The webcomics blog about webcomics

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.

Canadians And Equality

We look to our northern neighbors for examples of how to be better today.

  • If you weren’t reading Twitter at the right time last night, you may not have noticed that Kate Beaton has released a new autobio comic chronicling her time in the tar sands of Fort McMurray. We last got a glimpse of Beaton’s time in a very strange, very male place in Ducks, a five-part comic telling the story of one big event (and the much more relevant smaller everyday events) from 2008. I’ve said before that Beaton’s ability to tell stories from her own life are second to none, and each time she’s revisited that mining site has been breathtaking in its honesty, particularly with respect to her experiences there as a woman¹.

    I’m not the only one that feels this way:

    So last year, I made some comics about working in Fort McMurray. And I said I planned to make more.

    The question I get asked the most by far when I talk about the place is what was it like to be there, as a woman, specifically.

    The answer is complex but I started a sketch. Whether I finish it here or in a book, I wanted to take look at that: …

    it is, as ever, only my own experience.

    Is What It Is is many things at once — deeply personal, but also very likely damn near universal; I can see many women having experienced things like Beaton did, in places far less … let’s say phallocentric. It’s a painful read, see the shit that Beaton put up with for the sole reason that the men around her see her as some kind of object they have a collective right to. It makes me proud to see her tell them it’s not that she’s Miss high and mighty, it’s just that they’re dicks and she opts out of their worldview. It kills me a little inside to see her interacting with the biggest dick of them all, the one piling needless shit on her, and realizing that the only thing she can do is act like it’s not a thing.

    Nobody will read Is What It Is without coming away with a strong opinion; I’ll say that it will definitely provoke one of two reactions. If you read it and say to yourself What’s she complaining about? then the door’s over there and you can see yourself out. Everybody else — anybody with a sense of empathy — is going to feel hurt; hurt that people are capable of treating each other this way, hurt because too many of you have been on the receiving end of similar situations, hurt because Beaton is so good at conveying these kinds of moments and making you feel what she did.

    The very tall story is subtitled Part One, and Beaton’s left open her options for how she continues this tale; personally, I’m hoping for the possibility of a book. Beaton is one of the finest memoirists working in English today, and I long for the day that the reading public can let her stories of things experienced wash over them in great big chunks.

  • Ryan Sohmer, as I believe I have mentioned on this page previously, is a man of contradictions. His comics aren’t for me, but I like him personally a great deal. He’s cheerfully mercenary, got a plan to dominate all aspects of the comics-making business, and will never fall prey to the poisonous thought that being involved in the arts means being poor.

    He’s also willing to put his money where his mouth is, whether it’s setting up scholarships for up-and-coming comics students. And with the news from Oxfam earlier this week that half of all global wealth is held by 1% of living humans, he’s been thinking about income inequality.

    Sohmer’s not a benevolent tyrant-king to the world (not yet, anyway), so he’s setting his sights a little lower than eradicating worldwide income inequality. He’s also deeply cognizant that Comics is an industry that’s made some pretty substantial fortunes by screwing people over, and determined that simply won’t do:

    I can’t change what McDonald’s or Home Depot does, but I can be an example and hope that others follow suit.

    Blind Ferret has 32 full time employees and 12 part timers. I make the following statements and will hold to them:

    • Minimum Wage for hourly/part time employees at Blind Ferret is $12.00 per hour.
    • Starting salary for a salaried employee will be no less than $32,000 per year.
    • Blind Ferret will not employ unpaid interns. Interns receive minimum wage, and should the school that placed them not allow that, we will no longer work with that school.

    We should be paying our employees what we can, not what we can get away with.

    I call on every company in the comic industry to join me in providing a living wage for our employees. Our success is built on their backs, and it’s time we remember that.

    Bear in mind that minimum wage in Quebec, where Blind Ferret is located, is presently CAN$10.35/hour² so Sohmer is committing to starting people at nearly 14% above that required level. Median household income in Canada (for 2011, the most recent year I could find) is CAN$28,404, so he’s putting starting salaries 11% above.

    And by my reading, the no unpaid interns portion is potentially the most important rule there, and even if other comics companies don’t follow Sohmer’s lead on pay rates, they can pay their damn interns. Comics industry, you’ve got Blind Ferret and Iron Circus showing you how it’s done. Get on that.

  • Via the twitterfeed of The Toronto Man-Mountain:

    There’s gonna be a game version of To Be or Not To Be! And it’s gonna go… a little something… a’like this:

    Interactive TBONTB, everybody!

