The webcomics blog about webcomics

The DayQuil, It Does Nothing

Minnesota really doesn’t like me, having now infected me with some dread sickness. Already fell asleep once in the classroom, here’s hoping I don’t infect everybody at the airport.

Work Backlog Continues

So again, short items. Probably could have worked through lunch, but when fate gives you an opportunity to eat with Rick Marshall, you gotta grab that brass ring with both hands.

How Was Your Weekend?

My wife’s back from a trip, so mine started looking up considerably when I picked her up at EWR.

  • If you haven’t donated art to Carly Monardo’s Webcomics Auction for the Gulf Coast, I’d say you’re probably out of luck unless you get it to FedEx today. Deadline for submissions to be in Carly’s hands is day after tomorrow, but if you can manage it, you’ll be in some pretty impressive company — twenty-six creators by my count, including names like Beaton, Dreistadt, and Foglio. The bidding kicks off next Monday, 5 July.
  • The more I read by Darryl Cunningham, the more I’m convinced I need to buy him a beer; he did the stellar bit of investigative cartooning (that is, representing the work of investigative journalists in cartoon form) on the history of the vicious lie linking autism and childhood vaccination.

    Cunningham is back with another blow for rationality, in the form of a 19 page strip on homeopathy, and how buying into its promise requires a complete rejection of evidence-based … I was going to say “medicine”, and then “science”, but really, the only appropriate word is “reality”. It’s a good ‘un.

  • A couple of days ago, I read a plaintive tweet that worried that Nice Pete was “going to do the murders to Téodor” (can’t find it right now; add a comment if you know who wrote it), and given recent events, it was hard to dispute that such might be Nice Pete’s dark intent. Then again, an earlier creepy ride in Nice Pete’s murder van actually arrived at a super-secret ice cream shop, so maybe things aren’t so bad?

    But just how bad things could get wasn’t revealed until today — I can’t tell if Nice Pete is hallucinating the whole thing, or if he really is a thrall of his own shadow. Does this make him more or less of a sociopath? Regardless how much he and I may agree on the subject of Rachel Ray, I must say that he is lately proving himself not very Nice at all.

  • Notability, ho. Friend o’ Fleen (and good-natured recipient of my Land of the Lost jokes) Rick Marshall took some time out from wrangling comics news at MTV’s Splash Page to guest-write the pop culture blog over at USA Today; lots of love for the webcomics packed into his column, including an inexplicable mention of your humble hack webcomics pseudo-journalist in the company of some giants of the medium (and he spelled my name correctly, which nobody ever does. He hearts me!).

Great Groom’s Cake? Or the GREATEST Groom’s Cake?

Friend o’ Fleen and all-around good guy Rick Marshall went and got hisself hitched over the weekend, and thanks to the magic of the Twitters, we got to share some of the good times; for my part, I’m not going to make the usual lame joke regarding Rick’s name in honor of this Very Special Occasion (but when he gets back from his honeymoon — Jet Blue willing — we’re back to business as usual). Congratulations, Rick & Jessica, and I sincerely hope you don’t see this until you’re back from whatever tropical paradise hosts the next two weeks of sun, relaxation, and industrial-grade fruity drinks with weapons-grade little umbrellas in ’em.

  • Last week, I made mention (via the delightful Colleen AF Venable) that :01 Books was starting its own webcomics group (or, since they are a publishing concern, I supposed “imprint” might be more appropriate). Ms Venable is back with more information on To Be Continued…:

    To Be Continued… or TBC… is what we’re calling our new webcomics serials. So far the list includes Sailor Twain by our very own Mark Siegel, Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil, and Derek Kirk Kim’s Tune (which he’s posting once a week on his journal).

    All of these serials are leading up to a finished published :01 books. Mark and I started TBC… as an experiment of sorts, determined to prove that webcomics won’t hurt the sale of final books but rather the opposite: gaining a much wider spread of readers than we ever would with spine-out books buried in the sea of other spine-out books. If this experiment works out you can be sure we’ll be publishing more of our books this way, serializing them online as we go along.

