, who’s been knocking it out of the park with her work on Evil, Inc these past few weeks. Please don’t misinterpret me and ascribe her success and skill to Guigar, but let’s acknowledge that the guy has an eye for talent and that paying gig is only helping Heberling in terms of career and public profile. Oh, and in case you weren’t paying attention when Guigar was telling you, Heberling’s Kickstarter campaign for the first print collection of her webcomic, The Hues, is about to end. You’ve got about two hours to get in on it.

Brad! So we talked about what Gumroad is doing for its clients in re: VATMOSS last week. But it’s simply not enough for Brad Guigar to point out what one company is doing … he went out and figured out the responses of seven different delivery vendors to the VATMOSS challenge, letting you know who’s doing a good job and who isn’t. The report is behind the subscription wall at Webcomics Dot Com, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Guigar found Gumroad’s response as impressive as I did. You’ll have to purchase access to determine who else is doing well and who isn’t, but if you hope to sell e-goods to the EU, the US$5 month’s trial is a pretty good deal.

Curiously, not Brad! Yes, even on a Bradarrific day, there will be some news that’s not Guigar-related. Today, that would be the announcement of the first tranche of special guests at this year’s TCAF, a list which includes Charles Burns, Eleanor Davis, Gurihiru, Lucy Knisley, Scott McCloud, Barbara Stok, Jillian Tamaki, and Chip Zdarsky. Keep in mind that about 300 more creators from around the world will be at TCAF, a list of which will be found here.

Spam of the day:

I got an Appletini and the hubby coffee.

Of all the things that I have no interest in, alleged weight-loss tips from R-----l R-y is at the very top of the list.

I Would Vote For History’s Greatest Villain¹ If She Could Break The Spine Of This Winter

It’s cold, it’s going to snow at least once more this week, and New England has turned into Ice Station Zero.

  • I could have used a different reference in footnote #1 (and a different image for the header of the post), but R Stevens hasn’t (as I write this) yet gotten around to President #39 in his Pixel Presidents series, updating now on his Tumblr. They go up in batches of six or so at a time, at about one minute intervals, because how else are you going to kill time when you’re on hold with the cable company?
  • Which bit of inevitable news should we go with first? That the Exploding Kittens Kickstarter met its 30-cheevo stretch goal and can only drum up further excitement by declaring virtual and IRL party events for the next three days? Or that Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List for hardcover graphic novels²?
  • Actually, I think one other thing was more inevitable: when waiting to enter the McCloud talk at the 92nd Street Y a couple weeks back, and talking with Raina Telgemeier, she told me that she fully expected McCloud to knock her out of her spot on the Times Best Sellers List.

    He didn’t, due largely to the fact that Telgemeier is on the softcover list, but I am not sure he would have if they were on the same list. Significantly, Telgemeier regained her clean sweep of slots 1, 2, and 3. Even more interesting, Drama is in the top slot, presumably because all of the readers that tore through Smile and its sequel Sisters are now digging through the back catalog for anything Raina-related. What with the newly colored editions of the Baby Sitters Club books about to release, it’s a very good time to be Raina Telgemeier.

  • Speaking of McCloud and Telgemeier, they will be among the Guests of Honor at this year’s MoCCA Fest, just about two months from now, presuming we haven’t all frozen to death by then. The Society of Illustrators have celebrated by releasing the main visual for this year’s event, by Eleanor Davis. I maintain that MoCCA is one of the great bargains in comics shows, costing a whopping $5/day at the door and existing on a scale that allows you to see everything without feeling homicidal.
  • Finally, let us take a moment to reflect on those that perhaps have a harder time with the cold than we do. I am thinking here of ectotherms, particularly snakes, and most particularly one snake that’s trying to find her way in the world:

    New chapter of my webcomic, THE WHITE SNAKE!

    One of the things I love about The White Snake is that it releases a chapter at a time; getting 20 – 24 pages of story in a chunk is much more satisfying than two pages a week over a period of months. It has been a while since we met Lily, so maybe go back and refresh on Chapter One before moving on to Chapter Two.

Spam of the day:

Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It really useful & it helped me out a lot.

Happy to be of service.

