The webcomics blog about webcomics

Busy Weekend

You know, what with two different sets of comics awards being given out, nominally from different coasts but practically speaking all from the confines of cyberspace.

  • On the delayed hand, you had NCSFest handing out the various NCS Division Awards, along with the Reuben¹. In the Online Comics categories, you had wins by Alec Longstreth (Long Form) and Jim Benton (Short Form); the latter wouldn’t have been my votegetter if I had a vote, but I can’t say it’s undeserving; I can say it was probably the most familiar work for the membership who, as previously noted, notoriously skew old.

    Which might explain why The Reuben itself went to the oldest nominee, one with a career stretching back four decades. A’course, the oldest nominee is the deeply subversive living legend Lynda Barry, whose work is most definitely not what I’d have expected the older members to vote for. It’s hard argue with the choice, and easy to argue that there might not have been a Raina Telgemeier if not for Lynda Barry’s deeply personal, memoirlike work (which started in print when Raina was about 2 years old) blazing the way. So no complaints here — Raina’s mantlepiece is getting a bit crowded anyway — and I suspect every one of the other nominees up for the top prize agreed that Barry was the right choice.

    As a side note, I see that Joe Wos — once a recurring name on this page during his years of directing Pittsburgh’s now-folded Toonseum — was given the division award for Variety Entertainment for his Mazetoons. Congrats, Joe.

  • And on schedule (although distanced), the Ignatzen were also presented on Saturday, and managed a simultaneous best-and-worst outcome in the same category. Do a quick refresh on the dilemma that the Ignatz Awards found themselves in this year and you’ll understand. Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is a creator whose work I deeply admire and, I daresay, a friend. The work for which she was nominated as Outstanding Artist, the short story collection Don’t Go Without Me, is magnificent and entirely worthy of the brick.

    But Valero-O’Connell was also on the jury. And while I stand second to no person in my love of and evangelical fervor for her work, and I recognize the accomplishment of being only the second person to win Outstanding Artist twice² and the only one to repeat in back-to-back years, I wish that it hadn’t happened. I do think that this situation has lessened the credibility of the Ignatz Awards, and I really, really hope that they write some ground rules to ensure that this appearance of a conflict of interest cannot happen again.

    Looking at other winners, Ebony Flowers has had nearly as good a year on the awards circuit as Valero-O’Connell; last year she took the Promising New Talent brick for the short story Hot Comb and this year for the expanded print collection incorporating it (also titled Hot Comb), she’s recognized for Outstanding Graphic Novel. Ariel Ries received bricks for Outstanding Online Comic (for Witchy) and Outstanding Comic (for Cry Wolf Girl); if you weren’t following her work before, you really should be.

    Outstanding Anthology went to Be Gay, Do Comics by the various contributors of The Nib. Look, you know that on a daily basis, it’s the most wide-ranging source of original editorial and nonfiction comics around, with a list of contributors that kicks every ass. Curating their best work on a theme is something that Matt Bors, Eleri Harris, and Matt Lubchansky were going to throw themselves into, and produce something terrific.

    Speaking of The Nib, Whit Taylor’s contributions there have always impressed the hell out of me (as well as everyplace else her work runs), and today she must take some solace in the fact that after two years of utter bullshit being inflicted on her in the form of a baseless lawsuit³, her Fizzle took the Ignatz for Oustanding Series and nobody can remember that other guy’s name. Seriously, I had to look him up, whereas members of The Eleven keep getting recognized for their work. It was a long, expensive, pointless road, but I have to imagine that the heft of that brick is gonna feel really good in Taylor’s hands.

Spam of the day:

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I got something like this for literally twelve bucks at the local hardware store two years ago. It picks up the neighborhood outdoor cats when they wander by after dark. Why exactly do I need your more complicated and expensive version?

¹ Yes, yes, common parlance refers to all of these awards as Reubens, but the term proper applies only to the Cartoonist Of The Year, the one chosen by the entirety of the NCS membership rather than those of a particular area. It’s the COTY that gets the fancy Rube Goldbergian trophy, where the division winners get a (admittedly, handsome and heavy) plaque.

² The first being Jaime Hernandez in 2007 and 2012.

³ Which resolved after tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees and the plaintiff not getting his US$2.5 million, which is apparently the going rate for butthurt in the first degree.

Our Northern Neighbours [sic] Have Good Taste

So the Shuster Awards — pardon me, the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards — came out with their nominations ‘tother day, and as has been the case in past years, they are well-considered and not bogged down in a million categories or complex rules. The work has to be by Canadians, released in calendar year 2019, and presented to the nominating committee by 30 June 2020. We won’t be listing every nominee and every category, but instead will focus on folks from the webcomics and indie comics communities.

Over in Artist, you’ve got Faith Erin Hicks for Pumpkinheads (words by Rainbow Rowell) and Karl Kerschl for Isola; more on Kerschl shortly. Mariko Tamaki is recognized in the Writer category, for multiple works including Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (which must surely be approaching the end of its eligibility period, not that I am complaining). Chip Zdarsky is also under consideration for various Marvel titles.

