The webcomics blog about webcomics

Unfortunate Happenstances

Things don’t always work out for the best, but that doesn’t mean that they’re completely unworkable.

  • For instance, Thought Bubble — a weeklong celebration of comics in Leeds, UK, that culminates in a weekend comics convention — lost its traditional November dates and had to relocate. Unfortunately, that puts it in close proximity to SPX, which led more than one creator to tell me that they had to choose between doing one show and the other. Thought Bubble’s made the best of the situation, though, and will run their comics show with an impressive list of guests and exhibitors, from both sides of the Atlantic.

    On the Guests list (which is helpfully divided into Writers, Artists, and All on the website), you have webcomics luminaries such as Jon Allison, Darryl Cunningham, Marc Ellerby, Cameron Stewart, and Spike Trotman. The page is laid out with nice big images and names, and each links to a page about the guest — easy to navigate and intuitive to use!

    On the Exhibitor front, Thought Bubble did something I’ve not seen before that I really liked; the show is spread out across different venues, and thus there are multiple exhibitor pages, one per venue.

    Unfortunately, the layout of the pages requires a good deal of effort to decipher — exhibitors are shown by an image, which may be a character, a scene, or a photo. Names are sometimes present, sometimes not, and they’re seemingly arranged alphabetically by URL of all things. As a result, it’s tough to pick out who’s attending without clicking through to every website, which I’m not gonna do. I can tell you that Tom Siddell will be at the Cookridge Street Marquee, and that by chance the comiXology Marquee has a significant number of avatars with names on them.

  • In a completely different kind of unfortune, A Girl And Her Fed creator KB “Otter” Spangler has a dying tablet, which makes it hard to draw stuff. By good fortune, however, she was putting the finishing touches on a new novel last week¹, so she’s got a new thing to sell and hopefully get back to the art game. Stoneskin is Hogwarts in space (cosmic beings beyond our ken performing the stand-in for magic) meets trade empires, and it’s a hell of a good read.

    It’s completely different from her other books (set in the world of a single near-future technology, and the societal and political upheavals it causes), but it’s unmistakably Spangler’s writing. Even better, it’s a preface to a planned trilogy, which means I (and you, I suppose) get to read another 750 to 1000 pages of her writing, so yay. It’s entirely worth your five bucks, is what I’m saying.

Spam of the day:

Stop taking the wrong blood pressure drugs and try this out

124 +/- 4 systolic, 80 +/- 4 diastolic, bitches. I once had a cardiologist tell me that I will obviously die of something, but it won’t be heart disease.

¹ At least, it was a little less than two weeks back when she asked if I wanted to be an beta reader for it. As has been well-established on the page previously, Spangler is a very close personal friend, I love her work, and I wrote the foreword for her first book. I believe that’s us sufficiently disclaimed.

Kickin’ Books And Also Around The Continent

Okay, there’s gonna be a lot of Kickstarter numbers thrown around, but before we get to that, I don’t want to miss out on talking about Ben Hatke’s Book Tour Extravaganza in support of Mighty Jack And The Goblin King. He’ll be hitting eight cities in nine days starting next Monday (25 September) in Portland and finishing up the Tuesday following (3 October) in Winnipeg.

Along the way he’ll be talking with the likes of Lucy Bellwood, Kazu Kibuishi, and Ryan North, so if you’re going to be in Stumptown, Seattle, Monterose (California), Salt Lake City, Saint Paul (Minnesota), Amherst (Massachusetts), Toronto, or The Slurpee Capital of the World, do check out the cities/dates/accompanying cool people.

  • I was going to be spending some time today talking about how the Girls With Slingshots omnibus Kickstarter was going and how it was likely to do, but it’s probably not practical to do so. Recall the Fleen Funding Formula, Mark II: take the predicted amount of funding for a project from the Kicktraq “Trend” tab at the 24-30 hour mark and divide by four — that’s the base prediction. Then take that amount and divide it further by five — that’s the uncertainty. Thus, a project predicted by the Trend formula to raise US$100K would likely finish in the US$25K +/-5K range.

