The webcomics blog about webcomics

Yep, It’s Been A Week

Didn’t get to posting yesterday, after a couple of days of really reduced faith in humanity. I also was pretty careful about getting separating the spam from actual comments in the pending queue, but please drop me a note if you tried to chime in and don’t see your words.

And this is as good a time as any to note that there may be a future irregular posting schedule until the whole hosting thing gets sorted. Once Jon and I find a better vendor and the switch is in the works, I’ll let you know.

That’s all I got for you right now. If you’ve got a favorite creator, drop them a line, buy something (not an NFT, dammit) from them, tell somebody who would also like their work. I’ve done my best over the past decade and half to take a stance of promoting and uplifting work that I liked rather than chewing on what I didn’t, and I’d like to encourage all of you to do likewise.

Deep breaths. We’ll find a better place together, one with plenty of makeouts and animals in hats.

EMERGENCY ADDENDUM
As I was finishing the Spam of the day entry, I heard the intro to the noontime call-in show on my local NPR station and it turns out that Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan will be talking about Let’s Talk About It in the next little bit (it is presently 12:14pm EDT on 26 March 2021). You can listen to the stream here, and the replay will eventually be here.


Spam of the day:

Buy Scannable Fake ID – Premium Fake IDs Buy our premium fake IDs with the best security elements. All of our fake ID comes with Scannable features & guaranteed to pass under UV.

This reminds me of the dude two colleges over who was convinced he could have a side business in fake IDs. He painted a wall in his dorm room to resemble an Indiana driver’s license; the customer stood in front, he took a picture, shrunk it down, and laminated it. It looked like shit and wouldn’t fool anybody checking IDs unless they were coked out of their gourd on fine Bolivian flake. I am 1000% certain, however, that they were more plausible than whatever you’re trying to pass off here.

A New Kind Of Storytelling Spawns New Clauses In The Social Contract

A week back, I wrote about a new kind of collaborative storytelling, in the form of a game from Jeeyon Shim and Shing Yin Khor that involves prompts to dredge through one’s memories and craft a story from them. There are things created (journal entries, letters) to go along with the experiences, and at a sufficient pledge level on the Kickstarter, physical artifacts and ephemera.

In the time since The Field Guide To Memory launched its email playthrough (there will be a full set of prompts sent to Kickstarter backers as a PDF), both Shim and Khor have launched new campaigns in this new category that now has a name: a keepsake game.

Shim’s funding The Last Will And Testament Of Gideon Blythe (I saw the launch too late to get in on the limited physical rewards, dammit), and Khor yesterday launched A Mending, which has an embroidery mechanic. We’re going to talk about the latter today, not because it’s any more interesting than TLWATOGB or the game mechanic is more interesting, but because of a pair of secret stretch goals that Khor revealed after the funding level they had in mind was crossed¹.

A new kind of game/story/experience needs new kinds of ideas associated with it, and Khor’s given us two. The first isn’t too unheard of, but the second is something really special. From the Kickstarter update:

I’ll be releasing art template files for A Mending under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license so you can design/make your own cards and maps. Of course, you can make your own maps and cards for personal use and adapt the game however you like anyway, but template files will make it a lot easier if you would like to maintain some visual consistency. You can also distribute the things/expansions/files you make, albeit non-commercially (totally fine if you want to direct people to your tip jar, though). These files will be released close to the start of fulfillment, likely in late April. [emphasis original]

There’s a real tendency among creators, one that is entirely logical and proper, to view their creations as How This Thing Should Be. There may be adaptations into other media which they are or are not involved in, but once something’s done and released, it’s kind of cast in concrete. Khor is explicitly recognizing that a story that is as much prompts for the audience to fill in as it is structure will never be cast in concrete; the story of A Mending will have as many (or more) variations as there are people who read/play/experience it, and they are acknowledging that it’s not a sole creation.

