The webcomics blog about webcomics

Weekend Coming

I was going to put up a picture of Omar Little and Robb Stark in sort of a tribute to Things That Are Coming, but there’s only so far I’m willing to stretch for a joke. We’ll just have to content ourselves with a chunk of space-time instead and look at some new things this week as it wraps up.

  • Thing! Experimental evidence of the The Big Bang has been reported here and there all week long, but Jorge Cham¹ is the first person to put it in terms that I could really grasp. Yes, yes, life spent in the study of science and all that, sometimes you only really grasp things with the addition of a good picture².
  • Thing! The very sexy R Stevens always has a half-dozen things on his plate at any given time, the result of a genetic makeup that incapable of either boredom or standing still for more than 37 seconds at a time. He took on another one starting today, and it seems such a perfect match I’m surprised it took thing long. Starting today, Stevens launches Multitouch Theater at Macworld; each week will see Stevens opining on “Macs, iOS, and everything in between”, which is sort of like getting paid to just be him.
  • Thing! Today, The AV Club launched what they’re calling an “illustrated column”, but which is clearly a webcomic³. Arriving monthly, Iconography will look at artifacts from pop culture, starting off with the golden idol from Raiders.
  • No Thing! Despite being de-bejabbered at the prospect of owing her supporters and not being able to make good, Ursula Vernon (obligatory note that I loves me some Digger) has decided to dip her toes into the Patreon pool. I tagged this item as No Thing because that’s what Vernon is promising her supporters, and as such in limiting them to only two tiers of support:

    Pledge $1.00 or more per month
    Nothing much!

    Pledge $2.00 or more per month
    Still nothing, but twice as much of it!

    The Patreon campaign is best described as a Keep Ursula Weird slush fund, noting that one and two dollars are enough to purchase (respectively) a cup of coffee and a roll of antacids4. Honestly, it’s no different than John Allison’s subscription drive experiment, or any other tip jar or donation link on any number of webcomics homepages and Vernon should feel no guilt or obligation.

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¹ With a technical assist from Jon Kaufman, a member of the BICEP2 team that found the confirming evidence. Sometimes you have to go straight to the source.

² Case in point: I mastered semiconductor physics back in college largely because Dr Art Western (who, among other things, amused himself by sitting on a bed of nails outside his office on Parents Weekend and briefly held the world record for a high-temparature superconductor, back when double digits in Kelvin was a big deal) managed to explain charge migration via a diagram involving crazed squirrels avoiding traps.

Also, shamed by his grade-school daughter for not being a good enough teacher, if you got an A on one of Dr Western’s exams, you got a gold star (two gold stars for a perfect 100!), and collecting three or more by the end of term meant you could trade them in for a Batman sticker. Two exams in the 90s and one in the high 80s meant I came just short of the sticker, but I got an A for the class.

³ Structurally, it’s a series of frameless images with captions, which makes it feel like the work of Erika Moen, or Wendy McNaughton, or Molly Crabapple.

4 Necessitated by her I’ma eat weird prepackaged foods with my husband so you don’t have to podcast, Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap. It’s a riot.

I Am So Glad I Don’t Have Any Dogs In These Fights

There’s a couple of instances of people making fanart, and then the fanart being co-opted by others, and there’s a lot of discussion — light, heat, some signal, lots of noise — about both.

  • Case one: the now apparently-resolved case of Anita Sarkeesian and Tamara Gray’s rendering of Princess Daphne, discussed at length on the second episode of Surviving Creativity. The best thing about that episode of SC¹ is the acknowledgment that some actual legal expertise is required (something missing in most internet discussions of trademark, copyright, and fair use), and the promise that Katie Lane of Work Made For Hire will be joining them to add that expertise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Katie Lane is smart, and that next episode will be mandatory listening for all independent creators.

    Case two: before Gigi DG launched Cucumber Quest, she had a webcomic called Hiimdaisy, which combined fan art and parody of video games (as near as I can tell, I never read it and Ms DG took ‘em down some years ago). There’s presently a Kickstarter campaign to continue the work with an explicit acknowledgment that it’s inspired by Ms DG, although it’s a new artist. Ms DG is aware, but is distancing herself from, the project².

