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Fleen Book Corner: Child Star

Here’s the thing about Child Star; I have no idea how much of a spoiler warning I should put on this thing. On the one hand, it’s a work of fiction and there’s plot points that you might not see coming that could be discussed here. On the other hand, I suspect that spoiler susceptibility is largely a function of age.

Those of us in the 40-50 range and up might well on casual reading think that this is another of Box Brown’s nonfiction works¹, because it recalls so many things that actually happened, the memory of them can blur to the point that you’d convince yourself it’s real. Younger readers that didn’t live through the back 20 years of the Cold War would just think he’s come up with one hell of a twisty story.

All of which is to say, I found myself awash in a sea of note-perfect recreations of TV Guide listings and ads, of Nancy Reagan-inspired Very Special Episodes, of a story that paralleled the life of numerous real-life child stars (one in particular) so cleanly that recalling what happened 40 or more years caused me to stop multiple times to say, Wait, that’s not what happened, was it?

For those younger than me who don’t remember back to, let’s say the Montreal Olympics, this is what it was like, all of it, particularly the Reagan years. Hollywood was churning out TV, movies, and TV movies exactly as bad and uninspired as Brown’s fictional examples. The thorough exploitation of the entertainment/industrial complex by the Republican political machine was just as pervasive as shown here. The universality of a cute, sassy kid on a sitcom, one that reached all corners of society, actually was possible in a world of three broadcast networks plus a handful of rerun channels plus maybe PBS. It really did happen that a full third of the country would watch the same thing on a Tuesday night.

And for those that only know Gary Coleman from the soundtrack of Avenue Q, this book is practically a biography, with overtones of every other kid that hit big and wound up getting chewed up and spit out — which would be pretty much all of them in the past 50 years except Kurt Russell, Jodie Foster, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Peter Ostrum.

It’s an uncomfortable read, which leads to a lot of questions as to who is responsible for the machine that entices and destroys young lives; is it the agencies, the production companies, the moguls of Hollywood that are responsible for every Mary-Kate and Ashley or Britney whose childhood is twisted into something unrecognizable and what that inevitably does to them? Is is the public that demands the new, the fresh, and increasingly the scandalous to sate their appetites for the next heavily-scripted unreality family once Hiltons, Kardashians, and Gosselins no longer amuse?

Yes, and yes. Central character Owen Eugene’s parents may have failed to protect him and actively exploited him — all while declaring how much they sacrificed and thus deserved — but it was a hundred million ordinary folks that demanded they do so, and would do it to their own kids in a heartbeat³ if they could.

Because on TV and in movies, everything is perfect, the people are better, the money never stops, and the closest to human empathy you get is the mild obsessive that collects all the tchotchkes and ephemera related to their favorite. Child Star is a cautionary tale more than anything, distilled down to a form that makes it truer than any memoir; it’s more melancholy of what This Is Spinal Tap would have been if it wasn’t played for laughs. You weren’t blameless, Owen, but you deserved better.

Child Star by Box Brown is published by :01 Books, and is available wherever books are sold. The pandemic has disrupted the whole review copies pipeline, so this one was my purchase and it was worth every penny. Put it in front of any kid aspiring to stardom, and especially their parents.

Spam of the day:

Nice day! You applied and you were accepted as a remote employee. CLICK HERE, FILL IN THE FORM, I’LL GIVE YOU A JOB. They took you.

Thanks for the offer, but remote or not, I really don’t feel like working Moscow hours.

Extra Special Time-Sensitive Bonus Spam of the day:

New York Comic Con Starts Tomorrow!

Yeah, if you’re going to declare that I don’t deserve press credentials for your show, I’m going to have to ask that you take me off your friggin’ press list. It was always the biggest pile of useless of all the shows I was credentialed for, and now it’s extra pointless.

¹ His previous books being biographies of André the Giant and Andy Kaufman², an almost-oral history of Tetris, and a straight history of drug policy around cannabis.

² With an extra half-biography of Jerry Lawler thrown in for good measure.

