The webcomics blog about webcomics

It’s Apparently Vocabulary Day At Fleen

If you’ve not yet read How The Best Hunter In The Village Met Her Death, get on that. It’s been occupying a large amount of my mental bandwidth with its Ostertagian goodness since yesterday¹, so I’m not sure how much I’d be able to talk about today. The fact that KC Green and Anthony Clark met goal on BACK Book 2 and thus need not destroy all you know and love might have been in my ability today, but maybe not.

So it’s a good thing that Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has (as is his wont) sent along a dispatch from the further shores in my hour of need, without prompting. He’s a marvel.

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There have been a few interesting developments in our ongoing coverage of creator activities in festivals. If you just tuned in, just know that comics creators never charge readers for sketches in French-language comics festivals or other meetups, and there is a growing movement that creators sketching be recognized as the main attraction of a comics festival, and as a result that creators be paid to provide this animation.

Now, it is important to realize that the current arrangement would be unfair to creators regardless of the context, but it is true that the recent challenges to this state of affairs indirectly come from the overproduction crisis affecting the industry, which results in the degradation of revenues comics creators do have (advances, royalties, etc.), threatening their livelihood. Add to that changes in taxation that, while affecting any kind of income for everyone, exacerbate their difficult situation, and, well, you have a recipe for unrest.

And that is the situation where the Salon du Livre de Paris found wise to go with Hey, how about we don’t necessarily pay creators for contributing to conferences, panels, or workshops?

The Salon du Livre de Paris², set up by Reed Exhibitions, a for-profit company, on behalf of the Syndicat National de l’Edition, a trade group of publishers, is most definitely a for-profit endeavor contrary to most comics festivals (e.g. to the best of my knowledge they do not make use of volunteer labor), so that skimpy attitude stung even more when participating creators found out about it when discussing it between themselves. Worse, some turned out to be paid for these contributions, but others not, with no discernible pattern.

So creators complained, very publicly, rallying around the hashtag #payetonauteur (pay your creator). While the Charte des Auteurs, representing child lit creators, relatively quickly obtained the guarantee child lit creators would be paid for their efforts, this of course left everyone else, so the campaign continued, with Emilie “Bulledop”, a booktuber, and other creators announcing they would not attend in the current conditions, and cartoonists such as Cy advocating the cause to the public and trying to rally support.

It’s not worth going too much over how the Salon de Livre de Paris justified their position (they tried to claim that creators would actually be promoting their own work through their contributions, therefore no pay), because after a few days of pressure … victory! They relented and announced all contributions from creators would be paid … except for signings; that part will remain a battle for another day.

And while the Salon du Livre de Paris is now over (creator revendications³ did show themselves, but it went smoothly overall), the struggle goes on, now to try and obtain better statutory protections, especially in the context of the incoming general reforms in France (e.g. unemployment, retirement, ongoing training, etc.). We have probably not seen the end of it.

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Many thanks for FSFCPL, and is your mind as blown as mine by the bit at the end? Creators seeking legal protections against exploitative circumstances at shows? In the US, we can’t even get major publishers to not offer illegal internships. Thankfully, others understand that treating people well forms a pipeline for the skills you need to keep your business running (heck, I’m tempted to take a leave from my frustrating job and apply for that :01 Books internship myself).


Spam of the day:

Discrete, Beautiful, Women Waiting For You

Wait, you mean the Asian mail-order brides you’re advertising are distinct and separate individuals? Awesome, I’ve never really been into hive minds. Now, are they also careful and circumspect in their speech and actions, so as to avoid causing offense or gain advantage?

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¹ Along with a narrowing from some late night EMS calls and not enough sleep in the past 24 hours.

² Which covers prose books and children books in addition to comics.

Editor’s note: Reed Exhibitions (a division of RELX Group, formerly Reed Elsevier) is the parent company of Reed!Pop, who run NYCC and bought (and greatly changed) Emerald City Comic Con. Reed Exhibitions do a lot of trade shows worldwide, and their mastery of forms as diverse as the boat show or the home improvement show reveals that they try to treat their events according to a standard script. But comics are neither boats nor building contractors.

³ This is not only a French word, but apparently also an English word. Revendication: action of claiming back or recovering a rightful possession, according to the folks at Oxford. Learn something new every day! In this sense, I’d say it’s close remonstrances mixed with vindication — creators had to get a bit loud and noisity to make sure they weren’t ignored or run over.

How Does He Do It?

By he, I naturally mean Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, who sent along an unlooked-for update on what’s happening in France, on a day where I’m being subjected to thundersnow. Wet, heavy, needs-to-be-cleared gods-damned thundersnow. Thundersnow that has already caused Pénélope Bagieu’s book tour appearance in Philadelphia tonight to cancel. In other words, he has anticipated my hour of need and delivered unto us an interesting occurrence (and subsequent lessons learned) from Le Monde du Bandes Dessinées Web. Onwards …

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What can you do when you’ve committed yourself to fai[re] un truc de fou (do[ing] something crazy) in a stretch goal?

You probably remember our coverage of the launch of Maliki’s Tipeee campaign and our followup interview, and it’s been going strong ever since.

One interesting aspect is that, given that Tipeee enables one-off contributions, this means each month is the start of a new crowdfunding campaign; of course, it does not reset to zero at the start of the month, rather at the amount of recurring contributions, but otherwise each month is different from the next: the illustrated print changes from month to month, which results in the total at the end of the month fluctuating, sometimes dipping to about 9000 €, but generally reaching the 10,000 € stretch goal, and once reaching up to about 13,000 €.

