The webcomics blog about webcomics

Weekend Miscellany

Hey, some stuff happened since I saw you last, we should talk about that.

  • The Ringo Awards took place at Baltimore Comic Con over the weekend, and there were some winners with relations to webcomics. We don’t talk about the Ringos a lot here at Fleen, they’ve got an odd jury+fan voting component that can lead to some … let us say mass responses to the ballot box.

    Am I going to say that comics on Webtoons or Tapas are unworthy of inclusion when considering for awards nominations? Heck, no. But do I believe that a single creator that posts only on those platforms and has work that is … let us say Tumblresque in nature should be considered as the best of the best in comics? Let us say, one last time, that such folks were perhaps over-represented in the ballot.

    All those sayings being said, the Best Comic Strip Or Panel went, as is right and proper, to onetime webcomicker Olivia Jaimes for Nancy, and Best Webcomic went to The Nib, who apart from the whole losing their financial backing thing are having a very good year. A full list of nominees and winners has yet to be posted at the Ringo site¹, but The Spurge has you covered.

  • I may have noted, on some several occasions how the New York Times appeared to be bending over backwards to not acknowledge the crucial place that Raina Telgemeier occupies in modern literature, and the culture at large. Today, they seem to be extending an olive branch, devoting a significant chunk of interactive space in their books reportage to Raina, and Guts, and her creative process.

    How Raina Telgemeier Faces Her Fear by Alexandra Alter, with production by Aliza Aufrichtig and Erica Ackerberg, is part interview, part behind-the-scenes look, and all stuffed with goodness for anybody that wants to see what the steps involved in creating a page of comics looks like. Just be sure to take your time scrolling; on my copy of Firefox, once a page went from thumbnails to pencils to inks to color, it didn’t go back. You can re-experience the transforms by refreshing the page.

  • And looking forward, Maris Wicks would like you to know that the New England Free Lecture Series continues this Thursday, 24 October, at 7:00pm, with a discussion of using comics for sci-comm presented by … Maris Wicks! From the NEA website:

    Registration is requested for all programs, which start at 7 p.m. in the Aquarium’s Simons IMAX® Theatre unless otherwise noted. Programs last approximately one hour. Most lectures are recorded and available for viewing on the lecture series archive page.

    Also on that page, the fact that there’s a cash bar from the time the doors open at 6:00pm until the start of the talk. You can register here, then make your way to 1 Central Wharf in Boston on Thursday. If you get there early, NEA’s a great aquarium that you should absolutely spend some time perusing. They got squid!


Spam of the day:

Hello! If you’re reading this then you’re living proof that advertising through contact forms works! We can send your ad message to people via their feedback form on their website.

You are sending me your crap through my contact form, and you expect me to immediately turn around and give you money so you can pester other people? No. Die alone and unmourned, you parasite.

_______________
¹ This is a proud tradition; I can’t think of a single comics award program that updates their own damn website in less than a week after handing out the awards. Get with it, peoples!

Fleen Book Corner: Superman Smashes The Klan

Okay, it’s not a book, or at least not yet — it’s about 75 pages in a square-bound format, part 1 of 3, that will undoubtedly be collected into a 200+ page proper book in the future. Doesn’t matter, we’re talking about it today.

And for once, I’m not sure that a spoiler warning is necessary, as Superman Smashes The Klan (words by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru, letters by Janice Chiang) is an adaptation of a radio serial that’s nearly 75 years old at this point. Heck, you can listen to the whole thing right now if you want to, and even the basic outline is well-known Superman lore. I’m pretty sure we’re past the statute of limitations on spoilers.

So: family moves from the Chinatown section of Metropolis to a white section, adults object to Dr Lee’s new position as a bacteriologist in the health department, kid objects to son Tommy’s success as a pitcher on the neighborhood baseball team, Klansmen burn crosses, plan tar-and-featherings, Superman saves the day. It’s what Yang adds to this well-known story that makes it stand out.

Firstly, he introduces a new POV character — Roberta, Tommy’s younger sister, who is upset and fearful about leaving the familiar environs of Chinatown, and who must overcome her fear to help Superman save her brother and everybody else threatened by white supremacist CHUDs. Tommy’s mother/Dr Lee’s wife is also given more to do, still more comfortable in Cantonese and using Chinese names, a more reluctant immigrant that her aggressively assimilated husband. He introduces a story arc that involves Superman’s first exposure to kryptonite¹ and allows him to reflect on his own immigrant experience and doubts about his own place in American society.

But the most important thing? The small, almost fleeting racism that the Lees face in passing. It’s easy to see the evil in the hearts of the robe-sporting klansmen, but what of everyday, ordinary people that wouldn’t consider themselves to be racist?

  • Dr Jennings, one of Dr Lee’s colleagues, at a housewarming attributes all of Lee’s success to luck, mocks Mrs Lee’s English ability, and assures that the pie he brought is apple, not dog².
  • A cop on duty in front of the Lee’s home, insisting to Roberta: This city is very, very safe, especially for people like you. Metropolis goes out of its way for you, giving you houses and jobs and promotions you don’t even have to earn.
  • Dr Lee attempting to chase off three black men that stop to put of the fire, afraid that attracting more attention will make it worse: You! Nobody asked you to come here! We don’t want any more trouble! Get out of here!, prompting one of the men to exclaim: They don’t want us around, not even when their house is on fire!