¹ Jodie Foster.

² Despite the art being merely serviceable, as judged by this guy who is the walking embodiment of the New Yorker substitute cartoon punchline.

Well, That’s Fairly Large

You know, I was going to be talking about how the upcoming Emerald City Comic Con has been announcing special guest from the world of web- and indy comics left and right.

I was going to point out that as of today, their site includes such names as Lucy Bellwood, Brandon Bird, Terry Blas, Ed Brisson, Katie Cook, Danielle Corsetto, Becky Dreistadt & Frank Gibson, Chris Eliopoulos, Madéleine Flores, Kaja & Phil Foglio, Zac Gorman, Brad Guigar, Tyson Hesse, Matt Inman, Jeph Jacques, Dave


Kellett, Lucy Knisley, Scott Kurtz, Kate Leth, Sam Logan, David Malki !, Kel McDonald, Carla Speed McNeil, Dylan Meconis, Randy Milholland, Erika Moen, Yuko Ota & Ananth Panagariya, Andy Runton, Noelle Stevenson, Cameron Stewart, and the inescapable Jim Zub. And that’s just who I noticed on my first pass through the still-growing list.

Alas, I won’t be telling you about that, because of the huge, encouraging news that came out of (of all places) DC Comics: as part of a massive revamping of their line that largely walks back the New 52 nonsense, they’re bringing on a host of talent and releasing a stack of books that cover a far wider range of story and readership niches (while still staying firmly in Capeland) than we’ve seen before. Oh, and they’ve picked one of the very best of web- and indy comics to take over one of the highest profile gigs in all comics:

I’m working on Superman with the inimitable JOHN ROMITA JR! Our first issue comes out in June!

Thinking back to Gene Yang’s on-stage conversation with Scott McCloud in San Diego last year, one may recall that he resumed a light load of teaching at the high school level, meaning he just because the first cool high school computer science teacher in recorded history.

I am so excited about this, I am actually going to add a Superman book to my pull list, but if there is not at least one piece of deep red lacquerware featuring prominently in the plot line, I will be sorely disappointed. Yang (and his longtime colorist collaborator, Lark Pien) always made those look so good; yeah, he’s writing this book instead of drawing it, but he can get some lacquer in there.

Alas, it appears that we’ll be losing the webcomickiest comic book DC publishes: Batman ’66 (one of exactly three DC books I buy, the other two being the Karl Kerschl-drawn Gotham Academy and the Cameron Stewart-cowritten Batgirl) doesn’t survive the shakeup, but on the bright side we’ll be getting a Section Eight miniseries. Somewhere, Randy Milholland is very, very happy at the thought of defenestrations and dogweldings and the power of perversion. As are we all.

Spam of the day:

エンジニアフーツ 通 販

Thank you; while I am an engineer, I don’t need any boots right now, and anyway I prefer to buy shoes in person rather than via mail order.

For The Article

Couple of stories that just won’t die today.

  • Welp, everybody is still talking about Scott McCloud today (not that that’s any surprise), and lots of people have been talking to McCloud, but I doubt that Scott enjoyed any of those interviews as much as the one that went live at Playboy (mostly SFW, surprisingly) since it was conducted by his wife/muse, Ivy Ratafia. It’s a great read and gives you an idea just how damn in love these two crazy kids are.

    I’m going to quote my favorite part — Ivy has asked Scott to describe the character of Meg, who is about 70% Ivy and then follows up with what could be a marriage-killer of a question:

    IVY: And now the reciprocal. You have to describe me.
    SCOTT: You’re shorter than she is, probably by a good four inches —
    IVY: Haha! Okay, I’m going to interrupt you here, because the question I wanted to ask was, why is Meg taller than me?
    SCOTT: Because when I have the two of them in frame I can’t do the same kind of physical theater without pulling back the camera. I can’t do close-ups of the two of them talking. If I was a better cartoonist; if I was smart enough and practiced enough to get interesting compositions out of the height difference; maybe it could’ve worked. But, I’m just not good enough. So I made her only a half-head shorter.

