The webcomics blog about webcomics

Is It A Week Yet? Seems Like It’s Been A Week

Even when Patreon isn’t dropping news, they’ve cast a long shadow over webcomics for the past week (the last time I spent so many days on a single topic, it was the Great Todd Goldman Lawsuitapalooza of Aught-Seven). I’ll leave you to find the public posts of creators asking (begging?) for clarification from Jack Conte, Sam Yarn, et alia, which shouldn’t be too hard — just chuck a rock at your favorite social media platform and you’ll find some.

Instead, let me take a suggestion from Faithful Reader Robonun and point out that maybe not everybody has seen the good news: Randy Milholland — the absolute sweetest guy you could ever hope to meet — is gonna be a dad in the immediate future. On the one hand, that kid is going to have the coolest, most humane (but simultaneously profane) father possible. On the other hand, it’s Randy, so garbage people are out in force.

I don’t know what it is about him that makes terrible, terrible people of almost every self-identified, persecuted subgroup decide momentarily that Milholland is one of them, then discover that it was all projection on their part, then decide it’s an act of vile betrayal and determine he is the enemy of all that is good.

In this case, militant childfree types (who were already pissed that he brought kids into the strip, without making it clear that this is surely going to ruin the lives of anybody adjacent to the little carpet apes) have greeted the news that Milholland and his wife are expecting with all the grace and tact of a caffeine-crazed MRA/MAGA/GamerGate/incel/anime superfan/brony type¹ being told that somebody doesn’t like that thing they like.

Honestly, Randy does nothing to encourage terrible, terrible people, but they seek him out. I suppose we should be grateful, in that he draws all the detritus to himself, sparing the rest of us from their attention. He’s a human crap umbrella.

So assuming that you, by reading this page, are a rational person², and also assuming that you are able to recognize that other people do not have the desire to be exactly like you are and this does not invalidate their right to exist, and further assuming you get the laugh-chuckles from Milholland’s work, consider dropping him a note of congratulations, and encouraging him (as we at Fleen do) to take all the time he needs in this period of immense adjustment to a new mode of life. The comics are free, he owes us nothing, and we owe him at the least thanks.

Oh, and all four issues of his excellent superhero comic³, Super Stupor are now available for digital download. If you read these and don’t feel like Punchline is the greatest hero character of the 21st century, you and I will never understand each other. Just, uh, maybe don’t leave the comic around for any kids if you don’t want them to know about Mind’s Eye and his truth fucking power.

What? I said they were excellent, not that they were all-ages.

Spam of the day:

4 FreeViagara tablets with each order

Oh yeah? What if I’m ordering … I dunno, something very specific to kids? Whatever makes you sound horrible because man, you’re sounding sketchy as hell.

¹ Do I repeat myself? Very well, I repeat myself.

² Also? Very, very attractive.

³ It legitimately is my favorite cape comic except maybe Robinson’s Starman, Nextwave, Patton Oswalt’s Welcome To The Working Week, and issue 10 of All Star Superman.

Nope, Not Gonna Be Four

So if you want to know what the eff is going on with Patreon, we’re all waiting to Jack Conte to make an announcement that will somehow clarify everything¹; in the meantime, please enjoy the report of one Mr Jephry Jacques from his talk with Mr Conte.

I would be remiss not to note an intriguing theory posited since I spoke to you last, as well as a killer observation from Jenn Manley Lee the indicates that Patreon may have screwed the pooch in the legal dimension as well.

Dammit, that’s practically Day Four. Let’s get on to other things.

  • I coulda sworn that I’d discussed Plume, a western-themed webcomic of considerable vintage, by K Lynn Smith, before. It appears not, except for a mention of participation in the Kickstarter Gold event; that’s on me — it’s a good read and I should have mentioned it previously. Seventeen chapters and nearly 500 pages over six years wrapped up in November, which means it’s time for the omnibus print edition, Kickstarting now-ish. It’s still Day One of the campaign and Plume is sitting at 50% funded, so I suspect this one will succeed.
  • Know who’s awesome? Sophie Goldstein, that’s who. Seeing the great need still present in Puerto Rico — literally months after being hit by two monster hurricanes — Goldstein has thrown a holiday sale on print copies of Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell. As noted previously, DCIGTH is a great story, and now each copy (going for US$25.00) will result in all profits (Goldstein tells us that’s US$21.39) going to feed the hungry in PR via World Central Kitchen.