    There’s really no part of that plan that isn’t awesome — but if we (as a reading public) want to see more books treated this way, we need to make sure that Venable & Siegel have the solid sales numbers to show their bosses that they were right in their gamble. Read these comics online, and if you like them, buy them. As a side note, I expect that any success that :01 Books has in this experiment may lead other publishers to follow suit — everybody bemoans the death of publishing, but I think there’s a future in this curatorial role that can’t ever be diminished. If you drown in a sea of potential webcomics reads (as I do, with all the suggestions sent to me), knowing that somebody at :01 Books (or TopatoCo, or similar future endeavours) thought enough of a creator to deal with them? That goes to the top of my “to read” list.

  • Regular readers of this page know that I dig just about everything done by Shaenon Garrity, aka Radness Queen West of the Rockies, and I especially dig me some Skin Horse. Said strip is now coming up on Book 2, and rather than taking the pre-order route, Garrity (and co-creator Jeffrey C. Wells) have opted to Kickstart the project, with the end result that it’s (as of this writing) 121% funded after 48 hours.



    Even more impressive than the speed of the response? Not one pledge is for the minimum of $10; the most common pledge amount (44 out of 72) is for $20, and enough people have pledged more that the average amount is over $50. I think we’ve got enough empirical evidence at this point to definitively describe when Kickstarter is going to be successful — namely, when you’ve got a mountain of dedicated fans who would’ve bought the product anyway, and who get a visceral thrill about being part of the process that enables the product’s delivery into their hot little hands. If you’re wondering if Kickstarting is for you, ask yourself if your audience falls into that category.

  • Last thoughts for the day — the Eagle Awards are the main British honor for comics work, and they have both a category for Favourite Web-Based Comic (waaaay down there at the bottom) and a popular vote. If you were so inclined, you can chime in for Freak Angels, Order of the Stick, PvP, Sin Titulo, or xkcd.


Everybody read the interview by Rick Marshall Will and Holly with Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins over at MTV Splash Page? It’s a good ‘un. I particularly liked this bit:

MTV: While “Penny Arcade” has certainly evolved over time, one thing you’ve never really embraced is a pay model for the comics — something we’re starting to see more of around the webcomic landscape as more publishers move to the digital world. Why have you avoided the subscription model or other types of pay-for-content systems?

HOLKINS: I consider that a political discussion, and we don’t really traffic in politics generally. As somebody who’s followed webcomics as you have, you know how strenuous those arguments about pay become. For us, I would take it a step before that and say that we think a webcomic is a freely available comic.

We think that’s one of the things that defines a webcomic. It can’t just be that it’s on the web — though that’s the term we have and it makes sense. For us, a webcomic is a comic that is freely available, with an author who is a real person, and who is accessible to the consumers of their work. I would say those are tenets that we think are inextricable from webcomics.

KRAHULIK: As soon as you put up a pay barrier, you really limit the number of people who are going to be willing to look at your work. As “Penny Arcade” was growing, I don’t think we were ever in the position where we wanted to limit the number of people who could look at the comic. That always seemed like a bad idea.

A’course, we’re no closer to a single definition of webcomic that everybody will agree upon; my working definition is probably closer to that espoused above than any other I’ve seen, although I’m not sure that I’d make an absolute requirement of freely available. It’s too nice a day (as it rains upon the just and un-just alike) for political discussions, manifestos, and the like. One day we’ll have to have a summit of all interested parties whereupon such things are decided once and for all (until the beer runs out and we instantly fall into squabbling factions full of muderous intent — which is pretty much the same state as before the beer).

  • In other news, I got a nice package in the mail from Tom Dell’aringa, who you probably know best from Marooned. This was a minicomic — so mini, in fact, that the envelope was sized such that it could have been mistaken for a tasteful greeting card from a respectable publisher of such. Inside was a copy of Rag The Viking: The Cubicles of Valhalla, the first joint effort between Dellaringa and Steve Ogden, newly released by their nascent WishTales Publishing Studio.

    It’s a clever riff on fantasy that left me not quite sure whether Rag Ragnarsson is indeed a viking trapped in cubicle hell, or merely a guy daydreaming about how much awesomer his ancestors had it. It’s a hoot and a half, and I’m seriously impressed by how much story and character can fit into just sixteen pages. Since RtV:TCoV is listed as the first minicomic from WishTales, I’m looking forward to what others might be coming down the pike. Also whether or not that pike has the head of Rag’s enemy upon it (in the coffee room, over by the artificial sweetener).

