The webcomics blog about webcomics

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.

¹ Himself no slouch in the musical realm.

Happy Monday, Everybody

Where to start, where to start? Let’s grab a random story and … go!

  • Readers of this page may recall that I stand second to nobody in my admiration of Minna Sundberg’s Stand Still, Stay Silent, and may also recall that immediately after discovering and devouring SSSS, I also archive-binged on Sundberg’s earlier story, A Red Tail’s Dream¹. Before SSSS launched, Sundberg had a very successful crowdfunding campaign to print ARTD, and the books left over from fulfillment are now up for grabs:

    First, without further ado, here’s the link to the simple little store that I opened (at Storenvy) for those of you who simply want to grab a copy right naoow: Linkity-link go here!

    I’ll keep the store open for two weeks, which means I’ll close it before the month is over and go back to Finland and start shipping out the orders.

    Okay, first, I have to start rearranging my bookshelves to make room for this, because it looks gorgeous on screen, and I imagine even better on paper. Second, I hope that Sundberg can find a way to keep it in print in future, because I’d hate to think that somebody discovering her work next month would get frozen out. If you’re interested, now’s the time to buy.

    Third, somebody with a distribution business on this side of the Atlantic, please contact Sundberg and get a bulk purchase in place, because international shipping on one copy (unsigned, un-arted) puts the price on the book at ninety dollars. Granted, it’s a great big huge hardcover, and there’s only a $15 differential between people getting the book within Finland/everywhere else, but I can’t help but wonder what US media mail rates would be.

  • Homestuck! Canon! From different creators! Let’s just let Andrew Hussie explain this one himself:

    A young reader stands in a webcomic.
    April 13, 2014 by Andrew Hussie

    A brand new webcomic, to be exact. One that has launched on the 5th anniversary of Homestuck’s first page. If the thirteenth of April holds a magical place in your heart, then chances are, you are on pins and needles waiting for me to post the end of the story. It will still be quite some time before that happens. I’ve had too much else going on to be able to attack the remaining content with the ferocity that has been characteristic of my update schedule over the years. It is nothing short of The Greatest Tragedy that a beloved story is held hostage to the ability of a single artist to continue creating it. Which brings us to the website called Paradox Space, and the chapter it will represent in Homestuck’s extended life cycle.

    Those who like HS are extremely fond of the characters, yet those characters are trapped – “stuck” if you will – inside a very particular narrative, which itself has been at the mercy of my ability to produce it. So when I think about the future of Homestuck, I envision projects which liberate the things people love about it from the story itself, and most importantly, from my intensive personal effort.

    So this website is the first major step in that direction. Here is the idea:

    Paradox Space will feature many short comic stories involving literally any characters and settings from Homestuck. Any point in canon could be visited and elaborated on, whether it’s backstory, some scenes that were skipped over or alluded to, funny hypothetical scenarios which have nothing to do with canon events, or exploring things that could have happened in canon through the “doomed timeline” mechanic that is a defining trait of Homestuck’s multiverse-continuum known as “paradox space”. There is a WHOLE LOT of fun stuff we can do here; and we will!

    The idea is also to get a lot of different artists and writers involved. It’s going to be a major team effort. Occasionally I will write some comic scripts, particularly at the onset to help get this off the ground. But I’d like that to be the exception rather than the rule. I think it will be exciting to see how a talented pool of creators can work within the HS universe, and what they will bring to these characters.

    Never let it be said that Hussie doesn’t know how to keep his fans coming back for more.

    It’s a true group effort, too with Rachel Rocklin and Kory Bing listed as the managing editors, and updates scheduled daily (today was skipped so that yesterday’s anniversary launch could happen; next update is tomorrow). That sound you just heard was a thousand Homestucks polishing up their fanfic and desperately trying to find an established creator to partner with them.

  • Now this sounds like a lot of fun:

    April 26! We’re live-tweeting @strippedfilm: Everyone hits “play” @ 7PM PST/10PM EST for Q&A, behind-the-scenes stories & more #strippedfilm

    Time to clear my schedule for the 26th.

