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MoCCA 2019, Part 2

[Editor’s note: The rumored history line at :01 Books, as recounted in a footnote yesterday, is rumor no longer. Check out Brigid Alverson with the exclusive on :01’s History Comics, launching next year.]

In which we continue to talk about people working on Cool Stuff.

  • At some point we’ll talk about people who were tabling, but let’s start with some folks who were just wandering the floor, free from obligation. Rebecca Mock is doing lots of work here and there, but I was most interested to hear about her current project with Hope Larson, provisionally titled The Salt Witch.

    Think frontier magical realism where witches are needed to make agriculture work in turn-of-the-last-century Kansas and you’re on the right track. Mock expressed hope that people will like it, I told her that given her Four Points track record — where you can see her getting stronger from page to page — that I am fully prepared to love it now, a year or more before it comes out.

  • You know who you should definitely have lunch (ramen, if at all possible) with, should the opportunity present itself? Shing Yin Khor. First of all, she’s very compact so she will offer you half of a pork bun because she’s full so hey — bonus half pork bun. Second, she’s always working on something cool.

    Whether it’s a piece of installation art that she can pack up and move to where it will have the most impact or selfies with her new best friend, she’s always got something cooking. In this case, something was a beautiful minicomic of Deathcap and Friends¹ which I think you can only get if she runs into you and hands it to you, which she did. Yay, me.

  • Part of why I was glad to find Khor is that about 15 minutes earlier I’d found a mini that reminded me of her, from Elizabeth Gasse of The Society Of Chimeric Creature Studies; I think this is her, but there’s no link on the mini and she doesn’t appear in the MoCCA exhibitor list² to double-check, so I’m not certain.

    Anyway, it’s a small field guide to griffins, premised on the idea that they cross with many types of birds, and so it’s arranged like a birder book — pictures, maps of territory, descriptions of field marks, etc. It’s neat.

  • A bit down the aisle from Gasse was Ken Wong, of whom we have spoken previously. His use of origami to tell stories has gotten more elaborate, with this year’s newest offering being a retelling of Who’s On First via flexagon. Specifically, a tetraflexagon, where by flipping flaps in a particular order (its printed in the margins) the one page in your hand becomes four, then rotates back to the beginning.

    It’s a more robust (and more self-explanatory) structure than his earlier hexaflexagon comic, which comes with an instruction sheet, but which also cycles through six pages, some of which are repeated upside-down and backwards from their original appearance, but have been drawn so that they make sense in the new orientation³. We traded stories of other highly original format comics, and I was able to point him at the Möbius comic from last year’s exhibitors, Pain Pals, which he hadn’t seen before.

  • About one aisle over, I was approached by Ben Granoff, who reminded me that we’d met years ago, probably introduced by somebody in the SVA class cohort that included Meredith Gran, Ian Jones-Quartey, and Daisy Maguire. He’s working with the ArTechCollective in a program that helps people with cognitive challenges express themselves.

    Some of his artistic partners were tabling through the weekend, and he gifted me with a stack of their stories — character portfolios, superhero stories, how Back To The Future changed a life for the better. The work is heartfelt, and in some cases may be the dominant means for the creator to communicate. The image up top is by an ArTech contributor named Cynthia Soto, and damn if it’s not amazing that somebody can do work that good and also be self-taught.

You know what? That’s a pretty uplifting note (not that there were any downlifting notes) to wrap up on, so we’ll continue tomorrow. Be well until then.

Spam of the day:

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¹ Although drawing comics about funipomorphic personifications of depression means that she is weirded out about eating mushrooms in her ramen. Hey, more enoki for me.

² Evan Dahm mentioned that this year, it was apparently self-submitted so if a creator didn’t (or didn’t know to) add their details to the exhibitor page, they weren’t listed. Now I know why the exhibitor page was so sparse!

³ Ever see Gustave Verbeek’s comics with Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo? Like that, only also a six-way flexagon.

