The webcomics blog about webcomics

Quiet Day

Maybe it’s everybody getting back into the swing of things after SPX and XOXO Fest last weekend. Maybe it’s everybody trekking to Austin for MondoCon¹ (where one may find Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott C, and Becky & Frank) or to Portland (they just had XOXO last weekend) for Rose City Comic Con (where one may find Scott Kurtz, Dylan Meconis, Erika Moen, Ethan Nicolle, and the ubiquitous Jim Zub).

Or, to be more precise, those people listed around Rose City are merely the webcomickers who are special guests of the show. Wecomicky exhibitors will also include Christopher Baldwin, Jennie Breeden, Evan Dahm, Sam Logan, Tavis Maiden, Kel McDonald, Bill Mudron, and the various members of Periscope Studio. No doubt others are attending but not listed by their individual names, what with both Dark Horse and Oni being local to Portland, and the Pacific Northwest in general having such an embarrassment of riches in the depth of its cartooning talent.

  • Speaking of Dylan Meconis, did you see that today’s update of Family Man was the last page of Chapter 3 and consequently the last page of what will be the second print collection? My copy of the first volume has been sitting lonely on my shelf for four years, and it is thus thrilling news to me that Meconis took the opportunity to announce:

    [M]y traditional short break from page updates to start pulling together the print volume. In the meantime, I’ll update with notes on past pages every Friday. If you’d like to know more about something in particular, comment here and I’ll add it to my list!

    I hope to return to page updates in six weeks; you can follow the Facebook page or my Twitter account for alerts.

    Six weeks. Print volume pulled together in six weeks, then the Kickstart and/or preorders, then print time and shipping … I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.

    None of which should take away from just how lovely today’s page is — a cut crystal glass breaking on floor by candlelight. It’s part of a violent moment, but it strikes me as oddly quiet and contemplative — if this were a movie, it would suddenly run in slow motion and the soundtrack would drop low for emphasis. Brava.

  • In contrast to the quiet, how about something loud? How about potentially the loudest thing ever associated with webcomics, namely the use of David Malki !’s greatest creation, the Piranhamoose, as a decorative element on a demolition derby² car. When said derbysters wrote to Malki ! to ask permission to include his design, he answered in the only way possible:

    I’m dismayed that you have not already completed said car so I can see it. This sounds like the best idea I have ever heard of.

    Click through to the before-and-after pictures. They are — in the literal sense — amazing.

Spam of the day:

September patch adds new levels and gameplay to Steam early access; terrifying new vision of Pac Man now available

That is the greatest subject line ever.

¹ Whose Guests page is a beautiful piece of design, featuring logos and signatures that turn into actual names when you mouse over ‘em — but it’s a pain to determine who’s coming.

² Note for non-American readers: demolition derby is the most American possible of entertainments, where automobiles are purposely driven into each other at speed with the intention of damaging them to the point of no longer being able to be driven. It is loud, stupid, potentially dangerous to all involved, and requires a surprisingly high degree of both engineering and driving skills.

How’s WordPress 4.0 Working For You? Everything Loading Right?

Even though I’ve got excellent, real-time backups, there’s still a moment of uncertainty as my finger hovers over the button that says Update Now.

  • Speaking of fingers, mine is doing much better, thanks for asking; if you looked at it today you’d figure I’d had a particularly nasty papercut combined with an overly-aggressive session with the nail clippers. It’s still kinda painful if I get overly exciting while typing, but nothing too terrible. I bring this up because we are approaching open enrollment time for health insurance, and if you’re new to having insurance (thank you, ACA), you may not have had experience with renewing insurance.

    Long story short, there will be a fixed period of time that your insurer will notify you of, and that’s when you have to decide what kind of plan you want for next year. Guys, you want a plan. How much do you want a plan? Consider this — I got my insurance benefit statement for my little trip to the Emergency Department two weeks ago, and if not for that insurance my momentary bout of kitchen stupidity would have cost me nearly two thousand damn dollars.

    So consider this my semi-regular plea that you self-employed folks take the time to investigate this very carefully, because guess what? A cheapo high-deductible plan that’s meant to cover only catastrophes wouldn’t help in a situation like this; until we get this entirely bitched-up system of healthcare delivery properly fixed, you’ve got to have insurance if you don’t want something small to put you into potentially crippling debt.

  • So what should I do with all the money I saved on EMERGENCY SERVICES and STERILE SUPPLIES and DRUGS/OTHER¹? How about buying a metric crap-load² of cartoonist interviews? Hivemind filmmaker Freddave Kellett-Schroeder have a limited-time sale going on for all the extras associated with STRIPPED:


    Get over 26 HOURS of additional content!

