The webcomics blog about webcomics

If You’re Surprised, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention

The word came yesterday, from C Spike Trotman, about the latest significant accomplishment from Iron Circus Comics:

And the hits just keep coming! Iron Circus’ edition of @evandahm’s Rice Boy scores a starred review in @PublishersWkly!

Firstly, anybody that’s read Dahm’s Rice Boy (and his Order Of Tales, and his Vattu) shouldn’t be surprised, because Dahm is a master storyteller with an entirely unique sense of worldbuilding, as well as a master draftsman. His characters — human and otherwise — have weight … in the sense of their physicality, as well as in the emotional sense. For one of the most respected sources of book review to refer to Rice Boy as an epic of grand ambition, startling choices, and sterling heart makes perfect sense; they only needed to be aware of the book and to have a copy of it in front of them.

That’s a tall order for a single-person creative endeavour to pull off; hard enough to finance a run of books (with or without Kickstarter) and find room for them in your Brooklyn apartment before shipping them out (or more precisely, shipping them to the fine folks at TopatoCo) while simultaneously tracking publicity efforts and trying to work on multiple new stories at once. Few people have that combination of drive, confidence, and willingness to say Hey! Look at this! Just shut up and read it, then you can tell me how good it is. And when you do, be sure to remember the next time I put something in front of you.

Entire Spike; she’s been relentless in building up Iron Circus Comics on the basis first of quality (quality projects, quality collaborators), then quantity. She got the distribution deal that widened ICC’s scope. And now she’s placing books in libraries and in front of the most desirable eyes in the world of pocket reviews. Bookstores and libraries are going to order the snot out of the ICC edition of Rice Boy. It’s a small, small imprint in a big world right now, but ICC is in a spot similar to another small imprint in a big world a dozen years ago:

He laid out a plan that he expected to take a decade, to get comics into the literature end of things, to get them treated as worthy of study and their creators as respected voices. He saw that path as leading to literary awards and wondered how long it would take.

The he was Mark Siegel, and the plan was for :01 Books; you may recall that he beat his ten-year goal of being considered for literary awards (not comics awards, the regular pubishing world’s hoity-toity awards) by about eight and a half years, as American Born Chinese wound up shortlisted for the National Book Award. It’s not one of her goals to be in the awards circuit, but nevertheless I don’t think¹ it be a decade before Spike and one (or more!) of her associated creators are getting into fancy dress for a fancier dinner and the red carpet treatment.

Which is a long way of saying, Congrats Evan and Spike. You’ve more than earned it.


Spam of the day:

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You sent an offer for a psychic reading on the 45th day of the year. That’s not really New Year territory. I’m forced to conclude that psychics, allegedly in tune with secrets of the ancients, are not able to use that 6000 year old technology known as Calendars. It’s like the first thing you go for in Civilization after Hunting and The Wheel. You’ll never defeat Gandhi playing like this.

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¹ Spike’s got this quality I call the cheerfully mercenary outlook on life; she’s much more concerned with getting ICC to a self-sustaining point for herself and her contracted creators than in seeking the approval of others. The Academy could look down its nose all it want, as long as the libraries and bookstores keep ordering copies.

Smiles All The Way

If there is anybody more universally beloved in [web]comics than Raina Telgemeier, I don’t know who that would be. Like, maybe the reincarnation of Mr Rogers was magically soul-bound to Caroll Spinney and then spent a couple of decades mentoring Malala Yousafzi in panel composition and storytelling, you be getting close … and Raina would be cheerleading her the whole way. She’s pretty awesome is what I’m saying, and may have said so one or two times in the past.

I’m not alone in that opinion, as anybody that’s seen one of her public events can attest. She’ll be having a meet and greet at the Cartoon Art Museum, in conjunction with the closing of the months-long retrospective exhibit of her work at CAM (the exhibit that, in fact, was chosen to spearhead the relaunch of CAM after two years without their own gallery space).

Things start at 4:00pm on Saturday, 10 March, with a presentation and discussion of the exhibit, followed by a Q&A, then informal time to mingle and interact. To maximize the time for fans to get chat and get photos, there won’t be any signing (that keeps her stuck behind a table), but I bet she’d be fine with you holding up your copy of a favorite book in photos (signed copies will be available via advanced ticketing), or seeing your fanart.