MoCCA 2019, Part 1

[Editor’s note: This has only the slightest bit to do with MoCCA, but it’s time-sensitive. Zach Weinersmith & Bryan Caplan’s graphic novel on immigration releases in October, but it’s available for pre-order starting today. As in the past, Weinersmith is angling to prevail on the Amazon algorithm and offering up rewards for those that do preorder.]

Today’s theme on the happenings at MoCCA Festival 2019 is what people are working on, on account of I ran into a lot of people working on a lot of things. This isn’t necessarily chronological, so don’t look for a consistent passage of time.

  • Before I even made it inside on Saturday morning, I ran into Magnolia Porter and Tom Siddell (both of whom are killing it on their respective comics right now), and they’re working on their new, shared life as married folks. It’s a long way from the UK to Brooklyn, but they’ve got tablet, network, and each other. You will seriously not ever see anything more adorable — I am including sleepy puppies trying to keep their heads from drooping in this statement — than newlywed Porter gleefully introducing Siddell to somebody as my husband. I love those crazy kids.
  • In the opening minutes, I also ran into Calista Brill, editorial supremo at :01 Books, who is working on everything — walking the aisles trying to determine who should be on her radar, keeping to the ambitious release schedule (they’ve gone from about two dozen books a year to more than twice that in less than two years), launching at least two, maybe three new lines in the space of a year¹ … they’re on the verge of world domination but too busy to slow down for the customary Mwah-ha-ha-ha!
  • Just as well they haven’t declared victory, really, since Gina Gagliano is less than nine months from Random House Graphic‘s debut year, with twelve books on the slate and announcements reaching out to 2023, if I’ve paid attention. Less than a year ago, she was thrown into a new job without a staff, an office, or time to catch her breath before having to develop things like a marketing budget (for books that didn’t exist and had no deliverable date because she didn’t yet have any creators under contract yet), and now she can see things starting to happen. Preview material for sales folks, printing press time and shipping containers coming together, all the logistics that assure yes, this is real.
  • Evan Dahm is going to be able to show off three, four new books over the coming year; Island Book is just over a month from release, Vattu’s third collection is approaching delivery, and he’s in the final stages of a project for Iron Circus called The Harrowing Of Hell, about what happened to Jesus for those days between crucifixion and resurrection; there’s going to be a collection of shorter works as well. Somewhat appropriately, Dahm will be finishing Harrowing just as Easter approaches; with printing lead times, I’d expect it to release (also appropriately) sometime in the Lenten season next year.

    Asked about what public domain book he’d like to adapt next, he allowed that he’d like to take a shot at The Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison, but he may be a while before he gets to it; you can’t help but notice that nice, big 1 at the top of the spine of Island Book, so I’m guessing he might be a bit spoken for for the next while.

  • Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is working on saying No for a while. Her debut longform work, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (words by Mariko Tamaki; I’ve been reading it obsessively since I got a review copy on Friday), hits in four weeks, and making a 250-plus page book in just about a year, while working on other items at the same time, would tax anybody. After some downtime, she gets to start work on her second longform work, one that she’ll be writing as well as drawing. I’ve said ever since I met her that she would produce astonishing work and just keep getting better; so far, it looks like I’ve been right.
  • Colleen AF Venable² has plenty to keep her busy, too. Kiss Number 8 is so, so good³, and her gig directing art for Odd Dot is starting to pay off. I told her that the ringbound easelback presentation for Code This Game! made me angry, because I wanted that innovation to have existed for my college years; she heaped praise on her staff member (she called him one of my inventors) that came up with that design in 30 seconds with an X-Acto) and I begged her to license it. Apparently, every imprint up and down the Flatiron Building is asking if they can use that innovation (I really hope that includes all their cookbooks) and she’s more than happy to share. She’s just happy, period. Collen AF Venable has the proportional happiness of a spider that’s really, really happy.

    And all of that is before she gets to her own books — she’ll be doing a Maker Comic and she’s got a superhero story that sounds brilliant and hilarious and brilliant again, one that will hit right in the spot that the Minx line failed to capitalize on a dozen years back.

