The webcomics blog about webcomics

Perchance To Dream

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before, but some years ago at a work conference, a colleague mentioned comics in an offhand way. Everybody else in the group sort of tuned out, but he and I started talking about words+pictures, and when I mentioned that I wrote about webcomics, he became animated. He wanted, very badly, to make sure that I knew about Power Nap. I assured him that I had it on RSS, and read pages as they came out, and when it was a while since the last page, I’d go back and read a chapter at a time to catch up.

And now I’m not doing that any more, because Power Nap has fluffed up its pillow, snuggled deep under the blankets, and settled in for its last snooze. That is to say, the story wrapped up.

For those not familiar, Power Nap (by Maritza Campos and Bachan) posited a world where everybody could achieve Rich Stevens’s fondest dream and never have to sleep. A cheap, over the counter drug allowed everybody to essentially stay awake all the time, upending society in numerous ways. Does it matter if your commute is four hours if you can just watch TV and aren’t tired when you get home? Not needing a bed means that your apartment now has an extra room for the same rent. You have more hours in the day to do everything, consume everything, try everything.

Unless, like Drew, you’re allergic to the drug. Those unfortunates that are always run ragged, always sleeping, become outcasts and pariahs (perpetually broke, too, on account of everybody else is working at least twice as many hours as you and the economy has adjusted to match). Which is unfortunate, because the sleepers (and thus, dreamers) are possibly the only ones that can help save the world when the collective effects of nobody sleeping or dreaming start to spill over into the world.

There’s your standard-issue conspiracy of the powerful trying to keep it all under wraps, of course, and your regulation rag-tag group of warriors trying to fight back against the monsters and doom and stuff, with the help of your basic unhelpful (downright jerkish, to be honest) spiritual guides who know more than they’re letting on. But really? It’s about Drew, and the wringers he’s put through, and the fact that he just wants one. damn. night. of restful sleep.

Did I mention the monsters and doom and stuff? Because when weird-ass dreams spill over into your weird-ass work life, the visuals get wonderfully wild and bizarre. I’m a sucker for a reluctant hero story, particularly one that typifies the tagline of the comic:

In man’s struggle against the world, bet on the world.

Then again, when the betting’s a sure thing and the odds are high enough, somebody is going to make a killing betting on the underdog. And so it comes to a end of the story, with two pages left (Campos described them as a post-credits scene), about 220 pages from beginning to end, or the size of a proper graphic novel, told a page at a time over the course of nine years (about a page every other week). Hopefully, it’ll get collected so that it’s easier to read all at once, but whether that happens or not, you can check it out starting from the beginning and be done by bedtime.

I mean, depending on your time zone. If you’re already past dinner, don’t stay up all night. That’s what started all the trouble for Drew, and no promises you’ll turn out better than he did.


Spam of the day:

Your website is the reflection of your business. Without optimizing your website for search engines, you will not get any traction from any digital marketing channels such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc. We can fix all these issues and run successful backlink building campaign for a monthly fee of $500.

This guy (who goes in the space of one email variously as Adam P, Adam Stover, and Sam D) told me this page got 0.45 clicks per month. I wrote back to Mr D declaring that I’d told my staff we needed to be in business with him right away. There’s only one solution for this — I need the services of Mr D. Only D can fix it, gotta have the D, bring me all the D! More D! Curiously, he hasn’t replied, and I’m still over here waiting for somebody to give me the D.

Free Book For You, Maybe

If there’s one thing true about the opinions of all of us at Fleen, it’s the unnecessarily-pluralized identity that we at Fleen have adopted. But if there’s a second true thing, it’s that we at Fleen are big fans of The Nib. Editor Matt Bors and his staff have put together something special, and if you aren’t supporting them in their mission to bring the best comics possible to the world — while fairly paying the people who make them — then you should be.

But sometimes we need a little push.

I support The Nib with a monthly subscription at a level that qualified me to receive a free book; to be honest, I’d forgotten about it, so when I got the email on Friday with the discount code, it was a surprise. Some of what’s on offer I’ve read already, some of what’s on offer is on my Gotta Get That list, some of what’s on offer I’d never heard of before, but Bors & Co have excellent curation skills and I have no doubt the stuff that new to me belongs on the GGTL.