  • Stray thought for the day: Scott Kurtz notes that Scripps is looking to dump United Media Licensing (the story is a little vague, but it appears the sale does not include the related United Feature Syndicate, but UML definitely includes licensing rights to a bunch of comic strips). Since Kurtz is singlehandedly killing newspapers, it makes sense that Ryan Sohmer suggested that he and Kurtz buy up the corpse (at press time, it has not yet been determined if their aim is revivification or desecration).

    The real punchline here — in another three to five years, the economics might actually make such a thing possible.


As you might imagine, I’m horribly behind on webcomics news as a result of MoCCA; I’m not even going to weigh in on the whole Marketplace Morning Report thing except to say that the reporting oversight was pretty thoroughly refuted. Reports on MoCCA itself that I particularly recommend include Dave Roman‘s and Evan Dorkin‘s; gotta say that it’s a real treat to see a guy as unrelentingly positive, level-headed, and pleasant as Dave Roman refer to a show as a “death camp”. He and Dorkin are right on the money though, regarding the improvements that MoCCA needs to make if it’s going to be a viable show in two – three years.

Book news! Digger volume 4 will be available for preorder on 10 July; Kate Beaton‘s book is back in stock at Topatoco. And Aaron Diaz is offering a limited-edition softcover of Hob, and there are even (as of this writing) still some left from last night’s announcement. Go get ’em.

Pictures! How to sum up MoCCA ’09? It was hot, leading to a weary, but still game crowd. It’s not a t-shirt intensive show, but books, prints, promises of sex, and interesting knick-knackery do well (even when they’re just preview items). In any event, moustaches and beards rule, Dylan looks better in a suit than you do, Magnolia is willing to get her photo taken with random vagrants, and outside air was good. Also: there were visitors to our shores from the far antipodes and the near frozen north.

Photo guide! Roughly in order of the links above, you had crowd shots, merch selections from various creators, printed-on water bottles from QC, fair-trade, microfinanced Red Robot dolls, Andy Bell‘s newest toy (availabe at SDCC), Jon Rosenberg‘s first major-publisher book (available in a few weeks), Dern rockin’ the Snidely Whiplash, David Malki !, Dylan Meconis, Magnolia Porter (with Kris Straub), Bernie Hou & Rick Marshall, Becky & Frank and Joey Comeau. Please note that the red-eye filter was working in that last photo; the residual eye weirdness is because Joey’s evil.


Walking with Heidi MacDonald towards the end of MoCCA ’09, she asked me about the takeaway for the event. What one thing summed it up, more than anything else? That was a tough one — there wasn’t a standout book that dominated the show, or an event, and there was (it’s fair to say) a measurable amount of disorganization on Saturday that threw off the cadences of the show for the day. And there’s your theme for the show — determination.

Despite the lack of some very capable people who left the MoCCA board back in October, the Museum was determined to put on the show. Despite organizational problems that prevented the show from opening for its first hour on Saturday, the attendees stayed in line (around the corner and down the block), determined to enter. Despite that late opening making a jumble of the programming schedule, the audiences determined the new times and packed the rooms. Despite the dead air circulation and lack of A/C, all concerned were determined to have a good time.

Lots of exhibitors spoke to me about selling out or nearly so, and if there was a lot of expressed nostalgia for the recent TCAF show, nobody I spoke to was hating on the show — at least, not after getting some air outside. As somebody lucky enough to be a booth sherpa during setup on Saturday morning, the dead first hour gave me an opportunity to connect with creators I’d met previously but didn’t know very well, and to have the time to enjoy it without blocking fans from seeing them. I got to compare notes with MacDonald, Rick Marshall, and Johanna Draper Carlson. I got the lowdown on the previous night’s Drink & Draw Like a Lady and the inside scoop on the dudes who tried to crash the party. Not a perfect show, but a mess o’ fun nevertheless.

Oh, and by means of skillful reportage, I can now let Fleen readers know exclusively that a significant creator has plans to create a new model of webcomicking that will change everything from this point forward — money will be made, competitors will be crushed, and life as we know it will never be the same. I know! Shocking!