  • I’d never met Tea Fougner in person before; we wound up geeking out over how wonderful Olivia Jaimes has been on Nancy for the past year. She hopes that seeing the tremendous interest shown in a nearly century-old property will make it easier when she argues to her bosses that she needs to be able to revitalize some of King Feature’s legacy strips with bold returns to what made them great.

    The tributes to Popeye are a start, but we agreed that she needs to just hand that strip over to Randy Milholland and then let him go to town. Either that, or she needs to hop to Disney, work her way up to the appropriate place, and then hand Duckville to Milholland and likewise let him go to Duckburg.

You know what? At least four more people to talk about in this context, plus all the new creators I met for the first time, and we’re over 1000 words. More tomorrow.

Spam of the day:

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You’re trying to claim if I plug your thing in the wall, it will not only extend the range of my wifi, but magically increase its speed from 8Mbps to 300? Get outta here with that noise.

¹ 2019 saw the start of the Maker Comics line, early next year will see the civic engagement line, World Citizen Comics (of which Weinersmith & Caplan’s book is less a member, more a precursor), and I heard rumors of a history line in the works.

² She gave me her current business card which notes, Yup, That’s My Real Middle Name.

³ Despite some folk asking if it matters that they didn’t read the first 7.

Plenty To Carry With Me This Weekend

Let it never be said that the folks at :01 Books (and their fellow imprints at Macmillan) don’t make their catalogs available for review. Their Spring/Summer offerings are getting ready to drop, and I find myself today in possession of advanced copies of Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Hawking, The Time Museum vol 2, I Will Be Fierce, and This Was Our Pact (I, uh, may have given one or two of them a first read already).

Also in the Big Box O’ Quality Reading: previews and exceprts of Island Book, Pumpkinheads, Old Souls, and The Adventure Zone: Murder On The Rockport Limited. and Code This Game!¹. Creators associated with these books who’ll be at MoCCA Fest include Evan Dahm, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Carey Pietsch, and Colleen AF Venable².

Look for reviews of these books closer to their respective release dates, and if you’re anywhere near NYC this weekend, to drop in to see these and many more creators.

Spam of the day:

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Unless he’s in prison orange with a jail cell motif, not interested.

¹ The last from Macmillan’s new imprint, Odd Dot. It’s too narrow to describe them as an education imprint, but they are definitely geared towards ensmartening their readers.

² Venable is the Creative Director at Odd Dot, and you can bet she’s responsible for the design of the book, which will feature spiral binding and an easel back so you can prop it up next to you while you type code samples from it, and the pages aren’t constantly flying around.

Good News, Bad News Kinda Day

The good news being, I am personally well! The bad news being, a doctor’s appointment that resulted in the good news being all official-like took up more time than I anticipated and I’m behind today.

So I have just enough time to point you at a piece of capital-G, capital-N Good News, which is that Jeffrey Rowland has found the time to rebuild the archives of his Wigu comics, meaning you can hop to any story-day¹ for the first time in some time. He’s got bunches of his other work in there, too, including the seminal When I Grow Up, the universe-defying Magical Adventures In Space, Wigu side stories, and more.

As an added bonus, he has taken the time (as too few webcomic archives do) to make guest strips easily findable. There are too few guest strips, but we should all appreciate the effort. Go and take a look and remember: if you love a webcomics creator and support them with the purchase of their stuff, there’s an excellent chance that happens because one day, Rowland decided to become the world’s most unlikely mogul, and that’s why he makes the big bucks.

Spam of the day:

The Worlds Strongest Tactical SmartWatch – Water, Impact, and Dust Proof

Sweet suffering fuck, I get it. I am a dude, but please stop rewarding the cult of masculine off-jerkery that dictates you can’t like a thing unless it ties into an image of ass-kicking and violence. Just stop.

¹ Each story arc in Wigu starts with the characters waking up, and ends when they go to sleep.

Added Together, They Can Drink

How’s your day been? I got into a twitterfight with a brand that has questionable manufacturing quality control and terrible customer service policies, so I got that going for me. Anyway, I thought I could direct you to a pair of webcomics that launched on past Aprils Third, and which could not be more different.