In the Cartoonist category (for writer/artist one-stop creators) I see the superlative Emily Carroll nominated for When I Arrive At The Castle which I must confess I hadn’t heard about until now. There’s so many great comics coming out from so many great creators that it’s natural to miss out on some, but I’ll have to remedy this oversight at the first opportunity.

Webcomics/Digital Comics is, as typical for the Shusters, packed with quality work. The nominees this year are:

… which prompts two thoughts:

1. A Canadian isn’t disqualified for working with a non-Canadian (in this case, Statesians), so that’s nice.

2. I’m not sure about Kershl’s nomination in this category. I stand second to no one in my love for The Abominable Charles Christopher, and I know that it’s the work that Kerschl is most proud of, and most invested in.

But it’s also been frequently on hiatus while he pursued paying work — this is not a criticism! — and thus more than a little sporadic since mid-2014. Kerschl did make a nice comeback with weekly updates and progress on the story from January-March of 2019, but then the frequency dropped to three updates in April, two in May, one in June and nothing since.

While a justly-loved and honored piece in the canon (such as it is) of webcomics, I would always prefer to see awards go to either a regularly-updating-through-the-year contender, or one that if it didn’t run the full year, came to a conclusion (or a complete story, that would be good, too).

Other categories for the Shusters include Cover Artist, the Gene Day Award for Self-Published Comics/Graphic Novels, the Gene Day Award For Anthology Collections, the Dragon Award (Comics For Younger Readers), and the Harry Kremer Retailer Recognition Award.

Two special awards recognize larger bodies of work — the Canadian Comic Creator Hall Of Fame will induct Seth and Bernie Mireault, and the TM Maple Award (for achievements outside the creative/retail categories for the benefit of the Canadian comics community) will honour the ongoing efforts of members of the Canadian comics community — the many creators, retailers, publishers, fans and other members of the community — who have stepped up to help others during the still ongoing COVID-19 Crisis with fundraising efforts.

The Shusters will be presented in a virtual ceremony near the end of October, date and time TBA. But that would put them around the same time as the Ringos; as of this writing, they apparently still think they’ll be presented in person at Batimore Comic Con, which apparently still thinks will happen at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Seriously, the calendar for the BCC shows COVID testing clinics, and every other event between now and BaltoCon listed as either virtual, canceled, or postponed (followed by a few more cancellations into November). You are not putting 15,000 people together in an enclosed space in a downtown metro area in six weeks, people. Just make the frigging call and go virtual, already.

Spam of the day:

Each citizen ONE TIME is entitled to financial assistance in the amount of 14,000 to 310,000 rubles

For the record, at today’s exchange rates, that’s between US$186 and US$4200, and you’re going to have to up your game. I’ve got Nigerian princes offering me millions.

Appropriately Distanced Celebrations Of Comics

Just under ten years ago, David “Damn You” Willis launched his rebooted Walkyverse¹ comic, Dumbing Of Age. In the 9 years, 11 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days since then, the story has progressed from college move-in day through about … eight weeks of story. Up to midterms or so, a rate of about 5 days of story time per real-world year.

Since Sunday, the story has wordlessly jumped forward three whole months, saving us about 15 years of daily reading. Given that Thursday is the actual tenth anniversary, I expect we’ll get one more timeskip update tomorrow, and we’ll finally reach second semester on Thursday. Which means that in four strips, Willis has shifted the rate of story time:real time up to ten years per sememster, meaning we’ll see graduation sometime in 2090 instead of 2170 at the old rate.

Given that comic strips have a long history of being passed down to third and even fourth generation creative teams, I have no doubt that Dumbing Of Age will still be running when graduation comes in, whenever that may be. In any event, congratulations to Willis on ten years of DOA and 23 years of continuous webcomicking. That’s a damn big round number.

In other news:

  • We’re down to the wire on the Ignatz voting, with votes due before 9 September, which means you have until 11:59pm EDT to get yours in. The bricks will be awarded on Saturday the 12th, which is actually a very leisurely turnaround time for the Ignatzen, with the tallies normally taking between close of the exhibit hall and 9:30pm the same day.

    For reference, given the poor situation that the Ignatzes have found themselves in, I voted Michael DeForge for Outstanding Artist rather than personal fave Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. In the Outstanding Onnline Comic category, I had a dilemma because the work is all very good. But what do you do when end up with a short editorial comic like I Exist (by Breena Nuñez) up against a words+pictures poem like Like The Tide (by Isabella Rotman), an Insta account of single-panel gags (by Gabby Schulz), and a long-stretches-silent, page-a-week updater like Superpose (by Seosamh & Anka). I tossed my vote to Witchy (by Ariel Ries) because I dig the story. Good luck to all of the nominees.

  • Know what else is happening this weekend, virtually? NCSFest. I lost track of it in the lockdown, but I got an email today that it’s going on this weekend, including the Reuben Awards, which will be broken up into six separate programs (the programming page doesn’t have hard start times, but the day’s programming starts at 10:00am EDT).