For January, the illustration Maliki unveiled was not only of a fan-favorite character, but was also the counterpart of an illustration created a few years ago; and while I am not up to date on my Maliki lore, I believe they represent an important event in the backstory of these characters.

As soon as the illustration was unveiled, the counters went crazy. Starting from about 8700 € at the time, the total quickly reached the 10,000 € stretch goal, and then after a few more hours went over the previous record. But it did not stop there. Remember from the interview the mention of the ludicrous stretch goal, the one that was never meant to be reached?

It was cleared (at 15,000 €) with time to spare, and the total ended up at 17,000 €.

While the description of that stretch goal varied before, for the last few months it had simply read je fais un truc de fou (I do something crazy). And now it was as if the contributors had collectively dared Maliki OK, now do something crazy. Oh no.

Understandably, Team Maliki asked for a bit of time in order to come up with something suitably crazy, even taking suggestions from contributors. And last week, they eventually unveiled it in a special broadcast¹: they are going to sponsor an animal shelter called le radeau des animaux through various means: immediate contributions so that they may complete their facilities, but also ongoing money support, illustration work (e.g.: visual identity), etc.

I think we can draw a few lessons here:

  • To borrow from C Spike Trotman, doing fan art may provide short term success², but building up your IP will result in readers supporting you more in the ways that eventually matter.
  • Stretch goals end up building on each other: that month the 10,000 € stretch goal was for getting the previous illustration in the diptych along with the new one at no additional cost, which made subscribing to the cheetah pledge level (where you get that month’s illustration) an even more attractive option, resulting in more contributions coming. In fact, there being a new illustration for the month is itself a stretch goal, though at 5000 €, it is reached every month.
  • This all went down during the same day (31st of January), in eight hours, from about 16:00 to 23:59 CET. When you have a good connection with your audience, support can come very fast.
  • Do not tempt fate in a crowdfunding campaign, because you never know how far contributors will go and make you live up to your commitments.

Pourriel du jour:

http://enjoy.phonefurry.com

At the risk of kinkshaming, nnnnnoooooppppe.

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¹ The broadcast also included live watercolor drawings, live play of antique games, and Maine Coon licking action³, so that readers could get something, too.

² Though I have to admit to sometimes buying one of their fan art illustrations. What can I say, I am weak.

³ Gary here; get your minds out of the gutter, people. Also, FSFCPL informs me the cats are at 2:08:41 in the video

It Is A Pleasure To Be Back

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

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

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

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

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


Spam of the day:

Patron Initial Coin Offering

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

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

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

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

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

Clever Students And News of Dessinatrices

This may be my professional bias talking, or my innate sense that engineering is the most fun you can have in the physical and mental worlds simultaneously, but there may be nobody taking comics into more exciting directions than Lucas Landherr¹ of Surviving The World. As has been mentioned on this page more than once, Landherr has been making comics (with a variety of artists) to explain the trickier concepts in his discipline (that would be Chemical Engineering²), and of late he’s been inspiring his students to do the same.

As a class project last semester, his students produced new ways of explaining key bits o’ esoteric knowledge, ranging from their own comics (on convection, or heat transfer, or heat exchangers) to video (on heat transfer, or on heat transfer but with a Queen song³). It’s cool stuff, and I get the feeling in that last video that I’ve seen some of the tics that Professor Landherr exhibits in class, and I definitely fear — nearly 30 years distant from my own graduation — to ever take a class with Professor Satvat, judging by how often he shows up in these projects.

From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin:

These ladies had messages to express with their comics in 2017, and you can bet they will persist in 2018.

Our thanks, as always, to FSFCPL for keeping us up on Gallic comics happenings.


Spam of the day:

Hi Gary,
I saw you tweeting about reading and I thought I’d check out your website. I really like it. Looks like Gary has come a long way!

Not only has Gary come a long way, everything’s coming up Milhouse Gary!

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¹ Alter-ego of mild-mannered chalkboard enthusiast Dante Shepherd.

² Which, as a proud Electrical Engineer, I might concede almost involves more difficulty and scholarship than my own chosen field.

³ Very cool thing I noticed — judging from the clock on the wall in the lecture portion of the video, the Landherr-spoofing scene was done with few (if any) reshoots.

4 If you need a refresher, these are comics specifically designed to be read by scrolling on a smartphone screen; they are a big deal (not to mention big business (French-only)) in Japan and South Korea.

Late Post Because Digging Out

I will not use the name that The Weather Channel has decided to bestow on this storm; naming is for tropical storms, agreed upon by various national forecasting entities, and not something created for branding purposes. The being said, we’ll all remember January 2018 as when we learned what a bomb cyclone is, and I will always remember the toll on my spine that clearing my driveway cost. Ouch.

To the rescue comes Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, who’s been looking at North American French-language webcomics. Spoiler alert: there’s more of them than you thought.

There is no question that France and the French-speaking areas in the neighboring countries house a vibrant community of online comics creators. But my attributions extend further than that, way beyond France … and in particular to Canada, which houses a community of French-speaking webcartoonists.

To begin with, I can’t avoid Gisèle Lagacé (aka Giz), best known as the creator of Ménage à 3 of course, as well as for her collaborations with T Campbell: Penny and Aggie and Cool Cat Studio, but she’s had her hand in way too many webcomics for me to list here, and now she is also doing gigs for print comics such as Archie Meets The Ramones, Josie And The Pussycats, Betty Boop, Jem And The Holograms, etc … (I sense a theme here).