Webcomics types in attendance and/or showing included (in no particular order) Bernie Hou, Magnolia Porter (who was slumming with an incognito Kris Straub), Rosemary Mosco (who was not showing, but always a pleasure to talk science with her), Hope Larson (who has excellent new hair and plans for more DDLL in the future), Frank Gibson & Beck Dreistadt (all the way from New Zealand!), Cat Garza (who has found that his recent student advisee at CCS has him thinking about new approaches to comics), Cameron Stewart (who made what’s maybe the single greatest contribution to the Beards & Moustaches theme sketchbook), Darren J Gedron (who waxes ‘stache with the best of them), Ami B & Bree Rubin (who are clever, young, talented, and just starting the show circuit), Spike (whose books are very heavy by the case), John Keogh, and Ian Jones-Quartey (whose unfinished opus, RPG World, got its return pushed back by a year when I enquired when it would finish).

Over on Webcomics Island, one would find Andy Bell, Jon Rosenberg (whose first major-publisher book is hitting the pre-release circuit … we’ll be having a giveaway soon), Sam Brown, Steven Cloud, Rich Stevens, Meredith Gran, Ryan North (whose new book we may see by end of the year), David Malki !, Chris Hastings (whose new book we may see by San Diego), Jeph Jacques (whose first book is still missing a few strips, as the original high-res files have gone missing), Randall Munroe (who for the first time found his table space slightly blocked by another creator instead of being the blocker, and whose update today should provoke groans and beatings), Kate Beaton (who is totally awesome in person and whose crowd was going elbow-to-elbow with Munroe’s), Dave Roman (who wonders if there will ever be another general-interest kids magazine on the newstand racks), Raina Telgemeier, Dylan Meconis (who looks sharper in a suit than I ever will), Kean Soo (who, sadly, I spaced on coming to the show, and didn’t bring my copy of Jellaby 2 for sketchin’ & signin’).

Other things to note:

  • Scott Campbell‘s Double Fine Action Comics volume 1 is a trip and a half; he’s thinking about doing a children’s book with images from the recent HOME SLICE gallery show, with little lift-up doors to reveal everything in the homes. Also, once he gets a definite story idea, an Igloo Head & Tree Head book!
  • Box Brown‘s girlfriend Sarah (and inspiration for “Ellen”) has totally got the patient cartoonist spouse/partner thing down; she was a delight to meet, and it’s obvious why Brown finds her such an inspiring muse. Brown also had one of the cooler table items at the show, an eight-page newsprint comics section, filled with strips (daily and Sunday) for the proposed Bellen! syndicated strip, which didn’t end up happening. Similarly, the Transmission X collective found that a simple postcard with their names and comic titles wasn’t working, but a full-color newsprint broadsheet with full strip samples of each of their work is a terrific attention-getter.
  • Dylan Meconis’s Bite Me! might be my favorite purchase of the show. Ask me in a week when I’ve had a chance to read everything, but any book that provides a “Revolution Starter Kit” in the form of a drawing of Marie Antoinette’s head (Tab A) and a guillotine (Slot B), with instructions to insert A into B? Genius. Possible competitors: And Don’t Forget The Droids and Only What You Take With You, sequels to last year’s Harvest Is When I Need You The Most — whimsical takes on the minutae of the Star Wars universe. How does one apologize to Lord Vader? What does it mean to “bulls-eye womp rats”? How can a whiny farm-boy upset the economy of moisture farming, and what happens if you do kiss a Wookie?
  • But then, Frank & Becky’s Tiny Kitten Teeth book (and portfolio of Becky’s paintings) looked better than any printed material has a right to, and was more adorable (in an acid-flashback whirlwind kind of way) than human eyes can tolerate. Catch them on their tour of the US, culminating in San Diego next month.
  • Drink & Draw attracted 70 – 75 ladies, much fun was had, and the dudes trying to sneak in from the unrelated speed-dating event elsewhere in the bar were dealt with summarily. Organizer Hope Larson definitely will repeat the event next year (hopefully with sponsors), and wants to expand to at least a West Coast iteration for those that couldn’t make it to New York. Asked about the possibility of running DDLL prior to SPX, Stumptown, APE, TCAF, and other indy-friendly shows, only the amount of difficulty in arranging things long-distance seemed to deter her. Give it a year or two, there’ll be these things popping up all over.
  • I totally forgot that I met you, and I’m sorry. Also, I spelled your name wrong. I suck, but I promise to make it up with some pictures tomorrow, and with book reviews in the coming days.

As Of This Time, It Remains Unwatched

So I’m picking up comics yesterday, getting ready to enjoy the hell out of Box Brown‘s Love Is A Peculiar Type Of Thing when I notice it on the wall behind the registers: the DVD of Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Yes! Having seen Joss Whedon as the special musical guest at the recent This American Life movie theater event, I couldn’t wait to hear Commentary! The Musical. Okay, change of plans — read LIAPTOT on the train home (a trifle rushed, but one must), and then the DVD goes in.