    I wasn’t involved in the process this year, so I couldn’t tell you anything about the webcomic awards beyond what’s been publicly shared. The Online Comics — Long Form nominees are Steven Conley for The Middle Age, Maaria Laurinen for Phantomland, and Alec Longstreth for Isle Of Elsi. The most interesting thing there is that Phantomland is on Tapas, which is about three revolutions in comicking beyond what a large part of the NCS membership is aware of.

    The nominees for Online Comics — Short Form are Jim Benton, Christopher Grady, and Emma Hunsinger. The short forms don’t have specific titles to go with the creators, but I’ll wager that Hunsinger is on the list because of How To Draw A Horse as much as anything else. That’s magnificent work, but so is Grady’s Lunarbaboon. Benton’s a one-man IP factory, but I think he’s outclassed by the other two.

    But the Reubens news that has me most curious isn’t in the Online categories, it’s the Big Award Of The Night, the Cartoonist Of The Year, the one that’s gone to folks like Schulz, Johnston, Watterson, Larson, Trudeau, Amend, Thompson, Guisewite, and other legends of cartooning. The nominees are:

    That’s three solid practitioners of the comic strip and one living legend in Lynda Barry. Also, four nominees where normally there are only three². Also, three women. And … wait, I’m being told that there’s a fifth nominee:

    Okay, the NCS almost never nominates somebody whose work is outside the newsprint mode — comic strips, editorial comics, magazine work, all periodicals is my point — and the last one to win Cartoonist Of The Year from outside that world was Matt Groening back in 2002³. I don’t think they’ve ever recognized a graphic novelist, and certainly not anybody whose medium is middle grade autobio aimed at girls.

    That sound you hear is the industry coming to grips with the fact that the literal Old Boys Club is fading from existence and getting replaced by those damn Millennials. Gonna have to figure out when that broadcast is and pay some damn attention to it.

Edit to add: The NCSFest schedule page now has start times for sessions, instead of just durations.

Spam of the day:

Currency printed is NOT wealth, real wealth is what we produce (in terms and goods and services) and exchanged for currency (a measure of your productivity).

Oh crap, this is a pitch for some new blockchain fantasy, which is even more of a fiction that actual money. Go peddle your shit to somebody that’s bad at math.

¹ So named because a series of related comics — Roomies!, It’s Walky!, Joyce And Walky!, and Shortpacked! — had one David “Walky” Walkerton as a central character, to whom all of the others could trace relationships. The Walkyverse itself debuted 13 years to the day before DOA.

² I mean, since Pastis broke his Susan Lucci streak last year, may as well open it up. [shrugmoji]

³ Okay, Glen Keane, animator, won a couple of years ago, but being the son of Bil Keane of The Family Circus means he’s part of that world. The only others I can think of are Sergio Aragonés and Will Eisner, the latter of whom won in 1998 — well past his creative peak, and clearly as a lifetime achievement.

This Post Is Procedurally Generated

Just kidding! If you were to feed the corpus of Fleen’s output (even just the stuff that appears under my name) into an AI and ask it to come up with a post, it would be nothing but lengthy sentences — excessively complex, even — with an abundance of parenthetical thoughts, and plentiful footnotes¹; they’d also have probably too many semicolons, as I do tend to go on at length. Approximately 5% of the content would read just a bit more formally, and be sprinkled with references to the Franco-Belgian bandes dessinées scene.

On the whole, it might not read significantly more nonsensical than some of my weirder stuff, though. But comics need to follow language rules that are different from prose — the introduction of pictures, word balloons, panels, and other visual elements can significantly change the plain meanings of words.

That hasn’t stopped some folks from seeing what they could with an AI and comics, though. Ryan North used a GPT-3 AI model to generate descriptions of Star Trek episodes and tweets out the best ones. Then he asked it to create the back half of a Dinosaur Comics strip, after coming up with the first half himself. The result was recognizably Northian, but not so much as an alternate strip that really nailed T-Rex and Utahraptor, but was too verbose to be used.

So it’s probably no surprise that an AI has been used to construct something comic-adjacent, as pointed to me by the Twitterfeed of Dylan Meconis:

I’ve been sending this list to friends and enemies alike all day long and it has universally reduced them to rubble. My October is now spoken for.

The list is question is for Botober, the AI bot-generated set of drawing prompts for the month of October, courtesy of Janelle Shane and GPT-3; it wasn’t trained specifically on drawing prompts, and thus a fair amount of curation was necessary to come up with 31 suggestions that wouldn’t melt brains. Earlier runs produced items like 5. An object that is not a doughnut but is also not a flower and 11. Ice cream flavor tuxedo and 23. Not an imitation of a pile of logs. Shane talked about how to get an AI to generate a list of prompts, and a couple of goes later came up with 31 items that range from Yeah, okay to What on the weirdness scale.

