The webcomics blog about webcomics

Gary Invictus

Left: Gary Tyrrell; right: Gary Tyrrell. Everywhere else: Gary Tyrrell. All is Gary Tyrrell. GARY TYRRELL IS.

This post has almost nothing to do with webcomics. Almost, mind you. We spoke about comics at one point during lunch, which if either of us were seeking to deduct the cost of the meal on our taxes, would have surely satisfied the relevant requirement.

I get ahead of myself, though. That picture up above is of Garies Tyrrell. Longtime readers of this page may recall the Garies t-shirt discovered by Evan Dahm, Yuko Ota, and Ananth Hirsh, and the wisdom derived from it. You may even remember Evan Dahm wearing the Garies t-shirt in direct proximity to myself at New England Webcomics Weekend 2, making for even more Garies.

But today, I had to distinct pleasure of having lunch with the gentleman seen above, who m I had never previously met in person. His name is Gary Tyrrell, which he both spells (that’s rare) and pronounces (even rarer) the same way I do. There are others out there, other Garies², but to date this is the greatest concentration of Garies in general (and Garies Tyrrell¹ in particular) yet seen. Only if Dahm could have been persuaded to lend me the shirt could there have been more Garies, but I was afraid to try. Some things are Not Meant To Be.

And the best thing about there being another Gary, one who is approximately my age (at least, we attended college in the same decade), who also trained as an engineer, who also is on the record as liking beer and being from the East Coast, from a family of six children, and nerdy by nature? Google confusion. It’s been some time since I had to apply for a job, but when the next prospective employer goes to look for either of us, they won’t know if it’s Gary Tyrrell or Gary Tyrrell that they found. Sweet, sweet plausible deniability.

Thanks very much for your indulgence, and we’ll be back to topics that are more directly related to webcomics next week.


Spam of the day:

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An air conditioner. You’re describing an air conditioner. We’ve had them for 120 years (Carrier’s electrical units), and precursors for nearly 200 years (Faraday’s ammonia experiments), more than 250 years (Ben Franklin’s experiments), more than 1200 years (Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, who had water-driven fans and fountains), or nearly 2000 years (human-powered rotary fan A/C in the Han Dynasty).

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¹ Gary Tyrrells? Garies Tyrrells?

² Including a Gary Tyrrell in the UK whose car dealer sends me warranty information; a Gary Tyrrell in Ireland, where the vehicle registration authority sends me his renewal notices; a Gary Tyrrell in Australia, whose supermarket sends me coupons; a Gary Tyrrell in Scranton, whose business partners send me proposals and contracts; and a Gary Tyrrell in Southern California whose tire dealer sends me receipts. The Gary Tyrrell of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band trombone section (pictured above, right) is the only one who doesn’t think that my email address is his email address.

Fleen Book Corner: Good, Good Boys

The Adventure Zone: Here Be Gerblins is maybe the book that is least for me that I’ve ever looked forward to. I believe that I’ve mentioned that I don’t listen to any of the McElroy-related media empire — not because I’m not interested, but because I know that I would get sucked into listening to every. single. damn. one. they do, or are associated with. Every month or so I can go by YouTube and see which bits are attracting all the new animatics, and I quite enjoyed their guest turn on Bubble, but that’s as far as I can go. I have work, people.

But TAZ:HBG has brought me right up to the precipice. If I fall into a McElhole, it’s because of this book.

Which is weird, because it shouldn’t have worked. A story made up on the fly (and remade) by four different people (brothers Justin, Travis, Griffin, and dad Clint), and adapted to story form by two (Clint and artist Carey Pietsch) should be a mess. Griffin surely knows the pain of every dungeon master who’s ever lived as the players derail everything you’ve planned and go off in a million directions … and when those players are known for digressive goofery and several thousand tangents per second? There’s no way to get a single, coherent narrative from that starting point.

Except they do. Credit to Griffin for clearly having an idea of where he wanted the story to go and accounting for all the fuckery his family could throw at it. Further credit to Clint and Pietsch for finding a way to pare down to that story, while still coming up with means to include the best fourth-wall breaks, character introductions, scene shifts, and the flavor of the gaming sessions¹. It’s straddled the line between playing a game and what the lives of the collectively-created characters are like in the game rather nicely.

