The webcomics blog about webcomics

In Which 439 Is A Big Round Number

You wouldn’t think so, but it is — that’s the number of pieces in the latest Baffler! from Chris Yates, the 3000th in the series. Five layers deep, colors all but indistinguishable from layer to layer, it’s a work of art. Serious enquiries only, please.

Other Big Round Numbers to note:

  • If I’ve followed the news a’right, today marks the 4000th strip at Unshelved. That’s a lot of stories from the library (what, didn’t you know that every single Unshelved strip, including the most horrifying ones, are completely true and taken directly from writer Gene Ambaum’s life?). Congrats to the webcomics power duo of Ambaum and Bill Barnes, and here’s to another 4000.
  • Hey, know what’s almost the same as 4000 strips? 400. What? It’s only one digit different. Anyways, fans of the Greatest Superhero Ever will want to make a special effort to see what Wonderella’s up to on Saturday, as that will be strip #400. I bet she jumps hella high and also yells at Hitlerlla and maybe also teaches a lesson. It’s what superheroes do.

Not big round numbers:


Spam of the day:

fleen.com, with region cricket, a well known fact their co-workers may state in order to as well as bemoan within equivalent amounts.

I spend a tidy sum to spray for region crickets, so I’ll thank you not to imply we have them.

Hooray For RSS!

It’s been described as outdated, and the webcomics-centric RSSPect even closed its doors recently, but RSS is still worth the very minimal effort it takes to subscribe to a feed or check it once a day. Why, without RSS, I don’t know how many people would have known about the imminent return of Tüki Save The Humans.

What’s that? You didn’t know that Tüki was coming back from hiatus¹? Well, let me point you towards the announcement, which I received via RSS:

The wait is almost over!
Season Two of Tüki Save the Humans is set to kick off here on boneville on Monday afternoon, June 9th! We are also working on a Social Media campaign that will widen our presence on the web! Thanks to all our readers for the support on our recently won, Rueben Award [for online strip -- long form]! [emphasis original]

Okay, you might have seen that if you’d been in the habit of checking the Boneville blog, but otherwise you probably wouldn’t have known, as I haven’t seen the announcement anywhere else yet. So do Smith a favor, and spread the word — Tüki is back, and that can only be a good thing.

Speaking of RSS feeds, I’m not the only one that feels fondly about them — the redoubtable R Stevens likes ‘em so much, he wears his heart on² his sleeve, or at least his chest. Alas, the RSS shirt design is being retired to make room for new stuff³, so it’s on sale now for US$15 while they last. The technology persists even while the shirt needs must go, but given the quality of shirts that Stevens (and everybody else that sources from Brunetto) vends, it’ll last roughly forever, or at least until RSS gets replaced by DBS (Direct Brain Syndication, which won’t be creepy at all).


Spam of the day:

fleen.com, recommend which you reply simply by discussing a location regarding development, yet swiftly increase everything you already are carrying out to be able to improve in which talent.

The robot uprising has come, and they’re starting with blogspam.

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¹ The original plan was that Tüki would run in 24-page chapters, one page a day, three days a week, taking two months. Then, there would be a two month hiatus to prep up the next chapter. By that schedule, we should have seen the launch of chapter two in April, and just been wrapping it up about now. A’course, some of the time between the end of chapter one and April was taken up retooling the website, which was pretty necessary.

Please note, I am not criticizing Jeff Smith for not following the original plan. The man can produce his comics on whatever damn schedule he feels like and I’ll be there to read it, and come next month, to buy the reprint of the first issue. Fortunately, reading things on whatever schedule may come is really easy, because RSS feed.

² <sigh> Yes, yes, Hurrr … he said heart-on. You’re very clever.

³ Quote from the announcement that Stevens sent out via — you guessed it — RSS.

Unexpected Pleasures

Click to embiggen.

Oh my goodness I’m not sure which of these surprises I should share first. Coin flip! Okay!

  • Raina Telgemeier — previously noted on this page (and all other pages that matter) as one of our cartooning national treasures — graphic novelist par excellence and 100-week New York Times bestselling author, must have gotten a thrill this morning on seeing some respect thrown her way by that most establishment of all cultural endeavours, the syndicated comics page.

