The webcomics blog about webcomics

A Couple Of Things You May Be Interested In

One of my favorite things to do is to match up readers with folks whose work might otherwise go unnoticed. I mean, sure, I loves me some Charles Christopher out of all proportion, but not all comics worth my attention (and yours!) come from Karl Kerschl¹. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

  • Payton Francis does comics out of the Twin Cities; a big part of her work is fantasy, and the other big part of it is featuring as many adorable LGBT+ characters as possible. Help Wanted is a modern story, and Wola (Francis does art; words by EC Ibes) has plenty of modern signifiers (industrial shipping, folding aluminum chairs) but simultaneously a mythic set of trappings; they’ve both got a bunch of heart.

    Oh, and Wola is presently Kickstarting its first print collection, which has already surpassed goal and thus is a sure thing at this point. Come for the enticing art, stay for the friendshipping, as the first five chapters — more than 200 pages — get printed in full color for only US$25². And, once you read the book, you can pick up with Chapter Six, which started at the beginning of June. As of this writing the campaign runs for another 69 hours (nice), so hop on over and give it a look while you’ve got the chance.

  • I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we’ve mentioned Francis on this page — an oversight, surely, especially given her very assured and very varied character designs — but we’ve mentioned Eben Burgoon a buncha times. Although the wrapping up of Eben07 forever ago robbed this page of one of its favorite running gags, Burgoon has done bunches of stuff since then. Most recently, Tiny Wizards — 10cm tall magic dudes working in a remote truck stop’s food service. It’s been around for a couple of years and Kickstarted a collection, which is now available for all.

    Tiny Wizards #1 — Lord Of The Onion Rings is going to run you US$14, consists of 64 pages of full-page painting, and is very likely the first book ever to be mentioned on this page with a suggested age rating of — quoting here — 10 and under. Indulge your inner child and give it a look.


Spam of the day:

RE: TRACKING NUMBER N° CS476903738

You think your DHL tracking number click here bullshit should featuring a bunch of my non-existent Disney+ subscription is suspended click here bullshit graphics? I think y’all might be a bit confused.

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¹ To whom I profusely apologize, as I just realized that I have missed — by more than six months — the 10th anniversary of the greatest single comic strip in history: Squirrel-Chew.

² The amount of comics and the print quality you get for an extremely reasonably price is one of my favorite things about the current Golden Age of comics we’re living in.

A Good Start And A Narrow Escape

It’s a good news, bad news — or more precisely, bad but narrowly escaped much worse news — kind of day. Let’s start with the good news first.

  • The Abominable Charles Christopher Book 3 Kickstart is up, funded in less than an hour, and at the six hour mark is running more than 250%. It’s beautiful, it’s happening, and if there’s not a hardcover at the moment, if things go very well on the campaign¹, Karl Kerschl just might be able to swing it.

    Speaking for myself, I’d upgrade my sketch edition support tier (featuring three softcovers, original art in the latest) to a hardcover sketch edition to match my vol 1 and vol 2 in a heartbeat². We’ll look at predicted funding finish levels in the next day or so, but in the meantime, congratulations to Kerschl, it’s well-deserved; and congratulations to all of us who get to have such beautiful work on our shelves.

  • Okay, bad but coulda been much worse news: mere hours after taking an Eisner nomination for Banned Book Club, Ryan Estrada mentioned he was losing his day job and try to make a go of this cartooning thing as his sole form of income. Today, he gave us the details and it is not pretty.

    I’m going to quote this pretty much in its entirety because there is a lesson for everybody in the story:

    I have to leave my library gig because they asked everyone to sign a new contract that says
    -they can demand we stay after work to make new teaching materials for them
    -we have to use the images they demand (and I know they have little regard for copyright)

    Okay, that first point is bad, because fuck you, pay me, that’s why. The second point is worse, as it opens up Estrada and his colleagues to liability. It gets worse:

    -They’d have eternal, exclusive ownership of anything we make and can use it in any way we want
    -We’d accept unlimited and eternal legal and financial responsibility for damages caused by any copyright infringement in the things they demand we make them to use however they please

    I believe that third item should read any way they want, not we want, but the real horrorshow is the fourth. Under no circumstances should anybody, ever, accept legal responsibility for work that you are directed to produce by your employer. But maybe they just don’t realize what a bad ask this is?

    As it turns out, nope:

    I obviously could not sign that, so my employment will end.

    It was two little lines in an otherwise boring and ordinary contract, and after asking questions I learned it was not hypothetical and they intended to make use of it.

    Read your contracts carefully, kids.

    So like, they could say “stay until 9 and make us a powerpoint about Frozen” and then use it in the curriculum at dozens of for-profit schools across the country for years, then when Disney sues make me pay all the damages and legal fees.

