The webcomics blog about webcomics

Had To Share

Nothing earth-shattering today, just a few random thoughts before I win the big lottery jackpot tonight and celebrate by getting better friends, a better hobby, and maybe a helicopter. Tuesdays, right?

  • Dante-Lucas Landshepherdherr is many things — a wizard with chalk, a labcoat fashion plate, an award-winning educator, a YouTube personality enabler, and occasionally a webcomicker. Yeah, yeah, his webcomic wrapped up earlier this year, but he’s got a book coming out, which is what I wanted to mention.

    Landshepherdherr made an update — a public one, let me hasten to add — to the book’s Kickstarter campaign, noting that everything’s off the printer, and sharing the front and back covers. It’s the latter that I wanted to share with you:

    Every good book has a quote on the back, so here is an actual quote from an end-of-semester student evaluation the author received from an anonymous student:

    At the beginning of the semester, he acted like he was supreme ruler of the universe. Over time, he got better.

    [transcribed from image]

    This is possibly from back when the Landherr and Shepherd identities were not quite so commonly associated by the general public, but regardless: kudos, amusingly-bitchy ChemE student! You made it through 20+ years of life encountering nobody horrible if you found Dr Landherr to be grandiose or self-important; I hope that streak continues. Also, please be aware that the man had deadly aim with an eraser and now that you are no longer his student, you are fair game. When the EMTs find you covered in an irregular layer of calcium carbonate, I’m certain that he will have an ironclad alibi¹.

  • Not as recent — in fact, it’s a little old at this point — is the episode of ComicLab that Kazu Kibuishi guested on. Kibuishi is, of course, the creator of the Amulet series, Daisy Kutter, and Copper, as well as being the driving force behind the Flight anthology series. He’s one of the most erudite, thoughtful people in comics, and the entire podcast is great listening from start to finish.

    But the part that’s stuck with more for a couple of weeks now was a description of his process (which you’ll find starting about the 31:28 mark); it explains a lot about how Kibuishi regards the concept of story, as well as why he seems to take a relatively long time to put a book together. Short form is, he has a very malleable approach to ordering of plot elements. Kibuishi works up sequences and scenes that he wants to tell, completely independently from each other, then arranges them in the books. It’s a nonlinear approach to storytelling that I don’t think anybody else uses².

    He’s had the advantage of telling a story that’s largely episodic, with different groups of characters in different places, so switching back and forth makes sense, but it also allows an unusual degree of flexibility; he mentioned later in the discussion that a reader questions prompted — relatively lately — the need to answer a question about the story that became the opening scene of Supernova. And honestly, I can see it in retrospect — that scene could have occurred at any point from about the middle of Book 5 to the end of Book 8 (and possibly into the not-yet-released Book 9), but he shifted things around and decided that the start of Book 8 was where it had the biggest impact.

    The thing is, if he hadn’t talked about it, you wouldn’t have known it. The great skill isn’t in an unusual approach, it’s in designing these sequences with entrances and exits that allow them to be slotted wherever they have the biggest impact; the story as a whole reads smoothly from start to finish. It’s not a means of storytelling, it’s a tool that he finds helpful to produce those stories with a maximum degree of flexibility³. It’s also probably the most subtle, master-level tool in the toolbox, so maybe don’t try to shift your approach without a hell of a lot of practice? Just a thought.


Spam of the day:

How About a Checking Account?

Got one, thanks.

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¹ I’m not saying that Landherr is Batman or anything, but who has an alter-ego except righters of wrongs who are also The Night?

² Although in the production of The Sculptor, Scott McCloud did talk about working on the book in chunks of 40-50 pages, that being his unit of production. It’s not really a story that would allow for swapping around those chunks, however.

³ See our discussion of graphic novel editing from last year to appreciate the process most publishers will want to see a full story in rough form and work out plot details before moving onto pencils. Kibuishi could make a shift the week before returning final pages without disrupting the book!

A Less-Disturbing Encore

I think I speak for all of us when I say that yesterday’s post from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin was a tough read. Along the same lines, I invite you to consider how much more difficult it must have been for FSFCPL to research and write it; as such, I think we’ve all earned a palate-cleanser. Please enjoy the following submission from Our Man In France on the intersection of two media that seem to have a lot of overlap these days.

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On the menu: using comics to promote a video game, using a video game to promote comics, and having a comics creator illustrate and tell the story for a video game … using comics of course.

  • While it has been known for some time that webcartoonists Thorn and Meredith Gran have been working on their respective point-and-click adventure games, you might not have known illustrator Pins has been working on his own called tiny and Tall: Gleipnir, which is now out.

    The story? Fenrir, the wolf son of Loki, is devouring everything on its path and the Gods of Asgard have to react before it ends up devouring the whole world; however, no chains have proved capable of keeping Fenrir down, so they commission two blacksmiths, the titular tiny and Tall, to come up with restraints that can restrain the unrestrainable. Easy. Follows a number of hijinks as the protagonists have to first locate the recipe, then the improbable ingredients necessary to accomplish this quest.

