The webcomics blog about webcomics

News, Leaving Today, Etc.

Hey, remember when the news broke, ’bout four months back, that Randall Munroe would be doing a book about how to do stuff?

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

So Zach Weinersmith’ss BAH!Fest if it were run by experimenters instead of theorists¹, then. Very, very insane experimenters. How To releases on 3 September, and the same day, Munroe starts his book tour at the Harvard Science Center. The following two weeks will find him in Washington, DC, New York City, Ann Arbor, Portland (OR)², Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Louisville (KY), and Raleigh (NC). Venues and associates include the likes of Sidwell Friends School, Politic ‘n’ Prose, Cooper Union, The Strand, Powell’s, University of Utah, NC State University, a couple of churches, a library, and a fraternity³.

There will be one more stop on the book tour, and to get Munroe to your town (United States only), you’re going to have to gather some friends, some books, and some creativity:

Arrange the titles of your favorite books into sentences that tell a story, assemble a single continuous line of people holding up the covers, and take a photo or video documenting your feat. You can make the story as long as you want, but each book needs to be held by a different human.

Creative grammar is fine, and you’ll get extra credit for including as many books and people as possible.

Now, write the best story you can within those limits, and either post it to the sosh-meeds under the hashtag #howtoxkcd or email it to howtoxkcd — which can be found at Google’s e-mail, dot-com (say that last bit in a Homestar Runner voice for bonus points from me … I’m not sure Munroe will hear you) — between 10 June and 31 July. The additional tour stop will be announced in August.

As we all know, give Munroe’s readers a challenge, and they exceed all expectations. Best be creative as all get-out, and get to work.

Spam of the day:

One thing I am tired of is high power bills. I want to share with you a way to never for power again.

I used to dream about the day I would never for power again. Alas, big power again will require me to always for, never to never.

¹ I am reminded of that time when Richard Feynman was given a tour of CERN and shown to a massive block of science (you now the ones, they’re all over CERN) that his tour guide was busy explaining when he realized Oh! This will test your hypothesis about charge change in particles, Professor Feynman.

Feynman looked up and down over the looming, cavernous pile of technology and asked how much it cost. The guide said 37 million dollars or whatever the figure was, and Feynman asked You don’t trust me? You can find it in here.

² Event info coming soon; click here to pre-order the book for the event.

³ That is, a nerd frat; my father was a member alongside Robert Lucky, a situation that I believe I have mentioned with some slight bitterness. Also, if you follow that link, bear in mind it was from before we knew Doug TenNapel was a jerk about and to transfolk.

Goings On Across This Great Land Of Ours

Tuesdays often seem to be the busy day in Webcomicslandia; maybe it’s a knock-on effect of how books and magazines release on Tuesdays, or maybe it’s anticipation of comic books releasing on Wednesday. Maybe it’s a figment of my imagination. Whatever the case, it’s definitely busier than Thursdays … Thursdays are dead.

  • Danielle Corsetto might have been somebody you didn’t expect to hear from, what with Boo! It’s Sex wrapping up last week and all. But she’s back with a public Patreon post about BIS finishing, about other projects on deck, and about how she’s about to hit the road and you just might be on her path:

    I’m leaving this Thursday [editor’s note: day after tomorrow, 6 June] (SHIT THAT IS REALLY SOON) to work on “the book” — it still doesn’t have a name — on the west coast, among other talented cartoonists, writers, and illustrators.

    I could’ve flown, but of course I decided to make it A Whole Thing and do signings and camp out along the way. So if you’re on my route between here and Portland and back, I may be stopping at a comic shop near you!

    So that’s a roadtrip from Shepherdstown, West Virginia to Portland, where she’ll be in residence at the famed Helioscope for a month working on a new book that takes place in Shepherdstown. Sometimes, you need distance and place filled with creative friends to really make progress on a project. Along the way, she’ll be making stops for comic shop signings in Madison, Wisconsin (Friday, 7 June), Portland (Saturday, 15 June, along with Lucy Bellwood and Erika Moen), and Omaha (TBD, but probably Tuesday, 9 July).

    If you want one of the big-ass Girls With Slingshots omnibuses, best to drop Corsetto a line so she takes up precious space in her car for it. Every one of those things she packs is going to decrease her car’s fuel economy by about 3.7 MPG, so if you reserve one you better show up to buy it.

    And the best part of this entire trip? She’ll get to spend a month hanging out with Sally the greyhound. I’m so envious.

  • Hey, you know who publishes that big-ass Girls With Slingshots omnibus? Iron Circus. Know what’s going on with Iron Circus these days? C Spike Trotman is more than happy to share. If you missed IC at CAKE last weekend, you should still be on the lookout for:

    Delver is now up to issue #4, with the conclusion due on 26 July. I enjoyed the preview of issue #1 and if there’s any way for me to consume this story on paper¹ I will drop some cash on it. Seeing as how the final issue is due just after SDCC, I suspect we may seen an announcement during the show.