    I find the fact that Goldstein is giving up 85.6% of the price of each book to be only slightly more impressive that the fact that she made a book that’s worth every penny of the purchase price that has an 85.6% profit margin. That’s some good businessin’ there. Sale runs until 24 December, so get to clicking.

Okay, that’s it for today. Let’s see if the Patreon situation gets any less convoluted in the coming days.

Spam of the day:

Enjoy your retirement once again and let AAG help you with a Reverse Mortgage loan

AAG helped blow up the economy in 2008 so why the crap would I trust them? And why the crap-squared do you think I’m retired?

¹ On a side note, I have a bridge for sale.

When Was The Last Time I Stayed On One Topic For Three Days?

[Edit to add: Be sure to read footnote #3. It’s .. yeah, not good.]

Well, it seems Patreon came out with an explanation that both makes and defies sense. It seems that to combat that problem of people signing up and getting access to restricted content, then canceling prior to their first charge at the end of the month, they’ve decided to charge everybody right away, and at monthly intervals thereafter. Let’s see if we can summarize the situation:

  • To combat what is absolutely a problem, they chose a solution that involves a maximum of fees
  • They chose to blow smoke up the asses of creators and supporters about their logic
  • There are other solutions to the the scam pledges problem (David Malki ! proposed one, within hours that seems superior to Patreon’s)
  • Nothing has changed since yesterday — creators are pissed off, supporters are dropping in droves
  • I can’t find evidence of even one user of the many that Patreon insists were consulted over the course of a year’s planning¹
  • Seriously, what the eff was up with the messaging?

Let’s just focus on the last one. Patreon set up a situation that was almost tailor-made for zero control of their message. They didn’t present anything that described the problem they were trying to fix; they didn’t lay out any of the alternatives considered; they didn’t present any reasons why they think their solution is good; they didn’t acknowledge any of the users (creators or supporters) that are telling them that the new solution is crap; they let a half-message out in the internet age, guaranteeing both that an incorrect conclusion was accepted as fact, and that there was no counter-narrative². Don’t even get me started on the terrible graph they tried to foist on us.

I think they think their judgment was good; I think they overlooked something critical. I was reading a couple days back (it’s only been a couple of days) that Patreon’s many decisions only really make sense for large-subscriber-count YouTube personalities³. That makes sense, given where Jack Conte’s band made its name.

But I don’t think they ever considered that most of their creator users aren’t large-subscriber-count YouTubers, and most of their supporter users aren’t supporting one or two favorite YouTubers. I’m told that Patreon has metrics and numbers on everything, so I’m sure they have the answers to these:

What percentage of all support pledges are at the one or two dollar level?
What percentage of all supporters include no high-dollar-value pledges?
How many creator-users are there vs supporter-users?

Because I’m willing to bet it’s at least 50% in each case, and those are the people who are bearing the brunt of the new fee regime. Even if it’s not true, they created a policy business model change that maybe benefits the small cohort of their users by explicitly screwing over the large cohort.

Patreon took the model of bundling pledges and charging once a month — one thing that made the service worthwhile for all of its supporters (but especially the low-dollar-value supporters), and arguably the core function of the business — and threw it away. I am unable to come up with an analogy of a company so thoroughly abandoning their own key feature. Maybe New Coke? A closer analogy would be Tesla announcing an over-the-air update in a week and a half that replaced the electrics in their cars with VW regulation-cheating diesels.

The logic of the decision is, if not in my opinion sound, at least defensible, but Patreon didn’t trust its users enough to defend it. The (best reading) incompetent or (worst reading) dishonest way they treated their user base is a mark that will persist. Kickstarter is smart enough to keep to their plans for Drip, maybe speed things up by 10%, but they won’t rush to open the gates to all; they know that as the invites go ever wider (and when they’re ready, invites are no longer needed), creators that don’t trust Patreon any more will be waiting to shift.Ko-Fi, Venmo, Paypal, Tippeee, Flattr, Google Wallet, and other means of cash transfer are suddenly burning up the search engines.

