The webcomics blog about webcomics

I Picked The Wrong Day To Come Back To Writing

On account of I do the majority of my blog writing in midafternoon, and against all past historical precedent, it’s clear skies for today’s solar eclipse. I needed to ease back in anyway, so let’s do this briefly, yeah? Since I’ve been gone, there have been two things I noticed in my greatly-reduced webcomics-attention-paying:

  • Ugly Hill! Oh good glob, Ugly Hill! There’s nothing at that link, and even the Wayback Machine has most all of the art missing, but Paul Southworth has brought it back via his Patreon:

    ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m re-releasing “Ugly Hill” from the beginning for $5 Patreon subscribers starting Monday, 8/7/17! https://www.patreon.com/southworth

    Add this to the recent revival of Lake Gary and we’re getting what all that is good and right in the world tells us we deserve: hideous Southworthian creatures behaving terribly. And it will go on forever; at five updates a week, it may take four or five years to get through the entirety of Ugly Hill.

  • The latest Iron Circus anthology sent out its call for submissions. FTL, Y’all takes as its theme the prompt of a cheap faster-than-light drive — like two hundred dollars cheap — and asks for stories of the situations that result. As readers of this page will recall Iron Circus Benevolent Dictator For Life Spike Trotman runs successful projects that pay (including, historically, bonuses based on how the Kickstarts go), but that she does not suffer fools gladly.

    Got a great idea for the anthology you want considered? Great! Read the damn FAQ first so you don’t waste your time. Then read the damn submission guidelines so you don’t waste Spike’s time, or that of project editor Amanda Lefrenais. I can pretty much promise you that the best looking and most original story in the known universe will be kicked to the reject pile if you don’t follow the guidelines. Submissions close 15 September, and contributors will be announced 15 October.

Okay, time to observe the majesty of the universe.


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Fleen Book Corner: Spinning

[Editor’s note: The inestimable Gina Gagliano at :01 Books sent a review copy of Tillie Walden’s Spinning that I received just after San Deigo Comic Con, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s due for release in about a month’s time (12 September, to be precise), and I normally wait until the ten-days-to-two-weeks prior to run a review of a forthcoming book.

But heck, Kirkus and Junior Library Guild and Publishers Weekly have had theirs out for weeks now¹, about the same time Walden was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly. So early or not, I’m diving in. Needless to say, you may find spoilers ahead.]

I find myself with thoughts that so completely mirror an earlier book that I feel compelled to quote some of what I wrote three years back:

[I]t’s a story that hurts in a real, tangible, maybe-necessary-maybe-not way. I suspect that if I’d been an almost-teen girl at any point in my life, it would ache and resonate even more. Getting to the truths below the surface of the One Summer in question is like having to peel away a bandage and finally let the healing of the wound below finish up.

That was in reference to This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki; I’m years further from being anything resembling an almost-teen girl, but Spinning is helping me understand what that point in life (and the half-dozen years since) are like. Which is not to say that it’s the same story, not at all.

Spinning is autobiographical, it’s telling a story that bumps up to just a few years ago in Walden’s life (the book functionally ends when she’s 16 or so; she’s just recently turned 21), and it works in a hazy, dreamlike, spare fashion (some pages entirely lack panel borders, with huge swaths of white space and widely-separated blocks of text and images making the moment hang

in

the

air

forever) to act less as memoir², and more to serve as an emtion-delivery mechanism. 400 pages of Walden’s personal history digested, I can’t tell you more than the broadest outline of when things happened to her.

Although presented linearly, I’m left with an impression of Walden’s life that’s more akin to the skating diagrams shown during the first instance of her testing to determine her competition level — swoops and swirls, crossing her own path, which suddenly disappears and reappears further along after a jump.

The curlicue patterns in the ice may as well be her life’s path: intense shyness and dissatisfaction followed by a cross-country move; solitary nature exacerbated by having to adjust to a new home, new school, new teammates and rivals, and even a new vocabulary of skating³. All of which were eclipsed by the effort of dealing with the fact that she’s gay and wondering if she’ll ever be allowed to love somebody openly.

That lack of straight-line storytelling leads to a potentially unreliable narration — there’s just enough sketches of a schoolgirl bully to wonder what really happened (and when), for instance — which is not a drawback. Walden indicates in her afterword that she intentionally did not seek out any reference material, photos, or recollections of others in making the book, preferring to get to an essential truth over a literal one. This is maybe the greatest storytelling strength in Spinning.

I may not have a clear understanding of what point in Walden’s life the Skate Moms at the rink — Walden’s own mother is shown as variously distant, disinterested in her skating career, and complaining of its costs — decided to be total bitches to her about paying for rink time, but I am acutely aware of the depth and breadth of how that incident — and the others in her life — made her feel.

Some of those feelings were imposed on her, some of those feelings propelled her or paralyzed her, some of those feelings that she may never have shared before this book. The emotional charge is such that, more than once, I was left gasping after a too-long period of not breathing, not daring to disturb a years-and-miles distant Walden in a moment of crisis.

I used the word dreamlike earlier, and the more I think on it, the more I think it’s the most precise word to use. Spinning leaves you in that same state as you’re in when waking from a dream and everything is bright and perfectly detailed in that moment before it fades, leaving impressions. It’s a story where you don’t start at the beginning and move to the end; you start at an arbitrary point and then you get dragged in and filled in on the bits you need when necessary. I won’t tell you everything, the story whispers, just true things.

Spinning is transformative. It the story of one person, with just enough true things to make its points, some of them related to skating but most of them not. It requires you to open yourself up to the truth of being Tillie Walden, at the expense of not being solely you, just a little. Take the leap, find yourself in other shoes (err, skates), and you’ll be different for having invited in somebody else’s truth for a short while.


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¹ As of this writing, there are 33 reviews on Goodreads.

² That is, a recounting of these are the things that happened at these points in my life.

³ New Jersey, where Walden lived until the end of fifth grade, and Texas, where she moved, belonged to different competitive organizations with different standards and criteria.

As well as her critically-lauded webcomic, On A Sunbeam.

Late Post, Good Reason

Namely, I was reading Abby Howard’s new graphic novel, Dinosaur Empire!¹. For those that are looking for a quick verdict: thumbs up. Waaaayyy up. Like, all the thumbs in the vicinity. If you in the near future hear about a vicious criminal attacking random people and hacking off their thumbs, it’s only because I need those thumbs to make them go up to indicate the degree to which this book is good.