¹ No big, just 556 pages in both English and Finnish, which Sundberg created as a practice run to sharpen her skills before launching SSSS. Like you do.

New Best Thing

Hecka. Yeah. Now all I need is the limited-edition poster and the book of the film and I’ll be as set as you possibly can be. Freddave, thanks so much for this. Oh, and if you’d like to see STRIPPED on the big screen, there are at least three screenings coming up. Only thing is, the big screen don’t get you director’s commentary, which is on the DVD, so maybe grab that?

  • Y’know, Professoressa and Professor Foglio have been doing this comics thing for a long damn time, and they must surely know by now that their fans are going to buy their books, but it’s still got to make you feel good when Girl Genius book 13 clears 100% of funding in something like 16 hours. As always, putting the Foglios on video is a treat and a half.
  • Also a treat and a half — quite possibly two treats, if we’re being honest — is the news of a new comic from Steve Wolfhard. Forg the Winter Frog is short, but it’s making me smile like a maniac; here’s hoping that Wolfhard gifts us with more Forg in the future.
  • Hey! Do you make comics? Are you in the New York City area? Thomas Crowell, author of a legal reference for filmmakers and a soon-to-be similar reference for comic book creators, will be the guest of the Media Law Collaborative of NYU’s law school on Monday, 14 April. He’ll be speaking on the topic of representing comics creators, from 4:00pm to 6:00pm with a cocktail reception to follow.

    Now it appears that the event is by invite only, which may possibly be garnered via this form. I’m not saying that a bunch of cartoonists can just show up and listen to the law guy and then get free booze, but none of us will know unless some of you try. More likely, you cartoonists will have to point it out to your lawyer or business guy or agent, but somebody you know should be going. If you can’t convince somebody to go, be sure to mention the free booze part.


Little by little; we climb a little higher, we make things a little better, we learn a little more, we progress by increments.

  • So like I promised, the final word on how STRIPPED did in its debut — throughout the day, it crept steadily higher, finally hitting the #1 documentary slot around 11:00pm EDT, which also meant a #27 overall placement. It continued to rise for some time, cracking the Top 25 overall a little after midnight. As of this writing (a little before 10:30am EDT on 2 April), STRIPPED retains the #1 documentary slot on iTunes, and #24 overall, sitting above the likes of a major animation franchise, the Coen brothers, Woody Allen, and some of the greatest musicians in history.

    What’s keeping STRIPPED from getting higher? Oh, just little obscure films like Thor 2, Gravity, and Veronica Mars, that’s all. Not bad for two dudes with bear[d]s¹, no studio, a shoestring budget, a couple of Kickstarts, and a whole bunch of people that love putting words and pictures together.

  • Speaking of long-running stories here at Fleen, Jeff Smith’s Tüki Save the Humans is back in the news. From the announcement that Smith would be jumping into webcomics, to the launch last year, to the news that Tüki had garnered an NCS award nomination², it’s been fun to watch develop and mostly fun to read.

    I say mostly because of one thing that I was not alone in noticing — the website navigation for Tüki was not great. Rather than clicking from day-to-day, there were placeholder images that you clicked on to get actual pages, then you had to navigate back to the placeholder before moving to the next day. It was awkward at best.

    And I imagine nobody realized that more than Smith and the rest of the Cartoon Books crew, as they spent time since Tüki’s launch actively soliciting feedback and design expertise, and they’ve relaunched the site with ease of reading in mind. It’s better than Smiley Bone’s descriptionNow, instead of looking like it’s from 1996, it looks like it’s from 2006! — and it’s just in time to archive-binge before the scheduled return of Chapter Two later this month.

¹ Follow the link and check out the hovertext.