    For those of you grumping that this last item definitely meets the Canadian content requirement for today’s theme but is light on the equality portion, may I remind you that TBONTB‘s version of Ophelia is the smartest, most capable protagonist choice in the book, and the text/game will actively punish you for trying to play her as weak, passive, and uninteresting? Choose her and she’s the star of her own story, same as Hamlet or Hamlet, Sr.

Spam of the day:

tasted it before putting it in my taco because it really ruined it. Ick.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Good job stepping up, spammers!

¹ Which, because she’s a woman on the internet, means she’s probably spending a good chunk of today deleting shitty emails and blocking morons on social media, because every time she brings up the topic they crawl out from under their rocks to tell her she’s wrong and stupid and ugly and what about men and shut up already. Her bravery in putting her stories out there is many-layered.

² According to today’s interbank rate, that would be US$8.35. By way of comparison, the US Federal minimum wage is US$7.25, and you need to consider that Canada’s public funding provides the best healthcare system in the world.

On The Importance Of Diaereses

Although it's pretty clear from context.

Yeah, I know there’s an elephant in the room and we’ll be getting to it in a moment, let’s just be patient.

  • I was reading Stand Still, Stay Silent this morning (as is my wont) and was taken by the final panel, which creator Minna Sundberg rendered in untranslated Swedish. Okay, it’s pretty clear from context, but I was curious so I hopped over to Google Translate and punched in the text:

    Forbannade finnjavel, Lalli

    Okay, Lalli is a proper name and so I left it off; but the response I got was less than satisfying:

    cursed finnjavel

    Okay, finnjavel looks like a compound word, and Lalli, who the dialogue is directed at, is Finnish; splitting it up gave:

    Forbannade finn javel

    … which gave me:

    Cursed Finn bastard

    Better! But odd that it didn’t recognize the compound word (there was also a slight digression where the language autodetection thought I was typing French, where javel translates as bleach). But what about the diacritic marks I’d left out? Javel also suggested son of a bitch, but what about jävel?


    Nice. Spelling everything correctly (Förbannade finnjävel) gave the much more conversational Bloody Finn bastard, which I’m going to go with (although oddly, förbannade finnjävel becomes cursing Finn bastard). I just found the entire thing a delightful example of the difference between translation and transliteration.

    Also, my regard for Ms Sundberg has gone up another notch, since she’s rendering SSSS in clear, colloquial English, which only somewhat resembles the Scandanavian languages. Oh, and did I mention that she did her last comic in your choice of English or Finnish? Or that Finnish is not like anything else that originated between the Ganges and the Atlantic?

  • As noted back around Halloween, we mentioned that Wacom was putting together an anthology of digital comics, to be released sometime in January. Well, sometime is today, and Pressure/Sensitivity is now available for download over at comiXology.

    Here’s the thing, though — despite being free, you can’t download Pressure/Sensitivity unless you have a comiXology account, which I do not. I know this makes me a terrible resident of The Internet, but I won’t have anythign to do with DRM-heavy services that reserve the right to take back content I’ve paid for. And quite frankly, the last thing I need right now is another account with another service and another set of Terms of Service that says it can change the rules at any time in the future without notice.

    I can tell you that if you have a comiXology account, this is a no-brainer: contributors include the previously-announced Meredith Gran, Ming Doyle, and Giannis Milonogiannis, along with Mike Holmes and Ben Sears, cover by Ulises Farinas and Ryan Hill, and edited by Caleb Goellner.

  • It is, as I write this, as close to 24 hours since the launch of Exploding Kittens, and the Kickstarter campaign for same is as close to US$2 million as likewise makes no difference. I’ll be honest — when I predicted yesterday that this game would out-pace the Tesla Museum campaign, I figured it would take a week or ten days; I really thought that the incredible pace of the first few hours would taper off. Instead, we’re north of 50,000 supporters and the main page updates both supporter count and total amount every few seconds.

    For contrast, the most-funded Kickstarter campaign was for a fancy cooler that raised US$13.2 million. The most-supported campaign I can find was that for Reading Rainbow with just under 106,000 backers. At this point, it seems certain that Exploding Kittens will break into the top 10 all-time most-funded Kickstarters (position #10 presently taken by a nanodrone that funded out at £2.36 million; the exchange rate on the day of campaign close equates that with US$3,522,760) and possibly be the most-backed of all time¹.