Slightly longer version: Howard’s crafted a story around a broad topic (the entire history of dinosaurs and similar extinct critters which were not dinosaurs — spanning a range of 140 million years or so — without reducing it to bare facts. There’s a plot to it, as Ronnie (who scored a 0 on her fifth-grade dinosaurs quiz, and has until tomorrow to take it again or suffer a damaged academic future) learns (reluctantly at first, then with increasing interest) all about the evolution and extinction of archosaurs, sea reptiles, flying reptiles, mammals, plants, insects, and dinosaurs.

She’s disinterested at first — just skip ahead to the T rex, please! — but Ms Lernin wins her over. Ms Lernin is the eccentric (that means weirdo) former paleontologist that lives down the road (and who bears a striking resemblance to Howard herself) with a recycling bin that’s bigger on the inside and lets her travel to different points in time and space². By cycling through the various eras of the Mesozoic, Ronnie watches evolution in action and learns about ecological niches, convergent evolution, the phylogenetic tree, continental drift, global weather patterns, how large herbivores with armor probably means there’s large predators around, and feathers.

Glorious, colorful feathers, from early late Triassic protofeather fluff to fully–plumed nonavian dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous. We didn’t always know about warm-blooded feathered dinos, Ms Lernin tells us³, but that’s one of the joys of paleontology — we’re always figuring stuff out. There’s a joy of discovery that suffuses the entire book: new species to discover, new relationships to figure out, new behaviors to determine, and that fact that anything from cat-sized crocodylomorphs to the first snake can be considered cute (and in many cases, soft and fluffy).

The variety of creatures will engage readers of the target age group (and anybody that’s every been a member of the target age group, which let’s call 8-12 years old), and the repeated lessons told at each time period will subtly reinforce complex ideas. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is probably the best introductory, full-breadth book for teaching kids about dinosaurs and dinosaur-like animals.

Now give me your thumbs.


Spam of the day:

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I don’t drink coffee.

_______________
¹ Which is listed as volume 1 of the Earth Before Us series, but I can’t find anything on the publisher’s page to indicate what the subsequent books in the series would be: topic, publication schedule, creative team, nada.

It appears that Ms Howard will have a Reddit AMA on Monday, 7 August at noon EDT. Maybe somebody can ask her?

² Asked how this is possible, she shrugs and says Let’s just call it Science Magic. Science Magic also keeps Ms Lernin and Ronnie from drowning, dying from falls, getting squished, or eaten (but still requires them to run from wasps). Hooray for Science Magic!

³ And she points out some desert-dwelling varieties lost the need for feathers even after they evolved.

Arrivals And Departures

Hey there, how was your weekend? My wife learned how to make sauerkraut and we understand that it’s nearly past the fartsmelly stage of fermentation. Here’s some other things that have been going on of late.

Arriving: Readers of this page know that I love me some Digger by the entirely wonderful Ursula Vernon. Readers of this page will also recall that I really, really loved Vernon’s serialized novella, Summer In Orcus¹, which ran from September to December. It’s one of the best YA reads of the past decade for me, and I encourage you all to go check it out.

And, as of a couple of days ago, I urge you to purchase the physical item, something I’ve been eager for ever since it was announced back in March. The Summer In Orcus Kickstarter (words by T Kingfisher, pictures by Lauren Henderson, logistics by Sofawolf Press) is now up for your consideration, and I suggest you look most carefully at the tier that gets you a hardcover copy (for keeping) and a softcover copy (for giving … or maybe you’re more altruistic than I am towards your elementary school niece and will give away the hardcover). You have a month to get in on the campaign, with delivery slated for October; get in while the gettin’s good.

Departing: There’s a lot of critters in SIO: frogs and bears and wolves and wasps and weasels and birds … so, so many birds. A lot of them would feel right at home in Your Wild City, the exploration of flora and fauna and how they’ve adapted to the urban environment by the invaluable Rosemary Mosco and the inimitable Maris Wicks. At least, they would until today.

Dude to the demands of time on both of their careers of popularizing and interpreting science and nature via the medium of comics, Mosco and Wicks have decided to wrap up Your Wild City. It’s a sore loss, but there’s a wonderfully broad and weird archive that isn’t going anywhere. Thanks for all the comics explaining the birds, bugs, and beasties of our cityscapes, ladies!

Arriving and Departing: See, because elevators both come and go on a regular basis, like they’re helping Grover explain spatial concepts or other opposites, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Readers will recall that Kelly and Zach Weinersmith are collaborating on a book about technologies we expect to have Soonish, one being the idea of cheap lift capability to escape the gravity well.

A prime possibility for such cheap lift is the long-fictional, maybe-someday-real space elevator, which has great potential and only a few drawbacks. And you (for values of you that incudes iDevice users; Android coming soon) can now experience space elevators yourself, thanks to a new augmented reality app. Point your phone at the cover of the book (or an image of same) and you get to see a space elevator in action. Neat!


Spam of the day:

Steven Never Knew His Secretary Could Swallow (true story)

Steven was under the impression that she suffered from a lifelong disability, requiring feeding via a cannula implanted directly into her GI tract.

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¹ Released under her alias T Kingfisher, which identity she uses for writings that are not strictly for kids. The books she releases as Ursula Vernon feature more hamsters and shrews and not much real danger.

Kicking, Starting, And Suchlike

How’s Thursday treating you? Good? Good. Let’s see what’s up with a Kickstart that wrapping next week, one that’s starting next week, and some good feels along the way.

  • Lucy Bellwood, distilled essence of enthusiasm and Adventure Cartoonist, is getting ready to wrap the campaign for 100 Demon Dialogues, and is rapidly closing in on doubling her US$25K goal¹. To celebrate, she’s holding a wrap party for backers on Monday evening, to coincide with the conclusion of funding:

    If you’re in Portland, OR, come along to the Base Camp Brewing Company outdoor patio next Monday, July 31st from 8-10pm for a group hangout. Base Camp is all-ages friendly till 10pm, so younger friends are welcome, and there are delicious food carts right outside for those who want to get dinner. I’ll bring the demon prototype so you can all discover just how soft he is (VERY SOFT) and maybe even some original art.

    “But wait,” I hear you cry. “I’M NOT IN PORTLAND.”