    IVY: This really bothers me.
    SCOTT: I know!
    IVY: Short people unite! We have problems!
    SCOTT: I know, I know. We should be celebrating shortness. But no, I didn’t have the chops for it because I was still teaching myself how to be a better figure artist. So the real answer is because I suck. Is that okay?

    For the record, Scott does not suck. Also for the record, I picked up a copy of The Sculptor in hardcover and the spot color used throughout (Pantone 653, in case you were wondering) is a bit darker than that used in the advanced review copies, and it does give everything a bit more structure and depth. Also, the page numbering is different by two, in case you weren’t fascinated enough by the minutiae of publication details.

  • Following up on yesterday’s discussion of the newly-gamified Exploding Kittens Kickstarter, some rules have been posted to determine which photos of various things will count towards the achievements. Notably, the hashtag #update9 needs to be in the photo (along with the text of the tweet, along with the hashtage #explodingkittens, so everybody with old pics of themselves with goats, sorry.

    Likewise, there have been a couple of photos posted of people with cat ears, but the requirement is that a single photo contain 10 (or 50, or 100) people wearing cat ears. Solos don’t cut it here. On the “plus” side at least two of the requisite five photos involving weaponized back hair¹ have been posted so that’s all … well, it’s not right, but it’s something.

Spam of the day:[redacted]

Hmmm, your message consists solely of a link. is Utah State University, and it appears that the bft stands for Big File Transfer. So somebody’s using the academic site to distribute who knows what? I’ma pass on clicking that one, Bunky. You understand.

¹ Insert that mumbling, horrified noise that Sideshow Bob makes just after getting smacked with a rake.

Face Blindness And Gamification, Oh My

A little advice for you — if you go to a talk by Scott McCloud in a city known to have a hefty cartoonist presence, don’t be surprised when a cartoonist you know shows up. Even better, don’t be a half face-blind bozo and stare directly at Raina Telgemeier for like 30 seconds as she smiles wider and wider wondering how long it’s going to take you to realize it’s her. Not that I would know, of course.

  • Once my brain finally worked out that I was, in fact, looking at somebody I knew, it woke the hell up and I was able to determine that the room also contained Mark Siegel, Callista Brill, and Gina Gagliano of :01 Books (logical, as they’re the publisher), as well as Judy Hansen (McCloud’s agent, as well as much of indy/webcomics, a woman with whom I enjoy discussing Belgian beer), and the incomparable Brooke Gladstone of NPR’s On The Media (whom I’d never met before, but because of a well-timed pledge to WNYC, she crocheted me a winter hat that I was wearing and was able to thank her for).

    McCloud and Entertainment Weekly’s Tim Leong spoke for about 45 minutes and took questions for about the same — the underlying theme was creativity and the process of creation and how McCloud had to write Making Comics to teach himself what he needed to learn¹ so that he could actually produce The Sculptor (an idea which had been kicking around his brain since he was 17 or so). No quotes to offer (I was listening instead of taking notes) except for this one:

    By 2024, comics is going to be a majority-female industry

    By which he means both creators and readers (and thinks in the art schools, we’ve already exceeded parity). Here’s hoping.

    Speaking of hope, one thing that gave me a great deal of hope about the evening, comics, and society in general. Waiting in the lobby of the 92nd Street Y, I noticed a cluster of West Point cadets in their distinctive grey uniforms, along with some active-duty Army officers in dress blues; I wondered at the time what program they were there for (92Y does many cultural programs on any given day, as well as being a full Y-style gym).

    They disappeared from the lobby about 20 minutes before we were let into the auditorium. During the seating period, though, I noticed them come into the auditorium and take seats, and Ivy McCloud mentioned that they’d been meeting with Scott; they were in town with professors and staff officers because they’re reading V for Vendetta and Watchmen as part of a literature class.

    After the talk, while waiting in the signing line, my friend Brett and I started talking with an earnest (and serious, and very young) second-year cadet named Fred and a major (alas, I didn’t catch her name) that he was standing with. They were both thrilled to be there, and I never thought I’d be talking comics in that particular company and context. Fred didn’t say explicitly he was also drawing comics², but he did mention at one point he’d wondered if there was some way to surgically remove about half the little finger of his left hand and fit a prosthetic eraser there for convenience.