That idea of my thing isn’t just my thing is even bigger in the second reveal:

I’m creating two $1500 grants for people who would like to adapt A Mending for wider accessibility. One grant is focused on visual accessibility, the other on range-of-motion accessibility. These grants come with a free commercial license, so they can take 100% of profits from work they choose to make commercially available (I will only need attribution). The non-exclusive commercial license includes my art, writing and game design work. What does this mean? Maybe it’s someone selling raised versions of the cloth map in high contrast colors. Maybe it’s porting the game to Roll 20. Maybe a website that produces randomized voiceovers for all the cards. I don’t really know but I’d like to find out too! [emphasis original]

What distinguishes Khor’s announcement from so many previous nods towards accessibility is a) it’s not members of a group that need accommodation having to come as ask for it, and b) it need not be done on a volunteer basis. The allow others to profit from their adaptation part is unique enough; the grant is, as far as I can tell, unprecedented.

I have never seen a creator so explicitly say I have made a thing that is what I want to see in the world but recognize that I can’t predict all the ways that my version of it may preclude others from enjoying it. I want to not only invite you to modify it in ways that I can’t think of and allow you to profit from it, I will pay you to do so.

We’ve talked about the unique nature of comics and how they are read enough times here at Fleen. On a few occasions we’ve mentioned accessibility, but there’s not been a huge exploration of accessibility around comics as a medium; I think it’s just been decided that if you haven’t got sufficient vision, you’re out of luck. Given that the game will have more than just a reading component, but also tactile/motor control components, there are potentially many ways that A Mending could be made more widely accessible². No one person could conceive of them all, but if a crowd could come together to make the initial form of A Mending, why not a crowd of suggestions as to how it could be better?

I have a feeling that keepsake games will be taking off as a category any day now; others will see what Shim and Khor have done, and try to create something that instills as much feeling in their own audience (others still will make slapped-togther crap to try to cash in). Some will be spare, some rife with stuff, and different genres of story will evolve. Will there be another 5-to-6 figure funding of a little game that takes an hour or two to play? Only to the degree that there are wildly original thinkers, people whose brain is (to quote Rich Stevens) the only place that bakes that cookie³. Audiences will be following (and I’m about to get fancy here) the auteur, just to see what they crank out now.

And the very smartest ones will be like Khor, finding ways to enrich the values of their creations by giving up control and ownership, and seeking out others to remix each new project’s DNA.

The Last Will And Testament Of Gideon Blythe is funding for another seven days, and is presently approaching eight times its US$1800 goal. A Mending has 21 days to go and cleared US$80K in the time it took me to write everything since footnote 1; the limited-edition everything-provided tiers (just go read the descriptions; they’re a hoot) are long gone, but more than 1000 people have backed at the levels that provide physical game assets. If you want to see what Khor and Shim are like when they combine their creative abilities, search Twitter for #FieldGuideToMemory.


Spam of the day:

The best fake id maker in the market for over 15 years

Neat trick linking ScamAdvisor and other sites to purportedly show how good your fake IDs are, but with links that actually redirect to your site. Sneaky. In any event, where the hell do you think anybody is going right now that they’d need a fake ID?

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¹ For the record, the campaign reached its US$12,000 target in about 17 minutes, and the limited tiers were claimed within an hour. The secret threshold for the secret stretch goals was US$60,000 — five times goal — and Khor sent out the update last night. As of this writing, A Mending sits just under US$80,000 in pledges.

² My immediate thought was around issues of fine motor control.

³ Nine years on and I still think about that quote at least once a month, although I frequently misremember Stevens as having said it at SDCC or Splat!.

This Little Girl Is Five Today

She was such a skittish, skinny little thing when we got her around two and a half years old, having spent her entire life not more than six months in any one place with any particular people. It took her a while to relax around us and let her goofball personality show from behind the veil of stubborn stoicism. Right now, she’s napping in a sunny patch and waiting for the work day to be done so she can collect her due allocation of skritches and get her walkies in. So that’s all right.

Oh, right, webcomics.

  • Subscribers to The Nib, the folks that get the magazine 3-4 times a year, you’re going to want to check your email and maybe your spam folder. They’ve sent you a message that you get to give away one copy of The Nib’s Pandemic issue (in print form, no less!) to somebody that you think would appreciate it. The instructions are in the email that went out to you this morning; me, most of the people I know are already subscribers or contributors to The Nib, so I’m not sure who to give it to.

