The webcomics blog about webcomics

Audio, Video, Smart People

Want to see smart people talking about stuff? Time to follow some links, folks.

  • First up, Brad Guigar¹ took the time to talk to Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett as part of his Webcomics Confidential webcast series [Webcomics Dot Com subscription required]; for longtime readers of this page, it was a hearkening back to the glory days of what he learned at the recently-held PatreCon 2017. The conference was invite-only, and while there are some talks from last year’s iteration publicly available (and the same will probably happen eventually for PC17), there’s not really an effective way to learn everything that happened without talking to somebody that attended.

    Guigar and Kellett’s discussion is a dense hour of key points about how to use Patreon to its best effect, and if you’re on Patreon there’s undoubtedly good info for you here. It’s well worth tossing Guigar five bucks for a 30 day trial to have a listen and take notes. I will give you one nugget though — there’s a killer discussion of whether it’s better to set up your Patreon to run per month or per update.

  • Hey, remember when Kelly and Zach Weinersmith talked at Strand Bookstore and C-SPAN recorded it? That was great. It wasn’t known at the time when C-SPAN would be running the talk, but now it is:

    This Sunday at 7pm ET scientist Kelly Weinersmith and cartoonist Zach Weinersmith report on future technologies

    That would be Sunday, 12 November. C-SPAN is on your cable lineup in that block of channels you don’t usually visit. or will likely be here sometime after the broadcast premiere. You’ll learn about how supermarket snickerdoodles will enable the hilarious robot apocalypse, space elevators, why quantum computing will never get a popular explainer, and Crypt-Keeper wasps all of which will be worth your time.


Spam of the day:
We are offering this to you because you are a registered member of the comic community.
Okay, I mock down here, but I want to be serious for a minute.

This disclaimer was at the bottom of an email imploring me to support a Kickstarter that recently concluded (it was sent approximately halfway through the successful campaign).

I’m not mentioning its name and I’m never going to mention it, because this? This was done wrong. You got my email from a list I’m on because I hold press credentials for SDCC; it’s meant for sending news and announcements.

While it’s acceptable to indicate that you’re running a Kickstarter, a press release is not the same as the give-us-money appeal that you send to your audience. People wanting to let me know about your thing, don’t do this.

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¹ A sexy, sexy man.

The Common Thread? Homestar*Runner

But Gary, I hear you cry, if you’re talking about Homestar*Runner, why do you have a picture of Grover at the top of the post? Bear with me. It will all relate by the end.

  • Readers of this page will recall that I have, at various times, declared Homestar*Runner to be a webcomic, originally in the context of a discussion I was privileged to lead at Comics Camp this past April. Said discussion and declaration were sketchnoted by Jason Alderman.

    Alderman’s on my brain because of a tweet I saw earlier today; if you are lucky enough to be in Pittsburgh now-ish, and lucky enough to work (as does Alderman) in the support and design of museums, then you (like he) might just be attending the Museum Computer Network 2017 conference. And just maybe you were lucky enough to attend Alderman’s presentation (recently wrapped up as I write this) on how to make sketchnotes.

    It’s something that I want him to teach me someday, something that I think would make a really cool 27-part series here at Fleen, just as soon as I can convince him to create something so extensive for free. Or maybe one of the times he does one of these talks, I’ll get him to record it and post a link.

  • But getting back to H*R, my point was that webcomics need not be ink on paper (or pixels on tablet), it can be anything that tells a story with a point of view, a direct relationship between creator(s) and audience, and the likelihood of collaboration. It can have sound and motion¹, but it has to have them for a reason; the creepy-ass blinky eyes of late-era FOOB² aren’t a reason. But used correctly, they can set a mood and serve a story, and that’s the other part of what I wanted to point you at today.

    I met Mike Grover at Comics Camp, and today he’s released the first chapter of a new limited-animation, looping soundtrack comic called Deeply Dave, and damn if it doesn’t do all the things you can do with webcomics that you can’t do with just comics. Grover provides the option to read it without the AV enhancements, and it’ll be a book eventually.

    For now, the repetitive motion brings more than a bit of depth³ and atmosphere to the story (especially considering the use of red and blue accents, reminiscent of the colors decoded by old style 3D glasses), making each panel appear to have far more going on that it would otherwise.

    The jittery images (think Squigglevision™) add a sense of menace to the presumptive Big Bad (the white circle eyes and heavy silhouette body remind me of the God Warriors from Nausicaä). The music is echoing, and distant — exactly the mood you want to convey the enormity of an ocean that does not care about you and could kill you at any time. Turn it down to just above the level of audibility for maximum effect.

    Grover may only be using the animation and music as a means of promotion, but I hope that he has the time to keep at it through each of the subsequent chapters. They’re super effective.

There you go: Camp, sketchnotes, Homestar*Runner, Gover, it all ties together. Now go forth and find your own weird coincidences in the world.


Spam of the day:

Today only: something SCARY GOOD

For the record, this spam did not get sent on Halloween Day, but rather five days after. Considering it purported to be a Pandora ad (although not from anything resembling Pandora.com) for spooky Halloween music, they really pooched this attempt to get me to click on totally innocuous links.

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¹ As opposed to Sound And Motion

² Which may not show up in the linked strip, but trust me — they were a horrorshow.

