The webcomics blog about webcomics

Ask A Speculative Question, Get A Useful Answer

So yesterday I wondered in a footnote about the possible impacts of the looming Trade War With China on webcomics. Here’s the crux of what I said:

Thought that just occurred to me. What with the whole trade war with China stupidity going on now, we aren’t shipping as much stuff to China, we won’t be getting as much stuff from China, is this going to take container ship capacity away (as they’re redirected to other trade routes) or make it more plentiful/cheaper (as there may be an excess of space/ships)?

My thoughts were almost entirely in terms of the raw costs of container shipping; if we aren’t sending soybeans to Shanghai in the immediate term, will there be freshly unloaded ships waiting to be loaded up with stuff for the holiday selling season? Would things not specifically on the threatened tariffs list (which is a moving target, day to day) be impacted as collateral damage? I figured there was only one person to ask.

Readers of this page know the regard that we at Fleen have for George Rohac: slayer of problems, fixer of systems, arranger of logistics. He’s overseen maybe more Kickstarts than anybody else, to the point that they recognize him as an official Expert. He knows the sausage-making end of getting things made, especially via print. SO when I asked, I was unsurprised that he’s been thinking about it, but a bit surprised that he’s looking at things from another angle. To quote:

So for now, it isn’t hitting anything. But as with anything in the world of Trump, that could change on a dime. I haven’t seen/heard anything happening with regards to more frequent customs crackdowns, so right now its basically business as normal.

Not capacity/logistics, but the possibility of policy decisions mess with things. If the order comes down to make every Customs inspection of everything from China extra specific, time and costs (storage, brokerage, etc) go up.

That said I am encouraging people to just factor in an extra 25% as a trump tax in case stuff gets fucked. This I’d recommend regardless of where you’re manufacturing. Since he’s hitting Canada the plants people use in Montreal often could be hit, and also US plants that are part of global multinationals could wind up having trickle down cost increases.

Again, not the shipping end of things, but the possibility that Screamy Racist Orange Grandpa decides to suddenly slap worldwide tariffs on paper, or finished printed goods, or whatever. Planning ahead for extra costs also seems to be smart planning in that if you get hit with unexpected expenses, you’re covered; if you get lucky and the costs don’t materialize, you’ve suddenly got more money and that’s not a bad thing.

A quote will typically have a “price good until X date” so if you’re printing in that window, fine, if not, then build in buffer.

And here’s where George’s long experience with printing comes in — if your printing proposal doesn’t have a timeframe on the pricing, any unexpected costs could be passed along. The last thing you want is a profitable project suddenly turning into a break-even or money-losing project. If I were to summarize George’s answers, it would be Do your due diligence, get everything in writing, and assume your unexpected costs could be even greater than your past calculus. Much like planning now for the potential of a USPS shipping rated increase in six months¹, this is going to be a careful balancing of probabilities, optimism, and pessimism.

There will probably be people that offer to help cropping up in greater numbers than in the past, and it’ll be important to ensure that they know what they’re talking about before paying them money, or tying the success of your project to their supposed expertise. I’m not saying they have to have George-level experience², but I am saying that there’s a difference between a company that’s done this before and one that’s assuming it can do this³.

Just as for every Make That Thing there’s several dozen companies whose ability sits somewhere between aspirational and completely fictional, there are going to be newcomers and fly-by-night operators in this facilitation space. Choose carefully. Or, if we’re lucky, George (or somebody like him) will do some seminar-type training on how to navigate these challenges on your own. Like somebody that I just made up in my head once said, Trumpian chaos is just another way to say opportunity.

Spam of the day:

What Company is #1 Rated Overall for Home Security?

The answer suggested by this spam is bestcompany™, which appears to not be a home security company, but rather a directory of all kinds of companies. It’s some pretty mixed messaging

¹ Never mind what would happen if SROG’s stated intention to privatize the US Postal Service actually gains steam.

² Only George has George-level expertise, pretty much by definition.

³ Fun fact that came up in an unrelated conversation today; when you fly into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, all the usual airport ads for car services, hotels, etc, are entirely replaced by ads for contract logistics and merch-management companies, whose entire pitch is Hire us if you want to be less screwed by Walmart. Some of them tout years or decades of experience navigating the Walmartian minefield and others … do not.

Hot Potato!

Over at Overcompensating, the Magical Adventures in Space crew has made a reappearance. Topato is looking particularly scrumptious, browned to a crisp. (I think he would look even better with some butter, sour cream, and chives. Except for the poison…)

It’s clever as always, and appropriately air-headed. Princess Dongle has been indulging in the intoxicol again, and so we’re off on a new adventure…


I don’t know if any of you realized it, but I crossed the pond. Maybe you’re in the same school of thought as Gary, and don’t believe I’m real, but I assure you, I am. I wouldn’t be paying this much for the tube if I weren’t.

So, I’m minding my own business, reading my comics while eating digestive buiscuts for breakfast, sipping my English Breakfast tea, and I read Scary Go Round as I do every morning. And it hit me. It’s supposed to be read with a British accent. Forgive me if you’ve had this particular relevation before, but seriously. It makes it about ten times as funny, if only because they pronounce all the vowels without an American drift and it’s different.