    Smile got some love from Mark Tatulli¹ Heart of the City strip for today², and given the setup of Heart and her mom arguing about whether graphic novels count as book books, may continue to have its praises sung for the next day or so. I’m guessing that Telgemeier has got to be feeling pretty great right about now.

  • About ten months ago, in the dead of the night, the greatest thing known to mankind up to that time was unleashed on an unsuspecting world. I speak, naturally of Tom McHenry’s Horse Master: The Game of Horse Mastery, which laid bare essential lessons about the nature of life, and horses, and the importance of mastering your horse. I’m proud to say that I joined the ranks of Horse Masters, and I have the bleeding stump of a little finger³ to prove it.

    Literally and without any exaggeration whatsoever, life could not be any better than when one is horse-mastering.

    Until now, at least for those going to TCAF this weekend, for McHenry has been busy:

    In case you missed it last night, this is a thing that exists for TCAF

    3 glow in the dark buttons, a completely unnecessary full-color instruction manual, the whole game on a horse-shaped USB drive.

    All in this stylish #HorseMaster box: pic.twitter.com/8FNsDIzMGV

    Then I wept, for I am not going to TCAF. But then McHenry assuaged my grief4:

    Ordering info for non-TCAF goers will come soon!

    And there was much rejoicing, and the pupae of horses everywhere did swell with quickening tendrils, waiting for the day they could ripen, and escape, and feed.

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¹ Tatulli actually does two strips and while Heart of the City is pretty okay, his silent and subversive Liō may be the most brilliant thing left in syndication.

² That link may go away in the future, so please enjoy the permanently-linked version at the top of this page.

³ Not to mention a drug habit, criminal record, and seared-in memories of too many teeth in a gaping maw to go along with it. These are the prices of ascending to the political and social elite.

4 And coincidentally probably removed the need on my part to physically harm one or more of the friends that would go to TCAF, for a true Horse Master would let nothing stand in his or her way of obtaining this treasure; not family, not friendship, not blood. Oh glob, so much blood.

Fundamental Rules

Ah, webcomics. You have mysterious ways, rules that are unique to your world, rules which are not always apparent even to you. Sometimes they work for you, sometimes they work against you.

  • In the working for you domain, Kris Straub ran up against one of the fundamental rules of webcomics — the First Law of Fanart states that If you make something cool, other people will make new stuff inspired by you. Naturally, said new stuff is subject to Sturgeon’s Law, but even the ninety percent can give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside: I inspired somebody! And that last ten percent? Sometimes it’s very, very good:

    Several months ago, David Graey, a composer/performer and fan of Broodhollow, let me listen to a piece he wrote for Curious Little Thing. I was really impressed, and even more impressed to learn he had an entire album in him. It’s now on sale — 33 minutes of soundtrack music for the first Broodhollow book! 13 tracks and a digital booklet of liner notes from David and myself!

    To sum: a musically-inclined person was inspired by Straub’s webcomic, and put together compositions good enough to make into a product with Straub’s blessing and cooperation. Graey and Straub¹ make a little money, we get to hear some scarily-appropriate music, and Graey may find himself the Patrick Doyle, Danny Elfman, Howard Shore, or James Horner of webcomics. Seriously, how great would it be for a very mood-specific soundtrack to be released with your favorite reprint collection? Say, Table Titans, Monster Pulse, Family Man, or Vattu? Just think about it, creators, okay?

  • In the didn’t even know it was there domain, hidden metadata regarding your site, which affects the advertising you might be able to obtain for your screen real estate. Jennie Breeden and her husband Obby saw a sudden and unexplained drop-off in the advertising rates for The Devil’s Panties and it took some digging to find out why. Bottom line: a seven-part score of the — let’s say respectability — of the site decided that on the Adult Content scale, Breeden’s autobio was judged as unsavory as hardcore streaming porn.