I’ve also got completely packed booskhelves with a one-in/one-out policy in effect, and a desire to not only talk about The Nib, but to get people to give them money. So here’s the deal: I’m giving away my free book to one of you, gratis. More specifically:

  • This offer is good for people that are not presently subscribers to The Nib; we’re looking to expand the subscriber base.
  • You’ll get to pick from any of the books on this page (which includes the individual past issues of The Nib magazine, but not the bundle of the first four issues combined).
  • We’ll choose randomly from everybody that emails me (that would be gary) at a domain which is also the name of this website, which is a dot-com by end of Friday, 4 September. Heck, if your email is in my inbox by the time I wake up Saturday morning (EDT), I’ll count it.
  • You’ll agree to a) subscribe to The Nib at any level you choose for at least six months. Want to cancel after that? Fine; if they can’t hook you in half a year of excellent editorial and nonfiction comics, it’s not for you. You’ll also send in a photo of you holding your choice to run here, so we can all see what good taste in reading material you have.
  • You don’t need to send proof of subscription or subscribe in advance to enter our little giveaway; we at Fleen like to think that we’ve promoted a readership that wouldn’t take advantage or go back on their word. And heck, if in a couple of months you’re in such financial straits that keeping a US$4+ subscription is a hardship, it’s not like we’re gonna yell at you. Your good faith attempt is all we’re asking.
  • You agree that if you don’t love the book you chose, or if at any time in the future you find yourself ready to get rid of it, you’ll donate it to your local public library.
  • Residents of the United States only, please. I don’t regret the ultimately futile attempt at sending a book to Mario from Portugal, but I’m ready for a success this time.

But, Gary!, I hear you cry, I’m already a subscriber to The Nib! What kind of cool stuff can I get in on? Glad you asked, Sparky. How about the new Skin Horse Kickstarter? Harking back to the top of the page, if there’s a third thing that we at Fleen are known for, it’s thinking that Skin Horse, by Shaenon Garrity and Jeffrey C Wells (with colors by Pancha Diaz), is hell of rad, and not just because there’s historically a 50/50 chance that something I’ve written ends up on the back cover as a blurb¹.

Actually, it’s two books, containing strips from 2 October 2017 to 7 March 2020, which if my date math is correct corresponds to 762 full color strips, plus bonus stories, which you can get in print starting at US$40 (you can also get the full ten book run in PDF for US$40, so read the descriptions carefully). 30 days to go on the campaign, which is just over 180% of goal so far. It’s a terrifically fun story with lots of ups and downs, and there’s no time like the present to jump in and enjoy the mad science, non-human intelligence, and omnipresent civil service bureaucracy. Plus goinking.


Spam of the day:

Get an accurate body temperature reading at a distance with this medical-grade infrared thermometer.

Or, y’know, just get one from Home Depot like I did. Okay, it’s industrial and I use it on my oven, but there’s medical use infrareds online for as little as twelve bucks. Don’t let these opportunists talk you into something that can be had in exchange for three easy payments.

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¹ For the record, existing volumes 4, 5, 6, and 8 contain quotes from me, alongside such luminaries as Mark Waid, Dylan Meconis, Lauren Davis, Seanan Maguire, Brigid Alverson, and Christopher Baldwin. I’m also quoted on the cmpaign page for these two books, with one of my more tortured constructions, but one which I think sums up Skin Horse nicely.

Ringo Redux

Revisiting yesterday’s post, we can add a bit more on the two things that got way the hell under my skin, the lack of a nominees listing for the Ringo Awards and the reality-blind full speed ahead intention of the Baltimore Comic Con to take place in person. Let’s take ’em in reverse order.

  • The BCC (that would be the Con) seems intent on the fiction that in two months, they’ll be seeing all of you in 3D at the BCC (that would be the Baltimore Convention Center). One more reason that the Con Committee needs to change their messaging to Sorry, we’ll see you in 2021, everybody be safe was added in a comment by reader Rob Nobody:

    I feel compelled to point out that the Baltimore Convention Center is ALSO the primary public COVID-19 testing center in Baltimore. (I just got tested today for the second time; very quick and smooth operation and have been getting our results in ~36 hours, highly recommend as much as one CAN recommend getting that thing jabbed up your nose into your sinuses.) So yeah, if the Comic Con people think they have a chance in hell of actually doing this in person, they are in for a RUDE awakening.

    Just pointing that out because the ConCom apparently doesn’t know.

  • Right, the Ringos. They are, hands down, the weirdest awards in comics, with a complex structure designed (at least it’s my reading) to deal with the critiques that jury-nominated awards don’t match up with fan interests, and fan-nominated awards can be gamed by block voting. Thus, there are four entirely different kinds of awards at the Ringos:
    • OPEN+JURY NOMINATED AWARDS: Two nominees will be selected by an open, online nomination process. The remaining three nominees will be selected by a jury of comics industry professionals. A tie among the jury’s choices may result in more than five nominees in a category.
    • OPEN NOMINATED AND VOTED AWARDS: All the nominees and the winner of these five categories will be selected by open voting. The five top Fan-Only Favorites will be announced at the Award Ceremony in September at the Baltimore Comic-Con. A winner in a given year’s Fan Favorite category is not eligible to be nominated in that category the following year.
    • THE MIKE WIERINGO SPIRIT AWARD: The nominated works will be voted on by the professional jury as well as three additional, perennial jurors: Matt Wieringo, Todd Dezago, and Mark Waid.
    • THE HERO INITIATIVE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AND DICK GIORDANO HUMANITARIAN AWARDS: These award are selected by Hero Initiative and will be announced at the Ringo Awards Ceremony.