² Although I will say that it’s perhaps early in Tüki’s run for this — with only 24 pages released so far, and not all of those in 2013, and the story just starting, I would have preferred to see that recognition come after another chapter or two. Not that I think that Smith will deliver anything less than a stellar story, there’s more than ample evidence to believe that he will; it’s just that his co-nominees have been telling much larger stories and produced much more work in 2013.

No Foolin’

Guys, this is the last time I’m going to mention STRIPPED for the immediate future, except to update you as to how they’re doing in their goal to become #1 on iTunes today. As of this writing, they’re sitting at #5 in Documentaries and #59 overall; considering some of the biggest and most acclaimed films of last year are newly released and sitting in the #1 and 2 slots overall, it’s going to be some tough sledding. I’m confident, however, that they can surpass that Belieber “documentary” with your help..

Honestly, it’s a masterpiece, it’s out on iTunes today, it’s out lots of places tomorrow, and if you love comics you owe it to yourself to watch it. I’ve watched it through multiple times now, I keep noticing new things and I know there’s more there still (for example, the credits acknowledge the kind permission received to include an Oglaf [NWFNearlyEveryW¹] strip, and I haven’t spotted it yet. I wonder which one such goodly-hearted young men as Freddave could possibly have used.

In other news, happy strippiversaries this week to Christopher B Wright and K Brooke Otter Spangler who this week are celebrating, respectively, 18 and 8 years² in the webcomics mines³. After you’re done with STRIPPED, spend some time with their archives.

¹ If you’re at work and it’s okay for you to click that link to Oglaf, I want to know if you’re hiring.

² Brooke, please have permalinkable blogpostings some day. For those wondering, the two links in that image go here.

³ Coincidentally, both of them are also making serious inroads in the world of e-books.

For The Love Of It

I really like what she's done with multiple POVs in the scene without a panel break. Reminds me a little of Hockney.

Despite what it may look like, today is not merely an excuse for me to tell an amusing college anecdote. That’s just the bonus.

  • On a long-ago episode of Webcomics Weekly (I don’t recall which one, so have fun searching), the strapping four lads agreed (that was what stuck in my mind — all four of them agreeing on something) that you can’t really put out a professional quality webcomic without engaging in some degree of commercialization and money making. If you were that degree of professional in the making and content of your comic, the argument went, it was inevitable that you would be making some amount of money from it.

    I always thought that was too reductive a world view, considering that people like David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc) exist who have produce pro-level webcomics with no desire to make a living (or even pocket money) from them. The comic is its own reward, regardless of desire to follow a comics career¹.

    I bring this up because I’ve been thinking a lot about a piece written earlier this week by Liz Greenfield (creator of the much-missed Stuff Sucks, now lost to time) on the value of non-profit comics:

    Over the past seven weeks I’ve been in Bristol, working closely with a dozen amazing individuals to write a graphic novel. We did it in record time and the resulting manuscript is impressive. It’s full of true stories and fantastic lies and imagination. It’s the most exciting and bravest work I have been involved in yet and I can’t wait to share it with you, but I will have to draw it first.

    It’s safe to say the past eight weeks of workshops and the process of writing using physical theatre exercises, improvisation techniques, group workshopping etc. has altered my practice forever. One thing that emerged was the advantages of non-commercial work – this project is being supported by the Arts Council of England and the Arnolfini in Bristol – over work whose end goal is to satisfy sales targets and generate profit for the writer, artist, publisher.

    I’m aware that most of my colleagues in comic books aren’t familiar with this model of creating, as these opportunities are still fairly new and far between (outside of France and Belgium, who subsidise comics as any other art form with generous grants, residencies, prizes, awards).

    If you’re in the same boat as me, maybe the reason you haven’t made a change is you’re waiting for someone to swoop in and bind it and put in on the shelves of a library/bookshop. My advice is: don’t. Don’t give way to a fantasy and let it stunt you growth. Don’t labour robotically under the illusion that someone will recognise your determination and see through all the levels of artifice you guard it with. This work should be made of doubts and hope and insecurities and love, or not at all. If you’re going to hate your job, at least find one that pays properly.

