The webcomics blog about webcomics

Back In The Saddle

Well, that turned out to be less disastrous that it could have (in that the bill was about 10% of the bad outcome, but still greater than most people could throw together on short notice — I’m lucky to have the ability to keep an emergency repairs slush fund without too much sacrifice), but required a bunch of time and it’s still not quite done. Missed a bunch of stuff while I was gone, too:

On the other hand, I am around to catch some timely things, like:

  • The incomparable Hope Larson (comics maestra, ice cream maker extraordinaire, and caterpillar wrangler to the stars) has found enough time in her schedule (between Batgirl and her next book, out sometime in 2018) to resume Solo¹, or the news that after fifteen years, 4500 strips, and one-and-a-half creative teams, Unshelved is coming to an end next month.
  • There’s also word of a benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum (reminder: they’ve been sleeping on the couches of other museums for a while now, and could really use some help getting back to a place of their own) next month, featuring cast members of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra:

    Go behind the scenes of The Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender with special guests voice actors Janet Varney, John Michael Higgins, Mindy Sterling, Dante Basco and Avatar: Legacy illustrator Dan Parsons. Cosplay highly encouraged! All ages welcome.

    The event will be 19 November, starting at 7:00pm, at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco. General admission tickets at US$28, with premium tickets (which get you an autograph from each special guest) for US$38, with CAM members receiving a 10% discount. Tickets can be purchased via the Friends For Benefits website and are likely going to go fast.

And, as promised:

Team Maliki has just unveiled the first self-published Maliki collection, and to the surprise of absolutely no one they have launched a preorder [French version] for it on a crowdfunding platform called Ulule [English version]. One aspect which stands out is the use of “books” rather than “sum collected” to define stretch goals.

Gary here. That’s a new one on me — I’m going to have to think about how it differs from regular currency-based stretch goals, but it could allow a project with multiple forms of a book (PDF, softcover, hardcover, limited edition, retailer discount multi-packs) to count equally towards stretch goals. Interesting.

[T]here is some precedent for a French comics campaign of this scale, which in fact may be a daunting yardstick to be compared to; I couldn’t cover it at the time, as it was before I took up the mantle of Fleen Senior French Correspondent in January of this year, so this is the ideal opportunity to introduce it as background …

Laurel [Duermael, athough she’s mononymic in her work], while French, lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband, and works there as an illustrator, mostly for Docker. She maintains a comics blog about her life there. Don’t be misled by her seemingly happy style, as she can deal serious blows, whether it is to cover her experience (French-only) dealing with the French consulate in San Francisco, or to excoriate (French-only) French magazine Biba and Little Market for a “competition” that amounted to providing illustration work for little more than exposure (and you know what they say about exposure).

Her blog is currently taken up by a story (only in French so far) titled Comme Convenu [As Agreed] which is inspired by her experience starting out in the Bay Area in a video game startup. Around this time last year, she launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule as a preorder for printing the first volume, with a goal of €9167.

It ended up funding in about one hour. After about one day, it was already 800% funded. It ended up funding at 2,860%² (no, this is not a typo). And remember, the story and book are only available in French, so this couldn’t have been tapping in the established English-speaking comics crowdfunding audience.

Of course, Maliki: Blog does not need to reach the same kind of total amount to be considered a success, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up overfunding in a similar fashion.

At present, Maliki: Blog has pledges for 3414 books (on a goal of 1000); as those are spread out across three different quality levels (Classic, Collector, Super Collector), it’s hard to say how much money it represents, but if everybody only opted for the lowest tier, that would be nearly €70,000³. With just over two weeks left to go, Maliki seems like as not to hit €100K.


Spam of the day:

Mighty Dolly

Okay, so they’re pretending to sell me industrial warehouse equipment for moving heavy loads but you know what? If they told me that their dolly product was named Parton, I’d click on the link because Dolly Parton rules.

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¹ I really dig Solo; it’s her most adult (in the sense of acknowledging that being an adult can suck sometimes) and melancholy work to date, I think. In case you were wondering, no Karl Lagerfeld here.

² That would be in excess of a quarter-million Euro. If I have my exchange rates correct, that would have been just shy of US$300,000.

³ Conversely, if they all opted for Super Collector, it would be over €170K; just a €100K margin of uncertainty, no big. Oh, and as of this writing, €1 is a buck-eleven (US$1.1139 to be exact, which there’s no point in being since it’s gonna float).

Places To Examine Your Conscience

Some of these will concern you, some will grab at your sense of empathy, some will intrigue; basically we’re all over the place today.

