The webcomics blog about webcomics

Busy Day

See, I thought today was going to be all about Scott McCloud’s previously-announced interview in The AV Club, but then a bunch of other stuff happened, some of it literally historic. Let’s dive in.

  • We’ll start with McCloud, who is all over the damn place these days, what with The Sculptor¹ coming out tomorrow and all. With any luck, I’ll get a chance to congratulate him in person either before or after his talk at the 92nd Street Y tomorrow night. McCloud’s conversation with Oliver Sava (who writes really well on comics) takes as its starting point a collection of seven comics works that deal with artistic expression and frustration. It was a really great conversation before McCloud got to what I thought was the most significant part:

    Well, I suppose this would be a good time to offer my mea culpa that this list I picked for you is a bit of a sausage fest. I could have included some works by women artists that might have fit the theme, but I wasn’t sure that I could talk about them very well without a good re-reading. Lynda Barry’s What It Is would have been a really good addition. But I just didn’t have time to re-read everything, and that one would have required a re-read at least. But I think that probably the single most important trend right now is the coming army of girls reading all-ages comics who will be moving into the industry. And I think within about eight or so years, we’ll have a majority female industry. I think there’s going to be a massive shift in terms of who writes comics and who reads comics. So again, sorry that these are a bunch of guys in this list. That was a matter of circumstance. A lot of my favorite comics happen to be by women but — This One Summer, for example — not about an artist. So I was out of luck. I love that book.

  • Nice timing from McCloud, because this morning the American Library Association, as is its custom during its midwinter gathering, announced its literary awards, and This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki was recognized in two separate categories.

    Before we get too far into this, I should note that most of the ALA-associated awards have two tiers: the actual “award” or “medal” itself², and a number of “honor” books in the category. The honor books are not a case of it’s-an-honor-just-to-be-nominated; going through the lists of winners for the past few years, it is entirely credible to me that the appropriate jury selects a short list of equally-worthy books, chooses one at random as “the” winner and designates the others as the honor selections — they’re that good.

    So: This One Summer was announced as one of four Honor Books for the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. And then a little later, it was named as one of six Honor Books for the freakin’ Randolph Caldecott Medal — you know, one of two literary awards you’ve ever heard of — for the most distinguished American picture book for children.

    Please note that no graphic novel has ever been recognized for the Caldecott before today, nor for the just-as-famous John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature (that would be the other one you’ve heard of). So I’m not exaggerating when I saw it was an historic occasion, especially when you consider that a few minutes after the Tamakis made history, El Deafo by CeCe Bell also made history when it was named one of two Newbery Honor Books. Today was the day that graphic novels were recognized as the best of the best in children’s books. That’s a pretty damn good day for comics.

  • Oh yeah, and it’s also Saint Groundhog’s Day (the day that I consider to be the start of my relationship with my wife), which means that yesterday was the latest birthday of Dinosaur Comics. For twelve years now, Ryan North has relentlessly seeking to answer the question How many different blocks of text can be fitted to exactly the same six panels of art?, the answer to which is apparently Goin’ on 2800.

    It is also-also fully-official launch day for the all-new You Damn Kid³, the strips since September being the result of a retooling and soft launch. And speaking of returns, after a lengthy hiatus (necessary for multiple very good reasons), we even have a new Help Desk today, which tells you everything you need to know about this year’s technological buzzphrase. Like I said, busy day.

Spam of the day:

Bardzo dobra publikacja. Dzi?kuje za to Pa?stwu!

I am told that this is Polish for Very good publication. Today for shoes to you a!, which I believe may be a reference to the longrunning and well-beloved webcomic No Shoes For Tuesday (sorry, I meant Brak Buty na wtorek).

¹ My review here; it’s a masterpiece and I’ll be buying a copy tomorrow, since apparently there’s a small but crucial difference in the color palette. So all those glowing reviews you’ve been seeing? We’ve been seeing a version of the book that McCloud considers inferior and lacking the impact of the final revision.

² Which appears to generally go to just one book, although the wording implies that there may be multiple winners.

³ Longtime readers may recall that my love for YDK is complete, and it will always be part of the blogroll because no matter how long Owen Dunne may step away from the strip, he will always come back. Recall also that the very first webcomics purchase I ever made was a combo-pack of YDK’s print collection, a sketch of Jethro, and a shirt proclaiming itself to be the home of the Frog Rocket Wiener.

Since then I have sunk an amount of money into webcomics merch and art that I am frankly terrified to total up, as my heirs and assigns may seek to take away my ability to make my own financial decisions because clearly I am not rational. This is all Dunne’s fault.

