The webcomics blog about webcomics

We All Win

The Ignatz Awards are maybe the most democratic of all the major comics awards — if you attend SPX, you get a ballot. At least, if you attend on Saturday, because they tally the votes through the day and the bricks are given out Saturday night, but you get the idea. They also, traditionally, have a very good jury, who provide a very good slate of nominees. This year’s nominees have just been announced, and it’s a cornucopia of quality.

As readers of this page know, I am a major fan and promoter of the work of Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and her work on Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me could have come from a 20 year veteran of comics, rather than somebody working on their first book who’s still in the first half of their 20s. It’s no surprise that Valero-O’Connell was nominated for Outstanding Artist, Oustanding Graphic Novel, and Oustanding Story, the later two categories being co-nominations with writer Mariko Tamaki. I’m thrilled everytime I am reminded that so many people loved this book as much as I did.

The other multiple nominee that caught my eye, and of which I am a tremendous fan, is The Nib; Matt Bors’s marvelously eclectic endeavour has a history with SPX, debuting their hardcover collection there a few years back. The Nib was nominated as Oustanding Series (for the print magazine), and two issues (Family, and Death) were separately nominated for Oustanding Anthology. Well done Bors, and the entire group of editors and contributors.

But those are not the only deserving nominees; let’s take a look at who we at Fleen will be rooting for.

  • Outstanding Artist: In addition to Valero-O’Connell, you’ve got Lucy Knisely for Kid Gloves, which I also loved. I’m not familiar with Koren Shadmi on Highwayman, Sloane Leong’s Prism Stalker, or Ezra Clayton Daniels on Upgrade Soul.
  • Outstanding Collection: Love Letters To Jane’s World by Paige Braddock, Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak, Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet, Leaving Richard’s Valley by Michael DeForge, and This Woman’s Work by Julie Delporte. I have no clear preference, but all these creators are skilled and worthy of the win.
  • Outstanding Anthology: In addition to the two issues of The Nib, you have Electrum (edited by Der-shing Helmer), Wayward Sisters (edited by Alison O’Toole), and We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology (edited by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton). My preference is for The Nib, only because they do so many different kinds of comics in each issue. I suspect they’ll split the vote, though.
  • Outstanding Graphic Novel: In addition to Laura Dean, you’ve got Upgrade Soul by Ezra Clayton Daniels, Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal, Highwayman by Koren Shadmi, and Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. I believe I made my preference clear, but Kobabe’s been doing some damn good comics, including Gender Queer.
  • Outstanding Minicomic: Trans Girls Hit The Town by Emma Jayne, Gonzalo by Jed McGowan, Silver Wire by Kriota Willberg, Cherry by Inés Estrada, and YLLW YLLW YLLW by Mar Julia. Not familiar with any of the books or creators. If I get the chance to vote, I might throw it to a dude because so maybe at least one dude wins. ‘Cause damn, women having been outshining the dudes at the Ignatzen for a couple years now.
  • Outstanding Comic: Lorna by Benji Nate, Infinite Wheat Paste #7 by Pidge, The Saga Of Metalbeard by Joshua Paddon and Matthew Hoddy, Egg Cream by Liz Suburbia, and Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu. I do love me some comics about gay collegiate hockey bros, but I’m surprised to see the nomination in print but not for …
  • Outstanding Online Comic: Isle Of Elsi by Alec Longstreth, That’s Not My Name! by Hannako Lambert, What Doctors Know About CPR by Nathan Gray, About Face by Nate Powell, and Full Court Crush by Hannah Blumenreich.

    I find it interesting that despite the rules specifying an online comic can be an individual comic, continuing storyline comic or strips, and the only real restriction being that it appears on the web before print, that there’s a real tendency towards shorter works. Three of the nominees (Name, CPR, and Face) are arguably essays in comic form (any one of them could have appeared at The Nib), and Full Court is a 16 page short story. Only Longstreth’s Elsi is a traditional (whatever that means) plot-based, ongoing webcomic.

    The extremely wide-open criteria means that this category, more than any other, varies widely from year to year, based on the jury’s personal views of what a good online comic looks like. I am precisely 50% in favor of having a narrower definition so there can be some consistency, and 50% in favor of the variety that is rewarded by the present system.

    Because of my avocational interests, I am pulling for What Doctors Know About CPR (which really, really could have appeared in The Nib’s Death issue).

  • Promising New Talent: Haleigh Buck, Ebony Flowers, Emma Jayne, Mar Julia, and Kelsey Wroten. I’ll have to dig into their work, but I’m really liking the looks of what Jayne and Julia are doing.
  • Outstanding Story: In addition to Laura Dean, you’ve got Sacred Heart Vol 2 Part 1: Livin’ In The Future by Liz Suburbia, Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle, Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal, and The Dead Eye And The Deep Blue Sea by Vannak Anan Prum. Although I’m a tremendous fan of Searle’s work, Laura Dean remains my favorite book of the year until The Midwinter Witch arrives to make its case.

    Speaking of which, I’m very surprised to not see Molly Ostertag and/or The Hidden Witch in any category, nor Tillie Walden and/or On A Sunbeam anywhere in the nominations. Ah well, if I want the nominations to be perfect, all I have to do is become a comics writer and/or artist, and have a distinguished enough career that people in the industry think enough of me that I’m asked to be part of the jury. Simple.

The Ignatz bricks will be distributed starting at 9:30pm on Saturday, 14 September, at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland.

And hey, if the competition for the Ignatzen is a little to wholesome, there will be some virtual blood in a head-to-head original character deathmatch tournament sponsored by Abbadon over at Kill Six Billion Demons’s Discord. Registration’s open until they get 64 entrants.


Spam of the day:

Kontrollnummer- FX 75/463. (Kontrollnummer- FX 75/463.)
Garbage bags and much more.

I am less concerned by the German language pitch for what appears to be general shipping supplies than I am for the inclusion on the list of Solvent. All kinds. I get the feeling that you are selling to the serial killer market.

Bubbling Up

It’s getting to that point in time that you look to the fall comics shows and festivals: SPX in just about a month, then NYCC (not that they do much with comics these days) about three weeks later, and then Thought Bubble about a month after that. The first two have awards associated with them (the Ignatzen at SPX, and the reconstituted Harveys — which look particularly good as noted — at NYCC), but Thought Bubble has something the others don’t — an anthology that’s always worth talking about.