³ That is such a great joke and you don’t even get it unless you read the comic, so go read it already.

That Sumbitch

Ever had somebody deceive you on an almost molecular level? To let you believe something not true because it suited their plan? It stings, my friends. It stings.

Not long ago, we at Fleen noted that longtime webcomicker Christopher Hastings was getting back in the game, got us all excited-like for five new comics, and let us go on about how it was five new stories.

Then Woodsman! got knocked over a cliff and heard screaming, and Magical Merlin chased a decaying, screaming corpse directly into the path of … Woodsman! in an apparent crossover. And then Queen Of Clubs wasn’t Queen Of Clubs at all, but instead he dropped the reveal that five comics are actually one.

Oh, uh, spoiler alert, I guess.

I can’t be too aggrieved, I suppose, given that when Hastings lets things get weird, hilarity generally results. And hell, I should be grateful for anything that I get from him on a daily (up until now, but perhaps not now that the unification has taken place) basis, when he could be working on Gwenpool¹, his comedy writing/performance, or who knows what other creative projects².

But mostly, I’m mad at myself for not seeing it coming. In retrospect it makes perfect sense. I’ve got no cause to be annoyed with Hastings, but I’m going to anyway (primarily because I suspect that will amuse him to no end). So, to sum:

Get caught up now before he goes and shifts the premise entirely again.


Spam of the day:

BED BATH and BEYOND: Love them? Hate them?

Can’t say I’ve ever really had strong feelings one way or the other about BB&B. Now Linens ‘N’ Things, that’s a store to have opinions about.

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¹ Which remains great and plays with not only the conventions of superhero stories, but the very nature of comics structure, while simultaneously being full of laugh-chuckles.

² He up to some 10,000 words in NaNoWriMo as of end-of-day yesterday.

Let’s Give FSFCPL A Break

He cranked out nearly 6500 words of reporting from Saint-Malo over the past week, and we thank him, and apologize for any repetitive strain injuries that the typing may have exacerbated. In the meantime, let’s see what’s happening on this side of the pond.

  • A whole mess o’ books released from distinguished creators over the past week. Since last Tuesday, you’ve got Molly Ostertag’s The Witch Boy, Jason Shiga’s fourth (and concluding) volume of Demon, and Andy Hirsch’s Dogs: From Predator To Protector (part of the :01 Books Science Comics line). The entire Demon series is great, Dogs is good! very good! such a good book!, and I haven’t had a chance to pick up The Witch Boy yet, but I completely trust Ostertag.
  • On top of those, today Scott C has announced the release of his latest, Splendid Life: The Art Of Scott C. Every love with every inch of your heart his Great Showdowns and the printed collections of same? How about his whimsical and lovely childrens books, both as illustrator and writer/artist?

    There’s pretty much nobody that creates a sense of joy in his work; even among mortal enemies, everybody’s in a good mood. He’s pretty much a one-man happiness generator, and I have no reason to believe that Splendid Life will not provoke spontaneous smiles on every page.

  • Speaking of books, Sophie Goldstein is out on the trail in support of her stellar House Of Women (which has been previously released in chunks via PDF), with her latest travels taking her to The Center For Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont (her alma mater) on Thursday (that would be the 9th, the day after tomorrow) and Comic Arts Brooklyn this weekend at the Pratt Institute. This is pretty much wrapping up her tour, so if you get the chance to see her, grab it.
  • Speaking of Comic Arts Brooklyn, there’s sure to be lots of other great people there, but their exhibitor list is (while very artful) designed to make it nearly impossible to pick out names without significant effort. Maybe somebody that does comics could coach the showrunners on lettering and readability?

Spam of the day:

CITY Residents Qualify for 2017 Solar Rebates

Jesus tapdancing Christ, I get twelve calls a week from various companies falling over themselves to selflessly offer me 800 – 237% savings on my electric bill, and now you’re emailing, too? Get bent.

From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The Third

We wrap up the coverage of the Quai des Bulles comics festival in Saint-Malo, courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, with an intriguing look at a boundary-breaking comic. This looks really, really good and I can’t wait for somebody in the Western Hemisphere (are you listening, :01 Books?) to grab the reprint rights.

Except for a few offsite events (for which you had to rely on the plan to get to, no signage), Quai des Bulles is quite concentrated around the Palais du Grand Large, a proper convention center with theater, auditorium, enclosed floor space for exhibitions and the like, a bar for refreshments, etc. Meanwhile, on the other side of the road (thankfully closed to traffic for the duration), a large tent housed the exhibitors: all major French-Belgian publishers (plus Urban i.e. DC) and most minor ones were there with their wares and table space for creators to sign at. Under the tent as well were booksellers specialized in original and historical editions of comics, art schools, publishers of youth books (not just comics), as well as Asmodee, because why not play a board game in between two signings?

And in order to find one’s way between all that, they featured interesting signage, here on the road between the tent and the convention center, or here once inside the convention center to further determine where to, etc. The convention in general was well run, though I did not get to interact with convention staff (other than the people checking tickets upon entry, etc.) given they required professional journalist proof to give accreditation, so I did not manage to get accredited. That did not hamper me in covering the convention from start to finish, however.

