The webcomics blog about webcomics

It Certainly Has Been A Week

Let’s just wrap this one up and get to the weekend without anything else happening, okay?

Spam of the day:

Discover Bathtub

I expect the next email to say I don’t know how to discover bathtub and something about grues.

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.

That Changes Things

There was stuff I was going to go into today, like the announcement that Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar is adapting a key plot into childrens book form or that in the run-up to the relaunch of The Nib, Matt Bors is sending out comics in email newsletter form, and Chris Yates is marking twelve years of making Baffler!s. Then the Eisner nominations came out and that kind of swamps everything.

Because webcomics people — and those that came up from webcomics, or run their creative endeavours like webcomics, or likewise have that independent, creator-owned bent — are all over the damn list this year. But there remains a persistent question around what should be the point of greatest interest to readers of this page, namely, what the hell remains up with the Best Digital/Webcomic category? From the FAQ:

For the Best Digital Comic category, works must be longform—that is, comparable to comic books or graphic novels in storytelling or length. Webcomics similar to daily newspaper strips, for example, would not be eligible. Digital comics should have a unique URL, be part of a webcomics site, or otherwise stand alone (not be part of a blog, for instance).

… which seems to be inconsistently applied at best. Most notably, this year in the entirely worthy-of-consideration Lighten Up by Ron Wimberly, as seen at The Nib. It’s six-and-a-half screens tall, each four panels in size; it’s not comparable to either a comic book or graphic novel in length or storytelling. It’s excellent, and I’m glad it’s up for consideration, but there are been dozens — hundreds! — of comparably excellent works that have not been considered for the nomination because the criteria are used to exclude them (except when, as in this case, they’re not). The NCS, for goodness sake, is doing a better job of consistently applying criteria in a way that makes sense¹.

It does a disservice to the nominees to be nominated in such a chaotic fashion, especially considering the quality of the other nominees: Bandette (Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, Monkeybrain/comiXology); Fresh Romance (edited by Janelle Asselin, Rosy Press/comiXology); The Legend of Wonder Woman (Renae De Liz, DC Digital); These Memories Won’t Last (by Stu Campbell).

Not all of those are what we at Fleen would consider webcomics (after all, that’s not the name of the category), so it’s probably time to scrap the not particularly useful category and just let webcomickers compete in the other categories oh wait that’s exactly what they’re doing:

  • Best Short Story includes It’s Going to Be Okay (Matthew Inman); Best Continuing Series includes Bandette and Giant Days (John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Max Sarin; nice job nominating both artists); Best New Series includes The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Ryan North and Erica Henderson); Best Humor Publication Cyanide & Happiness: Stab Factory (Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, and Dave McElfatrick) and Step Aside, Pops (Kate Beaton).
  • Continuing: Best Anthology includes Eat More Comics: The Best of the Nib (Matt Bors, editor; includes Lighten Up); Best Graphic Album — Reprint includes The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal Omnibus (EK Weaver, via Iron Circus Comics Kickstarter campaign) and Nimona (Nicole Stevenson); Best Writer includes John Allison (for Giant Days); Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team includes Erica Henderson (for Jughead and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl); Best Painter/Multimedia Artist includes Colleen Coover (Bandette again … that’s three so far).
  • Finishing up: Best Lettering includes Lucy Knisley (for Displacement); Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8) includes Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion (Dominque Roques and Alexis Dormal) and Little Robot (Ben Hatke), both from First Second; Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12) includes Baba Yaga’s Assistant (Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll) and Over the Garden Wall (Pat McHale and Jim Campbell); Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) includes SuperMutant Magic Academy (Jillian Tamaki)².

That appears to be eighteen nominations outside of the Digital/Webcomic dumping ground for webcomickers and webcomicker-alikes, which is surely a record. At least, last year I was astonished how many webcomickers and webcomicker-alikes were nominated and there were a total of eleven. Progress, she is gradual sometimes, but she is relentless. We’ll see how it all turns out when the Eisners are handed out on Friday, 22 July, at SDCC.