    The game works like the point and click adventure games of old, with you needing to solve various puzzles using found objects and your wits. And if you get stuck, no matter: clicking your partner will provide you with information necessary to proceed. But where the game shines is with its humor, especially in its writing: overenthusiastic tiny contrasts well with fatalistic Tall, desperate of ever seeing the project to completion (but duty-bound to try, at least).

    Pins even felt the need to introduce us to the characters ahead of the game’s release through comic strips released online … we can now safely say that the promotional effort went slightly out of hand, as not only did he do more than 200 strips (this is strip 81 of the second book), but he even managed to release a collection of the 130 first strips, published by Lapin, before the game even came out; and his humor hits home just as well in comics as it does in the game.

    tiny and Tall: Gleipnir Part One is available through Steam on PC and Mac for 14.99€; this review is based on the Mac version of the game.

  • Raphaël Beuchot, on the other hand, first set out to create strips around music in a project called Medley; and it is in order to promote the recently-released collection that he came up with an online game called Backstage.

    The premise? You’re running a concert hall, and you need to raise its standing enough that celebrity DJ Acier Fulgur (Steel Lightning) will consent to producing himself in it. But that will only happen if you successfully manage your concert hall day after day after day … and here, success entails satisfying the needs of the bands that produce themselves in your hall: their scene equipment needs, their food and drink needs, but also their (legal) drug needs or smoking implement needs. All that on a deadline. And that is even without mentioning the occasional agitator to dispatch with security, or the occasional inebriated person to put in a lateral security position….

    The gameplay does not have a lot of depth (though is not necessarily a bad thing), and you can complete the game in about one hour, but what I find most interesting with Backstage is that, while it is not a music game, its gameplay is well integrated with the theme of the musical scene: the bands you get at first are hesitant to ask for food when they do so, then quickly you will get requests that turn out to need nothing, nevermind, until in the late game where these prestigious bands complain that they even need to request that seafood be brought to them.

    And new elements are introduced in a piecemeal fashion, but you can’t help but notice that French singers get introduced at the same time as the folk guitar gets added to your available scene instruments … and as Xanax gets added to your pharma kit. In short, the gameplay builds on the theme to keep you on your toes (I once got a request from a punk band to give their dog four bottles of beer!), which prevents the game from feeling repetitive, and helps give sense to the game … well, except for that one band where the instruments included both autotune and accordion. I’m still scratching my head over that one.

    That is very consistent with the strips of Medley, which don’t always deal with music per se, but always at least refer to it while using it to comment on critics, journalists, campaigning political parties, or just music consumers.

    Backstage is available for free (with ads inserted for Medley at appropriate times) and is playable directly on your browser, including mobile ones; it was reviewed on Safari on the Mac¹.

  • Finally, it is time for me to swap my French correspondent hat for my Apple devices correspondent hat to bring you the news of Factory Hiro, with art and story by KC Green. What makes this (more) relevant for Fleen is that part of that story is told as in-game comics cutscenes, in which we learn that the titular Hiro is responsible for an assembly line, the gameplay being to manually manage routing of incoming components and combination of these components to create finished products. Can you run your assembly line fast enough to make your quota in time for the end of the work day, without screwing up and loading the delivery truck with garbage?

    What does that have to do with my Apple devices correspondent hat? Factory Hiro is actually a remake of a classic 90s Mac game called Factory: The Industrial Devolution which finally makes it available on modern platforms, including tablets where its point and click — now touch — interface really shines. Make sure to give it a try.

    Factory Hiro is available on PC and Mac through Steam, and on iOS and Android through their respective app stores (I got it for 3.49€ on the French iOS App Store; pricing will depend on your region); it was reviewed on an iPad Air 2 running iOS 11.4.1.


Spam of the day:

Im Regina, im single with no kid….I am a great self-sufficient lady who has achieved a lot in her life. I am a starting swimsuit designer which is taking the time to get second education. I am studying interior design. I love working on myself, and self-improvement. I spend most of my time in the USA, and came to visit my family in ontairo states for a few months every year. My documents have been figured out. I am looking for pure love, and beautiful relationship.

Regina, I think that just maybe you’re trying a little too hard here.

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¹ FSFCPL sent along a clarification that Backstage is only available in French, but you don’t need a lot of vocabulary to successfully play it. This may or may not be a comment on the language skills of musicians.

I Love Free Stuff

I have, perhaps, mentioned The Nib once or twice in the past here at Fleen. You have, perhaps, backed the Kickstarter that launched their quarterly themed magazine, each issue of which is full of original cartoons on a single topic. If so, by now you’ve received the first issue, Death, printed on ridiculously heavy stock and sealed against both rough handling and the possible escape of ink aroma¹. You may even be aware that The Nib has launched a membership subscription program to support their efforts online (including their animated offerings) and the magazine.

You might not be aware that two of the above things overlap to your benefit.

