The webcomics blog about webcomics

Well, Hell

Having picked up a copy at my local comic shop over the weekend, I was going to tell you what I thought of We Can Fix It today, but then I made the mistake of reading The AV Club and saw that Noel Murray said everything I wanted to, only better:

A clever, poignant twist on the autobio comics format, Jess Fink’s We Can Fix It!: A Time Travel Memoir (Top Shelf) ponders what would happen if the author went back in time to warn her younger selves not to make so many dumb mistakes, whether it be trusting the wrong boy, taking the wrong drug, or acting rudely toward her mother. [...] The result is a book in which Fink treats her own life as a series of loosely connected vignettes, open to different interpretations depending on who she’s become by the time she looks back at them. This isn’t just an effective way to handle autobiography, it’s one with a touching take on the interconnectedness of people’s best and worst moments.

That’s much better than what I was able to come up, which isn’t really a surprise given that Murray is a nationally-regarded culture critic and all. In any event, I’m more than happy to point you towards words that may convince you to read We Can Fix It, as I think it’s something everybody should do. It’s smart and funny and sweet and wise and full of joy and hurt and sexy, sexy time-travel jumpsuits. Give it to the person in your life that needs to be reassured that none of us has all the answers, but that’s okay.

  • Hail to our new overlords protectors, I meant protectors. Wes Citti and Tony Wilson, previously best known for making some amazing soup, have decided to branch out into technology and are Kickstarting the entire process. I must say, their campaign to build an orbital death ray is going to throw off my Kickstarter models, what with having backer tiers up to the US$100,000,000,000 level and a total goal that could be expressed as approximately 4% of US GDP.

    Going by the Fleen Fudge Factor for Kickstart predictions¹, Wes and Tony are on track for reaching their second stretch goal. On the other hand, I expect the usual delays in delivering on the promised rewards, so don’t hold your breath that the world will be destroyed until at least six months after the predicted doomsday.

  • Readers of this page should be well familiar with Zahra’s Paradise from :01 Books, which launched back in 2010 and saw print eighteen months later; for those who are new around here, it’s the work of semi-anonymous political exiles commenting on life in Iran since the discredited elections of 2009. When the state has taken your child and you’ve finally retrieved his body, what more is there to fight for?

    The thing about elections, even in places where only the vestiges of democracy exist, is that they come around again. Zahra may not be a real person (although her experiences mirror those of far, far too many people in Iran), but that hasn’t stopped her from taking a stand in this election cycle. Vote4Zahra chronicles the story since “the end” as Zahra declares herself a candidate for President and speaks truth to the clerics that hold power in a country made up predominantly of youth eager to engage with the world. Here’s hoping her message makes its way to where it can encourage those who need encouragement.

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¹ Look at the Kicktraq prediction afer two days of funding, and at the trend prediction; most projects will hit somewhere between 1/3 and 1/6 of the prediction.

Hey, Look At That, I’m Back

Silly me, I didn’t get a screen shot of the parking page that greeted readers of Fleen earlier today as the renewal was making its ways around the world. While the fleen.com email service saw no interruptions, for a few hours I was assured that this page would make a perfect address for auto dealers, auto loans, and all your auto needs. Sadly, people that may have wanted to snag the domain weren’t greeted with the sensitive yet handsome dude, the beautiful yet computer-savvy lady, or the couple that for some reason you just want to slap. Sorry ’bout all that.

  • Having dipped her foot¹ into the world of e-self-publishing, A Girl And Her Fed creator K Brooke “Otter” Spangler has been noting some distinct similarities between that world and the earlier, what the heck are we trying to accomplish? days of professional webcomicking, and she’s been kind enough to share her observations with you.

    Having also spanned the world of webcomics self-publishing, and actual-publisher publishing, Otter’s buddy (and Fleen Fave) Ursula Vernon² has her own take of the astonishing Webcomics/SelfPub parallels, and likewise holds forth with useful opinion. They are are pair of sharp ladies and to paraphrase Otter, BUY THEIR BOOKS.