    The process of finding out that these scores exist, correlating them to advertising efforts, and the possibility of getting them adjusted to reflect reality are the subject of a technical writeup at Medium that you need to see if you ever use (or may in the future use) advertising on your site. The (so far) rather opaque nature of the TRAQ (for that’s what it’s called) scores and the not-terribly-well-defined process for getting bad scores re-evaluated underscore the importance of a fundamental rule: the First Law of Your Website’s Reputation states that nobody will care about your site as much as you do, and you ignore attempts of others to characterize you and your content on their terms at your peril.

  • In the nothing is ever static domain, a reminder that the infrastructure of the modern internet is always changing — Kickstarter announced that in addition to their project categories, there will now be subcategories. The oft-used (at least by readers of this page) Comics category now has five subsidiaries, Anthologies, Comic Books, Events, Graphic Novels, and Webcomics.

    The greater granularity may make it easier to avoid ill-fated projects like the guy who has the greatest comic book idea ever but has never actually made a comic book and those that look at Kickstarter as the magic money machine. I have a feeling that these doomed projects will tend fall into the Comic Books category, with some spilling over into Graphic Novels. Webcomics, I have a feeling, will be for people that have a body of work you can look at and judge, and Anthologies the same thing writ large, as there will be multiple people whose work you can judge. Events will most likely remain a wildcard.

    I know that you’re expecting a fundamental rule at this point, and I have to go back more than 30 years to cite something I heard that I’ve since come to think of as the First Law of Ubiquity: don’t reference anything (in entertainment or advertising or business) you’d have to explain to your audience. Kickstarter’s audience may be somewhat more internet-savvy than the general population, but not by a tremendous amount. Yet there it is: Webcomics, without further explanation. I’d say that’s only a good thing.

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¹ Himself no slouch in the musical realm.

All This And A Life Lesson From Ramses Luther, Too

The biggest missed opportunity of my life was when I attended the Chris Onstad/Great Outdoor Fight signing at Bergen Street Comics (RIP) and Clover Club, and when he asked who I wanted sketched in my copy I neglected to say Ramses Luther Smuckles. True story.¹ Anyway, The Man With The Blood On His Hands is back, with inner piece and advice for safer motoring.

  • I’ve been obsessively reading and re-reading each installment of Kate Beaton’s latest reminiscence of her time in the Alberta tar sands, Ducks, as they’ve been released over the past week or so. All five parts are now collected in one place and they are mandatory reading.

    The tar sands are fraught with political controversy and subtext (in both Canada and the US, as it’s tar sands oil that will be shipped if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved), but Beaton’s story is — as always — focused on the people who find themselves at the center of the great events rather than the events themselves:

    It is a complicated place, it is not the same for all, and these are only my own experiences there. It is a sketch because I want to test how I would tell these stories, and how I feel about sharing them. A larger work gets talked about from time to time. It is not a place I could describe in one or two stories. Ducks is about a lot of things, and among these, it is about environmental destruction in an environment that includes humans.

    As much as I love her takes on history and literature (I don’t think better one-off comics exist than Beaton’s takes on on Musashi and Henson), the autobio comics are the pinnacle of Beaton’s craft. I could read her conversations with her younger self, or the small moments with her parents, or stories from Fort McMurray (which read like a war veteran’s tales of survival) for the rest of my life and never grow tired of them.

  • Happy Tenthiversary to Chris Yates, who has been constructing the world’s most colorful, creative, and baffling puzzles for ten years now. To share the joy, it’s free shipping (US & Canada; discounted elsewhere) on Baffler!s all month, with free lucky cactus toys in every order. And as long as we’re doing the numbers, it appears that the highest-numbered Baffler! on Yates’s site is #2899, meaning just about 290 puzzles a year for ten years, or an average of one Baffler! every 30 hours. Watch them fingers around the scroll-saw blade, Chris, and keep puzzlecutting like a madman.
  • The Harvey Awards are now accepting nominations for the best of comics produced in 2013; I’m sure that you can think of some that deserve consideration, but allow me a moment of politicking if you will — if you sumbitches don’t nominate Something Terrible for every damn category that it would qualify for, you suck.

    A quick scan of the ballot would suggest Best Cartoonist, Best Letterer, Best Inker, Best Colorist, Best Cover Artist, Best Single Issue or Story, Best Online Comics Work, Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation (Any Book, Magazine, Film, or Video That Contributes to the Understanding of Comics as an Artform), and Most Promising New Talent² as plausible categories. I’m sure you can think of other works deserving of notice, but this one’s an imperative. Go. Do.