  • I’m very interested to see what the unintended consequences of a new law in California concerning the sales of autographs/autographed memorabilia will do to the major comics shows. Via the twitterfeed of author Amy Stewart, a new law (presumably intended to keep people from buying fake autographs/tchotchkes for big bucks) will require any signed item (think books and art) costing more than five damn dollars (think: everything) to come with a certificate of authenticity with a seven year retention requirement.

    It might be that people at SDCC next year are forced into the charade of selling books/prints/whatever and making the person who bought it then come back for a separate signature. It may be that the “signed & sketched” price variant is actually illegal. It may mean that California-residing creators can no longer supply pre-signed merch to stores (think Raina Telgemeier and the signed copies that bookstores have of Ghosts … they’ll have to dump stock yesterday or risk sanctions that I don’t know how to determine under California’s Civil Code).

    Okay, the summary of the bill indicates that the person signing things is exempt, but resellers appear not to be. Raina can sign a book without recordkeeping, but any comic shop or bookstore with a signed by the author! sticker on books is potentially screwed. California creators/vendors, your thoughts please.

  • From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, a dispatch regarding a Kickstarter that’s burning up the webcomics category in two languages:

    Commit Strip, the strip about the daily life of coders, has launched a Kickstarter for their new book collection, and their first in English, at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/commitstrip/commitstrip-rise-of-the-coders-a-book-about-the-fu. And about 24 hours in they [had] already blown past twice their (admittedly modest) goal. Note that, much like the Last Man campaign, they have rewards in multiple languages but had to set up a separate page for the French description of the campaign as Kickstarter does not support campaigns in multiple languages.

    That last bit surprises me. I wonder if KS would object if you just had a bunch of text in more than one language, or set up support alternating languages but with identical price points and rewards. Certainly that would be a pain; I wonder what our friends to the bilingual north think about this particular feature lack.

  • We’ve spoken here at Fleen about Something Terrible, and the burden that Dean Trippe has taken upon himself, because the key thing about being Batman is, you don’t want any other people to have to be Batman. Your trauma defined your adulthood, but you can use that to help others not become as I Am The Night as you wound up; for Trippe, it means making himself available¹ to other survivors of childhood sexual abuse and creating his own impromptu Bat-Family, meeting and offering solace to one person at a time.

    But there’s more people out there than you can meet one at a time that need him, so Trippe’s gone the media route. Last Friday saw the launch of the Something Terrible podcast, hosted by Trippe and no doubt finding its own direction for future episodes. Trippe calls it a mission², I call it a most unfortunately necessary public service that I absolutely will not be listening to; I’m not burying my head in the sand, but in order to keep myself where I need to be to help when necessary³, I need to deal with trauma-bearing people individually, in person, as the need arises. I can’t go seeking them out.

    But those on the other side of the equation, who don’t have my luxury of distancing themselves? Who need Batman to avoid becoming Batman? The Something Terrible podcast is going to be a godsend. Here’s hoping you never have to subscribe.


Spam of the day:

Search For Baby Shower Gifts Options

The one part of the patriarchy and general male privilege that I will gleefully engage in is the general pass I get for baby showers. I know that makes me a terrible feminist, but this is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me. I will die in it at the stake. PS: Benedick rules.

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¹ I suspect, on occasion, to his own detriment. Dean, there’s a reason that they tell you to secure your own mask before helping others — if you aren’t well and whole, you can’t be of assistance to them, no matter how much they need it. Don’t overdo it, please.

² A very Batman-like approach to it, I must say.

³ Occasional reminder: I am an active Emergency Medical Technician.

Please Send Me The Photo When You Do

Oh, Ryan North, you lovable (and enormous) scamp, you know that somebody is now going to take this suggestion from T-Rex completely to heart, and very possibly to upper arm. I love it.

Know what else I love? The uncanny ability of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin to somehow just know when I’m going to be tight on time (today because of an impending flight and a rental car with a dead battery) and to drop some sweet bande desinée information, for your edification¹.

A while back, he introduced us to Maliki, which is both a magical-realist² (as all the best ones are) autobio webcomic and the quasipseudonymous creator of same, in the context of monetizing with the Eurofunding site Tipeee. Today, he sends an interview with Maliki about how the funding is going some three months in; note that the interview was conducted in French via email, and translated by Lebeaupin.

Take it away, FSFCPL!

Fleen: Hello Maliki, and congratulations on your successful Tipeee campaign. It was one thing for it to start high, but now in the third month it doesn’t appear to be really dropping off so far. Were you expecting this?

Maliki: We were expecting (or at least hoping) a positive response from our readers, but we weren’t expecting so big a success. We were also picturing a significant dropoff the following months, which has not occurred so far. So we’re cruising in uncharted waters!