They can reverse their changes (and who knows, they may still listen to the very many, very rational reasons this change is terrible for nearly everybody), but that might arguably be worse than sticking it out; right now, every one of their users knows that Patreon will throw large changes down with little warning and bad rationale … if they reverse, they’ll be even more unpredictable than they are now.

In any event, the perception I see is, even from people who say Okay, I see what they were trying to do, is a variation on Wow, Patreon really thinks I’m an idiot; why am I using them? I don’t think they can regain the lost goodwill before their users scatter to the winds.

Spam of the day:

Start a gold IRA in 3 easy steps

Who is Ira, and why is he gold?

¹ The one person who is not entirely opposed to the change? On the Patreon advisory board and holds equity in Patreon. Not a good look, Green.

² That last one should cause whoever is in charge of their communications to lose their job. Expecting creators to sell a plan about which they knew nothing to the users was maybe the most egregiously incompetent thing out of many in this fiasco.

³ I’m sorry that I didn’t note who did the analysis, or where. It was very good. But just as I’m preparing to hit Publish, I came across this and holy crap.

Patreon not only doesn’t care about low-value supporters, they don’t care about low-value creators, either. This is really, really shitty Silicon Valley sociopathy at its finest, while Patreon has presented a public face of wanting to enable all creators. Instead, they just want to enable YouTubers that inspire irrational, cultish devotion.

Key Words: Public Benefit

[Updated to add: Kevin Sonney is drawing a line in the sand for Patreon — he’ll not only walk on 31 Dec if the changes aren’t rolled back, he will use his (and I can speak to this personally) considerable tech skills to help any creators that want to move off Patreon to do so, for free. He may want to get one of those take-a-number things like at the deli counter, but expect others to replicate this offer.]

[Updated to add 2: Patreon is apparently planning to levy fees on money that’s already been through the credit-card processing charges.]

There are many things I want to do today, not the least dig into the book I just received, but Patreon has other plans.

Since yesterday’s newsbreak, the consensus has formed: this new plan (not yet in effect, but only 11 days away) is pissing off the US$1 supporters¹ (who will see an overhead of nearly 40% on their pledges), the high-value supporters, the creators (to whom the change has been pitched as a benefit), those who prize honesty and transparency, pretty much everybody.

Everybody except Kickstarter, that is. If you told me that Kickstarter had bribed somebody at Patreon to make this change so as to stir up interest in Drip, I’d almost believe you.

Crucially, the people that Patreon has promised will win out in the new regime are mad. They hate that they’re being sold on a plan that will make them a little more money (and a lot more for Patreon) at the expense of their supporters, about whom they are protective. They hate that Patreon is intruding into that relationship. They hate that Patreon is not even offering an option for the creators to eat the new fees. They hate that they’re being blown off. They’re making plans to exit rather than screw their supporters. They’re trying to figure out ways to game the system until they can find other means of income from the supporters they’re losing.

And everybody really hates the US$0.35/pledge fee, considering Patreon doesn’t charge backers per pledge, but once per total. It’s a naked cash grab. But, it appears, that was the entire point.

What’s really surprised me (apart from the ham-handedness about the entire rollout that I noted yesterday) is that I couldn’t find one person with an interest in Patreon that’s even neutral on this change. I’ve spent all my free time since last night trying to find one person — creator or backer — whose irritation went no higher than meh, whatcha gonna do? But no; literally everybody whose email address doesn’t end in hates everything about this change.

Which leads to a philosophical question — even if Patreon opted to abandon their plans, would anybody trust them again? To my mind, Kickstarter is smart enough to start picking off high-profile Patreon accounts in their invite-only period, giving them time to scale up without being overwhelmed.

Even more important, Kickstarter is fundamentally different from Patreon in a critical fashion: they’re a public benefit corporation; they are required by their charter to engage in a decision process that is not solely governed by how much money they can make.