³ We’re not even considering the pressure on each high school kid that’s decent at a sport to shoot for the pros, or the number of hangers-on, posse-mates, and less-than-immediate relatives that immediately show up for a share of the payout.

Logistical Note

Emails and sometimes even this entire site have been acting up for a while, thanks to a DNS issue that I believe is now resolved. If you didn’t have a satisfactory experience previously, give it another 24-48 hours for propagation and it should be better. I’m already seeing email tests run quicker and more reliably than when I started chasing down the problem, so hopefully we’re good.

The internet, man. It’s held together with duct tape, chewing gum, and the least threatening lasers ever.

On The Cusp Of Something New

Cusps, actually, as there are several webcomics that are right at the verge of something more. Let’s hit ’em.

Oh boy do I love BACK by KC Green (who is one of the smartest writers webcomics has, with a huge amount of depth behind surfaces that sometimes look easy to dismiss) and Anthony Clark (whose smooth lines and almost chibi characters are the definition of charming, but also provide the platform for real emotional depth), which is near to 300 multi-page updates and has put its main character — Agatha, a cowgirl and force of nature/chaos — into a philosophical conversation with … God?

Agatha’s on the cusp of a decision, brought to this point by everything she’s experienced, all the expectations placed on her, and wondering about the right thing to do, which I don’t think anybody’s ever asked her what her opinion might be. She’s been led and directed from place to place, forced into one path or another, everybody trying to boss her around (except Daniel) and nobody’s ever wondered if maybe she doesn’t want to end the world?


Power Nap
Okay, it’s done and dusted, as was recently discussed, but we have today a) a final volume cover image, and b) a promise of what Martiza Campos and Bachan will be working on next, which is always exciting. Keep your eyes (pyramid-housed or no) on the page, or maybe hit the RSS feed so you can get in on the ground floor of whatever’s next.


Kill Six Billion Demons
Say what you will about Tom Parkinson-Morgan, dude know how to both wrap up a storyline on a cliffhanger, and how to tease a new (in this case, final) story arc. The art on KSBD has never been less than impressive as hell, but the fine details, line weight, and especially coloring subtlety have been on a steady trajectory upward over the story’s run, resulting in some of the most bizarrely packed (yet never cluttered) apocalyptic fever-dream images ever committed to comics. They’re like a Final Fantasy boss monster met Old Testament angels met the art on a 1970s panel van owned by the world’s biggest Hawkwind fan who was stoned out of their gourd on the exact same stuff as John of Patmos, and I mean that in the best possible way.

And it’s all coming down to this: the last volume of the story, although let’s acknowledge that each volume has exceeded the page count of the previous, ranging from a low of 92 pages to the most recent topping out at 170; at an average of two updates a week (granted, some are multiple behemoths), we may be looking at two years or more of what’s likely to be breakneck-pace Technicolor eschatology¹ that will ramp up the tension all the way to the end; Parkinson-Morgan’s always had a period of downtime for the characters between previous volumes, and that’s just gone out the metaphorical window along with the everything², it looks like.

Spam of the day:

Shocking Proof God’s Plan Is Coming True…

Is this about Stephen Miller getting COVID? Because if you tell me that’s a bullet point on God’s Plan, I may have to re-evaluate this whole atheism thing.

¹ Look it up.

² I mean, when your Big Bad makes an entrance with the equivalent of a tactical nuke just to get your attention, I think it’s time for a whole new scale of stakes and the raising thereof.


As has been noted in the past, there are certain folks within the webcomics ambit that have closely-aligned significant dates; Ryan North and John Allison, for example, share a birthdate, and I am a co-birthdayist with Jon Rosenberg. Dylan Meconis and her wife, Katie Lane¹, have two birthdays and an anniversary on three consecutive days.

And today, the 6th of October, one may find celebrations of the birth of Ananth Hirshbon vivant, man about town, possessor of the best poker face in history — and also eight years since the awesome wedding² of Holly Jeffrey Rowland.