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¹ I did get a very nice sketch of Cornelius Bear so that’s all good; it’s just … I could have had a sketch of Ramses Luther Smuckles!

² Okay, Dean Trippe’s not exactly a new talent here, but that hasn’t stopped anybody in the past.

Kickstarter Updates

I was already going to be writing about Kickstarter campaigns when Scott Kurtz made a damn good observation on Twitter:

It’s interesting to follow “pay me to make a webcomic” Kickstarter campaigns, and 6 months to a year later, see who actually DID anything.

The first thought I had was Man, Scott’s very possibly talking about personal friends and acquaintances in that statement; I hope they don’t get mad at him. My second thought was, No, actually, I hope they’re smart enough to take his observation to heart. I suppose that’s why when I have (rarely) backed a Kickstarter that’s designed to launch a comic; I’m always looking for something concrete up front (which, if I get it, tends to bode well for an actually-regular webcomic).

The Last Halloween? I got some pins and a recipe for Sadness Brownies¹. Sufficiently Remarkable? Digital goods, including an audio recording of creator Maki Naro telling a terrible joke. Those were all I convinced myself I was ever going to get, and not only did I get them, but both comics are updating according to schedule, pretty much².

Others … haven’t done so well, either at launching at the promised time³, or at keeping updates coming; I really don’t want to get into names, mostly because for any that I might mention, there were probably three others that weren’t even on my radar. Not that I have much reason to complain about campaigns that I didn’t back (I’ve cut waaaay back on my Kickstarter habit in the past few months), but it’s something to always keep in the back of your mind — Does this project owner convince me that he or she will be able to get/keep their act together?

Let’s talk about some Kickstarts that I have confidence will be made good on in a timely fashion, then:

  • Update! Dean Trippe’s magnificent, haunting, win-all-the-awards Something Terrible has six days to go; it’s a little under US$35,000 (of a US$6400 goal) at this writing, and closing in on the US$36K stretch goal of an added epilogue and fancier book design. He’s dead in the middle of the Fleen Predicted Total, but I would be happy to have underestimated this one.
  • Update! My buddy Otter’s wonderful, funny, tense novels-to-audiobooks project is over goal, approaching the stretch goal where we can get the audiobooks on a cool USB drive, and pushing towards the stretch goal where Braille conversions (and donations to libraries serving the visually-impaired) happen. It’d be cool to get bonus stories and challenge coins but let’s get that Braille conversion done, yeah? Little more than three weeks for that to happen.
  • New Kickstarter! Jesse Thorn, impressario of the Maximum Fun empire, wants to have a conference of independent creators in LA later this year, and that’s going to cost some US$120,000. Aside from the fact that Thorn’s various podcasts have given props to webcomics on numerous occasions (and that MaxFun’s merch is handled by TopatoCo), one of the keynote speakers at the Make Your Thing conference (for that is its name) will be webcomics own Kate Beaton. She may be branching out into other areas of creativity, but comics about history and literature and her younger self will always be where she started.

    And crap, look at the other people gonna be there: Jay Allison, Jane Espenson, Chris Gethard, Merlin Mann, Vernon Reid (!), and John Vanderslice were just the names that jumped out at me the most. Word is trickling out, which is why MYT is currently sitting at 2% of goal, with a predicted finish around 65%, but we’re only three hours in and I hope to see that much higher by this time tomorrow.

    This one deserves some traction, but I fear that the relatively high price points for the campaign — US$25: stickers, thank you email, update announcements; US$100: add video access to the conference and a t-shirt; US$400: add a ticket to the conference and gift bag — are going to be a sticking point. For a three-day professional-type conference US$400 is actually pretty realistic, but how many small-scale creators are going to be able to drop four hundo (plus travel expenses)? I hope this one makes goal, but ask me again in a couple days if it will.

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¹ Which might be the bestest brownies I’ve ever had. Well done, TLH creator Abby Howard!

² Within experimental error, given year-end family obligations, technical issues, etc.