    Compare to other editions:

    • Basic film: US$14.99 (10 DCPWH)
    • Deluxe Edition (film plus director’s commentary, 30 minutes of various interviews, full Jim Davis interview): US$19.99 (5.7 DCPWH)
    • Bonus Material 1 (Deluxe Edition plus 14 more interviews adding up to 16 hours): US$34.99 (2 DCPWH)
    • Bonus Material 2 (seven more interviews, including a nearly three hour extravaganza with Kurtz, Straub & Guigar, almost 12 hours inall): US$16 (1.3 DCPWH)

    Those numbers in parentheses after the prices are the dollar cost per watchable hours ratios; At US$40 and equal to the content of both Bonus Material packages, the SADE features almost 29 hours of video for less than 75 cents per hour. The only reason to hold off on this is if — like me — you hold out hope for a full release of all 300 hours of footage, in an Ultra Super Awesome Deluxe 75 disc boxed set.

  • Speaking of Brad Guigar (and honestly, why wouldn’t we speak of Brad Guigar?), if you’re like me you miss regular Guigar-heavy podcasts. Well, this is your lucky day, because the only thing better than a Guigar podcast is a multi-Guigar podcast:

    It’s official. The boys and I are podcasters. Subscribe to “Hey Comics — Kids!” on iTunes:

    Everybody that always thought those other guys were holding Brad back during Webcomics Weekly, now’s your chance to swim in pure, uncut Guigar: Brad’s teamed up with his sons, Alex and Max, to talk about comics (or honestly, whatever pops into their heads … they are Guigars, after all) and they now have the imprimatur of Apple. Just listen carefully: science has hypothesized that if three or more Guigars end up in simultaneous laugh loops (click here, skip forward to the seven and a half minute mark, and glob have mercy), insanity may be the result.

Spam of the day:

Inspiring story there. What occurred after? Thanks!


I’m sorry, what was the question?

¹ The DRUGS/OTHER category featured a charge of one (1) dollar, and hell if I can figure out what it was for. I didn’t get any drugs. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that the billing category that equates to you showed up in the ER and sat on a bed was the largest charge; the one that represented the PA fixed your damn-fool finger was a couple hundo less.

² Or 2.54 imperial crap-loads, if you prefer.


We’re going all over today. Hope that’s not a problem.

  • The big news, of course, is that the MacArthur Foundation announced its annual fellowship grants — the so-called genius grants — and one of the 21 new Fellows is indy cartoonist superstar Alison Bechdel. When I heard the news of Bechdel’s entirely earned recognition, it occurred to me that we are going to see more cartoonists in future years¹, just as we see cellists and saxophonists now.

    Look around at who is doing interesting work now, and extrapolate to what they’ll be doing in the future; can you deny the possibility of an Emily Carroll or Kate Beaton or Hope Larson getting included in the classes of 2025 to 2030? I can’t. Not to mention the fact that about this time of year I always wonder when the MacArthur people are going to get around to recognizing Scott McCloud² and we are now one step closer to that day.

  • Rebecca Clements doesn’t have the time to do cartoons at Kinokofry as much as she used to; a period of time working in Japan and graduate studies in urban planning (not to mention doing her damndest to improve on the sustainability of Melbourne) have kept her from that. But new updates or no, she is somebody whose work will always fascinate me, because she looks at the world differently than most comickers — how things are laid out in the physical world excites her as much as how things are laid out at the drawing board.

    Today, she launched a new blog to talk about her time and experiences in Japan, through the dual lenses of both cartoonist and urban planner, and the first posting has me enraptured. Through the magic of Google Street View, she walks us around her stomping grounds in Yahata (a neighborhood in the Suruga ward of Shizuoka).

    Her Street View photos provide the basis for both textual narration and sketch overlays, making the whole into a photocomic with the theme Let’s go to the Yahata Shrine and see what neat stuff is along the way. I’m certain that future updates at Tadayou Japan will use other visual tools to express what Clements has on her mind, and I can’t wait to read them.

  • Drive’s back, Drive’s back, Drive’s back! It’s been months since a burst of updates in the spring, and close to 20 months now since Dave Kellett was able to put regular time into the strip, what with finishing off a major motion picture, having a second kid, and the fact that Drive makes an unfeasibly small percentage of his family’s income for the time it takes to draw. But now he’s gone and launched a per-strip Patreon, hopefully all of those concerns are addressed and we can find out what the heck is going on with the story.

    And we’ve got plenty of story to go, still. Sitting behind me on the shelf are three Drive print collections, which Kellet mentioned to me once could be combined into one larger collection. Three of those larger collections were anticipated to be the length of the story he had to tell (but stories often grow beyond initial expectations. Given where the third book ends, we might be halfway through the fourth book, or not yet to the halfway point of the story (especially considering that each book’s gotten thicker than the one before it). The major players appear to all be on the board, now we have to see what occurs and that is happening again. Hooray!

  • Finally, contrary to some vicious rumors going around, I am not a fish monster who lives in a lake, despite the similarity of names. Regard: Gary Fish Monster; Gary Tyrrell. See? Completely different. It is possible that Gary Fish Monster is the result of a “mash-up” of Gary and history’s most tragic hero, Desmond Fishman; only way to find out is to follow what happens in Lake Gary on the tumbls (daily so far, perhaps that schedule changes depending on how interesting life is at the bottom of a lake).

Spam of the day:

Protect and Beautify Your Garage Floor (criminals)

So much potential! Is this a call for criminals to protect and beatify their garage floors? Or perhaps an indictment that those who would protect and beautify such floors (destroying their heritage nature, perhaps?) are reprehensible to the point of criminality? I can’t wait to find out.

¹ As near as I can tell, she’s the first; the browse-the-Fellows app at the MacArthur Foundation page doesn’t have a category for “Cartoonist” on its picklist, and in a quick browse of all Fellows in the catch-all category of “Arts” i didn’t find any others.

² A campaign I have been on since 2006.

A Trio Of Terrific Comicmongers, With Bonus Guigar

Because honestly, if you’re writing about [web]comics and can’t find a way to fit Brad Guigar in there somewhere, you aren’t trying very hard.

  • Chris Yates was at SPX and yet I didn’t mention him yesterday — oversight, or planned thing? In all honesty, a little of both, but mostly I wanted to run that photo up there on a day when nothing else would detract from it. Like all of Yates’s work, this Aku Baffler! is a gorgeous, precise piece of work, and I wanted to share it with you.

    You can catch up with Mr Yates as his peregrinations take him up the east coast towards Queens, and the World Maker Faire therein this weekend. People that Make¹ stuff always dig Yates, so if you want a shot at some of his best work, you’ll have to make² your way to the bedroom borough and check out the scrollsaw work.

  • Speaking of Aku, Jim Zub not only continues work on Samurai Jack and a zillion other comics, he was also in Maryland this past weekend, although over on the coastal part. He and Chart Polski were in Annapolis brimping their way through an in-store signing of their latest work; it would have been nice to see them in Bethesda, but they were on a whirlwind fast-turnaround schedule.

    Nevertheless, in that time, Mr Zub found the time to put me on the distribution list for a preview of his forthcoming official Dungeons & Dragons tie-in comic, Legends of Baldur’s Gate, which I loved and will be buying when it releases next month. It’s got that trademark Zub flair for mixing the right amount of humo[u]r and ridiculousness with solid fantasy, but the real thing that caught me was the essay at the back of the issue which I will now quote from:

    Jim Zub the storyteller exists because of Dungeons & Dragons, the game.

    Right from the start, I could tell this wasn’t like any other game I’d ever played before. No cards, no board, no limits. No matter how young or small I was in real life I could create a character just as capable as the adults I was playing with. The Dungeon Master asked us what we were doing and my decisions, along with nerve-wracking rolls of the dice, had as much value as anyone else’s at the table.

    If I did something memorable, the group would laugh and I got to feel like one of the grown-ups. Unexpected banter, battle cries, one-liners — I wanted to entertain everyone and make sure my character left an impression.

    As the years went by, I grew up and roleplaying games grew with me. I moved behind the DM screen and started building grand adventures for my friends to quest through. Drama, plot, dialogue, pacing — all those core creative skills were honed by sitting around the gaming table using my imagination.

    Getting the chance to tell a Dungeons & Dragons story as part of the game’s 40th anniversary, carving out a new chapter in the fabled city of Baldur’s Gate … it’s wonderful, ridiculous, and surreal all at the same time. Somewhere inside of me there’s an 8-year old Li’l Zub screaming with joy as he runs around the house pretending he’s kicking skeletons in the face.

    When issue #1 releases, take the time to read the entire thing; it’s as loving a paean to the twin values of imagination and play as ever I can recall. Also, I now want to see an Adventures of Li’l Zub backup strip in this book. Bonus points if we can get Chris Eliopoulos or Skottie Young to draw it.

  • Also not at SPX, because he was busy leading a Shakespeare Festival? Ryan Estrada. But that’s okay, he’s made up for it by teaching us to read another foreign language as part of his Gimme Five project. This time, he’s teamed up with Peter Starr Northrop so that we can all Learn To Read Russian In 15 Minutes and you know what? It works. I may not have any idea what the words mean, but I can now read Спокойной ночй, Gracie³ without too much difficulty. Okay, my accent needs work, but it’s a start.

Spam of the day:
Still nothing good. I am not necessarily upset by this turn of events.

¹ … people … are the luckiest people in the worrrrrllllld.


² So to speak.

³ This gag courtesy of Brad Guigar’s failure to get a reaction from his students today despite dropping some classic laugh-chuckles on them. Kids these days., which I loved and will be buying when it releases next month.

Upliftin’ Frolic And Cavortment

SPX is done for another year, and it’s pretty safe to say that everybody who attended is looking forward to next year with the most baited of breath. It’s a show that’s just the right size, in that you can see everything in a few hours, but also spend the entire weekend in deep dives if that’s what you want. I didn’t have the entire weekend, alas, but I did manage to see the show floor on Saturday and have no regret except not being able to spend more time with everybody¹. Thoughts as they occur to me:

  • Congratulations to the Ignatz Award winners², and may I note that unlike every other awards program of the year, I have a good record picking Ignatz winners. Particular congrats to Evan Dahm, Meredith Gran, Sophie Goldstein, Robert Kirby, and Jason Shiga, who appeared on my ballot³, as well as all the other winners.
  • Speaking of Evan Dahm, he tells me that he’ll be launching his illustrated Oz book on Kickstarter in the near term, near enough to have the printer order submitted by end of the year. My only desire for this is that he offer a two-book bundle reward tier, as I need a copy, and I have a niece and nephew who will also need one.
  • I spoke to both KC Green and Anthony Clark, and somehow managed to completely space on talking about BACK, which makes me an idiot because I love BACK. I did manage to talk to Christopher Hastings about how his involvement in improv and sketch comedy is improving his comic writing and vice versa, but neglected to ask if he has any more major comic book writing gigs coming out soon, given that he’s become Marvel’s go-to guy for the slightly wacky story niche. In each case, I choose to blame the fact that I didn’t want to block the table from people that wanted to talk to these fine gentlemen and buy their wares. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.
  • Speaking of Green, and similar to Dahm’s Oz project, did you see that he (Green) launched an adaptation of Pinocchio today? That is to say, the original story by Carlo Collodi, not the Disney version. In case you’ve never been exposed to the original version, The Talking Cricket (il Grillo Parlante) tries to advise Pinocchio and is squished for his troubles, returning as an advice-spewing ghost, whereas his American counterpart Jiminy not only lived all the way through, he got the good song. Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio runs M-W-F, with Gunshow shifting to T-Th for the duration. Five days a week of KC Green comics is like a fairytale.
  • Speaking of il Grillo Parlante, that’s been the name of the current story arc over at Skin Horse, where a series of guest artists have filled in for most of the summer for new mom/Radness Queen of Webcomics Shaenon Garrity. Garrity’s returned today to wrap up the last week of the arc, which gives me hope that we may also see the return of Monster of the Week.

Right, SPX. Got distracted for a minute there.

  • Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson are super excited for their Capture Creatures series, coming in November from BOOM!
  • Dean Trippe tells me that the print version of Something Terrible is with the book designer as we speak.
  • Tom McHenry, whom I’d never met in person before, is a far more normal person that I would expect to ask people what they named their horses and get excited when I ‘fessed up that my horse was named Buttplumber.
  • Carla Speed McNeil viciously underprices her original pages. I came home with three — two of them from the just-released Third World collection, which I have been obsessively reading and re-reading for the ten days or so since I picked it up — and I seriously considered taking out a second mortgage in order to buy the entire bin she had on her table. If you are not reading FINDER you are missing out.
  • SPX remains a readers con, with multiple creators (among them Dahm, Jon Rosenberg, and Spike) expressing delight on social media at how much less stock they took home than they brought. Spike, in particular, was essentially sold out on Saturday, some hours after she promised me that she’s getting back to Templar this month, dammit.
  • Power couples: Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya are maybe the living embodiment of Zen patience. Ota’s well-documented wrist difficulties4 are keeping her from drawing (or even signing!) at present, but they are dealing with the situation with admirable calm and equanimity. They shared booth space with Tom Siddell and Magnolia Porter, both of whom are presently doing the best work of their respective careers, and the latter of which was presented with a fan-made, near life-size plush of her character Rixis.

    They were directly across the aisle from Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, who are gearing up for the Princeton Book Festival next Saturday. Telgemeier was sporting a wrist brace which she assured me was precautionary: the last time she went on book tour (as she is now), she went to the National Book Festival (as she just did) and signed about a thousand books in a short period of time and blew out her wrist and then had to go home and draw a book (which became Sisters). Here’s hoping the precautions work, but at least for now she and Ota get to be wrist-brace superhero buddies.

    Meanwhile, creator duo Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline — so well known for their collaborations with Ryan North — have the time now that Midas Flesh has wrapped to put together their own story and series pitches. With any luck, in a year or so we may see something that they’ve written as well as drawn, and in the meantime they remain busy. Busy’s good.

  • Kel McDonald is having a blast working with Dark Horse on the Misfits of Avalon print collections (the first of which is out next month), and remains her usual, unflappable, hyperorganized self. How organized? She won’t be putting up the Kickstarter for the next Cautionary Fables anthology until the end of 2015, and she’s already got her contributors on lockdown more than a year in advance. Somebody come up with a planning calendar app and get McDonald to endorse it.
  • Tony Breed, by all accounts, KILLED it in the DJ booth at the SPX post-Ignatz dance party/prom. I’d never met him before and he struck me as an amazing nice guy. I picked up a copy of his mini of recipes in comic form, which makes me wish that Recipe Comix was still a thing oh wait look, it is. Also amazingly nice: Jess Fink, who in a just world would be in the midst of a bidding war from competing publishers for the soon-to-finish Chester XYV 5000: Isabelle and George. I am an entirely straight dude, and yet I had to tell Fink how thrilled I am to see that those two dudes are about to get down to some serious gettin’ it on. I think it’s my innate desire for George and Robert to get a happy ending, so to speak.
  • I know I’m forgetting people; mea maxima culpa.
  • New To Be or Not To Be artist signatures obtained count: 25.