    Let’s do a contest, then. Send me an email with the subject FREE MAGAZINE to me (that would be gary) at the name of this-here website (fleen), which is a dot-com, and I’ll choose one of you at random to get the issue, a US$15 value and probably the best done by the lauded group of contributors. Let’s make the deadline … 11:59pm MST on Sunday, 28 February, the last moment before my evil twin sees his birthday skipped over because he’s a Leap Year Baby.

    You have to make yourself a promise, though — if you enter the giveaway, you have to ask yourself if you should be a subscriber, or at least buy some stuff from The Nib’s retail operation to help support their mission — to find the best cartoonists in the world and pay them properly for their best work.

  • I wrote a while back about Shing Yin Khor and Jeeyon Shim were Kickstarting an interactive game, with prompts to be delivered by email (and physical ephemera sent to high-tier backers), under the title of A Field Guide To Memory. I hadn’t mentioned that the Kickstarter overfunded, that other creators were brought in (and paid!) to enrich the story, and that gameplay had started.

    With today’s email, we’re about two-thirds of the way through a deeply personal, deeply weird, and somewhat unsettling tale, wherein you adopt the persona of a scientific researcher whose mentor — cryptid field evolutionary scientist Elizabeth Lee — has been declared dead after going missing five years ago on a research trip. I have, for the past two and a half weeks, found myself bound up in my personal history with a woman that I never met, who never existed, who may or may not have definitively proved the existence of Dipodomys antilocapra, the Pronghorned Desert Rat.

    I have dug up memories of my own life and that of my in-game equivalent (who is looking for the evolutionary descendants of pterosaurs — they’re out there still, dammit, just like the coelacanth!) and at times been unable to separate them. The game has you write letters and journal entries, keep field notes related to Dr Lee’s work, research animal track patterns and bird calls, dredge up anger and betrayal, and possibly mentor members of the Little Citizen Scientists Club. I will not tell you how to play the game, as it’s highly individualized and therefore there is no right way to play, but I will say this: if given the opportunity, if you are in future days passed a PDF of gameplay prompts (or even physical artifacts like D. antilocapra antler casts) and you come across an email address?

    It works. Send the email. The only thing that isn’t real, as near as I can tell, is the address shown for the Institute for Theoretical Evolutions in Bethesda, Maryland. The Pronghorned Desert Rat, the other cryptids, the bureaucrats keeping you from Dr Lee’s notes and artifacts, the letters from her students and colleagues and lovers? All real, every bit of it, even the parts that are fiction. Especially the parts that are fiction.

    If you’d like to learn more — and perhaps end up with more questions than answers — search the hashtag #FieldGuideToMemory. If nothing else, you’ll see some breathtaking photos of the very lovely artifacts that players are creating as we delve into mystery and self-revelation at a rate of one prompt per day for 20 days.

Okay, have a great rest of the day, and tell the doggo(s) in your life that they are very good dogs because they’re all very good dogs.


Spam of the day:

I tried to find you on google maps, but I couldn’t,

STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM MY HOUSE, YOU FREAK.

We All Knew It Was Coming

It’s still a load of crap. I speak, naturally, of the fact that Disney has killed off the Fox-affiliated Blue Sky animation studio, which had previously had all of its approaching-release movies delayed, of which one remained and will now be shelved rather than seen:

Blue Sky’s final movie, a fantasy story about a young shapeshifter called Nimona, will be left unfinished and will not be released.

Originally announced as an animated film in 2015, pushed back from a 2020 release date to 2021 six months before the pandemic, narrowly escaping the axe that fell in the Fox purchase, but getting pushed back to 2022, Nimona is now scrapped because we live in a monoculture and Disney will not have anything exist that does not bow to its view of the world.

They could have let Blue Sky finish its last production. They could have allowed a very different kind of young heroine. They could have just dumped it to streaming and made money — which, considering they’d already bought the entire damn studio and the production, would essentially have been free money — which you would think is the actual purpose of a corporation. But, I suppose, they don’t have the ancillary rights to merch and staright-to-video sequels and a Nimona character in the parks, so fuck sharing and getting 94% of the benefit.

Disney has their Way, their Method , their Version of how things are meant to be, and everything they build must conform to them or be ground down and erased. It is all or nothing for them.

I mourn for those who would have found a vision of themselves in an animated version, for all the nascent culture that is snuffed out so that the very rich can become very, very rich as we pay them for the privilege of becoming so.

