The webcomics blog about webcomics

Almost The Last Time I’ll Mention It

I’ve been on quite a tear about Jim Zub lately, because he’s an example of what this page concerns itself with — a creator that is focused on good work, and owning as much of it as possible. He’s also incredibly generous with the hard-won knowledge that he’s accumulated from a decade or more of struggling upwards to the point where he can seem like an overnight success. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a damn fine writer (and underutilized artist), and so when he’s got a project coming out, I am more than happy to pimp the crap out of it.

I’ve mentioned his upcoming creator-owned series, Wayward, and how it’s very, very good, and how it will arrive in about a month’s time. The last part is most important because — due to a detail in how comics are distributed — a key milestone will occur on Monday. Pretty much every comic is distributed through one company, Diamond¹, and they have something called final order cutoff whereby retails can adjust their orders 20 days before shipping; for Wayward, FOC is on Monday.

What this means is, if you are interested in Zub’s work, if you want to give Wayward a shot, you should tell your local comic shop this weekend, so they can adjust their order by Monday’s deadline. Publishers that subscribe to FOC will adjust their print runs based on these numbers, meaning an under-anticipated title may be difficult to find, and may even not make sufficient sales to be continued despite demand.

Off the top of my head, Lumberjanes, Midas Flesh, and Figment — all from the past year, and all with webcomicker-heavy creative teams– were under-ordered and people had difficulty finding them when they launched; fortunately, they seem to have rallied and went back to press as necessary². For Wayward, first issue sales (and the drop — or hopefully rise — between first and second issue sales) will be critical in determining if it continues or maybe just gets one story arc before wrapping up.

So it’s be-counted time; if you like creators being able to make their own stuff — and ten minutes discussion with any creator will reveal that it’s the stories and characters they create for (and own!) themselves that they value over any work-for-hire gigs, no matter how high-profile and prestigious — you can help perpetuate that by not just resolving to buy a comic, but by letting a retailer know that you want to buy a comic.

That one action will help to keep Zub’s creator-owned work viable, which in turn will make creator-owned work from other creators look like a good risk to the publishers, retailers, and market in general. It’s a small thing, but it’s got a multiplicative effect.

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¹ The wisdom of having an entire industry of independent shops dependent on just one company is a topic best left for another time but damn, there needs to be competition in this business again. Case in point: there’s an alternate distributor out there that pretty much handles self-published books only, which means my local shop is now offering a number of books by Brad Guigar, and is starting to pick up the Evil, Inc collections. However, it’s a small minority of shops that work with these alternate channels.

² As it turns out, they are all also limited series, so it wasn’t as likely they would be canceled due to low initial sales; however, an underprinted issue is the same as leaving money on the table, for both publisher and creative team.

Spam of the day:

Roadtrips And Fundings And Fantasy Castings, Oh My

You always wonder if the aftermath of a big show is going to be a dead time, news-wise, but somehow webcomicdom always comes up with fresh stuff. It’s amazing, really. Oh, and the mention I made ‘tother day about Colleen AF Venable leaving :01 Books for an art director gig elsewhere? There’s a job posting up if you’re in New York and are a design pro.

  • No word yet if Bill Barnes has had to turn around from the front seat and tell his kids If you don’t settle down I swear I’m turning this thirteen month long roadtrip around, but given there’s still twelve months and twenty-nine days to go, I’d bet that the odds of it happening at least once are pretty good. You can keep track of his dispatches from the road (either to try to catch up to him or to get out of Dodge before he arrives), and if you want to book him to speak at your venue (he travels to libraries around the world), that can be arranged, too.
  • Wonderella’s temporary hiatus to prep for a volume three Kickstarter continues, but the latest (and possibly last) preview of KS-related swag is up now in advance of the campaign launch on Friday. In case the cover, this print, and this print aren’t enough, how about the chance for a piece of personalized art? Specifically, Wonderella chronicler Justin Pierce will draw you as a mermaid or centaur and that may be the best thing ever.
  • Well, maybe the second best thing ever. KB “Otter” Spangler of A Girl And Her Fed and the Rachel Peng novel series was setting up a Patreon when it went live-ish about two hours ago, placeholders and all. One quick cleanup later, the campaign is actually live and it features one of the best rewards I’ve ever seen:

    Dick jokes. Not necessarily unclean dick jokes, delivered to your email box every weekday, for US$5/month:

    This joke might be NSFW. Or it might be a regular old knock-knock joke as told by a hang-gliding penis. Or it could feature my new stick figure characters, Richard Dickerson the Third and Martha Von Vagerton (of the Connecticut Von Vagertons).