  • Oh my, yes, please: Jess Fink’s so very delayed, I thought I might never see it released, can it really be true? time-travel self-makeout epic, We Can Fix It, finally has a release date! Of course, we’ve heard this before (more than three years of hearing it before) but this time it’s certain because Fink has the actual books in her hot little hands, meaning she’ll have them for TCAF in a few weeks. For those of you not going to TCAF, you can exchange money for this book in a variety of places, including by pre-ordering from Top Shelf directly. Go do that now.
  • Did somebody say most prestigious awards in comics? The Eisners nominations are out, the superheroes are relatively absent, and webcomickers and their natural allies are well represented. How well represented? Enough so that there’s simply too many names to track down all the web addresses and put the links in the text³. Let’s just take them from the top down, shall we?
    Best Single Issue or One-Shot
    The Mire, by Becky Cloonan (self-published)

    Best New Series
    Adventure Time, by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb (kaboom!)
    Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain)

    Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
    Adventure Time, by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb (kaboom!)
    Amulet Book 5: Prince of the Elves, by Kazu Kibuishi (Scholastic)
    Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse, by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos (Archaia)

    Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
    Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens, by Meredith Gran (kaboom!)
    A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted by Hope Larson (FSG)

    Best Humor Publication
    Adventure Time, by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb (kaboom!)

    Best Digital Comic
    Ant Comic, by Michael DeForge
    Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover
    It Will All Hurt, by Farel Dalrymple
    Our Bloodstained Roof, by Ryan Andrews
    Oyster War, by Ben Towle

    Best Adaptation from Another Medium
    A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted by Hope Larson (FSG)

    Best Graphic Album —- Reprint
    Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel (First Second)

    Best Penciller/Inker
    Becky Cloonan, Conan the Barbarian (Dark Horse); The Mire (self-published)
    Colleen Coover, Bandette (Monkeybrain)

    Best Coloring
    Colleen Coover, Bandette (Monkeybrain)

    I’m particularly excited to note the presence of Bandette in the Digital Comic category, but also represented in other categories against print comics. And I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Comics Alliance, Robot Six, and The Comics Reporter have all been nominated as Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism, and they are the homes of such webcomics-friendly folks as Chris Sims, Brigid Alverson, and The Spurge. Best of luck to a very strong and deserving field, and let’s hope that we see such good nominations in future years.

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¹ Up to about the knees, actually.

² We at Fleen loves us some Digger.

³ On account of the fact I am a lazy, lazy man.

Turns Out The Title I Was Going To Use Was Already Used Seven Years Ago, Go Figure

That title was “Linkapalooza”, and it featured a photo of Frank Zappa in an Uncle Sam-patterned oversized novelty tophat because at that time that title produced that result in a Google image search. Anyhoo, things to point you towards today.

  • James Kochalka may have retired American Elf, but he’s keeping plenty busy what with voicing Grotus in the SuperF*ckers shorts [NSFW, obviously] and starting a new strip for his local newspaper¹, and collaborating with Shmorky on a comic that fits hopes and dreams and malice and loss into one page. What I am basically saying is that you can keep up with all your Kochalka needs by keeping an eye on his Tumblr.
  • Jim Zub, one-man living embodiment of the creation/destruction duality that undergirds comics, is back with more of his ongoing series of analyses of how the heck you make it in such a crazy industry. His latest looks back at a year of Skullkickers² running on Keenspot (starts here), which has brought the online reader to the end of the second story arc and just into the first story of the second Tavern Tales collection. It’s a topic that we at Fleen have discussed with Zub more than once over the past year, but seeing numbers puts everything in perspective:

    Skullkickers online has garnered just over 5.8 million pageviews and been visited by 272,000+ people over the past 12 months. More than 90 times the number of people who buy our monthly issues have checked out Skullickers online so far. Each month an average of 22,600+ new people come on board the story and the site generates almost 486,000 pageviews. I don’t know how it compares to other webcomics (though I’m sure it’s far lower than a lot of the long running and financially self sufficient sites) but it’s reaching 7-8 times our floppy comic print run worth of new readers every month, building up awareness of the title day by day using content we already had archived and ready to go. [emphasis original]

    That bit about “content we already had archived and ready to go”? That’s Zubese for “free money”.

  • Over the years, we at Fleen have been eagerly waiting for Jess Fink’s We Can Fix It, her very sexy time-travel self-makeout story of sexy sexiness. Unfortunately, over the years, We Can Fix It (which has been complete forever, come on guys) has been repeatedly delayed by the publisher, which to be fair, they may have had extremely good reasons for doing. It may be working out for the best, as Top Shelf³ have had Fink go back and make everything even prettier than it was before Also, because she loves you, Fink has posted a seven page preview where Future Jess resolves that make the past as sexy as possible by making out with it. Oh, like you wouldn’t.
  • A bare 24 hours since our posting yesterday, and Zach Weinersmith’s newest book collection has gone from about US$40K on Kickstarter to damn near US$110K (as of this writing). He’s burned through twelve more stretch goals, extended the Map Of Mystery twice, and had to space out new goals to increments of US$10K instead of US$5K, because they were being achieved too quickly.