    But, it’s not good for certain projects — if the number of backers in that first time period isn’t at least 200 or so, it’s not accurate. It’s also not good where there are huge, pent up cascades of money that then drop off because everybody who’s gonna back the project jumped in during the first few hours; the FFFmk2 depends on an organic long tail. In both of these cases, the McDonald Ratio is more accurate: take the total raised in the first three days and that’s about 1/3 of the final total¹.

    The total amount asked for, and the relative pricing of the reward tiers have not, to this point seemed to affect the accuracy of either of these tools. With those caveats out of the way, the McDonald Ratio is premature for the GWS campaign (it’s still less than 48 hours in), but it’ll be above US$347K, because that’s what you’d get by tripling the total as of this writing, and I don’t see many people canceling pledges.

    The FFFmk2 (again, I think this is gonna be skewed) is running US$343K +/- 67K, or somewhere between US$276K and US$410K. There’s just no precedent in the formula for a project that brings in US$116K in less than 48 hours, but it seems a safe bet that the US$50K goal will be met five to eight times over.

  • So then I was going to talk about Howard Tayler²’s campaign (launched yesterday) for the thirteenth Schlock Mercenary collection; the high backer count (over 650 as of this writing) and history of successful projects (the formula tends to work better when backers see the creator has a track record) are both good, but the short funding period (only 24 days) makes the McDonald Ratio a bit suspect. Regardless, I’m going to run the numbers and call it US$84K to US$126K (FFFmk2) and north of US$99K (we haven’t had three days yet); call it three to five times goal.
  • Finally, well under 24 hours ago (so all calculations are going to be low) the newest Johnny Wander collection went up for funding; fresh off their Ignatz win, Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh are printing a collection of Ota’s art from the past five years from those periods when repetitive stress injuries forced her to use the wrong hand. Spoiler: Ota quickly draws better with her non-dominant hand than most everybody draws with their dominant hand.

    This is such a cool idea, made even cooler by the fact that the special edition of the collection will feature a lenticular image of an MRI of Ota’s right wrist, in all of its damaged glory. So, with knowledge that these numbers will only go up, US$25K to US$37K and US$30K are the prediction or comfortably over the very modest US$19K goal (those lenticular effects ain’t cheap, y’all).

By end of the week, all of these estimates will be more accurate, but honestly? The numbers games — which make no mistake, I adore — are less important than the fact that so many great comics are available almost on a whim these days. Take advantage of it as much as you can.

Spam of the day:

porn star $20 and a sandwich and she’d fake an orgasm over Weetabix

There is so much wrong with that sentence I don’t know where to start.

¹ Named for Kel McDonald, who has run a stack of Kickstarts, and found the rule very useful in her campaigns. However, McDonald tends to run longer campaigns than most — six to eight weeks, typically — and that may skew the prediction high on campaigns shorter than the traditional 28 to 31 days.

² Evil twin, etc.

Hey Kids, What Day Is It? FSFCPLday!

Webcomics are, naturellement, a world-wide phenomenon; we at Fleen are pleased to bring you the latest news on the French webcomics scene, courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin.

  • Montpellier¹ might not seem like a big city, but it does house a vibrant comics community, of which at least Paka (corny, untranslatable puns, with some exceptions) and Fabrice Erre (the life of a history and geography teacher in high school) maintain webcomics. These are very much anchored in local life … which also means they are unlikely to ever be translated (corny puns don’t help, either).

    But earlier this year they have been (re-)joined by Yllya (a previous veteran of comic blogs), another Montpellier dweller, who tells us about her Happy Family and in particular their daughter .. Their troll, pizza-hating, job-threatening, just plain evil daughter. Not only are those are available in English for your reading pleasure, but you can see the author improving her English strip after strip, up to a point it will soon be flawless. Highly recommended.

  • Not only do Agat Films et Ex Nihilo produce the animated version of Tu Mourras Moins Bête (of which the second season has just started airing), they also unveiled a few images of their adaptation of Les Culottées on the occasion of the Cartoon Forum in Toulouse, and they seem to be doing a great work of adapting Pénélope Bagieu’s style. They are also there in order to look for foreign broadcasters; no word as yet on that front, but we at Fleen will be sure to keep you posted.