    Never fear! You can join us for the last 30 minutes of the campaign via a neat feature called Kickstarter Live. It’s an online video stream where you can tune in and join us at the party, ask questions, release glad cries of victory, and other stuff. That’ll go live at 9:30pm and last until the end of the campaign at 10.

    This link will take you to the live stream.

    Wish I could be there; attendees, please alternately berate and kindly pet the demon plush for me.

  • Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett hasn’t had a Sheldon book out for a while, but that’s about to change. Over the past, I dunno, year and a half, two years, he’s been doing one-off strips of wildlife anatomy, as seen here in the latest iteration. He’s got dozens of these now, and he’s about to launch a Kicker to make a book out of ’em come Tuesday morning. So basically, party with Bellwood and wake up with Kellett.

    I’ve seen some of the Kickstarter video, and some of the process pages — the entire thing is going to look like the sort of very serious scientific treatise that they would release about a hundred years ago before they really knew how things worked. I once went through a chemistry text that my grandfather had saved from high schoolwhere much of the Periodic Table was missing and they spoke about the new a-tom-ic theories with trepidation. It’ll be like that, only with anachronistic references to guacamole and Grindr. It’s gonna be a hoot.


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¹ The FFFmk2 would place her about US$70K +/- 14K, or US$56K – 84K; I think the likelihood is that she’ll fall into that range once the top-up purchases via Backerkit kick in. For example, I intend to supplement my Fancy Pants Package (that’s what it’s called) with another five or so copies of the book, for gifting.

It’s Never Too Pink

The parenthetical was Raina’s doing. When the pitch came to do a panel called Read Like A Girl: Middle-Grade Fiction For Girls, she wasn’t having any of the gendering of stories. Why is it that girls are expected to bea ble to read and enjoy books with boys as protagonists, but books with a girl in the lead are only for girls? She insisted that that title incorporate boys, and that the topic of the panel not be stories for girls.

Read Like A Girl: Middle-Grade Fiction For Girls (And Boys) took place in the Shiley Special Events Suite on the top floor of the San Diego Central Library; Brigid Alverson (of many, many things), my fellow pixel-stained wretch, was moderating.

Raina Telgemeier (queen of the fourth grade), Victoria Jamieson (Rollergirl, the forthcoming All’s Faire In Middle School), Molly Ostertag (Strong Female Protagonist, the forthcoming The Witch Boy), Nidhi Chanani (the forthcoming Pashmina), and Jenni Holm (Babymouse, Sunny) were the panel. The optics of having all women at the front of the room talking about girls reading was quickly and efficiently squashed — as Chanani put it later, It’s a book, it doesn’t have a gender.

[Editor’s note on presentation: italics like that last line represent as direct a quote as I was able to manage while transcribing in real time; plain text indicates that I am expressing the gist of what the speaker said, but it’s a paraphrase.)

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself; that discussion actually came up in the middle of the hour, but the all-genders inclusive nature of the panel was apparent from the beginning, so I’ve brought it forward. Let’s rewind to the start. Alverson opened by talking about growing up partially in the UK; the chief difference being that in the US, there were no comics for girls¹ but in the UK there were. Furthermore, all the best comics being done now are by (and if you have to assign a gender, for) women. So what did the panelists grow up reading?

Raina:² It was comic strips, all by dudes, then For Better Or For Worse leapt off the page and grabbed me.
Jamieson: Same as Raina; I didn’t read a comics as a kid, but I read a lot of books; I was missing realistic stories in comics, but I found those kinds of stories in prose. I read a lot of Ramona.
Ostertag: I didn’t know about comics other than strips, but I read so many books; the fantasy genre had a lot of female authors and characters that didn’t exist in comics. I felt like Superhero comics are not for girls, there’s not good female representation, I should not go there.

Chanani: It was all newspaper comics. The Garfield books were the most used books in the house.
Holm: I’m the middle of five kids, all the others are boys, so there were a lot of comics in our house. Dad had old collections of Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, there were all the Peanuts collections. I also read a lot of classic superhero Marvel and DC; growing up house of all boys, I figured I could do everything they could do, but in comics there was no female equivalent of Peter Parker who had clothes on. I couldn’t find characters I could relate to.

Alverson: The others read newspaper strips, but Jenni you and I read comics.
Holm: The person I most related to was Swamp Thing: not a boy, not a girl, just a swamp.
Ostertag: Looking at comic books, I felt even as a kid it was not for me. It was all very male gazey and put me off wanting to be involved. It wasn’t aggressive, there was just nothing there for me.

Alverson then asked why the panelists are all making comics (when they had little good representation to tell them that they could), rather than writing prose.
Raina: I don’t know how to words. [laughter] I started making comics when I was ten; I started reading them at nine, then my fingers wouldn’t stop. I don’t know how to make stories without pictures. We didn’t have emoji when I was growing up, we had to find ways to express things in pictures.
Chanani: I’m not closed to writing prose sometimes, but comics works for what I want to make. I make art, I grew up reading prose, maybe I’ll do an illustrated book.

Holm: I think I’m the only one on the panel that can’t draw. I suckered my brother into drawing for me and that’s how you make comics. [laughter]
Jamieson: I’m here because of Raina; until I read Smile I never said yes this is something I could do, these are the stories I could tell. It gave me the permission to do things.
Raina: When I first saw your comics I wondered how have we not known each other our entire lives.
Ostertag: Comics are so wonderful to create; you can just flip it open and the heart of the story is there. When I got into it, I didn’t consider the industry, I just wanted to make them.

There was a great followup to Jamieson’s point at this time; the kinds of stories the panelists create didn’t exist for girls when they were each growing; they didn’t exist for boys until recently either.
Alverson: Raina, you’re kind of the prototype. How did you come up with Smile, what was your Smile?

Raina: For Better Or For Worse, BONE, Lynda Barry, the Optic Nerve comics by Adrian Tomine … all these different sources, but it led me to making something that was entirely me. I just knew I had this story, I needed to tell it, I’m a cartoonist, I’m doing this. I thought I was just going to run short stories on Girlamatic, but I decided to do a page a week and tell this longform story. I was telling a story about my dental work, but my readers were really interested in my friends, my relationship with my parents, and their interests really informed the direction of the story. The relationships are what make the kids relate to the story. I think all of us on the panel are writing about relationships.