But Nimona is still on my bookshelf, and hopefully Noelle Stevenson had a good agent and lawyer that included a rights reversion, and we may yet see Nimona on the big screen.

And like I mentioned a while back around the Disney screwing Alan Dean Foster story, if you sign a contract of any sort, it seems you need to include a Disney buys out whoever I am contracting with clause that reverts control of your brainchild to you. They want all or nothing? Let them have nothing.

And, because we can’t have nice things, Meredith Gran has had her Twitter account jacked by by a complete dickhole, who keeps changing the account name to avoid reporting. He (of course it’s a dude) is, as of this writing, going by the name @dazeywtf, which you should report as a hacked account and also ping @twittersafety on the matter, please and thank you.


Spam of the day
No spam, but I will say that I was writing that last paragraph when my computer blue-screened with no warning, and I gotta hand it to WordPress for preserving all but about a half-sentence of what I wrote despite me not having explicitly saved anything yet. Well done, WordPress.

Lubtacular

There were originally going to be more words in today’s post, but I’ve had to clear snow twice so far — 40 cm and counting of snowfall will do that — and will likely have to do so twice more again before it’s done. So you get some pointers and the assurance that I had many clever words on deck in my brain that just won’t come out now.

As you may have gathered from the title, our common thread today is new work from Matt Lubchansky — cartoonist, associate editor at The Nib, and international bon vivant — who was most recently mentioned on this page in association with their new original graphic novel¹ ’bout two weeks back. As well as being a prolific cartoonist in their own right, Lubchansky is also works with other comickers (web and otherwise) on group efforts and anthologies. Let’s see what’s on deck:


Spam of the day:

TruGreen lawn services We know you take pride in your lawn.

My lawn is a morass of divots thrown up by greyhound zoomies, and is currently buried under knee-deep snow. You’re high if you think pride comes within a half kilometer of this benighted patch of grass.

_______________
¹ Pre-orders still open!

² Who would like you to know that the events in their signature work, O Human Star, start in-story on 2 Feb 2021. Starting tomorrow, Delliquanti will be re-running OHS on their social media pages, one page per day, with commentary. Dive in if you haven’t previously.

So Much Good Stuff Today

We have to start with Molly Ostertag’s news. Readers will recall that her Witch Boy series is a modern marvel that everybody should read and pass on to other to read. And today we found out that Netflix is making it not just into a movie, but a musical:

Netflix To Release Animated Musical From Oscar-Nominated Director Minkyu Lee

The Witch Boy will also feature original music by the Grammy-nominated sister trio Haim. Maria Melnik writes the script with Roy Lee, Miri Yoon and Ryan Harris producing. Vertigo Entertainment produces the feature and Netflix releases.

Ostertag’s … honestly, happy doesn’t seem like a big enough word for what Ostertag is with respect to the production. Elated? Ecstatic? Joyous? What caught my eye the most, though, is the combo of the teaser image in the Deadline story and this bit from her tweet thread:

Seeing the way [Lee] connects to THE WITCH BOY and is transforming it for film, with thoughtfulness and care and artistry, has legitimately been the honor of my creative career. When I saw his first drawings of Aster I cried. I think you all will love this movie [purple heart emoji] [emphasis mine]

This will not be The Witch Boy exactly as shown in the book, a straight implementation designed only to appeal to existing fans¹. It’s an adaptation to another medium, one that has its own strengths and weaknesses apart from comics — comics are not just storyboards, people! — and will look and play out differently than the original.

That image seems to feature an older, more citified Aster than we’ve seen before, and the story may aim for a different age range than the original books. This is all good, and if you have any doubts, read what Ostertag said again. If you love the original (and glob knows I do), the originals are still there on your shelf and won’t change even if this turned out to be a fiasco — which, to be absolutely clear, I don’t think it will be.

It’s something new, with a different set of creative hands and different points of view on it, and it is absolutely going to piss the right people off. Can’t ask for anything more than that. Oh, and note to self — figure out when you need to subscribe to Netflix. Given the lead time on animation, it’ll likely be a while.

Other good stuff today:

  • Did everybody see Nancy today? That last panel is a legit brilliant idea.
  • I’ve made more of a thing about it over on social media than here, but I’ve really been digging the art on A Girl And Her Fed since creator KB Spangler² did the third act time jump and handed the drawing off to Brazilian artist Ale Presser. I mentioned at the time that Presser had both recently given birth and defended her doctoral thesis, and I may have mentioned at one point that she was soliciting survey input for that same thesis.

    Not long ago³, she contacted me with the actual output of her thesis, including the video of her defense [in Brazilian Portuguese] and the full text [PDF, also Brazilian Portuguese], but with something that you, dear reader, may find useful. The dissertation is full of data and analysis, but its conclusions are a guide to making comics for small-screen devices, and it’s both chock-full of good advice and also available in English [PDF]. Also, Messers Guigar, Kellett, Kurtz, and Straub: is this the first appearance of How To Make Webcomics in a bibliography? Maybe!


Spam of the day:

Exposed NASA-Funded Report Sends Shockwaves Through The US Population

They release those like twice a month, only they’re about anthropogenic climate change so people like you that start emails Dear Patriot ignore and downplay them.

_______________
¹ Lookin’ at you, first couple of Harry Potter films.

² Disclaimer: I am personal friends with Spangler, of the post-bail-and-help-you-hide-bodies variety, I did the foreword for her first AGAHF collection, and have served as an early reader for ten or so of her novels. She’s rad.

³ Pandemics and new small humans means things take a while.

The Billy Ireland Library Would Like To Help You In These Uncertain Times

Let’s face it, nobody right now is exhaling or relaxing, no matter how many walking exemplars of impunity are finding themselves being taken into Federal custody in a manner that is simultaneously tragic, enraging, and hilarious. So let us be grateful that the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is doing their damndest to bring a little light to us all.

  • On Sunday afternoon next weekend (that would be 24 January), there will be an interactive game of Paper Charades (like they did at CxC this year), which is a non-copyright-infringing game that looks a little bit like Pictionary but which is legally distinct. Raina Telgemeier, Dana Simpson, and Shannon Wright will be there to play along, with folks chiming in from chat to guess what’s getting drawn.

    The fun starts at 4:00pm EST (that’s 1:00pm for those of you on the west coast; everybody else figure it out on your own), it’s free, and open to all, but you do have to register in advance.

  • The following weekend (that would be 30 January), the Billy opens a new exhibit of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, specifically focusing on the political commentary that the eponymous possum and his cohorts gleefully engaged in. Into The Swamp: The Social And Political Satire of Walt Kelly’s Pogo will be on view until 31 October, with a hiatus from 19 April through 11 June.

    Now you may be saying to yourself, Self, hasn’t Gary been pretty adamant that this is not the time to engage in public events, place-going, and suchlike? and in this you would be right. Hopefully we’ll be back to some semblance of public engagement well before the exhibit closes — wearing your masks keeping your distance now, and getting your shot as soon as you’re eligible radically increases the odds of getting there, especially in the back half of the run — and in the meantime, the Billy has restricted hours and capacity.

    Reservations are required (see here), with information on Ohio State’s safety guidelines here. Don’t go travelling just for this until we’ve got the pandemic under control, but once that happens? You’ll want to see this.


Spam of the day:

(Did you order an intimacy?)

No, but I am still waiting on a Negroni, a plate of jamon iberico, and an order of duck-fat fries. Could you check on when those will come out?

June? You expect them in June? Yeah, okay. Thanks.

Ever Wonder What A Harvey Award Looks Like?

I like the different color treatments, high polish vs patina. It's neat.

Gene Luen Yang has an answer for you, as the two he scored last month have apparently arrived in the mail. Gotta say, it’s a much better likeness than the Eisner globe is of Will Eisner.

Speaking of Yang, he’s going to be half of the latest iteration of :01 Books’s current online hangout series for these isolated times. They’ve been running Comics Creators Getting Coffee about monthly since August as an extension of their Comics Relief online events, but I just realized that I hadn’t written about them.

More to the point, I haven’t really thought about them, because when the first one was announced (with editor Calista Brill and creator Kiku Hughes), I saw the bit that said Instagram Live and immediately tuned out because I’m not on The Grams. Since then, there have been talks between Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter with editor Kiara Valdez, and Brill and Lisa Brown. Me not being on The Grams isn’t a reason to not talk about these, though, so this is me informing you that Yang will be talking with Sloane Leong, next Wednesday at noon EST, on the :01 Instagram account.