    Knowing that somebody so unstereotypically military will be commissioned an officer and become part of the Army leadership structure in a little more than two years makes me hopeful. Knowing that somebody (likely multiple somebodies) on the faculty of the most traditional of Army institutions looks towards comics (Alan Moore comics, no less) to shape the minds of Fred and his fellow cadets (about a third of whom at the talk were young women — a little longer to get to parity there) is likewise a comforting thought. All in all, a damn good evening. If you have the opportunity to see McCloud on his book tour, do so.

  • Here’s the thing that you don’t see a lot in Kickstarters: tying stretch goals to thing that happen outside of the campaign itself. We saw it in the campaign for Dr McNinja’s Legendary Showdown back in October 2013, when 2500 Facebook likes or hashtag tweets meant bonus content in the game. See how that worked? You didn’t have to get one more person to pony up one more dollar, but you had to spread the word. Clever.

    Naturally, the phenomenally successful campaign for Exploding Kittens (as of this writing: nearly 135,000 backers, the most in Kickstarter history, and more than $US5.3 million pledged, #7 highest total and closing in on #6) has finally added a series of stretch goals, but mostly not related directly to the campaign itself. Instead, there are a series of achievements based on things like how many backers, percent overfunding, Facebook likes, and public stunts. As of right now, fifteen of them have been achieved, and the stretch goals will be unlocked when 20 or 30 of the ‘cheevos are met.

    They’ve gamified Kickstarter. It doesn’t matter which five achievements are met to reach the 20 goal, just whichever get piled up first. And yeah, it may be near impossible to achieve all 30 goals³, but they’ve made the last two weeks of the campaign pretty damn fun to watch. Heck, if they get the Ellen or GRRM things to happen (see footnotes), this project could break into mainstream consciousness. Well done, Exploding Kittens team.

  • Per today’s newsbox at Dinosaur Comics: the previously-mentioned game version of To Be Or Not To Be now has a release date, and it’s, oh, today. Go get it.

Spam of the day:
Nothing in particular today, except to note that something about the recent posting referencing Larry Gonick is attracting spam like nobody’s business. So far today, I’ve cleared more than 50 largely-identical submissions (consisting mostly of question marks) from that thing. I have to figure out how their algorithms work so I can avoid doing whatever caused this flood. Yeesh.

¹ This reminds me a great deal of Minna Sundberg wanting to create Stand Still, Stay Silent but feeling her skills weren’t up to the task, so she instead created the 556 page A Redtail’s Dream first to teach herself what she needed to know.

² Unsurprisingly, they don’t have art majors at West Point; if I remember correctly, about 70% of the student major in some form of engineering, and obviously all cadets study military science.

³ They include things like 10,000 and 100,000 Twitter followers or 100,000 Facebook likes — trivial, given the number of supporters. But they also include things like Get @Ellen [Degeneres] to tweet “A Butt Tuba” is a palindrome and Get George RR Martin to tweet “I use Pantene Pro-V on my beard, because vitamins”.

For the record, I think the following goals are going to be met fairly easily:

  • 150,000 backers (they’re above 134K)
  • 10,000 Twitter followers (already met: @gameofkittens is now at 19.8K)
  • 100,000 Twitter followers (doesn’t require even all of the backers click on “follow”)
  • 100,000 Facebook likes (no idea how may they have, I don’t have Facebook)
  • Get @wilw[heaton] to tweet all cats should wear underpants (will probably happen as soon as Wheaton is back from the JoCo cruise)
  • Post 25 pics of a beardcat (a cat crawling out of a dude’s beard)
  • Post 25 pics of a potatocat (a cat with legs tucked under, looking like a furry potato)
  • Post 25 selfies with goats

The others, involving things like group photos of people wearing cat ears, and pictures of “weaponized back hair” (I don’t want to know), as well as the Ellen and GRRM things will be trickier. Since they aren’t saying what we’ll get if all 30 achievements are hit, it’s hard to say how hard people will work on the goal.

Busy Day

See, I thought today was going to be all about Scott McCloud’s previously-announced interview in The AV Club, but then a bunch of other stuff happened, some of it literally historic. Let’s dive in.