Alverson: That’s something that did exist in prose, but not comics. All the good comics right now, the interesting ones, are by and for women. That raises the question in the title [Editor’s note — told you we’d get back to it], what about the boys? The cliche is that boys won’t read comics about girls, is that true?

Raina: There’s so much discrimination about what boys will read and what girls will read.
Jamieson: You asked where are the comics for boys, but they’re here. I have boys read the books, I know boys read the books, I go to school visits and they tell me they love them. Much like Calvin And Hobbes was about a boy but not for boys, I think our stuff is the same. Parents have the stereotype that you put a girl on the cover my son won’t read it but as soon as the kid gets their hands on it, they read it.

Chanani: It’s a book, it doesn’t have a gender, so why are we assigning a gender to something that doesn’t need it? Let the kids pick what they want to read. The gatekeepers have to step away, the kids don’t care.
Holm: Babymouse is very pink. What happened was we created Babymouse specifically for girls, but this was 2005, so we were boldly going for the girls, and our own prejudices assumed it was too much pink for the boys, but the boys do not care. I think sometimes the parents have problems, but I think Babymouse is pretty genderbendy; she sometimes sees herself as a boy mouse.
Ostertag: When I made [The Witch Boy], I made it about a boy wants to do what all the women in his family do: he wants to be a witch. I think girls have a lot of role models that tell them they can cross gender norms, be tomboyish, but I don’t think boys get to be more feminine, kind, emotionally aware. I think we need more books about sensitive boys and to destigmatize that.

Alverson: One of the things about children’s books is there are themes you see over and over again, but you each bring something different to it. There’s always a tension between the universal theme and what makes it specific. Can you talk about what sets your book apart?

Ostertag: It gets down the characters, who they end up being. I love to make stories with a point, then you develop it and the characters become more than somebody there to illustrate a point. It becomes a place you want to go and stay in.
Alverson: So basically making a really cool world.
Jamieson: That’s maybe where I start too. I was playing roller derby and loved it, wanted to share that. Same with the new book; I worked the Renaissance Faire in high school, and I wanted to create a world that readers would want to be in and never leave.

Raina: I do the exact opposite. It started with Oh braces, that sucks, but then kids know they suck and it becomes about finding ways to show kids they’re not alone.
Holm: I’m very nostalgic, and wanted to show the nostalgia for my 70s childhood, but also wanted to hang out with people I love. So the grandfather in Sunnys Side Up is based on my grandfather and the book is about having the best summer vacation hanging out in the retirement community in Florida with all old people. I’ve always been obsessed with that approach.

Chanani: I grew up with a variety of information and influences about India; I was born there, but came here when I was four months old. I wanted to put in all the ideas and history and culture of the India I wish I’d grown up in. Growing up here I internalized all those Feed The Children ads and everybody in them is malnourished and everything is terrible. In reality it’s all of those things, the good and bad. In the color pages I put all the things I love about India.

Alverson: Some of the books I loved when I was growing up, the Little House books for example, haven’t held up at all. How do you add a visual aspect to keep things universal, or do you care somebody will read this in 30 years and it’ll be dated?

Ostertag: I read very old books when I was a kid, things that were not contemporary, and they still resonated for me. Comics you can read quickly, but still go back and read for detail. I put a fidget spinner in my book and it’ll be dated before it’s out but I don’t care.
Raina: Kids don’t write, adults do. The book is already a generation or two removed from the reader. The feelings people have don’t change over generations. As far as the look of a graphic novel, will the look be dated, well, I’m writing memoir, and this is what it was like.

Jamieson: Hopefully, that won’t distract them too much, the truth of the characters will be what they focus on.
Ostertag: Kids read a lot of fantasy, and reading that they have to acclimate to a world that’s not what they grew up in. It’s the same for looking at things from another time.
Chanani: The idea that you can make something truly timeless is impossible, something will always stick out. Better to just focus on the characters.

Alverson: Lightning Round! What are you reading now that you really like for children?
Raina: Archie is like therapy.
Jamieson: Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.
Ostertag: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore.
Chanani: Ghost by Jason Reynolds.
Holm: I’m totally inappropriate, I read romance.
Ostertag: Do you read a lot of things outside the genre? Me too.
Raina: Wolf In The Snow by Matthew Cordell.

Alverson: When I was a kid, books all came in series. When you look at your books, do you think about what the next book is going to be, do you want to move in a new direction, or do you want to stay with the characters for three books?
Chanani: The only thing that gets me through the art is that next book. Writing that next book in my head gets me through the painful moments of drawing. It’s a really nice escape, and gives me a lot of time to live with those characters.
Ostertag: I do an ongoing webcomic, so that’s a really long story, it’s going to take a long time to get to the end. Having a self-contained story in a book is a nice break for me.

Jamieson: I feel like when I’m writing a book I’m in it for twelve hours a day and when I’m done I have this awful empty void in me. It’s really hard to move on to the next book. I’m reticent to do sequels right away, but maybe in the future.
Raina: People just immediately wanted Smile 2³, but I don’t have another braces story, then I realized what they wanted was the characters of me and family. I really can’t go past the age of 14, 15, 16, so it’s hard to go back to that period again and again and reiterate again.

From the floor: In your own lives, how do you try to flip the script and get out of the one note of gender cliche?
Ostertag: I try to be hyperaware of tropes; gender and fiction is something I’m really aware of, and I try to constantly examine why you choose to gender a character a certain way, then I flip it. The reader can’t expect that if a character is visually feminine they should act feminine. You can make a book where people come away with a more nuanced view of gender.
Chanani: I was committed to making all these strong women in my book, I did all this pre-writing that won’t make it into the book, all their backstories, all this detail. But what I failed to do was to write anything about the men in the book and my editor said it might be nice if one of them was kind of nice and had something to balance their flaws. Because I absorbed so many one-dimesional characters that were women and I was fighting that, I had to be told I was doing that to the men.

From the floor: Do you have any advice about helping students create their own things that resonate with them? Any really vivid spark moments ?
Holm: I think kids are very visual now. Writers get writers block, so what I’ve started to do is look at my kids and their book reports, and I say let’s doodle it out, anything you want, just stick figures, sit with that for a little bit. When you can visually see the beginning, middle, and end, it helps you write and takes some of the pressure off from where they want every word to be perfect. Just give them scrap paper.
Ostertag: I started with a message and moral, scenes and settings I wanted to draw, then built the story around that. There’s an incredible amount of creativity in fanfiction, you can find inspiration anywhere.
Jamieson: As an exercise in schools, we sent a two minute timer and I wrote I REMEMBER at the top of a sheet of paper, and they just call out anything. After a couple of those, you have ideas you can start.
Raina: I do the same thing, prompt them with WHAT’S THE WEIRDEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?

From the floor: When you set out to write these books are they geared to middle grades? When you write them is that the intent or getting the story out and then seeing if it fits?
Jamieson: It’s easy for me because I have a four year old and an eleven year old. I can think as an eleven year old, how I was as an eleven year old.
Holm: Don’t worry about the words, just write it, they can look it up. There’s this thing called a dictionary.

[Editor’s note: Like I said when listing out the panels for the show there was a lot of smart in this room. Oh, and because it would have taken too long to put the entire context in, you get one completely contextless quote from Jenni Holm that brought the room down: I think it’s strep, maybe!]

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¹ Alverson and I are not that far apart in age; had she been of reading age a decade earlier, she would have found comics aimed at girls. Remember that folks like Kirby did romance comics until they started dying off and thus he had to reinvent the superhero genre to keep working.

² And a reminder about the Fleen Manual Of Style: when referred to by one name, Raina Telgemeier is styled Raina, not Telgemeier.

³ Smile 2: Smile Harder?

Behind The Scenes

You should know these names: Butcher, Siegel, Watters, Pelham, Hererra.

Something about my engineer’s view of the world makes me fascinated by all the things you don’t see on the surface of things; I want to know how things are constructed and how all the construction fits together. Thus, Pat Race and I made our way up to the panel rooms for the Editing Comics panel moderated by Chris Butcher. You may recall that about a month ago (that is, long after the panel was set for inclusion at the show) Butcher left his longtime position running The Beguiling and took a new job with VIZ as an editor, which made for an interesting (if initially unanticipated) dynamic at the front of the the room; he would have the opportunity to ask some of the best editors in the history of comics how they do their work such that (and I’m quoting here), I will take all your best information and then crush you.

[Self-editor’s note: when I italicize a passage of text like that, it’s as direct a quote as I was able to type in realtime; when left plain, I am paraphrasing the gist of what the speaker said.]

Fleen extends its condolences to the future crushees, people with distinguished careers to this point, who will shortly find themselves bereft of all they once held dear in their careers. In the meantime, though, they were awfully collegial and welcoming towards Butcher; they brought examples of their work and processes, and were generous in sharing how they approach their jobs. From right to left in the photo above, they are:

  • Robin Hererra, Oni Press
  • Cassandra Pehlham, Graphix/Scholastic
  • Shannon Watters BOOM
  • Mark Siegel, :01 Books

… all of whom came to editing via different routes. Hererra interned at Oni for a summer, then was an administrative assistant for a year before joining the editorial ranks; Oni is the only place she’s worked. Pelham worked a summer fellowship with Scholastic for three years that shifted towards graphic work in the third year. Siegel founded :01 in 2005 (within the much larger environment of Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan/Holtzbrink) to be a publishing house for authors rather than franchises¹, with broad themes and age categories. Watters started at BOOM in 2010 as an assistant editor, ran the KABOOM (licensed) line for a time, and now runs the creator-owned BOOM Box imprint.

They spoke for a while on the camaraderie in comics; Butcher noted that he’s friends with lots of folks, but now that he’s going to be in an editing role and competing with the to a degree, was worried that would have to end. It was nice to learn that wasn’t the case, everybody’s been very nice and welcoming in the community so far. He threw out an invitation to talk about the network editors have with each other:

Watters: There’s a special relationship, you understand this very specific thing you do that most people in comics don’t understand.
Pelham: It’s a small community, and we’re competitive but also supportive of each other. We’re cheering for others because a win for one of your books is a win for comics in general, for reading, and for kids. The most competition is at an auction, when you might be bidding against each other to acquire a book that’s been offered to several houses.
Herrera: But it’s a solitary kind of work. The most I’ve been able to talk to other editors is when I go to SCAD on Editor’s Day for portfolio review. At the end of the day you get out exhausted, but we talk. And they hold it at this old mansion with a giant porch, and there’s bourbon …

Butcher had each of them choose several books they’ve worked on and talk about how they edited each; the key takeaway from this discussion is that no two books, no two creators need to be handled the same way. Herrera opened with three books that featured three entirely different processes, and noted at Oni there are just editors, not story editors or copy editors, or other kinds of specialization; any project could require any of the kinds of skill.

She edited Space Battle Lunchtime (and continues to do so) from its pitch, ran all edits from start to finish, and gets to nudge creator Natalie Reiss in needed directions from time to time, relying on a very experienced creator’s abilities. By contrast, Ted Naifeh pitched Night’s Dominion with two issues already done; it’s a very different process when there’s little to no development of concept, story arc, and so forth. Finally, Oyster War by Ben Towle came in fully complete; Hererra made a few specific changes, then thorough copy edit, but a penciled-and-inked book is too late to do major structural changes on. Since SBL was the book that went through the most development with Herrera, she showed a lot of process: cover treatments, thumbnailed scripts and pages, Reiss’s writing style that lacks the cinematic approach many take in comic writing (but it works for her).

Butcher interrupted to ask the panel about an observation he’d had. Creators are reading fewer comics themselves these days, and does this translate to editors? Do they read fewer due to time or to avoid accidental influences? The answer was a pretty solid no, as the panelists are all enthusiastic (and wide-ranging) readers.

Siegel: I read fewer comics and more prose, but things pop up that I’ll get enthused about.
Watters: I read graphic novels more than single issues (there was a lot of head-nodding at this point).
Herrera: Since starting at Oni, I read more manga which we don’t publish; there’s no chance I’ll ever work with that creator, which lets me read and admire the work.
Siegel: Younger creators, I often try to get them to read wider than their favorite zone. I’ll recommend a book on writing, or nonfiction relevant to their project. A lot of times, they’re still moving out of being fans and into being authors, and I don’t think you can be both. I think you have to leave fan behind to be a creator. And of course they can have blind spots, so I’ll say Try some Stephen King to learn about pacing ….

Returning to process, Pelham talked about editing not just different projects differently, but different creators with different approaches. For example, the different approaches she takes with Raina Telgemeier and Kazu Kibuishi have less to do with their subject matter and more to do with how each does their best work. Raina tends to do full thumbnails, Kazu works straight to final art with little drafting or sketching.

Butcher’s next discussion point had to do with the craft of editing: when comics and graphic novels started breaking out of the direct market and into the traditional publishing houses, people didn’t know how to edit comics as comics. He noted some of earliest editors at the major houses were from children’s books, because they had a history of working with had words and art. Pelham noted that she did start editing in prose, but realized comics were my passion, that I wanted to lean into. During her third summer fellowship she moved to the Graphix end of Scholastic; like many, in college she read first graphic novel (Persepolis) and found it life-changing. Part of what was surprising in learning about editing comics was how my title was an editor-track job title, but I found myself also learning to be an art director.

Siegel dug the most into how the graphic novel sausage is made; given the :01 doesn’t do single issues, he focused on whole books as the unit of production and story, and the traditional publishing process starting from the pitch. He had a pretty detailed discussion about how a lot of people try to pitch graphic novels that come from Hollywood or animation, and are used to doing in-person presentational pitches, trying to sell a project on personal charisma, and that’s not how books work. They’ll say, we want to set up a meeting and I say no, I’d rather not meet you at all. It doesn’t matter what happens in that the pitch meeting, all that matters is what’s on the page. In the book world, you need to send a presentation and it either works on the page or it doesn’t.

To that end, Siegel also tries to be very open about the process; People outside the business have a hard time seeing what actually goes on in the publishing world; it’s not what you see in the bookstore. Authors really have no idea what we do. With :01, we try to open the curtain and reveal what happens. [Marketing director] Gina [Gagliano] posts a lot of stuff on our blog, a lot that seems obvious, so creators understand what we do in publishing and marketing. … It helps them to understand so we’re partnered … with us, your agent, the designer, the production people are all your allies in making that book.

Back to pitches: sometimes they’re a few pages typed up, describing story, characters, what the book is going to accomplish, and then editor and writer can find an artist to pair up on the project. Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor came in as a presentation package, almost the Hollywood-style approach that Siegel said to avoid (McCloud is an unusual case, he said in an understated manner). Normally, it’s a few finished pages, character description, some script, enough to have the shape of the project and have a conversation with creator. The next stage is scripting. He sahred a sample of a Gene Yang book (looked like Boxers to me) which featured the traditional typed dialog and page thumbnails. Siegel pointed out that this approach shows the creator is Thinking in both words & pictures at the same time. Sometimes you get something that works or doesn’t in words, then the art comes in and it doesn’t work or it does.. The thumbs let the editor see in a very small size — each page about the size of a postage stamp — how a scene will play out, meaning you can sometimes spot a problem and fix it before the art progresses too far, but mostly it’s at the pencils stage that you fix problems with story or scene setting.

Butcher added that he always thought these stamp sized thumbnails were just about proving to the editor that you were working, but Siegel has the opinion that the thumbnail stage is the the hardest mental work, because it’s where you’re pulling out the story. The execution (pencils, inks, color) is actually simpler (but naturally, more labor intensive and time-consuming). Watters described thumbs as the skeleton you’re throwing the meat on, and Siegel as the first conversation with the creator. You’re not talking about dialog, it’s about the large structure of the story. He demonstrated that by showing scribbled-up thumbs from Nidhi Chanani’s forthcoming Pashmina and remarked that he’d get on Skype and have a conversation about how the story is structured.
Watters: I like doing dialog passes on Skype.
Siegel: It’s good testing dialog out loud.
Butcher: It’s not like how people imagine comics with the old Marvel bullpen, everybody in one room. You could be working with people across the country or across the world.

Pencils and inks follow, which are a monumental amount of work, so you have to catch problems early before all that work goes in; the worst thing is having to make corrections at the end of the process. Siegel noted that one issue of people working on long graphic novels is that of stamina, mental fatigue, mental breakdowns, there’s a much higher casualty rate than working in prose. For that reason, I’ve evolved a process and become a better editor for it, as soon as we pass the architectural stage, I invite the authors to send in small batches. I don’t keep them waiting [for feedback/direction], it does marvels for morale.

Watters brought a series of different projects with different approaches, noting that at BOOM Box things come to in differently — Backstagers came to as a full idea but Goldie Vance was a completely different process. I hit up Hope [Larson], and said I really want to to a teen detective book, I know you have time in your schedule, it’s already greenlit because I trust you. You own it, let’s work together to develop something. Sometimes the pitch is complete, sometimes I develop the pitch with them. It’s produceresque.

Butcher had one last big question of his own before opening to the floor: when you acquire a project, when you start that process, do you represent the creator’s interest to the publisher or vice versa. Whose side are you on? Siegel asked if he could start the response² and then was pretty emphatic: Both. You’re the punching bag in the middle, and you can get bashed from both sides [all noddingin agreement]
Pelham: Even if it’s not an editorial issue!
Siegel: You’re kind of forced at times into a diplomatic relationship. Sometimes you’re forced to choose and that puts an editor to the test. Sometimes the pressure’s from great big corporations, you have to make a decision and it’s hard. But something I learned from an editor I respect a lot [note: I didn’t catch the name, sorry], is that if you have to choose between the company and the author, you try to go with the author.

From the floor: I’m freelancing as an editor now. How do I make editing a full time job?
Pelham: Have a website.
Watters: Communicate with others and have relationships.
Hererra: Edit pitches as well as whole projects.
Butcher: Sometimes houses will have a pitch they don’t have editors to manage and will go looking for freelancers.
Watters: Sometimes creators have editors they want to work with, and will bring you in on their project.

From the floor: I took a prose editing class last semester, how do I practice comics editing?
Butcher: Read a lot of comics.
Hererra: Read manga; it’s read in reverse and that actually teaches a lot about story structure.
Watters: I took McCloud’s Understanding Comics and read it with comics I liked and thought worked, and figured out why they worked.
Butcher: I worked with creators with great editors, so I could see the process.

From the floor: I’m a freelance editor, I have a script I want produced. Do I go to company with script, script and a few pages, or the whole thing drawn?
Watters: Put together a pitch document.
Hererra: Have a few pages to look at.
Floor: Not a whole book?
Seigel: Right, unless you’re the greatest creator ever, you can’t bring in a complete book.