    My take on the whole thing is if you wanna do fanart, then do fanart, nobody can prevent you from drawing whatever you want. But it seems a bit classless to make your fanart an extension of somebody else’s visual style (and to trade on their name), and it seems to skirt all the legalities to raise money in order to make your fan-thing.

    Sure, sure, you say it’s non-profit (not that those are two magic Get Out Of Copyright Jail words), but you say that the bulk of the funds your raising are for the purchase of a Cintiq and somebody’s keeping that toy when this is all said and done. Better apply any and all overages in the funding to a legal fund, ’cause that right there is the sort of thing that gets people sued. Each day that goes by increases the odds that the project gets canceled, either by a come-to-his-senses Renard, or (more likely) by Kickstarter.

  • Weird that two different second-order It’s somebody else’s intellectual property incidents would pop up in so short a time frame; despite my opinioneering in the last item (it need not be said that I am not a lawyer, but that opinion would inform my thought process if I were a member of a jury, which is possibly just as important) my real thought on the matter is this: it’s better to have your own ideas.

    Case in point: Karl Kerschl, who could spend all day drawing Other People’s Stuff if he wanted to, but who clearly allows the OPS to take up hours that aren’t taken up with his own work. The Abominable Charles Christopher is some of the best work of anybody’s career, and nobody can tell Kerschl what he can or cannot do with it.

    And what he’s doing with it today is announcing preorders for the softcover edition of Book 2 of Charles Christopher. Let me be blunt: the only reason for this to not be on your shelf is if you already own the hardcover. You’ve got perfectly good blood plasma you aren’t using, sell some of that and put in your order.

  • And in further praise of coming up with Your Own Stuff, the aforementioned Steve Hamaker shared something on the twitter machine today:

    My wife, Jenny Robb interviewed Bill Watterson for the upcoming Calvin & Hobbes exhibition at the @CartoonLibrary. http://library.osu.edu/blogs/cartoons/2014/03/20/new-interview-calvin-hobbes-creator-bill-watterson-and-cul-de-sac-creator-richard-thompson-talk-libraries-comics-and-the-creative-process-with-ohio-state/ …

    Jenny Robb is the curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State, and as such has probably been around more magnificent comics art than anybody else currently drawing breath. She’s frighteningly smart, and she’s scored the Watterson half of what’s actually a double interview, the other half being done with Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, conducted by exhibit curator Caitlin McGurk. Read them both here, and if you’re anywhere near Columbus, Ohio and don’t go see the retrospective while it’s running, we’re through. On the off chance that you’re not anywhere near Columbus, Ohio, kindly remember that you have two kidneys for a reason.

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¹ The disappointing part of the podcast was that colorist supreme Steve Hamaker was part of the discussion and was sorely underutilized. If you’re going to have him on, let’s hear about his creative process! Guests can add a hell of a lot to a discussion when the topic is something they’re involved in, otherwise it’s just kind of unfair to them.

² Although project creator Jack Renard takes a different tack on this, presenting the project has having DG’s tacit approval.

Things To Look Forward To

Got a calendar handy? You’re going to need it.

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¹ I don’t believe that is a typo of tee shirt; apparently, active people have things called tech[nical] shirts” which are like tee shirts, but better.

Moving Pictures (Across Oceans And On Screens)

But sometimes, only a good, old-fashioned Sharpie will do.

  • A Tumblr post from Mary Cagle caught my eye this morning; it dealt with delays in Cagle’s comic and the busyness of life in general. Let’s read it together:

    Basically, my big plan right now is to bring KB back first thing in April for the 5-year anniversary. As much as it frustrates me, thank you to everyone who’s poked me about when the comic will return. It’s a great reminder that people care about it almost as much as I do!

    For those curious, here’s what’s been keeping me away from KB lately, just to prove I’m not exclusively sitting around on my butt:

    What follows is a lengthy list of things keeping Cagle busy, starting with teaching English and dealing with life in a foreign country¹ and continuing on through a list of five creative projects that she’s working on, including coloring weekly webcomics for Amy T Falcone, coloring past webcomics for a book for Kel McDonald, coloring Johanne Matte’s contribution to the next Flight Explorer, and flatting and painting pages for Kazu Kibuishi next Amulet volume².

