The webcomics blog about webcomics

Big Round Number

[Editor’s note: Postings this week are going to be brief (as I prepare for) or absent entirely (as I travel to and attend) on account of Alaska Robotics Mini-Con on Saturday and the adjacent events. For that matter, you probably won’t get anything out of me next week as I’ll be away from network and/or traveling and/or recuperating. We thank you in advance for your patience.]

  • Evan Dahm’s latest Overside tale, Vattu, is reaching a point in the story that feels like the end game is approaching. The overall plot is at an inflection point — the emperor is dead, plots swirl around the succession, at least two communities of ex-pats are in various stages of revolt, and another of individual exiles is in upheaval — and there are arcs around the main characters to wrap up. What better time to release the 1000th page of the saga, as Dahm did yesterday?

    If you think that reading the whole damn thing to date (which is a very good use of your time, let me assure you) is too taxing via the website (I sympathize, I can’t read big story chunks online), I refer you to the two books that tell the first roughtly-half of the story (nearly six hundred pages worth!), and a third one is about to ship to Kickstarter backers. In the meantime, everybody congratulate Dahm, and I’ll see you in the depths of the Blue Age.

  • Less than three weeks out seems to be not the time to announce new special guests, but you are not TCAF, who add on until the very last moment before opening their doors. The newest tranche of guests from around the world includes Seth, Bessora, Margreet de Heer, Erica Henderson, Kid Koala, Rachel Lindsay, Jonathan Ng, Richard Marazano, Alex Norris, Émilie Plateau, Jérémie Royer, David Rubin, Hiromi Takashima, Typex, Jhonen Vasquez, and Chip Zdarsky¹.

    TCAF will happen in and around the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) on Saturday 11 May (9:00am to 5:00pm) and Sunday 12 May (10:00am to 5:00pm). Attendance is free, but some events will require tickets to control crowding.


Spam of the day:

Stop What You Are Doing And Look At This Very Good Offer !!

This Very Good Offer includes a coupon so I can advertise on Bing. I do not think you know what constitutes goodness with respect to offers.

_______________
¹ Who for once is at the end of the alphabet instead of that bastard Jim Zub².

² Jim Zub was kind enough to send a preview copy of issue #2 of his current comiXology series, Stone Star. As you may recall from launch day last month, issue #1 impressed me, and I can safely say that issue #2 builds on that framework and ramps up the narrative.

And, uh, looks like Zub’s now the last person to be mentioned in this post. Sorry, Chipster.

Holy Crap, More Homestuck

Like, a bunch more Homestuck dropped about five minutes ago.

Can’t Seem To Focus On Webcomics Today

Can’t imagine why I’m so distracted today.

One thing that helped my focus, though? Called the office of my Congressional representative to make clear that it is utterly necessary to begin the process of impeachment. It will not be quick — the process for the previous title-holder of Most Corrupt And Venal Piece Of Garbage To Occupy The White House took somewhere between six and fourteen months, depending on when you want to say it started. It won’t be easy, it will be divisive (but no more so than allowing the present state of affairs to continue), but it is gods-damned necessary.

So. Call your representatives, since that’s where things start. Chairman Nadler’s subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller Report is a good start, but it must be made clear — the power being exercised in the executive is illegitimate, the daily violations of the emoluments clause unconstitutional, and the damage to the country by all associated with this administration are not tolerable until a new election. The time to compel testimony, build a case, and refer for trial in the Senate is past. We are either a self-governing people, or we are not.

So This Is Neat

I want to introduce you to Dr Leah Misemer, who is a postdoc at Georgia Tech¹ and assistant director of GT’s Communication Center. She researches comics, how they can be used by marginalized audiences to find community, and the use of comics in the fields of medicine and allied health. She teaches students about using comics as a mechanism for civic engagement, and to think about all the ways that comics reach audiences.

She’s had students in her Webcomics And Digital Culture course doing research on the structural nature of webocmics, and the niche they occupy in the online landscape. The resulting exhibition (which is, appropriately enough, online) is now up and running, and you may wish to check out Webcomics, Print, And Digital Culture: Speaking W/O Limit.