    And taking a cue from the long line of vendors of semi-disreputable merch (we’re talking porn here, people), Spike is celebrating the release of the third volume of Iris And Angel by declaring that the first one’s free. If you like the story about doing’ taxes² and dudes in lingerie, the parts 2 and 3 are five bucks a pop.

    And if you require comics on paper (see footnote 1, below), there’s new print comics including the previously-mentioned How Do You Smoke A Weed? (now shipping after its concluded Kickstart), and Minus, a YA thriller. For lo, Spike has seen the pile o’ money that is YA fiction and has decided to jump in and good for her.

Spam of the day:

The “Go Ahead” Signal That Makes Him Obsessed With Winning Your Love

I can’t tell if this is meant for a woman, or for a gay dude, but I have no need for your love secrets that will make any man desperate for me. Thanks, I guess?

¹ I resolutely avoid purchasing media that I do not get to own in a physical form. If I needed any further convincing of this, the problems that a student of mine had yesterday trying to attend class with a DRM-protected e-book that would not open would have sealed the deal.

² Not a euphemism, they’re actually doing taxes.

It Has Been A DAY, People.

I’ve got about nothing left in the proverbial tank, so here’s some quick things you might want to check out:

  • Abby Howard’s third Earth Before Us book, Mammal Takeover!, inches closer to release. Age Of Horns, folks — deer and rats and bunnies all with horns, and dog-sized rhinos and house-sized sloths and VW Bug-sized armadillos all over the damn place. Each of the EBU books has been released a bit later than the one before it (start of August 2017, mid-August 2018, next one in mid-September) because it takes time to fit all that awesomeness in. Hopefully Ronnie will get back from the past without bringing every cute fluffy thing home with her in Ms Lernin’s Science Magic recycle bin.
  • Jim Zub has thought more about the logistics of making a career in comics than you; he just has. His primers and data-shares and constant responses to open questions on Tumblr¹ could constitute an outline of how to take a shot at a vocation in a notorious luck-driven and inconstant profession. His latest tutorial tackles that space where you’ve gotten all your shit together and made a comic … and then find yourself asking What now? as the heady rush of accomplishment starts to fade and you realize you’re still at the very beginning of the process. But if you absolutely had to condense it down to a single thought, it would be:

    The first few paying gigs you get will probably be extremely difficult to track down, but with each one you’ll build up your skills and contacts. It really is a creative journey. As stressful as it can be, enjoy the process and celebrate your accomplishments.

    Smart guy, that Zub.

Okay, hopefully tomorrow allows for a more leisurely approach to writing. Have fun until then.

Spam of the day:

Redeem Your Sam’s Club Reward before it expires

Sam’s Club is named for Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, and thus a place I would never do business with on account of my personal interactions with Walmart corporate has led me to believe that they are possibly the most exploitative corporation on the face of the planet. Sure, Amazon screws over a lot of people, but they do it with algorithms; Walmart engages in that in-person, face-to-face artisanally-crafted over-screwing which lacks even the veneer of distant, disconnected people not realizing the import of their actions. Screw your fake offer of accepting something from the worst people in an attempt to steal my info, scammers.

¹ Including many asked in bad faith by frothing assholes, who always receive a far more polite and meaningful answer than they deserve.

The Next One

It’s axiomatic with me that for very nearly every creator whose work I enjoy, I have a single answer to the question Which of their projects is your favorite? Because creators grow in skill and the breadth of their worldview, because practice doesn’t ever drag somebody backwards, the answer is generally¹ The next one. And in the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten a couple of The next one announcements that look very good indeed.

Let’s start with the news from Shaenon Garrity (creator of too many good things to list, but presently working on Skin Horse with Jeffrey C Wells), via Twitter:

Guess @chris_j_baldwin and I can officially announce this…

That would be Christopher Baldwin, who also has done too many good works to list them all, but who is presently working on the second series of Spacetrawler. And the this in the tweet is a screencap of a publishing announcement which reads:

Karen Wojtyla at McElderry Books has acquired world rights to the YA graphic novel Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K Garrity, illustrated by Christopher J Baldwin. Teenage Haley is obsessed with all things Gothic, but never imagined she’d experience them in real life, until the day she rescues a drowning young man and wakes up in a 19th-century estate complete with brooding gentlemen, sinister servants, and an actual ghost. But all is not as it appears, as Haley learns she has not been swept into the past, but instead into a strange universe all its own. Publication is slated for fall 2020; Barry Goldblatt at Barry Goldblatt Literary handled the deal.

In no particular order:

  • As much as I love Garrity’s solo comics work, her collaborations are where she really shines. Baldwin is going to design the hell out of the vaguely unsettling characters and scenery.
  • To hit a release date in the fall of next year, that book is already done. It’s on final edit if not already queued for printing in China and the long journey here to hit the late Spring/early Summer festivals and cons for promotion.
  • That description has me hooked. I hope it’s actually book one of a series.
  • Barry Goldblatt (along with Seth Fishman and a few others) are really stepping into the space pioneered by the legendary Judy Hansen. The fact that I can name multiple graphic novel literary agents off the top of my head should tell you that comics are in a damn golden age of quality and variety.

