The webcomics blog about webcomics

Stepping Away

Welma Rebecca Pierce died peacefully this morning with her husband of 62 years, Bill, by her side. She was my wife’s mother, as sweet a lady as I’ve ever known, and I will miss her.

I’ll be gone for some time; play nice and be good to each other until I’m back.

With Apologies For Brevity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spam of the day:

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

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.

Nonstop Creation Machines

I had decided on the title and theme of today’s post last night, and as I sat down today to pound the text into shape the news broke that Prince has died. I’m going to remember him primarily for two things: I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man, which is about as perfect a song as ever was, and his underrated ability to have fun at his own expense. I’m also telling the next two guys I talk about to goddamn take care of themselves, please.

  • Jim Zub is a guy who has spent the past decade or so making his way into the comics industry, and the thing about him that strikes me even more than the quality and breadth of his writing — which are both off the charts — is the fact that he’s always given more than he’s gotten. He is selfless and tireless in sharing his skills and wisdom, doing his level best to make it easier for the next generation of creators to find their way … an action that only makes his life harder, both for the effort it costs him now, and the competitors he’ll have to face down for jobs in the future.

    So imagine how much he’d be willing to share with people that are specifically paying him.

    Zub has, at long last, launched a Patreon but it’s kind of on the down-low right now, because there’s no other reason for it to have a paltry 35 backers and US$183 per month support level. The big thing you get for backing the Zubster? Full comic scripts and pitch documents, or as I like to call them, How To Be Zub 101. And considering that Zub is universally liked and respected, that’s a pretty good thing to be.

  • So Ryan Estrada sent me a link last night (my time; it would have been daylight in Korea, where he lives) and casually said I could have the exclusive. If you’ve been following his Twitterfeed for the past months, you know that he’s been heads-down on his latest project, an audio play with top-flight talent the names of which he promised would blow our minds. And you know what? He’s not lying.

    Big Data is the story of what happens if the keyholders who keep the internet working got attacked and subverted by a conspiracy of ne’er-do-wells who maybe aren’t all that organized or competent. It posits a world where the internet is dying, and the person who’s determined to get to the bottom of it decides to do so in the form of a podcast, tracing the story of What The Hell Happened, in a weird cross of Serial and whatever Alex Jones is blathering about now. It looks hilarious, and we’ll all get to see what the deal is (duration, full cast, etc) on Monday, when the Kickstarter launches.

    Oh, not the Kickstarter to make Big Data — it’s already been made, the talent’s been paid, it’s in the can and ready to go. And that talent includes people you just might have heard of like Paul F Tompkins, Cecil Baldwin, Kevin Allison, Jermaine Clement, and De Anne Dubin, with a theme by The Doubleclicks. When I asked Estrada how the hell he got these people (and more!) to participate¹, he gave a completely logical answer: I asked nicely, and paid them!

    Here’s the trailer; check the main site on 25 April to see the Kickstart details and learn how we can all get front-row seats to the informational apocalypse. Like all the best apocalypses, the important people will be there.


Spam of the day:

Compare Car Donation Options Today

and

Compare Cancer Treatment Options Today

That’s a pair of damn near identical-looking emails you guys have sent me. Maybe don’t send them within 12 seconds of each other next time and I won’t notice.

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¹ Fun fact: about the time I was wondering how the hell Estrada got his cast, he was wondering how the hell I have a friend who’s actually an ICANN keyholder. She’s done the key-signing ceremony and tells me after a while it gets really boring, and since you’re in one hell of a Faraday cage, you can’t use your phone or post selfies or anything.

Weirdest thing? She’s not an internet hacker from small times — she’s an English major that wound up doing logistics and disaster recovery planning, which utilize her natural aptitudes for organization and yelling at people until they do things correctly². She’s a lot of fun at parties.

² Since the or else in her yelling promises grave physical harm and lasting emotional damage, she is a woman after may own system administrator’s heart. Look, I’m not saying that she once caused a troublemaker to get cavity searched, but I am saying that the belief that she would do such a thing if you pushed her has helped her compliance-with-procedure rates enormously.

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 Fleen.com. [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!

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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:

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

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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.

Happy Nineaversary, Fleen

For those that keep track of such things, today marks the last day of the ninth consecutive year of wondering what could possibly be defamatory; tomorrow will be the start of Year Ten. When all is said and done, on the day that this page turns out the light and puts the chairs up on the tables, I will be proud of one thing: we didn’t pull down the Purple Pussy story or any of its related reporting. Still, given the choice, I’d rather have not been threatened with a potentially ruinous lawsuit by a jumped-up millionaire with delusions of grandeur.

