The webcomics blog about webcomics

Some Good News In A Bad Situation

So one of the terrible things going on in comics is a little less terrible today. If you’re not up on the Cody Pickrodt situation, it involves a dozen or so well-respected indie comickers being sued for defamation in what I would characterize as a totally bullshit move¹. Since word got out, the respondents have been scrambling to meet court deadlines to make their arguments (or lose by default), and the thing about court cases? They can be ruinously expensive even if you completely and utterly win.

To get started with a process that will consume your life, potentially for years, it requires you to have five figures of American Cash Money on hand. If you know any indie comickers with that kind of cash, congratulate them for me.

From the beginning, there was a great deal of activity on the sosh meeds, asking, suggesting, and in some cases demanding that the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund do something to assist; they’re in comics, they need legal defense, QED. But the CBLDF’s charter — and full disclosure here, in my past I’ve spent a lot of time working their booth at shows, and was once offered a staff position — deals purely with issues of censorship. Strategic lawsuits meant to harass and silence critics aren’t government (or large corporate) action, and therefore outside the limit of their charter.

And here’s something I can tell you from my time in volunteer EMS — changing a non-profit’s charter is a non-trivial task. Like, carefully worded legal documents and court filings and reviews of your non-profit’s tax status degrees of non-trivial. I mention this because some of the people wanting the CBLDF to Do Something weren’t interested in these details. That’s fine; it’s been a rough couple of weeks for everybody on the receiving end of the lawsuit and everybody who wants the best outcome for them² and patience can be stretched in times of stress.

There were indications that things were happening — principals in the case making remarks that they were consulting with the CBLDF, the CBLDF saying that they couldn’t make public announcements yet. Which, when you’re on the receiving end of a defamation suit, turns out to be the best thing you can do: keep quiet, huddle with your lawyer, don’t try to fight by getting things riled up.

Turns out, they can talk about it now:

Small Press Expo announced today that it will immediately make available $20,000 and also launch a legal aid fundraising vehicle to support members of the SPX community who are currently facing a defamation lawsuit. The fundraising vehicle, administered by SPX, and created in consultation with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, will be established for the purposes of defraying the cost of legal representation for the eleven members of the independent comics community named as defendants in the ongoing lawsuit.

SPX is seeding the immediately needed monies with a $10,000 donation. Additionally, SPX will forego its annual $10,000 donation it had planned to give to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for 2018, instead redirecting those resources — with the full encouragement of the CBLDF Board of Directors — to serve the legal defense of our community members in their moment of need. SPX has already made this initial $20,000 available to the defendants, to ensure their access to appropriate legal counsel as quickly as possible.

In the next few weeks, SPX will establish the ongoing legal aid fundraising vehicle for the public to help cover the costs of the defendants in this case. The CBLDF will continue to provide legal and fundraising consulting to the defendants in this case, as they have since becoming aware of the lawsuit.

The group of 11 defendants has put together a statement for this announcement:

“As artists, writers, art educators, comics critics, and small independent publishers, many of whom rely on freelance work to pay our bills, a lawsuit like this is going to put an enormous financial strain on all of us. Simply put, we can’t afford to fight this without help. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community, and are especially grateful for the generosity of SPX to provide us with financial assistance. We also appreciate efforts by the CBLDF and other institutions and individuals who have provided additional fundraising support and legal advice.”

Make no mistake, the fact that this went out today, just before everybody knocks off for the long weekend, is a message. It reads We’ve got 20 large right now and if you make us, there will be donation boxes around SPX in two weeks. We can answer your suit and we can fight for as long as you want to keep this shit up. The (frankly ridiculous) US$2.5 million that Pickrodt was demanding was a bluff — a terrifying one to be on the receiving end of, to be clear — designed to force the defendants to settle (and, probably, abase themselves in public).

His lawyer has to be considering the costs of continuing forward, given that it’s now going to be a fight instead of a hostage situation. It could have been a quick set of scary letters and a ruinous (but less than 2-point-five mil) payment leading to an easy contingency fee, but now it’s going to be procedures and hearings and depositions and a trial and no guarantee of a win at all, much less one that offsets time and expense. The chances that the suit gets withdrawn just went way the fuck up.