As you might expect, demand will be pretty high for this event, even in her hometown of San Francisco; advance tickets are available at Guestlist for the immensely reasonable price of US$10 for adults, and US$4 (four bucks!) per kid. You can reserve your signed copies of her books on the same page.

And then two weeks later, SF fans will very possibly see her again, as she takes part in the San Francisco portion of the KidLit Marches For Kids. An outgrowth of the March For Our Lives/Never Again movement being led by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the YA community is participating in the national day of demonstrations in favor of gun control. Details about the various marches can be found on Facebook.

This is what happens when you realize that some of the students that have (very quickly, with sorrowful determination) become activists were your readers just a few years ago.

This is what happens when you can’t escape the fact that some of their fallen friends were.

This is what happens when you don’t want that to happen ever again.

So keep an eye out for a local march and let kids worry about when the next book from their favorite author comes out, instead of how to stay alive on a Wednesday. Raina will thank you for it; she’s polite that way.


Spam of the day:

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There is a certain logic to your position, but it does not resemble our Earth logic.

An Act Of Optimism

Something great happened in 2011; the folks behind Toronto’s The Beguiling (one of the great comic book shops in the English-speaking world) opened an extension store next door. It was, as far as anybody can tell, the first comic shop dedicated to children and likely remained so for the rest of its existence. Little Island Comics was an act of pure optimism; optimism that the comics industry could produce enough material suitable for kids to sustain a store in one of the priciest cities in the world.

Comics may not be for kids, as the now-cliche headline would tell us, but vast swathes of them haven’t been entirely appropriate for young readers for some time. Grimdarkgrittypouchcape comics were pretty dominant for a couple of decades there, but the big publishers manage to produce some stuff suitable for all ages, and the graphic novel trade has fallen over itself to provide more and more books each year¹. Damn good thing, too, or where will the grimdarkgrittypouchcape comics get their readers in the future, if kids don’t develop the habit today?

And it worked. Little Island was successful until it fell prey not to neglect, or disinterest, or lack of product; it was a casualty to gentrification that tore up a chunk of now-valuable Toronto real estate. The Beguiling managed to find new digs, but Little Island was lost.

Until now.

The Beguiling is pleased to announce the re-opening of Little Island Comics, the world’s first and only children’s comic shop! Offering the widest possible array of graphic novels, manga, and comics for people 12 years old and younger, Little Island celebrates its Grand Re-Opening during March Break 2018 with a slate of creator appearances, refreshments and activities.

Whoa, cool shop returns and refreshments? Give me the deets!

Little Island Comics re-opens in March next door to its parent shop The Beguiling’s newly expanded location at the top of Toronto’s vibrant Kensington Market neighborhood. As The Beguiling enters its fourth decade as North America’s premier comic book retailer, the move to College Street has allowed it to add a gallery and events space, which Little Island will share.

  • Next door to the Beguiling again? Check
  • Gallery and event space, so that LI’s famed comic-making classes, launches, and events can continue? Check
  • Same staff that previously served the all-ages comics lovers of Toronto and beyond? Check

Anything else we should know?

Little Island will offer a 20% discount on all in-print kids comics, picture books, and graphic novels throughout March Break (March 10-18, 2018) to encourage families to dig into graphic novels! The week will culminate in a Grand Re-Opening Party on Saturday, March 17th, with refreshments, drop-in activities, story time, and appearances by such creators as:

Scott Chantler, Naseem Hrab, Brian McLachlan, Ryan North, Kean Soo, Britt Wilson, Tory Woollcott, and more!

Times for the Grand Reopening to come, but I’d keep an eye on their website, Twitterfeed, and on Facebook.

Here’s to many more years on the Little Island; if you’re in (or visiting) Toronto, drop by and tell them we say hi, and wish them every success.


Spam of the day:

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While I appreciate the Canadian content, spammers, this “men’s” doesn’t believe that you will actually be able to get me industrial-strength parkas that normally run near US$950 for US$140. Call me skeptical.