    I had to explain to them today that we can’t even make materials using the images in our textbooks, by reverse image searching and finding out how their subsidiary paid for them on shutterstock.

    Too many fellow teachers signed without realizing how ruinous it could be. [emphasis mine]

    So yeah, being without a job is bad, but not reading the contract, not realizing the importance of those two lines, signing and ending up on the hook down the line? Disaster. And anybody what asks you to sign that contract and doesn’t take out those lines when you point out how you can be held responsible for illegal acts ordered by your superiors?

    Run as far and as fast as you can.

    Normally, this is where I’d put links to the store of the creator in question, but if you look up and down Estrada’s site, almost everything is marked Read It Free!, which is not going to help him come October. So here are books that Estrada has sufficient financial interest in³ that buying a copy of them might actually benefit him directly: Banned Book Club; Student Ambassador; Poorcraft: Wish You Were Here.

    He doesn’t have a way to directly send him money, so maybe just post a lot on social media about how much you like his work (pictures of purchases would be helpful), give his agents something to work with.

    And whatever else you do, read your contracts carefully, kids, and also thank Estrada for sharing this object lesson that you might not end up in the coulda been much worse category yourself.


Spam of the day:

Many have the misconception of Buddhism being a religion. Buddhism is really more of a way of life whch can wired our brains positively and see changes in a different light.

Not according to Zach Weinersmith, it’s not.

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¹ Which they appear to be doing at the moment.

² My hardcovers of book 1 and book 2 featuring drawings of a panicky chipmunk and Moon Bear, respectively. Book 3? LUGA. Book 4? So many choices — deranged great horned owl and grandowlet? Andy the bumblebee? The domestic drama with the songbirds, the roleplaying critters, some of Sissi Skunk’s minions hawking Squirrel Chew? So. many. choices.

³ That is, he’s not one of many contributors in an anthology.

I Have Definite Thoughts On Folks Who Should Be On The Short List

Hey, y’all. How ya doing? Good? Good. It’s a drizzly day and there’s a very lazy hound somewhat noisily snoring and it’s giving everything here a more than slightly soporific character. Let us converse for some little while and then have a nap.

  • Yesterday, I pointed out a pair of comics-centric events that are taking very different approaches to the (hopefully, persisting) post-pandemic reality. From Massachusetts, an outdoor, spaced-out event; from Long Island, an indoors event that doesn’t so much as mention health protections and shows lots of photos of crowded-together folks.

    Given that New York City formed the centerpoint of the pandemic in this country through its devastating first wave, you’d have thought that a place just the other side of JFK would be more mindful but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

    So how would something larger than Mini-MICE go about an event in the latter half of 2021 while taking due care? Glad you asked, Sparky. Let’s take a look at what CXC has on deck for October:

    CXC 2021 will feature a mix of online & in person events! Our Vendor Exhibitor Expo will be held virtually over Discord, but some festival events will be in person at partner venues in Columbus, OH. Details: https://cartooncrossroadscolumbus.org/?cat=8

    (& check out the poster art by Gabby Metzler!)

    Drilling down into the show website gives us some details:

    CXC 2021 will mark a return to some in-person events following a show that was all online in 2020. Some events will be online only, and several of the in-person events also will be broadcast online. CXC will follow the city of Columbus’s health guidelines and the recommendations of its programming sponsors when determining any necessary precautions.

    We will have more information in the coming months about which events will be in person and how to attend, and how to view online events. Follow us on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) or check our website (cartooncrossroadscolumbus.org) for the latest.

    Good start — acknowledge the fact that things will change in the coming months, set out a model that likely can be made good on even if progress towards reopening stalls, indicate where more information can be obtained. Furthermore:

    One online event will be the CXC Expo, a part of CXC in which creators sell their work to the public. Similar to last year, the CXC Expo will be held online through CXC’s website and Discord Server. We are eager to return to an in-person Expo in 2022.

    “It’s a challenge to plan in our ever changing health and safety environment. We appreciate the flexibility of our guests, presenting partners, donors and audience as we balance our desire for in-person events with proper protocols,” said Jerzy Drozd, CXC’s interim executive director. [emphasis original]

    Further acknowledgement of reality, a nice outreach to everybody with a stake, and a clear assumption of responsibility right from the top¹.

    Additionally, CXC announced its first tranche of guests (Chris Samnee, Victoria Jamieson, Lewis Trondheim, Shary Flenniken) and a new award named for Spurgeon:

    This year’s festival also will mark the debut of the Tom Spurgeon Award, named after CXC’s founding executive director, which will be awarded to someone who is not primarily a cartoonist and whose support of cartoonists and cartoon art enhanced the field in a lasting and measurable way.