And either way — Pickrodt goes away or he chooses to press on — there’s going to be a fund, and a fundraising structure, that exists when this is all done. This is exactly how the CBLDF was formed, out of the impromptu fund that was created to defend Friendly Frank’s, which made permanent to deal with similar situations in the future. The specificity of the CBLDF’s charter may have prevented them from directly acting in this case, but I’ll bet you a dollar that some of their consultation is on how a more permanent structure can be built.

It’s a baptism of fire for the CBLDF’s new Board President, Christina Merkler, who was literally announced today earlier today. It’s also damn welcome news at a time when things could have turned out very badly for eleven people. And if (when?) that comic book civil defense fund gets established, don’t forget to give.


Spam of the day:

Tim Horton wrote:Hey Jonathan,

Not Jonathan, but I love your Timbits.

I’m the advertising partnerships manager at JvPartnersNow. We would like to advertise some of our Family & Lifestyle related clients on your blog.

Disregard.

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¹ This is an expression of my opinion. Come at me, SLAPPy.

² Which is basically everybody except Pickrodt and some brigading sockpuppets.

Fleen Book Corner: [HIGH_FREQUENCY_SOUND]

There’s not a lot to say about Check, Please (don’t forget to click the > in the upper left to open the menu that will get you to the archive and other features) by Ngozi Ukazu that hasn’t been said — it’s about gay college hockey bros, it’s incredibly full of heart, only those who hate joy dislike this comic¹. The Kickstarts for the first three books have raised a collective US$826,574, and that’s before :01 Books decided to release a pair of collections to encapsulate the entire run.

So when they sent me an advanced copy of the first, subtitled #Hockey, I didn’t think I’d have much to say beyond I enjoy this work a great deal.

Then I read the first two years worth of story, no clicking, and the sheer joy that Ukazu has for her characters, for the narrative she wants to tell, and especially for the game of hockey, came charging at me. Her skill at creating clearly distinct personalities, her command of casual shit-talk, her flair for writing scenes where the characters are interleaving three to five distinct conversations at once — jumping between argument threads and back to earlier points just to bust on each other — are all top-notch.

But none of that would work if it weren’t clear that she is crazy about this game and the people that play it. From the foreword, on the topic of a screenplay she wrote in college:

But being a Texan, a woman, and a first-generation Nigerian, I knew that writing about a white, Boston-born hockey bro would require weeks of anthropological study…. And when I emerged not only was [the screenplay] done, but I had suffered an unintended side effect.

I had become obsessed with hockey.

The minute I began research, hockey suddenly transformed into this fast-paced, explosive, wild, and beautiful game, with a culture filled with strange rituals and cute nicknames and intense yet stoic men and women who strap knives to their boots and chase around slabs of vulcanized rubber.

I get the feeling; I know nothing about hockey², but this story makes me feel like I have a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the culture. Mostly because it takes that degree of love to not only celebrate hockey (and those that play it), but to mock them ceaselessly³.

Only a writer in love with the sport could casually mention hockey’s glories in the same breath as its crippling unpopularity in most of the United States. It takes affection to dig down to the soft mushy center of these characters beneath their squalid exterior:

Ransom: What the fuck is that smell? Goddamn! It’s like my aunt’s house but with more love and innocence.
Holster: Bro, I’ve been to your aunt’s house? And no offense, but compared to this, her house smells like a shithole.

It’s no coincidence that both those links feature Ransom and Holster; I love those guys. They are best friends, they bust on and celebrate each other, they’re occasionally idiots, loyal to the end, and hilarious. Anybody else would make them the center of the strip, turn it into a goofball fest; they’re not supporting players, per se (everybody gets their time to shine on this team/family), but they aren’t the central focus.