Texas Is Warm

I could get used to this. And yes, it’s near end of day, but I have work stuff I have to go do momentarily¹ so enjoy these quick items:

¹ Know how they tell kids Don’t do drugs!? Sometimes, I think they should add … or work corporate! because I don’t know anybody involved in the drugs trade would make their crew travel all day to a different time zone and just as you’re getting ready to wind down, get some dinner, declare it’s time for team-building meetings.

Fleen Book Corner: The Sculptor

Also, the ending will leave you in tears. No joke.

I have been taking my time getting around to this review; both because writing it six weeks ago (when Gina Gagliano at :01 Books very kindly sent me an advanced reader’s edition) would have been too early to be relevant — The Sculptor doesn’t release for another week — and because, as I said at the time:

I’m unable to produce one right now because I am not able to stop experiencing this story, to step back to see it in detail and in the whole, to think. It is, at the moment, a wholly emotional experience.

The thing is, that really hasn’t changed much for me, but at least we’re closer to the release date so what the hell. Let’s talk about Scott McCloud’s latest book, his first work of fiction since 1998, and what is likely to be the best work of graphic fiction of 2015. For once, there will not be a large number of spoilers; weirdly enough, the twists and turns of the story are not the centerpiece of the experience.

I feel a little guilty having read The Sculptor, and suspected that I would ever since I saw McCloud and his family read excerpts at last summer’s San Diego Comic Con. The relationship between the titular sculptor (David) and his Beatrice figure¹ (Meg) is unambiguously, nakedly, unashamedly inspired by McCloud’s own meeting and early relationship with his wife of 27 years (happy anniversary!), Ivy; I feel like I’ve been eavesdropping on the parts of their personal history that only they know.

Except for the part where Scott would have a deal with Death and a very limited lifespan and a might-have-been-great/presently-not-so-much career and mad go-for-broke ideas about how to express everything inside him, and the part where Ivy would be the centerpiece of an eccentric community of once-broken, now-healing people and suffers from a bipolar cycle that causes to push everybody around her away on occasion.

Except-except for the parts where all that is true — Scott did have a critically-acclaimed but only modestly successful career and no great name recognition when he embarked on Understanding Comics — a mad idea if ever there was one. And Ivy is the centerpiece of a community of wildly creative people, and you can ask anybody — many of them may have come into the McCloudian orbit because of Scott’s work, but people stay because of Ivy.

So how many of the little intimacies between Meg and David are fictional and how many come right from the experience of Ivy and Scott? Where are the truths and where are stories? On the surface, they’re all stories, but in their heart I think they’re all true.

And that thought — surface versus heart — put me in mind of a key proposition from Understanding Comics and made me realize that there is more McCloud-specific history in The Sculptor than the relationship of David and Meg. Because The Sculptor is not just the story of how David found his means of expression, it’s also McCloud’s.

I’ll be perfectly honest: the beginning of The Sculptor didn’t wow me; the story was perfectly acceptable, but acceptable is not what I’d expected from McCloud. The story beats were exactly where I knew they would be, the progression entirely by the numbers, nothing novel or amazing. But then, slowly, almost imperceptibly, McCloud began to peel back that surface of story and play with the elements underneath and I realized that what I was reading was a retelling of something McCloud had written before:

The Sculptor is chapter seven, The Six Steps, of Understanding Comics.

Surface, you’ll recall, is the part of art we see first — the superficial part, separate from inspiration; below it lies the realm of Craft, where McCloud’s skill starts to be applied to both story and visual elements. It first struck me in the crowd scenes, where every one of dozens — hundreds! — of human figures was rendered fully. Reading back I noticed people in the background weren’t just static, but were interacting with each other, arguing, living full lives. McCloud’s mentioned how he worked at a massive size when drawing The Sculptor on his Cintiq specifically so he could include all those background day-players in the detail they deserved.

This lead to my realization of the next layer down — Structure — where I realized that not only did all those people get drawn, but they all had their own stories, occurring at the same time as David’s, each of them the star of another 400, 500 page story, intersecting with this one only in the most peripheral of ways. Peeling further down, I could sense the way McCloud using the story to express his Idiom, his thoughts on the nature of comics, what they can represent, how they can teach like no other medium. Being caught up in this discovery, I found myself surprised by how the story — which I’d initially thought a bit obvious and a bit pokey — had looped on itself, shifted into unforeseen directions, and was now accelerating at an alarming pace.