Except Erika Moen ruined it.

Waiting for me at home was a copy of her new book: DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary Volume One. I had resigned myself to not getting a copy until SPX, when I could look Moen in the eye, thank her for her awesome work, and maybe get a sketch. And she went and made all that unnecessary with her very kind gift, complete with a sketch that’s beyond awesome in its moustachery. I’m still gonna get a copy from her at SPX, because I know this is a book that, when lent to others, comes back late and in significantly more worn condition. The next copy will be the loaner, this one is mine and you can’t have it.

But now — no Dr Horrible for me. Sad face lasted about twelve seconds until I realized this meant that I now had two diary-style collections in front of me, and the opportunity to look at them both at my leisure was overwhelming.

Both LIAPTOT and D:ASGTSCDV1 tell the stories of their creators, but they come at those stories from different perspectives. Box Brown’s work is filtered through the perspective of Ben, who isn’t Box, but isn’t quite not-Box; there’s a nice one-pager in the book (from which the cover image is taken) that talks about how the fictional character Ben had things more together than the real Box — in love, sober, happier.

And it talks about how Box is becoming Ben. The character that started as not quite so much a stand-in for the creator and more of a metaphor is possibly the real-er of the two, or at least of the unseen Box Brown that speaks with a disembodied voice throughout the book. By the end of the book (and its slow, fits-and-starts progress towards the realization that all of us are just making life up as we go along), it’s tough for me to decide whether Box or Ben is the metaphor.

At times, the journey is melancholy, at times it’s guarded, at times it’s revealing or hopeful, and it gets a zillion bonus points for appropriating a Frank Zappa lyric for a comic title. It’s a masterful piece of introverted storytelling, and if more people (not just comics creators) were able to look at themselves and tell these kinds of stories, we’d probably have fewer therapists and social workers.

In contrast, D:ASGTSCDV1 works from a fundamentally an extroverted point of view; while Erika Moen does talk a great deal about what makes her tick, I think it’s fair to say that hers is a story of living in your skin rather than in your mind. Her comics celebrate experiences, whether they’re happy or sad, miserable or joyous, simple or complicated, and (recurringly) sensual in every meaning of the word.

Moen wants you to know how much she’s attracted to women and (confusingly at first) one guy. She wants you to know that she burps, farts, bleeds, and poops. She has sex, she has compulsions, and strippers dig her. Above all, she has a life that is sometimes good, sometimes bad, and always met head-on in a full-bore attack that says Show me what you’ve got, and I’ll show you mine.

In lesser hands, it would be too revealing, too narcissistic, too much like watching unavoidble “reality stars” go on and on about themselves. From Moen, it feels like you’re sitting next to your most energetic friend, the whirlwind that doesn’t sit still before she starts in on the caffeine, and she wants to tell you about her day and hear about yours and don’t leave out the good stuff.

Reading D:ASGTSCDV1 is likely to leave you slightly out of breath, like you’ve been on a really good roller coaster called The Erikanator, and as luck would have it, there’s no line so you can go ride again. Oh, and Erika? Damn right, twinsies! Rest of you, don’t worry about it — she knows what I’m talking about.

MoCCA Updates!
Press access has come through, so in addition to everything mentioned previously this week, I’ll be able to see:

Finally, there was one other item in my mailbox yesterday — a notice that the post office needs my signature so that I may claim THIS.

Notice in my mailbox that a parcel is awaiting my signature at the post office … a parcel from Ryan North, containing the only thing better than a grappling hook. Hell, yes.

Here Are Your Instructions For Today

Listen well, my loyal minions, for I bring you wisdom that is great and deep.

Yeah, That Picture’s Gonna Be On Display At Your Funeral

It’s a holiday for some of us in America — no mail, banks are closed, just a lazy day to do a bunch o’ nothing — and you get an update to match!

Remind me — didn’t we settle this crappy TOS thing when MySpace did it? Facebook tries to pull a fast one, not realizing that Jeff Rowland went toe to toe with Rupert Murdoch to save us all. Those of you with webcomicky content on Facebook are now officially Mark Zuckerberg’s bitches.

Holiday how-tos: