The webcomics blog about webcomics

Smiles All The Way

If there is anybody more universally beloved in [web]comics than Raina Telgemeier, I don’t know who that would be. Like, maybe the reincarnation of Mr Rogers was magically soul-bound to Caroll Spinney and then spent a couple of decades mentoring Malala Yousafzi in panel composition and storytelling, you be getting close … and Raina would be cheerleading her the whole way. She’s pretty awesome is what I’m saying, and may have said so one or two times in the past.

I’m not alone in that opinion, as anybody that’s seen one of her public events can attest. She’ll be having a meet and greet at the Cartoon Art Museum, in conjunction with the closing of the months-long retrospective exhibit of her work at CAM (the exhibit that, in fact, was chosen to spearhead the relaunch of CAM after two years without their own gallery space).

Things start at 4:00pm on Saturday, 10 March, with a presentation and discussion of the exhibit, followed by a Q&A, then informal time to mingle and interact. To maximize the time for fans to get chat and get photos, there won’t be any signing (that keeps her stuck behind a table), but I bet she’d be fine with you holding up your copy of a favorite book in photos (signed copies will be available via advanced ticketing), or seeing your fanart.

As you might expect, demand will be pretty high for this event, even in her hometown of San Francisco; advance tickets are available at Guestlist for the immensely reasonable price of US$10 for adults, and US$4 (four bucks!) per kid. You can reserve your signed copies of her books on the same page.

And then two weeks later, SF fans will very possibly see her again, as she takes part in the San Francisco portion of the KidLit Marches For Kids. An outgrowth of the March For Our Lives/Never Again movement being led by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the YA community is participating in the national day of demonstrations in favor of gun control. Details about the various marches can be found on Facebook.

This is what happens when you realize that some of the students that have (very quickly, with sorrowful determination) become activists were your readers just a few years ago.

This is what happens when you can’t escape the fact that some of their fallen friends were.

This is what happens when you don’t want that to happen ever again.

So keep an eye out for a local march and let kids worry about when the next book from their favorite author comes out, instead of how to stay alive on a Wednesday. Raina will thank you for it; she’s polite that way.

Spam of the day:

80% Off PANDORA Jewelry. So get, like, 60.

There is a certain logic to your position, but it does not resemble our Earth logic.

An Act Of Optimism

Something great happened in 2011; the folks behind Toronto’s The Beguiling (one of the great comic book shops in the English-speaking world) opened an extension store next door. It was, as far as anybody can tell, the first comic shop dedicated to children and likely remained so for the rest of its existence. Little Island Comics was an act of pure optimism; optimism that the comics industry could produce enough material suitable for kids to sustain a store in one of the priciest cities in the world.

Comics may not be for kids, as the now-cliche headline would tell us, but vast swathes of them haven’t been entirely appropriate for young readers for some time. Grimdarkgrittypouchcape comics were pretty dominant for a couple of decades there, but the big publishers manage to produce some stuff suitable for all ages, and the graphic novel trade has fallen over itself to provide more and more books each year¹. Damn good thing, too, or where will the grimdarkgrittypouchcape comics get their readers in the future, if kids don’t develop the habit today?

And it worked. Little Island was successful until it fell prey not to neglect, or disinterest, or lack of product; it was a casualty to gentrification that tore up a chunk of now-valuable Toronto real estate. The Beguiling managed to find new digs, but Little Island was lost.

Until now.

The Beguiling is pleased to announce the re-opening of Little Island Comics, the world’s first and only children’s comic shop! Offering the widest possible array of graphic novels, manga, and comics for people 12 years old and younger, Little Island celebrates its Grand Re-Opening during March Break 2018 with a slate of creator appearances, refreshments and activities.

Whoa, cool shop returns and refreshments? Give me the deets!

Little Island Comics re-opens in March next door to its parent shop The Beguiling’s newly expanded location at the top of Toronto’s vibrant Kensington Market neighborhood. As The Beguiling enters its fourth decade as North America’s premier comic book retailer, the move to College Street has allowed it to add a gallery and events space, which Little Island will share.

  • Next door to the Beguiling again? Check
  • Gallery and event space, so that LI’s famed comic-making classes, launches, and events can continue? Check
  • Same staff that previously served the all-ages comics lovers of Toronto and beyond? Check

Anything else we should know?