But that’s not why you should read the book. You should read the book for one exchange, during the last of the increasingly-difficult boss battles, when who the McElroys are comes through. They’ve spent 200 pages playing characters who are willing to tolerate each other, but who range between self-regard, self-delusion, self-interest, and self-aggrandizement.

Magnus (human, fighter, played by Travis) is cocksure, rushes in without thinking, and generally makes things worse. Taako (elf, wizard, played by Justin) full of himself, not above a bit of thievery, and generally makes things worse. Merle (dwarf, cleric, played by Clint) is grouchy, doesn’t like his family or the mission, and generally makes things worse.

Then the Big Bad threatens a town that they don’t care about at all. Taako’s fled to a place of marginal safety and for once, Magnus hesitates.

Magnus: I’m not leaving with all these people here!!
Merle: Magnus … you can’t save everybody.
Magnus: Maybe not — but that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

And there it is. Despite playing a blundering jerk for hours and hours, Travis can’t help but find a place to inject the fundamental decency for which the McElroy boys are known. It’s going to cost Magnus his life, it’s going to derail the game (and the podcast series)², and Travis’s dad reacts the only way he can.

Merle: Well … shit.

And then they’re off, transformed from adventurers to heroes. Even Taako finds a way to to care — despite insisting that he doesn’t care — and act to help Magnus and Merle. They’ll still be jerks, they’ll still try to scam their way through life, but they’ve turned a corner without really intending to. Griffin may have set the conditions that made it possible, but when Magnus, Merle, and Taako could have cut and run, Travis, Clint, and Justin decided that they wouldn’t.

It would be a hard thing for one author to pull off — heck, it’s taken masters of character growth like Randy Milholland and Meredith Gran hundreds of strips over years to accomplish such redemptive arcs — and four people working occasionally in parallel (but just as often at cross) purposes pulled it off in the space of a minute. Pietsch conveyed the entire thing in three pages, and the centerpiece, that emotional turn from Magnus and Merle in three panels.

And that’s why this book that isn’t for me, one that I looked forward to from a remove, was ultimately worth it. Because in and around all the goofs and sniping and shit-talking and messing with the DM and each other, little grace notes pervade. You can be a bit of a dick, and still want to save the helpless. It’s a hell of a message.

Oh, and the whole thing with the sshhkxxx? That’s one great story hook you came up with, Griffin. Nice one.


Spam of the day:

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Okay, EMT hat on here — ketosis is your body’s metabolic mechanism to desperately attempt to keep your brain alive when you’re starving it of glucose. It is not a means to — as the subject line of this spam promised — get abs.

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¹ My favorites, in no particular order:

  • DM Griffin appears in inset panels when he interacts with the story; on his first appearance, the players panic and he has to calm them.
  • Scrolls appear to introduce new characters and their defining abilities.
  • What must have been wildly looping, heavily descriptive role-playing (Well, I say ______. Okay then, I say _____ in response, and suck it!) is constructed into naturalish dialogue.
  • Running gags about game mechanics appear, as do repeated hints by Clint about popular songs; at first, the boys mock him out of character, but by the end, they’re referencing Oklahoma and The Girl From Ipanema in-character and it works.

² Unless Griffin can make with the DM magic, fudging rules and consequences to keep the story going that is.

Up Close And Personal With Books

See that? That’s a stack of review copies from :01 Books, who remain the best folks in whatever cohort or clade you care to name. Summer convention season, a ramping-up to a 50 book/year release schedule, and the shifting of people to cover Gina Gagliano’s former responsibilities allowed a backlog to develop for a bit, but now I’ve got ’em, I’m gonna read ’em, and I’m gonna let you know what I think of ’em. Speculation: they’re great.

For those not on the reviewer list for a top-flight publisher, there’s still ways to dive into the wonder of an amazing graphic novel. For instance, those on the West Coast in general, and the Bay Area in particular, have the opportunity to look at the making of one of the more acclaimed books of the past year: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui.