    There’s a decent chance that Dick and Martha’s relationship will deteriorate into daily knife fights.

    So just like The Lockhorns, then.

    To ease you into the type of thing you can expect from the Daily Dick Joke package¹ please enjoy these two samples that Spangler has made public: Dick and Martha (their mutual psychosexual loathing is already apaprent), and a rather cheerful penis making a dad joke. It appears that as of this writing, every one of Spangler’s Patreon backers is opting for dick jokes or better (we’ve all got an inner 13 year old), so I’m hoping that Spangler eventually collects these for print; at an estimated 250 jokes per year, this could make an interesting annual project.

  • The AV Club is featuring a lot of comics content this week, and one of their primary articles today concerns who they would cast in movie versions of various comic strips; along with the usual syndicated strips your parents have heard of, they dropped in two of the best webcomics running today. For Meredith Gran’s Ocotpus Pie they suggest Brenda Song and Greta Gerwig for Eve and Hannah², respectively. For Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona, they offer up Felicia Day, Robert Downey, Jr, and Michael Fassbender as Nimona, Lord Ballister Blackheart, and Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin.

    Those three are the only characters of note in Nimona, but Octopie has a large and varied cast (nearly all of whom have had POV chapters devoted to them), so the question is open: who would play Marek, Will, and Marigold? What about Puget Sean, Jane, Olly, and Eve’s mom? Clearly Eff-Nocka should be played by his real-life inspiration, and I’m pretty sure Rudy Guiliani isn’t doing anything too important to make a cameo, so that just leaves two critical casting decisions4. Any ideas? Drop ‘em in the comments.

Spam of the day:

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¹ So to speak.

² Who is incorrectly identified as selling pot; as we all know, Hanna bakes pastries while 100% high for for years³, supplying high-end shops throughout New York City.

³ Fun math fact: the 61,320 hours that Hanna cited in that strip corresponds to exactly seven years, but that strip ran in December of 2011, meaning she’s likely up to 84,528 hours as of today.

4 Victor and America Jones .

I wish I could get that sparkly effect to work in-line with the rest of the text, but oh well.

Post Con Post

Got a lot of stuff at SDCC this year, all of it readable (I’m usually good for at least one toy, but not this year); I spread it out for the customary photo, which my dog decided to crash. For the record, he was here in New Jersey the entire week. In case any of you want to know what’s good, let’s do a survey:

  • On the left hand side, the Stan Sakai tribute book and the hardcover collection of 47 Ronin (on which Sakai supplied the art); the former is new, the latter’s been out since March, but I hadn’t been able to find a copy anywhere so yay. Sakai is one of the great treasures of comics, and if you haven’t been reading his work all along, you could do far worse than to read the standalone story of the loyal retainers of the Asano Clan.
  • Top center you’ve got the two cheats: In Real Life and To Be Or Not To Be. My copy of TBONTB is nearly a year old, but the key word is nearly; my copy came in the mail just after SDCC ’13, and thus I missed the opportunity to get contributors to sign it. I brought it this year, and now have 19 of the 69 contributors; this one may take a few more cons. A copy of In Real Life by Jen Wang and Cory Doctorow was offered to me at the :01 Books booth, but I suspected I’d have a copy waiting for me when I got home and so it was.
  • Continuing clockwise, we get the latest Bravest Warriors and the last issue of Midas Flesh, both of which are excellent (Midas #8 is the Ryan Northiest story that there ever could be), and for both of which I offer my profound thanks to the folks at BOOM!, in that they actually sell their comics at their booth.
  • I see now that I could have composed the placement of items a little better to keep similar things together, but oh well. We have the previously-mentioned Penultimate Quest by Lars Brown and Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Africa Edition, edited by Kel McDonald, both of which I devoured on the plane. Penultimate dares to ask the question Why are we invading this same dungeon day after day and why doesn’t time pass? from the perspective of a character in that situation. It’s a ballsy thing to decide that Valhalla gets kind of old when it might be your eternal reward; it’s ballsier for Brown to end the book on a cliffhanger, with resolution to come in volume 2.

    Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of damn good stories in Cautionary, ranging in their treatment and degree of fidelity to source material. Also unsurprisingly, the standout was Carla Speed McNeil’s story of why Frog and Snake don’t play together; no other story captured the sense of timelessness, the speech rhythms of griot, and drop-dead gorgeous art that precisely matched the needs of the tale to quite the same degree. Then again, if you’re producing a story that isn’t quite as assured as one by McNeil, you’re doing pretty damn well.

  • In between Brown and McDonald’s gifts is the first issue of Terry Moore’s SIP Kids, bringing characters from his justly-acclaimed Strangers In Paradise together as Peanuts-age children. It’s hilarious and you should get it even if you never read Strangers; you’ll get more out of it if you’re familiar with Moore’s work, but it stands marvelously on its own.
  • In the center, you’ve got Jim Zub’s most recent Skullkickers issue (I had trouble finding it previously) and Jeff Smith’s first print issue of his webcomic Tüki Save the Humans. Typing their names in such close proximity makes me want to see those two dudes collaborate on something someday. Oh man, that would be awesome.

Oh, and my hotel clerk gave me these, which was very generous given that I hear there’s a trade in them on eBay.

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In Which I Acknowledge Change

I know that I said I would always list Vera Brosgol’s Return to Sender in the blogroll, and today’s the day when I have to walk that statement back. Because I accidentally clicked on it just now, and it’s possible that the site is no longer Ms Brosgol’s. There’s some essays on writing, but I can’t tell if they’re written by her. The About page features the text that RTS had, but it’s all in a WordPress text-only presentation now.

Look, I’m under no illusion that the story of Often and the magic mailslot was ever coming back, but I’m also not directing people to an unknown destination. If I can confirm that the site is still Brosgol’s, I’ll list it as her writing advice. Until then, it’s gone.

Cleaning Up, Tearing Down

Sunday is always an odd day at San Diego Comic Con; the Eisner and Masquerade winners are known (and there’s been time for all the arguments about how they rock and/or suck to have been identified), vendors have started to quantify sales numbers and get an idea how things compared to last year (consensus: cautious optimism), and everybody on the floor is simultaneously looking forward to and dreading packing up and packing out. It’s when you start to blend together what do I need to do today with what do I need to do differently next year and even the casual conversations get wacky. It’s a day when you’re still 18 hours away from dropping your bag and worrying about the new laptop inside when you should have been worried about the glass bottle of orange juice in the outside bottle pocket, or maybe that’s just me¹. Here, then are things that happened on Sunday, none of which happened to me more than 50 meters away from the big WEBCOMICS banner hanging over the center of the Sexy Lagoon.

  • Mark Siegel of :01 Books has some unique challenges in this life — he’s got one hell of a reputation to uphold at his tiny little imprint with a staff of four (three, once Colleen AF Venable leaves for her new art director gig, although she’ll still be a :01 author), he has the challenge of collaborating with Scott McCloud on Mcloud’s next book (although it’s based on a presentation/workshop that McCloud’s been refining for years, so a lot of the heavy lifting is done), and they kept running out of fives at the booth.

    None of these things bother him; the books will continue to be of amazingly high quality, because that is the mission that his staff are committed to, and he’ll fight the necessary fights with his bosses to get the budget to make them; he edited McCloud’s upcoming The Sculptor with an exacting eye at McCloud’s insistence, so the working relationship there is solid; and heck, I could always break some twenties for them out of the Dumbrella register. Add it all up and you’ve got no reason to be in a state of botheration, although perhaps next show they’ll get another pack of fivers. The fact that :01′s fall slate of books looks absolutely breathtaking doesn’t hurt, and if Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints didn’t take the Eisner in their category, it’s only because they lost to fellow :01 offering Battling Boy by Paul Pope². Challenges ahead, but nothing they can’t deal with.