Fleen: In fact, many of your tipers were not even registered on Tipeee before you opened your page; you provided an avatar pack on your page so that they wouldn’t remain with the default Tipeee avatar, for instance. Were there other consequences to so many people having your page as their first Tipeee experience? For instance, did you have to expend time at the beginning answering questions from tippers on how Tipeee works?

Maliki: Yes, since the concept is not widespread yet, we had to explain the differences, compared to classical crowdfunding in particular.

Fleen: Have you noticed pledges being cancelled just before the end of the month or other such anomalies? Such a ghost pledging phenomenon is a problem on some Patreons, for instance.

Maliki: We have only had a limited number of cancellations or payment failures. So far people appear to be willing to play by the rules, but I hope this question won’t give anyone ideas!

Fleen: Promise, it’ll remain between us :). On that subject, you provided a remarkable transparency effort by publishing the timetable of what a tipper can expect as rewards over the month when he supports and over the following one, after his tip has cleared.

Maliki: Thanks. That was really the goal. We want everything to be perfectly clear and for no one to be disappointed or get unpleasantly surprised.

Fleen: I noticed that at the start of each month the total starts lower and limited rewards are reset. How does it work? Does it mean you have to each month start over the recruitment of tippers past a certain pledge or reward level?

Maliki: On Tipeee people can choose between making a monthly contribution or a one-off one. At the end of each month, the counter is automatically reset, and only the people who have set up a monthly contribution remain. Over the course of the month, new one-off contributions are added, as well as newly set up monthly commitments.

As for limited rewards, monthly contributors keep their spot, while the spots previously taken by one-off contributions are freed … but they generally don’t stay that way for long. In a matter of minutes after the counters are reset, they’ve been taken over.

Fleen: I also noticed the stretch goals structure changing each month (bonus points, from a software developer, for making each level of July be the double of the previous one: 500€, 1000€, 2000€, etc.); it is standard to Tipeee or something you came up with yourself?

Maliki: We defined these goals ourselves, based on levels that felt coherent AND realistic (except for the last one which is a kind of ludicrous level since we know we won’t reach it). And yes, I imagine it’s my logical mind who liked to speak in term of doubles, even if we slightly changed it since then.

Fleen: The Tipeee rewards imply an additional workload for you and Becky. After almost three months, have you found your stride?

Maliki: Not yet! The most complicated is physical rewards (the artwork). For the Tipeee we had to set up a lot of things very quickly, like the radio, the chat, the questions and answers, the lottery broadcast, the mailings, the monthly ex-libris. All that added to the weekly strips and peripheral projects represent a significant workload, not to mention we had to set up a small legal entity to be able to receive the Tipeee income. In short, we still need to optimize all that, but it’s already better than when we started.

Fleen: “Independent Maliki” is a long-term project, and it’s still early a bit early to discuss outcomes. But did the Tipeee page already allow you to reduce your reliance on freelance work? I am referring for instance to the illustrations you sometimes provide for youth magazines (Okapi, Science et Vie Junior, etc.).

Maliki: Let’s say that even if I wanted to take on more freelance work, I couldn’t :) But anyway, that’s not what interests me most, I much prefer to work on my own universes thanks to Tipeee.

Fleen: What kind of feedback or reactions did you get from your fellow comics authors (and other comics professionals)?

Maliki: In the end I didn’t get a lot of reactions. Hearty support from some authors, publishers or booksellers, MANY questions … I think most of them are waiting to see how this is going to play out in the long run. At any rate, I know we are being watched in silence ;)

Fleen: And I have to ask: any plans for English-language collections?

Maliki: Unfortunately no … Previously published Maliki books likely never will. My publisher has been talking about it for years and it never happened. Anyway, I think it’s too late now and it wouldn’t be relevant to launch Maliki by starting with volume 1, without first recreating the phenomenon that occurred in France with comic blogs at the time. So, not possible.

With our first self-published collection, we could consider it. But there again, our English community on the blog is tiny, and we’d need quite a tsunami of new English-speaking visitors for it to be worth considering an English language collection. [Editor’s note: see concluding thoughts below.]

Fleen: Lastly, a question closer to home, since one half of my family is from Nantes and I love Brittany. While your influences lie closer to Japan than to, say, the Pont-Aven School, have you considered taking advantage of being a “local artist”, for instance by trying to have your self-published books be regionally distributed if you can’t get France-wide distribution for them?