³ Granted, Kickstarter has a long and hallowed history of things not happening when they were supposed to, but there’s a lot less lead time involved in getting a website up and running, even a rudimentary one and getting stuff made by vendors on the other side of the world then shipped to me so I can ship it to you (even before you encounter completely unpredictable events like ships turning back when partway across the Pacific).

Aaaaaaahhhhh!!

PS: Aaaaaahhhhh!!

Holy crap, this thing is big — physically imposing, heavy enough to be a cause of death if rapidly applied to the base of the skull, and it even smells imposing. Thank you Mr Malki !, this will keep me busy roughly forever. So busy, in fact, that everybody else today gets quick updates instead of long writeups.

  • The latest wine-learnin’ class from Kristen Siebecker¹, spoken of in the beforetimes, is upon us², with an emphasis on winter-friendly wines at 7:00pm on Thursday, 30 January, at West Elm in Chelsea. As is her custom, Siebecker has extended a discount to those using the code EMAIL10.
  • Herr Doktor Professor Dante Shepherd is about to celebrate a Big Round Number at Surviving The World, and we at Fleen would like to wish him a hearty congratulations a day in advance. Tonight he may be partying like it’s strip #1999, but tomorrow he erupts into the rarefied company of those that have achieved 2000 strips. If my math is correct, he will be one of a literal handful³ of PhD-holding webcomickers to achieve such a feat4.
  • Dave Kellett put up a future plan for himself today, and what jumped out at me was item #6:

    6.) MYSTERY PROJECT: In about 2-4 years, when things calm down a bit, I’m also going start on a new “mystery” project. I can’t say much about it, other than to say… it’ll channel a very different side of my creativity, it’ll take me about a year to complete, and that it’ll be super fun to do.

    It caught my eye because the last time Kellett put up future plan for himself, not quite four years ago, item #4 jumped out at me:

    4.) MYSTERY PROJECT: In addition to Sheldon and Drive, I should mention that I’ve started up a third project that I’m very excited about, but which I can’t really talk about yet. I know, I know…it’s sounds very third-grade of me to bring up a project that I can’t talk about. But here’s what I can say: I’m very excited about it, it’s my first collaborative piece since the “How to Make Webcomics” book, it both is and is not comics-related, and I think it’ll be right up your alley, when it comes time to announce it. More than that, I can’t say. But good things are a-comin’.

    That mystery project turned out to be STRIPPED, which is now so close I can taste it. One can only speculate what this mystery project will be, only we already know that it’s not a film as he took care of those possibilities in item #5. Damn, Dave, you ain’t got to conquer every creative medium known to the species.

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¹ Whose name would apparently translate as they becker from the original German. Names aside, Kristen pretty much put together the first MoCCA Festival, laying the groundwork for all that has occurred since.

² And by us I mean those of us who are within easy travel of Manhattan, and of legal drinking age, and have a desire to up their wine game.

³ This would be a cartoon-style three-fingers-plus-thumb hand.

4 Also, while Jorge Cham has on the order of 1700 strips, he’s also got a feature-length movie, so I’m counting him. Deal with it.

Following Up

Several repeat visits today; sometimes that’s just how things reveal themselves.

  • Speaking of Penny Arcade, Child’s Play, etc: The progress graph on the main page is a little out of date, as the recent formal dinner/auction raised more than US$250,000 and have brought the year’s total to the neighborhood of US$3.4 million. This brings the ten-year total to some US$21 million, and there’s still US$1.6 million to go to pass last year’s total (CP have always grown in absolute terms, year-on-year).
  • Speaking of The AV Club and their year-end best-of lists, today they tackled Graphic Novels and Art Comics¹ wherein they recognized Emily Carroll’s Out of Skin and Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints, all of which also count as “speaking of …”. One should note as well that another of their recognized graphic novels, while not strictly webcomic-related, does come from :01 Books (speaking of, once more) — namely, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy.
  • Okay, this might stretch the limits of “speaking of”, since we have to go back exactly one year when A Lesson Is Learned By The Damage Is Irreversible returned for what was claimed to be a one-off. They have since released a second new comic within the past five weeks, meaning they’re only now restarting the hiatus clock and will have to go more than six and a half years to equal their previous absence.

