The webcomics blog about webcomics

Still Holding Out For Solo, By ChatSack With Karl Lagerfeld

Holy crap, somebody went and made Ana-Tomix. Chris Onstad is, once again, ahead of his time. Let me know when you’ve got the three-ball option, or the counterintuitive uniball model.

Okay, so the Harvey Awards. The ballot got announced yesterday and again there’s the inexplicably high number of nominations for one publisher (Valiant this time) due to block voting (it’s part of the game)¹, and again there’s an inexplicable set of nominees for the webcomics category. Let’s take a look:

Best Online Comics Work

Where to start, where to start? Once again, nominees are distinguished solely by their medium for distribution, with no regard to length, format, genre, or purpose. The longform Battlepug and Albert the Alien are up against the strip-based Bloom County and Zombie Boy, and the educational, page-oriented Oh Joy, Sex Toy. Could there someday be a recognition that OJST should be in the educational category (okay, the Harveys don’t have one, but the Eisners do, if memory serves), or at least matched up against educational comics like Your Wild City and Battlepug against Dr McNinja? Also, how is Bloom County nominated for both Best Online Comics Work and Best Syndicated Strip or Panel? The one really should preclude the other.

Then again, complaining here has no value, since this is based off of how many people nominated their own work and got their friends to do likewise. Get organized and see what you can do for next year. And while you’re plotting out the takeover of the webcomics category next year, check out the webcomickers that are competing in the print arena:

  • Giant Days (written by John Allison, art by Lissa Tremain and Max Sarin on art) and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson) are competing for Best Continuing or Limited Series against the likes of Bitch Planet and Saga
  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal (written and drawn by EK Weaver) is contending for Best Graphic Album Previously Published against five Valiant books²
  • Giant Days again, up for Best Original Graphic Publication For Younger Readers versus Lumberjanes and Over the Garden Wall (although, mysteriously, nothing by Raina Telgemeier or Kazu Kibuishi)
  • Lissa Tremain is up for Most Promising New Talent, to complement Giant Days (again!), up for Best New Series

It’s John Allison’s year, people. We’re just living in it.

Balloting for the Harveys is open until 8 August, with comics professionals eligible to vote. The awards will be presented at Baltimore Comic-Con on 5 September.


Spam of the day:

truTV PR: Media Alert: truTV’s Impractical Jokers Invade San Diego with Fan Events

Heh — Gmail has categorized an actual PR email blast as Be careful with this message. Similar messages were used to steal people’s personal information. Unless you trust the sender, don’t click links or reply with personal information. Awesome.

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¹ Then again, I see that both Terry Moore (for Rachel Rising)and Stan Sakai (for Usagi Yojimbo) are nominated as Best Cartoonist, without publisher-wide blocks behind them. That’s gotta be purely the respect of their peers, and well deserved, too.

² Take that, voting block!

Various Announcements


Things are starting, things are discontinuing, things are changing. It’s almost like time exists so we don’t have to experience all possible quantum superposition states simultaneously, causing fractured perceptions of reality and widespread insanity! So, in roughly chronological order of when they occurred:

  • Advanced notice: The Nonadventures of Wonderella by Justin Pierce is a gem; I don’t talk about it much on account of it updates on the weekends, but it’s never not worth reading, and frequently is the most biting (not to mention hilarious) cape comic currently in production. And come August, there’s gonna be some changes:

    August 27, 2016 will officially be the end of the weekly one-page schedule. From then on, I’ll update when I have a completed story to post. Based on feedback, people seem to enjoy longer comics as much as, if not more than, the shorties. But that raises a few questions, and while a lot of this is in the ether for me, I think I can answer:

    Much like Octopus Pie, I suspect that we, the Wonderella-loving public, will get net more comics than before. My advice is to stay in the habit of checking the site on Saturdays (since that’s still when new comics will drop), follow Wonderella on Twitter, or take advantage of the fact that — popular announcements in the technical press aside — Justin Pierce understands that RSS is hella useful.

  • Congratulations in order:It was closing in on midnight Saturday night, east coast time, when the news came from Nashville (courtesy of the incomparable Terry Moore in my case, who was kind enough to live-tweet results) of the NCS awards ceremony. The newest laureates for Online Comics are Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett (Short Form, for Sheldon) and Drew Weing (Long Form, for The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo). I was pulling for Meredith Gran for Long Form but honestly — when your competition is named Weing, Kellett, Holbrook, and Boulet, you can’t say you’re in bad company. Congratulations to Kellett and Weing.
  • Pretty!: It’s been a while — three years, to be precise — since the creators at Benign Kingdom released one of their famous art book collections. Too long, I say! But the attention required to coordinate so many creators (at its forming, B9K had six principals: Yuko Ota, Ananth Hirsh, KC Green, Evan Dahm, Becky Dreistadt, and Frank Gibson; they’ve since pruned themselves down to a more manageable three as Ota, Hirsh, and Green have moved on), combined with the time taken up by so many other projects (the six named above must have released between them a dozen and a half print projects, literally thousands of pages worth), means that some things get back-burnered.

    Time for the front burner, then. The Kingdom is back, with a brand-new series of four art books (or one hardcover collection), this time from Dahm, Dreistadt, Dustin Harbin, and Meredith Gran (who’s just all over today’s post). I actually saw a number of pieces that Gran’s done for her book at the Octopie launch party last week, but as the B9 book hadn’t been announced yet it wasn’t yet the time to discuss.

    In any event, it’s the usual handsome, high-quality art on offer, with a campaign that’s off to a bit of a slow start, most likely due to having launched on a holiday. It’s also worth noting that this iteration of the books is being printed in the US, so delivery will be at the end of the summer; that’s a tremendously fast turnaround, leading me to conclude that the books and layout are complete, awaiting only that sweet, sweet Kickstarter check to tell the presses to make with the printing.

  • Holy heck: It’s been twelve years since a spider tried to kill Jeff Rowland and failed? Time friggin’ flies. I still recall seeing Rowland’s necrosis get done up all cheerful-like [warning: gross] by Vera Brosgol at SPX some months later, and now I’m wondering where the hell the intervening time has gone. Glad the spider failed, Jeff!
  • Pretty! redux: Not the least because in the intervening years, you’ve turned TopatoCo into a vital resource for dozens of independent creators, including (as of today) new TopatoCo Pal™ Ursula Vernon’s art prints. Some day, I sweart I’m going to get the full set of animal saints, weather them to look old, put ’em in fancy distressed frames, and sneak them onto the walls of the local cathedral.
  • All good things: Christopher Baldwin has been doing webcomics for about forever, in every imaginable genre, but for a lot of us he’ll always be best known for Little Dee. Following a comprehensive re-run of Little Dee (with commentary), Baldwin ran twice-weekly new, classic Dee strips starting last November. Since then, he’s finished one sci-fi epic (Yontengu), started another (Anna Galactic, his fourth following Spacetrawler, One Way, and Yontengu), released a Little Dee OGN, and started planning for what comes next. And that’s enough work that something’s got to give:

    So, today is going to be the last day of daily “Little Dee” strips for now. [I]t has become harder and harder (and less fun) to focus and come up with “Little Dee” strips, and I wish to put it aside before I start putting up sub-standard work.

    If you wish me to send you an email if there is more Little Dee material to come, email me here, and I’ll add you to an email list….

    The past six months of extra Little Dee has been a gift, and thank you for it, Christopher. We’ll be waiting when you decide to revisit the forest and that deeply goofball family.

  • And not the fancy Himalayan kind, either: Today marks eight years of chalkboards (oh glob he looks so young) and children¹ from your favorite semi-pseudonymous chemical engineer, Dante Shepherd/Lucas Landherr². Happy Strippiversary, Dr Shepherd/Landherr, good luck on the currently-running Kickstart, and here’s to more chalk-encrusted comics from what is almost certainly not a rough-hewn murder basement.

Spam of the day:

thingCHARGER — Use THIS To Charge Your Devices Without Cables or Outlets

I do have things to charge, but no cables or outlets? This is gonna turn into a a thing that tries to spin some of Tesla’s more theoretical devices into a grand conspiracy by the electric companies and smart phone makers, isn’t it? Maybe next time pitch your through the aether magic charger at a guy that didn’t get a degree in electrical engineering?

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¹ Apologies to Andy Partridge.

² He’s like Two-Face, only without the murderous tendencies and numerical obsession!

I Really Thought Somebody Had Died

Screencapped that for you, Jess.

When I first checked social media this morning I was surprised when Twitter told me I had 456 unread tweets; usually an overnight is good for fewer than 200, given the number of people I follow and their sleep patterns. 250 would be a lot for one night, above that indicates something stupid happening in a Republican presidential debate that I didn’t stay up for or somebody influential kicking it.

This time, however, it was down to one person — and if you’re gonna do a serious tweetstorm, this is the one to do. [C] Spike [Trotman] has been on top of the Rat Queens brouhaha¹ and last night during her typical small hours worktime decided on a course of action:

In light of Rat Queens disappointing everybody: Women/NB creators, tweet me w/links to your cool comics starring tuff gals. I’ll RT.

There was an immediate flood of responses and Spike made with the retweets, blowing up my timelines, pausing for a while to catch some sleep before resuming some hours later. I’d be hard pressed to estimate how many creators she retweeted, but I’d say probably in the vicinity of 200-300 before giving it a rest about eight hours later. Best of all? I recognized a mere handful of the comics that got the RT treatment (and by that I mean literally five), so there’s a lot of new comics to check out.

