The webcomics blog about webcomics

Hither, Tither, Yon

We’re going to be going in several different directions today; best strap in now while you can.

  • This has been a stinker of a year, top to bottom (and I fear we haven’t hit bottom yet), so I think we all deserve a little cheering up. Today marks the release of the King Baby Plush, based on Kate Beaton’s book of the same name. Just lookit that chubby face and try to keep a bad mood — it’s basically not possible.
  • Motionographer, which dedicates itself to issues of interest to designers, animators, and storytellers of all stripes (at least, according to their About page) has a nice Q&A up today with Katie Lane (lawyer to the indie comics community and possibly also you) on the topic of protecting your work from being ripped off. She starts off damn smart in delineating the situation we’re in:

    I don’t think that every use of visual art on social media is a misuse, though, at least not in terms of copyright law. But because of the way social media has enhanced our ability to communicate visually, when we start creating art, we’re doing so with those social media skills as part of our vocabulary.

    And because on social media we use art, it’s understandable that some of us use art when we create. For me “using” is different from “referencing”. When we “use” art, we keep it largely intact; details might change, but the art is still recognizable in what we create. When we “reference” art, the art influences and informs how we create; a transformation takes place so that the original and our work are different.

    I think how we communicate on social media is part of why you see the rise in swiping, but I don’t think it’s the cause.

    The cause, in my opinion, is not being mindful of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

    and gets altogether smarter from there. Want to know about when the drop the legal hammer? Or what to consider before filing a DMCA takedown? Or even how to prevent rip-offs in the first place? Read it.

  • For those going to Thought Bubble in a few weeks, I wish to share the session that you most want to see:

    OFFICIALLY CROWNED! Come see me talk to @ryanqnorth and @EricaFails on Sunday afternoon at @ThoughtBubbleUK

    Details here, that’s John Allison talking with Erica Henderson and Ryan North about Squirrel Girl on Sunday 6 November in the News Room, Royal Armouries (Fourth Floor), from 1:10pm to 2:00pm.


Spam of the day:

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Sorry, spammer, nothing left to do on my house right now that doesn’t involve spackle. Not enough broken for you to try to scam me on it.

Places To Examine Your Conscience

Some of these will concern you, some will grab at your sense of empathy, some will intrigue; basically we’re all over the place today.

  • I’m very interested to see what the unintended consequences of a new law in California concerning the sales of autographs/autographed memorabilia will do to the major comics shows. Via the twitterfeed of author Amy Stewart, a new law (presumably intended to keep people from buying fake autographs/tchotchkes for big bucks) will require any signed item (think books and art) costing more than five damn dollars (think: everything) to come with a certificate of authenticity with a seven year retention requirement.

    It might be that people at SDCC next year are forced into the charade of selling books/prints/whatever and making the person who bought it then come back for a separate signature. It may be that the “signed & sketched” price variant is actually illegal. It may mean that California-residing creators can no longer supply pre-signed merch to stores (think Raina Telgemeier and the signed copies that bookstores have of Ghosts … they’ll have to dump stock yesterday or risk sanctions that I don’t know how to determine under California’s Civil Code).

    Okay, the summary of the bill indicates that the person signing things is exempt, but resellers appear not to be. Raina can sign a book without recordkeeping, but any comic shop or bookstore with a signed by the author! sticker on books is potentially screwed. California creators/vendors, your thoughts please.

  • From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, a dispatch regarding a Kickstarter that’s burning up the webcomics category in two languages:

    Commit Strip, the strip about the daily life of coders, has launched a Kickstarter for their new book collection, and their first in English, at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/commitstrip/commitstrip-rise-of-the-coders-a-book-about-the-fu. And about 24 hours in they [had] already blown past twice their (admittedly modest) goal. Note that, much like the Last Man campaign, they have rewards in multiple languages but had to set up a separate page for the French description of the campaign as Kickstarter does not support campaigns in multiple languages.

    That last bit surprises me. I wonder if KS would object if you just had a bunch of text in more than one language, or set up support alternating languages but with identical price points and rewards. Certainly that would be a pain; I wonder what our friends to the bilingual north think about this particular feature lack.

  • We’ve spoken here at Fleen about Something Terrible, and the burden that Dean Trippe has taken upon himself, because the key thing about being Batman is, you don’t want any other people to have to be Batman. Your trauma defined your adulthood, but you can use that to help others not become as I Am The Night as you wound up; for Trippe, it means making himself available¹ to other survivors of childhood sexual abuse and creating his own impromptu Bat-Family, meeting and offering solace to one person at a time.