I mean, hell, in 2016 they did a tenth anniversary volume that may be the only printed work in history whose two lead author credits are Kate Beaton and Warren Ellis¹. Sure, there were a few dozen other names on the collection, but the contrast of those two is just unreal.

TB 2019 will feature Becky Cloonan, Luke Pearson (of Hilda fame), Gerry Duggan, Abigail Jill Harding, Lee Garbett, Benji Goldsmith² Kim-joy (okay, I’ve only seen like one season of The Great British Bake Off, but I understand she was a runner-up in a post-Mel & Sue season), Pernille Ørum, Jock, Daniel Warren Johnson, Helen Mingjue Chen on the cover. The thing about the TB Anthology is it’s always good, so even creators whose work you aren’t familiar with, you’ll probably enjoy. I’m not familiar with Chen, but that cover is gorgeous, and Ørum’s work appears to be both beautifully composed and super cute.

The Thought Bubble Festival will take place in Yorkshire, the week of 4 November, with the comic show on the 9th and 10th. The Anthology will release on 9 October, and can be ordered from your friendly local comic shop ahead of time.


Spam of the day:

American Airlines wants to improve when you fly Get a voucher for helping with your valuable feedback Go Here to Fly
[14 blank lines]
This is an adv. American Airlines is not affiliated with this ad.

Why do I not trust this “voucher”?

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¹ Now I want a proper collaboration between Beaton and Internet Jesus. Something even more of a pure comic book than Nextwave. I desperately want to see Beaton’s rendering of a character getting kicked and then exploding.

² I’m not sure, but it might be this composer/performer?

Torn

I don’t think this has ever happened before — a comics awards nomination list came out and I can’t find a single fault with it. There’s an embarrassment of riches in the Harvey Awards for 2019, and in multiple categories there are so many good works nominated that I’d be hard pressed to select any one (were I a voter, which I’m not). Let’s begin:

  • Book Of The Year includes Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J Krosoczka, Kid Gloves, by Lucy Knisley, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore, On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, When I Arrived At The Castle by Emily Carroll (Koyama Press) — any of which I would be thrilled if they won — along with Belonging: A German Reckons With History And Home by Nora Krug, Berlin by Jason Lutes, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels.
  • Digital Book Of The Year includes Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu, Space Boy by Stephen McCranie, The Contradictions by Sophie Yanow, The Nib edited by Matt Bors¹, and Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal. I’m not familiar with Space Boy or Woman World, but the other three are top notch.
  • Best Children’s Or Young Adult Book² includes Hey, Kiddo, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Mr Wolf’s Class #2: Mystery Club by Aron Nels Steinke, New Kid by Jerry Craft, and On A Sunbeam. Three of those are also up for Book Of The Year, which should tell you something about how critical the MG/YA space has become to comics.
  • Best Manga includes Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection, Mob Psycho 100 by ONE, My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi, Our Dreams At Dusk by Yuhki Kamatani, Smashed by Junji Ito, and Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama. I’m only really familiar with Witch Hat Atelier — which is excellent — but I recognize the others from the Best/Worst Manga session at SDCC this year, all in various Best categories; when Chris Butcher tells you a manga is good, take that to the bank, friends.
  • Best European Book includes Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt, O Josephine by Jason, Radiant by Tony Valente, Red Ultramarine by Manuele Fior, translated by Jamie Richards, and Waves by Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel. I’ll be honest, I’m not familiar enough to comment intelligently here, but I’d be very surprised if the nominating committee suddenly sucked for one category.
  • Best Comics Adaptation Award — that’s movies and TV — includes Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, The Boys, Captain Marvel by Marvel Studios, Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, Doom Patrol, Marvel’s Spider-Man (videogame), The Snagglepuss Chronicles (a theatrical adaptation), Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and The Umbrella Academy. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have a dog in this fight, but come on … Spider-Verse, right?

The Harveys had, in the past, a reputation for ballot-stuffing and really mediocre work being mass-nominated by publishers. This is … not that. Somebody really sat down and looked for outstanding work, and if there’s one thing that stands out it’s the utter lack of capes outside of the adapted work.

If you’d told me a year ago that this award would feature exactly zero bats or mutants, but instead feature multiple nominations for a memoir about growing up in a household dominated by addiction, a very queer high school drama, and and sci-fi story set in a universe of no men and spaceships that are giant fish, I never would have believed you. I honestly would have to vote by random chance among three to five nominees in no less than three of those categories. Here’s hoping this is just the first year of a new era for comics awards.

The Harvey Awards will be presented on 4 October in conjunction with NYCC; voting by comics professionals is open until 10 September.


Spam of the day:

NostalgiaCon 80’s Pop Culture Convention Launches Media Village for Media and Social Media Influencers

Okay, 1, quoting John Hodgman: Nostalgia is a toxic impulse and 2, quoting me, Influencer culture is a cancer. Also, 3, your press release says this con will be in Anaheim, but your offices are in Miami, what the fuck? and 4, you credit the con as the brainchild of two people including — and I’m not making this up — the Chairman and CEO of Walmart’s exclusive car-buying platform, what the actual fuck?

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¹ That’s the way the nomination reads; as Bors noted on Twitter, if The Nib wins, it’s a recognition of all of his editors: Eleri Harris, Matt Lubchansky, Andy Warner, and Sarah Mirk.

² Note that those are very different demographics!

Now This Is Some Bullshit

This, in this particular circumstance, being a clearly full of crap website that’s selling simply dozens — dozens, I tell you! — of stolen TopatoCo t-shirts every day. A full of crap website that’s stolen not only the designs (which are sarcastic air quotes submitted to us by independent designers close sarcastic air quotes) but even the SKUs. They may or may not be associated with another full of crap website that appears to lay off the stolen webcomics designs but has lots of other stuff stolen too, like traditional Haida designs that non-Haida people don’t get to use or sell. And the most hilarious part? Their shitty knockoffs (if in fact they actually produce and send anything) are priced above the genuine articles.

Normally, I’d tell you to politely contact the full of crap website to very politely ask them what the fuck, but a) they’ve done their best to hide who they actually are (although it appears the possibly-associated second crappy website keeps an address in Delaware that coincidentally houses a consultancy that provides a incorporation services and possibly a mail drop), and b) Jeff Rowland is already on it, and c) they may have roused the wrath of R Stevens III, in which case I doubt you’ll even find DNA when he’s done with his vengeance.