Today, A Girl And Her Fed becomes a teenager, but hopefully holds off on the sullen aspects for another year or two. If AGAHF were a Jewish boy, today it would be a man! It retains the flinty-eyed examination of the implications of technology, surveillance, and the War On Terror that first pulled me lo those many years ago, and keeps me coming back for one of the best villains in fiction. I loathe Clarice so much. So very, very much.

Also today, Cucumber Quest turns eight, and Cucumber has some questions. CQ is all earnestness and sincerity, letting youthful chosen ones and ancient dooms play with their roles in new ways¹, and allowing hostage and captor to find time to bond as genuine friends over baking. And above all the art is adorable, A-DORBS, from top to bottom.

So unless you have some surgery to do on a kitchen appliance of your own, may I suggest blocking out some time to archive dive on one or both of these webcomics? Initialistic creators KB Spangler (AGAHF) and Gigi DG (CQ) will surely thank you for reading (and even more for purchasing) their stories. You’ll thank you, too.

Spam of the day:

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Gmail is telling me This message seems dangerous presumably because all of the links in this spam are chcok-full of malware. I’m figuring it’s dangerous because if it does what it promises, it would take a full 20% of my mass in two weeks, which seems like a bad idea.

¹ Why exactly have there been so many previous Chosen Ones? And why does the ancient evil not particularly want to be part of a cycle of threat, retreat, and more threat?

When The Time To Doors Opening Gets Into Single-Digit Hours, You’re Officially In Pre-Show Territory

As this goes live, we’re in the vicinity of 90 hours until MoCCA Fest 2019. We’ve got the programming, there are some late exhibitor addenda (see below), and some news on peripheral events that you may want to keep an eye on. There’s some other things going on, too.

  • MoCCA, then: Word comes to us via the Tweets Machine that Evan Dahm will be at table G238. I mean, this was a no-brainer, guy’s got Island Book coming out six weeks from today from :01 Books, which is going to put him square in the sights of those that pay attention to kids books. And kidlit librarians/advocates are relentless in their pursuit of good books, so congrats to Dahm on his forthcoming recreation of the opening of A Hard Day’s Night.

    Also at MoCCA (although not tabling) will be Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, also no surprise, given that Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (pictures by Ms Valero-O’Connell, words by the incomparable Mariko Tamaki) is coming out five weeks from today¹, also from :01. She’ll be signing at their table (E162) at 2:00pm on Saturday, and will likely be wandering the floor other times. Her other appearances in conjunction with Laura Dean will come between now and November, and will encompass the cities of Minneapolis/St Paul, Toronto, Chicago, and Leeds.

  • Speaking of MoCCA, one of the long-running traditions is that the night before, Drink And Draw Like A Lady; since 2008, it’s gotten women together to make comics in public, have some delicious beverages, and never once have to hear the question, So what’s it like being a woman in comics?

    But the thing about traditions is, somebody has to arrange the damn things, and oftentimes it falls onto just a few. The first DADLAL was put together by a couple of ladies named Hope Larson and Raina Telgemeier², and since then a fluctuating group of volunteers have taken on tasks for events in various cities, from arranging the posters³ to lining up sponsorships (for a number of years, that would have been Katie Lane’s Work Made For Hire) to making sure the venue was ready.

    Most recently, it’s been Alisa Harris“>Alisa Harris, Alison Wilgus, and Tea Fougner that have done most of the work for the NYC events; they have lives and obligations the other 364 days of the year, and also life sometimes gets in the way:

    We know it’s been a while and we’d like to apologize for the late notice that we will be taking a break from our annual pre-MoCCA Fest party this year. A number of factors have come up. Most notably, The Productive, our awesome venue for the past several years has closed its physical location.

    Alison, Tea and I have been busy with life and work and decided that it might be best to take a year to recuperate so we don’t spread ourselves too thin. We are so grateful to everyone who has attended and helped out in past years! This party is awesome because of you.

    DADLAL isn’t gone, it’s just taking a break. Here’s hoping Fougner, Harris, and Wilgus get to spend Friday night with their feet up, a preferred beverage close to hand, and whatever amiable companionship they prefer purring, wagging, or even speaking in human words that they’ve earned this break.