    Since we’re past the 24 hour mark and we clearly have at least 200 backers, the Fleen Funding Formula Mark 2 matched up with the present Kicktraq trend value of US$30 million² gives us a predicted finish in the range of US$6 million to US$9 million. Oh, and let’s note that this is presently for a campaign that only has two backer tiers (the two limited tiers are sold out), which is about as simple as you can get. If, as was mentioned in update #2 last night, the team decides on stretch goals, the frenzy could accelerate. Take a look at the daily data from the Order of the Stick campaign (of just about exactly two years ago) and see if you can pick out when Rich Burlew added especially popular stretch goal rewards. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: yikes.

    Update: Since starting the post, a new Kickstarter update has gone up for Exploding Kittens and the first stretch goal is simultaneously announced and achieved: the NSFW deck (available at the US$35 backer level, but not the US$20 level) will now have 40 cards instead of 20, no additional cost or shipping. Look for some of the 4300+ backers at the US$20 level to do some arithmetic and decide to re-pledge at the higher level.

Spam of the day:
Nothing of note today.

¹ Trying to sort the history of Kickstarter campaigns by popularity doesn’t actually sort by descending number of backers, oddly.

² You know, just 300,000% of goal, that’s all.

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!

I Find This Difficult To Believe

I could have sworn — sworn! — that I talked about my love of yokai — traditional Japanese monsters — more than just twice in passing in all the years I’ve been writing this here blog. I mentioned Gegege no Kitaro in passing way the hell back in 2007, and I talked about Jim Zub’s treatment of kappa (which I first learned about by watching Gegege no Kitaro) back in July. I guess I had a conversation with Maki Naro in 2013 (probably at NYCC that year) when Drawn & Quarterly’s collection of late-60s Kitaro¹ came out, and that’s it.

Guys, I love yokai. From the barely-contextualized references in old Japanese TV shows to the present day, the endless parade of spooks, haunts, fantastic creatures, and things that go bump in the night have always grabbed me. Sometimes they’re just there and it’s up to you to figure out which are traditional and which have just been made up for the hell of it, as in Miyazaki’s unparalleled Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi. Sometimes you get ‘em in story and the endnotes give you the background, as Stan Sakai has been doing for 30 years or so in the pages of Usagi Yojimbo, or Zub’s been doing recently in Wayward. From mildly spooky to simply odd, bit players and tourist attractions to vicious and deadly, yokai come in every shape, size, temperament, and purpose imaginable.

And yet, above all, they have a fundamental weirdness to them. Very polite turtle-men that will drown you to eat the inside of your rectum, but who can be bought off with a cucumber? Sure! Haughty bird-men that had a special dislike of priests, but also protect forests and teach the arts of war? Why not! Foxes with nine tails and shifting forms², household items come to life because they’re existed for too long? Hungry ghosts licking the filth from dirty bathrooms? Disembodied body parts flying about causing panic? Check, check, and check.

And when I think about comics, and fundamental weirdness, the first name that comes to mind is that of KC Green, and what do you know? Dude’s gone and drawed himself some yokai, and started up a weekly project around it. The first two are the karakasa-kozō (an umbrella come to life because why not) and the umi-bōzu (the sea monk, a personification of every sailor’s nightmares), with the promise of more yokai to come on a weekly basis, or as the mood strikes him. Check out his Tumblr under the tag yokai and embrace the Night Parade.

Oh, and maybe check the milk in the fridge. It’s getting a little old, and if it sprouts an eye, you’ll want to take care of that.

Spam of the day:

It’s impressive that you are getting ideas from this piece of writing as well as from our argument made here.

Far be it from me to complain about not getting spam (the new filters are doing a great job), but it’s really gotten kind of … generic. Where’s the batshit insanity about defamation laws and Kraft dinner and Ukrainian women that want to meet me?

¹ Shigeru Mizuki, Kitaro’s creator, is widely credited with both exhaustively cataloging yokai and reviving interest in what had been an all-but-forgotten bit of folklore. He’s also created dozens of new yokai to reflect the realities of the modern world.

² Although it appears that pretty much every culture around the world has decided that foxes are sneaky and not trustworthy.



I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for … no, wait, that’s wrong. I can tell you how long I’ve been waiting for Kate Beaton’s children’s book starring the Pony. She announced it at NYCC in October of 2013, so I’ve been waiting to hear more about this for 15 months, and now we know the deal:

Coming in June with Scholastic, The Princess and the Pony is a picture book featuring one of the most enduring characters I have ever drawn, that roly-poly pony. Here’s an interview I did about it with Wired, ages ago when I started working on it. Good for kids, good for ponies, good for pony lovers (everybody)!

Beaton also talks about Step Aside, Pops, first announced earlier this week, and far be it from me to not give that book its due, but Pony. Pony, Pony, Pony, Pony, PONY!

PS: Pony.

Spam of the day:

I’ve be mindful your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely excellent.

I’m certain this is the result of five or six trips through a computer-based translator; surely no human actually constructed that sentence.

Successes And Less Successes

Let’s get the bad news out of the way right away.

It’s better news from here on.

  • Raina Telgemeier gets so much press (not sure who provides all of that, certainly nobody we know here at Fleen) that sometimes it’s easy to forget that her husband is just as accomplished in comics as she is. Dave Roman and his longtime creative partner John Green announced the latest entry in the Teen Boat¹ series of comics/graphic novels has a cover. Look for Teen Boat! The Race For Boatlantis in October wherever comics, books, or boats are sold.
  • As noted about ten days ago, Erika Moen and Matt Nolan did everybody considering a crowdsourcing campaign a tremendous favor by releasing a detailed Numberwang on their experiences with the first OJST print volume Kickstart. Nolan’s back with more information that explains just how a webcomic about sex toys can support two adults, which I would sum up in one word: diversification.

    It’s a fascinating read for anybody that wants to make comics their livelihood, but I urge you to keep a sense of reality as you do. Moen spent a decade on earlier comicking projects and a good nine months on OJST before launching her Patreon; without that loyal following and proven ability to produce quality comics, she could not have gotten support in excess of US$1000/comic. Remember: you’ve got to show people that you’re good enough to give money to before you can expect them to give you money.

  • From George², busiest man in webcomics, as part of one of his myriad jobs (in this case with the doing-well-by-doing-good anarchosyndicate known as Breadpig) comes news of a shift to webcomics. Specifically, the critically-lauded (but curiously not chart-topping, because people don’t know how good it is I guess) Atomic Robo is getting ready to serialize its first nine volumes of stories online, leading up to the debut of volume 10 later this year. For those that haven’t been keeping up Atomic Robo is the brainchild of Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, and this release the back catalog online approach is the same one used by such creator-owned stalwarts as Jim Zub and the Foglios.

    For those that haven’t followed the earlier stories, Zub has credited the online serialization of Skullkickers with driving convention sales of print collections and Girl Genius started as dead-tree quarterly comics, a model which proved to be economically nonviable, prompting the shift to online distribution of the back-catalog, then eventually all new story pages. Going forward, AR will follow the Girl Genius model of web-first, as opposed to the Skullkickers model of print issue first.

    What’s a bit unique about AR‘s shift to the web is how it’s going online: the entirety of Atomic Robo volume 1 will be released on 21 January, followed by a full issue each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We’re going to see more than 1000 pages hit in short order, the better to get everybody up to speed for the debut of volume 10 this summer. To make sure that Clevinger, Wegener, et. al. actually get some value from this massive act of sharing, they’re going to be part of the Hiveworks family, where you’ll find approximately every webcomic and its dog.

    Plus, y’know, Atomic Robo has dinosaur mad scientists creating weapon-bedecked cyborg T. rexes, which can only be good.

Spam of the day:

Both men and woman have been using perfumes for over 4,000 years.

That’s almost as long as they’ve been using knives. THESE KNIVES!

¹ This is the obligatory reminder to never do a Google image search on any string including the word “teen” unless Safe Search is as on as it possibly can be.

² Who, in accordance with the Fleen Manual of Style, is only ever referred to by his first name

New Projects

We’ll talk about what webcomickers are up to in a moment, but first I want to address an email I got about 20 minutes ago (as I write the first draft of this). It appears that Emerald City Comicon has been bought out by ReedPOP, showrunners of New York Comic Con, the PAX family of shows, C2E2, and more high-draw conventions dealing with everything from Star Wars to sweaty dick punching.

ECCC has had a reputation for a few things — extremely rapid growth, and the personal touch of show founder Jim Demonakos, who’s kept the focus of the show squarely on the comics side of the equation. Put bluntly, there are not a lot of big “comics” shows (and EmCity is going to be somewhere in the 70 – 80K attendance range this year) that don’t actually focus on TV, movies, wrestling, or other aspects of nerd culture.

It can’t be easy running a show that big, and I have no reason to criticize Demonakos for turning to ReedPOP to provide showrunning services; I only hope (and it’s not clear from the press release I received) that the team and focus that were developed under Demonakos are retained. I know a lot of webcomickers that look to ECCC as one of their best shows of the year, and if it goes the way of NYCC and C2E2 (with their far lesser emphasis on the comics end), that would be a hard blow. The full press release is below the cut, so you can read and interpret it for yourself.