Where things had started out languid, as David’s time gets short and the number of pages gets low, the story speeds up. Not a line of dialogue, not a gesture exists to set stage or provide color — they now all serve solely to propel the story in a way that could only be accomplished via the Form of comics. No other medium gives the creator so much control over the perception of time; I’m convinced that McCloud consistently and subtly reduced the spacing between panels by fractions of a millimeter per page² in order to speed up the perception of time in a gradual fashion from the start to the climax.

And what a climax, as the Idea become apparent. This wasn’t David’s story, or even McCloud’s. It was always a presentation of a philosophical question, bigger than any of us: What does it mean to create, and how do we deal with the compulsion to do so? Family, discovery, life, creation, loss, irritation, coincidence, tragedy, hope, betrayal, love, celebration, ice cream, secrets, death: McCloud wants us to know that they are all capital-A Art.

He may have spent more than twenty years telling us how all of these tie up in the package known as Comics, but now he’s done telling and decided to show us instead. Three books tickled your objective mind and lead you to understand, reinvent, make comics; now he’s nudging your emotional mind to feel your way through those ideas in service to a story that feels real like a rapidly fading dream feels realer than anything else. It’s a heady experience, and one that required every single absorbed lesson and evolved theory that his career has allowed. It’s a love letter to everything that Scott McCloud holds dear, and needs to be read by everybody that loves comics.

The Sculptor will be available at booksellers everywhere on Tuesday, 3 February 2015.

¹ Although she’s a mix of Dante’s Beatrice and Shakespeare’s.

² Not that I have measured; if it turns out he didn’t and it was all in my head, I don’t want to know. The story I’ve told myself is its own truth.

Dammit Weather Channel, Stop Making Up Your Own Names For Winter Storms

You’re not helping! And I don’t want to be in the giraffe zone!

So, since the storm bearing down on me (and everybody else in the Greater New York City mediasphere, and all points twixt there and Boston) looks to be a doozy, I may or may not be able to post tomorrow. Wednesday may be out as well, as I have to spend most of the day on planes, assuming planes are still a thing after this winter joy goes through. Thursday and Friday, all day work meetings, meaning that posting may or may not happen. How’s your day going?

Spam of the day:

Hello, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam responses?

Why would you think I get a lot of spam?

¹ I can’t be the only person that misremembers the lyrics to One Night In Bangkok like this.

² Not to be confused with Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, either real or fictional. One is a lovely spot that I greatly enjoyed visiting with my wife a dozen years back, and the other is a dude on the internet.

³ Irregular Webcomic: 3368 updates; Darths & Droids: 1149; Planet of Hats: 35; Square Root of Minus Garfield: 2078; Lightning Made Of Owls: 668; Comments on a Postcard: 2212; Awkward Fumbles: 15; The Dinosaur Whiteboard: 1; mezzacotta: infinity.

Want To Be The Next Larry Gonick?¹

Two items today, one long and one short.

  • Know what I really like about webcomickers?

    When presented with the opportunity to seek out creative partners for a new project, they pay. Consider the vast amounts of money doled out by your Spikes, or Erikas Moen, who are in the habit of retroactively paying artists bonuses, or your Ryans North, who regard increasing income primarily as a reason to hire more artists. Consider the vitriol among webcomickers inspired by the quotes that Ryan Estrada mines for the @forexposure_txt twitterfeed.

    So it gives me great pleasure to point out another project announcement, one that pays money (probably). Welcome to the world of research grants with your guide, Dante Shepherd:

    This is what I want to do. I want to make science comics. And I want to pay artists to make them.

    I’m currently applying for a grant to help these visual students learn. While the overall grant isn’t for a ton of money in comparison to the usual research grants, it would be enough to pay artists for at least 60 pages of work. These 60 pages would be spread across several disciplines — certainly Chemical Engineering, with it being my background, but also Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biology, and more — and would ideally be a springboard for us to be able to continue adding to the comic education in future years as well.

    And as part of this grant, we would also involve Art and Design students to further their education, too. It’d be as expansive as we can make it for the funds provided to us.

    This is where I’m opening it up to you and any other artists out there for involvement. We need to show that we have actual professional artists interested and willing to participate in the grant. The work would be collaborative to some extent — the engineering researchers, the art and design researchers, and artists all working together to develop optimal scripts and layouts for learning — and you would be paid for your work based on the pages you produce.

    I know that sounds a little convoluted, so let me summarize: the money doesn’t exist yet, and in order to get the money, artists are needed to say that they would be interested in doing the work. If the money doesn’t come through (and writing grants is not a guarantee of success¹), then you don’t do the work. It’s more than a little chasing-your-own-tail, what with needing people willing to do the work, not knowing if they’ll actually be called upon to do it, but without that first step nothing will happen.