Today is also the day that we found out who the 2020 MacArthur Fellows are (no [web]comics folks this year, but still a stunning cross-disciplinary collection of people representing the breadth of human endeavours) and the winners of the Harvey Awards, which will be formally presented by streaming ceremony on Friday evening, in conjunction with virtual NYCC.

  • The Book Of The Year and Best Children Or Young Adult Book went to Gene Yang for Dragon Hoops and Superman Smashes The Klan, respectively; the latter is shared with Gurihiru as the artists. The former was up against the likes of Lynda Barry and Tillie Walden’s Are You Listening? (one of my favorite books of the past year), along with Chris Ware, Eleanor Davis, and more.

    The latter was an even more impressive win, as Yang was competing against himself (Dragon Hoops being double-nominated), Guts, Stargazing, and Almost American Girl. It’s pretty unheard of to go against Raina with a Raina-alike book and then defeat both of them with the cheeriest story about stomping Nazis ever. Also, although I never got back to Books 2 and 3 of SSTK, let me say that Yang not only gets Superman better than anybody in the past couple of decades, his Lois Lane is perfect.

  • Digital Book Of The Year went to The Nib which I’m not sure is a book in the way the other nominees were, but certainly well-deserved. Matt Bors and his co-conspirators do amazing work, five days a week.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to check back in on the Ringo Awards, due to be announced in a few weeks. It’s finally acknowledged (as near as I can tell, the announcement about two hours after I last wrote about it) that Baltimore Comic Con ain’t happening in person, and the awards will be streamed from the virtual BCC. So, glad to see sanity prevailing.

Spam of the day:

Alison Wethering wrote: Hey, great site! Have you thought about adding a video in response to COVID-19?

I believe that I am firmly on the record that my response to COVID is Isolate and wear a mask, or stay the fuck away from me forever, you plague rats.

¹ Light-ning Law-yer!!

² No cake at this shindig, there was an ice cream truck complete with Choco Tacos.

I Am Feeling Called Out

I mean, this is me, right? Kathy Peterson — pardon me, Doctor Kathy Peterson, who like me has spent non-comics time for the past forever dealing with COVID-19 as part of the duct-tape-and-chewing-gum monstrosity that is the American healthcare system, not that I have opinions¹ — has specifically written this comic about me. Is this what negging feels like, because I have an odd urge to do what she says so she’ll pay attention and be nicer to me. But seriously, nice promo job&sup2, and everybody go check out Kidnapped By Gnomes’s election hullabaloo.

In other news, Halloween is a’comin’, or likely not if we’re being responsible, and that leaves a whole bunch of questions up in the air for what happens in a few weeks. My state/town haven’t made any pronouncement about trick or treating, but I’m deeply divided. On the one hand, I’m never the house that stiff kids with crappy candy. On the other, kids are ambulatory disease vectors, and the thought of opening my door to them — no matter how masked all are — gives me the heebie-jeebies and the jibblies.

I could put a bowl out and tell kids to take one, but I don’t want to have a bunch of hands pawing through and acting as an infective conduit, even if the emphasis isn’t really on fomites these days. And I don’t know that I’m ambitious enough to build a candy chute or zipline. Probably I’ll tape a bunch of individual candy to the fence that leads to my front door with a sign that says Take One, Be Safe, Happy Halloween.

Or, wherever I am, I could spent the time between now and All Hallow’s Eve with the Cartoon Art Museum Scrawl-O-Ween challenge:

This spook-tacular challenge fundraiser features 31 talented cartoonists illustrating 31 Halloween-themed drawing prompts all throughout October!

Featured artists include Jamaica Dyer, Brian Fies, Brad Rader, Andy Ristaino, Sam Viviano, and Judd Winick, but ALL cartoonists of all skill levels are invited to participate! Use the hashtag #scrawloween and join us on Twitter at @cartoonart and on Instagram and Facebook at @cartoonartmuseum to join in the fun!