    … The award, suggested by Tom’s family, will be a way to honor an individual who has made substantial contributions to the field but is not primarily a cartoonist.

    “The breadth and depth of Tom’s experiences as a journalist, comics historian, and reporter make him the ideal model for an award celebrating the contributions of non-cartoonists to the field,” said Lucy Shelton Caswell, founding curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University and a co-founder of CXC. [emphasis original]

  • Speaking of people that enhance the field in lasting ways, readers may recall that we at Fleen are deeply interested in the production work that goes into comics, particularly of the editorial variety. So it was with particular interest that we noted a rather unique manuscript being newly offered:

    MAKE YOUR COMICS leaner/meaner/faster/cleaner!
    FILTH & GRAMMAR: The Comic Book Editor’s Secret Handbook.
    Click thru to sign up for more info [various emoji]
    https://kickstarter.com/projects/sxbond/filth-and-grammar

    Better believe I signed up for notification. Bond is a legend in editing circles, and everybody that edits comics (or wants to edit them, or wants to edit them better) should be grabbing a copy while they can. So should everybody that writes about comics, and — somewhat counterintuitively — everybody that makes comics.

    Making comics and editing comics are completely different skills, but understanding what the editor is doing and why they do it? That can only lead a creator to make better comics. If nothing else, it’ll hopefully convince creators that editing your own stuff lies somewhere between impractical and impossible². I suspect that in very short order, Filth & Grammar will belong on every shelf right next to Understanding Comics.


Spam of the day:

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For reference, this was sent five hours after Elon Musk announced that Tesla was getting out of the crypto space.

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… and this one was sent the day after. Scammers apparently think that crypto enthusiasts are very, very stupid; given that they believe in magic math based on nothing that can be used to purchase upwards of seven different legal goods and/or services at the costs of crippling computer supply chains and hastening the end of human viability on the planet, I am forced in this circumstance to conclude that the scammers are correct.

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¹ Speaking of which, let’s acknowledge the stellar job that Jerzy Drozd did stepping into the suddenly-empty shoes of the dearly missed Tom Spurgeon, and managing the sudden shift to a pandemic-restricted form from practically day one on the job. If CXC doesn’t keep him on in a permanent capacity, every comics event in the world should be competing to obtain his services.

² Says the guy who self-edits … but when I’ve been asked to write particularly important stuff for others, damn right I’ve sought the opinion of editors I trust. The feedback I received on one occasion caused me to completely discard what I had previously considered to be 95% of the way to final and start over in a radically different direction. It made for a radically better piece, for reasons that made sense when I was done but which I couldn’t see at the beginning because — say it with me — you can’t edit your own stuff.

Slow Brain Day

Whoo, those until-two-am EMS calls really put a crimp in the next day. It’s late, so this will be brief, as we share news of a couple of enticing product [pre]-announcements.

  • First up Raina Telgemeier is a ways from her next book; turns out that pandemics completely disrupt publishing schedules, which are complex webs of editors, publicity, planning, printing logistics, and supply chains that run from China across the Pacific. Probably isn’t too great for the brain space of the folks that need to put together the books that will be appearing next year and the year after that, either. And then there’s the fact that Raina’s published five monster hits from 2010-2019 and if we want to see the next five, she’s due a breather.

    But even if there’s not a story coming the immediate future¹, there’s still Raina news to keep your eyes on, starting today:

    I’m so excited for tomorrow’s release of ‘Raina’s Day,’ my new 450-piece jigsaw puzzle collaboration with Clarkson Potter! Be sure to check out my website for some sneak-peek photos and ordering information! https://goraina.com/merchandise-puzzle

    That’s a puzzle of cartoon Raina surrounded by all the thoughts that define her, packaged up in a box that looks for all the world like cartoon Raina’s sketchbook or diary. I dunno about you, but I’ve got multiple [grand-] nieces and nephews that are going to go incandescent when they see it.

  • It was not two weeks ago when we at Fleen looked at the latest webcomic offering from Karl Kerschl and noted that The Abominable Charles Christopher’s third volume had been a-borning for longer than anybody would want, but that the wait would be worth it. It would be madness to claim that Kerschl took my plaintive observation as the motivation to quickly throw together a full boo design and get a Kickstart set up — those tasks take forever — but what the heck? He announced it:

    Abominable Book 3 is finally coming! Check out the @Kickstarter landing page to get notified when it goes live!!!
    https://kickstarter.com/projects/karlkerschl/the-abominable-charles-christopher-book-3

    31 May was a very good day for product announcements, yo.

    We don’t know what form book 3 is going to take, or what timeframe to expect it in, but soon enough we’ll have the campaign launch and get those answers. All I know is I’ve got to make room on my bookshelf for a new hardcover² in the near-ish term. Charles Christopher! A malevolent lion! A shouty and ineffectual Gilgamesh! RPG-fan forest critters, awkward owlets, a cockroach shrink, Vivol the bear, Luga the honest wolf, and Sissi Skunk’s shenanigans! Stick it in my brain.

  • Oh, and a followup to Friday: US$580,099, thirty grand above the McDonald’s Ratio, and a full fifty grand above the previous record holder. Dang.

Spam of the day:

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You are offering me the opportunity to annoy other people as much as you’re trying to annoy me? And yet you wound up in my spam filters, where I could have easily ignored you forever. You’re not very good at this.

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¹ Which is not to say there haven’t been any stories with her hands in. The death-themed anthology from Iron Circus, You Died, includes a Raina-illustrated story about beloved father, a collection of ashes, and a trip to a theme park that is absolutely not Disney for a surreptitious scattering. It’s heartwarming and hilarious, and Raina makes the most of writer Casey Gilly’s script.

² And, eventually, a fourth book, but we’ll cross that bridge etc.

Somebody’s About To Have A Really Good Holiday Weekend

I speak, naturally of Ngozi Ukazu, who is about to wrap up the Kickstart for the fourth Check, Please! collection, which has cleared the half-million damn dollar mark and which is going up each time I refresh. It’ll wrap about five and a half hours from now (as I write this) and has picked up (again, as I write this) more than US$40,000 today alone, which makes this the third-best day of the fundraising period.

At the launch of the campaign I noted that the traditional predictors (the FFF mk2, the McDonald Ratio) would likely be skewed, what with the atypically high per-backer average contribution (which has actually gone up), the stealth launch, the huge pent-up demand for the last item in a hot property, etc. I warned that the estimates would likely be high, but you know what? They’re not that far off.

Okay, the FFF mk2 having a +/- 5% tolerance leads to some excessively large ranges on high-value projects like this (a full US$300K range), and the lower bound of US$600K was always a stretch¹, but the McDonald Ratio predicted US$550K and it wouldn’t surprise me if we hit it at this point.

In the time it’s taken me to write the last three paragraphs, the total has gone up three grand, and Check, Please! Year Four has surpassed Ava’s Demon: Reborn and has become the most-funded webcomics project in Kickstarter history². The five Check, Please! projects will have between them raised at least US$1.45 million, and there’s still five and a half hours to go. Not bad for a comic about gay hockey bros with big feelings and also pie³.

(‘Nother fifteen hundo in the time it took to write and do the math in that last ‘graf, bee tee dubs.)

Anyways, I’m not waiting around until after 10:00pm EDT to see what the end total is, but I give it a 50/50 chance that today’s total becomes the second highest of the campaign, and and 80/20 chance it clears US$550K in total, thus validating Kel McDonald’s math. I’m sure I’ll mention it sometime next week, but remember: Monday is a holiday in the States, so probably no post. Enjoy your weekend, enjoy the holiday if you’re in a position to celebrate it, and the next time somebody suggests a seemingly-ludicrous story hook, we should all just say, Let’s give it a year and see.


Spam of the day:

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_______________
¹ The backer count and pledge total going up on day two really disturbs things … I’m thinking of looking at an average of the projections for days 1 and 3 in those cases, which would have given us US$637K +/- US$128K, or US$509K to US$765K in this case, which would be on the low end, but within range. Gonna keep adjusting this thing until it accounts for all the strange outliers as well as the typical cases.

² Plus the number three slot for Check, Please! Year Two.

³ Seriously, if you’d suggested to anybody back around 2012 or so that premise would catch fire, people would have suggested back that while gay bros and pie were pretty popular, hockey’s crippling unpopularity in the US would render it the whole thing moot. You can never tell what’s going to grab attention, except for the fact that it’s a damn good comic, and damn good comics will find their audience.

Back To The Parade Of Imminent Awesome Books

Here’s some more that are coming out in the next few weeks, that you may get in your orders and enjoy.

  • We at Fleen have, I believe, been in the tank for John Allison since small times, as the saying goes. He has nary an idea that isn’t going to be amusing as hell, ranging from droll wordplay to flat-out hilarity and back again, frequently on the same page. For much of the past couple of years, he’s let loose with his wilder instincts for absolutely unrestrained stories via Steeple (both in print and in the online continuation).

    Furthermore, throughout his long history of Tackleverse comic-making, he’s found individual characters around whom others accrete and orbit, by which manner all manner of stories may be hung: Shelley Winters, Esther de Groot, Charlotte Grote; by complete coincidence, each of these has been my favorite character of his in turn, often trading the role back and forth and one or another is given pride of place.

