The webcomics blog about webcomics

Kickin’ 2: Electric Crowdfundaloo

There were some pretty nifty Kickstarts that launched yesterday or the day before, and since new ones keep cropping up I figured it’s time to do a roundup. Let’s get started.

  • Alexis Sugden does comics that are widely varied; I first noticed her name at The Nib as the illustrator of a story about gastric reduction surgery. After I looked up her name, I recognized a previous story at The Nib about gender and body image, It’s All For The Breast. What I hadn’t twigged on was that was a greatly condensed version of a story that she’s been telling weekly since 2016.

    And now she’s going to put it all into a single print volume, which requires the absolute lowest Kickstarter goal I’ve ever seen: CA$950, or US$736. Remarkably (because this is a hell of interesting project, and the book is more than 100 pages, for the low, low price of CA$15 (unsketched) or CA$20 (sketched)¹), it’s not quite hit goal in the first 50 or so hours, but it’s about to.

    This looks like one of the most interesting autobio comics you’re going to read this year, so take a look at the sample pages at the project page — just the page with Bowie forcing Young Alexis to reconsider notions of gender is worth the price of admission by itself.

  • The annual Retrofit Comics Kicker has arrived, and with it the opportunity to support twelve new graphic novels. There’s something there for everybody, from 64 page books to more than 200 pages; some are B&W, some full color, some limited; pracerange from US$8 to $25, with plenty of tiers that include these 12 books, plus extensive collections from the Retrofit backlist.
  • David “Damn You,” Willis has set up the campaign for the seventh (!) Dumbing Of Age collection, which is essentially the most foolproof thing you can ever back on Kickstarter. He announces the Kicker and the stretch goals, his fans back the Kicker and stretch goals, he produces the books and stretch goals, people get the books and stretch goals. You can set your watch (or at least your calendar) by it.
  • Not a Kickstarter but Heidi Mac at The Beat — she always seems to get this story first, year after year — reports that the Center for Cartoon Studies and Slate have announced the winners of this year’s Cartoonist Studio Prize. For reference, the nominees were announced about a month ago, and the winners are Keren Katz for print comics, and Michael DeForge for webcomics.

    In addition to the honor of recognition, Katz and DeForge each get a cool thousand bucks American cash money, which is the only thing better than a six hundo.

Spam of the day:

Unfortunately, I hadn’t experience of technological background, that’s when I thought of my close friend Sasha Petrichenko who is currently working as a software developer and engineer for NASA space exploration.

Just because your dude works for NASA doesn’t mean he knows squat about investing strategies. Trust me, I know people at NASA, and you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to be a rocket scientist.

¹ US$11.62 or US$15.50, respectively, at Kickstarter’s exchange rate.

Holy Crap, Watterson

We are going to talk about some cool things today, but could anything be cooler than watching Bill Freakin’ Watterson return to the Sunday comics page, even just for one day? We’ve seen him draw in the slightly recent past with the poster for STRIPPED, but to see Calvin again, to see Watterson dinosaurs again, to see something even better than the legendary Tyrannosaurus Rexes in F-14s¹ ², and to see him playing with Opus the gosh-danged penguin.

With a Trump joke.

Look, if it turns out that Breathed just got Watterson to okay the use of Calvin, but that he didn’t draw the lil’ guy again, don’t tell me. Breathed’s done C&H references for a couple of April Foolses now, but the earlier ones didn’t have that spark, that hint of Wattersonian goodness. We all need to find joy where we can.

  • Speaking of finding joy, please enjoy Pénélope Bagieu on the effect of a participation trophy that she didn’t know was a participation trophy, leading to a lifetime of assuming she could do stuff. Which means, naturally, that she can.

    The Teddy Bear Effect is a pure delight. Go read it in anticipation of meeting Ms Bagieu at MoCCA this weekend and telling her how hard she rocks³.

  • On any other day, this photo would be up top, but you know how it goes. Just a few books that have shown up here at the Fleenplex — Lucy Bellwood’s 100 Demon Dialogues is a delight through and through, and I’ll have to work up proper reviews for the tenth (!) book in The Olympians by George O’Connor (I say this every time, but this one’s my new favorite) and the first graphic novel from Vera Brosgol since Anya’s Ghost (thanks to :01 Books for the latter two books).