    It actually makes sense that they’ve produced but one comic since their return for hiatus, as it would seem that significant amount of time would be needed for them to put a collection of their past strips as prints up at TopatoCo, seeing as how they’re all different sizes and degrees of complexity. Those factors mean that not all ALILBTDII strips are available, and that those that are will have prices varying from US$14 to US$60 (for a single-piece humongous print of I Name Thee Annihilator, which is 190 cm tall, or nearly one Ryan North in height).

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¹ To distinguish from yesterday’s list of mainstream comic books, the boundaries being somewhat arbitrary.

Long Games

Damn, webcomickers got some patience sometimes. They get an idea, they get plans, and you get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Check it:

  • Earlier this year, Gunnerkrigg Court Tom Siddell did an extra story, taking place between chapters 31 and 32 of his long-running story. Annie in the Forest part one was released in limited quantities through TopatoCo (and then restocked, so you can get one now), and part two was on his table at the recently-concluded Thought Bubble Festival (and is not otherwise available as of this writing). Today, however, Siddell opened a new section of his site for extra stories, and lo and behold — AITFp1 is there for you to read for free, with the second part coming soon.

    It’s a heck of a thing that Siddell’s doing — taking a reasonably pricey item and discounting it down to exactly zero dollars, so if you enjoy watching Annie grow the hell up a bit, do consider dropping a little something towards his ongoing spiders-to-money research. Alternately, you could buy something good from him when he hits MoCCA Festival in April, where he will be tabling alongside Magnolia Porter. In fact, give her lots of money, too, because her comics rule.

  • Next up, David Malki ! shares more about the Machine of Death game, shipping mishaps, and farm animals¹, which really just means that it’s a random day of the week. The interesting part comes a little bit further along in the update, wherein we learn:

    Some of you may remember the $400,000 stretch goal: “All backers get a MEGA-CRAZY FUN-TIME KIT that includes Wondermark ebooks, the MOD v.1 ebook, free music from our favorite pals, addt’l bonus ebooks …”

    Those “addt’l bonus ebooks” are a Webcomics Pals Ebook Bundle containing over 2,000 pages of comics

    What.

    from artists like Ryan North, Dave Kellett, Chris Hallbeck, Spike, KC Green, Sam Logan, Angela Melick, David Willis, Zach Weinersmith, Jim Zub, K.B. Spangler, R. Stevens, Jon Rosenberg, Christopher Baldwin, and more. I’m paying them a license fee for their ebooks and giving them to you for free. The retail value of this bundle is probably a million zillion dollars.

    Actually, I probably own most of that particular payload of creamy comics goodness, and guessing that the content includes one random book from each of the other creators. If that’s true, then I’d put the value of that bundle at over US$250 if they were physical copies (and that’s not including the Wondermark/MoDv1/music content).

    Even if you paid one dollar at the “JUST THE TIP” level, you’re getting all this content for free. It would take you a hundred years to read all this stuff. The bundle will be ready for download next week. A gift from me to you.

    Know what I’m going to do next week? I’m downloading that entire bolus of entertainment, and I’m going to come back with an actual dollar value so that you know exactly what Malki ! is giving you, and keeping in mind that what he is paying other creators and the value of what you get is probably not going to be covered by the value of the Kickstarter pledges except for the ten people that pledged at the Goat Stare² level and above. Hell, I’m in for the Boxed In level and once you account for the value of the stuff I’m getting, Malki ! is probably out so much money that it would have been cheaper (and certainly less hassle) for him to have never had a Kickstarter and just sent me twenty bucks and we’d call it even.

  • Still speaking of Malki !, a Wondermark strip from six and a half years ago got a callback in today’s xkcd. Nice.
  • Speaking of six and a half years ago, Christopher Hastings has been holding onto a key, secret plot point for about that long. Attend: the introduction of the Cumberland, Maryland Zombie Defense System and Mayor Chuck Goodrich, astronaut. Add a dash of King Radical, ancient tennis gods, time folds, dimensional portals, alternate Chuck Goodriches with problems with King Radical.