Given the widespread (and, I think, correct) perception that Patreon’s changes are a cash-grab to make their investors happy (possibly in preparation for a sale), the institutional culture at Kickstarter is sure to engender a metric fuckload more trust than Patreon will ever be able to muster again.

Yesterday I said that Patreon would be much smaller in a year; I now think that was optimistic. Given their tone-deaf refusal to even acknowledge the concerns of their users, I think they’ve actually destroyed their platform. Even if they reverse, they’ll never be trusted again; those that stay will be whoever hasn’t gotten in with Drip yet, and they’ll jump ship as soon as they get their invite. I hope it was worth it, Patreon, because you’re well and truly pooched³.

Spam of the day:

How did I earn 11000 bitcoins in 55 days

Stealing electricity and causing untold ecological damage? I can’t wait for that bubble to burst.

¹ I wonder what percentage of all pledges at Patreon are at the $1 level? I’d give 50:50 odds it’s a majority.

² That’s 2.54 Imperial fuckloads.

³ And thus, we turn full circle and return to Ryan North, with whom we opened. Life’s great like that sometimes.

Chaos Abounds

Upheaval! Unanticipated change! Things getting all weird before our eyes without any warning! And also, news from webcomics.

  • Speaking of chaos, there’s a lot of noise in the infosphere about Patreon changing its terms; this time, it’s to shift some fees from creators to supporters. The intent appears to be to give creators a more predictable level of support, but it may throw a lot of supporter’s calculations about how much they’re giving to creators into the realm of higher mathematics¹.

    Right now, all I’ve got to go on is secondhand reports from creators (who were tipped off by email today); supporters are said to be notified tomorrow. Although, as Matt Boyd observed re: the we’re telling supporters tomorrow announcement:

    My dudes, you notified them today, just secondhand.

    Speaking strictly as an outsider, I see two forces grappling with each other at Patreon right now: the need to perfect things (this change is framed as benefitting creators; the earlier changes regarding adult content), coupled with a reluctance to get buy-in from affected constituencies. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t heard about Patreon surveying creators or supporters about possible changes, soliciting feedback, or communicating in a fashion that would get people on board well in advance of changes.

    And this is not a problem unique to Patreon; every company that blows up from little idea to Big Deal has to transition from a pure expression of Founder’s Vision to something with institutional structure and professional change management. Effective communications are one of the hardest things to develop (and honestly, in a platform that stresses connection between creator and supporter, who could possibly think that making separate announcements would work?), and their lack results in situations like we’ve seen in the past few months, where Patreon appears (rightly or wrongly) to be flailing.

    This is not a knock on Jack Conte and cofounder Sam Yarn; very few startups succeed into Big Deal status with the same people in charge, because the skills needed for Founder’s Vision and the skills need for institutional structure and professional change management are very, very different, and almost nobody starts out good at both².

    I suspect that within a year, Patreon will be a smaller operation (particularly in light of Kickstarter’s Patreon-alike, Drip; terrible name, but KS are much, much better at their change management and communications) as further impromptu (or at least, seemingly-impromptu-from-the-outside) policy shifts pisses off the less-invested users. Either that, or Conte and Yarn and the other idea-type folks will step back to an advisory role, and the more mangement-inclined will be in charge. Answers on a postcard.

  • I am not going to spoil today’s … you know, I’m not sure what it is. John Allison’s webcomic has run at Scary Go Round dot com since 2002, it’s been the home of Bad Machinery since 2009, as well as various shorts, the first iteration of Giant Days, several throwback and current catch-ups of Bobbins, Destroy History, and probably more that I’m missing. The onetime plan to wrap up the Tacklefordverse was running from the points of view of several of those projects in an overlapping fashion, but heck if I know that it has a single name at the moment. The story arc title is Hard Yards, so let’s go with that.

    I am not going to spoil today’s Hard Yards, but oh man, you need to see it. John Allison has dropped in a single panel that explains goings-on from across the history of Bobbins/Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery, and confirmed what we probably all knew down deep in our hearts — his entire fictional universe has revolved around Shelley Winters, and there’s a reason for everything that’s happened to her.