    What struck me was not how busy Cagle is (which doesn’t surprise me at all, given her deft hand at colors), but the fact that she can collaborate on all these projects with a literal ocean between her and the other creators. Maybe this struck me because I was watching the full Scott McCloud interview from STRIPPED³ last night and he talked about his first job in comics: doing production work for DC.

    It involved knives and cutting and working on physical art and the sort of partnership between professionals like Kibuishi and Cagle would have been nearly impossible, due to the amount of material that would have to be shipped around the world. The possibility of contributing two colored pages a week to Ms T Falcone would have been literally impossible, as no amount of express shipping could make the art be where it needed to be. There is also the little matter of having a limited palette of colors to work with, rather than the millions of subtle hues that Cagle has at her fingertips, let’s not forget that.

    This is all a very roundabout way of saying that, who have spent the last 30+ years around computers on a daily basis, got future-shocked by the realization how far technology has come. Thanks for making me feel old, Mary! It’s okay though, ’cause I like your comics.

  • Since we mentioned that comics movie in passing, let’s discuss it just a little more. Along with your obligatory reminder that STRIPPED will release on iTunes/other channels on (respectively) the 1st and 2nd of April, there is the new tidbit that Kickstarter backers due a physical DVD don’t have much longer to wait:

    Individual DVDs will mail from manufacturer the day they’re complete: 3/21. Signed or INTL DVDs have to route to LA then mailed

    That’s good news for approximately 2950 backers due non-signed DVDs (minus an unknown number of international orders), whose discs will be shipping in three days. It’s not out of the realm of the possible that they’ll have their copies of the movie in a week or so. It’s less good news for those of us awaiting signed DVDs, as Fred ‘n’ Dave will be scribbling their signatures for some 791 backers.

    I wonder if Dave will do that K-in-a-box that he uses to sign his comics? It’s gotta be faster than signing Fred Schroeder. Anyway, look for both Kellett and Schroeder to attend the Hollywood premiere on 26 March in high spirits, then spend the next month in wrist braces.

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¹ That’s gotta be like 19 hours a day right there.

² Also one 40 page project without a name attached.

³ Gotta be a back to see that one, son, although fillmmakers Fred Schroeder and Dave Kellett have hinted in the past making all the raw interview footage available in some form in the future. Considering the number of artists they met with in their studios, the process and drawing footage alone will be invaluable to future generations of students.

Also, A Movie

There two brief items up here before we get to the major point of discussion today: STRIPPED.

  • Via R Stevens at The Nib, itself at Medium: pixel Neil deGrasse Tyson. You know who else R Stevens has pixelized? Me. Is this proof that Dr Tyson and I are destined to be best friends? Probably.
  • For your consideration, Tom Siddell has added his previously print-only Annie in the Forest Part 2¹ to his website, free for you to read. Once again, Siddell’s done us a service, making an item freely available that could otherwise be making him money. Read it, enjoy it, drop a few bob via his donation link, or possibly by buying something from him next month at the MoCCA Fest in three weeks.

I watched STRIPPED over the weekend; anybody that caught my twitterfeed between Friday night and Saturday morning saw what I thought of it — it was masterful. But what I’ve been thinking about since was the choice of interview subjects that filmmakers Fred Schroeder and Dave Kellett chose to return to time and again. These folks were the centerpieces of the story of comics.