    And all those plot threads paid off today. If Dr McNinja ended on this story, it would stand as a magnificent achievement in long-term storytelling served well by shorter, connected arcs. Fortunately, I think we’re a bit further than that from the end of Dr McNinja, which means that at this point Hastings has nowhere to go but up.

  • And that wasn’t even the oldest callback today. Behold, a super-size Achewood that both promises a story arc and calls back to, oh, April of 2002. Damn.

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¹ Just go with it.

² See the bit about farm animals above.

Today I Learned …

It’s a day for learning things, including the fact that today is Repeal Day¹, the anniversary of the day when the United States ended one of the most stupid experiments in law and social policy in all of human history. The other things I learned all involve comics.

  • First thing I learned: Really never underestimate David Malki ! We spoke not long ago about not ignoring his boundless font of creativity, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, honestly. See, I had gotten it into my head that with all that Malki ! had taken on this year, including the logistics of shipping something like a million collated cards², he might give the Wondermark calendar a year off. After all, it’s less than three weeks from Christmas and thus less than four until the new year, when the calendar is most needed.

    Nope. In fact, he’s upped the proverbial ante by also offering a book of the art and verse from the 2008 — 2012 iterations of the calendar, and original art from last year’s Gaxian travelogue edition. As in past years, the calendar is in a limited edition of 250, and there are but 29 pieces of original art from last year’s calendar. The book may or may not be available after the calendars sell out, but for now I’m guessing there’s only 250 copies of that as well. Best jump on that soon if you want in.

  • Second thing I learned: The good folks at :01 Books are successful out of all proportion to their size³. Seriously, there’s something like four people involved in the entire acquisitions/editing/production end at the imprint, and they gather accolades for a hefty percentage of their output every year. Latest proof: NPR’s year-end guide to the best of 2013 books has a category for graphic novels & comics, and :01 garnered a full 25% of the recognition.

    It’s worth noting that the :01 Spring and Fall catalogs contain a total of 14 books (I can’t find a copy of their Winter catalog right now, but I’m confident in putting their total releases for the year in the vicinity of 20). There are publishers that drop more graphic novels than that in a month, but it’s all about the quality, not the quantity.

    Oh, and it looks like next year will be just as fun. I just want to publicly thank the :01 crew: Callista, Colleen, Gina, Mark, and anybody else I might be overlooking at the scrappiest, most thoughtful, best damn imprint in the New York publishing scene. Y’all rock.

  • Third thing I learned: If I’m reading this announcement correctly, the folks behind the Making Comics podcast are getting ready to launch a repository of comics-making online courses. They’re talking about live courses to start with, aimed at the 10 — 12 year old range to begin with … but if those lessons remain on YouTube, does it matter how old you are if you want to watch ‘em?

    As a thing, the Massive Open Online Course is still rapidly changing, and I’m not sure that any number of pre-recorded lessons can replace the experience of working with a skilled instructor who also knows the material inside-out4, but this does have the potential of spreading the basics of comics-making far more widely that it has been in the past. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

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¹ Actually, I knew that, but I did learn that heavily Mormon Utah was the state that provided the clinching vote to repeal the 18th Amendment so thanks for that one, Utah! Oddly, my own state of New Jersey provided the last vote in favor of ratification of Prohibition, but not until 1922, more than three years after the 18th Amendment was approved and more than two years after the Volstead Act came into force.

² Which logistics, by the way, also involves the container ship developing mechanical problems and having to return to the far side of the Pacific Ocean.

³ Okay, I knew that one, too.

4 As some of you know, my day job is teaching for a technology company. For the past decade, an increasing percentage of my course load has been delivered from my home office in a virtual classroom rather than in-person. The advantages to students are numerous — no travel costs being paramount — but there are challenges as well; most important from my perspective is the lack of immediate feedback to me as to how well the students are getting it during lecture.

There are dozens of small cues that an instructor picks up from a student sitting right over there that convey clearly — they understand or I need to do that last bit over in another way — that are severely attenuated over a net connection. There are other logistical concerns as well, especially of the show me what you’re doing right now variety. Those challenges are compounded when the session isn’t live, but pre-recorded. However, any form of instruction is a step up from struggling on your own to the point that you decide I can’t do this.