So instead, how about we look at some shirts that are both official and original?


Spam of the day:

Big Ass-Photos – Free Huge Butt Porn, Big Booty Pics

Holy crap, this spam has adopted the [adjective] ass [noun] rule from xkcd #37.

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¹ Unfortunately, the website doesn’t link the exhibitors to the floor map, and those that qualify as publishers (around the perimeter of the main floor) appear not to be listed on the site at present. But there will be several creators associated with George Rohac’s Creative Havoc, and given the likes of Iron Circus and Hiveworks are listed as Sponsors, I’d presume they have a presence as well.

Fortunately, the scale of the show is such that you probably won’t miss out on anybody, even if you didn’t specifically know they were going to be there. If the exhibitor info updates before the show, we’ll add to our listings here.

And On The Twelfth Day, They Rose From The Dead

I speak, naturally, of The Nib, which resumed updates today as an independent site wholly under Matt Bors’s control. On the one hand, hooray, complete editorial freedom and no wondering when a billionaire or startup or corporation is going to yank funding and all your work comes to an abrupt end. On the other hand, the need for subscriptions remains high so that Bors can continue to do what he’s always done and pay cartoonists; he’s doing all of that completely solo, too, having had to lay off his editorial staff¹.

But they’re back, with three cartoons, from Ward Sutton, Joey Alison Sayers, and Bors himself, about which a few things should be said.

Firstly, in the twelve days of hiatus, there are have been multiple mass shootings and follow-on wannabes. White supremacy and deeply-ingrained misogyny are, unsurprisingly, at the core of the respective shooters (and wannabes) motivations. Thus, Sutton and Bors address that particular elephant² in the room.

Secondly, you may note that Bors’s contribution carries a date of 6 August. It was originally offered up via his syndication deal with Andrews McMeel, but something interesting happened along the way. Bors shared that cartoon (as is his wont) on Instagram, where it was taken down for promoting violence and dangerous organizations. Two days later (after a Rolling Stone story), Zuck came to his senses, but seriously: what the fuck?

It’s all of a piece with social media companies allowing themselves to be gamed by bad-faith complaints and being totally unwilling to fix their shit³. Just today, occasional Nib contributor Eli Valley has been through the Twitter wringer, as actual fucking Nazis mass-reported old tweets for being antisemtic and he was suspended as a result. Not to be outdone in the stupidity department, when Valley set up an alternate account to report on his suspension, it was suspended because he was impersonating himself. As of now, his original account seems to be restored, where you may discover that while the mass-reporting by Nazi CHUDs was going on? Valley was under arrest for participating in the Jewish protests against Amazon’s collaboration with ICE.

The ability to stay out from under the control of capricious money-suppliers (not to mention uncontrolled social media weaponization) is a powerful motivation for Bors to keep The Nib independent. If you came to him with a few million and said Here’s enough money to run all the cartoons you want in a week and hire back all the staff you want, I think he’d hesitate, or ask to see the money in an escrow account. The risk of being at the mercy of somebody else’s pursestrings and/or policies is just too great. It’s just much safer to have a few thousand (preferably, a few ten thousand) subscribers each contributing a small amount; it’s so much harder for thousands of people to fire you than one person (or one crap algorithm).

But all the same, welcome back, Nibsters. I’m thrilled to see the variety of takes and viewpoints, and hope we’ll be back to the full volume of cartoons we had until so very recently. And if you’ve ever browsed past there because of something I wrote, give ’em some love. Support starts at two lousy bucks a month, and only four bucks a month gets you the best quarterly magazine of comics in print. Do it to get the best comics, do it to support your favorite creators, do it to piss off a billionaire, just do it.


Spam of the day:

New York Comic Con Exclusives

I’m not going to shame the company that sent me this, because it’s not their fault that they’re sending this to what they believe is a potentially interested member of the press. See, it’s been years since NYCC let me in as a member of the press because I don’t cover the stuff they want covered, but they still send out my email on their press contact list. Dick move, NYCC.

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¹ Running the entire shebang himself means that some things are a lower priority than others; as of this writing, the About page still list The Nib as part of First Look Media and the editors as employed.

² With, no doubt, an elephant-sized MAGA hat.

³ Stage one of the shit-fixing: ban the fucking Nazis.

The Best Panel I Saw During SDCC

I had a picture of the panel, but it was one of the ones that got eaten by my phone, dammit.

[Editor’s note: This will be the last of our SDCC 2019 panel recaps. Exact quotes, italics, etc, you know the drill, but since there were so many go back-and-forth elements to the answers, I’m going to do my best to identify who made each of the paraphrased points.]

I went to the panel on how magic and technology can coexist in fiction on a whim, and I’m glad I did. Moderator Lilah Sturges did the best panel-wrangling job I saw in San Diego, tossing questions, prompting useful digressions, keeping things moving, and avoiding the dreaded Now each of you answer the same question in depth, one after another at all costs. A’course, when the panel includes Ursula Vernon, Bree Paulsen, Gene Ha¹, Carey Pietsch, Maya Kern, and Katie O’Neill on the panel, there were plenty of opinions to go around.

The only okay, everybody answer this question was the first which was Is Star Wars sci-fi? Clarke talked about sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic, and if it is, what’s the difference? Nerd senses tingling, hands involuntarily clenching, takes heating to the searing point, the panel was on notice that they’d have to bring their A-game, and the audience was primed to be invested in the answers. While the panel pretty much all dodged the first part of the question, they dug into the second with their own thoughts on the differences.

Kern: We can at least pretend to understand technology.
O’Neill: Technology is created for a purpose and direction, magic isn’t.
Paulsen: It depends on how characters interact with it.
Vernon: Technology is replicable, magic is just Yer a wziard, Harry. Sometimes it’s democratic, sometimes it’s Luke, you’re a Jedi but nobody else it or can be.
Paulsen: It’s the difference between created (technology) and channeled (magic).
Pietsch: Are you reading Witch Hat Atelier? Spoiler warning: people in the story believe that magic is inherent to witches and nobody else can use it, but it turns out that it’s a skill set. I really enjoy stories that tread that line.
Paulsen: I like stories where technology is used to direct or harness magic.
Vernon: Spontaneity is key — magic can just exist out in the woods on its own, but an iPad doesn’t just happen.
Ha: Mary Shelley is regarded as the first science fiction writer, but you could say that she wrote a story of a wizard who engaged in forbidden rituals. Frankenstein is a fantasy story but it’s told in terms of technology, these new discoveries. She invented the mad scientist.
Kern: Bottom line: technology needs people to make it/use it, but magic can just exist on its own.