    It’s only the first cohort that has a proper ballot, as the second is all write-in and the third and fourth are closed processes. Since we spoke yesterday, the Ringos have made public the nominees for the 17 Open+Jury categories, 8 which have five nominees and 9 of which have between 6 and 9 nominees. Folks, this is getting overly complicated already.

    Look, I’m not going to fault the jury for having ties, but when you’re supposed to come up with 3 nominees and you end up with as many as 7, you need to pare that down a little. I’ve been part of a jury process eight times (holy crap), and we’ve had protracted voting rounds to get down to three nominees every single time.

    You’ve got to work it down because if you’ve got eight or nine nominees, you’re going to have a winner with somewhere in the 20% range of votes. It’s a situation tailor-made to get the most excitable, antisocial, attack-oriented chuds (and no, I’m not naming their little hate movement here because fuck those guys) screaming about how the real fans were excluded by secret SJW cabals trying to destroy comics and also tits.

    Anyways, you can find web- and indie comickers up and down the ballot, including in Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist) (which features alternative/political comics makers alongside arthouse comics makers alongside strip cartoonists alongside monthly floppy folks alongside Raina, just in case you were wondering), Best Writer (where you’ll find Mariko Tamaki), Best Artist Or Penciller (including Fleen fave Rosemary Vallero-O’Connell), Best Single Issue Or Story (which includes Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers), Best Original Graphic Novel (Hot Comb again but weirdly this category has essentially zero overlap with the Cartoonist, Writer, and Artist categories in terms of people and their work both being nominated), Best Comic Strip Or Panel (including Nancy by Olivia Jaimes, Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Andersen, The Middle Age by Steve Conley, and specifically Pia Guerra’s comics at The Nib but looks like not anybody else), and Best Kids Comic Or Graphic Novel (Guts).

    The Best Webomic category has seven nominees:

    The category is dominated that what you’d call graphic novels updated in chunks, with only Penny Arcade following the strip format.

    But the one that’s most unlike the others is Rocío Diestra, which is a) on Instagram (which means I can’t really read it because fuck Zuckerberg), b) single comics panels interspersed with photos and other content, and c) in Spanish. From what I can see, the art style is reminiscent of Gemma Correll, so that’s all right. I’m intrigued and honestly surprised that Americans would nominate something not in English.

If you want to vote on stuff, you can do so here. The winners will be announced on 24 October, but despite what both websites say there is zero chance that this will be a presentation at Baltimore Comic Con.


Spam of the day:

In general, I recently broke up with our mutual friend (if interested, I’ll tell you later when we meet)
Well, now I need a man for hot, but very pleasant meetings.

The only mutual friend we might have that speaks Russian is John, who I knew in college, and who learned to drink from Russians one summer on a work exchange in Orel back before the Berlin Wall came down (and thus was responsible a year later for the single most epic drunk incident at my college in the entirety of the 80s). He’s why I have a genuine Red Army furry hat, which he got in trade for an old, worn-out pair of New Balances I was going to discard. Fun fact: John’s wife doesn’t speak Russian so I think you might be fibbing.

Opposite Coasts, Opposite Approaches

We’ll get to the title reference in a moment, but I want to call out something first. Yesterday I spent quite a bit of space talking about Shing Yin Khor’s meditation/poem in comics form, Stone Fruit Season why, my goodness, you really should go read right now if you haven’t yet. If you have, read it again.

Anyways, when you’re done reading Stone Fruit Season, you might want to check out the comment below yesterday’s post from reader David Cortesi, who notes that Stone Fruit Season contains a number of references to TS Eliot’s The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock. Having spent most of my nerd school humanities electives on history and political science, I wasn’t familiar with Prufrock (or really, much of Eliot’s work except to be aware that his poems are the root cause of why people got purposefully very drunk/high to watch a movie and have been clamoring for The Butthole Cut.

But now I’ve read Prufrock and yeah, I think Cortesi is onto something. So thanks for that, I learned something today. Namely, that while I can’t say that I’m suddenly an Eliot fanboy, I can see how he set the stage for modern poets poems I do enjoy, including one in particular that I once traded a hand-transcribed copy of to The Space Gnome in exchange for admission to an interstellar trade guild. I love it when circles close so neatly.

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Okay, time to get a bit more serious about thing, as I have to look at two comics institutions that are (at least as of the time of this writing) taking two entirely different approaches to the dominant issue of our time, the novel coronavirus pandemic.

  • On the one hand, you have the Cartoon Art Museum (who I was always going to write about today), who are running an auction to benefit the museum and its programs. Specifically, they are holding the Shelter-In-Place Fundraising Auction:

    The Cartoon Art Museum’s galleries were locked down following a statewide mandate issued on March 15, and our staff took immediate steps to adapt, developing online exhibitions, workshops, and conferences, sharing resources with other institutions, and seeking alternative sources to offset the revenue lost from our temporary closure.