  • And not MoCCA, but still on the festival circuit: Shelli Paroline is many things — artist, writer, half of a very successful creative duo with Braden Lamb, and co-director of MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo. It’s in that latter capacity that she would like you to know that this year’s MICE will be happening on 19 – 20 October, on the campus of Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and that exhibitor applications are now open:

    You can now apply to exhibit at MICE happening October 19 – 20, 2019 in Cambridge, MA! Application period open through April 23. We got guidelines here:

    I really have to get up to that show one of these years, as it is by all accounts a great one. And, for those who are just starting out exhibiting, MICE has one of the most reasonable table pricings in all of comics: full tables for US$180, halfsies for US$90, and thirds for US$65. They like to put an emphasis on the comics part of comics expo, and also to see new faces, so give it some thought between now and the 23rd, yeah?

Spam of the day:

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¹ I am going to get home from Comics Camp and immediately have a bunch of great books to read. This truly is a new golden age of comics.

² Before they were HOPE LARSON and RAINA.

³ They been drawn by Larson, Raina, Lucy Knisley, Erika Moen, Harris, Emi Lenox, Cary Pietsch, Savannah Zambrano, Janet Sung, Kat Fajardo, Olivia Li, Megan Brennan, and more. You recognize some of those names, and you’re going to recognize the others in future.


I mean, three stories, each of which demands that it get to set the image at the top of the post. I suppose I could just make three posts, but I am a lazy, lazy man. So it’s three in one.


I Think This Means Five Card Nancy Needs A Rules Addendum

Does anybody at this point doubt that Olivia Jaimes is the best thing to happen to the comics page since at least Richard Thompson’s Cul De Sac, which lasted too short a time.

Jaimes has spent a lot of the last couple of weeks providing a metareferential look at the nature of art and fame, which I thought was capped by yesterday’s title panel. Then today’s strip dropped and one of the key defining characteristics of Ernie Bushmiller’s creation came in for some scrutiny and revision. Namely, the three rocks:

Nancy is Plato’s playground. Ernie Bushmiller didn’t draw A tree, A house, A car. Oh, no. Ernie Bushmiller drew THE tree, THE house, THE car. Much has been made of the “three rocks.” Art Spiegelman (following Bill Griffith—another Bushmiller aficionado) explained to his SVA students how a drawing of three rocks in a background scene was Ernie’s way of showing us there were some rocks in the background. It was always three. Why? Because two rocks wouldn’t be “some rocks.” Two rocks would be a pair of rocks. And four rocks was unacceptable because four rocks would indicate “some rocks” but it would be one rock more than was necessary to convey the idea of “some rocks.”

Bravo, Ms Jaimes, and may Nancy never want for rocks again.


I Hope He Got Some Tickets For The Gig, Too

Besides being a fabulous comedian, hilarious and heartfelt [voice] actor, and all-around terrific human, Patton Oswalt has done yeoman’s work in promoting artists whose work he loves, and doing so in a direct and effective manner: he pays them to make art for him. Particularly, every couple of shows when he’s on the road will feature a different show poster, and you don’t usually see the same artists repeated.

Just released over the weekend, a three-show stand in November features the work of Mike Holmes. It’s a far cry from Secret Coders (now out in boxed set) or his Mikenesses series, but it’s unmistakably Holmes — loose, energetic, lighthearted, joyous.

If you’re in Northern New Jersey, Baltimore, or Indianpolis in early November, I bet you can grab one when the stagehands are swapping out the displays. And if you aren’t, Oswalt promised a link to get the poster in his store soon, so keep your eyes open for that.


Randall Munroe’s Got A Toy Running Again

You might have seen the picture above when browsing to today’s xkcd, as I keep Javascript off in my daily browser (Opera), only breaking out the supplemental browser with JS enabled (Vivaldi) when the circumstances warrant. It keeps things fast, cuts down on ad tracking, and robs malware of a common infection vector. But when Randall Munroe says you need Javascript, buddy, you need Javascript.