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¹ Note to Marvel, DC, etc: they do this because they like money. Releasing a new Kazu Kibuishi or Raina Telgemeier book is a license to print money because kids love comics if you just give them a chance to.

We Are Very French Today

For example, :01 Books announced earlier today that the incomparable Pénélope Bagieu will be going on tour in support of Brazen starting on Tuesday, 6 March (coincidentally, launch day), and wending her way through eight cities in seven days.

And in a completely coincidental occurrence, Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has thoughts creators and signings. Let’s see what he’s got to say.

As we saw the other day, the tradition in French comics festivals of free sketches ends up being hard on creators. Mind you, they are overall happy to come and greet readers and make them happy with a sketch, but given they are basically unpaid for the work (besides transportation and lodging) they provide under their host, they think of it a bit as a corv&eacutee, that is the duty of unpaid labor outside his fields that a peasant owed his feudal lord.

As a result, the idea has been spreading of late to have creators be paid when doing signings (French-only). Not by the recipient of the sketch: no one, least of all the creators themselves, seem to want that; when asked on the matter, Shyle Zalewski, who writes, draws, and self-publishes queer (and more) strips, and comes to festivals on their own stand, was clear: As a creator I’ve never been paid for signings and I have to admit I wouldn’t mind it happening, on the sole condition that it would be for the festival to pay. For instance having the readers pay for a sketch as it is sometimes the case in the US is unthinkable to me. Most creators seem to agree.

So while different variants of such a payment scheme are being thought up, the one that dominates would be for the host to pay the hosted creators more or less on the basis of the time spend. That would acknowledge the fact that creators are, if not performing, at least contributing to the animation of the stand as, well, animators. After all, it’s typically not just the reader who requested the sketch who gets to watch the sketch being drawn, but also the next two or three in line at least.

This is easier said than done, however. Publishers and festival organizers resist the idea, and with some justification to the extend that their financial equations are already hard to balance as it is: for instance publishers warn that if that was implemented, they would scale back their presence in festivals and only remain in ones where they are confident they will not lose money … leading Obion to the (not entirely serious) conclusion that, for lack of any other solution, impressionable young creators, too happy to sign in a prestigious location, will end up paying for the whole scheme (French-only).

This raises many more questions. For instance, as part of my pseudojournalistic activities I may very well wait in line for a signing for the sole purpose of having some access to the creator, without requesting a sketch, for instance for additional discussion after a lecture or panel. But if the creator is paid to animate the stand, would he still have time for discussion without sketching?

But while these questions deserve answers, they should not be a reason not to implement the idea. Not to mention some additional benefits would exist: worker protection would kick in for instance, making it easier to justify closing the signing activities at the scheduled time, etc. Overall, paying creators for their time would be fairer for everyone involved.

I find that the idea of paying creators (who, after all, are not creating when at a show) ties directly into the idea of Shows Not Being Worth It Sometimes; cf: C Spike Trotman and the ever-expanding ECCC:

Looking forward to ECCC, but not thrilled it’s getting longer and longer. Thursday will be a full day this year instead of a preview night. Too many comic cons are going for this size queen bigger-is-better thing, and it’s just exhausting.

One of the best cons I do all year is SPX, which is Saturday, Sunday, DONE. More days doesn’t automatically mean more money.

And I have shit to do! Longer cons means more days trying to run a publishing company from a hotel room, for me. Not ideal.

A big (but not the sole) motivator for ditching SDCC was it began swallowing a week of my life for diminishing returns. I genuinely hope ECCC doesn’t start going down that same road.

Guarantee some income? You’ll see more creators willing to brave the marathon shows. Thanks as always to FSFCPL for adding his cross-Atlantic perspective on what’s likely a universal dilemma.


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Your cutesy, intentional typo offends me.

Did I Say We Were Back? That Was Hubris

An entirely new work crisis has developed; the only good news is this one won’t steal time for me any later than tomorrow. As it stands, I have time to point you at something interesting, and then back to the crisis.