    One of the three is Metropolis PD inspector Henderson who has to bring it back into perspective: They got a burning cross on their lawn, don’t they? For tonight, at least, they are us. Even if they don’t want to admit it.

  • But the one that really sticks? Tommy, recounting to his new friends that he wasn’t scared: Then they lit that fire! But believe me, these wontons don’t fry up that easy!

See, Tommy’s the one that makes friends easily. But Tommy’s even further along than his father in trying to prove to the world that he’s just another American, yessiree, and that takes the form of denying who he is.

We’ve seen Tommy before, only then he was called Jin and there were no klansman, just the everyday, low-level racism that acted like background noise to be overcome. Jin (uhhh, spoilers ahead for a different book) denied himself so hard, he became Danny — blonde, all-American, definitely not Chinese and especially not anything like Cousin Chin-Kee. Tommy’s not there yet, but he could be if he doesn’t learn the dark side of the lesson Jin learned: It’s easy to become anything you wish … so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.

When I wrote about American Born Chinese, I described Jin’s story as not quite autobiographical, and not quite fictional; it was a good deal less than fictional than I’d realized. Yang’s afterword, about what Superman means to him, tells the story of seventh-grade Gene, and the white kid that refused to high-five him while casually dropping a slur. Yang attempted to transform himself like Jin did, wearing the clothes and adopting the style that he hoped would protect him from the disdain of the broad-shouldered, the hazel-eyed, the athletic.

I do not believe it is coincidence that Yang chooses, in this story, to refer to his classmate as Danny.

There’s a lot for Superman to do in the two forthcoming volumes; there’s a Klan to smash³, kids indoctrinated into the Klan’s ways to deprogram, and a brother and sister to help navigate their way into their new home. Roberta needs to not be afraid of who she is, Tommy needs to not deny who he is.

I suspect that he’ll do that less by means of an inspiring heart-to-heart, and more by example; he needs to figure out what the green crystal was, figure out why he feels strangely affected and is having visions of alien creatures speaking in a different language. At this point in his heroic journey, nobody knows where he came from, and especially the public doesn’t know he’s an alien.

I guarantee that the klansmen regard Superman as one of them; by revealing his own immigrant story, I think a lot of prejudices and self-misconceptions will have to be confronted. And because Yang is the opposite of a trite storyteller, I suspect it won’t be a magically smooth journey for any of the characters involved. Some of those in the robes will stop chanting One race! One color! One religion! and others will start chanting One species! One planet!

And five bucks says Dr Jennings spends the rest of his life snidely talking behind Dr Lee’s back and muttering that Superman’s not a real hero.

Yang knows — and trusts his readers enough to realize — that those small, everyday, background noises require just as much work to disrupt as knocking klansmen’s heads together (work that is ultimately almost as satisfying as the head-knocking; Superman not only would punch a Nazi, he spends the opening pages doing just that).

Superman Smashes The Klan is available in comic shops and bookstores everywhere. It’s full of old-school radio serial-style goodness, and is gorgeous to look at4. If you give it to a kid, make sure they read Yang’s essay at the back.


Spam of the day:

Hi, I’m senior Graphic designing & 3D Artist and a professional online marketing Designer. I’m having more than 5 years of experience in this field and have done several projects. These days I’m looking for a new project to work on so that’s why I’m contacting you. I’m sure you would love my portfolio. Here are few projects listed i have worked on

This appears to actually be from the person list in the return address, and it includes a link (that I went to by roundabout means because no way I’m clicking a link in a cold-call email) to a portfolio that actually has some good work. But this is not the way to drum up work. If you want to sell your skills, you have to know who you’re selling to and what they might want.

_______________
¹ Introduced in the radio serial across two stories in 1945 and early 1946, six months prior to Clan Of The Fiery Cross. And since I didn’t mention it, this is the original Superman — black background on the shield, can leap but can’t fly, changes in phone booths (there are phone booths everywhere in 1946), and runs along power lines to get around town so as not to disrupt traffic.

² Roberta thinks Dr Jennings is a creep and he’s sneering like he’ll be back as a more clear-cut villain. I think that he won’t, though. I think he’s there to show that even the well-it’s-not-like-he’s-a-real-racist types are just as poisonous as the ones that wear stupid robes and burn crosses. I thoroughly hate him.

³ It’s right there in the title!

4 I mean, it’s Gurihiru. Obviously, their work is heavily tilted to the slightly cartoony, cute/adorable end of the scale, but it’s more than that. Gurihiru’s work is effortless to read.

Each page layout, each character pose (or sense of motion, really, because nobody’s ever stiff or static), each use of color is designed to focus your eye exactly where it needs to be to convey the thoughts and mood of whoever’s on the page, and to move the story in the direction it needs to go. It’s not just that their art is beautiful, it’s that it’s perfectly suited to storytelling.

And hoo boy do the colors pop. Superman’s baby blues have been waiting all this time for their definitive depiction.

Chiang’s lettering is exactly the same sort of effortless, disappearing until it’s time to make itself known. But with 30+ years of experience, that’s to be expected.