Maliki: The local artist is unfortunately not the status taken most seriously. Look at comic shows, regional authors are always consigned away in a corner … If my comic at least dealt with Britanny a lot, but it could take place mostly anywhere. Anyway, I am not necessarily looking to get distributed everywhere, but only by motivated booksellers. Other than that, it will occur through direct sales, by mail order.

Fleen: You’re obviously busy, so we will be leaving you to tend to your fans. Any last words?

Maliki: Thanks for covering us in English, you are the only ones who pay as much attention to our new independence venture so … THANKS!

Okay, minions, it’s clear what needs to happen — if you’ve been over to Maliki and like what you see, drop an email (or better yet, some remote coin) towards the site, and maybe we’ll get an English collection some day. Thanks to Pierre Lebeaupin for following up, and for his single-minded devotion to the idea that the French webcomics scene deserves coverage in English. I learn something cool every time he emails.


Spam of the day:

legal update on vaginal mesh implants

Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nopers. Not touching this one.

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¹ Also, for a very light editing pass for English spellings and formatting.

² But not Mexican magical-realist.

Dispatches From Opposite Corners Of The Globe

Hey, it’s Friday. It’s hot and disgustingly humid, and it’s going to be a busy weekend before I have to fly off to Minnesota for a couple of weeks, but hey — imminent weekend all the same.

  • From the westerly climes, Fleen Offical Man of Mystery Eben Burgoon chimes in with a series of shows and a camp for aspiring comic creators. In case you were ever thinking of making a splash in web-/indie comics in northern California, you need to understand that Burgoon is the Man, and you can roll with him, but he better see some damn respect at the following:
  • From the land of fashion, revolution, cheese, and wine, Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has a report on a most unusual webcomic, in that it appears to be entirely usual for this side of l’océan Atlantique:

    Today’s recommendation is for Jo. Jo owns a ranch in the Old West, and that’s where Alex was sent for her internship; but while some parts, like the hens, are “nothing special,” the ranch is a bit unusual and that attracts some unsavory types, as Alex is going to find out.

    Jo is remarkable for a couple of reasons. While in the French-speaking web «blog BDs» (comic blogs) dominate the form to the point of being almost synonymous there with webcomic, Jo is anything but: there is no author avatar, no autobio, no small stories, no fancy experiments. Instead, you get a solid, ongoing longform story.

    Second, Jo features an interesting localization mechanism: the comic is in French by default, but you can hover over the images to read the English version (you might have to wait for a few seconds for the English images to load, but they always do eventually load).

    Jo has just resumed from hiatus, and is so addictive you’ll barely notice time passing while you catch up on it. Go now while the water’s fine.

    I’ve been doing this how long, and never noticed that every single French webcomic I’ve ever seen is essentially an exaggerated autobio and the damn near universal (in English, at least) story strip never once came up? It was right in front of my face, and I never caught on. Once again, our thanks to FSFCPL for the recommendation, and for closing up a gaping hole in our knowledge.

    Regarding Jo, it’s pretty, it starts off with a literal bang, and if mousing over doesn’t kick in the English for you, click on the strip. The English translation, by the way, is very good, with only occasional awkward construction; Jo’s archive is 50 strips deep, so it’s the perfect time for a trawl. Oh, and if you weren’t sure if it was to your liking, consider the description from the About page, which starts:

    Jo est la cowgirl la plus badass de l’ouest

    I think you probably worked out the meaning.


Spam of the day:

Looking for a a guy — I like you girl. find out who she the IS. Write ner, S is not is waiting for you.

Sure thing, Samantha … or should I say, Amanda@whofarted.ru? I’ll get right on that.

Caution: Genius At Work

So, guess who came to work and left his laptop in the hotel room?

To be exceedingly fair to myself — more than I deserve, honestly — the latest security patches pushed by IT make it a very slow process to shut down. I started the shutdown, did some other things waiting for it to complete (can’t put a running laptop in the laptop bag, it’ll melt) and spaced on competing that key task. I’m not going to be able to post properly today — two fingered typing on a phone sucks for long texts — or at least not until far later. Mea culpable, I’ll try not to be so incredibly stupid tomorrow.

Patreonage, With A French Accent

Have I mentioned recently how much we at Fleen owe to Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin? Aside from the fact that his English is far better than my French will ever be¹, he delivers delicious context and followup on stories of interest. Today, we call back to his recent dispatch regarding Maliki, and how her webcomicking is shifting. Take it away, FSFCPL!

Team Maliki announced yesterday they would be switching away from the traditional publishing model in favor of a more direct relationship with their readers, and opened a Tipee page. That, in itself, is not a first: other French-speaking webcomics have Tipeee pages as well; but that is not all:

[Quick editor’s note: Tipeee appears to be positioning itself as the European equivalent of Patreon, with an initial emphasis on French creators. Right now, a majority of creators listed appear to be French, scrolling down the home page brings up lots of text in French, and the About page contains links to legal guidance about crowdfunding in France.