    But there’s more people out there than you can meet one at a time that need him, so Trippe’s gone the media route. Last Friday saw the launch of the Something Terrible podcast, hosted by Trippe and no doubt finding its own direction for future episodes. Trippe calls it a mission², I call it a most unfortunately necessary public service that I absolutely will not be listening to; I’m not burying my head in the sand, but in order to keep myself where I need to be to help when necessary³, I need to deal with trauma-bearing people individually, in person, as the need arises. I can’t go seeking them out.

    But those on the other side of the equation, who don’t have my luxury of distancing themselves? Who need Batman to avoid becoming Batman? The Something Terrible podcast is going to be a godsend. Here’s hoping you never have to subscribe.


Spam of the day:

Search For Baby Shower Gifts Options

The one part of the patriarchy and general male privilege that I will gleefully engage in is the general pass I get for baby showers. I know that makes me a terrible feminist, but this is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me. I will die in it at the stake. PS: Benedick rules.

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¹ I suspect, on occasion, to his own detriment. Dean, there’s a reason that they tell you to secure your own mask before helping others — if you aren’t well and whole, you can’t be of assistance to them, no matter how much they need it. Don’t overdo it, please.

² A very Batman-like approach to it, I must say.

³ Occasional reminder: I am an active Emergency Medical Technician.

Here Are Things You Should Do Today

Some days, there’s nothing but good news. Let’s be happy together.

  • I don’t know if you saw this yesterday, but Hope Larson (who is one of like four creators¹ whose new project I will buy blind at the comic store) has given comic creators everywhere a gift:

    If you want to write comics but aren’t sure how to start, I’ve uploaded the script for Goldie Vance #1 (for free): https://gumroad.com/l/nPdQZ

    You’ve got a hankering to write comics, but aren’t sure how to make that work? Larson’s sharing a complete script, which you can compare against the final issue for like three bucks in the recent issues bins at your local comic shop (or event better, by pre-ordering the first trade, on account of once you read the first issue, you won’t want to stop). And she’s clear about something: this is not the way to write a comic, but it is a way to do so, and a pretty successful one at that, because Goldie Vance is a damn good book.

    There’s not a lot of creators that make it to a measure of accomplishment and see that the most important thing they can do in their careers is to make it easier for the next generation of creators to follow in their footsteps; if nothing else, making younger creators better is going to create competition in the future, so it’s an act of both confidence² and altruism together.

  • It is long standing policy at this blog that while many creators are great at what they do, or even unsurpassed at some particular aspect of comics, only one is best with no qualifiers. Kate Beaton is best, you guys. On the off chance I haven’t mentioned it enough recently, her second childrens book, King Baby, is out next Tuesday and now is your shot to pre-order it. It’s charming as hell, I have two copies on order so I can give them to my nieces who have each recently had their first kids (one back in March, one just a few weeks ago — instant cousins!) on account of they aren’t getting the copy that Kate gave me in San Diego because it’s mine.

    Today’s the best possible day to reinforce Beaton’s bestness with that pre-order, by the way, seeing as how today is her birthday. Do you love everything she’s given us, for free, for years and years now? Do you — as all right thinking folk do — know in your heart that nothing is better than Beaton’s comics about her visits home to see family, starring her Mom & Dad? Do you want her to be able to keep making these things? Well, people gotta eat, and since she steadfastly refuses to charge for the Momics, buying her books is the best insurance that she’ll keep delighting us — and again, I must stress this next bit — for free.

    Oh, and keep an eye on TopatoCo, on account of your Fat Pony Plush is about to get a friend. Even if your budget doesn’t allow even small purchases, at the least join with me now: Happy Birthday, Kate, and thank you. You are best.


Spam of the day:

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¹ The others: Jim Zub, Carla Speed McNeil, Terry Moore. Coincidentally, like Larson, they tell very different stories — format, tone, topic, genre — from project to project.

² Besides, no matter how good the next generation gets at comics, they won’t match Larson at both comics and making ice cream. She’s a flavorbending madwoman.

So, Who’s Applying For SouthxSouth Lawn?

Having apparently enjoyed his time at SXSW, President Obama has decided to throw his own festival on Monday, 3 October; I’m guessing that webcomics could fit neatly into the Interactive track, but you’ve only got until 10 September (that’s a week from tomorrow) at 5:00pm EDT to get your application in. I know there’s people in our community that have been to Austin, so who’s going to DC?

  • My suggestion: get somebody out there to talk about Kickstarter/crowdfunding (George, Spike), and be sure to bring up KC Green’s This Is Fine plush which finished up today just under US$455K, or 13 times funded. Nicely done, KC, and good luck Make That Thing getting some 14,000 plushes to more than 12,700 backers.
  • Second suggestion: just put Onstad on stage talking about how to write a bunch of blogs in different voices, three of which updated today, just in time for the long weekend, hooray!