Because We At Fleen Love Numbers

Alert readers may recall that last just ’bout ten months back, we looked at the educational comics of Julia Evans, aka the funnest way to learn programming¹. Longtime Fleen reader Mark V (who was also the one to tip us off to the programming comics in the first place) has pointed out that Evans has shared some numbers on the sales/licensing of her zines, and it’s fascinating reading.

The bottom line is one that should be familiar to webcomics folks — if you have a niche that nobody else is addressing, and you fulfill a need with a quality comic? There’s money to be made there:

This adds up to $87,858 USD for 2019 so far, which (depending on what I release in the rest of this year) is on track to be similar to revenue for 2018 ($101,558).

Until quite recently I’d been writing zines in my spare time, and now I’m taking a year to focus on it.

The most obvious thing in that monthly revenue graph above is that 2 months (September and March) have way more revenue than all the others. This is because I released new zines (Bite Size Networking and HTTP: Learn Your Browser’s Language) in those months.

Key metric? 15% of the revenue was from corporate licenses, which is something I don’t usually see creators focus on. Granted, if you’re doing a gag strip, it doesn’t really lend itself to such a use², but if you’re doing anything vaguely instructive? It’s likely that what you’re charging is a fraction of what one day-long “team-building” exercise with Myers-Briggs toting scam artists would charge.

Something Evans doesn’t say: those big jumps indicate that she’s developed an audience of people that trust her work and jump to buy the new thing because all their previous purchases lived up to (and likely exceeded) expectations. That simple act of doing quality work is the most important thing to keep in mind.

The other thing that jumped out at me was Evans’s choice to do a pay-forward BOGO of certain zines, giving away one copy for every copy sold. If you can’t afford US$12 for the HTTP zine, there’s copies up for grabs because other people bought it. If those skills helped you develop professional skills, I trust you’ll pay it forward. I’ll bet you anything that every giveaway copy more than makes up for its lost revenue in subsequent sales.

So if you want to mine some data (or some inspiration), go check out what Evans is doing³. Find something that you’re good at that a bunch of other people need to know, and maybe you can take a year off to do just that, too.


Spam of the day:

Not too long ago I have come across one post which I assume you might find helpful. Somebody may take a steaming dump all over it, however it clarified some of my questions.

This is a great example of trying to use colloquial English and not quite getting it. Keep trying, overseas scammer!

_______________
¹ Although there is a challenger in the form of Code This Game! by Meg Ray and Keith Zoo, a copy of which was sent to me by the fine folks at Macmillan and which I’ve been working my way through in odd bits of free time here and there. In addition to being highly visual (although not what you’d call comics), it offers a structured walkthrough a defined project — we’re building a game! then we’re gonna break it and make it better! — along with access to downloadable art assets.

If you want to learn Python, it’s a damn good introduction to the practical end of programming, and features a unique built-in easel back, so it stands up while you’re working at the keyboard. Odd Dot design supremo Colleen AF Venable credits the design to one of her team, and I’ve begged her to share it with the cookbook division of Macmillan because it’s a friggin’ game changer.

² Although folks like Zach Weinersmith and Jorge Cham have been known to license comics for textbooks.

³ Particularly on this page, where she tackles SQL query optimization and execution, topics near and dear to my heart.

Anniversaries, Appearances, And Actions

Alliteration, too. Let’s jump in.

  • I first started reading Jennie Breeden’s non-Satanic, non-porn autobio strip, The Devil’s Panties, way the hell in the past. Maybe 2002? 2003? I’d been a reader for years before she tipped me off to A Girl And Her Fed¹, and that was 2006 so somewhere in there. I’ve followed a post-college career, time working in a comic shop², dating, pirates, breakups, marriage, family, a cross-country move, kilt-blowing, and now pregnancy and imminent childbirth (the real life corresponding event being some two years in the past by now).

    Although she exited the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge after about two years (and let’s not forget that the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge site itself is no longer operational, but that the last two contestants continue on, 14.5 years on from the start), she’s been putting strips up like clockwork since.

    As of today, for eighteen damn years:

    Guys… guys, my comic is 18 today. It needs to move out or start paying rent.

    The start was understated, and today’s strip takes approximately zero time to acknowledge the strip’s birthday. That’s just the way it is with daily autobio — no time to gloat, tomorrow’s strip is due. Happy Strippiversary, Jennie, Obby, Devil Girl, Angel Girl, Pretty Pretty Princess, and Small Child To Be Named Later.

  • Hey, whatcha doing tomorrow? If you’re around Boston, you could be seeing science-comics types in conversation at Porter Square Books in Cambridge:

    We interrupt these Inktober posts with an important announcement: I’ll be doing another awesome Science Comics event with @toonyballoony @Zackules and @jasonviola at @PorterSqBooks this Wednesday October 9th 7 PM!!

    That from Maris Wicks, who’s done books on coral reefs and the human body, and paired up with Jim Ottaviani for books on women on the leading edge of primate research, and women on the leading edge of space exploration (the latter coming in February). Oh, and she’s also done nature cartoons from the middle of the sea, the edge of a frozen continent, and the heart of the city.

    Alex Graudins illustrated a book about Reginald Barkley and also the human brain, and an upcoming book on the Great Chicago Fire (due next June). Zack Giallongo and Jason Viola teamed up to teach us about polar bears, and Viola has also chosen a manatee and an amoeba as stars of other comics. They’re all there because of their association with the :01 Books Science Comics line, which remains an excellent way to spend your time and money. The talk starts at 7:00pm, next to the Porter Square stop on the MTA.

  • Finally, the latest from Kickstarter United, ways that you can help their efforts to make Kickstarter see the sense of recognizing the union:

    Make your opinion heard:

    • email Kickstarter’s senior leadership:
    • kickstarter-sot[at]kickstarterunited.org
    • post your support using #RecognizeKSRU
    • post a picture showing your solidarity and tag @ksr_united
    • download a version of our logo to use as your icon on Kickstarter, Twitter, and anywhere else
    • back projects that show solidarity with Kickstarter United
    • have another idea? get in touch!

    Show solidarity on your project page:

    • add #RecognizeKSRU to your project title or subtitle
    • include a note of solidarity at the top of your campaign text
    • download a solidarity badge to add to your project image
    • post a project update to rally your backers

    For reference? While both logos are nice and eye-catching if somebody is looking at your Kickstarter profile page, the white one is easier to read if it’s showing as an avatar, say on a comments page³. Just sayin’.


Spam of the day:

Senior Discounts|The Complete List Of Senior Citizen Discounts nice senior

I am, despite my desire for you durn kids to stay off my lawn, not yet a senior citizen. And I can assure you that when I become one, I will not be a nice senior.

_______________
¹ When I did the foreword for the first AGAHF collection, I mentioned coming to the comic via Ms Breeden, and Otter gave me crap about pimping another comic in her book. So we’re square now, right?

² Oxford, which is a very good shop that I make sure to visit whenever I’m in Atlanta.

³ Oh, and while it’s nothing to do with webcomics, please look at that project page for ceratopsian action figures and pledge up the total to somewhere around US$450K in the next week, please. It has to hit that funding level to unlock the full-size Triceratops horridus (stretch goal #20). I have the sub-adult trike figure pledged, along with a Zunicertaops christopheri (each of which is approximately the size of my BONE Stupid Rat Creature, if you disregard the tail), but I need that full size critter (approximately the size of Kingdok, again neglecting the tail) if at all possible. Thank you.

Miscellaneous Miscellany

Well, goodness, a whole bunch of stuff has occurred since last we spoke. Let’s look at just a few things, ‘kay?

  • This past Saturday saw the Harvey Awards handed out at New York Comic Con; you may recall that this year’s nomination slate was really very strong. While the official page hasn’t updated with the winners list yet, you can find the laureates around the web, say at Newsarama.

    The three categories that I was most invested in — the three categories where there really couldn’t be a bad choice to receive the statue — were Book Of The Year (Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J Krosoczka), Digital Book Of The Year (Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu), and Best Children’s Or Young Adult Book¹ (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell). The last of them, particularly, is going to run out of room on the cover for stickers proclaiming the Harvey and Ignatz wins, especially if it’s keeping some space for next year’s Eisners.

  • Saturday was also 24 Hour Comic Day, and while there are literally too many excellent works to point out, I would be remiss if I didn’t share a modern fairy tale by Melanie Gillman. A young woman feleing unloved in an arranged betrothal finds herself beseeching the Goddess Of Mishaps for help, and it’s damn near perfect.
  • Heidi Mac spent the morning at the ICv2 2019 Conference, held adjacent to NYCCC. You can find her livetweets via this search, but the one you want to pay attention to is this:

    The slide that shocked ComicsPRO showing size of manga and kids genres.
    #nycc2019 #icv22019 #nycc

    In case you don’t feel like zooming in, more than two-thirds of all comics sold fell into one of two categories: Juvenile Fiction (41%, think Raina and similar) and Manga (28%). Superheros were the third-largest market category, but they account for one comic sold out of every ten. This is why C Spike Trotman has been most vocal about the YA offerings from Iron Circus.

  • Finally, especially for those that perhaps over-indulged in 24HrCD or maybe are pushing it too hard for Inktober? Stretch.

Spam of the day:

15 Military Discounts Only Available To Those That Served Our Country

While it is true that I have, probably in the depths of the US Army Cadet Command at Fort Knox, a form 139-R from 1985 (enrolling me in ROTC so I could take two mandatory, 1-credit classes, which my college required instead of physical education), complete with an X in the box labeled I decline to state that I am not an conscientious objector and a strikethrough in the loyalty oath section, I cannot say that I served in any meaningful fashion as that concept is generally understood. But given that your email came from Hesse, Germany (from a domain registration that has existed for a whole 12 days), I’m going to doubly say that no, I haven’t served “our” country.

_______________
¹ Okay, one complaint — there’s a world of distance between children’s books and young adult books, leading to YA books that are distinctly at the upper end of the age range like Laura Dean, Hey, Kiddo, and On A Sunbeam contending with books intended for a much younger audience like Mr Wolf’s Class #2: Mystery Club (7-10) and New Kid (8-12). Yes, the over-proliferation of categories is, but maybe split this one into pre-teen and teens-plus?

Fleen Book Corner: Begrudging Acknowledgment Is Better Than None, I Suppose

Recall, if you would, my observation of how the New York Times was dragged kicking and screaming into recognizing Raina Telgemeier‘s Guts in what’s turned out to be the most half-assed way possible. They pushed graphic books off to a monthly bestseller list (among other things, this makes me wonder if they will bother with a ___ weeks on the list notation), and they expanded the list to fifteen titles from ten (to be fair, all their lists appear to do this now), so that nobody can dominate it too much.

Didn’t change a damn thing. In the inaugural Graphic Books And Manga list, Guts is in the top slot, Drama (2012), Smile (2010), and Sisters (2014) in positions 5, 7, and 12, respectively. One may recall from the previous NYT Bestsellers list that included comics that Drama had an accumulated 179 weeks on the list, Smile 240 weeks, and Sisters 117 weeks (also, Ghosts was #1)¹.

And now that I’ve finished my mockery of the Times for all this weaksaucery, I’m happy to tell you that Raina hasn’t lost a step with her latest. I was lucky to read an advance copy at Comics Camp, but it was only yesterday that I got my own² and was able to refresh my memory.

Guts, for a long time, wasn’t the book that we were supposed to be reading. On her Ghosts book tour three years back, when she asked Do you guys want to see some pages from my next book?³, what she shared was an expanded version of her story about Barefoot Gen, the comic that changed her life. It focused on her relationship with her father. It was supposed to be out a year ago. It just wasn’t coming together like it needed to. And during that stalled creative process, she four herself moving across the country, back to her hometown of San Francisco and away from an ending marriage.

I can’t imagine the stress and anxiety it must have caused to have to travel the country and be on for her fans, be all-caps RAINA at each tour stop. Eventually, the solution was a complete shift of the book that would be delivered, a prolonged period of stress and frustration leading to a story about another prolonged period of stress and frustration.

As Guts tells us, stress and anxiety have been there in Raina’s life for a very long time. Some of those stressors we all live through — mean kids in grade school, say — and are grown out of. Some of them take root and cause a self-perpetuating cycle of I’m anxious, I’m going to barf, I don’t want to barf, now thinking about barfing is making me more anxious than I was and … oh no.

The real trauma of growing up Raina? It started before the teeth.

Her prior two memoirs have had a hell of an important message for her readers: You aren’t alone. Everything that’s wearing on you, it happened to me, too. I got to grow up and draw comics for a living! You can grow up and do what you want to do.

But she’s added several things that are more raw, more true than she’d previously shared: When you grow up, even if you get to draw comics for a living, things won’t be perfect. My phobias and fears are still with me, but they’re part of who I am. I learned to accept them, but not by myself. I got to talk about my fears, therapy has helped, and just like I didn’t have to deal with my challenges alone, you don’t have to deal with yours alone, either.

The reason that Raina’s on a first name basis with kids (or nearly so … I usually hear them, very shyly, call her Miss Raina; it’s adorable) is that they know that she respects them enough to tell them the truth. That she will tell them that she remembers the parts of that age that sucked, that she won’t discount their hurts and stressors and anxieties. She also remembers the value of a well-timed fart joke which, come on, that’s kid comedy gold there.

But it’s about 96% the truth telling, the creation of a space in her stories where kids can feel safe to admit their fears and vulnerabilities, to feel seen and validated, to try and fall short, but be able to try again.

Guts carries the dedication For anyone who feels afraid, and that’s essentially all of us. We won’t all get to grow up to draw comics for a living, but we can learn to deal with those fears and feel confident that at least one person is going to encourage us to be our best, bravest selves.

Guts by Raina Telgemeier — with colors by the indispensable Braden Lamb — may be found wherever books are sold. If you aren’t sure where that is, find a kid about 8 – 13 years and ask where they got their copy.


Spam of the day:

What bananas do to your body

I’m going to guess your contention is not provide nutrition, as part of a varied and healthy diet.

_______________
¹ I’ll go a little farther; in that final accounting of Paperback Graphic Books, the 18 weeks for Ghosts all occurred in the 20 weeks since its release in September 2016; 117 weeks for Sisters happened in a span of 127 weeks since release; 179 weeks for Drama out of 230 weeks in print; Smile‘s 240 weeks were out of 365 weeks since release. Or, considering that Smile didn’t make the list until September of 2011, 240 of 279 weeks since it debuted in the #9 spot.

A Raina book will sit on that list, week after week, between 65% and 92% of the weeks since it’s first printed, forever. And keep in mind, there are far more books vying for a spot on the list these days than in 2010. The only conclusion is that Raina Telgemeier is the most significant voice in comics today. No pressure.

² I’d ordered it at that start of summer from my local comics shop, and Diamond finally saw fit to send it along this week. Monopolies, folks!

³ For the record, asking that in an auditorium full of tweens will cause them to loudly and completely lose their shit.

Fleen Book Corner: Last Pick: Born To Run

Round about a year ago, I wrote this about Jason Walz’s Last Pick:

You’ve been there, when the teams are picked and every kid is carefully scrutinized for what they’ll bring to the team and somebody gets left until last, the sting of uselessness hanging over them.

What happens when you’ve got a whole society — a whole world — of last picks?