    One may note that Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543 is in the Kickstarter Comics category, and the not-quite-resurrected Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be: A Choice-Filled Adventure By Ryan North And Also William Shakespeare Too is in the Publishing category, meaning that Weinersmith cannot break North’s record ’cause different categories. However, looking at their respective backers-and-dollars reports at Kicktraq, one can see that Zach may well hit Ryanesque numbers by the time this is done in — my glob — a month.

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¹ Note for our younger readers: a “newspaper” is a means of distributing information by printing it on multiple sheets of thin paper, folding to a convenient size, and making it available for sale to interested parties. Formerly, they roamed the American landscape in vast herds, but the population has lately dwindled to near-extinction levels.

² Which tends pretty much all the way towards the “destruction” end of the spectrum.

³ Who are all the very best people, and I always make sure to drop by their booth at any show I attend to buy anything I don’t have already, but also just to say hi. Seriously, they’re wonderful.

Gots To Pick Up The New Computer

Let’s start off with a few Updates on Emerald City Comicon (kicking off … nowish) attendees, shall we?

  • Evan Dahm will be bunking with Magnolia Porter in Artist Alley, table L-06.
  • Scott C (and goodness, have you seen his new site?) will also be there today, AA table D-05, although the ECCC guide doesn’t list that table being assigned to anybody. If in doubt, obtain the services of any passing Sherpa.

In non-convention related news:

  • Everybody be happy! Jess Fink‘s Chester 5000 XYV has a release date. Waaaay back around [American] Thanksgiving 2009, both Chester (and the time-travel self-makeout guide We Can Fix It) were acquired by Top Shelf and were due “next year”. Then about a year ago, they were due in August 2010, and by May they had been pushed to “next year” (i.e.: 2011). But now there’s an actual hard (heh, heh) date for Chester, at least:

    Top Shelf’s May releases, THE HOMELAND DIRECTIVE, CHESTER 5000, & GINGERBREAD GIRL are now available in Previews.

    I’m afraid I don’t have a better date for you than May, but hey — solicited through Previews means it’s really, truly on the way. Asked about We Can Fix It, Fink tells us she hopes it’s this year, but at the moment we just know it’s in the future. Which is kind of appropriate if you think about it.

    To celebrate, there’s a new, self-contained Chesterverse story, and it’s a bit of a heartbreaker. That’s really Fink’s talent — to take real human emotions and effectively mix them with wonderfully smutty up-sexings. And though I never thought I’d say this, as long as you don’t hit the “previous” link and only read forward from that landing page, this Chester story is Safe For Work.

  • Anybody got a good idea what the weather in Ottawa will be like next week? I never seem to be sent there for work in warm times. Along those same lines, next week’s updates may be late because the posts will have to cross the international border, and you just know that the Customs guys are sticklers.

Extra Update: Jess Fink Speaks!

First, go read this. Then come back and enjoy the candor of Jess Fink regarding art, jerks, and her fists.

Fleen: Art is all about appropriation and reworking, but this is at least the — third? fourth? — fairly obvious direct copy of your work by different parties. What is it about your work that makes you such a high-profile target for these situations?

Fink: There is a great deal of difference in being inspired by a work and completely copying it. I’ve been inspired by a ton of artists and it’s reflected in my work I’m sure, but that is the outcome of living within the art community and growing up with it. After cookie loves milk got printed there was a swarm of food based shirts, peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and mustard and if they were inspired by my design it wouldn’t bother me.

I think the reason It’s been stolen so many times is that the art is fairly simple. I’m just playing around with the idea of cookies being good with milk, it’s something everyone understands. I’ve made other designs for Threadless that are much more illustrations rather than funny concepts and those never get ripped off (not that I’m daring anymore) because it’s a much more complex thing to copy. The thing with simple designs is that you can just take the idea and make art that is slightly different, that way they think no one will notice who they stole it from. Obviously I also can’t hold a copyright on the idea of cookies being good with milk, but I can take action against people who blatantly copy and even trace my designs.

Fleen: In a weird way, is it flattering that so many people want to copy your designs?

Fink: No! Haha. A lot of people ask this and it’s really not! Every time I get an email about some Cafe press store selling cookie loves milk rip-offs or a big name department store selling a trace or some shop in Hong Kong printing exact copies it just completely ruins my day. You don’t get paid an awful lot to make shirt designs so feeling like you are getting exploited is never fun. If it were just something similar someone made that they weren’t selling it would be a completely different story, but I know these places are making money off of something that is mine.