Highlights of the day:

  • A meetup with Pascal Jousselin set up (again) by N Masztaler. It was even more conversational than the previous day’s with Marie Spénale, not to mention in an Irish pub¹ (which did not lend itself to the deployment of the Fleen French Mobile Newsdesk, i.e. an iPad and wireless keyboard), so it was not transcribed; but of note from his background was the fact he was part of a comic project with fellow creator Brüno where they would each draw a page and send it to the other for him to continue, and they set up a mailing list for the public to follow the project, before it was eventually published on paper.

    Currently, he works on Imbattable (unbeatable), which he introduces as the first real comics superhero. How so? Well, best let Editions Dupuis show you, and observe how you hardly need to understand what is being said in these pages (and he notes that it is hardly a good investment for his publisher, given it won’t ever be able to cash in on that sweet, sweet movie or animation adaptation money²). I did get the book (volume two and three are in preparation), and a review is in order.

    I first heard of Imbattable on Twitter (via Boulet, most likely), and I then got to see a few more pages since they were part of the exhibition around the work of Scott McCloud that I covered as part of Lyon BD: how best to show how comics reading works than by showing examples of how it can be broken? Still, I was skeptical: I was afraid such tricks would turn into an easy way out of situations (think Tex Avery), so an entire comic book around that? But I was wrong: not only it is brilliant, but in fact it has to obey twice the constraints as usual, as the reading has to make sense whether you follow Imbattable’s sequence, or the regular sequence; each page is a marvel of construction.

    And they spared no expense: at some point an action seemed not to make sense … until I exclaimed: “Oh come on, he could not possible have dared to do that, no way, no how!”

    I lifted the page to check.

    Turns out, he did dare.

    I won’t spoil it; I will just note that the printer must have hated Jousselin and his publisher for it (that, or they comfortably billed for the additional printing pass).

    Furthermore, while it started out as a gag a day week whenever³ without necessarily a book as the goal, after a few pages it became obvious there was something there and (in a process that webcomics often follow as well) Jousselin started expanding both the setting and in some cases the page count of each story. And while keeping the original concept as well as some aspects that harken back to the early days of comics when everything seemed possible, he did manage to insert some meaningful stories, such as the unusual way the one who will become his sidekick is first introduced, or the hardly black and white situations Imbattable ends up finding himself in (though Jousselin mentions Imbattable is a bit on the naive side).

    And all the while, Imbattable manages to remain accessible to the youngest readers. Jousselin told the first book did not publish as soon as the pages were ready, as the sales team got stuck on how to market it, and initially thought going towards a connoisseur market, which I found silly: while it is true that classic creators such as Pétillon, Gotlib, Fred, Greg, Hergé (in Quick Et Flupke), or Windsor McCay if I remember correctly have used approaching techniques, so have children magazines in the less distant past, which shows children easily get it. To me this work joins the lowbrow and the highbrow (remember its presence in the McCloud exhibition), the new and the experienced readers, the young and the old. Buy it.

  • Watching the Atelier Mastodonte perform its show; in fact they did one each day around noon where they would first invoke the names of Franquin, Bagieu, Achdé, etc. so as to get help with their tendinitis, impending tax reform (not a U.S.A.-exclusive concern), etc., then give each other drawing challenges, challenge the public with quizzes (in relation to comics of course) such as “for each of these words, it is the name of a comics creator, or an onomatopoeia … or possibly both!”, or give silly conferences such as Hergé’s last message, where Lewis Trondheim would claim to have found the secret message for the future of comics that Hergé hid deeply in his Tintin books but left clues for. It felt like standup, especially as they were simply on a podium with an audience made of the people eating at the tables of the bar built in the convention center.

    Atelier Mastodonte is also a comic in Spirou from the same people where the members each draw an update before another draws the next, either building off the previous one or starting something else; it purports to tell the story of the creators themselves working together in a studio. Of course, in true autobioish fashion they actually work in their own respective cities rather than a studio in Marcinelle (Dupuis’ headquarters), but Jousselin, who is part of the atelier, noted during the meetup that he ends up spending more time on the internal blog/discussion board where scripts are coordinated than he does discussing with his actual studiomates in Rennes … even if it is not available on the web, Atelier Mastodonte is in a way an online creation.

  • In the last few hours of the show, murdering my wallet with sweet, sweet comics loot.

Spam of the day:

Tinder [incomprehensible Cyrillic script]

Oh, right, I totally forgot that I signed up for a hookup app in a language I neither read nor speak.

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¹ Special mention to the lady who, upon discovering the setup (a side room of the pub with only bar tables, no “real” table), told the person she was with: Ah he’s not doing a signing, let’s go elsewhere.” within earshot of everyone.

² Though after someone asked how it could work anyway, we brainstormed and your correspondent mentioned how in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs the titular Spaceballs try and look into future events by watching the VHS tape of their own movie, and others mentioned how in Looney Tunes or Tex Avery shorts the characters would sometimes peer into the future of the film roll, or escape it, or even possibly cut it out entirely to escape a gruesome fate.

³ Before they get published in books, Imbattable stories are published one by one in the Spirou weekly periodical, and Jousselin has an agreement with his publisher that they come whenever they are ready, without any set schedule: he wants the idea to be right each time without repeating himself.