  • We’ll start with McCloud, who is all over the damn place these days, what with The Sculptor¹ coming out tomorrow and all. With any luck, I’ll get a chance to congratulate him in person either before or after his talk at the 92nd Street Y tomorrow night. McCloud’s conversation with Oliver Sava (who writes really well on comics) takes as its starting point a collection of seven comics works that deal with artistic expression and frustration. It was a really great conversation before McCloud got to what I thought was the most significant part:

    Well, I suppose this would be a good time to offer my mea culpa that this list I picked for you is a bit of a sausage fest. I could have included some works by women artists that might have fit the theme, but I wasn’t sure that I could talk about them very well without a good re-reading. Lynda Barry’s What It Is would have been a really good addition. But I just didn’t have time to re-read everything, and that one would have required a re-read at least. But I think that probably the single most important trend right now is the coming army of girls reading all-ages comics who will be moving into the industry. And I think within about eight or so years, we’ll have a majority female industry. I think there’s going to be a massive shift in terms of who writes comics and who reads comics. So again, sorry that these are a bunch of guys in this list. That was a matter of circumstance. A lot of my favorite comics happen to be by women but — This One Summer, for example — not about an artist. So I was out of luck. I love that book.

  • Nice timing from McCloud, because this morning the American Library Association, as is its custom during its midwinter gathering, announced its literary awards, and This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki was recognized in two separate categories.

    Before we get too far into this, I should note that most of the ALA-associated awards have two tiers: the actual “award” or “medal” itself², and a number of “honor” books in the category. The honor books are not a case of it’s-an-honor-just-to-be-nominated; going through the lists of winners for the past few years, it is entirely credible to me that the appropriate jury selects a short list of equally-worthy books, chooses one at random as “the” winner and designates the others as the honor selections — they’re that good.

    So: This One Summer was announced as one of four Honor Books for the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. And then a little later, it was named as one of six Honor Books for the freakin’ Randolph Caldecott Medal — you know, one of two literary awards you’ve ever heard of — for the most distinguished American picture book for children.

    Please note that no graphic novel has ever been recognized for the Caldecott before today, nor for the just-as-famous John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature (that would be the other one you’ve heard of). So I’m not exaggerating when I saw it was an historic occasion, especially when you consider that a few minutes after the Tamakis made history, El Deafo by CeCe Bell also made history when it was named one of two Newbery Honor Books. Today was the day that graphic novels were recognized as the best of the best in children’s books. That’s a pretty damn good day for comics.

  • Oh yeah, and it’s also Saint Groundhog’s Day (the day that I consider to be the start of my relationship with my wife), which means that yesterday was the latest birthday of Dinosaur Comics. For twelve years now, Ryan North has relentlessly seeking to answer the question How many different blocks of text can be fitted to exactly the same six panels of art?, the answer to which is apparently Goin’ on 2800.

    It is also-also fully-official launch day for the all-new You Damn Kid³, the strips since September being the result of a retooling and soft launch. And speaking of returns, after a lengthy hiatus (necessary for multiple very good reasons), we even have a new Help Desk today, which tells you everything you need to know about this year’s technological buzzphrase. Like I said, busy day.

Spam of the day:

Bardzo dobra publikacja. Dzi?kuje za to Pa?stwu!

I am told that this is Polish for Very good publication. Today for shoes to you a!, which I believe may be a reference to the longrunning and well-beloved webcomic No Shoes For Tuesday (sorry, I meant Brak Buty na wtorek).

¹ My review here; it’s a masterpiece and I’ll be buying a copy tomorrow, since apparently there’s a small but crucial difference in the color palette. So all those glowing reviews you’ve been seeing? We’ve been seeing a version of the book that McCloud considers inferior and lacking the impact of the final revision.

² Which appears to generally go to just one book, although the wording implies that there may be multiple winners.

³ Longtime readers may recall that my love for YDK is complete, and it will always be part of the blogroll because no matter how long Owen Dunne may step away from the strip, he will always come back. Recall also that the very first webcomics purchase I ever made was a combo-pack of YDK’s print collection, a sketch of Jethro, and a shirt proclaiming itself to be the home of the Frog Rocket Wiener.