But you can get the site rendered in English, French, Spanish, or German (it appears to autodetect location and default to an appropriate language — the site came up in English initially for me, and you can change it with a pop-up list in the lower-right corner of each page; there aren’t separate links for different languages), so as long as you can settle up in Euros, it looks to be happy to deal with you. However, the Terms and Conditions don’t seem to want to present in English … even with the rest of the page in English, the legal boilerplate was in French (or Spanish or German, on request).]

  • in the long run, future editions of Maliki books (e.g. for the most recent strips on the site) will be self-published, as indicated in the F.A.Q. on the Tipee page (books already in the pipeline with their current editors will be published by these editors, but that’s it).
  • Maliki is probably the French-speaking webcomic whose books have the second most retail presence (behind Bouletcorp).

[Me again: Surprising absolutely nobody, Boulet is absolument friggin’ énorme in the French comics market.]

So at this scale, this is unprecedented as far as I can tell, at least in the French-speaking world. The announcement (posted, of course, in comic form French-only as I write this, sorry) is long but well worth reading, in which Maliki explains the role of each middleman in the publishing chain, and why, without specifically indicting any of them, she feels the system is engaged in a surproduction bubble, in which she does not see any future for her.

[And again: From what I can tell with my terrible French, Maliki is making the same point that Howard Tayler did way back when this was a little baby blog:

Imagine you’ve got a book on sale at Borders for $10 — pretty sweet, right? Hang on a minute, because you aren’t going to get $10 a copy. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • The store sells it for $10, keeps $4, and pays $6 to the distributor
  • The distributor keeps $3, and pays $3 to the publisher
  • The publisher keeps $1, pays $1 to the printer, and $1 to the author
  • You’re the author

You can tell that story’s ancient, because Borders went out of business five years ago. Also, bonus points to Maliki for labeling her local financial institution Kiss Kiss Bank Bank. Correction: What I thought was a clever joke turns out to be a French Kickstarter-alike; FSFCPL does not let mistakes like these sneak by.]

That may not seem like a big deal to webcomic authors in the English world, who have walked that path before, and that’s true, to an extent. But that does not make it any less of a jump in the unknown for Team Maliki because of the differences in French-speaking comics readership. You thought the US public sneered at artists wanting to get paid for their work (After all, you are only doing what you like!)? That attitude is, unfortunately, even more widespread in France.

Moreover, French webcomic authors, and other comic authors who could have published on the web but did not need to because of the following, have had much less trouble getting published than webcomic authors did in the US, both for scale (much less trouble distributing to France, Wallonia and French-speaking Switzerland than to the whole of the U.S., so publishers are less risk-averse) and for cultural reasons; so most webcomic authors who publish books are published in mainstream publishers, with a few in indie publishers who get decent distribution. Self-publishing is almost unheard of. As a result, the support infrastructure outside of comic publishers is still in the early stages, though some of it exists, notably (as mentioned) that used by independent video producers (aka “Youtubers”).

[Last one: It’s interesting to note that the front page of Tipeee (in English at least) contains the elevator pitch, You create videos? Get tips from your community.]

So while other French comic authors may not follow right away, I get the feeling this is only the start of a bigger movement. At the very least, this seems to be going well for Team Maliki, as about 24 hours after the announcement as I write this readers have already collectively pledged 7273 €/month (minus 8% Tipeee fees), which appears to be the second-highest total overall on Tipeee. Will it stay high enough in the long run to sustain two authors and their cats (Maliki, being a paper creature, needs little in the way of sustenance)? We will see.

As of this writing (approximately 50 hours after the announcement), Team Maliki is up to €8577 per month², which minus the 8% Tipeee fee and using today’s exchange rates comes to US$8949 and 40 cents or more than US$107K per year (prior to any taxes, naturally). Not bad.

While there’s both both an early-adopter advantage and an existing-audience advantage for Team Maliki, a prominent success could popularize the idea of crowdfunding for independent creators in France. If nothing else, the eventual adoption of the model should be much faster than it was in the US, given that the tools to support it now exist instead of having to be built.

Fleen thanks Pierre Lebeaupin once again for his attention and insight.


Spam of the day:

We are interested on placing our tags on your website, they will fire a pop when a visitor performs a click on your website (You’ll get revenue stream from this). We pay $2 per 1000 visitors depends to geo and traffic quality. We also have a good referral program and various payment options.