And I also have to mention Isabelle Melançon, who not only draws Namesake, but is also a pillar of Hiveworks.

But while they create in English (notwithstanding the bits of French by Didi in Ménage à 3), I am most interested in these Canadian creators who publish in French, as they use a rather specific dialect of French. Compared to French as used in Europe, there are not just differences in pronunciation (think pəˈteɪtoʊ, pəˈtɐtoʊ)¹ or spelling; Québécquois have whole words like chum (boyfriend) that no one in Europe understands

They also use char for a car (voiture is used in regular French), pepper their speech with maudit (cursed) for emphasis, avoid words like tampon (stamp) unless they are referring to the feminine hygiene product (they instead translate stamp by étampe), scold French people who say week-end or other English words which have crept in common usage in France and instead go out of their way to say fin de semaine and the other proper French equivalents of these … but will say fun or peanut without batting an eye even though they are basically unknown in France. And lastly, they swear through the use of words from the Catholic liturgy: hostie, calice, tabernacle, etc.

For a first taste, begin by those three:

  • Samantha Leriche-Gionet, aka Boum, creates Boumeries (English version), which is an interesting mix of French-style autobio/comic blog for the theme with a more classical webcomic strip format. She deals with motherhood, but not only, and it’s just adorable.
  • Olivier Bernard, on the other hand, creates Le Pharmachien (English version: The Pharmafist) from his experience as a pharmacist in French-speaking Canada, which has in turn led to books, lectures, and even a TV program! Dont miss his comics about allergies (and pretend ones), the dubious marketing of over-the-counter drugs, and … the octane number?! (none of which have been translated, unfortunately). Bonus: a cheat sheet for some local expressions.
  • Zviane creates, quite simply, the quintessential blogue BD. Travelogues, recaps, personal experiences, skecthes, etc. It’s all there.

Thanks, as always to FSFCPL. I’ma go find me some ibuprofène.


Spam of the day:

The Triad Theater, 120 Seat Capacity, is interested in booking your show

Amazingly, this is a spam that doesn’t appear to be a scam of some sort, but heck if I can tell how I wound up on their list. Other Gary Tyrrell, are you putting together some kind of traveling trombone revue?

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¹ Editor’s note: I am responsible for that stab at IPA, and any mistakes are my fault.

New Year, New Stuff

Or at least, some of it will be new to you. Onwards!

  • It’s been a considerable time since the heyday of Webcomics Weekly¹, and the logistics of wrangling four people — when there are kids and other time demands — means we won’t ever get that back. Brad Guigar’s had conversations with movers and/or shakers via his own Kickstarts and Webcomics Dot Com, and he’s been talking to Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett somewhat regularly lately² (especially in/around Patreon’s troubles), and it’s clear they’ve got the bug again.

    Thus, a new Patreon and a new podcast very much in the mold of Webcomics Weekly:

    Welcome to the ComicLab Podcast, the new show about makin’ comics, and makin’ a living from comics.

    If you loved Webcomics Weekly, you’re gonna love this show: It’s half shop-talk, half how-to, and half friendship. WE SQUEEZED IN THREE HALVES.

    Everything launched yesterday, and they appear to have gone from three Patreon supporters to 29 in the past 24 hours; if you want to draw extrapolations, by the end of the month their supporter count will either be 728 (assuming they add 26 each day), or 24,254,780,439,831,450 times the population of the Earth (assuming they grow by 8 1/3 times every day), or maybe predictions are garbage. In any event, give ‘er a listen, and leave plenty of time for laugh breaks.

  • Meredith Gran has been keeping a bit of a low profile since Octopus Pie wound up (and there’s not a day I don’t think back on how good it was, start to finish), and we knew she was working on a videogame, but things are starting to kick into gear:

    the game I’m working on is called Perfect Tides, and I’m going to start rolling out social media stuff until KS fundraising begins in January! until then you can follow @perfect_tides for news + tidbits

    PT is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, an introspective teen adventure with the mechanics of a classic adventure game. to me they are a perfect fit! I hope you will think so too

    Kickstarter this month, y’all! And hoo boy, Sierra point-and-click games were things I spent waaaay too much time on in my younger days. This could be dangerous.

Okay, not actually new to 2018; in fact, this report from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has been hanging about since last week, but I was lazy during the holiday break. Some of what he talks about has been going one for some time, and some of it is pretty much outdated by now, but you know what? It’s all good.

  • We at Fleen always enjoy efforts to help English readers better understand French. Especially when they come from Boulet, who has been publishing thematic guides to French expressions and idioms to his Twitter feed: everything around kissing, drinking, butts .. or cucul la praline or vachement.
  • Speaking of Boulet, also do not miss his advent calendar of mythical creatures.
  • And speaking of France and butts, there appears to be a new French-language webcartoonist on the block; usually we would not relay the news of a newly created webcomic, but we’ve been told this Jeph Jacques guy is kind of a big deal in the States (despite the French-sounding name), so his French-language efforts should be worth keeping an eye on …

Yeah, that was pretty much all out of date. That’s all me. Thanks for your patience, FSFCPL!


Spam of the day:

Child Predator Risk Warning

Gaaahhh, okay, if you must alleviate sleepless nights by checking on sex offenders in your area, please understand you don’t need to pay a service for this information. Every state’s got a public, official list, and the feds incorporate all of those (plus DC, territories, and Indian Country) in one free website. Save your money.