    Members of the creative community have stepped up to help the Cartoon Art Museum and offer assistance during these uncertain times, and many cartoonists offered original art for the museum’s forthcoming Shelter-In-Place Fundraising Auction. Comic book artists, graphic novelists, comic strip artists, and animators have contributed artwork from their own archives for this ongoing online auction, which will help us continue our mission to ignite imaginations and foster the next generation of visual storytellers by celebrating the history of cartoon art, its role in society, and its universal appeal.

    That link will take you to a preview of items to be auctioned, the first of which will go up tomorrow, Thursday, 27 August, at CAM’s Ebay page with new items listed weekly. Props to everybody at CAM for finding a way to continue on in the face of closure.

  • On the other hand, you have something I had no idea I was going to write about today, except I happened to see a related story that caught my eye and subsequently raised my ire. The Ringo Awards announced today that their final ballots are decided, and voting is now open. So far, so good. But nowhere on their site (so near as I can tell) do they actually list the names on the ballot categories unless you provide an email address to register to vote.

    No. I’m not providing an email address for the privilege of researching information that should be public. I spent a significant amount of time poking around the Ringo Awards site looking for anyplace that has the categories and final nominees, and nothing. As of this writing, the sole communication from TRA on their Twitter account since late June is to say Hey, Kids! Comics award ballots! Vote and we’ll tell you who’s on them!¹.

    It was in my poking around in vain that I came across the following, which is on the home page, just above the list of this year’s judges:

    The fourth annual awards will return as part of the fan- and pro-favorite convention, The Baltimore Comic-Con. Top honors will be announced Saturday, October 24, 2020.

    That can’t be right, I thought, nobody could expect less than two months out from an event that regularly tops 15,000 people is going to be held indoors. That would be unbelievably irresponsible. So I went over to the BCC page, where (as near as I can tell) neither the words coronavirus nor COVID appear. The About/General Info page mentions exclusives, hotels, and sponsorships, but nothing about public health. The News page features a tickets on sale story from last November and literally nothing more recent.

    They are planning to hold this thing in person. There’s no other interpretation. They’re pushing tickets, advertising guests, and not acknowledging the elephant — the entire friggin’ population of African elephants gathered together into one improbable herd — in the room.

    Okay, they’re not good at communicating, I thought, but the absence of newer news doesn’t excuse this. The past ten days have been nothing but stories from around the country of schools — ranging from local public up through large universities — resuming classes and immediately having to shut down because of massive COVID outbreaks. The Frequently Asked Questions is about ticketing, how kids have to stay with parents, rules on celebrity group photos, how VIPs can enter the hall 30 minutes early, and their privacy policy. They are not acknowledging reality here, and it is dangerous.

    Well, maybe they’re just waiting for somebody else to pull the plug? I thought. In that case, there should at least be a statement about how they are carefully assessing the situation with respect to everybody’s safety, and oh, I dunno, recognizing that every other con canceled more than two months out? The Baltimore Convention Center has, right there its front page, a link to a Re-Opening FAQ that says, and I quote:

    The Baltimore Convention Center is currently unable to host events during the current State of Emergency enacted by Governor Hogan in March of this year. Events will take place again when the state of emergency has been lifted.

    They aren’t allowing more than 10 people at a time to make site visits (and are strongly encouraging virtual visits) to decide if they want to take a gamble on booking the convention center sometime 12 – 14 months from now. The city of Baltimore — home of Johns Hopkins and the best epidemiologists in the world, they are not fucking around with this thing — is currently at Phase 2 of reopening² and as of yesterday is meeting criteria to revert to Phase 1³. You’ve got all the justification needed to make a decision, stop jerking off in public, Baltimore Comic Con Committee.

    Call off the godsdamned con. And if they don’t and you decide to attend, stay the fuck away from me.


Spam of the day:
Know what? No spam today. I’ve had enough stupidity for one day.

_______________
¹ If you want to participate in the public voting portion of the multipartite Ringos, you have until 23 September. If you do and feel like sharing the nominees, I’ll run the list here at some point.

² No direct link to that screen; follow the link provided and click the button for Reopening Phases. Screenshot taken 26 August 2020, approximately 4:00pm EDT.

³ Again, no direct link; go to the button for Reopening Indicators. Screenshot taken 26 August 2020, approximately 4:00pm.

Memories, Seared In

There is almost nobody in comics that can get to essential truths of life, the deepest parts of our souls, as well or as naturally as Shing Yin Khor. We at Fleen said as much when Khor started their current contributing gig at Catapult back in May, and their latest piece there only reinforces the notion.

Stone Fruit Season is about a number of things. It’s about peaches and sense memory. It’s about identity and depression. It’s about finding strength to go on in times of crisis and white supremacy. It’s an awful lot to ask for a nine-page comic, but then again almost nobody in comics can take watercolor and pain and weave them into a meditation on what is, what never was, and what should be.