    If he were to put up a post that this had been his plan all along for the past two decades, I’d be forced to believe him. It explains (in that loopy, logic and causality be damned manner that seems to define Tackleford and the surrounding environs) everything so perfectly. If he were to put up a post that this occurred to him as a neat way to tie everything up and it worked by coincidence, I’d also be forced to believe that; quite frankly, I’m not sure which would be the more impressive creative feat — playing a loooong game, or finding a completely (internally, at least) logical payoff for a bunch of different plots that occurred at many different times³.

    Bravo, Mr Allison, and bravo in advance for Giant Days issue #33, which I will be obtaining and reading later today, but which I am willing to preemptively praise as a matter of faith.

Spam of the day:
Naturally You here is transferred I’d have picked up … but it’s you
I’m going to chalk some of this nonsensicality up to the translation from Russian, but only some.

¹ And that’s discounting, as one Patreonista pointed out on the Twitters, European supporters who already pay VAT on their pledges.

² Or, alternately, can transition from one to the other. See also: Twitter flailing as @jack’s purity of vision runs up against people willing to exploit structural weaknesses for their own agenda. At some point, purity of vision costs you goodwill.

³ Honestly, it’s like if somebody had come to a conclusion for Lost or Battlestar Galactica that tied everything together in a perfect little bow.

Well, everything except for The Captain Beefheart Story. That one will always stand on its own.


Frank Zappa, in his autobiography, recounted the story of playing his then-favorite R&B tune for his high school music teacher and asking why he liked it so much; the reply was Parallel fourths. That was his introduction to twelve-tone theory and understanding why music works the way it does.

Similarly, when I read a comic and can’t figure out why I like it, there are a few people that I trust to make it clear — Zainab Akhtar, David Brothers, and Oliver Sava are at the top of the list. Sava heads up comics writing at The AV Club, and has gathered other writers that also get comics.

Today, they (that would be Sava, joined by Caitlin Rosenberg and Shea Hennum) talk about the best of the year, and there’s a significant representation of webcomics, and comics from people that cut their teeth in webcomics. Sava holds forth on Julia Wertz’s Tenements, Towers & Trash, Giant Days by John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell (respectively: words, pencils, inks, colors, letters), and Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Rico Renzi (words, art, colors).

Rosenberg adds Tess Stone’s Not Drunk Enough, Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas, Noora Heikkilä’s Letters For Lucardo (via Spike’s Iron Circus Comics¹), and Abby Howard’s Dinosaur Empire! Hennum’s additions are slightly further removed, but include offerings from Retrofit Comics (founded by Box Brown), Koyama Press (friend to indies everywhere), and 2d Press — Hennum’s definitely further into art comics than I usually read, but the writeups are making me revisit that decision.

The point here being, much like Mark Siegel promised his Macmillan overlords that :01 Books would contend for literary prizes within ten years of launch³, this recognition’s not just for bragging rights. It offers credibility, visibility, and the opportunity for further work, not just to the creators that have been called out by one of the premiere popular culture sites, but to their contemporaries and colleagues as well.

On a day that I noticed some chud on Twitter (no link for him … of course it’s a him) declaring that Andrew Farago was irrelevant and that real geeks don’t care about some museum in San Francisco, and it’s not like he’s Scott McCloud or anything4, it’s just further proof that comics is becoming more and more about new creators, new voices, new kinds of stories, and (crucially) new points of view, and the old stereotypes of what comics are/who reads them are slipping further into irrelevance. It’s a good day to read about some great comics, and an even better day to read some great comics. The list by Sava et alia is a damn good place to start.

Spam of the day:

Girls battle for your heart: choose Veronika or Kristina

Mail order bride spam, or anime series episode title? I can’t decide!

¹ Separate from the best of the year list, Rosenberg also reviews Crossplay, presently funding on Kickstarter, also from Iron Circus².

² Speaking of Iron Circus, Spike spent some time today pre-announcing ICC’s 2018 offerings, and it comes to at least six books (two of which are anthologies); Banned Book Club, previously announced, is due in 2019. Let that sink in — a one-plus person shop is making plans more than a year out, wrangling at least seven books in that timeframe. Try to deny her achievements, I dare you.

³ It actually took less than a year to break out the tuxes at the National Book Awards for Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese.