    Suffice it to say that I’ll be carting Brosgol’s and Bellwood’s books (I, uh, got five copies of 100DD so I could give ’em away to people that need them) out to Juneau and Comics Camp later this month, so I can get them signed. I’ll be coming home with more copies of Be Prepared as well, as I’ve got nieces who will love it and they can’t have my copy, it’s mine.

    But what’s the large book taking up all the space? Oh, nothing, just the first college text ever to talk about the entire history of illustration from cave paintings to Cintiqs. Years ago, the lead editor went looking for somebody to write 500 words on webcomics and Scott McCloud sent her my way.

    It was remarkably hard to get down that far, not lose sight of what a big topic was being addressed, and still sound like me (special thanks to KB Spangler, who smacked me upside the head about the latter point; that’s why she’s an excellent editor and you should hire her). But there it is, years later. My essay got split up and folded into a series of digital illustration topics, and my name might have gotten left off the contributor’s list, but it’s totally in the errata and will be in the next edition!

    Look, like I said above, we need to find joy, etc, and I personally look forward to a job interview in the unspecified future and some tech recruiter asks about the line on my CV that says I contributed to History Of Illustration. This is completely a thing and I’m taking joy from it.

Spam of the day:

Is Your Husband Getting Calls Day and Night?


¹ Leading to an excitable kid to exclaim This is so cool and a jaded tiger to mutter This is so stupid.

² None of which, as far as I know, were T-Rex, in that they didn’t appear to be shouting Frig! Frig! I don’t know how to fly! Friiiiiiiig!

³ Correct answer: So hard.

Hot Diggity, Data

It’s the happiest day of the year for a numbers nerd like me who is fond of being proved right. Start, if you will by taking a look at something we talked about last year, and in years before that. Those posts refer to the annual numbers that Brian Hibbs (hero LCS owner) compiles for Heidi Mac at The Beat on what graphic novels sell according to Bookscan’s numbers. Data, baby!

Obligatory reminder: Bookscan doesn’t reach into comic shops, libraries, or book fairs. That’ll be important later, as we remind ourselves of something else:

Raina Telgemeier remains the most important person in comics.

In calendar year 2017, when she did not have a new book, she sold (and this doesn’t count libraries, or comics shops, or school book fairs) at least US$11.6 million dollars worth of graphic novels, at least 487,000 copies of her original graphic novels, at least one million books when you include her Baby Sitters Club efforts.

Want to see something more impressive? I’m going to look at Sisters, because I kept numbers for 2014, and 2016 from those earlier posts. In 2014, when Sisters was new, she sold 176,197 copies (in four months, because it wasn’t released until the end of August). In 2016, when it was two years old, she sold 166,124 copies. In 2017, three years old, she sold 147,889 copies. That’s scarcely any taper off! Comics shop owners will tell you the drop from issue #1 of a series to issue #2 is minimum 40%. Over three years later, she’s selling fully 84% as much as when it was new!

Let’s look at the other numbers for her original work, 2014, 2016, 2017:

  • Smile: 150K, 188K, 160K
  • Drama: 94K, 213K, 178K
  • Ghosts: (not released), 213K (four months only), 180K

I like that bump in Drama; new book means new readers who are discovering her older work. And should I mention that Smile was released in 2010? These books are never going to go out of print. Never.

This is why she broke the New York Times Best Seller List so hard that they stopped reporting on graphic novels rather than just rename it for her. This is why every neckbeard that whines about “diversity” ruining comics doesn’t know shit. Comics purchases are dominated by younger readers, all-ages topics, bound books. The first floppy comic book that shows up on the list for 2017 is Saga (which is great, mind you), and it sold … 45K. It’s in 29th place on the list¹.

It’s basically a rounding error in Raina’s sales because guess where Saga isn’t selling? The Scholastic book fairs held in elementary schools across the country. Guess where book fair coordinators are ordering Raina’s books by the case. And guess what’s not included in the Bookscan numbers.