Little Island will offer a 20% discount on all in-print kids comics, picture books, and graphic novels throughout March Break (March 10-18, 2018) to encourage families to dig into graphic novels! The week will culminate in a Grand Re-Opening Party on Saturday, March 17th, with refreshments, drop-in activities, story time, and appearances by such creators as:

Scott Chantler, Naseem Hrab, Brian McLachlan, Ryan North, Kean Soo, Britt Wilson, Tory Woollcott, and more!

Times for the Grand Reopening to come, but I’d keep an eye on their website, Twitterfeed, and on Facebook.

Here’s to many more years on the Little Island; if you’re in (or visiting) Toronto, drop by and tell them we say hi, and wish them every success.

Spam of the day:


While I appreciate the Canadian content, spammers, this “men’s” doesn’t believe that you will actually be able to get me industrial-strength parkas that normally run near US$950 for US$140. Call me skeptical.

¹ Note to Marvel, DC, etc: they do this because they like money. Releasing a new Kazu Kibuishi or Raina Telgemeier book is a license to print money because kids love comics if you just give them a chance to.

We Are Very French Today

For example, :01 Books announced earlier today that the incomparable Pénélope Bagieu will be going on tour in support of Brazen starting on Tuesday, 6 March (coincidentally, launch day), and wending her way through eight cities in seven days.

And in a completely coincidental occurrence, Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has thoughts creators and signings. Let’s see what he’s got to say.

As we saw the other day, the tradition in French comics festivals of free sketches ends up being hard on creators. Mind you, they are overall happy to come and greet readers and make them happy with a sketch, but given they are basically unpaid for the work (besides transportation and lodging) they provide under their host, they think of it a bit as a corv&eacutee, that is the duty of unpaid labor outside his fields that a peasant owed his feudal lord.

As a result, the idea has been spreading of late to have creators be paid when doing signings (French-only). Not by the recipient of the sketch: no one, least of all the creators themselves, seem to want that; when asked on the matter, Shyle Zalewski, who writes, draws, and self-publishes queer (and more) strips, and comes to festivals on their own stand, was clear: As a creator I’ve never been paid for signings and I have to admit I wouldn’t mind it happening, on the sole condition that it would be for the festival to pay. For instance having the readers pay for a sketch as it is sometimes the case in the US is unthinkable to me. Most creators seem to agree.

So while different variants of such a payment scheme are being thought up, the one that dominates would be for the host to pay the hosted creators more or less on the basis of the time spend. That would acknowledge the fact that creators are, if not performing, at least contributing to the animation of the stand as, well, animators. After all, it’s typically not just the reader who requested the sketch who gets to watch the sketch being drawn, but also the next two or three in line at least.

This is easier said than done, however. Publishers and festival organizers resist the idea, and with some justification to the extend that their financial equations are already hard to balance as it is: for instance publishers warn that if that was implemented, they would scale back their presence in festivals and only remain in ones where they are confident they will not lose money … leading Obion to the (not entirely serious) conclusion that, for lack of any other solution, impressionable young creators, too happy to sign in a prestigious location, will end up paying for the whole scheme (French-only).

This raises many more questions. For instance, as part of my pseudojournalistic activities I may very well wait in line for a signing for the sole purpose of having some access to the creator, without requesting a sketch, for instance for additional discussion after a lecture or panel. But if the creator is paid to animate the stand, would he still have time for discussion without sketching?

But while these questions deserve answers, they should not be a reason not to implement the idea. Not to mention some additional benefits would exist: worker protection would kick in for instance, making it easier to justify closing the signing activities at the scheduled time, etc. Overall, paying creators for their time would be fairer for everyone involved.

I find that the idea of paying creators (who, after all, are not creating when at a show) ties directly into the idea of Shows Not Being Worth It Sometimes; cf: C Spike Trotman and the ever-expanding ECCC:

Looking forward to ECCC, but not thrilled it’s getting longer and longer. Thursday will be a full day this year instead of a preview night. Too many comic cons are going for this size queen bigger-is-better thing, and it’s just exhausting.

One of the best cons I do all year is SPX, which is Saturday, Sunday, DONE. More days doesn’t automatically mean more money.