Notice that back and forth? It worked great. Sturges’s later questions didn’t request that everybody answer, they were just lobbed out there and people had a conversation until they’d all made the points they wanted to. Panels that turn into an open discussion by smart, engaged people rock, and I wish every session at SDCC ran like this one did. The next question asked the panel how they use technology and magic for different kinds of stories.

Paulsen: Okay, we all know vampire lore, you can’t take their picture, but I’ve decided that was because film cameras have a bunch of mirrors in them, and your phone doesn’t, so you can get a selfie with a vampire if you wanted to. I like to find workarounds to folklore.
O’Neill: I love the intersection of magic and domesticity, or magic tied to a skill like weaving or blacksmithing.
Pietsch: I like using magic as a craft but also as a way to put characters into situations we don’t have a framework for.
Vernon: I have a story set in the Old West where the trains became sentient, then became gods, so they obviously needed priests. It’s tech becoming suddenly huge and disruptive, it must have looked like magic to the people seeing it for the first time …
Sturges: I want to do any exorcism with a train priest.
Ha: I HAVE DISCOVERED MUZAK’S TRUE NAME, NOW I HAVE POWER OVER IT.
O’Neill: One thing I like to do is think of limitations on magic, like you’d get with technology. [Editor’s note: somebody please write a story where magic is limited by the equivalent of battery life, or no signal.]
Ha: Samuel Johnson, in the 18th century, said the job of Art is to make the everyday magic, and make the magic everyday. When creating these systems, like the train priests, those engineers were folk heroes, so your metaphor about life back then …
Vernon: Who among us has not seen Elon Musk treated as a prophet?²
Pietsch: The edge cases are the most interesting to me. Maybe you could never achieve this [gestures to indicate modern life] with magic, now how do you get round that?

The panel firing on all cylinders (technology reference!), Sturges lobbed the big one at them: What is the difference between fantasy and science fiction?

Pietsch: Gatekeeping? [applause break]
Sturges: Okay, next question! [laughter break]
Paulsen: I think science fiction is where people are starting to understand something and ask But what if it went this far? It can be anything, and the line gets blurry.
Vernon: I’d say sci fi has a could happen vibe, and fantasy more this could never happen.
Paulsen: But the line is still blurry, especially as we learn about space. Black holes, cool! That’s magic!
Ha: In an earlier panel, a woman said the difference is gendered. In Star Wars, Luke is a princess, Ben is a fairy godmother, Vader is the evil step-parent …
Vernon: And he has a Death Star instead of a dragon!
Sturges: So science fiction concentrates more on how, and fantasy more on why?
Vernon: Yeah, but you can think about a million counterexamples. Lots of sci fi doesn’t care about how How does acid blood work? I dunno, but it looks cool.
Pietsch: I feel like it’s a matter of framework, not definition. What was the author interested in?
Vernon: The stories that Trek wanted to tell were Why were humans like this? Why were aliens like this? That one Next Generation with the ugly bags of mostly water? That was hard-SF. The rest, not so much.

With that settled, it was time for the key question: Can technology and magic coexist in the same story?

Paulsen: I want a story where a witch can send a message around the world for you, but a text arrives first.
Vernon: Modern technology mixed with magic stories rely on hidden worlds a lot. I think they can coexist, but adult muggles have to be really dense for those stories to work at all.
Ha: Almost every good story is a mystery story. Magic is all about mystery. We can look up the answers to anything, so a lot of the storytelling depends on trying to figure out new kinds of questions.
Kern: You could say that augmented reality could be a form of magic.
Pietsch: If you could get persistent, self-sustaining augmented reality, that would be magic.

Sturges threw open the session to audience questions, and made an observation that should be made at every panel: Questions end in a question mark, and should fit in a tweet. It worked, too! No grandstanding, no manifestos, no explanations to the panel about how they’re wrong and bad and wrong some more. Bliss!

Question: What are some examples of blended magic and tech in your own work?
Sturges: I have witches researching spell components, inspired by bioresearchers that use supercomputers and simulations to explore new drugs via algorithm.
Vernon: Train priests³.
Paulsen: Vampires and cameras.
Ha: Mae is portal fiction, with mad science, pre-human technology, and magic plus technology mixing.
Pietsch: I have elevators in a medieval fantasy setting. I like to draw technology and have the characters just run with it
Kern: Snapchat filters are magic in real life.
O’Neill: My Tea Dragons grow tea, but it’s about how technology can be quick, efficient, accessible, but also you end up overlooking the older (and still valuable) methods.

Question: In stories, the role of magic is often to empower, but technology serves to isolate and polarize. Can we get magic to solve these troubles for us?
Vernon: I suspect that if magic existed the same things would happen, but that doesn’t make good books.
Kern: Allow me to introduce you to every old, weird magic hermit in fiction.
Ha: In art history, there’s always the images of saints tormented by demons, which makes me think that Hieronymus Bosch4 was just foreseeing the internet.
Vernon: [with gravity] We are all Saint Anthony.

Question: How do you address the complexity in the systems of modernity, the Industrial Revolution, and such? Do we need a story that can serve as a cautionary about climate change?
Vernon: One point I wanted to make about the train priests was the trains were no longer under the control of the financiers and rail barons that paid to build the rails. When the decided on priests, they looked to the people they’d seen work and die to build, so 2/3 of the train priests are Chinese, black, Irish, a few Cornish. Troops got sent and the trains ate them.
Paulsen: Thomas, no! I remember a Discworld book that talked about the pollution of a river; magic mining was going on but the side effects were still there.
Pietsch: Was that Thud!?
Vernon: Could be The Fifth Elephant.
Paulsen: A real world example: companies are harvesting white sage unsustainably, which is needed for ecological balance, but we’re all witches now.
Sturges: Also there are eye of newt shortages, newts just bumping into each other.