Rob Balder of Erfworld has bee cranking out a deep story with huge amounts of lore (and terrible, terrible in-jokes) for more’n ten years now. For most of that time, he’s been trying to find ways to pay for the strip’s art contributors and support himself via a non-sucky mechanism. Having finally had it with his ad networks pulling crap that is beneath contempt (pop-unders, sound, fake virus scams), Balder is trying something new. It’s kinda premised on being able to ride what’s likely fake money, but bonus points for a) trying something new; b) to keep crappy ads away from his users, and c) gamifying it.

He’s letting his reader voluntarily mine cryptocurrency:

It definitely worked in alpha. We mined enough Ethereum to be worth it. Not everybody’s computer could manage it, but nobody’s computer broke, and there’s no reason it should have. We learned some things that let us make a plan. Everybody who participated in the test got sent some goodies (thanks Renter, Bandaid, Danielle, Omnimancer & sdub!) and I created the Special: Digging badge for them:

There’s the gamification; Balder’s created a displayable badge within the forum structure at Erfworld, and if you mine Etherium for support of the site, you get the badge, and you get a random chance at other shinies you can show off. He’s got his users organized into teams, with bragging rights associated for the team that does more successfully. He’s got a trading mechanism set up. And a day into the beta, it appears to be working.

I’m deeply dubious that Balder can keep ahead of the crash points and the scams and the instability and rampant thievery that are endemic to cryptocurrency¹. I’m deeply troubled that the environmental overheads in crypto mining (as a whole) are causing measurable and accelerating damage to our commons (ie: Earth) and contributing to global climate change. I can’t fault him for trying, but I also can’t but help hope that he finds something better to meet his costs (and food, and rent) quickly.


Spam of the day:

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¹ Although it is hilarious to watch the religiously-fervent cryptobros learn firsthand why financial regulatory schemes exist.

It Is A Pleasure To Be Back

Last week was … buhhh. Let us not speak of last week, but rather move forward.¹ Catching up on news is the order of the day.

  • From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, a pointer to a story I would have otherwise missed; The Beat has a terrific interview with Pénélope Bagieu, so good that I’m not even mad to discover that Heidi Mac has gone and added her own French-speaking contributor. The interview mostly concerns the soon-to-be-published Brazen (née Culottées), a review of which will be forthcoming here at Fleen.

    Most fascinating was the discussion of the edits that are made to the list of accomplished ladies in different countries, including the fact that the US edition (by :01 Books) omits the story of Indian bandit queen Phoolan Devi. The reason given is need for the book to be YA, which required removing mentions of rape from Devi’s story, which removed much of the impetus for her career of banditry². Lots of good stuff, so go read Bagieu’s talk with Philippe Leblanc.

  • From C Spike Trotman, news that the new, Iron Circus edition of Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy is now available in the world (indeed, reports on the wubs indicate people are finding it in stores). Dahm’s first story from the very strange these are alien peoples and cultures, not humans with one feature distinctly different world of Overside are some of the best mythmaking and worldbuilding to be found in any medium, and if you haven’t read any of his stuff, get on that right now. Punch up those sales numbers and maybe we’ll see more ICC-published Overside stories.
  • From Steve Hamaker, designer, colorist, and all-around stellar comicker³, news that the second print volume of his webcomic, Plox, is now Kickstarting. Plox, if you’re not a reader, is definitely one of those stories that does better in big chunks that twice a week, so if you’ve been holding off, now’s the time to jump in.

    The campaign has an unusually low backer count for the funds raised so far (he’s just over 51% in the first week of a 30 day campaign), low enough that it’s outside the range where the FFF mk2 works well. The McDonald Ratio does pretty well in these situations, though, and it calls for Plox volume 2 to collect about US$11.7K, which is comfortably over the US$8K goal. The other piece of good news is that the backer averages are a full US$70, primarily because a significant number of people are pledging at the US$150 level for a cameo. You cannot beat super-fans.


Spam of the day:

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Oh, well I’m sure to trust this digital Ponzi scheme because I’m assured it’s on a whitelist.

Actually, I kinda do trust them because their logo is a moustache. Don’t judge me.