If you supported the Kickstarter, watch your email thanking you for joining the subscription program (The Inkwell, by name). I mean, if subscribing at the appropriate level is enough to get the magazine, it makes sense that getting the magazine means you should get some of the perks of subscription — phone wallpapers for a start, maybe more later. It also explains the description of the Kickstarter reward — The Print Magazine, Early Bird Special. Sure, we got our issues of Death prior to the official debut at SPX, but Early Birds at Kickstarter are traditionally not just early shipping, but also a discount. The KS backers got the first year for US$10/issue, and subscriptions that include the print collection start at US$4/month or US$12 per issue. Eight bucks savings, woo!

It also answers what The Nib’s model for the second and subsequent years would be — you wouldn’t want to Kickstart every year to figure out your operating budget, not when you’ve already commissioned the comics (printing must have started almost immediately after the funds cleared, and people were receiving their copies less than a month after the campaign closed). At present, there are only month-to-month subscriptions, no annual plans or specific print subscriptions; we’ll see what gets offered in the coming months. Me, I’d like to pay once a year (even perhaps a bit more than month-to-month) because I hate auto-repeating charges on my credit card.

But you know what? Death was damn good. I’ve got about 10 months to decide if I want to put up with a month-to-month, but if the next three issues are as good as the first one? I’ll be signing up.


Spam of the day:

Yikes – Get Covered Now Low Monthly Rate

That’s … strange wording for convincing me to buy insurance.

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¹ I’ve never experienced such a strong smell off any printed material, including scratch-n-sniff features.

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.

In Case Of Stairs, Here’s Some Fire

[Editor’s note: As in the past, these panel recaps are based on notes typed during the session; all discussion is the nearest possible paraphrase, except for direct quotes which will be italicized.]

I’m going to do something I don’t believe I’ve ever done. I’m going to ask you to go elsewhere (two elsewheres, actually) to figure out what Scott McCloud said in his spotlight presentation on the occasion of 25 years of Understanding Comics. The first thing to do is to track down a copy of the Comic-Con 2018 Souvenir Book, because on pages 140-145, you’ll find the text of the presentation that McCloud did for the opening 10 minutes or so of his session. The essay didn’t offer enough room for pictures, though (I counted 18, if all the cover photos of foreign editions of UC are separate items), so he added a bunch more for his reading of the same material — about 200 in all. Guy knows how to keep things rolling along.

The second thing you need to do (or maybe the first, since the first may be really difficult) is to click on the image up top. Jason Alderman had been unaware of the McCloud session until about 10 minutes before I was going to walk up there; he decided on the fly he needed to go when I mentioned that McCloud would likely talk about his next book, which will be on visual communications (a topic near and dear to Alderman’s heart, and mine). He had his pens, but no suitable sketchbook for his famed sketchnoting. I offered the use of my notebook, which resulted in both the sketchnote above (which you should immediately embiggen) and the fact that I now have an Alderman original sketchnote (muwaa ha ha ha).

Let’s be clear — Alderman and I sat in the same session, in adjoining seats. We both set out to capture the same content in real time. He produced an image, I took down 1205 words, many correctly spelled. What we learned from this is that the old ratio is wrong — a picture is work approximately 1.2 thousand words (and probably 1000 words longer that by the time I finish). Go study that picture; examine it closely, and then you can come back here for some context.

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Very well then: in the fall of 1991, during a rare tornado watch in Providence, Rhode Island, McCloud left the basement where he and his wife, Ivy, were huddling for safety when he heard the phone ring. The call was good — Kevin Eastman (of Ninja Turtles fame and lately fortune) was calling to say that his new publishing company, Tundra, was going to publish Understanding Comics.

To date, the book has outlived the publisher by approximately 24.8 years, and has become one of the most required pieces of reading on college campuses, with multiple disciplines using it to teach their stuff. It’s been translated into more than 20 languages. It has killed at least two publishers¹, and has a history intertwined with McCloud’s older daughter², as they were conceived, gestated, and birthed in parallel.

The book is a testament to McCloud’s obsession with how things work (more about that in a few moments), in that he couldn’t just make comics, he had to take them apart to see all that made them unique (particularly, during the Q&A, the fact that comics is the only artistic medium where past, present, and future exist together within human perception; music, movies, TV, plays, all the visual and performing arts depict now, a series of nows, but comics have those panels across time).

A professor who played doubles tennis with Will Eisner arranged an introduction, a job in production at DC happened to be near Books Kinokuniya in Manhattan a half decade before manga really made an impact in its first translations, and 15 years before it exploded into whole bookstore sections. Zot ran at the late Eclipse³ and started getting really good about the time he wanted to be spending time on UC4, meaning some of the most humanistic stories of that otherwise grimdark decade were done under duress.

Oh, yeah, and the first graphical web browser came out a few months after UC, which doesn’t mention computers once.

A slow start picked up momentum as the reorders came in, and kept coming; convention appearances became teaching gigs and seminars, symposia and workshops for corporations and academia. And still, it feels like unfinished business: for every project completed, ten more are rolling around in McCloud’s head, but so many readers (both those that read it back then, and those that have never known a world without it) are taking UC’s ideas out for a spin and creating their own takes on his theories.

Qs were chosen by Winter, with As from all three as appropriate; the first dealt with McCloud’s next book, which was the topic of the closing presentation, so we’ll hold discussion until then. Except to say that McCloud noted, The form of the book is a comic, but it doesn’t have “comics” in the name so it’s a big step for me.

A seemingly prosaic question got the best laugh of the hour: when was UC first used in a university setting? McCloud recalls that it was at Michigan State, but isn’t entirely sure of the timing. He once found himself humblebragging about the situation to Neil Gaiman: I remember talking to him, all these colleges are using my book, it’s a big deal and he said “I know, it’s like when all the women that line up at a reading to get their breasts signed” and I’m, “Yeah”. I’ve always found McCloud to be very modest about his accomplishments and the importance of his place in history, and I firmly believe that comes from the core of who he is; this little bit of perspective-setting surely didn’t hurt, though.

Asked about what he thought about the presentations of comics on mobile devices, and the tension between whole-page approaches and panel-to-panel scrolling, Ivy gave him a strict limit with a stern Five minutes. You know that last panel in UC with Sky in Ivy’s arms? She’s talking about how you just finished reading a couple hundred pages of his theories, but she has to listen to it all the time? Yeah, the presentation of comics on mobile interfaces falls into that category, leading McCloud to start with Thank you for the question, Pandora’s Box.

It’s a dilemma, in the literal sense — on the one hand people hate scrolling, but a lot of that comes from technical limitations that have been addressed. Panel-to-panel is more intuitive, making things like a little movie, but see above and how comics aren’t movies, movies are always now and you lose an essential part of comics in this way. But I don’t want to be the guy that insists on purity. Maybe it’s not technically comics by my definition, but are people reading it, are they enjoying it? Somebody invented a form that mutates my model, but it’s enduring.

Nevertheless, the form that accentuates the all-times nature of comics is essential; McCloud noted that Korean webcomics are all scrollers now (and they’ve brought the interface here, cf: Webtoons), and if that’s what they’re reading on phones, if you don’t take advantage, that’s a storytelling challenge (or possibly failure). He clearly had another 3-4 hours of rant in him, but stopped to get in one last question about his inspiration for The Sculptor:

[gesturing to Ivy] She’s my inspiration.

It’s a long-gelling story, one that a 25 year old McCloud started and a much older McCloud finished from a different place of technical, storytelling, and theoretical development. He likes that fact that the book got both a lot of love and a lot of hate, that nobody is indifferent. I achieved at least one of my goals which was to create narrative momentum — a lot of people told me they read a 500 page graphic novel in one sitting and that’s nuts.

And that left enough time for his second presentation, a preview of his next book on visual communications, on his absolute loathing of a plaque next to an elevator in a La Quinta motel in Tennessee and what he learned. It was called In Case Of Fire. This is the plaque, and he shared some of the interpretations of what this meant to people:

  • In case of a Goliath attack, hide in a companion cube and get upvoted to safety
  • Use chopsticks to remove cooked children from hot oven
  • In case of 2 fires, ride the elevator heading to the larger fire

He mentioned the difficulty he had getting information from public websites that are supposed to talk about areas affected by Southern California wildfires, all down to poor formatting, and contrasted with the experiences of Sky (who is functionally blind) and how accessibility is either granted or denied by the choices made. There are no neutral visual decisions, he half-shouted: scale, rotation, hue, saturation, wording, contrast, font, placement, all of them matter. His realization is that it doesn’t matter if you’re blind, or have neurological or language issues, we all have cognitive limits and all of us are served or not by visual design.

He brought up Google results for what the words are meant to convey: In case of fire use stairs, and filtering out the gags, went to work. How does this read for somebody that scans images left to right? An awful lot of people are wandering towards the fire or have simply turned their backs to it, but even those that don’t could be just as easily read as In case of stairs, here’s some fire or Have a pleasant stroll in the vicinity of fire or Skip merrily down some stairs away from fire. Even word choice affects interpretation: use is a bad word in this context.

Anyway, he said, that’ll be like 20 pages of the book.

Lots of things are going to be like 20 pages of the book; we’ve talked about the literal years of research he’s done, about how 90% of what he’s digging into will probably never be shared, but which will give him to context to decide how to prune down and present the key ideas of the 10% that does make it in. He’s evangelical about the topic, noting that Culture has recognized the importance of each and every word, but denies the importance of each and every picture, not to mention how satisfying great visual communications design is — think about the wordless, nested, entirely clear (yet complex) instructions on an airplane emergency evacuation card.

Look for In Case Of Fire: The Elements Of Visual Communication (a title which he hopes invokes Strunk & White, but which will be nowhere near as slim5) in the next couple. Come to think of it, he never did say couple what.

Asked in the closing seconds if he got angry at fonts like Papyrus6 or Comic Sans7, McCloud replied, Comic Sans doesn’t make me angry, fonts don’t make me angry. I look, I say “Wrong”, I change the font. He contrasted the very haphazard nature of Roman characters to the very deliberate and nature of written Korean, concluding Fonts don’t make angry, but they very rarely satisfy me. And he made a recommendation, so you’ll have something to read while waiting for the next couple: I’m Comic Sans, Dammit, (which appears to actually be titled I’m Comic Sans, Asshole, but there were kids present), which ran in McSweeney’s. Kids, maybe hold off on reading it until you’re older.