Question: There are two discourses here; what about the stories we’re telling ourselves in a post-truth world. I don’t know if you saw the anti-vaxxers parading around, there’s magical thinking …
Pietsch: Oh, you mean lies. [applause break]
Vernon: I think we could use some hopeful stories about, say, climate change. Grief is paralyzing, and it’s hard. I’ve tried to write about dealing with this new world, how do we deal with it and what do we influence? If there were easy answers, we’d be doing it.
Paulsen: Tommorowland tried to address this, but it didn’t quite land.
Vernon: How we can write stories to make people not listen to Fox News? I got nuthin’.
Paulsen: I recommend NK Jemisen’s The Broken Earth books. They’re about facing a global catastrophe, but hopeful.

Question: Okay, so muggles are dumb. How do we write stories with non-dumb magical systems included?
Vernon: I just make have the shamans homeless, and everybody ignores them.
Ha: I’ve worked a lot with Alan Moore, and in his system, magic is language.

Whew! That’s a lot of transcribing, but it was worth it. Follow all of the folks that took part, and thanks again to Lilah Sturges for a magnificent job of keeping things rolling.


Spam of the day:

Is international dating more trouble than it on most DAYS during his commute from Green Lake to his Georgetown office, Alejandro Pea is observing his phone.

I can’t tell if international dating is meant to refer to dating across national borders, or just the run-of-the-mill mail-order bride deal. Clarity, please!

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¹ Who spent time thinking about answers by sketching folks in the front row or so of the audience, then presenting them with the portraits.

² Me and Vernon’s husband Kevin who I was sitting next to: [stiffen and subvocalize growls, as if to express the thought Fuck that guy.]

³ Because the question came up, you can find the train priests in the novelette The Tomato Thief, which won a Hugo. The story features Grandma Harken, who also featured in the Nebula-winning short story Jackalope Wives. I love Vernon’s cantankerous, wise old women that smart folks know not to cross.

4 Weirdly, this was the second time Bosch came up at SDCC for me, and Carey Pietsch was present for both of them.

Ask Them Anything

[Editor’s note: Disclaimer time again. The purpose of these recaps is to get at the gist of what was being said and by whom; to the extent that direct quotes occur, they will be italicized. And just because you don’t see somebody’s name doesn’t mean they weren’t in the middle of the conversation; it just means that I need to learn shorthand, or go back to typing these things.]

So you want to get comics into the classroom (which was a recurring theme of the sessions being held at the San Diego Public Library, which is a magnificent facility bee-tee-dubs), so what better way than to be able to have a nearly entirely question-driven session with creators (Jimmy Gownley and James Parks, with Ben Costa in the audience because the table was full), academics (Talia Hurwich and Meryl Jaffe, authors of Worth A Thousand Words), teachers (Derek Heid and Tracy Edmunds), and publishers (Mark Siegel and Gina Gagliano, who was honored by Publishers Weekly today)?

It was rhetorical, but the answer is There is no better way.

The questions from the audience ranged from the purely physical (How do you keep graphic novels from getting shredded in circulation?, a librarian wanted to know) to the application of theory (Teachers wanted to discuss leveling, the process of determining reading level for materials, and why graphic novels are consistently rated too low), with the ever-popular How do you get buy-in from parents/colleagues/administrators? along the way. Let’s take that last one first.

Jaffe admitted that she used to be one of those parents/teachers who thought that graphic novels weren’t useful in the classroom; she credited the kids in her class who did an intervention with me. She noted that because there is so little text on a page, the vocabulary tends to be advanced, with an extremely high incidence of metaphor. Gownley supported this point, noting that the most garbage Marvel superhero comics are written to the same level as the New York Times. Parks added that comics stretch the reading skills further, in that they — uniquely — allow readers to interpret what happens on a page more broadly than other forms of reading.

We noted a couple recaps back that the Common Core standards require students to examine a work classic literature in at least two different media; Heid stressed that to read text only is not teaching to standard, and Edmunds pointed out that graphic novels are specifically listed in those standards as a media type to be used in¹ fifth grade.

Siegel was happy to note that parents are the last pockets of resistance, when they think that their kids are getting short-changed or being given half measures. Librarians (and this is a recurring theme with Siegel over the years) have been ahead of the curve, obtaining and pushing graphic novels².

When there is still resistance in the community, he recommends putting up a display of books with all the shiny awards stickers on the front — the National Book Awards don’t have a category for graphic literature, after all. But, he allowed, it gets a little tiring to keep having the same conversation about format. Gownley had the ultimate solution: These people will get old and die someday.

Heid remarked that teachers are pretty much onboard, since they saw how large the medium (not genre!) is, but is ticked that at education conferences, there’s no panel on Novels In The Classroom. Nobody even thinks to question their inclusion, but somehow the absolute equivalecy of novel:=literature persists to the detriment of other media.

Let’s jump back to the circulation question; the answer was at least partly to adjust expectations. Gagliano pointed out that the typical graphic novel binding will hold up to about 60 circulations, which is as good or better than prose. The librarian admitted that they’re seeing about 75 circulations, so there you go.

Gagliano also mentioned specialty bindings for libraries from outfits like Perma-Bound and Bound To Stay Bound to increase durability (Gownley chimed in that they aren’t as pleasing to read, but they hold up). Siegel noted there’s an increasing number of simultaneous releases of hardcover and softcover, specifically with libraries in mind.

The discussion around leveling fascinated me, because it was clearly of great interest to nearly everybody in the room, but also completely new to me. The discussion began when a teacher said she had no problems with her elementary principal, librarians, fellow teachers, or parents. Her issue was that the district wants comprehension tests after every book, and she needs both documentation that kids aren’t reading below grade level and a mechanism to evaluate how well the students are reading (NB: The teachers and teacher-adjacent in the room would refer to what I saw as two things almost interchangeably).

Edmunds jumped on the leveling issue: the grade level assigned by the most common leveling rules/services does not accurately reflect the complexity of the reading. The levels, and most tests available to teachers, are algorithmically generated and only take into account the text. Gagliano mentioned that publishers are constantly in communication with the test-generation folks to more accurately reflect the material and the leveling.

Gownley almost hopes that a solution isn’t found — when the books are outside the official curriculum, there’s no test, no proofs of proficiency, a slight hint of being forbidden, then reading becomes more fun.

But returning to why there isn’t a leveling tool that incorporates words+pictures, Edmunds explained that it’s difficult to to. Leveling is the province of computers, not humans; Jaffe added that it’s done by people who aren’t in classrooms. Siegel expressed some sympathy for the lack of accurate leveling, in that the entire idea of visual literacy is hazy right now. As noted a few days ago, we’re all just waiting for McCloud to give us the vocabulary to have the conversation that we need to have in order to come to a consensus on this complex and constantly changing landscape.