    Of late, he’s collided La Grote and The Ginger Ninja with Steeple in Author Unknown and it is a marvel, but come August we’ll get the second Steeple trade, collecting the The Silvery Moon and Secret Sentai story arcs. Mayhap if we’re good, we’ll soon get a third collection, with Christmas With Clovis and the currently-running Author Unknown.

  • A little closer to the present day, which is to say the 22nd of June, we’ll see not one but two new releases from :01 Books, which always makes for a good day. The first is from Mike Holmes (at press time, his site appeared to be down, so here’s his Twitter), who’s been making excellent comics with other folks for about forever, but now gets to stretch his legs and show us his solo work.

    My Own World is about being a kid, about not feeling in control, about finding a place where you can be in control, but maybe lacking the meaning of the (so-called?) Real World. It sounds like an up-aged version of Vera Brosgol’s Memory Jars, which should allow for some amazing storytelling and visuals. Introducing a middle grade reader to the concept of there being things that you can’t control and that’s not a tragedy is going to be a tightrope to walk, but I’ve got complete confidence that Holmes will be able to navigate it.

    And perhaps taking a similar tack to My Own World, Nidhi Chanani will be following up her superlative Pashmina with Jukebox, a time travel story about music, searching for meaning (and also your parents), and how life changes (or maybe doesn’t) from decade to decade.

    Readers may recall that my chief complaint with Pashmina was that it deserved about 50 more pages to really delve into the magical-realist conceit, and it looks like Chanani will get that here; time traveling via magic jukebox to the eras of beloved songs offers at least as much room for exploration as finding the history of your family through a shared article of clothing.

    Plus, a) the world needs more books centering brown girls, and b) Chanani has a love of vinyl that impressed former college DJ me, so I think there’s going to be a lot of factual and emotional authenticity for readers to dig into here. Plus, her work is always just so joybringing, even when tinged with fear or melancholy — there’s a natural exuberance to her characters that works really well in the long form.

Steeple: The Silvery Moon releases 4 August to comic shops and two weeks later to bookstores. My Own World and Jukebox both release 22 June to bookstores. The former is highly recommended based on previously-released web content, and the latter pair based on the prior work of the creators. They’re gonna be good, folks.


Spam of the day:

Hi, Would you like a free article for your websit? I’d like to put something together that offers advice to prospective entrepreneurs who’ve experienced past financial setbacks on how they can get their dream business up and running.

My websit is just fine without your fake-ass motivational bullshit. If you knew how to be an awesome entrepreneur, you’d be doing that instead of trying to convince people you know how to do that.

The Irony, It Is Delicious

On the one hand, nobody should be on Disney’s side of the screwing people out of their contractually-agreed royalties issue, not even Disney. So it was good to see a press release of another company getting on board with the efforts of the #DisneyMustPay task force.

On the other hand, it was BOOM!, and the hypocrisy is thick enough to cut with a knife. It’s been at least five years since BOOM! has been, rightly, called out for their shit rates; in fact, here’s three pieces from the first half of 2016, when it was a new and big topic in comic circles, and has since just kind of faded into the background radiation of the industry. Not just shit rates, but pervasive late payments, and legal hardball:

The other recurring conversation regarded the generally crappy terms offered by BOOM! Studios, with more than one creator (none of whom wished to be named) mentioning attempts to get moral rights waived, to allow unlimited editing of art or text without approval or consultation with the original creator, and unconscionable grabs for media rights in exchange for the the simple act of printing.

[This quote references a footnote in the original, which reads: As in, You’re coming to us with a complete story and in exchange for a crappy page rate we get all the movie/TV rights to it, for free, forever. BOOM!, you do not pay enough by at least a two orders of magnitude to make that sort of deal even vaguely fair. If you include secondhand reports, it gets even worse.] [boldface originally italic]

Again, nobody willing to go on the record, but I spoke to creators with lawyers who were tied up for literally years to get rights back from BOOM! that were never agreed upon in the first place. Every creator I spoke to that summer and since has been unanimous: BOOM! has terrific editors; very nearly all of them¹ say that BOOM! also has horrific business practices.

There’s also nothing on BOOM!’s own website, just a brief quote in somebody else’s press release. Oh, and speaking of press releases, here’s one from the end of April, which I believe is BOOM! first got mentioned in conjunction with Disney and royalties:

Fox had licensed the comics rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dark Horse. After Disney purchased Fox, they withdrew those rights from Dark Horse and granted them to Boom! Comics. When one Buffy author contacted Boom! about missing royalties, they were told that “royalties don’t transfer.”

Disney is one of the owners of Boom! Comics.