And then earlier today, the entirely essential Oliver Sava at The AV Club brought the news that John Allison has his next series lined up, what with Giant Days wrapping in a few months, and By Night about to publish issue 12 of 12. We knew that Allison was working on something new, given the hiatus announcement in October that put on Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery on an indefinite pause, and the latter-day Bobbins strips bringing the entire Tackleverse to a quiesced state in February.

As recently as this week, Allison promised us new projects post-Giant Days, with fabulous new characters, and mayhap even the return of an old favorite. But it appears that the next Allisonian project will be Steeple, a five-issue supernatural horror series, with Allison on both writing and art duties², with colors by Sarah Stern, letters by Jim Campbell, and at least one cover by current Giant Days artist Max Sarin.

It’s a story about good and evil (and the greys between) and a trainee priest in Cornwall and just maybe a certain inescapable Tackleford regular³. Steeple #1 releases on 18 September from Dark Horse, who’ve been in rather a bit of need for new properties (having lost the Buffy and Star Wars licenses, and seen longtime mainstay Usagi Yojimbo head to IDW and the promise of monthly color), so hopefully they’re giving Allison the royal treatment.

Because after all, what he does next is going to be his best yet.

Spam of the day:

In 3 weeks he lost 27 lbs? In 3 months he lost 84 lbs?

He’s either got a tapeworm or he’s doing irreparable harm to himself. Please stop holding either up as behavior to be emulated.

¹ With the caveat that this depends on the creator in question having control over their work. I stand second to nobody in my admiration of Gene Luen Yang’s work, but when DC put him on Superman, it was apparent from my POV as a reader that editorial was jerking him every which way from month to month. He had different artists, radical shifts in story, plots suddenly dropped, and it can only be because he was doing work that was changed at the last minute to accommodate something going on in another comic.

Compare to what he was able to do with superhero story forms on The Shadow Hero, or beloved (but corporate-owned) IP on Avatar: The Last Airbender and the conclusion is either his work was severely constrained/interfered with, or he suddenly forgot how to do comics for ten issues of Superman, then went back to being a master of the form again.

² We haven’t had a comic-sized story with Allison on art since the Giant Days Christmas story, and I’ve missed his style on the page.

³ Sadly, not Desmond Fishman. Probably.

Fleen Book Corner: On A Sunbeam

Like a lot of you, I first became aware of Tillie Walden when she started winning Ignatzen a few years back. The webcomic release of On A Sunbeam occurred in short order — nearly a year before Spinning — and I loved both (particularly the big, chapter-long chunks of story released of OAS, making the wait for updates rewarding and full of meaty story progression). But since :01 Books was kind enough to send me a copy of the print release of On A Sunbeam, and since I heard Walden talk about her relationship with her work at the Alaska Robotics Mini-Con¹, I’ve decided to revisit and share my thoughts. It’s going to be light on the spoilers, but I won’t say there are none.

On A Sunbeam is huge. It’s 500 pages (down from 700, Walden said in Juneau; she may not do much in the way of preparatory design or layout in her straight-to-ink process, but she’ll do a hell of a lot of editing later on²) worth of heavy, with a tactile paper and deeply-infused inks that retain hints of their original aroma long after being produced. To read this story in print is an undertaking, a confrontation of physical heft that lends weight to the story. She may regard the book as an afterthought to the act of creation, but when the book is this substantial before you even open it, you feel the work the story required. It demands your attention.

Walden’s not a fan of science fiction and doesn’t claim it as a source of inspiration, so naturally the book is up for a Hugo. Maybe the most radical departure from all but the most recent Hugo winners, the most speculative part of the speculative fiction is that Walden’s imagined a universe not of life in space and far-flung communities in the firmament, but that every character but one is female. It’s utterly unremarked-upon, there’s no backstory to say and that’s why there are no more men, it just is, a quiet fact lurking in the background until you realize there’s no dudes.

That one character that’s not female? They’re nonbinary.

Sure, much of the story takes place at a boarding school “For Girls”, or aboard a small ship where there don’t happen to be any men, but then the accumulated weight of the story kicks in. So many references to sisters and daughters, and casual reference to your or my moms. Is it a thesis statement or an aspiration? I think it’s more that there’s nothing in the story — school, bullies, love, family, loss — that requires the presence of men, so there aren’t any. It’s not a society that’s set in opposition to men, or defined by its separation from or absence of men, it just doesn’t have any and possibly never did. It sneaks up on you.

And it’s that casual display of the details of this universe that makes the story and the setting so beautiful. Little grace notes like shoes by the entrance of the spaceship and clutter everywhere tell us this isn’t sweeping space opera, it’s just life that happens to take place in space. Sure, the ships look like carp — complete with eyes and mouths and swimmy fins to keep them aloft — and homes, offices, and school campuses are their own, free-traveling craft, but it’s still just life. Live in a community in a weird part of space that may kill you getting in or out? Cool, you still need horses to get between towns. Want to set up a sports tournament between schools? They’ll need rendezvous and dock with each other first.