    So if you’re interested, if you think you could help teach complex STEM principles in comics form, if you’re willing to to show your past work to help convince the grant committee, drop an email to danteshepherd who has taken out a Google email account.

  • In other news, we’ve previously mentioned that the annual MoCCA Fest will be shifting venues to Center 548, and it appears that the new locale is just a mite too small to accommodate panels. Not to fear, as the Society of Illustrators (parent organization to MoCCA) have obtained two dedicated rooms at the nearby (and gorgeous) High Line Hotel, a brief walk of perhaps four minutes. Also, you know what you get with hotels that you don’t get other places? Lobby bars. Just sayin’.

Spam of the day:

prepared dishes that you would come to expect from an iron chef, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t. Wasn’t worth

Iron Chefs are always worth it.

¹ Larry Gonick has taught more people about more different things using cartoons than anybody else I can think of. As previously noted, pretty much everything I know about the history of China is due to his comics.

I became an electrical engineer specializing in communication systems and information theory at least in part because I had a copy of the 1983 edition of The Cartoon Guide to Computer Science (since retitled) back in high school and learned about Turing, Shannon, and other giants of the field. Hell, I stole his AND and OR truth tables on the statements P: The pig has spots and Q: The pig is glad when I was teaching computer logic early in my career. The lesson was worth it just for the PorQ? joke.

² Although the relatively low cost of paying some artists to produce comics compared to — let’s say, building a multi million dollar materials-research lab — help the odds. If you’ve got ten grand left over in your funding and here are fourteen unmet grants looking for multiple millions and one over there looking for eight grand, that becomes a no-brainer.

Canadians And Equality

We look to our northern neighbors for examples of how to be better today.

  • If you weren’t reading Twitter at the right time last night, you may not have noticed that Kate Beaton has released a new autobio comic chronicling her time in the tar sands of Fort McMurray. We last got a glimpse of Beaton’s time in a very strange, very male place in Ducks, a five-part comic telling the story of one big event (and the much more relevant smaller everyday events) from 2008. I’ve said before that Beaton’s ability to tell stories from her own life are second to none, and each time she’s revisited that mining site has been breathtaking in its honesty, particularly with respect to her experiences there as a woman¹.

    I’m not the only one that feels this way:

    So last year, I made some comics about working in Fort McMurray. And I said I planned to make more.

    The question I get asked the most by far when I talk about the place is what was it like to be there, as a woman, specifically.

    The answer is complex but I started a sketch. Whether I finish it here or in a book, I wanted to take look at that: …

    it is, as ever, only my own experience.

    Is What It Is is many things at once — deeply personal, but also very likely damn near universal; I can see many women having experienced things like Beaton did, in places far less … let’s say phallocentric. It’s a painful read, see the shit that Beaton put up with for the sole reason that the men around her see her as some kind of object they have a collective right to. It makes me proud to see her tell them it’s not that she’s Miss high and mighty, it’s just that they’re dicks and she opts out of their worldview. It kills me a little inside to see her interacting with the biggest dick of them all, the one piling needless shit on her, and realizing that the only thing she can do is act like it’s not a thing.

    Nobody will read Is What It Is without coming away with a strong opinion; I’ll say that it will definitely provoke one of two reactions. If you read it and say to yourself What’s she complaining about? then the door’s over there and you can see yourself out. Everybody else — anybody with a sense of empathy — is going to feel hurt; hurt that people are capable of treating each other this way, hurt because too many of you have been on the receiving end of similar situations, hurt because Beaton is so good at conveying these kinds of moments and making you feel what she did.

    The very tall story is subtitled Part One, and Beaton’s left open her options for how she continues this tale; personally, I’m hoping for the possibility of a book. Beaton is one of the finest memoirists working in English today, and I long for the day that the reading public can let her stories of things experienced wash over them in great big chunks.

  • Ryan Sohmer, as I believe I have mentioned on this page previously, is a man of contradictions. His comics aren’t for me, but I like him personally a great deal. He’s cheerfully mercenary, got a plan to dominate all aspects of the comics-making business, and will never fall prey to the poisonous thought that being involved in the arts means being poor.

    He’s also willing to put his money where his mouth is, whether it’s setting up scholarships for up-and-coming comics students. And with the news from Oxfam earlier this week that half of all global wealth is held by 1% of living humans, he’s been thinking about income inequality.

    Sohmer’s not a benevolent tyrant-king to the world (not yet, anyway), so he’s setting his sights a little lower than eradicating worldwide income inequality. He’s also deeply cognizant that Comics is an industry that’s made some pretty substantial fortunes by screwing people over, and determined that simply won’t do:

    I can’t change what McDonald’s or Home Depot does, but I can be an example and hope that others follow suit.