The story of her life as a refugee and immigrant, and the effects of those times on her life, is getting the spotlight treatment by the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco; as part of CAM’s Emerging Artist Showcase, a selection of Bui’s original artwork will go on display on 30 August (two weeks from tomorrow, as I write this) and remain until mid-January.

At the same time, The Best We Could Do is the San Francisco Public Library’s One City One Book selection for 2018, with discussion groups, exhibits, and author events to come in October. Even if you can’t make it to CAM, if you’re from the Bay Area, you probably aren’t too far from a library, and can get in on the reading, experiencing, and learning.


Spam of the day:

In Less Than 20 Minutes, You Can Cover Your Families Future

Families, plural? How did you know? Yes, I need to cover my family’s future, and also the future of my secret families in other cities that nobody knows about!

It’s Raining Again

Not terribly hard, but after yesterday’s downpour, there’s a lot of groundwater. Like, a lot a lot, and I’m hoping that today’s drive home is not a crapshow. In the meantime, there’s two books you should be aware of.

Firstly, the latest Iron Circus Smut Peddler iteration, this one about gettin’ it on with robots. If you followed ICC Generalissimo For Life C Spike Trotman on the Twitters last night, you know it funded out in the first four hours, will be going for only 15 days (pretty sure that’s a record for brevity), and has already passed the second creator’s bonus level. And if you didn’t know all that, now you do.

Secondly, Abby Howard’s new book releases today, and she celebrated by illustrating a comic for Zach Weinersmith (I really love their collaborations). A sequel to last year’s Dinosaur Empire (which was great), Howard sends Ronnie and Ms Lernin to before the time of the great lizards, to the Age Of Fish and beyond, when the seas were alive with critters curious and lethal.

Ocean Renegades¹ looks at the Paleozoic Era, when water was where it was at, evolutionarily speaking. From soft-bodied jellies to sailbacked dimentrodons, Howard takes you through a few hundred million years of nifty critters, and I can’t wait to obtain and devour this great book.

How can I be so sure it’ll be great? Because I got to speak to Ms Howard for about two minutes in San Diego this year, and thanked her for all of her comics, especially Dinosaur Empire, and thanked her in advance for Ocean Renegades which was surely going to be awesome. If it wasn’t going to be awesome, she would have had to tell me — it’s like they have to tell you if they’re a cop, it’s the law. Anyway, Abby Howard knows more about prehistoric beasties than you do² and lucky us, she’s willing to share.


Spam of the day:

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¹ Not to be confused with the occupants of OceanRenegades.com, a Jersey shore basketball team.
² Man, I hope she gets to do a book on the post-dino mammalian periods. Ever see the ridiculous things that lived in the Age Of Horns? Hippos, rhinos, pigs, deer, rabbits, horses, sloths, all with horns growing up out of their snouts. Probably fruit bats, too. It was a weird time.

Après Le Déluge

So work is a combination of a technical failure in a system making life difficult and a late start from weather conditions.

On the drive in, there was flooding. And by flooding, I mean at one point, I saw a guy sitting on the roof of his dead car in the middle of rushing waters where there should have been pavement. I was, for a short time, on a section of road that was between two impassible flood zones — couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back.

Don’t mess with water, kids. Water always wins.

It’s blue skies now, but I’m still behind from the late start and the technical issues, so no post today.

In The Air, No Post Today

I’m confident you’ll deal.

How The Heck Do You Deal With [Counts] 15 Nominees?

Presumably, everything will settle down in the next couple years?

This is just schizophrenic. And by this, of course, I mean the revamped Harvey Awards, which now have only six categories, but fifteen nominees in Book Of The Year:

  • BLACK HAMMER: SECRET ORIGINS by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart
  • BOUNDLESS by Jillian Tamaki
  • EVERYTHING IS FLAMMABLE by Gabrielle Bell
  • HOSTAGE by Guy Delisle
  • KINDRED by Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings
  • LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW by Katie Green
  • MONSTRESS by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
  • MY FAVORITE THING IS MONSTERS by Emil Ferris
  • ROUGHNECK by Jeff Lemire
  • SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL by Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone
  • SPINNING by Tillie Walden
  • THE BEST WE COULD DO by Thi Bui
  • THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS WRONG by Mimi Pond
  • THE FLINSTONES by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh
  • THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER by Jen Wang

That’s one-shot memoirs, original graphic novels, creator-owned and IP-farming monthlies, original work and adaptations, all-ages and mature readers only, all mashed in together. Whoo boy, the old Harveys were a charlie foxtrot, but this one is going to be extra chunky.