  • There was less of Bill Watterson‘s (rightly) lauded contribution than I might have suspected, and the film was not the less for it; in a handful of voiced cutaways, he made incisive points, but he wasn’t used in the film merely for the sake of Being Bill Watterson. I never thought I’d say this, but I admire the restraint that must have been required to not include every syllable of Watterson’s voice that found its way to tape.
  • Darrin Bell is not a household name; Candorville and Rudy Park are both pretty damn good strips, but you likely wouldn’t place him or his work without prompting because we’re past the era of superstar comics-page creators. He’s disarmingly young, frighteningly smart, and wonderfully sincere in his many interview snippets. There have to have been many, many creators that spoke about their journey of becoming a creator, but there was a spark to Bell’s interview segments that made him a natural. I can’t wait to see the entirety of his interview.
  • Greg Evans is a man I met, briefly, at the NCS Ruebens Weekend; he very kindly took the time to make me feel welcome in a place where I felt out of place. His strip isn’t for me, and I found myself surprised and a little thrilled at how much he was in the film. He almost perfectly straddles the line of long-term creator recognizing the changes in the industry², looking at them realistically, and really wondering how he can ride that wave rather than rail against it. He might have been the decades-long syndicated creator that jumped feetfirst into indy creator endeavours if Bill Amend hadn’t beat him to it.
  • Patrick McDonnell is unapologetically Old School³. His tools are old school, the art style is old school — midway between Segar and Herriman, with a verbal sensibility perched directly between Schulz and Kelly — and his air of not concerning himself with the challenges facing the syndication model is older than old school. Syndicated cartoonists didn’t worry about their business model ceasing to exist in the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s; it simply was and would continue to be. Around McDonnell, you get the impression — at least for him — that reality has not changed and will not. His approach to cartooning and the business of cartooning is as Zen as the spare, airy, light-filled studio where he was interviewed.
  • Jim Davis, who came up through the cartooning trenches as an assistant before catching lightning in a bottle with Garfield, is far more philosophical about cartooning than one would think he would need to be. He famously created Garfield with a businessman’s eye — there were lots of dogs on the comics page but not many cats, and he saw a market niche4 — and has overseen a juggernaut of success based on the broadest possible appeal.

    He is, as a result, richer than God — maybe richer than any cartoonist has ever been, barring only Sparky himself — and is reported to be sitting on a buffer longer than a year. He has a small corporation’s worth of people working with and for him to get All Things Garf delivered to the world on a daily basis. He needn’t involve himself in any aspects of Garfield at this point, he could walk away and live in luxury for the rest of his days.

    But he does. He does because (and this is from the Kickstarter backers-only full interview with Davis; the rest of you, I hope you get to see it) he thinks that one day, he could write the strip that makes the whole world laugh. Because that possibility matters more than every TV series, movie, and tchotchke put together.

  • Mort Walker has been in cartooning for more than six decades. He oversees strips that have been on the page long enough that your parents (or grandparents) read them. He could be everything that’s wrong with comics but it’s clear that he stays in the game not out of stubbornness or to show Those Darn Kids how it’s done, but because he remembers reading Moon Mullins on Sunday mornings with his father, back in the 1920s. He’s see the rise and maybe-fall of comics first hand and never lost his full investment in the medium.
  • Stephan Pastis is perhaps the one voice not completely in harmony with the others; he’s perhaps the most recent syndicated cartoonist to find widespread success (or at least, as widespread as it’s possible for any strip launched in the last 20 years to have achieved), and for all the success he’s had with Pearls Before Swine, there’s an edge in his interviews.

    In his segments, he seems like he’s pushing back against the changes in the model, like he wants to actively drag the entire industry back four or five decades. In his most telling exchange, his frustration becomes overt — and completely understandable — when he notes the odds of ever making it as a syndicated cartoonist, and then doing so just as the business implodes. I made it to the NBA, and the stadium is collapsing. His energy would make him a stellar independent creator/owner in the webcomics mode, if only he hadn’t spent so much time in the past openly contemptuous of it.

    His counterpoint, however, is absolutely crucial to the film, if only because he’s willing to express the frustrations that probably everybody in syndicated cartooning (or maybe those not named Davis or McDonnell) must be feeling. Pastis is not the enemy of progress, but he’s no friend of the particular path it’s taking.

Oh, yeah, some webcomics types said smart things too, and Chris Hastings gave as concise an explanation of How Webcomics Work as ever could have been.

Also Cathy Guisewite. And Scott McCloud5. And Lynn Johnston. And Jenny Robb. And RC Harvey. And Kazu Kibuishi. And Shaenon Garrity. And David Malki !. And more that I’m certainly forgetting now.

STRIPPED is sprawling, comprehensive, hilarious, heartfelt, honest, and wonderful. It went by in an eyeblink, with no wasted moments or times that don’t serve the narrative. It’s as good a history of comics — where they came from, where they are, where they’re going — as ever there has been, and it’s only the merest fraction6 of the material that was collected during production. It feels like the work of a lifetime, and I mean it as the highest compliment that it’s astonishing to think that it only took four years to produce.