Many thanks to FSFCPL, and come back tomorrow for an analysis of the Girls With Slingshots omnibus Kickstart; we’re a little short of 24 hours (and thus outside the window to calculate the FFFmk2), but considering that (as of this writing) it’s sitting at US$97,824, I’m going to guess that the final total is: large.

Spam of the day:

Your 2017 Transunion, Equifax and Experian Credit-Scores as of Sep 16

Weird. In the aftermath of the Eqiufax breach, there’s plenty of disclaimers on the sites of Transunion, Equifax, and Experian about how they maintain credit histories, but do not themselves calculate credit scores, which are determined by outside algorithms. It’s almost like you don’t actually represent these bureaus and don’t know how they work. I’ll certainly give you all my personally identifying and financial information!

¹ Full disclosure: you correspondent studied there for two years and has a number of relatives living in the area.

Better, Thanks For Asking

Wow, I missed a lot in a week; let’s jump in and see what’s up.

  • SPX Occurred to the usual great acclaim and positive feelings. Fleen congratulates the attendees and exhibitors on a great weekend, and the Ignatz Award winners in particular. Representatives of webcomics in the winners circle include Der-shing Helmer’s The Meek as Outstanding Online Comic, Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh’s Johnny Wander: Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us as Outstanding Collection, Taneka Stotts (editor) and the contributors to Elements: Fire — An Anthology by Creators of Color as Outstanding Anthology, Jess Fink’s Chester 5000 XYV as Outstanding Series, and Bianca Xunise for Promising New Talent.
  • Still at SPX, various attendees at the show have stuff to share, now and in the immediate future. Lucy Bellwood¹ released a detailed public accounting on the Kickstarter campaign for her 100 Demon Dialogues book/plush. Sharing numbers like this makes it more likely that newer creators dipping their toes into the Kickstart waters will succeed not only in funding, but in not bankrupting themselves on the expenses post-fundraising.

    As of today, Bellwood is up about US$3500 on US$50,000 raised, an amount which could be shaved down further by unexpected circumstances. But even if everything finishes exactly as measured today, be sure to pay attention to that US$3.5K number, not the US$50K. It’ll be half a year’s work or more by the time Bellwood’s done, and while 50 grand for half a year’s work is a comfortable living, 3.5 grand is not even subsistence living. Anybody inclined to sneer about the huge amounts of dough Bellwood’s rolling in, do have the courtesy to know what the hell you’re talking about.

  • Speaking of both SPX and Kickstarter, C Spike Trotman and Danielle Corsetto took time from the show to announce they’re partnering up to bring a comprehensive omnibus printing of Girls With Slingshots to Kickstarter. Corsetto’s got the 2000+ strips, Spike’s got the Kickstarter process down to a science, and later today when the campaign goes live we can all get in on what’s sure to be a handsome volume featuring color strips. Those of us that have all ten GWS books, the first five of which are in B&W, will get to decide how much we need everything to match. Damn you, Corsetto! And damn you too, Spike, for enabling her!
  • Missed like a week ago: The 20th anniversary of David Willis’s comics, which started on 10 September 1997 in the Indiana Daily Student, starting a run that would continue through four strips until the end of Shortpacked! in January of 2015. The rebooted version of the Willisverse, Dumbing of Age, launched on 10 September 2010, and continues to this day². If you feel this accomplishment merits some in-person congratulations³, you can see him at Bloomington, Indiana’s Vintage Phoenix Comics this coming Friday, 22 September, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. Give him a Damn you, Willis! for me.
  • Missed last week: The Homestuck videogame came out and people really love it! It was near five years back that almost 25,000 backers raised almost US$2.5 million to make the game, which has surely been through many design changes and mutations in the time since. But with Homestuck creator Andrew Hussie aided by past and present webcomic creators like Ryan North, Christopher Hastings, Tauhid Bondia, and Kris Straub, it’s not really a mystery that people are very happy with the outcome.

    Even better for those put off by the infamously dense and deep Homestuck, consensus is that you needn’t be familiar with the epic to play the game. Hiveswap is available via Steam or the Humble store with blessedly modest system requirements.