Spam of the day:

Nuthin’ good. Sorry.

¹ That, and I completely lost track of time and missed Raina Telgemeier’s spotlight panel.

² I was already driving home by the time the awards got underway, so Heidi Mac’s writeup was invaluable to me.

³ To be clear, I voted for Shiga for Outstanding Series (which he won) and not for Outstanding Online Comic (which Dahm took), and I voted for Goldsteinn for both Outstanding Minicomic (which she won) and also Outstanding Artist (which went to Sam Bosma, which you can’t really argue with). Likewise, while I backed Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints for Outstanding Graphic Novel, you can’t really get upset with that one being won by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki for This One Summer.

4 Taking advantage of the fact that I am totally ordained, I attempted a faith healing of Ota’s wrist. I don’t think it worked, despite invoking the spirits of Kirby and Herriman.

Transit Day

Much of [web]comics is on the move today, heading to sunny Pismo Beach and all the clams you can eat Bethesda, Maryland and SPX. Me, I’ll be driving down for the day tomorrow, waaay too early, so if you see me on the floor and I don’t recognize you, my apologies.

Meanwhile, on the far side of the globe, Ryan Estrada reports that tomorrow morning (which may be about now, given time zones) that he will be (already is?) the MC of the inaugural Busan International Shakespeare Festival, with twelve teams of performers from around the world. It’s all thanks to a group of expats in Busan that love Shakespeare, and who may be the same group of crazies (or at least significantly overlap with them) that put on the live-action Choose Your Own Hamlet as part of Ryan North’s Krazyass Kickstarter.

So what I’m saying is, wherever you are in the world, there is entertainment to be had this weekend so get on that.

Spam of the day:

That is a good tip especially tto those new to the blogosphere.
Brief but very accurte info… Appreciate your sharing this one.

I’m not sure, but I think the first line and second line each form a haiku. I guess it depends on how many syllables are in accurte [sic].

Breaking Walls

I don’t know too many people that do webcomics under pseudonyms any longer — it was once pretty common, as an outgrowth of gamer/message board handles, or just nicknames; in most cases those weren’t meant to obscure identity as much as establish it. Sometimes they came about gradually, such as how the main characters of Penny Arcade spent six months without identities before becoming Jack and John, and only later being actually identified as Tycho and Gabe, but the names Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik were always there in the copyright info. You were more likely to find such in days gone by in the comics that featured boning (such as Sexy Losers, credited for many years to Hard, and eventually the mononymic Clay), but that’s gone by the wayside, too.

So I’ll be perfectly honest with you when I say that upon first encountering Surviving The World, I had no reason to suspect that Dante Shepherd was a pseudonym¹, and even once I realized it was, it didn’t make much difference — he was writing under a pseudonym to keep his comic life and his professional life separate², something that authors have done with pen names since time immemorial³.

Once “Shepherd” announced that he was moving into academia and he let clues drop in public about which school, it was pretty trivial to figure out his actual name (if such was your desire) by checking the faculty listings of the Chemical Engineering department at Northeastern University and looking for the guy that looks like this, only minus the lobster hat (funny thing, first time I went looking for him I missed him, because he wasn’t wearing a hat in the faculty photo; I’d started to think of that Red Sox cap as part of his actual skull). No need to bring up that info in public, though, since he found it valuable to maintain the fiction, despite mentioning more and more on social media that his students recognized him immediately.

Dante Shepherd, meet Lucas Landherr:

The pseudonym served me well — turns out many/most/almost all academics don’t use the internet, so while my students recognized me pretty quickly, I flew under the radar for years with the people who had real influence on my future career prospects — basically allowing me to do years of comics work without it influencing my professorial chances. At this point, with my students making hash of what had been a secret and with my colleagues all in on it, the pseudonym isn’t needed anymore, so I may as well be honest about it.

Truth is, I’m still gonna think of Herr Doktor Landherr as Dante for a good long while, because that’s how I’ve interacted with him; while I’m not going to go so far as to think that Landherr is the pseudonym and Shepherd the real person (à la Batman/Bruce Wayne, or Superman/Clark Kent), I will say that the lobster hat picture would do pretty well as an official portrait on the faculty page4. Give him a couple of years on the tenure track, and they’ll let him do a photo without jacket and tie, I bet5.

All of this is to say, if you show up for Shepherd/Landherr’s talk on Kickstartering next Wednesday in Boston (refreshments provided!), you can decide what to call him and he’ll probably answer, as long as you don’t call him a Yankees fan.

¹ Not that “Dante” kept the fact that it was a pseudonym secret; it only really became obvious when he mentioned his wife, The Swede, and eventually his kid, Cannonball. This isn’t too different from how Howard Tayler has had a policy of not naming his kids online until they’re adults or close to it. Heck, I tweet under the identity of Fleenguy, but that’s only because both Fleen and Gary Tyrrell were taken.

I’ve tweeted back and forth with Gary, by the way. Nice guy.