This is why she owns six of the top twenty slots by dollar total. It’s why she owns eight of the top twenty slots by copies sold. It’s why the entire top twenty list is dominated by women, and why other top twenty books are Raina-alike stories (which is to say, following the same growing up travails stories that she pioneered in the GN space).

And this is why I whould like to humbly remind Raina that when she bestrides the worlds of comics publishing, YA publishing, and whatever the hell else she feels like bestriding, that some of us were behind her from the very beginning and would serve well in her new, benevolent regime.

All hail.

Spam of the day:

You probably don’t remember me, but I know you and have something to show you.

Somebody I don’t remember wants to give me secret information worth US$250,000! Is it because I’ve got an inside track on the new regime? I bet that’s why.

¹ And this is great: the anti-diversity CHUDs are very fond of claiming that Marvel’s sales are down because too many of their books feature characters that aren’t straight, white, manly mens, and first Marvel title on the list is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther, the first three volumes of which add up to a total of 55K copies sold. It’s a triple shot of schadenfreude — superheroes don’t sell, the best seller is as far from what the CHUDs want as you can get, and the numbers are from before the movie released and will only be higher next year.

No Arguing

Here are your instructions:

  • Go to this link.
  • Give Molly Ostertag five dollars American cash money. Or more! You can give more. If you are, by chance, in a place where you cannot give Molly Ostertag five dollars American cash money at the moment, the first page (they’re tall pages) of what you’re going to give her five dollars American cash money for is available as a preview at Ostertag’s twitterfeed.
  • Download How The Best Hunter In The Village Met Her Death and read it.
  • Set it aside for a short while, then read it again.
  • Pull Ostertag’s masterful graphic novel, The Witch Boy, off your shelf¹ and give it a read, thinking about it and about How The Best Hunter In The Village Met Her Death. In fact, go read How The Best Hunter In The Village Met Her Death again. Think about it some more; I’ve been doing quite a lot of thinking about it today.
  • Thank Molly Ostertag, because she’s shared a piece of entirely wonderful art with you.

Spam of the day:

The super soft ribbed silicone gently scrubs away mud and dirt leaving your pets feet nice and clean! Cleaning the cup is a breeze. Just pour out the dirty water and rinse out the cup.

I’m gonna say that this cleaning device for muddy pet paws is actually pretty clever. I’m also going to say that it looks like something Matthew Nolan might have reviewed.

¹ You have a copy, right. If not, fix that immediately.

Your Reluctance To Do Your Damn Job Does Not Obligate Me To Clean Up Your Mess

It does, however, seem that my desire to prevent another work-related disaster is chewing up all of my spare breathing time getting sucked into meetings (bloody meetings!) while you endlessly talk back and forth, hoping to run out the clock and make it my problem again.

  • Which is to say, you’re also depriving me of the time needed to talk about my beloved webcomics, including the Kickstart put up by the too-awesome-for-words Tony Breed for the next Muddler’s Beat collection, Have Fun, Leave Me Out Of It¹.

    Then again, there’s not much that needs saying; Tony’s awesome, his comic is awesome, he’s working with Make That Thing (who are jointly and severally awesome), and this is as close to a no-brainer as you can get in crowdfunding. The campaign is running a paltry fifteen days, it’s hit 46% funding (of the extraordinarily modest US$4500 goal) about a day in, and you’ll have your book by the end of June.

    Like, this June. Partly this is because Breed, et al, are awesome (see above), and partially because he’s had time to get everything just so; Muddler’s Beat has been on a retooling hiatus, and will return in minicomic form (leaving behind the daily strip format) in April. Not doing a daily strip is an excellent way to free up the time to get everything set on a book.

  • And since we are here, may I point out that the Kickstart for BACK Book 2 has two and a half days and 15% to go? You’re making me nervous, people. KC Green and Anthony Clark are two of the finest cartooning minds on the planet, and the thought that their collaboration is getting down to the wire is inconceivable.

    Also, it was written in the before times that if ever Green or Clark is thwarted, they’ll turn into monstrous elder gods (in Clark’s case, adorably wizard shaped) and consume (in no particular order) the sun, the Earth, and your soul. So you might want to get on that.

Spam of the day:

Fastolfe, as he did so. Superior Singing Doodle Video ­ Clickbank — Superior Singing Method can dreamer, we’ll Grab Your FREE Copy of My Most Effective, Time-Efficient Fat-Loss Workout Here.

Robbie Coltrane is my favorite Falstaff, or Falstofe, if you will.

¹ Breed comes up with the best titles; case in point: his last collection was titled Literally Everything Is Outside My Comfort Zone.

Kicking, Starting

I am cautiously optimistic that all the of frozen water I cleared away from my house will be the last we get this season; much of it is melting away as we speak, which makes me wonder what the point of it all was.

Anyway, let’s talk Kickstarter, and not for the reason that appears to be all over subtwitter¹. Rather, let’s see how Kickstarters can/should be run from people with a history of running them well.

  • First up, the irrepressible Lucy Bellwood² is presently in Denmark teaching various things, including the effective use of Kickstarter; by a peculiar corinsidence, this came just as notices of shipment were going out for Bellwood’s 100 Demon Dialogues campaign, bang on time.

    Bellwood, being the community contribution maniac that she is, has also kept a live Google spreadsheet showing all the finances on this project so that all can learn from her hard-won experience. And since looking at a spreadsheet isn’t enough to learn all of her secrets, her talk is here, where over the course of an hour she talks about community-building, reward design, budgeting, and outreach — plus some important information about wizards and how they can totally heck up your whole deal. If you don’t want your whole deal hecked up, give it a careful watch or five.

  • Brad Guigar is utterly predictable in a couple of respects: he will burst out laughing like his life depends upon it, and his Kickstarts follow a definite pattern. Namely, he takes a year’s worth of strips, pitches a reasonable number of tiers to his fans, gets 1.5x to 2.5x overfunding, prints ’em up, and does fulfillment on time between two and four months later (shorter for stock items, longer for personalized). Guys, when it comes to Kickstarter, boring is good; you know exactly what you’re going to get from him.

    Which, in the case of his latest print collection, is exactly what I just mentioned, along with the added bonus of smut. Guigar’s got fans of his teens-and-up strip, and fans of his (ahem) late-night Cinemax Patreon tiers, and for the first time he’s providing for both in one campaign (instead of the whole thing being adults-only, there are a couple of tiers that include the cartoon sexytimes, with most being safer to leave out on the coffee table around family).

    Boring, but with suddenly revealed sizzle is the pitch for more porn movies than you can think of because it works. I anticipate that the Guigar Sons College Fund is going to benefit mightily from BBWSRS for the foreseeable future.

  • Howard Tayler³, on the other hand, swings wildly in his Kickstarts; not in the BBWSRS sense, but in the sense that he’ll do alternating quick turnaround, narrowly focused campaigns, complex, ever-growing campaigns with long fulfillment times, then back to simple. The books come as the chapters dictate (and are planned out well in advance, at this point).

    Every once in a while, he’ll throw in a simple project, but mix it up so he doesn’t get bored. Case in point: his first new shirt designs in some time, which is running with a unique stretch goal model. Reaching the US$25,000 figure (US$10K over goal) unlocked a shirt design that everybody was going to want. Reaching a total of 1500 shirts ordered allows everybody at the three shirt bundle tier (US$60) to choose a fourth shirt for free.

    But please notice that there are five designs, and if the total orders reach 3000 shirts, people will be able to add on additional shirts for US$15 instead of US$20. Everything about the stretch goals increases value for the backers while simultaneously incentivizing them to give Tayler more money. It’s a thing of beauty where everybody (but especially Tayler’s bank balance) wins. Writing the adventures of money-maximizing borderline sociopaths must be inspirational, as Tayler’s got the money maximizing part down cold; here’s hoping he leaves the lessons learned there.

  • Kel McDonald (for whom the McDonald Ratio is named) has done every kind of Kickstart under the sun — print collections (simple reprints to multivolume omnibus editions), anthologies, pins, done-in-one stories, and more. Of late, she’s been working around digital-only projects, which simplify the crap out of fulfillment. Got a story to tell? Write it up, get a team of seasoned comics pros to edit, draw, and color it, and have it in everybody’s hands in 60 days or so. It would be a mistake to think that McDonald couldn’t make good on any campaign, what with a baker’s dozen under her belt, but with the help of Roxy Polk, Kara Leopard, and Whitney Cogar, it’s pretty much a slam dunk.