From the floor: How do I give notes on the whole story arc, not just details?
Siegel: You can practice that, but there is a craft. It’s still Is a character shallow, is this cliche? There’s nothing wrong with starting from a cliche, but it’s bad to land on one.
Pelham: Break it down: character, plot, theme, story; see if it all works before the art gets added.
Butcher: It’s macro/micro — the whole project works, then break it down. Story works, then thumbnails, then pages, then panels. Don’t start at the smallest scale and work up.

From the floor: We have a pitch, I’m an artist, I have a writer, I’m trying to understand the relationship with the editor because I think I need one. Can I expect a publisher to help me out with others … finding inkers, colorists, can an editor help me with that?
Watters: Yeah, that’s production, if they buy the project at the stage you have it at, they’ll help you finish it. It’s all about expectations with the project at the acquisition stage.

[Self-editor’s note: And what none of them said but which is probably self-evident, you need an editor. Trust me, it’s an almost-impossible chore to editor yourself.]

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¹ See our coverage of the :01 tenth anniversary panel last year for more on that theme; Siegel has succeeded at that goal admirably.

² One of the delights of this panel is that the panelists were considerate of each other — not speaking over, looking to others to prompt their input.

San Diego Looms

So, yeah, probably a regular post tomorrow (I’ve got a late flight) but for a solid week after that? Irregular as heck. Let’s clear a few backlog items before the madness descends.

  • I’m three days late on this, but I wasn’t going to let it go: buried in at the end of a discussion of Canadian literature being developed for broadcast is a line that could almost be overlooked:

    FGF is also mid-production on a number of other screen adaptations of Canadian books, most notably Kate Beaton’s picture book The Princess And The Pony and Jeff Lemire’s graphica trilogy, Essex County.

    I’m not sure what’s more charming — the thought of Kate Beaton’s wonderful story about believing in yourself (and also farts) arriving on the small screen (I’m figuring 30 minute animated special), or that identification of The Princess And The Pony as a Canadian book. Mark my words, Beaton will be regarded in the Great Northern Pantheon alongside Atwood, Davies, and Mowat. Everybody feel good for Kate!

  • Second, after too long a time¹ away from their many fans, Becky [Dreistadt] and Frank [Gibson] have returned to the webcomics game with Bustletown. Let’s run down the criteria for Becky&Frankness:

    The first sixteen pages of Bustletown are up now, with the next chunk of story dropping after SDCC; no word yet on how often it’ll be released, or if there will be an RSS feed, but if you find you want to keep up with Bustletown, it’s now listed over to the right in the link library. Everybody feel good for Becky and Frank!

  • It’s been more than two years since Girls With Slingshots wrapped, since it started over again as [re-]colored strips with commentary. Creator Danielle Corsetto spent some time getting the final two print volumes produced & distributed, and she’s been teasing us with the eventual color omnibus edition².

    And, quietly (or at least as quiet as you can be when you’re trying to keep things on the downlow amongst 1300+ Patreon supporters), she’s been doing some marvelously revelatory autobio comics under the title 32³. There’s everything there, from the ordinary to the deeply personal (although if you follow Corsetto’s twitterfeed, you know that she’s genetically designed for #TMITuesday, so personal is not really a problem).

    Anyway, Corsetto has just opened up the formerly Patreon-only strips to public view, and they are excellent. The dozen in the archive so far (with updates approximately weekly) range from multi-page college flashbacks to four panels on the logistics of groinal grooming; they’re all pretty damn hilarious, and any day with Danielle Corsetto telling a story from her life is automatically a better day than it would have been otherwise. Bookmark and read, and everybody feel good for Danielle!


Spam of the day:

Do you need to find a DNA lab for immigration?

No … and if I did, I don’t think I’d use a lab that looks (from its advert) like it should be called Akbar & Jeff’s DNA Hut.

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¹ Including a suspiciously incomplete Capture Creatures print comic series; hey, BOOM!, since you’re obviously uninterested in completing the series, hows about releasing rights that you’re apparently squatting on and letting Becky and Frank complete it elsewhere? Or is the money that it would take to negotiate a fair rights reversion earmarked instead for giving away 1000 drinks at SDCC?

² Which, for once, I probably won’t get. I’ve got the 10 original collections, most signed-and-sketched, and I’d hate to give them up. No room for both on the shelf, so I’m keeping the softcovers.

³ No, she’s not 32, she’s 36 as of this writing. Explanation for the title here and here

Fleen Book Corner: Knife’s Edge

Here’s what I wrote eleven months back regarding Compass South (book one of the Four Points series, words by Hope Larson and pictures by Rebecca Mock):

Much has been made of the similarity of comics and movies, but Compass South makes me think that the stage is a better comparison. The stock characters of comics — mysterious playboy/nighttime hero, the youthful ward, the alien with powers beyond those of mortal men, the angsty teen thrust into responsibility — are just as recognizable as the stock characters of the commedia dell’arte — the doomed lovers, the evil prince, the hidden twins, the unscrupulous businessman, the unrepentant villain, and the jolly comic relief — that Shakespeare appropriated and made central to the theatrical world. Larson’s combined the two traditions, and it makes for a cracking story that enriches both.

There was a footnote, too, where I commented on another influence:

[I]n addition to comics and theater, there’s the literature of the time. More than one character in Compass South is more than a little Dickensian, including a guy who’s very possible Fagin’s second cousin twice removed (in temperament, if not not actual relation).

I think I was onto something there; Knife’s Edge (book two of the Four Points series¹, words still by Larson, pictures still by Mock) switches from the Shakespearean mode of shifting between competing protagonists to the Dickensian mode of a primary protagonist with supporting characters of varying importance in orbit.

In part that’s because of where we are in the story (which Larson efficiently recaps, oh and obviously — spoilers ahoy): we’re down one set of twins, we’ve found one long-lost father, and the villain is already established. Not having so many balls to juggle, Larson can focus the story more narrowly, and she’s chosen to put it squarely on the distaff Dodge, Cleo.

(This is where the Dickensian analogy fails somewhat — Pip and Oliver can suffer travails and come out happily prosperous; Little Nell is doomed to die of consumption.)

Alex has it easy — he can declare he’s going to be a tall ship captain and have a shot at making it come true. He can indulge in the relatively simple, linear path that male heroes get to follow:

  • Long-lost father found? Check!
  • Villain identified? Check!
  • Clear and reasonably achievable (if challenging) goal to ensure lifelong success? Check!
  • Sudden revelation that there’s a long-lost mother as well? Don’t care!