And that’s it — long weekend comin, which I will happen to spend on EMT duty, with tropical storm/hurricane Hermine heading this way. Stay dry, I’ll see you next week.


Spam of the day:

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Busy Monday

Where to start? How about here, because it’s always good to see a fresh Paul Southworth comic, and not because of any name-related preferential treatment. Please enjoy the return (after about two years) of Lake Gary.

  • Know what’s got a damn-near universal, gut-level meaning to anybody that grew up in the US and swaths of Canada? Sears. It’s just that place with everything, not too exciting, tools right next to teen clothing because why not? And a place that ubiquitous, that mundane, was inevitably going to attract the attention of the 21 Century’s visual depictor of ubiquity, Brandon Bird.

    He launched his Sears Project three years back, Kickstarting a cross-country trip to visit as many Sears locations as possible, to paint representations of them, to capture the Searsness of modern American life.

    And now comes the next stage of Searsification:

    p.s. do you guys know about my Sears event? http://brandonbird.com/

    On Tuesday, 13 September (already established as the most important release day in webcomics), Bird will be doing the most mundane thing you could do after a trip to chronicle mundanity: he’ll be giving a slide show:

    It’s been three years since I embarked on a dangerous quest to document all the Sears stores in the land and in honor of that anniversary I’m hosting a little event next month. Enjoy a slideshow, Sears-themed refreshments, and Q & A with myself and co-Sears tripper Erin Pearce about just what it was like to live on the road in search of Sears. Get a peek at upcoming Sears art and learn what’s next for the Sears project. (Seating is limited, so if you know for sure you can make it and want to reserve a seat, rsvp to brandonbird [at sign] gmail.com.)

    That’ll be the 13th, 8:00pm, at the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles (on Alvarado, right near Sunset Boulevard).

  • I don’t know if you noticed the Kickstarter for an indie videogame about the feral dogs of Moscow’s subways, but it’s now got two links to webcomics. As a result of unlocking achievements, they’ve unlocked a particular real-life dog as a playable character: Reginald Barkley, loyal pooch of Kean Soo. And last night it was announced that you can also play as KC Green’s Question Hound, which seems appropriate given it’s a game that involves both dogs and fire.

    At least, you may be able to, as Russian Subway Dogs is only about 40% of the way to goal with 23 days to go. There’s other dogs to unlock, though, and for a Canadian outfit, developer Spooky Squid Games would be foolish to not try to entice us with Ryan North’s dog, Chompsky AKA The Dog Who Was Stuck In A Hole With Ryan That Time.

    Let me be clear that I don’t know that they want to include Chompsky, or that either North or Chompsky would be willing to be included, but come on — what is a subway but a very fancy hole?

  • Speaking of Green and Question Hound, looks like the long tail is ticking up slightly. In any other campaign, pulling in US$3-6K per day in the final week would be really damn impressive; when you’ve got a first day’s take of US$165K, it kind of gets lost in the vertical scale. Just under four days left to go, maybe ending in the vicinity of US$450K? Neat.

Spam of the day:

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Why Is It Always Thursdays?


It’s always Thursdays when there’s nothing going on — absolutely nothing is happening today.

So yeah, I think we’ve scientifically established that absolutely nothing is going on today. Try back tomorrow, maybe there will be something more.


Spam of the day:

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I have a dog that’s a total goofball, why would I want to see anything else?

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¹ Where the Rainbow Alliance pins were a particular hit, with people buying them ten at a time. It’s the only non-book thing I’ve gone out of my way to obtain from a con in about forever, and it’s really quite handsome. Get ’em now before the C&D!

² If there’s going to be a big push in funding it’s going to kick off between now and Monday … although the huge interest in this one at the beginning means this might be the first webcomics megasuccess that just tapered off funding at the end instead of jumping upwards. This is honestly the flattest, most asymptotic long tail I’ve ever seen.

Monday Miscellany Returns, Sales, And The Fleen Book Corner

I see from the permanlink generator in WordPress that this would have been the third time I’ve used the same title, so time for a rewording!

  • Today marks the long-awaited return of Spacetrawler, and Christopher Baldwin’s off to a great start, mixing some tragedy, some backstory, and a pefectly-paced payoff gag. Welcome back, crew of the IA Starbanger GOB Spacetrawler, we’ve missed you. And in a related note, the run on Anna Galactic was miscalculated and runs another three strips, hooray! Even better, the Kickstart to print Anna Galactic has cleared the 50% mark with more than three weeks to go.
  • [C] Spike [Trotman] has a problem — a mishap over the weekend resulted in a busted Cintiq, depriving her of the very lifesblood of a modern cartoonist’s career. When unexpected expenses come your way, there’s only one thing to do: sell your employee’s organs declare a sudden sale, and Spike’s opted to do so by putting slightly knocked-around copies of Iron Circus books on discount and offer up the savings to you.

    Held off on getting a copy of Smut Peddler and worried you’d missed your shot? If you’re willing to put up with some flaws that don’t affect the reading experience at all, now’s your chance to remedy your oversight and get Spike back to comickin’.

  • I missed a couple of books when I was talking about the excellent fall release season last week: 13 September has another must-read book dropping, The Creepy Case Files Of Margo Maloo, a collection of the first 100 or so pages of the Drew Weing webcomic of the same name. And 6 September sees the latest from Ben Hatke, Mighty Jack; both are from :01 Books, with review copies kindly provided by Gina Gagliano.

    What I found interesting about them is they’re both stories about young boys discovering a world of monsters and creepy thing, both partnering up with a more competent girl of about the same age. In Margo Maloo’s case, it’s played more for laughs and the occasional lighthearted creepiness, as evidenced by the fact that the titular heroine isn’t a monster fighter or monster slayer — she’s a monster mediator.

    She know what’s under the bed is a person (granted, a ten foot tall person with enormous teeth and horns, but a person nonetheless) with just as much right to the closet as the kid who lives in the room. She finds the compromises and solutions without too much drama — possibly because in the past she brought the drama hard. The monsters are terrified of her, as are kids with sense.

    In Jack’s case, he just wants to enjoy his summer, but a rare burst of responsiveness from his autistic sister Maddy drags him into a protector role — the garden they planted is full of magic — or maybe alien¹ — vegetation and there’s a dragon wandering about full of cryptic warnings and doubting that he’s a real Jack. Because he’s the one from all the stories: Jack and his beanstalk, Jack the giant-killer, Jack the house-builder, Jack who rules winter and Jack who is nimble.

    An early teens kid in the borderlands between the suburbs and the farms, with an overworked mom and withdrawn sister isn’t a hero — until Lilly from down the block (who swordfights in medieval recreations with her brothers) takes and interest in his challenges and adopts the role of teacher/coach. There’s some alien magic involved, but a lot of it comes simply of caring: Jack wants to impress Lilly (he likes her), take care of his sister (he doesn’t want to spend the summer taking care of her while Mom’s at work, but he still loves her), and not disappoint his mother (and also, if she finds out he grew a dragon she’s going to kill him).

    It’s a potent metaphor for growing up, particularly in the first Hatke male protagonist²; girls face different challenges navigating the throes of maturity (indeed, Lilly presents as the same physical age as Jack, but seems older, wiser, and more capable). The first of a series (but no word yet on when we can expect the next one; given that :01 announced it’s upping its output from 20 books/year to 40, I’d imagine not too far in the future), Mighty Jack ends on a cliffhanger and a promise as Jack gears up to defend his home and family. Darn beanstalk creatures didn’t think he was a Jack? He’ll show you a Jack.


Spam of the day:

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¹ Cameos from some lovable rogues out of Hatke’s Zita The Spacegirl series pretty much cement the alien interpretation.

² Per the dedication page, Hatke and his wife have five daughters, so it’s no surprise he’s spent so much of his career drawing kick-ass girls.

End Times A-Comin’

We as a society have obviously done something seriously wrong, in that the latest New York Times Best Seller List for graphic novels (paperback) shows only one title by Raina Telgemeier: Smile, in week #218, at slot number 9. It’s hard to argue with the top three slots being taken with the three volumes of March by Rep John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, or with Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese getting some love (ten years after release, but there was no NYTBSL for graphic novels ten years ago), but still&sup1!

Then again, Ghosts is due on 13 September, and the list starts ramping up a couple weeks before launch day (remember, it represents sales to the retail trade, and the list runs early — this week will be published on 28 August, but represents sales ending 13 August). What I am saying here is that we should expect to see a run on All Things Raina in about two weeks.

And in any event, the next six weeks or so is going to be a glorious time for webcomickers in print — the second volume of Secret Coders by Yang and Mike Holmes releases on 30 August; Ghosts will be joined on the 13th by Kate Beaton’s King Baby and Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World by Colleen AF Venable & Ruth Chan to form The Best Tuesday Ever.

Then a scant three weeks later we’ll see the first volume of Jason Shiga’s Demon on 4 October, and Box Brown’s Tetris a week later on the 11th. I’ll be reviewing as many of these as I can between now and release day(s)².

In the meantime, I’ll note that we’re halfway through the crowdfunding campaign for KC Green’s This Is Fine plush and looking at an astonishing 10,366 (as of this writing) backers and US$370,770 (ditto) in funding. This is more than 1000% of goal, and heading for a finish somewhere around 750 thousand damn dollars³. I can’t wait to see the bump that occurs in the last three to five days.


Spam of the day:

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What.

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¹ Also contributing: the annual return of Persepolis, as various college classes that use it (also MAUS) stock up for the new academic year.

² Obligatory disclosure: Gina Gagliano at :01 Books sent me copies of Paths & Portals, Demon, and Tetris; Raina gave me an advance review copy of Ghosts, and Kate gave me a copy of King Baby. I still have to track down a copy of Mervin.

³ Using Kel McDonald’s rule of thumb: first three days equals one third of final total. Per Kicktraq, Green raise approximately US$265K in his first three days, yikes

Holy Crap

It’s a How on earth did I miss this before? kind of day, as I’ve just seen (thanks to a tweet I was pointed to by herself) that Rosemary Valero-O’Connell — aka my new favorite creator — has done a creation myth comic and shared it with Paper Darts and it is transcendent. Seriously, that text wouldn’t be out of place in a Gaiman short story¹ and the art makes me smile through all the myriad idiocies and hassles today has offered.

The World And How It Came To Be has been on her page and I just never noticed. Bad blogger, bad! It’s astonishing to me that she’s barely three months out of college and putting out work this good. Go read it. Read everything on her page; I’ve linked it over to the right for easy reference.

So that you not miss them and kick yourself (as I do above), some things that have come up more recently that you should note:

  • The invaluable Katie Lane (attorney at law and best friend of the artistic community) has this day included on her blog a post about collaboration and how to handle the potentially tricky issues of copyright/ownership. It’s never fun to think that your great artistic partnership could end in acrimony, but acknowledging the possibility and acting in advance to clarify outcomes² if far preferable to letting it all blow up in your face and end in limbo.

    You may have read thoughts along these lines from Price previously (it previously ran in issue #3 of Island from Image Comics), but the original location seems not to be easily available any longer. Partnering with somebody? Read it, all partners. Maybe partnering with somebody in future? Read it, and make potential partners read it. It’s going to save you heartbreak.

  • ‘dja ever wake up and say to yourself, Self, there’s just not enough wangs in my life, or really any kind of sex toy? Lucky you, Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan have got you covered. As a side-effect of running the premiere sex toy review blog/webcomic, Nolan and Moen have amassed a surplus of fun things for your joybits, and they want to spread the fun around.

    There’s a big ol’ giveaway going on for US-resident supporters of Erika’s Patreon, with a list of the stuff up for grabs over at OJST. You’ll have to go to a Google Form to fill in your deets (including which items you want to be considered for); since they won’t be doing the draw until early September, you’ve got two weeks to support Moen’s Patreon and be eligible.

    Remember, no support, no chance to get toys. Even better, Nolan says that they may also be doing a porn giveaway in December³, so get in there and pledge.


Spam of the day:

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¹ Heck, it could form the complete text of a very short story.

² Or to mitigate potential damage, if you prefer.

³ Just in time for last-minute holiday shopping!

At Last, Friday

Several brief items for you today, as I am observing the first really nice day in forever and that’s pulling on me more than webcomics at the moment. You know how it is.

  • KC Green seems to finally be hitting the long tail portion of the This Is Fine plush campagin but I’ll note that so far today even though new support is but a trickle of the past two days, it’s still more than US$18K and 500 people. I wonder if we’ll see a bump from outside his usual audience when tomorrow’s New York Times — which has an arts section story about Green, This Is Fine, This Is Not Fine, and the plush — hits widely.
  • Speaking of Green¹, he was the first to point me to another Kickstarter, that for the first print collection of The Meek by Der-shing Helmer. Three chapters of the longrunning (abeit with sometimes lengthy interruptions) adventure quest, with fancy upgrades to the book and bonus material on deck (Helmer’s working with Taneka Stotts — who’s done a number of successful projects — on the production end). Given the sometimes sporadic update schedule on The Meek, a book is probably the best way for new readers to get on board, so get to pledgin’.
  • Latest news on the TV adaptation of Kris Straub’s Candle Cove: Deadline Hollywood reports that SyFy will premiere the series on Tuesday, 27 September. Set your TiVo now for maximum scares.

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¹ Fans of The Meek now believe me to be in full Dad Joke mode. They’re not wrong.