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s probably somebody in your circle of friends that has, given that you’re on this page to begin with. Ask around; I think you’re going to find that everybody’s that seen the movie is of one mind. Something uniquely American that’s touched three or four generations is changing, but will never go away; you should know its history, and barring a time machine that lets you experience the last century of comics first-hand, STRIPPED is the best way to do so.

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¹ More specifically, only available at the 2013 Thought Bubble Festival, now obtainable through the internet boutiquery services of TopatoCo.

² For example, Evans has produced Luann digitally for more than a decade.

³ Disclaimer: he’s also approximately a neighbor; we very occasionally run into each other on the street or in a restaurant and do that 20 second Hey! How are you? thing. It happened at the Reuben Weekend, which caused us both a moment of cognitive dissonance, as we were 3500km away from our usual random meeting stomping grounds. Finally, we chose the vet that took care of our greyhound for most of her life (and our new greyhound, who just had his first visit) based on his recommendation.

4 Which, if you think about it, is a very webcomics thing to do — find a niche that isn’t served and become their favorite. Only Davis did it in nineteen-freaking-seventy-eight, before a lot of webcomickers were born. Hell, if you go to his website, he’s got the entire 35+ year archive freely available — you can’t get more webcomics than that.

5 The full interview with McCloud — a couple of hours worth! — was released to KS backers last year. I really hope you get to see it someday because dang is that guy smart.

6 At just about ninety minutes, carved out of more than 300 hours of interviews, it would be possible to produce another 199 movies of equivalent length from material already on hand. Although I’m pretty sure that the 10 or 15 minutes that they spent talking to me needn’t be seen by anybody.

Review And A Half

Well! Some interesting things have happened since we spoke yesterday, and as might be expected I have some opinions on them.

  • Firstly, I have finished my read-through of of Box Brown’s André the Giant: The Life and Legend (a review copy of which was kindly provided by :01 Books), and all I can say is Wow. As I believe I mentioned when I received the book, I don’t have any great personal history with professional wrestling and was grateful for the frontmatter and backmatter in the book that explained the concepts of over, shoot, kayfabe, and other esoterica that the WW{F|E} congoscenti take for granted.

    I knew Mr The Giant almost entirely from his appearance in The Princess Bride, a relatively small part of a long life in show business that consequently gets relatively few pages here. And yet within those few pages, we get moments of quiet as André finds respite from the chaos and expectations of the ring via friendship with Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal¹, Mandy Patinkin, and Robin Wright. Also Rob Reiner finds that Andrés bar tab was US$40,000.

    That’s a funny bit, but it masks a sad truth — André never stopped growing throughout his life, his joints couldn’t support his enormous size, and he spent much of his life in pain. He drank mightily, to take away that pain, but also because his sheer size made his tolerance to alcohol almost unearthly.²

    Two little stories out of a few dozen vignettes — André loved telling stories, and they grew in the telling as much as he did. He appreciated show business, making sure the fans were entertained, and would go to any lengths to serve the narrative. Brown has gone to similar lengths to tell the story of André the Giant, and he’s done an admirable job.

  • Download codes for Kickstarter backers of STRIPPED (thousands of them), and I got mine last night after dinner.

    I had work today and couldn’t stay up to watch it.

    But there’s plenty of love for it on the Twitters, and some of it is even from people who aren’t in the movie!

    Kidding aside, I am anxiously awaiting the moment I can fire up the movie when I get home. It’s going to be marvelous. Review as soon as possible.

  • Lastly, I’d like to join the chorus welcoming Ada Marie Weinersmith to the world on this, Pi Day. In my opinion, she’s a marvelous baby, and I would welcome her to the world again! Well wishes may be sent to proud mother and father, and if their various online endeavours are late or missing for a few days, I’m sure we can give them some slack.

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¹ Who, it appears, picked up almost immediately on André’s habit of calling everybody Boss, and everybody referring to André by the same nickname.

² When doctors were trying to figure out how much surgical anesthesia to use on a nearly 300kg human, they asked him how much it took to get drunk. A bottle of vodka would make him feel the beginnings of a buzz.