From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The Second Subpart The Second

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has finished transcribing the discussion panel mentioned yesterday, and it’s an extensive, illuminating look at the present and future of making/publishing French-Belgian comics. Dig in and enjoy.

The meetup began by an introduction of Spénale: her blog, and her first book, Heidi In Spring, which is already in the selection for an award, to which Spénale reacts that this is big for a first book.

Why start a blog?
When she was a teenager it was all the rage, and she opened one in her last year of junior high (ca. 2004-05), and it became the means through which she got contacts; and by now it is necessary to have at least an Internet presence. Today she mostly uses Instagram, and Facebook like (most) everybody else; Twitter only for completeness. She still keeps the blog for longer pieces. She does have a YouTube channel, though it is still an experiment.

Is it easy to make a YouTube video?
It is difficult because she has to learn everything as she goes along (framing the shot, editing, sound recording with a phone, etc.). She feels the need to comment her drawing process, so it takes time to create.

Does the fact she publishes these drawings change the way she draws and what she decides to draw?
A bit, but not fundamentally: she also draws full-time as an illustrator so it has a limited influence.

Is it worthwhile given the time spent on it?
Facebook killed the blogs in a way, so she had to get on social networks. It takes time, but since she would draw those anyway, just posting them takes little time; now on to whether it is worthwhile …

So what is it useful for?
It gives a visibility, which is always useful, but it does not bring anything to her work proper; however professionally it serves to grow her contact list an an illustrator, and in particular allows potential clients to discover new sides of her rather than have them always ask the kind of drawings she already provides professionally. You have to be careful not get carried away chasing “likes”. Not everything is published on social networks, and that includes personal drawings she keeps for herself.

Did her online activities help her getting into professional networks?
It is important to have a place to show one’s work, but are social networks the best for that? Blogs remain important for that purpose. However social networks matter to stay in contact. They matter as well as to get peer recognition.

Is the blog only a display window?
In the beginning she would tell random stuff, with a lot of experimentation; now that she’s read by clients and colleagues, she has polished what she publishes, indeed it is mostly a display window. But it remains important as a potential outlet to express herself.

She does not limit her instructional comments to her videos: she showed the making-of of Heidi In Spring on her blog, and it also sometimes shows how client illustrations are made step by step. Are those important for her?
It something she both loves to make and loves to see from others; a finished illustration is boring by itself, she wants to show more.

Is the instructional work she does useful for her own illustration work?
Not directly, but as a youth illustrator she often draws instructional pieces, even if she does not write them, so that helps there. She is not interested in comics reporting per se.

Does she work digitally? (Yes) But she does publish traditional media pieces (watercolors, etc.), is it a way to maintain her skills?
Digital is a work requirement, and a computer also helps to create very clean artwork for best legibility, but hand drawing is possible in more places… and is more photogenic. And she occasionally has whims, such as watercolors.

What hardware does she use, and how?
A 16″ Wacom Studio Pro; Manga Studio for most drawing work, including the initial sketches, and Photoshop for colors. It is not very transportable, but the screen is top of the line: beforehand she used a model with quite thick glass protection, the current model has a much thinner “gap” as well as smooth surface where the pen slides, which make her feel like she really is drawing. Photoshop is a bit slow but it works OK.

So she had to give up on Inktober this year; does the Internet facilitate experimentations with its immediate feedback?
Indeed, it allows to gauge crowd reaction. Heidi In Spring started on Instagram, then she started going What if I told small scenes?; people were asking for more of those and she deduced there was something there, which she materialized in a book some time later.

What is the makeup of her following, age-wise?
Many teenagers follow her on Instagram, especially when Cyprien links to her. Hard to tell beyond that.

Has she had any rights issues with her work?
Twitter and Instagram would seem to be reserving more and more rights for content posted there, and it is unclear what they could do; it might be better not to post there … but it would seem difficult for them to actually take advantage of it. And of course third parties are not allowed to repost her content without her prior permission, some do but that is illegal.

How did the book itself come about?
The intent was there from the beginning, but the pages themselves were rearranged and redrawn anyway. She showed the project to Yannick Lejeune (who also managed Festiblog/WeDoBD [Author’s note: the demise of which your correspondent laments every day]), who had already seen some of her work: could we see each other for a project? The tone changed a bit: it became sort of an [initiation], so it was not necessarily obvious to tell what it would become solely from the project or the blog. The blog was mostly useful to get that first meeting.

Is it a risk for her activity as youth illustrator do be doing explicit work?
She does not feel that way, in fact it might even be in continuity with her own work. But of course she warns on social networks when potentially adult content is posted.

And what was the goal?
Roughly, to take a character who is a sort of childhood icon, and show she has to become an adult at some point.

What did the blog bring on the writing side?
The blog was pretty much her starting point to do comics work: she is confident in her illustration skills, but she would never have dared to propose doing a full story without her blog experience under the belt.

Is she censoring herself on the Internet?
Not really, no.

How much research did she have to do on the teenage stage? Did she have to get back to her own teenage years?
Of course, but she also read a lot of psychology (such as Françoise Dolto), which helped for the general framework of the book: when she was experimenting on Instagram Heidi lived short stories but otherwise lived in a status quo, now how to have a scenario that leads to a proper end? All her reading allowed her to create an evolution by better understanding how a teenager works. She also came back to the original novel and researched on all adaptations of Heidi. There is a bit of her, but she intended it to be universal. And she gets to begin it from a known situation: that from the novel.