That’s Bitty and Jack, and the ways they learn to deal with who they are (individually and together), who the world expects them to be, and how to be okay with themselves. They didn’t get a meet-cute, but their journey from the object of ironic, secret shipping to main couple would be the envy of any rom-com.

For those that are familiar and thought about skipping the book, it’s got some production cleanup that improves on the original. The book features new lettering, and tighter word balloon placement (shorter, more direct tails, better choices about what to cover up) than the online strips. The first few strips are now in color, and the ever-delightful Hockey Shit With Ransom & Holster strips now form something like a narrative. We also get a complete collection of Bitty’s sophomore year tweets (Ukazu occasionally locks the account, when it gives away things happening in the strip), and they add an additional perspective to what’s happening in the book.

Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey releases on 18 September from :01 Books; it is highly recommended for anybody that likes any or all of hockey, sports bros, romance, queer stories, and fun.


Spam of the day:

your Ductwork repairs are covered (And then some!)

This is not only giving me nightmares about Brazil and form 27B/6, it’s also making me scratch my head because it came to my Fleen email, not the general purpose Gary The Homeowner email.

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¹ Okay, one negative thing, and it’s purely my hang-up. The updates encompass enough pages to make up a full story scene, and they come out at irregular intervals. But my brain only makes sense of longer stories either a) via regularly predictable updates, preferably three or more times a week, b) via big huge chunks. As a result, I read Check, Please once every 4-6 months, taking in big chunks of updates and that’s too long to wait.

² Other than the fact that I met my wife at a hockey game. It ended with a brawl in the last 10 seconds that resulted in every player on the ice other than the home (that would be RPI) goalie being sent off, and the visiting team (that would be Brown) having a snit-fit and refusing to finish. They were losing 4-1 anyway.

³ Similar to the Biblical studies that judge the authenticity of purported scripture by looking at how much it describes Jesus in glowing terms. Those that have a critical or mixed view are more likely to be true observations by contemporaries, goes the thinking, instead of later writings by believers that emphasis divine perfection.

Kickstarting, Kickending

Let’s talk Kickstarts for a moment, yes?

  • Up first, Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett has started the campaign for the second Drive hardcover, and it’s burning up the charts.

    Well, kinda. It’s true that the funding is (as of this writing) at nearly US$34,000 of a US$25,000 goal, and LArDK only announced it about six hours ago. But! LArDK is also known for giving his Patreon backers first crack at things, so there’s every chance that it was up for a period of time before we got word. Which is to say, the early soft launch messes with the FFF mk2, so no predictions on how it will do. It doesn’t even show up in Kicktraq yet.

    Regardless, the strip is great¹, the books are pretty (and are offered in a more-affordable softcover from the get-go this time), and I’m hoping when fulfillment time comes around, I’ll be able to add on the Drive Corps challenge coin, on account of I don’t need the rest of the non-book stuff in the tiers that feature it.

    Like the first time around, stretch goals will mean including the Tales From The Drive guest stories² and likely fancifications of the books — spot gloss, ribbon bookmarks, embosses, etc. But the appeal is really the story, which is probably hitting the 50% mark by the end of Act 2. You’ve got a month to get in on it, and best of luck to LArDK!

  • Secondly, we’re down to the final hours on the latest Smut Peddler collection, just over 26 hours to go as of this writing, and US$402 from a fifteenth stretch goal³.

    Each stretch goal means an additional five bucks per page to the creators. Fifteen times five is 75 smackeroos, and if you’re putting together a ten page story or so? Not chump change. It also means that each creator will be paid twice what they originally contracted for. Only Iron Circus Supreme Leader For Life C Spike Trotman knows exactly what the breakdown on her various anthology costs have been, and what percentage of the more than a million dollars she’s Kickstarted has gone to creator bonuses.

    But if I were a betting man? I’d say a third. Aside from the recognition that creators have gotten from appearing in such a high-profile project, apart from the cases of books they can sell themselves, aside from the work that they’ve gotten as a result, it is all but certain that Spike has introduced a sum well into the six figures to the indie comics community. That makes an impact in a rent and groceries for dozens of creators.