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¹ Remember, the greatest Webcomics Weekly of all time was very nearly the last that adhered to an even vaguely weekly timeframe. Pretty soon after, it was every other month, then annual, then even less frequent. And it was damn near seven years ago!

² Meanwhile, Kris Straub is busy podding and vidding around areas other than webcomics, and Scott Kurtz has been more concerned with the intersection of the business of new media and the broad whole of art.

From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The Third

We wrap up the coverage of the Quai des Bulles comics festival in Saint-Malo, courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, with an intriguing look at a boundary-breaking comic. This looks really, really good and I can’t wait for somebody in the Western Hemisphere (are you listening, :01 Books?) to grab the reprint rights.

Except for a few offsite events (for which you had to rely on the plan to get to, no signage), Quai des Bulles is quite concentrated around the Palais du Grand Large, a proper convention center with theater, auditorium, enclosed floor space for exhibitions and the like, a bar for refreshments, etc. Meanwhile, on the other side of the road (thankfully closed to traffic for the duration), a large tent housed the exhibitors: all major French-Belgian publishers (plus Urban i.e. DC) and most minor ones were there with their wares and table space for creators to sign at. Under the tent as well were booksellers specialized in original and historical editions of comics, art schools, publishers of youth books (not just comics), as well as Asmodee, because why not play a board game in between two signings?

And in order to find one’s way between all that, they featured interesting signage, here on the road between the tent and the convention center, or here once inside the convention center to further determine where to, etc. The convention in general was well run, though I did not get to interact with convention staff (other than the people checking tickets upon entry, etc.) given they required professional journalist proof to give accreditation, so I did not manage to get accredited. That did not hamper me in covering the convention from start to finish, however.

Highlights of the day:

  • A meetup with Pascal Jousselin set up (again) by N Masztaler. It was even more conversational than the previous day’s with Marie Spénale, not to mention in an Irish pub¹ (which did not lend itself to the deployment of the Fleen French Mobile Newsdesk, i.e. an iPad and wireless keyboard), so it was not transcribed; but of note from his background was the fact he was part of a comic project with fellow creator Brüno where they would each draw a page and send it to the other for him to continue, and they set up a mailing list for the public to follow the project, before it was eventually published on paper.

    Currently, he works on Imbattable (unbeatable), which he introduces as the first real comics superhero. How so? Well, best let Editions Dupuis show you, and observe how you hardly need to understand what is being said in these pages (and he notes that it is hardly a good investment for his publisher, given it won’t ever be able to cash in on that sweet, sweet movie or animation adaptation money²). I did get the book (volume two and three are in preparation), and a review is in order.

    I first heard of Imbattable on Twitter (via Boulet, most likely), and I then got to see a few more pages since they were part of the exhibition around the work of Scott McCloud that I covered as part of Lyon BD: how best to show how comics reading works than by showing examples of how it can be broken? Still, I was skeptical: I was afraid such tricks would turn into an easy way out of situations (think Tex Avery), so an entire comic book around that? But I was wrong: not only it is brilliant, but in fact it has to obey twice the constraints as usual, as the reading has to make sense whether you follow Imbattable’s sequence, or the regular sequence; each page is a marvel of construction.

    And they spared no expense: at some point an action seemed not to make sense … until I exclaimed: “Oh come on, he could not possible have dared to do that, no way, no how!”

    I lifted the page to check.

    Turns out, he did dare.

    I won’t spoil it; I will just note that the printer must have hated Jousselin and his publisher for it (that, or they comfortably billed for the additional printing pass).

    Furthermore, while it started out as a gag a day week whenever³ without necessarily a book as the goal, after a few pages it became obvious there was something there and (in a process that webcomics often follow as well) Jousselin started expanding both the setting and in some cases the page count of each story. And while keeping the original concept as well as some aspects that harken back to the early days of comics when everything seemed possible, he did manage to insert some meaningful stories, such as the unusual way the one who will become his sidekick is first introduced, or the hardly black and white situations Imbattable ends up finding himself in (though Jousselin mentions Imbattable is a bit on the naive side).

    And all the while, Imbattable manages to remain accessible to the youngest readers. Jousselin told the first book did not publish as soon as the pages were ready, as the sales team got stuck on how to market it, and initially thought going towards a connoisseur market, which I found silly: while it is true that classic creators such as Pétillon, Gotlib, Fred, Greg, Hergé (in Quick Et Flupke), or Windsor McCay if I remember correctly have used approaching techniques, so have children magazines in the less distant past, which shows children easily get it. To me this work joins the lowbrow and the highbrow (remember its presence in the McCloud exhibition), the new and the experienced readers, the young and the old. Buy it.

  • Watching the Atelier Mastodonte perform its show; in fact they did one each day around noon where they would first invoke the names of Franquin, Bagieu, Achdé, etc. so as to get help with their tendinitis, impending tax reform (not a U.S.A.-exclusive concern), etc., then give each other drawing challenges, challenge the public with quizzes (in relation to comics of course) such as “for each of these words, it is the name of a comics creator, or an onomatopoeia … or possibly both!”, or give silly conferences such as Hergé’s last message, where Lewis Trondheim would claim to have found the secret message for the future of comics that Hergé hid deeply in his Tintin books but left clues for. It felt like standup, especially as they were simply on a podium with an audience made of the people eating at the tables of the bar built in the convention center.