4 McCloud on Twitter in response: Andrew Farago is a prominent authority on comics and a good guy. Anyone saying otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Take that, chud!

We have two things for you today — a piece of writing (originally for 280 character Twitter) that you can read, and a piece of advice for freelancers. Let’s get crackin’.

  • Readers of this page are now doubt familiar with Gigi DG of Cucumber Quest (which is adorable, and presently undergoing a comprehensive, multivolume printing from :01 Books¹), and also for radically different (melancholy, scratchy, nearly monochrome, adult in topic and treatment and mood) work like Lady Of The Shard. For fans of the latter, today is your lucky day.

    Ms DG spent a chunk of time yesterday writing a story (with accompanying illustrations), geared towards the longer tweet limits; at the conclusion of the story (titled The Idle Divination), DG collected the entire thing< to itchio. Okay, the platform is nominally for indie games, but there are categories for tools, books, and comics, so no surprise that DG uses it to host her longform work².

    The Idle Diviner is charming, and sad, and hopeful, and silly all at once. Gigi DG is a treasure, and if she feels like spending her own idle moments on stories like this, we will all be lucky.

  • Speaking of luck, somebody said once that we make our own, or that luck is indistinguishable from preparation, or some such. Whatever it was, it was vague and trite and — worst of all — absolutely true (except when it isn’t … friggin’ aphorisms).

    In any event, there’s huge uncertainty about what the US tax code will look like in a few weeks, and how badly everybody who isn’t a billionaire or a corporation will make out (poorly, if the ruling party has anything to say about it). But there’s a damn good chance that the more structure and formality you have around your business, the less you are a filthy insignificant individual just trying to get by, the better off you’ll be.

    Thus, this advice from a marine biologist who, like too many of us, has been forced to become a one-person lobbying shop for their own interests:

    Freelancers, in the midst of everything else going on, you should probably create your LLC before the new year.
    No idea what the final tax bill will look like, but 100% it will favor an LLC over a self-employed freelancer.

    For freelance-type work, there’s a lot of good reasons to do business as an LLC, regardless, but there’s about to be a whole lot more. …

    It’s the S Corp part of your incorp that’s providing the tax benefits. You can also get an EIN as a sole prop.

    For [California] in particular, you have to do more corporate feng shui, but you can’t become an S Corp without first creating an LLC.

    If you want to know the differences between a single proprietorship, an LLC, an S-Corp, and a C-Corp, you could do far worse than to make a call to Katie Lane³, who knows these things and can probably save you an amount of frustration equal to two or three times the dollars you pay her for her guidance. Preparation, people. Some think you aren’t worth worrying about, but preparation means they have to take you into account. Do it for self-protection, do it for spite, do it for whatever reason makes sense for you.

Spam of the day:

Asking questions are actually nice thing if you are not understanding anything totally, but this post presents fastidious understanding even.

That even at the end made me read this spam in the voice of Snagglepuss.

¹ The first volume of which is delightful, and features color that really pops. I wondered if all the delicacy of Ms DG’s work would be reproducible on paper, but :01 have come through. Thanks to Gina Gagliano and all at :01 for the review copy.

² Although I’ll make a philosophical observation here — any platform that hosts your stuff that you don’t own? Make copies. Multiple copies. In multiple locations. Because you never know when it’s going to go away.

³ Light-ning LAW-yer!! She explained this to me using a Capri Sun pouch and two water bottles.

Good News Just Bustin’ Out Everywhere

I’m not even talking about the gears of justice grinding finely today, I’m talking about webcomicker news. To the Newsmobile!

  • Readers of this page may recall that I have a high opinion of Hope Larson and have for some considerable time. Today, something that I asked her about last year is one step closer to an answer, as it turns out that Goldie Vance is getting a big-screen treatment, from Kerry Washington and Rashida Jones, no less:

    The project, being designed as a potential family-film franchise at Fox, will be based on the graphic novel series, created by writer Hope Larson (who’s also created graphic novels of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and DC’s Batgirl) and artist Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker) and published by Boom! Studios.