    Blind Ferret has 32 full time employees and 12 part timers. I make the following statements and will hold to them:

    • Minimum Wage for hourly/part time employees at Blind Ferret is $12.00 per hour.
    • Starting salary for a salaried employee will be no less than $32,000 per year.
    • Blind Ferret will not employ unpaid interns. Interns receive minimum wage, and should the school that placed them not allow that, we will no longer work with that school.

    We should be paying our employees what we can, not what we can get away with.

    I call on every company in the comic industry to join me in providing a living wage for our employees. Our success is built on their backs, and it’s time we remember that.

    Bear in mind that minimum wage in Quebec, where Blind Ferret is located, is presently CAN$10.35/hour² so Sohmer is committing to starting people at nearly 14% above that required level. Median household income in Canada (for 2011, the most recent year I could find) is CAN$28,404, so he’s putting starting salaries 11% above.

    And by my reading, the no unpaid interns portion is potentially the most important rule there, and even if other comics companies don’t follow Sohmer’s lead on pay rates, they can pay their damn interns. Comics industry, you’ve got Blind Ferret and Iron Circus showing you how it’s done. Get on that.

  • Via the twitterfeed of The Toronto Man-Mountain:

    There’s gonna be a game version of To Be or Not To Be! And it’s gonna go… a little something… a’like this:

    Interactive TBONTB, everybody!

    For those of you grumping that this last item definitely meets the Canadian content requirement for today’s theme but is light on the equality portion, may I remind you that TBONTB‘s version of Ophelia is the smartest, most capable protagonist choice in the book, and the text/game will actively punish you for trying to play her as weak, passive, and uninteresting? Choose her and she’s the star of her own story, same as Hamlet or Hamlet, Sr.

Spam of the day:

tasted it before putting it in my taco because it really ruined it. Ick.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Good job stepping up, spammers!

¹ Which, because she’s a woman on the internet, means she’s probably spending a good chunk of today deleting shitty emails and blocking morons on social media, because every time she brings up the topic they crawl out from under their rocks to tell her she’s wrong and stupid and ugly and what about men and shut up already. Her bravery in putting her stories out there is many-layered.

² According to today’s interbank rate, that would be US$8.35. By way of comparison, the US Federal minimum wage is US$7.25, and you need to consider that Canada’s public funding provides the best healthcare system in the world.

On The Importance Of Diaereses

Although it's pretty clear from context.

Yeah, I know there’s an elephant in the room and we’ll be getting to it in a moment, let’s just be patient.

  • I was reading Stand Still, Stay Silent this morning (as is my wont) and was taken by the final panel, which creator Minna Sundberg rendered in untranslated Swedish. Okay, it’s pretty clear from context, but I was curious so I hopped over to Google Translate and punched in the text:

    Forbannade finnjavel, Lalli

    Okay, Lalli is a proper name and so I left it off; but the response I got was less than satisfying:

    cursed finnjavel

    Okay, finnjavel looks like a compound word, and Lalli, who the dialogue is directed at, is Finnish; splitting it up gave:

    Forbannade finn javel

    … which gave me:

    Cursed Finn bastard

    Better! But odd that it didn’t recognize the compound word (there was also a slight digression where the language autodetection thought I was typing French, where javel translates as bleach). But what about the diacritic marks I’d left out? Javel also suggested son of a bitch, but what about jävel?


    Nice. Spelling everything correctly (Förbannade finnjävel) gave the much more conversational Bloody Finn bastard, which I’m going to go with (although oddly, förbannade finnjävel becomes cursing Finn bastard). I just found the entire thing a delightful example of the difference between translation and transliteration.

    Also, my regard for Ms Sundberg has gone up another notch, since she’s rendering SSSS in clear, colloquial English, which only somewhat resembles the Scandanavian languages. Oh, and did I mention that she did her last comic in your choice of English or Finnish? Or that Finnish is not like anything else that originated between the Ganges and the Atlantic?

  • As noted back around Halloween, we mentioned that Wacom was putting together an anthology of digital comics, to be released sometime in January. Well, sometime is today, and Pressure/Sensitivity is now available for download over at comiXology.

    Here’s the thing, though — despite being free, you can’t download Pressure/Sensitivity unless you have a comiXology account, which I do not. I know this makes me a terrible resident of The Internet, but I won’t have anythign to do with DRM-heavy services that reserve the right to take back content I’ve paid for. And quite frankly, the last thing I need right now is another account with another service and another set of Terms of Service that says it can change the rules at any time in the future without notice.