Following Up, Mostly Involving The Number Two

Following up on one or two things today. Maybe three. Four, tops.

  • Two days since launch, 102% of funding met, now the really interesting parts of the Table Titans bookstarter begin. The book gets fancier in another US$4500 or so (as of this writing), and additional goodies appear to be stacked up at US$5000 increments thereafter. Assuming Table Titans lands somewhere in the middle of the Fleen Funding Forecast™¹ range of US$60 – 120K, we could be looking at eight or ten improvements to the final product².
  • Just over two weeks from now, STRIPPED, as we have established at length, will be dropping on iTunes. For those that don’t have geographical access to iTunes (or have objections to the Apple media semiopoly), it will also be available on 2 April for HD download and streaming via VHX.tv, Google Play and other channels. What’s newly added to the mix is the announcement that also on 2 April, DVD retail sales will go live on TopatoCo, the internetty boutique of wonderful things. This gives me an indication that my Kickstarter support (at a level that guaranteed a physical disc) will be paying off with a very special package very soon. Note to self: cancel appointments that day.
  • Book number two from John Allison’s Bad Machinery released yesterday, and while I have yet to pick up a copy, it’s apparently full of reworked art and story:

    Of all the Bad Machinery stories, this was the one that needed the most radical surgery to be ready for publication. About a quarter of the pages are brand new.

    Of particular note is the fact that even for me — I love the inside look at the process of making comics, and then making those comics into books — the skinny on how much of The Case of the Good Boy required tweaking is actually the least interesting part of that bloggening from Allison. He goes into a fascinating discussion about how Bad Machinery has changed, and how it will continue to change:

    Writing a school comic, term by term, means that the characters grow up fast. I never anticipated that the tone of the series would change so quickly. 11-year olds aren’t like 14 year-olds. They’re shorter, for one, and I’m sure a scientist could point to other differences using their expertise in the area. It’s a series where, if I’m true to myself, the later stories might not be appropriate for younger readers of the first story.

    And some good stuff on how to balance the needs of punchline every day with one complete story over six months:

    When I started writing The Case Of The Forked Road, I could see that the plot was complicated. I wanted room to keep on top of that plot as well as writing good dialogue, so I doubled the size of the strips.

    And do you know what? It worked. After a few months, people found they were able to recall every character and detail perfectly, no matter how much time had passed. No one was confused. And drawing twice as much each day actually proved to be easier than drawing less! Who knew!

    Now, what I am doing here is saying the opposite of what is true for comic effect. It was a difficult time. I find that a good indicator of chronic overwork is my sudden decision to take on even more work, which is probably why I reactivated my old strip, Bobbins, two thirds of the way through the case.

    Yeah, okay, I guess that’s pretty much how-comics-get-made stuff, too. Good stuff, you should read it.

  • There are two Glorkian Warrior projects coming in the next two weeks from James Kochalka. For those of you that like books, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza (the kind folks at :01 Books were kind enough to send me a review copy) hits on the 25th; it’s a loopy, funny story, sure to please those young enough that they have to have it read to them, and those that do the reading. And tomorrow, the long-awaited Glorkian Warrior videogame (now titled Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork) releases tomorrow:

    My game, Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork comes out on March 14 on the iTunes app store for iphone, ipad, or ipod touch.

    Who’s going to stay up to midnight tonight to download it?

    I am! I’m buying it tonight even though it’s my own game and I can get it for free.?

    I don’t have any of those devices, but if the game is anything like the book (and I’ll wager it is), it’s going to be loopy, funny, and engaging for young and old. Even if it weren’t (which it will be), it’s ot like you’ll get anything better for less than three bucks, so pick it up and enjoy the crap out of it.

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¹ Patent pending, original formula, do not steal.

² If one of those improvements is Beholder dice bags for everybody!, Kurtz & Co will have to beat the hordes away with a stick.

Books! With Comics! And Math Shows Up Too!