The royalties don’t tranfer answer from BOOM! doesn’t really square with yesterday’s announcement that BOOM! wasn’t told by Disney who was supposed to get royalties. I’m reading it as BOOM! getting caught and four weeks later has decided that damage control is warranted; then again, they just might be confused by the idea of royalties, since so much of what they publish is work-for-hire that doesn’t have royalties attached.

But let’s acknowledge that BOOM! are apparently moving in the general direction of doing the right thing. Here’s hoping that getting dragged again — this time by a big enough group and not by individual creators without legal recourse — will be what finally prompts BOOM! to look at their own habits with regard to paying creators.


Spam of the day:

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Uh-huh. Even if I were a raging diabetic (and thus in need of new blood sugar control methods) and also Rich Stevens (and thus 27% coffee by mass), I wouldn’t believe this bullshit. Fuck off, then fuck off some more.

_______________
¹ Those without complaint could be considered bigger names and were also uniformly the only creators I spoke to who didn’t report getting paid late. One was actually kind of offended by my question, noting they weren’t going to piss on [BOOM!]. One may reasonably wonder if there is a sales threshold, beyond which BOOM! is more scrupulous about contracted payment terms.

Webcomics! They’re Good

Hey, want to read about a top-tier comic-crafter from the worlds of print and web and his new project? Or how about a woman with no less skill but earlier in her career about to hit book and comic stores in a big way, to match her deep online following?

  • Folks that have read this page for a while know that we at Fleen have boundless enthusiasm for the personage and work of Karl Kerschl. His webcomics work has, on occasion, had to make way for print work — your Teen Titans, Gothams Academy, Isolae, etc — and if it’s been longer than one might have hoped for book three of The Abominable Charles Christopher to see print or for the story to wrap, well, that’s just reason to wake up tomorrow morning. It’s one of the best, most heartfelt, and simple finest looking webcomics that’s ever been, and it’s free so what have we to do but celebrate that we’ve gotten what we’ve gotten?

    Which is why it’s such wonderful news that we’re getting a whole other webcomic from Kerschl, one that’s updating in issue-sized chunks:

    First issue is online for free!!! Read it at http://karlkerschl.com

    The first issue is that of Death Transit Tanager, a manga-influenced sci-fi story about a young woman, a galaxy that needs traveling, and souls that need conduct to their rest. Episode one can be read right now, and if you like it (he said, entirely rhetorically), the PDF is available for purchase, but Kerschl’s noted that subscribing to his site is a better option, providing a pay-what-you-want (two bucks per month and up) means of supporting his work:

    [A]ccess to full-length process videos, pre-production drawings, sketches, community polls and all sorts of fun behind-the-scenes stuff that doesn’t usually see the light of day. AND you’ll also be part of the discussion by having access to comments on posts.

    Plus discounts on everything in his shop, including convention¹ sales, along with first word on new releases, early-bird access, etc. Kerschl’s simply one of the best creators we’ve got, and Death Transit Tanager is an act of faith on his part — that great comics given away will result in tangible support for him and his family. Give it a read, and see if he’s right.

  • And speaking of webcomics making a splash and seeking new audiences, Image Comics has looked over at Webtoons and said, Hmmmm, creators with established audiences online, maybe they might like to engage in an exchange of money for physical goods and struck a deal with Linda Šejić of Punderworld (and, for good measure another 10% of her audience is over at Tapas). The retelling of the Persephone/Hades myth² (that isn’t Lore Olympus4) will run near 200 pages and release to comic shops and bookstores at the end of August.

    Given the significant number of readers that top-drawing comics have on the aggregator sites (Punderworld has a relatively modest 350,000 verified subscribers; others get into multiple millions), it’s really only surprising that more webcomics haven’t reached deals with publishers — although the vagaries of who gets the right to do so are buried deep in various ToS and I’m not a lawyer — and I expect that we’ll see more of these in the future.

    For reference, 350K would be more readers than any title in 2019 (the latest year for which Brian Hibbs has caluclated year-end sales performance) not by Dav Pilkey or Raina Telgemeier. And would be more than thirteen times greater than the top-selling Image book of that year, the latest Walking Dead Compendium (26K copies sold). Comics doesn’t look like what it used to, and any publisher that twigs to that fact and gives the fans of these very different properties what they want? License to print money.


Spam of the day:

The Kitchen Device You Didn’t Know You Needed Super Sale on the Butter Spreader

A knife. You’re talking about a butter knife. They already have those.

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¹ Conventions were things that we had before the Plague Year And A Half, and will again in the future.

² Hades has been all kinds of hot in the culture for the past bit, so good on Image for striking while the iron is hot³.