Probably most of them aren’t great, because most of everything isn’t great. But I’ll betcha there’s 20 to 50 in that grouping that damn good to excellent, just waiting for anybody that’s got the time to start collecting links. Anybody that’s really enterprising could Storify the list; do it for the children.

In other news:

  • My evil twin announced pre-orders on his next book open on Monday along with a deadline to provide shipping info for this last Kickstarter and another deadline to register for the chance to take a tropical cruise with him. If you can think of something better to do for a week in September than spend it on a ship with my evil twin, sipping on fruity drinks and learning about writing, I don’t know what it is.
  • Speaking of Kickstarts, Dante Shepherd² announced that he’s doing another page-a-day calendar for 2017, seeing as how the 2014 one was a success³. Kickstarter went up a couple hours ago, with the able help of TopatoCo and Make That Thing.
  • Heh, when I went by the MTT page to check on Shepherd’s calendar, it told me that Jess Fink’s second Chester 5000 collection will finish its funding round in 69 hours. Yes, I am perpetually twelve years old.
  • Finally, KC Green and Anthony Clark are making the best weekly-updating comic publishing today (BACK) and they are not the sort to screw around with pre-orders or crowdfunding. No! They are men of action and when they want to print a collection of their work they by Glob go out and print it and and pay John Keogh and Britt Wilson for enhancements to the book and then they sell it, financial risks be damned. As a result, you can now purchase a copy of BACK Book 1 from the web’s finest boutiquery so go do that.

Spam of the day:

Stunning waterfront property in Michigan’s majestic Upper Peninsula
Private setting with convenient location to ATV / snowmobile trails.

Translation: no roads, no utilities, you will die out here alone. Also, for a significant portion of the year, the Upper Peninsula is cold as fuck.

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¹ Long story short — a comic about female empowerment had its original artist yanked from the book after a domestic violence arrest; other artists have since filled in. A hiatus announcement led to the current artist indicating she was removed from the book in favor of the original guy returning — meaning an abusive husband would again be drawing a book about women that don’t put up with shit, yikes.

On a personal note, literally two days before the news broke I picked up Rat Queens trade paperback one on the recommendation of my niece and loved it, having been unaware of the unsavory reputation of the original artist, and was planing on purchasing the second and third collections but now I’m not sure.

² Who is his own evil twin, or at least his own dark reflection. Which one is more like Batman?

³ He was kind enough to send me one — it took up so much space on my desk. This is not a tiny page-a-day, it has heft and also terrible jokes.

Review, Preview, Recap, And Commerce

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: I think it rests in the heart of every person — some deeply, some closer to the surface — the desire (if not always the opportunity, or the inclination) to make the metals kiss and the fuel turn lively. This time it is Ray that has the plan, and he has set Beef down and pointed him in the direction of victory.

  • There’s probably no indie creator with as recognizable a style that can be put to as many different contexts as Sophie Goldstein. Her artwork is slightly cartoony, and in the bright, colorful expression that you had in Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell you got the world’s cutest Apocalypse with a subtle, existential melancholy underneath. The environmental degradation of The Oven made use of her tendencies towards stark iamges.

    Her sense of blocky color is at its most Kochalkaesque in The Good Wife, providing a startling contrast with the body horror of the plot. Comics as different as Strands and Coyote clearly come from the same artist — and the very cynical undercurrent of the stories from the same writer — but have very different feels. Everything she does is at once the same and different.

    And most same and different of them all is House of Women, the first part of which garnered Goldstein an Ignatz Award in 2014, and the second part of which has been recently released in Goldstein’s store She was kind enough to send me a PDF copy recently and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

    Because that same style — that simple, clear style, no more lines than are absolutely necessary — is working overtime in House of Women, tackling such themes as colonization, homogenization, appropriation, gender (the males we see may as well be separate species from their corresponding females), and the breakdown of a sororal religious order as women lose the roles they chose for themselves (maiden, mother, and crone are there, but so is a fourth, a combination of the other three) and find themselves at odds.

    At first it seems to have a dim view of the titular Women — they land on a planet with the express purpose of capital-c Civilizing the poor, benighted, unenlightened, stupid natives for the benefit of their Empire — blundering about, sure of the rightness of their cause. The local advance agent — a male from Back Home, but alien in his own way — seems to be more in tune with the local planet and its natives, but he’s exploitative in his own way.

    The Women, in turn, are motivated by such noble impulses as Seeking Knowledge, Duty, Sacrifice, and Kindness, but not all those impulses turn out to be benevolent. Meanwhile, their notions of What Is Right clash against the implacable reality of biology on their alien world to tragic ends.

    Everybody’s convinced that they’re doing the best most sensible thing possible in whatever circumstances present themselves, and that’s the cause of all the troubles — nobody’s asking Do you need help? when Here’s what you need to do is available as an alternative. There’s greater tragedy coming in Part III, no doubt, and while some of it is beyond anybody’s control, a great deal is down to thinking that frontiers and other cultures are things to be messed about with. It’s an affecting, lingering read.

