The webcomics blog about webcomics

Want To Be A Better Person? Give Him A Read And/Or Listen

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my purchases of comics was waiting until the March trilogy was complete, as it gave me the chance to purchase all three at once from Nate Powell at MoCCA, and tell him how much his work meant to me. It was a quiet moment at the table, nobody else looking to buy or talk for about ten minutes, and the respect that Powell had for his creative partners Andrew Aydin and Congressman¹ John Lewis suffused the entire conversation.

Powell will forever be associated with March² — rightly so — but he’s done plenty of work on his own for years. For those that need a quick primer, you can find a exploration of how fashion (in the sense of what we want our clothes to convey about us) ties into toxic masculinity and fascism, or maybe a look at people for whom global warming is neither abstract nor in the future. There’s a strong tendency towards thoughtful consideration of complex issues, and a sense of seeking justice in Powell’s work, and all of it resonates with emotional heft, not least because of his tendency towards abstract, implied panel gutters (check out the page previews here, here or here, you’ll see what I mean immediately).

And with a new collection of comics essays³, Powell is talking about his work, the message he wants to share, and the world he wants to see. Save It For Later is the book of the month at The Nib (buy it from them and you’ll get a signed bookplate, while they last), and they’ve got a talk with Powell up at their YouTube channel. Also: Powell in conversation with Eleanor Davis (courtesy of Politics & Prose), and an upcoming Q&A with the Monroe County [Indiana] Public Library on Sunday, 16 May at 2:00pm EDT (register here).

That ten minutes that I spent talking with Powell was an experience that I still think back on — it’s the sort of conversation that makes you want to think hard about things and make decisions that will bend the arc of your life in directions that benefit others. Check out the interviews he’s done, sign up for the session in ten days, and see if it doesn’t lead you in some new directions (which may or may not involve good trouble).


Spam of the day:

Scientists at the Dental Study Institute in New Jersey have quickly run some tests and CONFIRMED the mixture is legit and that it indeed eliminates cavities in a very short time. [emphasis original]

There is no “Dental Study Institute” in New Jersey. There is a Dental Studies Institute, but they don’t have scientists; they are an instructional company that teaches dental practice personnel required continuing education courses. The only test they’re running is on the students, to determine if they learned enough about herpes to get their 5 CEUs.

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¹ And strong contender for Greatest Living American Of The Past Century, alongside Mr Rogers and Dolly Parton.

² And, undoubtedly, Run once it releases.

³ I’m still waiting for my copy, which is also your occasional reminder that Diamond’s entire comics distribution business is extraordinarily craptacular.

No Post Today

Running on no sleep thanks to the cardiac call on EMT duty in the wee hours. Take care until tomorrow.

This Looks Cool And Fun

I really love what's going on in these few scraps of paper.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (hereinafter: “The Billy”) has an upcoming event that is free, but strictly capacity limited, for Saturday, 15 May at 2:00pm EDT. It’s a comics drawing workshop with Hyejeon Jeon, recently graduated from OSU with her MFA, and working as a freelance illustrator while doing comics (not all of which are available in English, sorry!).

Okay, so there’s lots of comics-drawing workshops from The Billy, or CAM, or similar organizations. Why did this one catch my eye? Because of the primary medium participants will be asked to work with, which makes for an interesting rule, and as was established on this page way back in small times, rules prompt creativity¹.

The rule is that these comics will be drawn on sticky notes. Small space, but you can move them around and see new ways to make the story work. The object of the workshop is to produce a mini adventure story, but before that you’ll stretch your creative muscles with sticky note drawing games.

Registration is strictly limited to 25, so hop on that quickly if you want in. The session isn’t being recorded, but if it’s popular (and if it produces a deep enough waitlist), maybe the folks at The Billy can run it again or even make it recurring. It looks like a lot of fun, and you have to respect any workshop that includes on its list of things to bring:

  • Sticky notes or note cards (any small pieces of paper works!)
  • Your trusty pen or pencil.
  • Optional: tea and snacks because one cannot create on an empty stomach.