Even without the weaselspeak in there that lets you decide to pay less when you declare my readers are not the desired geo and traffic quality, no. Over my dead body.

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¹ The high point of my francophone experience was managing to exchange a voucher for a pair of rail passes valid for a specific 10 day period, without lapsing into English, at the Francaise seulement window of the main Brussels train station (the line was shortest).

Less than 12 hours later, I managed to mangle a reply to a simple question to the extent that I started in French, slipped into Japanese, and I’m pretty sure mixed in some Klingon. To be fair, some of the consonants in Dutch get kinda spitty and sound pretty Klingon.

² The one higher pledge amount I could find is for a YouTube series that gets €8707 per episode, which appears to happen every three to four months. By that token, Maliki is the highest grossing Tipeee-ee in terms of actual disbursements. In terms of comics only, Maliki is at least an order of magnitude above the next-highest earner.

So I Was In The Weeds Today

Generally behind on everything and about to post a quick note to that effect when I got an email from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin reminding me about a story tip he’d sent earlier which I’d teased, and intended to run by now. Never doubt the motivating power of FSFCPL, people! Also, he finds things to talk about that not only would I never see, but it’s hugely unlikely that anybody in the US comics press would. So let’s dig in together, shall we?

Thanks to the work of Becky, self-proclaimed Maliki’s human Swiss Army knife, Maliki has made a big push recently to post English language strips. They are not translated in chronological order however, so your best bet is to follow @Maliki_officiel for newly posted translations.

Moreover, Mali herself has made an effort to post on a regular weekly schedule since January (the schedule was rather … sporadic before), and those get translated as well, so you can expect new content to read every week, too. Happy reading.

See, this is why it’s always worth reading his emails. The Becky mentioned (who may or may not have good hair) is a [possibly real person inspiring a] character in Maliki, described here:

Maliki is a young woman with pink hair and pointed ears. This comic follows Maliki’s daily life full of spontaneity and originality, while also taking her back to her childhood memories.

A quick once-over through the English language strips reveals a story that appears to be largely autobio-inspired, but with some fantastical elements (like the occasional fairy or catgirl). So basically like Bouletcorp, only set in Bretange, and featuring a cast of recurring characters.

It’s pretty, it’s fun to read, and if the English strips seem a bit scattered — jumping between art styles and story points — that’s due to the fact it’s not being translated in order. And that’s okay! The somewhat random nature and irregular patterns makes it more addicting, like how the very occasional win on a slot machine makes you want to plow more quarters in.

The English archive goes clear back to 2004, and features everything from three- or four-panel strips to splash illustrations, to as much vertical scrolling as it takes to tell a story.

And as always, we at Fleen thank M. Lebeaupin for his sharp eyes and willingness to share the good stuff with us.


Spam of the day:

Raina Telgemeier: hello Gary

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the real Raina is emailing me from Poland to share links to malware sites promising me slutty g-string girles [sic]. Just a hunch.

Europe And Rather Too Many Em Dashes

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: Uncle George, and we discover that although Ray dug down deep to find he truly was Blood of Champion, he was ready to bribe his way out of the Fight the minute it became necessary (or at least attempt to). Ray contains multitudes.

We’re heading east today, to the continent of universal health care — that would be most of the rest of the world, Gary — and borderless borders — a contradiction in terms! — and ancient wines, beers, and cheeses¹. Europe!

  • Our first stop is in France, cradle of so many of the arts (comics not the least of them) and home of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin. One may recall that about a month ago I mentioned that Stela — the new mobile comics delivery platform — was getting a lot of attention and precisely zero release on Android, so I wasn’t able to offer up anything resembling a review.

    But! FSFCPL is in the iDevice fold, and Stela has recently released a French version, and he’s shared some thoughts on it for you. Key takeaway points:

    [O]nce you use it it becomes clear Stela’s purpose is to publish comics that embrace the 5 centimeters (that’s about 2 inches, for the metrically-challenged) width of today’s smartphone screens.

    That’s good, but Lebeaupin notes that Stela is really designed for handsets; viewing comics on an iPad means the comics are just scaled up, which makes for funnily huge lettering.