And with that, the presentation ended with applause, and then he took another hour in the hallway, talking to everybody that had something they wanted to share with him. As a bonus, there was a guy dressed as Sean Connery in Zardoz adjusting his loincloth about 3 meters away, but I don’t think Scott ever noticed; whether it’s researching a book or answering an earnest fan’s question, he is a master of the monofocus.

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¹ In a page full of small images captioned This is not a _____, the logo for Tundra is labeled This is not a publisher. By the time most purchasers of the first edition of 6000 copies read UC, that statement was true. When Denis Kitchen published the second edition through Kitchen Sink Press and had McCloud substitute the KSP logo for Tundra’s, the same thing quickly became true.

DC had their crack at it, with their “bullet” logo substituted in when they were the publisher; one might wonder if the curse shifted from the publisher as a whole to merely their cinematic universe offerings. It’s with HarperCollins now, and they wisely decided to let the DC logo stand.

² Sky, who wasn’t present with Ivy and younger daughter Winter, but had many stories about her shared. She didn’t exist when McCloud drew Ivy holding her on the last page of UC, but preceded the book into this world by approximately two weeks, meaning that last panel isn’t a lie.

³ McCloud’s really got a thing for defunct publishers

4 The “Earth stories”, still looked back upon by readers as the highlight of the series.

5 He’s mentioned a length of about 250 pages, but he also used that number the first time he told me he was working on The Sculptor, which came in at 496. Given all the research he’s doing, I will not be one bit surprised to see him go significantly long.

6 About which, let’s be real, there’s nothing wrong except rampant overuse.

7 About which everything is wrong.

Three Things To Uplift Your Spirits

It’s tough times, friends, but there’s always little bits of humor, hope, and a third thing that starts with h that I can’t think of at the moment. Let’s dive in.

  • Via my onetime sporting bet nemesis, news that the Multiplex 10 short-inspired and Multiplex 10 web series will continue … with your help:

    Since January, we’ve produced NINE videos in all (plus a couple of promotional things like the pitch video), with a tenth on its way in the next week or two.

    If we meet the $20,000 base goal, we can afford to produce at least TWENTY minutes of new animated content—(at least) FIVE new episodes of Multiplex 10: The Web Series and (at least) FIVE new movie reviews—to be released every one or two weeks, starting … well, as soon as possible. Minus approximately $1,800 for payment processing and Kickstarter fees, the base goal translates to a little over $900 per minute for design, animation, voice acting, sound, and music.

    That is super cheap for animation; in fact, it may be below the theoretical lower limit for animation costs. Details at the Kicker, do consider helping.

  • Via Comic Tea Party, the book club/discussion group/movable colloquium, a survey about comics and your habits in reading them. I’m very eager to see the results, so take a couple of minutes and let them know how you’re interacting with indie-slash-web comics, which you can do at the Google Form.
  • Via she’s been on hiatus for too long, welcome back to regular webcomicking, Danielle Corsetto dropped some news when I attended her Q&A in Philadelphia, part of her Big Ass Book Tour. She’s partnered up with Monica Gallagher to do a new webcomic that has as its focus providing solid sex info to young people that would otherwise not get much (or, sad to say, any truthful) sex education. The focus of the strip will be some recent high school grads learning how their bodies work.

    And, because it’s Corsetto, the learning will come courtesy of the dead sorority girl haunting a bottle of tequila in their house.

    BOO! It’s Sex launches today on Webtoons, with the first five episodes. Gallagher’s art is crisp, Mae Keller (who joins on the fifth episode) adds colors that do exactly what they’re meant to do (make the art pop without drawing too much attention to themselves), and Corsetto is just getting down to the facts as the fifth episode wraps. Time to learn about the clit, kids! At least, we will starting Tuesday, as the strip settles into its Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

    The only thing lacking? Corsetto admitted that she hadn’t thought about including her paranormal investigator characters in BOO! It’s Sex, but maybe we’ll get a cameo down the line. Come for the possibility of Ghost Kitty, stay for factual information about sex, reproduction, pleasure, health, and consent.


Spam of the day:

Wish you could touch this ass? You can! CLICK HERE

Unless haptic feedback has gotten a hell of a lot better in the past week or so, clicking is a poor approximation to touching an ass.

Smart Ladies You Should Listen To. Also, Canadians

It’s been a long day, let’s get right to it.

  • Colleen AF Venable is more than one of the most influential people in comics publishing; she’s one of the most influential people in publishing, period. She’s in charge of the artistic direction of an entire imprint at Macmillan (and will even be able to share the name of that imprint in the next day or two), and between her trajectory upwards and Gina Gagliano’s new gig, we are going to look back at :01 Books as an incubator of publishing’s future movers and/or shakers.

    But I digress. I mention Venable today because she’s going to be delivering a webinar for all interested in the construction of graphic novels, sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, specifically the France region. As of this writing, five slots remain for registration, with the session taking place on Saturday, 30 June at 5:00pm CET / 11:00am EDT. The registration will run you €35 if you’re a member of SCBWI, €50 if not. If you suspect that Venable will be saying very smart things¹, there’s also a 15 minute video feedback session available for another €30, although you’ll have to settle for being on the waitlist.