  • For those of you that missed the news, the newest Girl Genius book collection — The City of Lightning¹ — has gone up for pre-order on Kickstarter; as of this writing, more than 800 backers have contributed in the past three days, bringing the project to bout 75% of its US$70,000 goal. Which, granted, it a heck of a lot of money, but Kaja & Phil Foglio put together heck of beautiful books, on heavy paper, with eye-popping color (by Cheyenne Wright) on every page, and plenty of extras. Given that they historically see 3000-4000 backers, expect this one to go to the 2.5x to 3x funding level over the next three weeks.

    And look, this is the fifteenth Girl Genius collection², plus all the other print collections that the Foglios have done over the past couple decades, so they know this game. The art will be done (the strips in question ran from January to November of last year), the production work will be submitted on time, and the finished product will be in your (my) hands on time in July. The only reason not to pledge now is because you expect to see Professoressa & Professor Foglio some time after July and want the visceral thrill of handing them money in person. Me, my luggage is gonna be full enough at San Diego, so I’m pledgin’ now.m There, I just pledged.

  • If I were to name one person that I never would have met but for this blog, one person who I cannot imagine at this date being absent from my life, it would be KB “Otter” Spangler of A Girl And Her Fed. I discovered her strip in the summer of 2006 and got hooked pretty instantly; one AGAHF collection³, four tie-in novels, multiple minicomics, several terroristic threats against my person and sanity, numerous Thin Mints, and one trampling by her bear-sized dog later, Spangler and I are great friends.

    Oh yeah, her comic and her novels are stronger than ever. So there’s nothing for it but a retrospective:

    The comic will be ten years old in April! What better time to start releasing the archives on tumblr with occasional snide remarks?

    Keep in mind that Spangler’s art has come a long way in ten years, and that she’s done multiple passes at old strips to improve the art from its original state, but that her redos stop just shy of 100 strips in so pretty quickly we’ll be back to the no-eyes style that I still think of fondly (albeit with occasional snide remarks of my own). S’gonna be fun.

  • Oh, and did I mention up top that it’s Sophie Goldstein’s birthday today? And that to celebrate, she’s letting original pages from The Oven go for US$85 each, domestic shipping included? It’s her first sale of originals in years, so check out what’s still up for grabs before you miss out.

Spam of the day:

While we don’t know what the smitten Instagram star will wear on her big day

I know, I know, context is for the weak, but trust me — that sentence made absolutely zero additional sense in context.

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¹ You didn’t think sparks were going to stop at mere Light, did you?

² In fact, there is a backer level that will get you all fifteen books if you’ve slacked off until now.

³ Disclaimer: I wrote the foreword.

Kickstarts And Medical Memoirs

To be fair, I don't think it was necessary to demonstrate that Ray has a cruel sense of humor.

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: Running credit and the relative merits of recumbent Tai-Chi.

  • Well, that was fast. Between morning break and when I caught up at lunch, the lads over at Cyanide & Happiness launched, funded (about 30 minutes later), and continue to overfund (as of this writing, by about a factor of nine) a Kickstarter for a card game, Joking Hazard. Short version, it appears to be an in-person, competitive version of the C&H random comic generator. It’s Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity with pictures. It’s going to fund a million dollars (we can do a proper prediction when the Kickstart’s not two and a half hours old.
  • As a quick reminder, the Smut Peddler Double Header Kickstarter is about halfway through its run, and is just shy of US$100,000. What’s more popular? A somewhat rude card game, or hot, hot pornography? Reminder: it can be both! Success of one need not come a the expense of the other.
  • Going back to 2011, I’ve been keeping an eye on Tyler Page’s slowly-evolving Raised on Ritalin, a memoir-slash-exploration of mental health issues (specifically, ADD/ADHD) in comic form. It’s been released in chapters approximately 3 – 4 times a year, and today’s latest update bears both the tagline What does the future hold? and a notation that the next chapter will be the last. It’s been a long, sometimes painfully honest story that Page has shared with us, and while I’ll be sorry to see it go, I’ll be happier to know that he got such a monumental project finished and in shape. It’s worth a read from the beginning.

Spam of the day:
Compare and contrast —

local moms need easy sex

and

local mom in need of some very hardsex

Firstly, get your message consistent as to the hardness of the needed sex. Secondly, if you want to make people think of sex, stop using the word mom in any context in my direction because ew.

Turns Out They Don’t Work On Snow

I would have been willing to spend two or even three of my Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys coins but it turns out blizzards (70.3 cm of snow!) don’t work that way. My spine and I are going back to bed as soon as we’re done here.

