The webcomics blog about webcomics

Are You Satisfied Now, Doubters?

Words. Pictures. Boom: comics.

3548 comics, give or take. Ten years and a day. Grad school, industry, academia. Dante Shepherd Lucas Landherr ends Surviving The World on the message he’s always had for us, and while he won’t be watching over us, yea, as a shepherd watches over the flocks, he’ll still be out there making comics to make the world better, smarter, kinder.

And weirder, probably. Dude’s got an appreciation of The Weird.

For those so inclined, as of this writing you’ve got about 70 minutes to get in on the Kickstarter for the one and only print collection of Surviving The World; from here on out if you want to see Landherr’s comics, you’ll have to check out PhD Unknown, or maybe be enrolled in a course of STEM study, or if we’re lucky we’ll find an Easter egg or two in the Crash Course: Engineering series.

Okay, enjoy your weekend, see you again on Monday, and let’s each say one thing that’s good, smart, kind, or weird to one person in Landherr’s honor. And Luke? Kick back, enjoy a tasty and refreshing beverage, enjoy the love of your wife and daughters for a bit. Then it’s back to work — the world won’t be getting better, smarter, kinder, or weirder on its own, and putting down the chalk doesn’t mean you’re off the clock, Sparky.

Good job. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

PS: Speaking of comics that make the world better/smarter/kinder/especially weirder, there’s a new What If? today!


Spam of the day:

Live WebCam ( . )( . )

Man, that just does not when you apply the quoted text style to it. Looks like the putative naked lady is leaning hard to her left and about to tumble over. Just — somebody steady her, please?

Future Endeavours

It’s late, there’s lots to talk about, onwards.

  • Today marks ten years and 3547 strips from Lucas Landherr, or Dante Shepherd, or whatever he calls himself, the beardy chemical engineering guy with the chalkboard over at Surviving The World. Here is where I’d ordinarily wish the strip and creator many years of continued success, but that would be pointless. As previously announced, tomorrow will be the final strip for STW; when Landshep started, he was a doctoral student, and ten years later he’s a father twice over, a beloved faculty member at Northeastern University, and recognized as one of the most innovative teachers of engineering in the country.

    I’m not going to say that it’s because of webcomics, but I’m pretty sure the guy will tell you that having a creative¹ outlet is crucial for getting through the rigors of nerd school; for me it was being on the radio, for Dantecus, it’s horrible puns and chalk dust, raptor impressions, and Peanuts dances. He tried to keep his weirdo side on the downlow for a while after he got the teaching gig, but the students found him and embraced him. They’ve taken his weirdness and multiplied it, and will coincidentally take his other lessons out to their careers (and possibly their own students).

    It’s a significant legacy, and if you find it inspirational in the slightest², a reminder that tomorrow also marks the end of the Kickstart for the one and only STW print collection. Landherr (for that is his proper name) has future comics and future lessons in him, and it’s time to turn the page on the present³ project in favor of what comes next. Make your chalk always be the dust-free variety may the erasers always clap clean, and may you never lose the lab coat and Red Sox cap, Dr Landherr. Thanks for all the laugh-chuckles along the way.

  • Speaking of Kickstarts, did you see that Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan broke all their previous records in funding the all-educational strips collection of Oh Joy, Sex Toy, titled Drawn To Sex? And that the just about 3000 backers blew through the nice-thousand funding level, and the US$80085 funding level, and ponied up a total of 85,793 damn dollars (American)?

    Congrats to Nolan and Moen — it must feel great to know that five years in, you’re more necessary and more appreciated than ever. Celebrate tonight, be remember that tomorrow you’ve got to produce a book that will blow (heh, heh) everybody’s socks off. Seeing as how you’ve done that repeatedly, I think you’ll manage it again this time.

  • Speaking of blowing socks off, did you see that Molly Ostertag released a cover for the sequel to last year’s The Witch Boy, a book which I was not shy about declaring my favorite book (not just favorite graphic novel) of 2017? And that you can pre-order it now? The Hidden Witch releases on 30 October, just in time for Halloween, and it looks like we get a lot more of Charlie in this one. Set aside cash and space on the shelf now, this one is going to be great.
  • Speaking of going to be great, we have the promised name of the new kids imprint at Macmillan, the one where Colleen AF Venable will be determining the look of things as the Creative Director. In her words, Odd Dot is Run by weirdos, making fun non-fiction for kids, and they’ve announced their first tranche of releases: the Tinker Active series of workbooks on STEM topics, Code This Game, aimed at teaching tweens to make videogames, and One More Wheel (written by Venable herself), a counting board book with a spinning wheel on the cover.