They get me. All skill levels welcome, recommended for those 16 and up.


Spam of the day:

Recently, I have figured out that you are a big fan of porn and enjoy watching “XXX movie”. I think you know what I mean … I have managed to edit a few clips, where you eagerly cum, and I have included the films you were watching while masturbating. You transfer $1750 USD in Bitcoin equivalent to me and I once the payment is received, I will immediately delete all the evidence against you. So, here is my Bitcoin wallet: 1NTAPV7fYhWqNjwZmaDnJwdCSUSCYS6fhF

Okay, so 1) Everybody watches porn; b) I don’t have a webcam on the computer that I use for watching porn, and the webcam on the other computer is covered by a hard plastic shutter; III) I’m publishing your fakemoney wallet so that people can flood you with requests for money and fractions of fractions of fakecoins until you are so bothered you decide to leave behind your life of petty scamming and resolve to be a better person, maybe join a youth group or something. Otherwise, fuck off.

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¹ I swear to you that it is a coincidence that the linked post is from exactly 15 years ago. Weird how life works out sometimes, innit?

Also, I may have been doing this for too long.

Things That Should Be On Your Radar Right Now

No time to dilly-dally, we’ve got items to discuss.

Item! The recent unpleasantness is now well behind us, and Skin Horse is back! We return to our heroes as they navigate an imaginary, more-Vegas-than-Vegas dreamscape in the small, self-centered universe that is the imagination of Baron Mistycorn, former Disneyesque mascot and all-around dick.

In a strip where characters have had a real opportunity to breathe and grow into better people (looking at you, Nick¹), it’s almost refreshing to know that BM is still the same up-his-own-ass jerk that he started as, and I look forward to him being humbled by whatever he’s gotten himself into for about four seconds before he’s back to his old, jerkwad self.

Item! John Allison’s been the custodian of an ever-expanding archive of comics going back to the time when the Y2K problem was still a couple years away from crisis. Alas, it appears that the depth of his comics trove has caught up with what conventional technology can do:

The old Scary Go Round site has been running a near 20-year old CMS that can go no further. Getting thousands of legacy comics onto a new one won’t be easy. An attempt to move it to WordPress/ComicEasel collapsed under the weight of my three-headed archive.

That update from Allison last Friday, along with directions as to where you can find his works online:

You can read the Bad Machinery archive on GoComics (the enhanced version with all the extra book pages) and I’ll organise a page where you can sort all the chapters easily.

… along with an opportunity to give him money:

I’m assembling PDF collections of the “New Bobbins” stories. $3 and up Patreon subscribers will get these as part of their subscription, just keep an eye on my Patreon page.

Otherwise, you can pay what you want for them on my Gumroad. I’ll try to put a PDF up every week – the first is up now. There are four collections — A Magical Pink Being (Amy is pregnant), Out Of The Woods (Shelley and Tim cause a great local disaster), End Of The Road (wrapping up the Erin Winters/Eustace Boyce comics) and Hard Yards (the epic wrap-up).

They each feature a new essay and notes.

Note that what you want has a floor of £1, which is exceedingly generous on Allison’s part, given that PDFs of full SGR collections are going for £2.50 and up (which is criminally underpriced, but the books are somewhat old at this point). I plan on picking them up at my usual PWYW rate of US$0.10/page, which would be about four bucks, which I’ll probably just round up to £3 for each of the Bobbins collections. And, since I prefer reading comics on paper, should these ever see print I’ll just buy them again. They’re that good.

Item! Let this be your general reminder that tomorrow is Tüki Day, when Jeff Smith launches his third creator-owned comic series on Kickstarter with Tüki: Fight For Fire (and, later, Tüki: Fight For Family) releasing in conjunction with BONE’s 30th anniversary. You don’t want to miss it.


Spam of the day:

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren Wir gewähren Darlehen in Höhe von 10.000,00 € bis 5 Mio. € mit einem Zinssatz von 2%

I’m sorry, when I read German in a spam, I go into a frothing rage much like Steve Martin in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Please take your concatenated devil language elsewhere.