Khor talks about the time they ate a peach in in the shower:

But in the midst of my ennui, wet and haggard and broken, I ate a cold sweet peach —
— and then I wanted to eat another one.

Yes, I dared to eat a peach.
And I had to live, so I could eat another.

Those words, without the accompanying art (spare, beautiful, haunting), would be the basis of a poem, an ode of reflection. With the art (grasping, desperate, radiance coming up from the fruit) it becomes something more.

I never really thought of peaches as a Chinese fruit, until I did.
I never really thought of myself as a Chinese person, until I did.

It becomes a means to attach to one’s heritage, a lifelong quest for Khor, where food has previously been a point of focus.

The Chinese origins of the peach made it exotic, more alluring. Once easily available on low hanging trees and given freely to enslaved people, the marketing and commercialization of peaches made them valuable; a white person’s fruit.

The phrase “Georgia Peach” is not used to describe the beauty of Chinese women or Black women.

Peaches, Khor teaches us, are bound up in the (perhaps uniquely American history) of hype and transformation of the commonplace into the valuable, something reserved for the landed and wealthy. And maybe most of all, Khor shares with us that an awareness of the questionable and immoral is not all we are capable of, that there is joy and power to be found in the mundane and the stolen:

I understand that this is not a magic fruit; it is a fruit that mythologized itself on the back of Black suffering, still picked by brown laborers.

But to me, there’ll still always be something about the first sweet peach of the year.

Sweet nectar and soft pulp dripping down my arms —
— eaten greedily, ravenously —
like a terrified animal who has survived to see one more stone fruit season.

She ends on a defiant howl, a declaration for all of us in these times, no matter what our own version of peach or madeleine or ratatouille may be:

Screaming —
I lived, I lived, I lived.

Ah, but I said there’s almost nobody in comics that can capture emotion and critical moments in life with perfect crystalline clarity, which means that there are some. And at least one of those is, today, defiantly howling for her own reasons.

Kate Beaton’s family comics, I’m on the record as saying, are something I would trade the entire rest of the comics medium for; absolutely nobody can get to emotional truths — the universal that grabs onto the primitive parts of our brain and says you know this is true — with so few lines (either text or inks). She has one today on the Twitters that ranks with the best she’s ever done. And just in case it ever goes away, here’s a copy¹.

If Stone Fruit Season doesn’t make you stand a little straighter, if Mary’s choice of affection recipients doesn’t make you double over again in laughter, Maybe take a nap? Definitely switch things up and get yourself to a place where you can accept rage and joy and helpless laughter. Let us know if you need help getting there; we all deserve that much.


Spam of the day:

Stem cell therapy has proven itself to be one of the most effective treatments for Parkinson’s Disease.IMC is the leader in stem cell therapies in Mexico.

Weirdly, this message was written in (and mechanically translated from) Japanese.

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¹ To quote Beaton, apropos of the cat’s expression, she grabbed him by the haunches, and pulled him in for a sweet kiss on the butthole.

You Know How Fiction Can Illuminate Truths About Reality?

Got a couple of things to mention today, starting with a prime example of how science fiction and fantasy are ultimately always about the society you live in now. Let’s just say you don’t need to know 1200+ strips of complex (somtimes very complex) plot to get how the latest update of Order Of The Stick could apply to all kinds of situations today. Well done, Rich Burlew.

Readers may recall that :01 Books have had a couple of con-like virtual events under the title of Comics Relief, the first in April and the second in June be sure to check out the replays of the sessions — the various process events are interesting from a craft perspective, and the three that involve :01 creative director Mark Siegel are a masterclass in how to conduct an interview that flows like a conversation.

Readers may also recall how this page has discussed the impact that :01 Books has had on comics beyond its own backlist of authors, on account of :01 alumni have gone on to other publishers and imprints and how Siegel’s vision of what comics could be is now essentially the mission statement for the entire industry.

Finally, readers had damn well better recall that one of those alumni is Gina Gagliano, a woman not only tasked with launching a new graphic novel imprint in a too-brief timeframe, but also with a debut season beset by a worldwide pandemic. Okay, that last bit wasn’t planned, but she’s got to deal with it all the same. Gagliano knows you have to roll with the punches, and if there’s not been a third Comics Relief in a while now, she’s just gonna have to pitch in with something similar:

Random House Graphic is announcing an exciting kickoff to the fall season with “Falling for Graphic Novels,” a series of virtual events in September hosted by five indie bookstores across the United States.

The panels will feature Random House Graphic’s creators and allow attendees to discover and virtually visit new stores around the country. Each panel will focus on a theme in kids and YA comics, allowing readers to immerse themselves in stories of magic and heroes, queer and diverse representation, and even an interactive art class.

The celebration will give attendees an in-depth look at this exciting medium that continues to grow in popularity and show the power and breadth of visual storytelling. The series begins Wednesday, September 2, with a new event each week.

The five events will be:

Click on any of the five titles to go to the reservations page.