They did say fundraiser, you’ll note. Each drawing from one of the participating artists will be available as a high-res download for US$five bucks, or US$100 for all 31. Original artwork will be auctioned off on the CAM E-bay page at the end of the month, and CAM will give a on individual museum membership away each day to one person selected from those using the #scrawloween hashtag to post their drawings on the sosh-meeds. For those wanting to participate, the prompts are:

 01 Cat   02 Cobweb   03 Werewolf 
 04 Ghost   05 Demon   06 Wizard 
 07 Mask   08 Monster   09 Fear 
 10 Vampire   11 Mirror   12 Haunted 
 13 Midnight   14 B-Movie   15 Cauldron 
 16 Shadow   17 Howl   18 Tarantula 
 19 Spirit   20 Eerie   21 Mad Scientist 
 22 Horror Host   23 Phantom   24 Goon 
 25 Alien   26 Goblin   27 Pumpkin 
 28 Witch   29 Tombstone   30 Strange 
31 Trick Or Treat

Happy drawing, and good scares, everybody.

Spam of the day:

When I was 18 I was a raging bull-man? I’d wake up with a hose solid enough to put out a small garbage fire?now I’m like halfway there on a normal day.

No shit, this spam comes to me with a return address of Alexander.Jones@[redacted] and you cannot convince me it’s not the Alex Jones. I can absolutely see that belligerent, bellowing, unhinged nutjob being deeply obsessed with his actual, personal hose.

¹ Namely, if you don’t stay the hell home and wear the fucking mask, you are a godsdamned ignorant, irresponsible, reckless asshole who is trying to murder me and everybody I love, thank you, I will not be taking questions at this time.

² Because the last thing I need is another by-the-numbers press release that came straight out of the boilerplate factory.

Watching The CXC Kickoff Reception

Updates to this post as things occur.

  • There will be a CXC 2021, and the goal is to have a named award memorializing Tom Spurgeon to present then.
  • Jerzy Drozd, interim director, speaks really naturally to Zoom; it doesn’t feel like he’s separated by time and space, it feels like he’s in the room with you.
  • Transformative Work award for changing the industry to Nate Power, Andrew Aydin, and the late Rep John Lewis. Powell accepted the award, accompanied by his cat, looking like a small version of the lions in front of the main branch NYC Public Library.
  • Master Cartoonist award for significant & sustained contribution to Diane Newman.
  • Emerging Talent award is usually presented on the floor with Jeff Smith & Vijaya Iyer surprising the recipient with a giant novelty check (and a real one). This year it goes to Gabby Metzler with a surprise Zoom, holding up her check for US$7500 cash money, which was a joyous moment.
  • Locher Award For Political Cartoons (for younger cartoonists) presented by AAEC to Tom Coute (runner up) and Catherine Gong (winner). Judges were Pia Guerra, Keith Knight, and Jen Sorensen.
  • Jenny Robb and Caitlin McGurk had some tech issues and said what were probably great world but couldn’t be heard for most of their introduction to Tom Gammill greeting the session from the Ernie Bushmiller Museum (in his house). Bushmiller says Wash your hands!
  • Non-trademark violating Pictionary-alike! Keith Knight, Kate Beaton, Fábio Moon, and Jeff Smith playing Paper Charades for speed drawing fun amusements, and the audience trying to guess what they were drawing. Fun!
  • There was a tour of the vaults with Jenny and Caitlin, with special guests along the way.
  • Garry Trudeau made a gift of 75+ Pogo strips to the Billy Ireland.
  • I have to go walk my dog, so I’ma miss a chunk here. It’s being recorded and you’ll be able to catch it on the YouTube channel.
  • Bill Watterson talked about Richard Thompson and Cul de Sac.

More of CXC this weekend.

Fleen Book Corner: Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones

There’s not a lot to be said about any subset of Check, Please’s fairly extensive story, whether in print or online, that isn’t going to focus on how unrelentingly joyous it is. There’s little bitty bits¹ of drama that makes you narrow your eyes and vow vengeance on completely fictional characters because they made one of your favorites cry, bleed, or doubt themselves, but you know that it’ll come back around to the joy soon enough. That’s the deal that Ngozi Ukazu has made with us: Bitty’s on a journey, he’s growing, he’ll be better off at the end of it.