    Atelier Mastodonte is also a comic in Spirou from the same people where the members each draw an update before another draws the next, either building off the previous one or starting something else; it purports to tell the story of the creators themselves working together in a studio. Of course, in true autobioish fashion they actually work in their own respective cities rather than a studio in Marcinelle (Dupuis’ headquarters), but Jousselin, who is part of the atelier, noted during the meetup that he ends up spending more time on the internal blog/discussion board where scripts are coordinated than he does discussing with his actual studiomates in Rennes … even if it is not available on the web, Atelier Mastodonte is in a way an online creation.

  • In the last few hours of the show, murdering my wallet with sweet, sweet comics loot.

Spam of the day:

Tinder [incomprehensible Cyrillic script]

Oh, right, I totally forgot that I signed up for a hookup app in a language I neither read nor speak.

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¹ Special mention to the lady who, upon discovering the setup (a side room of the pub with only bar tables, no “real” table), told the person she was with: Ah he’s not doing a signing, let’s go elsewhere.” within earshot of everyone.

² Though after someone asked how it could work anyway, we brainstormed and your correspondent mentioned how in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs the titular Spaceballs try and look into future events by watching the VHS tape of their own movie, and others mentioned how in Looney Tunes or Tex Avery shorts the characters would sometimes peer into the future of the film roll, or escape it, or even possibly cut it out entirely to escape a gruesome fate.

³ Before they get published in books, Imbattable stories are published one by one in the Spirou weekly periodical, and Jousselin has an agreement with his publisher that they come whenever they are ready, without any set schedule: he wants the idea to be right each time without repeating himself.

From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The Second Subpart The Second

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has finished transcribing the discussion panel mentioned yesterday, and it’s an extensive, illuminating look at the present and future of making/publishing French-Belgian comics. Dig in and enjoy.

The meetup began by an introduction of Spénale: her blog, and her first book, Heidi In Spring, which is already in the selection for an award, to which Spénale reacts that this is big for a first book.

Why start a blog?
When she was a teenager it was all the rage, and she opened one in her last year of junior high (ca. 2004-05), and it became the means through which she got contacts; and by now it is necessary to have at least an Internet presence. Today she mostly uses Instagram, and Facebook like (most) everybody else; Twitter only for completeness. She still keeps the blog for longer pieces. She does have a YouTube channel, though it is still an experiment.

Is it easy to make a YouTube video?
It is difficult because she has to learn everything as she goes along (framing the shot, editing, sound recording with a phone, etc.). She feels the need to comment her drawing process, so it takes time to create.

Does the fact she publishes these drawings change the way she draws and what she decides to draw?
A bit, but not fundamentally: she also draws full-time as an illustrator so it has a limited influence.

Is it worthwhile given the time spent on it?
Facebook killed the blogs in a way, so she had to get on social networks. It takes time, but since she would draw those anyway, just posting them takes little time; now on to whether it is worthwhile …

So what is it useful for?
It gives a visibility, which is always useful, but it does not bring anything to her work proper; however professionally it serves to grow her contact list an an illustrator, and in particular allows potential clients to discover new sides of her rather than have them always ask the kind of drawings she already provides professionally. You have to be careful not get carried away chasing “likes”. Not everything is published on social networks, and that includes personal drawings she keeps for herself.

Did her online activities help her getting into professional networks?
It is important to have a place to show one’s work, but are social networks the best for that? Blogs remain important for that purpose. However social networks matter to stay in contact. They matter as well as to get peer recognition.

Is the blog only a display window?
In the beginning she would tell random stuff, with a lot of experimentation; now that she’s read by clients and colleagues, she has polished what she publishes, indeed it is mostly a display window. But it remains important as a potential outlet to express herself.

She does not limit her instructional comments to her videos: she showed the making-of of Heidi In Spring on her blog, and it also sometimes shows how client illustrations are made step by step. Are those important for her?
It something she both loves to make and loves to see from others; a finished illustration is boring by itself, she wants to show more.

Is the instructional work she does useful for her own illustration work?
Not directly, but as a youth illustrator she often draws instructional pieces, even if she does not write them, so that helps there. She is not interested in comics reporting per se.

Does she work digitally? (Yes) But she does publish traditional media pieces (watercolors, etc.), is it a way to maintain her skills?
Digital is a work requirement, and a computer also helps to create very clean artwork for best legibility, but hand drawing is possible in more places… and is more photogenic. And she occasionally has whims, such as watercolors.

What hardware does she use, and how?
A 16″ Wacom Studio Pro; Manga Studio for most drawing work, including the initial sketches, and Photoshop for colors. It is not very transportable, but the screen is top of the line: beforehand she used a model with quite thick glass protection, the current model has a much thinner “gap” as well as smooth surface where the pen slides, which make her feel like she really is drawing. Photoshop is a bit slow but it works OK.

So she had to give up on Inktober this year; does the Internet facilitate experimentations with its immediate feedback?
Indeed, it allows to gauge crowd reaction. Heidi In Spring started on Instagram, then she started going What if I told small scenes?; people were asking for more of those and she deduced there was something there, which she materialized in a book some time later.

What is the makeup of her following, age-wise?
Many teenagers follow her on Instagram, especially when Cyprien links to her. Hard to tell beyond that.