Being foolish and forgetting everything I know about Munroe when he’s feeling creative and/or ornery enough to do a nonstandard comic, I figured that I might be treated with something like a personal tourney of 16 emoji to vote on, with probably some statistical measures about how many people agreed with my final winner, or my final four, or even my entire bracket.

Nope. Munroe appears to have included pert-near every damn Unicode emoji, with what appears to be a ten-level deep competition, a stagering 1024 emoji, which looks like this (compact) and this (enormous). No idea when it’ll be done, but if each of the matchups (512 in the 1st round, 256 in the 2nd, 128 in the 3rd, 64 in the 4th, 32 in the 5th, 16 in the 6th, 8 in the 7th, 4 in the 8th, 2 in the 9th, and finally 1 in the 10th) allows you just five seconds to make your decision, it would require nearly an hour and a half¹ to determine a winner, and that’s if just if each match only appeared to the world once.

Knowing Munroe’s appreciation of statistical significance, I’m guessing he will be waiting until each match has cycled through multiple times before declaring first-round winners. As of this writing, the bracket doesn’t appear to have any emoji moving into the second round, so I’d say come back no sooner than Wednesday’s update for the results. As for how he worked the seeding? That would probably take every remaining post in April if he felt like getting into all of his logic. I’m here for it.

Spam of the day:

Narrator : And so it came to pass on Christmas Day, that the human race did cease to exist. But even then, the Master had no concept of his role in greater events. For this was far more than humanity’s end! This was the day upon which the whole of creation would change forever!

Got to say, if you’re going to try to entice me into a ForEx scam, quoting Rassilon (as played by Timothy Dalton) is at least going to get my attention.

¹ 1023 matchups * 5 seconds per matchup / 60 seconds per minute = 85.25 minutes.

The Best Named Rooms In Comics Programming

Okay, I know it’s not because of the folks at the Society of Illustrators behind MoCCA Fest; it’s because of the history of that corner of New York that the Ink48 hotel has meeting rooms named Garamond and Helvetica. Y’see, the hotel is in a corner of the city where newspapers and other print operations were once plentiful; the building itself was once as print house. So what better place to hold the MoCCA program tracks, a block and a half from the Metropolitan West event space where the show floor will be hopping.

As in past years, the programming at MoCCA is simple: two rooms, programs run with adequate intervals to get back and forth, seven events per day. This year, my eye lingered on:

Cartooning For Peace, 12:00pm, Helvetica
About 15 blocks from UN headquarters, with Liza Donnelly, Ann Telnaes and other editorial cartoonists, and a paired exhibit on the show floor.

Keith Knight: Red, White, Black And Blue, 1:30pm, Garamond
Keith Knight has been one of the most direct and unmistakable voices in cartooning forever now; he’ll be presenting his slideshow/lecture, Red, White, Black And Blue: Why America Keeps Punching Itself In The Face When It Comes To Race.

The Personal And The Political, 3:00pm, Helvetica
Mike Dawson, Sarah Glidden, and James Sturm join Jonathan Gray of the John Jay College-City University Of New York to talk about how much “political” has seeped into everyday life, at least for those that had the gift of ignoring politics on a daily basis in the Before Times.

Professional Development 101: Art Directors’ Roundtable, 4:30pm, Garamond
Look, there’s a bunch of great artists with strong, singular visions out there. Why do some keep getting hired and others languish? I’m not an art director, but I’ll be being professional and easy to work with¹ are right at the top of the list. Find out if I’m right with ADs Emma Allen (The New Yorker), Matt Lubchansky (The Nib), Will Varner (formerly Buzzfeed), and Alexandra Zsigmond (formerly The New York Times). This one is co-presented with the continuing education folks at SVA.

Narratives Of Motherhood, 1:30pm, Helvetica
Oh man, how great would Lucy Knisley be on this panel? Okay, the topic is motherhood, not pregnancy — give her a couple of years, I bet the next book could support a great discussion. But I’ll bet you that it’ll also be a great discussion from Emily Flake, Sacha Mardou, and Lauren Weinstein, with MUTHA Magazine editor and Publishers Weekly graphic novels review editor Meg Lemke.