  • Scott McCloud will be teaching a two day class on comics at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art on 20 – 21 February (that’s a Saturday and Sunday) in Van Nuys, California. It’s US$495 for the course, but it’s probably equivalent to at least a semester’s worth of classes at Art School™ if you want to make comics, so jump on that.
  • First noted during the blizzard thanks to the work of Fleen Senior French Correspodent Pierre Lebeaupin, cartoonist extraordinaire Boulet had released a do-it-yourself avatar-o-matic, the products of which I’m already starting to see pop up on Twitter. I’ma have to play around with this.

    FSFC Lebeaupin is also staying on top of the ongoing Angoulême story, and we’ll be looking to him for his reactions on the eventual winner of the Grad Prix, and whether or not the voters take the opportunity to leave off for a year.

  • This makes so much sense I’m surprised it didn’t happen before today: Angela Melick, engineer and cartoonist, now has a Patreon. Jam’s one of the best — do support her.
  • Of course Jim Zub is announcing another series that he’ll be writing for Marvel (Thunderbolts this time). It’s what he does.
  • Diana Nock (of Intrepid Girlbot fame) is launching a new webcomic, Wonderlust, today-ish, with five pages, so be sure to scroll back to the beginning. It’s too soon to make a recommendation, but Nock’s past work makes this worth a look.
  • There’s a new Science Comic from Dante Shepherd, this one illustrated by Matt Lubchanksy on the topic of heat exchangers.


Spam of the day:
So, you guys know that I’ve been in an ongoing dispute with Verizon, which is why it’s especially amusing that they sent this:

Jonas is coming, are you ready?
The most common storm-related occurance is a power outage which can affect your Fios® by Verizon services.

Consider:

  1. I don’t have FIOS. They know this, despite the fact that they’ve been trying to upsell me FIOS in lieu of fixing my DSL, and oh yeah — FIOS is available in my area.
  2. They sent this oh-so-helpful prep email approximately 03:11 on Sunday, after the snow had been stopped for some six hours.
  3. They sent it again twelve hours later.

So in addition to an ongoing dispute, Verizon apparently believes I have the ability to go back in time by 36 – 48 hours.

Holy Book

What’s this package with no return address and a mess of British stamps on it?, I asked myself. One quick rip of the opening strip later, I had an answer: my personal philosophy encapsulating notebook, courtesy of Stefan Johnson’s Book Block Kickstarter campaign; a bit late, but absolutely exactly what I wanted in all of its Figure 1 glory. This is enough to make me carry a sketchbook to conventions again.

And, per the letter included with the delivery, the Book Block team are gearing up to launch a commercial upload/customization service in the coming months; keep your eyes on www.bookblock.com in the near future if you want to get in on it.

  • I realize that January is not, traditionally speaking, an especially spooky time of year (Straubian efforts notwithstanding), but there’s a nice bit of info for those of you that are interested in good, hearty scares. Namely: Abby Howard (whose The Last Halloween just pulled an eleventh-hour reversal on us and now I have no idea where the story is going, in the best possible manner) has announced a new website for her short horror projects, which makes it easy to find some really great work. Bookmark Terror Town to get your short- to mid-length startles on, which so far has features Howard teaming up with writers.

    I love Howard’s take on what’s truly scary, but seeing her work in somebody else’s voice makes it somehow even more unsettling — I’ve perhaps gotten used to how Howard would develop a scene and to see her pictures following a different pace and progression makes everything more a surprise. And you can purchase these comics for your very own in both digital and physical forms, so you’re helping Abby make a living being Abby, which is the very best thing you can do. Check ‘er out.

  • The Verge has a nice roundup of upcoming comics adaptations to film and/or TV, as compiled by one of my favorite former writers at The AV Club, Tasha Robinson. Of particular interest to those of us that dig the web-slash-indy comics scene: Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet¹, Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail², Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor³, Jeff Smith’s RASL4, and the omnipresent Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona5.
  • Continuing their involvement with the community while awaiting a new home, San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum is about to have the first of a traveling series of events to be held on the third Thursday of the month, hosted each time at a different Bay Area museum. The inaugural Traveling Third Thursday will be next week, 21 January, at the Museum of the African Diaspora in Yerba Buena.

    The program runs from 5:00pm to 8:00pm, and is free and open to the public. This first event will feature Ajuan Mance, CM Campbell, and Myisha Haynes; those attending can pick up a wristband at MoAD good for all-night happy hours at area bars and restaurants. For info on events in the coming months, visit thirdthursdaysf.wordpress.com.


Spam of the day:

It will flop out of his pants and into you

Oooo, floppy. That’s not half-hearted and mediocre at all!

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¹ With book 7 getting ready to release, this one’s got franchise written all over it.

² From her kids-lit career as opposed to her webcomics career, but man it would be great to get a Digger adaptation.

³ That’s gonna take an SFX budget and a half.