    Jones will adapt and direct the film version, which Washington will produce under her Simpson Street production company banner, which is overseen by Pilar Savone. Also producing are Ross Richie and Stephen Christy for Boom! Studios. Boom!’s Adam Yoelin will co-produce. Daria Cercek and Jon Wu will oversee for Fox.

    Here’s hoping (har, har) that BOOM! getting the Hollywood money payday means that they can stop nickel-and-diming their creators, and also that Larson and Williams are getting nice chunks of change from the deal¹. We at Fleen are obligated to remind everybody that Hollywood moves slowly, and there’s no guarantee that Goldie will see the screen anytime soon (or even at all), but it’s a nice recognition of a great story.

  • Speaking of good news, thanks to GeekDad for finding out what Ben Hatke will be up to for the next while:

    First up, next fall (2018), First Second will be releasing a Zita the Spacegirl box set! It will combine all three bestselling Zita graphic novels into one volume–plus an all-new poster! Seriously, if you haven’t yet jumped on the Zita bandwagon, you’re missing out.

    Second, the following fall (2019) will see the release of the third Mighty Jack graphic novel. The third entry in the series will be a big crossover spectacular wherein Jack and Lily team up with none other than … Zita the Spacegirl (and her friends) for the adventure of a lifetime. This is the big one!

    We at Fleen are on record as digging both the Zita and Jack series, and I was hopeful that the post-credits reveal at the end of Mighty Jack And The Goblin King meant that we might see a crossover, but it was ambiguous enough that I wasn’t banking on it.

    The only thing is, Hatke’s a machine; by my count he’s done more than one book a year at :01 (three Zita, two Jack, Nobody Likes A Goblin, Little Robot, Julia’s House For Lost Creatures, plus four books illustrated for other authors), and while the box set next year is exciting, it doesn’t require a year’s work. I suspect we’ll see at least one more book between now and the Zita/Jack crossover, which I am eagerly awaiting already.

  • The one thing I get every year at this time? The Wondermark calendar. I love that thing, year after year. David Malki ! dropped the news all low-key that this year’s version is up for order, so if you require a means to tell the passage of time in the coming year, grab a calendar and stand, or just a set of calendar refills, over at the Dry Goodsery. You’ll be glad you did. I mean, I’m glad that I did, and that’s the same thing, right?

Spam of the day:

Heya! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4!
Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to
all your posts! Keep up the great work!

An iPhone 4, “scat_female”? I think you’re a little behind the times.

¹ I’ll put it another way; since Goldie Vance is creator-owned, Larson damn well better be getting the lion’s share on the deal.

Angels And Ministers Of Grace, Protect Us

There will be a “Ask Me Anything” on the reddit website on Friday at 2pm Eastern with @kcgreenn and @dril, top minds responsible for this thing

This thing being the Sweet Bro & Hella Jeff book by KC Green, Andrew Hussie, and Dril, gods help us all. Oh, and did we mention? It’s made goal and will be produced, gods help us again. All we can do is pray that a significant number of backers are actually jerkbag griefers who will cancel their pledges at the last minute for the “loolses”. Then again, the worse act of trolling would be to ensure that this abomination is birthed into the world, we all helpless before its vile might.

Let’s go across the ocean, far from the impending monstrosity, and see what Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin is up to:

  • We know you are all interested in Marion Montaigne’s latest, so you’ll be happy to know In The Space Suit of Thomas Pesquet was released on November 24th. And while I don’t think I would have been able to come anyway, I’m a little jealous of the journos who got to attend a launch press conference where the hero himself was present.
  • We at Fleen have been covering Pénélope Bagieu’s Les Culottées (to be published in English as Brazen) for more than a year now, but all the while it was not possible to point you to a version you could read (which is what webcomics are all about) if you couldn’t read French. Until now. The Lily News will run excerpts of the book leading up to its English publication in March 2018, so now you can finally see for yourself what the fuss is all about.
  • And if you can’t get enough of French webcomics that (horror!) do not feature autobio or self-insertion, Jo is back! After the artist had to take an extended break, Jo resumed on November 6th. And it now features a set schedule: one update every first Monday of the month, so you can look forward to the next one this next Monday, December the 4th.