And I have shit to do! Longer cons means more days trying to run a publishing company from a hotel room, for me. Not ideal.

A big (but not the sole) motivator for ditching SDCC was it began swallowing a week of my life for diminishing returns. I genuinely hope ECCC doesn’t start going down that same road.

Guarantee some income? You’ll see more creators willing to brave the marathon shows. Thanks as always to FSFCPL for adding his cross-Atlantic perspective on what’s likely a universal dilemma.

Spam of the day:

GAL-EVANTING WITH THE GIRLS!The perfect girls night out styles!

Your cutesy, intentional typo offends me.

It Is A Pleasure To Be Back

Last week was … buhhh. Let us not speak of last week, but rather move forward.¹ Catching up on news is the order of the day.

  • From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, a pointer to a story I would have otherwise missed; The Beat has a terrific interview with Pénélope Bagieu, so good that I’m not even mad to discover that Heidi Mac has gone and added her own French-speaking contributor. The interview mostly concerns the soon-to-be-published Brazen (née Culottées), a review of which will be forthcoming here at Fleen.

    Most fascinating was the discussion of the edits that are made to the list of accomplished ladies in different countries, including the fact that the US edition (by :01 Books) omits the story of Indian bandit queen Phoolan Devi. The reason given is need for the book to be YA, which required removing mentions of rape from Devi’s story, which removed much of the impetus for her career of banditry². Lots of good stuff, so go read Bagieu’s talk with Philippe Leblanc.

  • From C Spike Trotman, news that the new, Iron Circus edition of Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy is now available in the world (indeed, reports on the wubs indicate people are finding it in stores). Dahm’s first story from the very strange these are alien peoples and cultures, not humans with one feature distinctly different world of Overside are some of the best mythmaking and worldbuilding to be found in any medium, and if you haven’t read any of his stuff, get on that right now. Punch up those sales numbers and maybe we’ll see more ICC-published Overside stories.
  • From Steve Hamaker, designer, colorist, and all-around stellar comicker³, news that the second print volume of his webcomic, Plox, is now Kickstarting. Plox, if you’re not a reader, is definitely one of those stories that does better in big chunks that twice a week, so if you’ve been holding off, now’s the time to jump in.

    The campaign has an unusually low backer count for the funds raised so far (he’s just over 51% in the first week of a 30 day campaign), low enough that it’s outside the range where the FFF mk2 works well. The McDonald Ratio does pretty well in these situations, though, and it calls for Plox volume 2 to collect about US$11.7K, which is comfortably over the US$8K goal. The other piece of good news is that the backer averages are a full US$70, primarily because a significant number of people are pledging at the US$150 level for a cameo. You cannot beat super-fans.

Spam of the day:

Patron Initial Coin Offering

Oh, well I’m sure to trust this digital Ponzi scheme because I’m assured it’s on a whitelist.

Actually, I kinda do trust them because their logo is a moustache. Don’t judge me.

¹ Not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

² Although the story of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee has a similar inclusion of repeated spousal rapes, which were just as much an impetus for her career of social work, justice for women, and rehabilitation of child soldiers. Then again Gbowee was a grown woman and Devi was ten years old.

³ Seriously, have you seen the list of people he collaborates with? Jeff Smith, Terry Moore, Judd Winick, the Flight folks, Scott Kurtz … the list goes on and on.

Joyous News And FSFCPL? Too Good For A Monday

The ALA awards for children’s (and YA, and middle grades, and other variety of younger humans) literature were given out earlier today, and there’s a webcomics connection that we are happy to report. The first person I saw with the news was Colleen AF Venable¹, beating out even the reporter contingent from the School Library Journal: The Stonewall Book Award (for English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience) went to Little & Lion and The 57 Bus, but one of the two Honor Books was As The Crow Flies.

You remember ATCF? Collected from the webcomic by Melanie Gillman? Published by Iron Circus Comics via Kickstart, because C Spike Trotman has an eye for great literature? And a bit later, the Alex Award (for the 10 best adult books that appeal to a teen audience) included Malagash by Joey Comeau. Webcomics continues as a feeder (or perhaps a crucible) of talent and creators that are making themselves known in the polite world. Maybe now the New York Times will respond to the damn petition and reinstate the best seller list?

As if that wasn’t enough good news, here’s Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin with some thoughts on French comics festival practices and etiquette:

You may remember from my report of the 2017 edition of Lyon BD that sketches are free as a rule. But that is pretty much the only thing that is free in French comics festivals: entrance is paid, exhibitors sell their wares, etc. The point where all these concerns intersect is the table, which is more than the physical space the creator can work against²: it represents the support his host provides (line management in particular), and, conversely, the contribution the creator makes to the host’s presence.

The host can be the festival itself, in the case of invited creators, or is more typically the creator’s publisher; in some cases bookshops organize signings around a festival. And in all cases they hope to profit: the festival by attracting attendees, and the publisher or a bookshop by selling books. And in order to ensure that, publishers and bookshops will often require a book be purchased before you can get a sketch (though it need not necessarily be the one sketched in); and that will not guarantee getting one, you won’t if you come too late for instance, but this means sketches are free only to the extent the creator is not paid for it. For popular creators the lucky few who will get a sketch are even picked by chance draw, so as not to overwhelm the creator.

As for creators themselves, besides the inherent unfairness, there is also the more practical matter that, given the money incentive, the ecosystem grows around them to mine the seam³. This mean that creators both have to spend more time in more festivals, away from their living-earning activities and their families, and have to contend with longer and longer lines of people waiting for sketches (three-legged camping stools are a common sight in comics festivals), with the resulting entitlement issues you can expect … not that this prevents some of these sketches from ending up on eBay, anyway.

The result? While of course you shouldn’t take this strip too literally (this is autobio, after all), creators are often exhausted at the end of the day (full disclosure: I contributed to the exhaustion; unfortunately I did not encounter much else to report on in Paris Manga). And yes, I have witnessed for instance people trying to squeeze themselves at the end of the line even as the end of signing time was closing in … however, I haven’t been (un)lucky enough to witness that (fortunately exceptional) kind of case (French-only).

Can the situation be improved? Proposed leads to that end will be the subject of a later post.

Hey, my name is Richard!
I`m a professional writer and I`m going to change your lifes on?e and for all

Based on this sample, you’re a crappy writer, “Richard Diicks”.

¹ Once of Puff in Brooklyn note, more recently of book design fame, and always the bearer of the coolest calf tat in existence.

² Though in case of need a creator may be able to do [without even that (21st photo; full disclosure: that is my copy of Héro-ine-s Yan Le Pon is sketching in in this photo).

³ Most French comics festivals are run as non-profits (and that includes Angoulême), which moderates the expansion somewhat on that side, nevertheless they too benefit from growing bigger (they get more press, more attention from professionals, etc).

Mystery No More

A question that has long puzzled me is why Rosemary Mosco has never had a collection of her comics work. Prints, sure — and they’re a delight — and a shirt or two are in her store, but no comprehensive collection of the past decade or so’s worth of delightful looks at the natural world. That puzzlement ends today:

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: I have a Bird and Moon collection coming out on April 17th through Andrews McMeel! I showed my advance copy to a discerning test reader and she described it as “delicious”. Preorder here: …

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game will be coming from Andrews McMeel (who more normally publish collections of comic strips¹, from Universal Press Syndicate, of which they’re a division) in April, and judging from the sample pages they’ve included², it’s going to be a fairly comprehensive gathering of her work. We’ll get the turkey vulture, and bird call mnemonics, of course, and I’d be astonished if we didn’t get misleading animal names.

And if Andrews McMeel knows what’s good for them, there will be a million posters printed with the instructions of what to do if you find a baby songbird out of the nest, which is simultaneously informative, delightful, and (thanks to the inclusion of the dromaeosaur) terrifying to Randall Munroe. That’s a win-win-win.

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game releases on 17 April, or you can pre-order it now. With any luck, Ms Mosco will make some signing appearances and we’ll all get to tell her how rad she is in person.

Spam of the day:
I thought about including a spam for mail-order brides and making a joke about Briding as a video game, but darn it, I’m all out. We’ll have to make do with this, instead:

We Have Detected Unusual Activity With Your Gmail Account on Your Computer
Login Has Occurred on 2/4/2018 @ 9:06 AM EST
From IP: Geo Location Found: Eastern Russia
If This Was Not You Please Call the Google Security Team
(Be at your computer)
1 855-739-7819

It would be a tremendous shame if a bunch of us were to call that number and point out to the bozos that answer that they are very bad people who are very bad at being scammers, and generally waste their time. I called to tell them that my dog’s breath smells like dog food and they didn’t like that at all.