4 I love RASL but where the heck is our BONE movie Hollywood do you hate making money or something.

5 About which enough good can never be said.

Super Slow Today

I mean, there’s some stuff that isn’t necessarily news, like Jim Zub having a critically-acclaimed run on Samurai Jack comics and now they just so happen to announce a revival of the series for Cartoon Network? We all suspected that would happen when all the Jack fans realized how much they’d missed the show and said so repeatedly during the comic’s twenty issues. TopatoCo rolling out a bunch of new merch for your gift-giving needs? Various creators stocking up, bemoaning the drudgery of shipping, or pointing out forthcoming order deadlines if you want to get stuff in time for your soltice-adjacent holiday? Terrible people insulting my mom¹? No surprises there.

  • But there was one bit that I’d consider newsy, and that is that Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett² will be doing a live chat tomorrow, 4 December, at 1:30pm Central Time via the Twitters. Hit up @GoComics with hastag #AskDaveKellett³ and find out what’s up in LA these days. Can’t imagine what else you’d want to ask him.
  • Annnd I was just about to put this to bed when some news dropped into my lap, and made me into a horrible liar about the quietness of the day; still keeping everything up there, though. Via a Kickstarter update, Dean Trippe announced something fairly large about the much-delayed Something Terrible:

    I’m very pleased to announce that Iron Circus Comics will be handling both the publishing and the reward fulfillment for this project, and everything is proceeding along much quicker with their much-needed assistance.

    What with Iron Circus honcho/showrunner/chief cook and bottle-washer (it’s like that with single proprietorships) C Spike Trotman opening up solicitations for her publishing services, and what with her reaching out to Trippe on the Twitters earlier this week, I should have guessed something was up between them. This is great news all around for several reasons.

    1. It’s clear that the publishing and fulfillment have overwhelmed Trippe; I have my belief why that’s happened, others have theirs. Point is, Spike’s the sort of person that makes things happen, so backers are now absolutely going to get their books sooner than they would have otherwise.
    2. To quote Spike from her part of Trippe’s announcement, Something Terrible is an important book, and it needs to be out there where people can find it; bookstores, libraries, comic shops. I want every backer to leave this project with what they ordered, and I want to do my part to make sure this happens. Whatever you may think of Trippe’s logistical follow-through or about him as a person (again, I have my opinion), the importance of his book is pretty much inarguable. Anything that gets it to the person that doesn’t yet know how much it’s needed is a net good in a world that desperately needs it.

    Not so slow today after all. Cool.


Spam of the day:

Do you like a screamer? Want to see what happens in bed?

Moaners yesterday, screamers today, are these the only noises that fake porn sites care about? What about people into grunting, or honking, or squeaking or squawking or barking or or bleating or burbling? Probably somebody’s into sexual partners that moo or only express their pleasure in Seussian rhyming couplets. I ain’t gonna judge.

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¹ Not that she probably doesn’t deserve it. My name is Gary, I’m in my late 40s and don’t get on with my Mom. Hi, Gary.

² Which is how GoComics described him when launching weekly re-runs of Drive and how he will always be referred to on this page. Tough break, LArDK.

³ It would be hilarious if the tag was #AskLosAngelesresidentDaveKellett, but that would bring you down to under 100 characters right there, so I suppose we can forgo it.

Calendrical!

Okay, we’re talking about other paper-based webcomic-related items, but since a couple of them are specifically calendars, I got to use one of my favorite words for the title. That alone makes it a good day.

  • Firstly, the intrepid David Malki ! has announced the 2016 iteration of his Wondermark calendars, with various bonuses if you’re special. For example, purchasers of four or more previous Wondermark calendars are heroes in his eyes and get a special plague plaque to display along with the calendar. There’s also original art left over from the 2014 calendar up for grabs, and the entire release remains a limited edition of … actually I couldn’t find the edition size but the last couple of years have been 250.

    In any event, the calendar is progressive (you’re always looking at the current two-week block and the next, instead of waiting until the end of the month to flip the page and see the first of the next), and the entire thing is one of the classiest items you can put in your home or place of work.