Spam of the day:

livesex cams “[…]Fleen: The Elcoertnic Swiss Army Knife For This Topic » ”

If there are cameras broadcasting Fleen World Headquarters to people expecting live sex, I sure hope they get their money back.

¹ Obligatory disclaimer: I have been involved in the NCS selection process each year that they’ve recognized webcomics.

² I removed nearly every publisher reference in this rather extensive list for space, but I’ll note that BOOM!/KaBOOM!/BOOM!Box are represented out of proportion to their relative size in the industry. Maybe with all this recognition they can expand their distribution/sales and afford to pay some non-sucky page rates.

Things And More Things

I think we’re lacking a unifying theme today; let’s just mention stuffs that caught my eye.

  • Christopher Butcher — manager of one of the best comic shops on the planet, importer of otherwise-unknown Japanese creators and creations, showrunner of TCAF, self-confessed Canadian, and all-around stellar gentleman — has a treat for us. Not being content with having one kick-ass show poster for this year’s TCAF (by the always delightful Kate Beaton¹), Butcher has announced a second kick-ass show poster by Kazu Kibuishi. Like much of Kibuishi’s work, it’s a mix of Moebius and Miyazaki and it’s gorgeous.

    And, as it turns out, Butcher’s plans originally called for a third show poster, but Fate intervened:

    Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts our friend Chip Zdarsky won’t be able to produce a planned third poster for TCAF this year.

    This is either a tragedy or a lucky break, or possibly both simultaneously.

  • Fresh off of this year’s Emerald City Comicon, some advice for newbie exhibitors from Dylan Meconis, who only wants the best for you. In this case, handy advice about how to set up your table so that people will want to give you money, in one handy diagram. On any other day, Meconis’s pictogrpahic would have been the header image for the day, but Kibuishi has to take that crown today. For your convenience, we have it here for your clicking pleasure; I’ve been around a lot of booths in my day, but the standing mat is always something I forget² about, so it’s helpful even to non-newbies. Thank you, Dylan!
  • From the Pingback Desk, we at Fleen see that Morgan Wick has his own take on Homestuck’s up-wrapping, one that is significantly different from ours. Hardly a surprise in that Wick set out to do what perhaps no other writer on webcomics has done: follow and review Homestuck, as long as that would take. I can’t speak to the mind of Homestucks (the uberfans) on the ending of Homestuck (the cultural object) with anything near the authority that Wicks can, as he followed the story through twists, turns, fits, and starts; he has a distinctly different perspective on the meaning of the story — and especially the ending — will have for the long-time reader.

    I can say that it will definitely be remembered as a formative influence on those long-time readers (you pretty much can’t pull down a hefty fraction of a million words and not have it rub off on you), whether they were satisfied with the ending or no. For those now in their teens or early twenties who followed along, it will certainly be as influential as the original Star Wars trilogy was for me³.

    I can also say that Wicks’s assertions notwithstanding, I am neither from Highgarden nor a manufacturer of replicants. Tyrrell has two Rs, dammit!

  • Is Randall Munroe the first webcomicker to get name-dropped by the President of the United States? Certainly the first one to do so in person at the friggin’ White House, during remarks about the annual White House Science Fair. Completely and utterly without any sarcasm — Thanks, Obama!

Spam of the day:

Wireless Security Cameras

Would those be the same wireless security cameras whose Internet of Things chips are so insecure that there are websites that now let you stream images of the inside of other people’s homes any time you want? Pass.

¹ Chronicler of her mom, dad, ponies, and babies, and nemesis of stupid superheroine costumes.

² Your convention center will likely have a concrete floor, and even those with carpeting will not have very thick cushioning underneath.

³ Or, let’s be honest, WKRP in Cincinnati; the Thanksgiving episode is probably the single most important half-hour of culture in my life.

Just Trust Me, Okay?

Heya. I’ve got two things for you today, one of which is obviously on-message for this page, one of which is not obviously so but I promise is at least tangentially related. Promise.