There are some great names in there, but I’m particularly interested in the first one because Oliver Sava is one of the very best writers about comics working today. The LGBTQ+ session also looks great, but I’ll have to catch whatever replay is available, as Tuesday is EMT duty night. And did you notice Gagliano’s old boss is a panelist on the last session? Siegel doesn’t just publish graphic novels, he makes them, and the Five Worlds series has been at Penguin Random House since before RHG was formed as a single gathering point.

I was going to talk about one thing more today, but I think I’ll let it sit until tomorrow; it’s getting late to hit Publish and also I want another day to absorb before I’m ready to talk about Shing Yin Khor’s latest meditation in comics form.


Spam of the day:

I have been waiting for you since to contact me regarding your winning amount of US$2, 100, 000.00 (Two Million One Hundred Thousand United State Dollars) loaded on your ATM Visa Card which we discussed. We are duly interred switched, therefore you can make withdrawal in any location of ATM Machine Center Cash point of your choice in any part of the world and the maximum you can withdraw a day is $5,000 US Dollar.

A good, old fashioned 419 scam? That takes me back.

COVID Or No, We Should Recognize Good Work

One of the casualties of the pandemic, event-wise, was the annual Queer Comics Expo, which is sponsored by the good folks at the Cartoon Art Museum. It should have taken place back in May but you know, everything. One of the features of the QCE is the annual Prism Awards, which are now being presented virtually and open to all and sundry:

Prism Comics, Queer Comics Expo and the Cartoon Art Museum are excited to announce that the 2020 Prism Awards will be held virtually as a two-day livestream celebration event free and open to everyone online. Held Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th from 2:00pm — 5:00pm Pacific time, the event will feature panels with the finalists and judges leading up to the awards ceremony!

Details on how to tune in will be released soon. For updates on the September 19 & 20 celebration RSVP through cartoonart.org/calendar/2020prismawards to receive reminders and the information to join. You do not need to RSVP to attend. How to watch will be shared by all three entities, Prism Comics, Queer Comics Expo and the Cartoon Art Museum, through social media and press.

That from the email that CAM sent me, which also included a list of the Prism Awards finalists. Some names that you will surely recognize are to be found there:

  • The Webcomic nominees are The Girl that Can’t Get a Girlfriend by Mieri Hiranishi, Cafe Suada by Jade Sarson, and Magical Boy by The Kao; the fact that two of the three nominees are on aggregator sites (Webtoons and Tapas) says something about the shifting nature of webcomics as a whole, I think.
  • The Short Form nominees are In Search of Absent Pigments by Alex Assan and Lin Darrow [Editor’s note: the nomination only lists Assan, but Assan’s own site credits Darrow, so I’ve included them here], Pseudo Slut Transmission by Emma Jayne, and One Day Out by Ina Bestari.
  • Longer form individual stories are broken up by the size of the publisher’s reach, so there are two groupings. Small/Midsize Press nominees are Trans Girls Hit The Town by Emma Jayne (a 2019 Ignatz winner), Lemonade Summer by Gabi Mendez, and Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman. The categories are a little fuzzy, as Pseudo Slut Transmission is only about six pages shorter than Trans Girls Hit The Town, which was counted as a minicomic for the purposes of Ignatz categories.
  • The Mainstream Press nominees were certainly spoiled for choice this year, but ultimately settled on Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T Crenshaw.
  • Finally, the Anthology category consists of Come Together edited by Tab Kimpton and Alex Assan, Heartwood edited by Joamette Gil, and Shout Out edited by Steven Andrews.

Five categories and fifteen nominated works means that a two-day virtual event can give great, huge gobs of time to each of the nominees. If you weren’t familiar with a particular work, by the end of the weekend you surely will be. Oh, and take a gander at the announcement and scroll down to the bottom, where you’ll find a list of all 27 judges plus the organizing committee; there’s lots of great people involved.


Spam of the day:

The anti-crisis program, as if you spend $ 10 you will earn $ 500 in one day!

A fifty times rate of return? Why, I could spend just a hundo a day for a month and be set for the next couple of years! What could possibly go wrong?

A Little Holeboxing Day Joy

As I trust you all remember, yesterday was Holemas, the day that we commemorate Ryan North getting stuck in a hole. In fact, yesterday was the 5th Holemas, the original adventure having taken place in 2015. And if yesterday was Holemas, that makes today Holeboxing Day, when the mighty give gifts to the meek.

And who — who, I ask you — is mightier than Strong Bad? Nobody, that’s who. And since it is long-standing doctrine in these parts the Homestar*Runner is a webcomic, I wanted to tell you about something the estimable Mr Bad has coming up, along with some friends of his.

One of the side effects of the Oh Glob, We’re Going To Be Like This Forever Thanks To Incompetent Federal Behavior pandemic is that live shows pretty much don’t exist, unless you’re Smash Mouth and you feel like doing your damndest to to Sturgis, South Dakota into the latest contact-tracing nexus. It’s a tough thing, relying on people that will pay you to be in the same space at the same time as you, but some internet-centric musicians have been doing remote concertlike events for some time, and I’m not saying that COVIDtimes are good times for them, but they’re at least a bit ahead of the curve in figuring out how to ply their trade.