Everybody thank FSFCPL, because I read that excerpt of Brazen t’other day, and totally spaced on mentioning it here.

Spam of the day:

No one expects you to stop on your own – get addiction help

I refer you to the statement of one Mr Z Harris, 6 August 1973.

Some More Thoughts On Strong Female Protagonist Book Two

I told Molly Ostertag once, during the time when the Kickstarter that would fund the second volume of Strong Female Protagonist was being planned, that I was looking forward to the book eagerly, as I can only read the story in large chunks. Like, book-length chunks, because SFP is a story that takes its time.

This was abundantly clear in the chapters that made up Book One¹, which took their time in laying out the world where Alison Green is a retired superhero and college student — writer Brennan Lee Mulligan takes his time in establishing characters, relationships, plot, choices, and consequences. It’s not a story I can follow in twice-weekly updates.

I didn’t know how true that was until Book Two arrived (ahead of the promised fulfillment date) just prior to Thanksgiving. I had a long day of bread-baking and interstate travel ahead with a stupid early start, and I spent half the night reading more than 300 pages of nominal superhero story², which are regularly packed with dense dialogue. Personal philosophy buts up against ethical crises and social justice theory for pages; rigorous philosophical arguments in full Socratic mode can occupy dozens of consecutive pages, and it works.

It works because Mulligan has a stellar artist in Ostertag, and she can made pages that might be dead from text overload sing. Look at this one page and do me a favor — read out the text aloud. It’s a good minute and a half, two minutes. It’s dense with information as Alison gives voice to all the uncertainty and contradiction she feels. And instead of a slog, it reads clearly, with a sense of rising urgency, each word balloon building on the previous, and the page before it, and providing the foundation for the page to follow.

It’s also doing something that superhero comics almost never do: it’s considering the collateral effects of allowing your world to be populated with relatively plentiful powers. It asks if the mainstays of the genre — punching stuff until it explodes, mostly — is really effective in making a better world.

It asks about where the really helpful superpowers — energy generation, food production, cancer cures — are, and why only the visible, damaging ones get our attention. It explores the line between altruism and villainy, and the sociopathy of power (whether super, or just the plain ol’ garden variety money kind). It’s thinking.

And at its beating hearts, a swirl of self-contradictions named Alison “Megagirl” Green tries to figure out the right thing to do. Not the simplest, not the most efficient, or even necessarily the best. She’s trying to come up with the Vulcan solution: the greatest good for the greatest number, minimizing the hurt to the least number of people and the least degree. She’s trying very, very hard to be smart about it, but the thing she’s best at?

Punching stuff.

She wants to leave that behind, but sometimes the only way to solve a problem — or worse, to convince somebody else to solve a problem — is to break things and hurt people until it’s not a problem anymore.

Her powers (which, like many others, appear to be growing in breadth and strength) might not physically or mentally destroy her (as is starting to happen to others), but this emotional conflict, the helplessness that comes with not being able to punch the world to a better place, is trying its damndest to do so. She might be invincible to whatever the outside world can throw at her³, but the questions on the inside are equally powerful.

Get SFP Book One today; get Book Two as soon as Make That Thing is done with shipping to the Kickstarter backers and it gets added to the store. And then ask yourself why “adult” superhero comics featuring more swears, violence, and sex, and not so many smart looks at the consequences of powers. Strong Female Protagonist is the best, serious, adult cape comic being written today (and it looks great), and it’s being given away for free, Tuesdays and Fridays.

If you can stand to read it in single-page chunks, that is. Figure I’ve got another 2-3 years before I get Book Three.

Spam of the day:

Learn how a Reverse Mortgage loan may change your life

Given the predatory and fraudulent nature of much of the banking system these days, I’m guessing not in ways that are very good for me.

¹ Issues 1 through 4 in the archive, which is easily navigable but which lacks a direct link.

² Issues 5 and 6.

³ It’s implied the government has contingency plans for if she goes rogue, and they appear to be only halfway kidding when they state that the planetary evacuation ships are due for testing the next couple of years. Her self-doubt, conscience, and good fortune to have been raised by earnest, altruistic people probably spared us the use of a nuke or two.