Cleo has to navigate the much more labyrinthine path that she’s afforded in 1860: she’s expected to take care of her semi-invalid father and help out in the ship’s galley. No sailcraft for her, and as soon as it’s discovered she’s convinced the captain to give her swordfighting lessons², that’s stopped because it’s inappropriate.

But here’s the thing — she’s got more imagination than Alex; she sees the many possibilities that aren’t laid straight out, living in a world with greys instead of pure blacks and whites. Alex isn’t interested in learning about their piratical heritage, but it doesn’t quench Cleo’s wanting to know who and why.

That ability to think laterally proves critical in the final defeat of the villainous Felix; Cleo can imagine how clever her never-met mother would be, where Alex only sees the situation directly in front of him. And if finding answers — not treasure, not glory, answers — means declaring truce with the enemy³, then that’s what she’s going to do.

The internal character of Cleo and Alex is found throughout Mock’s gorgeous illustrations; it’s not easy making 12 year old twins look different, but she does. Cleo and Alex wear slightly different clothing, but it’s subtler things that let you know who they are. They part their hair on different sides; they have different postures; Alex’s gaze more frequently angles slightly down, while Cleo’s is up.

But the real difference is on the gorgeous cover. Alex is solidly braced on the railing, in his environment, but a little behind Cleo and subconsciously following her lead; she’s looking out to the horizon, posed like she’s ready to leap forward. The sailor’s world may not wholly accept her, so she’s looking for the place that will. That vision makes her susceptible to temptation and corruption, but brings with it the strength to achieve redemption.

By the end of the story, she’s ever so slightly taller than Alex, too — grown sooner than the boy that’s got it all figured out. And if Cleo (and Alex, and Father) doesn’t quite get the ending she figured, she’s smart enough to know that the happy outcome can be more subtle than a 12 year old with a head full of imaginings would initially suspect — finding her place in the world is a smaller victory than she’d expected when she set out from Manhattan’s slums, but a meaningful one.

Give both Knife’s Edge and Compass South to anybody that loves a good story of adventure, but particularly the pre-teen that needs reminding girls have awesome adventures too.


Spam of the day:

20 Summer Life Hacks To Get You Through The Hot Season

If this reads anything other than avoid pants, I ain’t interested.

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¹ Alas, it appears there will not be a third or fourth book (which you’d think would be a natural with a series title like Four Points).

² She has a well-founded fear of what a particularly nasty pirate has in mind for her family, and doesn’t want to meet a potentially bad fate passively.

³ No matter how obviously that’s going to blow up.

Deep Bench

Did I just accidentally use a softball term? I think I did.

  • One may recall that, oh, two months back or so, NPR Books asked for input as to what comics people should be reading as part of a summer reading list. More than 7000 entries were submitted, and an expert panel¹ (revealed yesterday to include webcomics own Spike) broke that mass down to a list of 100 comics. Not the best, not the most well-known², but a wide list of comics works; having a familiarity with a good chunk of them means that you’ve got a handle on the art from (although dominantly as expressed by American/Canadian creators; there were not a huge number of manga on the list, and even fewer Eurocomics).

    And, as noted a couple months back, they gave webcomics a seat at the table — nineteen of the even 100 entries on the list are explicitly identified as webcomics, with more items listed in other categories that originated as webcomics, or are created by people that came up from webcomics, or which are web/indie in their essential nature. Here, then, are the webcomics (and webcomics-alikes) that mass agreement and expert opinion think you ought to be reading:

    John Allison’s Tackleverse comics, the editorial stylings of The Nib, Wondermark, Hark! A Vagrant, Homestuck, As The Crow Flies, Oh Joy, Sex Toy (!), Stand Still, Stay Silent, Check, Please!, Gunnerkrigg Court, Kill Six Billion Demons, O Human Star, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ And Amal, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Vattu. It would be hard to disagree with any of them.

    Originally (at least partly) webcomics, but tagged under different categories, you’ve got Nimona, Through The Woods, Megahex (Graphic Novels); Finder³ (Series Comics); Dykes To Watch Out For (Newspaper Strips, although it’s at least as much a webcomic); American Born Chinese (All Ages — not that age appropriateness alters the ability of a story to fall in one of the genre/topic categories). You also had once-and-future webcomickers Raina Telgemeier (Ghosts), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), and Ryan North (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). In all, better than a quarter of this stab at a canon is webcomics or webcomics-releated.

    There will be plenty to disagree with, naturally (no Achewood, Octopus Pie, or Drive?), but that’s why canons exist — to be argued over, refined, resolved, agreed upon, and rejected all over again. It’s a good start, though, and there’s almost certainly plenty for you to discover (on a fast skim, I appear to have read 53 of the 100 suggestions).

  • Also not on the list, for the piddling reason that it’s not technically published yet: a print collection of 100 Demon Dialogues by Lucy Bellwood (Adventure Cartoonist!), which project wrapped up about two hours ago (as of this writing), and which Kickstarter launched shortly after.

    It’s been a terrific project to watch over the past three months or so — Bellwood has been dealing with the voice in her head (he’s a jerk) that tells her what she can’t do by forcing the little bugger into conversation. We’ve all got that demon, reminding us of our failures and telling us not to bother, and remembering that fact is a pretty good way to rob them of the power they have over us.

    The book is going to be gorgeous, the demon plushes are going to be great, and you want to get in on this. At the (again, as I write this) 1 hour 45 minute mark, Bellwood’s at just under 38% of goal, but kindly do not sleep on this. The campaign will run less than three weeks, and if you miss it your little jerk demon will certainly tell you that you screwed up.

    And if nothing else, the video is priceless. I need to know who does the demon voice because it’s perfect.


Spam of the day:

Confirmation Needed: $100 Kroger Gifts Inside

I don’t believe there is a Kroger (or as we said in my Midwestern college days, kro-zhay, ’cause it’s obviously French) grocery store within a 5-6 hour drive. Maybe next time try to bait me with a fake coupon that wouldn’t be essentially impossible for me to use?

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¹ Somewhere, heads are exploding over the fact that four of the panelists are women. Sources close to the explosions were quoted as saying Girls are icky and get their cooties on my funnybooks.

² But which inevitably includes Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Persepolis, Maus, Jimmy Corrigan, A Contract With God, and Action Comics #1

³ Finder’s been both, so this one is arguable.