    These are comics that are native to that world: the panels are only as wide as the screen (nary a vertical gutter in sight) and can only extend vertically, but they can do so as much as desired because they are read by vertical scrolling. A panel may not necessarily fit on a screen (at least on an iPhone 5/5S/SE; I haven’t checked on the larger models)! An iPhone 5 screenful is a common size, but most of these comics have widely varying panels sizes, and anyway have conversations for instance that extend over multiple screenfuls: they don’t follow a pattern of identically-sized pages. The result is a very fluid flow and a reading experience that is meant to be fast. [emphasis mine]

    Bolded because I think that’s probably the most important selling point of Stela, however it should be balanced against another discovery:

    [I]mages are loaded dynamically and present a spinner if your scroll too fast before they have had time to load, as is traditional in iPhone apps: prioritize the flow, even if that means betraying some implementation realitie

    And some of the decisions (both technical and economic) are a bit bewildering:

    The comics are updated chapter by chapter (which make for checkpoints as well); the economic model is that the first chapter of each story is free, and you can get a subscription (using Apple’s in-app subscription system) to read after that. It is a single subscription global to the app, not per-series, so it works a bit like an anthology series. Comics are always loaded from the network, which bothers me a little: there is no way to preload while on WiFi to avoid eating into your phone data allotment, and no way to read at all if you are off the network. iPod Touches exist, you know. [emphasis mine]

    And depending on your inclination, those might be the dealbreakers right there — let your subscription lapse and you have nothing to show for it — as you’re only given access to what you’re reading right now. Stela is less a comics app than a comics rental platform; those that like to own their media (digital or otherwise), take note. And as always, thanks to FSFCPL for his review.

  • A bit futher east and north then, to the land of sauna and tango and linguistic anomalies — I’m speaking naturally of Finland — and Minna Sundberg. We at Fleen have been big fans of Ms Sundberg’s since we saw the crowdfunding campaign for the very pretty book of her first comic, and that regard has only grown since she launched her ongoing magnum opus, Stand Still, Stay Silent. Readers of this page will recall the fact that SSSS took the NCS Division Award for Online Comics — Long Form last May.

    And she’s been cranking out between three and five full pages a week (along with the odd interchapter hiatus of ten days or so) 879 days since November of 2013 — 500 pages in total as of today — making her one of the most productive cartoonists working right now. A page of comics written, penciled, inked, colored, and lettered in less than two days for nearly two and a half years? Sundberg is an unstoppable comics machine, and shows every sign of reaching Sergio Aragonés levels of speed and skill while still in her mid-20s. I can’t wait to see what she’s like in another decade.

    Happy Big Round Number Day, Ms Sundberg. Your work is great and you should feel great.


Spam of the day:

Implant-Providers

Damn it, I told you people I neither need nor want breast implants!

Dental Implants You Can Afford

Oh. I’d say Never mind but I don’t need dental implants either. Gots all ma teeths, don’t need fangs or tusks or anything like that.

______________
¹ Now we’re talking.

Need More Proof? Todd Is A Squirrel

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: I remain conflicted to this very day what the most disconsolate part of this tableau is — the smallness of the snack tent? The underwhelming nature of the “feast”? The lone spork? They could have at least made some “Dinosaur” Potato Chuds.

  • It was in the early morning hours of yesterday — having twins means he’s on Baby Duty until 5:00am — that David Willis launched the Kickstarter for his fifth Dumbing of Age book, which funded out before he went to sleep. Hardly surprising, as the prior four DoA books have funded like clockwork (at rates of 273% to 370% of goal), although I don’t recall one funding out in less than eight hours before.

    It also doesn’t hurt that Willis puts together his books and sends out his stuff on time; as a result, he generally increases his backer count by about 600 folks from book to book, meaning the just under 700 backers and 177% achievement on a US$22,000 goal (as of this writing) is just an ordinary outcome for him. Checking out the ol’ FFFmk2, we’re looking at US$120K to 180K, which would be in the range of double his previous best funding level.

    Then again, he’s already go more backers than his first collection, and will likely come up with 2 to 3 times as many by the time the campaign ends in 28 days; if the per-backer averages hold, he’d be looking at US$78K to US$117K, and he hasn’t yet unlocked all the stretch goals, the things that convince people to move from intangible rewards to physical rewards. It appears that the twins need not worry about starving before their first birthday.

  • Something else that need not be worried about? That Fleen readers will be uninformed about the goings-on in Eurocomics, thanks to Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, who has a choice recommendation for us:

    Tim from acupoftim.com draws pages about a number of matters, from his admiration of Maddox to what became of Totoro to figuring out what the deal is with these darn squirrels, but he is best known for stories on his various workplaces and coworkers, published in Quotidien Survival.

    He also had a side blog, Glauque-Land, where he publishes photos of his explorations of various urban ruins and other abandoned buildings. Which caught the interest of a Flammarion imprint, and today they are releasing a book of his photos, with accompanying text and illustrations he created for this purpose.

    Maybe more interesting than the publication by itself is the story he published (as comics on his site, of course) of the whole process from his side, especially his attempts to keep a level head and dealing with not being in control of everything. Check them out if you can read French.