    I can tell you that if you have a comiXology account, this is a no-brainer: contributors include the previously-announced Meredith Gran, Ming Doyle, and Giannis Milonogiannis, along with Mike Holmes and Ben Sears, cover by Ulises Farinas and Ryan Hill, and edited by Caleb Goellner.

  • It is, as I write this, as close to 24 hours since the launch of Exploding Kittens, and the Kickstarter campaign for same is as close to US$2 million as likewise makes no difference. I’ll be honest — when I predicted yesterday that this game would out-pace the Tesla Museum campaign, I figured it would take a week or ten days; I really thought that the incredible pace of the first few hours would taper off. Instead, we’re north of 50,000 supporters and the main page updates both supporter count and total amount every few seconds.

    For contrast, the most-funded Kickstarter campaign was for a fancy cooler that raised US$13.2 million. The most-supported campaign I can find was that for Reading Rainbow with just under 106,000 backers. At this point, it seems certain that Exploding Kittens will break into the top 10 all-time most-funded Kickstarters (position #10 presently taken by a nanodrone that funded out at £2.36 million; the exchange rate on the day of campaign close equates that with US$3,522,760) and possibly be the most-backed of all time¹.

    Since we’re past the 24 hour mark and we clearly have at least 200 backers, the Fleen Funding Formula Mark 2 matched up with the present Kicktraq trend value of US$30 million² gives us a predicted finish in the range of US$6 million to US$9 million. Oh, and let’s note that this is presently for a campaign that only has two backer tiers (the two limited tiers are sold out), which is about as simple as you can get. If, as was mentioned in update #2 last night, the team decides on stretch goals, the frenzy could accelerate. Take a look at the daily data from the Order of the Stick campaign (of just about exactly two years ago) and see if you can pick out when Rich Burlew added especially popular stretch goal rewards. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: yikes.

    Update: Since starting the post, a new Kickstarter update has gone up for Exploding Kittens and the first stretch goal is simultaneously announced and achieved: the NSFW deck (available at the US$35 backer level, but not the US$20 level) will now have 40 cards instead of 20, no additional cost or shipping. Look for some of the 4300+ backers at the US$20 level to do some arithmetic and decide to re-pledge at the higher level.

Spam of the day:
Nothing of note today.

¹ Trying to sort the history of Kickstarter campaigns by popularity doesn’t actually sort by descending number of backers, oddly.

² You know, just 300,000% of goal, that’s all.

Today’s Post Is Brought To You By Twitter, And Readers Like You

Everything I talk about today, I noticed first on Twitter.

  • Let’s get the rapidly-changing one out of the way first. Yesterday, Matthew Inman dropped a hint that something would be happening today:

    Here’s a little sneak peek of a project I’ve been working on. It launches tomorrow. I am so excited I might hurl!

    … with an accompanying illustration of what appeared to be a card game. At 1:23pm EST he updated us:

    BIG FANCY ANNOUNCEMENT: I helped create a card game and it’s called Exploding Kittens

    That link went to a product page with a link to a Kickstarter. Four minutes later it became certain that this project would not require 30 days to fund out:

    WE JUST HIT OUR GOAL! $10k in 8 minutes

    I first made it to the Kickstarter at approximately the 17 minute mark, when the total was above US$65,0000. Refreshing a few minutes later, it was north of US$70K. As of writing the first draft of this sentence (38 minutes into the project’s history), Exploding Kittens has raised US$133,745 and is jumping every time the page refreshes.

    I’ll hop back there as I’m putting the final polish on this posting to see where it’s at, but right now I’m calling it: an hour in this game will raise more money than Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad, and I’m not exactly sure how long it will take to surpass the funding on Operation Let’s Build A Goddamned Tesla Museum, but I am certain it will do so. Come back tomorrow and we’ll see what the FFF says at the 24 hour mark.

  • Katie Lane, lawyer extraordinaire to the creative community, shares a lot of information with you about how to conduct your creative business. For example, today she let us know about the value of having policies, even if it’s just you¹. My favorite bit was how having policies can aid in negotiation:

    Here’s a cool trick: next time a client asks you if you’d be willing to do something you really don’t want to do, instead of saying “I’d rather not” or “I don’t want to,” say, “I can’t; my company has a policy against [thing you don’t want to do].”

    Clients hear wiggle room in “I’d rather not” or “I don’t want to.” But with a policy they hear a rule, a line in the sand, they hear “no.”

    Clients are more likely to respect your boundaries if they look like boundaries they’re already used to following. Most companies have policies and most of your clients have polices. Those polices are there to make the company work better and your clients understand that; your clients are used to following policies. And they’re used to having to make a very strong argument to justify working around a policy.