  • KC Green may have wrapped up Gunshow, but he’s got plenty of other outlets for his comics, and he added a new one yesterday. US Gamer has added a weekly videogame-themed comic from Green known as Cheats n’ Beatums, the first of which you can read here. Maybe. It might be my choice of browser, it might be my choice of security settings, but the comic did not render on the page for me, instead substituting an image placeholder.

    Clicking on the placeholder gave me an error in opening a secure connection, but editing the URL from https: to http: did the trick. I’m not sure I would have gone to so much trouble for anybody else, but I got my reward: Green’s first Cn’B showed us why Mario always wins … he cheats.

  • Readers of this page may recall that Kate Beaton is the best. So it was no small amount of happy-making to see her announce this morning that D&Q have announced her next comic collection; Step Aside, Pops will be released in September, and will no doubt put the fear of Victorian-era velocipeditriennes (velocipeditrixes? velocipeditrices?) into the fear of bowler-hatted men everywhere.

    For added fun times, Beaton spoke to the Los Angeles Times; I only wish they had asked if any of her Kate-goes-home-to-Nova Scotia-and-we-see-lots-of-her-mom comics (aka momics) will be included. I sure hope so. As I’ve said in the past — and I stand by this — you could burn down all of San Diego Comic Con and everybody inside, but if we got daily momics it would be a fair trade.

Spam of the day:

The 500 Euro note makes it much easier to smuggle cash out of Europe. After the police officer conducted his investigation he informed me that the manager’s signature wasn’t an original signature.

While I stand second to no man in my appreciation of sweet, sweet, untraceable cash, I think that perhaps you have misapprehended the focus of this blog.


Time To Update The Bookmarks

We’re down to the final week of original strips in the Exclamation Universe. While Walkyverse has its adherents, I prefer to note that David “Walky” Walkerton does not appear (prominently or even at all) in all the related strips, each of them is titled with an Exclamation: Roomies!, It’s Walky! Joyce and Walky!, and Shortpacked!, which wraps up this week.

So naturally David “Damn You” Willis decides to spend his last plot not on his best, most well-handled themes (toxic masculinity in popular culture and Batman), swerving away from an arc that started on the theme of diversity and suddenly found itself staring down an interdimensional rupture because why not? Over the weekend I wondered if the sudden appearance of Exclamationverse Dina (as opposed to her counterpart in the exclamationless Dumbing of Age, where she is also appearing right nowby an amazing coincidence) was merely a sight gag, not to be followed up on.

Nope; she’s there and interacting with the rest of the cast today which is a neat trick, since the Dina Sarazu with this character design and from this continuity [spoiler alert for a plot point that’s literally a dozen years old] died back in 2003¹. If memory serves, Dina’s death in It’s Walky! was a sore point for many of his fans, and he’s used parallel-dimensional handwaving to bring back other charactres in the Shortpacked! era¹, so giving her a happy ending before shutting the door on that version of the characters — a continuous storytelling endeavour that is old enough to drive in all 50 states — would be a kindness. Just as long as he incorporates Batman, or maybe some webcomics bloggers/psuedojournalists³.

In the meantime, come Friday I’ll be updating the blogroll over to the right there to indicated that Shortpacked! is [finished], and I’ll be updating my RSS subscriptions to grab the feed from Dumbing of Age (I’ve always just clicked through to DoA from SP! … I’ve done this for more than four years, rather than click one to directly subscribe because I am a lazy, lazy man), and something that I’ve read 3 – 5 times a week for a decade will be something that’s done.

You’ve still got time to power-read all 2200 or so Shortpacked! strips if you start now. Me, I’m pouring out a blind-box assortment of Transformers (I have no idea if that’s a thing, just work with me) on the sidewalk in honor of what Willis built. To toys, and frustrations, and the eternal thwarting of Soggies — thanks, David.

PS: Damn you.

Spam of the day:

The seductive, alluring girls of Japan, Thailand, China and Korea are online now searching for U.S. men like you.

Why yes, I am very gullible and will click on your links, seductive, alluring girls.

¹ No presently-linkable example of that strip exists in Willis’s archives right now; there are a good three years of story between today’s historical rerun.

² Which, for reference, goes back just about exactly 10 years, starting a full 11 months before this here blogging enterprise.

³ As god is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly didn’t know this strip existed (or if I ever did, I’d forgotten it); I found it while searching the Batman tag. Kudos to Willis for the prime depiction of moustachery, and also for spelling my name correctly.