    It’s worth a read, and Greenfield invites her fellow art bastards to add their opinions on personal and not-for-profit projects.

  • Speaking of (very) personal and (potentially) not-for-profit projects, one of those comes to a fairly big denouement in a few hours, as Dave Kellett and Fred Schroeder have a public unveiling:

    Try to spot the guy who’s a nervous little nellie for his premiere tonight.

    STRIPPED has its public gala premiere in about six and a half hours (as I write this), and if you cock your ears in about eight hours towards LA, I’m pretty sure you’ll hear sustained applause, as well as four years of tension and stress suddenly releasing in Messrs Schroeder and Kellett. If your ears are especially good, you might make out some of the questions and answers that follow, but as I’ll be on EMS duty I won’t be able to relay them to you. Anybody attending the premiere want to share the experience? Drop me a line.

¹ Perhaps analogous to the experience of a visiting professor of history when I was in college. Being an engineering school, we only had one professor of history and when he went to Japan for a year on a fellowship a replacement was found from a large state university a few hours away. Halfway through fall term he stopped suddenly in the middle of class (War, Revolution & Society 1789 — Present; being the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, he was playing it for all it was worth) and said I just realized something. You guys are all engineers and scientists, but you’re doing the same work that I would give to history majors and you’re all doing well. You’re doing as much reading in a ten-week quarter as they would in a 15-week semester. He paused, then continued, What the hell?

We explained that although none of us would be historians or use what we learned in our careers, we just enjoyed it; taking a 400-level history class (or literature, or psychology, or whatever) was like a hobby for us, since it would be the one class that term without math.

Also, it gave us an opportunity to write papers, which allowed for some serious pranking possibilities. Having nothing better to do one night, my buddy Thrice² and I wrote up a fake first page for a paper on All Quiet On The Western Front that used outrageously out-of-context and artificially conflated quotes to prove that Remarque was a bloodthirsty, warmongering proto-Fascist who regarded life in the trenches as one long, drug- and booze-fueled, dude-on-dude sex party. The real paper started on page two.

² AKA John Costain Knight III. Not very much later, he was serving on board an aircraft carrier ensuring that the nuclear reactor didn’t unexpectedly go boom!, which is exactly the sort of responsibility you want to give to a guy that you’ve seen drunkenly throw up after midnight in a booth at Hardee’s. On the other hand, the John C Stennis never went boom!, so I guess it all worked out okay.

Moving Pictures (Across Oceans And On Screens)

But sometimes, only a good, old-fashioned Sharpie will do.

  • A Tumblr post from Mary Cagle caught my eye this morning; it dealt with delays in Cagle’s comic and the busyness of life in general. Let’s read it together:

    Basically, my big plan right now is to bring KB back first thing in April for the 5-year anniversary. As much as it frustrates me, thank you to everyone who’s poked me about when the comic will return. It’s a great reminder that people care about it almost as much as I do!

    For those curious, here’s what’s been keeping me away from KB lately, just to prove I’m not exclusively sitting around on my butt:

    What follows is a lengthy list of things keeping Cagle busy, starting with teaching English and dealing with life in a foreign country¹ and continuing on through a list of five creative projects that she’s working on, including coloring weekly webcomics for Amy T Falcone, coloring past webcomics for a book for Kel McDonald, coloring Johanne Matte’s contribution to the next Flight Explorer, and flatting and painting pages for Kazu Kibuishi next Amulet volume².

    What struck me was not how busy Cagle is (which doesn’t surprise me at all, given her deft hand at colors), but the fact that she can collaborate on all these projects with a literal ocean between her and the other creators. Maybe this struck me because I was watching the full Scott McCloud interview from STRIPPED³ last night and he talked about his first job in comics: doing production work for DC.

    It involved knives and cutting and working on physical art and the sort of partnership between professionals like Kibuishi and Cagle would have been nearly impossible, due to the amount of material that would have to be shipped around the world. The possibility of contributing two colored pages a week to Ms T Falcone would have been literally impossible, as no amount of express shipping could make the art be where it needed to be. There is also the little matter of having a limited palette of colors to work with, rather than the millions of subtle hues that Cagle has at her fingertips, let’s not forget that.