And what were her goals with regard to Heidi’s sexuality?
The goal is foremost the emancipation of Heidi, sexuality is a mean among others towards this end, which is necessary of course: Heidi has desires. But it is only part of the goal.

There is something of a “likes” culture among teenagers today; are they more egocentric now?
She does not know, but she met an 11-year old boy who wanted to draw and was feeling the pressure as if grown-up expectations were put on him, this has always existed but tends to be magnified by social networks. But Internet also means even teenagers in remote areas have access to an immense wealth of resources. And on the other hand, being this much in contact means there tends to be a concentration towards a few drawing styles (one being for instance the influence of Steven Universe).

So everybody is watching each other, are some chasing “likes” as an activity?
Yes, not necessarily among French-speaking creators, but yes: some creators make a living solely from content on social networks and Patreon. Aside: she does not want to open one, as she gets the feeling only her family would tip … these creators tend to play to their audience, and tend to format their content: “feel-good” cartoons, staying on the formula that worked before, etc.

Is there a risk for Tipeee/Patreon to bring about dictatorship of the public, detrimentally to the artist’s vision?
She considers that the creators who take that into account are not creating auteur works in the first place.

What about chasing for likes?
There is some risk of a bubble, but it will probably blow over.

What if Heidi had had Facebook?
Not sure what that would have changed, however if Heidi had had Tinder, that would be another story …

Is she interested in Turbomedia, etc?
She likes animation and tries to train herself, but she does not want to use digital gadgets solely for the purpose of using digital gadgets: she feels the need to respect sequential art. She finds Summer to be interesting, even if the music and animations are probably superfluous in her opinion, the concept is very interesting. But she can’t help but note it ended up being published on paper in the end …

How does she see the possibility of publishing French-Belgian comic books on tablets? To which this correspondent added: Beyond the obvious size issues. [Author’s note: A4 is simply unreadable on anything smaller than a 12.9″ iPad Pro]
Even if the traditional 48 pages A4 format is not suited, there is worthwhile content to read, such as reporter comics; if it does not sell, it means readers are not convinced.

If Delcourt had rejected the project, how would she have published Heidi In Spring?
She wanted to work with a publisher, especially for her first book, so she would have tried harder to find a publisher, and eventually switched to another project if she couldn’t have managed to find one: self-publishing is an enormous amount of work … maybe eventually she will consider it. Doing so requires pleasing a public in order to have a sufficiently large community for that, though, which represents a loss of liberty somewhat.

On that matter, she signed very early in the project: it was barely developed at that point, and she was left to develop it with a lot of freedom from the publisher, even if he did bring an indispensable help as an outside observer: he can tell her The page does not make sense to me, which is hard to see on one’s own work.

How is she managing her social presence? In order to be more visible, etc.
Some tricks work better than others: front pose rather than a side shot, a girl [drawing or painting] rather than a boy, pretty rather than ugly, watercolors, staging the sheet of paper improves things too .. but that is not the goal. She has a community based on [involvement]: Here is something just for you. She answers comments from time to time, but maybe she shouldn’t: it is a huge time sink.

What is the French-Belgian comic book of the future?
There is a trend in the French-Belgian world today towards knowledge/non-fiction/reporter books, but maybe it’s only a temporary trend. Maybe one day French-Belgian digital comics will be viable, but that day has not come. Maybe things won’t change and the French-Belgian comic book of the future will simply have a pretty cover.

Now you know why we waited a day to run this panel report! Thanks as always to FSFCPL for doing yeoman’s work in keeping all of us on this side of the Atlantic up to date in bandes dessineés. I was particularly surprised — although perhaps should not have been — to learn about the influence that Steven Universe has on non-anglophone artists. Now I have to wonder how difficult it is to translate all of those songs that are so critical to their respective stories.


Spam of the day:

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Yes, I am so eager to see purported Russian mail-order brides that I will click on your entirely not-sketchy link. Right.

From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The Second Subpart The First

What’s better than transatlantic comics coverage? Nothing! Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin continues his reportage from Saint-Malo, with the first part of Day Two coverage, with more to come.

Saint-Malo is not a big city; if you’ve never heard of it before, one of its claim to fame is that it was the home harbor for famed corsairs such as Robert Surcouf. And it is because the Falklands were often visited by sailors from there that in France we call them: les îles malouines (which is why the Argentinians call them the Malvinas).

But Quai des Bulles is big. They claim to be the second biggest French-Belgian comics festival, and I have no trouble believing them: just look at that program, list of expected creators, and exhibitors floor plan. And let me tell you, after a while the sheer number of people meant the ambiance under the tent was quite warm, even though it was cold outside.

There were not many webcartoonists present; for instance, this year Lapin had no booth. But this was more than compensated for by excellent programming which will be covered in the highlights.