Enter: The Doubleclicks, nerdy musicians par excellence. They’ve been running shows everywhere from straight YouTube to inside Animal Crossing for a bit now, and they’re ready to bring a bunch of their nerdiest friends together for a big ol’ show of music and comedy on Saturday, 22 August at 6:00pm PDT/9:00pm EDT:

Join Internet musicians Jonathan Coulton, the Doubleclicks, Nur-D and Molly Lewis for an evening of music, comedy and love, with lots of special guests including: Hal Lublin (Thrilling Adventure Hour, Nightvale), Danielle Radford (SyFy’s Great Debate), Strongbad (Homestarrunner), Zach Reino (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Kim Evey (The Guild), and SO MANY MORE, with sketches written by Kayla Cagan (Piper Perish) and produced by Ben Blacker (Thrilling Adventure Hour)!

It’s like one of those big variety shows at conventions with lots of cameos and funny bits, except it’s in your house, and it’s very very very well-organized, because we’re running it.

That from the email that Los Dobles Clics sent me because I give them money in exchange for their albums, but also on their website. Due to the number of folks performing, it won’t be a tip jar kind of situation, it’ll be a ticketed event, moreso because the show is a benefit for MacArthur Project and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief — proceeds will be used to obtain food, medicine, shelter, hygiene supplies, and other needs of LA denizens without homes.

Getting your ticket now means you’ll get an email with the link for the livestream (which will be replayble until Sunday, 6 September at midnight EDT) instead of waiting for a possibly over-busy website at showtime. Tickets are US$6.50, with an option to make an additional donation of any amount on top.

And because you’d like to know who all is on the bill, in addition to amazing superstar headliner Strong Bad and special guests The Doubleclicks, you’ll also have Jonathan Coulton, Nur-D, Molly Lewis, Amy Dallen, Aydrea Walden, Hal Lublin, Lexie Grace, Danielle Radford, Kim Evey, The Library Bards, Mary Robinette Kowal, Paul and Storm, and Zach Reino, in an extravaganza written by Laser Malena-Weber and Kayla Cagan.

Honestly, it’s a little too much entertainment for the cost of a fancy coffee and two-thirds of a pastry to go with it. It’s not like it’ll sell out, but get your tickets ahead of time anyway; when they see how much they’ve raised for the cause, the performers will put that much more love into the show.


Spam of the day:

We’ve developed the bots to act as salespeople in order to generate a consistent source of quality leads. They’re not only outperforming a typical sales persons workload by the equivalent of ten times, but they also drive down lead costs by a phenomenal amount.

This was sent to me because I’m the listed tech contact for my EMS agency’s website. I’m half-tempted to see if their bots can actually generate more sick and injured people and if they can, to get them shut down because it’ll be the friggin’ robot apocalypse.

Bigger Shares Of Cake Vs Making Bigger Cakes

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin is back with a fresh translation of an oldish webcomic, and what it means for Comics Today on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Maliki has (finally) translated into English their announcement for going independent¹ (previous coverage), and after rereading it, it deserves additional commentary.

It is interesting to contrast it with Scott McCloud’s own assessment of the state of the US comic book industry in Reinventing Comics. When it comes to business, the dominant thinking in the US is that there is room to grow, and there is space for everyone, you just have to look and work for it. Whereas in France, the dominant vision is rather that of of the body of available work as a fixed cake, that must be shared by everyone; it’s almost Malthusian (I tend to think the dominant French vision is wrong, but that the US vision can be taken too far).

What’s interesting is that, for their respective comics industries, the common wisdom has been the reverse. At the time of Reinventing Comics at least, the US comics industry had lived so much on extracting more and more value out of the most faithful in their existing customer base, without really working on expanding the readership to new audiences to compensate for attrition, that it was in danger of losing its cultural relevance. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a shift away from that, with a focus on diversity both for characters and readers.

By contrast, comics of the French-Belgian tradition have for some time worked on expanding their audience, whether it is through covering more themes (such as journalism comics), through additional formats, in a demographic sense, etc. And that is very commendable, don’t get me wrong, not to mention there are dimensions such as variety of demographics where we are still far from Japan, where there are manga for grandparents, manga for young women, manga for office workers, etc. But …

But it appears that after outcompeting each other in that regard, publishers have gotten carried away and now only know how to compete through expansion; and at some point, there are diminishing returns.

And what happens then?

Well, while they drown booksellers in new releases, they simultaneously squeeze creators (who are not exactly in a position of power): reducing their royalties, increasing their output demands, shifting responsibilities to them, etc.

There are many elements in Maliki’s comic that I agree with, but where I’m most aligned is that it’s pointless to find a culprit who started it: you could be looking for a long time. And so the problem is rather with the process the industry is engaged in, and sometimes the best way to fix such a system … is to leave it.