  • The odd hybrid creature known at Freddave Kellett-Schroeder wound up winning the in the documentary category of the SDCC International Film Festival. The statue for that may be less well known than the famed rotating Eisner globe, but it’s springy, and apparently delicious as well. Let’s see if maybe they can’t snag a nomination for Best Related Work next year and put the globe next to the spring.
  • Ian Jones-Quartey, supervising director of Steven Universe was kind enough to drop by the Dumbrella booth and let me in on all the info from the panel that I missed; they’ve been picked up for another 52 episodes, which will bring them to a total of 104, so right now [they] just have to keep making them. It’s been a while since I saw an animated series launch as strong as Steven right out of the gate, and it’s just gotten better over the length of its first season (I’m invested in this show to the extend that I have theories and headcanon, which are not things a man pushing 50 should have). I also asked Jones-Quartey when RPG World is coming back, thus pushing it back another month, and now I owe myself a dollar. Awesome.
  • Danielle Corsetto is back on the road, about 60% of the way through her summer signing trip, and having the time of her life. She’s sold more books than ever she expected (an emergency resupply shipment had to be sent to Omaha), and she assures me that she has plans — big plans — for her career and her comics in the coming year. Details on those when she’s ready to share, but in the meantime, today marks the start of the latest GWS guest week, this one by Randy Milholland of Something*Positive.
  • Lars Brown was kind enough to drop by the booth with a copy of Penultimate Quest, the product of his recent Kickstarter. He was even kinder to sign it for me. I’m not sure where I’m going to draw you, Gary! fell on my internal kindness scale until I saw what he produced — Laser Moustache. Mr Brown, you are rad.

The best cosplay of the day was a tie between the very subtle and understated Sen (or was that Chihiro?) from Spirited Away and the very detailed and over the top Steampunk Buddy Christ. With Sen, it was the small details, like a fat mouse and a small fly on her shoulder; with Buddy, it was the rotating clockwork heart on his chest, with handmade escapement gears and multiple complications. Good job, cosplayers!

Spam of the day:

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¹ Everything was okay, if variously damp and sticky and I’m writing this on the laptop in question so it still works, yay.

² A book which is simultaneously Pope at his Paul Popiest and his Jack Kirbiest. It’s a joy to read.

Time To Go To The Airport

I’ll post if I can catch signal during my layover; otherwise, see you tomorrow with the remainder of SDCC coverage.

Werid Times On The Exhibit Floor

Welp, Saturday was Saturday, meaning it was the busiest day, but it was an odd kind of busy; the lulls were shorter and the rushes were longer (that’s normal), but the buying pace was definitely off from Thursday and Friday. I didn’t register seeing so many Saturday badges, so maybe it’s a case of four day attendees saving their money for Sunday?

In any event, I won’t try to draw any conclusions beyond the fact that two separate people came up to the Dumbrella booth cash register, waved a sticker in my general direction and threw a dollar bill at me before walking off without the minimum level of human interaction. For the crime of acting like Rich Uncle Pennybags (who I saw on the floor) tossing a hundo at somebody desperate to buy food, you people are banned from ever buying anything again. Have fun obtaining food and shelter.

  • My intentions to see the Steven Universe panel¹ were thwarted by the Hilton Bayfront Indigo Ballroom line management policy. I walked down around the far south end of the convention center (past the famed Hall H line, which was moving as people were let into the giant room) and followed the signs for Indigo. There was a very convenient grab-and-go food stall set up across the aisle, a few people lined up near the entrances, and a staffer who immediately intercepted me to instruct I go downstairs and out the building. If you’re going to stage a line outside, why direct people inside with the signage?

    Then I saw the line, which went that way for several hundred people, then back this way then kept going until this way became that way again; I’m going to guess there were maybe two thousand people in line, not moving, 20 minutes before the panel was due to start. As I decided that wasn’t happening and made my way back towards the convention center via the bay, I passed the end of line volunteer, who was being told by a protesting man But the panel doesn’t start until 1:00! So whatever tricks they’ve learned to keep people moving and crowds properly staged for Hall H apparently haven’t been applied to Indigo, and in future iterations will have to be.