Since then I have sunk an amount of money into webcomics merch and art that I am frankly terrified to total up, as my heirs and assigns may seek to take away my ability to make my own financial decisions because clearly I am not rational. This is all Dunne’s fault.

Want To Be The Next Larry Gonick?¹

Two items today, one long and one short.

  • Know what I really like about webcomickers?

    When presented with the opportunity to seek out creative partners for a new project, they pay. Consider the vast amounts of money doled out by your Spikes, or Erikas Moen, who are in the habit of retroactively paying artists bonuses, or your Ryans North, who regard increasing income primarily as a reason to hire more artists. Consider the vitriol among webcomickers inspired by the quotes that Ryan Estrada mines for the @forexposure_txt twitterfeed.

    So it gives me great pleasure to point out another project announcement, one that pays money (probably). Welcome to the world of research grants with your guide, Dante Shepherd:

    This is what I want to do. I want to make science comics. And I want to pay artists to make them.

    I’m currently applying for a grant to help these visual students learn. While the overall grant isn’t for a ton of money in comparison to the usual research grants, it would be enough to pay artists for at least 60 pages of work. These 60 pages would be spread across several disciplines — certainly Chemical Engineering, with it being my background, but also Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biology, and more — and would ideally be a springboard for us to be able to continue adding to the comic education in future years as well.

    And as part of this grant, we would also involve Art and Design students to further their education, too. It’d be as expansive as we can make it for the funds provided to us.

    This is where I’m opening it up to you and any other artists out there for involvement. We need to show that we have actual professional artists interested and willing to participate in the grant. The work would be collaborative to some extent — the engineering researchers, the art and design researchers, and artists all working together to develop optimal scripts and layouts for learning — and you would be paid for your work based on the pages you produce.

    I know that sounds a little convoluted, so let me summarize: the money doesn’t exist yet, and in order to get the money, artists are needed to say that they would be interested in doing the work. If the money doesn’t come through (and writing grants is not a guarantee of success¹), then you don’t do the work. It’s more than a little chasing-your-own-tail, what with needing people willing to do the work, not knowing if they’ll actually be called upon to do it, but without that first step nothing will happen.

    So if you’re interested, if you think you could help teach complex STEM principles in comics form, if you’re willing to to show your past work to help convince the grant committee, drop an email to danteshepherd who has taken out a Google email account.

  • In other news, we’ve previously mentioned that the annual MoCCA Fest will be shifting venues to Center 548, and it appears that the new locale is just a mite too small to accommodate panels. Not to fear, as the Society of Illustrators (parent organization to MoCCA) have obtained two dedicated rooms at the nearby (and gorgeous) High Line Hotel, a brief walk of perhaps four minutes. Also, you know what you get with hotels that you don’t get other places? Lobby bars. Just sayin’.

Spam of the day:

prepared dishes that you would come to expect from an iron chef, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t. Wasn’t worth

Iron Chefs are always worth it.

¹ Larry Gonick has taught more people about more different things using cartoons than anybody else I can think of. As previously noted, pretty much everything I know about the history of China is due to his comics.

I became an electrical engineer specializing in communication systems and information theory at least in part because I had a copy of the 1983 edition of The Cartoon Guide to Computer Science (since retitled) back in high school and learned about Turing, Shannon, and other giants of the field. Hell, I stole his AND and OR truth tables on the statements P: The pig has spots and Q: The pig is glad when I was teaching computer logic early in my career. The lesson was worth it just for the PorQ? joke.

² Although the relatively low cost of paying some artists to produce comics compared to — let’s say, building a multi million dollar materials-research lab — help the odds. If you’ve got ten grand left over in your funding and here are fourteen unmet grants looking for multiple millions and one over there looking for eight grand, that becomes a no-brainer.

Today’s Post Is Brought To You By Twitter, And Readers Like You

Everything I talk about today, I noticed first on Twitter.

  • Let’s get the rapidly-changing one out of the way first. Yesterday, Matthew Inman dropped a hint that something would be happening today:

    Here’s a little sneak peek of a project I’ve been working on. It launches tomorrow. I am so excited I might hurl!