We again thank Maliki for their expose, and for the courage it must have taken them to go this route.

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Editor’s note: I entirely agree with FSFCPL’s interpretation that the difference between French and US attitudes at the moment is a function of saturation. In the US, comics are still niche, and there’s plenty of cultural mindspace for them to grow before they’re societally ubiquitous like in France.

The thing is, different artforms can find themselves at different places on the spectrum of Zero-Sum Game to Expansionary Space; the average TV showrunner in the age of peak TV is pretty likely to regard their audience as whoever they can peel off from another show instead of entire swathes of society who’ve been entirely ignored by the makers of TV for decades, and are now watching their first show ever.

And, as always, we at the Fleen Home Office thank FSFCPL for his insights and analysis.


Spam of the day:

I like MojoHeadz.

Is that some kind of manly macho version of Bratz, but for dudes? Because if it’s not, it sure sounds like it is and you might be leaving money on the table.

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¹ Gary here. Reading through Maliki’s (now dated) announcement, I can’t help but think how much it echoes Howard Tayler’s comments on who gets what in publishing from the Webcomics 103 session back in Aught-Six. To quote:

Imagine you’ve got a book on sale at Borders [Editor’s note: Yeah, yeah.] for $10 — pretty sweet, right? Hang on a minute, because you aren’t going to get $10 a copy. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • The store sells it for $10, keeps $4, and pays $6 to the distributor
  • The distributor keeps $3, and pays $3 to the publisher
  • The publisher keeps $1, pays $1 to the printer, and $1 to the author
  • You’re the author
  • There’s a lot of hands in the pie, and you want as many of them as possible to be yours. If you can contract with printers directly, you can get the $1 that the publisher would keep. If you can bypass distributors like Diamond and shop the books around yourself, you can keep $3 more (although this is likely to severely cut into the number of retail locations you can place the book in, which will depress sales). If you have the garage space, a postal meter, and help from friends and family, you could do mail-order fulfillment yourself and keep the store’s cut ($4) along with the distributor’s.

    Or, as the point has been made by Messers Guigar, Kellett, Kurtz, and Straub ever since How To Make Webcomics came out a dozen years back: you can be in a high volume business, or you can be in a high margin business; the trick is to make the larger share of a smaller pot of money exceed what you’d get from a smaller share of a larger pot of money.

    Also, do you suppose there’s any significance that FSFCPL and Maliki talk about a share of cake, but Americans generally talk about a share of pie?

    Little Busy Today With The Dog Wrangling

    If you don’t follow my Twitter, you maybe don’t know that we had a rough couple of days here at Fleen Central, after our dog (a smallish and very sweet-tempered greyhound) got attacked by an off-leash dog during her Thursday evening walk. She’s had surgery to repair her ankle (the same one that she broke to end her racing career) and she’s very much back to her regular behavior, except that she’s on two weeks strict rest.

    That means no jumping, running, zoomies, bouncy play, getting and down from furniture (the couch is her favorite place in the world). While greyhounds are notorious for sleeping 20 hours a day and being very, very lazy, there’s generally ten minutes of intense activity in there. She’s being very good, but we have to keep an eye on her every hour we’re awake to make sure she isn’t doing something she shouldn’t. It’s taking up some time.

    So I have three brief items today, and a submission from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin for you tomorrow. After that, we’ll hopefully have her in a calm enough routine to get back to reading webcomics widely.

    • Firstly, the third print collection of Stand Still, Stay Silent is now Kickstarting. Minna Sundberg continues to put out one of the most lushly beautiful webcomics in existence, and the previous volumes of SSSS have been impressive in their quality and entirely worthy of the material inside the covers. On day 3 with 27 to go, it’s sitting a bit over 500% of goal, so at this point, it’s a pre-order. Oh, and if you speak French, maybe give this one a miss — as Sundberg noted the other day:

      [V]olume 3 will be published by Akileos publishing in French this autumn, so unless you specifically want the english version you’ll be able to get that one cheaper and faster.

    • Secondly, KC Green posted the 32nd chapter of his adaptation of Pinocchio, and it’s getting back to parts of the story that we in modern culture are familiar with. That is to say, body horror with a dash of moralizing about Always Being A Good Boy Or Shit Will Happen To You And You’ll Deserve It. Four more chapters to go.
    • Thirdly, holy crap, Megatokyo turned 20 years old on Friday. I’ll confess that I lost the plot years ago (and in my less charitable moments wonder if Fred Gallagher has as well), but one must acknowledge the perseverance that allows a creator to put together 1584 strips over two decades. Now that he’s passed the big Two-Oh, maybe he’ll invest in some ink.

    Spam of the day:

    Environmentally-conscious pest control solutions that protect your home, family and pets.

    I host a number of house centipedes and jumping spiders (along with the occasional mantis) in the walls and baseboards of my house. They do a remarkable job of keeping everything else under control.