Comics And The Teaching Artist, 3:00pm, Helvetica
It takes a lot to master a craft; it takes even more to figure out how to master a craft and convey that knowledge to others. Just remembering what you didn’t know once upon a time, to put yourself in the shoes of students that similarly don’t know (and don’t know what they don’t know) is a challenge. How the learnin’ sausage gets made will be discussed by comics scholar Tahneer Oksman (Marymount Manhattan College), Ivan Brunetti (Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice and Comics: Easy as ABC!), Sequential Arts Workshop founder Tom Hart, and Center For Cartoon Studies founder James Sturm.

Professional Development 102: Artists’ Roundtable, 4:30pm, Garamond
The second half o SVA’s continuing ed offerings looks at things from the perspective of artists, and what it takes to maintain a career. Josh Bayer, Fran Meneses, Julia Rothman, and Andrea Tsurumi in conversation with artist and art director Kristen Radtke.

Spam of the day:

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You thought wrong.

¹ Alternately, being a hack contrarian shitlord seems to work for Michael Ramirez and Ben Garrison.

Tuesday’s Gonna Be Busy

That’s when a pair of books by a pair of webcomickers drop, and they could not be any more different.

  • First up, Vera Brosgol continues her alternating pattern of graphic novel with at least some elements of growing up Russian (Anya’s Ghost, Be Prepared) and childrens picture book, sometimes with a Russian feel to the whole thing (Leave Me Alone!), when she releases The Little Guys via Roaring Brook Press.

    It’s about these guys who are little, maybe half-height to a Smurf. They wear acorn caps for hats, they’ve got prominent noses, and I’m not sure if they have shaggy bodies or that’s just beard covering their bodies, but they’re totally charming. And, crucially, the eponymous Little Guys are the villains of the piece. Slowly the tale turns — they are little, but work together (that’s good!) and together they are mighty (admirable!) They meet any challenge (you go, Little Guys) to get what they want (uhhh, maybe slow down, Little Guys?) with the clear message: None for you! All for us! Hand it over to the Little Guys!

    Look, I’m not saying this book is to teach 3-6 year olds about the perils of in-group conformity and out-group oppression and how easily fascistic systems can evolve from seemingly benign messages … but I’m not not saying it. And I’m definitely not saying that this is a story that said 3-6 year olds should be kept from, since inoculation against virulent pathogens (of both the biological and sociopolitical varieties) is a good thing for herd immunity.

    I reserve the right to revise my impressions of Guys, Little and otherwise, once I get my hands on a copy, but in the meantime you can get a look at how such a book gets put together, and to check out Brosgol’s upcoming book tour dates, starting Sunday the 31st.

  • Second, Box Brown continues his alternating pattern of graphic novel that’s a biography of somebody related to wrestling (Andre The Giant, Is This Guy For Real?) and sociological examinations, sometimes with a Russian connection (Tetris), when he releases Cannabis via :01 Books.

    Moreso than some of his earlier works, Cannabis depends on its subtitle to give an idea what the book’s really about: The Illegalization Of Weed In America. There’s a brief history of cannabis use going back a few millenia in India, its spread to the Old and New Worlds, and then it hits the meat of the story: how the prohibition of cannabis was an explicit grab for power and social control, largely by the singular efforts of Harry Anslinger, the first drug policy commissioner.

    (If you don’t know Anslinger’s story, On The Media included a detailed profile of the man in their history of the American drug war, which left me with the inescapable conclusion that Anslinger was motivated, more than anything else, by the fact that he was a racist shitbag. Dude basically murdered Billie Holiday, because she was performing her blackity-black music around decent white folk. )

    All of which makes Cannabis a unique book — not a social history of weed, or arguments for its beneficial nature or why it should be legal, but rather an examination of why it was outlawed, and how very much overemphasis on its dangers has come not from medical proof, but from political expediency to oppress the poor and non-white. My review copy was an early, uncorrected proof, so I’m interested to see what the final version looks like when it comes out. In the meantime, you can make plans to catch up with Brown on his book tour, which technically started last weekend at C2E2.