  • As mentioned in the recent past, Angela Melick is launching her latest Wasted Talent collection, and we now have a target pre-order go-live date: Friday, 14 March, at 11:00am PDT. Jam’s the best, note to myself to get in on that.
  • Speaking of future books, Randall Munroe announced today that his What If? sideproject will be releasing a book, to be released on 2 September via Houghton-Mifflin, available in fine bookstores everywhere. The book will feature expanded versions of Munroe’s favorite questions from the past almost-two years (I’m betting that both the Ryan North-related questions make the cut), along with questions submitted that needed more time or space than the website afforded.
  • The Table Titans Kickstarter, mentioned yesterday, has been up for about 27 hours as of this writing, making it the perfect time to apply the Fleen Funding Formula¹: the current Kicktraq prediction (at the 24-36 hour mark) is for US$363,500, about 1200% of goal. We divide this number by both 3 and 6, giving a range of 200-400% of goal, or US$60 – 120,000. We’ll see how well the formula works in another 28 days.
  • Patreon has been a big splash in webcomics circles this calendar year. Today I learned a few things about it. One, the cofounder of Patreon is the guy from Pomplamousse. Two, it scares the bejabbers out of some creators, primarily because of fears of being indebted to backers. Three, it’s funding a new podcast series on creativity, from Brad Guigar, Scott Kurtz, and Cory Casoni². It’s that last one I want to focus on.

    If there was an announcement on the podcast (dubbed Surviving Creativity) before today, I confess I missed it. The first hint I had of it was last week when I had the good fortune to have dinner with power couple Dylan Meconis and Katie Lane³ and Dylan mentioned that she’d been recording a podcast episode with Guigar & Kurtz; I figured it was an episode of Guigar’s revived Webcomics Weekly, but nope! New venture.

    And the first creator to appear will be the aforementioned GFP, Jack Conte. This looks like one to keep your eye on, if only to get your recommended daily allowance of Guigar Giggles™ (that would be 14 seconds daily, or 150 seconds once per week).

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¹ Alternately, Fleen Funding Factor, Fleen Fudge Factor, or any other F-heavy alliterative phrase.

² Kurtz’s business guy, and deeply involved in the now-winding-down ShiftyLook.

³ Who just announced that she’s leaving the corporate job to provide services to freelancers and comickers all the time. Hire her if you care about your financial stability.

Names You May Recognize

All LA-casual rumpled clothing and smiling faces. I’d buy life insurance from them if they were selling door-to-door. They being the notorious film/comic hivemind Freddave Kellett-Schroeder; they’re on the move, in these final weeks of moving STRIPPED towards a 1 April iTunes launch, and now towards a fancy-pants Hollywood premiere event:

Tickets now avail for the @strippedfilm premiere! We’re giving away 10 Watterson posters that night! http://strippedfilm.bpt.me

The skinny: Wednesday, 26 March, at the Cinearama Dome Theatre on the fabled Sunset Boulevard, from 7:00pm until they throw you out, for the low, low price US$20 (plus service fees). Be sure to dress up, there will be celebrities there, along with Messers Kellett-Schroeder. Wish I could be there, tell the paparazzi I said hi.

  • Rebecca Clements has been absent from comics for a bit, something about getting a “graduate degree” in “something important that matters to the world”¹, but she’s got a new Kinokofry today, featuring everybody’s favorite blue globby dude … IN SPACE. Go, Space Engineers!
  • Kristen Siebecker’s ongoing class series on How To Not Suck At Wine (not the official title) rolls on, with the next session devoted to the most elegant (and sneakily alcoholic) of boozes: champagne and other sparkling wines. Fun starts for those 21 & up at West Elm in Chelsea, on 20 March from 6:30pm. Ten percent off the cost of class if you use the super-secret discount code EMAIL10.
  • Scott Kurtz has done a lot of comics, but it seems like the one with the most heart in it (if we don’t count Wedlock, but that’s lost to the ages) is Table Titans. The first year’s story arc concluded recently, which means that it’s time for the print collection, and since preorders are passé, the requisite Kickstarter launched today.

    It’s over 20% of goal in the first few hours, and by this time tomorrow we’ll be able to come up with a predicted total for the 30-day campaign by applying the Fleen Funding Factor to Kicktraq’s prediction. But honestly, we can absolutely say this one is going to hit goal, so the only question is if there are any stretch goals not yet announced that will make the book more fancy. I’m betting that there are.