The story is told initially in two threads, today and five years ago, paralleling the experience of the protagonist as she finds love and creates family. Bits of lore drop in conversation and become important, or are utterly forgotten (there’s an offhand reference to Earth, but it seems to be just another place you can live and not the cradle of humanity or anything). The plot in each time progresses on in the way that life does — often mundane, or frustrating, but rarely full of high adventure — until every hundred pages or so, Walden hits us with a showstopper. These moments come out of nowhere, and pack the emotional wallop that an entire series of comics might be built around³. There’s a character break that’s shocking and utterly earned. An act of bravery. A moment of fear and loss.

And in just about the exact middle of the book, the actual thesis statement for On A Sunbeam, and for Walden’s work as a whole:

Have you ever even considered that something that’s trivial to you could mean … so much more to someone else? You don’t get to take the easy road out and just respect the parts of people that you recognize.

That’s goddamn beautiful. More beautiful than the worldbuilding and imagination and the gorgeous illustrations. The most important thing is being willing to extend respect to somebody who’s different, whether you’re in a universe of fish-ships and schools wafting among the stars or not. You don’t get to decide what’s important for anybody other than yourself.

Take your time with On A Sunbeam; read it, exist in the story, listen to what it has to say. Set it aside for a day, or a month, and come back to it again; new little details will jump out at you, obvious now in ways they weren’t before. Read it again in a year, two, ten, and let it lead you back into that place where respect can be required, and love and family can be the foundation you build upon.

Spam of the day:

But if you’re still stuck on squats and lunges to grow your butt, you need to stop NOW.

Maybe you need to stop now, but my butt is friggin’ glorious.

¹ And, at various points, we discussed other things, including what winning fuck-you lottery money would mean, desert island books, and Game Of Thrones. She’s really smart and utterly sincere and has become one of my favorite people.

² Which, if you recall our prior discussions of how Mark Siegel prefers to approach editing in :01 releases, is a unique way of working. Add to the fact that the story was done in about a year, including living overseas, and it’s pretty much inconceivable that the book actually exists. Only the most monstrous of work ethics could actually result in this story seeing completion.

³ Think Superman and Regan on the ledge, or Old Doreen and Old Nancy deciding to go back in time knowing it’ll reset their decades-long love, but they’ll find a way to recreate it.

News With Caveats

More book reviews in the immediate future, friends, but I wanted to take a moment to catch up on some things that have happened in the recent weeks that I had previously missed. In no particular order, then:

  • Know who’s cool? Lucy Bellwood. Like, adventuring around the world cool, has a better haircut than you cool, and teaming up with Scott McCloud to explain some tech stuff¹ cool. In this case, the tech stuff is federated learning, and the comic (story by Bellwood & McCloud, art by Bellwood) will bring you up to speed.

    In case you’re wondering about working for a giant behemoth that’s completely abandoned all pretense of having Don’t be evil as a guiding principle, may I remind you that Google has an enormous budget for things of this nature, and I sincerely hope that Bellwood and McCloud were given the equivalent of a dump truck full o’ money for their work on the comic.

  • I mentioned the winners of the NCS division awards for webcomics² on Sunday but did I mention the latest Johnny Wander Kickstart? On Twitter, yeah, but not here so let’s talk about it now. Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh are Kickstarting a book of previously-uncollected (and new!) comics on the theme of travel in this, the tenth year of Johnny’s wandering. It’ll be great.

    In case you’re wondering how much you want to deal with Kickstarter given the news about the company not accepting a proposed union, may I remind you this is what’s happened when unions were proposed in all cases in the history of unionization except maybe three? Yeah, I had expectations of Kickstarter-the-public-benefit-corporation being better than this, but all this means is that the next stage of labor law gets followed: there’s a vote, and if the employees vote for a union they have to recognize it.

    Honestly, I think it’s just the reflexive distrust of anything other than rugged self-made mandom³ that is the hallmark of anybody that’s temperamentally suited to be a tech executive. The vote’ll happen, my money’s on it passes, and then the entire damn industry has a reckoning to face. And even at their worst, KS not embracing a union wholeheartedly will still damage comics creators a couple order of magnitude less than the shitshow aftermath of the Oni/Lion Forge let’s be movie producers together wankfest merger.

  • Now that the Canadian {T | Van}CAFs are behind us, I’m thinking of things happening in about eight weeks in San Diego. Way too many people and way too much stuff, but I should point out that webcomicky types like Randall Munroe, Katie O’Neill, Carey Pietsch, and Ursula Vernon will be present as guests of the con.

    In case you’re wondering how I’m going to find an area of concern that balances out the news just to keep up the pattern, I’m not. These folks are great and you should read their stuff and let them know they rock.