  • A somewhat more traditional calendar (month at a time, big ol’ piece of artwork) was also announced today from We Love Fine for the Homestuck in your life. Artwork by Evan Dahm, KC Green, Mary Cagle, Caitlyn Humprhies, Cole Ott, M Harding, Matt Cummings, Mallory Dyer, Adrienne Garcia, Xamag, Shelby Cragg, Jonathan Griffiths, and Gina Chacon. I’m guessing that Green’s contribution includes Sweets Brougham and Helpful Geoff, so maybe just burn that month instead of looking at it.
  • Fans of calendars that let you look at a whole year at time and also the Fat Pony will want to check out Kate Beaton’s 2016 calendar, although I personally find it outrageous to consider that the pony doesn’t fart until December.
  • Other paper goods: greeting cards that open a new front in the War on Christmas, courtesy of Zach Weinersmith and assorted artists. It turns out Christmas is not only beset by liberal pants-wetting secular humanists, but now also by the ultrareligious types that love Jesus more than you ever could and are putting a second Christ in Christmashrist. the collection is worth it just for the Abby Howard design of high-fiving socks-and-sandals Jesuses (Jesii?)?
  • Finally, today marks the release of Gotham Academy issue #12, the last to be illustrated by Karl Kerschl. I’ve enjoyed the book over the past year, in no small part because I will read anything Kerschl illustrates, up to and including the phone book. But I’m excited at the possibility that with the end of his involvement with GA, Kerschl will have the time to return to his interminably great The Abominable Charles Christopher.

    It’s been just under a year since the strip updated, and even longer since there was a Kerschl strip instead of a guest strip. Charles, Gilgamesh, and all the denizens of the forest (including the nefarious Sissi Skunk and Luga, the only honest cop) have about a year’s worth of stories left to tell. We’ll see if Charles Christopher wraps up before or after the much-hyped Dark Knight III series¹, but I know where my money is: Karl don’t shiv.


Spam of the day:

joaniemoans24: Do you like moaners in bed?

The only question I have is what joaniemoans1 through 23² think about this.

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¹ The original telling of which 30 years ago remains a formative influence on Kerschl, and for which he has contributed at least one variant cover.

² Or possibly joaniesmoans? Can I get a ruling on this, Ryan North?

Fleen Book Corner: The Enthusiast

We’ll be getting to the review in just a moment, but did everybody see the 2015 Gift Guide from The AV Club? It appears to disproportionately recommend merch from TopatoCo-affiliated creators, with a @GOPTeens t-shirt (also available in pink), Night Vale socks, and six separate artistic statements from Brandon Bird. I’m not saying that AV Club copy editor Gwen Ihnat is obsessed with Bird, but she single-handedly made his products nearly 12% of the entire guide.


Josh Fruhlinger is a friend to comics; he’s spent a sometimes-thankless eleven-plus years picking apart the mediocre and inexplicable denizens of the comics pages looking for the occasional gem of batshit insanity (Mary Worth has a stalker and a neighbor with a meth lab!) or banal inoffensiveness that somehow transcended all reason (creepy blinking eyes in For Better Or For Worse and unending depression in Funky Winkerbean). His blog features one of exactly two comment sections that I will voluntarily read, a testament to purpose with which he has imbued his commentariat. He is funny, able to detect unintended irony at twenty paces, and utterly devoted to things whose heydays were decades ago (Mark Trail, Judge Parker, the entire Walker-Browne humor-approximating amalgamation).

He is directly responsible for the Archie Joke Generating Laugh Unit 3000 and undoubtedly inspired Funky Cancercancer and My Mother Is F’in Insane. In short, he is a voice of wry amusement in the barren, largely humorless world of the increasingly inappropriately-named funny pages, and he has brought all of those skills to bear in his first novel, The Enthusiast; Fruhlinger kindly set me a pre-final copy for review, and now you get to hear about it with uncharacteristically few spoilers but a fair amount of meandering. It’s the kind of book that forces you to look at lots of different things from different perspectives, revisiting some and digging into others that are new, synthesizing something from disparate maybe-nothings.

Bear with me for a bit; I promise it will make more sense.

Since I finished The Enthusiast, I’ve found myself wanting to go back and watch Merchants of Cool¹, a nearly 15 year old episode of Frontline, about the business types trying to figure out youth culture so it can sell that culture back to those who are living it, and ideally to those who aren’t yet. Such cool hunting can manifest in profoundly clumsy attempts, like a PR firm that ’bout five-six years back paid models to go to trendy New York bars and loudly order particular brands of vodka² to try to create clandestine buzz. It turns out when a stunningly attractive blonde won’t talk about anything except a particular brand of vodka (in weirdly repetitive soundbites) that she isn’t actually drinking, people are more creeped out than likely to buy booze.

Another example: we’ve all seen the futile, flopsweat-covered attempts of corporations to will into being a viral ad campaign, or to make a social media component (often gamified) of their incredibly staid website into the next Facebook. Okay, you can’t practically hear the executives thinking, we’ve made it like what we think that last popular thing was, so it will automatically become self-perpetuating and beloved … now! They never quite cotton to the fact that Facebook (which is much better at being Facebook than any wannabe) was an organic/accidental success before it became an actual success (and then, later, a ruthlessly engineered success … turns out you can will brain-stickiness into being, but only if you’re reinforcing the position you already hold). This is world in which Fruhlinger decides to play, and it’s like PR by way of Calvinball.