The exhibition is built around a series of collections, each examining a central theme:

  • https://gtwebcomics.omeka.net/exhibits/show/buildingcommunity looks at everything from how audiences congregate in forums to how the societally disadvantaged can find places to congregate without fear or judgment.
  • Online Identity looks at how authors can express themselves through their creations, particularly via autobio comics.
  • Digital Affordances looks at the unique capabilities of online vs print; alt-text, animation, the sheer scope of Homestuck are all present, but so is the bit where you can change Dinosaur Comics to alternate forms by messing with the URL.
  • Digital Vs Print is exactly what it says on the tin; it might be a superset of the other themes, in fact.
  • Global Reach is probably the collection you should read first, in that we here at Fleen have (by necessity of language if nothing else) a clear tendency towards English-language webcomics in general, and North American webcomics in particular (the efforts of FSFCPL notwithstanding). Even accounting for that, there’s a whole dang world out there making webcomics, and we don’t really talk about them except for when The Nib introduces us again to somebody doing great work in yet another corner of the world.
  • Diversity Of Purpose looks at how webcomics can always find a niche. A webcomic can be about depression or transition or cancer, or it can be about wacky things that happen in a library, or even (in a few cases, at least I’ve heard of such) about a coupla’ guys on a couch playing videogames. It’s all fair game.
  • Case Study: xkcd, which was chosen because it exemplifies all of the other themes in one handy combo platter of stick figures. So, so many stick figures.

There will be interpretations you don’t agree with², there will be stuff that leaves you scratching your head³, but I can pretty much promise it’ll make you consider aspects of this weird, wonderful world o’ webcomics that had never occurred to you before. And ten internet points to anybody that can produce arguments for which of the theme criteria Fleen meets.


Spam of the day:

I’ d tried everything to beat my E.D… But when I injected Thai street drugs directly into my penis… Let’ s just say, things went too far. They nearly amputated my ” Johnson” with a scalpel…

This email, in case you were wondering, features the subject line Secrets to perfect female satisfaction, but appears to have completely forgotten the clitoris. So, yeah.

_______________
¹ It is not known if she is a ramblin’ wreck.

² I found the Digital Vs Print and Digital Affordances sections to be overlapping substantially, and would have personally combined them into one collection, adding in a collection examining how webcomics typically are creator-owned and do away with editorial/corporate control over material. A webcomic’s audience is the reader, where a corporate comic’s audience is the editor or publisher. This idea is, to be fair, addressed to a degree in the Diversity Of Purpose collection.

³ For example, whoever described Girls With Slingshots as The webcomic follows a group of friends who are all members of the LGBTQ community and their day-to-day experiences seems to have overlooked a raft of characters (Maureen, Clarice, Candy, Hazel’s mom, Jameson, Melody, Chris, Zach) and especially how Hazel — who is arguably the closest stand-in for the creator — is sometimes uncomfortable with her best friend’s queerness.

There’s also a description of Scenes From A Multiverse using few digital affordances, which overlooks the polling feature that SFAM was originally designed around. I get it, students at GT are in demanding majors and this is a humanities elective; they don’t necessarily have time to go back through a decade or more of archive. But I will never understand how anybody described Homestuck as convenient while keeping a straight face.

Three Weekends Of Comics

NNnnnnnnokay, I think I can get through this post without reminding you about the Alaska Robotic Mini-Con, which will take place on Saturday, 27 April (plus lead-up events) in Juneau Alaska. Probably. Let’s see what’s up at our friend, the Cartoon Art Museum, instead.

  • This Saturday, 20 April, CAM hosts Rob Rogers as he talks about his editorial cartoon collection, Enemy Of The People, and how he got fired for not being willing to be Ben Garrison-lite. The talk (and signing to follow) is free, and starts at 2:00pm at CAM, 781 Beach Street in San Francisco.
  • The following Saturday and Sunday (that would be the 27th and 28th¹), the Queer Comics Expo will take place at the museum, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, including the announcement of the 2019 Prism Award nominees. Maia Kobabe (who has a current Artist Showcase in advance of the release of Gender Queer: A Memoir, coming this summer from Lion Forge) will be the featured guest. QCE doesn’t have a dedicated site, per se, so check them Facebook or Twitter for info on exhibitors and programming. Tickets run from free (for CAM members) to US$10/day at the door.
  • The Saturday after that is, of course, Free Comic Book Day, and CAM is getting in on the fun. By spending the day visiting comics-oriented shops up and down the Bay, you can get fabulous stuff in addition to the requisite free comic books:

    The Comic Shop Hop is a comic book store scavenger hunt throughout the entire Bay Area. Participants will go from store to store filling up their passport as they go along, tracking their progress from store to store.