    Lane shares ideas like this multiple times a month over at her site, much of it for free at her blog, but this is also part of her livelihood. So I’m pleased to note that she’ll be offering more advice on the subject of gettin’ paid in online class sessions in the coming weeks. Way I look at it, if spending a couple hundred bucks and a couple hours (and possibly springing for the one-on-one consult) gets you paid on just one job that wasn’t ponying up the dough, you’ve come out ahead. Twenty spots only, and may I mention other classes and workshops she teaches in person? Why yes, I may.

  • Thought Bubble is one of those shows I know I’m going to have to visit eventually, it’s just that there’s this ocean in the way². Fortunately, the redoubtable Danielle Corsetto retweeted the TB folks earlier today, alerting me to the fact that the first videos of their Sketching Spotlight are now online. The videos in question feature Corsetto, Boulet, Emily Carroll, and Babs Tarr, moderated by Pete Doherty.

    The first video is here, and focuses on Corsetto. Carroll is the subject of the second, Tarr the third, and Boulet the fourth; they range from 15 to 20 minutes of drawing, with an extra 10 minutes of discussion at the end. They’re great fun!

  • Okay, wrapping this up. It’s 2:39pm EST, the Exploding Kittenstarter has been up for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and it’s presently at US$292,217. So, yeah, 70 grand past BearLove and more than 20% of the way to Goddamned Tesla Museum. Yikes.
  • Postscript: I just noticed that sometime in that first hour and twenty, all 200 slots of the limited US$100 tier and all 5 of the limited $500 tier were snapped up. Also, in the first minutes since the total is over US$317K, and more than 8200 backers. We could be looking at an all-time record, folks.

Spam of the day:

Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my site :)

Given that your site appears to deal with the removal of tree stumps, I kind of doubt that.

¹ It’s better to set these policies for yourself than have them imposed on you. My friend da9ve (not a typo) had a consultancy that consisted of just him, but the state of Indiana required him to adopt a sexual harassment policy so that if he ever sexually harassed himself at work, Indiana would sue him to recover damages. Fortunately, da9ve was never subjected to a hostile work environment by himself, so he never had to file a complaint on himself or get sued by himself to make restitution to himself.

² I was actually hoping for that thing where Google Maps tells you to swim so many thousands of kilometers and then resume your journey on land, but no luck.

It’s Not Just Me? I Mean, This Is Weird, Right?

Huh. Okay. That's ... kind of weird.

So end of last week, I noticed a retweet from Sohmer, Ryan Sohmer, and thought huh. He’s got plans, Sohmer does, and is typically thinking three steps ahead, and if he is going to take one of his comics into print as floppies, he’s thought of all the angles. Not much else about Looking For Group teaming up with Dynamite crossed my radar over the weekend, so this morning I went looking and it seems that Dynamite hasn’t heard they’re doing this book yet.

Which is odd, because there’s an announcement from Blind Ferret today, and Bleeding Cool has previews (including a Becky Dreistadt variant cover), and Sohmer himself weighed in today on the whys and wherefores. Then again, Dynamite doesn’t seem to have updated their News page (as of this writing) since August of last year, so at least it’s not a slight specifically against our neighbors to the north.

  • Another case of the news getting ahead of the newsmakers: while there’s nothing at the SPX site as of this writing, Heidi Mac has the lowdown on the non-curated end of SPX registration — it launches on 1 February and will surely be oversubscribed:

    1. SPX 2015 invitees will hear from us before the end of January. Tables associated with any invitations not accepted will be rolled over into the lottery pool.
    2. The SPX 2015 table lottery will run from February 1 to February 15, 2015 (at midnight eastern time). We’ll widely advertise the lottery opening and, at that time, provide access to an online form to enter the lottery.
    3. After entering the lottery, you’ll receive your lottery number. Don’t lose it! Just kidding. We’ll keep a copy and notify you either way if you win.
    4. All lottery entries will be reviewed by SPX. What are we reviewing them for? SPX is a showcase for independent comics. If it will not be clear to us that you make such things we reserve the right to remove your lottery entry. If we contact you to follow up with your registration, we appreciate your help in letting us know more about your work.
    5. Upon conclusion of our review, we’ll notify the lottery winners for 2015 (yay!). You’ll have a reasonable window of time to pay for your requested table space.
    6. We’ll also maintain a wait list (based on the next 50 potential lottery winners). Tables that are not paid for in a timely manner or are subsequently cancelled will be offered to members of the wait list in turn.