  • Catching a glimpse of Maester, who came to sign for one hour even though he is still recovering from a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. Kudos, master.
  • A fairy tale (East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon, if my references are correct) performance with professional conductor and musician, with scenes drawn live by Obion.
  • A “conference” by “Prof” Bernstein and James on the art of the joke … which was itself silly, or at least ostensibly so: it is true that context and timing matter a lot for joke delivery for instance. It took place in the same auditorium (the amphitéatre Maupertuis in the Palais du Grand Large) as the Montaigne event from the previous day, and I must thank the designers of that auditorium for including a power outlet and a folding tablet for each seat, greatly facilitating this hack pseudojournalism activity. [Editor’s note: I didn’t make him say that, but it makes me very, very happy.]
  • A meetup with Marie Spénale set up by N. Masztaler on the matter of new publishing means [Editor’s note: transcription coming soon; the translation on this one is tricky]; in attendance was only a small cohort of about a dozen people where everyone could ask questions, and many did (your correspondent included). It ended up going over the planned hour for it by half an hour, though no one (least of all your correspondent) seemed to mind.
  • A memorial exhibition for Michel Plessix, local creator who created the poster image for this year’s festival before his untimely death in August of this year. While he had a varied career (as recounted by that exhibition), he was best know for his comics adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows (that is his representation of Toad that can be seen in the poster). The exhibition included, as customary, a number of tribute pieces (written or drawn) from many fellow comics creators and professionals.
  • Finally, a drawn concert with Volo (musical instruments) and Grégory Panaccione (drawing instruments).

We’ll continue with Day Two coverage tomorrow, as FSFCPL brings us the details on panel on new methods of publishing. Small audience discussions yield the best questions, but boy are they a pain to transcribe, much less translate. As always, we at Fleen are grateful for FSFCPL’s extensive efforts.


Spam of the day:

Hey guys!!!
designs and builds specialty lines of lead oxide production equipment, material handling systems, battery related process machinery, parts, and accessories for the battery, pigment, glass, and chemical industries.

I am haunted by the missing start of that sentence. Who designs and builds these lines of lead oxide production equipment? I must know!

From The Saint-Malo Comics Festival, Part The First

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has been out committing acts of journalism¹, this time from the Saint-Malo Comics Festival. He shares with us his report from Day One below.

Friday, day one of Quai des Bulles, the Saint-Malo comics festival, was not a professional day: everyone could come, though of course that included a lot of children (it was a school holiday) since not everyone can afford to take a day off work. While the day started slowly (not much was scheduled in the morning), it had very interesting programming:

  • One hour with Marion Montaigne, an interview by Arnaud Wassmer, on the topic of her latest project In The Space Suit of Thomas Pesquet, which is entirely transcribed below.
  • An interesting panel on the latest developments of knowledge/world discovery comics. In fact one of the panelists, Anne-Lise Combeaud, the author of Philocomix, told she came from the blogs BD world, and that influenced how she created the comic (trying to experiment within the constraints of the page in particular), and we were able to discuss that experience in the signing that followed at the publisher’s booth (Rue de Sèvres).

One Hour With Marion Montaigne
After introducing Montaigne, Thomas Pesquet, and the project, it took the form of an interview:

Who came up with the idea?
Around September 2015 Montaigne was busy on the Prof Moustache animated project as well as with its latest collection, and wanted to escape this character a bit; and at the same time she wanted to deal more with space matters and for this purpose started meeting with people working for CNES (France space agency), such as the teams who have instruments on the Mars Curiosity rover … or the people in charge of answering UFO sighting mails.

And in particular, astronaut coaches. And it turns out the training to become an astronaut is quite hard. Then Pesquet came up in the conversation, and it turned out he had commented once on one of her notes to confirm that it reflected his experience. Let’s invite him! After a first missed connection, he was able to come to her studio, about one year before he was to take off, which means he was already intensely preparing for it.

The book itself: how can the whole experience be rendered on paper?
Montaigne got to travel and watch the training in Cologne (where the ESA, European Space Agency, training center is located), she had to go to Russia as well, etc. And then have it be proofread. Her aim is to give back to the public what she was told or able to witness: the astronauts through their experience.

Was it a pedagogical intent from Pesquet as well?
He has, by contract, to explain what he does. And while it is not obvious to shoot (staging for film is hardly compatible with the training realities, e.g. when in a centrifuge), and even documentaries have a tendency not to show some unglamorous realities, such as showing classroom time or Russian revision time, comics have no such limitations: they can more easily show more down to Earth aspects that are an important part of daily life.

Is it a childhood obsession?
It is clear this is a job for which you have to have incredible motivation. And And this preparation takes up their whole life, even for those who end up being rejected in the end, which represents most candidates. Not to mention space life represents but about 1% of the total time on the job.

Are the test designers as sadistic as seen in the book?
Both Montaigne and Pesquet came up with this representation; but it has to be said the tests themselves are weird: the version shown in the book is in fact when it is still easy! And the psychological tests are designed not have any discernible logic so as to be unsettling.

One collective test, not shown in the book, involved candidates from multiple nations trying to solve a math problem: a boat in low tide has to rely on a ferry to load cargo, but at the same time the tide rises so conditions change, then there is the matter of the trains that take up the cargo … the result is that after 20 minutes they had not made any progress, and the aim was not to see who could take the lead, because that is not necessarily the kind of player they want in the teams.