  • So I went to talk to Matt Inman and his Eisner win the prior night. You may recall that Inman had two nominations, for Best Digital Comic and for Best Short Story, one of which was a good nomination and one of which was less so. The short story nomination was good — digital-only work was going head-to-head against printed work as if they were both comics because hey, they’re both comics. The digital nomination was the less good, because the Eisner committee is again applying its own criteria inconsistently. They’ve set up the category to indicate that only long-form works are allowed, but then they have repeatedly nominated works that don’t meet even the most generous interpretations of that criterion².

    Inman and I shared puzzlement that he if he was going to win, he won for Best Digital Comic (because The Oatmeal doesn’t feature long-form works, or characters, or plot; these days it’s mostly a variant on autobiography) and not for Best Short Story (unless voters took his short story — about having his house burn down when he was a kid — as representative of his general work, which is hilarious because by its nature a short story isn’t a long work, and thus wouldn’t qualify for the digital category).

    It’s kind of a mess, it’s going to continue to be kind of a mess until webcomics effectively cease to be considered a different type of comics (a change that can’t come too soon) and it’s frustrating, but Inman was genuinely happy and honored to have a little statue with a spinny globe on it, so that’s all right. Also, work continues apace for this September’s Blerch Runs, which project seems to be making him really happy. Speaking of which, I also ran into Pat Race, whose SDCC Saturday 5K fun run efforts netted five participants, or a 25% growth on last year. Well done, Pat! Keep on racing, Race!

  • About the same time I was also lucky enough to spend five minutes chatting with Raina Telgemeier, who is just about a month away from having three books simultaneously on the New York Times graphic novel bestseller list, as Sisters will likely take the top spot, Drama will return as interest in all things Raina peaks again, and Smile hasn’t left the list for more than two years. Everybody that’s ever said Comics is in trouble, comics needs new readers, comics is stagnating needs to shut the hell up. Week after week, new readers (who could become lifelong readers of comics if you would give them something to read) pick up a book by Kazu Kibuishi, or Gene Yang, or Mike Maihack, or Andy Runton, or Dave Roman, or Faith Erin Hicks, or Hope Larson, or Yuko and/or Ananth, or a dozen other names but especially Raina Telgemeier.

    These books are words and pictures; they’re comics and they make reluctant readers into enthusiastic readers and just like that one off panel voice at the beginning of Understanding Comics who protests But you didn’t say anything about Batman³, if you deny that this is where Comics needs to expand its horizons to meet the readers, you need to be frog-marched out of the discussion until you accept the terms of the discussion.

  • And then in the afternoon I met Bobak Ferdowsi, and thanked him for his work. He was gracious, and modest, and gave all credit for success to the thousands of people working in concert, but you will never convince me that there isn’t something special about the person in the Flight Director’s chair, the one who has to look at those controllers, with their back rooms of experts, distill down a lot of information and be the one voice to convey the decision: Go or No Go.

    He may be a little puzzled that he wound up as the public face of Mission Control, but he is, and like every controller and director in a line back to Bales, and Aaron, and Craft, and Kranz (look ‘em up, their names should be taught to every schoolchild), and thousands of others, he is a goddamn hero and embodies what can be accomplished by people that work hard, work smart, and work together. The timing didn’t work to see if I could have earned my spot in the Flight Operations Center, but I will never be bitter about that as long as the likes of Ferdowsi and his colleagues did make it there.

  • We drifted away from comics for a bit there, didn’t we? I did make it to one panel yesterday, as the comics journalists (Heidi Mac, Jill Patozzi, Joshua Yehl, Matt Meylikhov, Rich Johnston, and The Spurge, who I was pleased to finally meet in person) held forth on the news cycle, useless stories, unexpected things that blow up huge, having publishers or editors to run interference for you, and what’s changing about how comics get covered.

    Macdonald, Johnston, and Spurgeon fell into a familiar interaction (having done this panel with each other multiple times), as the various exemplars of old school approaches (Spurgeon especially doesn’t believe in chasing hits or writing for popularity), and Pantozzi, Yehl, and Meylikhov (all of whom are recently into senior or supervisory roles in their outlets) bringing fresh eyes to the discussion. Also, Spurgeon was curmudgeonly in a charming fashion, declaring his biggest desires for his journalistic endeavours were to do better and have a sandwich.