² I suspect that Gene Ambaum, now removed from day-to-day librarianing, need not keep up the wall of secrecy, but at this point the pen name is too valuable to give up.

³ I still have a moment of confusion when I get email from the actual real-life name of Xaviar Xerexes.

4 The lobster hat photo is objectively better; there’s too much shadow on the face in the faculty photo.

5While I haven’t been in academia, I recall being a very junior member of an instructional staff when I was younger than Landherr, and feeling like I had to break out the jacket and tie. Now I’ve been doing the job for more than 20 years, I’ll use any damn picture of me I feel like. There is at least one official professional forum where my headshot is supplied by Principal Tyrrell/Cousin Gary.

Midweek Miscellany

No theme today, just not finding enough things that resemble each other.

  • Via the twitter machine of A Girl and Her Fed creator K Brooke “Otter” Spangler comes news of a really well-written discussion of publishing contracts by Hugo winner Kameron Hurly, via the blog of Chuck Wendig. That’s a roundabout way of getting to the item at hand, but it’s through a series of really smart people, so that’s all right.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about contracts since the news of Ron Perazza’s job shift yesterday, since he was fairly synonymous with Zuda and I spent a lot of time picking apart their contracts back in the day, and I’ve always had a particular interpretation of contracts¹.

    Or as Hurley puts it, the people offering that contract are not your friends and boilerplate is inherently a screwjob:

    I hear this a lot in publishing “Oh, but they are such nice people!” The people at my current publisher, Angry Robot, are super nice people. I love them to pieces. But I’ve seen their boilerplate contracts. Many of the editors at Tor – also nice people! But… I’ve seen their boilerplate, too. Name a publisher and I can name you nice people there who nevertheless will hand over boilerplate contracts to new writers because that’s simply corporate policy (“Boilerplate” refers to a standard, unnegotiated contract that the publishing house’s lawyers have approved and hope authors will blindly sign, thinking it can’t be negotiated or that it must be totally on the up and up because shouldn’t a major publishing house be trustworthy? No more than any other corporation, my friends). Publishers and online platforms like Amazon and Kobo are not here because they necessarily love authors and the written word (some do) but because there is money to be made. They offer their services because they are businesses.

    There have been a long string of really nice people running publishing houses who still stole their authors’ royalties, went bankrupt, or worse. Someone being “really nice” says nothing about what kind of deal they’ll offer you. At the end of the day, you can be sure that even if you’re thinking that writing is a happy, pleasant friendly circle jerk among friends, your publishers are thinking they’re engaged in a money-making business, and they’re treating it as such. Even if you’re signing with some mom-and-pop shop publisher that’s your best friend and her husband stapling pamphlets themselves, if you sign over all your rights to them, your rights become something they own, so if they go bankrupt or want to sell off rights to license your work to someone else, you’ll have zero say in the matter.

    All that protects you in this business is the language in your contract. And that’s language that you sit down and study before anything goes wrong, when everything looks great, when you’re heady with the idea of publishing your first book, or your first book with a major press, or your first series, or whatever. It can be difficult to imagine, in that heady, carefree moment, all the things that could go wrong. But having been through many things that went wrong in my career, let me say this: there’s a lot that could go wrong, and you need to keep your head out of the clouds when you’re sitting down with a contract. [emphasis original]

    It’s a good, important read for anybody that’s self-publishing, non-self-publishing, or in any way engaged in the business end of creation.

  • Raina Telgemeier continues her domination of the new-to-comics set; if she weren’t such a darn nice person, I’d start worrying that her real goal wasn’t just to make excellent YA comics, but to develop an entire generation of fans who will eventually grow up, and regard her as their living Goddess-Queen. Should it turn out that the teeming crowds that gather around her at every appearance and book tour stop in fact are laying the groundwork for an eventual worldwide coup d’etat, let me remind them all that I’ve been a Telgemeier fan and booster since before some of them were born and welcome their future regime. All hail.
  • Oh jeeze, oh jeeze, David Malki ! has gone and launched a Kickstarter. So far this one hasn’t seen the enormous takeoff of the fabled Machine of Death game, with the day one funds equalling only about 10% of the funds raised in the equivalent time of the earlier campaign. Which means that at this time, it’s “only” on trend to succeed, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to have enough backers (yet) for the Fleen {Funding | Fudge} {Formula | Factor} to be utilized yet.

    Malki ! always brings something new to projects and this time it appears to be in the Add-Ons:

    Feel free to choose any tier, then add the amount below to your pledge total to add any of these items à la carte to your pledge. Feel free to add as many instances as you like – we will ask you later which designs or titles specifically to send you.

    The weird penny amounts are so we can easily track which add-ons you’ve ordered! Please add the exact amount listed, otherwise it will confuse us and make everything take longer.

    • ADD ON 1 OF ANY PUZZLE = ADD $25.03
    • ADD ON 1 OF ANY POSTER = ADD $15.05
    • ADD ON 1 OF ANY BOOK = ADD $10.07

    Those odd numbers of cents will add up to totals that uniquely describe which add-ons somebody opted for; I’m going to bet that makes Malki !’s life significantly easier come fulfillment time, and makes me wonder why nobody has used parity-code pricing before. Clever!

  • Speaking of crowdfundings, there will be one soon enough for my favorite new webcomic of 2014, Stand Still, Stay Silent:

    There we go, now chapter 3 is officially over and the dreaded chapter break begins! Two weeks this time, because I’m going to be preparing the oh-so-imminent print drive for SSSS book 1 so that I can launch it around the same time as chapter 4. So nothing next week while I try to get everything up, and then the adventure continues either on Tuesday or Wednesday the following week. I haven’t quite decided yet, just got to see how efficiently I manage to get everything done. :3

    In case you haven’t been following Minna Sundberg’s postapocalyptic dram-com, she’s put together 178 updates of full (sometimes multiple) pages, in color, between 3 and 4 a week on average, since 1 November of last year. Holy crap, that’s a lot of comics, and the story hasn’t even introduced all of its main cast yet, but it doesn’t feel slow or dragged-out in the least.

    My guess is it’ll end up being as long as your BONEs or Vattus², and it will be worth every damn page. It’s smart, it’s gorgeous, it’s engrossing, and it’s going to stand as one of the great longform stories in comics. Get caught up now so you are ready to order up Book 1 in a couple weeks when the fundraiser goes up.

Spam of the day:

The lack of transparency and credibility in banks’ balance sheets fuels a vicious cycle. When investors can’t trust the books, lenders can’t raise capital and may have to fall back on their home countries’ governments for help.

I believe that you are concerned with banking transparency about as much as I believe that “Greg” who called me this morning really was “from Computer Support Windows Microsoft”.

¹ The specific quote doesn’t actually appear on that page; it was alt text for an image, which was lost in a past server migration. It’s been quoted a couple of places in the Fleen archives, though, and I stand by the sentiment, so I’ve reintroduced it in the alt text of today’s image.

² Which, by the bye, is back from interchapter hiatus on Monday, hooray! And his OZ illustrated edition is on the verge of completion, double hooray!

Diesem Fetten Fliessenden Sofa

Almost everybody’s busy with the Apple product announcements going on today, so it’s a boring day for me; I mean, the only Apple product I own is a second-generation Nano that’s still got the Stuff Sucks Gelaskin wrap on it. Let’s see what’s happening within webcomicdom.

  • In case you hadn’t heard, David Malki ! has a sofa that needs a good home. Okay, fine, he’s calling it a couch, but if we call it a sofa, we can make the obligatory Zappa reference.
  • There are few people who have done as many different types of comics as Dylan Meconis, and there are even fewer people that I could stand to be stranded on a desert island with. She’s got an amazing line, a keen sense of story (whether serious or comedic, short form or long), and is just a little bit evil¹; she also knows more about Star Trek than you do, just deal with it. Today’s her birthday, which means I get to appreciate her even more than normal. Happy Birthday, Dylan!
  • Going to SPX this weekend? One of the issues that has dogged the show since its move from downtown Bethesda to the northern, highway-ish reaches of town has been the relative lack of food options within easy distance of the convention hotel². It’s not really that there’s no food to be had, but it is spread across a divided road and a bunch of strip-malls; as a result, it was a delight to see the official SPX tweet-feed contribute to the likelihood that attendees and exhibitors might end up well fed:

    The amazingly talented @yaoxiaoart did us a huge solid this year. She created a beautiful food map for SPX!

    It’s less “map” (in that it’s not a representation of places and their locations relative to landmarks) and more “illustrated guide”, but it’s still wonderful. Click through to help make your plans.

  • Ron Perazza has been involved in comics, particularly the digital/webcomics-adjacent end of them, for a long time. He was the driving force behind DC’s Zuda, and if that was an imperfect experiment, it was a case of a large publisher trying something at least. He also involved himself in the production end of things at Marvel in the wake of the Zudaplosion and shakeups at DC, and has continuously — I believe, at least — been trying to find ways to bring major publishers into closer accord with independent creators, without screwing them.

    Today, he takes that (largely self-defined) mission to a place where it might actually take root:

    So this is new. I left Marvel. Today was my first day as Creative Director for Amazon Publishing. I’m pretty excited about the whole thing.

    Watch this closely; particularly, keep an eye on to whatever degree Perazza can influence how Amazon runs comiXology. Good luck with the new gig, Ron — do good work, and we in New Jersey are sorry to see you decamp to sunnier climes³.

  • Seriously, it’s a nice sofa, and there’s totally a map under the right-hand cushion that leads to pirate treasure.

Spam of the day:

In just a week you will reduce 4″ guaranteed.

I’d think less of this if it weren’t from the same people trying to sell me other stuff to add 4″ guaranteed.

¹ She may have encouraged me to take a picture in front of a Portland food truck pod to send to Rich Stevens knowing that it would evoke massive feelings of envy in him. She’s the devil in my ear, whispering to me that I should live my life in the most amusing fashion possible.