So, they are not looking for astronauts with a devil-may-care attitude and an oversized ego …
Don’t get her wrong, Pesquet is on the level. But it is true the prototype of the 60s astronaut (usually the best Air Force test pilots) who left for one or two days by themselves is no longer what they are looking for. Here they have to live in reduced space with five other people for six months: they can’t very well go out for a walk. So they are looking for people who are confident in themselves but easy going with others, and with conflict resolution skills. For instance, they practice with serious video games which have simultaneous competitive and cooperative aspects.

How to represent tests?
One of the issues is showing the time scale of the tests: they take place over months, even years, there are cutoff stages, and they do not necessarily know which tests they will be training for next.

How about the way they learn Russian?
They go in space in a Russian rocket, so they have no choice but to learn the language in the course of a year. They do so in an old mining town about one hour away from Cologne, and they, about 35-40 years old, end up in the same classroom as the local students.

Is the vision of NASA as space’s Hogwarts really Pesquet’s vision?
Everyone has a vision of NASA as that mythical institution, which to be honest they maintain themselves with museums for instance. While there, she was able to see space suit testing rooms, as well as the gigantic pools where astronauts train on different modules for space work.

Which makes sense, because everything has to be relearned in space.
Including the most insignificant, such as the fact they have to wear diapers, and since their bodies will be put to the test in space, they have to be put to the test on the ground and sometimes it is their bodies that fail them.

While NASA feels like Top Gun, for the Space City in Russia the imagery is rather that of Gagarin.
Indeed, in there Gagarin is Serious Business. Russians are in general very superstitious and so have a number of rituals, from the watching of an old, boring documentary The White Dawn, up to urinating one last time at the side of the road just where Gagarin is said to have done so just before leaving for space.

Pesquet first participated in missions where he was a backup.
Indeed, the others from his class where chosen as main participants before him, up until 2014 where he was selected as main for a future mission that ended up taking off in 2016.

And so he joined the club of those who cannot wait but take off again.
Well, maybe not right the day after he landed, but indeed there is something of an elite sportsman in them, in that they see these as challenges to do again or even do once better.

Let’s talk about the centrifuge.
It is used to prepare for takeoff and landing, which are the two most dangerous phases, and so the most anguishing ones, they have to manage the buttons while being subjected to enormous accelerations (up to ten times normal gravity), or sometimes just a joystick when they can’t lift their arm any more; sometimes they use a stick.

He told the story of an astronaut he personally knew: following a bad separation her capsule had a slightly incorrect reentry angle, resulting in them taking 10G of acceleration and a landing rough enough that their capsule burned a field in deep Kazakhstan … so they have to be prepared for the worst.

So the artist has to show the reality behind the communication.
More generally render their personal experience: spinning seat, centrifuge, etc. That they take as a sports challenge.

And there is the matter of learning how to move in in microgravity.
Movies tend to show a misleading image of that: you can go quite fast in microgravity! So they have to deliberately pace themselves. Nevertheless they go through a learning phase when they hit walls, etc.

And how is it to represent that for the artist?
It’s interesting, you have a number of interesting situations, such as the collective meal where they are all eating at the table, and some are around, and some are shown below and above it.

And what about the contents of mission itself?
Many photos, but it is only a slight portion of their work: they work a lot, but during the weekend they play and don’t have a lot to do. So he ends up sending his photos with the captions over the weekend and they are published all through the week by the public communication teams while he is in fact working. It’s about the only interesting thing they can do …

The mission itself ends up not taking a lot of space in the book.
First of course Montaigne couldn’t take up very much of his time while he was there (and of course no way to go there for a documentation trip), and besides the work is quite routine and ends up compressing well.

Did his photos help for documentation?
Indeed, and in fact he is not the only one who takes them; he has to work sometimes.

So explain how the artist tried here to render one of his vehicular exits.
The aim was to try and render the experience of a vehicular exit with in particular the immense scale of the station. Not directly represented is the fact it turns out spending time (about seven hours) in the space suits is far from ideal: the decreased pressure means they end up releasing gas, they sweat a lot, etc. And of course his fellow astronauts omitted to tell him about it beforehand …

And here we see them back on Earth
When they are back on Earth they are really white, he was not that badly out of shape but they do take some punishment in the landing phase, which they compare to a car crash (flips, etc.); once on land they compare their state to a hangover to the tenth power … and meanwhile all the cameras are on them.

Did he recognize himself and his experience in the book, in the end?
He does have a sense of humor, or he would not have accepted in the first place … he meant for these kind of issues (important or not) to be represented.

No self-insertion?
No, that was not the matter, as there is already a lot to tell, and it was not obvious how to do so anyway: which way to put herself? So rather than directly retelling how she herself was informed, might as well build a narrative.

Did the author have to remove sensitive information, e.g. top secret stuff?
No, she did not have to remove anything of the sort, she assumes she was not told of such things in the first place. Some intimate aspects where not told, but that’s it.


Spam of the day:

Life Insurance Rates Quicker

Are you trying to tell me something?

_______________
¹ He journalised.

Trick Or Treat

Actually, there’s not really a trick here. There’s a new Abby Howard spooooky comic for Halloween, which is definitely a treat. The conclusion of the story is less trick than whooo-boy, that’s gonna be some nasty globs of flesh and gore, so I guess we should have used the title Nasty Globs Of Flesh And Gore Or Treat, but it doesn’t really scan, does it?