And, uh, let me know what they say, on account of no account, and also day job. Thanks.


Spam of the day:

Coca-Cola Award (£2,000,000.00)

In Russian? Really? Do you not realize that I know the history of American cola-flavored caffeinated soda beverages wrt the Soviet Union? That Eisenhower was personal friends with a Red Army marshal that he got so hooked on Coke that Ike had to convince the Coca-Cola company to produce a version of their bottlecaps with red stars instead of their usual swoopy logo?

Or that later, Eisenhower’s vice president (and history’s yard waste) Richard Nixon undermined Coke’s private supply for the senior army officers in the USSR because he had once been a staff lawyer for Pepsi and was a close personal friend of Pepsi’s president, and they arranged for Pepsi to be the first Western mass-market brand to get a foothold behind the Iron Curtain?

Or that after the fall of the Soviet Union and the cratering of the ruble, Russia was so addicted to Pepsi that they traded twenty decommissioned warships for US$3 billion worth of fizzy sugar water, briefly rendering PepsiCo the sixth largest navy in the world? They had 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate, and a destroyer!

So yeah, you want me to fall for this scam in Russian, it fucking better be a fake Pepsi Award, not Coke.

At This Rate, They Won’t See Punching Or Boat Explosions

Okay, let me be clear for a moment– change purely for the sake of change isn’t a good thing. Change purely for the sake of change is why I work for a corporation that, approximately every 18 months, reorganizes itself from top to bottom, leaving tens of thousands of people in dozens of countries unsure sure of exactly who they work for or what the purpose of their organization is, for no good reason whatsoever¹. The work is something I’m very skilled at and enjoy, the salary and benefits are good, and the checks don’t bounce is literally the extent of why I work there, because there is no broader sense of mission or purpose that will be retained 18 months from now and I’ve opted out of even trying to pretend to care².

But change that improves upon the stale or inappropriate, that updates the old in favor of something better? That’s necessary; it’s why every five years, there are new protocols for CPR, as we figure out with empirical evidence what works and what doesn’t, stop doing things that are harmful, and iterate our way to practices that are better.

All of which is to say, it’s been two weeks since we learned that Mark Trail has a new dad, and today’s the day that the strip switches to new creator Jules Rivera (the latest in editor Tea Fougner’s webcomics-originating strip-assumers). The regular readers of Mark Trail were largely caught unawares, judging by the comments section under today’s strip, and it is hilarious.

All of these hidebound folks lamenting that the strip won’t look anachronistic any longer, decrying that it’ll now be written and drawn by a woman (gasp!) of color (double gasp!!), and therefore suck and they’re quitting right now.

They don’t know what they’re going to be missing:

The opening story arc has no less than five boat explosions.

If that’s their idea of ruination, I’m sorry they hate fun.

Which is all the more hilarious because so many of them specifically cited boat explosions as one of the things that make Old School Mark Trail awesome that will obviously never happen again³. But I guess when you demand comic strips never change4, you miss out on a lot of stuff.

Speaking of never changing, I have a feeling that the diehard Trail-heads would be be upset about anything that allows things they like to be enjoyed by somebody new because scarcity means value? I’m thinking now about a very neat idea that a friend pointed me towards the same day I learned about the imminent Apocalypse Mark Trail transition, one aims to make comics more accessible.

ComicA11y comes from Aussie designer/illustrator/developer Paul Spencer, and is designed to make comic strips open to people with various challenges. Actually, let me rephrase that; as Scott McCloud once put it, all of us have cognitive limits when reading, whether we fit into a traditional model of disability or not, and ComicA11y is designed to reduce the burden of reading comics, because while they may be simple enough for you or me to read, that doesn’t mean they’re equally easy for somebody else.