  • And finally, Kelly and Zach Weinersmith announced their Soonish book tour; at present, dates in Seattle, Denver, New York, San Jose, Dallas, and Austin have been announced. Check the map and get your tickets now — it’s the first time Weinersmith’s been seen in public outside of BAH!Fest in years, and no guarantee after the book tour he won’t scurry back into his dank cartoonist’s lair, never to emerge into sunlight again.

I think that’s everything caught up. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll have news from across the Atlantic/Atlantique courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin.

Spam of the day:

Bad news is, I must have underestimated the amount of people who wanted to get in … because Ted’s server actually fell over.

This is the most astounding spam of apology, as somebody from “Ted’s Sheds” is making amends for traffic problems by extending for one day only their amazing offer of 16,000 woodworking plans (presumably including plans for the eponymous sheds) for the low, low price of … they don’t actually say. Too bad I don’t need a shed.

¹ Adventure Cartoonist!

² Seven years in, I don’t think we’ve made it as far as midterms in the first semester of freshman year; by the time they graduate, these characters will have changed even more than Willis himself.

³ And heck if there are many webcomickers that have been as consistent as Willis for two damn decades, which include such life upheavals as throwing off a fundamentalist upbringing, a marriage, and the birth of twin sons.

Okay, Work Crisis Moderated

Back to normal posting next week.

No Post Today

Trying to decide whether or not to quit my job.

Countdown To SPX

For those who were intrigued by the early descriptions of SPX panels, I should note that the programming schedule is now posted, with speakers including Jillian Tamaki, Eleanor Davis, Tillie Walden, Gene Yang, Keith Knight, and Shannon Wheeler.

Of those, Tamaki and Walden will have book debuts; it’s not listed on the site as a debut, but the English-language edition of Alex Alice’s Castle In The Stars: The Space Race of 1869¹ is on Tuesday and I say that’s close enough.

And then, of course, there are the many, many exhibitors who’ll be in the Marriott Bethesda North ballroom; in roughly geographic order, you should keep an eye out for:

Green Zone
Top Shelf (wall 64 to 67), Iron Circus Comics (wall 72 and 73), Kel McDonald (wall 74), Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota with George Rohac (wall 81), Ngozi Ukazu and Mad Rupert (wall 82), Ru Xu (wall 91A).

Blue Zone
Drawn & Quarterly (wall 1 to 4), Miss Lasko-Gross (table H10A), Whit Taylor (table H14B), Tony Breed (table I3B), Ross Nover (table I10), Natasha Petrovic (table J6), Adam Aylard, David Yoder, Joey Weiser, and Drew Weing, Eleanor Davis (tables K12 to 14), Cartozia Tales (table K8), Lucy Bellwood (table K9), Retrofit Comics (tables L2 and 3), Nilah Magruder (table L6), Shan Murphy (table L10B), Koyama Press (tables M1 and 2), Dustin Harbin (table M4), Carla Speed McNeil (table M7A), Sophie Yanow (table M12A), Toronto Comics Art Festival (table M14), MK Reed (table N1), Gemma Correll (table N2), Sophie Goldstein (N13B), Ed Luce (N14), Fantagraphics (wall 56 to 61).

Red Zone
School of Visual Arts (wall 7 to 8), Colleen Frakes (table B5), former Fleen scribe Anne Thalheimer (table B6A), Liz Pulido (table B8), Zach Morrison (table B11), Jamie Noguchi (table B9), Barry Deutsch (table C13), 2dcloud (tables D1 and 2), Evan Dahm (table D8), Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson (table D9), Penina Gal (table D13), Carolyn Belefski (table E4A), Carolyn Nowak (table E6), Carey Pietsch (table E7A), Natalie Riess (table E7B), The New York Review Of Books (table E13B), Liz Prince (table E14A), Falynn Koch and Tucker Waugh (table E14B), Rebecca Mock (table F3A), The Center For Cartoon Studies (table F4), NBM Comics (tables G1 and 2), Tillie Walden (table G3), Alex and Lindsay Small-Butera (table G4), Kori Michele Handwerker and Melanie Gillman (table G5), Adhouse Books (wall 53 to 55).

Yellow Zone
Sara & Tom McHenry (wall 25), Jess Fink and Eric Colossal (wall 28), Danielle Corsetto (wall 29), TopatoCo² (wall 31 to 33), The Nib (wall 34), Meredith Gran and Mike Holmes (wall 35A), Out Of Step Arts³ (wall 44 to 46).