    If you’re at BEA (running in New York at the Javits, through tomorrow), look up Odd Dot at booth 2444 and give Venable a high five (or a hug, if she’s amenable) for me. I couldn’t be happier for all she’s done and is yet to do.


Spam of the day:

My name is Orko

What.

and we are a Video Content creation solution that helps businesses create videos easily. I would like to invite you to please review how you can easily produce quality videos to show or communicate more about Fleen.

Why is He-Man’s faceless dipshit sidekick trying to sell me on content (ew, ick) creation solutions?

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¹ Or weird, if you prefer

² I find it hell of inspirational, even though Shepland insists on cleaving to an objectively inferior form of engineering. Electrical rules, chemical is stinky and gloopy and sometimes glowing green.

³ Want to creep him out? Stare him in the eye and in an overly enthusiastic voice ask the one word question, Presents? Trust me on this.

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.

_______________
¹ She will.

² Spoiler: almost certainly yes.

Sports! Yay, Sports!

I know, sports? Just stick with me.

  • Okay, this is just great: we have previously been informed that Kazu Kibuishi had received the ultimate sports geek honor — an official Day in his honor at a major league ballpark — but over the weekend the Seattle Mariners upped the stakes. On Sunday, Kibuishi threw out the first pitch at a Mariners home game.

    It may be that MLB is recognizing that the jock/nerd dichotomy is a fake idea, it may be that somebody in the front office has a kid who’s a huge Amulet fan, or maybe it’s the team members themselves that can’t wait until Book 8 drops¹. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Kibuishi got to suit up and throw a pitch from the mound in his hometown ballpark, and he looked pretty damn happy to be doing so. Here’s hoping that there are even bigger achievements and thrills in store for him the future.

  • Speaking of bigger achievements and thrills, we are (as of this writing) a bit less than six and a half hours since the news broke this morning of Kickstart for the third print collection of Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, and the book has already raised more than US$106,000 (nearly 500% of goal), provided by 1325 backers. Those numbers are changing as I type, so I’ll update them below just before I hit “post”.

    What’s not changing is the fact that all the top rewards (5 @ US$250, you get an original art bookplate; 5 @ US$400, you also get original character sketches; 1 @ US$1000, you get to be in the comic) have been snapped up already; if not for the fact that they were limited, I’m certain that each of those tiers would have ten times the claimants they do now.

    For reference, this campaign is already well over the total numbers for the first collection of Check, Please! (1577 backers, just under US$75K), and if we adopt the McDonald Rule², Ukazu is well on her way to eclipsing the second collection³. By tomorrow morning we’ll possibly be able to apply the FFF mk2, but it seems safe to say (especially given all the press and excitement right now around the upcoming release of a combined Year One/Year Two edition from :01 Books) that this will certainly clear the half-million mark.

    And, as I observed this morning within that first public hour, I can’t wait the hear the rhetorical knots that the “Diversity is killing comics” bozos will have to twist themselves into to explain about how this doesn’t really count, and how a comic by a Nigerian-American (!) woman (!!) with an ethnically-diverse cast (!!!) about gay (!!!!) hockey players is really a failure. The schadenfreude will be delicious.

  • Not sports: Over the weekend the National Cartoonists Society held their annual meet-up in Philadelphia, and on Saturday night the various division awards were presented. The two awards for Online Comics went to (Long Form) John Allison for Bad Machinery (which is once again Scary Go Round), and (Short Form) to Gemma Correll for various work.

    Again, as a disclaimer, I’m involved in the process of producing the nominations for these two divisions, but I do not have a vote towards the awards themselves. And, as previously noted, I am a tremendous fan of both Correll’s and Allison’s work and am pleased to see their stellar work recognized.

    We at Fleen congratulate the winners as well as their fellow nominees, and note that between the wins for Bad Machinery and Scenes From A Multiverse, and the unprecedented three nominations for Octopus Pie, the reprobates of Dumbrella must be considered some of the best webcomickers ever.

Update to add: At 1447 EDT 29 May, 1370 backers, US$109,726, or 490% of goal.


Spam of the day:

Did you not file with the IRS this year because you owe back taxes?