    All participants who visit two or more comic shops and submit their passport to the Comic Shop Hop Google Form will be entered into a Free Comic Book Day prize raffle.

    Anybody visiting two or more locations for passport stamps gets entered for the lowest tier prize, the mid-tier is open to those that get stamped in five ore more locations (or visit two to four and purchase in at least two of them), and the top tier is for those that get stamps in ten or more locations (or visit five to nine and purchase in at least five of them).

    Passports are available in any of the participating shops or CAM; hours vary from location to location, so click on the location names in that map to see who’s open when. More information is available by calling (415) 227-8666 or emailing either membership or education at cartoonart.org.


Spam of the day:

We have sent you a message
An email containing confidential personal information was sent to you

Yes, because the US Postal Service (who are the fake senders of this spam) are famous for providing delivery of electronic mail and not physical mail.

_______________
¹ For those of you not going to Juneau … dammit!

Now With Color!

That would be the show poster for Alaska Robotics Mini-Con, which has announced more of the goings-on in and around the show on Saturday the 27th. To wit:

Speaking of Tillie Walden, I should note that the LA Times Festival Of Books named Walden’s On A Sunbeam the 2018 Festival Book Prize winner in the Graphic Novel category. If you haven’t read it you really should.

Speaking of awards, the Slate/Center For Cartoon Studies Cartoonist Studio Prize winners for 2019 were announced today, with the honors (and a thousand dollars cash money) going to Chlorine Gardens by Keiler Roberts (Best Print Comic) and Being An Artist And A Mother by Lauren Weinstein (Best Web Comic).

As previously noted, Nancy was nominated in the Best Web Comic category which remains a head-scratcher. It’s still the best thing on the newspaper page in the past decade or more and if you aren’t reading it you need to start reading it. That being said, congratulations to Roberts and Weinstein, and to all the nominees.


Spam of the day:

Open An Augusta© Gold IRA

No. Just … no.

Shownouncements

A pair of comics shows had announcements about guest appearances today. One is large, one is HUGE.


Spam of the day:

Looking for some awesome gadgets to spice up your life?

Thanks to Gmail not displaying images for spam, I’m not sure if this is meant to target people that would be enticed by the manly tactical kinds of gadgets, the everyday carry types of gadgets, or the sexy, lube-dripping types of gadgets. Maybe be more clear in your copy text?

It Is Too Nice A Day Outside

Futhermore, I have a lawn that needs mowing and no time this weekend to do so. I think the 4000+ words you’ve gotten this week on MoCCA Fest 2019 should sustain you until Monday. Enjoy the weekend, friendos.

MoCCA 2019, Part Four

They mostly weren’t art directors, actually.

That is to say, the most interesting panel from the perspective of creators that happened at MoCCA was at the end of Saturday, when Viktor Koen (in association with SVA’s Continuing Education program) spoke with Emma Allen of The New Yorker (she says she’s more on an editor), Matt Lubchansky of The Nib (artist and editor), Will Varner of formerly Buzzfeed (and illustration editor), and Alexandra Zsigmond (actually an art director, formerly full time and now part time with New York Times).

Regardless of what they might call themselves on their business cards, their job is to find creators to make pictures (maybe with words, maybe not) for money. You want to know what they’re looking for, so that you become what they’re looking for, and they want to give you money. So many of you wanted to know what they’re looking for, the room was SRO with possibly more people standing in the margins than sitting.

  • Starting from the very broad What are you looking for?, the answers were extremely varied. Allen started off with maybe the one piece of common advice: Be really good at what you do and then we’ll buy it, but there was a lilting, jokey tone to her voice. It’s not enough to be really good if you don’t have a unique way to express it; don’t bother emulating Roz Chast down to the molecular level, since she’s already got Roz Chast.

    Zsigmond isn’t looking for cartoons at all — she wants single images that capture the concept of a potentially long story. Lubchansky is looking for everything from gag panels to pure political cartoons to satire and longform reporting, but in each case it has to be a comic for a reason. Varner was more likely to look for visual essays for longform, but short pieces and humor comics were chosen as much for virality potential as anything.