    There’s a lot of talk from terrible wannabe creators who, in between shitting on other people, are now bragging about how they’re remaking the industry. Aside from the fact that I’ve been reading self-published comics as far back as my high school days (that would be the first Reagan Administration), nothing these dipshits claims to be doing is going to have the impact on the industry that Spike’s had by following a simple formula:

    Find work you want to publish
    Pay people for it
    Pay them more when it’s a success.

    Have fun playing catch-up, dipshits. Y’aint getting in front of the black lady from Chicago and those who’ve been smart enough to learn from (and work with) her instead of trying to pretend she never existed. Smut Peddler: Sex Machine finishes funding around 5:00pm CDT tomorrow, 29 August. Get in now or miss out.


Spam of the day:

Studies performed at leading universities around the world revealed that tinnitus is actually a brain problem that destroys the auditory cortex. tinnitus doesn’t fry just the auditory cortex. It sends ripples out across the entire brain which over-stimulates neurons. This leads tinnitus sufferers to develop life-threatening diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, diabetes, hypertension and even cancer.

You might have stuck the landing on the brave researcher reveals what they don’t want you to know bullshit if you’d stopped after dementia — that would have still been bullshit but still vaguely related to brain things — but over-stimulated neurons don’t cause diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. And if it’s not an ear problem, why does my mild tinnitus manifest when I undergo pressure changes, and largely resolve when I perform the Valsalva maneuver (not to be confused with the Jendrassik maneuver)? But no, you reached too far and clowned yourself. Sucks to be you.

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¹ And yes, the campaign features a blurb by me, as did the back cover to Act 1. I never agree to receive anything of value for that blurb, and although LArDK sent me a copy of the Act 1 hardcover, it was after I’d received my copy from the last Kickstart. The extra copy had some adventures, but eventually wound up given to my local library. I’ve already backed Act 2 at the hardcover level. I think that’s all the disclaiming that’s needed.

² For which LArDK pays top-tier industry rates. Like, Marvel-and-DC page rates; one creator told me that their contribution was the single best-paying job of their freelance career, which now includes high-profile graphic ovel gigs and multiple Eisner nominations. More on page rates momentarily.

³ I’m pretty sure with the usual last-day bump, stretch goal sixteen will happen. And that’s in just two weeks of funding.

Ignatz 2018 And Also Fleen Book Minicorner

First up, the nominations hit in the last hour or so, and Fleen congratulates not only the nominees for Outstanding Online Comic, but also the web-type folks who are peppered throughout the other categories. OOC first, then:

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal (originally on Instagram, now most easily read on Webtoon), The Wolves Outside by Jesse England, A Fire Story by Brian Fies, Lara Croft Was My Family by Carta Monir, and A Part of Me is Still Unknown by Meg O’Shea. I’m not familiar with England’s work, and I know I’ve read Dhaliwal’s but don’t recall all the details; I remember reading Fies’s, Monir’s, and O’Shea’s and am pleased to see them here.

Other nominations of note include Say It With Noodles: On Learning To Speak The Language Of Food by the Sawdust Bear/Space Gnome/Paul Bunyan fetishist, Shing Yin Khor (for Outstanding Minicomic and How The Best Hunter In The Village Met Her Death by Molly Ostertag (who is having such a good year) for Outstanding Story, both of which appeared online originally, but which will be available from their respective creators at SPX on 15-16 September at the Bethesda North Marriott.

Right, books:

  • If you’ve got a kid in the house, they undoubtedly know Gene Yang already; if they’re even a little geeky, they’ve probably been reading the Secret Coders series by Yang (words) and Mike Holmes (pictures), which wraps up with its sixth installment in a few weeks.

    Along the way they’ve followed the story of Hopper, Eni (whose name turns out to be … no, no, you’ll just have to wait) and Josh as they’ve learned some fairly sophisticated programming in LOGO¹, solved a mystery, and dealt with … let us say a romance of many dimensions. Highly recommended for the budding problems solver in your orbit, and since book 6 (Monsters & Modules) doesn’t drop until 2 October, you’ve got time for them to make their way through the first five books².