Spam of the day:

{Well | Prince | Genoa | Lucca | arenow |justfamily | estates | Buonapartes | ButIarn | youifyou | tellme | thatthis | meanswar | ifyoustill | trytodefend | theinfamies | andhorrors | perpetrated | bythat | Antichrist | really | believe | heisAntichrist | willhave | nothing | moreto | dowith | youandyou | arenolonger | myfriend | nolongermy | faithful | slaveas | youcall | yourself | Buthow | doyoudo |

And that’s in the From: field of the email header. I leave it to your imagination how the body of the message progressed.

¹ One may recall a day ten and a half years ago when the world was introduced to the Chrome browser by McCloud.

² Requisite disclaimer: I am part of the nominating/judging process for these awards.

³ Baaaarrrrrfff.

Fleen Book Corner: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

A few weeks before MoCCA Fest, the fine folks at :01 Books sent me uncorrected proof of Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (words by Mariko Tamaki, pictures by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell) and I dove in. I held my review until closer to release date (which was, uh, two weeks ago) and then got caught up reporting on this year’s #ComicsCamp, so I’m late. But you know what? I got to read it a couple more times, so that’s okay. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers — not much here you wouldn’t find on the back cover — but take care in any event.

My first readthrough caused me to think a lot about Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T Crenshaw, because they’re both about finding yourself, dealing with a shitty friend (and confronting the realization you might be the shitty friend), with LGBTQ identity to the fore. But LDKBUWM is less a parallel to KN8 and more a perpendicular. This is different time, a different place, a different reality in terms of LGBTQ freedoms. It’s not about finding yourself in the realization of sexuality or exiting a closet — most characters in LDKBUWM are either LGBTQ in some sense, or at least appears heteroflexible¹ — so if you take the coming out part of the teen story away, what do you get?

You get what was requested the Queers & Comics Conference: a queer comics character who’s bad. You get a character who can be a complete antagonist who happens to be queer, rather than a villain because they’re queer, or somebody that has to be presented as an exemplar of humanity to be a worthy enough queer to be included in the story.

Or if not a villain/bad in the traditional sense, at least a total dick.

Laura Dean is popular, hot, entitled, a mistreater of whoever isn’t in her favor at this instant (particularly her nominal girlfriend Freddie, who she keeps breaking up with) and a serial gaslighter; her go-to whenever called on her shitty behavior is Don’t be mad, making the subject of her mistreatment feel like they’re the one that’s at fault for overreacting. If only they’d been a better person, Laura Dean wouldn’t have had to act that way. Look what you made her do.

If Laura Dean were Loren Dean and presented as male, the story could be one step away from a cautionary after-school special about bad boyfriends that turn into abusers. As it is, she’s a user of people rather than an abuser, but if we check in on her in ten years I bet she’s got a TRO or two.

And as crappy a person as Laura Dean is, she makes those in her orbit worse, too. Freddie is neglectful of her friends, wrapped up in trying to get back into Laura Dean’s graces, knowing that she needs to make one of these breakups stick but half convincing herself that she can change enough that everything will be good in the future with Laura Dean. This is the finding yourself part of the story — deciding not how to present yourself as an identity, but deciding on how you choose to act.

Structurally, LDKBUWM is a little bit different; it doesn’t so much start as the reader begins paying attention to these characters at a certain point in time that’s really no more or less significant than any other. It’s arguably got a conclusion that it works towards, but really it just sort of fades out. The characters existed before page 1, they continue to exist after page 289, their stories continue and ebb and flow and branch and rejoin, like a river that we put our boat in at one particular place and pulled ashore again a few weeks later; we can see the extensions of the water upstream and downstream of the section we traversed and know that there’s more there.

Characters are revealed by small choices in their dialogue, but also in posture and visual habits. Freddie and her best friend Doodle both present as needing affection and attention, but they go about it in different ways. Freddie’s all public gestures and reactions, where Doodle is made of quiet implication. I spent my first read thinking that Doodle’s somewhere on the autism spectrum but have ultimately decided that she isn’t — but she was raised by a single parent who is. Her affect is of somebody that is learning to be demonstrative, having lacked the example of it at home. None of this is stated, and all of it may be completely off base, but it’s how the characters read to me … and it’s been a long while since characters on a page have left me with such distinct impressions of who they are by subtle implication.

That’s equally down to Tamaki’s plotting and dialogue and to the visuals, which let’s discuss. I’ve been talking up Rosemary Valero-O’Connell for about three years since I first met her. I said at the time that her minis reflected an unusually strong sense of page composition and design, and that her characters reminded me of two veteran manga creators whose work I love. Both have improved in the intervening time, especially her faces. Freddie has bits of Terry Moore’s Francine Peters in her big, expressive face, and Doodle says more with a raised eyebrow than a page of dialogue could contain². Crucially, and it’s the first time I’ve ever noticed this, Valero-O’Connell’s faces retain their expressiveness in 360 degree rotation; with remarkably few lines, there’s a shifting in the shape and weight of mouth, cheeks, eyebrows, and the entire skull shifts to convey mood.