² This is almost an unfair complaint, as downtown Bethesda is practically wall-to-wall restaurants, with representatives of just about every world cuisine imaginable. I surmise this has to do with the proximity to Washington, DC, and the many embassies therein; if you’re tired of cooking for the ambassador and want to take a whack at running your own place, the town is full of diners that readily accept new national dishes.

³ That is purely a metaphorical statement; today it appears to be sunny in Seattle and it is cloudy in New Jersey; I gather that much of the year it is suicidally drizzly in the Pacific Northwest.

A Public Service Ernouncemint

Lemme tell you a story, one that takes a little background.

This (fig. a) is a mandoline. It’s a kitchen device that lets you slice things quickly, uniformly and with fancy effects like julienne and crinkle-cuts via sliding motions and razor sharp, v-shaped steel blades. See that sombrero-looking deal in the picture? That’s a safety guard (fig. b), which we’ll be coming back to in a moment.

This (fig. c) is a guy who regularly admonishes his wife for leaving kitchen knives on the counter (say after washing) for even two damn seconds instead of returning them to their proper storage location immediately to avoid the danger of uncontrolled sharps. He turns pot handles in so they don’t stick out over the edge of the stove, he cleans and sanitizes aggressively, and while he is atheist, he is downright religious — evangelical, even — about kitchen safety.

So when fig. c gets a brand-new toy over the weekend and is still figuring out all the things he can do with it (more specifically, trying to decide exactly how thick he wants to cut a bell pepper for use in fajitas) and decides he can make just one or two test cuts using fig. a before utilizing fig. b for the rest of the job, you can tell where this is going.

I’ll spare you the details¹, just suffice it to say that it was entirely operator error, took about three hours from injury to back home (much of that spent watching Project Runway on the bedside TV while waiting for the PA to clean the wound³; Kini got robbed last week and Korina seriously needs to stop being her own biggest fan), and it’s a hassle to type right now. I did manage to avoid the worst possible outcome, which would have been having to call 911 and have my own squad come and transport me; there is nothing worse than getting transported by your own crew because you’ll never hear the end of it.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

I’m telling it because I was reflecting on the cost of healthcare as I was fishing out my insurance card and noting that my current plan wants a US$100 copay for an emergency visit and the old insurance wanted US$25, and shut up you baby you can afford it and you have all those self-employed friends that don’t have a deal anywhere near that good. We’ve seen accounts of people getting into ACA plans over the past year, and those that missed out should start researching in advance of the new open enrollment, because we also saw lots of unhelpful insurance companies trying to steer people into plans more expensive/less useful than what the ACA mandates.

And all those thoughts reminded me of something that happened last year when I got an envelope in the mail out of nowhere, and it set off my bullshit detectors because it claimed that the City of New York was sending me two cards that could be used to obtain discounts on prescription drugs.

Weirdly enough, it turned out that it was exactly what it claimed. New York City has worked out deals with large drugstores and small to offer discounts on prescription meds, and they will send a card that gets those discounts to anybody that wants one, for free, regardless of whether or not you have any connection to New York City. You can even send them to other people, which is probably how I got mine.

Great, you’re saying, that’ll do me a whole lot of good if I get sick in New York. Actually it’ll work far and wide. For example, this is the first of five pages of results for accepting pharmacies within five miles of the first address I thought to test with: that of Periscope Studio in Portland, Oregon. Hi, guys, need cheaper drugs? You’re good.

Maybe you have no need of this; maybe you’ve got a health plan — like I do — with decent prescription benefits. Or maybe you’re dealing with a pretty bare-bones plan and find out that nasty fever you got hit with last winter required some pricey drugs to let you not die. They may still be pricey with the card, but they could be considerably less pricey at no cost to you and that ain’t nothing.

So that’s the story. If my moment of terminal dumbassery means that just one of you finds it easier to obtain the care that you need in future, then it was worth it. Kinda. That cleaning really hurt, you guys.

Non-spam of the day:

  1. Bring this card to your pharmacist Over 2,000 NYC pharmacies and 58,000 pharmacies nationwide honor this card.
  2. Every time you get a prescription, show the pharmacist your card and ask for discounts on your prescription drugs.
  3. Save an average of 47% on your medications!

For more information on BigAppleRx or questions regarding your card, please contact us: or call 311 or 1-888-454-7140.

¹ The triage nurse at the ER turned pale when I tried to describe the injury and said I can’t handle fingers; come in with your arm hanging off or a screwdriver in your eye and I’m fine, but I can’t handle fingers. Don’t want to see it, let’s get you in there. How’s your pain? 10?² Okay she’ll print out your chart and then you’re going in good luck before shooing me away as quickly as possible.

In all my years of delivering people to the ER, I had never learned this simple rule to getting in to see a doctor quickly: have a condition that squicks out the triage nurse.

² It was more like a throbby 3 or 4.

³ Which was a legit 8.5 on the pain scale and a big part of why I went to the ER in the first place; no way I could have done that myself. Also, I didn’t have medical-grade superglue to get everything closed back up.