  • First up, we at Fleen have watched the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (aka MICE, aka MICExpo, aka MassMICE) for a number of years from afar; by reputation it is doing a fine job of upholding the low- to zero-cost, public-facing, comics-oriented Expo tradition (cf: TCAF, SPX, VanCaf, MoCCA Fest, etc) from the campus of Lesley University in Cambridge¹, MA. They always attract a good crowd, the scale and pace of the show is humane, and yesterday they announced the open application period for tables:

    Want to show at MICE 2016? Our Exhibitor Application is open May 1-18! Send us your comics!

    Individual rates go as low as $60, with a discount for students! But that last bit of the tweet, the Send us your comics bit is important; MICE will be reviewing the work of its vendors to try maintain a balance of new work, new creators, local flavor, and variety:

    While we welcome all to apply and wish we could host all of you, space for seasoned exhibitors (those who have already tabled at MICE several times) will likely be determined by lottery. Thank you for understanding that while interest in MICE grows, our available space stays the same.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a show with an emphasis on the new to this degree before; the larger shows are almost completely driven by grandfathered booth owners and I think that this approach just might make the big shows more interesting and fresh-feeling. It really shows an emphasis not just on comics, but on making the show have the greatest appeal and attraction for the attendees. Doubly so, given that the show is free to attend.

  • Secondly, from the science desk, it was announced earlier today that a group of influential Smart People (including Drs Hawking and Jemison) have proposed a project that would send spacecraft² to Alpha Centauri on a mission that would complete potentially within my lifetime. This sort of thing will cost money, so it’s a good thing they’ve got a Rich Guy willing to pony up US$100 million:

    [Financier Yuri] Milner is backing the $100 million R&D program necessary to get this to work. Existing technology won’t do; New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft we’ve ever launched, and it would take 78,000 years to get to any of the stars in Alpha Centauri, a nearby three-star system. The plutonium in its power systems alone weighs 11kg and would require staggering amounts of energy to accelerate to the necessary speeds.

    Instead, Breakthrough Starshot plans to build what’s essentially a spacecraft on a chip, which Milner called a nanocraft. A gram-scale wafer will include “cameras, photon thrusters, power supply, navigation and communication equipment.”

    Each device would cost roughly the same as a high-end smartphone to make, allowing a massive number to be sent on the journey, providing some significant redundancy. Milner held up an early prototype during the announcement.

    Propulsion will be outsourced to a facility on Earth. The small spacecraft will be equipped with a light sail, and a phased array of lasers in the 100GW range will provide the sail with enough push to get the craft moving at roughly 20 percent the speed of light in just a matter of minutes. [emphasis mine]

    Let’s repeat that last bit: humans are proposing that we build a swarm of tiny robots with solar sails, accelerate them to 0.2c, and throw them at our nearest interstellar neighbors. Alpha Centauri is a bit under 4.2 light years away; at 0.2c, we’re talking about a stunningly fast 21 years. Allow another 4 years for any signals to return and it’s 25 years to find out what the neighborhood of another star looks like.

    >ahem< Fuck, yes.

    Now, for the webcomics connection — I first saw this story because Jeph Jacques pointed it out and immediately wondered about conspiracy angles:

    “Freeman Dyson, for his part, emphasized that the space between here and Alpha Centauri isn’t empty” HMMMMMM

    Jacques, of course, knows exactly what’s out there: chatty, occasionally snippy robots. And now we’ll finally be able to prove it!

Spam of the day:

Get Burial Life Insurance Options Now

Is this some kind of weird threat?

¹ Our Fair City. RIP, Tommy.

² Very, very tiny, gram-scale spacecraft, but hundreds of them.

A Periodic Reminder

Namely, that the vagaries of San Francisco real estate aside, the Cartoon Art Museum is very much a going concern, and permanent home or no, they are Doing Stuff. Quite a bit of Stuff in the coming weeks, in fact. Let’s take a look.

At this pace, there will not be a block or cultural institution in San Francisco that hasn’t done something in conjunction with CAM, and given that comics and cartoons are among the most widely distributed of the arts, that’s appropriate. Drop by either or both events, enjoy yourself, and when you see the donation jar that’s funding a new home for CAM, be generous.