The agency that Fruhlinger describes (Subconscious Agency by name) is more subtle than the clumsy attempts at culture exploitation in that it’s not looking for cool, it’s looking for what people already love in niches that can be indirectly commodified. The right twenty people can (with the right manipulation) preach to the right three hundred, who carry along the right ten thousand, all without trace. If Subconscious Agency actually existed, the nerd-hype movies out of SDCC would have groundswelled to become bona fide blockbuster hits instead of borderline flops (looking at you, Snakes On A Plane) or critically-lauded low-sellers (howdy, Scott Pilgrim vs The World).

Which isn’t to say that such undertakings don’t exist — by its nature, it would have to operate under the radar, never letting on that careful nurturing of naturally-occurring enthusiasm, directed to the right place at the right time, causes changes out of all reasonable expectation. For example, it would explain some portion of the loud, disproportionate success of Donald Trump’s political career.

Subconscious Agency feels like a character — it’s shown to have an evolving nature and a carefully developed eusocial structure; it’s even got an absolute boss ensconced in her office like a queen bee, directing her hive mind the way she wants it to go. We learn their mission and structure and methods gradually, pulling us in and building up our interest into an absolute belief that this is how the world really works. It’s the cheeriest depiction of secret masters of the world you’ll ever read — Illuminati by way of twentysomething urban professional borderline hipsters.

This layer-at-a-time building, this involvement of our own desires to learn more without it being obvious that we’re being led by the hand? That’s possibly Fruhlinger’s neatest trick, where the structure of the book mimics the central thesis: in our modern world, attention is just another resource to be mined and refined and expended in the marketplace, preferably without too much notice being drawn. Let others be the hunters and merchants of cool; Subconscious Agency domesticates and selectively breeds its subjects without them ever being aware of it.

For Kate, our heroine, the subjects she’s juggling are a pair of distinct nerderies — train and transit fans (particularly as relates to the Washington, DC metro system) and a soap opera comic strip that’s seen better days (clearly inspired by Apartment 3G, which closed up shop some 10 days ago, and which was a beloved favorite of Fruhlinger’s snarkblogging). Fruhlinger’s got an innate ear for what happens when people care about something too much and find like-minded people online — they immediately and collectively become a comments section³, with all that implies.

Wrangling the unwrangleable (shut up, it is too a word), directing the undirected id of the online is Kate’s mission, which eventually involves some light trespassing, Hollywood types, the soul-killing thought of another August on DC’s Blue Line with no goddamn air conditioning and that weird smell in the carpet, Euro EDM, an unmovable force that doesn’t care about money or fame, and the existential question of what happens when you wonder about your own enthusiasm for enthusiasm. Questions become plans become actions become reactions become more questions, threatening to spin either completely out of control or into a state of control so profound as to lose all joy … possibly both at the same time.

The Enthusiast is tailor-made for anybody that’s ever been convinced that somebody else loves a thing you love in the wrong way4, which is to say anybody that’s been online in the past couple of decades. It’s a look at shared-interest cultures and the attempts to co-opt them, written from a perspective that couldn’t have existed just a few years ago5; I think we’ll see similar tropes from other writers with increasing frequency in the future.

It’s funny, thought-provoking, somewhat paranoia-inducing, and when you think on it a little too much, resembles a what hybrid of Escher, Moebius, and Mandlebrot would look like if they took the form of words6. It’s a hell of a debut novel, and will nudge you, tug you, poke you, until you want to tell others about it. Don’t worry, though — you can still tell yourself that you liked it before it was cool.

Josh Fruhlinger’s The Enthusiast launches with a big party in LA in two weeks time. It will be available for your purchase just as soon as Make That Thing gets its hands on the print run and into the mail to the Kickstarter backers that funded its production.


Spam of the day:

On behalf of everyone at San Diego Concierge, we would like to wish you and your family a very safe and happy Thanksgiving! We are deeply grateful for the continued support of all of our client.

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly have no idea what this is about.

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¹ Which you really should watch because you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a serious PBS correspondent try to tease meaning from a screaming call-and-response between Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J on the one hand, and a teeming crowd of juggalos on the other. Apparently, they like titty fucking.

² Vodka largely having no appeal beyond the bottle design and how much the person you’re trying to sleep with has bought into the marketing campaign.

³ Which can go one of two ways:

  1. Varying degrees of low-level hostility occasionally erupting into all-out flamewars and public meltdowns
  2. A culture can form, with an accepted set of unspoken rules and only the occasional crankypants showing up to try to crap in the punchbowl and not much succeeding at that provocation

4 AKA Someone is wrong on the internet.

5 It requires being of such a culture long enough to internalize it, but also having the skills to observe from the inside with the perspective of an outsider. Fruhlinger, with a degree in Classics, may be uniquely suited to this task.

6 Also if Escher, Moebius, and Mandlebrot were regularly called posers and instructed to eat a bag of dicks by COMICNOVELUVVER69.