¹ Notable exception: they publish Matt Inman’s Oatmeal collections.

² Including the table of contents, which shows just over 80 pages of comics, and Mosco’s got just about 85 strips in her Bird & Moon archive.

A Talk With Internet’s Becky And Frank

Anybody that follows this page know that my crusty, cynical exterior last only so long as I’m not in proximity or otherwise thinking about the work or actual persons of Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson. They do work that is lovely to look at, heartwarming to read, and just plain fun.

A couple of years back, their tribute to the spirit of Pokémon, Capture Creatures, morphed from painting series to art book to monthly comic, which hit a prolonged hiatus in the middle of the story. The delays have been resolved, though, and Capture Creatures Volume 1 is about to be published as a trade paperback. Getting everybody back in Capture Creatures mood brought Gibson to Fleen for a chat, and a bit of schedule-clearing made Dresistadt available as well.

Frank Gibson: Hey!! I got Becky with me too!

Fleen: Hang on, have to clear a couple of monsters from my stables.
FG: Do it! Send them away!

Fleen: Friggin’ gremlins, breeding under my nose. How are you guys?
FG: Dude we are so good. Working on comics again! It’s crazy!

Fleen: What are you working on besides Bustletown? Dare we expect more Capture Creatures?

FG: There will be new Capture Creatures this year!! I just wrote a mini!
Becky Dreistadt: I started thumbing it out yesterday! Actually immediately after this we’re going to be working on it a little more.

Fleen: A Capture Creatures mini, or something else?
FG: Capture Creatures mini. But I’ve started working away on the second part of the main story, just chipping away at it!

Fleen: So we get the long-awaited issue 5, or will this be a new story?
FG: Yeah, Issue 5 is going to be Issues 5-8 to get the intro story done. Then it’s graphic novels from there!

Fleen: The key question is: Who’s publishing issues 5 to 8?
BD: Us!
FG: I really like Capture Creatures, I’m open to other people putting it out, but since we did the Capture Creatures encyclopedia independently first I’ve realized I want a little more control of it than most of the books I write.

Fleen: If you’re publishing what’s the sales channel? How do peeps give you money for awesome comics?
FG: It’s back to basics I think. We may have to visit old Uncle Kickstarter and shake him down. It’s been awhile. We’re considering a lot of options, we want to keep the team of [inker] Kelly Bastow, [letterer] Britt Wilson, and [colorist] Katy Farina intact.

They’re amazing, they’re really busy but we want to try make it happen. Also I want to fairly compensate who we work with, which makes funding projects tricky. Maybe Patreon? Maybe it’s time.

Fleen: What’s the time frame for 5 – 8, and then graphic novels? The first four issues appeared pretty regularly, then a hiatus of what? Three years now?
BD: Right now we don’t have a set time frame, we’re hoping to start releasing stuff this year. Since I’m working full-time at Disney its tricky to set hard dates. Also we’ve got Bustletown and a couple brand new kids books in the pipeline too.
FG: Yeah the hiatus wasn’t something that anyone wanted, it did give us time to get Bustletown fired up which is a silver lining. In the end the first issue did amazing and subsequent issues did not for a variety of reasons outside of our control. The direct market is hard.

Surprisingly we had a huge amount of free promo from Diamond and that really contributed to having great early sales. There’s also this huge problem where kids don’t go to comic stores, unless it’s like Telegraph or Beguiling or SHQ.
BD: My father is afraid to go to comic stores and he used to draw comics.
Fleen: Why’s your father afraid, Becky?
BD: He thinks nerds are gonna be mean to him. He’s scared of nerds.
Fleen: He’s met Frank, right?
FG: He thinks I’m all right. [winky emoji]

Fleen: So for those that came in late, want to do a quick recap on Capture Creatures?
BD: So after a cataclysmic event all the wild animals in this particular corner of the world have disappeared, but on an island off the coast it appears the creatures have returned but with strange unexplained powers.

