A little advice for you — if you go to a talk by Scott McCloud in a city known to have a hefty cartoonist presence, don’t be surprised when a cartoonist you know shows up. Even better, don’t be a half face-blind bozo and stare directly at Raina Telgemeier for like 30 seconds as she smiles wider and wider wondering how long it’s going to take you to realize it’s her. Not that I would know, of course.
- Once my brain finally worked out that I was, in fact, looking at somebody I knew, it woke the hell up and I was able to determine that the room also contained Mark Siegel, Callista Brill, and Gina Gagliano of :01 Books (logical, as they’re the publisher), as well as Judy Hansen (McCloud’s agent, as well as much of indy/webcomics, a woman with whom I enjoy discussing Belgian beer), and the incomparable Brooke Gladstone of NPR’s On The Media (whom I’d never met before, but because of a well-timed pledge to WNYC, she crocheted me a winter hat that I was wearing and was able to thank her for).
McCloud and Entertainment Weekly’s Tim Leong spoke for about 45 minutes and took questions for about the same — the underlying theme was creativity and the process of creation and how McCloud had to write Making Comics to teach himself what he needed to learn¹ so that he could actually produce The Sculptor (an idea which had been kicking around his brain since he was 17 or so). No quotes to offer (I was listening instead of taking notes) except for this one:
By 2024, comics is going to be a majority-female industry
By which he means both creators and readers (and thinks in the art schools, we’ve already exceeded parity). Here’s hoping.
Speaking of hope, one thing that gave me a great deal of hope about the evening, comics, and society in general. Waiting in the lobby of the 92nd Street Y, I noticed a cluster of West Point cadets in their distinctive grey uniforms, along with some active-duty Army officers in dress blues; I wondered at the time what program they were there for (92Y does many cultural programs on any given day, as well as being a full Y-style gym).
They disappeared from the lobby about 20 minutes before we were let into the auditorium. During the seating period, though, I noticed them come into the auditorium and take seats, and Ivy McCloud mentioned that they’d been meeting with Scott; they were in town with professors and staff officers because they’re reading V for Vendetta and Watchmen as part of a literature class.
After the talk, while waiting in the signing line, my friend Brett and I started talking with an earnest (and serious, and very young) second-year cadet named Fred and a major (alas, I didn’t catch her name) that he was standing with. They were both thrilled to be there, and I never thought I’d be talking comics in that particular company and context. Fred didn’t say explicitly he was also drawing comics², but he did mention at one point he’d wondered if there was some way to surgically remove about half the little finger of his left hand and fit a prosthetic eraser there for convenience.
Knowing that somebody so unstereotypically military will be commissioned an officer and become part of the Army leadership structure in a little more than two years makes me hopeful. Knowing that somebody (likely multiple somebodies) on the faculty of the most traditional of Army institutions looks towards comics (Alan Moore comics, no less) to shape the minds of Fred and his fellow cadets (about a third of whom at the talk were young women — a little longer to get to parity there) is likewise a comforting thought. All in all, a damn good evening. If you have the opportunity to see McCloud on his book tour, do so.
- Here’s the thing that you don’t see a lot in Kickstarters: tying stretch goals to thing that happen outside of the campaign itself. We saw it in the campaign for Dr McNinja’s Legendary Showdown back in October 2013, when 2500 Facebook likes or hashtag tweets meant bonus content in the game. See how that worked? You didn’t have to get one more person to pony up one more dollar, but you had to spread the word. Clever.
Naturally, the phenomenally successful campaign for Exploding Kittens (as of this writing: nearly 135,000 backers, the most in Kickstarter history, and more than $US5.3 million pledged, #7 highest total and closing in on #6) has finally added a series of stretch goals, but mostly not related directly to the campaign itself. Instead, there are a series of achievements based on things like how many backers, percent overfunding, Facebook likes, and public stunts. As of right now, fifteen of them have been achieved, and the stretch goals will be unlocked when 20 or 30 of the ‘cheevos are met.
They’ve gamified Kickstarter. It doesn’t matter which five achievements are met to reach the 20 goal, just whichever get piled up first. And yeah, it may be near impossible to achieve all 30 goals³, but they’ve made the last two weeks of the campaign pretty damn fun to watch. Heck, if they get the Ellen or GRRM things to happen (see footnotes), this project could break into mainstream consciousness. Well done, Exploding Kittens team.
- Per today’s newsbox at Dinosaur Comics: the previously-mentioned game version of To Be Or Not To Be now has a release date, and it’s, oh, today. Go get it.
Spam of the day:
Nothing in particular today, except to note that something about the recent posting referencing Larry Gonick is attracting spam like nobody’s business. So far today, I’ve cleared more than 50 largely-identical submissions (consisting mostly of question marks) from that thing. I have to figure out how their algorithms work so I can avoid doing whatever caused this flood. Yeesh.
¹ This reminds me a great deal of Minna Sundberg wanting to create Stand Still, Stay Silent but feeling her skills weren’t up to the task, so she instead created the 556 page A Redtail’s Dream first to teach herself what she needed to know.
² Unsurprisingly, they don’t have art majors at West Point; if I remember correctly, about 70% of the student major in some form of engineering, and obviously all cadets study military science.
³ They include things like 10,000 and 100,000 Twitter followers or 100,000 Facebook likes — trivial, given the number of supporters. But they also include things like Get @Ellen [Degeneres] to tweet “A Butt Tuba” is a palindrome and Get George RR Martin to tweet “I use Pantene Pro-V on my beard, because vitamins”.
For the record, I think the following goals are going to be met fairly easily:
- 150,000 backers (they’re above 134K)
- 10,000 Twitter followers (already met: @gameofkittens is now at 19.8K)
- 100,000 Twitter followers (doesn’t require even all of the backers click on “follow”)
- 100,000 Facebook likes (no idea how may they have, I don’t have Facebook)
- Get @wilw[heaton] to tweet all cats should wear underpants (will probably happen as soon as Wheaton is back from the JoCo cruise)
- Post 25 pics of a beardcat (a cat crawling out of a dude’s beard)
- Post 25 pics of a potatocat (a cat with legs tucked under, looking like a furry potato)
- Post 25 selfies with goats
The others, involving things like group photos of people wearing cat ears, and pictures of “weaponized back hair” (I don’t want to know), as well as the Ellen and GRRM things will be trickier. Since they aren’t saying what we’ll get if all 30 achievements are hit, it’s hard to say how hard people will work on the goal.