³ Yes, I know that’s more of a Hephaestus thing.

4 All kinds of hot.

More Amazing Books, Some As Soon As Now

I mean, assuming you have a local bookstore or comics shop that doesn’t rely on Diamond, who are objectively bad at their jobs; my shop is having much better luck with alternate distributors of graphic novels, but old orders in Diamond may show up at literally any time and they’ll demand payment despite being a year or more late¹ and I don’t want to subject my shop to that.

Where was I? Oh, yes, some more books that are about to drop as part of Fleen’s Awesome Books Coming Out Soon Week. Let’s dive in.

  • To be fair, I can’t blame Diamond for the year-plus delay in Carla Speed McNeil’s latest Finder volume, Chase The Lady; that was (largely) COVID that pushed back release by a few months, then multiple years, before settling in on the next couple of weeks. It started as part of the Dark Horse’s Dark Horse Presents anthology series, 8 or so pages at a time; then DHP folded about a year and a half later, and McNeil had to finish it on her own, in between paying projects on account of what should have been a reprint collection suddenly became a more than 50% original graphic novel.

    Comics is complicated, y’all. But what’s not complicated are the facts that a) McNeil’s work reads even better in big chunks, and b) she remains one of the best depicters of the human form, in all its variety. You can read entire character histories in her wordless panels, just from body posture and especially facial expression. She has this one trick where the space around the eyes becomes tight that makes me want to find something to hide behind, because shit is about to go down². Chase The Lady hits comic shops on Wednesday next week (that would be 26 May) and the book trade two weeks later (8 June). It’s going to be great.

  • Know who really thinks about the worlds that he creates? Evan Dahm. It’s not enough to have various people of various species interacting, he’s got to think about their language, their alphabet, their religion, their societal mores, their history, their ethics, and their motivations for empire. The literally thousands of pages of Overside stories will make that apparent in a hot minute, but if you’re looking for a place to jump on? A place without all of that interconnection? A place that you could share with a younger reader? 2019’s Island Book is a terrific primer.

    And, starting today, Island Book: The Infinite Land returns us to that world of ocean, of distinct cultures, and opens everything a bit wider. I compared Island Book to The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz in my review, and from the description of the second story, I think the comparison is even more apt: into this world of islands he’s dropped a continent. A land, vast and possibly unlimited, calling out to peoples that have only known small specks of dry land and seemingly endless water.

    The followup books to TWWOO were about all those other corners of Oz and other fairy-lands, each one upending the previous established order and at times setting friends at cross purposes. Sola and her friends made their lands safe from the Monster in their first journey onto the oceans, but can their friendship survive the gift of an infinite land, ripe for the taking by whoever gets their first and can keep it?

    There’s a way through that will be true to the characters and their motivations that isn’t too terrible, and many that will end in disaster; I can’t wait to see how Dahm weaves his way to that one (likely only mostly) happy outcome.

  • Received in the mail today: the latest keepsake game from Shing Yin Khor, A Mending, of which we have spoken previously. I suspect I will share as little of my playthrough here as I did of Khor’s previous keepsake game with Jeeyon Shim, Field Guide To Memory, as I expect it will take me to similarly personal-reflective places and (occasional evidence to the contrary) there are some things I just keep to myself.

    And to be received on 15 June (if fortune favors us): Khor’s latest graphic novel, The Legend Of Auntie Po. There are some things you need to know about Khor, if you haven’t noted the pieces that have run here over the years: they have thought a great deal about their Chinese ancestry and the immigrant experience, and they love giant prefab statues in the middle of nowhere like nobody’s business. Many of these statues are of Muffler Men.

    The Muffler Men statues are, of course, derived from Paul Bunyan statues, and thus Khor is also deeply invested in the legends and folklore about the giant lumberjack and his enormous blue ox. Those legends and other parts of Americana were invented in work camps — lumber camps, railway camps, mining camps; a great deal of immigrants worked them, from the Scandinavians and Cornishmen of the Upper Midwest, to the African diaspora and Hispanic earlycomers across the prairie and deserts, to the Chinese everywhere accessible from the Pacific.

    And thus: Paul Bunyan reimagined by a 13 year old girl named Mei (already a nonperson in this land, thanks to the first immigration laws America would ever pass, designed specifically to extract labor from Asians and then discard them) in a Nevada logging camp. Po Pan Yan — Auntie Po — is a Chinese matriarch, an adaptation of young American myth, made familiar by casting it in the mold of the much older Chinese myths, and an example of maybe the only part of the story Americans tell themselves that could be true: come here and carve out your place. You’ll make America yours, we’ll (grudgingly, more often than not) make you part of us³.