It’s a story about Tamzen, a young girl who wants to protect the creatures from a shadowy group of people who are trying to capture them and use them for their own nefarious purposes!
Fleen: Tamzen annnnd?
Frank: A character who looks suspiciously like 2015 Frank except he is a child. I can’t believe Becky did this to me.
Fleen: You love it.
FG: I have become more ok with it as time has gone on.
BD: Also Teddy who is a grown up boy-scout. (Park ranger but with cute outfit).

Fleen: So after you finish the Capture Creatures intro story, it’s graphic novels. What’s the plan there?
FG: World-building! There’s so much fun you can have in a world where essentially dogs can breathe fire! I want to send these kids everywhere!
BD: More creatures! Cute moments!

Fleen: What kinds of stories do you get to tell in Capture Creatures that you can’t in Bustletown, and vice versa?
FG: Bustletown is more about everyday problems that people face and they’re solved with levity. It’s really light and fun and small. Capture Creatures is going to be much more dense.

Fleen: And what about them side dishes? And by side dishes, I mean kids books.
Becky: One is called My Pet King, about a kid who gets a king as a pet but the king is very small and lives in a hamster cage. The other is Animal Cake Party, it’s about a kitten named Sprinkle who wants to hang out with the cool wild animals in the woods.
FG: The latter is a subject matter we are very comfortable with. Animals and cakes.
Fleen: These sound suspiciously like Golden Books.

BD: We haven’t got far along with to publisher pitch, I’d love to have an official Golden Book one day!
FG: One day!

Fleen: So with all of the Disney work that Becky’s got, how much of Capture Creatures plus Bustletown plus side dishes plus manage a chunk of Kickstart and/or Patreon gets done in 2018?
BD: I’ve started roughing out the fourth part of Bustletown, so that’s on it’s way.
FG: We’re starting slow with Capture Creatures, trying to wrap up this mini pretty quick. Focusing on making sure Volume 1 gets the attention it deserves.
BD: Animal Cake Party only has about five pages left to pencil, then I have to do a couple paintings for it before it’s ready to go out as a pitch. It’s a tricky balance but it’s happening!
FG: I think what makes Capture Creatures a little easier is we have a team. On the mini Becky will be inking it, the style is going to be a little different, but we want to get Kelly back as soon as she’s available for Volume 2.

Fleen: So people that want to be up to date on new Capture Creatures can go back and read issues 1-4, which are getting released as a trade paperback. Why get the book instead of prowling the single-issue bins?
FG: It’s the first half of the Capture Creatures story. Honestly I think it’s the best looking monthly comic. Our team did an amazing job on it especially considering the time constraints. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve been given the time to go back, edit, fix up little mistakes we made through the process.

It’s a really beautiful book and I thought going back and re-reading it after two years I’d just see every flaw and … I loved it. I still love Capture Creatures and working on this book made me excited for its future.
BD: It’s out by the end of the month! Direct market pre-orders are over, but you can get it online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, even Target. We also have a signing at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA on March 3rd!

Fleen: And where else will people be able to see you in the next couple of months? ECCC, MoCCA, TCAF?
FG: It’s the first ECCC we’re missing in years!!!! Our first convention of the year is TCAF. Then it’s on to SDCC and SPX! Something had to give so we could make comics again. Turns out doing 8-15 conventions a year isn’t compatible with producing a pile of comics.

Fleen: And I’m guessing that people can see you streaming PUBG pretty regularly?
FG: Haha oh boy. Yeah I didn’t think that being a game stream boy was going to be a part of my life, but here I am. I hadn’t played a shooter since I was a kid really. But hanging out with pals playing this game has been a blast.
BD: We also do a stream where we play Kingdom Hearts with our friends! I’m going to start streaming more art and other games too.
FG: It’s been cool, new people are finding our work. Some people just think I’m a PUBG streamer which is super weird, I’m not even particularly good at it. They’re surprised when they find out I make comics and work on cartoons.

Fleen: Sounds like you’ve found a new niche
FG: My life is just niche after niche. Maybe they’ll all add up to one thing eventually. Wrestling, comics, vintage kids books, cats, weird video games.
BD: Candy.
Fleen: Booze.
FG: Still love it!

We at Fleen thank Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson for their time. Capture Creatures Volume 1 is available everywhere on 27 February.