In case you don’t want to click through on the list above, I’ve transcribed the 31 official prompts for Botober for your drawing pleasure below the cut; spelling and punctuation match Shane’s original (with comments following a long dash). I expect to see your interpretations of and widely distributed on their respective days.

Oh, and don’t forget — free graphic novel for you, maybe.

Spam of the day:

I really need a man for infrequent intimate dates without obligations. On my territory. I live nearby.

I chose the spam that sounds the most botlike, although that could just be because it was originally in Russian and machine translated.

¹ Probably mentioning how Brad Guigar is a sexy, sexy man.


When You Have To Quote Richard, Things Have Gone Sideways

Sometimes, things can happen for entirely innocent reasons and still make you say, in the immortal words of Richard Strong, This is not good.

A little history, which is at this point so historical I barely remembered it. A buncha years ago, before this blog got off the ground, the Ignatz Awards came in for some controversy because one of the panel of judges nominated himself for awards and wound up on the ballot. It was Frank Cho, and if my memory serves, he was kind of a dick about it when it was pointed out that such behavior doesn’t pass the smell test. Paraphrasing, his argument was Well, I think my work was the best of the year, so why shouldn’t I be a part of putting myself on the ballot? which just … yeesh. To his credit, he’s reportedly seen his conduct then as a mistake.

The bigger mistake? Not writing rules into the Ignatz process to prevent that from ever happening again. As readers of this page know, I am very much in favor of Rosemary Vallero-O’Connell’s work, and given the enormous number of awards she’s taken over the past year, it seems I’m not alone. Furthermore, I think she’s just a neat person, and I don’t believe that she’s got a malicious or selfish bone in her body. The fact that she’s nominated in the Ignatzen this year for Outstanding Artist is entirely merited.

Except this year, she’s on the nominating jury. I’m going to say that there’s, mathematically speaking, a zero percent chance that she nominated herself, but I can’t believe that there’s no rule about recusal/ineligibility¹/whatever you want to call it. It just doesn’t look good, and it’s caught up somebody that doesn’t deserve to be mired in controversy. For everybody’s sake, Ignatz coordinators, make sure this doesn’t happen again, please.

Ultimately, who gets the bricks is in the hands of the voters now, and as mentioned recently, that could include you. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but please — don’t vote for Valero-O’Connell, because I’m pretty sure this is a circumstance where winning would be worse than losing. We’ve had enough comics awards fuckery this year, we don’t need any more.

Thoughts on this year’s nominees to come, particularly after I receive my ballot (they should have been distributed starting yesterday, but I won’t get nervous for another couple of days).

Oh, and reminder — the free graphic novel giveaway is still going on. Tell your friends.

Spam of the day:

gary.tyrrell Welcome to CarInsurance

Not content with emailing me, these folks actually called to try to scam me. I told them My car insurance company has rates lower than anybody else by at least 15%, and they’ve sent me three rebates on this year’s bills because COVID means people are driving less and therefore their expenses are less than anticipated. They hung up on me, either because of that or because I told them my name was Harry Mourningwood.

¹ Want to know the gold standard for this? Dog shows. You can have problems with the idea of breeding dogs for physical conformation instead of health or temperament, but there’s something they do very right — judges are almost always themselves competitive breeders, but when they’re picked to judge at a big show?

They stop competing for a year or more in advance so that there’s zero chance that one of their dogs might conceivably win or lose against a dog they’d have to judge later, just so there is no circumstance where bias could be credible.

Ringo Redux

Revisiting yesterday’s post, we can add a bit more on the two things that got way the hell under my skin, the lack of a nominees listing for the Ringo Awards and the reality-blind full speed ahead intention of the Baltimore Comic Con to take place in person. Let’s take ’em in reverse order.

  • The BCC (that would be the Con) seems intent on the fiction that in two months, they’ll be seeing all of you in 3D at the BCC (that would be the Baltimore Convention Center). One more reason that the Con Committee needs to change their messaging to Sorry, we’ll see you in 2021, everybody be safe was added in a comment by reader Rob Nobody:

    I feel compelled to point out that the Baltimore Convention Center is ALSO the primary public COVID-19 testing center in Baltimore. (I just got tested today for the second time; very quick and smooth operation and have been getting our results in ~36 hours, highly recommend as much as one CAN recommend getting that thing jabbed up your nose into your sinuses.) So yeah, if the Comic Con people think they have a chance in hell of actually doing this in person, they are in for a RUDE awakening.

    Just pointing that out because the ConCom apparently doesn’t know.