  • And another book, one that you can read, I’ma say in the next week, week and a half. Longtime readers of this page know that I am fully, 100% in the tank for KB “Otter” Spangler’s A Girl And Her Fed, and particularly the associated novels. I mentioned AGAHF last week, in conjunction with a turning point in the story, and Spangler’s got more to say on the topic today (I’m linking to the crosspost at her writing blog, because the comic’s newsposts don’t have permalinks), and especially about the book in question:

    In fact, the next Hope Blackwell book comes out this week! It’s the story of what happened after Thomas Paine showed up in Mare’s kitchen and told her about the Afterlife. There are chupacabras.

    I’m not naming the novel in question because Spangler hasn’t released the title publicly, but she did let me read an advance copy and if you are a fan of words, you’ll find something here to love. Yes, monsters, and yes what happens when a nun with very proper sensibilities butts head with an ADHD-afflicted narrator with a potty mouth. There’s odd bits of history that really happened, and the most intelligent person in the world is an asshole for shits and giggles, and trustfund ghost-hunter wannabes.

    But mostly it’s a story about trauma. About the hurts — some physical, some not — that we shove down and try to forget, and how they come screaming back to the surface when our defenses are down. You can laugh and deflect and delay, but trauma finds a way. You have to grow through it, and Spangler’s subjected her characters to more growth — kicking and screaming, in most cases — than anybody this side of Randy Milholland or Meredith Gran.

    Spangler doesn’t always have a lot of sympathy for her characters, but there’s empathy in spades. She specializes in damaged, quasi-terrible people doing the right thing despite the costs, people who have no fucks left to give but plenty of damns³. Plus, we send each other Sharktopuses. Anybody that you can send a Sharktopus to is by definition a quality person.

    Title To Be Revealed: A Hope Blackwell Novel releases sometime this week, maybe next — there’s cover artwork to be finished, final passes on the various e-book encodings to do, all the last minute stuff. When it’s out, you can find it on Spangler’s book page for a ridiculously reasonable sum, and I’m sure she’ll make mention in her tweets.


Spam of the day:

Dear Gary, You are invited to attend Passionflix’s World Premiere of New York Times bestselling author K. Bromberg’s Driven series [date redacted]. [In attendance will be] Tosca Musk ?(Passionflix co-founder, director), Maye Musk (COVERGIRL® supermodel)

Not really my beat, but FYI, that director and supermodel in attendance? They are, respectively, Elon Musk’s sister and mom. I just found that interesting.

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¹ And really, it’s less about the coding language and more about learning to think in a problem-solving manner. The language could have been entirely made up and it would have had just as much impact.

² As always, thanks to the fine folks at :01 Books for the review copy.

³ Hat tip for that turn of phrase to Helen Rosner, whose brilliance at Twitter is surpassed only by her brilliance at The New Yorker.

Ever Wonder What A Season’s Worth Of Great Comics Looks Like?

It looks like this, plus a bunch more. Here’s the latest from Rosemary Mosco, Faith Erin Hicks, Gene Yang and Mike Holmes, Tillie Walden, Ngozi Ukazu, Gigi DG, and more. That’s not to mention the books I’ve already got from Drew Weing, Tony Cliff, Jerzy Drozd … and all of that is only from :01 Books. I’ve also got the new boo from David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc), Minna Sundberg, and more.

What I am saying here is two-fold:

  1. Expect a lot of book reviews for the next while.
  2. There is no way to keep up with this pace.

I read a bit of commentary from about TV not long ago — I can’t remember where, but it was probably from either The AV Club or Film Crit Hulk¹ — that noted with the many, many original series on broadcast, cable, and streaming, it becomes literally impossible to not only watch all of it, it’s impossible to even watch just the good stuff. I would suggest that comics and graphic novels are in the same place.