She’s not afraid to have people speaking over their shoulder, and let the listener who’s facing us have the reaction; it’s astonishingly strong work. Plus, she does this one bit where a jerk jock is all homophobic at supporting character Buddy: we never see his face but can tell from the tilt of his head, the slump of his shoulders, the refusal to look at the gym coach who’s dressing him down, exactly what expression he’s wearing. Yeah, it’s our brains filling in what we can’t see, but it’s also the case that Jerkboy has the same blonde undercut as Laura Dean, and we’ve seen enough of her shitty girlfriend entitled smarm to fill in that detail. The reader, on an instinctual level (it took me four or five readthroughs to realize it), has been promoted to full partner in the visuals of the story.

And those visuals are lush. The characters — not just the named ones that we get to know, but all the backgrounders going through their own stories that we don’t get to eavesdrop on — are all unique. Skin color, modes of dress, hairstyle, size and shape — all of them are varied, giving the sense of a public school in a place that’s truly diverse (Berkeley, California), as opposed to TV or movies³ where a “diverse, random” crowd is 70% male and 70% white and all “Hollywood average” in appearance.

It’s not just people who’ve been on the receiving end of a bad partner in a relationship that will feel seen reading LDKBUWM, it’s just about everybody — there in the background, each character drawn with the same care and respect as the starring and supporting players. Someday, Tamaki will write or Valero-O’Connell will illustrate some of those stories, and we’ll see Freddie or Doodle or Laura Dean pass by in the background.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a stellar achievement in comics, and is the one to beat in my private list of best books of 2019. You can find it wherever books are sold, and carries my highest recommendation for the teen-and-up in your life.

Spam of the day:

You will be glad to know [spammer] which belongs to Bing and Yahoo, as one of the largest pools of advertisers in the world, they pay more to buy your traffic.

Ooooh! You belong to Bing and Yahoo! Know who else belongs to — that is to say, is findable via — Bing and Yahoo? Everybody.

¹ Crowd scenes feature lots of seeming same-sex or gender ambiguous couples, which may be part of the script or may be a choice on Valero-O’Connell’s part.

² I’m reminded of longtime NPR Morning Edition host Bob Edwards, who could vocally lift an eyebrow over the radio with a single, arch syllable — Oh? — when interviewing some political powerbroker who was clearly lying.

³ Or too many comics, sad to say.

While We Were Busy

A number of things happened while we’ve been going through the 2019 #ComicsCamp recap; for example, TCAF and a book that I loved, loved, loved released (review coming). A catch-up, then, for you.

There’s not one, not two, but three comics events take place in different corners of the continent starting tomorrow.

Speaking of pointing to people’s work, there were creators I met at Camp¹ whose work is new to me, and you should check it out. In no particular order, then: Anastasia Longoria, AnneMarie Rogers, Michael DiPetrillo, Leila del Duca, Jessi Jordan, Colin Andersen, Beth Barnett, Megan Baehr, Ally Colthoff, Tori Rielly, Bekka Lyn, Payton F, The Giant Rat, and Lily Williams.

And if you read this page you damn well better know who Tillie Walden is, but her UK publisher has put together a starter kit of her tricky-to-find first three books (she was only able to sell me two of them in Alaska). Okay, might not want to spring for the shipping if you’re not already in the UK/Europe (on this side of the pond, there’s a limited supply at Retrofit), but I thought I should point out that she had books before Spinning and that you should get them.

That should do for now. I’ll try to get something together for tomorrow, but the Q&C Conference is going to take up pretty much the whole day.

Spam of the day:

Introducing the brand new Ho’oponopono Certification…Secrets that bring you to “zero.”

Oh yes, pair of white guys, please tell me more about how you have decided that you are the official deciders of how to properly enact a traditional Hawai’ian practice. That’s totally cool of you.

¹ You didn’t think I was really done just because I’d talked about everything that happened, did you?

Camp 2019, A Living Breathing Thing

For those who are new around here, there’s this thing called #ComicsCamp, run by the fine folks at Alaska Robotics (which is a comics shop¹, game shop, art supply shop, and gallery) in Juneau, and it involves bringing creative folks into schools, public events, and a one-day convention before giving them a weekend of recharging and also s’mores. I’ve been privileged to attend three times now, and you can read about my previous experiences at Camp here, here, here, here, and here. Those two series will read differently from each other, and from the one that’s starting now — Camp’s a living, breathing thing, and it changes.

It started for me a couple of days before my travel with a bit of a panic — the SSD in my laptop decided it had reached end of life and bricked itself good; there’s a hard drive in there, too, but it was a tense couple of hours getting Linux reinstalled and data salvaged. Fortunately, I keep a bootable USB drive attached to the power converter cable, so I didn’t have to go searching too far. The whole thing’s a lot slower than it used to be (or should be), but that’s an issue for later this week; it got me through what it needed to, which was ensuring that the creator presentations for one of the public events — about which more momentarily — were tested and projectable.