    This is all a very roundabout way of saying that, who have spent the last 30+ years around computers on a daily basis, got future-shocked by the realization how far technology has come. Thanks for making me feel old, Mary! It’s okay though, ’cause I like your comics.

  • Since we mentioned that comics movie in passing, let’s discuss it just a little more. Along with your obligatory reminder that STRIPPED will release on iTunes/other channels on (respectively) the 1st and 2nd of April, there is the new tidbit that Kickstarter backers due a physical DVD don’t have much longer to wait:

    Individual DVDs will mail from manufacturer the day they’re complete: 3/21. Signed or INTL DVDs have to route to LA then mailed

    That’s good news for approximately 2950 backers due non-signed DVDs (minus an unknown number of international orders), whose discs will be shipping in three days. It’s not out of the realm of the possible that they’ll have their copies of the movie in a week or so. It’s less good news for those of us awaiting signed DVDs, as Fred ‘n’ Dave will be scribbling their signatures for some 791 backers.

    I wonder if Dave will do that K-in-a-box that he uses to sign his comics? It’s gotta be faster than signing Fred Schroeder. Anyway, look for both Kellett and Schroeder to attend the Hollywood premiere on 26 March in high spirits, then spend the next month in wrist braces.

¹ That’s gotta be like 19 hours a day right there.

² Also one 40 page project without a name attached.

³ Gotta be a back to see that one, son, although fillmmakers Fred Schroeder and Dave Kellett have hinted in the past making all the raw interview footage available in some form in the future. Considering the number of artists they met with in their studios, the process and drawing footage alone will be invaluable to future generations of students.

Also, A Movie

There two brief items up here before we get to the major point of discussion today: STRIPPED.

  • Via R Stevens at The Nib, itself at Medium: pixel Neil deGrasse Tyson. You know who else R Stevens has pixelized? Me. Is this proof that Dr Tyson and I are destined to be best friends? Probably.
  • For your consideration, Tom Siddell has added his previously print-only Annie in the Forest Part 2¹ to his website, free for you to read. Once again, Siddell’s done us a service, making an item freely available that could otherwise be making him money. Read it, enjoy it, drop a few bob via his donation link, or possibly by buying something from him next month at the MoCCA Fest in three weeks.

I watched STRIPPED over the weekend; anybody that caught my twitterfeed between Friday night and Saturday morning saw what I thought of it — it was masterful. But what I’ve been thinking about since was the choice of interview subjects that filmmakers Fred Schroeder and Dave Kellett chose to return to time and again. These folks were the centerpieces of the story of comics.

  • There was less of Bill Watterson’s (rightly) lauded contribution than I might have suspected, and the film was not the less for it; in a handful of voiced cutaways, he made incisive points, but he wasn’t used in the film merely for the sake of Being Bill Watterson. I never thought I’d say this, but I admire the restraint that must have been required to not include every syllable of Watterson’s voice that found its way to tape.
  • Darrin Bell is not a household name; Candorville and Rudy Park are both pretty damn good strips, but you likely wouldn’t place him or his work without prompting because we’re past the era of superstar comics-page creators. He’s disarmingly young, frighteningly smart, and wonderfully sincere in his many interview snippets. There have to have been many, many creators that spoke about their journey of becoming a creator, but there was a spark to Bell’s interview segments that made him a natural. I can’t wait to see the entirety of his interview.
  • Greg Evans is a man I met, briefly, at the NCS Ruebens Weekend; he very kindly took the time to make me feel welcome in a place where I felt out of place. His strip isn’t for me, and I found myself surprised and a little thrilled at how much he was in the film. He almost perfectly straddles the line of long-term creator recognizing the changes in the industry², looking at them realistically, and really wondering how he can ride that wave rather than rail against it. He might have been the decades-long syndicated creator that jumped feetfirst into indy creator endeavours if Bill Amend hadn’t beat him to it.
  • Patrick McDonnell is unapologetically Old School³. His tools are old school, the art style is old school — midway between Segar and Herriman, with a verbal sensibility perched directly between Schulz and Kelly — and his air of not concerning himself with the challenges facing the syndication model is older than old school. Syndicated cartoonists didn’t worry about their business model ceasing to exist in the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s; it simply was and would continue to be. Around McDonnell, you get the impression — at least for him — that reality has not changed and will not. His approach to cartooning and the business of cartooning is as Zen as the spare, airy, light-filled studio where he was interviewed.
  • Jim Davis, who came up through the cartooning trenches as an assistant before catching lightning in a bottle with Garfield, is far more philosophical about cartooning than one would think he would need to be. He famously created Garfield with a businessman’s eye — there were lots of dogs on the comics page but not many cats, and he saw a market niche4 — and has overseen a juggernaut of success based on the broadest possible appeal.