Spam of the day:

99 Free Spins , Instant Access .

Oh boy, free spins on a fake slot machine? Sign me up to, by definition, win back 86 cents of every dollar I pay you!

Okay, Okay, We’re Talking About It

See, I saw a couple of tweets here and there about something that looked interesting and I filed them in the “write about this” pile. Then I got an email from the PR guy at the responsible company, talking about how awesome this is. Got it, I thought, I really do want to write about this Then I got another email from one of the creators in question, also urging me to check things out. It’s a tactical PR exchange of a scale and depth that you’d normally associate with a Disney, or possible a mid-sized authoritarian regime¹.

If it weren’t all involving Jim Zub, I’d start to feel a bit put upon.

But as readers of this page know, I have great respect for Zub and his very generous nature, sharing more about how the comics business works with newbies² than anybody else I can think of. In superhero terms, he has the proportional strength and knowledge-sharing of three men.

And hey, I’d been thinking about mentioning his latest observation re: what sales looks like on creator-owned projects when he dropped a graph about the sales of the trade of his Pat Rothfuss collab on a two-IP crossoverganza, Rick & Morty vs Dungeons & Dragons. Spoiler: sometimes working in somebody else’s IP backyard means you sell a metric squatload of books.

Anyways, today Zub (and comiXology) would much like you to know about a new book, dropping today with no advance leaks or hints:

This morning, comiXology Originals announced and launched STONE STAR, my new creator-owned comic! Yup, we just pulled off a bit of a Beyoncé Drop, cutting through pre-hype and ordering hassles by making the announcement our simultaneous launch.

Anybody else, I’d say maybe they forgot or decided the promo budget was looking thin, but comiXology always has a plan, and being part of Amazon means they’ve got essentially unlimited promo resources. Zub, characteristically, shifted the attention from himself and onto his collaborators immediately. Like, before even describing the book:

Artist Max Dunbar (my phenomenal collaborator on Dungeons & Dragons: Legends Of Baldur’s Gate and the Champions in Weirdworld story), colorist Espen Grundetjern, letterer Marshall Dillon, and I have been working on this series in secret, building the characters and story while juggling our other projects, getting prepared for this surprise announcement and release.

The story? Sounds pretty cool, actually:

Stone Star is a mobile asteroid where entertainment abounds, and competition and celebrity are intertwined. Gladiators fight to find their fortune, but there are other secrets lurking beneath the surface as a new season of competition begins. It’s space-fantasy with modern-day sports entertainment that follows the story of Dail, a teenage thief pulled into the arena who has to decide where his loyalties lie.

The series launches today with a US$2.99 price point for issue #1, or free with Amazon Prime Reading, Kindle Unlimited, or comiXology Unlimited; I’ve made my opinions known about books in the Amazon ecosystem previously, so I figured I’d be waiting to see if there was ever a print run that can’t be depublished for whatever reason, and godsdammit, Zub went and sent me a review PDF of the first issue.

It’s good. It’s real good. Characters³, setting, conflict, stakes all established and waiting to pay off after the requisite last-page cliffhanger. I’m still holding out for that print copy, but I’m going to be paying attention to this one instead just waiting for it to pop back up on my radar.

If you’re inclined to work with e-comics, I’d suggest getting in on Stone Star now. Alternately, Zub and Dunbar have just been announced as surprise guests at Wondercon this weekend, so if you’re in Anaheim, drop by booth 2151 to say hi.

Spam of the day:

Wear Glasses ? Your Eyes Are Headed For Serious TROUBLE

Oh, Christ, are you the glasses equivalent of anti-vaxxers? Get bent.

¹ But I repeat myself.

² In essence, creating competitors for himself down the line.

³ There just a bit of the late, lamented Leave It To Chance in the character designs. I’ve been waiting twenty years in case issue #14 of that ever drops, so that just a bit of resemblance is hitting me in the nostalgia gland.