  • Where they find creators is likewise all over the place, but all would agree that having a findable portfolio with your name and email on it, showing enough of your work to get an idea of what you can execute, is key. Social media presence is helpful (Varner, Lubchansky), but your personal audience there won’t substitute for art chops. Zsigmond spends a lot of time trawling sites and print anthologies on art and design, and looking for who artists link to — having a network of people whose work you enjoy/talk about is a good indication of worth.

    Allen is in the unique position of inheriting a job from somebody that had it for 20+ years, in a magazine with a very set style for 90. Her goal of preserving the traditions can run up against finding new voices, but she’s managed to move into longform comics. Her most important question is Who are you excited about?, using creators to find creators.

  • Getting the job is just the first task; if you don’t ever get brought back, you don’t have a career. Lubchansky emphasized that people who do good work and are easy to work with (good communication, accepting feedback and direction) will be reused over mad geniuses that disappear at random. Got problems with the gig? Talk to your editor, don’t let it be a surprise.

    Allen countered that overcommunication is also an issue — don’t bury your editor’s email, don’t require handholding every half-step. Zsigmond added that it’s a bad idea to drop surprises — you’ve been through sketch approval with your editor/AD, don’t produce a final piece just before press deadline that’s radically different than what was agreed upon. Varner just doesn’t want you to save all your problems and questions for 6:30 on Friday evening. Space ’em out!

  • Asked what makes somebody ready to turn pro, the answers were pretty uniform: be organized, consistent, and able to ask for money with a straight face (Varner). Have confidence in your work, as shown by a body of good work (Lubchansky). Be able to deal with people in a professional manner as you make connections (Zsigmond). Have enough ego and hustle to get out there and sell yourself, be able to deal with rejection and silence, but keep all the ego in check (Allen). Or, as she elaborated, A small group of neurotic sociopaths are really good at it, and I’m lucky to work with them!
  • The counter is when does an artist not get work, what are the sins that will keep you in the reject pile? Lubchansky needs to see consistency in your portfolio, that it indicates you can execute on the kind of work you’re pitching. Varner needs to see what you’re good at and doesn’t care where/what form that is (countering the narrative that You Have To Be On Instagram).

    Zsigmond wants to see a dozen or more completed pieces to get a feel for what you do. Allen repeated her emphasis on tone, originality, culture fit. Failing to meet these requirements, or running counter to them, is what keeps you from getting the call back.

Getting the idea that there’s no one path or way to success, and you have to apply yourself to the job you want? That you have to decide how much time you spend on the business of being a working artist, and how much on the creative end? As Allen says, If you’re not making any money, your taxes are easy!, but money comes in handy for those of you that want to pay for things like food and shelter.

Some of the panel are, or have been freelancers, they know that not everybody has the metabolism for that life, but no one part of your career¹ is better or more noble than another. So pay attention to the key takeaways — don’t make people you want to hire you have to Google you; read the guidelines and pitch for things the venue will actually publish; keep your communications (especially follow-ups) professional and brief; buddy up, start an anthology, work your craft and be visible. Or, as moderator Koen concluded: Less bitching, more pitching.

Go get ’em.


Spam of the day:

I Will Promote Your Business Very Efficiently All Over The World And In All Niches for your fleen.com

Only somebody that hates spam as much as me would buy the services of a spammer, is that it? Get lost.

_______________
¹ And keep in mind that your career is not going to be that of the ’60s cartoonist, who showed up in the city on Tuesday with a portfolio of comics, starting at the outlet with the best rates, then the one with the best donuts, and by the end of the day had sold everything and got on the train home to Bridgeport.

MoCCA 2019, Part 3

Still talking about people doing interesting work, but no Editor’s note today. Sorry?

  • There’s nobody I look forward to seeing once a year like George O’Connor — his Olympians series from :01 Books is a delight of ever-expanding complexity, and we always have a good talk about the more obscure corners of Greek myth. So one more book, with Hestia stepping out of the limelight³ to narrate the story of Dionysus.

    After that, he’ll be busy on his contribution to the World Citizen Comics line, but then he’s allowed for the possibility of looking at the Norse deities, and that should be fun — Loki’s an even bigger jerk than Hermes, and his book was a riot, dick jokes and all. We also discussed the possibility of taking a run at the Egyptian pantheon, but they lack definitive (or at least surviving) accounts, and those that we do have would be tough to adapt to a middle grade book¹.