Has she had any rights issues with her work?
Twitter and Instagram would seem to be reserving more and more rights for content posted there, and it is unclear what they could do; it might be better not to post there … but it would seem difficult for them to actually take advantage of it. And of course third parties are not allowed to repost her content without her prior permission, some do but that is illegal.

How did the book itself come about?
The intent was there from the beginning, but the pages themselves were rearranged and redrawn anyway. She showed the project to Yannick Lejeune (who also managed Festiblog/WeDoBD [Author’s note: the demise of which your correspondent laments every day]), who had already seen some of her work: could we see each other for a project? The tone changed a bit: it became sort of an [initiation], so it was not necessarily obvious to tell what it would become solely from the project or the blog. The blog was mostly useful to get that first meeting.

Is it a risk for her activity as youth illustrator do be doing explicit work?
She does not feel that way, in fact it might even be in continuity with her own work. But of course she warns on social networks when potentially adult content is posted.

And what was the goal?
Roughly, to take a character who is a sort of childhood icon, and show she has to become an adult at some point.

What did the blog bring on the writing side?
The blog was pretty much her starting point to do comics work: she is confident in her illustration skills, but she would never have dared to propose doing a full story without her blog experience under the belt.

Is she censoring herself on the Internet?
Not really, no.

How much research did she have to do on the teenage stage? Did she have to get back to her own teenage years?
Of course, but she also read a lot of psychology (such as Françoise Dolto), which helped for the general framework of the book: when she was experimenting on Instagram Heidi lived short stories but otherwise lived in a status quo, now how to have a scenario that leads to a proper end? All her reading allowed her to create an evolution by better understanding how a teenager works. She also came back to the original novel and researched on all adaptations of Heidi. There is a bit of her, but she intended it to be universal. And she gets to begin it from a known situation: that from the novel.

And what were her goals with regard to Heidi’s sexuality?
The goal is foremost the emancipation of Heidi, sexuality is a mean among others towards this end, which is necessary of course: Heidi has desires. But it is only part of the goal.

There is something of a “likes” culture among teenagers today; are they more egocentric now?
She does not know, but she met an 11-year old boy who wanted to draw and was feeling the pressure as if grown-up expectations were put on him, this has always existed but tends to be magnified by social networks. But Internet also means even teenagers in remote areas have access to an immense wealth of resources. And on the other hand, being this much in contact means there tends to be a concentration towards a few drawing styles (one being for instance the influence of Steven Universe).

So everybody is watching each other, are some chasing “likes” as an activity?
Yes, not necessarily among French-speaking creators, but yes: some creators make a living solely from content on social networks and Patreon. Aside: she does not want to open one, as she gets the feeling only her family would tip … these creators tend to play to their audience, and tend to format their content: “feel-good” cartoons, staying on the formula that worked before, etc.

Is there a risk for Tipeee/Patreon to bring about dictatorship of the public, detrimentally to the artist’s vision?
She considers that the creators who take that into account are not creating auteur works in the first place.

What about chasing for likes?
There is some risk of a bubble, but it will probably blow over.

What if Heidi had had Facebook?
Not sure what that would have changed, however if Heidi had had Tinder, that would be another story …

Is she interested in Turbomedia, etc?
She likes animation and tries to train herself, but she does not want to use digital gadgets solely for the purpose of using digital gadgets: she feels the need to respect sequential art. She finds Summer to be interesting, even if the music and animations are probably superfluous in her opinion, the concept is very interesting. But she can’t help but note it ended up being published on paper in the end …

How does she see the possibility of publishing French-Belgian comic books on tablets? To which this correspondent added: Beyond the obvious size issues. [Author’s note: A4 is simply unreadable on anything smaller than a 12.9″ iPad Pro]
Even if the traditional 48 pages A4 format is not suited, there is worthwhile content to read, such as reporter comics; if it does not sell, it means readers are not convinced.

If Delcourt had rejected the project, how would she have published Heidi In Spring?
She wanted to work with a publisher, especially for her first book, so she would have tried harder to find a publisher, and eventually switched to another project if she couldn’t have managed to find one: self-publishing is an enormous amount of work … maybe eventually she will consider it. Doing so requires pleasing a public in order to have a sufficiently large community for that, though, which represents a loss of liberty somewhat.

On that matter, she signed very early in the project: it was barely developed at that point, and she was left to develop it with a lot of freedom from the publisher, even if he did bring an indispensable help as an outside observer: he can tell her The page does not make sense to me, which is hard to see on one’s own work.

How is she managing her social presence? In order to be more visible, etc.
Some tricks work better than others: front pose rather than a side shot, a girl [drawing or painting] rather than a boy, pretty rather than ugly, watercolors, staging the sheet of paper improves things too .. but that is not the goal. She has a community based on [involvement]: Here is something just for you. She answers comments from time to time, but maybe she shouldn’t: it is a huge time sink.

What is the French-Belgian comic book of the future?
There is a trend in the French-Belgian world today towards knowledge/non-fiction/reporter books, but maybe it’s only a temporary trend. Maybe one day French-Belgian digital comics will be viable, but that day has not come. Maybe things won’t change and the French-Belgian comic book of the future will simply have a pretty cover.

Now you know why we waited a day to run this panel report! Thanks as always to FSFCPL for doing yeoman’s work in keeping all of us on this side of the Atlantic up to date in bandes dessineés. I was particularly surprised — although perhaps should not have been — to learn about the influence that Steven Universe has on non-anglophone artists. Now I have to wonder how difficult it is to translate all of those songs that are so critical to their respective stories.