Plus, any list that includes neither The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl nor Giant Days is immediately suspect.

Most of the Book Of The Year Nominees appear in other categories, which include Digital Book Of The Year, Best Children Or Young Adult Book (those are very different things, BTW), Best Adaptation From A Comic Book/Graphic Novel, Best Manga, and Best European Book. We’ll call out the Digital Book Of The Year nominees as relevant to Fleen’s readers:

Solid contenders, all. Likewise, Best Children Or Young Adult Book is a pretty consistent and self-similar set of nominees:

  • BRAVE by Svetlana Chmakova
  • REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale and LeUyeun Pham
  • SPINNING by Tillie Walden
  • THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER by Jen Wang
  • THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY, by Katie O’Neill

We’ll see how it all shakes out. The Harvey Awards will be presented during New York Comic Con, 5 October. Voting is by industry professionals (Heidi Mac tells us that anybody receiving a Pro or Artist Alley badge for NYCC in 2016-2018 automatically qualifies to vote), with applications for pro status due … sometime soon? Their website doesn’t actually say, but get on that if you want to vote because it’s less than two months for them to get everything done.


Spam of the day:

Good chance just have been made to you

Having retired from Superman-inversion duties, Bizarro now composes spam text.

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¹ This is the title of the first collection of Check, Please! from :01 Books, due out soon, and not the name of the webcomic. I’m not sure what’s up with that.

² In their announcement the Harveys deadnamed Stone, who announced transition and a name change to Tess nearly a year ago. I mean, come on, it’s only his pinned tweet.

Ups And Downs And Ups Again

Those who follow me on the tweetmachine know that I’m in San Diego, and it’s weird. I can walk into a restaurant in the Gaslamp and just sit at a table! Streets have people on the sidewalks, but not throngs! People are walking their dogs on patches of green adjacent to Harbor Drive, instead of there being enormous installations of Nerd Shit! It is, in a word, Paradise.

  • But we all know that Paradise is flawed, that hideous maldesigns cause it to be lost. In this case, I’m here a week too early:

    SAN DIEGO: I’m appearing at the incredible San Diego Maritime Museum (YES THE ONE WITH ALL THE BOATS) next Thursday, 8/16! Come hear me talk about boat comics ON AN ACTUAL BOAT. Free signing in the gift shop 6-7pm, then a lecture inside the museum! AAAAA. https://www.facebook.com/events/1927332380657504/ …

    Lucy Bellwood is bringing her 100 Demon Dialogues tour to this town next Thursday, and it’s on a boat and I won’t be here, what the crap.

    If you haven’t had the pleasure of a Lucy Bellwood talk, you owe it to yourself to attend; if you haven’t been around Lucy Bellwood on a boat, I recommend you get from 100+ SPF sunblock, or possibly one of those airport firefighter suits because she is going to be incandescing with excitement, y’all. Fun starts at 6:00pm, runs until 9:00pm, and will take place at 1492 N Harbor Drive¹. Signing first in the gift shop (until 7:00pm), then a talk about Bellwood’s nautical adventures from 7:15pm on a boat (museum admission required).

  • It’s an up-and-down time for Lucas Landherr these days. His good, good dog (they’re all good dogs) died, which sucks; his daughters have never known a time without Westley², so I imagine it’s been a sad time around the Landherr homestead.

    Then scant days later, he got recognized by the professional society of Chemical Engineers for what he’s done to make ChemE education more effective; specifically, he’s the recipient of their 2018 Award for Innovation in Chemical Engineering Education:

    Prof Landherr has had the opportunity to work with student and professional artists to write a comic on teaching pedagogy for Chemical Engineering Education. This initiative is an opportunity to further work with the medium for broader instructional purposes.