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¹ Whose character arc I’ve just now realized is a pretty good parallel to that of Mike Dowden over at Something*Positive. Randy Milholland and Shaenon Garrity/Jeffrey C Wells are giving me hope that emotionally stunted manchildren can, with the right influences, become capable of empathy and grow into the sort of person that is a good partner worthy of love.

Fleen Book Corner: The Crossroads At Midnight

Boy howdy, I have determined that if there’s one thing in this world I do not want, it’s for Abby Howard to be mad at me, since it’s obvious that her mind works in ways that could devise — as Benedick would have it — brave punishments for any that crossed her.

I’m getting ahead of myself a little.

Received this week after considerable delay¹ in fulfillment of its Kickstart, was Howard’s latest book, The Crossroads At Midnight. It was supposed to have been in backers hands and stores at Halloween time², as one would expect for a horror anthology, but honestly? Waiting for the Spring and the beginnings of hope that the Great Plague may finally be receding from our shores³ probably put me in a better brainspace for reading it, particularly because I opted to do so right before bed.

Genius move, Gary.

The stories range from mildly creepifying but ultimately affirming (wherein an old woman who has always been alone by choice becomes friends with some reanimated corpses from the local bog) to emotionally damaging (a classic come-away-to-Faerie tale, only at the seashore, with sisterly love and regrets) to modern fears that are literally skin-crawling (just don’t — repeating, do not — take a stained and possibly murderous mattress home from the sidewalk, no matter how much it appears to be free to a good home).

The two that stuck with me, though, were the ones that dipped into splatter territory — if Howard ever gets a job storyboarding a horror movie, they better do her dismembering eviscerations justice — because they both dealt (in a roundabout way) with the same theme: what happens when your friend is something monstrous? In a moment of crisis, will they use their monstrosity to protect, or act according to their nature in ways that to human sensibility are an unimaginably cruel betrayal? And who is at fault then, the monster or the hubris?

Howard’s characters encompass a range of ages, genders, types, and personalities; nobody is a victim because of who they are, but rather because of what they choose to do. Sometimes it’s foolishness, sometimes it’s love that precipitates the fall. Sometimes, it’s a salvation of sorts, as the ordinary evils of people who are human contrast with people who are … not. Howard lets you know who each and every one of them is, with just a few lines of dialogue or a panel’s worth of expression4.

If you didn’t back the Kickstart, you can get The Crossroads At Midnight from major retailers, and I imagine it’s just a matter of time before it shows up in Howard’s store and that of publisher Iron Circus. It’s decidedly not for kids, but if you’re up for a good scare, Howard’s damn near unmatched at spookification.


Spam of the day:

Welcome.To.Your Life Insurance Offer

Those extra periods are making you sound rather creepier than you intent, methinks.

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¹ Fucking COVID.

² Ibid.

³ But not all shores. Help out the people of India if you can, as they suffer from the malicious incompetence of an authoritarian leader who has better things to do than deal with the death befouling his land, just as we did.

4 My favorites: the grabby hand and the eyes. The first is the protagonist’s roomie who deals with sickness in the apartment by getting out the mechanical grabby hand to maintain three feet of distance at all times; the body language instantly tells you this isn’t the first time. The second involved the girl who sacrifices herself and later comes back with distant, disinterested eyes to show how indifferent she now is towards the sister she protected so fervently.

Punting Until Tomorrow

Got someplace to be in a short while, and this book review isn’t coming together just yet. Give me 24 hours and I think I’ll have my thoughts organized.

PS: Check Please, Year 4 Kickstart? McDonald Ratio says (72271 + 136106 + 37783) * 3 = US$738,480. Phew!


Spam of the day:

A new study from Harvard Scientists has revealed that ONE of the following foods is linked to combating Alzheimer’ s and dementia. Can you guess which it is? 1. Red wine 2. Fish 3. Avocados 4. Clams

This one restaurant my wife and I used to go to when we lived in another town had a fried clams entree that wasn’t called Clams or Fried Clams in the menu, it was called Clams, Clams, Clams! (with the exclamation) and since we moved away, I haven’t had clams at all, I think. So I hope the answer is #4 clams, I’ll go back and get some Clams, Clams, Clams!

It Is Hard To Concentrate On Webcomics Today

Between the good news¹ and the bad², it’s a little hard to concentrate. Then again, there’s always time for at least a bit of webcomics news.

I wrote not long ago about Nicholas Gurewitch doing collaborations with other creators over at The Perry Bible Fellowship. He’s dropped a bunch more since, including about a half-dozen all in one day about a week back, and there’s now a section in his archive where they’re all collected together. The new ones start with Seltzer and continue with Spared³, Mr Scoop, Arise, The Mission, Tickle Monster, Geopardy, Night Shift, Clear Message, and Not A Wolf.

In some, Gurewitch is clearly supplying the art. In others, it’s the collaborator (Shen, Rob DenBlyker, Matt Inman) working in their own signature visual style. They all have that PBF feel, and if none of them are going have the lasting impact of Weeaboo or Skub, that’s okay. They’re still new PBF comics and I’ll take those whenever I can.


Spam of the day:

It was the MOST watched episode in Shark Tank history …

Funny coincidence, I saw Shark Tank for the first time last night and that one guy, the bald jowly one? I don’t know a damn thing about him, but a) I am convinced he cannot achieve orgasm unless he strangles a puppy, and b) his face makes me want to punch him on a scale hitherto achieved only by Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, and Martin Shkreli. So maybe this isn’t the way to impress me is all I’m saying.

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¹ Federal agents executed a search warrant on Rudy Giuliani’s apartment, where he was doubtlessly stupid enough to keep complete and meticulous documentation of all his crime-doing. This does, however, give me a reason to remind you about one of the greatest t-shirts of all time. Mine’s in the wash right now, but I still have a powerful urge to dig it out and put it on.

² Michael Collins, command module pilot of Apollo 11 and taker of one of the most famous photographs in history, died. He was 90 years old and so this was not unexpected, but damn. Buzz Aldrin is still around, and Jim Lovell, but the Apollo fraternity is getting smaller by the day. Fair skies and good flying, CMP Collins.

³ With Jordan Morris, who has his hands in numerous media but not comics, unless you count the forthcoming adaptation of his sci-fi comedy podcast, Bubble, with words by Morris and Sarah Morgan, pictures by Tony Cliff and colors by Natalie Riess. I will be wearing my LASER DONG pin as I read it.

Completionists, Take Heed

We at Fleen have been fans of Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! for a long damn time (I’ma guess around 2014 or so was when I was first put onto the delightful story of gay hockey bros), above and beyond her magnificent, record-break Kickstarts, one of which got me invited onto actual National Public Radio to talk about her import and impact.

And amid her announcement that Check, Please! would also see publication as 2-book volumes via First Second — the sort of thing that gets you into far more bookstores than even the record-breakingest Kickstart — was the knowledge that she would do a self-published fourth collection, so that those who’d supported her through the first three could have a complete and consistent set. The Plague Year (gonna probably be Year And A Half by the time it’s even vaguely done) pushed things back a lot, but the time of prophecy is now upon us:

It’s here! It’s massive. It’s the CHECK, PLEASE!: YEAR FOUR Kickstarter. #omgcp [hockey stick emoji] [checkmark emoji] [pie emoji]
The CHECK, PLEASE!: YEAR FOUR Kickstarter aims to

[book emoji] self-publish the last vol. of #omgcp
[stack of books emoji] create collectors slipcases!!
[hockey stick emoji] get jerseys made for PVD Falcs alt. cap. Jack Zimmermann
[two hearts emoji] PRINT MADISON!!

pledge here!

That went up about five hours ago; at present, the campaign is north of US$183 thousand damn dollars (on a goal of US$63000, or just about 300% funded) and merely has a month to go. Tiers go all the way up to US$360 (a four-book signed hardcover collection with slipcase and an ice-ready hockey jersey), which tier has already seen 24 backers. People really love this series.

Oh and one other thing — the Book Two campaign, which set a record for the most-funded webcomics project¹ in Kickstarter history? It raised US$398,520. Book Four has already reached 46% of what Book Two did. Looking at the day one data on Kicktraq, Book Two did US$163,777, or about what Book Four has done in the five hours since it was announced … kinda. We’re actually on day two, as it look like Ukazu did a stealth launch, with US$72K done yesterday, but that also means there’s more than US$110K after the public go-live. You don’t ever see a second-day increase in funding, except for a late-in-the-day launch time, and especially you don’t see them after stealth launches.

Right now, the FFF mk2 predicts US$600K to 900K and the McDonald Ratio at only halfway to the 3-day mark already predicts north of US$550K. The average per backer as of this writing is more than ninety-four dollars, which is just not something you ever see. This is unprecedented territory, and I will be very interested to see where it ends up and also in the time it’s taken me to type the last two paragraphs the total has gone up by more than six hundo.

Oh and also? Heartwarming story that is also hilarious. Give Ukazu your money, your eyeballs, and your attention on her next project, because in the time that she’s made Check, Please!, she’s only gotten better.


Spam of the day:

I need a man for rare and hot meetings! Let’s try? I don’t sit at the post office, write to me here

I’m not sure why you thought I’d wonder if you were sitting at the post office. I mean, our local post office is pretty nice, but it doesn’t offer a seating area, so maybe that’s why you aren’t sitting there.

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¹ Since surpassed by Ava’s Demon, Reborn, with a total of US$530,320.

Now That’s A Name I Haven’t Heard In Nigh On Twenty Years … Yep, Yep, It Was The Night With All The Murders It Was

Sometimes, I surprise even myself at how long I’ve been in the webcomics sphere, which was for a considerable time even before I started opinion-mongering back in December of Aught-Five. I got a reminder in the ol’ inbox¹ from Steve Conley, perhaps best known presently for The Middle Age, but who has been doing comics online for a considerable time; even in my first writeup of The Middle Age, I noted Conley’s past work:

[Conley’s] Astounding Space Thrills I was enjoying back in the Dawn Age of webcomics, some 20 years back.

And what the heck, everything from the past eventually comes back into fashion again, either as treasured vintage or [shudders] nostalgia. From Conley’s email:

Steve Conley’s Astounding Space Thrills webcomic made its debut online in 1998. The series, which ran for ~500 episodes, received a number of honors including:

  • 2000 Eagle Award for “Favourite Web-Based Comic”
  • 1999 Eisner Award nomination “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition”
  • 1999 Squiddy Award for “Best Webcomic”
  • 1998 Don Thompson Award for “Favorite New Series”

Two of those awards are from Compuserve and rec.art.comics. That’s how long ago we’re talking about. :)

So why the history lesson from Conley? Oh, you know, just because in addition to vintage and nostalgia, there’s a third possibility: long-overdue reassessment as a new audience finds appreciation for artistic forebears. Or, more succinctly, there’s gonna be a print collection:

These award-winning webcomics have never been in print and this new Kickstarter campaign aims to fix that.

This first hardbound volume will be 40+ pages and collect the remastered first storyline Undersea Menace From The Year 3200. If the campaign is successful, Steve plans additional volumes collecting the next two storylines Space Quakes, and The Faberge Omelet. These beautifully-produced hardcover books will be signed and just $25 each. The campaign has a modest $3,500 goal.

For those that never read AST, think 3- or 4-panel daily newspaper strips, something with a retro Flash Gordon feel, but with a late 20th Century sensibility. Individual story arcs ran from 10 or so pages (short, interstitial stories) to 100+ strip behemoths.

The Kickstarter’s not live until Wednesday (click here for the preview), but the description and the mock-up make this look like a Euro-style collection, which is a form factor we don’t see in the US very often and I’ve more than once wondered why. They’re durable, convenient to read, and look great on the shelf; think any Tintin or Asterix reprint volume² and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, Conley’s been cranking out good webcomics for longer than some folks making good webcomics have been able to dress themselves³, and that’s ’cause he’s been damn good at what he does. Give ‘er a look-see on Wednesday and decide if it’s for you.


Spam of the day:

Stanford researchers have discovered a simple tweak to your breakfast routine which can have a dramatic effect on how often, how easily, and how fully you empty your bowels. In fact, Adam used this to eliminate decades of constipation in just 3 days when nothing else worked… Along with 4 pounds of “stuck poop” that made him feel bloated, fatigued and heavy.

I’m not sure what part of this is spam is more delightful: the return address of easy.poopin@[redacted].com, or the remarkable specificity of 4 pounds (did they take it out and weigh it?). Glad you’re feeling lighter, Adam, and if you weren’t flagged as a likely phishing email I might actually check out your nonsense claims on account of I’ve reached the age when I have to go for a colonoscopy.

Pro tip: the receptionist that answers the phone when you call to make your appointment will not be amused if you refer to the procedure as an anal probe.

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¹ Phrasing? Are we doing phrasing? It sounded a bit rude.

² Alternately, check out the Castle In The Stars series from First Second; it’s not often a US publisher reproduces that Euro collection form factor.

³ I won’t hold the underwear on the outside against you as long as you were intentionally trying to dress up like a superhero. If it was on backwards, I’m less impressed.

Basically Everybody Learning To Do Comics Should Consider This

Some of my favorite webcomics are autobio (possibly fake autobio), or are autobio-inspired fiction, at least at their beginning. Even if the creator doesn’t do work that’s even vaguely autobiographical, drawing on personal history (and the realness of feelings thereunto) can enrich fictional characters, bringing them to life in ways that completely made up folks don’t necessarily have. Learn to tell the story of yourself is bound up with learn to tell your own stories¹.

Which is why this caught my eye:

Learn how to transform your personal experiences into visual narratives in our new Comics Journaling workshop. Next session is Sun., Apr. 25, with special guest @hiHelloHans — writer, digital creative, and lifelong maker of auto-bio comics.
More info at http://guestlist.co/events/680421.

That from the Twitterfeed of the fine folks at the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, who are running a series of online seminars aimed at teens (let’s say 14+) and adults who are creative-minded and comics-loving. You don’t have to be a great artist to do autobio! Take a look at Harvey Pekar’s stick figures, which certainly lack the polish of his art partners, but which still express the personal viewpoint that was at the heart of all of his stories.

We’re halfway through the CAM seminar series; Cartooning My Day and Cartooning My Life took place on 11 and 18 April, respectively. Sunday, 25 April will be Cartooning My World, and Sunday, 2 May will be Cartooning My Self; each seminar starts at 4:00pm PDT, runs for an hour and a half, and costs US$20. Reservations have to be made by 5:00pm PDT the previous day, with links sent to participants no later than 2 hours before start time. Speaking of time, be on time, as nobody will be admitted more than 10 minutes after start time.

And while programs like this will be more effective in person once the pandemic isolation ends, I can’t help but think that making at least some programming of this nature available online will make the outreach and education offered by CAM (and other institutions) much broader than it would be otherwise.

There’s countless people that live a world away from San Francisco that would jump at the chance for some of the workshops CAM offers, but which are restricted by time, distance, and room capacity. Here’s hoping everybody makes an effort to include them in the future.


Spam of the day:

This weird-looking food reverses dementia
Though bizarre, Harvard researchers have discovered a shocking link between your sleep and the onset of Alzheimer’ s.The big question is – do you sleep on your side or on your back?
Dr. Will Mitchell, DOM, MS Nutrition

Make up your mind! Are you going to steal my identity by promising a food that cures dementia (first line, signature of fake nutritionist) or by promising a positional cure for Alzheimer’s (bit in the middle). It’s not too much to ask that you keep your bullshit stories straight instead of intermixing them.

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¹ I’m thinking at the moment of a young adult of my acquaintance who’s got a universe of family stories to tell; they just need to set pencil to paper and tell them. Your Naruto-inspired pseudomanga epic? Million of those. Your story of you is unique.