Fleen: This is a Threadless shirt design, and they hold the copyright to be defended. In a perfect world, what would they do now?

Fink: Well it might not be a perfect world but it might be a polite one at least! In the past when dealing with these situations Threadless has granted me the authority to take legal action myself.

Fleen: What would make it less likely for you to be targeted in this way?

Fink: I’m not really sure. Less jerks in the world? Science needs to find a way to see if a person is a jerk or not right when they are born! “It’s a girl! Oh…I’m sorry, it’s also a jerk.”

Honestly I think more people need to be aware of art theft and how often it happens and how wrong it is. There are people who just appropriate things without even thinking that it’s stealing. Someone once sent me a shirt with a panel from my comic, Chester 5000 on it. It was cut up in with a bunch of panels from other black and white comics. I would assume that the person who made the shirt just thought they were making a shirt covered in cut-outs from cartoons, not realizing that you can only use art from the public domain. I don’t think most people are actually taught what intellectual property means.

Fleen: What do you think drives people to engage in such blatant copying?

Fink: I think it’s just ignorance and in the case of Todd Goldman simply wanting to make a buck by any means possible. He churns out copy after copy of other people’s work, it’s the quantity over quality technique. He thinks, “If I make enough crap someone will buy at least one.” And at this point it’s really pretty disgusting since he knows he is blatantly ripping off hard working artists and he’s been involved in so many legal battles for it, it’s hard to imagine being such a nasty person.

Fleen: Todd Goldman has tossed lawsuit threats over copying accusations in the past. Do you feel that speaking truthfully about this — “situation” — puts you at any risk?

Fink: It’s always a little scary dealing with situations like these but I feel that I have enough evidence against Goldman that I can talk freely. His rip-offs of my work are far from coincidental since he actually offered me a job back in 2008, telling me he loved my Lil’ Soap and Cookie Loves Milk designs and then instead of giving me work apparently decided it was more profitable to just rip me off.

Fleen: How long before somebody starts passing off Chester or Time Traveling Jess as their work? How badly will you beat them?

Fink: SO HARD. I will beat them with all of my fists at once! And then Top Shelf will beat them too! Both books (Chester 5000 and We Can Fix It) are due out next year and honestly I’m excited but kind of scared to death!

Fleen thanks Ms Fink for her time and openness, and reiterates that Mr Goldman has been invited to respond via his representatives, but has not done so yet. Spread the word and do what you can, my minions.

Busy Weekend

Let’s just right to it, shall we?

  • Jess Fink gave us a treat on Saturday: the covers for her two forthcoming (i.e.: this summer) books from Top Shelf: We Can Fix It (a memoir of Fink’s time-travel exploits) and Chester 5000 XYV (hot, hot Victorian robo-erotica) (warning: contains wang, both organic and robotic). I love both of those pieces, but the Chester cover just might be my new favorite thing ever. How Fink can do something so sexily charged and yet balance against a certain demureness, I’ll never know.
  • There’s a couple of major centers for cartooning scholarship in this country: SVA, of course, CCS and SCAD are fast establishing themselves, and CAM is the public face. But for good old-fashioned throw yourself into the collection stacks archivery, you really have to go with Ohio State University’s Bily Ireland Cartoon Libary & Museum, which is undoutedly the premier collection of comics in the country, with maybe only the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée to rival the depth and breadth of its collection. The entire stack of original BONE pages is just one of the treasures that OSU has.

    Every three years, they have a festival and academic conference on cartooning; the tenth one will be in October, and there’s some interesting names on the presenter list: Matt Groening, Roz Chast (the best and most prolific New Yorker cartoonist since Charles Addams), Gene Yang, and some guy named Kellett. Kellett’s particularly an interesting choice because he plans to speak in response to a speech at the same event 21 years ago by some guy named Watterson. As Kellett puts it:

    At the 1989 Festival, Watterson spoke of the incredible potency in comic strip cartooning: This rarest of arts that let one artist, one voice, speak to millions. This artform that lets the personal outlook shine through, where so many other mass media arts do so by committee.

    I want to speak to his concerns about the space allotted comic strips in newspapers; about zombie comic strips still being drawn long after their original creator had died; about why so many features have stale, interchangeable voices; or why so many are merely advertisements for dolls and greeting cards; or why comic strips in general have been on this slow, downward trend of diminishment in American life for the past 20-30 years

    Because basically, I’m going to talk about this incredible change of fortune for the comic strip. I’m going to talk about Webcomics.