    Unfortunately, time ran out just as Macdonald and Johnston were about to get into it over Johnston’s assertion that he’s not a journalist, so be sure to catch the next time that panel comes around. As the group was clearing out, the next panel was coming in, meaning I got to congratulate Brigid Alverson for her contributions to CBR, which took the Eisner for comics news this weekend; it’s well deserved.

I didn’t personally catch sight of a lot of good cosplay, but here’s link to a Link.

Panels to watch for today:

  • Panels and Pictures at noon, 32AB; graphic novels for kids, with Sonny Liew, Emily Carroll, Mike Maihack, Kazu Kibuishi, and Raina Telgemeier
  • :01 Books at 3:30, 26AB; Faith Erin Hicks, Gene Luen Yang, Lucy Knisley, and Paul Pope

Spam of the day:

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I dunno, maybe because I wrote it six days ago?

¹ Okay, and to ask Ian Jones-Quartey when RPG World is coming back; I’m evil.

² Example: Dylan Meconis’s excellent Family Man is an ongoing story with more than 300 pages, and hasn’t been nominated. Dylan Meconis’s Outfoxed is a 22 page one-off and was nominated in 2012. It’s “longform” in the sense that it’s got definite characters and isn’t gag-strip oriented, but that’s it.

And yes, I do talk about Dylan a lot in the context of incorrect decisions by awards voters because her work is awesome and should win everything.

³ McCloud: There’s always one….

The Warmth Was A Key Detail

As I recall it, Friday at San Diego Comic Con was bookended with Jim Zub: I got to see him almost first thing in the morning, and I sent somebody else to find him almost last thing of the day.

In the earlier case, we talked Samurai Jack and how its recurring extension, five issues at a time plays with story structure¹, the fact that he’s busy and booked months in advance², and drooled over some of the early art for Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate. If you follow that link, the right-hand cover image looks great, but Zub showed me the original B&W art on a tablet and it is even better; I hope they release a variant of the series that’s all B&W because damn, even the best coloring over those inks is covering up some beautiful detail. Zub’s over the moon about getting to script this title, and talking with him about it you can see him reverting to Kid!Zub, playing D&D in a basement with his friends, having the time of his life, stretching his imagination, and having no inkling that some day he would be creating canon around these characters; it’s seeing that enthusiasm about all his projects that makes me conclude that nobody enjoys Comics! more than Zub.

Which is why I saw Minsc and Boo come to life from the inks Zub had shown me, I had to make sure they would find each other; I gave the gentleman and gentlehamster directions to Zub’s Artist Alley table, but they reported back he wasn’t there; undeterred, I dug out the time and location of Zub’s first panel today (see below), so hopefully they’ll catch up with each other and get a picture or two.

Most of the rest of the day was a blur, but there was one memorable exchange, and I did catch some good cosplay photos; let’s take them in order.

I’m not sure I would have recognized Chip Zdarsky when he dropped by the Dumbrella booth in the afternoon, but for the fact that he looks exactly like his Twitter avatar. I thanked him profusely for Sex Criminals (noting that I love everything about the book), then realized he was standing next to Matt Fraction and repeated everything I just told Zdarsky. I found out that in the trade collection, they didn’t get clearance to use the lyrics of Fat Bottomed Girls, but they told me that they did come up with new Post-It captions over the lyrics from the original issue which means I have to buy the damn thing again. Alas, the reason that they dropped by the booth was out on a burrito run, which led to this exchange which I wrote down verbatim:

Zdarksy: Please tell Rich [Stevens] we stopped by.
Fraction: And we hate him.
Zdarksy: We only stopped by to throw a cup of warm vomit in his face.

Congrats to both men for their Eisner win last night, especially in light of the fact it means there will be one less ritual slaughter today.


  • This gentleman assures me that he has a HENCH 4 LYFE tattoo, but for me the best part was the angry eyebrows on the mask.
  • I saw many Mothers of Dragons, but this young lady was the one that really caught my eye — not tall and regal, small and likely to be underestimated, a bit grubby, and utterly ready to cut out your heart and snack on it.
  • This pairing of Carl Fredricksen and Kevin got so very much right, from the eyebrows to the pack of dogs and baby Kevins. For the record, the walker had all four tennis balls on it, and that is a grape soda bottlecap pinned to his shirt.
  • The return of Sailor Bacon, may heaven have mercy on our souls. Today, he’ll be getting in the ball pit. The Lar deSouza quote that accompanied the picture was Hey, I paid for these bloomers, and everybody’s gonna see ‘em!
  • Not cosplay, but I thought Maki Naro might want to see: a Sufficiently Remarkable shirt in the wild, all the way from Australia.

Busy day for the panels today:

  • Steven Universe at 10:00 in the Hilton Bayfront; I’m going to that one as a civilian since I enjoy SU too much to pay attention in a detached, reporterly fashion
  • Pitching Comic Stories with Jim Zub at 10:00, 25ABC; watch out for Minsc and Boo
  • Berke Breathed at noon, 9; just 9, no A or anything like that
  • We Are BOOM! at 12:30, 24ABC; I got to take a moment yesterday to thank Shannon Watters for her work on the KaBOOM line, which gives work to so many of my friends
  • Lucy Knisley Spotlight at 2:00, 28DE
  • Usagi Yojimbo 30 year retrospective at 3:00, 28DE; that room should probably be larger
  • Comics Journalism at 6:00, 23ABC; aka Bitter, Haggard Wordbeasts, aka My Tribe

Spam of the day:

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¹ Originally slated for a five issue run, there’s a single five-issue story that’s grand in scope. Extended to ten issues (the last of which we’re about to see in print), it gets smaller stories, leading off with fan-favorite The Scotsman.

Extended again to fifteen issues, Zub was asked for another long story, so there will be another five-parter, the title of which I am sworn to secrecy because it constitutes a massive spoiler, but which will lead off with a scene of Aku engaged in domestic hobbies in a very, very funny fashion.

Extended yet again to twenty issues, we’re back to shorter stories (including one that will be written and drawn by series artist Andy Suriano), but ending on a two-parter. Zub’s never quite sure when (if?) the series will end, so he’s trying to put a satisfying conclusion in every fifth issue in case it has to serve as a series finale.

² We counted six books that he’s presently writing: SamJack, the final arc of Skullkickers, the newly announced Dungeons and Dragons, the Gail Simone pair-up on Conan/Red Sonja, Wayward, and an unnamed (at this time) Marvel title; he’s already wrapped up the writing on Figment, which comes to a definite story end on issue five.

Something Kinda Wonderful

The best Batman cosplayer at San Diego Comic Con has a sight build, glasses, sandy hair, and a Nerdist hoodie; he spent an hour this morning sharing the story of his tragic origin, and how he rebuilt himself, trained himself, became somebody who would use that newfound strength to protect others. He suffered an unimaginably — if you’re lucky, all too imaginably if you’re not — trauma for no reason other than the conscious moral choice of another, and spent decades thinking it tainted him, doomed him to perpetuate the same horror on others, making him into a monster in waiting.

Screw that. Dean Trippe didn’t just have his life saved by Batman, he has become Batman, but not the one most people think of. Trippe is not Vengeance, he is not The Night, he is the Batman that finds others in the depths of tragedy and makes of them a confraternity to prevent harm from befalling others. He wants us all to be part of his Bat Family, and judging from the tension and body language of the attendees in his panel on Something Terrible a distressing number of the attendees have had their own origin stories and are the people that Trippe now sees it as his job to help. I knew I had to do it once I was on the other side of it he says, both about the comic and the role he’s taken on as sounding board for those touched by abuse. You feel like you’re a werewolf with all these misconceptions out there. I dedicated myself to being the best father I could be and breaking the chain [of absenteeism and irresponsibility] that my father and his father had set.

That driving mission in his life is maybe best expressed in a scene left out of the book (sometimes, the beats that a story has to take don’t allow for all the content you’d like): little Dean, rescued on what would have been the worst day of his life asks adult Dean in the TARDIS What do we do now? and Batman says Now we go save everybody else.” Trippe says, the comic really is me trying to do that. I did the book for everybody else, but I also did it to help me. I had this one thing eating up all the space I had for secrets and now that it’s not there, I’m kind of bulletproof.

Trippe’s conversation ranged far and wide, of course — favorite writers (Grant Morrison), the effects of coming into comics in the ’90s (right before the Death of Superman and Batman getting replaced — it was a weird time), the importance of Bill Finger (at the end of the panel, Athena Finger, Bill’s granddaughter and tireless crusader for her grandfather to receive acknowledgment invited Trippe to table with her). I can only include specific vignettes here.