Spam of the day:

Easy care suits: Wear. Wash. Repeat.

Why is this the subject line for a spam full of pictures and links to knock-off jewelry?

¹ For the record, I’m far away from the corners of Webcomickia where all of this went down and don’t know any of the principals, but people I know and trust have Opinions and yeah — been a while since we had a mess like this. And it seems risky for Kickstarter to have offered a 22 year old a job in charge of stuff without an unimpeachably solid record of managing people and processes (which pretty much no 22 year old has, so …).

² Adventure Cartoonist!!

³ Evil twin, etc.

This Is Becoming More Frequent

Work crisis, etc. Possibly murder by the time it’s all done.

So please enjoy the news (I’ve been waiting to talk about this forever) that Ryan North has become — as near as I can tell — the first person to ever turn a t-shirt into a full-length book. Given that it teaches you how to bootstrap civilization at any time in the past, you might say that How To Invent Everything is no less than a full compendium of all human knowledge.

With pictures by Lucy Bellwood.

Pre-orders are available now, with the book releasing on 18 September.

Spam of the day:

Stop the IRS

It’s not a lot, but I get a bit of money back from them most years. If we stop them, I won’t get that money. Pass.

Quick Post And A Reminder

The reminder being, the Fleen Fight For Fungible Futures Fund is active again, with we at Fleen matching any donations to either the Washington, DC or Parkland, Florida March For Our Lives. As today is the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting (and the disgraceful reaction — which is to say, almost none — on the part of state and national government) and the kids are walking out of school to keep us from letting this one slip away like all the others, it seemed a good time to remind y’all. You’ve got until 20 March to make me proud and, incidentally, cost me some money.

I don’t always remember to mention the efforts of the folks behind the Toronto Comics Anthology when they come up with a new edition, but my eyeballs happened to be in the right place today, so I’m pointing out that it’s anthology time, and that means the relevant Kickstarter campaign is underway. Osgoode As Gold features the collective skill of the Toronto comics community (which surely rivals Brooklyn or Portland as a hub for comickers), and as in previous years, looks like a terrific value for your pledge dollar.

It’s also got the logistics figured out like whoa, given that there’s an option to pledge for a physical copy and pick it up at TCAF, which means that these books will be in hand by May 12, or a mere six weeks from the end of the campaign. That only works if they’ve got everything ready to go, at the printer, just waiting on the check (or cheque, as Our Northern Friends would have it) to arrive before setting the presses in motion. It would be a shame to make all that work go wasted.

At the moment, the anthology sits at 45% of goal with sixteen and a half days to go; Kicktraq has them trended to clear the CA$15,000 target by a mere sixty four Canadian fun bucks, and the Kicktraq predictions this far out are always high. The FFF mk2 put them at CA$13.6K — 20.3K (but the low participation rate is low enough that the math isn’t very accurate), and the McDonald Ratio has them at CA$14.3K; what I am saying is that there is a need for a kick in the pants, because falling just barely short is a terrible fate.

There’s absolutely going to be something (multiple somethings!) in that anthology you’re going to love, and that’s worth CA$20 (about fifteen and a half American) for 220+ pages and 50 creators. Give it a look, and please do consider supporting it.

Spam of the day:

Want to earn potentially explosive returns from Bitcoin in 2018?

My dudes, if I wanted to gamble I’d go to Vegas, and I’m too good at math to gamble. Hashtag: CRAEFUL.

Fresh Visions

I’ve got a plane to catch in a couple of hours, so we’re keeping this brief (yet, as always, meaningful).

  • John Allison, as all right-thinking folk know, writes fabulous stories. The Tackleverse that started with Bobbins and continues through Bad Machinery (all found via, with a branching off into Giant Days (found in your local comics shop) are exquisitely written. Whether drawing himself or paired up with the right collaborator, Allison’s mastery of character and farcical situations is second to none. So what to do when you’ve gone office comedy, bizarre slice of life, mystery kids, and college years stories?

    How about branching off into a new, unrelated setting for new characters and a new story type?