No, because not filing is literally the dumbest thing you can do. If you owe three bucks, the penalty for not filing will dwarf the penalty for underpaying/paying over time if you owe three thousand (or thirty thousand, for that matter). And geez, you can file for an automatically-granted extension, which gives you more time to get your shit together.

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¹ 25 September, y’all.

² The first three days of funding will represent 1/3 of your eventual total.

³ 5088 backers, just about US$399K raised. Right now, both backer count and total raised are about 27% of what Year Two achieved in 31 days. While we’re here, a note about timing: the campaign was publicized last night for Patreon backers, where it funded in less than half an hour. It hit 300% within an hour of the public announcement.

It’s GDPRmas! Did You Get What You Want?

Well, heck, figured I ought to be clear about your privacy here.

The only time we at Fleen gather information on you (your choice of name, website, email, plus we record your IP address) is when you comment. That’s it. Nothing else is gathered by Fleen (a wholly-owned subsidiary of me), other than what the webhost needs to send the pages in response to your browsing requests. Our version of WordPress is GDPR-compliant.

There are no intrusive ads (Project Wonderful doesn’t allow anything but simple images and links), no tracking, and I’m pretty sure the only cookies are the ones that determine if I’m logged in. We don’t sell anything about you to anybody. You come, you read, you leave, we’re done.

We at Fleen will not contact you unless you mail us (and maybe not even then), or in the course of collecting information for a story — and that’s less “only contact me under these circumstances” and more “hack webcomics pseudojournalism”.

By reading Fleen, you agree to the following privacy policy: We will leave you the hell alone. This is distinctly different from most sites you will visit, but as is established, beats us why most dudes suck. Sure as hell ain’t our scene.

Varsity Level Techniques

One of the things I love about capital-C Comics (web and otherwise, but hold that thought for a moment) is how they can work on you at a really intuitive basis to convey story and emotion and you don’t need to realize what they’re doing or why for it to work. And then somebody comes along to tell you what they are doing and why it works, and you’re all [mime head blowing up with hand gestures — you know the one¹].

Today, I’d like to point you at two people who get how Comics work, from the perspective of construction and the perspective of reader perception, and how it gives creators (especially of the web variety) tools to make and present comics to tell the stories they want.

  • First, Melanie (no last name provided), from MassArt’s animation program, and her final essay (in comic form) for her class on the history and theory of comics. She’s talking about Octopus Pie (a great choice; as is well represented in the record here at Fleen, Meredith Gran spent a decade getting continuously better at both storytelling and Comics), and how it breaks the established conventions of comics.

    She looks first at gutters providing not only a sense of tone and time (which McCloud taught us all about 25 years back), but also Gran’s penchant for using them to convey emotional distance (which I hadn’t seen described before, and which in retrospect makes perfect sense). Also, I’ll note that last page also includes one of Gran’s best-ever panels, with Eve’s lizard brain reacting in a wholly appropriate way. Which, as it turns out, is Melanie’s second area of exploration.

    She notes that Gran excels at visual asides representing interior mood, use of in-scene elements to act as impromptu panel borders, and size and placement of speech balloons to convey tension and release. I’ve commented on some of the same pages that Melanie did, but hell if I’d ever noticed that as Park was pushing self-serving bullshit at Eve, his balloons were getting wider and hers were getting smaller.

    Beyond The Border is a terrific analysis, and I’d love to see more of Melanie’s thoughts on Gran’s work, and comics as a whole. This could easily grow to be a study of How To Comics that’s as long (or longer) than Understanding Comics.

  • Second, let’s recognize that a lot of what Melanie identified in Gran’s work is only possible, really possible, in webcomics. Sure, those two super-tall, verging on infinite scroll Octopie episodes appear in the print collections, but they lack the participatory oomph of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling some more.

    Likewise, there’s a question at the heart of webcomics these days about how to present work to both reach an audience (getting them to your site is a hell of a lot harder than it used to be; getting four panels into a tweet may get many more eyeballs) and make it easy to read. Seeking input into that very question, Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett asked his readers:

    Just out of curiosity: Is it better when I tweet the comics as one big image…or as individual panels to swipe through?

    (Note on LArDK’s tweet: the image in question doesn’t include his URL, but does include his Twitter account name; the era of individual sites vs than social media accounts appears to be at an inflection point.)

    There was a pretty clear consensus towards swiping, but as it turns out reader preference is only one factor that a creator needs to consider. Enter Keegan Lannon, academic researcher with an interest in comics and how we read them. There’s a payoff at the end that I want to discuss, but to get there, we’re going to have to extensively quote from Lannon’s thread:

    So … this is a really interesting question, and I have some ridiculously obsessive thoughts on the presentation of comics. It involves some light narratology and a discussion of directional reading protocols.

    The question is about how we read comics. The obvious assumption (though problematic) is that we read comics like we read lines of text: consider each lexical unit in turn, constructing meaning along the way.

    [Editor’s note: some really interesting stuff about how we read is omitted here — go check it out.]

    A few caveats: reading digitally and reading in print are different, and comics translated from print to digital formats complicates this discussion even further. Mark Waid gave a good talk discussing these issues in more detail than I could here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPikusZm2As

    So, with all of that said, one of the more reliable ways to figure out how we read comics is to make use of eye-tracking software to see where people’s eyes go when they engage with the text. A few years back, @zackkruse gave a paper on just such an experiment.

    Granted, it was an incomplete experiment, but the researchers found that when presented with a page of comics readers tend to jump around the page in a loosely diagonal fashion, working from the top-left to the bottom-right, but not purely left-to-right, top-to-bottom.

    [Editor’s note: the next three tweets are what you really need to pay attention to.]

    Likely, you took in the whole shape of the comic first, giving special attention to the panel with the couch as it is the most visually arresting panel on the page. You might not have taken in the “whole” meaning of the panel, but you certainly jumped to that first.

    Presented individually, this would not have been possible. Would the joke still work? Probably. Would it have worked in the same way? Probably not. Seeing the punch line early allows for the reader to read the first three panels in context of that information (however incomplete)

    So, I would answer Kellet’s question by saying it doesn’t matter what the reader wants, but more the effect that he wants to create. The different presentations will allow for different narrative effects. [emphasis mine]

    That right there? That’s a dissertation in the making², but until it gets written creators will have a lot of experimenting to do. Smart ones will discover a new tool for constructing the stories/gags/emotional context they want in their webcomics. Those who master this means of guiding their audience will be able to exert a level of authorial influence that I don’t think any other medium presently has.


Spam of the day:

sup Gary

Oh, not much, just hangin’ out. Maybe play some video games, buy some Def Leppard T-shirts.

_______________
¹ Vocal sound effects optional.

² Whoever decides to make it, do us all a favor and team up with Melanie.

Know What We Haven’t Had For A While? A Roundup

We’re kind of all over the place today.

  • Okay, this one is going to cost you some money, maybe. Brad Guigar — cartoonist, speaker, consultant, itinerant smutmonger, and weaponized jollity delivery device — has stepped up to talk about the (almost entirely bad faith) backlash against diversity in comics. The vast majority of those who are opposed to characters who aren’t straight white dudes are like the anonymous guys (of course they’re guys) that regularly shit on Jim Zub for “caving”, who gives them far more thoughtful responses than they deserve. But somewhere in there are some few that — if you squint really hard — aren’t opposed to creating characters that don’t look like them, but are scared.

    If I get it wrong, their argument goes, they’ll call me racist/homophobic/whatever. I’m not! They’re making me that way! Yeah, it’s about this far from the claim that calling out racists makes them become full-bore Nazis, but let’s have a Zublike moment of patience for the argument. Or, better yet, let’s let Guigar do so in a post today at Webcomics Dot Com:

    “I’d write more black characters into my comic, but I’m … scared.”

    The rest is behind the WDC paywall, but the gist is this: yes, if you write outside your comfort zone, you’ll get it wrong sometimes (likely in inverse proportion to the amount of research and listening you do). People can tell the difference between somebody that tries, gets it wrong, apologizes, and learns, and somebody who’s being disingenuous. As a writer, stretching yourself is something you ought to do. I’d only add one thing to what Guigar wrote, and that’s the value of cultural/sensitivity reviewers, who can tell you where you’re getting things wrong before your work hits the wider world.

    It’s a neat refutation of the argument that everybody that’s trying to avoid diversity but I’m not like those haters over there, and the only drawback is that a bunch of those that most need to see it won’t. But then again, Guigar brings back posts for free preview on Fridays, and this would be a great one to include at some point in the future. Either that, or find the diversity-resistant creator you know and convince ’em to drop five bucks for a one-month trial.