    Note to self: see if the limited seating at the festival includes press access or not.

  • The hottest writer in webcomics is now six: Happy Birthday to Malachai Nicolle.
  • The donation drive to benefit Cheyenne Wright is underway here. From Phil Foglio:

    Originally it was feared that he had congestive heart failure, which was surprising, as he is in his thirties and a quasi-vegetarian. It has since been disclosed that there is a fucking virus (Coxsackie B virus) that can cause it, and you don’t even have to eat 2 pounds of bacon every day. He is doing better, but can only taste lemons, and is under the illusion that he has a pet squid named ‘Renaldo’. We ascribe this to dosage issues with his medication.

    That’s just what Foglio wants you to think, as I happen to know that he’s prejudiced against squid. All kidding aside, Phil & Kaja Foglio, and everybody that works with them, are stellar people and if you have a few bucks to spare, there are far worse things you could spend it on. How much food and shelter do you need anyway?

  • Finally, from Danielle Corsetto, jet-setter extraordinaire, news that the new, previously-unnamed New Jersey comics show now has a name, and a date, and a guest list! Wild Pig Comics II presents Wild Pig Comic-Con, May 15 & 16, in Springfield, New Jersey, complete with Ms Corsetto, her partner in infamy, Randy Milholland, David “I did exclamations before Malki” Willis, a stack of other web- and print-comickers, and the latest iteration of Super Art Fight. Total cost to you for all this? FIVE BUCKS. Seriously.

Discovered Via Twitter

If you don't laugh just thinking about this episode, we can't ever be friends.

There will be a time, probably not too far distant, when this page and I will no longer be necessary; just follow enough people on Twitter and you’ll get all the webcomics amuse/amazement you require. Also, for some reason I appear to be typing poorly today, with way too many vowels showing up in words; my apologies if I don’t catch them all before publishing.

  • So, Box Brown has been doing a fair amount of stuff outside his Bellen! comics, with a print projects oriented blog to go along with his print projects. Now Brown (Xeric grantee for Love Is A Peculiar Type Of Thing) is looking to kickstart a pair of dead-tree comics with, uh, Kickstarter:

    I love webcomics and love creating my webcomic but I also have a passion for print comics. So, I publish print comics every few month that do not appear on the web. I keep a blog documenting the progress of my print work. My current project is called Everything Dies. I’ve always envisioned the project to be ongoing with the first two issues being companion pieces.

    Everything Dies will feature three stories, including a retelling of the Book of Job, a series of shorts about a young Buddhist monk, and various myths from around the world about how the began and how it will end. The peldge campaign has 52 days to go and for anybody out there that collects original artwork, original pages are available at a number of the pledge levels.

  • Still in the realm of books, Jess Fink (it’s so good to do a story on her that doesn’t involve her designs getting ripped off by corporate hawkers of wearables) shared some good news with us a few hours ago, namely, Chester 5000 and We Can Fix It are getting published, by Top Shelf no less:

    It’s been a really rough couple of years for me where nothing seemed to go right. I’ve also got a ridiculously demanding and frustrating day job that requires long ours and lots of hair pulling. All this stuff just made me feel like I couldn’t hack it and I was failing at making comics my real job. So this influx of good news all of a sudden has sort of held me in shock.

    I’ve had a hard time talking about this with people because it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me and I don’t know how to express that without feeling like I am bragging or a douche. Maybe I’m just so used to complaining!

    Anyway, if you want to check it out the books are listed in Top Shelf’s 2010 publishing schedule! EXCITE BIKE!!!

    Yep, there they are in August, right between Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change-Bots, vol 2) and Alex Robinson (Tricked, 3rd printing). Pretty good company you’re keeping these days, Ms. Fink.

  • Finally, thanks to the first (and thankfully, so far only) me-cosplayer, Emily Vasseur, I now know about a webcomic with which I was not previously familiar, one that know what this season of Thanksgiving is all about: vicious, turkey-based retribution on oppressors. There is some seriously beautiful work in Lead Paint by Mike Cornnell and Dana Wulfekotte; so pretty to look at, a manageable archive (it appears to have started about 7 months back), and hand-turkeys. Always hand-turkeys (oh, the humanity). In fact, any strip with Kid Avery is pretty much gold. Gonna be keeping my eye on this one.