    There’s also a detailed bit on the lottery process which is rather lengthy, so I’ll just send you over to The Beat for the deal. Short form, there’s a sorted list of randomly-assigned six-digit numbers, and they’ll assign booths based on the list in either ascending or descending order based on a computerized coin flip.

  • Today marks 250 pages of Stand Still, Stay Silent which is really rather impressive considering that since the 1 November 2013 launch, there have only been 444 days. There have been a couple of 2- or 3-week hiatuses as Minna Sundberg did things like mail out a few thousand hardcovers, put together another hardcover, and move between countries.

    That brings us to somewhere around 400 days of the strip’s existence that one could reasonably expect Sundberg to be working (and includes weekends, holidays and such, because we all know that cartoonists are automatons that don’t observe such niceties) meaning that more than 2 days out of every 3 she’s delivered a full page, in color, with incredible detail. Also humor, pathos, creeping horror, and linguistics.

    What I am saying here is that she has been working at a furious pace (on her own, no less) to produce a ripping good read, my favorite of the past year, and you should be paying attention because it’s damn good. If you don’t read it, start your archive trawl now while it’s still practicable.

  • On the off chance you don’t yet appreciate what one creator can do on their own, consider the most recent update from Boulet: it’s beautiful, highly evocative of mood, more than a little melancholy, and utilizes the “web” part of “webcomics” exactly as it should be used. The little bits of motion enhance rather than detract, and put to shame every half-assed “motion comic” that uses motion just for the sake of using it.

    For other examples of Boulet utilizing limited motion and infinite canvas, see Game Over, Our Toyota Was Fantastic, and The Long Journey; in each case, the technological elements in service to the story rather than the other way around. The man is a treasure, and that’s before you take into account his acknowledgment of the power of moustachery.

Spam of the day:

I was curious if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your site?

No. Next!

I Find This Difficult To Believe

I could have sworn — sworn! — that I talked about my love of yokai — traditional Japanese monsters — more than just twice in passing in all the years I’ve been writing this here blog. I mentioned Gegege no Kitaro in passing way the hell back in 2007, and I talked about Jim Zub’s treatment of kappa (which I first learned about by watching Gegege no Kitaro) back in July. I guess I had a conversation with Maki Naro in 2013 (probably at NYCC that year) when Drawn & Quarterly’s collection of late-60s Kitaro¹ came out, and that’s it.

Guys, I love yokai. From the barely-contextualized references in old Japanese TV shows to the present day, the endless parade of spooks, haunts, fantastic creatures, and things that go bump in the night have always grabbed me. Sometimes they’re just there and it’s up to you to figure out which are traditional and which have just been made up for the hell of it, as in Miyazaki’s unparalleled Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi. Sometimes you get ‘em in story and the endnotes give you the background, as Stan Sakai has been doing for 30 years or so in the pages of Usagi Yojimbo, or Zub’s been doing recently in Wayward. From mildly spooky to simply odd, bit players and tourist attractions to vicious and deadly, yokai come in every shape, size, temperament, and purpose imaginable.

And yet, above all, they have a fundamental weirdness to them. Very polite turtle-men that will drown you to eat the inside of your rectum, but who can be bought off with a cucumber? Sure! Haughty bird-men that had a special dislike of priests, but also protect forests and teach the arts of war? Why not! Foxes with nine tails and shifting forms², household items come to life because they’re existed for too long? Hungry ghosts licking the filth from dirty bathrooms? Disembodied body parts flying about causing panic? Check, check, and check.

And when I think about comics, and fundamental weirdness, the first name that comes to mind is that of KC Green, and what do you know? Dude’s gone and drawed himself some yokai, and started up a weekly project around it. The first two are the karakasa-kozō (an umbrella come to life because why not) and the umi-bōzu (the sea monk, a personification of every sailor’s nightmares), with the promise of more yokai to come on a weekly basis, or as the mood strikes him. Check out his Tumblr under the tag yokai and embrace the Night Parade.

Oh, and maybe check the milk in the fridge. It’s getting a little old, and if it sprouts an eye, you’ll want to take care of that.

Spam of the day:

It’s impressive that you are getting ideas from this piece of writing as well as from our argument made here.

Far be it from me to complain about not getting spam (the new filters are doing a great job), but it’s really gotten kind of … generic. Where’s the batshit insanity about defamation laws and Kraft dinner and Ukrainian women that want to meet me?

¹ Shigeru Mizuki, Kitaro’s creator, is widely credited with both exhaustively cataloging yokai and reviving interest in what had been an all-but-forgotten bit of folklore. He’s also created dozens of new yokai to reflect the realities of the modern world.

² Although it appears that pretty much every culture around the world has decided that foxes are sneaky and not trustworthy.