The Small Press Expo runs on Saturday 16 September (11:00am to 7:00pm) and Sunday 17 September (noon to 6:00pm). Admission at the door is US$10 on Sunday, US$15 on Saturday, and US$20 for the weekend.

Spam of the day:

Search for the best gas cards Compare for the best features

What features? You put money on the card, you give it to somebody, they get that much gas. Done.

¹ Imagine a Miyazaki story with a male protagonist, set in Jules Verne’s Europe, against a backdrop of Prussia’s quest to unify all the German states under their banners (and the threat of an unstoppable fleet of near-space ships as the Romantic period wound down and the Belle Epoque got underway; also, Mad King Ludwig is in it).

It’s a lushly-painted story with a tight story that will be concluded in a second volume; the hdardcover itself is in the dimensions of a children’s book, but clocks in at 60 pages of gorgeous bandes dessinées. Get it for the airship fan you know.

² Including Kate Leth and Abby Howard

³ Including Andrew MacLean, Paul Maybury, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Neil Bramlette.

For Those Who Were Wondering

I read all the lessons of Katie Lane¹’s How To Read Contracts free e-course last week, and they were great. Really, realy great. Like, I can’t believe they’re free levels of great. It started with Don’t Read The Contract, then progressed through lessons on How To Mark That Shit Up, How To Prioritize Revisions, and Tips And Tricks To Make This All Easier. I don’t have to do any contracts on a regular basis², but if I do have to pay attention to one, you can bet that I’m reviewing these lessons first.

But what happens when I’ve reached the limits of my knowledge? Lane had that thought too, and surprisingly her response isn’t Pay me money to handle it, I’m a lawyer. Her response was, extra surprisingly, to set out a solution that may very well cost her business:

I want to help, especially in situations where the contract is written in an unnecessarily confusing way. I know I can translate that nonsense into Real People language. I just don’t have the time to do it one-on-one.

But I don’t necessarily think you need an attorney’s input on a contract that will pay you a couple hundred dollars for work you don’t particularly care about.

I also don’t think that your only options should be “Attorney” or “No Attorney, Sign and Hope Everything is OK.”

For the last couple of years I’ve been talking about making a tool that would address this exact problem. It would help artists and freelancers read and understand their contracts. An alternative to the Hire an Attorney/Hold Your Nose and Sign dichotomy.

My first few attempts to make the tool were duds. Everything I came up with was too long or too complex (or both). They didn’t make reviewing a contract easier, they just make it more straight forward.

But after a lot of trial and error, I think I’ve found the solution: a simple checklist that walks you through the process of reading and understanding a contract. [emphasis original]

The Contract Checklist for Design and Drawing will be released to the wide world on Monday, which happens to be Lane’s birthday³, with extra features for those who sign up early, so keep your eye on Lane’s site and her Twitterfeed for details. And if you should happen to have a need for contract advice in areas other than Design and Drawing, she wants to know. She’s got a brief survey up about what your work/contract needs are like, so that she can work on other checklists for later release.

Katie’s one of the good ones — when she says that she’s got a tool to help you, believe her.

Spam of the day:

Check your 2017 Credit Score Instantly Online

My credit score is roughly a billion, in part because I don’t give random spammers like you info sufficient to trash it.

¹ Light-ning Law-yer!!

² Ever.

³ Light-ning Birth-day!!

Fleen Book Corner: Mighty Jack And The Goblin King

A review copy of Mighty Jack And The Goblin King was provided by Gina Gagliano at :01 Books; as you might expect, this review will include spoilers.

You gotta give Ben Hatke (comics artist, adventurer, gymnast, archer, fire breather, and a bunch of other things besides) a couple of things: he works fast (more on that in a moment), and he knows how to tie his stories together (also, that). Oh, and he knows how to tell a cracking good yarn.

Mighty Jack released a year ago today, ending on a cruel cliffhanger; yesterday three separate books with his name on the cover were released — two by Ann M Martin (of Baby Sitters Club fame) that he illustrated, and the conclusion to Jack’s story, Mighty Jack And The Goblin King. We’re here to discuss the latter.