    In addition, Prof Landherr’s work with Crash Course, in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios, has helped influence how engineering topics can be taught through another unique visual media. Prof Landherr has been working as the engineering consultant of the “Crash Course: Engineering” series that covers fields and topics throughout all of the main branches of engineering.

    For those keeping track at home, the American Institute Of Chemical Engineers also named him to their 35 Under 35 list last year, he was recognized for teaching in 2016 by the American Society For Engineering Education, and he’s taken a number of named awards at Northeastern for education innovation and teaching.

    And I bet he’d trade any of them for another snuffle from Westley. Well done, Dr Landherr, best wishes to your family in this time of loss.


Spam of the day:

Please activate your new Gumtree account

Not be be confused with Gumroad, Gumtree is apparently the UK version of Craigslist; I’ve known for some time there’s at least one Gary Tyrrell in the UK who thinks my email address is his, and Gumtree really wants him to confirm the account he signed up for. Either that, or Russian spammers have just supplied his email address (that is to say, mine) along with an “account name” that’s a combo platter of Cyrillic letters and a URL that there’s no way in hell I’m clicking, in an attempt to hijack a legit merchant to send their links past some (but not all) spam filters. Either way, please figure out that your email is not mine, UK Gary Tyrrell

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¹ Pro tip, about three blocks south, at Broadway on the water? Great taco stand.

² Westley Landherr is also known as German, faithful labcoat-wearing hound of Dante Shepherd.

When Last We Spoke …

Today we resume with Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin and his discussion of Japan Expo Paris 2018 from last week. Thank for your patience.

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Today’s recommendation is for Rainette¹.

I first learned of Rainette when I went to the 2016 edition of Japan Expo Paris, appropriately enough, but it is only through its recent Kickstarter campaign that I was able to catch up on it. And rather than waiting for it to come in the mail, it turned out creator Biscuit would be receiving copies just prior to Japan Expo Paris.

So getting my copy early, saving on shipping (I got a tote bag in compensation), and meeting the creator, on a trip I would have been making anyway … I have known worse deals.

Rainette is green, and as the saying goes, it is indeed not easy being green [A/V]; but that is also a metaphor for difference and acceptance (and maybe more … we’ll see), and there is a lot of difference to go around here, as Rainette has two moms, only one of which is a witch. She has recently had to start living in a witch village and that itself will be the source of a lot of issues … and encounters.

One aspect I like is how creator Biscuit plays with classical manga elements; for instance, the webcomic starts with the heroine being late … for the first day of the summer holidays. In a related fashion, she plays with expectations and does not feel the need to put everything explicitly, all the while being very easy to follow, allowing the story to unfold in multiple ways.

But what I was most struck with is how the story is meant to fill the book: even though it is published page by page on the web, you would never guess that by reading the book. Indeed, not only is there no punchline, but there is no temporary hijinks that fit in an update, no intermediate chapters or resolution, no somewhat self-contained part: for the past three years, Biscuit has been building up the story of which only the first chapter has reached some conclusion today² (and even then, the web is not yet caught up on the book). This takes a great deal of courage as the web typically does not reward these kinds of long-term payoffs.

I told her as much when I came back to her booth for additional chatter, and we had a very interesting discussion about the changes and opportunities happening in online publishing of comics. This creator and her work are definitely ones to keep your eye on.

This con report is dedicated to the memory of the unnamed art retailer who was killed while being waylaid on the highway, during his return trip back from Japan Expo Paris.

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Thanks to FSFCPL for his report, and for the recommendation of Rainette. There are some English language webcomics that treat the pages as non-discrete story units (for example, the when book-length works are serialized), but those are usually less webcomics and more promotional efforts for books. As such, it’s a pretty unique read.


Spam of the day:

This Device Can Save Your Money And Keep You Safe

This spam is hawking a handheld car battery jumper that claims to supply 12,000 volts and 400 amps. The 400 amps is plausible, that’s about what you’d need to jumpstart a car, but the average car battery is 12 volts, not 12,000. That’s 400*12,000 = 4.8 megawatts, or about what you’d generate off a wind turbine with 77m blades on a 158m tall assembly.

Now I really hated the power generation and rotating machines part of my electrical engineering education, but I’m pretty sure this is a load of meretricious, artisanal, hand-crafted bullshit.

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¹ Editor’s note: that link goes to a site in English, in case you’re more comfortable in that language. The original French is here, at an address that is almost identical.

² Editor’s note: this piece was originally intended to run on 1 August, but then Things Happened.

And We’re Back

Doing better, thanks for asking. I’m going to do some catch-up to clear some items that are timely, and we’ll return to Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin and the second part of his look at Japan Expo Paris.

  • Item! Jon Rosenberg is many things — a webcomics pioneer, cranky dude, connoisseur of office supplies, father of three, and owner of my soul. He’s been running webcomics endeavours since 1997 and for much of that time, it’s been a one-person deal.

    Today, Goats Amalgamated Industries doubles in size, as a new employee (or, more likely, a new boss) joins up. Amy Rosenberg is — apart from the questionable judgment necessary to marry Jon — a skilled designer and artist in her own right, and has been doing yeowoman’s work these past dozen years, working a corporate¹ job to keep the insurance that one must have when one has kids — particularly one with medical challenges. But Alec is a whole lot better now, and Amy’s metaphorically flipped corporate America the double bird, quitting her job and joining Jon in running the comics stuff, including clearing an extensive backlog of Kickstarter and Patreon rewards.

    It’s a risk. It’s an act of supreme optimism. It’s a move in service of art and humor and light-heartedness at a time when we desperately need all three. It’s possible to support Rosenberg, Rosenberg, Rosenberg, Rosenberg, and Rosenberg, LLC, through Patreon, assuming Patreon is working today.

  • Item! Zach Weinersmith, in accordance with prophecy (and his threats/promises of the past couple of weeks) launches a new comic today, along with co-writer Greg Weiner (his brother, and an actual political science professor) and artist Dennis Culver. It’s an explainer of how American government works, and it’s called Laws and Sausages.

    L&S launches today, with four multi-page episodes (on Separation Of Powers in two parts, Impeachment, and How To Communicate With Your Elected Officials), and it’s already got a sub-reddit².

  • Item! Chris Hallbeck has been running something very unusual at Maximumble for the past two weeks or so — an ongoing storyline (never happens) about people with actual recognizable character faces (really never happens). And now it’s spun off to its own site, and we’ll get the continuing adventures of Pebble And Wren a novice monster kicked out of the cave by their parents, and the little girl they’re supposed to haunt (her dad thinks having an under-bed monster is traditional). It’s hell of cute.
  • Item! Steven Conley launched a Kickstarter for a hardcover collection of The Middle Age. That was last week, just as things were interrupting life, so sorry that you’re late finding out, but on the bright side, Conley’s made goal in the meantime, so it’s less hope the campaign funds and more pre-order at this point. Bonus!

    The collection will include the first three chapters, two of which are available in print form already, the third in digital collection. What, you want print? That’s what the Kickstart’s for — three chapters, 100-odd pages, full color, shipping in October.

  • Item! Another new book, but this one you’ll have to wait for. Next year, Evan Dahm will have Island Book coming from :01 Books, and some time after that, a new book from Iron Circus. It’s about Christ’s decent into Hell, based on Gospels both apocryphal and canonical, deconstructed to get to meat of the matter. The Harrowing Of Hell is being worked on now, and features the cartooniest stigmata you’ve ever seen. Follow Dahm on Twitter to keep appraised.

Spam of the day:

This important expiration notification notifies you about the expiration notice of your domain registration for search engine optimization submission. If you fail to complete your domain name registration search engine optimization service by the expiration date, may result in the cancellation of this search engine optimization domain name notification notice.

You’re trying to fool me into thinking that my domain is expiring, and if I don’t give you money it will result in … you no longer notifying me you want me to give you money? Oh, screw you, scammers.

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¹ Read: soul-destroying.

² Wait, don’t Zach and Greg have a brother that’s recently the CTO at Reddit?