    The meaning of America is myth, and anybody can adapt myths to find their way. Give it a few decades for The Legend Of Auntie Po to become a much-loved classic and looking back, we’ll decide that Auntie Po always was there in the lumber camps and railway camps and mining camps. We tell ourselves myths to make sense of reality, but often as not the myth becomes the basis of the reality we build.


Spam of the day:

STOP SENDING ME YOUR NUDES! Hi, plz stop messaging me in whatsapp ! why you sending me your photosf

Like I’d send nudes via Whatsapp. First of all, it’s Facebook-owned and I don’t have anything to do with Facebook. Secondly, I wouldn’t send you photos. I’d commission original artwork from a variety of my cartoonist friends and provide those in a tasteful frame. Nice try, scammer, but you really missed the mark on this one.

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¹ I wish I were kidding.

² She also does smug, insufferable teens that will make you want to build a machine that allows you to slap a fictional character. Find a copy of the No Mercy trades (Alex de Campi, words, Jenn Manley Lee, colors) if you don’t believe me.

³ Most likely starting with food, although we’ll probably never stop trying to Whitesplain it back to you.

We Are About To Get So Many Amazing Books, I Can’t Even

The next 6-8 weeks have a stack of graphic novels about to drop and I wanted to spend a little time talking about some of them, and their creators. Some of these I’ll have seen advanced review copies of, some I haven’t, and in any event these aren’t going to be reviews — they’re going to be me talking about stuff that looks really friggin’ good so that you can look for them in your local shops. First up: a pair of creators whose work we at Fleen are big fans of.

  • It’s been a while since Vera Brosgol had a full graphic novel, but she’s been giving us amazing children’s picture books since then — Leave Me Alone! and The Little Guys are favorites among the younger members of my family — and she’s about to gift us with another.

    Memory Jars is about a young girl who discovers that she can keep anything in jars, safe and whole exactly as it is now, forever. You never have to give it up, you never have to say goodbye. Or, as Brosgol put it somewhat more compactly, [I]t is about canning and death and yeah — there’s some melancholy in there. If a child is ever to gain an appreciation for the ephemerality of life, the fact that all we know will someday cease, there’s hardly a gentler way to learn that with this book. There’s also jam, so that’s cool.

    Although Memory Jars does not release until Tuesday next week, Brosgol will be doing a live reading and drawing chat thing tomorrow at 7:00pm EDT¹ with LeUyen Pham, with An Unlikely Story of Plainville, MA sponsoring (registration here). Copies of Memory Jars purchased through An Unlikely Story will come with signed bookplates (while supplies last), as will copies from Brookline Booksmith (Brookline, MA). Green Bean Books in Portland has signed and sketched copies; try getting awesome extras like that from Jeff Bezos. You can’t!

  • We’re a little further out from the release of Molly Ostertag’s The Girl From The Sea — it’ll be in stores a week after Memory Jars — but there’s still time to get your orders in with your local retailer. If you need convincing, the first scene is up for sneak peek and it is terrific at setting up the story. We don’t know where things will go after these few pages, but we know that there’s all kinds of details about Morgan Kwon’s life that we want to know. It’s master-level storytelling economy and proof that Ostertag really thinks about how to structure a story.

    More proof, if any were needed, is over at Ostertag’s alt Twitter account, which is mostly devoted to gayifying Tolkien — I have been reading the various chronicles of Middle Earth for about four decades and cannot believe I didn’t see just how romantic Frodo and Sam are — where she’s shared some of her process work for her latest short gay hobbits comic.

    Thinking about how to compose the pages, thinking about how to end the story, showing off the things she’s figured out on her own make for a better comic in her character-drive mode. Watch how the basic idea becomes a paragraph of idea outline becomes panels. The thing that I never thought about before but which makes perfect sense in retrospect² is her pacing rule of thumb: if the outline has the word and in it, that means a new panel.

    Well, that and the rule about where the reader’s eyes will progress in the panel and how to guide them. And how panel height conveys time. And how words can indicate physical closeness in characters. It’s almost like drawing a hell of a lot of great comics will make you better at drawing great comics³.


Spam of the day:

1 tsp of THIS forces poop constipation out of you – permanently?

That sounds explosively traumatic and permanently disabling. Maybe just improve your diet and get some live-culture yogurt instead?

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¹ I know the tweets says 3:00pm PDT which would be 6:00pm EDT, but the promo image and registration page say 4:00pmt PDT and 7:00pm EDT respectively, so that’s what I’m going with.

² Getting a lot of that from Ostertag, it seems.

³ And it’s also almost like Ostertag has spent way too much time in Appendix C of The Lord Of The Rings, and knows from the family trees that Sam has an older sister named Daisy. Not that I’d know anything about that.