  • Christina Tran is no stranger to comics — she’s been nominated for the Cartoonist Studio Prize the last two years in the webcomics division, winning last year. She’s a polymath, though, with a long list of stuff she’s done at the front page of her site, which you should definitely check out if you’re ever feeling too good about your own accomplishments.

    Many of those things she’s done have been freelance, or offered up on a pay-as-you-wish basis, which makes her well acquainted with how people actually decide to pay (or not). To help people who may be confused about how to navigate the question about what they should pay (or if they should²), she’s released a flowchart to help you decide that is both well reasoned and beautiful to look at.

    How Much Should I Pay For This Sliding Scale Comic? has been through a number of revisions since it first hit a couple weeks ago, but seems to be in a final-ish form, so I’m pointing you to it now. It’s here, offered up under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license, making it free to adapt and share, provided you give proper credit and don’t charge for it. Print it out, laminate it, hang it somewhere in your sightline. It’s cool, just remember to tell yourself that it’s Tran’s work.

  • The 2018 Joe Shuster Award Nominations / Les nominés pour le prix Joe Shuster 2018 have been released, recognizing the best in comics from and by the storied nation of Canada. The Shusters have always had a good curation in their nominations, and this year is no exception.

    In addition to the nominees for Webcomics Creator / Créateur de Bandes Dessinées Web — that would be Boum for Boumeries, Gisele Lagace and David Lumsdon for Ménage à 3, Winston Rowntree for Subnormality, Ty Templeton for Bun Toons, Kelly Tindall for Strangebeard, Rob Walton for Ragmop, and Various for True Patriot Presents #2-6 — you’ve got webcomics types recognized for Writer / Scénariste (Jim Zub), Artist / Dessinateur (Stuart Immonen, Ramón Pérez), and Cartoonist / Auteur (Jillian Tamaki).

    The Shuster Awards will be presented at Montreal Comic Con, which runs 6-8 July at the Palais des congrès, Montreal, QC. Fleen wishes the best of luck to all the nominees, there’s not a bad choice in the bunch.


Spam of the day:

Is your girlfriend getting suspicious texts?

If she is, don’t tell my wife.

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¹ She will.

² Spoiler: almost certainly yes.

Three Media

When the rules keep you from being able to act like a normal human being, it's time to ask where we went wrong.

You know I probably could have broken up all the news into several posts, but I couldn’t bear to not talk about any of the stuff that’s on deck today. My apologies in advance is this is more than you wanted to read, or if a scarcity of news in the coming days means there’s not much to discuss later in the week.

  • I received multiple packages of joy from the good folks at :01 Books since lasts we spoke, and it’s going to be very weird to not credit the until-now omnipresent Gina Gagliano¹ for these review copies. :01 no longer being a one-person-per-job-function kind of place, it looks like Sophie Kahn is the one who sent out All Summer Long by Hope Larson, Animus by Antoine Revoy, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (words) and Emily Carroll (pictures). Give me time to thoroughly read the, and we’ll talk.

    Additionally, I received a copy of Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (previously received and reviewed here), which means I now have an extra. Which means that one lucky reader is going to get a copy of Be Prepared in the mail, with the sole requirement that they ensure at least one age-appropriate reader (say, a kid from 9 up) gets to read it when you’re done. Pass it on, loan it out, whatevs … just make sure kids get to read it.

    If you want to be considered, send an email to me (that would be gary) who is the editor at this blog (Fleen), which is a dot-com. You have until I wake up on 1 June 2018 to get your entries in. Be aware, you may set the book down more than once because of feelings and or cringes of recognition. These are not bad things.

  • It’s tough to find any bit of positivity in the world of social media, but like some metaphor about something beautiful rising from the muck that I can’t be bothered to construct right now, there’s occasionally bits that restore your hope. So far today, I’ve seen three.
    • First, via Lucy Bellwood, a comics piece by Wendy MacNaughton about prisoners in the infamous San Quentin lockup confronting the reality that America’s prison population — thanks to mandatory minimums and three strikes laws — has a rapidly graying population; there are a lot of incarcerated people who are elderly, sickly, and approaching the end of their lives.

      Eight inmates — all lifers, which means we’re meant to understand they are the worst of the worst — have responded by asking to create a hospice program so that their fellow inmates don’t have to die alone. They aren’t approved yet, but if there’s any sanity in the prison-industrial complex, this will be approved and spread to other facilities yesterday.

    • Second, from Scott McCloud, a note that comics and medical care seem to be overlapping to a growing degree (cf: Cathy Leamy, who uses comics for medical education and outreach), and a pointer towards the newest instance he’s noticed.

      Therapy Comics is tackling the problems that arise when mental care services (in this case, in England) rely on a baseline level of literacy and facility in English; whether because those in need of services speak other languages, or because whatever prompts the need for mental health care keeps them from communicating effectively, comics can help provide interventions without relying on language.