  • Speaking of diversity, the latest Cautionary Fables anthology has started its funding, this one with a focus on Oceania. Previous volumes did attract some discussion as to how many creators contributing stories about Africa and Asia belonged to the cultures and traditions that originated the stories; this time, I’m seeing a fair number of creators who identify as being from Pacific Island cultures contributing, and prominently promoting the campaign. For instance, from Rob Cham:

    I gotta commend @KateDrawsComics @sloanesloane and @kellhound for putting together such a rad anthology and giving us a platform to share our stories Got to read through this antho and man it is an amazing book

    That focus on a platform to share our stories wasn’t as visible in the last couple of volumes, and it’s a credit to series editor Kel McDonald (joined this time by Kate Ashwin and Sloane Leong) that she recognized that this makes for a better book and better stories. The Kickstart runs until 13 July (about a week shorter than the 60 days McDonald usually runs, but the 20th would run into SDCC and nobody needs that complication).

  • Know what never attracts any controversy? Awesome cartoons about delightful pets. Sam Logan tallied up the pet-themed comics from the long and storied history of his career, and discovered he had more than 100 pages worth of President Dog (a dog), Baker (a corgi), Butcher (a cat), Buddy (a goldfish), and more. They’re now collected into Vote Dog, Kickstarting in softcover, hardcover, and deluxe artist editions, along with prints, pins, and commissions of your bestest fuzzy friend.

    Basically, this is your chance to get an entire book with the sensibilities of that corgi shapes poster, which is pretty much guaranteed to make anybody happy. The campaign runs until 21 June, with rewards expected by December aka the gifting season, hint, hint.


Spam of the day:

Can your idea survive the Shark Tank?

You’re looking for inventions you can rip off and exploit? May I point you at a dude that is literally giving ideas away?

Vermont Is Lovely In The Summer

I first noticed things yesterday at the twitterfeed of the Center For Cartoon Studies, who teach a lot of folks How To Comic; the announcement was for a particular workshop with a universally-regarded creator:

CCS Summer Workshop: Creating YA Graphic Novels, July 30-Aug 3. @yalsa award winning author @JoKnowles teams up with Ignatz winner and Eisner-nominated cartoonist @TillieWalden ’16 to teach this incredible five-day workshop: https://www.cartoonstudies.org/summer-workshops-2/ … #comics #graphicnovel

But here’s the thing — this is just one of a whole stack of summer sessions at CCS! If you follow that link, you end up at a page full of workshops:

CCS 2018 SUMMER WORKSHOPS

  • Drawing and Writing Single Panel Comics with Hilary Price: June 11-14
  • Cartooning Studio with Luke Howard and Jarad Greene: June 25-29
  • Graphic Memoirs with Melanie Gillman: June 26-30
  • Beginning Animation with Alec Longstreth: July 9-13
  • Create Comics: with Beth Hetland and Luke Howard July 16-20
  • Creating Graphic Novels for the Young Adult Market with Jo Knowles and Tillie Walden: July 30-August 3
  • Graphic Novel Workshop with Paul Karasik: July 30-August 3 or August 6-10
  • Queer Comics with Tillie Walden: August 6-10 (sold out, call for waitlist)

So in addition to Tillie Walden (who’s spent the past 18-24 months exploding onto the comics scene, with Spinning being just the most visible of her work), you’ve got Melanie Gillman (whose As The Crow Flies has been tearing up the critical acclaim and award nominations since it hit print with Iron Circus) from the general realm of Webcomics.

As an aside, one of the hallmarks of a good educational institution is when people stay associated with it after graduation; Walden is a 2016 graduate, Jarad Greene got his MFA at CCS before taking a job in the admin arm, Beth Hetland also took an MFA before joining the faculty of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Luke Howard got yet another MFA before joining the CCS faculty.

Add in the expertise of the workshop leaders (Hilary Price has been awarded Best Newspaper Strip by the NCS four times; Longstreth and Howard are Ignatz winner and nominee respectively; Karasik has an Eisner), and you’ve got some high value being shared. The tuition varies from US$600 – US$1000, with an option to extend Karasik’s workshop for eight weeks only (an additonal US$1200), and options to get college credits for an additional fee.

Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but if you want to up your game rapidly, a four-day intensive correction of your trajectory as a creator could be worth as much as a year or two of self-discovery. Only you can determine if the investment in your skills is worth the money, but at the very least it’s a pretty spot to spend a working vacation.


Spam of the day:

Name, We may be able to help you pay off your credit cards

That placeholder only works if it’s properly parameterized and you supply a list of values to substituted in. Come on, spammers, it’s not like we didn’t get taught how to do this in Mail Merge 25+ years ago!

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.