    My French is rusty, but you ain’t need to read French in order to see what the squirrels are up to — no good is what. Doesn’t matter if they’re French or otherwise, squirrels are not to be trusted. And curiously, this appears to be one area where animals outside Australia are more dangerous than those inside Australia … this should indicate how incredibly evil and malicious the little brush-tailed bastards really are.


Spam of the day:

Verizon Services FREE 30-day HBO NOW® trial – Let the binging begin

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. No. Get bent, Verizon. I’ll let SquirrelCo put their lines into my house before I upgrade my service with you.

Things To Look Forward To On The Far Side Of The Weekend

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: No strip; I believe that Sound And Motion is getting up from his Downward Dog or some such.

It’s nearly the weekend and by way of advance notice, the next couple of weeks look to be a little weird. My teaching schedule next week will be to accommodate students who are variously located in Holland, India, and Australia. The week after that is jury duty (one day or one trial; really hoping for the former). Starting the week after that will be a fairly lengthy period of travel. Apologies in advance for any interruptions.

  • However, the day I anticipate sitting around in a room waiting to find out if I’m part of a jury, I intend to catch up on some reading. Stacked up and waiting to be read: no fewer than four review copies from the good folks at :01 Books (by Ben Hatke, Tony Cliff, Faith Erin Hicks, and James Kochalka¹). I’ve also got a PDF of the second part of Sophie Goldstein’s House of Women (the first part of which garnered a 2013 Ignatz), which Ms Goldstein was kind enough to send along. Everybody else in the jury room can stare glumly into their phones, I’ma get my comics on.
  • I’ve expressed this before, but I really need to learn to draw one of these days. And, were I not on jury duty, I just might spend that week in San Francisco² seeing as how the Cartoon Art Museum is kicking off their latest education program on Thursday, 3 March, at 7:00pm. To be more specific, Mark Badger will be running a class on drawing, in conjunction with CAM, each Thursday night in March.

    Mark Badger’s Just Draw is for older teens, adults, runs two hours per session, held at the temporary educational space in the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center at 275 Fifth Street. It’ll cover everything from four-page minis to the four hundred page magnum opus, with a veteran cartoonist/teacher (thirty years and fifteen years, respectively) for the low, low price of US$200 (US$175 for CAM members), with enrollment available here.

  • Now that the thirteen part travel halfway round the world and get married epic is done at Johnny Wander, Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota are getting ready to drop their next project on us, and it looks like a doozy. It’s tempting to think of them as one Voltron-like single entity, but they are actually separate people! And sometimes they work on their own projects! And starting Tuesday, the latest of these will begin serialization. Let’s let Hirsh tell us all about it:

    Beginning next week we’ll be running the first chapter of IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED, a comic I’ve been collaborating on with Tessa Stone and Sarah Stone! I’ve worked with Tess previously on BUZZ!, a graphic novel about full-contact spelling bees (available through Oni Press). Tessa currently does Not Drunk Enough, and Sarah Stone has worked on a huge range of projects, including Transformers: Windblade!

    We’ll be running the first chapter on Johnny Wander, at which point the comic will migrate to its own website. The first four pages will run on Tuesday, and then we’ll post a comic per update like normal.

    One chapter to get us hooked, eh? I’m onto you, Hirsh, and if your previous collab with Tessa Stone wasn’t so good, I’d be getting the hell out of here before you got your greedy hooks in me. But BUZZ! was good — very, very good — and so I’m willingly coming back to you. I trust you’ll make it worth my while.

  • And, from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin:

    Sorry, it turns out my reference for [the end of Notes on paper](http://fleen.com/archives/2016/02/17/happy-returns-of-the-day/) was outdated, as more recently Boulet indicated that « [Volume 9 was a “pentimento” after I planned to stop after volume 8](http://www.bouletcorp.com/#answer54) » and that he even had extra pages that would end up in a volume 10, where we are today. It is probably best to consider each volume of Notes as being potentially the last, while leaving open the possibility of future volumes, much like these singers who always claim this is their last tour but can’t seem to actually bring themselves to stop.

    Duly noted; on the plus side, we’re gonna get several hundred pages of Boulet, so that’s all right. Have a good weekend, everybody.


Spam of the day:

Keep your bait possibilities different by pking a couple dozen leeches just in case.

Gotta say, leeches are a welcome respite from the slutty moms in my area that want to have sex with me. Pretty sure that combination of words has never been uttered in any context throughout human history.

_______________
¹ Which is in all likelihood the greatest book in history.

² Okay, not really — if I don’t get picked for trial, I have to head to Dallas for work later that week.