      The practitioner behind Therapy Comics, Michael Safranek, has so far provided resources for improving sleep hygiene, dealing with panic disorders, and learning progressive muscle relaxation. Safranek’s asking for feedback, so if you think you could use some help in any of these areas, or if you’re well-versed in how to build effective comics, give them a good reading and let him know your thoughts.

    • Thirdly, from many, many people, a thread by Steve Lieber of Helioscope Studio in Portland on how to give art critiques that is the best I’ve ever seen. It focuses on what the person seeking feedback needs (both in terms of what the reviewer sees in the work and what the reviwee identifies as the direction they want to take their work).

      It mostly boils down to a small — but crucial — bit of empathy at the beginning: We only have a little time, so I’m going to talk about what I see that needs improvement in your work, but that doesn’t mean everything is wrong. Show me your best, tell me what kind of work you’re seeking, who do you emulate or look to for inspiration? The rest is a set of principles that Lieber applies to himself as he looks through the portfolio, and it’s deeply insightful. If you work with others in any kind of creative fashion, this is worth your time.

  • The hoo-ha in the Interwubs about exactly whose childhood is being ruined by the announcemnt of a Thundercats reboot has driven out another announcement out of the news cycle. Which is a pity, because the previous announcement, the one that nobody has anything by enthusiasm for, is that Noelle Stevenson will be co-executive producing and showrunning a She-Ra reboot for Netflix.

    On the one hand, it’s a little sad that more people will see Stevenson’s work because of a legacy IP than for her groundbreaking comics. On the other hand, a generation of kids will be influenced by the stories, the designs, the message that she gets to set into their eyeballs. And heck, her comics ain’t going anywhere, they’re still right there on my bookshelf and will be until the bindings fall apart from overuse.

    Congrats to Stevenson, and whether the next big thing you work on is more She-Ra, the Nimona adaptation, or something completely new, we’ll be here to snap it up.


Spam of the day:

Record and Download Any Video from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, The CW, NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, and More. This is a Limited-Time Offer.

Wow. You get a one-time payment of US$39.99, I get infringement grief from at least nine famously litigious and massive corporations. I think your business model may not be skewed to my advantage.

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¹ Every publishing house in the English-speaking world is mentally re-evaluating how well they’ve treated their key people; when Gina gets to hiring, you’re going to see the absolute best in the business go to work for her.

Likewise, I imagine every graphic novel imprint is frantically looking at their most lucrative creators, wondering if they can sneak in a contract extension a year early; when Gina gets to signing talent, you’re going to see some seismic shifts.

Cool Projects From Cool People

At least one of which, I’m certain, the Cool Person would preferred to not have made!

  • That would be Yuko Ota, who in years past started developing a repetitive stress injury in her right (dominant) hand and arm. Kids! Don’t let anybody in the art community (school, peers, bosses) tell you that pain is normal and you just have to work through it or you’re a wuss. These people suck and I hate them. Because just work through it was the path that Ota took, and it wound up damaging her hand and arm in lasting ways.

    So she started — initially out of curiosity, latter out of necessity — drawing with her left (nondominant) hand to see how well she could do. Eventually, it became a lifeline that saved her career, in that she could do some work with her left while saving her right for more important (deadline, paying, etc) gigs¹. This years-long process is now documented in Offhand, Ota’s collection of her left-hand drawings (and in one spread, matching left- and right-hand drawings done at the same time), previously Kickstarted, now being delivered to backers. Give it a couple of weeks for fulfillment to finish up, and I’ll bet you’ll be able to score a copy in the Johnny Wander store.

    This book is for anybody that likes Ota’s work, anybody that has interest in the how and process of art, anybody that likes to see artistic progress, and anybody with an interest in the biology and anatomy of the human wrist (it’s basically a cobbled-together disaster!). For the latter, see if you can talk a Kickstarter backer out of the limited edition hardcover, which the lenticular image of Ota’s wrist MRI; please note that you cannot have my copy under any circumstances.

    For the art progress fans, it’s fascinating to watch how quickly Ota was able to move from crayon scribble level drawings to work that’s nearly indistinguishable from her baseline skill level; it’s evidence that art and style and more about brain than hands. In a couple of years, Ota’s left hand was able to develop the fine control that her brain spent a lifetime teaching to the right hand. For Johnny Wander fans in general, you’ll see early sketches of Percy and Leeds from Ota’s current work, Barbarous, from 2014, and what appears to be a proto-Leeds from as far back as 2013. Considering that Barbarous launched in 2016, it shows just how long the development of characters and story takes.

    And good news! When I spoke to Ananth Hirsh (Ota’s husband and creative partner) at MoCCA Fest last month, he mentioned that she’s found a treatment that is maintaining her function and keeping the discomfort where it should be. The damage is there, but it’s being contained, and now that you’ve got her example in front of you, Young Artist, make sure you don’t fall into the same trap. Take breaks! Stretch! Take breaks! Working through pain is not a good idea! Take friggin’ breaks!

  • In what will also be a long-development-time project (with an equally long run), Lucas Landherr has been spending a chunk of his Surviving The World wind-down time consulting on a new series for the Crash Course channel at YouTube (a collaboration of John & Hank Green, and PBS Digital Studios). This one will be on the topic of Engineering and launched Episode 1 (What Is Engineering?) yesterday.