Some hints, if you want in on the hilarity: vitamin is pronounced veet-a-min, not vite-a-min. Quasi is quay-zi not quoi-zaye. And of course you know about the crazy lack of z (which is “zed” not “zee”) in words like organization.

Oh! This also means that I will be trying to catch the McCloud Tour in London on November 10th. Anyone want to join me?

I Am Wearing A Kate Hat

Okay, considering my own faux pas in the past, I’m assuming that the current Rob and Elliot is aimed at me. Maybe not directly at me, I’m not that egotistical, but… at least people like me, who blog about the comic and mix up the characters. (Are there many others like me? Other Haggard Wordbeasts excluded.)

Anyway, kudos to clearing up confusion in a comedic manner and making it canon.

Some Of That Internet Lovin’ Needed Here

Paul Taylor at Wapsi Square has welcomed a son into the world. Due to health concerns, explained here, he was born early.

He’s worried that his readers might not understand some spotty updates. If you’re a member of his forums, congratulate him and let him know it’ll be all right. If you’re a fan, leave him a note here. He’ll probably get it.

As from me: Don’t worry, Paul. I’m more than willing to wait a bit for your story.

Camera Angles

Have you ever noticed when watching a television show that cameras can only focus on the foreground or the background? And for the camera to focus on what’s down a road, for example, the person looking down the road has to go fuzzy? (I always notice this particular technique in Star Trek: Next Generation episodes.)

I bring this up because over at Friendly Hostility Sandra’s “camera focus” was on Colin, sleeping on the floor, and the guy who got the couch (Arath, I believe) was out of focus, because they were above Colin.


Maybe I’m only impressed because I wouldn’t have throught of it. I certainly couldn’t have pulled it off if I had thought about it.

That’s why I blog about webcomics, instead of making one. I’ll just keep admiring other people’s artwork.

Evolution in Art, Part 2

So… the most obvious person to pick apart when looking at changes in art is Jeph Jacques over at Questionable Content. He has even said, in one of his sidebar messages, that when he starts feeling too comfortable for the style, it’s time to change it up. And I’ve had friends who promise themselves that they’re going to take a pause in reading the archives when the style changes, and they’re not so lucky in finding exactly where the style changes.

I won’t attempt that feat, but I thought we’d look at the evolution of Jeph’s art. Starting from Tuesday’s strip, which Jeph was particularly proud of, we’ll go back six hundred strips and then forward one hundred each to be back at Tuesday’s strip. Hee, we’re time traveling!

Warning, fond mockery below! (more…)

Evolution in Art, Part 1

I have a plugin for Firefox called StumbleUpon. I have indicated comics as one of my interests, and usually all that yeilds is pages of people singing Calvin and Hobbes’ praises by posting, hosting, and memorializing their favorite strips.

But recently StumbleUpon has shown me a project by David Gauntlett called A Drawing A Day. (David admits it’s more like a drawing every other day.) He draws to improve his own drawing, but also to make a website with pens.

It’s interesting to watch his progress. There is one series of drawings, drawn on 12/8/05, track the changes he makes — the strokes become more sure, he becomes more comfortable with the shape of her lips, more comfortable with the shape of the eyes. It a becomes a likeness, but is not his best work. People are uncomfortable to draw, as our features are often defined by shadow as much as shape.
However, David becomes very skilled at still life — check the difference between an early view of the London Eye and one drawn six months later.
So … it got me to thinking about changes in skills of webcomic artists. Tune in tomorrow.

What Is The Cast of QC Thinking?

At Questionable Content Jeph Jacques is working on Secret Things, but he should know that if you want something to be secret you don’t post it in your LiveJournal.

One of the Secret Things is a cast poster. The picture has excellent movement — your eye is drawn to study every one of the cast members, starting with Raven making moves on Sven to Jimbo horrifying Pizza Girl. The character are spaced perhaps too regularly, but over all the poster does a good job of putting everyone in one place, hanging out and interacting. It’s like having a Giant Panel of QC to hang on your wall.

I want to hold caption contests.

The LJ says that it’ll probably be put up for preorders Friday and the first printing will probably be 8/21. Look for it. It’s good wall bling.

The Dictionary is Broken

Webster’s dictionary is rather useless if you look up the word “literature.” It goes off mostly in generalities about the culture surrounding literature, the only useful part being: writings in prose or verse; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest.

It becomes a question like “What is Art?” What is Literature?

Maus is being taught in university classrooms as literature.  If the definition if literature is dealing with words written in prose, how do we deal with works like Maus and Persepolis? It is a certain style and pacing?

This particular musing comes from my viewing of kris dresen’s Grace, in which is she combining her forceful use of sequential art as well as dialogue to create a story which could be literature. Her pictures portray longing, thoughtfulness, desire; universal concepts all– but does that make them art? Or literature?

Graphic novels and webcomics seem to be at a juncture where they don’t seem to be art because they are telling a concrete story and they don’t seem to be literature because the story is driven by pictures. While the popular webcomics seem to be mostly gag-a-day and long drawn out storylines, is there room for finite creations? For people who create works just to convey human experience?

What is literature? And are webcomics literature as well?