As Roast Beef could have told you, you get a bunch of folks with a gigantic and deep-seated fury at the world, one which will kick just rich amounts of [alien] ass with a remarkable style.

A year later for us, a year later for Sam and Wyatt, it’s time to check back in on Elizabethtown, Kentucky and some alien world for Last Pick: Born To Run, a review copy of which was sent to me by :01 Books. Needless to say with the middle book of a trilogy, discussing this one will necessarily involve spoilers for two books. Proceed as you wish.

Actually, Born To Run suffers far less from middle book syndrome than you might expect; although Sam and Wyatt are split up — she taken by the aliens so that we may discover what befalls the kidnapped population of Earth, he leading the resistance and setting plans in motion back home — we get a remarkably efficient catch-up of book one in the form of Wyatt’s notebook¹ that doesn’t feel contrived at all.

Wyatt’s found himself that which he least wanted to be: the leader of a resistance group, and therefore the center of attention, which threatens to overwhelm him constantly. The one person that can keep him on task, Harper, is deaf; his ASL isn’t great, she has to write a lot down, the slowness gives Wyatt the

space

to

decompress

and bring his focus back where it needs to be — not overwhelmed, not stuck on minutia, just working the problem.

This small detail is a recurring theme in Born To Run: the aliens don’t want Harper or Wyatt because they’re broken and useless. But Wyatt’s a technical and tactical genius, and the very reason that the aliens disregard Harper is not only the key to unlocking Wyatt’s potential, but also the means of communicating with the remaining population of Earth right under the noses (or whatever) of the aliens. See, the aliens learned human languages so they could boss around those they took, and every town has its share of collaborators. But the useless? The broken? Ignore ’em.

There’s not an alien on Earth that knows sign language².

Meanwhile (and believe me, that meanwhile is doing a lot of work), Sam’s on another planet, part of a vast prison complex of humans that are doing alien dirty work. The sickness from book one isn’t from being on Earth, it seems; it’s a random thing throughout the alien worlds, and when you get sick, you mutate. But there’s a treaty that says one member of the alien society can’t kill another, not even a mutant. That’s why they steal the populations of other worlds — to carry out genocide.

Sam’s resisting for the sake of being a pain in the ass to her alien overseers. Her friend Mia is resisting because she’s the only one that grasps that what they’re being forced to do. There are humans that have been at this for years now, and for every one that’s died at the hands of mutants, guards, or an unforgiving environment, there are others that have managed to stay alive by being conscript murderers. A better metaphor might actually be child soldiers.

If they ever get their freedom, if they ever get back home, there is going to be an epidemic of PTSD and existential guilt. If humanity survives their liberation, I suspect it will only be because the last picked know what it’s like to need intensive therapy. Heck, the long march to freedom gets started because Wyatt and his fellow neurodivergent kids figure out what a month’s worth of their brain meds pooled together would do to anything that ingested them all at once. Time and again, they strike back because they have a different POV than the aliens are willing to consider.

And the last picks have a message for the conquerors:

You’ve looked past us because we didn’t seem useful. There might have been a time when we believed that ourselves. We might have believed that our worth was based on the views of the ignorant and cruel. We were scared of what would happen if we fought back.

But not anymore.

If that rallying cry is stirring, it’s also got a rebuke for everybody here that ignored or degraded those who were different before the aliens. All of humanity is going to depend on learning the lesson that the aliens refuse to acknowledge — that everybody is a person, no matter how different. Not everybody got that lesson, but Wyatt’s here to remind them:

We’ve all lost people in our lives who saw us more than those labels. And for once in our lives, it might be good that the things we’re up against don’t see us that way. Because now we get to tear up those labels, and save the human race.

Last Pick: Born To Run by Jason Walz releases on Tuesday, 8 October to bookstores everywhere. It’s appropriate for tweens and up, and probably has some decent lessons for those quite a bit older. The conclusion, Last Pick: Rise Up, is due next year.


Spam of the day:

very first Date with a Girl Ask questions when you are planning your date. las vegas dui attorney the urge, Step up your game and act your age. take advantage of the date, superb, Be frolicsome,

Welp. Screamy Orange Grandpa has gotten into the spam/identity theft game. Ain’t nobody else that does word salad like that.

_______________
¹ A fan-supplied sample of which may be found at Walz’s website.

² Yes, I know — there isn’t one sign language, and the likelihood of enough people around the world knowing American Sign Language is a plot hole. The metaphor still works.

About Fucking Time

That is, the New York Times has, after nearly three years, righted a grievous wrong:

Today The New York Times Book Review announced changes to the Best-Seller Lists, in print and online. The Best Sellers team will begin tracking Mass Market Paperbacks (genres including romance) and a combined list for Graphic Books (fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga).

I cannot think of another situation where gatekeeping fell by the wayside in such a bullshit manner. Allow me to sum up:

You will recall that in January of 2017, the Times decided to discontinue the feature that we thought of as Raina Telgemier presents the Graphic Novels Bestseller list featuring Smile¹. The fact that the Times has come around surely has nothing to do with the fact that Raina’s newest, Guts, showed up in the #1 best seller position at USA Today yesterday, a week after launch.