  • Right, the Ringos. They are, hands down, the weirdest awards in comics, with a complex structure designed (at least it’s my reading) to deal with the critiques that jury-nominated awards don’t match up with fan interests, and fan-nominated awards can be gamed by block voting. Thus, there are four entirely different kinds of awards at the Ringos:
    • OPEN+JURY NOMINATED AWARDS: Two nominees will be selected by an open, online nomination process. The remaining three nominees will be selected by a jury of comics industry professionals. A tie among the jury’s choices may result in more than five nominees in a category.
    • OPEN NOMINATED AND VOTED AWARDS: All the nominees and the winner of these five categories will be selected by open voting. The five top Fan-Only Favorites will be announced at the Award Ceremony in September at the Baltimore Comic-Con. A winner in a given year’s Fan Favorite category is not eligible to be nominated in that category the following year.
    • THE MIKE WIERINGO SPIRIT AWARD: The nominated works will be voted on by the professional jury as well as three additional, perennial jurors: Matt Wieringo, Todd Dezago, and Mark Waid.
    • THE HERO INITIATIVE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AND DICK GIORDANO HUMANITARIAN AWARDS: These award are selected by Hero Initiative and will be announced at the Ringo Awards Ceremony.

    It’s only the first cohort that has a proper ballot, as the second is all write-in and the third and fourth are closed processes. Since we spoke yesterday, the Ringos have made public the nominees for the 17 Open+Jury categories, 8 which have five nominees and 9 of which have between 6 and 9 nominees. Folks, this is getting overly complicated already.

    Look, I’m not going to fault the jury for having ties, but when you’re supposed to come up with 3 nominees and you end up with as many as 7, you need to pare that down a little. I’ve been part of a jury process eight times (holy crap), and we’ve had protracted voting rounds to get down to three nominees every single time.

    You’ve got to work it down because if you’ve got eight or nine nominees, you’re going to have a winner with somewhere in the 20% range of votes. It’s a situation tailor-made to get the most excitable, antisocial, attack-oriented chuds (and no, I’m not naming their little hate movement here because fuck those guys) screaming about how the real fans were excluded by secret SJW cabals trying to destroy comics and also tits.

    Anyways, you can find web- and indie comickers up and down the ballot, including in Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist) (which features alternative/political comics makers alongside arthouse comics makers alongside strip cartoonists alongside monthly floppy folks alongside Raina, just in case you were wondering), Best Writer (where you’ll find Mariko Tamaki), Best Artist Or Penciller (including Fleen fave Rosemary Vallero-O’Connell), Best Single Issue Or Story (which includes Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers), Best Original Graphic Novel (Hot Comb again but weirdly this category has essentially zero overlap with the Cartoonist, Writer, and Artist categories in terms of people and their work both being nominated), Best Comic Strip Or Panel (including Nancy by Olivia Jaimes, Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Andersen, The Middle Age by Steve Conley, and specifically Pia Guerra’s comics at The Nib but looks like not anybody else), and Best Kids Comic Or Graphic Novel (Guts).

    The Best Webomic category has seven nominees:

    The category is dominated that what you’d call graphic novels updated in chunks, with only Penny Arcade following the strip format.

    But the one that’s most unlike the others is Rocío Diestra, which is a) on Instagram (which means I can’t really read it because fuck Zuckerberg), b) single comics panels interspersed with photos and other content, and c) in Spanish. From what I can see, the art style is reminiscent of Gemma Correll, so that’s all right. I’m intrigued and honestly surprised that Americans would nominate something not in English.

If you want to vote on stuff, you can do so here. The winners will be announced on 24 October, but despite what both websites say there is zero chance that this will be a presentation at Baltimore Comic Con.

Spam of the day:

In general, I recently broke up with our mutual friend (if interested, I’ll tell you later when we meet)
Well, now I need a man for hot, but very pleasant meetings.

The only mutual friend we might have that speaks Russian is John, who I knew in college, and who learned to drink from Russians one summer on a work exchange in Orel back before the Berlin Wall came down (and thus was responsible a year later for the single most epic drunk incident at my college in the entirety of the 80s). He’s why I have a genuine Red Army furry hat, which he got in trade for an old, worn-out pair of New Balances I was going to discard. Fun fact: John’s wife doesn’t speak Russian so I think you might be fibbing.

Opposite Coasts, Opposite Approaches

We’ll get to the title reference in a moment, but I want to call out something first. Yesterday I spent quite a bit of space talking about Shing Yin Khor’s meditation/poem in comics form, Stone Fruit Season why, my goodness, you really should go read right now if you haven’t yet. If you have, read it again.

Anyways, when you’re done reading Stone Fruit Season, you might want to check out the comment below yesterday’s post from reader David Cortesi, who notes that Stone Fruit Season contains a number of references to TS Eliot’s The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock. Having spent most of my nerd school humanities electives on history and political science, I wasn’t familiar with Prufrock (or really, much of Eliot’s work except to be aware that his poems are the root cause of why people got purposefully very drunk/high to watch a movie and have been clamoring for The Butthole Cut.

But now I’ve read Prufrock and yeah, I think Cortesi is onto something. So thanks for that, I learned something today. Namely, that while I can’t say that I’m suddenly an Eliot fanboy, I can see how he set the stage for modern poets poems I do enjoy, including one in particular that I once traded a hand-transcribed copy of to The Space Gnome in exchange for admission to an interstellar trade guild. I love it when circles close so neatly.


Okay, time to get a bit more serious about thing, as I have to look at two comics institutions that are (at least as of the time of this writing) taking two entirely different approaches to the dominant issue of our time, the novel coronavirus pandemic.

  • On the one hand, you have the Cartoon Art Museum (who I was always going to write about today), who are running an auction to benefit the museum and its programs. Specifically, they are holding the Shelter-In-Place Fundraising Auction:

    The Cartoon Art Museum’s galleries were locked down following a statewide mandate issued on March 15, and our staff took immediate steps to adapt, developing online exhibitions, workshops, and conferences, sharing resources with other institutions, and seeking alternative sources to offset the revenue lost from our temporary closure.

    Members of the creative community have stepped up to help the Cartoon Art Museum and offer assistance during these uncertain times, and many cartoonists offered original art for the museum’s forthcoming Shelter-In-Place Fundraising Auction. Comic book artists, graphic novelists, comic strip artists, and animators have contributed artwork from their own archives for this ongoing online auction, which will help us continue our mission to ignite imaginations and foster the next generation of visual storytellers by celebrating the history of cartoon art, its role in society, and its universal appeal.

    That link will take you to a preview of items to be auctioned, the first of which will go up tomorrow, Thursday, 27 August, at CAM’s Ebay page with new items listed weekly. Props to everybody at CAM for finding a way to continue on in the face of closure.

  • On the other hand, you have something I had no idea I was going to write about today, except I happened to see a related story that caught my eye and subsequently raised my ire. The Ringo Awards announced today that their final ballots are decided, and voting is now open. So far, so good. But nowhere on their site (so near as I can tell) do they actually list the names on the ballot categories unless you provide an email address to register to vote.

    No. I’m not providing an email address for the privilege of researching information that should be public. I spent a significant amount of time poking around the Ringo Awards site looking for anyplace that has the categories and final nominees, and nothing. As of this writing, the sole communication from TRA on their Twitter account since late June is to say Hey, Kids! Comics award ballots! Vote and we’ll tell you who’s on them!¹.

    It was in my poking around in vain that I came across the following, which is on the home page, just above the list of this year’s judges:

    The fourth annual awards will return as part of the fan- and pro-favorite convention, The Baltimore Comic-Con. Top honors will be announced Saturday, October 24, 2020.

    That can’t be right, I thought, nobody could expect less than two months out from an event that regularly tops 15,000 people is going to be held indoors. That would be unbelievably irresponsible. So I went over to the BCC page, where (as near as I can tell) neither the words coronavirus nor COVID appear. The About/General Info page mentions exclusives, hotels, and sponsorships, but nothing about public health. The News page features a tickets on sale story from last November and literally nothing more recent.

    They are planning to hold this thing in person. There’s no other interpretation. They’re pushing tickets, advertising guests, and not acknowledging the elephant — the entire friggin’ population of African elephants gathered together into one improbable herd — in the room.

    Okay, they’re not good at communicating, I thought, but the absence of newer news doesn’t excuse this. The past ten days have been nothing but stories from around the country of schools — ranging from local public up through large universities — resuming classes and immediately having to shut down because of massive COVID outbreaks. The Frequently Asked Questions is about ticketing, how kids have to stay with parents, rules on celebrity group photos, how VIPs can enter the hall 30 minutes early, and their privacy policy. They are not acknowledging reality here, and it is dangerous.

    Well, maybe they’re just waiting for somebody else to pull the plug? I thought. In that case, there should at least be a statement about how they are carefully assessing the situation with respect to everybody’s safety, and oh, I dunno, recognizing that every other con canceled more than two months out? The Baltimore Convention Center has, right there its front page, a link to a Re-Opening FAQ that says, and I quote:

    The Baltimore Convention Center is currently unable to host events during the current State of Emergency enacted by Governor Hogan in March of this year. Events will take place again when the state of emergency has been lifted.

    They aren’t allowing more than 10 people at a time to make site visits (and are strongly encouraging virtual visits) to decide if they want to take a gamble on booking the convention center sometime 12 – 14 months from now. The city of Baltimore — home of Johns Hopkins and the best epidemiologists in the world, they are not fucking around with this thing — is currently at Phase 2 of reopening² and as of yesterday is meeting criteria to revert to Phase 1³. You’ve got all the justification needed to make a decision, stop jerking off in public, Baltimore Comic Con Committee.

    Call off the godsdamned con. And if they don’t and you decide to attend, stay the fuck away from me.

Spam of the day:
Know what? No spam today. I’ve had enough stupidity for one day.

¹ If you want to participate in the public voting portion of the multipartite Ringos, you have until 23 September. If you do and feel like sharing the nominees, I’ll run the list here at some point.

² No direct link to that screen; follow the link provided and click the button for Reopening Phases. Screenshot taken 26 August 2020, approximately 4:00pm EDT.

³ Again, no direct link; go to the button for Reopening Indicators. Screenshot taken 26 August 2020, approximately 4:00pm.

You Know How Fiction Can Illuminate Truths About Reality?

Got a couple of things to mention today, starting with a prime example of how science fiction and fantasy are ultimately always about the society you live in now. Let’s just say you don’t need to know 1200+ strips of complex (somtimes very complex) plot to get how the latest update of Order Of The Stick could apply to all kinds of situations today. Well done, Rich Burlew.

Readers may recall that :01 Books have had a couple of con-like virtual events under the title of Comics Relief, the first in April and the second in June be sure to check out the replays of the sessions — the various process events are interesting from a craft perspective, and the three that involve :01 creative director Mark Siegel are a masterclass in how to conduct an interview that flows like a conversation.

Readers may also recall how this page has discussed the impact that :01 Books has had on comics beyond its own backlist of authors, on account of :01 alumni have gone on to other publishers and imprints and how Siegel’s vision of what comics could be is now essentially the mission statement for the entire industry.

Finally, readers had damn well better recall that one of those alumni is Gina Gagliano, a woman not only tasked with launching a new graphic novel imprint in a too-brief timeframe, but also with a debut season beset by a worldwide pandemic. Okay, that last bit wasn’t planned, but she’s got to deal with it all the same. Gagliano knows you have to roll with the punches, and if there’s not been a third Comics Relief in a while now, she’s just gonna have to pitch in with something similar:

Random House Graphic is announcing an exciting kickoff to the fall season with “Falling for Graphic Novels,” a series of virtual events in September hosted by five indie bookstores across the United States.

The panels will feature Random House Graphic’s creators and allow attendees to discover and virtually visit new stores around the country. Each panel will focus on a theme in kids and YA comics, allowing readers to immerse themselves in stories of magic and heroes, queer and diverse representation, and even an interactive art class.

The celebration will give attendees an in-depth look at this exciting medium that continues to grow in popularity and show the power and breadth of visual storytelling. The series begins Wednesday, September 2, with a new event each week.

The five events will be:

Click on any of the five titles to go to the reservations page.

There are some great names in there, but I’m particularly interested in the first one because Oliver Sava is one of the very best writers about comics working today. The LGBTQ+ session also looks great, but I’ll have to catch whatever replay is available, as Tuesday is EMT duty night. And did you notice Gagliano’s old boss is a panelist on the last session? Siegel doesn’t just publish graphic novels, he makes them, and the Five Worlds series has been at Penguin Random House since before RHG was formed as a single gathering point.

I was going to talk about one thing more today, but I think I’ll let it sit until tomorrow; it’s getting late to hit Publish and also I want another day to absorb before I’m ready to talk about Shing Yin Khor’s latest meditation in comics form.

Spam of the day:

I have been waiting for you since to contact me regarding your winning amount of US$2, 100, 000.00 (Two Million One Hundred Thousand United State Dollars) loaded on your ATM Visa Card which we discussed. We are duly interred switched, therefore you can make withdrawal in any location of ATM Machine Center Cash point of your choice in any part of the world and the maximum you can withdraw a day is $5,000 US Dollar.

A good, old fashioned 419 scam? That takes me back.

COVID Or No, We Should Recognize Good Work

One of the casualties of the pandemic, event-wise, was the annual Queer Comics Expo, which is sponsored by the good folks at the Cartoon Art Museum. It should have taken place back in May but you know, everything. One of the features of the QCE is the annual Prism Awards, which are now being presented virtually and open to all and sundry:

Prism Comics, Queer Comics Expo and the Cartoon Art Museum are excited to announce that the 2020 Prism Awards will be held virtually as a two-day livestream celebration event free and open to everyone online. Held Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th from 2:00pm — 5:00pm Pacific time, the event will feature panels with the finalists and judges leading up to the awards ceremony!

Details on how to tune in will be released soon. For updates on the September 19 & 20 celebration RSVP through to receive reminders and the information to join. You do not need to RSVP to attend. How to watch will be shared by all three entities, Prism Comics, Queer Comics Expo and the Cartoon Art Museum, through social media and press.

That from the email that CAM sent me, which also included a list of the Prism Awards finalists. Some names that you will surely recognize are to be found there:

  • The Webcomic nominees are The Girl that Can’t Get a Girlfriend by Mieri Hiranishi, Cafe Suada by Jade Sarson, and Magical Boy by The Kao; the fact that two of the three nominees are on aggregator sites (Webtoons and Tapas) says something about the shifting nature of webcomics as a whole, I think.
  • The Short Form nominees are In Search of Absent Pigments by Alex Assan and Lin Darrow [Editor’s note: the nomination only lists Assan, but Assan’s own site credits Darrow, so I’ve included them here], Pseudo Slut Transmission by Emma Jayne, and One Day Out by Ina Bestari.
  • Longer form individual stories are broken up by the size of the publisher’s reach, so there are two groupings. Small/Midsize Press nominees are Trans Girls Hit The Town by Emma Jayne (a 2019 Ignatz winner), Lemonade Summer by Gabi Mendez, and Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman. The categories are a little fuzzy, as Pseudo Slut Transmission is only about six pages shorter than Trans Girls Hit The Town, which was counted as a minicomic for the purposes of Ignatz categories.
  • The Mainstream Press nominees were certainly spoiled for choice this year, but ultimately settled on Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T Crenshaw.
  • Finally, the Anthology category consists of Come Together edited by Tab Kimpton and Alex Assan, Heartwood edited by Joamette Gil, and Shout Out edited by Steven Andrews.

Five categories and fifteen nominated works means that a two-day virtual event can give great, huge gobs of time to each of the nominees. If you weren’t familiar with a particular work, by the end of the weekend you surely will be. Oh, and take a gander at the announcement and scroll down to the bottom, where you’ll find a list of all 27 judges plus the organizing committee; there’s lots of great people involved.

Spam of the day:

The anti-crisis program, as if you spend $ 10 you will earn $ 500 in one day!

A fifty times rate of return? Why, I could spend just a hundo a day for a month and be set for the next couple of years! What could possibly go wrong?

A Little Holeboxing Day Joy

As I trust you all remember, yesterday was Holemas, the day that we commemorate Ryan North getting stuck in a hole. In fact, yesterday was the 5th Holemas, the original adventure having taken place in 2015. And if yesterday was Holemas, that makes today Holeboxing Day, when the mighty give gifts to the meek.

And who — who, I ask you — is mightier than Strong Bad? Nobody, that’s who. And since it is long-standing doctrine in these parts the Homestar*Runner is a webcomic, I wanted to tell you about something the estimable Mr Bad has coming up, along with some friends of his.

One of the side effects of the Oh Glob, We’re Going To Be Like This Forever Thanks To Incompetent Federal Behavior pandemic is that live shows pretty much don’t exist, unless you’re Smash Mouth and you feel like doing your damndest to to Sturgis, South Dakota into the latest contact-tracing nexus. It’s a tough thing, relying on people that will pay you to be in the same space at the same time as you, but some internet-centric musicians have been doing remote concertlike events for some time, and I’m not saying that COVIDtimes are good times for them, but they’re at least a bit ahead of the curve in figuring out how to ply their trade.

Enter: The Doubleclicks, nerdy musicians par excellence. They’ve been running shows everywhere from straight YouTube to inside Animal Crossing for a bit now, and they’re ready to bring a bunch of their nerdiest friends together for a big ol’ show of music and comedy on Saturday, 22 August at 6:00pm PDT/9:00pm EDT:

Join Internet musicians Jonathan Coulton, the Doubleclicks, Nur-D and Molly Lewis for an evening of music, comedy and love, with lots of special guests including: Hal Lublin (Thrilling Adventure Hour, Nightvale), Danielle Radford (SyFy’s Great Debate), Strongbad (Homestarrunner), Zach Reino (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Kim Evey (The Guild), and SO MANY MORE, with sketches written by Kayla Cagan (Piper Perish) and produced by Ben Blacker (Thrilling Adventure Hour)!

It’s like one of those big variety shows at conventions with lots of cameos and funny bits, except it’s in your house, and it’s very very very well-organized, because we’re running it.

That from the email that Los Dobles Clics sent me because I give them money in exchange for their albums, but also on their website. Due to the number of folks performing, it won’t be a tip jar kind of situation, it’ll be a ticketed event, moreso because the show is a benefit for MacArthur Project and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief — proceeds will be used to obtain food, medicine, shelter, hygiene supplies, and other needs of LA denizens without homes.

Getting your ticket now means you’ll get an email with the link for the livestream (which will be replayble until Sunday, 6 September at midnight EDT) instead of waiting for a possibly over-busy website at showtime. Tickets are US$6.50, with an option to make an additional donation of any amount on top.

And because you’d like to know who all is on the bill, in addition to amazing superstar headliner Strong Bad and special guests The Doubleclicks, you’ll also have Jonathan Coulton, Nur-D, Molly Lewis, Amy Dallen, Aydrea Walden, Hal Lublin, Lexie Grace, Danielle Radford, Kim Evey, The Library Bards, Mary Robinette Kowal, Paul and Storm, and Zach Reino, in an extravaganza written by Laser Malena-Weber and Kayla Cagan.

Honestly, it’s a little too much entertainment for the cost of a fancy coffee and two-thirds of a pastry to go with it. It’s not like it’ll sell out, but get your tickets ahead of time anyway; when they see how much they’ve raised for the cause, the performers will put that much more love into the show.

Spam of the day:

We’ve developed the bots to act as salespeople in order to generate a consistent source of quality leads. They’re not only outperforming a typical sales persons workload by the equivalent of ten times, but they also drive down lead costs by a phenomenal amount.

This was sent to me because I’m the listed tech contact for my EMS agency’s website. I’m half-tempted to see if their bots can actually generate more sick and injured people and if they can, to get them shut down because it’ll be the friggin’ robot apocalypse.