In addition to seeing a swathe of Campers arrive, Thursday 25 April also saw public events: storytime and a ‘zine making workshop at one of the Juneau public libraries², the Juneau Makerspace got some hands-on puzzle-cutting knowledge from the master, and a lecture by Ryan North on How To Invent Everything which he should know, on account of he wrote a book that tells you how to do exactly that. In case you’re looking for the high points, they include:

  • Young Ryan first became aware of the notion of time travel when he was six and saw Back To The Future for the first time; it made an impression³ and he was particularly struck by the Chuck Berry scene and thus had an appreciation of the Bootstrap Paradox at a far younger age than most of us.
  • Having decided to write what is surely The Most Dangerous Book In History, North found himself staring down literally years, plural, of research4 to determine not only what the key technologies of human history are, but also how to create them from first principles while simultaneously not imparting knowledge that might hurt or kill his readers. This led to what may have been the most existentially self-evident question of all when North asked himself (and I quote):

    Have I accidentally decided to do something impossible?


  • But he persevered, and found within all that research to find a key thought re: human inventiveness and creativity; namely We are not as smart as we think we are. He rattled off a series of key inventions in history — human flight, or the stethoscope5 — and found that they came about centuries or millennia after we had the basic parts and just failed to put them together6. In the case of arguably the greatest invention in human history7 — written language, which allows us to preserve knowledge across time, space, and culture — we were about 200,000 years late.
  • The more basic the technology, the later we were, and the further back in time you go, the worse things get. Now-ubiquitous crops were terrible, people died because they didn’t know to wash their damn selves, and the only positive of the past is that if you do end up there, you can name things after yourself.


One thing you should know about Juneau is that it’s basically the same as Portland or Seattle, just smaller; you’ve got great food (shouts-out to The Rookery Cafe and In Bocca Al Lupo, who both fed more than their share of Campers before and after our time off-grid, and the astonishingly good Coppa Ice Cream), great cultural institutions, and great people. Give them something fun to do, and they’ll arrive in droves, as they did for the Kickoff Event at the Valley branch of the JPL. In addition to music from the Marian, Seth & Maria Rockin’ Teenage Combo, you had:

  • Cat Farris reading from her graphic novel, My Boyfriend Is A Bear. Fun fact! Farris and I spent several days bonding over our greyhounds, because greyhound people are the best people.
  • Molly Muldoon talking about how to solve a murder all Agatha Christie style. Fun fact! Muldoon’s rules for dealing with murderers left an impression on everybody who went to Camp, and who spent a great deal of time making sure there were extra exits from everyplace. Can’t be too careful!
  • Alex Graudins explaining how improv can help you make friends and be more creative in all aspects of life. Fun fact! Graudins illustrated Science Comics: The Brain, and included dearly beloved and sadly departed pooch Reginald Barkley in three cameos, not two as I’d previously counted.
  • Alison Wilgus explained Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation, and why it’s such a jerk. Fun fact! I have one about Wilgus’s trademark red glasses, but it’s not my story to tell. Sorry!
  • Gale Galligan shared her knowledge of bunnies, who are adorable but also super gross. Fun fact! I am not kidding, what rabbits do with poop is gross.
  • Dik Pose spoke about baseball. Fun fact! You don’t need a presentation to talk baseball; just like on the radio, a voice and some imagination is pretty much the purest expression of following the game.
  • Michael Grover shared comics about starting a band when you’re a ghost and have no hands. Fun fact! Don’t feel bad, Jake Spooky, many bass players have never played bass, or even seen a bass.
  • David Malki ! talked about the social history of beards. There was other stuff in there, but it was really about beards. Fun fact! The band’s musical outro was an improvised, lyrics-ignored version of Wonderwall, chosen solely so that Wondermark could be sung in the chorus.
  • Tony Cliff read his forthcoming children’s book, Let’s Get Sleepy. Fun fact! There are enough Tonys Cliff in the world that trying to search for this Tony Cliff and Let’s Get Sleepy produces a lot of results on Marxist class struggle.
  • Jen Wang talked about chickens, which come in a bewildering variety of sizes, colors, and shapes. Fun fact! There are hen-to-rooster trans chickens.
  • Tillie Walden read Shel Silverstein poems. Fun fact! Silverstein wrote more great poems that conventional mathematics can count; for every one of his poems you love, there are dozens that other people love just as much.
  • Lucy Bellwood talked about Jeanne Baret, who defied expectations and traveled the world cataloging and categorizing botanical specimens for pre-Revolution France. Fun fact! Baret collected and described more than 6000 species, but the gentleman of society who sponsored her took all the credit and named a couple dozen species after himself. She got one plant named for her like five years ago.
  • Shing Yin Khor talked about the numerous dinosaur statues — some of which bear only passing resemblance to what we know about actual dinosaurs — of Holbrook, Arizona. Fun fact: the dinostatue:human resident ratio of Holbrook (approximately 1:149) is much greater than either the whalestatue:human resident or dogstatue:human resident ratios of Juneau (both approximately 1:32,000).

Afterwards, local Camp helper-organizers Rob & Pagan volunteered their lovely home for dinner and dessert supplied by Coppa. At Pat Race’s request, they came up with a Squirrel Girl-themed ice cream called Eat Nuts And Kick Butts (peanut butter with salted caramel ribbons and a chocolate layer on top). Ryan North, naturally, was given the honor of the first scoop which turned out to be necessary, as the solid-frozen carton required a Ryan-sized man’s strength to break through. It took some doing, but he ultimately succeeded; it was a good omen for the days to come.

Juneau is a fabulously beautiful place, and given the landscape found all around, there is little surprise that it’s a vertical city. I once made the mistake of trying to go to a restaurant by the most direct route and wound up taking four separate sets of outdoor staircases.

Remember what I said about arriving in droves? This crowd came out at 6:00pm on a Friday night.

Remember what I said about Coppa’s ice cream? Here’s the Peeps flavor, with real decapitated Peeps throughout. And here’s the ENAKB variety being duly selfied by North, who then did his best ceremonial ribbon cutting pose for the crowd. It proved to be a hard-frozen challenge requiring mighty struggle, but in the end it was worth it.

¹ And a damn fine one, too. So fine, in fact, that they’ve been nominated for the Eisner Spirit of Comics retailer award this year. If you’re an Eisner voter, Pat Race, Aaron Suring, and everybody at AK Robotics are stellar human beings with a real sense of service for their community.

² The one on Douglas Island, one of three in the Juneau Public Libraries system, all of which saw events.

³ To the degree that he wrote an e-book that is a page-by-page deep reading of the novelization of Back To The Future, which among other things has Opinions on the subject of Mr Strickland. What I am saying is that Ryan North has probably thought a lot more about time travel — real and fictional — than you or me.

4 He was maybe halfway into the process when we spoke about it at Camp 2017.

5 The only time something was invented, North reminds us, because somebody was too horny to otherwise do their job.

6 Or, in the case of the compass, neglected to put it to its practical use. Rather than navigation, the Chinese originally used compasses for fortune telling.

7 No, not dogs. Humanity has domesticated about a 16 different species, and only dogs are workmates, guardians, helpers, and friends that know our minds and read our expressions. Given how thoroughly and completely they have tied their lives to ours, it’s reasonable to say they domesticated themselves, or at least deserve credit for the assist.

Big Round Number

[Editor’s note: Postings this week are going to be brief (as I prepare for) or absent entirely (as I travel to and attend) on account of Alaska Robotics Mini-Con on Saturday and the adjacent events. For that matter, you probably won’t get anything out of me next week as I’ll be away from network and/or traveling and/or recuperating. We thank you in advance for your patience.]

  • Evan Dahm’s latest Overside tale, Vattu, is reaching a point in the story that feels like the end game is approaching. The overall plot is at an inflection point — the emperor is dead, plots swirl around the succession, at least two communities of ex-pats are in various stages of revolt, and another of individual exiles is in upheaval — and there are arcs around the main characters to wrap up. What better time to release the 1000th page of the saga, as Dahm did yesterday?

    If you think that reading the whole damn thing to date (which is a very good use of your time, let me assure you) is too taxing via the website (I sympathize, I can’t read big story chunks online), I refer you to the two books that tell the first roughtly-half of the story (nearly six hundred pages worth!), and a third one is about to ship to Kickstarter backers. In the meantime, everybody congratulate Dahm, and I’ll see you in the depths of the Blue Age.

  • Less than three weeks out seems to be not the time to announce new special guests, but you are not TCAF, who add on until the very last moment before opening their doors. The newest tranche of guests from around the world includes Seth, Bessora, Margreet de Heer, Erica Henderson, Kid Koala, Rachel Lindsay, Jonathan Ng, Richard Marazano, Alex Norris, Émilie Plateau, Jérémie Royer, David Rubin, Hiromi Takashima, Typex, Jhonen Vasquez, and Chip Zdarsky¹.

    TCAF will happen in and around the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) on Saturday 11 May (9:00am to 5:00pm) and Sunday 12 May (10:00am to 5:00pm). Attendance is free, but some events will require tickets to control crowding.

Spam of the day:

Stop What You Are Doing And Look At This Very Good Offer !!

This Very Good Offer includes a coupon so I can advertise on Bing. I do not think you know what constitutes goodness with respect to offers.

¹ Who for once is at the end of the alphabet instead of that bastard Jim Zub².

² Jim Zub was kind enough to send a preview copy of issue #2 of his current comiXology series, Stone Star. As you may recall from launch day last month, issue #1 impressed me, and I can safely say that issue #2 builds on that framework and ramps up the narrative.

And, uh, looks like Zub’s now the last person to be mentioned in this post. Sorry, Chipster.