    The series is hosted by Dr Shini Somara, and over the next year will be looking at electrical engineering and other, lesser forms of engineering (like Landherr’s chemical engineering, Somara’s mechanical engineering, and Joey Chestnut’s civil engineering); Somara will talk about what the engineers doe in their disciplines, and show how they apply the laws of science to the solving of problems and the making of things. Or, as David Malki ! put it, how to make math louder.

    I’m certain that the entire series will be enlightening and teach people (many of whom have no idea what my professional tribe does) the hows and whys of engineering. And here’s hoping that we get some much served attention paid to the engineer who, perhaps more than any other, was responsible for modern communications and computing. Yes, I will always find a way to mention Shannon. Figure One, yo. Right-hand rule represent.


Spam of the day:

Save on printer ink

Nnnnnope. Nope, nope, nope, the spam filter is also telling me that you’re attempting to steal my identity just by looking at this ugly piece of garbage on the screen. Bugger off.

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¹ Which is to say, she was able to damage her right hand more slowly while investigating possible treatments.

Camp 2018, Part One

For anybody that’s read this page, you may recall that Comics Camp was a major formative experience for me in 2017; if you wish, you can read about 10,000 words on it here.

The first I realized I was truly on the verge of Comics Camp this year was 26 April, early afternoon in Juneau; I was 13 hours and four time zones from when I started my day at Oh-Stupid-Thirty, and I stared out of my fourth floor hotel room and pretty much directly into what looks like the kitchen of a house not that far behind the hotel. Juneau is a very vertical city, populated at all times by ravens, at some times by wolves and/or bears, and pretty much nonstop by eagles if you’re near the dump. A raven alighted on the roof of the house whose kitchen I was staring into, nonplussed.

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The thing about Alaska Robotics, the one-day con they put on, the myriad of school visits by creators they arrange¹, and the Camp associated with all of the previous, is that it’s run by the very best people, attended by even more of the very best people, in a location that is almost as far as it could be from my home. As I find myself past the half-century mark, the travel necessary to attend these marvels is taxing in ways it would not have been ten, or even five years ago. And as I find myself in an increasingly chaotic society, those rigors of travel become a price I am increasingly willing to pay.

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Thursday is the travel day for most who are making their way to the Mini-Con/Camp², so the afternoon is largely open; I dropped by the Alaska Robotics Gallery (a comics/game store, with art supplies and magnificent works of local artists) to get my volunteer assignments for the Mini-Con, as well as my staff t-shirt. I also make arrangements for my assisting gig at the kick-off event of Comics Time in Juneau; the musical cohort of Camp — Marian Call, Seth Boyer, Molly Lewis — will be playing at local cafe The Rookery³ and there’s seating to arrange and a door to watch.

The show is the latest iteration of Call’s Space Time series, which often involves writers, scientists, Flight Controllers and Directors … you get the idea. Tonight, it’s Three musicians and a series of comics artists that will be livedrawing along to the music. There’s a local poet, Catherine Hatch, talking about relationships and fighting and compromise If You Want Your Laundry Folded. There’s a reading from The Little Prince (the meeting with The Businessman); the tone slides from earnest to silly to contemplative and back.

Lewis sang her ode to Juneau hirsuteness, The Year Of The Beard. Boyer brought the room to tears with the saddest, most melancholy song in English. Call shared the story of how her signature tune got turned upside down and backwards via a musicbox and a Moebius strip, and became a tribute to last year’s eclipse. Georgia Patton, Lee Post, Lucy Bellwood, Lucas Elliott, and Kerstin La Cross took inspiration from the songs and created Art.

And through it all one thought resonated, but was finally brought to voice in the refrain of the second to last song of the show, which is also the last song of Call’s latest album:

Beggar, Banker, King, and Pawn
We’re only bones with stories on

We are the sum of our stories, the ones we tell each other and the ones we tell ourselves. The storytellers were gathering, and Juneau was poised to listen.

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Pictures:

    The crowd gathers, and the performers perform. Pictures drawn to Good Morning, Moon, No Paper, The Year Of The Beard, Pantsuit Sasquatch, Frozen Man, the story of The Businessman, Good Night, Moon, I don’t recall which song, Mediocre Algorithmic First Date, The Avocado Song, don’t recall again but man, it’s pretty, All Star, Like This, Grandpa Had It Right, and Space Weird Thing.

    Music:


    Spam of the day:
    Sent away until Camp recaps are done.

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    ¹ More than 50 of them this year; last year, it was closer to 35.

    ² At least, those who are coming on the exhibitor side of things; attendees will be making their way to Juneau from across Alaska, but not until after work on Friday in many cases. Alaskans think nothing of hopping down to the local airport and flying for hours in this fashion; organizer Pat Race would recount stories of traveling a thousand miles or more in order for his high school soccer team to play in an away game. Things are just bigger up there.

    ³ Run by lovely people, and home to some of the most outrageous cookies known to humanity. Try the Chocolate Chip, Cornflake, and Marshmallow cookies.