Jack, you may recall, is new to the hero business. He kind of made it up as he went along under the tutelage of Lilly from down the block (who’s really much better at the swords and fighting and adventuring stuff, as well as being generally much smarter about things; at that early teens age, girls are much more level headed than boys¹). Magic beans, weird creatures, his sister kidnapped by an ogre at the end of the first book … he has no idea what’s going on, but Maddie is his sister and he loves her and he will charge into whatever unknown fate to get her back.

You see, in those worlds beyond, where magic and space collide, Jack is less a name and more of a title; Jacks are heroes of great renown. To get Maddie back, Jack will have to climb magical plants and defeat giants and he’s just one kid with more ambition than true skill; but unlike all those Jacks from the stories, our Jack isn’t going in alone. He’s got Maddie, and before it’s over he’ll have a classic Shelby Mustang and an army of goblins and a dragon there alongside him.

Most of all he’s got Lilly and her example — she is lost and injured because he was reckless; she defeats the Goblin King and takes his crown (not to mention inheriting the goblin horde that she leads to Jack’s aid); she shows him what the meaning of sacrifice really is.

He feels hurt. He feels loss. He saves his sister (and she saves him in return) and heals the place between worlds and he sees the cost and even if it all works out he feels the sting of his failures. He returns home a bit wiser, a bit more melancholy, sufficiently wealthier (what’s a Jack that returns from the giant lands beyond beanstalk without gold to show for it, after all?), but no smarter about some things staring him in the face².

Things might be getting back to normal, except the goblins declare that it doesn’t matter that King Lilly is going back to her world — Goblins come for her when need³ — and the stranger that sold him the beans back in the first book is hanging around with some familiar friends and they need Jack and Lilly’s help. Nothing too difficult, says the heroine of another series, Just saving the world. Just the sort of thing that calls for a Jack.

And there the circle closes — in that place between worlds, Hatke is able to tie together the casts of Mighty Jack and Zita The Spacegirl and Nobody Likes A Goblin and any other stories he chooses to. All of the heroes — young and old, comic and serious, technological, magical, suburban, other — are part of one story, one that tells us to be brave, be kind, stand by your friends, persevere. Do those things, Hatke tells us, and we can save the world. It’s a heck of a message, one that I think we can all stand to hear as often as he cares to share it with us.

Mighty Jack And The Goblin King is available in bookstores everywhere; get it for your favorite Jack or Lilly (or Zita or Goblin), and maybe give it a good read before you hand it over. All of us, whatever age or condition, we can all be Jacks.

Spam of the day:

No matter who you’re looking for, they’re looking for you too

Hmmm, compelling. But let me counter with another viewpoint courtesy of Jaeger Ayers: No matter how hot you are, no matter how rich, how smart, how cool you are, somebody, somewhere, is sick of your shit.

¹ Not to mention pretty much every other age.

² Fortunately, Lilly has the gumption — and the advice of a Magic 8-Ball — to act and make the situation clear to him.

³ Although, as Jack notes, they are vague about whether that means when Lilly needs, or when the goblins need.

Hooray For Last-Minute Contributions

Yesterday afternoon, the contributions to four Houston-area charities for Hurricane Harvey-related relief stood at US$175. Overnight, additional donors brought that up another two hundo for a final total of US$375.

As it turned out, everybody who donated gave to the Houston Food Bank, so that is where my US$375 match went; by donating through my employer, another US$375 was matched, bringing the total impact to US$1125 in American cash money to help those whose lives have been disrupted, in both the short and long terms.

The Fleen Fight For Fungible Futures Fund wishes to thank Ben Cordes, Pierre Lebeaupin, Mark V, and multiple people that wish to remain anonymous. Based on HFB’s ratio of one dollar = three meals, you’ve been instrumental in ensuring 3375 people get something to eat. There’ll be more to do tomorrow, and for many days after, on all the atrocities that 2017 seems to be throwing at us¹, but for now you all get to think Today, I damn well did something.

Spam of the day:

Tower usually cylindrical in structure that can go up to 275 feet; made of fit in your files and folders

That’s a lot of files and folders.

¹ It’s even money we’ll be back here next week, thanks to Hurricane Irma.