Spam of the day:

Millions Already Awarded – You May Qualify

Oh gosh, is this about something that may have affected me like faulty brakes or a dangerous furnace? Oh. Vaginal mesh implants. Yeah, no, don’t got one o’ them.

¹ Alternately, the 64th, 6766th, 7524th, 3182nd, 5776th, 28th, or 105th year of (respectively) the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the Assyrian calendar, the Byzantine calendar, the Discordian calendar, the Hebrew calendar, the Heisei era, or the life of the Eternal President of a batshit crazy hermit nation/personality cult. Calendars are weird, man.

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.

Mostly MoCCA, Part Two

Yes, there are other things to mention, such as the news that TCAF announced another six guests (including Gene Luen Yang), and Christopher Hastings is getting another Marvel miniseries. Those are good bits of news, go revel in their newness.

  • Probably nobody on the floor of MoCCA Fest has had as precipitous an upward trajectory as Noelle Stevenson; I first met her two years back when Lumberjanes #1 was fresh on the shelves and Nimona was not yet nominated for the National Book Award or optioned for the big screen. I asked her how she follows all of that up and she mentioned she has a book in development with HarperCollins called Four Wizards¹, as well as a second project she can’t talk about yet. I told her something I told a number of creators — I can’t wait to see what she’s doing in five year, ten years, because she’s just getting better.
  • Despite the presence of a booth helper with a name tag reading Gina Gagliano, the beating heart of :01 Books (and the woman who sends me enough review copies to drown an average-size ten year old) was repping the imprint in Houston during MoCCA weekend; no matter, as the booth was in the good hands of Danielle Ceccolini.

    Ms Ceccolini came on board in 2014 to replace departing book designer Colleen AF Venable; print lead times being what they are, it’s only been in the last six months or so that I’ve seen Ceccolini’s name in :01’s offerings, so we’re just starting to get a sense of how strong her designs are (especially given that a number of her designs have been on continuing series — such as The Olympians or Glorkian Warrior — that had an established look and feel).

    Case in point: Faith Erin Hick’s The Nameless City (out today), which sports an absolutely gorgeous design to go with the engaging story. If you ever wanted to read a graphic novel (for, let’s say, tweens and up) that reminds you of all the best parts of Jeff Smith, Hayao Miyazaki, Gene Yang, and Kazu Kibuishi in one book, this is the one for you. Or rather, the first of three for you, since it’s a planned trilogy.

    Between that deal, the numerous Yang offerings each year (including the Secret Coders series with Mike Holmes, second volume due soon), and the Science Comics line, it seems like :01 is on track for a good deal more ambitious a release schedule than their recent history of 18 – 22 books a year. It’s a hell of a lot of work for four people, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that they need more hands to keep their well-deserved reputation for quality.

  • Ken Wong was somebody I’d intended to go see on the floor, as the description of his origami comics — comics where the physical, three-dimensional presentation becomes part of the story — intrigued the hell out of me. As it turned out, I walked by his table somehow not noticing the enormous ORIGAMI COMICS banner, but my eye was caught by the cover of what turned out to be the single nerdiest comic I’ve ever read: Bonetti’s Defense — I Know Something You Don’t Know About Swordplay In The Princess Bride. It’s exactly what it says on the cover: a picking-apart of the slight dialogue (and careful choreography) of the epic duel between Inigo Montoya and the Man In Black on top of the Cliffs of Insanity.

    Drawing on what I’d always assumed to be throwaway names (in the screenplay and the original book), Wong finds the historical Bonetti, Capo Ferro, Thibault, and Agrippa and talks about why their teachings are appropriate to the scene in question. And because anything nerdy that you’re nerding out over can never have too much nerding, he finds likely historical referents for fencing masters McBone, Sainct, MacPherson, and Morozzo. Wong even figures out who the most probable inspiration for the Dread Pirate Roberts was.