    He is, as a result, richer than God — maybe richer than any cartoonist has ever been, barring only Sparky himself — and is reported to be sitting on a buffer longer than a year. He has a small corporation’s worth of people working with and for him to get All Things Garf delivered to the world on a daily basis. He needn’t involve himself in any aspects of Garfield at this point, he could walk away and live in luxury for the rest of his days.

    But he does. He does because (and this is from the Kickstarter backers-only full interview with Davis; the rest of you, I hope you get to see it) he thinks that one day, he could write the strip that makes the whole world laugh. Because that possibility matters more than every TV series, movie, and tchotchke put together.

  • Mort Walker has been in cartooning for more than six decades. He oversees strips that have been on the page long enough that your parents (or grandparents) read them. He could be everything that’s wrong with comics but it’s clear that he stays in the game not out of stubbornness or to show Those Darn Kids how it’s done, but because he remembers reading Moon Mullins on Sunday mornings with his father, back in the 1920s. He’s see the rise and maybe-fall of comics first hand and never lost his full investment in the medium.
  • Stephan Pastis is perhaps the one voice not completely in harmony with the others; he’s perhaps the most recent syndicated cartoonist to find widespread success (or at least, as widespread as it’s possible for any strip launched in the last 20 years to have achieved), and for all the success he’s had with Pearls Before Swine, there’s an edge in his interviews.

    In his segments, he seems like he’s pushing back against the changes in the model, like he wants to actively drag the entire industry back four or five decades. In his most telling exchange, his frustration becomes overt — and completely understandable — when he notes the odds of ever making it as a syndicated cartoonist, and then doing so just as the business implodes. I made it to the NBA, and the stadium is collapsing. His energy would make him a stellar independent creator/owner in the webcomics mode, if only he hadn’t spent so much time in the past openly contemptuous of it.

    His counterpoint, however, is absolutely crucial to the film, if only because he’s willing to express the frustrations that probably everybody in syndicated cartooning (or maybe those not named Davis or McDonnell) must be feeling. Pastis is not the enemy of progress, but he’s no friend of the particular path it’s taking.

Oh, yeah, some webcomics types said smart things too, and Chris Hastings gave as concise an explanation of How Webcomics Work as ever could have been.

Also Cathy Guisewite. And Scott McCloud5. And Lynn Johnston. And Jenny Robb. And RC Harvey. And Kazu Kibuishi. And Shaenon Garrity. And David Malki !. And more that I’m certainly forgetting now.

STRIPPED is sprawling, comprehensive, hilarious, heartfelt, honest, and wonderful. It went by in an eyeblink, with no wasted moments or times that don’t serve the narrative. It’s as good a history of comics — where they came from, where they are, where they’re going — as ever there has been, and it’s only the merest fraction6 of the material that was collected during production. It feels like the work of a lifetime, and I mean it as the highest compliment that it’s astonishing to think that it only took four years to produce.