    … with an accompanying illustration of what appeared to be a card game. At 1:23pm EST he updated us:

    BIG FANCY ANNOUNCEMENT: I helped create a card game and it’s called Exploding Kittens

    That link went to a product page with a link to a Kickstarter. Four minutes later it became certain that this project would not require 30 days to fund out:

    WE JUST HIT OUR GOAL! $10k in 8 minutes

    I first made it to the Kickstarter at approximately the 17 minute mark, when the total was above US$65,0000. Refreshing a few minutes later, it was north of US$70K. As of writing the first draft of this sentence (38 minutes into the project’s history), Exploding Kittens has raised US$133,745 and is jumping every time the page refreshes.

    I’ll hop back there as I’m putting the final polish on this posting to see where it’s at, but right now I’m calling it: an hour in this game will raise more money than Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad, and I’m not exactly sure how long it will take to surpass the funding on Operation Let’s Build A Goddamned Tesla Museum, but I am certain it will do so. Come back tomorrow and we’ll see what the FFF says at the 24 hour mark.

  • Katie Lane, lawyer extraordinaire to the creative community, shares a lot of information with you about how to conduct your creative business. For example, today she let us know about the value of having policies, even if it’s just you¹. My favorite bit was how having policies can aid in negotiation:

    Here’s a cool trick: next time a client asks you if you’d be willing to do something you really don’t want to do, instead of saying “I’d rather not” or “I don’t want to,” say, “I can’t; my company has a policy against [thing you don’t want to do].”

    Clients hear wiggle room in “I’d rather not” or “I don’t want to.” But with a policy they hear a rule, a line in the sand, they hear “no.”

    Clients are more likely to respect your boundaries if they look like boundaries they’re already used to following. Most companies have policies and most of your clients have polices. Those polices are there to make the company work better and your clients understand that; your clients are used to following policies. And they’re used to having to make a very strong argument to justify working around a policy.

    Lane shares ideas like this multiple times a month over at her site, much of it for free at her blog, but this is also part of her livelihood. So I’m pleased to note that she’ll be offering more advice on the subject of gettin’ paid in online class sessions in the coming weeks. Way I look at it, if spending a couple hundred bucks and a couple hours (and possibly springing for the one-on-one consult) gets you paid on just one job that wasn’t ponying up the dough, you’ve come out ahead. Twenty spots only, and may I mention other classes and workshops she teaches in person? Why yes, I may.

  • Thought Bubble is one of those shows I know I’m going to have to visit eventually, it’s just that there’s this ocean in the way². Fortunately, the redoubtable Danielle Corsetto retweeted the TB folks earlier today, alerting me to the fact that the first videos of their Sketching Spotlight are now online. The videos in question feature Corsetto, Boulet, Emily Carroll, and Babs Tarr, moderated by Pete Doherty.

    The first video is here, and focuses on Corsetto. Carroll is the subject of the second, Tarr the third, and Boulet the fourth; they range from 15 to 20 minutes of drawing, with an extra 10 minutes of discussion at the end. They’re great fun!

  • Okay, wrapping this up. It’s 2:39pm EST, the Exploding Kittenstarter has been up for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and it’s presently at US$292,217. So, yeah, 70 grand past BearLove and more than 20% of the way to Goddamned Tesla Museum. Yikes.
  • Postscript: I just noticed that sometime in that first hour and twenty, all 200 slots of the limited US$100 tier and all 5 of the limited $500 tier were snapped up. Also, in the first minutes since the total is over US$317K, and more than 8200 backers. We could be looking at an all-time record, folks.

Spam of the day:

Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my site :)

Given that your site appears to deal with the removal of tree stumps, I kind of doubt that.

¹ It’s better to set these policies for yourself than have them imposed on you. My friend da9ve (not a typo) had a consultancy that consisted of just him, but the state of Indiana required him to adopt a sexual harassment policy so that if he ever sexually harassed himself at work, Indiana would sue him to recover damages. Fortunately, da9ve was never subjected to a hostile work environment by himself, so he never had to file a complaint on himself or get sued by himself to make restitution to himself.