Spam of the day:

Up to $950 Off Sakai Rammers!

Dunno, don’t want to know, and I’m fairly certain this has nothing to do with Usagi Yojimbo.

A Super Rush Job

It’s rare that a Hope Larson project gets by under the radar, and it should be doubly rare that Larson working on a high-profile project like a Madeleine L’Engle story would escape anybody’s notice. But damn if it pretty much didn’t happen.

Intergalactic P.S. 3, out today! Words by @MadeleineLEngle, pictures by me!

For those not familiar (and an hour ago, I counted myself in your ranks), Intergalactic PS 3 was a short story that L’Engle wrote in 1970, and adjunct to 1960’s A Wrinkle In Time and its sequels (A Wind In The Door in 1973, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet in 1978; I never much got into the later 80s entries, or the second-generation stories featuring Meg & Calvin’s kids). It’s presented here as a chapter book rather than a full-bore graphic novel, and covers many of the same themes as the yet-to-be-written A Wind In The Door.

Regardless of provenance, it’s new L’Engle for almost everybody, illustrated by Larson, and having it drop by surprise just means I wasn’t fretting with anticipation for months on end. For those wondering what it’s about:

Charles Wallace Murry is old enough to start school, but his sister, Meg, and their friend Calvin know he isn’t cut out for school on Earth — Meg worries that he’ll be more misunderstood than ever. Luckily, with the help of the three celestial creatures Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which, there is another place where Charles Wallace can get his education: Intergalactic P.S. 3, a public school in a completely different galaxy. The three children travel through time and space to reach the school, but for them all to make it home safely, Meg must undergo a test that will challenge her inner strength, her perspective, and her ability to protect the ones she loves.

And for those who can’t make it to a bookstore today, publisher Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux has an excerpt at the book’s info page.

Spam of the day:

Courses for Medical Billing and Coding

Medical billing is the job that Davan and Kharisma had in first-half Something*Positive, and it made them miserable, hateful people. Hard pass.

Happy News And A Slight Exaggeration Of Our Cultural State

Hey, you know what today is, besides Saint Groundhog’s Day? Yes, yes, it’s Friday, but it’s also a very special Friday for a couple of reasons:

  • Ryan Qwantz North, the Toronto Man-Mountain himself, marks fifteen years¹ of moving words around T-Rex, Dromiceiomimus, Utahraptor, a Tiny Woman, and various others (sinister raccoons, sinisterer cephalopods, God, The Devil, Professor Science, Mr Tusks, etc) and thus constructing the world’s most formalist webcomic², Dinosaur Comics. North noted the occasion by, as is his wont, talking about Batman. This also marks the one time you can find a long-running webcomic and say Wow, the art on Day One was just as good as today!
  • Two of the key players in the past decade-plus of great comics (and great comics creators) getting a wide audience and critical notice were, themselves, recognized and rewarded for their excellent work. :01 Books announced that Calista Brill and Gina Gagliano have been promoted to (respectively) Editorial Director and Associate Director, Marketing & Publicity.

    For much of the dozen years of :01’s existence, Brill has been the person that made sure the book made sense³ and Gagliano’s been the person that made sure you and I knew about them. It’s well-earned on both their parts, and I’m sure neither of them knew where that little four-person shop would be a decade later.

  • Less of a happy vibe, but perhaps more of a timely one — Jim Zub writes just about every kind of comic you can imagine, but none has anticipated where the culture would be just before it got there as Glitterbomb.

    When it launched I was seeing the story as a parable of how fame and the pursuit of it corrupts the soul; now that two (of a planned three) arcs are done, it’s clear the book is even more about The Machine that seeks to feed that need for fame: those that crave being famous, and those that want to see others be famous (so they can love them until it’s time to hate them instead). It’s a Machine that particularly abuses and chews up women, and it’s a message that’s become particularly resonant since just about the time the first arc launched in Summer 2016.

    The collected trade of Glitterbomb‘s second arc (subtitled The Fame Game) goes on sale in four weeks, and I think you ought to strongly consider picking it up. The first book was about one person on her way out of the Machine’s notice; the second is about grabbing up somebody new to replace her, which makes the cold-bloodedness of the entire enterprise all the more apparent. No idea where Zub (and stellar artist Djibril Morissette-Phan) will go with the third and final arc, but if past scheduling holds, we’ll find out around August/September.