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s probably somebody in your circle of friends that has, given that you’re on this page to begin with. Ask around; I think you’re going to find that everybody’s that seen the movie is of one mind. Something uniquely American that’s touched three or four generations is changing, but will never go away; you should know its history, and barring a time machine that lets you experience the last century of comics first-hand, STRIPPED is the best way to do so.

¹ More specifically, only available at the 2013 Thought Bubble Festival, now obtainable through the internet boutiquery services of TopatoCo.

² For example, Evans has produced Luann digitally for more than a decade.

³ Disclaimer: he’s also approximately a neighbor; we very occasionally run into each other on the street or in a restaurant and do that 20 second Hey! How are you? thing. It happened at the Reuben Weekend, which caused us both a moment of cognitive dissonance, as we were 3500km away from our usual random meeting stomping grounds. Finally, we chose the vet that took care of our greyhound for most of her life (and our new greyhound, who just had his first visit) based on his recommendation.

4 Which, if you think about it, is a very webcomics thing to do — find a niche that isn’t served and become their favorite. Only Davis did it in nineteen-freaking-seventy-eight, before a lot of webcomickers were born. Hell, if you go to his website, he’s got the entire 35+ year archive freely available — you can’t get more webcomics than that.

5 The full interview with McCloud — a couple of hours worth! — was released to KS backers last year. I really hope you get to see it someday because dang is that guy smart.

6 At just about ninety minutes, carved out of more than 300 hours of interviews, it would be possible to produce another 199 movies of equivalent length from material already on hand. Although I’m pretty sure that the 10 or 15 minutes that they spent talking to me needn’t be seen by anybody.

Review And A Half

Well! Some interesting things have happened since we spoke yesterday, and as might be expected I have some opinions on them.

  • Firstly, I have finished my read-through of of Box Brown’s André the Giant: The Life and Legend (a review copy of which was kindly provided by :01 Books), and all I can say is Wow. As I believe I mentioned when I received the book, I don’t have any great personal history with professional wrestling and was grateful for the frontmatter and backmatter in the book that explained the concepts of over, shoot, kayfabe, and other esoterica that the WW{F|E} congoscenti take for granted.

    I knew Mr The Giant almost entirely from his appearance in The Princess Bride, a relatively small part of a long life in show business that consequently gets relatively few pages here. And yet within those few pages, we get moments of quiet as André finds respite from the chaos and expectations of the ring via friendship with Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal¹, Mandy Patinkin, and Robin Wright. Also Rob Reiner finds that André’s bar tab was US$40,000.

    That’s a funny bit, but it masks a sad truth — André never stopped growing throughout his life, his joints couldn’t support his enormous size, and he spent much of his life in pain. He drank mightily, to take away that pain, but also because his sheer size made his tolerance to alcohol almost unearthly.²

    Two little stories out of a few dozen vignettes — André loved telling stories, and they grew in the telling as much as he did. He appreciated show business, making sure the fans were entertained, and would go to any lengths to serve the narrative. Brown has gone to similar lengths to tell the story of André the Giant, and he’s done an admirable job.

  • Download codes for Kickstarter backers of STRIPPED went out (thousands of them), and I got mine last night after dinner.

    I had work today and couldn’t stay up to watch it.

    But there’s plenty of love for it on the Twitters, and some of it is even from people who aren’t in the movie!

    Kidding aside, I am anxiously awaiting the moment I can fire up the movie when I get home. It’s going to be marvelous. Review as soon as possible.

  • Lastly, I’d like to join the chorus welcoming Ada Marie Weinersmith to the world on this, Pi Day. In my opinion, she’s a marvelous baby, and I would welcome her to the world again! Well wishes may be sent to proud mother and father, and if their various online endeavours are late or missing for a few days, I’m sure we can give them some slack.

¹ Who, it appears, picked up almost immediately on André’s habit of calling everybody Boss, and everybody referring to André by the same nickname.

² When doctors were trying to figure out how much surgical anesthesia to use on a nearly 300kg human, they asked him how much it took to get drunk. A bottle of vodka would make him feel the beginnings of a buzz.

Following Up, Mostly Involving The Number Two

Following up on one or two things today. Maybe three. Four, tops.

  • Two days since launch, 102% of funding met, now the really interesting parts of the Table Titans bookstarter begin. The book gets fancier in another US$4500 or so (as of this writing), and additional goodies appear to be stacked up at US$5000 increments thereafter. Assuming Table Titans lands somewhere in the middle of the Fleen Funding Forecast™¹ range of US$60 – 120K, we could be looking at eight or ten improvements to the final product².
  • Just over two weeks from now, STRIPPED, as we have established at length, will be dropping on iTunes. For those that don’t have geographical access to iTunes (or have objections to the Apple media semiopoly), it will also be available on 2 April for HD download and streaming via, Google Play and other channels. What’s newly added to the mix is the announcement that also on 2 April, DVD retail sales will go live on TopatoCo, the internetty boutique of wonderful things. This gives me an indication that my Kickstarter support (at a level that guaranteed a physical disc) will be paying off with a very special package very soon. Note to self: cancel appointments that day.
  • Book number two from John Allison’s Bad Machinery released yesterday, and while I have yet to pick up a copy, it’s apparently full of reworked art and story:

    Of all the Bad Machinery stories, this was the one that needed the most radical surgery to be ready for publication. About a quarter of the pages are brand new.

    Of particular note is the fact that even for me — I love the inside look at the process of making comics, and then making those comics into books — the skinny on how much of The Case of the Good Boy required tweaking is actually the least interesting part of that bloggening from Allison. He goes into a fascinating discussion about how Bad Machinery has changed, and how it will continue to change:

    Writing a school comic, term by term, means that the characters grow up fast. I never anticipated that the tone of the series would change so quickly. 11-year olds aren’t like 14 year-olds. They’re shorter, for one, and I’m sure a scientist could point to other differences using their expertise in the area. It’s a series where, if I’m true to myself, the later stories might not be appropriate for younger readers of the first story.

    And some good stuff on how to balance the needs of punchline every day with one complete story over six months:

    When I started writing The Case Of The Forked Road, I could see that the plot was complicated. I wanted room to keep on top of that plot as well as writing good dialogue, so I doubled the size of the strips.

    And do you know what? It worked. After a few months, people found they were able to recall every character and detail perfectly, no matter how much time had passed. No one was confused. And drawing twice as much each day actually proved to be easier than drawing less! Who knew!

    Now, what I am doing here is saying the opposite of what is true for comic effect. It was a difficult time. I find that a good indicator of chronic overwork is my sudden decision to take on even more work, which is probably why I reactivated my old strip, Bobbins, two thirds of the way through the case.

    Yeah, okay, I guess that’s pretty much how-comics-get-made stuff, too. Good stuff, you should read it.

  • There are two Glorkian Warrior projects coming in the next two weeks from James Kochalka. For those of you that like books, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza (the kind folks at :01 Books were kind enough to send me a review copy) hits on the 25th; it’s a loopy, funny story, sure to please those young enough that they have to have it read to them, and those that do the reading. And tomorrow, the long-awaited Glorkian Warrior videogame (now titled Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork) releases tomorrow:

    My game, Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork comes out on March 14 on the iTunes app store for iphone, ipad, or ipod touch.

    Who’s going to stay up to midnight tonight to download it?

    I am! I’m buying it tonight even though it’s my own game and I can get it for free.?

    I don’t have any of those devices, but if the game is anything like the book (and I’ll wager it is), it’s going to be loopy, funny, and engaging for young and old. Even if it weren’t (which it will be), it’s ot like you’ll get anything better for less than three bucks, so pick it up and enjoy the crap out of it.

¹ Patent pending, original formula, do not steal.

² If one of those improvements is Beholder dice bags for everybody!, Kurtz & Co will have to beat the hordes away with a stick.