    Coming in June, Allison will write — and Christine Larsen will draw — By Night, a 12-issue miniseries (then again, Giant Days started as a miniseries as well), which he describes as combin[ing] my love of Fringe, The X-Files, Jon Ronson documentaries and long reads about the collapse of post-industrial Western society over at CBR. I’m going to preemptively call this one a must-buy, and we’ll all find out exactly how good it is on the 13th of June.

  • Gotta go back most of a year for this one: Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett gifted us with a copy of the hardcover of Drive volume 1, which I had already purchased via Kickstarter. Having a spare copy, I decided to give it away to one lucky reader, who turned out to be Mario, from Lisboa, Portugal. Off I mailed it, with the obligatory joke (ho, ho!) about it disappearing into the depths of Customs.

    I think you know what happens next. The book made it to Portugal in a matter of days, sat around in Customs waiting for Mario to come claim it (who was supposed to intuit this fact through the aether), and was then returned to me some five months later. Mario and I corresponded and I offered to try again, but he very graciously suggested he look into the relevant postal policies before resubmitting the book to the tender mercies of systems beyond the ken of mere mortals. Having been at that for some time, he’s come a conclusion:

    It’s not worth another attempt. He suggested I try to sell it to try to recover some of the money you have lost with the shipping or maybe gift it to someone else, or donate it to a library, whatever you feel is the best option, which I find to be pretty generous on his part.

    I’m not going to sell it, and I’m not going to run another giveaway on this particular book — it’s got the scent of my home now, and it will undoubtedly try to return, like one of those dog-and-cat pairings you see in the movies about returning home after great journeys. But I will be donating it to my local library (under Mario’s name, naturally), so that it can be seen by many people and they can grow to love the story as much as we do.

    So do me a favor, everybody — give Mario a quick nod of appreciation, maybe a hat-tip in the general direction of Portugal, and be glad that webcomics breeds such kind-hearted people. Take that, Universal Postal Union! And read Drive, it’s really good.

Spam of the day:

Toenail Fungus Code

Of all the emails I’ve ever received — spam or otherwise — where I NOPEd on clicking the link that says Display images below, this is the very NOPEiest. Nope, nope, nope, nnnnnoooope.

This Is The Best Story In Forever

Let’s just jump to the heart of it:

When I was a kid I wanted to be a pro baseball player or comic artist. I chose the 2nd option and never thought the roads could somehow meet! On Aug 19th, the @Mariners will celebrate Amulet Day. Enjoy a day at the ballpark and get a T-shirt! Link here:

That, of course, is Kazu Kibuishi, who is one of the most accomplished (and simultaneously most fundamentally decent) folks in comics, and who is a damn rockstar to middle grades librarians and their patrons. The Amulet series has been a favorite here at the Fleenplex ever since book one (ten years! It’s been more than ten years!), and the anticipation for book 8 (of 9) is at a fever pitch in classrooms and libraries across the nation — 25 September, classrooms and libraries, that’s when you’ll get it¹.

And now he gets to have an entire professional baseball game dedicated to him. I’ll be honest, because I know just a little bit about what that’s like², I can pretty well predict that Kibuishi will be outwardly calm and collected (because he pretty much always is), but inwardly? He’s going to be just as excited as all his fans are when they get the chance to meet him.

Amulet Day with the Seattle Mariners (vs the LA Dodgers) will be Sunday, 19 August; game time is 1:10pm, with tickets purchased by 17 August (5:00pm local time) good for a special Amulet t-shirt when you bring your stub to section 339 by the end of the third inning. Get your tickets here and be sure to enter the promo code AMULET so you’ll be seated with all the other Amulet fans.

Update to the latest F-Six campaign: We’re at US$100 of donations to be matched. You’ve got just under two weeks to help send a message about gun control.

Spam of the day:

Fans Love You

You know who else loves me? Ladies.

¹ Sometime around dawn on the 26th, the demands to know when book 9 will be out will waft far and wide o’er this great land.

² The local minor league team had a game dedicated to my EMS agency one Saturday night; we got cheered when we assembled on the edge of the field by maybe 2000 people and it was kind of thrilling.