So let’s enhance comics. Spencer’s starting list includes:

  • Resizable text; of all the adaptations found on comic websites, this is the most likely to have some kind of inclusion (probably within the browser), along with responsive design for the viewing device.
  • The native font can be substituted with a simpler one that features more easily-discerned letter shapes (notably, mixed case instead of all uppercase; take that Brad Guigar!5).
  • A closed caption mode prints the text for the strip below the panels, one balloon at a time. With each new caption, a headshot of the speaker is shown, and the speaker themself is highlighted in the strip to stand out from the background. Having text outside the image means that screen readers can see it.
  • High contrast mode strips out the color, leaving sharp black and white, with extraneous background details suppressed.
  • The strip can switch between horizontal and vertical layouts.
  • A large number of languages are provided for translation, with or without the captioning; support for both left-to-right and right-to-left languages is included.
  • Crucially, behind the scenes there’s support for HTML5 markups that tie into various assistive technologies.

Spencer is still looking at further improvements, including the ability to work with unalike panel sizes, connected speech bubbles, and ways to incorporate all of these features without impeding the creators. That last is probably the most important, in that all of these enhancements will rely on the willingness of creators to do extra work. Christopher Baldwin, for example, includes an audio narration of each Spacetrawler strip, and kudos to him for doing so.

But even when an accessibility feature is easy to use, how many people will use it? Do you include alt-text captions on images in your Tweets for screen readers for the visually impaired? I do so about two time out of three, if I’m being honest.

In addition to ease of use, ComicA11y (and whatever similar solutions may be developed) need ubiquity and an expectation on the part of the audience needs to get back to the creators that this is expected. They need to hear that if a comic is made for you, it needs to be made for as many other people as possible. Any ideas on that, or features, or improvements, Spencer’s email is at the bottom of the ComicA11y page, and he’s inviting feedback. Here’s hoping he gets some that’s really good, and he gets further in his goals of making comics available to everybody.

Even sticks in the mud that ragequit Mark Trail before the boatsplosions.


Spam of the day:

Dial Vision Glasses are unique glasses with adjustable lenses designed to correct vision issues on an as needed basis.
It is easy to adjust the individual lenses using the control knob.

Or — and try to follow me because this is a little complicated — I could go to the drugstore where they have a waide variety of eyeglasses with various levels of magnification for about seven bucks a pair, which is what people do if they don’t have more complex problems (like my astigmatism) that require specific lens shapes. You’ve invented a pair of head-mounted, open-frame, low-power binoculars.

_______________
¹ Aside from the obvious, which is to settle feuds at the senior executive level and make it impossible for anybody to take responsibility for anything that happened in a line of reporting that no longer exists, duh.

² Fortunately, approximately 94% of all the very important mandatory all-hands teleconferences that are meant to obfuscate what’s going on happen during times when I’m teaching and thus can’t attend, oh darn.

³ While not a daily reader, I think I’ve paid close enough attention to Mark Trail over the past 20 years to notice two, maybe three boat explosions in that time. When something exciting happens that infrequently, I guess you cling to it. Curiously, none of the commenters is worried about a lack of Mark Trail punching a bad guy so hard he loses his facial hair.

4 Another commenter mourns that Heart Of The City sucks now, which it curiously started to do when taken over by a Black woman.

5 You know I love you, Brad.

That’s Today!

Stepping away from webcomics for a day; if you saw my tweet over the weekend, you know that I’m deep into multiple books and review are forthcoming. Also, work tech is failing today and robbing me of nearly all free time and also the will to live.

So I’ll just point out that it’s 21 September, and that means Demi Adejuyigbe has released his annual video celebrating this fact and it is a socially-distanced delight of impeccable timing.

It includes has an appeal at the end that I feel Fleen folks are amenable to¹ — to ensure there’s another video next year, Adejuyigbe is asking for US$50K to be raised for a collection of action groups serving BIPOC, trans, and the unhoused across the country. You can give at sept21st.com but maybe hold off a day or two, as the high response is, uh, throttling the funding site (as of this writing, 3 hours and five minutes after launch, he’s 95% of the way to goal).

And, as a bonus, he’ll do another video if funding hits US$69,420 because One Sexweed is a good amount.


Spam of the day:

I wanted to ask a question about your business and the credit card processing fees you pay every month. You shouldn’t be paying 1.5% to 2.5% in Credit Card Processing Fees anymore. New laws are on your side.

I pay negative a zillion percent on credit card processing fees and if you want my business, you’ll have to agree to rebates of 157% on every charge I put through. My business is valuable, and you’ll make up the costs in volume!

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¹ Also a good doggo.