    His love of the material (and talking with anybody of any age) is infectious. He knows his stuff better than anybody I’ve ever met (like how when Hephaistos caught his wife Aprhodite and brother Ares in flagrante, the original texts state that Apollo and Hermes decided to bust his chops, offering up that they’d gladly be caught in such a compromising position) and always offers up a story I’d never heard before (like how the founder of Athens sprung from the leg of Athena … after Hephaistos, in a creeper moment, got shall we say too excited in her direction²).

    There may be more stories that are thematically linked instead of focused on a single character, as well. And I was pleased to point him in the direction of Meg Hunt at table B124, who was selling bandannas that were screenprinted with mythical beasties; the one with the minotaur practically tells the whole story, which McCloud would tell us makes it a comic.

  • Speaking of the B aisle, I saw some of the most beautiful paper art I’ve ever seen at the table of Mäelle Doliveaux of Beehive Books — shadowboxed works of cut paper, one-offs made as special tier rewards for a Kickstarter. Follow this link and scroll down, and see what can be accomplished with patience and a sharp enough blade4 to cut paper very cleanly.
  • Falynn Koch’s done a couple of Science Comics (on the topics of plagues and bats) and will be one of the early contributors to the new History Comics line, but I was glad to talk to her about her Maker Comic (on the topic of baking). Mostly we talking about how all of the recipes mentioned in the story are given in the back, except for the chocolate chip cookies. Just use the one on the bag is the advice given in character, and there’s a reason.

    That recipe on the bag — any bag, from any maker of chocolate chips — has been refined in the crucible of a million home cooks, perfected until they show off those chips as much as is humanly possible. More than anybody else, Koch opined, the chocolate chip people want you to succeed with that recipe, so that you’ll love the cookies and want to make more and buy more chips. I’m not saying that she got into my head with that bit of wisdom, but I will say that less than 10 hours after we talked, I had a fresh chocolate chip cookie in my hand, and that required navigating the rest of MoCCA, getting home, and doing a grocery run.

  • Every year at MoCCA, I see people I’ve never seen before. Some are showing their influences plainly, a table of stickers of popular characters, no indication yet of what stories they have to tell, what characters they would breathe life into. Some are starting to see how to construct those stories, how to make characters that aren’t Naruto with the serial numbers filed off. Each year I see some that are very good, and each year I see about 0.75 of a creator that’s scary good, one that you’ll want to keep your eye on for the future, because they are going somewhere.

    This year, I met her within 10 minutes of the floor opening on Saturday. I made my way to the far back wall to escape the crush of people entering, and at the shared booth for students of Moore College Of Art & Design in Philadelphia, I met Dylan B Caleho. Her senior thesis comic, Don’t Linger In Dark Corners, caught my eye from ten feet away. It’s a damn strong cover, designed to stand out against background noise, and a story that perfectly paces to a cliffhanger, one that demands a full story treatment.

    Fortunately, she’ll get the chance; after graduation, Caleho will be taking a job with a comics press, working the production end of things. It’ll only help her understand how to build comics better, and hopefully she’ll get the chance to show what she can do on a longform treatment of Don’t Linger before long. I mean, she’s going to be showing up on radars sooner or later; my bet is on sooner.

    Just one thing: follow her at the Twitter link above, or her Instagram. There’s a Tumblr that comes up if you search for her that appears to have been taken over by Vietnamese spammers, so don’t go to dylanbeedoodles.tumblr.com unless it’s via the Wayback Machine up to or including 2 Feb 2019, unless you’re in the market for Hanoi-made polo shirts.


Spam of the day:

I had visited your store last week, and I saw a very nice pants i wanne buy. But I have a question, today I wanted to order it, but can not find the pants anymore in your store. it looks like the first picture on this site http://bit.ly/[redacted]

Oh, yes, I’m entirely going to click a link to see what pants you want to buy when I don’t sell pants, or even voluntarily wear them. That’s a great idea.

_______________
¹ There’s a lotta semen in those Egyptian myths.

² Yeah, okay, lotta semen in the Greek myths, too. But relatively large numbers of non-semen-based stories to tell, compared to the folk of the Nile.

³ All the records of her that survive speak of modest Hestia, and there’s little about her that does survive. O’Connor considers that intentional — the goddess of the hearth, the one that keeps you warm and safe and isn’t interested in knocking shit down or raping your daughters or killing everything that moves? No need to tell stories about her to paper over the flaws and motivate you to worship, everybody knows them all and loves her.

4 In this case, a blade made of photons; she used a laser cutter for this.