Which is why the persistent presence of bad-faith actors who insist that comics are in dire need of protection from those who would sarcastic-air-quotes ruin them is baffling. I have got literally thousands of pages of backlog to get through, and these dipshits are worried that somebody who’s less cis-male, less straight, less melanin-deprived than them will get a chance to write something? So much so that they have to try to silence and ostracize those that they perceive as standing in their way?

I’ve spent most of the time that this blog has existed working from a POV of celebrating work I think should be seen rather than giving brainspace to work I dislike. I think you can count the number of negative reviews I’ve run on one hand. But I’ve also spent the the past year and a half going on record against terrible people who think the world is bettered by shitting on anybody different from them, and while a lot of that has been critiques of those in power, I don’t see any reason to sleep on those who are trying to climb their way to positions of power.

So this is on the record: the disingenously named “Diversity And Comics”, the inexcusable sealioning Comicsgate crusaders², the excreble individuals like Ethan van Sciver and Cody Pickrodt (no links on any of them, look ’em up if you haven’t heard about their deals) have already failed. The vision for comics that they want has already been swept away. If they’d just kept making, buying, and reading the comics they like in silence, none of us would have ever noticed their absence from our discussion because there’s so much left over for us once they isolate themselves in their own corner of the culture.

But that’s the point of all their noise. It’s not that we have this cornucopia of work, big enough for anybody to find something that they love, it’s that they can’t just ignore stuff that isn’t for them. It’s that they can’t tell us, no you are only allowed to read and like what I like and it’s driving them bonkers. They can stand anything except not being the center of attention.

Well, congrats, fuckboys. You’ve got our attention, now you get our scorn and dismissal and contempt, but some day you may work all the way up to our pity. You’ll excuse me if I don’t spend any more cycles on you, but as you can see, I’ve got comics to read.


Spam of the day:

your Garbage Disposal repairers are covered (And then some!)

Man, I love it when repairers are covered, but I don’t actually own a garbage disposal. Is that a problem?

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¹ Yes, yes, I said TV and Hulk mostly talks about film, but Hulk is also a deeply insightul writer about all kinds of media, including the single finest piece of GN analysis I’ve ever read, on Hope Larson’s adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time.

And for those who prefer FCH to both write in all-caps and Hulk-speak, may I recommend HULK WATCH EAT, PRAY, LOVE FOR YOU ASSHOLES, which would be the best piece of movie writing since Roger Ebert died, except Ebert was still alive when it was written?

² That almost makes them sound like a small-town high school sports team, but is way too grandiose for what they’ve accomplished. I imagine they’ve got a banner out front that reads Home Of The Brigading Sockpuppets.

This Is New — An Afternoon Drive Home That Doesn’t Involve I-95

Instead, I get to make my way home from the Navy base I’ve been on all week; a Navy base in the center of Pennsylvania, not even on a river or lake. I don’t makes ’em up, folks, I just reports ’em.

In the meantime, please enjoy the news that Comic Chameleon — the mobile webcomics aggregator that actually works with and pays creators — has updated. You can history of CC by searching on chameleon and browsing back through six or so years of posts; my favorite part was when creator Bernie Hou was able to provide Danielle Corsetto with all the alt-text for Girls With Slingshots following a site hack¹.

Anyway, those using Comic Chameleon on iOS have a new version (with Android hopefully on the way), with improvements and fixes. If it’s been a while since you fired it up, give it another try. Then come back here and read Scott McCloud’s thoughts on comics navigation online/on mobile and just contemplate the nature of comics for a while. I’ll be driving home while you do.


Spam of the day:

Good afternoon. It’s hard for me to navigate the site, could you help me find it? Here, little place, I have everything I need written on the plate here is the link. I really look forward to hearing from you. Bill Rogers [link redacted]

Is it Bill Rogers, or is it Alfred Plono, which is who the post claims to be from? Try harder, spammer scum.

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¹ Reminder: back up your stuff in multiple, mutually-separated places. Test your backups. Document your process.

Fleen Book Corner: A Nightmare Of Other Dimensions And Possibly Math

Editor’s note: Using book reviews here at Fleen are marked with copious spoiler warnings, but not this one. The book in discussion (and its prequel) are so convoluted (and I mean that in a good way — convolution is part of the story and its visuals) that to given enough detail to be spoilers would make this review about 23 times longer than it is.

So no spoilers, except the bit about the creepy doll, but come on — it’s a horror story. There’s got to be a creepy doll in there somewhere.

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What do you do when your town — your world growing up, and to some degree the rest of the world in any event — is broken? Not metaphorically, actually broken by the intrusion of another dimension into our own. Scott Westerfeld used the horror underlying the destruction of Poughkeepsie, NY (and to a lesser degree, a village in North Korea) to explore the idea of nostalgia getting the better of us in last year’s Spill Zone (illustrated in a jumpy, almost schizophrenic energy by Alex Puvilland), where things within The Zone are defined by how they used to look and their present wrongness.

So what happens when it’s possible to communicate with the entities that have taken up residence in our world, post-Spill? What happens when humans become (I’ve been trying to think of another way to put this and I just can’t) cross-pollinated with the substance of that other world that broke into ours? What happens when you learn that the (relatively contained) apocalypse that destroyed your town and took your parents and upended your life wasn’t some cosmic accident, but the consequence of otherworldly politics and a little girl’s desire to help?

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow is what happens. It’s the intersection of disaster, grief, memory, art, family squabbles, and a dash of geopolitics thrown in for good measure. It’s what happens when good intentions meet bad outcomes, where being unable to let go of pain becomes an act of rebellion, sustenance, and creation all at the same time. Where the kindest thing that can happen is to cut loose the past, and to (maybe) save your own world by (maybe) forcibly upending another. Where the act of observation¹ can force physics to obey their usual rules again.

There’s a creepy doll in it, too, and it may or may not be entirely evil. A better word is probably indifferent, or possibly subject to a system of morality so distinct from our own that terms like good and evil don’t really pertain.

But strands that were frayed can be joined together again; chaos can have order imposed again, and if the acts that precipitate the closing of the breach between worlds resemble the acts that caused the breach in the first place, well, it’s nice to have a bit of symmetry again. When you’ve had a reality foisted on you that insists that 1 + 1 = giant slavering cat from Hell, the predictability of laser rangefinder + missile + time = boom is a relief sometimes.

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Fleen thanks :01 Books for the review copy. Spill Zone: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld (words) and Alex Puvilland (pictures) is available now wherever books are sold, and is highly recommended for readers that dig on horror movies, but maybe not younger folk that get hell of creeped out and can’t sleep.


Spam of the day:

Gary, An Announcement of EPIC Proportions!

It’s a PR blurb that involves the videogame producer that’s named Epic, I get it. That’s not a lame pun at all.

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¹ Observation at a distance, in a clear-eyed manner, via mechanisms that both document things as they are and provide no rose-colored visions to look upon with nostalgia. Not letting go of How Things Used To Be is the cause of a lot of misery for characters from both worlds².

² By both worlds, I meant Poughkeepsie and the other world that crashed into it, but given the North Korea is so different from Poughkeepsie, I may as well have said all three worlds.

Speaking Of End Games

I can wait no longer! No longer, I say!

I held off on my holy shit!s for more than a week, because I know some folks like to read their story strips in bigger chunks. Want to talk long games? Meet Jeffrey C Wells and Shaenon Garrity. Meet the payoff that has been hinted at as far back as February of 2009, with the first solid details arriving 13 months later.

It had been speculated as far back as the beginning (at the end of 2007) that the main characters of Skin Horse map to the main characters of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, but the final confirmation didn’t hit until two and a half weeks ago. There are others, but to find them to link would require trawling all of the colors strips in the archive, and they start just about exactly five years back and I’m not made of time, people.

So there’s the Wizard, the Man Behind The Curtain, giving gifts to the main characters: pins to the Scarecrow, liquid courage to the Cowardly Lion, a heart to the Tin Woodsman, a balloon to Dorothy. And nine days ago, Wells and Garrity laid all their cards on the table — the Wizard of the Emerald City was Ari Green (aka Ira Rosenkranz, aka Violet Bee, aka Dr Ao¹, aka Goldbug … there may have been indigo and orange aliases in there at some point). The idea was there baked into the strip from its genesis and nobody caught on. In a world chock-full of whackjobs that trawl the internet for the most tenuous evidence to support their pet conspiracy theory, nobody caught on.

With the reveal not only of the Big Bad, but the fact that there actually is a Big Bad, it feels like Skin Horse is moving its pieces into a late-game configuration. Having seen how Garrity treats the big curtain-drop in the past, I’d say we have at least six months to go.

And whenever it does finish, we get to see what they do next. Hooray!


My name is Randy and I was looking at a few different sites online and came across your site fleen.com. I must say – your website is very impressive. I found your website on the first page of the Search Engine.

I really want to know what term you used to find me on the first page of Search Engine. I can never get Search Engine to return the stuff I want.

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¹ Japanese for blue.

End Games

I am in a network-restricted location (one that also involves many large men with guns determining if I make it past the front gate or not), so this (and, for that matter, other posts this week probably) will be brief.

There’s a pair of webcomics coming up to ending points, and it’s fascinating to see both threads of story (sometimes years in the making) come together, hinting at the conclusion. For starters, A Girl And Her Fed has been telling a complex story about individual and societal freedom for a decade or so, with a five-year jump between Act One and Act Two. Act Two wrapped up its penultimate chapter today, with all the pieces in place for a resolution of the long-running Big Bad story¹. A’course, chapters at AGAHF run 100-200 strips, so we’re a good ways from the wrap up.

What makes the progression especially interesting is creator KB Spangler has been filling the five-year story gap between Acts One and Two with a two series of novels (five so far, sixth coming soon), each written from the POV of a major character. The strip and the books are independent, but there are definite connections; there’s a fairly major spoiler about what happens to a pair of characters in the novels in a strip, for instance. Telling a story in multiple directions, from multiple starting and stopping points, in multiple media is a neat trick and it’s going to be fun to watch Spangler pull it all off.

At the same time, KC Green’s He Is A Good Boy is hurtling towards a conclusion. It started out as a seemingly unrelated series of weird tales about an acorn named Crange, and sometimes a grasshopper named Emerson, but each of them seemed to die a bunch and then just continue with their adventures. Cartoon logic, in other words — the end of a story resets reality and starts over again.

But there were … things that hinted that Crange was part of something bigger. Characters disappearing and returning, talking about things that Crange didn’t know (and, frankly, didn’t give any fucks about). Circles and spirals and the literal God and The Devil came and went, and then it all blew up:

Green hadn’t just been goofing with us. There are many Cranges (Crange?) and Emersons on parallel realities, and a mechanism for gathering them togther. Now most of the Crange and most of the Emersons are dead. The society that the Emersons have built are somehow dependent on the Crange, almost as a harvestable resource. And there’s the oldest Emerson and the First Crange, a swollen god that the Emersons have built their world around. It’s Green, so it’ll be wonderfully weird (and weirdly wonderful) as it concludes, and the actual ending will absolutely come out of left field. There’s 280 pages of sometimes slow burning story (and sometimes wildly conflagrating firestorm) to get caught up on so that the big finish² makes sense. Get readin’.


Spam of the day:

SJ Ren Faire- Aug 4-5 & Folsom Ren Faire- Sept 2018 – Joi the fun

I’m not sure why I’m getting renfair invites from mid- to northern California. Anybody want to joi some fun?

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¹ Big Bad in Act One was an irritation, then an antagonist, and ultimately revealed as a mastermind planner. She escaped. She’s burned her allies but has a big trump card (a proverbial ticking bomb in her back pocket) and is on the run but not out.

² Green prefers denouement.

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:

The lowest cost way to cool off this summer is right here. Enjoy cold air with a press of a button This weekend will have record high heat. This device will keep fresh and cool. VERY limited stock order yours now

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.