    It’s not necessary to read Bonetti’s Defense to enjoy everybody’s favorite movie², but it gives a sense of satisfaction to realize how much William Goldman, Rob Reiner, swordmaster Bob Anderson, and everybody else cared to make things right even if only one guy in Brooklyn would ever realize how right they were.

  • Not far from Wong’s table, I did the I was going to look for you and didn’t realize you were here and something on the table caught my eye deal a second time, when I came across Azure. In this case, the catch-my-eye factor was provided by a stack of onesies with dinosaurs on them.

    I’m very sorry to say that I can’t find a link on Azure’s site for these because they are adorable and my gosh, did I just have a grand-nephew born like ten days ago? I believe I did, and young Collin is going to be well-equipped with a dinosaur onesie and small prints with dinosaurs on them because you can never start a love affair with dinosaurs too early.

  • There were students everywhere. I saw tables either officially representing schools, or filled with students who came from particular schools but not in an official capacity, including (but likely not limited to) Parsons, FIT, Pratt, SVA, Syracuse, CCS, Moore, and at least one high school club.

    The students themselves ran the gamut from shy and retiring to immensely outgoing; from art student chic to lacking even one piercing or visible tattoo; their work fell into every conceivable genre and style, from I’m mostly inspired by what’s on Crunchyroll this month but haven’t quite figured out anatomy yet to a noir mystery starring snails³.

    But there was one (from the far lands of Minneapolis) that stood out from her contemporaries; her work had an assurance, a confidence that I wouldn’t have expected from one so young (and who had only been doing comics for about three years). One whose work I realized I had seen before and (foolishly) had not bookmarked at the time. One who has Big Things happening in the immediate future, and whose future work I am looking forward to as much as Noelle Stevenson’s, one who I think is going to make as big a splash in the industry as Stevenson, Hicks, Telgemeier, or Larson.

    But I’m over 1000 words as it is, so come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about Rosemary Valero-O’Connell.

Spam of the day:

Diffuse threats with this recently released technology

You mean I should make them ever less and less concentrated, until they are spread over such a large volume as to be indetectable? Or given the rather rah-rah tactical machismo of your imagery, did you mean defuse? Either way, it’s just a damn flashlight, bunky.

¹ Or possibly 4 Wizards, or For Wizards; it was noisy and I didn’t ask her to spell it.

² Oh hush, you know it is.

³ The same creator’s other works were all shiny and sparkly, which prompted me to suggest that to my knowledge, nobody has yet combined noir story structures with the Lisa Frank aesthetic and she should get right on that.

Mostly MoCCA, Part One

Welp, we know why there wasn’t an xkcd on Friday; it’s because Randall Munroe was getting ready to unleash one of his toys on us in the form of xkcd #1663, a slow-moving utterly unique garden simulation where you get to position lights (including color and beam width) and see what grows. It may take hours to see stuff pop up, and no two runs will be the same. For reference, that image up top is from a stock reset of the toy, no messing, after about two hours.

It will take approximately forever to determine all the mechanisms of Garden, but right now it appears that yellow light is required for the short shrub-trees, tall spires, and birdbaths; blue light appears to be necessary for octopuses. Oh, and whatever browser glitch that caused my three-lamp, three-color, balanced layout to reset itself back to stock: you suck.

The rest of this post is the first part of Fleen’s roundup of this weekend’s MoCCA Festival, which I attended on Saturday.

  • As I mentioned in my pre-show discussion, a lot of the established webcomics crowd doesn’t do MoCCA anymore; I walked into the Metropolitan West facility¹ — a somewhat modern and spare space compared to last year’s Chelsea location² (then again, the sightlines were pretty good and the climate reasonable; it only really got stuffy for a short while in mid-afternoon, as the rain was ending and lots of damp bodies started to crowd the aisles) — only knowing one person that I expected to see on the floor: Evan Dahm.