Spam of the day:

People ask me “Please, Sinister, I need your professional help” and I always accept the request, `cause I know, that only I can solve all their problems!

This comes from somebody calling themselves Frank Sinister (probably no relation to Simon Bar Sinister, staple of my childhood afternoon cartoon-watching), who claims to be a professional writer. Trust me when I say that the rest of his spam posting read even worse than the snippet I’ve included here.

¹ Okay, technically it was yesterday, but North doesn’t update on Thursdays. I think we all feel the same way about Thursdays.

² Seriously, North sets himself more rules than a Chuck Jones Road Runner cartoon.

³ And yes, I’ve had some nits to pick with :01 editorial flubs — some minor, some more important — but overall, the quality of :01’s offerings have been top-notch, and some misses are inevitable (especially considering the fact that these books were likely in production while Brill was out on maternity leave and/or in the midst of ramping up from ~20 books per year to ~40 whilst simultaneously onboarding new editors).

Fleen Book Corner: Is This Guy For Real?

The fine folks at :01 Books sent me a copy of Is This Guy For Real? by Box Brown, and now I’m gonna talk about it. This is normally where I’d say that the review will contain spoilers, but I think that Brown’s work is uniquely immune that that concern; kinda of hard to have spoilers in what’s fundamentally a work of non-fiction.

At least, as much of a work of non-fiction as you can get where Andy Kaufman is concerned; that guy made it his life’s work to blur the line between fiction and reality with his every breath. The fact that people are still arguing over whether or not he faked his death more than thirty years ago shows the degree to which he messed with all of our heads.

ITGFR? will be immediately familiar to anybody that’s read Brown’s last couple of books; like Mr The Giant or Tetris, Kaufman is one of those cultural referents that everybody seems to know, but few know where they came from. The books feel less like formal biographies (if a video game can be said to have a biography) and more like oral histories, particularly this latest; there are many talking head inserts in ITGFR? from people who knew and worked with Kaufman, and their reminiscences make the notorious opaque Kaufman come alive.

This is especially true when you consider that the book is almost two parallel biographies — Kaufman’s public nemesis/real life friend, wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler gets nearly as much attention as Kaufman does. It’s an effective treatment; instead of just covering Lawler in the context of his famed (and prolonged) wrestling feud with Kaufman (culminating in a famous, staged around-smacking on Late Night With David Letterman&sp1;), it follows his own pursuit of fame (which, like Kaufman, he was determined to achieve on his own terms).

Brown’s trademark chunky style serves the story well; it’s not particularly realistic to look at, which heightens the unreality of Kaufman’s life. As near as I can tell, every milestone of Kaufman’s career, and all of his major stunts² are included, making this perhaps the most complete look at what Andy Kaufman was like.

Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman releases on Tuesday, 6 February, at bookstores everywhere. Box Brown will tour in support of the book starting the following day and visiting eight cities in eight states over ten days.

Spam of the day:

Dear Partner..

Really? A 419 scam actually claiming to be from Nigeria? That’s old school right there.

¹ I’ve long thought that Brown’s love of wrestling meant he was destined to write a graphic novel series that would serve as a definitive history of professional wrestling, but in going back to watch Kaufman’s Letterman appearances, I think that Dave might be a better topic. That clip of Kaufman is a perfect example of why; it was in the first year of Dave’s late night run, it feels small and improvised and weird (with an audible audience that seems to have accidentally wandered in from a public-access cable show), offbeat in the way that Brown’s best subjects are.

I’d love to see Brown take a whack at Letterman’s journey, but maybe that’s just because I remember how brilliant he was from the get-go. I remember watching his daytime show on its too-brief run, I remember the weird things he did in late night when I was in college (a rerun might be dubbed into Spanish, or the broadcast might rotate through 360° over the course of the hour), I remember watching Larry “Bud” Melman at the Port Authority and Crispin Glover’s meltdown (and the following show’s cold open) the nights they happened. The larger-than-life weirdos that could be included would make for a cracking read.

² One possible exception; I seem to remember an interview with Kaufman where he revealed that he regularly left filming of Taxi and went to his second job, bussing tables at a Hollywood cafeteria. Not sure if my recall is accurate, though.