The last question of the session³ was about how to incorporate graphic novels along with nongraphic novels, rather than instead of. Heid jumped in to say it depends on what you’re teaching, but using both allows all kinds of discussion. For example, To Kill A Mockingbird presents the climactic verdict scene with a focus on Jem, but the graphic novel adaptation shifts it to Tom Robinson, with each Guilty shifting his expression from shock, to horror, to the sure knowledge it was always going to be this way. After your kids have read both, ask them, Why did Harper Lee focus on Jem and the graphic novel focus on Tom?

Jaffe says the contrast between text-only and graphic novels allows you to explore questions with students that you couldn’t otherwise. Contrasting the different formats allows investigation into concepts like How do you communicate? Gagliano focused on the fact that a lot of literature teachers may not have a background/training in art, but they can learn with their students; you can think about why a page was designed the way it way, why the choice was made to use color or B&W, what job each panel has to do. Asking the questions and seeing what answers they come up with will spur a teacher’s own education.

And that education continues: Hurwich is working on her PhD (graphic novels and other media in the classroom and their effect on student literacy) and Heid his Masters (on education standards and how graphic novels fit); Gagliano and Siegel keep seeking out the best books they can, and Parks and Costa keep figuring out how to make their series more entertaining and relevant for kids. None of them will ever stop trying to do more for their students or their readers.


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¹ Or possibly starting in fifth grade, rather than solely fifth grade. My notes got a little rushed, and any teachers familiar with the Common Core are welcome to clarify for us.

² Asked in a follow-up when the librarians started pushing graphic novels, Gownley perkily answered Thursday! to general laughter. Gagliano remarked that the annual YALSA Great Graphic Novels For Teens list started in 2005, which she described as the tipping point. American Born Chinese would be nominated for the National Book Award the next year, and once SMILE took the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for nonfiction, the momentum was pretty much irreversible. Edmunds half-lamented that it’s almost not possible to keep up with all the good graphic novels being published today.

³ Well, second to last; the last was Where will we see you after this session?, which prompted the best response from Gownley: The Crowne Plaza sushi bar.

What The Kid(s) In Your Life Are Going To Be Reading

Sometimes, panels don’t lend themselves to traditional write-ups (or, at least not write-ups as I do them; everybody’s got their own style, after all), and the preview of all-ages comics from Scholastic/Graphix is a prime example. It wasn’t so much a discussion as an opportunity to talk about what Graphix has coming up in the near future, with creators talking about their current/forthcoming projects. Thus, the disclaimer I normally start with on these panel recaps is missing, since there’s not so much the opportunity to confuse quotes with paraphrases. Okay, there’s one quote coming up, you’ll know it when you see it.

Instead, I’m going to talk about some of the work that was previewed, with little things that caught my eye. For example, Jim Benton is half graphic novelist, half IP licensing machine, and Catwad straddles that line. Benton actually first came up with Catwad years ago, but similarities to a slightly more recent cat with grumpy tendencies¹.

Tui Sutherland talked about the process of adapting her book series, Wings Of Fire (thirteen books and counting!) to graphic novels (third one coming soon). Particularly, she’d like to note that while it’s all very easy to describe an arena full of dragon-type beings as far as the eye can see, it’s quite another to expect Mike Holmes to draw that over and over (Sutherland: Sorry, Mike!). And since I don’t see her credited on the series page (or even on the covers, for goodness sake), I’ll note that the colorist is Maarta Laiho, who has her own challenges — rainforests, chameleonic dragons who change color, leading to completely different colors from panel to panel — and deserves a bit of recognition here.

Jon J Muth’s adaptation of The Seventh Voyage by Stanislaw Lem was included in the giveaway bag at the Scholastic party on Thursday night, so I can tell you that it’s smart, charming, funny, and very, very different from any other graphic novel you’ve read or are going to read this year. Lem’s ability to lambaste Poland’s political institutions and society without running afoul of governmental authorities is legendary, and you’ll see a prime example of his skill as Ijon Tichy struggles to resolve a life-or-death situation despite the interference of a bureaucracy of himself² doing its damndest to prevent anything from actually happening. And the space suit³ is hilarious.

Raina Telgemeier let her audience know that Guts is different than her previous work (her exact words were Wake up, ’cause we’re going to talk about anxiety!), but in a way that let them know that’s okay. That she had a hard time dealing with the stressors in her life at their age, and sometimes still has those feelings, but she got help. And if they feel overwhelmed and anxious, they can get help, too. She’s really our best ambassador to the middle grades, the one that remembers what that time was like and can converse with those who live their in terms of their own experiences. As I told her when I got to read an advance copy back in April, I wanted very much to travel back in time and hug Young Raina and tell her it would be okay.

The only question I noted was when a girl, about ten years old, came to the mic to ask Miss Raina, what happened to Amara’s snake? Readers of Sisters may recall that Raina’s younger sister had a snake who got loose and lost, only to be found six months later under the seats in the minivan (or at least, a snake similar enough to the one that was lost as to make no difference). In the meantime, their mom had gotten Amara another snake and when that one got loose, Raina said I left the house. It was time for college, but the snake was definitely part of the decision. Like I said, she know how to speak Middle Grader.

Release dates:


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¹ Who, it could be argued, primarily went viral because of a mash-up with a Kate Beaton punchline. Speaking of Beaton, she’s got a new diary comic up, featuring doggo Agnes with a supporting appearance by daughter Mary Lou. It’s a treat.

² Or, more precisely, himselves, as they are all time-displaced instances of Ijon Tichy thrown together and forced to try and cooperate.

³ Baggy, shapeless, five sizes too large at the very least, stubby-legged, and featuring an umbilical attached in the middle of a buttoned-up buttflap.

A Selection Of Quotes From Ursula Vernon’s Spotlight Panel, Some With Context

[Editor’s note: Yeah, pretty much forget the earlier disclaimers. This time I’m going for exact quotes.]

There’s something refreshing about giving Ursula Vernon a microphone and no set topic list for an hour. With her A/V tech/husband, Kevin Sonney¹, by her side, she projected slides of her artwork, digressing as the mood struck her on each. Oh, and for those that don’t know, Ursula Vernon is also T Kingfisher when writing for adults, the difference between them being, T Kingfisher wears a hat. I mean, I’m wearing a hat now, but it’s because my hair … yeah.

Let the quotes begin!

I had a blue period because the only ink bottle I could get the cap off of was blue.
— Explaining why the crested caracara was that color

I just like painting stone.

Sometimes you want to get back to your roots, but not enough to draw humans.
— Explaining why she painted Pen-Guin the Barbarian, decked out for war and murder.

Turnips are inherently funny.

Oh, God, they produce so many eggs.
— On the keeping of chickens

Ursula: The chicken had a tragic backstory …
Kevin: I’m not made of stone.
Ursula: … which lead to multiple adults unironically stating We just want what’s best for the chicken.
— On how they wound up with the Strong Independent Chicken. Also, Kevin is a Disney Princess, animals just flock to him.

I had the grandiose idea of doing steampunk moths.

Oh, the pear
— On seeing the Biting Pear Of Salamanca, which came about because Vernon was drawing a lot of fruit, but was also inspired by how Rob Liefeld draws teeth but again didn’t want to draw a person. Most people only focus on the pear and not the fact that it’s clearly a tourist attraction and so the little rodent in the foreground is photographing it. Nearly everybody overlooks the giraffes in the background but come on, you can’t have too many giraffes.

Inspiration knocks on the door occasionally. Spite will bang on the door all year long.

Kevin: I HAVE INSTRUCTIONS IF YOU START AN EPIC.
— On what to do if Ursula decides to start another strip the length of Digger. They involve a shovel and an unmarked patch of land out back.

At least it’s prime!
— There are eleven volumes of Dragonbreath, not ten.

It’s all right, the fox can’t hurt you anymore.

Spinning wheels are really hard to draw … but hamster wheels are easy to draw.
— On how a desire to tell a fairy tale became Hamster Princess.

Don’t get me started on potatoes … [Kevin nods pointedly] … the Russet Burbank is an abomination.
— She’s got opinions. This came at the end of a question if her degree in anthropology helps her writings. It lead to the point that you should get the food right, that not everybody eats the same things, and that in general there should be fewer potatoes in your faux-medieval setting.

The answer is always more sauna.
— On consulting with a Finnish folklorist to see if she got details right in The Raven And The Reindeer, and being told that the folklore and food were fine, but there wasn’t enough sauna in the story.

I have much less trouble than is emotionally healthy.
and
Many children’s book authors are frustrated horror authors.
— On any difficulty she may have code-switching between the two genres. Turns out kidlit authors get told you can’t write that, it’ll scar a kid fairly frequently, leading to frustrated ambition and resentment. All of those scenes get more and more horrifying until they’re ready to explode in a brain-melting cavalcade of madness and terror.

Or, you know, you’re Ursula and just fight with your editor on Twitter. No big².


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¹ Ursula and Kevin are capital-M Married, with an innate feel for where the other is, mentally, at any given moment that omega-level psychics would envy. Of course, they mostly use that knowledge to mess with each other for extremely dry comedic effect.

² That’s what she said!

Factual/Actual

[Editor’s note: Once again, there are relatively few direct quotes in these recaps, and those that exist are italicized. As a caveat to the reminder, the latter portion of this post comes from a conversation with Jim Ottaviani, but the paraphrase/quote rule remains in effect.]

That title up there makes me think about Frank Zappa’s Project/Object concept¹, which isn’t really tied into the work being discussed at the moment, but what else are you going to call a panel on making comics with factual bases about actual things? And a fine discussion it was, with Chula Vista librarian Judy Prince-Neeb wrangling Randall Munroe, Don Brown, Rachel Ignotofsky, Jim Ottaviani, and Dylan Meconis holding forth on how they get to the real.

But Gary, I hear you cry, Dylan Meconis works in fiction! True, Grasshopper, she does. But anybody that’s spent any time with her knows that she sweats the details to get a sense of place with the greatest verisimilitude known to humanity. She may have mucked up history into a Mirror Universe version of itself in Queen Of The Sea, but by God she got the goats right! We’ll come back to the goats in a minute.

The idea that factual doesn’t have to equal the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth down to fourteen decimal places was a recurring theme. When asked by Prince-Neeb why they get excited by their work, Brown talked about the thrill of talking about Big Ideas and Moments (say, walking on the gosh-darned moon for the first time) and digging not into the BIaM itself, but the hundreds of thousands of much smaller bits and bobs that built up to it.

What Armstrong did in the roughly half-hour from start of the first lunar EVA until that one small step is exhaustively catalogued; what decisions were made between a design engineer and a lingerie seamstress to figure out how to make Armstrong’s suit? There’s room for interpretation there, a bit of impressionism that make the real moreseo².

For Ignotofsky, reality comes from the places where the hard data fears to tread. She’ll dig through a Census for fun, but when there’s little information committed to the historical record about the accomplishments of women, the indigenous, people of color, the LGTBQ+ community, focusing on those subjects for the benefit of kids means that future generations won’t have to rely as much on anecdotes when looking for people like them. The opportunity to see yourself as part of the world is what excites Ottaviani, that and the realization at a tender age that books are things that are made by people leading to the thought I could — should — make a book.

We’re living in History now is how Meconis puts it (you could hear the capital-H in her voice); the minutiae of our daily lives is future history and significant. How we lived our lives then shaped history. That minutiae lends a sense of reality to even the most fantastical world, making it all the more fascinating to the reader.

Munroe was, as may not surprise you, an outlier: I don’t know why I’m interested in anything, he said. Something catches his fancy, he works back to the science, engineering, and math, takes things to the logical extreme (he often ends up at some variation of Of course, now we’re at about 30% of the speed of light and have killed everybody on the East Coast), with the hope that it may accidentally cause a reader to learn something. Or, as Meconis put it, We’re big on tricking people!

So they all have some reason to share their work, but why pictures? Munroe’s decision is based on efficiency: you can see a big block of text and decide not to read it, but a picture on the page? You’ve already seen it; at least some part of it seeps through³. Ottaviani added that it’s pretty much impossible to stop reading in the middle of a comics page like you can in the middle of a paragraph; additionally, half of Science works from pictures already.

Sometimes, the motivation is elsewhere. Meconis notes that Writing + Drawing is like Juggling + Chainsaws; you can get attention if you’re good at either, but if you combine them, it’s a great way to get attention on the internet as a teenager! [Editor’s note: yikes.]

The bulk of the discussion was on research techniques. Munroe is relentless, digging down into the details of various commissions and committees that exist in the world, because that’s where the weird stuff (like how much water is legally required to pass over Niagara Falls, and how much of an act of war it is to alter it) lives. Ignotofsky haunts libraries and looks for the odd grace notes (like the famed painter in the early 1800s Paris how lived as an out lesbian, and was made to pay for a license to wear trousers; Munroe perked up and desperately wants to know if the office that issued that license issued others).

Meconis is fond of finding the one person that cares about a narrow subject more than anybody else, which is why she spent time on a Geocities site about heritage goat breeds maintained by dissident goat-breeders in remote Scotland. They have opinions on that newcomer Nubian goat, and arguments to back up those opinions. It might not make it to the Annals of the Royal Society, but it’s no less accurate. Plus, fiction! You can pick and choose where you want to be accurate.

Ottaviani is big on the personal interview, but has the advantage of mostly writing about people who are (or were recently) alive, and have/had friends/acquaintances who still are. He particularly noted that you can get a super accurate feel for a person without ever talking to them directly, citing the classic work of New Journalism by Gay Talese, Frank Sinatra Has A Cold (bonus: a pre-famous Harlan Ellison appears and almost gets his ass kicked). Add in a little visual reference (Ignotofsky: Get the photos! Get the clothing right! If you’re going to draw the dog, make you it’s the correct breed!) and you’re golden.

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After the panel, I was lucky enough to sit down with Jim Ottaviani for a one-on-one discussion about his work, his artistic partnerships, and what’s next. His latest science bio, Hawking (art by the inimitable Leland Myrick, who also drew Feynman) released about two weeks before SDCC, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The first point of discussion was bout the depiction of Jane, Hawking’s longtime wife, academic partner (when you can’t tie your own shoes, you certainly aren’t typing your own manuscripts), and primary caregiver. They divorced after Hawking became HAWKING, but remained on what I’d call unusually good terms for exes. Throughout the book, Jane is subtly, but progressively, depicted as … frustrated? annoyed? it’s tough to give a single word to the emotional heft in Myrick’s illustrations.

I read it as one part We’ve been married for more than two decades, why can’t you manage this one simple courtesy that’s annoyed me since before we were married and I’ve told you about it forever and MY GOD I hate you sometimes (everybody married more than a week has seen that look on their spouse’s face), one part You’re getting a bit full of yourself, Dr Hawking, and a few dozen parts absolute weariness at being a 24/7 caregiver, requiring ever-more challenging efforts, without so much as an afternoon off in who knows how long.

I think it’s an intimately truthful detail, to allow the great man to not be perfect, and ultimately sympathetic towards Jane, recognizing the tremendous sacrifices she made over decades. Ottaviani said the purpose was to show all of those emotional elements, with an addition of a growing distance between the couple — they had fundamentally incompatible belief systems4, exacerbated by his growing fame.

I read the entire later relationship between them as a classic case of being able to love somebody without liking them very much. He allowed that some of the friends of Jane Hawking were concerned about how she would be portrayed — it would be easy to cast her as a villain, abandoning her husband who is bravely clinging to life (not true, and Ottaviani and Myrick aren’t that lazy) — and concluded that he hoped his own friends would be as protective.

Ottaviani’s subjects, as our conversation hit on several times, could be complicated people. Richard Feynman is in a bit of a reappraisal, with people looking past the genius (especially for teaching) and seeing some really retrograde treatment of women for a big chunk of his life. He was also, to put it mildly, his own biggest cheerleader. His stories always make him look good, or smart, or funny, or popular, the center of attention. Hawking, by contrast, never tried to stick out (and I think even less so the more his ALS progressed), but found himself famous. Balancing that reticence with the obvious glee he exhibited while guesting on Star Trek or The Simpsons must have required a considerable effort (not to mention the fact that anybody with a measure of fame will attract cranks5).

My most burning question was who Ottaviani wants to cover next. He’s already hit the big name scientists and engineers that people might actually recognize (in addition to Feynman and Hawking, he’s covered Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruteé Galdikas, Turing, Bohr, Oppenheimer and Szilard, and goodly bits of Einstein all throughout), so who next? I made a pitch for Claude Shannon6 (because you can never have enough Shannon), and he’s got some potential candidates in mind; it’s more than deciding that a scientist or engineer needs the Ottaviani treatment, it’s finding work that lends itself to visual representation and finding the right artist for the project.

In the meantime, he’s doing a series of two-pagers for the Royal Society Of Chemistry celebrating the Year Of The Periodic Table. Myrick’s got his own projects coming up, so it would be a while before they got to work again. I remarked how Myrick’s style provided a natural transition from depicting people to depicting scientific concepts and diagrams, and that led to a side discussion of art styles ranging from Mike Mignola to the Franco-Belgian ligne claire school. He’s not just writing for comics, he has a deep and abiding love of the form and the artists who make them. Asked who he’d like to work with, he replied Everybody I’ve already worked with, which is a pretty extensive list.

We finished out by making each other extremely envious of the other’s original comic art collection. Ottaviani has several Richard Thompson originals, including one of God bouncing dice off Einstein’s head. I have several Larry Gonick original pages featuring Shannon. In the end, it was a really pleasant conversation between a couple of engineers, talkin’ about comics and fountain pens, the sort that leaves you wrapped up until you have to walk briskly to your next appointment. If you ever have the chance to do the same, I recommend it.


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¹ Key takeaway, and I quote:

In the case of the Project/Object, you may find a little poodle over here, a little blow job over there, etc., etc. I am not obsessed by poodles or blow jobs, however; these words (and others of equal insignificance), along with pictorial images and melodic themes, recur throughout the albums, interviews, films, videos (and this book) for no other reason than to unify the ‘collection.’

² Cf: Kazu Kibuishi’s abstract landscapes, which look more real to us the less detail he adds.

³ Meconis noted the downside: parents can more easily find something to be offended by in a picture than by reading things line by line. This point would be echoed in a couple of the teacher/librarian panels over the course of the Con.

4 Jane being rather more a Christian than Stephen, and he being frankly rude as shit in his dismissal of her beliefs.

5 I’ve actually met one of Hawking’s cranks and the dude struck me as somebody I should slowly back away from, making no sudden moves. I can’t imagine what dealing with him must be like in a severely limited body.

6 Let the record show that he recognized Figure 1 on the cover of my notebook.