    Evan’s deeply artistic, artfully-presented books are a natural for the MoCCA crowd, and he reported the show was going well. He let me know that he’s just approved the proofs for the second Vattu book, and we had a great conversation about the minutiae of that story, its ultimate length (four books), other projects he’s got in the pipeline (nothing I can tell you about at the moment), and our dogs. Mostly our dogs, truth be told.

  • Next to Dahm’s table I met Kathleen Kralowec, whose comics are maddeningly bright and intricate, the result of watercolor and marker and absolutely no fear of working in materials that don’t take kindly to mistakes. Check out The Lion And The Roc for a good example of what she’s capable of, and if you see her at a show be sure to pick it up in print, because it’s astoundingly gorgeous.

    It was about this time that I started talking up Pat Race’s Alaska Robotics MiniCon; assuming the first one breaks even and Race is crazy enough to run a show again next year, hopefully a lot of up-and-coming creators are willing to make their way to Juneau.

  • A mild correction, lest I leave you with the impression that I made a beeline to Dahm’s table first thing; he was fairly close the rear of the second floor, and while I did start there and work my way down, the first creator I encountered was actually Molly Ostertag of Strong Female Protagonist. We chatted briefly about how hers is the one story-centric webcomic that I cannot read update-to-update, or even chapter-to-chapter; I need to have big chunks of story to dig into, so I was thrilled to hear that the Kickstarter for the second SFP collection will launch this summer. Hooray!
  • I met Bill Roundy at MoCCA last year, and we spent a fair amount of time talking craft cocktails. As it turns out, he remembered me and we continued our discussion about the revival of a once-classic cocktail that had largely fallen by the wayside due to the discontinuation of a key ingredient.

    The Brooklyn is a delight (and strong!) mix of rye, maraschino, vermouth, and Amer Picon — a French aperitif that isn’t made any more. My regular bar found you can do a reasonable substitution with Torani Amer³ and flamed orange peel, but people that remember the old Amer Picon say it’s not quite the same.

    But there’s now a distillery that’s sourced the original ingredients and methods, and people who remember the old Amer Picon say that Golden Moon’s Amer Dit Picon is pretty much identical to the original; Roundy (being a man with his head screwed on straight) rightly sees this as a reason to celebrate, and hopefully The Brooklyn will become popular again.

    He may have had a flask for personal consumption with sharing offered to friends and fellow cocktail enthusiasts. I may be in a position to say that Roundy’s mixing skills are excellent. And it’s not up in his store yet, but his print Still Life With Potential Brooklyn (similar to these) is handsome and will soon be a gift to my regular bartender.

More on MoCCA 2106 tomorrow!

Spam of the day:

Commodities’ “Head-Smashed-In”

I hope that this has something to do with putting commodities barons on the receiving end of the famed Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump and reenacting how it got its name.

¹ After a 20 minute wait in the rain; give a venue security dude a short haircut, suit, and an earpiece and he’s gonna be forcefully shouty when he announces attendess have to leave the vestibule. Which on the one hand, fine, I can absolutely see that having the entrance crowded directly in front of one of the fire exits is an issue.

But on the other hand, it would have been much better to go with Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very sorry, I know it’s raining, but the City won’t allow us to have you stand here in front of the fire exits. If you’re not an exhibitor, please line up along the side of the building and try to stay dry instead of Attention, listen up, you have to leave the building now, unless you’re an exhibitor. Nobody is getting in until you all leave; you must line up in that direction [hand stabby gesture towards the USS Intrepid] now.

That second bit is not an exact quote, but I believe it captures the tenor of the announcement accurately.

² Which featured lots of natural light and roof access; on the other hand, the Chelsea site had a small footprint and required the use of a tight, steep stairway to navigate the upper three floors. MetWest only had two floor, and it was more spacious set of stairs, so that was nice.

³ The owner of the Torani company — they make all those flavored syrups you see in coffee bars — missed Amer Picon, so he came up with his best-effort recreation, which is the only alcoholic offering of the Torani company.

Europe And Rather Too Many Em Dashes

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: Uncle George, and we discover that although Ray dug down deep to find he truly was Blood of Champion, he was ready to bribe his way out of the Fight the minute it became necessary (or at least attempt to). Ray contains multitudes.