At this point I think it’s safe to say that (lawerly bluster aside) there never was anything defamatory towards Todd Goldman vis-a-vis his habit of selling art that was remarkably identical to that of other artists, and also that the United States needs a federal anti-SLAPP statute. To those of you that offered your support at the time and since — from the comfort of friendship to acts of defiantly mirroring pages out of the reach of US court orders¹ — I remain grateful. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: webcomics has given me the best friends in explored space.


Spam of the day:

thingCHARGER Use THIS To Charge Your Devices Without Cables or Outlets

Without cables or outlets? Do you pull the electrical fluid from the very aether? I say! [insert photo of jowly man with muttonchops and a HARUMPH epxression]

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¹ As performed by William George, or The William G as his nom de webcomics; he did a much-missed (by me, at least) webcomic called Bang Barstal at the now-shuttered Graphic Smash². Living in South Korea (or sometimes Canada), Mr G would have been able to thumb his nose at attempts of Goldman to make him take down his mirrors.

² This is why the Wayback Machine exists; hopefully some traces of Bang — the love child of Mojo Nixon and Kevin Matchstick — exist there still. He was too good for this world.

Bang, I mean. Pretty sure that William G is exactly as good as this world requires and not a bit more or less.

Oh Glob, No

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE TO ADD: OH HELL OF YES, JESS FINK HAS KICKSTARTED THE SECOND CHESTER 5000 STORY YES I AM YELLING GO BACK THIS NOW.


Spam of the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

Unpocalypse

It’s finally happened. After seven years (exactly) and seven acts, Andrew Hussie has brought Homestuck to an end.

It’s an ending with a sincere, hopeful tone; more characters than I could name without a scoresheet find themselves in a new world, building a new community to replace the destruction that has preceded. It started on the 1901st page of MS Paint Adventures, and wrapped up 8127 pages later, many of them comprising extensive video, music, interaction, or just a mountain of text¹. It’s been meticulously planned (in the blogpost below today’s finish, Hussie notes that the Act Seven animation was storyboarded four years ago and required a year of work).

And the end result is much more than a creation myth about kids in houses (Hussie’s description); it’s beyond my ability to say exactly what it is in the amount of space available to me here. It probably requires an annotated reader’s guide (cf: another dense, heavily-populated, extensively-recursive story that benefits from such) to provide page-by-page, reference-by-reference help to those who aren’t able to devote months of continuous reading and can’t quite remember what happened a thousand or so pages back². I suspect that anybody that’s able to compile such (and it would pretty much have to be the work of a single POV, not an ever-changing wiki) could submit it as a graduate thesis.

This isn’t the end of MS Paint Adventures; it may not even be the end of Homestuck; Hussie notes:

[O]ne more thing. If you’re curious about whether there will be anything resembling an epilogue to this ending, yes, I’ve been thinking about that for some time. It’ll take a while to produce though, whatever specific form it ends up taking. Working on Collide took months, and came right down to the wire. I’ve got more time now though obviously. But that said, I’m not in a huge hurry at this point. Keep an eye out here for developments. There should be plenty of other news in coming months too.

Nor will it ever be the end of the endless side-stories, fanworks, shipping, cosplay, and love that have been a constant for those who have taken Homestuck to heart; multiple internet and IRL subcultures will likely look back to this story as their own foundational myth. It’s been a long time coming, but at long last Hussie can let one of those other ideas out of his brain for a while and the rest of us can start over again from the start. Somewhere in there, reading the binary coding of each page in the correct order, you’ll find all the secrets of creation.


Spam of the day:

Red Robin Appreciators Notice: Lunch for 5 on us awaits. For: gary tyrrell More details at site.

You have mistaken me for Erika Moen. She’s all about Red Robin.

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¹ To provide a single example, since the return from the most recent hiatus on 28 March, Hussie has added 168 pages and 27 minutes of animation.

² Personally, I read approximately the first two years of Homestuck through over the course of about ten days, but then life intervened and I was able to read small chunks only sporadically. Such an extensive story doesn’t reward such an approach, particularly when it’s prone to lengthy asides from what might be deemed the main narrative. I’m pretty much unfamiliar with anything past the introduction of the trolls as actual trolls. I know, I know, that’s when it started getting really good.