² I was actually hoping for that thing where Google Maps tells you to swim so many thousands of kilometers and then resume your journey on land, but no luck.

It’s Not Just Me? I Mean, This Is Weird, Right?

Huh. Okay. That's ... kind of weird.

So end of last week, I noticed a retweet from Sohmer, Ryan Sohmer, and thought huh. He’s got plans, Sohmer does, and is typically thinking three steps ahead, and if he is going to take one of his comics into print as floppies, he’s thought of all the angles. Not much else about Looking For Group teaming up with Dynamite crossed my radar over the weekend, so this morning I went looking and it seems that Dynamite hasn’t heard they’re doing this book yet.

Which is odd, because there’s an announcement from Blind Ferret today, and Bleeding Cool has previews (including a Becky Dreistadt variant cover), and Sohmer himself weighed in today on the whys and wherefores. Then again, Dynamite doesn’t seem to have updated their News page (as of this writing) since August of last year, so at least it’s not a slight specifically against our neighbors to the north.

  • Another case of the news getting ahead of the newsmakers: while there’s nothing at the SPX site as of this writing, Heidi Mac has the lowdown on the non-curated end of SPX registration — it launches on 1 February and will surely be oversubscribed:

    1. SPX 2015 invitees will hear from us before the end of January. Tables associated with any invitations not accepted will be rolled over into the lottery pool.
    2. The SPX 2015 table lottery will run from February 1 to February 15, 2015 (at midnight eastern time). We’ll widely advertise the lottery opening and, at that time, provide access to an online form to enter the lottery.
    3. After entering the lottery, you’ll receive your lottery number. Don’t lose it! Just kidding. We’ll keep a copy and notify you either way if you win.
    4. All lottery entries will be reviewed by SPX. What are we reviewing them for? SPX is a showcase for independent comics. If it will not be clear to us that you make such things we reserve the right to remove your lottery entry. If we contact you to follow up with your registration, we appreciate your help in letting us know more about your work.
    5. Upon conclusion of our review, we’ll notify the lottery winners for 2015 (yay!). You’ll have a reasonable window of time to pay for your requested table space.
    6. We’ll also maintain a wait list (based on the next 50 potential lottery winners). Tables that are not paid for in a timely manner or are subsequently cancelled will be offered to members of the wait list in turn.

    There’s also a detailed bit on the lottery process which is rather lengthy, so I’ll just send you over to The Beat for the deal. Short form, there’s a sorted list of randomly-assigned six-digit numbers, and they’ll assign booths based on the list in either ascending or descending order based on a computerized coin flip.

  • Today marks 250 pages of Stand Still, Stay Silent which is really rather impressive considering that since the 1 November 2013 launch, there have only been 444 days. There have been a couple of 2- or 3-week hiatuses as Minna Sundberg did things like mail out a few thousand hardcovers, put together another hardcover, and move between countries.

    That brings us to somewhere around 400 days of the strip’s existence that one could reasonably expect Sundberg to be working (and includes weekends, holidays and such, because we all know that cartoonists are automatons that don’t observe such niceties) meaning that more than 2 days out of every 3 she’s delivered a full page, in color, with incredible detail. Also humor, pathos, creeping horror, and linguistics.

    What I am saying here is that she has been working at a furious pace (on her own, no less) to produce a ripping good read, my favorite of the past year, and you should be paying attention because it’s damn good. If you don’t read it, start your archive trawl now while it’s still practicable.

  • On the off chance you don’t yet appreciate what one creator can do on their own, consider the most recent update from Boulet: it’s beautiful, highly evocative of mood, more than a little melancholy, and utilizes the “web” part of “webcomics” exactly as it should be used. The little bits of motion enhance rather than detract, and put to shame every half-assed “motion comic” that uses motion just for the sake of using it.

    For other examples of Boulet utilizing limited motion and infinite canvas, see Game Over, Our Toyota Was Fantastic, and The Long Journey; in each case, the technological elements in service to the story rather than the other way around. The man is a treasure, and that’s before you take into account his acknowledgment of the power of moustachery.

Spam of the day:

I was curious if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your site?

No. Next!