We’re heading east today, to the continent of universal health care — that would be most of the rest of the world, Gary — and borderless borders — a contradiction in terms! — and ancient wines, beers, and cheeses¹. Europe!

  • Our first stop is in France, cradle of so many of the arts (comics not the least of them) and home of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin. One may recall that about a month ago I mentioned that Stela — the new mobile comics delivery platform — was getting a lot of attention and precisely zero release on Android, so I wasn’t able to offer up anything resembling a review.

    But! FSFCPL is in the iDevice fold, and Stela has recently released a French version, and he’s shared some thoughts on it for you. Key takeaway points:

    [O]nce you use it it becomes clear Stela’s purpose is to publish comics that embrace the 5 centimeters (that’s about 2 inches, for the metrically-challenged) width of today’s smartphone screens.

    That’s good, but Lebeaupin notes that Stela is really designed for handsets; viewing comics on an iPad means the comics are just scaled up, which makes for funnily huge lettering.

    These are comics that are native to that world: the panels are only as wide as the screen (nary a vertical gutter in sight) and can only extend vertically, but they can do so as much as desired because they are read by vertical scrolling. A panel may not necessarily fit on a screen (at least on an iPhone 5/5S/SE; I haven’t checked on the larger models)! An iPhone 5 screenful is a common size, but most of these comics have widely varying panels sizes, and anyway have conversations for instance that extend over multiple screenfuls: they don’t follow a pattern of identically-sized pages. The result is a very fluid flow and a reading experience that is meant to be fast. [emphasis mine]

    Bolded because I think that’s probably the most important selling point of Stela, however it should be balanced against another discovery:

    [I]mages are loaded dynamically and present a spinner if your scroll too fast before they have had time to load, as is traditional in iPhone apps: prioritize the flow, even if that means betraying some implementation realitie

    And some of the decisions (both technical and economic) are a bit bewildering:

    The comics are updated chapter by chapter (which make for checkpoints as well); the economic model is that the first chapter of each story is free, and you can get a subscription (using Apple’s in-app subscription system) to read after that. It is a single subscription global to the app, not per-series, so it works a bit like an anthology series. Comics are always loaded from the network, which bothers me a little: there is no way to preload while on WiFi to avoid eating into your phone data allotment, and no way to read at all if you are off the network. iPod Touches exist, you know. [emphasis mine]

    And depending on your inclination, those might be the dealbreakers right there — let your subscription lapse and you have nothing to show for it — as you’re only given access to what you’re reading right now. Stela is less a comics app than a comics rental platform; those that like to own their media (digital or otherwise), take note. And as always, thanks to FSFCPL for his review.

  • A bit futher east and north then, to the land of sauna and tango and linguistic anomalies — I’m speaking naturally of Finland — and Minna Sundberg. We at Fleen have been big fans of Ms Sundberg’s since we saw the crowdfunding campaign for the very pretty book of her first comic, and that regard has only grown since she launched her ongoing magnum opus, Stand Still, Stay Silent. Readers of this page will recall the fact that SSSS took the NCS Division Award for Online Comics — Long Form last May.

    And she’s been cranking out between three and five full pages a week (along with the odd interchapter hiatus of ten days or so) 879 days since November of 2013 — 500 pages in total as of today — making her one of the most productive cartoonists working right now. A page of comics written, penciled, inked, colored, and lettered in less than two days for nearly two and a half years? Sundberg is an unstoppable comics machine, and shows every sign of reaching Sergio Aragonés levels of speed and skill while still in her mid-20s. I can’t wait to see what she’s like in another decade.

    Happy Big Round Number Day, Ms Sundberg. Your work is great and you should feel great.

Spam of the day:


Damn it, I told you people I neither need nor want breast implants!

Dental Implants You Can Afford

Oh. I’d say Never mind but I don’t need dental implants either. Gots all ma teeths, don’t need fangs or tusks or anything like that.

¹ Now we’re talking.