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From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The Second Subpart The First

What’s better than transatlantic comics coverage? Nothing! Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin continues his reportage from Saint-Malo, with the first part of Day Two coverage, with more to come.

Saint-Malo is not a big city; if you’ve never heard of it before, one of its claim to fame is that it was the home harbor for famed corsairs such as Robert Surcouf. And it is because the Falklands were often visited by sailors from there that in France we call them: les îles malouines (which is why the Argentinians call them the Malvinas).

But Quai des Bulles is big. They claim to be the second biggest French-Belgian comics festival, and I have no trouble believing them: just look at that program, list of expected creators, and exhibitors floor plan. And let me tell you, after a while the sheer number of people meant the ambiance under the tent was quite warm, even though it was cold outside.

There were not many webcartoonists present; for instance, this year Lapin had no booth. But this was more than compensated for by excellent programming which will be covered in the highlights.

  • Catching a glimpse of Maester, who came to sign for one hour even though he is still recovering from a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. Kudos, master.
  • A fairy tale (East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon, if my references are correct) performance with professional conductor and musician, with scenes drawn live by Obion.
  • A “conference” by “Prof” Bernstein and James on the art of the joke … which was itself silly, or at least ostensibly so: it is true that context and timing matter a lot for joke delivery for instance. It took place in the same auditorium (the amphitéatre Maupertuis in the Palais du Grand Large) as the Montaigne event from the previous day, and I must thank the designers of that auditorium for including a power outlet and a folding tablet for each seat, greatly facilitating this hack pseudojournalism activity. [Editor’s note: I didn’t make him say that, but it makes me very, very happy.]
  • A meetup with Marie Spénale set up by N. Masztaler on the matter of new publishing means [Editor’s note: transcription coming soon; the translation on this one is tricky]; in attendance was only a small cohort of about a dozen people where everyone could ask questions, and many did (your correspondent included). It ended up going over the planned hour for it by half an hour, though no one (least of all your correspondent) seemed to mind.
  • A memorial exhibition for Michel Plessix, local creator who created the poster image for this year’s festival before his untimely death in August of this year. While he had a varied career (as recounted by that exhibition), he was best know for his comics adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows (that is his representation of Toad that can be seen in the poster). The exhibition included, as customary, a number of tribute pieces (written or drawn) from many fellow comics creators and professionals.
  • Finally, a drawn concert with Volo (musical instruments) and Grégory Panaccione (drawing instruments).

We’ll continue with Day Two coverage tomorrow, as FSFCPL brings us the details on panel on new methods of publishing. Small audience discussions yield the best questions, but boy are they a pain to transcribe, much less translate. As always, we at Fleen are grateful for FSFCPL’s extensive efforts.


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From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The First

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has been out committing acts of journalism¹, this time from the Saint-Malo Comics Festival. He shares with us his report from Day One below.

Friday, day one of Quai des Bulles, the Saint-Malo comics festival, was not a professional day: everyone could come, though of course that included a lot of children (it was a school holiday) since not everyone can afford to take a day off work. While the day started slowly (not much was scheduled in the morning), it had very interesting programming:

  • One hour with Marion Montaigne, an interview by Arnaud Wassmer, on the topic of her latest project In The Space Suit of Thomas Pesquet, which is entirely transcribed below.
  • An interesting panel on the latest developments of knowledge/world discovery comics. In fact one of the panelists, Anne-Lise Combeaud, the author of Philocomix, told she came from the blogs BD world, and that influenced how she created the comic (trying to experiment within the constraints of the page in particular), and we were able to discuss that experience in the signing that followed at the publisher’s booth (Rue de Sèvres).

One Hour With Marion Montaigne
After introducing Montaigne, Thomas Pesquet, and the project, it took the form of an interview:

Who came up with the idea?
Around September 2015 Montaigne was busy on the Prof Moustache animated project as well as with its latest collection, and wanted to escape this character a bit; and at the same time she wanted to deal more with space matters and for this purpose started meeting with people working for CNES (France space agency), such as the teams who have instruments on the Mars Curiosity rover … or the people in charge of answering UFO sighting mails.

And in particular, astronaut coaches. And it turns out the training to become an astronaut is quite hard. Then Pesquet came up in the conversation, and it turned out he had commented once on one of her notes to confirm that it reflected his experience. Let’s invite him! After a first missed connection, he was able to come to her studio, about one year before he was to take off, which means he was already intensely preparing for it.

The book itself: how can the whole experience be rendered on paper?
Montaigne got to travel and watch the training in Cologne (where the ESA, European Space Agency, training center is located), she had to go to Russia as well, etc. And then have it be proofread. Her aim is to give back to the public what she was told or able to witness: the astronauts through their experience.

Was it a pedagogical intent from Pesquet as well?
He has, by contract, to explain what he does. And while it is not obvious to shoot (staging for film is hardly compatible with the training realities, e.g. when in a centrifuge), and even documentaries have a tendency not to show some unglamorous realities, such as showing classroom time or Russian revision time, comics have no such limitations: they can more easily show more down to Earth aspects that are an important part of daily life.

Is it a childhood obsession?
It is clear this is a job for which you have to have incredible motivation. And And this preparation takes up their whole life, even for those who end up being rejected in the end, which represents most candidates. Not to mention space life represents but about 1% of the total time on the job.

Are the test designers as sadistic as seen in the book?
Both Montaigne and Pesquet came up with this representation; but it has to be said the tests themselves are weird: the version shown in the book is in fact when it is still easy! And the psychological tests are designed not have any discernible logic so as to be unsettling.