  • On You’ll Be Safe Here, the splash image at the end of Something Terrible: There are 116 characters, who have had redesigned costumes to make them timeless. There’s also an Easter egg, inside the central column of the TARDIS, V from V for Vendetta is there, and The Iron Giant holds Grant Morrison in his hand because he’s basically a fictional character.
  • His son, “Field”, knows about the story, but not the details (he’s been told that Trippe was threatend with a gun). Having gotten past the fears that he would perpetuate a cycle of abuse, Trippe remarked, Have kids, man; you spend your whole life looking for someone to relate to, just make one. The next book from Trippe will be one that he’s been writing with “Field” since the latter was three; [A]bout a character called SuperBeast, from the sun, and he has all the animal powers. We made up about seven members for his superteam, and my old character Butterfly is on it.
  • On comics fans not wanting change: A lot of fans get knocked for wanting things to stay the same, but I think we want things to be good and move forward and get annoyed when they go backward, like Batgirl reverting or Spider-Man’s marriage getting erased.
  • Asked what the reaction to Something Terrible outside of geek circles has been, Trippe responded, What’s outside of geek circles? The president grew up drawing Batman and Superman for his friends. I get messages from dads in their 50s, and they tell me “I just put my invisible gun down.” The opportunity to help people, it’s really touching.
  • Asked what message he would have for the person that abused him: It’s tough, because Arkham Asylum isn’t real. I didn’t know my attacker’s name, I didn’t know all the details. I told my mom I was working on this book, and she’s been very supportive, and some of the biggest response I’ve gotten from people whose parents didn’t believe them. I told mom I was done, wanted to see if I got the details right. My mom gave me his name.

    I Googled him. He did horrible things to six kids when he was a teenager, I wasn’t going to judge him, maybe he got his shit together in prison and fixed what was wrong with him. He didn’t. But I am not vengeance. Batman is not vengeance. He doesn’t do what he does for revenge, he does it to protect other people. There are people who have made mistakes, one thing I admire about Batman is he uses violence (my son and I have a rule about hitting, who’s allowed to hit? Just Batman), but he doesn’t kill. What he does is he takes Joker, Two-Face, he takes them to get help. I still think if you need help, you should get help. I don’t want you die; maybe you want you die, but that’s not me.

  • On hearing stories of what others have experienced and how he processes them: It’s really hard, I had a hard time after hearing a story at Heroes Con. I usually have to go and sit quietly a bit and rebuild my determination, but I want to be somebody people can come to and talk about. The first time I talked about it with my mother after the court case when I was six years old was last year. They hoped my sister had forgotten about it.

    At Heroes I met a girl who came up to me, only 13 years old, so cute, and she asked “Was Something Terrible about you?” And I said it was, and she started bawling and saying it happened to her. I mostly hear from adults and we have time to build ourselves and become somebody who takes care of others — you have a superhero origin story — but meeting somebody who’s in the middle of it, that threw me for a loop.

    These kids that I meet that are going through it now, it’s tough. But I’m glad it’s my job, and it seems crazy that the worst thing that ever happened to me has become something Kinda Wonderful.

And that’s where I came to the realization that when I think of Dean Trippe, when I think of what he’s taken on as his job, the image I get isn’t actually of Batman, although it was written by Grant Morrison. It’s the scene from All-Star Superman with the girl about to jump from the ledge of a building, and Superman tells her It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re stronger than you think. And if you think it is that bad, that you’re not strong enough, Dean Trippe is waiting to tell you different.

Also, and this is purely a personal observation, the Eisner Awards dropped the ball in a larger fashion than I can ever recall in not recognizing Something Terrible. It got 2,000,000 views, which I’m pretty sure swamped the reach of any nominated single issue of the last year.

Forgot To Mention

The Scholastic/Graphix crowd might be the most polite at SDCC. They had their big party last night, which happened to be about ten floors below my hotel room, and the only time I noticed the noise was a big, happy roar after the mostly-inaudible introduction: mumble mumble Raina Telgemeier!

Classy folks, good neighbors, great books.