But dang if the journey ain’t a wonderful rollercoaster ride in the meantime.

Book 2 (subtitled Sticks & Scones) picks up where Book 1 left off (and, uh, spoilers for that now two-year old book if you haven’t read it, or these strips which ran online years ago), with Bitty and Jack in a relationship, and wondering how to handle the truth of their affection for each other balanced against the truths that they are, respectively, an NCAA Division 1 hockey player and an NHL rookie. It takes a while to reveal their relationship to all the friends from the past two years of story (who are all various degrees of nonplussed), and longer to Jack’s new teammates, and still longer to the world — yeah, kissing on center ice after winning the Stanley Cup is a pretty big statement to the world.

Again, Bitty and Jack are the center of the story, but it’s the side characters that show Ukazu’s genius. Anybody can pour their heart into creating their POV character and their most important relationship, but it takes real skill to make you care about the side characters, and have them consistent enough that their peripheral involvement in the narrative doesn’t feel off. She’s developed — pardon the sports metaphor — a deep bench of supporting players.

  • Ransom & Holster remain best bros and would still be the leads in any number of other stories, but we’ve seen goofballs like them before.
  • Chowder will always be sweet, good natured, and too willing to apologize. He knows his role is to be the innocent who overlooks things.
  • Dex and Nursey will always be at each other’s throat, and morph into indivisibly tight bros so gradually, you never notice.
  • Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot (heh), Hops, Bully, and Louis all have enough to distinguish them that the constant cycling in of new teammates doesn’t feel like they’re interchangeable.
  • And then there’s Tater. Oh glob, do I love Tater. Alexei Mashov is very Russian, very enthusiastic, fully in Jack & Bitty’s corner (especially as long as Bitty keeps making pies for the team), and always there when the scene needs a little lightening, like a Newfie puppy that just loves you so much². He is gonna teach Bitty how to do a figure-skater lift of full-size NHL players, just you watch.
  • Bitty’s parents, good God-fearin’ Southern folks, are more than background players, but we don’t see them much. Their impact on Bitty’s life is mostly in his head, and it works out. We know that there’s an acceptance when Dad (“Coach”) and Jack come in on Bitty and Mom having a third-generation family fight over a jam recipe and decide to quietly peace out together. It’s a quiet, subtle, but triumphant moment that speaks volumes about Ukazu’s worldview.

    Namely, there’s so many big things that get in the way of family, when we let you in to fight about the utterly stupid stuff? That’s love. That’s where we can all thrive, whether the rest of the world says we deserve to or not.

Plus, there’s an egregious use of Comic Sans that actually serves a gag to perfection. I am forced to enjoy it, despite Comic Sans. And plus-plus, did you see that Ukazu has a cartoon in the new issue of The New Yorker because she totally does.

Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones is available everywhere for months now, I only just got my copy because COVID and Diamond and the G train? Read it enjoy the extras, pass it along to the gay hockey bro fan in your life which should be, goodness, everybody. It’s a delight. For those of you waiting for the fourth volume of the self-published Kickstarted series that will match books 1-3 on your shelf, Ukazu says it’s coming. Nobody expected having to deal with a worldwide pandemic, so patience, please.

Spam of the day:

Sharks: This tiny pill changes everything. Now you can tap 100% of your Brain Power.

Do you … do you think that I’m a shark and that’s why I need this pill? Like all Nimona style I’M A SHARK AAAHH? Sorry, but I’m not a shark.

I’m a sharktopus.

¹ So to speak.

² Read the tweets at the back of the book — in addition to finally learning Shitty’s name, we find out that after Jack wins the Cup and Bitty’s hiding from facing his parents, Tater (injured in a late Cup game) casually decides he’s crashing with them for the summer to recuperate from his injury. You don’t need to see what happens to know exactly how it’s gonna play out.

Fleen Book Corner: Banned Book Club

I’m not sure that Ryan Estrada and Kim Hyun Sook could have written a more appropriate book for these times. We’re getting right into it, so if you don’t want (admittedly, 30 year old history) spoilers, stop reading now, buy this book, and read it instead.

When I was in college, things were happening in South Korea; my political science professor talked about how critically important it was that the first reasonably credible elections in decades were happening, and what led up to it — regular student protests, which had rules:

The students would go out demanding the authoritarian regime step down; the regime would reflexively brand them as Communists and North Korean agents and send out the riot cops with their Darth Vader helmets, truncheons, tear gas, and water cannons. They’d fight for a while, the students would retreat to campus, and that would be it for the day. Get nabbed off campus and you could be disappeared, but like a game of tag, campus was Home Free.

Then one day, the riot cops went onto campus to continue the beatings and arrests and the world started paying more attention. The Olympics were granted to Seoul, the country beyond the students started to join the protests, change happened. The first elections were still won by the members of the regime because the opposition was at a disadvantage (their leaders having only just been freed to start parties and organize), but by 1992, they had prevailed. Korea dismantled the fascist structures that had been in charge for three decades (and completely remade the police), and generally became a better place. Not perfect, but better.

Banned Book Club is the story of what happened in the years before things got better, when the tear gas and beatings, the contrived charges, show trials, and deaths were happening and a large part of the country — most everybody except for those darn students — just sort of agreed not to notice. It had been that way for 20 years, after all, since the military coup back in ’61, and the second coup in ’80 and second coup leader was still in power but he was only fighting against criminals and agitators, right?

And the books they banned, and the students and teachers in prison for reading them, they were all subversives, right?

And the factory workers being forced to work and the President’s friends getting rich, and the critical newspapers being burned to the ground for spreading “lies” about the regime, and the President not caring if anybody believed him or not, that was just how things worked, right?


Kim Hyun Sook was part of the generation who’d been shielded from what had actually happened until she made it to university, and fell in with students reading Chomsky and Betty Friedan, Locke and Sartre, Marx and Guevara, Simone de Beauvoir and unapproved Jack London (White Fang was okay, The Iron Heel decidedly wasn’t) and watching bootleg VHS tapes of foreign news reports about Korea.

She watched the cop who was assigned to kill stories in the student newspaper that the regime didn’t want published miss the stories that were being passed hand-to-hand; she watched students on government-sponsored scholarships inform on their classmates; she watched fellow protesters get swept up and subjected to state violence with the lucky ones being released days later.

And now, we’re in a place that’s pretty much exactly where Hyun Sook was, only it didn’t take decades for so many in America to become willfully blind to what’s happening. We have the opportunity to be at the point she and her compatriots were at, with maybe the most prescient lesson being: the fight is never over.

See, in 2016, the daughter of the first coup leader (who was eventually assassinated by his own security forces for being too brutal) became President and tried to go back to Dad’s way of doing things; the people of Korea went into the streets, every weekend for months, as many as 10% of the country’s population at any given time, and demanded that she be impeached for her crimes.

It wasn’t just the students, it was too many to ignore, the reformers had done too thorough a job of dismantling the fascist state¹ and they weren’t going back (and, this time, the cops were marching with the protesters). She was removed from office and then charged with bribery, coercion, leaking government secrets, and abuse of power, leading to a conviction, a 25 year prison sentence, and a fine of nearly US$17 million.

Which is what you need to do when there is a man (and later, his daughter) that regards the presidency as his birthright. Or, and Hyun Sook concludes:

The villains of the past are never really gone. Now we have another President Park blacklisting authors, journalists and filmmakers, and trying to ban textbooks that criticize her father’s regime.

But this time when the people rose up, it was not in the shadows. Not just behind closed doors, and not just a handful of them. It was everyone.

People don’t get that organized unless someone is stubborn enough to fight for what’s right, even when no one’s listening.

The lesson is clear — fight with everything you’ve got, and don’t ever think that the defeated would-be Presidents For Life won’t revive with another face. Even when you do win, keep fighting to ensure that the systems are stronger, better, fairer than they were so that the next nascent fascist doesn’t have as much of a foothold of grievance to work with, because there’s always something that needs fixing. And while we’re figuring out how to do all of that, let this coda keep you warm at night:

In March 2017, President Park Geun-hye was impeached, removed from office, and imprisoned for corruption. The final vote was struck by her own judges, many of whom she had personally placed in office. A special election was held, and the new Preisdent was Moon Jae-in.

Can’t imagine why that thought makes me so very happy. Yep, that’s a stumper.

Banned Book Club is based on the lived experiences of Kim Hyun Sook, with actual people being blended into composite characters for privacy and safety². Kim’s husband Ryan Estrada turned Kim’s stories into a story that works in comics. Ko Hyung-ju provided open, appealing art that draws you into the lives of the characters, emphasizing their ordinariness and the shocking treatment they receive for demanding truth. It is available at bookstores everywhere, and should be read and passed to as many people as you possibly can.

Spam of the day:

LETION LED Torch, UV Light 2 in 1 UV Torch Black Light Flashlight with 500LM Highlight & 4 Mode & Waterproof IPX 4 for Pet Clothing Food Fungus Detection/Night Fishing/Travel

Food Fungus? Look, never bring a UV light into your home unless you want to find out exactly how much dandruff, blood, urine, and semen is hanging around.

¹ After the fall of the military dictatorship, leaders were charged and convicted for their crimes, with the second coup leader — Chun Doo-hwan — ultimately sentenced to death for ordering a massacre of a town¹. He was pardoned by the current President, who was advised by the President-elect, who in turn had been sentenced to death by Chun’s regime 20 years earlier.

² But they’re talking [grin].

This Friday, Friday, Friday

Okay, it was actually Sunday, but that’s not when things are happening and the alternative was … less good.

  • Friday is, of course, the start of CXC, the first without director Tom Spurgeon, and the first (not to mention hopefully last) that needs must be distanced. The guest list is deep and impressive (and features Fleen faves like Box Brown, Faith Erin Hicks, Shing Yin Khor, C Spike Trotman, Ben Hatke, Maris Wicks, and more).

    Exhibiting is going to be remote affair, but there’s so many good creators on the list, many of whom you’ll be able to catch during the programming. Okay, okay, the pre-keynote programming actually starts on Thursday the 1st, but the official start of the show is on Friday with a keynote speech by Gene Luen Yang (4:00pm EDT, details here) and a Jeff Smith-hosted opening reception at 5:00pm EDT (registration required)

    Other events to keep an eye on (all times EDT):

    All those registration links? That’s if you want to participate; you’ll get a personal (and traceable) Zoom link, which should help to keep griefers and Zoomboombers the hell away. All sessions (except for those designated adults only) will appear at the CXC stream, on Twitch, and YouTube, and I’ve barely scratched the surface on the interviews, workshops, how-tos, and Discord hangouts.

  • Speaking of both Friday and Spike, and heck also porn, the Kickstart (a short-run campaign, only 12 days start to finish) for Iron Circus’s latest quality pornographique ends on Friday. Patience & Esther by SW Searle is 280 pages of Edwardian erotic as the two title characters navigate feels, shifting mores, and — given that this is an Iron Circus NSFW title, I’m confident in saying some hot, hot gettin’ it on.

    If you’re on Spike’s mailing list for something other than all-ages titles? Check your inbox, ’cause you’ve probably been sent a link for the full first chapter, full of upstairs/downstairs class divisions, scene-setting, character backstory, and body positivity.

    Oh, and for anybody grumping about how Esther isn’t lily-white despite being in England, exactly what do you think happened to all of the unintended children of colonizers and the servant classes around the world? However many of them you think made it from the far-flung corners of the Empire back to Jolly Old, I guarantee you it was more, by an order of magnitude or three.

    Patience & Esther has currently raised US$32.2K (of a US$12K goal), and given the immense inrush of funding on day one and the short duration, has already demolished both the FFF mk2 (and the McDonald Ratio won’t help, as there’s simply not time to triple the initial funding period). Top funding level is a mere US$20 (plus shipping) for the physical book, so maybe get in on that? Y’only have a few more days to decide.

Spam of the day:

Nro Code:(o8983B) – Users Say Its Better Than Implants

Unless it’s the kind of implants that let me fight criminals (a cowardly, superstitious lot), not interested.

The Power Of The Dad Sweater Compels You!

So let’s talk newspaper comics for a minute. We’ve seen them decline over the decades into third- or fourth-generation legacy creations, desperately trying not to change from what they’ve been for the past half-century, with the occasional burst of creativity or weirdness for contrast. The vast majority of the comics page is best by what I refer to as Chris Columbus Syndrome, wherein I imagine that Chris Columbus was given the directing job for the first Harry Potter movie and told Don’t screw this up, give them exactly what they want and we can ride out this franchise for literal billions of dollars but it this first one tanks it’s all over.

That first movie was … serviceable. It’s not a coincidence that the only entry in the series that was in any way fun, visually interesting, or not a direct transliteration of page to screen was Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner Of Azkaban, which they never allowed to happen again. But, like Cuarón’s take on Harry Potter, there are newspaper strips that are seeing new life for the first time in who knows how long, in part due to indie- and webcomickers.

Olivia Jaimes on Nancy and Joey Allison Sayers on Alley Oop, Bianca Xunise as one of the Six Chix and Steenz Stewart on Heart Of The City, a whole bunch o’ folks contributing to Popeye’s Cartoon Club, but most notably Randy Milholland’s monthlong run¹. The odd thing is, a lot of the stodgiest of the stodgy strips come from King Features syndicate, and an awful lot of the new-life breathing is down to their editor, Tea Fougner, who has an eye for matching the right cartoonist with the right project.

And now, the stodgiest, stiffest, slowest-paced strip of them all is getting a kicking-and-screaming drag into the present day, as Mark Trail is about to get a new writer/artist. You remember Mark Trail? Alleged magazine writer, ramrod straight posture from the medium-sized sapling that must be crammed up his ass at all times? Everybody in the strip has hair and clothing styles straight out of the Sears catalog, circa 1962? Mark’s ward/son/tween hanger-on Rusty looks like a gremlin attempting a human disguise but only had a half-congealed Ted Cruz as a model?

There’s a new direction imminent for Trail, courtesy of a Bronx-born Latina with no time for shit. Jules Rivera of Love, Joolz is now Mark Trail’s dad and she’s found the inner truth about Mark Trail — dude’s jacked and should be setting off thirst alarms all over the damn place.

Hell, I’m just glad that the strip will move from a color palette of approximately 11 solid hues and a habit of posing like everything’s a Victorian photograph that required you to stay stock-still for eight minutes. Heck, just that hummingbird in the cast photo up top is showing more movement than the strip has seen in the past decade. And in case you wonder if Mark will still punch poachers, kidnappers, robbers, and general ne’er-do-wells, I’d say that Rivera might even expand his repertoire. Mark Trail’s new fighting technique will be unstoppable.

The new era of Mark Trail starts on Monday, 12 October. Update your links and prepare for your nature facts to be a zillion percent more awesome, and for all of the right people — the ones that declare nobody but a late-middle-aged (or older) white dude could possibly write or draw Mark Trail — are gonna have fits.

Spam of the day:

Get the word out about your Covid preventative measures

My crew have PPE that starts with N95 masks and goes all the way up to bunny suits, not to mention the cleaning power of babykiller wipes and access to biohazard disposal facilities. Oh, wait, were you trying to sell me some plastic partitions or shit like that? Awww, you’re adorable.

¹ We’ll give an honorary acknowledgement to Ces Marciuliano, who was the first to make the jump on Sally Forth (Ted Forth is the most unhinged guy on the comics page) some 20 years back, and more recently Judge Parker (how many daily strips your grandparents read feature murderous exotic dancers?).