I may be getting ahead of myself.

Ms Howard does some of the very best black-and-white comics around, with an especial emphasis on the creepy. Sometimes the creepy is muted by the funny, sometimes it’s really horryifying, but she always finds something to set the prickles up the back of your neck. Of late, both Junior Scientist Power Hour and The Last Halloween have been scarce on updates, owing to the work she’s doing on the sequel(s) to Dinosaur Empire, but she’s remedied that with her new short story, The Door In The Kitchen.

The eponymous door is based on a real one (scroll down), for which there is a precedent — The Grudge Hole that contains 80s Tom Hanks is based on an actual feature in a previous Howard domicile. I suspect that 80s Tom Hanks didn’t really live in her bedroom, and I also suspect that there’s not really a creepy monster living behind a door behind a fridge in Howard’s kitchen, but you never know.

What makes The Door In The Kitchen so effective are the ways that Howard breaks the normal rules of (scary) comics. Having survived an initial brush with the beastie, Our Heroine spends a sleepless, fearful night at a friend’s house (completely standard). She returns expecting everything will be fine in daylight, but finds said beastie still here (still normal), but when her improvised attempts at driving it away prove fruitless, she decides (and I quote) I’ll deal with this later.

This should have resulted in immediate, karmic death, but instead she spends a sleepless night on the couch in a single panel on an all-black page, simultaneously breaking the standard rhythm of scary stories and comics.

I’ll spare you any spoilers for what happens in the remainder of the story, except to note that Howard’s observation that people can get used to anything if it’s more convenient is spot on, and her use of black and white serves the story’s mood in a way that few other creators manage with a Technicolor palette. To say nothing of the beastie’s design — a few lines, mostly hidden, plenty to project your own fears onto.

Howard’s up there with Emily Carroll when it comes to drawing short to medium-length creepy stories, and pretty much in her own class when it comes to longform. Read The Door In The Kitchen once the sun goes down … if you dare.


Spam of the day:

Well, hey there! Young and energetic cutie here looking to continue exploring my wild side with a new man.
Are you available to meet this week or next for drinks and see if we click? I only use this site for hookups so if that’s not your thing it’s no problem..

Oh, right, I’m going to accept an invite for anonymous sex from “SqrtnAmy16” on Halloween. I’m absolutely certain to get murdered and/or mutilated in this scenario.

Presents!

Oh, man! Manafort and Gates indicted, Papadopoulos pled guilty and has been cooperating for months, and I got my copies of Soonish and the abridged versions of both the Bible and all of science! It’s a day full of presents!

There will be a proper review of Soonish coming, err, soonish; I was lucky enough to read a copy of the manuscript late in the editing process, but that was a year ago and I want to see what the final version is like.

In the meantime, please note that David Malki ! is doing his thing again, which in this case is defined as making something cool and unique with the tools at his disposal. Longtime readers of this page may recall that the tools at Malki !’s disposal incorporate extensive wood- and metal-working capabilities, up to and including lasers.

Taking a page from a popular piece of his convention merch (cork coasters in geeky designs), Malki ! apparently asked himself What if I made geeky designs in laminated wood, larger, suitable for display on horizontal surfaces or wall hanging? The logical answer being, ART:

Framed artwork made with lasers! Each piece is hand-assembled in our Los Angeles workshop. The square ones are 12×12″ and the rectangular ones are 11×17″ These lighthearted designs will brighten any room AND listen to your troubles without complaint. And because they’re made of resin laminate (assembled from cut-out shapes of different colors and textures), they’ll stay bright and colorful for at least 200 years, or so the manufacturer says. Why would they lie? [emphasis original]

Wall Buddies, as they are named, represent key underlying character traits that we all posses: Memory (represented by a floppy disk¹), Hunger (a pizza), Proficiency (a Nintendo controller), Strategy (a chessboard²), Synthesis (a cassette tape), Patience (a Tetris game, with the long piece about to drop in perfectly), Improvisation (a d20), and Productivity (the happy poop emoji).

Each goes for US$40 in the Kickstarter (with multiples available), as well as the opportunity to hang out in a laser-equipped shop and make your own. The campaign runs just about another month, and the exceedingly modest goal of US$2650 is already 35.5% funded. These sorts of projects tend to be short runs for Malki !, so if you don’t get in now, there probably won’t be a lot left over for purchase via other channels³.

Okay! That’s it! Now to engage in a bit of political schadenfreude, read some funny and enlightening books, and (oh, yeah), do my actual job. Stupid job.


Spam of the day:

Anabelle wants to invite you to a great site

Anabelle is pretty excited to tell me about Ashley, who apparently is super hot and wants to have hot sex with me because it would be hot. But more interesting is that domain that Anabelle is mailing from: pleasantgiftsfromsanta.com. Apparently, Santa is a pimp.

_______________
¹ Floppy disks are an obsolete computer storage format, kids. Know your history!

² Not an actual chessboard, the image of a chessboard, with a game in progress.

³ Similarly, the annual Wondermark calendar inserts, which will probably go up for order/Kickstart about the time this campaign closes.