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¹ Not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

² Although the story of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee has a similar inclusion of repeated spousal rapes, which were just as much an impetus for her career of social work, justice for women, and rehabilitation of child soldiers. Then again Gbowee was a grown woman and Devi was ten years old.

³ Seriously, have you seen the list of people he collaborates with? Jeff Smith, Terry Moore, Judd Winick, the Flight folks, Scott Kurtz … the list goes on and on.

Yeah, Not Happening

Let’s just say Monday. It’ll be better on Monday.

Problems Persist, Presently Posting Probably Preposterous

Alliteration is the only thing keeping me sane right now.

Professional Problems, Possibly Protracted

Publishing postponed pending practicality.

Joyous News And FSFCPL? Too Good For A Monday

The ALA awards for children’s (and YA, and middle grades, and other variety of younger humans) literature were given out earlier today, and there’s a webcomics connection that we are happy to report. The first person I saw with the news was Colleen AF Venable¹, beating out even the reporter contingent from the School Library Journal: The Stonewall Book Award (for English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience) went to Little & Lion and The 57 Bus, but one of the two Honor Books was As The Crow Flies.

You remember ATCF? Collected from the webcomic by Melanie Gillman? Published by Iron Circus Comics via Kickstart, because C Spike Trotman has an eye for great literature? And a bit later, the Alex Award (for the 10 best adult books that appeal to a teen audience) included Malagash by Joey Comeau. Webcomics continues as a feeder (or perhaps a crucible) of talent and creators that are making themselves known in the polite world. Maybe now the New York Times will respond to the damn petition and reinstate the best seller list?

As if that wasn’t enough good news, here’s Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin with some thoughts on French comics festival practices and etiquette:


You may remember from my report of the 2017 edition of Lyon BD that sketches are free as a rule. But that is pretty much the only thing that is free in French comics festivals: entrance is paid, exhibitors sell their wares, etc. The point where all these concerns intersect is the table, which is more than the physical space the creator can work against²: it represents the support his host provides (line management in particular), and, conversely, the contribution the creator makes to the host’s presence.

The host can be the festival itself, in the case of invited creators, or is more typically the creator’s publisher; in some cases bookshops organize signings around a festival. And in all cases they hope to profit: the festival by attracting attendees, and the publisher or a bookshop by selling books. And in order to ensure that, publishers and bookshops will often require a book be purchased before you can get a sketch (though it need not necessarily be the one sketched in); and that will not guarantee getting one, you won’t if you come too late for instance, but this means sketches are free only to the extent the creator is not paid for it. For popular creators the lucky few who will get a sketch are even picked by chance draw, so as not to overwhelm the creator.

As for creators themselves, besides the inherent unfairness, there is also the more practical matter that, given the money incentive, the ecosystem grows around them to mine the seam³. This mean that creators both have to spend more time in more festivals, away from their living-earning activities and their families, and have to contend with longer and longer lines of people waiting for sketches (three-legged camping stools are a common sight in comics festivals), with the resulting entitlement issues you can expect … not that this prevents some of these sketches from ending up on eBay, anyway.

The result? While of course you shouldn’t take this strip too literally (this is autobio, after all), creators are often exhausted at the end of the day (full disclosure: I contributed to the exhaustion; unfortunately I did not encounter much else to report on in Paris Manga). And yes, I have witnessed for instance people trying to squeeze themselves at the end of the line even as the end of signing time was closing in … however, I haven’t been (un)lucky enough to witness that (fortunately exceptional) kind of case (French-only).

Can the situation be improved? Proposed leads to that end will be the subject of a later post.


Hey, my name is Richard!
I`m a professional writer and I`m going to change your lifes on?e and for all

Based on this sample, you’re a crappy writer, “Richard Diicks”.

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¹ Once of Puff in Brooklyn note, more recently of book design fame, and always the bearer of the coolest calf tat in existence.

² Though in case of need a creator may be able to do [without even that (21st photo; full disclosure: that is my copy of Héro-ine-s Yan Le Pon is sketching in in this photo).

³ Most French comics festivals are run as non-profits (and that includes Angoulême), which moderates the expansion somewhat on that side, nevertheless they too benefit from growing bigger (they get more press, more attention from professionals, etc).