Not #1 in childrens, or #1 in graphic novels. #1, period, above the latest from Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, and Delia Owens in positions 2 through 5 respectively.

The Times can’t ignore her, but they can’t put her in Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover, since Guts mostly isn’t. Can’t be in Children’s series (although Gale Galligan is there for her continuation of Raina’s work on Baby Sitters Club) or Children’s Picture Books since it’s not either of those. If they don’t bring back a list for graphic novels, she’ll end up sullying the regular old Fiction lists with her stupid fake books for loser kids.

You know, the fiction list that mysteriously shows King, Atwood, and Owens in the top three positions. Hmmmm².

Previously tracked by the Best Sellers franchise until 2017, these lists are returning due to continued reader interest and market strength. These monthly lists will begin publishing on October 2 (online) and October 20 (in print).

All Best Sellers lists are available at nytimes.com/books/best-sellers.

In other words, waiting two full weeks after Guts launched, and you know what? She’s still going to show up there, and her other books are still going to sit there. But now they can include her again without acknowledging that she’s outselling and outlasting the real books. But those of us that look down on neither the MG/YA space, nor graphic novels know the deal. Raina can’t be ignored, and a bunch of other folks will get to join her on the list, where the imprimatur actually does catch the attention of libraries and booksellers, a promotional tool they’ve been lacking for 33 months now.

And speaking of welcome returns, Angela Melick³ is making one:

Wasted Talent is BACK… on Webtoon! https://buff.ly/2m1xwLc The BEST OF Wasted Talent — from the very beginning — will be updating on Tuesdays and Thursdays from now on. More: https://buff.ly/2noMIT1 Thank you!! :))

Smart move heading to Webtoon for discoverability, but those of us that still go to individual sites, Wasted Talent dot CA is also showing the reruns, starting here. I think I’m gonna add WT back to my RSS feed and update the links over there to the right. We missed you, Jam, welcome back.


Spam of the day:

The solution to your hair problem It uses LED light and infrared waves to stimulate hair growth.

So … heat? You’re selling a warm comb?

_______________
¹ It’s sorta like Precious: based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, only with Raina regularly occupying at least two slots and frequently as many as six.

² To be fair, Amazon has Guts at #4 in fiction this week. Point stands — different channels with different methods of calculation, and only one doesn’t include her at all instead in right next to Atwood, King, and Owens (in that order). Also Gladwell is in Nonfiction, which is sort of hilarious given the way he pulls things out of his ass.

³ Engineers 4 Lyfe, yo.

No Sleep

Hey, folks in the Greater New York City region, you know that it’s the Brooklyn Book Festival this weekend, right? And that in addition to being free, BKBF will have events and talks and interviews and discussions all over the borough, which may include not only erudite discussion of the events of the day, but also some of your favorite comics folk? If not, then let’s talk.

Comics-related people at BKBF will include Ebony Flowers (off her Ignatz win last weekend for Promising New Talent), Melanie Gillman, Sarah Glidden, Lucy Knisley, MariNaomi, Dylan Meconis, Ben Passmore, Summer Pierre, Frank Santoro, and Magdalene Visaggio. There are others whose names I don’t recognize, and some of them will show up below.

One of the great things about the BKBF bio pages is it links you direct to appearances by the folk in question, so you may want to check out the following events (all on Sunday):

Everything Is Horrible: Comics As Satire And Witness
noon at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Great Hall, 128 Pierrepont St

Moderated by Glidden, with Passmore, Jérocirc;me Tubiana, and Mark Alan Stamaty talking about using comics to challenge the worst timeline.

Anxious in Public: Serious (and/or Hilarious) Comics About Real-Life Tough Stuff
1:00pm at St Francis College’s Founderss Hall, 180 Remsen St

Knisley, along with Catana Chetwynd and Adam Ellis, discussing the road to motherhood, the evolution of relationships, and the realities of mental illness.

The Living City: Graphic Narratives On Place, People, And Soundtracks
3:00pm at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Library, also 128 Pierrepont St

Pierre and Santoro in conversation with the invaluable Calvin Reid on cities as characters.

We Need To Talk
3:00pm at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Great Hall

A discussion on autobio, with Flowers, Erin Williams, and author Mira Jacob.

YA On Fire: A Teen Comics Showcase
5:00pm at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Great Hall

With MariNaomi, Gillman, Meconis, and Visaggio talking about what makes YA, YA.

There’s plenty of other events, with start times from 10:00am. There’s also plenty going on Saturday, and points to BKBF for making Children’s Day the start of the festival, instead of the end (as seen in so many events). Luminaries such as Mo Willems¹ and Jon Scieszka will be paneling, and there’s a session specifically on making comics at 1:00pm with Ivan Brunetti. It’s largely different venues from the comics talks on Sunday, so plan your travel accordingly.

And heck, I should point out that events have actually been underway all around the city since Monday (including a panel on translating Japanese, European, and Brazilian comics, tomorrow night at 6:00pm at NYU), continuing until Monday next². Much more information at the BKBF site, with a map of the Sunday venues³ available for your perusal.


Spam of the day:

Thanks for Registering at Acvark Fire Equipment

There’s a little too much Russian in this email for me to click on anything from what purports to be Jamaica’s #1 supplier of fire extinguishers.