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¹ Urban Planning, to be specific.

That Was Unexpected

I knew that the North/Hastings/Clark Galaga strip was due to run 100 installments, and that it was about to wrap up, since we saw strip #99 last week. I also knew that the North/Hastings/Clark [disturbing, existential horror-filed] Dig Dug strip was only due to run less than two dozen strips, and that we were well past the halfway point. Jim Zub, Erik Ko & Omar Dogan’s Wonder Momo seemed to have finished one story arc and just started a second season of sorts; Shannon Campbell & Sam Logan’s Tower of Babel had just gotten started, and I didn’t have any idea how long it would run.

So while the wrap-up of Galaga today (with a long-game joke from North) and the imminent wrap-up of Dig Dug are no surprise, it appears very soon all those links will be dead, as ShiftyLook itself is wrapping up entirely in the immediate future:

Wonder Momo, Bravoman, and some other very cool characters, [are] now beloved not just in gamer circles, but at conventions, art groups, and many, many places we’d never expect. That said, now that we have successfully revived so many franchises, the heavy lifting is completed –- and so is our work. We battled the video games abyss and won, which means it’s time for us to move on and let the hit-makers play with some new toys.
For some housekeeping, here is what is happening to what at ShiftyLook (all dates JST):

CLOSING:
BRAVOMAN: Binja Bash! on the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore: In-app purchases available until March 16, 2014; download available through March 30, 2014

Namco High on ShiftyLook.com: Purchase available via Crunchyroll through March 28, 2014; servers shut down (no longer able to play) on June 30, 2014

ShiftyLook comics: Bravoman ends at #300; Wonder Momo ends at #200; Katamari ends at #150; Galaga ends at #100; Valkyrie ends at #100; Klonoa ends at #65; Tower of Babel ends at #26; Dig Dug Vol. 2 ends at #18

ShiftyLook website: No more updates after March 20, 2014; servers shut down on September 30, 2014; forums close on March 20, 2014 [boldface added]

To my eye, the Namco High announcement is the most important; the game was maybe the highest-profile project of ShiftyLook, involving a lengthy roster of web- and indy-comics creators, and which has been live only since the middle of December, if my memory serves. A server-based game that’s only live for a bit more than six months isn’t a really long lifespan, not that a minimum acceptable lifespan for such purchases¹ has ever really been established.

The creator most associated with ShiftyLook, the aforementioned Mr Zub, had some thoughts on the situation:

The original purpose of ShiftyLook, a streamlined way to reintroduce older Bandai-Namco’s IPs and put them in front of as big an audience as possible for a fraction of the cost of developing a new video game or anime, was forward thinking and had a lot of potential. If it stayed focused on that and built organically from there I think it could have fully carried through on that mandate. Once it became a corporate hot potato with bigger budgets and unrealistic expectations, it couldn’t sustain itself on a free-to-read webcomic model.

Which, to be honest, answers some of the lingering questions that I never quite managed to form into a tangible query. Chris Hastings observed back in October:

I’m also working on Galaga with Ryan … it’s a very corporate webcomic. They don’t make ANY money on it, they don’t even TRY. They just pay us.

It turns out that they thought they were going to make money, and didn’t really have a plan to make that work; when a corporation expects to make money and doesn’t, they get rid of the thing that doesn’t make money.

I’m sorry that the servers will be shutting down in some six months time; perhaps some enterprising soul will archive the entire thing so that the work done will not be lost forever. But I’m not sorry that the experiment happened, particularly since it meant work for so many of my favorite creators. According to Zub², ShiftyLook gave their creators a lot of latitude, treated them well, and had fair pay rates. If you do work for hire, that’s probably about the ideal circumstances you can find yourself in.

So good on you, ShiftyLook. Good luck, Cory Casoni and Rob Pereyda and everybody else who put in the time and effort. Thanks for the freeplay arcades, the party invites, the good booze, the good comics, and good times. It was a weird, optimistic endeavour, and webcomics was better for the attempt.

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¹ Looks like it cost on the order of US$15-20, with a significant price cut going into effect today.

² Which around these parts is the same as According to holy writ.