One collective test, not shown in the book, involved candidates from multiple nations trying to solve a math problem: a boat in low tide has to rely on a ferry to load cargo, but at the same time the tide rises so conditions change, then there is the matter of the trains that take up the cargo … the result is that after 20 minutes they had not made any progress, and the aim was not to see who could take the lead, because that is not necessarily the kind of player they want in the teams.

So, they are not looking for astronauts with a devil-may-care attitude and an oversized ego …
Don’t get her wrong, Pesquet is on the level. But it is true the prototype of the 60s astronaut (usually the best Air Force test pilots) who left for one or two days by themselves is no longer what they are looking for. Here they have to live in reduced space with five other people for six months: they can’t very well go out for a walk. So they are looking for people who are confident in themselves but easy going with others, and with conflict resolution skills. For instance, they practice with serious video games which have simultaneous competitive and cooperative aspects.

How to represent tests?
One of the issues is showing the time scale of the tests: they take place over months, even years, there are cutoff stages, and they do not necessarily know which tests they will be training for next.

How about the way they learn Russian?
They go in space in a Russian rocket, so they have no choice but to learn the language in the course of a year. They do so in an old mining town about one hour away from Cologne, and they, about 35-40 years old, end up in the same classroom as the local students.

Is the vision of NASA as space’s Hogwarts really Pesquet’s vision?
Everyone has a vision of NASA as that mythical institution, which to be honest they maintain themselves with museums for instance. While there, she was able to see space suit testing rooms, as well as the gigantic pools where astronauts train on different modules for space work.

Which makes sense, because everything has to be relearned in space.
Including the most insignificant, such as the fact they have to wear diapers, and since their bodies will be put to the test in space, they have to be put to the test on the ground and sometimes it is their bodies that fail them.

While NASA feels like Top Gun, for the Space City in Russia the imagery is rather that of Gagarin.
Indeed, in there Gagarin is Serious Business. Russians are in general very superstitious and so have a number of rituals, from the watching of an old, boring documentary The White Dawn, up to urinating one last time at the side of the road just where Gagarin is said to have done so just before leaving for space.

Pesquet first participated in missions where he was a backup.
Indeed, the others from his class where chosen as main participants before him, up until 2014 where he was selected as main for a future mission that ended up taking off in 2016.

And so he joined the club of those who cannot wait but take off again.
Well, maybe not right the day after he landed, but indeed there is something of an elite sportsman in them, in that they see these as challenges to do again or even do once better.

Let’s talk about the centrifuge.
It is used to prepare for takeoff and landing, which are the two most dangerous phases, and so the most anguishing ones, they have to manage the buttons while being subjected to enormous accelerations (up to ten times normal gravity), or sometimes just a joystick when they can’t lift their arm any more; sometimes they use a stick.

He told the story of an astronaut he personally knew: following a bad separation her capsule had a slightly incorrect reentry angle, resulting in them taking 10G of acceleration and a landing rough enough that their capsule burned a field in deep Kazakhstan … so they have to be prepared for the worst.

So the artist has to show the reality behind the communication.
More generally render their personal experience: spinning seat, centrifuge, etc. That they take as a sports challenge.

And there is the matter of learning how to move in in microgravity.
Movies tend to show a misleading image of that: you can go quite fast in microgravity! So they have to deliberately pace themselves. Nevertheless they go through a learning phase when they hit walls, etc.

And how is it to represent that for the artist?
It’s interesting, you have a number of interesting situations, such as the collective meal where they are all eating at the table, and some are around, and some are shown below and above it.

And what about the contents of mission itself?
Many photos, but it is only a slight portion of their work: they work a lot, but during the weekend they play and don’t have a lot to do. So he ends up sending his photos with the captions over the weekend and they are published all through the week by the public communication teams while he is in fact working. It’s about the only interesting thing they can do …

The mission itself ends up not taking a lot of space in the book.
First of course Montaigne couldn’t take up very much of his time while he was there (and of course no way to go there for a documentation trip), and besides the work is quite routine and ends up compressing well.

Did his photos help for documentation?
Indeed, and in fact he is not the only one who takes them; he has to work sometimes.

So explain how the artist tried here to render one of his vehicular exits.
The aim was to try and render the experience of a vehicular exit with in particular the immense scale of the station. Not directly represented is the fact it turns out spending time (about seven hours) in the space suits is far from ideal: the decreased pressure means they end up releasing gas, they sweat a lot, etc. And of course his fellow astronauts omitted to tell him about it beforehand …

And here we see them back on Earth
When they are back on Earth they are really white, he was not that badly out of shape but they do take some punishment in the landing phase, which they compare to a car crash (flips, etc.); once on land they compare their state to a hangover to the tenth power … and meanwhile all the cameras are on them.

Did he recognize himself and his experience in the book, in the end?
He does have a sense of humor, or he would not have accepted in the first place … he meant for these kind of issues (important or not) to be represented.

No self-insertion?
No, that was not the matter, as there is already a lot to tell, and it was not obvious how to do so anyway: which way to put herself? So rather than directly retelling how she herself was informed, might as well build a narrative.

Did the author have to remove sensitive information, e.g. top secret stuff?
No, she did not have to remove anything of the sort, she assumes she was not told of such things in the first place. Some intimate aspects where not told, but that’s it.


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¹ He journalised.