_______________
¹ Willems is also this year’s Best Of Brooklyn Award winner.

² When we’ll see if Lauren Duca can recover from that Buzzfeed profile wherein she pitched a major wobbly, via the occasion of her book launch.

³ Drawn and Quarterly will be at booths 234 and 235, and Iron Circus at booth 122. But please note that the Heliotrope and Baffler listed on the vendor page are not the ones you’re thinking of.

Happy Zubday

Sometimes, the stars just align and a whole bunch of stuff happens at once; today, for example, the redoubtable¹ Jim Zub sees five different comics from three publishers², including two series premieres. Zub’s an incredibly varied and skilled writer, and while I’ve generally enjoyed his original work best, you know that he’s always going to do a good job with premade IP — it’ll make perfect sense if you don’t know the characters, and have a million deep cuts for those who’re up on all the continuity. Keep him in mind as you visit the shops this week.

Also of note for your pull list today: John Allison’s latest miniseries, Steeple. While not explicitly part of the Tackleverse (it takes place in the far corner of England), there are some offhand references, and anytime Allison gets to write British characters, we’re in for a delight. By Night was terrific, but American characters don’t allow Allison to use all his powers, and with Giant Days about to wrap up for good, we can use something to fill the void. And hey, maybe this will be the latest Allison project to go from miniseries to longer miniseries to ongoing, if we’ve all been good and Father Christmas smiles on us.

  • If Kickstarter thought that ditching people involved in the unionization effort³ would blow over quickly, they thought wrong. I really wanted to hear what C Spike Trotman had to say, and she’s unambiguous in her feelings over Twitter way:

    Kickstarter is such an inherently democratic platform. Seeing the people currently in charge of it stoop to such transparently anti-democratic measures to deny their staff basic protections is incredibly disappointing.

    And Tyler Moore (one of what we may as well be calling the Kickstarter Three) answered a question that had been going around in a reply to Spike: in addition to the creators petition, there is a second petition for creators, backers, former employees … anybody with a relationship with Kickstarter. I’ve signed this one as Gary Tyrrell, 125 project superbacker, over US$7650 paid to creators, and if you think what the Kickstarter Union is trying to do is worthwhile, I urge you to consider doing likewise.

  • That being said, I want to stress one last time that the Kickstarter Union is not, at this time, asking creators to forgo or withdraw projects from the platform, or backers to withhold pledges. So you should note that Spike has a new Kickstart going for the latest Smut Peddler collection. All the usual hallmarks apply — funded quickly, a day or so in, pay raises have been secured for creators and more will surely happen, it’ll appear in your mailbox when promised — along with one surprise.

    See, the collection is themed around the idea of maturity and experience, and tell me that’s not Jeff Goldblum on the cover. It’s totally Jeff Goldblum, and if you can come up with a better way to sell the idea of gettin’ it on with hot, hot older folks, I’d like to hear it. Everybody wants sexytimes with Jeff Goldblum. That’s why the FFF mk2 is predicting a final take of US$56K to US$84K when things wrap up in just over two weeks.

  • Lastly, and it was getting to be a bit of a close thing so thank glob for the end-of-campaign bump, it appears that KC Green’s print collection of He Is A Good Boy has funded with just about two days to go. It was an unusually high-goal campaign, featuring reward tiers for physical items above the US$25 most-common-pledge-level-on-Kickstarter, for a smart, sprawling work that is (to be fair) not Green’s most accessible work. I get it, people want Dickbutt and This Is Fine and the easily memeable from Green, but he has these enormous ideas that may take hundreds of pages to see the whole picture, and that’s a challenge.

    But did you notice all the cartoonists that have been supporting Green and pushing this project on the sosh-meeds? They know that if you’re going to have somebody that is untrammeled creativity personified out there doing everything from short gags to massive ruminations on identity and the nature of good/evil, it makes comics as a whole a stronger, more expansive medium.

    Plus it’s a 444 page book. In a pinch, you could defend yourself from an attacker with it, a thought which I think would amuse both Green and Crange the titular Good Boy. I’d say you want to hop in and grab his magnum opus before things close on Friday, but knowing Green, he’s got something bigger, more important, more dense with meaning on deck for next Tuesday which will be his masterwork until the one after that launches. Don’t ever think you’ve seen his best and most important comics, they’re always coming at you sometime the week after next.


Spam of the day:

After only 29 days of mental training activities, her brain scan came up clean!

This is from a spam that claims Big Pharma is suppressing news of a cheap, simple treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Only thing is, the first paper that showed it’s even possible to see the amyloid plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s via imaging (instead of postmortem dissection) was published on 2 April of this year.

There is no fucking way that anything resembling treatment has been developed since then. You identity-thieving assholes are playing on the emotions of people who are watching loved ones slip away before their eyes, and you can’t even be bothered come up with a plausible lie. I hope you die in either a single very large fire, or a sufficient number of smaller fires.

_______________
¹ So don’t doubt him unless you’re also willing to redoubt him, buckaroo.

² Okay, so one title is a co-publication of two companies, don’t ruin this.

³ Although, the more I think of it, the more it seems that nearly everybody outside of senior management is in on the unionization effort.